Tuesday, January 29

The Troops, The Truth and other things to Discard

Well, O'Reilly is still at it. He's still bashing John Edwards, bashing David Letterman, bashing the Center for Public Integrity - and somehow managing to make himself the poor set-upon victim.

Talking with his fellow Fox Shills, Bernie and Jane, it's actually quite amazing in the depth of their collective delusion. There really should be some long-term psychological studies of these people - they don't have "issues", they have Volumes!

Sometimes it's just takes my breath away, it really does.

First O'Reilly claims there aren't 200,000 Homeless Vets on our streets - even though the VA says there are.

Then he goes off on the arguement that the reasons aren't economic, they're because of drug addiction and mental illness - even though the VA addressed that too.

About one-third of the adult homeless population have served their country in the Armed Services. Current population estimates suggest that about 195,000 veterans (male and female) are homeless on any given night and perhaps twice as many experience homelessness at some point during the course of a year. Many other veterans are considered near homeless or at risk because of their poverty, lack of support from family and friends, and dismal living conditions in cheap hotels or in overcrowded or substandard housing.

Never mind the idea that people who are ill, need healthcare and that people who have addiction problems need treatment and every guest that even O'Reilly has had on to support his claims has said - "We Aren't Doing Enough!" - nevermind the fact that his best argument still indicates that we are 50,000 beds short of what the VA says we need - Big 'O BillO still think's he's the only one who has his facts right.

Despite all this, O'Reilly seriously thinks that David Letterman Owes Him an Apology?

OhGodWhattaDick!

Then there's his argument that the Center for Public Intergrity list of 935 Lies perpetrated by the Bush Administration which led to the Iraq War should be ignored because of the support and funding of the dreaded George Soros.

At one point Bernie, after accusing Letterman of "O'Reilly Derangement Syndrome" because he dared go after a cheap laugh in front of his audience - a comment which generates a laugh from Jane - actually says that even if there was a report proving the "Left-Wing Bias" of the Press that the first thing that the media would point out is that the study comes from a Right-Wing funded organization.

Ok, let's point out that NO ONE has ever produced such a report who wasn't funded by Right-Wingers. In the effort of "Balance" it should be pointed out that Left-Wing organizations such as FAIR have completely debunked these bias claims and found that:

. On select issues from corporate power and trade to Social Security and Medicare to health care and taxes, journalists are actually more conservative than the general public.

. Journalists are mostly centrist in their political orientation.

. The minority of journalists who do not identify with the "center" are more likely to identify with the "right" when it comes to economic issues and to identify with the "left" when it comes to social issues.

. Journalists report that "business-oriented news outlets" and "major daily newspapers" provide the highest quality coverage of economic policy issues, while "broadcast network TV news" and "cable news services" provide the worst.

Did this get reported heavily in the media? Not really.

And here's the thing about the CPI, I've actually bothered to look at their list of Funders and George Soros isn't on the List.

This attack the messenger and the message based on who wrote the messenger a check tactic is age-old. O'Reilly has previously used it against Media Matters claiming they are "Soros Funded" even though they aren't.

Back then O'Reilly claimed that MM received money from the Tides Foundation, which in turn received funds from Soros' Open Society Initiative - ipso, facto - Soros' "funds" Media Matters. Except for the fact that all the money that Soros gave to OSI was earmarked to specific Grants such as the Death Penalty Mobilization Fund - but not Media Matters. They also argued that Soros launders his donations through another group called Democracy Alliance.

Well, again checking the CPI funder list, Soros still isn't on there, neither is the Open Society Initiative, the Tides Foundation or Democracy Alliance.

Oops! And it was such a perfect left-wing conspiracy theory BillO had going there.

I know might be an alarmist, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say I think O'Reilly IS LYING AGAIN!.

My own mildy penetrating analysis indicates that Soros has nothing to do with CPI, and even if it he does - So F-ing What!? If he did would that somehow magically make any one of the Bush Administration MOUNTAIN OF LIES about Iraq suddenly true?

Not bloody likely.

Let's please remember that the biggest lie of course, the one which was recently repeated by Mitt Romney, is the one about Sadam Hussein not letting the Inspectors Back In.

"If you're saying let's turn back the clock, and Saddam Hussein had opened up his country to IAEA inspectors, and they'd come in and they'd found that there were no weapons of mass destruction, had Saddam Hussein, therefore, not violated United Nations resolutions, we wouldn't be in the conflict we're in. But he didn't do those things, and we knew what we knew at the point we made the decision to get in."

Here's a news flash Mitt - SADAM DID LET THE INSPECTORS BACK IN.

We have actual pictures of them locating and destroying some al-Samoud missles which violated UN rules largely because they hadn't had their guidance packages installed yet.

Hey Mitt, if the inspectors didn't get back in - how'd we find the Missles?

The truth is that the Inspectors weren't finding any chemical or nuclear weapons, they said our Intel was Garbage, and rather than let them finish their job or go back to the UN the way he was supposed, Bush simply attacked Iraq without justification, and trapped us in a situation that has cost more American lives than were lost on 9-11, will cost over $2 Trillion in tax payer funds and according to Paul Rieckoff of IAVA put more more than 1,500 more veterans out in the streets.

