A few days after print publication, Knight's syndicated newspaper column, which moves twice a week, will be posted. The most recent will appear at the top.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Labor launches initiative to pressure Trump, inform his base

Bill Knight column for Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, Sept. 4, 5 or 6

Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign made appeals and promises to U.S. workers, but as the BS factor has become increasingly apparent, unions and their allies in recent weeks started a campaign to turn workers against a White House that’s betrayed them on jobs, trade and modest pro-worker gains enacted by the Obama administration.

A two-week “Pickup Truck Tour” organized by the Good Jobs Nation coalition and helped by pro-worker politicians has been calling Trump’s bluff in key states where many union members and Obama voters supported Trump in November.

“Trump ran as a working-class hero, so let’s look at the results,” said Good Jobs Nation’s director Joseph Geevarghese. “We’re seven months into his administration, and wages are flat. People are still getting pink slips.”

Labor leaders are concerned that Trump will take credit for slight improvements in jobless numbers, inflation-adjusted pay and consumer confidence – results of President Obama’s last Fiscal Year budget and policies, Democrats argue – but fail to take action that could increase wages and expand job opportunities.

An Aug. 21 Indianapolis rally, featuring U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), exposed one of Trump’s early claims to help workers, a $700,000 deal that Carrier would lay off just a few workers at its Huntington factory. However, Carrier is cutting more than 600 jobs — more than Trump said.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has tried to work with Congress’ Republican majorities to backtrack on Obama-era regulations on business, claiming that job growth will result – the old “trickle-down economics” refrain that’s failed for decades.

The Trump administration has eliminated, scaled back or failed to defend regulations labor sought and achieved with Obama, including the requirement that companies disclose labor-law violations before bidding on government contracts and a Labor Department rule that made 4 million more workers eligible for overtime pay if they work longer than 40 hours a week.

“People feel, appropriately, that the political and economic Establishments have left them behind,” Sanders told the Washington Post. “They ignored people while jobs went to Mexico. We’ve got a chance to be heard, and we’ve got to use that chance to explain what a progressive economic agenda is all about. We want a $15 minimum wage. Donald Trump has said wages should be lower. That’s our point.”

The Good Jobs Nation tour, co-sponsored by the Communications Workers and the independent Our Democracy group, also stopped in Racine, Wis., featuring labor organizer and Democrat Randy Bryce, who’s running against Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan.

After Indianapolis, the tour moved on to Bloomington, Ind. Aug. 23, Racine Aug. 28, Kalamazoo, Mich., Aug. 30, Dayton, Ohio, Aug. 31, Canton, Ohio, Sept. 1, Youngstown, Ohio, Sept. 2 and Lorain, Ohio, Sept. 3, before finishing in Erie, Pa., on Labor Day.

Trump carried all four Midwestern states and Pennsylvania.

Labor warns that coming soon in Trump’s economic agenda – essentially a reverse Robin Hood approach, robbing from the 99% to give to the most wealthy and powerful Americans – are several harmful measures:
* A tax overhaul labeled “reform” looks to package tax cuts benefiting the rich and corporations even as it adds to the deficit;
* a lack of attention to workers’ take-home pay, which has stagnated since the Reagan administration;
* more financial deregulation, which contributed to the nation’s exploding income inequality that boosted top incomes at the expense of everyone else. (Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman in the New York Times wrote, “Other wealthy countries, just as exposed to the winds of global change, haven’t seen anything like America’s headlong rush into a new Gilded Age.”); and
* the ongoing assault on organized labor, made clear in circumstances affecting truck drivers, whose pay has declined by about a third in the last few decades, mostly due to deteriorating power at the bargaining table.

Workers are suffering and will continue to suffer under Trump, Krugman said.

“As long as he’s in office, he retains a lot of power to betray the working people who supported him,” he wrote. “And in case you haven’t noticed, betraying those who trust him is a Trump specialty.”

[PICTURED: Retired Steelworkers Local 1999 president Chuck Jones speaks as U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders looks on. Photo from Good Jobs Nation.]

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Pope asserts labor’s value. Will employers listen?

Bill Knight column for Thursday, Friday or Saturday, Aug. 31, Sept. 1 or 2

When Pope Francis last month received a delegation of people from Italy’s equivalent to the AFL-CIO, he forcefully praised unions.

