Friday, June 3rd, 2022


What Defund Were You Thinking?

In the 90s, I was teaching English at a poorly performing high school in a dangerous section of Brooklyn. We were one of the few schools in the city to have a metal detector program. Students would have to pass through a single door where they would be greeted by the district's metal detector wand-waving team. The system had some big problems. First, it made the school feel like a prison when it should have felt like one of the few safe places in these kids' lives. Second, it only took place once a week and on that day, arriving students would see a row of marked vans parked in front of the school's entrance. Anyone who wanted to bring a weapon to school just had to bring it on one of the other four days of the week. And third, the system, like so many others these kids encountered, was inherently racist. All the students in the school were Black and each had to pass through those metal detectors, even the honor students who had exhibited years of excellent behavior. As a white teacher, I could walk right around the metal detection system on my first day in the building.

After this experience, I went to graduate school where I wrote my thesis on school violence and the use of metal detectors. As part of my examination, I surveyed parents and students at few high schools with metal detector programs, including the one where I had taught during the preceding years. What I found was that an overwhelming percentage of the students and parents thought the metal detector programs were both stigmatizing and obviously ineffective. But, by a similarly wide gap, those parents and students wanted the metal detectors to stay in place. That makes sense when you consider the daily danger that these kids faced. When we think of rough neighborhoods, we usually think of those who perpetrate crimes. What we (and by we, I mostly mean white liberals) forget is that these are also the places inhabited by the victims of those crimes. For them, poriferous security was preferable to no security.

This is one of the reasons why defund the police was such a counter-productive slogan. When it first entered popular consciousness in 2020, I had a conversation with my brother-in-law Douglass Fitch, a Black pastor who was an active participant in the civil rights movement. Like the kids and parents from the neighborhood where I taught, Douglass doesn't need anyone to tell him that some police are racist, some units are corrupt, and that when it comes to equal treatment under the law, justice just ain't. What Douglass and others want are better police departments, less corrupt officials, and a less racist legal system. But, as he said during our post-George Floyd conversation, "I sure wouldn't want to live in a city without police."

For the kids I taught, even a weak protection system was better than no protection. That's how you feel when you are at risk. While their anger towards police and the justice system was similar to what was being justifiably vented on the streets of America in the summer of 2020, there was, among the kids and parents who lived in what was one of the rougher neighborhoods in Brooklyn, a general desire for more police on the street, not fewer. For me, the survey results were a wakeup call. And in some cases, it's better to be awake than woke.

NYT (Gift Article): Democrats Face Pressure on Crime From a New Front: Their Base "In Democratic strongholds like Maryland, a rise in violent crime has pushed the party's candidates to address the issue of public safety in newly urgent terms. Even before the recent mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas, reignited the debate over gun control, day-to-day gun crimes and other acts of violence were rattling the American electorate."


Cover Me

Taylor Lorenz in WaPo (Gift Article): Who won the Depp-Heard trial? Content creators that went all-in. "The trial offered a potential glimpse into our future media ecosystem, where content creators serve as the personalities breaking news to an increasing number of viewers — and, in turn, define the online narrative around major events. Those creators can also bring in major personal profit in the process. In this new landscape, every big news event becomes an opportunity to amass followers, money and clout. And the Depp-Heard trial showed how the creator-driven news ecosystem can influence public opinion based on platform incentives." A couple quick takes: First, the Heard-Depp trial is no ordinary news story. Trust me, covering hard news is not a good way to amass "an increasing number of viewers." Second, the bigger issue is that journalists are part of the social media ecosystem and too often have their coverage (including deciding what to cover in the first place) dictated or skewed by what the masses are obsessed with.


A Bird in the Claw

"For Chris, birding was existential, maybe even lifesaving. And it could be for the rest of us too, whether we know it or not. Anomalous, unusual sightings are thrilling to birders, but it's the sum of all their everyday, boring observations that tell us the most about the world we live in, and how we might save it." Birding saved one man's life. Maybe it can save the rest of us from climate change? A Once In a Lifetime Bird.

