The irrationality adds to the horror of Putin’s invasion

Kyiv street scene in more peaceful times. Photo (cc) 2004 by almasudi

What’s terrifying about Putin’s attack on Ukraine is that it doesn’t seem rational. He’s turned himself into an international pariah, and his country will be under crippling sanctions for years to come. It’s hard to see how this ends well for him — yet he did it anyway.

God bless the people of Ukraine.

Paul Andrews’ life of service

Paul Andrews

Later today we’ll be attending a wake for Paul Andrews, the retired superintendent of schools in Woburn, who died last Saturday at 84. Paul led a remarkably long and productive life. I didn’t even know about his service as chair of the board of directors at Winchester Hospital until I read this obituary. I got to know him when I was covering the Woburn Public Schools for The Daily Times Chronicle in the 1980s. At the same time, Paul’s children, Paul, Kevin and Marcia (and occasionally Paul himself), were taking photos for the paper.

I want to share one anecdote that shows Paul’s dedication to doing things the right way. I was covering the Woburn School Committee one evening when the committee voted to go into executive session. I don’t remember the reason; it probably had something to do with contract negotiations with the teachers union. The chair announced that the committee would not be returning to open session, which meant that members of the public — including me — were free to leave.

The next morning, Paul gave me a call to let me know that the committee had, in fact, returned to open session late that night and taken a vote. Of course, there was no one there to witness it. As superintendent, he was the committee’s secretary, so he told me the details of the motion and the vote so I could make some calls and write it up for that afternoon’s paper.

Later on, he told me that several committee members were peeved with him for giving me a head’s-up, and that he had to explain they had violated the open meeting law by returning to public session after announcing they would not do that. He took the hit for their illegal action — something that any reporter who’s dealt with local officials who either don’t understand or don’t respect the public’s right to know can appreciate.

Paul will be greatly missed, and I offer my condolences to his family and friends.

Northeastern marks the 20th anniverary of the 9/11 attacks

The Center for Spiritual Life, Dialogue and Service held a remembrance for the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks earlier today. The service, marking the 20th anniversary, centered on the life of Candace Lee Williams, an accounting major who died on American Airlines Flight 11 at the age of 20.

“She was the best of us,” her brother Corey Gaudioso told News at Northeastern. “There’s never been anyone like Can. We all just knew she was going to do great things — she could’ve conquered Wall Street or something.”

Several of us spoke at the service, including Mary Kane, Candace’s co-op adviser and now an assistant dean in the D’Amore-McKim School of Business. Kane told News at Northeastern: “Candace was so smart, and beautiful on the inside and out. But I think what struck me most was her appreciation for everyday life. She had this amazing smile, and she appreciated the small things as well as the big opportunities.”

I spoke about my experience as a journalist that day and how the media have changed over the past 20 years.

It was a moving ceremony, organized by the center’s executive director, Alexander Levering Kern.

I wish I had known Candace, who would be 40 and in the prime of her life today.

Medford trans community and allies protest church’s anti-LGBTQ message

A few dozen of us gathered in Medford Square early Friday evening to protest an anti-LGBTQ sign across the street at the New England Baptist Church. The sign reads: “Male and Female He Created Them. Gen. 5:2. Gender Identity Solved.”

No one was demanding that the church remove the message, which is protected by the First Amendment. But members of the trans community and their allies wanted to let them know that their views weren’t welcome. Both of the major candidates for mayor joined us — Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn, who’s running for re-election, and City Councilor John Falco, who’s challenging her.

A party atmosphere prevailed, at least on our side. Led by the Rev. Wendy Miller Olapade, we walked in front of the church once and then stood out on the opposite side of Salem Street, waving flags and signs while motorists honked their horns in support.

Tiffany Chan of WBZ-TV (Channel 4) covered the rally. The Medford Transcript was on hand as well; I’ll post a link once its story has been published. (Now added, below.)

Update: Lex Weaver, editor of The Scope, a social justice publication that’s part of Northeastern’s School of Journalism, made it over to Medford Square after we left and posted this thread. Click here to see the whole thing.

Update II: Here is Namu Sampath’s story in the Medford Transcript.

A shocking omission from a high school yearbook

This is nauseating. From The New York Times:

Morgyn Arnold is a natural cheerleader. She grew up supporting her six older siblings at sporting events in Utah and followed in her father’s and sister’s footsteps by becoming a cheerleader herself.

For Morgyn, who has Down syndrome, being on the Shoreline Junior High School cheer squad gave her a chance to make friends and feel included after transferring to the school last summer.

But when the school yearbook came out a few weeks ago, Morgyn, 14, was not in the team’s photo or listed as part of the squad. The school has since apologized for what it called an “error,” but Morgyn’s sister Jordyn Poll said she believed that the exclusion was intentional.

It sounds like it wouldn’t have happened if the kids were in charge.

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.