The fact that anyone on Fox, which is funded and owned by Rupert Murdock, and run by Karl Rove protege Roger Ailes who was also the former campaign manager for Rudy Guiliani - a fact they never bother to disclose as they report on the Bush Admistration or the Republican Presidential Race - has the balls to talk about so-called "bias" from someone who isn't being funded by George Soros is just plain insane.

You wanna talk about "Balance" - let's see Fox go after Romney for continuing to spread lies about "Sadam wouldn't let the inspectors in."

Don't hold your breath unless Baby Blue is your color.

Vyan

The Fight Worth Having

Meanwhile as the Obama and Clinton campaigns continue their frankly ridiculous cat-fight over who can appeal to the bigger closeted undercover racists and sexists, standing just to the right of the big cloud of fur and smoke is John Edwards who happens to be in a Fight Worth Having with Bill O'Reilly over exactly how many homeless veterans we have in America and what we can - and should - do about it.

It all began innocently enough during the New Hampshire Democratic Debate, like so...

Edwards: What you see happening in America today, if you're president of the United States and you're looking at this from altitude is you see a very few Americans getting wealthier and wealthier, you see the biggest corporations in America's profits through the roof -- ExxonMobil just made $40 billion, record profits -- all of that happening at the same time that we have 47 million people with no health care, 37 million who will wake up in this country tomorrow worried about feeding and clothing their children. Tonight, 200,000 men and women who wore the uniform of the United States of America and served this country honorably will go to sleep under bridges and on grates.

It's time for us to say and it's time for the president to say enough is enough. This is a battle for the future of our children. This is a battle for the middle class.

Edwards made his claim and apparently this simply got O'Lielly's goat as he initially claimed "there couldn't be that many.."

O’Reilly said, "They may be out there, but there’s not many of them out there. Okay? ... If you know where’s a veteran, sleeping under a bridge, you call me immediately, and we will make sure that man does not do it."

This didn't sit to well with Paul Rieckoff of IAVA.

OLBERMANN: Well, we know what we want to say here, and it involves suggesting Mr. O'Reilly should go and do something anatomically impossible to himself with that attitude. But do you know any homeless vets, by any chance?

RIECKHOFF: Absolutely. I mean, the VA says that there are approximately 200,000 of all generations. We know that there are at least 1,500 that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our organization and others are in touch with them every day. I made a few phone calls today to my friends who work in Los Angeles. They go out to Skid Row every day, and they said they're tracking six Iraq veterans alone that are living out in Los Angeles. We know there are about five or 10 here in New York. So, they're there. This is a very real problem. And all you have to do, to be honest with you, if you're Bill O'Reilly, is go downstairs and look out in the streets of New York, and you can find homeless veterans living on our streets every night.

Are Paul and Keith off base? It's seems that the Washington Post had no trouble confirming Edwards claim.

Several readers have asked us to check this surprising statistic, often used by Edwards. The language may be overly dramatic, but the figure is an official one, from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The department believes that one-third of the adult homeless population of the United States "have served their country in the Armed Services." A posting on the department Web site says that about 195,000 veterans are "homeless on any given night" and perhaps twice as many experience homelessness at some point during the course of a year.

Veterans Affairs estimates that about 45 percent of homeless veterans suffer from mental illness, and 70 percent from alcohol abuse or other drug abuse problems. Roughly 56 percent are African American or Hispanic.

And what does the VA Say?

About one-third of the adult homeless population have served their country in the Armed Services. Current population estimates suggest that about 195,000 veterans (male and female) are homeless on any given night and perhaps twice as many experience homelessness at some point during the course of a year. Many other veterans are considered near homeless or at risk because of their poverty, lack of support from family and friends, and dismal living conditions in cheap hotels or in overcrowded or substandard housing.

The amazing thing is that rather than simply admit defeat and go home, O'Reilly decided to migrate his argument into so-called "Class Warfare". He re-focused on the view that these people aren't in this position because of economic conditions - even thought the VA Says that for some of them it IS Economic - but instead, they are there because of mental illness and addiction, which of course means there's "nothing anyone else can do."

But when O'Reilly tried to make this point with his own hand-picked guest,
Joseph Califano, head of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, he didn't get what he bargained for.

CALIFANO: Now one fact, a very important fact about the veterans. I mean, the veterans are -- the real tragedy here is most of those veterans have had combat experience that are suffering from drug and alcohol problems and mental health problems. And we are not taking care of them.

O'REILLY: And that is something that should be addressed.

CALIFANO: The Veterans Administration spends about half a billion dollars a year in substance abuse treatment and methadone maintenance for the heroin addicts. But that's not enough.

O'REILLY: OK.

CALIFANO: And it's not a --

O'REILLY: Nobody is arguing that, Mr. Califano.

CALIFANO: OK.

