Mike Kueber's Blog

December 6, 2014

The Obama administration finally addresses racial profiling

Filed under: Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 5:44 am
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Both the Washington Post and New York Times are reporting that the Obama administration is planning to issue rules early next week that further “curb” racial profiling by government agencies, but the biggest focus of the articles seems to be that transportation and border security will be exempted from most of the rules.

I’ve blogged on several occasions about racial profiling and have suggested a similar tack – i.e., common-sense exceptions:

  • 5/25/2010 – “I have been unable to learn if ethnicity can be considered with other factors in deciding that a ‘reasonable suspicion exists’ that a person is in America illegally. I assume, but do not know, that AZ Border and Immigration personnel routinely consider ethnicity when looking for illegal immigrants. The problem seems analogous to looking for terrorists post-9/11, where the target individuals are predominantly from a single ethnicity. If a large majority of illegal immigrants in Arizona are Hispanic, shouldn’t law enforcement be able to consider that as a factor in deciding whether there is reasonable suspicion?”
  • 10/10/10 – “Personally, I think the best course of action is to have a national discussion on what forms of racial and ethnic profiling are acceptable. Liberals argue that all such profiling is illegal, but conservatives respond that political correctness shouldn’t force us to tie the hands of law enforcement when profiling makes them more effective. Alternatively, I think most people would be comfortable with a national ID card. Such a card would not be any more invasive that the periodic census.”
  • 4/26/2012 – “As a practical person, I am reluctant to discard a valuable enforcement tool. The essential question is whether the value of the enforcement tool exceeds the cost to members of the group that will be scrutinized more closely merely because of their skin color. This is an exceedingly complicated, subjective question, and I think the U.S. Supreme Court is supremely qualified to conduct an analysis and render a decision. Unlike the Louisiana judge, however, I will not prejudge their decision and instead will look forward to reading their analysis.”

According to the Post article, Homeland Security was successful in making an argument for common sense:

  • “TSA officials, meanwhile, argued that they should not be covered by the new limits on the grounds that the TSA is not a law enforcement agency.”
  • According to an anonymous immigration official, “If you look at numbers, the vast majority of people we deal with are Hispanic. Is that profiling, or just the fact that most of the people who come into the country happen to be Hispanic? It’s not like you’re a cop on a beat, which is an entirely different situation.”
  • “As a result, entire swaths of DHS activity are exempt from the new policy.”

By contrast, the Times article highlighted that, although the thinking of Homeland Security prevailed, it was not without vigorous opposition by Attorney General Holder:

  • “The debate over racial profiling in immigration enforcement, however, has delayed the release of the new rules for months. Mr. Holder, who was leading the policy review, told colleagues that he believed that border agents did not need to consider race or ethnicity. But the Department of Homeland Security resisted efforts to limit the factors it can consider when looking for illegal immigrants. Department officials argued that it was impractical to ignore nationality when it came to border enforcement. The immigration investigators have said, ‘We can’t do our job without taking ethnicity into account. We are very dependent on that,’ said one official briefed on the new rules.”
  • Under the new rules, agents in those instances will still be allowed to consider race, national origin and other factors that would otherwise be off limits, according to several officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.”
  • “Mr. Holder, the nation’s first black attorney general, has spoken forcefully against racial profiling…. But while law enforcement officials were generally supportive of his efforts to broaden protections for minorities, Mr. Holder ran into objections on the issues of national security and border protection. F.B.I. agents opposed a wholesale ban on considering race and nationality in terrorism investigations. They said, for example, that an agent investigating the Shabab, a Somali militant group, must be able to find out whether a state has a large Somali population and, if so, where it is.”
  • “The rules — both the current version and the revisions — offer more protection against discrimination than the Supreme Court has said the Constitution requires. The court has said that border agents may not conduct roving traffic stops simply because motorists appeared to be of Mexican descent, but agents at checkpoints may single out drivers for interviews ‘largely on the basis of apparent Mexican ancestry.’ The court ruled that the government’s interest in protecting the border outweighed the minimal inconvenience to motorists.

It sounds like the Obama administration is taking a sound position on racial and other profiling despite the efforts of Attorney General Holder to go too far in tying the hands Homeland Security.

December 3, 2014

Mexican nationals

Filed under: Culture — Mike Kueber @ 6:00 pm
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This Thanksgiving a friend from yoga who happens to be a Mexican national posted the following entry on his Facebook wall:

  • Just a minute of reflection; I’m not an American citizen, but I’m a thankful to live here since 1999, this country has adopted my family and I, and I am profoundly thankful, U.S, opened its doors to us and we have been able to achieve the life we’ve wanted, our American Dream!!! Today’s is a holiday that everyone should celebrate, join family and close friends, be thankful for everything you have, starting with health, work & love….. Happy thanksgiving!!!

