The Central Park Five

One of the benefits of my new cable package is that it comes with Netflix, so I was able to watch the original mini-series by film maker Ana DuVernay, When They See Us. The series is powerful, the injustice overwhelming. The five young men convicted without evidence of the Central Park rape attack, which occurred in 1989, had their lives upended in ways that can’t be fixed by multi-million dollar settlements from the City of New York.

This Guardian piece was written in 2016, and talks about how big a role then-real estate developed Donald Trump played in inflaming public opinion against the young men. To this day, Trump focuses only on how effective his capacity to channel white fear by fueling racist themes has been, including electing him president. He’s never acknowledged being wrong about the Central Park Five, never showed a shred of remorse for his role in this terrible episode. Trump still maintains the Central Park Five are guilty, despite the confession of the actual rapist and confirming DNA evidence.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/feb/17/central-park-five-donald-trump-jogger-rape-case-new-york

Curiously enough, Jerry and I had a window into how the justice system works for poor black defendants when we lived in Rochester, NY. In the spring of 1973, a white Kodak executive was found beaten to death in a seedy part of the city.  A young black woman working as a prostitute was arrested along with her pimp. The Rochester Police Department had its share of bad detectives, and a particularly notorious one beat confessions out of the two. Both were sentenced to 25 years to life. In 1998 the woman’s conviction was overturned, and she settled with the City for 1.2 million dollars. Someone sent her to our financial planning firm, to see if we could help her use the money as a path to a better life. She was 25 when she went to prison, and 50 when she got out. She was poorly educated, had no job skills and a long although unjustified prison record. She returned to the crime-ridden neighborhood where her family still lived, and attempted to build a new life.

Her story did not have a happy ending. I’m hoping that life for the Central Park Five will be better.

See the Netflix series if you can. It’s sobering.

Jared Kushner Speaks

Jared Kushner rarely speaks publicly, which as it turns out is a really good idea. God knows what he talks about behind closed doors with MBS, or with Bibi, or with immigration officials on the Texas/Mexico border. We’ll find out once Trump and his merry band of incompetents are out of office.

Privileged young white men like Kushner often forget that they got where they are because they have rich fathers and fathers-in-law who buy them entry and clean up their messes when they falter. If you want more specifics, Google “Kushner + 666 Park Avenue”. Regardless of his pricey misstep, Kusher apparently has supreme confidence in his ability. God help us.

Kushner recently allowed himself to be interviewed by Axios. How did it go? Vox called the interview “epically cringeworthy.” Slate called it “a clown show.”

Kushner, like his father-in-law Trump, is an entirely transactional person. He believes that if he can get Gulf states to throw some money toward the stateless Palestinians, they will forget all about their stolen land and lack of political rights and swoon over the Deal of the Century. As clueless as Mike Pompeo is, even he owned up to the fact that the Deal of the Century is one that only Israel can love.

You have to dig really hard in the Trump administration to find someone who is not clueless, corrupt, or incompetent — or all three. Nikki Haley is probably the exception, but then, she left her post and is taking a hiatus in the private sector.

We have at least another 18 months of this foolishness. Four more years and our democracy will be beyond repair.

Trump’s Rudeness Abroad

What does it say about Trump’s followers when they revel in his rudeness when he is representing the United States abroad? His behavior on this visit to Great Britain is boorish and embarrassing. I guess we have a lot of people in this country with bad manners, like their Fearless Leader. None of them should ever leave our shores and inflict themselves on the people of other countries.

Melania’s devil’s bargain, the one she made by marrying Trump to stay in this country, has to get harder all the time. She can’t stand by his side and still pretend to be a gracious person.

I get that other nations are still trying to come to terms with the Trump presidency. American’s economic and military might can hardly be ignored. Generally speaking, countries that flatter Trump and appeal to his ego fare better than the rest — at least in the short term. Longtime alliances make no difference to Trump — it’s all about bolstering his frail ego in the moment. But the rest of the world has to get that even abject flattery doesn’t buy them much. Trump turns on his “friends” just as quickly as he does on his enemies.

His remark about Meghan Markle being “nasty” is hardly the worst thing  he’s done on this visit, but I’m interested that he insists he never said it even though he’s on tape. Are his followers idiots who cry “fake news” despite the evidence of his own voice, or do they not care that he lies reflexively like a small child caught misbehaving?

History will wonder, not only about the damaged soul that is Trump, but about all the damaged souls who support or acquiesce as he breaks things all around the world — pointlessly,  meaninglessly, just because he can.

Getting to Know Seattle: A Private Moment in Public Space

Seattle has quite a homeless problem. Some individuals and families who lack stable shelter live in large semi-permanent tent encampments, or in smaller groupings under highway overpasses. Some just find a semi-sheltered spot where they are more or less alone, like a secondary entrance to a building, and sleep there overnight. My former neighborhood of Belltown had a lot of people sleeping right in the midst of everything, moving from spot to spot.

My new neighborhood is less likely to have singleton overnight sleepers in public spaces, but I was out fairly early on the main drag of our small business district.  I passed a man just getting up from his night’s sleep in an alcove in front of the pharmacy. He was barefoot, his clothes rumpled, his curly hair sticking out wildly in all directions. He was stretching, and yawning. He had very little by way of possessions: a dirty sleeping bag, a small backpack. Moving on would be easy, not cumbersome. His back was to me, and our eyes didn’t meet.

