des moines, Des moines police, Iowa, sports

HOT SHEET: Mystery of Milton Bradley’s Operation patient solved; more bad Beggars’ Night riddles and a test of the Emergency Hot Sheet Broadcasting System

Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, sergeant of the watch, Drake Neighborhood Station, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM ONE: Remember the game Operation? Players used tweezers to remove plastic organs from the body with tweezers. If the tweezers touched the metal sides of the opening, the patient’s red nose lit up.

It turns out that patient had an official name. According to a new Funko Pop doll released, the patient’s name was Cavity Sam.

Cavity.

Sam.

The typist bets you wish you didn’t know this.

ITEM TWO: Does anyone else find themselves sucking in their gut during Zoom calls?

Destroying baseballs for science is more fun that watching baseball.

ITEM THREE: Almost no one is watching the World Series through the first two games, per Deadline and Yahoo! Sports. So it goes. Baseball’s decline as America’s pastime is documented past the point of anyone caring.

Here at Hot Sheet, we have found the solution: A mad scientist who created a supersonic baseball cannon.

This 23-minute video takes less than a half-inning of a regular baseball game and you just might learn something, which is to be expected from an outfit called Smarter Every Day.

Whether you watch the whole video and take in the science lesson or just skip to the end to watch a baseball travel more than 1,000 mph and shatter like an egg chucked on Halloween, it’s probably more fun than the actual World Series.

Bonus: No Joe Buck.

ITEM FOUR: Four more jokes for Beggars’ Night trick-or-treaters to learn and say for candy:

Q: What is thin, white, and scary?

A: Homework.

Q: What do you call a happy cowboy?

A: A jolly rancher.

Q: What do you call a fancy sea creature?

A: Sofishticated.

Q: Why did the student eat his homework?

A: The teacher said it was a piece of cake.

ITEM FIVE: The Hamburglar remains at-large.

ITEM LAST: This is a test of the Hot Sheet Emergency Management System. In the event of an actual emergency, an official message would have been followed by an earth-shattering ka-boom. This is only a test.

Due to illness, the part of Daniel P. Finney will be played by Daniel P. Finney.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

Crime and Courts, des moines, Des moines police, humor, Iowa, Media, News, People, Pop Culture, sports, Uncategorized

HOT SHEET: #OldManStudent update, NFL notes, Iowa celebrates small COVID-19 gain, absentee ballot confusion and police success stories

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, sergeant of the watch, Drake Precinct Station.

ITEM ONE: Update on #OldManStudent. The ol’ Paragraph Stacker takes all his classes online via Zoom meetings at Drake University. This format works better than anticipated, but there are pitfalls. Example: Your typist’s bathroom is about 12 feet from his computer. Always remember to mute your microphone when you answer nature’s call because mics will pick up certain sounds one would just as soon remain private.

ITEM TWO: Other Zoom meeting notes: No one looks good eating a sub sandwich on camera. If you happen to have the NFL season opener on in the background, mute the TV and make sure the TV is not in direct line of the camera.

ITEM THREE: The NFL season began Thursday. The defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs beat the Houston Texans. It still feels odd to say “defending champion Kansas City Chiefs,” perhaps the only good thing to occur in 2020. Then again, I’m old enough that it feels weird not to say Houston Oilers. The Bears also did well Thursday evening. The team owes this mostly to not having played.

ITEM FOUR: The typist turns almost all his sporting attention to pro football. His beloved New York Yankees cling to the eighth seed in the American League playoffs. This spot only exists because baseball executives expanded the playoffs to make up for the coronavirus-shortened 60-game regular season. The ol’ Paragraph Stacker questions the wisdom of Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman’s “protect all prospects” approach. The typist grimly notes the Chicago Cubs and Kansas City Royals have won more World Series in the last decade than the Yankees. The Yankee batters may be “savages in the box,” but they’re sad sacks in the standings.

ITEM FIVE: Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds held a press conference to celebrate Iowa dropping from No. 1 in coronavirus spread to No. 3. Wow. What an accomplishment. What did Reynolds do, bus some people to Missouri?