I was so impressed by his attitude that I shared it to my Facebook wall and added the following:

  • Jose and his wife Maria Fernanda Gtz. Zamora are wonderful friends I met at Lifetime Fitness.

A few days later, I bumped into Jose at Lifetime Fitness. He told me that he appreciated my comments, and I told him that I appreciated his. During our conversation, he told me how one of his friends from Mexico in America has a completely different attitude; that she believes Americans look down on her. She has told him that they even call her a “Mexican national.”

As I was stumbling to digest the insight about “Mexican national,” Jose went on to say that this woman was here only for security reasons, but eventually wanted to return to Mexico. By contrast, Jose loved America and wanted to live here and manage his small business. In Jose’s mind, the term “Mexican national” described an exile who wants to return, not an immigrant.

Because I didn’t have the opportunity to explore this issue further with Jose, I put it off for a later discussion with several of my yoga classmates who are what I for years have been calling Mexican nationals.

I am very fond of these classmates and obviously the term will disappear from my vocabulary if it offends them. I had thought the term Mexican-American was reserved for citizens, but maybe not.

To be continued.

Aphorism of the Week #22 – How they made you feel

Filed under: Aphorism,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 12:50 pm
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While walking into yoga practice a couple of days ago, my yogi asked me how my Thanksgiving went. Because I tend to respond accurately instead of rotely to such question, I gave her an ambiguous response because that was my immediate feeling. Later, during practice, I questioned and reflected on why I felt ambiguous about my Thanksgiving.

My Thanksgiving consisted of having a nice breakfast in my apartment and then picking up my son Tommy for an enjoyable drive to Austin (Hutto) for a Thanksgiving dinner at another son’s house – Bobby. Bobby’s wife Heather made us a fine feast while we were able to play with Bobby’s three young kids, mostly inside although the weather outside was perfect. We were joined for the feast by another son, Mikey, and his new girlfriend, Alex, plus Heather’s grandparents, her brother, and his Army friend.

Everything sounds perfect, and it was, although Mikey and Alex had to leave in the early afternoon to join her family’s feast in Boerne. Then at 3:25 Tommy and I started watching the Dallas Cowboys play, and the game went horribly, with the Boys being blown out by the Eagles.

At the end of the Dallas game, Tommy and I headed for home and as we drove home past DKR-Memorial Stadium we tuned in the game on the radio and learned the Horns were already down 13-0. I was able to watch the end of the blowout at my apartment.

So, now back in yoga practice, it dawned on me why my Thanksgiving felt ambiguous – at Lifetime Fitness, the yogis like to remind us of a Maya Angelou quote:

  • People will forget what you said; people will forget what you did; but people will never forget how you made them feel.

That explains my immediate response of ambiguity about Thanksgiving this year. Although my brain tells me that it was a wonderful day, couldn’t be much better, my heart was invested in the Cowboys and Longhorns that day and their devastating defeats put a damper on my feelings.

December 2, 2014

Empathy and Ferguson

In the past few months, I’ve admitted to three of my best friends that I have an extreme lack of empathy. When extreme bad shit happens to people around me, I don’t get upset or feel sorry for them. As Thomas Hobbes said, life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

I once suggested in this blog that Republicans tend to be less empathetic to people outside the American mainstream because Republicans often have less exposure to those outside the mainstream. But while that may explain why I’m a Republican; it doesn’t explain why I lack empathy.

Alternative explanations might include my ethnicity – i.e., my German DNA – or my upbringing – self-reliant farming stock.

Regardless, I am certainly afflicted with this character flaw, which I first remember noticing when Michael Dukakis was asked in a presidential debate about capital punishment in the context of his wife being hypothetically murdered. Dukakis responded dispassionately about why he still opposed capital punishment and was roundly criticized in the press for failing to passionately describe the hate he would feel for the murderer. Like Dukakis, I would have the same tendency to focus on the right answer instead of articulating empathy – more Spock and less Bill Clinton.

Earlier today on Facebook, my Spock-esque empathy got me into lots of trouble. One of my most political and highly emotional friends (young, pretty social worker) posted something about her SA grandmother getting mugged for some cash. As you might expect, she demanded capital punishment if the thug is ever caught. The following items are her initial post and follow-up comments in response to various notes of support:

  • There are no words for how I feel right now. I’m angry. Angry. Livid. OMG I want to punch something. Ugh. I’m so livid right now. Grrrrrrrrrrr!!!!
  • Someone robbed a family member of mine.
  • She had just cashed her check and they robbed her forcibly. God forgive me but I hope they die in a violent car accident!!!!
  • No one fucks with my family!!!
  • Seriously I hope the burglar dies in a horrible car accident or something. I know it’s mean but tonight I don’t care!
  • Badly shaken up. Which makes me furious!!!!
  • I just don’t know what the fuck is wrong with people??? People who mess with the elderly are pretty fucking low and worthless!!
  • If I had been there I would’ve hurt someone for sure!!!!

