Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Takes a Voluntary Exit for Alcohol Abuse Problems


Theme:– Operation C.R.U.S.H. Against Gun Violence, Bias and Clouded Vision

The city of Toronto has been dealing with the rocky road of Mayor Rob Ford. He’s had embarrassing incidents that have become public over the past year. After another such situation appeared in the press many believe he needs to go. Ford announced he’s taking a leave of absence to deal with alcohol abuse.

Ford‘s been battling this over the years and plans to take a timeout. It seems he’s ready to come to his senses. This is not something that’s easy to do as a public official. That might help explain why some of them wrestle with handling violence, sex assault, bias and mental illness in our schools and city streets.

Debates rage-on as the tragedies pile-up. At times it seems the struggle is a love affair with the Second Amendment’s “right to bear arms.” Other times the issues are viewed in strictly racial terms. Well, a miss-placed love affair or skewed racial views are both bad for a person’s (country’s) health and well-being.

Should some laws go through detox? This means looking at other parts of society to do what works. So, a teenage driver goes through a year of training before getting a conditional license. With a doctor, lawyer, preacher or police even longer times. But with weapon purchases by citizens, there’s little or no training.

Earlier this year Ford announced his campaign for another term. He’d been stripped of much of his duties even before the latest reports of substance abuse. He hopes to bounce back from detox as a brand new man. Maybe the same can be true in cities and schools if we deal with related matters of public safety.

Footnote: If Yogi Berra were asked about some of the challenges in sports, schools or on city streets he might say “if nothing changes, then nothing changes, else nothing changes.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel Finds Himself Between a Rock and a Hard Place


Theme:– Operation C.R.U.S.H. Against Gun Violence, Bias and Clouded Vision

President Obama made a visit to Chicago recently to drum-up support for Democratic candidates. His trip started out with a Business Roundtable where he “rubbed shoulders,” but was overshadowed by the Fort Hood Shooting. Meanwhile, Mayor Rahm Emanual finds himself between a rock and a hard place.

He’s faced with some serious challenges common to many urban cities. There’re the problems with school closings and street violence to name a few. The most pressing issue it seems deals with tackling the shortfall in pension funds. He’s not shrinking away from the challenge even with the clock ticking.

Some Chicago insiders and elected officials believe this issue is a game-changer. But maybe it’s the way Emanuel is dealing with it head-on that best fits the description. It could serve as a good example for how as a nation we might deal with gun violence. Every time there’s a shooting people analyze without action.

There’s a tendency to point fingers everywhere else but where it belongs. The latest complaints have been about people with mental health issues. Some want to blame the crazies when maybe the buck stops with us the sane. We keep allowing dangerous weapons to get into the hands of unstable people.

Emanuel is known as a tough-nosed guy. The challenges facing Chicagoans exists in others cities and states as well. The pension fund problem is about money and as we know “money talks.” So, is it going to take putting a dollar value on life and death to address gun violence with the same sense of urgency?

Footnote: The problems of urban plight are not fixed by simply pointing fingers at those seen as the “lazies or crazies” but by lifting fingers and empowering lives to be like the sane.

Congressman Paul Ryan Walks Back Comments on Culture and ‘Fartherless Problem’


Theme:– Operation C.R.U.S.H. Against Gun Violence, Bias and Clouded Vision

Recently, President Obama unveiled his administration’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative. It was well received by a throng of supporters at the White House. He hopes to make a dent in dealing with some of the inner city struggles. Well, Paul Ryan had to walk back comments on the ‘fatherless problem.’

He was asked during a radio interview about the subject. He seemed to step on some toes by defining the problem in what was seen as “put down” terms. Ryan’s comments enraged a fellow congressional colleague. So he later issued a statement to clarify his take on some of the inner city culture woes.

Maybe the congressman was continuing in the realm of comments he made related to poverty. A medical doctor will say that we can’t confuse the symptom with the problem. It’s like with the issue of gun violence and attempts at passing laws on background check. Opponents say forget it while studies say differently.

This topic engenders emotional reaction to the Nth degree. It’s hard to convince parts of our culture on the merits of background checks because it’s hard to get some to do self-checks. That’s changed with women regarding breast exams and it’s also changed when it comes to wearing seatbelts. Go figure!

