Old Howard Union

67 – Federal Officers in Portland & Executive Action, What is the Truth?

This past weekend federal officers in unmarked vehicles bearing no identifying markers, besides “POLICE”, descended upon Portland, Oregon to quell mass unrest, and detain protestors. The only question is – what is the truth? A tacit reading of both The New York Times and The Wall St. Journal point to two very different interpretations of the ‘facts”. While the former purports a beginning of a secret police, detaining without warrant, the latter describes federal officers responding in tandem to violence, detaining protestors and reading their Miranda rights. So what is going on and what does it have to do with the Presidents recent executive orders?

Show Notes

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  1. Federal Agents Headed to Chicago, Elsewhere in Attempt to Reduce Violent Crime https://www.wsj.com/articles/federal-agents-headed-to-chicago-elsewhere-in-attempt-to-reduce-violent-crime-11595357926
  2. The Mess in Portland https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-mess-in-portland-11595286956
  3. Trump Moves to Exclude Unauthorized Immigrants From Counts for Congressional Seats https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-moves-to-bar-who-are-people-in-u-s-illegally-from-being-counted-in-congressional-apportionment-11595352083
  4. Trump’s Executive Order Calls for Limiting Federal Funds to States if They Can’t Protect Monuments https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-signs-executive-order-to-increase-penalties-for-damaging-monuments-11593211631
  5. Trump’s Occupation of American Cities Has Begun https://nyti.ms/3eHOymV
  6. Trump’s Legal Authority to Deploy Agents to U.S. Cities May Be Limited, Experts Say https://nyti.ms/32IKvES
  7. Trump Seeks to Stop Counting Unauthorized Immigrants in Drawing House Districts https://nyti.ms/3fO7BO1
  8. Were the Actions of Federal Agents in Portland Legal? https://nyti.ms/30lFbEp
Writing

Piece 59 – In Defense of Bail Reform By. Raimondo Graziano

In Defense of Bail Reform

By. Raimondo Graziano

 

There is a deep history of systemic racism and deliberate incarceration pointed at predominantly black and brown communities, people of color and in some of the most historically marginalized communities across the United States. It is something that is deeply ingrained in American culture and finds its sordid roots in the very founding of the nation, in that fateful deliberate choice to allow the birth of a new nation under the oppression that is the institution of slavery. In that moment, the moment we stand at today, was forged. A nation conceived with the ideals of liberty and justice for all founded upon a foundation whose core pillar which would last for nearly a hundred years after its founding, denied that very ideal to a large portion of the population, thus sowing the continuance of the plague of racism that still deeply grips this country. In our failure to leave slavery in the past with the founding of our country we set the stage for generational poverty, income inequality between whites and blacks, and the perpetuating of racism and discrimination.

This plight did not end either with the emancipation proclamation, or the 13th or 14th Amendment. Racists in government, whose very thinking is antithetical to the god they often defer to, crafted devious methods and means to deny people their rights long after the end of slavery. These empty husks of humanity, parading as human beings, found ways of stifling communities who never had the chance to build wealth and foundations here uninhibited by a system meant to keep them in the mud – from suppressing votes, to housing and labor discrimination and the stain of segregation which lasted well into the 20th century, and in some cases still to this day – racists hell bent on the belief that one race is superior to another, that one race has divine favor while the other is lesser have imbedded themselves in American society and pushed an agenda diametrically opposed to the ideals that this nation was founded on. Though perhaps the greatest sin of all, is denying a free man his freedom through targeted and systemic enforcement of laws built to suppress the black and brown communities of this country through mass incarceration.

Righting the wrongs of our past will take time, and in many cases will take measures that some may deem extreme, the circumstances under which these problems first arose where in essence extreme, inhumane, brutal, and demand rectification. The United States has the largest incarcerated population of any nation in the entire world – land of the free? When a quarter of the worlds prison population rests in the supposed seat of the steward of democracy, we indeed have a problem. For decades now, black and brown communities have been disproportionately targeted for crimes solely based on the color of their skin. Studies have shown that blacks and whites commit crimes at the same rate, then why is that the large majority of the prison population is black men? Many rotting in a jail cell for minor possession charges, and facing insurmountable odds upon being reingratiated in society – if they ever manage to get out.

