It happens to me at least a thousand times a week. I’m driving down the street and some pedestrian walks out into my path without looking to see if the way is clear, impacting traffic. People have to slow down to give the jaywalker or the jaywalkers the right of way. I’ve actually seen people walking across the street without impacting the flow of traffic slow down or change their direction so that they would slow traffic down. And when it happens chances are good I’ll curse the jaywalker’s mother. If the dumb-ass son-ova-bitch had any sense of self preservation for their lives they wouldn’t take such chances with their well being.
Yes it’s true the pedestrian has the right of way and traffic has to yield. But what if the person driving the car didn’t care about the person crossing the street or didn’t see the person crossing the street or couldn’t stop from hitting the person crossing the street? What if the person was old and didn’t have the reflexes to respond to somebody walking in front of their path? What if the person looked away for a brief second to change a radio station and didn’t look up in time to hit the brakes? What if the person driving two tons of life ending metal, glass, and plastic simply doesn’t care enough about life to do anything to keep from hitting the person in the middle of the street? What if a lot of things happen? A person stepping in front of a moving vehicle will make a lot of assumptions about what could happen. A smart person wouldn’t be so cavalier with his or her health, let alone the health of his or her child.
But things happen. People get lax. People can go their whole life without ever having a close encounter with a moving vehicle. The driver always stops or turns or does whatever to keep the walker safe. Nobody in their circle of friends, family, or associates has ever been hit by a vehicle. You’d have to be pretty unlucky to get hit by a car these days. And if it does happen, there’s always the courts to set things right. We can always sue for damages. But people forget, even if the man behind the wheel is Daddy Warbucks himself and despite a vast amount of wealth hires the most incompetent lawyers to defend him in a lawsuit, no amount of money can replace a shattered spine or a broken neck or a loss of life. The best bet is to avoid an accident if at all possible. How many times have I thought to myself that people who cross streets in front of cars take their lives in their own hands?
Not too long ago the misses and I passed an accident involving a car and a pedestrian. It must’ve happened just minutes, if not seconds, before. Totally focused on getting by I had to rely on the misses to tell me what had happened or was happening. In the middle of the street, practically right next to the double yellow divider line of a four lane street, a young woman laid in the middle of the street. Several people standing around her were on their cell phones. People on the sidewalk had stopped to gawk. Drivers were slowing down to take a good look. The young woman was crying, lying on her side in the street totally blocking one lane of traffic on the direction we were traveling. A driverless car was stopped in front of the woman, but we had no clue if the car was involved in whatever happened or was just rendering aid. There was no crosswalk and traffic was pretty heavy. It was a major artery through the city. What the hell was she doing crossing the street right there? No respect for traffic and no respect for her own life.
This is the experience I initially thought of when I heard the story of Raquel Nelson, the black woman in Georgia whose four year old son was hit by a van and killed as she tried to lead her family across a street. The driver, Jerry Guy, didn’t stop. When authorities were able to find him, he had admitted to consuming alcohol earlier that very day as well as taken painkillers, no doubt the kind with the warning label on the side saying don’t operate any vehicles while under the drug’s influence. Mr. Guy had two previous hit and run convictions. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six months in jail. But the grieving mother, with two other children to raise and to help through the loss of their brother, was facing three years in jail for her contribution to the situation that led to her son’s death. Ms. Nelson was convicted of second degree vehicular homicide, reckless conduct, and the failure to use a crosswalk. We don’t think she pushed her son in front of the vehicle. Why would a grieving mother who just lost her son face a three year prison sentence while the hit and run driver potentially under the influence who actually hit her son only get six months?
Like the accident the misses and I partially witnessed a few months back, the two of us don’t know much of what actually happened in Atlanta, other than what we learned from the news. Does anybody really think that the mother is a clear and present danger to society, more so than a potentially impaired driver with a history of hit and runs? I doubt it.
Unfortunately, it appears that this is just another case of the heavy hand of law being applied in a way that resembles another bitch slap to a black person. A black woman loses her son to a hit and run driver and all the district attorney can see is a criminal, not a grieving mother.