In order to address the effects of some of our pressing social/cultural challenges we need to be willing to see it for what it is. Increasing highway traffic fatalities caused our elected officials and culture to enact seatbelt self-check mechanisms. So has the concern for breast cancer. No clouded vision there!

Footnote: It might be hard to convince some of the merits of background checks because human nature has a tendency to shun self-checks. That’s changed for women and for drivers wearing seatbelts because they had the repercussion of public health/safety in mind.

Governor Jan Brewer and Spike Lee in the Spotlight as Some Stick a Finger at Them


Theme:– Operation C.R.U.S.H. Against Gun Violence, Bias and Clouded Vision

Is February now a “hot button” time on the calendar related to civil rights? This year beyond the African-American celebrations there’s been the issue of religious liberties raised in Arizona and gentrification in Brooklyn. Governor Jan Brewer and Spike Lee are in the spotlight as some people stick a finger at them.

Lee wonders why resources show up in neighborhoods when the racial complexion changes. One point of view says it’s a frustrating-fallout for which “blight turns into flight” then new money is marketed as urban renewal. Property value goes up as some move out (or are bought/forced out), and others move in.

The Arizona debate has been on protecting religious liberties. So Senate Bill SB 1062 was passed to give businesses the right to not serve a certain demographic group. Governor Brewer vetoed SB 1062 on the grounds that it had the potential to create more problems than it was supposedly going to solve.

In some respects the issues in Arizona and Brooklyn are related to managing social change. However beyond that, the problem with the proposed law in Arizona lies in how a closely-held belief can become a bias and whether SB 1062 would protect against an existing bias or project/impose a new bias.

What should Lee’s comments and Brewer’s veto teach us? Maybe that bias, whether institutional or social, create more problems than solutions. But they might also spur us to organize around “community branding” so that one’s self-identity is not steam-rolled by those who disrespect your self-interests.

Footnote: Civil Rights laws should protect against bias not project/impose bias. Gentrification is a social change phenomenon that could have some civil rights strains, gains and mixed-bag effects.

Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook Buys WhatsApp, Jordan Davis’ Family Asks, What’s Up?


Theme:– Operation C.R.U.S.H. Against Gun Violence, Bias and Clouded Vision

How to explain to parents the killing of their child for no reason? In the eyes of the shooter it’s because he thought he saw a gun. In the eyes of our culture it’s because the kid was black. In the eyes of the law/jury it’s in Stand Your Ground. So a guy with a hoodie buys “WhatsApp,” while Davis’ family asks, what’s up?

That’s the dilemma with the recent hung-jury factor in the Jordan Davis trial. They couldn’t agree on the first-degree murder charge. But, on the other charges that didn’t involve death, they could agree. It makes no logical sense but more importantly, the Stand Your Ground law doesn’t even make gun sense.

Michael Dunn did more to inflame a situation than to contain it. Remember, he was at a gas station where you’re not allowed to smoke much less smoke-out someone’s life. The Stand Your Ground provision in the law is a bad cocktail because it doesn’t even make legal sense to shoot first and verify later.

Those trained in law enforcement are schooled on taking-up a position of safety where possible in the event their life is threatened. Typically in an active shooting situation you’ll see them taking cover. In the Davis case, Dunn took cover after the shooting by going home, ordering pizza and not calling police.

Dunn suggests he was lost in the moment. So he didn’t think about notifying authorities. Forget the legal sense and gun sense for a second. His explanation doesn’t even make common sense. What would cause him to come-up with such a crazy excuse? Maybe it has to do with personal/system biases.

His fiancée’s testimony and written statements from Dunn make reference to his racial views. Plus, we might need to consider whether the system gives similar ‘benefit of the doubt’ to unarmed black boys as it does to the armed or unarmed of another racial background. If not, then something’s gotta change.

Zuckerberg’s Facebook keeps pushing the tech frontier. They’re always looking to expand their business. The Stand Your Ground experiment seems to be doing just the opposite. It may be giving people “the cover” to kill emerging potential. This isn’t the way to expand the benefit of equal protection under the law.