Of course, me with my Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus mentality of Mike Dukakis, skipped past the empathy and sympathy thing because a dozen people had already covered that aspect of the situation. What no one had pointed out was that for the past few days my Facebook social worker wanted to lynch Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson and the entire criminal justice system in America because of the harsh way that Michael Brown was treated after robbing an elderly Korean shopkeeper. Wasn’t there some cognitive dissonance going on here? So I posted:

  • What about that old Korean shopkeeper in Ferguson who was robbed? He was someone’s family member, too. Oh yeah, his shop and a dozen others were burned down by rioters who thought the police officer should have been able to subdue the 300-pound, charging robber without shooting him.”

Not surprisingly, my social-worker friend was displeased:

  • “Mike Kueber, at no point have you ever heard me condone the rioting of Ferguson. Please don’t make this a political point when it comes to my grandmother getting mugged, k?

Of course, she wasn’t the only one displeased. Several of her friends took me to task, and my friend thanked them for their support. E.g.,:

  • “Thank you I. T. You said something I wanted to say but was floored about an unnecessary political potshot over something I have never condoned at all but someone felt the need to make an opportunity out of it rather than show sympathy for my grandmother. Must feel so big and proud I guess? Whatever turns someone’s motor I guess.

Because I accepted my faux paus in wanting to discuss Mars, while everyone else wanted to discuss Venus, I decided against pushing the cognitive-dissonance argument:

  • “Ana Alicia Perez, I’m sorry for failing to compartmentalize the two incidents. The Ferguson issue just really bothers me, especially after seeing all the fawning press yesterday approve the St. Louis Five protest. Tim Tebow gets excoriated for his gesture, but the Five has license to mock the police – Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.”

And my friend seemed to accept this dénouement:

  • “I understand Mike. Look back on my feed and I posted an article about the guys who stopped the rioters from destroying a family-owned shop… Probably I posted it two or three days ago. I have never condoned the rioting as it doesn’t make sense how anyone is going to make a point by destroying their own city. It is stupid. Did I agree with the legal decision? No. Did I agree with a bunch of people costing millions in damages to their city and hurting small businesses that Jeromy and I support rather than big business? No. I don’t know anything about the Tim Tebow thing other than he is homophobic so I don’t like him anyway. And as for the nfl thing I saw that and rolled my eyes. It was tacky and I don’t think the NFL can be anything of a moral high ground considering the players who have been caught with drugs, beating their wives, dog fighting, etc.”

But later a straggler friend of hers weighed in:

  • Oh I hate it when someone commits a violent crime such as that on elderly citizens. There should be a double or triple penalty for idiots that do this. I can truly and sincerely understand your frustration in that they rot in hell. I totally agree with you. And that gentleman speaking about Ferguson needs to just shut up. Anna, anyone in the neighborhood that can describe this person? Any witnesses ?!?! OMG. I hate to hear this. Sounds like an assault as well. We need to speak to our elders & tell them to please be aware of their surroundings. I walked into Valero last evening to use ATM and a line of 6 hoods lined up behind me …. Waiting …. I grabbed my card and split !!! I know what they wanted !!! Rectums !!! They’re everywhere. Be careful Peeps !!! I am SO sorry, Ana. God bless your poor granny. She’s in my prayers. Hoping the men in blue find that dork.

I might have overlooked the “shut up” suggestion, although I find particularly abhorrent, but the reference to the “men in blue” was too much to pass up. So I responded directly to the straggler:

  • [Straggler], pray tell, what do you want the men in blue to do when they find the robber. Darren Wilson wants to know. I love it how so-called liberal-minded people casually throw around the term, “shut up.” “Shut up” about abortion if you don’t have a vagina; “shut up” about immigration if you aren’t a native American. Great arguments.

The straggler, who has a graduate degree from UTSA, weakly defended her position by saying:

  • “They know their Job description. Ask them. Thnx.”

And that finally ended our conversation, with I suspect no minds changed. They see this as heavy-handed police and prosecutors, and I see it as a conscientious policemen dealing properly with a thug. Although I have a hard time empathizing with young black males going around with chips on their shoulders (e.g., Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown), I don’t understand their failure to empathize with a policeman having to patrol Ferguson and deal with a known robber who has already tried to take your gun while you were sitting in your car.