With polices such as mandatory minimums, coupled with a discriminatory attitude in police forces we have condemned a generation of black and brown individuals to languish away in jail, sons without their mothers, daughters without their fathers, families torn and teared apart – a deep moral scar on the very face of this country. In order for us to right these wrongs bold action must be taken, we must work to stem the tide of continued incarceration through measures that may be unpopular, but that are necessary. The problem we have created must be rectified, and if some may view them as extreme than they fail to see the severity of the situation. Not only are we trying to end mass incarceration, but we have to account for those imprisoned already. It is as if a one man or woman is holding two walls of inequity at arm’s length from crushing and suffocating him or her, and that man or woman is named liberty. The Bail Reforms enacted in New York State are a necessary first step towards righting the wrongs of our morally degenerative epoch in this country, we should not overturn them, we should work to ensure they are enforced effectively and to the benefit of all people, especially those most affected by the racism that persists here, and all across this nation.

Writing

Piece 57 – Affordable Housing In New York By. Raimondo Graziano

Affordable Housing in New York
                                                       By. Raimondo Graziano

Affordable and New York City are four words you’d be surprised to find here in the state and city of New York. Over the last ten to twenty years this city specifically has become less and less affordable for the working-class families that struggle to make ends meet day to day. While the state has never seen such a great economic boom and infrastructure expansion, the benefits that ought to trickle down to the average New Yorker just haven’t been nearly close enough to what they should be. In a city and state of such wealth and promise this is an atrocious truth, one that our elected officials have been slow to rectify.

While daily expenses – bills, utilities, provisions, childcare and healthcare and the such are already expensive as ever, housing has become a luxury. The average rent for an apartment, and a small one at that, in New York has gone up to between $2500.00 to $3100.00. This is outrageous when the vast majority of New Yorkers don’t make nearly enough to be able to afford this on a month to month basis. On top of taxes, bridge tolls, and all other means of squeezing the working family – the situation of affordability, and security in ones ability to achieve a good life for themselves has reached crisis levels.

You would be remiss to mention the staggering fact that there are upwards of 60,000 people homeless in New York. More than at their height during the 1930’s. This is outrageous. On any given night in New York, near 4,000-5,000 people are homeless on the streets, and with the frigid winds of Winter lashing the state – this could be classified as a humanitarian disaster. For the wealthiest city and one of the wealthiest states in the union to be leading on this issue is a travesty of the highest order.

This just shouldn’t be. To house an individual in a shelter costs far more than it would if the government would simply guarantee housing to every single New Yorker. This is cost effective to the tax payer, its humane and it’s our obligation as defenders of the wellbeing of the people of this state to enact reforms now to fix this gross inequity. So while Mayor DeBlasio talks about ending street homelessness, he is doing no better than Mayor Giuliani – simply sweeping the issue under the rug so that the “good people” (i.e wealthy, tourists and those campaign contributors of his running the hotels acting as shelters) of New York dont have to worry about seeing the problems that exist as a foundational issue of this state and city. We need action now; otherwise what kind of a people are we who don’t provide for the most basic wellbeing of the people of the state and city of New York?

Writing

Piece 56 – The Community & the Police of New York City

The Community & the Police of New York City
By. Raimondo Graziano

New York City struggled for many decades on the issues of crime, poverty, homelessness and lawlessness and in recent years has made significant progress from the help of members of the community, law enforcement and our elected officials. Though too often do we see that the three are very out of touch with one and the other. The needs of the community are not represented by those in office, and those meant to protect and serve their interests are in some cases not reticent or not representative of the values of the community – even in some cases doing more harm than good. This is a terrible disparity that needs to be rectified. The community, our elected officials and law enforcement need to work closer together to rectify the issues that plague our communities. Politicans need to work to address growing inequality, homelessness, affordability in living standards and other issues.

We have seen in recent months increased public transportation enforcement, including arrests some justified and others widlly out of line. What the state needs to understand is that by encouraging further enforcement you are only going to continually criminalize those who are in poverty for not being able to afford a wage which can gain them access to the ever increasing costliness of public transportation. Our politicans are somewhat to blame for this for failing to address rising inequality and a staggering homelessness crisis in the city. Coming down hard on people trying to make a living, such as vendors in the stations, does not increase quality of life for all New Yorkers. It is categorically antithetical to the spirit of the New Yorker.