Footnote: Personal fears/biases and some system inconsistencies that go un-checked cause black boys to get caught-up in two ways or waves. It’s like the ocean wave that washes-up stuff on the shore being treated as trash and the ocean undercurrent that drags stuff back being treated as forgotten.

Jordan Davis’ Attorney Set to Put Michael Dunn on the Hot Seat of Justice


Theme:– Operation C.R.U.S.H. Against Gun Violence, Bias and Clouded Vision

There’s another wrongful-death shooting trial in Florida where Jordan Davis was allegedly killed by Michael Dunn who’s pleading self-defense. Dunn fired eight shots into a vehicle (says he saw a gun) after he told teens to lower the car’s radio. Now Davis’ attorney is about to put Dunn on the hot seat of justice.

It’s hard to understand the kinds of senseless violence we hear reported in the news. Sometimes it’s gang-related while other times it’s about a person in an estranged relationship seeking revenge. There are some recent cases due to mental illness but the common element is the weapon used.

Many debate if the problem is the weapon or if it’s the user of the weapon that needs to be put in check. Interestingly, that’s not a question being asked when a teenager first has to get a driver’s license. There’s a whole permit-process by which they have to get practice, get tested and get certified before driving.

Remember when seatbelts were not being used and the government realized that avoidable highway deaths were become a public health issue? Maybe the same view needs to be taken when dealing with senseless gun violence. Otherwise we’ll have a culture of repeated tragedies due to an outlaw mentality.

There are those who compare this case to the Trayvon Martin incident. While Dunn has not presented a ‘Stand Your Ground’ defense he is being seen in a similar way. The danger with over-comparing the two cases is getting caught-up looking into the forest and not seeing trees of inconsistencies in our system.

Footnote: If a teenager as a rookie driver has to go through a permit-process before driving to help minimize hazardous drivers on the road, maybe a similar process could apply with first-time firearm purchases to help minimize senseless violence in our nation. (But maybe that’s just too logical.)

Ted Cruz Walks out of Mandela Memorial but is Lukewarm on Gun Reform


Theme:– Operation C.R.U.S.H. Against Gun Violence, Bias and Clouded Vision

It was a typical morning in Newtown. Some parents dropped-off their kids before doing a little Christmas shopping. Then news broke the airwaves and broke hearts. Since then there’s been more angst than action. Think about it, Senator Ted Cruz walks out of Mandela’s Memorial but is lukewarm on gun reform.

It’s hard to imagine that the tragedy of Newtown has not moved the needle much. We saw wall-to-wall media coverage. The event brought social outcry and community vigils. Some of the surviving parents went to Washington to plead their case. But even that wasn’t enough to get common sense to budge.

Residents in New York and Connecticut can think back to recent weather-related storms. The damage caused by Superstorm Sandy was bad enough. But it was the loss in electric power that added insult to injury. Many people went without power for a few days, even weeks. So, local elected officials took action.

Well, since Newtown it’s almost as if ‘we the people’ experienced another power failure. Everybody agrees that this was a horrible event. Many vowed to do everything possible to honor those lost. And now a year later, we’re still waiting on those with a heart in Congress, to put their muscle where their mouth is.

Even after former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ experience it seemed that wasn’t enough of a wake-up call. She’s still recovering from the trauma of the incident and scars from the after-effects. This makes one wonder if there’s something in our cultural psyche that could be scarred as well.

Footnote: The debate in some circles is about gun reform versus gun rights, but maybe it should really be more about the near-term and long-term effects in the community of a power failure.

Nelson Mandela’s Journey Comes Close to Being the Ultimate in Sacrifice


Theme:– Operation C.R.U.S.H. Against Gun Violence, Bias and Clouded Vision

Almost immediately kind words began pouring in from world leaders. One said we lost a giant. Another talked about him as a model of forgiveness and reconciliation. Oprah said Mandela will always be her hero. Rewind a few decades and we see a journey that comes close to being the ultimate in sacrifice.

As a young boy his life was on a typical track but as a young man Mandela chose an atypical path. He began to challenge his country’s track-record of social injustice. This landed him in prison for 27 years. There were many who joined the chorus to free Mandela. As fate would have it, he changed the nation.

