It Gets Worse

I, along with thousands of others, just watched surveliance footage of George Floyd in the moments before he was killed by a police officer kneeling on his throat.  As much as I hate linking to TMZ, I’m going to because it’s an important story.

The footage shows two police officers — neither one of whom is the same officer who put his knee on Floyd’s throat — approaching Floyd’s car.  (The police had been called because Floyd apparently paid for a meal with a counterfeit ten dollar bill and not because he was writing a bad check, as was initially reported.)  Two women get out of the car.  Because of the positioning of the car and the camera, it’s difficult to see what happens when Floyd gets out of the car but it does appear that there was a slight scuffle when he first got out.  However, it doesn’t look like like it was a huge fight (if anything, it looks like the reaction of a man who is shocked that he’s being arrested) and Floyd is quickly hand-cuffed and appears to be cooperating, even if he is understandably upset.  When more police officers arrives, Floyd is taken across the street.  The surveillance footage does not show what happened in the moments that led to Floyd being down on the ground with that cop’s knee on his throat.

Watching the video, I don’t see someone violently resisting.  I see someone who is upset because he’s being arrested, as I think anyone would be.  I would especially be upset if I was being arrested for having a counterfeit bill.  Money gets passed around and that includes bill that may be counterfeit.

None of that matters, though.  Even if Floyd did struggle or knowingly committed a crime, that’s not a reason for keeping your knee on the throat of a man who has been subdued.  They could prove that Floyd was the biggest counterfeiter in Minnesota and it still wouldn’t change the fact that he shouldn’t be dead right now.  In the video of Floyd’s death, the cop in question taunts Floyd by asking him if he still thinks he’s a tough guy.  Floyd’s death was all about power.  The cop wanted to show off his power and as a result George Floyd is now dead.

Charges need to be filed soon.

George Floyd Should Be Alive Today

Today, I’m thinking about George Floyd, a black man who died in Minneapolis as the result of a cop keeping his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck for several minutes and essentially suffocating the man until he was dead.  Floyd was filmed saying that he couldn’t breathe before he died.  Even after Floyd fell silent, the cop kept his knee on Floyd’s neck.  It didn’t appear to occur to any of the cops in the video to investigate why Floyd was no longer speaking.

Floyd was being arrested for a non-violent crime, Forgery.  Apparently, police were called because it was believed that Floyd was writing a bad check.  Bodycam footage of what happened during the arrest has not been released yet so we don’t know the exact details of what happened before Floyd ended up on the ground with the cop’s knee on the back of his neck but it doesn’t really matter.  Even if Floyd resisted arrest or tried to flee, he was subdued, handcuffed, and on the ground by the time he started to say that he couldn’t breathe.

Why was Floyd left on the ground?  Why, after he was handcuffed, was he not put in the back of a police cruiser?  Why was he left on the ground with a cop’s knee on the back of his neck?  Judging from the video, the cops appear to be very calm while Floyd is dying.  They don’t appear to be in fear for their lives or recovering from any sort of chase or struggle.  They appear to be very nonchalantly going about their business while Floyd dies below them.

It’s disturbing to see and it’s the latest example of police brutality.  The job of the police is to keep everyone safe, including the people that they are arresting.  The job of the police is not to act as society’s avenger or to “teach lessons” to criminals.  Until we get serious about changing law enforcement culture, shit like this is going to keep happening.


Jo Jorgensen for President?

On Saturday, the Libertarians held their convention and they nominated Jo Jorgensen for president.  It took four ballots for her to win the nomination, which is pretty typical for a Libertarian presidential nominating convention.  Unlike the Democrats and the Republicans, Libertarians do not turn their conventions into coronations.  If you want the Libertarian nomination, you better be prepared to fight for it at the convention.

Jo Jorgensen is from the pragmatic wing of the Libertarian convention.  It’s doubtful that she’ll get the same amount of attention or votes that Gary Johnson got in 2020 or that Justin Amash would have gotten if he had run.  I’d compare Jorgensen to Michael Badnarik, the activist who came from behind to defeat Aaron Russo and Gary Nolan for the 2004 Libertarian nomination.  She’s a good advocate for the Libertarian philosophy and she can argue for the party’s platform without descending into extremism, which is one thing that set her apart from several of the other candidates for the Libertarian nomination.  But with the national media’s natural antagonism to third parties in general and the Libertarians in specific, it probably won’t matter.

One of the biggest myths of 2016 is that Hillary Clinton’s loss was due to third party candidates like Gary Johnson and Jill Stein.  It’s often accepted as a statement of fact that Hillary would have won states like Wisconsin and Michigan if not for Johnson and Stein.  Of course, in order to believe that, you have to believe that all of those third party voters would have automatically voted for Clinton if not for the presence of Johnson or Stein on the ballot.  (And, of course, that’s also assuming that all of those Johnson and Stein voters would have even bothered to vote if their only options were Trump and Clinton.)  Because people still don’t want to admit that Hillary Clinton was a terrible candidate who lost the electoral college largely due to her own hubris, third parties have taken the brunt of the blame.  Since 2017, the media’s message seems to be that you’re free to vote for whoever you want as long as they’re a member of the two major parties.  For that reason, alone, don’t expect Jorgensen or the Green nominee to be given as much publicity as was given to candidates like Johnson, Stein, and Evan McMullin.