(One reaction might be: “Of course he did. He knew what they wanted to hear.” But another should be: “Do the people that respect the Holy Father and also happen to be employers listen to him?”)

Talking with people from the Confederation of Trade Unions, the Pontiff honored unions and challenged the labor movement to fulfill a prophetic role in society. It does so, Francis said, when “it gives a voice to those who have none, denounces those who would ‘sell the needy for a pair of sandals’ [as the Bible’s Book of Amos declares], unmasks the powerful who trample the rights of the most vulnerable workers, defends the cause of the foreigner, the least, the discarded."

This Labor Day, we pray that workers are touched by Pope Francis’ faith in us, and that employers start appreciating the dignity of workers and their unions, and engage in self-examination of the so-called “market-economy” system that reduces so much toil into something to be exploited.

Pope Francis encouraged labor to confront “free enterprise,” saying “The capitalism of our time does not understand the value of the trade union, because it has forgotten the social nature of the economy.

“This is one of the greatest sins,” he continued. “ ‘Market economy,’ no. Let us say, ‘Social market economy,’ as St. John Paul II taught. The economy has forgotten the social nature that it has as a vocation, the social nature of business, of life, of bonds and pacts.”

Despite some conservatives’ criticism of the Pope, he’s less an outlier than a leader whose observations are consistent with decades – centuries – of social-justice teachings.

The Catholic Church has a long, strong history on workers’ rights to collectively bargain with employers, form unions, be paid a just wage, and work in safety on the job.

Today, unionists, activist clergy and the conscientious faithful are called to face not only longstanding subjects such as wages, hours and working conditions, but disputes about wage theft, income inequality, unfair scheduling, union busting and employers that violate labor laws with few consequences.

Labor should acknowledge that others see value in unions, too, from a good shop steward or a single pastor preaching social justice, to employers who come from progressive or pragmatic perspectives or institutions with power, whether the International Labour Organization or the Catholic Church.

“Since the end of the Civil War, unions have been an important part of our economy because they provide protections for workers and, more importantly, a way for workers to participate in company decisions that affect them,” according to Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, Calif., the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Chair on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

“Unions, like all human institutions, are imperfect,” Blaire added, “and they must continue to reform themselves so they stay focused on the important issues of living wages and appropriate benefits, raising the minimum wage, stopping wage theft, standing up for safe and healthy working conditions, and other issues that promote the common good.”

Leading up to Labor Day 2017, Pope Francis urged the labor movement to represent its members and also workers who haven’t yet organized.

“The union, too, must keep vigil over the walls of the city of work, like a watchman who guards and protects those who are inside the city of labor, but also guarding and protecting those who are outside the walls,” he said. “The union does not carry out its essential function of social innovation if it watches over only those who are inside, if it protects the rights only of those who already work or who are retired. This must be done, but it is half of your work. Your vocation is also to protect those who do not yet have rights, those excluded from work who are also excluded from rights and democracy.”

This Labor Day and thereafter, let us pray for the faith to do that, and for employers to work with labor.

[PICTURED: Photo of Pope Francis visiting a steel plant in Italy from]

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Appreciating Dick Gregory, historian

Bill Knight column for Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, 8-28, 29 or 30

When comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory died Aug. 19 at the age of 84, the African American’s contribution to U.S. history came to mind – especially at a time when the Oval Office Occupant’s goofy claims of “fake news” are being augmented by his assertions that are genuinely “fake history.”

This month, after terrorists attacked Barcelona, Trump repeated a story he’s told over and over, about U.S. Army Gen. John Pershing executing Muslim insurgents in the Philippines in what would have been a war crime had it occurred, although it’s been debunked for years.

Of course, such outrageous dishonesty is nothing new, as tracked by fact-checkers at the Washington Post, which as of a week ago have cataloged 1,057 false or misleading claims by Trump in the first seven months of his presidency.

As for the ongoing controversy about statues of Confederate officials, I’m personally divided. It’s true that they’re monuments to men guilty of treason, killing Americans and defending slavery, but maybe adding historically accurate plaques to that effect could transform an outlandish celebration of a 152-year-old defeat into a liberating clarification. After all, statues need not inspire visitors to betray the nation, take up arms against fellow citizens or enslave others any more than the wonderful statue of Richard Pryor in Peoria causes viewers to use salty language or the monument to Popeye in Chester, Ill., instigates a hunger for spinach.