+ And with a counterpoint of sorts: "In Iceland, traditionally a land of cat lovers, bans and curfews are redefining the human relationship with domestic cats." It's 10 PM. Do You Know Where Your Cat Is? (TLDR: Probably murdering something.)


Weekend Whats

What to Read: "The truck flipped, and the bus was ripped in three pieces, its front obliterated and everything above floor level sheared off. Passengers were thrown across the asphalt and into a frozen ditch ... In an instant, dozens of lives on the bus and beyond were ripped apart in one of the worst sporting disasters in North America in nearly fifty years. For those involved, on the bus and off, the tragedy was only beginning." A story of accidents, tragedies, rage, and forgiveness, all in the age of too much media coverage. Mitch Moxley in Esquire: Two Fathers. And being the parent of a child killed in a traffic accident is a club no one wants to join. But many who join it are determined to limit the number of future members. And as with gun violence, we know how to save kids walking across the street. The New Yorker: When Cars Kill. A boy's death launches a movement to end pedestrian and cyclist fatalities in New York City and beyond.

+ What to Movie: The Worst Person in the World follows the romantic life of a woman in Oslo who is not even in the bottom half of people in the world.

+ What to Hear: In their Zeppelin days, Robert Plant occasionally would toss it over to Jimmy Page who would then play a guitar solo using a violin bow. These days, Plant more often tosses it to a person using a violin bow to play a violin. Here are Robert Plant and Alison Krauss playing Rock and Roll.

+ What to Wear: And speaking of Zep, there's a new shirt alert. The latest NextDraft shirt, Whole Latte Love, is all the rage this summer.


Extra, Extra

100: As Russia's invasion hits the 100 day mark, Moscow seems "increasingly unwilling to relinquish the territory it has taken in the war." From AP: At 100 days, Russia-Ukraine war by the numbers. And the big story behind the big story from WaPo: Beijing chafes at Moscow's requests for support, Chinese officials say.

+ The Carn Age: In a prime time address, Joe Biden calls for tougher gun laws. "How much more carnage are we willing to accept?" (We asked that question after Columbine. We asked that question after Sandy Hook. We got our answer.) NPR: N.Y. passes a bill that raises the age to buy and own semi-automatic rifles. (That age should be infinity.) And an American headline: Man Robbed Of Assault Rifle At Gunpoint Opens Fire With Second Gun.

+ Petering Out? Former Trump White House official Peter Navarro was indicted Friday on contempt charges after defying a subpoena from the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol ... His arrest comes months after the indictment of former White House adviser Steve Bannon. (I hate to say it, but "months" is the key word in this blurb. The criminals are trying to delay these hearings into forever.)


Feel Good Friday

"Peter Dunlap-Shohl was living his lifelong dream, as an editorial cartoonist for the Anchorage Daily News. But in 2002, when he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, he asked himself: What else would he be losing besides his craft as an artist? His identity? It wasn't over yet when he discovered the possibilities of computers, from drawing in color to animation. He soon realized he still had an outlet for expression." This is an inspiring story about a guy who also happens to be wearing a great t-shirt. Alaska cartoonist draws his experience with Parkinson's.

+ Inflation sucks, but the job market stays red-hot with the unemployment rate near a pre-pandemic low.

+ A 14-Year-Old Won The National Spelling Bee After a Ridiculous Playoff Speed Round.

+ This is weirdly heartwarming story about a tech nostalgia, credit card fraud, and guy who has a kid still young enough to want to talk to him. Installing a payphone in my house.

+ Microsoft says it will support employees who want to unionize.

+ Tahoe's famous and elusive burned bear cub, Tamarack, seen in the wild playing with a toy bear.

+ "Stiklestad was a fitting place for me to begin my journey, because the Kystriksveien that unfurls away to the north also goes to the heart of how Norwegians see themselves and their nation." The Kystriksveien: Earth's most beautiful road trip?

+ We were promised jetpack rescues. And we got one.