Links have moved to Mondays!
From Matt: From bad to worse (Ivan Semeniuk, The Globe and Mail): With this year’s snowpack around 5% of what’s considered normal, California’s drought is about to get a lot worse. Already, this is estimated to be the worst drought in 1200 years. Statewide water restrictions have been introduced for the first time in the state’s history. The Globe and Mail did a nice in-depth piece on the drought this past week, explaining what is causing it; what it means for California’s residents (myself included), farmers, and the consumers of California’s agricultural products (most of us); and what climate change has to do with it (a fair bit).
How to retire at 30 (Ian McGugan, The Globe and Mail): Also from the Globe, a very interesting interview with Mr. Money Moustache (an internet pseudonym), a Canadian engineer who was able to afford to retire at age 30 by saving aggressively, living frugally, and investing over his short 9 year career. In both the Globe article and Mr. Moustache’s blog (tag line: “Early retirement through badassery”), there are some great tips for living a happy, comfortable life within one’s means. I found Mr. Moustache’s story to be a breath of fresh air in what has been nearly a decade of bad news for young people trying to scratch out a living in today’s economy.
From Ian: Healing the rift between police and communities
The US Department of Justice recently released its reports on the investigation of the Michael Brown shooting and its broader review of the practices of the Ferguson police department. A fairly detailed analysis of both reports can be found in The Atlantic. The latter report, which was widely publicized, detailed numerous alarming, discriminatory, and sometimes unconstitutional practices disproportionately targeting the residents of the poor, primarily African American neighborhoods. It showed that “many officers appear to see some residents, especially those who live in Ferguson’s predominantly African-American neighborhoods, less as constituents to be protected than as potential offenders and sources of revenue.” While it received much less publicity, the first report offered a complete exoneration of officer Darren Wilson. After conducting a detailed review of all evidence, including forensic evidence and witness accounts, the report concluded that several important aspects of Wilson’s account were supported and determined the use of force was justified. “The investigation concluded that there was no evidence to contradict Wilson’s claim that Brown reached for his gun. The investigation concluded that Wilson did not shoot Brown in the back. That he did not shoot Brown as he was running away. That Brown did stop and turn toward Wilson.”
If there is one clear lesson that can be taken from these detailed reports, as well as from the numerous other publicized incidents involving police lately, it is that relations between the police and the community need to improve. The community, including its poor and minority residents, deserve to feel that their police are there “to serve and protect” them, not harass them. On the other hand the police deserve the respect of the community – in fact they need it to avoid making their incredibly difficult and dangerous job even more dangerous. This respect includes the understanding that by resisting an officer’s orders, even when unarmed, you are putting yourself and the officer in danger. Building trust, mutual understanding and empathy between the police and the communities will require all parties to consider those who have different perspectives than them and to put themselves in the shoes of the other side. For a small number of people, like black police officers and their families, understanding of both of these perspectives may be easier to come by. However for most of us, repairing these rifts will require a concerted effort to get out of our echo chambers and try to better understand experiences and perspectives that differ from our own.
Encouraging recent initiatives have begun to sprout up from police and community groups to assist in building this mutual understanding. For example, the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund started running an initiative that invites journalists to train in a simulator used to prepare police officers for use-of-force situations. After numerous news stories over the past year questioning use of force by police officers, these programs aim to give reporters a better understanding of the challenges officers face on a daily basis and the split-second nature of these use-of-force decisions. As part of a similar program, prominent activist Rev. Jarrett Maupin was invited by an Arizona police department to participate in similar types of scenarios, one in which he gets shot, and another in which he ends up shooting an unarmed man at point-blank range. I found watching these exercises quite eye-opening and I encourage you to watch them as well. After completing the exercise, Rev. Maupin was asked what he took away from the exercise: “I didn’t understand how important compliance was. People need to comply with the orders of law-enforcement officers”.
If there is a secondary lesson in this experience, it is that media recognize the influential role they play in these situations, and that this influence comes with a responsibility to use it with care. With Ferguson, the intense media scrutiny may have accelerated reforms of discriminatory police practices in Ferguson and other communities, and the media deserve credit for this. However, one place where media perhaps deserve criticism is in the vast disparity between the initial sensationalist coverage of the accusations against Darren Wilson and the relatively quiet coverage of his exoneration. Far from unique to this case, this is a widespread pattern of media coverage of criminal allegations that turn out unsubstantiated: loud, damning and highly speculative publicity of accusations, and then barely a peep about the eventual exoneration. This may be a great way to get ratings, but it literally ruins lives, particularly when the ultimately unfounded accusations involve violent or sexual offences. Just ask John Furlong, who was recently exonerated of child sex abuse charges after it was determined the complainants did not even attend the school where they alleged the abuses took place. Luckily for him, the second part did receive some coverage. Many others are not so lucky.
From Niya: Last week The Globe and Mail released an investigative report into the Royal Ontario Museum’s (ROM) ongoing struggle to collect funds pledged to their capital campaign to build the Micheal Lee-Chin crystal from a number of high profile donors, including Mr. Lee-Chin himself – who has since made other significant donations to other cultural organizations. Over the course of the campaign, all of the donors have received substantial recognition for their gifts, even though pledges remain outstanding over 10 years later. Since the campaign ended, taxpayers have assumed the ROM’s debt and filled a $23-million void left by these donors. Today the Globe published a follow-up piece noting that the ROM has made a complete debt payment for the 2015 year – suggesting that some of those pledges have been received, at least in part.