“Police shootings indicate need for training;” NEWNAN TIMES-HERALD; Aug. 14, 2019 

“Why does a vigilante man; Carry that sawed-off shot-gun in his hand?” – Woody Guthrie

Several weeks ago, a Coweta County Sheriff’s deputy shot Nicholas Bolton, an unarmed 34-year-old homeless black man, after a short car chase. Was it necessary?

In that all of the facts are not yet clear, I will not prejudge the case. But there are entirely too many police shootings of unarmed civilians.

I’m not anti-police. I come from a law enforcement family. My uncle was a police lieutenant over an NYC precinct. One cousin retired from the FBI, and another was a prison guard. I support appropriate police actions.

And, yes, things have changed since Woody’s song. But not enough, especially for African-Americans like Mr. Bolton, which is why Colin Kaepernick took a knee – and was punished for this humanitarian act.

As opposed to what our divisive president says, Kaepernick was not dishonoring our first responders and others. He was simply and quietly letting people know that black lives matter in a country where police killed 1,164 black citizens in 2018. This figure represents 25 percent of all those killed by police, although the African-American population is only 13 percent of all Americans. When 30 percent of those killed in 2015 were unarmed black men, it’s a message that’s important for us all to hear.

Unfortunately, as we can see from many unjustifiable police shootings of unarmed citizens of all races, there are still vigilantes among our law enforcement ranks. These individuals have taken it upon themselves to be judge, jury and executioner… especially when it comes to African-Americans. Plus, the legal system apparently does not value the life of a black person as much as a white person.

Let’s take a look at two similar cases in which Minnesota police unjustifiably shot law-abiding citizens: Philando Castile (2016) and Justine Damond (2019). Castile was a black man, and Justine Damond a white woman.

Castile was a law-abiding man stopped for a broken tail light – and DWB, Driving While Black. He was shot in cold blood in his own vehicle, although he had told the officer that there was a gun in the car and followed the arresting officer’s instructions to perfection. The entire, disgusting incident was recorded by his girlfriend who was in the car along with their 4-year-old child.

As evidenced from the jury’s decision to let the white, Hispanic law enforcement perpetrator go free, there are still those among us who would excuse police vigilantes who shoot black men regardless of the circumstances and facts.

The second case is even stranger. Damond, a blond white lady, called police about a possible rape behind her home. A black police officer, a Somali-American, mistakenly shot and killed her when she innocently approached his car. He was sentenced to 12.5 years in prison.

Clearly, there is something wrong with the training that both of these officers received and probably the screening process used to identify recruits. But, there’s also something amiss with our legal system when a black officer is jailed and a white one goes free for similar, clearly avoidable shootings. That’s a bigger justice system problem for another column.

Meanwhile, here are a dozen suggestions as to how to improve the current law enforcement situation:

•Hire more police from the communities served, diversifying the force;

•Improve screening of recruits to include mental health and racial attitudes;

•Increase programs that create positive police-community experiences, such as the Police Athletic League;

• Educate officers regarding minorities, including our national history of police overreactions;

•Train officers to specifically deal with the mentally ill and addicts;

•Mandate body cameras be worn;

•Modify police procedures and training, emphasizing de-escalation and training officers in how to “talk someone down”;

•Make routine drug testing of police mandatory;

•Provide greater training to 911 operators regarding how they inform police as to the details of incoming calls;

•Remove, temporarily or permanently in the worst cases, officers who show signs of PTSD, racism, alcoholism, drug use and/or mental illness;

•Clarify when “use of force” should be taken;

*Establish independent Boards of Inquiry to review cases of alleged police misconduct.

If communities like Coweta County want to decrease unnecessary violence committed by local police, they can begin by enacting these remedies. If they prefer not to do so, these cities and counties increase the chances that there will be continuing issues between the police and minority group citizens.

