Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Guess the World Hot Spot

Choose the Hot Spot:

a) Beirut, Lebanon
b) Seoul, South Korea
c) Ferguson, Missouri
d) Caracas, Venezuela

Monday, August 18, 2014

Ferguson: When cops become vigilantes

There are numerous issues related to the shooting of Michael Brown and subsequent riots in Ferguson, Missouri that deserve analysis, but I’m focusing on one area here: The attempt by Ferguson police to demonize Michael Brown. Despite Justice Department warnings, the Ferguson police department released security video of what is purported to be Brown stealing cigars from a local convenience store. The obvious ploy is to paint Brown as a thief and troublemaker who may have got what he deserved.

This kind of blatant race baiting will probably work by reaffirming the bigoted views of a certain segment of people, including FOX news hosts and viewers, but most Americans should be able to see through this crude charade.

Who hasn’t heard the iconic opening lines to the TV show “Law and Order?”

In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders.

The show is fiction, but this single sentence encapsulates an important truth. In the United States, we have law enforcement and we have a judicial system, and they have distinct and separate duties. The police investigate crimes and arrest individuals suspected of committing crimes. Those accused then enter the judicial system where they are judged innocent or guilty, and if guilty, receive punishment. Police do not have the power to deliver justice. They can use force to protect themselves or others, but they cannot decide who is guilty or innocent of a crime, that is for the courts.

This brings me to shooting of Michael Brown. Whether Brown robbed a convenience store or not, it is up to the judiciary to decide his guilt or innocence, not the cops. If Michael Brown committed murder, it is still not up to the cops to act as judge and jury. Sure, the Ferguson police department is trying to protect one of its own, but by releasing the convenience store video, they have opened the door to accusations that perhaps they believe they have the power to be judge, jury and executioner. The unarmed Brown was shot six times, twice in the head.

Should anyone be surprised that members of the African American community of Ferguson are angry?

Friday, August 15, 2014

My Short Scary Stories

Over the past couple of months I’ve become addicted to writing very short horror stories that I then post on a Reddit sub called: Short Scary Stories (duh). Go to They're Only Shadows and check out four of the stories I’ve recently submitted.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Is Ferguson a glimpse of America’s future?

Police brutality has been around since the dawn of human civilization, and is far too often a common occurrence in marginalized areas of society. What’s happening in Ferguson, Missouri, however, goes well beyond “police brutality” to a new realm resembling a military occupation. Armed to the teeth, using terror as a tactic, assaulting and arresting the media, overreacting to provocation; these are the actions of a force not bent on restoring order, but on intimidating and expunging anyone who dares question their authority.

The riots, following the shooting of an unarmed black man by police, are a lamentable but understandable reaction to yet another attack on a civilian by a law enforcement department that does not feel it is accountable to anyone. These types of incidents are becoming more and more common, as very little is done to bring the perpetrators to justice. Police departments and their enablers in the justice system consistently turn a blind eye to police who commit crimes, encouraging an environment of lawlessness and overreach among others.

The question that has to be asked about the situation in Ferguson and similar incidents is this: What is the mindset of the police involved? Do they believe they are there to stop lawlessness and illegal activity or do they see themselves as society’s tool for keeping order at any cost? Harassing and arresting reporters definitely falls into the latter category.

The footage of the riots in Ferguson look more like a scene from some third world country where the military is routinely sent in to quell disturbances, more often than not with bloody force. Is this America’s future we’re watching? It seems to me we dangerously close to crossing the line between enforcing the law and the active suppression of Constitutionally guaranteed civil rights.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

R.I.P. Participatory Democracy

This will come as no surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention, but if you’re just waking up from a twenty-year coma, I hate to be the one to tell you, but American democracy passed away while you were gone. A recent study by two university professors has confirmed what many of us already new intuitively: The average American has virtually no say in how our country is run anymore.

The new study, "Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens," will be published in the fall 2014 edition of Perspectives on Politics. The authors are Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University. Simply put, when compared to the power of the wealthy elite, corporations and organized interest groups, the influence of the average American is, “non-significant, near-zero level.”

The elites and interest groups, with their truckloads of money and armies of lobbyists, have the greatest impact on government policy in Washington. And when their desires are at odds with those of the majority of Americans, which is often, guess who wins? It ain’t you and me.

Is there any question why so many citizens have stopped participating in elections? Year after year, election after election, we signal our desires and concerns at the ballot box, only to have the door of the White House and Congress shut in our faces. Recent Supreme Court rulings like Citizens United have clearly made the problem worse, turning our government over to the highest bidder. We are now “non-significant” entities, allowed by our overseers to go through the motions of living in a democracy, but shut out of the real policy debates and decisions.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

My short story on Youtube

A short story of mine, "The Halloween Prank," is featured on a Youtube series called Tales of Tim. He narrates and illustrates short horror stories, and it's really nicely done. Check it out here.