It is kind of like the time the police killed Tarika Wilson while she was holding her one year old son. The police broker into her home looking for her suspected drug dealing boyfriend who was not in the house. A bunch of people break down her door, I imagine she ran to protect her baby. But the police that shot her didn’t see a black mother holding a baby. He didn’t even see a baby. All he saw was a black criminal and pulled his trigger. And as a reward for his service to the community, for snuffing out the life of a black woman holding a baby, the police officer was acquitted of any crime. Good thing for him we have a lot more compassion for police who kill black people than we have for a black woman trying to cross a street.
I can’t stand jaywalkers who thoughtlessly wander into coming cars. I really think we do ourselves a disservice when we let people carelessly walk into traffic at the drop of a hat. But I don’t think the answer is to wait until a mother loses a child and threaten her with years in prison to show how seriously we belatedly take this issue. When I see a woman who has made a mistake that has resulted in the loss of her child, I no longer see a jaywalker but instead I’m happy to say that I have enough compassion to see a grieving mother who will spend the rest of her life thinking if only she did something differently. And if we honestly believe that jaywalking is akin to second degree vehicular manslaughter then maybe we should be arresting jaywalking people for attempted murder and/or suicide and/or something that would really discourage this dangerous, life threatening behavior.
Really, who’s surprised? According to an analysis of new census data, the wealth gap between whites and blacks has grown to its widest levels in decades. Thanks to the recession and the uneven recovery, which has focused primarily on the financial health of the rich and the well established, too big to fail institutions of corporate America, decades of gains to bring some parity in wealth between the white community and the black community have been eroded leaving whites on average with twenty times the net worth of blacks.
According to an analysis by the Pew Research Center, the median wealth of white households in 2009 was just over a $113,000 compared with less than $5,700 for the average black household. The white to black wealth gap is the widest it’s ever been since this census data began tracking such social measurements back in 1984. The analysis shows the racial disparity of the entire economic meltdown. It provides the best proof of the continuing disparity between blacks whose main asset is their home and whites who are more likely to have a much more diverse and well established investment portfolio that is much more closely tied to big business. While government will focus mightily on reestablishing the wealth of Fortune 500 companies and the “job creators” with a total cash worth totaling into the trillions of dollars, for the most part the average black family is left excluded of these wealth development programs.
This information comes at a time when Washington is trying to reach a deal to keep the country from defaulting on its financial obligations. Our government leaders will squabble over proposals that will cut trillions of dollars from programs designed to help the less fortunate that make up so much of the black community. Programs like Medicare and Social Security will face threats of financial cost savings while politicians do what they can to protect corporate tax loopholes and anything else that might result in the wealthy paying an extra dime in government revenue. Are we really all that surprised to see proof that the wealth gap is growing along racial lines?
This information comes at a time when the unemployment rate in the white community is 8.1% and the unemployment rate for the black community 16.2%, exactly twice that of our so called white peers. And while we might hear the tired refrain that the black people in the community need to make more of an investment in education, where is the money for black people to make this educational investment to come from? While people in the white community have the wealth to borrow or invest in their children’s future, where will the funding come for people in the black community?
Let’s not forget that some of our politicians are actually arguing that if we as a nation raise tax revenue on luxury items like corporate jets, we have to offset that income by reducing our investment in things like education. So chances are the black community won’t have access to the government funding necessary to help overcome these financial disproportions at a community level.
Let many people from the racially generic community that is predominantly white tell the story and blacks have enjoyed every advantage thanks to such misunderstood programs such as affirmative action. And institutions that once existed to help offset the disparity a bit, such as ACORN, have been dismantled by people who, arguably, are intent on not just preserving the inequality of the racial status quo, but shifting it into overdrive to make the wealth gap even wider. Even our Supreme Court, more conservative than ever with justices like Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito, has made rulings that can be summed up as anything that looks at racial disparity could in itself be racist. Are we really surprised to see that the attack on racial equality has been so successful?
The founding fathers prepared the United States Constitution for every eventuality that a nation could face, with the one possible exception of deeply entrenched political gridlock, rooted in an intent focus on scoring political points instead of doing the will of the people. It is the will of the people, not the will of all people but the will of the majority, that the United States not default on its debt and protect its fragile economy. At this time, the only way to protect the nation’s economy, and arguably the economy of the world, is to raise the debt ceiling so that we can continue to borrow the money to pay for the bills we have already incurred.