“Rename Georgia’s Confederate Streets Now”; Fayette News; 8-20-19

“In many ways, the North won the Civil War militarily and then lost the peace. You know, a group of writers, included many Confederate generals, began a school of thought called the Lost Cause in which they began to romanticize the Confederacy.”
~ Ron Chernow, Pulitzer prize winning historian

I love living in Fayette County and have resided in Georgia for most of my life. My three children and eight grandchildren are all Southerners whose ancestors fought for the South.
Many aspects of Southern culture should be celebrated. For example, I believe that Southerners (black or white) are the friendliest, warmest people in the nation.
However, the glorification of the South’s role in the Civil War (still known to a few white Southerners as the “War between the States” or the “War of Yankee Aggression”) is not one of those positive attributes. There are over 1,000 streets in the South named for Confederate icons, including in Fayette County. Objectively, there should not be any.
Last year, the Atlanta City Council took the long overdue step of renaming three Confederate streets in the City limits. The vote, a first step, was unanimous based upon the recommendation of a citizen committee appointed to study the issue. Per NPR, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms issued a statement indicating: “The imagery and symbolism of these names and monuments represent systematic injustice, persecution and cruelty. That is not who we are as a city.” She is 100 percent correct.
In the near future, Atlanta streets named for Robert E. Lee, Howell Cobb, Stephen Dill, and Nathan Bedford Forrest will also be renamed. Regarding Forrest, it should be noted that he was a founder of the KKK.
It is now time for other cities and counties around Georgia to do the same. A first step would be for each county and city to establish a citizen committee to review their current street names.
I can hear the white nationalist objections coming hard and fast: “We’re proud of the South”; “It’s our heritage”; “You can’t forget history.” No, you cannot forget the past, but it must be remembered accurately. And, Confederate leaders attempting to destroy the United States of America in the name of perpetuating slavery is clearly not a part of Southern heritage of which we would should be proud.
There are no public streets in Germany named for Nazi leaders. There are none in Italy named for Mussolini. We should not name streets for traitors to the USA, responsible for hundreds of thousands of dead in an immoral secessionist war that should never have been started by the leaders of Southern states, including the generals and politicians for whom many roads are named throughout the South.
Further, these streets are a constant reminder to our African-American citizens (about a fourth of our county) that white Southerners are at least indirectly proud of the institution of slavery, the true cause of the Civil War as clearly stated in many of the official secessionist documents issued by Southern legislatures. After 150 years, isn’t it finally time to try to bring our people together rather than continuing to drive us into warring “tribes?”
A valid argument can be made that Confederate Monuments are art and should not be simply destroyed, but rather moved to museums and off the courthouse steps. I agree and believe Stone Mountain can be converted into a museum for this purpose.
The same cannot be said for these street signs which can just be easily eliminated. It is past time to take this step, if for no other reason than for the white power structure (which continues to dominate our state) to reassure our black neighbors that we truly understand why the Civil War was fought and that this historic American disaster is not something we as Georgians wish to continue to celebrate.

“Trump: no John McCain (and neither is Senator Graham);” Like the Dew progressive journal; 8-19-19

Trump: no John McCain (and neither is Senator Graham)

“I don’t remember anybody treating … John McCain the way they’re treating Donald Trump.”- Senator Graham (the Hill, 7-18-19)

Senator Graham, you are 100% correct. For obvious reasons, virtually no self-respecting, intelligent person can equate Trump with McCain. I am at a loss as to why you would expect them to be treated in the same way.

Trump is a divisive draft dodger and a proven con man who only loves power (and himself). Virtually every word out of his lying mouth details how he’s smarter, better looking and richer than anyone else. Trump even had the nerve to say he was helping out at the Towers on 9/11.

As you know, your close friend John McCain was the exact opposite, a true war hero who loved his nation much more than himself or his party. Who can forget his courageous vote against the ill-advised GOP driven ACA repeal (with no replacement at all)? McCain is the only reason people with pre-existing conditions can get insurance today.

Trump had the nerve to say with a straight face that McCain, who was horribly tortured in captivity, was not a hero. But Trump said he himself was, even though he got out of serving due to a “Trumped up” statement by his family doctor saying he had bone spurs. My brother served in Nam even though he had a metal pin in his elbow and couldn’t even straighten his arm.