ITEM SIX: Just a day after Hot Sheet warned of absentee ballot confusion from well-meaning non-profits, two Iowa judges ruled absentee request forms that were pre-filled with the voter’s name and address were improper, per the Associated Press. The county auditors in Woodbury and Johnson counties sent the request forms to make it easier for people to seek absentee ballots during the COVID-19 pandemic. Again, the typist supports efforts to increase voter turnout. However, at some point people must take responsibility for themselves — especially in challenging circumstances. To quote retired Drake University professor Herb Strentz, “Democracy is not a spectator sport.”

ITEM SEVEN: Recommended viewing for the weekend:

  • Louisiana at Iowa State, noon, Saturday, ESPN. The Cyclones are playing without fans in the stands and the Hawkeyes aren’t playing until spring. Regardless of your allegiance in the Cy-Hawk rivalry, you might as well give ISU your eyeballs.
  • Philadelphia Eagles at the Washington Football Team, noon, Sunday, regional coverage. Hot Sheet knows no teams of regional interest play in this game, but we want to see how many times the announcers accidentally say “Redskins” and then fall all over themselves to apologize.
  • The Boys, Season 2, streaming on Amazon Prime: Superheroes with sex, blood and breast milk reheated with heat vision. I’m not making this up.

ITEM LAST: Lest we be cajoled into thinking the local constabulary only makes news in officer-involved shootings or amid racial tensions, Hot Sheet turns your attention to three items of note in the most recent Des Moines city news letter.

  • Chief Dana Wingert promoted Lillie Miller to captain, naming her the first Black female captain in the department’s history. Miller, an officer since 1999, was also the department’s first Black female lieutenant under former chief Judy Bradshaw.
  • Jeff Edwards, a former public information officer and DMPD Medal of Valor recipient also attained his captaincy.
  • Wingert recognized Senior Police Officer Scott Newman, a 21-year veteran and a member of the department’s tactical unit, with the DMPD Lifesaving Award. Newman rescued five people from a burning car wreck on his way home from work early July 5.

The typist takes a lot of heat from liberal extremists for his support of police. That’s fine. Honorable people disagree. And who gives a damn what dishonorable people think? The ol’ Paragraph Stacker recognizes every police department has problems. No one lives in a utopia. But the typist notes that no matter how bad things get, no matter how many people hate them — when the shit breaks bad and the citizenry cries out for help, the police come running.

OK. That’s it. Listen to our podcast. Be careful out there and, as always, donations welcome and appreciated.

Behave and be kind.

Daniel P. Finney hopes Rick will finally return him to Earth C-137.

Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way poking fun at the passing parade.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I launch this new venture continuing the journalism you’ve demanded. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

Crime and Courts, des moines, Des moines police, humor, Iowa, News, People, Pop Culture, sports

Roll Call: Des Moines schools’ fall sports doomed, Iowa State in dire straits, Des Moines cop retires with internal affairs on his tail

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, sergeant of the watch, Drake Station:

ITEM ONE: Des Moines school administration’s decision to start the school year online-only placed fall sports in jeopardy. The state associations for girls’ and boys’ athletics ruled if you’re not physically in school, you can’t play football, volleyball or other fall sports. The ol’ Paragraph Stacker remains baffled by Iowa public policy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Des Moines school leaders believe it too dangerous to pack 30 kids into a classroom, but somehow finds football games less intimate affairs. The desk concedes it’s easier to socially distance for coaches and those on the sideline, but it’s tough to mount a useful defensive or offensive line when players are six feet apart. The push to both play ball and have students distance learn earns a penalty flag from this typist.

ITEM TWO: Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard warns of a budget shortfall of more than $30 million after pulling the plug on fans at games. Some sports teams could be cut and CY Stephens auditorium could be closed. The ol’ Paragraph Stacker wonders how much money Stephens was losing after Wells Fargo opened in Des Moines. A lot of great concerts and events that once went to Ames now play in Des Moines or at the even bigger CI Health Center in Omaha. The desk would hate to lose Stephens — especially for the support staff who work there — but it may be a facility due for retirement.

ITEM THREE: The Valley and Dowling football game had a shot to be on ESPN, but they couldn’t broker a deal. There’s a lot of bad rumors about why this collapsed. The desk urges everyone to stop assuming bad intentions. Instead, marvel at a time when a high school football game could make it on big cable TV due to the pandemic handicapping an already ailing ESPN’s program schedule. For the record, this typist is an East High Alumni Hall of Famer and has no flips to give for the Valley-Dowling game other than a wish that both teams could somehow lose.