O'REILLY: What we're arguing about is this is being demagogued by a guy who's trying to put up a phony scenario, Ms. Beversdorf, that it's poverty driving the people who are in trouble out on the street. It isn't poverty. It is, as Mr. Califano defined, abuse of substance and mental health problems, which I think everyone agrees, particularly with combat veterans, should be addressed in a very urgent and aggressive way. But that's not what Edwards is saying, madam.

That is exactly what Edwards is saying. Califano said it: What we're spending to address the problem is "not enough". That is an economic issue. Pure and simple. People with mental health problems are not capable of making the best choices on their own behalf, people with addiction problems aren't either - they need treatment, they need HEALTH CARE!

That's why Edwards said : "we have 47 million people with no health care,"

And it seems that the last thing O'Reilly wants - is for anyone to get more healthcare, particularly when the reason they need healthcare at all is the fact that they dared to serve their country and may have become mental-ill and drug addicted because of that service.

To Edwards, it'a not really about how or why these people are in this position, it's a moral question of what we should be doing about it.

The one with the phony arguement here is clearly O'Reilly, particularly following Edward's appearance on Letterman.

He then addressed the subject with Fox Contributors Carrie Lucas and Col David Hunt.

After a month of "searching" (ie. Waiting for Homeless guys without TV's or Radios to CALL HIM) O'Reilly still can't find the vet living under the bridge. Try Over Here - Billy.

Hunt: We're not doing enough. I haven't seen 150,000 beds. It's wrong for one veteran to be on the street.

Lucas: This is a matter of what is the proper role of the federal government. Private charities are better able to address this.

O'Reilly: Are you going to force these people into rehab? Are you going to grab them by the scruff of the neck, you going to drag them into rehab?
Are you willing to do that? It's an individual problem Col. It's an individual addiction or mental illness - and in order to solve that problem you have to force him, and nobodies willing to do that in this country.

Hunt: I think we ought to try.

Like the typical little jack-booted thug that he is, O'Reilly views this in martial terms. In his demented world you would have to force these people into rehab facilities, go running around with butterfly nets and big trucks - gather them up and take them to the big scary building on the hill.

Lock them away.

He never considers the idea of taking the treatment to them. He never considers the power of positive persuasian, or the use of Intervention to help someone make a positive choice and how other veterans who've survived the same difficulties might be best suited reach out to these people.

Nope. Can't do that. To him it's all force, just like when he was shoving the Obama staffer around.

The ironic thing is that it was the use of force that put us in this situation in the first place.

If we're truly going to talk about the route causes of this problem, we have to look no further than Ronald Reagan, and the explosion of homelessness that took place on his watch.

... many homeless rights activists say the single most devastating thing Reagan did to create homelessness was when he cut the budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development by three-quarters, from $32 billion in 1981 to $7.5 billion by 1988. The department was the main governmental supporter of subsidized housing for the poor. Add this to Reagan’s overhaul of tax codes to reduce incentives for private developers to create low-income homes and you had a major crisis for low-income families and individuals. Under Reagan, the number of people living beneath the federal poverty line rose from 24.5 million in 1978 to 32.5 million in 1988.

CAROL FENNELLY (Director of Hope House in Washington): You know, I remember the month that Ronald Reagan was inaugurated president. Our soup line, which would grow from the beginning of the month to a short line, to a large line by the end of the month, and then it would drop down when people got their small checks or whatever. At the first part of the month, it could get small again and grow up through the end of the month. But that first month, it was almost as if there was some cosmic energy out there, you know, telling us what was coming in the future, but the first of the month rolled around and the line didn’t get shorter. It stayed the same. It grew and grew and grew and the soup lines just went around the block in those years. I mean it, was a very difficult time. There were not enough services. We were literally claiming people off streets who had frozen to death in Detroit and, you know, in the industrialized states like Michigan. People who were out of work went into double digit unemployment.

The Republicans Hero Ronald Reagan, starting when he was governor of California, closed state supported mental institutions, closed treatment facilities and put people in need of care out on the street. He took the responsibility away from the government, and put it on the "individual" and private charities who of course were completely unsuited to handle the problem.

And frankly, that hasn't changed all that much in the last 30-years as Anderson Cooper documents, (repeating what was shown in Michael Moore's SiCKO) the dumping of homeless people on the streets of downtown L.A. by Kaiser Permanente.

There's nothing about this that doesn't stink. It's not just embarissing, it's Criminal. It's a Moral Outrage that we can't make sure that anyone who has served their country should ever have to worry - regardless of the reason - about becoming homeless.

There's no excuse.

None.

We should do what we have to do, whatever it takes. There should be no question, no hesitation, no ARGUMENT.

O'Reilly should be fucking ashamed of himself.

Vyan

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Well, there's been a lot of talk about how we either have or haven't gotten over racism in this country following the territorial pissing contest between Barack and Hillary this past week.

Fortunately, that mess is over know that B and H have decided to kiss make up at the Nevada Presidential Debate, but what about the issue their phony mud-fight was founded on in the first place?

What about actual racism imbedded into the systemic fabric of our society?

Let me let you in on a secret.

Slavery and Indentured Servitude Have Not Been Abolished

"Ridiculous" you say?