John McCain was a traditional, fiscally conservative Republican, a modest man with a firm set of values that he lived by. It was elected officials like McCain that made me run for office as a fiscally conservative Republican (I won twice). It was Trump …along with that spineless enabler, McConnell…who forced me to finally leave the GOP this year. Since 2016, it has become the Retrumpican Party, dedicated to backing the President no matter how outrageous his conduct.

Senator, the real question is what happened to you after McCain’s death? You went from being a principled maverick to a shameless shill for a reality show aberration who is destroying civility within our great land as well as any hope of bi-partisanship.

Senator, Winston Churchill once said: “Some men change their party for the sake of their principles; others their principles for the sake of their party.” You obviously fit in the lattercategory.

Senator, you represent a state with a large African-American population. How can you believe that Trump has no responsibility for the tremendous increase in racist violence and bigoted incidents that are occurring since he came into politics? Beto O’Rourke recently said: “Of course he’s racist. He’s been racist from day one.” (MSNBC)

Certainly, you are aware of his racist history prior to him taking office, including: cases in the 1970s successfully brought against the Trump companies for discrimination; Trump accusing the Central Park Five of rape and never apologizing after they are found innocent; racist comments to employees at his Casinos; statements about Mexico exporting criminals to the USA; Trump’s birther campaign going back to 2011 when he first started accusing our first black President of being a Kenyan; and other clearly bigoted statements and actions too numerous to state in a short column.

Senator, he has only gotten worse since he became President, splitting our nation into warring factions and encouraging white supremacists, with David Duke calling it “treason” to vote against him. He called white nationalists and Nazis in Charlottesville “fine people” and African nations “shit holes”; and encouraged his followers to yell “send them back” regarding four Congresswomen of color.

There’s an old Southern saying that my wife likes to repeat: “you lay down with dogs; you get fleas.” Senator Graham, as long as you and the GOP are in bed with this unconscionable, lying, racist President, you will all be in dire need of flea powder.

“What happened to a balanced budget?;” Henry County News; 8-14-19

The reasons that I once became a Republican are many, mostly relating to the Dixiecrat (remember Lester Maddox and Herman Talmadge) flavor and corruption of the Democratic Party in the South up until recent decades. One positive reason for me to be a Republican was that the GOP was the home of the balanced budget, which I strongly support. But this is no longer the case with the GOP.

Running as a fiscally conservative Republican, I won an election and became Chairman of a rural Georgia County Commission. Under my leadership, we cut tax increases from 10% a year to 1%, while increasing services (side note: this was still not enough for the local Tea Partiers). We accomplished this feat by cutting obvious waste and increasing efficiency. It wasn’t easy or without conflict, but it was technically and politically doable. And, most cost reduction votes were 3-2 … with the Democrats voting no.

It should be noted that for much of this time, I generally avoided stating publicly that I am a social progressive although when asked I was up front about it. I also was clear and vocal about my liberal social and racial views in private conversations, including my severe criticism of some Commissioners and others for the use of the “n” word in private versus public discourse.

Along these lines, I did state repeatedly in County Commission meetings that racism had no place in our county and that locally we should have strict separation of church and state (the Barrow County/ACLU suit about the Ten Commandments display was going on at the time). I lost considerable right-wing support because of these issues and my failure to endorse the national party’s socially conservative platform.

Over the last few years, I have strongly condemned the racism, misogyny and divisiveness coming from our President. But, solely due to the fiscal aspects, I officially stayed a Republican until 2018. Traditionally, Democrats were spendthrifts and Republicans weren’t … until recently.

Over the past few decades, the GOP has just given up on deficits and a balanced budget. And, it has gotten much worse with them in control of the White House. Considering that the entire GOP constantly criticized Obama for deficits, the hypocrisy of the GOP leaders on this topic is remarkable.

In 2007-2008, the economy was sinking fast, moving us toward a second Great Depression. W and Obama understood this fact, and both were trying hard to reverse it. One proven way to stimulate the economy was to increase short term government expenditures. The philosophical idea behind this approach was to cut back funding when the economy improves and to increase taxes if needed to take care of any short-term debt created. But that never happened.

