Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thoughts on The Sentencing in the Henry Glover Case

Today former NOPD officer David Warren was sentenced to 25 years for killing Henry Glover after Hurricane Katrina. Former officer Gregory McRae was given 17 years for setting Mr. Glover’s body on fire after he was killed. I really don’t know how to feel about the sentencing because I always think things would be better for everyone if Henry Glover were still here with his family. Seeing people get long prison sentences really doesn’t do anything for me no matter how awful I think their deed was. Nevertheless this kind of sentence was necessary in a city that is trying to turn the corner on violence and crime. I don’t think the police department can reduce the murder rate on their own. The community has to take the lead in that but the police have to be a big part of it and it’s hard to come to terms with some of the things certain officers have done and cooperate with them. We can’t expect to clean up our neighborhoods with hardcore criminals roaming the streets. We also can’t expect to move the city forward when officers don’t value the life of every citizen. From my perspective today was a positive day.

There’s always going to be extremes on any side of an issue. There are some people in the community including some officers that think these two officers got a raw deal. They will point to the fact everyone was stressed and under pressure during that time and under normal circumstances these men would have never just killed someone and set their body on fire. I think if the stress and pressure was that bad they could have always just quit their job and evacuated. They would be in better shape than they are now. We can’t make excuses for what they did.

The other side is the folks that think both men are getting off easy. They wanted to see double the amount of time handed down. I saw Henry Glover’s aunt saying she expected David Warren to get life. I can understand how the family and others feel. If it was my family I would want a longer sentence too. A longer sentence isn’t going to bring Henry Glover back to life so there’s no such thing as real justice. I see a 25 year sentence and I think to myself that they almost got away with it totally if it wasn’t for news stories about it a few years after the storm. Before that Henry Glover was well on his way to being another random casualty of Katrina’s chaos. I know the family wanted more time but I am glad they at least get some closure. Besides, I don’t think spending 20 years in a federal prison as an ex cop who shot a black man and set his body on fire is no country club visit by a long shot. Both men will have more than enough time to think about what they did and pay for it.

Hopefully soon we can start to put this one behind us and wait for the Danziger seven to get their day in court. If David Warren got 25 years for shooting one black man, it will be interesting to see what happens to the guys that shot a man in the back and tried to take out an entire family. It seems like we never run out of things to deal with down here.

Friday, March 25, 2011

I Just Want To Say That You're A Good Man

It’s difficult to maintain a positive mood in such negative times. Yesterday afternoon I was headed back to work and drove right up on a fresh murder scene. I was blown away because it was so early in the day at busy area and across the street from a school. It was a sad situation. I had just left a meeting full of positive people and watched a young brother who I admire receive an award. When I did get back to work I found out another gentleman who I admire had a new and exciting position at City Hall. In one hour the two positive things were balanced by the worst possible thing. Such is life for a man like me in the city.

I know I am not alone in feeling the way I do. It’s like every day we are fighting an image problem. It feels we are being attacked by the cats who display their ignorance for the entire world to see without any shame and all the people who use their actions to lump us all together. I don’t think we have the time or the resources to stop either one of those things from happening so the only thing we can do is make sure that we keep one another afloat. Whether it’s the college educated professional or one of the delivery men at my office building, my brothers need to know that they have value.

I try my best to give my brothers encouragement. When I am around a man that is trying to do something positive I let them know that they are good men. I tell them to keep moving forward. I try to explain all the things I did wrong and the bad choices I made so they won’t make them. There are a lot of ladies out here raising boys on their own. When I meet their sons and their heads are on straight I let their moms know that she is raising a good young man, to keep up the good work and call me if he’s going through something that requires a man’s perspective to help him with. There are plenty of impressive young men in our community but they don't get enough attention because our failures make better news stories.

Mutual admiration for one another is important. There are some things that should be routine like spending time with your kids and getting your education that should be so routine that men shouldn’t expect or receive any praise for. I would love to be at that stage in our community. I think one of the main issues we have is that we don't do enough to recognize the good things men do but the guys that do and say the wrong things get so much attention that it became popular and cool. Now we just keep trying to legitimize destructive behavior and it's not working. Since each day is a constant barrage of negative images and subliminal messages suggesting how cool it is to be ignorant, patting one another on the back for encouragement seems perfectly fine to me. Appreciation has a lot of value when you are trying to kill a destructive culture.

If you know a good dude shake his hand and let him know.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

With Bombing Comes Responsibility

All Americans should have an opinion about war and military action. There are people in our armed forces from all walks of life and from every section of the country so it affects everybody. You don’t have to share it with anyone but I think it’s one of those topics everyone should think about. I don’t have a problem sharing my views. I think that if it’s a matter of national security then military action is a necessary evil and we need to do it. The problem in recent years is since information and truth has gotten so fuzzy it’s hard for me to determine what’s necessary and what’s not.