His story is one of taking a stand. He stood on the side of ‘right’ even when it wasn’t convenient. He stood for a set of principles even when it rattled his popularity. Some see Mandela as a mash-up of Washington, Lincoln and Dr. King. He brought revolution, emancipation and inspiration in his lifetime.

But he’s also a mash-up of more distant heroes. While in prison he may have used an ‘Ezekiel eye’ to see his people in the ‘valley of dry bones’ oppressed by Apartheid. Later, his ‘Joseph journey’ took him from prison to the Palace. Along the way he had his ‘Moses moments’ in leading the country to higher ground.

So back to today’s reflections and we see a man who was once hated but now immensely loved. He was treated like scum of the earth but is now revered as statesman of the ages. Mandela didn’t allow his life to be crushed by social injustice but instead used conviction and convincing to crush social injustice.

Footnote: We can easily say that Nelson Mandela’s life was more than a blip on the radar. It was like a shining star that trail-blazed across the open sky for the whole world to see and love.

Senator Harry Reid Went ‘Nuclear,’ What if ‘Boyz in the Hood’ did the Same?


Theme:– Operation C.R.U.S.H. Against Gun Violence, Bias and Clouded Vision

Imagine Congress has to make some budget decisions by end of year. These are needed to avoid another government shutdown. It’s not clear if that’s been made easier or harder now that the filibuster has been busted. Senator Harry Reid went ‘nuclear,’ so what if ‘boyz in the hood’ did the same?

The filibuster rule in the Senate has been plaguing the Obama Administration. Many of his executive and judicial appointments have been blocked by a Republican minority. The original purpose of the rule was to provide a courtesy to minority representatives to share their voice of dissent on a policy matter.

One senator has been quoted as saying “The rule change made by Harry Reid is intended to give the majority party the ability to do whatever it wants to do.” That’s not the full story because it’s really meant to curtail the minority party from doing whatever it wants to do to block progress just for blocking sake.

The Washington D.C. climate shows political change is tough stuff. This is equally true for social change on income inequality, jobs, gun violence and mental illness. Sometimes it’s choosing an ‘easy fix, easy sell’ or a ‘hard fix, hard sell.’ And other times change calls for using a weapon of mass disruption (WMD).

Whether in Congress or the community some rather resist than embrace change. It’s easier to block gun reform than embrace sensible fixes. As the country reflects on the legacy of President John F. Kennedy Jr. let’s consider his administration’s shift from ‘pre-historic notions’ closer to a more perfect union.

Footnote: Sometimes change is a natural shift in current trends and other times it happens as a result of taking action to prevent a bad situation from slipping into evil and instead achieving greater good.

Derek ‘Shotgun’ Brown and Anti-Violence Program Between Rock and Hard Place


Theme:– Operation C.R.U.S.H. Against Gun Violence, Bias and Clouded Vision

From NYC to Detroit to Chicago there’re reasons to see that anti-violence campaigns are needed. From a skating rink to a barbershop to the ‘hood, it seems when things die down they flare up again. That’s why Derek Brown and the Ceasefire anti-violence program find themselves between a rock and a hard place.

The program was started to deal with the gang problem in Chicago. It provides intervention services to interrupt the potential for retaliations. Many of the organization’s counselors are ex-offenders who turned around their lives. The program allows them to serve the community in a “keeping it real” kind of way.

Aljazeera America reports Ceasefire’s city-funded contract expired over the summer and wasn’t renewed. They had to shrink staff and close locations. One of the program administrators feels it’s like a double punishment. They served their time in prison and are being penalized again for making a difference.

Some police honchos question taxpayer funding of ex-cons. They feel Ceasefire gets in the way of their efforts. Others in the community vouch for the program after seeing a decrease in school suspensions. Isn’t that the whole point of anti-violence? An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.

Brown and others hope funding is returned next year. In the meantime, he’s been trying to stay afloat with a food truck on the corner. This way he can have a legal hustle while still being available to share street advice in the community. It’s clearly a better option than having to backslide into delivering street justice.

Footnote: It’s much better to save a life by preventing an unnecessary bullet from flying than by having to stop an emergency room patient from dying.