Specifically, the annual national deficit increased significantly under Obama’s early years, but went down considerably in his last term, as shown in this deficit chart (from usgovernmentspending.com):

Deficits in billions:

2008 – $458; 2009 – $1,413; 2010 – $1,294; 2011 – $1,295; 2012 – $1,087; 2013 – $679; 2014 – $485; 2015 – $438; 2016 – $585; 2017 – $665; 2018 – $779.

As is shown, the GOP led effort to pull out of the deficit began in 2008 when the GOP controlled Congress and W attempted to boost the economy via a stimulus package to take effect in 2009. The deficit went up a trillion dollars from 2008 to 2009. However, as the economy recovered, the deficit slowly went down under Obama to $438 in 2015, rising to $585 in his last year.

It then continued to go right back up in 2017 and 2018. According to projections, it will be $1,091 this year and $1,101 next year (i.e. over a trillion for only the second time in our history, the first being the 2009-2012 period). The clear reason for this dramatic increase is the Trump tax cut, along with increased military and domestic spending.

The sole reason for the Trump tax cut was political, not economic. Economists understand that during periods of a strong economy the deficit must be decreased, hopefully abolished, and some effort made to pay down on our national debt. However, because a strong economy was the only lasting positive accomplishment of his first term, Trump wanted to stimulate an already strong economy. He knows that his actions are the opposite of what is advocated for by mainstream economists who are correctly concerned about increasing the national debt.

Both parties have apparently gone along with Trump’s  fantasy that the debt will take care of itself via growth, gleefully passing a two-year budget with increases for both military and domestic programs. Clearly, being irresponsible is the only thing that both parties agree on.

“Moscow Mitch meets the ghost of Ike;” Fayette News; 8-12-19

Author’s note: This conversation never happened. However, McConnell may well have this nightmare one evening in the future. I certainly hope he will, very soon.

Mitch: Who are you?
Ike: I’m the ghost of Patriots past. I represent the productive bi-partisan form of government that the good people of the USA want and need.
Mitch: Why are you visiting me?
Ike: Because you represent everything that I am not: Unpatriotic, placing my party before my nation, egotistical, unwilling to compromise, and divisive.
Mitch: I’m just standing up for American values.
Ike: Since when did American values include setting up horrible detention camps on our borders? And, mistreating women and children in them?
Mitch: We cannot afford to let these people into America.
Ike: America was built on immigration. Immigrants have a lower crime rate than native born Americans, and they work harder. That’s why they are hired by American employers. Besides, your current President has had two wives who are immigrants. How did they get into the USA? And how did Melania’s parents?
Mitch: They got in legally.
Ike: They got in because someone with money and connections, namely Donald, got them in by pulling strings. Melania got in under the “Einstein” clause for exceptional people. I personally knew Einstein very well. Believe me, she is no Einstein.
Mitch: Well, he’s strengthening our military. Certainly, you agree with that aspect of his Presidency.
Ike: Mitch, you really need to learn your history. In my outgoing address to the American people, I spoke about the evils of the military-industrial complex, and exactly what I warned about has come to pass, wasting public tax funds money to help defense contractors.
Mitch: We are just increasing military expenditures to make us safe.
Ike: Then, why don’t you at least listen to your military leaders? When they say no more tanks are needed, why do we produce more?
Mitch: Those tanks are being built here in the USA, creating jobs. And, helping to get my Republicans elected.
Ike: You say that you don’t like welfare for the poor and down trodden, but expanding corporate welfare is okay by you. That just makes no sense to me or the American public. American infrastructure was the envy of the world when I was in office, but now it is falling apart. The public knows that all too well. We could create jobs by spending that money here at home by building and repairing bridges, tunnels, and roads. All it takes is vision and a willingness to work with the other party, which you don’t have.
Mitch: I have to protect my party and my Senate prerogatives.
Ike: You are not doing either one. Your current party will go down in the history books as an aberration, putting itself before America, and so will you for the same reason. There was absolutely no reason not to at least bring Obama’s Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland, a moderate with a fine record, to the Senate for a vote.
Mitch: I changed the rules to help the nation, it just happens to benefit my party.
Ike: Wrong. You’ve hypocritically said you will make sure Trump’s nominees are voted on in the last year of his term. Having two sets of rules, one for your party and another for everyone else, is destructive for our nation and breeds division. And your refusal to even consider having a vote on four separate bipartisan bills to ensure election security is criminal. Didn’t you hear Mueller and our own intelligence people saying that the Russians hacked us in the 2016 election and are doing it right now in preparation for 2020? What happens if Iran and China pull the election strings this time to get rid of the Russian puppet in the White House? Will you still think you did the right thing blocking efforts to ensure election security?
Mitch: Listen, I just can’t do what you want. I have to follow my President.
Ike: Speaking of that, why haven’t you supported Mueller’s investigation and impeachment? It’s obvious that there was clear intent on the part of the Trump campaign to use foreign influence in the election and that Trump personally obstructed justice at least 10 times.
Mitch: Of course, he did, but if I don’t go along with Trump, he will oppose me in the Kentucky GOP primary.
Ike: Being scared is no excuse for not doing your job, Mitch, or for betraying the American people. I pray you will wake up now and do better.