"We've come so far since those days?"

"What are you Smoking!?"

Trust me on this one, I know - because for the last two months, ending this past monday - I myself was a Slave to the State of California.

"How could such a thing happen in this day an age?" you wonder?

It happens all the time right under our noses and none of us will usually bat an eyelash. You see it all begins right with this little piece of Constitutional slight-of-hand.

Amendment 13 - Slavery Abolished. Ratified 12/6/1865.

  1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
  1. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Let me just re-emphasize the part that you might have missed, just in case.

The point is that Slavery and Involuntary Servitude were abolished 143 years ago - except as punishment for the "Duly Convicted".

Ok, well that's not a real problem is it? The "Duly Convicted" must deserve what they get, right? Yeah, kinda like everyone at Gitmo probably deserves to be locked in a stress position until they pee themselves.

Yeah, sure.

The "They Got what's coming to them" view certainly isn't true for more than 200 people that the Innocence Project has exonerated and freed from decades of prison time after doing DNA analysis and proving that they simply didn't do the crime they were accused of and imprisoned for.

Unfortunately DNA evidence is only available in a tiny fraction of cases, so the other 2 Million people in our jails and prisons are just plain out of luck, whether they are truly guilty or not. Obviously some of them are guilty, but just how many are not? Even an only 1% failure rate would mean that our jails are holding have 200,000 innocent people.

Anyone think our court system is 99% efficent? It is part of the same government that couldn't get water and buses to the Superdome for 5 days, isn't it?

But we were talking about The Racism weren't we? Yeah, ok - here's the thing. You do know there are lots of black people in our criminal justice system, don't you? I mean LOTS! Just look what the Bureau of Justice Statistics says.

  • As of December 31, 2001, there were an estimated 5.6 million adults who had ever served time in State or Federal prison, including 4.3 million former prisoners and 1.3 million adults in prison.

  • Nearly a third of former prisoners were still under correctional supervision, including 731,000 on parole, 437,000 on probation, and 166,000 in local jails.

  • In 2001, an estimated 2.7% of adults in the U.S. had served time in prison, up from 1.8% in 1991 and 1.3% in 1974.

  • Lifetime chances of a person going to prison are higher for

    -- men (11.3%) than for women (1.8%)
    -- blacks (18.6%) and Hispanics (10%) than for whites (3.4%)

  • Based on current rates of first incarceration, an estimated 32% of black males will enter State or Federal prison during their lifetime, compared to 17% of Hispanic males and 5.9% of white males.

  • More than 6 in 10 persons in local jails in 2002 were racial or ethnic minorities, unchanged from 1996.

  • An estimated 40% were black; 19%, Hispanic, 1% American Indian; 1% Asian; and 3% of more than one race/ethnicity.

For decades the issue of incredible 100 to 1 disparity in sentences for drug crimes between Crack and powdered cocaine has been indicated as a major factor in the high numbers of black prison inmates (who tend to be users of the cheaper and more potent crack) and whites (who tend to be cocaine users) - even though most drugs users are, in fact, white.

According to the federal Household Survey, "most current illicit drug users are white. There were an estimated 9.9 million whites (72 percent of all users), 2.0 million blacks (15 percent), and 1.4 million Hispanics (10 percent) who were current illicit drug users in 1998." And yet, blacks constitute 36.8% of those arrested for drug violations, over 42% of those in federal prisons for drug violations. African-Americans comprise almost 58% of those in state prisons for drug felonies; Hispanics account for 20.7%.

But right now I'm not talking about that issue, because it's only half the story and has been covered in great detail. Half of those incarcerated in our jails and prisons have been placed there for violent or drug crimes, but what about the other half?

Well, here's a Chart just in case things aren't clear, which came with this caveat :

Blacks were almost three times more likely than Hispanics and five times more likely than whites to be in jail.

These are all results, but what about the causes?

In his book "The End of Racism" - which I wrote about and debunked 15 years ago, Conservative author Dinesh D'Souza argued that statistics such as those I've just listed and quoted themselves justify what he called "Rational Discrimination."

His argument was that if facts and figures, quantifiable evidence indicates that person x is more likely to a criminal and/or dangerous than person y - it's completely reasonable and rational to take steps to protect yourself and society from that person. You see, the "odds are in your favor."

It's not "racism" because what people are doing isn't based on "Hated" it's based on - well - Fear, which is much more "reasonable", see?

Except of course for the fact that odds really aren't in your favor.

Let me point out something that appears to have slipped the mind of Rational Racists like Dinesh's, and that is that if 32% of black males are likely enter the state and federal prison during their lifetime, it also means that 68% of them WILL NOT!

If you follow Dinesh's logic you should be 3 times more afraid of black men than others, but the facts also say that chances are better than 2 to 1 that any random black male you might happen to meet, is not a criminal, has never been arrested and doesn't deserve to be the recipient of other people's terror.

Dinesh would argue that your safety is more paramount than the "minor inconvenience" of additional scrutiny that would be carried by innocent black people.