I don’t know if Libya was necessary. It seemed to me like they were having a civil war and some bad things were happening during the fighting. It’s not like Egypt where the majority of the country including the military seemed to put the people over leadership so army didn’t open fire on their own and create mass carnage. Libya seems to be a bit more complicated in that a lot of people still support Moammar Gadhafi. I could be wrong but that’s the way it looks to me. If I am wrong about the people I don’t think I am wrong about the military because they really shut the rebels down.

Now America is part of another coalition and is bombing Libya. The president says there will be no ground troops and I hope it stays that way. I don’t think it was a good idea to get involved in that country. I have two main issues. The first one is that Saddam Hussein was this evil dictator who harmed his own people like Gadhafi is doing right now. We removed Saddam from Iraq but the people of that country were so tribal and divided by religious sect that it took less than a year to whip Saddam’s army and then almost another ten years to try and get the people we freed not to kill us. We might be spending money to help Libya five years from now.

The second thing is whenever it’s a country that we have a vested interest in changing we always pull out the Protecting Innocent People card instead of just saying that we want the leader removed and get it over with. I don’t want to see innocent people get killed no matter what country they are in but innocent people have been getting killed in fighting all over the place especially in areas like Sudan and The Congo and we haven’t fired anything at anybody. It makes that argument look like we have no real reason to be doing what we are doing because it’s not consistent. The other thing part of that is how you know when those people are no longer in danger. If we stop the bombing tomorrow is Gadhafi just going to let bygones be bygones in those areas where the rebellion started? He’s not going to let it go so we can’t leave him in power and that means we are going to have to be involved in that country to make sure things go well. We might not have troops there but we will have to do something.

Regardless if you are for or against getting involved in Libya we should all agree that we will have to pay for something to keep this from blowing up in our faces. When it happens I am going to find it really sad that we got involved and financially invested in Libya’s business when we are supposed to be so financially strapped as a country that teachers are made to seem evil just for wanting good benefits.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sitting On My Porch Part Sixty Four

Tonight is one of the best nights in a sports junkie’s life. It’s NCAA tournament time. Normally I would be watching CBS and letting Greg Gumble switch me to the game that is the most interesting at the time. Now I have to keep turning to all these different channels with no guarantee that anything exciting is going on. It doesn’t matter. I got beer. Everything is done for tomorrow so I’m going to sit here and watch Gonzaga and St. Johns.

There are a lot of things going on in the world. I’ve been watching Japan and hoping they can hold back most of the radiation. I don’t want to say anything misinformed or ignorant that disrespects the plight of the Japanese but I do have two thoughts about the nuclear problem. The first thing is that I don’t know how reactors work but I have to believe there’s a way to back up the back up system to the back up system before you start operating these things around people. I know that was a powerful earthquake with a tsunami to follow but this just seems ridiculous.

The second thing is that everyone who works in those nuclear sites is underpaid. I am sure they are making a lot of money right now and they are still underpaid.

The Justice Department released their report on the New Orleans Police Department. It wasn't good. My favorite quote from the report is this one…

”The patterns of policing in New Orleans are biased against several demographic groups, including black residents, people who don't speak English fluently, gay and transgendered people and women.”

Given the demographics of the city, this quote means that the NOPD is fair and balanced to about 500 people. I don’t have a problem with Chief Serpas personally. I just think he has the same weakness that Chief Riley had before him. There are too many personal allegiances to officers that need to be fired. It doesn’t make either man corrupt. It just makes them products of the culture of the city like the rest of us. Chief Serpas may eventually clean up the force but he’s going to have to be willing to not be invited to a lot of parties and seafood boils. That’s more difficult to deal with in your hometown then most people will admit.

The last thing I want to mention is the story about the 14 year old kid at McDonald City Park Academy who was put in an equipment locker. He called his mom saying he was being locked in a cage. I don’t know this kid or his behavior but there is no reason to lock them behind a cage at school if that’s what happened. I don’t know what the alternative is besides suspending them but being behind anything that looks like a cage conditions them for the wrong thing. You don’t want them to get used to that. In the story it is noted that the mom of the kid quit her job just to be able to get him on track. I don’t know if that means she wanted to be home in the evenings to help him or he was getting in so much trouble that she couldn’t stay at work anyway because she had to leave. I know one thing for sure. When you go to school with the kind of kids that need to be removed and isolated from everybody else there’s no way your teacher is going to be able to focus on educating you. She’s going to spend the entire time trying to get them under control and little time showing you what you need to be successful.