I find it appalling that some of our political leaders, mostly from the conservative side of the political aisle, openly operate under the presumption that America defaulting is nothing to worry about. And some of these people even say that we can default on our financial obligations and our economy would become even stronger. What? Like a lot of people, I’ve missed my fair share of credit card payments. Just didn’t have the funds, I forgot, payments got lost in the mail, whatever. My financial health hardly got better because of it. Credit card companies, banks, and other financial institutions don’t hesitate to jack the payments up substantially with a threefold increase in interest rates. Suddenly I found myself paying a lot more just to keep the status quo. People who have experienced defaulting on a bill or two know what the deal is. Not paying bills does little to give people an incentive to loan you money. In fact, believe it or not it does the exact opposite and you wind up paying more in order to get the credit desired. Protect your credit. It’s why companies like Equifax, Experian, TransUnion and other credit monitoring organizations make money selling us services to protect our financial power.
Even the leadership of second and third world countries know the importance of protecting their credit. Greece, a country right on that cusp between second and third world status and nowhere near the significance of the United States, is working to get the financing so that it won’t trigger a series of unfortunate events that could impact the European countries whose finances support the value of the Euro currency and the rest of the global economy. And with a gross domestic product at a little over three hundred billion dollars, Greece is hardly considered a financial heavy hitter. But nevertheless, people are pulling out the stops to bolster that economy.
With a gross domestic product at more than fourteen trillion dollars, the United States is forty-five times the size of Greece, and its impact to the world economy would be like the tidal wave that sank the Andrea Gail in The Perfect Storm. The United States has gone to war with other countries to protect the dollar and to enforce its reputation as the monetary standard of the world. America’s credit is like gold, you can take it to the bank. At least you used to be able to take it to the bank.
Now, some of our political leaders want to make our economy so unstable that cash would need some kind of collateral to back up its value. Why, because some of our politicians insist on curing our debt woes solely by cutting back on spending. How many times have we heard the mantra that Washington doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem. People want to insist that any plan to solve this crisis must be revenue neutral because getting more money into the nation’s treasury is a problem. Some of our politicians insist on protecting the financial pockets of the wealthy, hereafter to be referred to as job creators, even though these people already sit on top of enough cash and wealth to hire an entire squadron of additional workers to any workforce. The reasoning for not raising revenue simply doesn’t add up. But it is true that Washington doesn’t have a revenue problem. What it does have is a common sense problem.
When I didn’t pay a bill because I didn’t have the funds, I did whatever I could to raise the money to pay it. I did what I could to cut back on expenses and I did what I could to raise revenue. I had a combination of a revenue problem and a spending problem that contributed to my debt problem. And politicians should be willing to do the same thing when our national treasury falls short. Go figure.
Back in 2001, when times were still fairly good, government enjoyed a surplus, but a recession was beginning to form on the horizon, the conservatives sold the American public on the idea that a cut in taxes would generate jobs and keep the economy afloat. Back then, we had a revenue problem and we had to reduce taxes to give more money back to the public. And even though the vast majority of that money went to the job creators (formerly known as the rich), jobs started to evaporate. Now that the economy has tanked, conservatives are now telling us that we have a revenue problem and that the only thing we should do is now cut spending. Unfortunately, as soon as we get our spending under control, against common sense, somebody might start selling the idea of more tax cuts again and we’ll be back in the same boat.
Anders Behring Breivik, a blond haired red blooded Norwegian, went to the pier that provided access to a retreat on the tiny island of Utoeya, a wooded retreat in Tyrifjord Lake that’s about an hour’s drive from Oslo. He arrived at the lakeside pier dressed as a Norwegian police officer. Authorities believe that a few hours before his arrival, he planted a car bomb as a distraction in the heart of the Norwegian government area, killing at least seven people and injuring many more. Initially, the bomb blast was believed to be an attempt on the life of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg by Islamist extremists. Norway’s anti-terror squad and the police responded to the downtown Oslo disaster while Mr. Breivik went to Utoeya on his ultimate goal. In his police officer costume and with the cover story that he was there to inspect their security and safety arrangements in light of the terror attack in Oslo, the security guards gave him access and a boat was called to take him to the island. A few minutes after he arrived, shots were heard. Brandishing an automatic machine gun, Mr. Breivik ran into the main house and opened fire on the crowd. It took more than an hour for the Norwegian police to realize what was happening and respond to the massacre that was unfolding. Mr. Breivik was captured and confessed. As of this writing more than ninety people have been confirmed killed. The victims ranged in age from fourteen to nineteen.