I’ll probably still vote for her.

The Results Are In!

Last night, the GOP did something that many people assumed would never happen.  They flipped a congressional district in California.  Republican Mike Garcia defeated Christy Smith in the special election to fill the seat that was previously occupied by Democrat Katie Hill.

There’s always a tendency to read too much into special elections.  That’s true, regardless of which party wins.  Political observers often try to use a special election victory as a bellwether for the general election to come.  Sometimes, they’re right and sometimes, they definitely aren’t.

A few things to remember about last night’s special election:

  1. Special elections typically get less turn-out than a general election.  They certainly get less turn-out than a presidential election.  Mike Garcia was at the top of the ballot yesterday.  In November, Donald Trump will be at the top of the ballot and Democrats across California are already looking forward to casting their vote against him.  Garcia was elected in a house district that went overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and many of those Clinton voters may not have voted yesterday but they will vote in November.
  2. The Democratic nominee, Christy Smith, ran a notably weak campaign.  This might actually work to Garcia’s advantage in November, as he’ll again be running against Smith for a full term.  It’s a question of whether or not Smith will learn from her mistakes in the general and if Biden has the coattails to help her get across the finish line.  I have my doubts about Smith learning from her mistakes because her campaign was done in by the type of hubris that doesn’t seem like it will lend itself to self-reflection.
  3. The district was red up until the last general election so it can be argued that that this special election indicates a return to normalcy after the wave election of 2018.
  4. The national media’s attempt to transform Katie Hill into a martyr served mostly to remind older voters of what happened the last time that they voted for a Democrat.  I think a lot of people outside of the district (myself included) underestimated just how strange and off-putting the concept of a “throuple” is to most older voters.

With all that in mind, Mike Garcia’s victory is still a huge morale boost to Republicans who have spent the past two years being told that the GOP is dead and that it’s never going to win another competitive election.  The election may or may not be a bellwether but there’s a lot of formerly downcast Republicans smiling today.

Jerry Stiller, R.I.P.

I was sorry to learn that Jerry Stiller died yesterday.  I guess most people my age probably know him best as Frank Costanza on Seinfeld.  (I never watched The King of Queens, though I know he had a lot of fans from his role on that show as well.)  We’ll always remember Jerry Stiller explaining how Festivus came to be and for shouting “Serenity Now!” whenever the world got to be too much for him.  Jerry Stiller could even make the simple act of shouting funny.

Long before he played Frank, Jerry was best-known as the husband and the comedy partner of Anne Meara.  (Their son, of course, is Ben Stiller.) Here are two of Stiller & Meara’s routines, one from the Ed Sullivan Show and one from the Johnny Carson show:

And finally, from Seinfeld, here is the Story of Festivus:

May the 4th Be With You: Star Wars Thoughts

Today is May 4th, which is known to some people as being Star Wars Day.  (May the 4th be with you.  Get it?)  I love the original Star Wars movies, even if Return of the Jedi deserves its less than stellar reputation.  The first three prequels I could do without, even though Revenge of the Sith was actually fairly good.  Of the three sequels, The Force Awakens was good.  The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker were both overstuffed and forgettable.  Solo was adequate.  I liked Rogue One.  It was the only one of the new films to really seem to get what Star Wars was all about.

If I had to rank them all, I think it would go something like this:

  1. The Empire Strikes Back
  2. Rogue One
  3. New Hope
  4. The Force Awakens
  5. Revenge of the Sith
  6. Return of the Jedi
  7. Solo
  8. The Rise of Skywalker
  9. The Last Jedi
  10. Attack of the Clones
  11. The Phantom Menace

I’m not going to rank the two Ewok movies or The Holiday Special.  You have to draw the line somewhere.

Looking over the franchise as a whole, I think Star Wars shows the danger of overexplaining.  In a New Hope, it didn’t matter whether or not we actually knew what the Kessel Run was or the exact details of The Clone Wars.  They just sounded cool and they sparked our imaginations.  We also didn’t know how the Empire came to exist or how Darth Vader could be both Luke and Leia’s father.  We didn’t know how the Force worked, exactly.  Nor did we know the exact details of how the Jedi were wiped out.  We really didn’t need to know.  We just accepted what the films told us and then let our imaginations fill in the missing pieces.

Then the prequels came along and suddenly, we discovered that everyone in the Star Wars universe was obsessed with trade routes and suddenly, The Clone Wars lost all of their mythic grandeur as we learned, in pain-staking details, every reason why the wars began and how they ended.  They just became another collection of CGI space battles.  And then Solo showed us the Kessel Run and we discovered that it really wasn’t anything that special.  Probably the only prequel (and sequel) that didn’t diminish the other films was Rogue One.  In fact, Rogue One brought some of that epic grandeur back to the films.  With its scenes of Death Star destroying entire cities and planets, it actually made A New Hope more effective.  After watching Rogue One, it’s not as easy to mock the Empire’s super weapon.

Today’s big news is that Taika Waititi will be directing the latest Star Wars film.  Waititi was the first director to actually understand what to do with Thor (who, up until Thor: Ragnarok, had been Marvel’s least interesting hero) and, of course, he also directed JoJo Rabbit.  My hope is that Waititi will be given the freedom to bring some new life to Star Wars.  I think he’s capable of bring some wonder back to a universe that could definitely use it.

May the force be with him.