Loose Odds and Ends

We Have Discussed Some Big Issues of Late – Let’s Revisit a Few with New Inputs                      


Let’s See – Where DID I Put that?

Almost everyone I know has “the drawer” in their home. You know, the one that seems to be the catch-all for everything that does not have a place to go. I regret to say I have 2-3 of these around my home. My whole garage may qualify for that status.

Writing a blog inevitably creates a digital drawer in this same tradition. Things you want to write about later, things that bear investigation, things that come up after a blog is published that should be shared.  I have a a few small tidbits of that sort to share with you.

What a Difference Leadership Makes

The last time we had a president face so many crises at the same time, at this magnitude, Franklin Delano Roosevelt occupied the Oval Office. Notice a few differences with the current occupant?  FDR saved the country, inspired millions of his fellow citizens, built institutions and programs that created modern America. It was a remarkable tour de force.

Then there is Donald Trump. We have long known he was not up to the job, but just how far he falls short is now glaringly, painfully obvious on so many counts. I note this because I believe the worst is yet to come. From this administration, from his cronies and enablers, and from foreign powers who see opportunities like they never dreamed of to do a number on the US of A.  We surely hope this is the end stage for the Trump era, but even so, we have some terrible months ahead of us.

Police Reform: I Have Good News and I Have New Bad News

Since the blog on this topic a few days ago about this unimaginably important topic, I have come across two readings that might yet make me schizophrenic, so different are the messages they deliver.

First, the good news. It turns out there is very solid, definitive proof of what works in controlling escalating violence in civil disturbances. The winning formulas are pretty well known, and for some years were practiced widely in America. But our law enforcement got increasingly aggressive in its training and equipment. The lessons of what worked got set aside in so many departments. An approach that often works in combat is overwhelming power, richly displayed and aggressively applied. I can tell you from first-hand experience, it works. In domestic law enforcement? It does not work.

Police departments that excel in engagement and de-escalation most often get better results. This is not to deny there are times that real force is called for. Nor is this a call for police officers to needlessly put their own lives at risk. It is saying that a military approach is wrong, does not work, and does not belong in our streets. Read this short article on the subject. It is illuminating, to say the least. A lot of people need to read this.

Now, the bad news. It is often said that perception is reality. People act on what they believe and think, whether this is fact based or not. We see it around us every day. The phenomena of confirmation bias means that we all are subject to this. Enter the Pew Research Center. As luck would have it, they interviewed 8,000 police officers in 2016 to see how their views compared with most Americans and Americans of specific groups. The results are grim.

Some examples of the Gap

67% of police officers thought deaths of black people by the police were isolated incidents. The public at large number was 39% and that was in 2016. Imagine what it is now. 92% of police officers said that protests reflected bias against police – 92%. As to whether the country needed to make changes to ensure equal justice, 80% of police said no changes were needed. That was almost twice what the rest of the country thought, back in 2016. And so on, all the way down the line. I did not imagine the gap was so large. This will make getting to where we need to be much, much harder. Read for yourself a short recap of the polling.

Why I Feel Better Today about Senior Military Leadership: What happened in Lafayette Square was a tragedy, and a shameful thing to have happened in America. That the armed forces were even marginally involved was doubly wrong, dangerous, and inexcusable. I was becoming worried that the armed forces were being pulled into an evil political vortex. But the dam broke, because of this incident. Senior leaders across the board spoke in outrage. Even some of the troops involved  spoke out. I now am reasonably confident that the leaders down the line found their moral compass out of this. I expect such orders would be refused, at least by some, in the months ahead. Next week my Army celebrates its 245th birthday. Turns out I can celebrate as I had hoped. Happy June 14, everyone.

A New One – Reflections on the Space Shot: SpaceX successfully put two men in orbit and auto-parked them with the International Space Station. I watched it with all my fingers and toes crossed. I don’t think I breathed until the last stage separated and they were on course in space. I admit to a bias for the space program. In my mind, this is the kind of things great civilizations do. There is never a right time to do such things, spend such resources, other than now. It was good to see us in the human launch business again.

I was struck by how very different the capsule was from its NASA predecessors. The earlier capsules were cutting edge technology of their time. Compared to the SpaceX hardware, they look like antiques. Interesting that the control panel in the Dragon capsule looked a lot like the dashboard of a Tesla automobile. Must be a coincidence. I personally thought the new space suits looked a little dorky, but I have no fashion sense. What do I know?

Sharing vs Liking: I noticed an interesting little personal quirk this week. Like many of us who are on social media from time to time, I notice when someone likes a post I made. But I realized what I really like is when someone reposts my missive. It is a good feeling when someone says they like what you said. It is a great feeling when you realize they thought it good enough to tell others, “read this.” I know a number of you Dear Readers of this blog pass it along as well. I am most appreciative of that. I do my best to not waste your time or brain cells. That you care to comment back or pass it along is a great reward.

Have a superb weekend, everyone. We have much to talk about next week. Oh, and in case you are counting, the national election takes place in 145 days. Not that I am counting or anything.

       Bill Clontz

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