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American Democracy and Justice

What is this American experiment about? Is it a tale about big business? Or is America a tale about the little guy, the average Joe, or the average Sally? Is the United States of America about the Rockefellers, Carnegies, and the Elon Musks of the world?

America is about both. America is very much about how one man or woman has overcome enormous odds to become incredibly successful. But America is also about how one man or woman fought to keep their head above water.

Two Tales of Justice

Baithe Diop was shot twice in his cab. He was left to die. Unfortunately, his story of being an immigrant trying to overcome the odds ended in the Bronx in 1995. Eric Glisson and four other defendants were convicted of his senseless murder. Eric Glisson maintained that he was innocent. Glisson did everything he could from behind bars to legally free himself from prison.

Seventeen years later, as a Hail Mary, he writes a letter to a prosecutor in the US attorney’s office. He reiterates the details of the case and states that he is innocent. The prosecutor he wrote the letter to had retired, and somehow the letter ended up in the hands of John O’Malley, an investigator and former Bronx homicide detective.

In what can only be described as divine intervention, O’Malley was a former Bronx detective who helped take down the street gang, “Sex Money, and Murder.” He was personally involved when two of the gang members, as part of their plea deal, confessed to shooting a cab driver in 1995.

So, while reading the letter from Glisson, O’Malley remembers this confession from over a decade before. O’Malley takes it upon himself to reinvestigate the murder. The original case against Glisson was flimsy at best. With increased scrutiny, the case falls apart.

The conviction was overturned. Eric Glisson and his four co-defendants were finally freed. They received a $40 million judgment from the city of New York. It took over 17 years, but ultimately, justice was served.

By |2023-02-02T00:39:04-04:00February 2nd, 2023|Civil Rights|0 Comments

The Purpose of Government

Many years ago, a conservative friend decided he needed to challenge me. So he asked me one of those popular conservative questions at the time: what does the government do for you? This conversation took place over 30 years ago.

This was an era when conservatives said they would “like to shrink the size of government,” though they never said how small they wanted it to be. In 1986 Ronald Reagan had said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help’.” And in 2001 anti-tax activist Grover Norquist said he didn’t want “to abolish government”; he just wanted “to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”

So, back to the original question. My friend argued that the government doesn’t do much for the average American. Yes, the government maintains the roads. We get clean water to drink. The government maintains our sewage system, which decreases disease. Finally, the government protects us with our military. In his conservative mind, that’s all the government was good for. But, in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, it’s important to note that our government does much more.

We began hearing about a disturbance off the African coast that could develop into a hurricane in mid-September. We knew this because of a sophisticated network of satellites that orbit the earth and give reams of data to the team of meteorologists at the National Weather Service. These meteorologists and other scientists, working for our government, use sophisticated modeling to track and predict the path of this tropical disturbance. This data is then given to the smiling faces on CBS or the Weather Channel.

As the disturbance turned into a tropical depression and a hurricane, we could follow all this in real time. The cyclone slammed into Cuba on Sept. 26-27. We constantly got detailed, sophisticated information as the National Weather Service flew airplanes into this raging hurricane to learn more about it. Twenty-four to 36 hours before landfall, we knew the storm was going to hit the western coast of Florida, somewhere around Fort Myers, as it turned away from the Tampa-St. Petersburg area. We also knew, a day ahead of time, that this was going to be a major hurricane—and sure enough, it hit Florida as a Category 4, with 155-mph winds (at 157 mph a storm becomes Category 5).

By |2022-11-06T14:04:20-04:00November 6th, 2022|Domestic Issues|0 Comments

So Many Problems

I wrote this for the Urban News.

When I was an intern, one of my fellow interns would summarize a busy night of medical admissions with a simple phrase: “So many problems.” Unfortunately, this was during morning report when we were supposed to receive a detailed summary of the patients who had been admitted overnight. This would allow me and the rest of the medical team to carefully plan how we would take care of the newly admitted patients. The “so many problems” line gave us nothing. We had to scramble and figure out what was going on with these newly admitted patients and then formulate a plan for how we would take care of them. We have a similar problem in the United States these days. We have allowed Congress to kick problems down the road without resolution for decades. No one seems to be held accountable.

Gun Violence

More than 20 years ago, two high school seniors walked into the Columbine HS library in Littleton, Colorado with a variety of pistols, sawed-off shotguns, pipe bombs, and other explosives. They killed 10 students and one teacher before committing suicide.

America cried out for action. We needed some meaningful legislation. We could have limited high-capacity magazines. A girlfriend of one of the gunmen was over 18 and she had bought some of the weapons. Allowing someone to buy a weapon which is later used in a mass murder seems to be a loophole crying out for simple action. Congress could easily write a law which holds the person who bought the firearm responsible for any crimes committed with that firearm, but nothing was really done.

We hear the same tired old arguments that put the rights of gunowners ahead of the rights of the victims. Current data from the Center for Disease Control states the number one cause of death or injury for children under the age of 16 is firearms. Yet, we still have weak gun control laws. And when there is a strong one, like the 109-year-old legislation in New York that required anyone to show a good reason for carrying a firearm in public, the current Supreme Court majority will strike it down.

If you are in a public space, you should be on the lookout for some crazy man with a gun. This means if you are at church, at the mall, at a parade, or anywhere in the United States, you need to be on guard. This is just a sad fact of life right now in the US.

The recently passed Safer Communities Act is a nice start but it doesn’t come close to protecting us from random gun violence. It does not ban assault weapons. Why a civilian needs an assault weapon is beyond my understanding. The 2nd Amendment does NOT say that Americans can and should have any weapon they chose. Nor does the Safer Communities legislation enact red flag laws (These are laws that temporarily remove guns from people who are an immediate threat to themselves or others.) The act does not hold Americans who purchase guns accountable for the violence that their guns create. This is a must. My right not to be shot, killed or injured by some crazed lunatic outweighs any Second Amendment right to bear arms.

Finally, arming teachers to protect our school children may be the dumbest idea since Wiley E. Coyote decided to capture the Road Runner. Why? Because if we quickly review mass shootings, we find that well-trained police officers, who handle guns every day, fire and miss their targets frequently. Now, inject an armed teacher who is NOT as familiar with guns as a police officer into the confusing mix of a mass shooting. I see very little good that can come out of this situation. I see teachers becoming scapegoats as angry parents are wondering why the teacher didn’t save their child.

By |2022-10-08T20:27:05-04:00October 8th, 2022|Healthcare, Mass Shooting|Comments Off on So Many Problems
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