The Law Enforcement Problem

A welcomed or regrettable visitor?

I’m not one to generalize about different groups of people—whether by race, religion, profession, or residence. But if I were required to make a broad statement about law enforcement, it would not be positive.

It’s said that there are many good police officers out there. But even in the community of “good-guy” law enforcement personnel, officers must now be  asking themselves what can be done to correct the downward trajectory of their profession in the eyes of the citizens they serve. It was bad enough that one of their own was recorded killing George Floyd, a Black man, in broad daylight with cameras rolling—bringing a new and focused attention to other recent and past police killings in dozens of other cities throughout the U.S. But now video after video is also surfacing showing law enforcement’s heavy-handed tactics against protesters, non-protesters and the press in almost every major city of the country. If there is such a thing as a “good cop,” where are they now in these carte blanche melees that play out in their presence?

The argument that a few bad apples out there are ruining it for many fine officers surely has some validity. Yet, in an age when everyone carries a recording device wherever they go, and anyone can share anything they record with the entire world (on social media via the internet), those “bad apples” have a way of rising to the top far too often. And, just imagine if such recording devices were in the hands of the public in the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s, or ’80s (or much earlier). What would we have witnessed back then?

In my critique of the law enforcement community, one thing stands out. The tightly knit fraternity of the profession resembles a brotherhood of those who fought side-by-side in military battles throughout history. The solidarity is understandable, but as we watch the countless videos of police brutality, one thing is noticeably missing. Nowhere are the “other officers” attempting to intervene, stopping their fellow officer from taking things too far. Wouldn’t that kind of action make for a “good cop?” However, the law enforcement officers in the vicinity of these violations only seem to make sure that the bystanders watching in shock don’t interrupt the beatdown. Given such procedures, there appears to be some unwritten vow, some informal bond to fellow officers that supersedes whatever oath was taken to “serve and protect” the public. My question is, can a “good cop” truly exist in such a fraternity that behaves like a judge, jury and executioner on our streets?

I’d like to believe that our Black brothers and sisters walk a little more confidently, and with less fear today then they did back in… oh let’s just say the 1950s. However, as these racially charged crimes at the hands of our law enforcement officers unfold, I’m far from convinced that they feel any safer.

I don’t know the specifics for solving the “law-enforcement problem” in our country, but whatever we do, it can’t be subtle and/or superficial. I’ve heard some ideas that certainly qualify as worthy candidates for law enforcement reformation—starting with the outlawing of any kind of choke holds, especially on a suspect who is already restrained with handcuffs. That certainly is not outlandish. Community review boards that preside over law enforcement cases should reflect a community’s demographics. Stopping and questioning a person because they match some generic description of someone they are looking for is lame, overly used, and a deceitful tactic at best.

In short, a major overhaul is required when it comes to American law enforcement—a reformation of recruiting, training, leadership, and perhaps an entire philosophy. In light of George Floyd’s “death-by-cop” and so many others who suffered the same fate before him, the idea of “serving and protecting” our Black communities is just another vapid and broken treaty in American history.

Pandemic Pondering

COVID-19 poster child.

It’s here. It’s in the country’s least populated state. That also means it’s everywhere else, and there’s nowhere to hide! The official word went out to the campus community via email during Spring Break that all face-to-face classes will be replaced with remote/on-line instruction “wherever possible for as long as needed.” So, like it or not, Northwest College is officially an on-line institution of higher education. I suspect every school across the country will be the same by week’s end.

With schools closing or moving to “on-line” delivery systems, we educators have another opportunity presented to us—becoming “YouTube talent” and adding to the glut of “self-titled experts.”

I know it all feels a bit over-reactionary, but the mortality rates attributed to COVID-19 are piling up and that’s difficult to dismiss. I’m certainly going to heed the words of the medical profession over anything that spills out of Trump’s lying face or the lineup of stooges on Fox News.

Lately I’ve been wondering which flu/virus would win in a smack-down—say between today’s COVID-19 and 1968’s Hong Kong Flu. The Hong Kong Flu of 1968 left its mark of mortality on the globe (one million perished) yet, I don’t recall the country coming to the stand-still that it is today. Is the Corona Virus that much worse, or is all of this just the result of better and more specific science supported by better and more immediate communications—thus resulting in our heightened sensitivity to all things pandemic?  