Single Payer And Employers; by Samuel Metz, MD and Jack Bernard; Like the Dew progressive journal; 8-12-19

Supporters of single payer healthcare proposals (Medicare for all) focus on patient benefits: universal access, lower healthcare costs, and improved outcomes. However, employers also benefit. During a series of informal interviews with one of the authors, small business owners expressed what they expected from an ideal healthcare plan:

“Get me out of healthcare benefit management.”  Time expended on benefit management is time lost from core business management.

“Keep my employees healthy.” Successful businesses require able employees – healthy both physically and mentally.

“I’ll pay for healthcare, but not more than my competitors.” Healthcare costs should be equitable regardless of size, region, or industry… but they aren’t now. Smaller start-up firms lack the clout to negotiate the lower premium prices enjoyed by larger employers.

“Don’t make my employee benefits any worse than those of my competitors.” Equal employer contributions toward healthcare deserve equal employee returns.

“Keep my healthcare costs stable.” Unpredictable healthcare costs render strategic planning impossible.

Employers confirm that our current system achieves none of these goals. And whatever its good intentions, the Affordable Care Act did little more for employers than award them unwanted responsibility for navigating a complex array of federal laws, achieving little other than increasing paperwork and business expenses.

These burdens do not afflict employers in other industrialized nations. Per OECD 2017 figures, these nations pay less for healthcare yet enjoy broader coverage with better outcomes. While the US spends $10,209 per capita for healthcare, most other countries spend half that: For example: Israel- $2,834; Italy- $3,542; Canada- $4826; UK-$4246; Netherlands-$5386. All these nations spend less but get more.

US overspending on healthcare does more than just increase business expenses. It drains resources from other social spending vital to a healthy economy: education, energy research, and infrastructure. Inadequate spending on these services cripples our international competitiveness.

Whether these industrialized nations choose a single payer or a multi-payer plan, their national universal care plans share these characteristics:

  • Everyone participates in a mandated healthcare plan. Individuals, not employers, are responsible for complying with this mandate.
  • Every healthcare policy offers identical, comprehensive benefits. And “comprehensive” means “treatable conditions receive treatment,” not “unlimited.”
  • Patients, not employers or insurers, choose providers. And provider payment reflects the value of service, not insurance coverage.

By using this efficient combination of single risk pool, single benefit schedule, and single network, single payer plans generate enormous administrative savings.

How much savings? American businesses and workers pay over $1 trillion annually in administration, about31% of all healthcare spending, nearly three times higher than international competitors. Insurance billing in these countries is as simple as the swipe of a healthcare card.

What does our extravagant administrative spending pay for? Not for healthcare. Each year, American health insurance administrators process four billion claims. But there’s more: Physicians spend $82,000 annually to collect payment from insurance companies. And employers pay for additional HR personnel dedicated to managing increasingly complicated healthcare benefit plans.

In contrast, the simplified billing of single payer would cut American administrative costs by at least half. These recovered administrative savings are more than enough to cover the uninsured and expand benefits for all employees.

Single payer plans address the five healthcare goals that employers want most.

Competing healthcare proposals (e.g. medical savings accounts, high risk pools, public options, Medicare by-ins and Medicaid by-ins) must demonstrate that they adequately address these goals to be credible. So far, none have.