Genuinely inspirational? Dick Gregory. In 1961, he became the first black guest to not just perform on NBC’s “Tonight Show,” but to sit on the couch with then-host Jack Paar. Gregory’s show-business talents influenced contemporaries Bill Cosby and Godfrey Cambridge and a host of comics since, from Pryor to Dave Chappelle.

Befriended by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Gregory was beaten and jailed in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963 for “parading without a permit” and was shot trying to calm people during 1965’s riots in Los Angeles’ Watts neighborhood.Also that year, he appeared at one of the first anti-Vietnam War events, a 1965 “teach-in” in Berkeley, Calif., and would engage in hunger strikes protesting war, segregation, mistreatment of Native Americans, and drug abuse, and his innumerable fasts led him to become an expert on diet and nutrition.

In 1967 he ran against Chicago Democratic Mayor Richard J. Daley and a year later against Republican U.S. President Richard Nixon, annoying FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who ordered agents to “neutralize” Gregory with help from organized crime. Gregory spoke truth to power and traveled the globe, from Ireland and Iran to multiple trips to Ethiopia, often blasting the CIA and its activities worldwide.

On Instagram this month, comic Chris Rock wrote, “We lost a king. They'll never be another. Read his books. Look him up. You won’t be disappointed.”

Indeed, remembered in recent years as a funny guy and a busy speaker – he attended Southern Illinois University in Carbondale on a scholarship and visited Western Illinois University in Macomb – he was a skilled writer, too. His book “No More Lies: The Myth and Reality of American History” – an idea in 1971 more bold than his provocative 1964 autobiography, which used the lower-case N-word as its title – was one of the first comparisons of conventional wisdom to real history. Dedicated to Women’s Liberation and Native Americans, the 372-page book addresses myths ranging from “Puritan Pilgrims” and “the Mason-Dixon Line” to “Free Enterprise” and “Free Elections.”

Other similar works followed: “Harvey Wasserman’s History of the United States” a year later, Howard Zinn’s “A People's History of the United States” in 1980, Thaddeus Russell’s “A Renegade History of the United States” in 2010, and along the way the best of the bunch, James Loewen’s “Lies My Teacher Told Me” in 1995.

In the New York Times, comic writer Roy Wood Jr. of Comedy Central’s “Daily Show” said, “We need comedians like Mr. Gregory, people who shine light in the dark, now more than ever. We need more bold voices.”

And the voices must look to the past as much as the future.

As African-American novelist and social critic James Baldwin said, “American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.”

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Rock ‘n’ roll never forgets - and we don’t either

Bill Knight column for Thursday, Friday or Saturday, Aug. 24, 25 or 26

A recent column about the world and the music 50 years ago sparked some reader memories, mostly fond ones that agreed with looks back using popular tunes as touchstones. One e-mailer pointed out that I’d missed the impressive record releases that started 1967: The Doors’ debut came out that Jan. 4, Jefferson Airplane’s “Surrealistic Pillow” Feb. 1, Jimi Hendrix’ “Are You Experienced?” March 1 and the Grateful Dead’s debut March 17, the Turtles’ “Happy Together” April 29, and the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper” coming out 10 May 26.


That provoked a similar exercise: What happened in rock ‘n’ roll THIS month – this WEEK – in previous years? For example, Hendrix on Aug. 26, 1967, released his single “Purple Haze,” based in part on his love of the late, great Peoria science-fiction author Philip Jose Farmer’s novella “Night of Light” (which describes “purple haze” as an atmospheric condition that causes another world’s inhabitants exposed to it to experience life in an awakened state).

Of course, I suppose every day has a kernel of Yow! waiting to pop like corn of another sort, but late August sure seems to have been a busy time for pop music and its fans.

It would have been too much, weirdly synchronous even, for Neil Sedaka’s hit song “Calendar Girl” to have hit the charts this week with lyrics like “(July!) Like a firecracker / I'm aglow / (August!) When you're on the beach you steal the show / … Yeah, yeah, my heart's in a whirl. I love, I love, I love my little calendar girl every day (every day!), every day (every day!) of the year (every day of the year!).”

