A harrowing report from a bomb shelter in Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv in more peaceful times. Photo (cc) 2019 by RaphaelQS.

My friend Dina Kraft, a former Northeastern colleague who now lives with her husband and two children in Tel Aviv, has written a harrowing first-person essay for the Los Angeles Times about life amid the violence that has broken out between Israel and Hamas. She writes:

I hadn’t prepared anything to take with us, such as pillows or even water. At first I (naively) thought we’d be back upstairs again within a few minutes after the Iron Dome missile-defense shield knocked down any rocket that might be overhead. This was Tel Aviv, in central Israel, considered far from the reach of projectiles from Gaza….

Someone took out a Monopoly game and some of the kids started playing. The adults tried to keep things light with nervous jokes. Neighbors swapped news from updates on Twitter and news apps. I thought about all the previous wars and tense times during which I had interviewed families in shelters on the northern border with Lebanon or along the southern border with Gaza, spoken to kids playing cards and other games, and how here I was, becoming part of that scene I had once covered.

The BBC is reporting that the fighting continues to intensify, with 119 people in Gaza and eight in Israel being killed since Monday.

 

Q comes to the Texas border

This paragraph appears near the end of a story in The New York Times on Hispanic Republicans:

“I was following along the family tradition, my dad is a hard-core Democrat, my father was really for unions, and I thought the Democrats defended the union,” Ms. Rivera said, before adding: “But then I started to research myself and found out the Democrats are supporting witchcraft and child trafficking and things like that, things that get censored because they get labeled conspiracy theory.”

Along with another story about an anti-vaxx school in Miami that’s run by a socialite Trumper, I think I”m just about all set for today.

Spike Lee couldn’t anticipate Derek Chauvin’s depravity

Life imitates art imitates life. I was thinking of that on Tuesday as the three guilty verdicts were being announced in the case of Derek Chauvin, who killed — and we can now definitively say murdered — George Floyd.

Last summer, as part of a series of discussions our church was holding on racism, we watched “Do the Right Thing,” Spike Lee’s classic 1989 movie about race, police brutality and so much more. It is a great film. We saw it when it first came out, and it was a revelation to view it again more than 30 years later, with its rich depiction of life in Bedford-Stuyvesant and the uneasy truce between the white pizza shop owner and his Black customers.

But the climactic scene — the killing of Radio Raheem at the hands of a police officer — shows that Lee’s imagination did not anticipate the depravity of Derek Chauvin. Raheem is killed in a moment of panic as chaos erupts at the pizza shop. Chauvin deliberately jammed his knee into George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes until his victim was good and dead.

Did Chauvin mean to kill Floyd? No one can know exactly what was in his tiny heart. But I’m guessing that the answer is yes. Maybe not before. And certainly not after, if only because he had to realize he’d just gotten himself into a world of trouble. But during, as he felt the power surge through him while Floyd gasped for air and called out for his mother? Yes. He had to know what he was doing. How could he not?

If you’ve never seen “Do the Right Thing,” well, do the right thing and watch it. And think about how little has changed over the past three decades. The Floyd family received some measure of justice, but it’s difficult to imagine what the outcome would have been if not for the video shot by Darnella Frazier. Or maybe it’s not difficult to imagine.

Pulsing throughout “Do the Right Thing” is Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.” The fight isn’t over by any means.

Words are inadequate to describe the ongoing police assault on Black lives

The must-see video clip from Monday night’s protests in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, features CNN reporter Sara Sidner. Though she makes the interview about herself to an uncomfortable degree, there’s also some real power in hearing her unnamed interview subject describe what’s going on in plain and profane language.

Tom Jones of Poynter put it this way:

The language was R-rated, and yet credit CNN for staying with the interview. Most networks would have dumped out after someone started repeating expletives, but CNN wisely hung in there because it felt as if the man had something important to say. Sidner did a good job keeping the interview going and allowing the man to say what he wanted to say.

If you back up and try to look at the big picture, it’s so overwhelming that words are inadequate. The protests were in response to the police killing of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man whose car had been pulled over, reportedly because the license tags had expired. There was a struggle after police discovered a warrant for Wright’s arrest and they tried to take him into custody. One officer, Kim Potter, fatally shot Wright because, we are told, she meant to use her Taser and pulled her gun by mistake — an excuse that clearly needs thorough investigation.