As long as I’m here, is there such a thing as a generic flu anymore? They all seem to have names, especially the new ones that take the stage every year. They rise up like featured Pantone Colors of the Year.

At this point in time, one has to wonder what will it be like next year or the year after when another version of the flu or another virus strain rolls around. Might our cycles of life become permanently altered given the annual flu season that arrives every late winter? Might schools in the near future only have one semester of face-to-face classes while the spring semester moves to a flu-free, on-line format?

“You are at your very best when things are at their worst.”

—Jeff Bridges in “Starman”

A person from Billings (reportedly) walked into Powell’s local market, Blairs, and purchased all the toilet paper in the store. The owner/manager in the store was apparently happy to sell it to her despite leaving the local and regular customers wanting while perched on their porcelain thrones. Thanks Blairs, you capitalist fucks. Where is your commitment to community in that deal? I’ll be second-guessing myself in the future when planning a trip to Blair’s. 

What would the America of World War II—uncertain of a war’s outcome and forced to live with rationed goods and supplies—think of the self-serving-hoarders of 2020 threatened by a seasonal virus? I thought America was a little better when it came to looking after our fellow citizens.

For now, I look forward to that breaking story—because you know it will be reported—of a toilet-paper-hoarder found dead in their home from Corona Virus surrounded by 400-plus rolls of toilet paper.

Here’s a sharp and well-written related piece.

Taking a pass on a school packing heat

You know he carried a gun to school too.

I knew the day would come. I’d been dreading it ever since I read about it in the newspaper.

Back in 2018, the Cody, Wyoming School District passed a resolution allowing teachers and staff to possess firearms on school property—as a method of deterring potential mass shootings within the school district. I remember saying to myself back then, I’ll never set foot in their buildings if that’s the case.

I’ve never worked or wanted to work in an environment where employees are permitted to carry weapons. If my employer, Northwest College, were to adopt a similar policy as the Cody School District, my resignation would follow close behind the passing of such law, and without doubt many would rejoice. 

Some might say that I’ve already been in situations where someone was carrying a weapon and I didn’t know it. That’s an ugly truth I try not to think about, but if I see someone with a weapon or know they have a weapon—whether concealed or open carry—I clear out. If I’m in a supermarket with a trolly full of groceries and see someone carrying a weapon in the same location, I’m gone—leaving the cart and vacating the premises.

And, yes, I’m aware that I could be shot dead on the gun-free campus of Northwest College by a bad guy (or good guy) carrying a gun. Despite that, sooner or later we all find ourselves in a situations where we’ve reached a boundary that we’re not willing to cross over.

One could say that carrying a gun is a freedom, but isn’t it also a freedom in a person choosing to avoid—what they consider to be—a potentially dangerous situation?

Recently, an email went out to various faculty on campus asking for participation in the Cody Job Fair at the high school. I ignored it, hoping a  sufficient number of faculty would volunteer. However, my supervisor received a call asking if there were any from our area that would be interested in going. As a result, I was approached and ask if I could attend.

Perhaps I could have fabricated some innocuous excuse for not going, but I felt it was important to be honest in declining the offer to go. I’m unsure if my supervisor shared my explanation with anyone higher in the chain of command. It doesn’t really matter. I’m just thankful to have a job that allows me to decline off-campus events where fellow educators are packing heat. 

Thinking back on it now, I suppose I would have attended if one of my superiors ordered me to do so, but if that were the case, drafting a resignation letter probably would have followed—assuming I didn’t get hit by a stray bullet accidentally discharged from the gun of a poorly-trained staffer at the job fair.

There’s not much significance in my stand here. It’s certainly nowhere in the league of a Rosa Parks or Tiananmen Square moment, but it certainly was an opportunity to abide by my principles. And, in knowing that I spoke my conscience gives me a bit more confidence that I will do the same in the future—regardless of the stakes.

More reading on this…

Medical Minutiae, Ch.1

duplicate medical forms sent on the same day
Four duplicates of the same correspondence from eviCore Healthcare.