When I was in 7th grade there were a few guys that I thought needed a cage, medication and shock treatment. My poor old 7th grade English teacher spent an hour and a half fighting and dodging things being thrown at him and the other 30 minutes trying to remember what he was supposed to be teaching us. I guess that’s why he just gave up and passed everybody who turned in the ten definitions for homework. When people start talking about low test scores and horrible graduation rates these are the kind of things that lead to that happening.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Statistics Are The Enemy of The Status Quo

Governor Jindal is going to merge the University of New Orleans and Southern University of New Orleans. The governor hasn’t shown that he can be moved from his position much from rallies and emotional testimony so I don’t see him changing his mind. Regardless of how you feel about the governor you have to admit that he is a good politician and knows his state. He already knows that merging UNO and SUNO won’t do much financially in terms of saving the budget for higher education but it will help ease the pain when he raises tuition across the state. It’s the symbolism since both of those schools have New Orleans in their name. Having Jesse Jackson come in on SUNO’s behalf makes it even better. While everyone is feeling good about him sticking it to the folks in the city he’ll be making it more expensive for them to send their kids to school and it won’t get much coverage. I know it’s going to work out this way because even some of the students at UNO who have been interviewed about the merger on television have made comments like they are getting prisoners from Angola instead of other college students from right down the street.

The biggest thing to me in this entire process is how the supporters of SUNO are falling victim to the same weapon that has led the charge for every initiative implemented in the city the last few years. The statistics are not on their side. Whenever someone wants to make a change or take something out of our hands like we can’t do for ourselves they throw out a bunch of negative statistics and we have nothing to counter that with but emotion. Emotion doesn’t have much value when you don’t have revenue, don’t show up to vote and have lost political influence. It kind of makes people wonder why we fight so hard to maintain a status quo that hasn’t done much for us. It doesn’t matter if it’s crime statistics, standardized test scores, graduation rates or anything else you can think of; it appears that we didn’t really do a good job at taking care of our people and institutions.

A lot of people who go to SUNO never get the chance to graduate in four straight years because life gets in the way. They get a better job or change schedules. Something happens so they take off a semester or two and then go back. I know a few people who started making money without the degree and didn’t go back at all. You don’t get extra credit for those situations when graduation rates are involved but the value in the school is that it’s a place where people from the community feel comfortable enough to turn to if they decide to try and better themselves. I think that’s the way the folks at the school see their mission even though I don‘t think they have done a good job at articulating that since the merger discussion began. You can’t put that into any statistical category either so I think that in this current climate if the governor goes with the plan that will allow those kind of students to still have a chance at improving their situation then we are going to have to settle for that. The numbers don’t support anything that would stop the governor’s plan.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I just got back from taking a nice long ride through the Louisiana countryside to attend a meeting in Shreveport. I’m a little confused on why we had to drive since it’s about the same distance as Memphis and Houston and we would have flown to either one of those. I’m not complaining. A bunch of hours in the car by yourself driving through the sunshine can be therapeutic. It was cool because I didn’t talk on the phone or anything while I was on the road. I just tried to clear my head and gather my thoughts. It was a productive meeting and training. There’s going to be a lot of work involved on my end but I feel good about the changes and the capacity to do things that may benefit the community. If the hotel I was staying in didn’t have those lumpy ass beds and the refrigerator that wouldn’t stop making noise I would have gotten some good rest too.

I guess I am ready to engage the world again. I left Shreveport 1:00 PM this afternoon and that’s the middle of talk radio chaos. I gave the MP3 player a rest and decided to scan through a few shows. I have come to the conclusion that the hardest thing to do in this time is achieve a balance between being positive and going to bed waiting for the world to end (Don’t worry. I am not one of those people that think the world is ending soon because something horrible happened. Horrible things have been happening since the beginning of time. It was just a figure of speech.) I admit that this is often a struggle for me. My outlook pendulum swings back and forth at a moment’s notice. I like at those folks in Japan and try to rationalize that and I can’t. At this point all you can do is hope the death toll doesn’t rise too much higher and that their government and population don’t have the divisions that will keep the survivors from getting the proper assistance they need to move forward. I don’t even want to think about the nuclear meltdown part. I’m still in denial about that.

I guess we’ll just hope for the best. In the meantime I will be enjoying my own bed free of lumps and no refrigerator noise. I'm going to listen to the Original Samples channel on Youtube and try to figure out what hip hop song the sample belongs to.

This is an easy one from the best rap album ever.