Still, Sedaka DID have the Number-1 hit (“Breaking Up is Hard to Do”) this week in 1962. And here are a few other historical moments and memories:

Aug. 21 – Mixed-Message Music: Lovin Spoonful’s “Do You Believe in Magic” and Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction” both came out (1965).

Aug. 22 – More Material Girl: Madonna hit the top of the charts for the sixth time with “Who's That Girl” (1987).

Aug. 23 – Fine Funny Film: On Who drummer Keith Moon’s birthday, the Beatles’ second movie, “Help!” has its U.S. premiere (1966).

Aug. 24 – A Wonder: Stevie Wonder became the first recording artist to score a Number-1 album AND single the same week. His album was “Little Stevie Wonder: The 12-Year-Old Genius” and the single was “Fingertips Part 2” – also the first live recording to be Number 1 (1963).

Aug. 25 – ‘Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy: On Kiss bassist Gene Simmons’ 28th birthday, the band recorded a sold-out concert at the Los Angeles Forum, later released as “Kiss Alive II” (1977).

Aug. 26 – No American Idiots: Green Day, the proto punk-pop group with a fun political edge, was named Best Live Act and Best Band on the Planet at Kerrang! Magazine’s 12th annual awards (2005).

Aug. 27 – Gone Too Soon: Blues-rock guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughn is killed in a helicopter crash at Alpine Valley in Wisconsin (23 years to the day after Beatles impresario manager Brian Epstein died of a drug overdose) (1990).

Aug. 28 – First and Last: The Jacksons’ Victory Tour – the last (and only) tour featuring all six Jackson brothers: Michael, Jackie, Jermaine, Marlon and Randy and Tito – breaks the record for concert ticket sales, topping the 1.1 million mark in two months (1984).


And just think, as Sedaka would’ve warbled, such moments happen “every day (every day!), every day (every day!) of the year!”

[PICTURED: Detail from the Jimi Hendrix section of the Experience Music Project (EMP) in Seattle showing his "Purple Haze" derivation from Philip Jose Farmer's novella "Night of Light," from]

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Foxconn’s con: the Big ‘If’

Bill Knight column for Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, 8-21, 22 or 23

Corporate and government officials on July 26 announced that Taiwanese company Foxconn Technology Group would invest $10 billion in its first U.S. factory in Wisconsin, where 3,000 jobs could be created if it opens in 2020.

The understandable impulse was to cheer (even if Foxconn has for years been criticized worldwide for its labor relations, including unrealistic production demands and forced overtime without pay).

After all, that region recently lost hundreds of jobs when layoffs and closures hit Gander Mountain, Harley-Davidson and Sears, and positives could be area wages increasing with competition for high-skilled workers, and new business for suppliers.

Although no location is set, Foxconn says it’s looking throughout a seven-county area in southern Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District (represented by Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan), stretching from Racine and Kenosha in the east to Janesville in the west. There, on 1,000 acres, Foxconn claims it will manufacture LCD screens for big-screen TVs or computer devices in a 20 million square-foot plant (three times the size of the 6.5 million square-foot Pentagon).

Foxconn also says its facility will produce the huge sheets of ultra-thin glass (which are difficult to ship long distances) to make 90,000 LCD screens monthly – the equivalent of 72 million smartphones a month, or 868 million per year. (Apple sold a total of 210 million iPhones last year.) Further, Foxconn chair Terry Gou claims, the plant could expand to 13,000 jobs.

“There is potential for the payroll to climb to 13,000 in the future – a figure crucial to Wisconsin justifying the expense – but I wouldn't bet your 401(k) on it,” commented Tim Culpan for Bloomberg. “That's because if Foxconn really does dish out $10 billion on this facility, the only way to make it viable is by keeping staffing low and leaning on automation to boost productivity.

“That stated $10 billion investment is more than the group's publicly traded flagship – Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. – has devoted to capital expenditure over the past five years combined … at [its] factories in China and another dozen countries globally,” Culpan added.

There’s a Big “if.”

Several, actually.

Besides logistical challenges – improved roads, new training for workers to develop certain skills – there also are questions of housing and socialization of a presumed influx of employees, and whether a corporation accustomed to low-wage sites in Mexico and China can comfortably fit in the Midwest.

“The reality is that any state would be challenged to provide that many skilled workers in a short priod of time,” business consultant Ron Starner told the Chicago Tribune.