At a healthy 59-years-old, I’m not an expert on all things medical yet, but I think my education on this subject is going to be coming faster than I ever dreamed. And, a good part of that education will likely have to do with the exceptional waste and overpricing that we hear about on this subject, on any given news day.

Recently, I received four identical envelopes in the mail on the same day, and in opening them, wondered if the content was the same as well. “Nah, couldn’t be,” I thought to myself. “Surely there’s a different correspondence in each of the alike envelopes,” yet I couldn’t imagine what they were.

Anyway, whoever these people are at eviCore Healthcare, located in Franklin, Tennessee, they did manage to send me four identical letters with the same message about an upcoming MRI. The only contrast I could find in these four correspondences was that two of the letters had a time stamp of 9:54 a.m while the other two were stamped at 9:54, but all four were dated February 11. Go figure.

I’d like to think that this little anecdotal account isn’t representative of a glaring incompetency in the medical/insurance profession, but one has to wonder. I can almost understand getting two identical letters in this case, but four is something that makes you pause—and write a blog entry about.

Our core values vs. our President

Students from Our Lady of Mercy in Tacoma, Washington visit the astronauts and site of Apollo 15.

When I was attending grade school in the 1960s, along with the lessons of reading, writing and arithmetic in those formative years, there were certain personality attributes and values that we were encourage to adopt and avoid. I suspect these same lessons haven’t changed much in today’s classrooms. Surely, the concepts are the same, but some of the terminology has likely changed.

I did a quick Google search (“values and traits we teach children”) and came up with the following terms in one result: Curiosity, Social Skills, Resilience, Integrity, Resourcefulness, Creativity, Empathy, Assertiveness, Humility, and Confidence.

In another search result, a longer list was provided, but with many of the same attributes listed in the first search result: Hope, Leading and Following, Respect, Serenity, Proactive, Gratitude, Optimism/Positivity, Curiosity and Wonder, Kindness to Self and Others, Self Discipline and Impulse Control, Adaptability, Compassion, Courage, Honesty, Patience, Grit/Determination and Diligence, Dependability, Contentment, and Humility (listed as #1).

There’s nothing too surprising in these results. It even comes across as common sense—something we have all known (or should have known) since those formative years.

In light of this, I started thinking about all 40-some Presidents of the United States and how they fared with these common/core values. Sure, none of them gets a gold star in every category, but to some extent all have scored in these areas at some point and to some degree in the time of their presidency—except for one, the current one.

Yes, I’ll agree that President Trump passes muster when it comes to a few of the attributes listed such as “leading” (certainly not following), assertiveness, and perhaps gratitude for those things most obvious that anyone would have gratitude for (military sacrifices come to mind), but going through either of these list, I would score him very low (or not at all) on most of the other values.

Here are some particulars:

Where was Trump’s integrity or honesty when he was spreading all kinds of rumors and lies about President Obama’s academic or birth records?

Where was Donald Trump’s sense of respect, compassion, or integrity (again) when he stated in 2015 announcing his candidacy for President that, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people?”

Donald Trump begins his Presidency with a lie—lying to defend the Constitution.

In the same speech, where was his integrity (again), his sense of optimism or positivity, his sense of empathy when he blurted out, “I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words?” Nothing but a string of vapid and thoughtless words.

Remember what he said about John McCain’s service in the military? “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” Tell me about Trump’s respect, compassion, social skills when this drivel spilled out from his pie-hole.

Where was Trump’s compassion, his empathy, his leadership when asked about two of his followers who beat a Latino with a pipe and urinated on the victim afterwards? He could only respond with this: “It would be a shame. I will say, the people that are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate.”

What do we say about the $25 million paid out by Trump regarding his phony university where he used misleading marketing tactics to recruit gullible students? How does that fit into a leadership, compassion, or honesty narrative?

Remember when Trump tweeted without citing evidence to support his claim, “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” Like so many of his public statements, this one was profoundly debunked. Is that honesty… anyone?

Remember “alternative facts?” When Senior White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said that Sean Spicer’s false statements about the crowd size at Donald Trump’s inauguration were not lies, but “alternative facts.” Where was Trump’s humility, his honesty, his curiosity in correcting this barefaced lie?