I thought about what a private moment just getting up is. When I get out of bed my short, straight hair is often sticking up in odd directions. I’m barefoot, and a bit creaky on just arising. It takes a few steps on the way to the bathroom for my body to lose its stiffness. I have on a knee-length nightgown, but no underwear. I usually wash and dress before going downstairs, but if I had an early-rising houseguest I might slip on a bathrobe and my Birkenstocks and go down to make coffee first. I wouldn’t expect to perform my awakening rituals in full view of strangers.

The homeless do. The barefoot man didn’t see me as he stretched and lifted up his polo shirt to scratch his lower back. I pretended not to see him.

There’s no public bathroom near where he was sleeping, and I wondered what he was going to do next.

Why Is Trump Creating Chaos on All Fronts?

Trump is busy creating chaos on all fronts at once — with immigration, with the global economy, with a Middle East peace plan. The Cult of Trump believes him to be a stable genius with a method to his madness. Actually, he’s just a really poor businessman with a penchant for thrusting himself front and center in any situation — which fits his chaotic personality and flatters his ego. Think of his history, where he went bankrupt in most of the businesses he entered. He even lost money in the casino biz in New Jersey, which is like a license to print money for anyone even minimally competent and corrupt. Trump was corrupt enough but not competent, and he failed.

He’s busy doing to the world economy what he did in business: trying to earn the title The Biggest Loser. Don the Con.

The business community has been really slow to recognize that there are no limits to Trump’s incompetence. In their world, a guy like Trump would have been fired a long time ago. The business world can’t quite get that even thought he’s president, there’s no “there” there.

Tariffs for Mexico coming up, and God knows what else. Hold on to your hats.

https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/05/31/trump-starts-a-new-trade-fight-in-the-middle-of-an-old-one-mexico-amlo-tariffs-immigration/

Biden

I don’t start out as a Biden fan, so I’m not looking at his campaign with very favorable eyes to start with. That said, every time I see  pic of him campaigning, I think how old he looks. He’s not campaigning much. His staff says it’s because he’s the front runner. I think it’s because they are trying to conserve his energy.

He’s leading in the polls, and raising money at a respectable rate. But his crowds are on the small side, and quiet rather than enthusiastic. His people say the smaller crowds are because people already know him, and they are older and quieter and not prone to act like the Trump cult of snarling rally-goers.

That may be true, but I think small crowds and muted enthusiasm are a real problem and a serious warning sign for the Biden campaign.

We’ll see when Biden gets on stage with other Dem hopefuls. I’m hoping he looks like what he is: a man whose time has passed. I’m hoping for the clear emergence of a younger, smarter, more persuasive front-runner.

In 2014 the Atlantic published a piece by Dr. Ezekiel Emmanuel, which talks about 75 being a reasonable life span for all but the most exceptional among us. Periodically they put the piece up again, and I saw and re-read it in recent days. You can agree or disagree with Emmanuel’s specific points, like not taking antibiotics after 75, but the piece in general is a really good argument about why a guy as old as Biden ought not to run. You might say that Trump is no spring chicken either. I know, and look how that’s working out.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/10/why-i-hope-to-die-at-75/379329/

Getting to Know Seattle: Neighborhood Public Markets

The iconic Pike Place Market is open year round. Despite its fame as a tourist destination —  especially for departing and arriving cruise passengers — the bread and butter customer is a person who lives downtown and shops there for produce, meat, and fish. Tourists look and taste what’s on offer, but they don’t really buy much.

Each of Seattle’s neighborhoods also has a public market, for the summer season only and usually one day a week. Neighborhood market season has begun. There’s not yet local berries or vegetables, but you can see fresh rhubarb. There were also locally grown mushrooms of various kinds, lots of food trucks, some pastry vendors, a few specialty cooking oils, one wine tasting stand — enough to make the market interesting. At about 6pm, the street was packed. Cello man hasn’t shown up yet, but there was a busker playing a horn, and a local string band entertaining people sitting on the grass eating supper. You can bring, or buy from a food truck, and enjoy the music.

I quite love going to the market. There’s one vendor that has the most delicious strawberries — I can’t wait. I often have the grandkids, and they enjoy picking boxes of raspberries and blueberries and strawberries. We often buy a four or six pack, and it’s not uncommon for them to devour one pint box each before we get the rest home.

How Abortion Became the Conservative Hill-to-Die-On

At earlier points in our political history, women’s reproductive choice has not been the hill-to-die-on issue it is today, with some compromise possible under the rubric that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare”. I’ve been wondering why the transformation, why the intensity of the culture wars around controlling women’s bodies.

Michael Wear, writing for the Atlantic, has an opinion piece that is well worth reading. His explanation is encapsulated for me in this opening paragraph:

Abortion politics in 2019 is a morality play about what happens when one side has all the political power, yet feels culturally embattled. In this atmosphere, victories are not satisfying if they leave the other side with a foothold, a vestige of respectability. Cataclysmic discord lies ahead.”

Curiously I read another piece this morning, about Mitch McConnell saying with a smirk on his face that of course he’d fill a Supreme Court seat in the final year of Trump’s first term, even though McConnell prevented President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, from even being considered.
The short answer is that both abortion and seating conservative justices is now all about exercising power and dominance.
The problem I see for our democracy is that these ultra-conservative positions do not reflect the will of the majority. What happens, over time, when these fringe positions are enforced upon all of us?
Cataclysmic discord, Wear thinks.