Anyone buy that argument when it comes to the NSA's illegal domestic spying program? You really think it doesn't matter when the FBI starts a file on you, or your name winds up on a No-Fly List because of bad information and there's no way to get that information fixed?

I would argue that unfairly treating 68% of black males this way just might tend to make them a tad bit - how shall I say - PISSED OFF.

Besides that, it's also true that according to the data Black people do not use drugs at a higher rate than other demographic groups but they are clearly serving a bulk of the jail and prison time for drugs - which is of course, the direct result of being under high scrutiny and the not-so-soft bigotry of lower expectations.

The real question is how do these "facts" play out in terms of law enforcement? Well, I have my own anecdotal examples which I plan to get to and will explain why I have to carry a piece of paper in my wallet to guarantee my continued freedom, but before that how 'bout a few more stats?

In 1993 the ACLU did a study on New Jersey Turnpike which revealed some interesting results.

African Americans made up 13.5 percent of the turnpike's population and 15 percent of the speeders. But they represented 35 percent of those pulled over. In stark numbers, blacks were 4.85 times as likely to be stopped as were others.

We did not obtain data on the race of drivers and passengers searched after being stopped or on the rate at which vehicles were searched. But we know from police records that 73.2 percent of those arrested along the turnpike over a 3 1/2-year period by troopers from the area's Moorestown barracks were black--making them 16.5 times more likely to be arrested than others.

It's been some time since 1993, but all indications are that not much has changed, while the body count has been growing.

On October 12, 1995, Jonny Gammage, a 31 year-old African American male, was killed after being pulled over while driving the Jaguar of his cousin, Pittsburgh Steelers football player Ray Seals, in a predominately white community.

On February 4, 1999, Amadou Diallo, an unarmed 22 year-old immigrant from New Guinea, West Africa, was shot and killed in the narrow vestibule of the apartment building where he lived.

On April 7, 2001, in the early morning hours, Timothy Thomas, a 19 year-old African-American, was shot to death by police officer John Roach. Thomas had 14 outstanding misdemeanor warrants, mostly traffic violations, including failure to wear a seat belt.

The stats seem clear, but also cold and clinical. Those who lose their lives due to police over-zealousness are easy to rally behind, but they are still rare. What about the many thousands of black men and others, like myself, who've never committed a violent crime, never committed a felony - I've never even taken a illicit drug my entire life, seriously I won't do anything stronger than aspirin - yet because of numerous, and some frankly ridiculous, traffic stops I haven't had a valid drivers license for at least 15 years, and I honestly can't remember a time during my entire adult life when I didn't have an outstanding arrest warrant.

I'm not going to say I haven't ever ran a red light. I have. I know the usual rules: Green means "Go". Yellow means "Go Real FAST!". Red means "Oh, SHIT!" I'm not saying that I'm a saint, or that most of the people I've met during the last two months in my journey through of "justice system" were either.

Yes, I have bent and broken a traffic law in my time - I can cop to and take responsibility for that - but the lengths that all of this has come to are just plain insane. Although it may seem extreme to those who haven't been through it, I suspect my own story isn't that different from hundreds of thousands of other people across the nation.

Here's the deal: 12 years ago I received a ticket for driving on a suspended license, this week I completed service on that charge which amounted to a $1000 fine (of which I paid over $700), plus 4 days in county jail and 20 days of "Work Release".

I'll be honest, I don't even remember why my license was suspended in the first place. It was too long ago and driving around in L.A. as a black man you are a target for law enforcement. Yes, I know it seems like a trite cliche but it's true, you are Guilty of Something - until you prove yourself Innocent - if you can.

Facts and Figures are one thing: Real Life experience is another.

I'm sure lots of people have similar stories - this is mine. (Get some coffee, I have a lot to get off my chest)

    My first experience with LAPD was as a kid. I grew up on 94th and Hoover, which was Crip territory. While I was in elementary school during the 70's, we had hookers on the corner and drug dealers living directly across the street. The dealers used to solicit the cars driving by, and block traffic for the entire block, usually a line of cars would pile up while they did they business selling PCP, which was called "Sherm" on the street. We used to see this everyday and called it the "Car Wash."

    Well, one day a black and white LAPD patrol car came around the corner and found itself at the end of a line of about four cars, with the dealers servicing the car in front. It was late afternoon, after school, all the kids in the neighborhood were out playing and could see what was going on, we all knew something was about to go down - but not what.

    The seconds ticked by slowly as anticipation built...

    Then finally the police loudspeaker clicked on.

    "Stop Selling SHERM and Get Out of the Street!"

    This struck us all has just hilariously funny, so while we all collapsed to the ground in stitches the traffic cleared up, the black and white passed on by to what must have obviously been more important work - and the dealers kept dealing.

    My own mother was the one who eventually got the dealers out of the neighborhood by starting a petition to have them evicted. They responded by burning down the house they were renting. And so it went. After a while seeing a sudden fire among the rental property in the neighborhood was hardly an odd occurrance.

    "Oh, look another Drug House fire - let's get some nachos!"