Where was Trump’s resourcefulness, his compassion, his courage when he started appointing people like Betsy Devoss, Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon, and Jeff Sessions to cabinet positions where these people had no background and were unqualified, or simply had histories that were in conflict with the office they were appointed to?

What do we make of the numerous tweets by this President that disparaged various individuals from assorted backgrounds such as, “Crazy Joe Scarborough and dumb as a rock Mika are not bad people, but their low rated show is dominated by their NBC bosses. Too bad!” When did Presidents go after morning talk show hosts? Humility, self-discipline, social skills, kindness to others—where are the valued attributes in these instances?

I suspect various teachings in The Bible aren’t much different when it comes to sizing up our proxy of a President. For example, consider President Trump when you read Luke 16:10: Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.

Naturally I could go on and on, but I’ll simply summarize in asking this:

When was it that we decided that Biff Tannen was loved over George McFly. When did we come to prefer Ebenezer Scrooge’s dark views of the world over Little Timmy’s optimism? Is Lord Voldemort really who we love instead of Harry Potter? When did we come to prefer Hans Gruber over John McClane? Is Thanos loved more than Ironman or Captain America? Would we really want to see Sauron get the Ring and kill Frodo Baggins too? Darth Vader over Luke Skywalker? Lucifer instead of Jesus?

When did America come to prefer the antagonist over the protagonist?

Need more reminders of Trump’s failures as a President? See a full list of Trump’s atrocities and violations of valued attributes HERE:

Source: https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/the-complete-listing-so-far-atrocities-1-546

Be a responsible calendar event scheduler

Office geeks: take notice.

Isn’t it nice that in the “busyness” of the world we live in, we have calendars that are integrated with our personal computers that help us stay organized and up-to-date with whatever is happening—on any given day, week, month, year, etc.? It certainly is helpful for me. That said, it’s not quite as euphoric as it sounds.

Not only can we schedule events on our calendars and be reminded of their impending happening, but often others (within the same group/organization) can invite—and thus schedule—events on one’s calendar too. Again, this is a great thing with the exception on one little oversight.

When I get a calendar invite, I typically only have to accept and the event is put on my schedule and I never have to worry about it again until the event is upon me—say 15 minutes upon me. You see, almost every person I know who has scheduled an event on my calendar has done so by not considering how much alert notice time is needed before the event arrives. By default, Microsoft Office Outlook’s scheduling of an event defaults to 15 minutes in the “Reminder” pop-up menu. However, there are many choices that are certainly better than “15 minutes.”

Microsoft Outlook’s default alert notice time. Go figure.

You may be thinking to yourself, “What is so bad about the “15 minutes” reminder of an upcoming event?”

In short, what are the chances that I’ll be sitting in front of my computer 15 minutes before a scheduled event to be reminded of it? And even if I was, who wants to be reminded with only 15 minutes notice of a meeting or event that might require 10 minutes just to get there—never mind whatever preparation is needed before arriving.

Consider the more and better options than a 15-minute default reminder.

The naysayers of my critique here will say something like this: “You can change that reminder notice on your calendar.” This is true, but I might as well schedule the event myself if I still have to go to the event on my calendar and edit it. And even when I do, I get this notice: “You have made changes to this meeting. If the organizer sends an update, your changes will be deleted.” And organizers changing their events is not exactly a rare occurrence.

I’ve lost count of how many meetings/events I’ve missed because I wasn’t in front of my computer 15 minutes before the alert reminder kicked in. And, it really takes the wind out of your sails when you finally do sit down in front of your computer to see one of those reminders staring you in the face knowing the event started 30 minutes ago or has already passed.

So here’s my proposal to all you office geeks who like to send out invites to meetings. Change the default “Reminder” time to something that is at least civil—say two hours. Personally, I prefer four or six hours, that way it is on my mind for a good chunk of time before I actually have to be there and I’ll be able to schedule any prep time that might be required as well.

It’s a simple request and a simple solution to a problem that can be way more complicated than need be. 

Do we need a post-Super-Bowl holiday?

Patriots fans celebrate their Superbowl victory over the Rams at Sonny McLean’s bar in Santa Monica on Sunday, February 3, 2019. (Photo by Axel Koester, Contributing Photographer)

Might we consider a national holiday for the day after the Super Bowl?