All of this was playing out as the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the ex-police offer who killed George Floyd, was taking place nearby, and against a backdrop of Black men (and a few women) being killed or harassed by police officers. Among them: National Guard officer and war veteran Isiah Jones, who was assaulted by police in Virginia last year as he was politely asking why he had been pulled over. Video of that encounter recent went viral.

The Globe’s shocking story on the Boston Police should be just the beginning

Photo (cc) 2019 by Jim.henderson

The Boston Globe’s report about a former police officer and union president accused of molesting multiple children is, to my mind, the most important and disturbing local story of at least the past several years.

According to the Globe’s Andrew Ryan, the Boston Police Department concluded in 1995 that Patrick Rose had most likely committed sexual assault against a 12-year-old boy, upholding the alleged victim’s complaint even though he ultimately decided against pressing charges. The information was covered up, and Rose went on to be accused of molesting six children between the ages of 7 and 16 — including the daughter of the original complainant.

Rose, who faces 33 criminal counts, was also allowed to respond to calls involving children who had been sexually abused. He was later elected president of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association.

The Globe’s shocking story should be just the beginning. Former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh refused to release records that might shed light on the investigation into Rose’s behavior. If Acting Mayor Kim Janey is legally free to reverse Walsh’s decision, she should do so immediately.

And let’s hope that Ryan’s story is just the first blow. No doubt the Globe is going to push this as hard as they can. We also need an independent investigation, possibly by the federal government. It all has to come out.

A moment of fury and grace from the late Gil-Scott Heron

This morning is a time when the racial injustice that continues to run rampant is hitting home particularly hard. The Derek Chauvin trial, which is proving to be every bit as heartbreaking and enraging as it was a year ago, when we watched him kill George Floyd. The ongoing struggle over Georgia’s new racist voter-suppression law.

And it turns out that it’s the late, great Gil Scott-Heron’s birthday, which Brendan was taking note of on WUMB. So here he is performing the incandescent “Johannesburg” in 1976.

Data shows that certain gun control measures may bring down mass shootings

We are all horrified that we may be entering into a new period of mass shootings. Following a lull of about a year, probably related to the COVID lockdown, we’ve seen two in a week. Eighteen people have been killed by the shooters in Georgia and Colorado.

President Biden has called for new gun control measures. Would they work? Last night on CNN, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said the ban on assault weapons that was in effect from 1994 to 2004 did indeed bring down the number of mass shootings. Cause and effect is tricky, of course. But did the law actually coincide with a period of fewer such crimes?

According to an analysis by Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post, the answer is yes. The assault-weapon ban, combined with a ban on large-capacity magazines (LCMs), did indeed help. In addition, my Northeastern colleague James Alan Fox has shown that state bans on LCMs and mandatory background checks are  associated with fewer mass shootings.

So what are we going to do about it?

The MBTA is driving people away — which means they will drive when this is over

How to destroy the MBTA bit by bit: The last “rush hour” (remember that?) train leaving North Station on the Lowell line is at 6 p.m. The next one is at 8. There used to be several in between.

Although I’ve thought about not taking the train in the morning until I’m vaccinated, the fact is that both the commuter rail and the subway are nearly empty, and everyone is good about wearing a mask. So I take it. But then my wife has to pick me up after work.

Boston Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham explains what the T’s policy of not spending the federal aid it’s receiving is doing to public transportation in Greater Boston. If you don’t maintain the system now, it won’t be there when we need it.

Northeastern encourages students to attend class in person. I’m fine with that.

The Boston Globe reports on Northeastern’s efforts to encourage students to attend class in person during the COVID pandemic.

I spoke with The Huntington News, the student newspaper, about why I think that’s OK — as long as there’s no pressure. (Link now fixed.)

Connecting the dots on environmental racism

You may have read in The Boston Globe that the city has concocted an insane plan to cut down more than 100 mature shade trees along Melnea Cass Boulevard in Roxbury in order to pave (see what I did there?) the way for a road improvement project.

Now The New York Times reports that redlining across the country has resulted in communities of color being shortchanged of trees and other green space — resulting in temperatures that can be as much as 5 to 20 degrees hotter.

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