    My first job was for Defense Contractor Northrop-Grumman where I worked for a dozen years in their IT department. I had a Top Secret/SAR Security clearance, and in 1984 I bought myself a sporty new car, a Burgundy Nissan 200SX. I'd had my background checked and my trash picked at by the FBI in order to gain that clearance, but since I still lived in South Central and now had a shiny new car to the LAPD I was a suspect.

    Between the time I brought my 200SX home and my plates arrived in the mail, which was just a few weeks, I was pulled over at least 4 Times. I remember once being stopped just 2 blocks from the infamous corner of Florence and Normandie, and when they checked the V.I.N. number they found the car was so new - it wasn't even in the DMV Database yet.

    Some may scoff but in many ways the LAPD, particularly back in those days, were much more dangerous than the gangs.

    Another officer pursued me for 20 blocks down Figueroa before pulling me over. Once he saw my brand New 200SX, it seems that was all he needed and he wasn't letting go. I knew he was coming after me as soon as I passed him. But by this time I was getting a little pissed - I mean, who wouldn't? - so as soon as I stopped I got out of the car and asked the obvious but almost fatal question:

    "What's going on?"

    I knew damn well what was going on, but also knew this would throw him off balance and give me the upper hand psychological. It did, but not the way I expected. As it turned out this guy was a rookie, and responded to my "obvious aggression" of standing up and asking a perfectly reasonable question by freaking OUT and pulling out his service weapon on me!

    So, since the way he was shaking told me I'd already been through more traffic stops than HE HAD - even though we were about the same age - I decided to have a little chat with him and talk him down they way you would a guy about to jump off a cliff. He was clearly teetering on the edge being all alone with the weird black guy who spoke in complete sentences, and no "black-ccent" what-so-ever in the middle of South Central. I guess I was practically an ALIEN to what this guy had apparently been told to expect.

    "Hey, dude - just relax. Everything is cool. It'll all be all right, just go ahead and run my plates - I'll wait right here. On the ground, it's plenty comfy."

    I sat down in the middle of the street, which fortunately was a cul de sac, with my hands positioned non-threateningly at my sides and let him run his checks to find out - I was completely clean. Oh, I probably had a pending fix-it ticket at the time, but otherwise - nothing. He eventually calmed down and put away his weapon, he didn't even cite me for anything (Maybe because he had no damn good reason to pull me over in the first place, let alone pull his weapon) With 25 years of living in a "gang neighborhood" that was the only time anyone ever pointed a gun at me. Ever.

    Fortunately for me, unlike Johnny Gammage and Amadour Diallo, I'm still here to tell you the tale. If I hadn't calmed him down, I wouldn't be. Thank god I wasn't brandishing a loaded cell-phone, like Diallo allegedly was.

    One thing I will say about LAPD is that when they realized they had no case, they usually let the issue drop. Most of the time I didn't even get a ticket from them - possibly because once they actually talked to me, they could tell I wasn't "in the gang life". Gang-bangers seemed to be all they cared about and who they were looking for.

    Truth is: It was the suburban cops who wouldn't know a gang-banger from a go-go dancer that caused me real trouble.

    I once got pulled over on the 110 Freeway because my license tags were about to expire. Which is to say, they were perfectly good - I had three weeks left to get them renewed - but this motorcycle cop stopped me anyway, then gave me a seatbelt ticket. (At the time it wasn't legal to use a seatbelt as an reason to stop someone - so he fucking made up a reason!)

    The worst situation I can remember was in West Hollywood in the late 80's on the way to see some friends play a gig at the Troubadour. Me my wife and a friend who'd flown out from the midwest to see the Hollywood Sunset Strip for the first time were driving down Santa Monica Blvd, when an emergency vehicle appeared behind us. Santa Monica has two lanes going each way and we were in the fast lane, so we needed to pull over - but the slow lane was full of a long line of cars. For those who've driven in L.A., this will seem very familiar, those who haven't probably won't believe it - but no one in the slow lane would let us get over. There was one car just in front of my right front quarter panel, and another in my blindspot - but not enough room between them to change lanes so I could let the ambulance pass. I had my turn blinker on and was edging toward the line to indicate that I needed to get in their lane - but they wouldn't budge. Everyone was slowing down together, but no one was making room.

    By the time we were all almost stopped I was practically driving on the line, so I finally said "FUCK IT" and decided to by-pass all the cars in the slow lane and go all the way to the head of the line in order to keep from blocking the ambulance. This meant that I had to nearly side-swipe every car in line in order to move in time, which I managed to do without hitting anyone, go to the front of line and finally change lanes. Mission accomplished. Except that it turned out that the car in front of that line of traffic was a West Hollywood Sherriff's patrol car.

    If you ever have a chance to avoid being on the bad side of the West Hollywood Sherrif Deputy - TAKE IT. Those guys are not exactly house broken.