Although Illinois competed to land the employer (others, including Arizona and Colorado, had talked with Foxconn, to no avail), Illinois may have escaped a future broken promise. In fact, Foxconn’s business practices have left behind an economic landscape littered with its failed developments, in Brazil and Harrisburg, Pa., India and Vietnam, and in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Guangzhou, China (the nation where the corporation last year replaced 60,000 workers with robots at its Kunshan factory.)

Future layoffs or unfulfilled staffing beckon – if a Foxconn factory materializes at all.

“If Foxconn builds a factory, it will employ not thousands of workers but rather dozens or hundreds of skilled technicians operating robots,” commented economics professor Luz Sosa in Madison’s Cap Times. Plus, “Trump’s projection of 50,000 workers is no more accurate than his claim about the number of attendees at his inauguration. And Foxconn will demand hundreds of millions of dollars in public subsidies.”

Those subsidies are led by a $3 billion taxpayer-funded incentive in the next decade, a sum that works out to $1 million per promised job. To put that amount in perspective, that incentive could pay for everyone in Wisconsin (whose population is 5,779,000) to get three shares of Facebook stock, or two tickets to “Hamilton” in Chicago, or a new smartphone, or a railpass to take Amtrak anywhere in its U.S. network over 15 days.

Adding injury to insult, besides the financial incentives, Foxconn would be excluded from state environmental regulations under a plan proposed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

If it happens.

[PICTURED: Cartoon by Andy Vine/].

Monday, August 21, 2017

Of facts, reality and truth

Bill Knight column for Thursday, Friday or Saturday, Aug. 17, 18 or 19

For years, it seems now, reality just existed, like gravity – virtually invisible but accepted. But today, people’s trust in facts and stats, government and the press has eroded. There’s a profound disconnect between reality and feelings.

The issue is ably addressed in “The Trouble with Reality,” a 92-page trade paperback by Brooke Gladstone, co-host of National Public Radio’s “On The Media,” a treasured colleague of mine at the Washington Weekly 33 years ago.

These days, President Trump proclaims journalism to be “fake news” and the “enemy of the people,” she writes, comparing such attacks to history’s authoritarian phrase-makers such as fascist Adolph Hitler (who called Jews the “enemy of the people”) and Communist Mao Zedong (who used the term to criticize educated Chinese). And Trump is also a serial liar, not just wrong or prone to exaggeration. (As Arnold Isenberg, author of “Analytical Philosophy and The Study of Art,” wrote, “A lie is a statement made by one who does not believe it with the intention that someone else shall be led to believe it.”)

In her book and an interview with the Poynter Institute for Media Studies (where I’m a 1995 “alum”), Gladstone steps back from the fray and then steps up to clarify how we all absorb, process and use information.

First, she admits that perhaps it was actually always this way. After all, haven’t politicians always been dishonest? Didn’t people always disagree, even if past means of communication made being disagreeable and uncivil harder? Maybe “reality” has never been what we perceived it to be.

Most journalists, for instance, diligently try to be complete, fair and accurate, but it’s difficult-to-impossible to be absolutely objective. In fact, personal hero Heywood Broun – the New York columnist who founded the News Guild labor union for journalists in 1933 – once wrote, “It has been said that the perfect reporter ought to be patterned more or less along the physical and chemical lines of a plate-glass window … in the hope that he will find the truth.

“I am not altogether certain whether these requirements are wise,” he continued. “I am not glass, either clear or opaque. When hit, the result is something other than ‘Tinkle! Tinkle!’ ”

Gladstone summarizes her perspective as, “Facts – even a lot of facts – do not constitute reality. Reality is what forms after we filter, arrange and prioritize those facts and marinate them in our values and traditions. Reality is personal.”

Gladstone cites the phenomenon of “Unwelt,” meaning the tiny slice of the universe different creatures coexisting at the same time and place individually experience, depending on factors like senses. For example, ticks are blind and deaf and rely on smell and temperatures; some fish use electrical fields; bats depend on air-compression waves. Human beings use our five senses, plus have opinions and stereotypes. If new facts upset people’s old stereotypes, we treat those facts as attacks and fail to concede differences between our own limited universe and the actual universe around us.

“What I am talking about is the difference between things we observe, that we can fact-check, and the broader context. The unseen things,” Gladstone says. “So you've got facts, and you've got the truth.”