Likewise, those in the community who are not in law enforcement or who have no family member in law enforcement who may have a certain perception of how law enforcement is has to work to break down their preconceptions as to what it means to be a police officer. By no measure is it a simple career or undertaking. There is a great deal of scrutiny, as their should be, and a great deal of stress involved. That being said – it is not easy being a poor, minority person of color in this city either. There is a prevalent fear that one may be targeted simply based on the color of their skin, and that they are under the suspicion of being guilty until proven innocent. Only when the community and the law enforcement meant to protect them begin to open a more constructive dialogue, and when our politicans start doing their damn jobs are we going to see a change in the hows and whys of this great, sometimes troubled city.

Writing

Piece 50 – The Promise & Perils of New York City By. Raimondo Graziano

The Promise & Perils of New York City

By. Raimondo Graziano

 

New York City is one of the most diverse and wealthy cities in the world. Wealth in it’s people, and their character and the stories they hold. And wealth in the sheer abundance of opportunity and promise it holds. Though here there is wealth, monetary and material wealth which abounds in a great thunderous exchange of goods, services, luxury and great inequality. Great, terrible inequality.

This city has a history of corruption and governmental neglect and negligence at the hands of those the people dually elected. In some cases democracy does not always work to the favor of the people of this city. As rent rises to highs not seen before in this cities history, the wealthy move in and supplant neighborhoods and peoples who have had roots here for generations. Our elected officials do little to nothing to mitigate this. Often they are in the pockets of those they are meant to protect the people from.

Often it is the power of political parties and the monied interests of Wall St. And the Real Estate industry who hold our elected officials hostage with exorbitant campaign contributions. These in the hands of the powerful, the movers of the levers of government though not elected, are a dangerous tool acting as near as can be though skirting the gray moral line that divides contributions and bribes. It is not this city rejects wealth and chastises it. Rather welcome it with open arms. We must take a cautioned, measured and practical approach to the wealth that enters this city uninhibited.

If those that seek to come in look to benefit from the promise this city has, from its story and its trials – then they need to invest in these communities which have been here for generations. That’s individuals and corporations alike! No one ought to get a free ride and welcome mat laid out simply because they have a fat wallet. What message are we then sending our children? The stewards of this city in the years to come? As our mayor returns from his quixotic campaign for the Presidency, as he flies in, and prepares to get back to the job he was elected for let him be reminded of the issues facing this city.

Firstly, a housing crisis in affrodabilty, while countless tens of thousands of New Yorkers remain homeless, and a shelter system that many outright avoid. Secondly, a crisis in our wellbeing and health. I’m talking about the Overdose Crisis, where we have lost thousands of New Yorkers to a preventable overdose and countless more the horrors of addiction and the stigma that comes with it. Thirdly, a mayor who cannot work effectively with his Police Department to ensure that they receive the support they need while at the same time holding them accountable for their actions and in many cases negligence. Fourthly, educational disparities within our school system, disparities in opportunity.

The way we tackle this is not through ending programs for gifted students, but rather expanding access and resources to the people of New York, to those who don’t have access to begin with. To tackle a nuanced problem we needn’t follow the recommendations of the mayors bureaucratic commission, to penalize those who do well, but to gove opportunity to those who haven’t been given the chance to succeed!

Fourthly, the lack of expanded economic opportunities to smaller business which are struggling to compete with larger and often aggressive chains and other corporations. Let’s empower the people, and unleash the untapped potential in many cases lying dormant in this great city. We needn’t demonize corporations but rather, we can say to them – You have had your fill, let the people profit from the well too. We can reward responsible corporate practices, and those which are sustainable and empower workers by encouraging the growth of unions, while scrutinizing those who face no such oversight.

In other words, what this city deserves, what it’s people deserve and what is long overdue is a city government that works for the benefit of the people, responsible progressive and pragmatic governance for the benefit of all New Yorkers, those here for generations and those who seek to plant their roots. We can achieve this together, it is our hope that together this vision for a truly progressive, responsible and action oriented city government can become our reality. That is the hope of this city, that reason and justice, and personal responsibility projected outward can uplift and transform this city into a model for responsibility and duty and honor the world over.