    They gave me a HUGE ration of shit, but I'd been through it so many times - It was practically a joke to me, which just made them more angry. I knew I'd just been trying to obey the traffic rules, but they didn't see it that way - not that they'd really seen anything other than the fact that I didn't hit them while avoiding an ambulance. They interrogated me. They interrogated my wife, who is of Irish, Russian extraction and not exactly what these apparently expected to see with some HoodRat/IT Guy in a 200SX ...and they scared the BEJEEZUS out of our friend Kim who had been flirting with moving out to L.A., to be near all her Rock-n-Roll heroes and Icons. She dreamed of being able to visit the Whiskey-A-Go-Go where the Doors first performed, or the Roxy, or Gazzarri's (which was still standing back then). It was something she'd always dreamed about. Not after this though. She gave that dream up, and still lives in the midwest - the hell away from L.A. Cops - to this day.

    My wife was livid.

    "Who owns this car?"

    "My husband."

    "And where is he?"

    "He's the gentleman you're interrogating over there..."

    Yeah she was pissed, Kim was terrified - both of them had seen what had happened, both tried to explain that I had done nothing wrong and it was the other drivers who'd put us all in danger. But like more than a few cops I've met, but not all, they were truth impervious. It didn't matter that I had witnesses. Once they'd made up their mind - no minor fact storm was going to change it.

    They also gave me a hard time because I had an outstanding warrant due of some other, probably equally bogus, traffic stops that I hadn't paid for yet - eventually I did, but these extra bills were starting to really PILE UP - finally they gave me a ticket for "Failing to Yield to an Emergency Vehicle", which ironically is exactly what I DID Do, "Yield."

    Over the years the details of most of these stops have become a blur - there were just so many of them. I remember a ticket for balding tires in El Segundo, and a left turn against a "No Left" sign in Pasadena. Both of which I admit were legitimate. But I also remember having my car searched one late night in Torrance and officers telling me they'd found Cocaine in my vehicle simply because I had turned down the wrong side street at 3 am. In this case my license tags actually were expired (keeping a car up to date with Smog checks can be a really expensive PAIN) and I knew it, so rather than deal with some cops I saw ahead, I turned around and quietly parked. Problem is the street I choose - in lovely suburban Torrance - supposed had a history of "drug activity" (Not compared to my old neighborhood in LA it didn't) and their surveillance van had spotted which way I went. (Isn't it nice that they got a surveillance van?) They kept me out there for two hours in the freezing cold trying to get me to break down and admit who my "Dealer" was - while I tried, unsuccessfully, to keep from laughing out loud at them.

    After the rookie with the itchy trigger finger, these rubes weren't bullshitting me.

    "You think this is Funny??"

    Well, Hell Yes it was funny since I don't even know what Cocaine looked or tasted like.

    "No, sir!"

    I don't even remember exactly how my license got suspended. All these tickets would pile up, some were legit - most not, but I still had to pay the bill or fight them or whatever. The ongoing grind of it was wearing me down. If I missed a court date. Warrant. If I missed a payment. Warrant. Gradually I was catching up to them - one by one - but not quickly enough. If you have a Warrant outstanding too long - the DMV will suspend your license. If you get caught driving on a suspended license - and who can LIVE without driving in LA? - they pull out the big guns on you.

    12 years ago, a pair of Whittier Deputy Sherrif's crossed the double-yellow line and nearly hit me head-on - so naturally since they were the ones to FUCK UP in the first place they pulled me over, found my license was suspended and impounded my car. The impound fees were almost a thousand dollars. The ticket fees were more than a thousand dollars and I worked out a payment plan which I kept up long enough to pay them over $700.

    Then with $350 pending on the fine, I bounced a check.

    I didn't mean too, I don't remember why it happened other than just getting some financial wires crossed. I tried to go back and give them a replacement - but they wouldn't take it. I had to see the judge again. I'd seen this judge twice already, and let me be honest with you - he was a PRICK.

    I knew this guy was going to give me jail time, so I admit it - I didn't go back. And in the meantime - I moved out of LA. to Sacramento.

    Two years later I got pulled over in Seal Beach. while visiting LA for two days (That's all it took) Again, I don't think there was any actual reason to stop us, and the OC Sherriff's didn't give me one - but they stopped us anyway. (My guess would be that I was probably speeding a bit, since I wanted to get the FUCK out of OC!) As it turned out that judge had put out a $50,000 Warrant for me - so they took me directly to jail.

    I spent about 25 hours in custody with scores of Meth-heads, Asian gang-bangers and Heroine addicts - I know, because they told me - but that was in Orange County. In those days inmates in LA County Jail were dying in custody by the car-load because of overcrowding. I was not going to LA. period. No way. We paid the bail by using cash I was saving to pay my taxes (which eventually caught up to me later), and I went back again to see that judge - but he didn't give me any credit for time served and still wouldn't take my $350, so when I got back to Sac I basically said to myself -

    FUCK 'EM - If they really want me so bad they can fucking come and get me!

    Ok, I admit it - I was a little steamed. I'd had warrants against me for my entire adult life, and the worse I ever did was probably an illegal lane change.

    Was I a lousy driver? Well, after 20+ years of driving and I've been in ONE - count 'em - ONE accident when I was still in my teens. Yeah, I'm was such a scoff-law. I grew up in a neighborhood with real criminals, most of the kids I knew from my middle-school didn't make it to see 30 years old because of drug using or drug dealing - a lot of them were flat-out murdered - and these guys are coming after ME over an overdue bill?