With the perpetrator in hand and a confession on record, there has been some speculation about what kind of sentencing Mr. Breivik is facing. Norway abolished its death penalty way back in 1902. It has never come close to being reinstated. Regardless of the crime, the maximum prison sentence for anyone sentenced to prison is twenty-one years. And despite its rather liberal approach to crime and punishment, Norway enjoys one of the lowest homicide rates in the world. Nevertheless, some people who are reporting on this story find it incredulous that if or when Mr. Breivik is officially found guilty he will be facing a sentence that is rather light considering the magnitude of his crime. If he is given the maximum sentence, Mr. Breivik is facing a rather paltry eighty-five days per life murdered. And as police comb the tiny island, as they find more bodies that number will drop even further. And if Norway has a system of reducing prison sentences for good behavior, that number will fall even further.
Just about anyone with a fair sense of justice will look at this crime and shake their head in severe disappointment. The value of life should be worth much more than just a few weeks in prison, especially when the murderer takes such a callous, cold, calculated, and inhuman attitude towards his victims. It’s easy to point a finger at Norway and say that they don’t have a tough enough stance on crime. Some might even say that they coddle their criminals. This proverbial slap on the wrist is simply too much for some of us to bear. Some of us now feel that we have the moral authority to criticize the unfairness of a judicial system that appears to be lax on crime.
A few years ago we saw John White of Long Island, New York convicted for shooting and killing one inebriated young man who led a team of intoxicated youths to Mr. White’s house threatening violence to the White family. A jury found Mr. White guilty of murder because he didn’t call the police and stayed in his house when the youths approached. Almost that very same moment, Joe Horn of Houston, Texas was facing investigation for the murder of a couple of minorities who were robbing his neighbor’s house. Just before he grabbed his shotgun and went outside to shoot two men in the back, Mr. Horn was on the phone with the emergency operator who gave him direct instructions telling him to stay inside his home and let the police handle the situation, a situation that did not involve Mr. Horn one way or the other. Mr. Horn ignored the instructions and took it upon himself to commit murder. The local district attorney never even tried to convict Mr. Horn. Where are these people with their moral outrage when crime and other forms of social injustice occur in their own backyard? Are these the same people that were telling us that the laws in New York governing a shooting were different than the laws in Texas? We had to accept the fact that the people in two different jurisdictions decided to approach the same matter from two fundamentally different perspectives and therefore we need to allow people their right to just live with the differences? Here in America where we often have to face the fact that many times murder isn’t worth any incarceration, especially depending on who is murdered and who the murderer is, why get upset when other countries don’t apply our level of only sometimes dishing out harsh punishment to those who might be deserving.
According to the most recent homicide rates cited in Wikipedia (believed to be 2010), Norway’s homicide rates is 0.6 per hundred thousand people. Compare that to the United States rate of 5.0 per hundred thousand and we could rightfully assume that people in Norway might be working with a social construct that seems to work a little better than our own. We need to recognize the fact that no justice system is perfect. And while it might be true that we would respond to Mr. Breivik with a far more severe hand of American retribution that would do its best to get a death penalty conviction, such an approach didn’t stop people like Timothy McVeigh of the Oklahoma City bombing, Seung-Hui Cho of the Virginia Tech massacre, Nidal Malik Hasan of the Fort Hood shootings in Texas, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold of Columbine, or any of the long list of murders home gown in the land of the heavy handed response.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
The Latest Tea Party Rally
The tea party, feeling a bit besieged, held a rally outside the Capitol Wednesday to urging members to hold the line against a deficit reduction compromise with big time participants like Herman Cain, Jim DeMint, Rand Paul, Mike Lee and about fifty people who showed up with nothing better to do. It appears that public support for their cause is waning.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Tiger Continues To Fall
The golden boy of golf continues to tarnish. Not able to win with any consistency for the past two years, Mr. Woods’ ranking in pro golf falls to 21st.
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Gay Marriage In New York
Daniel Mackey and his partner Dennis Josue pose for a picture after their wedding in New York! Hundreds of couples lined up outside courthouses to be among the first to take advantage of having a legal same-sex marriage.