Someone, however, who has done a good job of empathizing with everyone, is NO Saints tight end, Benjamin Watson, who posted the following on his Facebook wall (and who also posted a 48 on the NFL’s Wonderlic test, tied for 3rd highest ever):

 

At some point while I was playing or preparing to play Monday Night Football, the news broke about the Ferguson Decision. After trying to figure out how I felt, I decided to write it down. Here are my thoughts:

  • I’M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.
  • I’M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.
  • I’M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I’m a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a “threat” to those who don’t know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.
  • I’M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.
  • I’M SAD, because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.
  • I’M SYMPATHETIC, because I wasn’t there so I don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self defense like any of us would in the circumstance. Now he has to fear the backlash against himself and his loved ones when he was only doing his job. What a horrible thing to endure. OR maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led to him eventually murdering the young man to prove a point.
  • I’M OFFENDED, because of the insulting comments I’ve seen that are not only insensitive but dismissive to the painful experiences of others.
  • I’M CONFUSED, because I don’t know why it’s so hard to obey a policeman. You will not win!!! And I don’t know why some policeman abuse their power. Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish and lord over the populace.
  • I’M INTROSPECTIVE, because sometimes I want to take “our” side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it’s us against them. Sometimes I’m just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that’s not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That’s not right.
  • I’M HOPELESS, because I’ve lived long enough to expect things like this to continue to happen. I’m not surprised and at some point my little children are going to inherit the weight of being a minority and all that it entails.
  • I’M HOPEFUL, because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than those of our parents and grandparents. I see it in my personal relationships with teammates, friends and mentors. And it’s a beautiful thing.
  • I’M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel. So, finally, I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.

 

Ferguson and the NFL

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 12:59 am
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While reading USA Today today, I noticed an article reporting on five St. Louis Ram players doing a pre-game protest against the Ferguson incident. As the players came out of the stadium tunnel, they raised their hands into a “Hands Up. Don’t Shoot!” pose.  The protest upset the St. Louis Police Officers Association into demanding that the NFL punish the players. Inexplicably, though, the NFL meekly decided to do nothing other than respond as follows in an email:

  • We respect and understand the concerns of all individuals who have expressed views on this tragic situation.”

What a disgrace!

What a pusillanimous wimp the NFL has become! Its handling of the Ray Rice incident – first trying to downplay it with a two-game suspension, but then increasing the suspension to a lifetime ban after a video went viral – was recently rejected by an arbitrator as capricious and arbitrary.

Talk about a lynching! The NFL’s handling of Adrian Peterson’s child-abuse incident was similarly ham-handled. By contrast, the legal system handled both incidents reasonably, with the Rice matter granted deferred adjudication and the Peterson matter resulting in a misdemeanor plea.

So why should the NFL take action against the St. Louis five? While listening to Mike & Mike (and Adam Schefter) this morning and then First Take’s Stephen A. and Skip later in the morning, I learned that they were in complete agreement that these players were merely exercising their constitutional right to free speech and should be commended for showing some social consciousness that Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods seemed to lack.

Their monolithic position caused me to start talking to at my TV screens during these shows, wanting any of these talk-show people to ask whether NFL players are free to stake out other political positions on Sunday. The answer to that question is so obviously “no,” that I can’t understand why these talking heads failed to see the inconsistency. Hell, players can’t even use non-approved headphones when they walk into the building. On game day, the NFL owns the players; there is no free political or commercial speech.

When I search the internet to see if anyone else was taking up this argument, and there was deafening silence. ESPN didn’t even have an article mentioning the protest. Finally, however, I was able to find a single media source calling out the NFL. According to Newsday:

  • Rule 5, Section 4, Article 7 of the NFL rulebook states “throughout the period on game-day that a player is visible to the stadium and television audience (including in pregame warm-ups, in the bench area, and during postgame interviews in the locker room or on the field), players are prohibited from wearing, displaying, or otherwise conveying personal messages either in writing or illustration, unless such message has been approved in advance by the League office.
  • The League will not grant permission for any club or player to wear, display, or otherwise convey messages, through helmet decals, arm bands, jersey patches, or other items affixed to game uniforms or equipment, which relate to political activities or causes, other non-football events, causes or campaigns, or charitable causes or campaigns.”

Newsday reported that one of the protesting players had arm wraps that read “Mike Brown” and “My kids matter” written on them. I will be shocked if there is not any other verbiage in the rules that allows the NFL to punish the players. What if some white players want to do something to show their support for the SLPOA?

The NFL’s current position regarding this protest seems untenable, and it makes me wonder for the first time if Roger Goodell is not up to the job.

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