    Did I mentioned the "pissed off" thing? "Fuck this" is what I thought.

    In Sac things were different, they actually had decent public transportation and I didn't need to drive. Besides, the brakes had gone out one day on our car and my wife had totaled it, so driving was irrelevant. The police were actually a part of the human species. Helpful, Cheery, Polite. Wow.

    That was ten years ago and I haven't gotten a moving violation ticket since, maybe because I haven't been driving for that entire time unless it was a dire emergency, maybe because I was 400 miles from LA. Maybe both. From my experience it seem obvious that if you aren't in the driver's seat - you become invisible. The target is off your back.

    But not entirely gone.

    There was the one time I was in the passenger seat and Bobby Blotzer (drummer for the band Ratt) almost got me arrested because he decided to loudly, and badly, sing some Sinatra at 4am in the middle of a Redondo Beach neighborhood while we waited for Don Dokken to get home from an Alice Cooper show. But that's an even longer story than this one.

    In 2000 my wife and I filed for bankruptcy - and I know for a fact I included the $350 to Whittier court in the paperwork. Logic dictates that Federal Court should override State court. Rock beats Scissors. Well, not exactly as it turned out.

    This past November, after having moved back to the LA area, I was stopped again, this time apparently for Walking While Black!

    If you can believe it - I got a Jay-Walking ticket.

    But the thing is this: I was walking from one corner to another - within the crosswalk - while the light was red and the opposing traffic was stopped and while some cars where attempting to turn left. A few slowed as I approached the half-way point, and I waved them through - which is what got the officer's attention. He crossed into opposing traffic to get ahead of me, called me over to his car, made me sit on the sidewalk, emptied my pockets, called for BACKUP, discovered my age-old warrant and then wrote me up for violating code 21955, before making me spend 6 hours in the local police jail while they did an NCIC search (which turned up nothing else).

    The statute i supposedly violated in order bring this upon myself?

    Crossing Between Controlled Intersections

    1. Between adjacent intersections controlled by traffic control signal devices or by police officers, pedestrians shall not cross the roadway at any place except in a crosswalk.

    Let me repeat - I was IN THE CROSSWALK. Also according to the California Vehicle Code persons in the crosswalk have the right of way over cars turning left.

    1. (a) The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.

    Of course this isn't absolute.

    (b) This section does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty of using due care for his or her safety. No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. No pedestrian may unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.

    As I said, I stopped at the halfway point, before I entered the path of the cars turning left. I did show "due care" for my safety and did not "unnecessarily" stop traffic. But these guys acted like they'd just caught Al Capone.

    I knew they thought I was a stereotypical gang-banger or something when they started asking if I had any "Friends in the area".

    Right, I've only lived two blocks away for the last 3-years in a house my mother and I bought together 25 years ago - but I have no friends, because I spend all my time on the computer doing graphic design. Nitwit.

    Ok, what I actually said was "Now, your insulting me." Which they were, what do my supposed "Friends" have to do with how and where I cross the street?

    I will admit that it's technically true that the crossing sign hadn't changed to "Walk" until I reached the halfway point, but it's also true that this particular light will never say "Walk" unless you press the button at the corner. Still he didn't write me up from crossing on the "Don't Walk" which would have been VC 21456 - he wrote me up for Jay-walking, which I simply didn't do.

    On my way walking home from the city jail six hours later I crossed the exact same interesection. I didn't touch the button, and it never did say "Walk". I somehow reached the other side in one piece. I'm so bad, that I stayed within the crosswalk.

    At any rate I was actually relieved to tell you the truth, this all confirmed that the bankruptcy hadn't overridden the pending fine, and gave me an oppurtunity to finally clean the slate.

    The running was over. I might even be able to get my license back again.

And so ends Part 1. In the overall scheme of things I think I've been lucky, at any point this could have been much worse and escalated into something ugly if either I or one of these officers had ever lost their heads.

My point for bringing all of this up is just to illustrate what it's like to live, essentially, in perpetual fear. Not fear of al Qeada, not fear of a natural disaster or health problem, but fully "rational and reasonable" fear of the people who are supposed to be charge with my protection and the protection of my family - fear that at any random moment they just might fuck me over. Again!

Through all of this I've known a lot of police officers, one was even my roomate and one of the ushers at my wedding. But that doesn't mean I actually trust them. Not automatically.

As D'Souza says it's perfectly reasonable to have these fears, based on the facts, based on experience, particularly when it comes to "young black men" - but also it's perfectly reasonable for those black men to have the exact same fear of law enforcement based on the facts. The only way to overcome this, the only way to truly fight racism from either side, is to fight those fears with courage. We have to be willing to take the risk that what we've been told, and what we've previously experienced just might be wrong in a particular case when dealing with an individual.

The problem of course is surviving what happens when those fears are actually justified.

That is a point I'll address next time in Part 2: The Hanging Judge, County Jail and Working for the Man.

Vyan