In tackling the topic, Gladstone doesn’t focus on some unattainable “Kumbaya” universal agreement on things, she says.

“I wasn't as much concerned about the idea of consensus as of having common pools of information,” she says. “Consensus is the bedrock of democracy. [But] when political actors can’t agree on basic facts, compromise and rule-found argumentation are basically impossible.”

Gladstone scoffs at idealistic Thomas Jefferson’s famous maxim, “Truth is great and will prevail if left to herself… She is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict.”

She comments, “Oh, come on,” adding, “The laws of human nature do not provide for the triumph of reason. If only it were that easy. Our lives are much more about the filtration than the accumulation of information. Not all information is created equal. We instinctively resist unwelcome information.”

Still, she’s hopeful.

“Facts are real and will reassert themelves eventually,” she writes. “In order to repair our reality, we need more of them, from people and places we do not see.

“Eventually, the real world catches up with us all.”

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Remembering the turmoil of the Summer of Love, and music

Bill Knight column for Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, 8-14, 15 or 16

Fifty years ago, I was 17 going on 18 and, like most of my peers, was feeling frustrated at being unable to fully participate in the “Summer of Love,” and reeling from social changes affecting the whole nation with delight, dread or both.

I escaped some in rock ‘n’ roll (reeling and rocking, I guess), playing organ for a local band that performed a lot of three-chord tunes – “Good Thing” and “Wild Thing,” “Louie Louie” and “Hang on Sloopy,” “Twist and Shout” and tunes by the Rolling Stones and the Animals (“We Gotta Get Out of This Place” was a favorite) – at Extension buildings, community centers and school dances.

I also enjoyed radio and records with more private enthusiasm. There were great reasons, like these Number-1 hits from that year: the Monkees’ “I’m A Believer,” the Buckinghams’ “Kind of a Drag,” the Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday,” the Beatles’ “Penny Lane,” the Turtles’ “Happy Together,” the Rascals’ “Groovin’,” the Doors’ “Light My Fire,” the Beatles’ “All You Need is Love,” Strawberry Alarm Clock’s “Incense and Peppermint,” the Monkees’ “Daydream Believer,” and the Beatles’ “Hello Goodbye.”

The world seemed to present that hello-goodbye dilemma, the swirling turmoil of change, good and bad, that took our breath away, both inspiring and suffocating us.

Ten phenomena from ‘67 remain in my memory as vividly as any hurting or healing, any fine or foul fragrance, any first-hand experience or observation:

* The aforementioned Summer of Love overwhelmed California, but there was a coast-to-coast rise of hippies (Danny Goldberg’s new book “In Search of the Lost Chord: 1967 and the Hippie Idea” is recommended).
* Unprecedented race riots burned in 100+ cities, including Chicago, New York and Pittsburgh, the worst being Detroit and Newark, N.J.
* NASA’s seemingly infalliable space program was brought down to Earth that January when three astronauts perished in a launch-pad fire at Cape Kennedy. Yet later that year, 63 nations (including the United States and the Soviet Union) signed a treaty agreeing to prohibit nuclear weapons in space and pledging to never make territorial claims on the Moon or other planets.
* The federal government seemed increasingly fraught, led by Democratic President Lyndon Johnson, who that winter proposed a 10-percent income-tax surcharge to finance the Vietnam War, which Congress OK’d that June.
* The Vietnam War itself started fragmenting the country. Republican stalwart George Romney returned from an earlier visit there saying he’d endured the military’s “greatest brainwashing anyone can get” about why the United States was involved, how the war was going, and prospects for peace. The first massive anti-war demonstrations occurred that spring, in New York and San Francisco.
* Heavyweight champion and global hero Muhammad Ali was indicted for refusing to be inducted into the Army.
* Legendary poet, biographer, musician and journalist Carl Sandburg, a Galesburg native, died at his North Carolina home at age 89.
* That October, the U.S. Supreme Court seated its first African-American justice, the towering Thurgood Marshall, and weeks later African-American candidates were elected to state legislatures in Louisiana, Mississippi and Virginia for the first time since post-Civil War Reconstruction, also winning mayoral contests in Cleveland and Gary, Ind.
* In a landmark decision that June, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously overturned laws prohibiting interracial marriage in “Loving v. Virginia,” appealed there after Richard Loving (a white man) and his wife Mildred ( a black woman) had been sentenced to prison for marrying. Such race-based restrictions were ruled unconstitutional.
* The country’s population in November topped 200 million for the first time. (It’s now more than 343 million.)

