Stuff in the news

I took a break from working on the revisions of one of my books by browsing through my Santa Rosa newspaper, The Press Democrat. Now, there were lots of things in there that were worthy to pass along, but I’m not going to copy the whole paper in my blog, just the stuff that grabbed my attention, pulled me back to re-read the headline and demanded I read the entire article. After each one, I just sat there and mourned the human race.

These first three were in the Friday, July 15, 2016, issue. I’m not going to reproduce them here, just the gist.

On page A3 I found a great illustration of the term “how dumb can you be?” In response to a report of one or more small fires in a mobile home park, the emergency responders went from home to home to make sure nothing was overlooked. When they checked one of them, they found something that prompted them to evacuate the park. Sitting on the window sill of a bedroom was a device consisting of several unmarked sticks in brown paper wrappings and held together with a couple of strips of black tape. Attached to them was a small electronic board with various components and wires, a couple going into the end of one of the brown sticks. Mounted on top was a digital read-out with four spaces of red numbers. A photo of this thing accompanied the article. It sure looked like a bomb, at least the ones Hollywood puts in movies. The bomb squad destroyed it. When they finally contacted the resident, who was away at work at the time, they were told it was an alarm clock he had bought on line a few years ago…as a joke. Ha ha ha. Gosh, that’s funny. I’ll bet the firemen are still laughing.

On page A5 was a story about a couple of guys that chased Pokemon phantoms right off a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. How could you not notice the Pacific Ocean? Anyway, neither was killed, but they had to be rescued. Hope they were billed for the entire cost of the rescue–times two for stupidity in progress. I can see this whole Pokemon situation is going to get a lot worse before it goes the way of the Pet Rock. At least I never heard of anyone being attacked, bitten or otherwise injured by a Pet Rock.

On page A6 was a story that put a really sour feeling in my gut. A mother and a father thought it was appropriate parenting to send their children, ages 4, 5 and 6 years, into the desert in the area of Twenty-nine Palms and Palm Springs in Southern California. Apparently they decided the children needed to be punished for something any 4, 5 or 6 year-old should know better than to do, not do, or otherwise behave in an adult manner. And just to be sure the kids didn’t cheat in their learning their lesson, Mom and Dad sent them into the hot sand and cactus-strewn wilderness without shoes or water. I can tell you from personal experience that the sand down there gets down-right toasty in the summer. The children learned their lessons for 45 minutes before being rescued by a deputy. It didn’t say if Mom and Dad were going to be taught a lesson in parenting, just that they had been arrested.

Ah, me. What is my species coming to?

In Sunday’s paper, July 17, 2016, was a Close To Home piece by Jill Ravitch, Sonoma County District Attorney. She made some good points relating to the release and posting on the internet of videos from body-cams worn by police officers. While I agree with lots of folks that some of the ones that have been shown seem to be pretty clear in showing bad police conduct, I have to point out that almost all of them are incomplete. They begin part way into the incident, leaving the behavior leading up to what everyone can see to their imagination or to what supposed eye-witnesses swear happened. But then I remember how I learned in my days wearing a badge that eye-witness testimony is about the least reliable kind of evidence you can have. Everyone sees what they think they see, convincing themselves even more every time they think about it or tell about it that it happened just that way. Maybe even, unintentionally or not, embellishing it here and there–just to make everything that doesn’t fit, fit. I also agree with lots of folks that there are cops that shouldn’t be wearing badges, and I’ll be the first one to rip the star or shield off their uniform if they are proven to be wrong. I’ve known and worked with a couple. But I also know that incidents of bad police behavior are rare. There are lots of points and counterpoints to made in this subject, and it should continue to be thoroughly and thoughtfully discussed. However, the point I want to make here is something everyone seems to be overlooking. If the video from a body-cam is posted on the internet, incomplete as it is in showing enough of what happened to be able to establish just what did happen, how much harder is it going to be to get a jury of 12 people, plus alternates, that have not been biased. And if the video does show the entire incident, start to finish and leaving nothing out (by all appearances) it could be even harder to form a jury of unbiased peers. So, if either side, whether the arrestee punching a cop or the cop punching the arrestee, is charged with a crime, would a fair trial be possible? If a conviction is based largely or primarily on what is in the video that has been on the internet for a year or so by the time it gets to court, how good would a defense attorney have to be to get a reversal at the appellate or supreme court. Would you like to have your guilt or innocence decided on the internet? How about your son’s or daughter’s? Your grandchild’s? Just ponder that for a bit.

And to close out, here is my latest rant, published in Sunday’s paper, July 17, 2016.

EDITOR: Among the many qualities Donald Trump claims is that he is a hugely successful businessman. That he has been, in fact, successful is a whole different issue. But should huge success in business be a plus or a minus in our choosing a person for the position of President of the United States? Because the basic goals of each endeavor are practically opposites, the two call for very different skills, ethics and values. While the ultimate focus of a successful business must be on the bottom line, government at any level should not even have a bottom line on which to focus other than zero. The ideal outcome for any elected government is to come out neutral at the end of the fiscal year, and that is after meeting all requirements of the society in which the leaders are elected. Discrepancy in either direction equals incompetence. When a government or government agency tries to operate like a business seeking a profit, we wind up with a situation like at the University of California where out of state students often receive preference over those from within the state because they pay more. A shark is a hugely successful predator, but do we want him in charge of the pool?

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