For employers seeking a more functional healthcare system, one that allows them to concentrate on core business and compete internationally, single payer remains the gold standard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Georgia and Military Spending”; in Georgia CEO”; (Albany Athens Atlanta Augusta Columbus Gainesville LaGrange Middle Georgia Newnan Rome Savannah Tifton Valdosta); August 6th, 2019

 

“During his first Cabinet meeting of the year, President Trump said it was ‘insane’ that the government watchdogs tasked with exposing waste, fraud and abuse in the Afghanistan war release their reports to the public.” — Dan Lamothe, Washington Post, Jan. 4, 2019

Military spending is an important economic factor, especially in Georgia and the South. As your 7-29-19 column points out, military spending in Georgia has an annual impact of $28 billion annually, creating 150,000 jobs.

If not for our vaunted military, I would not be free. Neither would the reader nor any other American. But we spend as much as the next ten major powers combined on our military. We also spend 4% of our gross national product, while most NATO nations spend around 1%.

As a fiscal conservative and former corporate exec,  the question that must be asked is: “what is the appropriate level of funding for defense?” The 7-29 article and similar pieces that appear elsewhere never ask this question, simply assuming that ever higher military spending is always needed.

President Trump’s first budget asked for a $54 billion increase in defense spending funded by deep cuts to domestic programs. His next budget did much the same, with little real justification.

However, military spending has already doubled in the last 10 years to over $700 billion dollars annually.GOP conservatives, like Rep Belton who is quoted in your piece, have simply got to get over their long-time addiction to blindly increasing our military spending without any public oversight. All defense spending isn’t automatically good and all domestic spending bad.

Belton says that we need the 9 Georgia bases because they are in rural “area(s) where poverty is already high.”  As the former Chairman of a rural Georgia County Commission, I can think of many other more cost-effective ways to employ people, starting with repairing our aging infrastructure (roads, bridges, and so on) and expanding healthcare services to the 11% of Georgians not covered by insurance. Estimates are that if Georgia simply expanded its Medicaid program, 90% funded by the Feds, it would create 50,000 jobs.

Although many Americans incorrectly use the terms interchangeably, there is a major difference between efficiency and effectiveness. Effective means accomplishing your goal or aim. Efficient means achieving that goal in a cost-effective manner.

Our military has certainly been shown to be effective in maintaining the goal of world order. We are without any doubt the strongest military power the earth has ever known.

But is our military spending efficient? Probably not, but due to frenzied name calling (“unpatriotic,” “un-American”), hardly any group wants to analyze inefficiencies. Certainly, few right-of-center think tanks want to even address the issue and objectively analyze defense spending with an emphasis on reallocation. Instead, virtually every military paper authored by them simply advocates for more and more resources. How is this being fiscally conservative?

The exception is the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) which in 2016 sent a letter to the Department of Defense and the Senate outlining ways to reallocate military funds:

— Close “unnecessary facilities” in the U.S. There is an estimated 20% overcapacity in American bases. Closure hasn’t occurred solely due to politics.

— Reduce the number of civilian defense employees. While the number of active-duty service personnel has gone down by 3% from 2001 to 2014, the number of civilians rose by 70,000 (a 10% increase). According to the GAO, the DOD refuses to gather the appropriate data to efficiently make these reductions, a situation Trump and Congress must address.

— Cut bureaucracy. “De-layering” a bloated system of administration reduces the levels of review, making operations not only more efficient but more effective as well.

— Review cost inflation. From FY98 to FY14, cost per active-duty soldier increased 76%. Research into cost-effectiveness, including compensation, must be done and cost-containment measures taken.

Our defense spending will rise every year unless we make a concerted effort to change. Is there no end to defense spending fiscal irresponsibility by supposed conservatives?

As any Overspending Anonymous member knows, fiscal detox is very hard. Rep. Bolton and our other conservative Congressmen, for the good of our nation and its growing deficit, please try to come off your defense money fix. Patriotic Americans don’t insist that it be cold turkey. But at least cut back a bit so we know you’re serious. Please, as Nancy Reagan said, just say “no.”