Of course, every year has similar touchstones for each generation, I suppose, so 17 year olds now hopefully will someday share nostalgic recollections of the Trump administration, North Korea and climate change; smartphones and cars needing drivers; gradual improvements in the pay gap between men and women; comic John Oliver, “Hamilton” and streaming tunes (that few older than 30 know); and breakthroughs, such as researchers finding out how to pull water out of thin air with a solar-powered device and scientists’ discovery of Earth-size planets 39 light-years away.

I hope so. It will be a challenge; Earth and the times need some luck.

So I still sometimes retreat to rock ‘n’ roll, like 1967’s protest songs such as Elvis’ “If I Can Dream,” or Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” plus Aaron Neville’s “Tell It Like It Is” and Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools,” and uplifting numbers “Up, Up and Away” by the 5th Dimension and the Who’s “I Can See for Miles.”

I can see for years.

[PICTURED: Graphic from]

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Good policing derives from public support, UK shows

Bill Knight column for Thursday, Friday or Saturday, Aug. 10, 11 or 12

As Black Lives Matter prepares to receive an international peace prize this fall, the problem of police treating some people differently than others seems as insoluble as ever. That can lead to revisiting policing’s modern beginnings.

In 1822, Sir Robert Peel became Great Britain’s Home Secretary, advocating for professional policing, and working on what became nine principles for London’s police.

Some may dismiss the principles as a quaint ideal from Victorian England; others may see fundamental common sense, almost as acceptable as the Golden Rule, or basic arithmetic or agriculture.

Black Lives Matter (BLM) for years has been viewed with mixed emotions, supported by some who think African Americans are subject to unjust treatment by a few police officers, and characterized by others as anti-police or even violent. However, the group this November will be awarded the 2017 Sydney Peace Prize in Australia.

Australian Sen. Pat Dodson, who won the honor in 2008, praised the decision, describing BLM as a movement working against “ignorance, hostility, discrimination or racism.”

The head of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Terrence Cunningham, has conceded that mistreatment of minorities has led to pervasive mistrust.

Police must “acknowledge and apologize for the actions of the past and the role that our profession has played in society’s historical mistreatment of communities of color,” said Cunningham, Police Chief in Wellesley, Mass. Although “today’s officers are not to blame for the injustices of the past, [police became] the face of oppression for far too many of our fellow citizens.”

Melvin Carter Jr., a retired Minnesota police officer who’s African American, this summer told Yes! Magazine, “Without trust and the confidence of the community served, it’s not policing. It’s law enforcement, [which] flip-flops policing from prevention to suppression.

“The good stuff never applies to people of color. Ever,” added the 27-year veteran patrolman and detective.
Meanwhile, Peel’s principles of policing, which reassured a skeptical population of the need for police, offer food for thought in 21st century America. They are:

1. The basic mission for which police exist is to prevent crime and disorder as an alternative to the repression of crime and disorder by military force and severity of legal punishment.

2. The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police existence, actions, behavior and the ability of the police to secure and maintain public respect.

3. Police must secure the willing cooperation of the public in voluntary observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain public respect.

4. The degree of cooperation of the public that can be secured diminishes, proportionately, to the necessity for the use of physical force and compulsion.

5. The police seek and preserve public favor by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to the law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws; by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the society without regard to their race or social standing; by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humor; and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.

6. Police should use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient … and police should use only the minimum degree of physical force necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.

7. The police at all times should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police; the police are the only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interest of the community welfare.

8. The police should always direct their actions toward their functions and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary by avenging individuals or the state, or authoritatively judging guilt or punishing the guilty.

9. The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.

“One thing is certain,” commented C.J. Oakes in Criminal Justice Law. “The principles of Sir Robert Peel formed the foundation for modern policing.”

In 2012, the UK’s Home Office revisited the principles and said the approach provided that “the power of the police coming from the common consent of the public, as opposed to the power of the state.”

Hopefully, a conscious return to cultivating community support as exemplified in Peel’s principles could start to restore the fractured relationship.

[PICTURED: Graphic from]