It’s the Monday after the Super Bowl, in this case Super Bowl LIV (2020). My 9:00 a.m. class only has four students in it and one of them is taking the class as an audit (no credit or grade), yet not one of them has shown thus far and the class should have started ten minutes ago.

And this isn’t the first post-Super-Bowl-Monday when I’ve experienced this phenomena in my classrooms.

Along with the day-after effect of the big game, it started snowing yesterday afternoon and has continued throughout the night—albeit lightly—resulting in a healthy two inches of snow on the ground. In more than a month since the first day of winter, winter seems to have finally arrived on this third day of February.

I recently read that the day following the Super Bowl is the day more people call off work than any other day of the year.

As a school, we typically have the Monday following Easter off, so I’m wondering here, perhaps we need to consider another National Holiday following the Super Bowl—a day of recovery from the previous day’s excitement, gluttony, along with a good dose of alcohol-over-indulgence.

By the way, one of my students ended up making it to class—only 15 minutes late.

Northwest College… Meh

Looking down on Northwest College’s library and decaying carillon near the center of campus.

Starting out the new, spring semester, Northwest College students were notified upon their return that Einstein Brothers Bagel Shop—located in the Dewitt Student Center—would no longer be open on Saturdays and Sundays. Yet, one more blow of “nothing-to-do-here” for the students who reside on campus. And nowhere to really complain about it either.

In short, the campus is slowly transforming into a Monday-thru-Friday commuter campus that just happens to have dorms.

If you’re a campus resident who wants to hang around for the weekend, there’s little you can count on unless you go off campus—and Powell, Wyoming is hardly a town with a lot to offer. On campus, everything is pretty much locked down tight. And what little is available, you almost have to know the secret codes to access those spots. For example, if you want to get into Cabre Gym (even if you’re an athlete), you have to hope that someone is already in the building and is expecting you, or a door is already propped open by someone with a key (who has likely come and gone).

Check out those Friday hours. Yep, might as well get off campus before the sun goes down.

Art students who want to access the Art Department facilities should know that the only way to get in is through the back doors which are unlocked by a work-study student around 10:00 a.m. on the weekend mornings. Athletes should know this too since the gym and art facilities are in the same building.

The only thing you can count on as a campus resident is there will be a dining hall open as long as you get there during their hours of operation. That said, maybe in the not too distant future, the dining hall will close on the weekends and the students will be required to vacant the dorms on Fridays at 5:00 p.m. and return no earlier than 5:00 p.m. on Sundays.

And, a student newspaper is another campus asset that has been long-gone in the name of fiscal accountability.

If you should somehow and miraculously get inside a building/classroom on the weekend, you’ll want to keep your coat on because the physical plant drops the room temperatures down to at least 65 degrees on the weekends (and lower depending on the building’s HVAC functionality). However, in using another “secret code,” you can press the “Manual On” button on a given room’s thermostat and it will display “occupied.” Keep on pressing that button and it will allow the room to stay occupied for up to 90 minutes.

On this Super Bowl Sunday, I came into one of the Macintosh labs that was sitting at 65 degrees and after 90 minutes it was up to 70 degrees. I have since “reoccupied” to ensure that it stays at the 70-degree mark.   

Saddest of all is that students don’t have much say any more in how things are around here. They can complain to some administrator’s office if they know who that is, but there’s nothing that truly empowers their complaint like a student newspaper reporting on such issues and holding the decision-makers to some degree of accountability. And, a student newspaper is another campus asset that has been long-gone in the name of fiscal accountability.

In summary, Northwest College has become a “meh” campus. It’s basically just another commuter, community college disguised as a “resident” campus because it has dorms. Yet, the nothing-to-do-on-the-weekend school is ironically 72 miles from Yellowstone’s East Gate, but that’s a topic for another day.

A Rogue Campaign for NWC

Here’s a couple drone videos I produced with Northwest College in mind. In particular, the ideal audience would be for those beyond Wyoming and Montana (where the majority of our students come from)—and especially for those to the farther outreaches that are east and south of our little campus.

My funky music via Garage Band.
Winter finally arrives at Northwest College in 2020.
A gorilla billboard for Interstate 80 just beyond Laramie.