ITEM FOUR: The desk’s beloved New York Yankees made no moves at the trade deadline, proving once again what a dull boy Hal Steinbrenner is. His pop, the late George “The Boss” Steinbrenner, knew how to throw around prospects and cash to bring in free agents and make a winner. Hal acts like an accountant in love with his spreadsheet rather than a baseball owner. The ol’ Paragraph Stacker concedes this frugal attitude has developed fine prospects, but no Yankees fan ever thought they would be envious of the San Diego Padres at the trade deadline. This Yankee inaction proves this typist’s long-held belief that it is better to work for a megalomaniac down the hall than absentee bean counters.

ITEM FIVE: Polly Carver-Kim says she got sacked from her job as spokesman for the Iowa Department of Health because she responded to routine public records requests. She’s suing the state. This surely couldn’t have anything to do with the state government’s epic mishandling of the back-to-school debacle that’s left Iowa with one of the fastest growing per-capita rates of coronavirus infection in the world.

ITEM SIX: Longtime Des Moines cop Stew Barnes hit the retirement parachute just as an internal affairs investigation into his behavior started to simmer. Without official documentation, Roll Call declines to speculate on the rumors other that to note it was not a use-of-force or race-related foul. Barnes had a long career and was a union leader. He was pugnacious and willing to duke it out with administration on behalf of his fellow officers. He once sued former Chief Judy Bradshaw. Based on what the desk has heard, his conduct was unbecoming in extremis, but not duty related. Roll Call issues a general reminder that anyone with a badge needs to be on their best behavior both on duty and off. The political tides are against you and every cop pays full price for not only their mistakes but also for atrocities of officers across the land. This certainly fits with Chief Dana Wingert’s philosophy. Bottom line: Don’t be a dummy.

ITEM SEVEN: An update: Since the last Roll Call, Iowa Workforce Development announced its plans to start paying the extra $300 per week in unemployment insurance for those dejobbed by the coronavirus pandemic. The desk criticized Gov. Kim Reynolds and her buddy in Republican blood red, President Donald Trump. The strike is officially removed. The ol’ Paragraph Stacker grudgingly recognizes that Trump acted when Congress failed to do so. This does not change the desk’s general opinion that the president is just the worst.

ITEM LAST: The pandemic and politics have dialed up social stress way past 11 to the point of breaking the knob off and blowing out the speakers. Let’s all remember a few things as we head into the Labor Day Weekend. 1. Sports are not as important as we think they are. 2. You don’t owe anyone an argument. And, finally, no time is a good time to take and send pictures of particular portions of your personage.

The desk is clear.

Be careful out there.

And behave and be kind.

Daniel P. Finney has never successfully completed the KXNO Eat The Mic Challenge.

Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way telling stories about his city, state and nation. No more metrics or Google trends, he writes stories about people and life ignored by the oligarchy.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I launch this new venture continuing the journalism you’ve demanded. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

Des moines police, News

Dunkin’ vs. Sgt. Parizek and man’s inhumanity to The Man

Photo by Elena Koycheva via Unsplash

I like Sgt. Paul Parizek, the Des Moines police spokesman. He is my friend and I love him. That’s not the kind of thing journalists are supposed to say about police officers.

But I am an independent (read: unemployed) newsman.

That means I can say anything I want and not be required to have a meeting where I’m scolded by a corporate ninny about not upholding the standards of journalism they actively work to destroy on an hourly basis.

So, I admit my pro-Paul bias when I read stories in the local news that he was refused service at an east Des Moines Dunkin’ franchise because he was a police officer.

The corporation quickly fired the two employees involved, but the low-level antics of the junior social justice warriors serves as a sad commentary on interpersonal communication in our age.

Let’s pause, first, to mock Dunkin’ for dropping the word “donuts” from their name. What are we dunking? Scones? Crumpets? Tarts?

No. We are dunking donuts. Donuts are unhealthy. If Dunkin’ drops them from their name, maybe people will be fooled into thinking this is a Whole Foods.  

This is almost as stupid as when Kentucky Fried Chicken changed their name to KFC. They wanted to disassociate themselves from the word “fried” because fried foods are unhealthy.

If we remove “fried” from the name, people will think KFC stands for “Kale For Children.”

It’s a pointless effort in rebranding that fools no one and changes nothing except the signs and stationery.

Pointless gestures bring us to the Southeast 14th Street Dunkin’ refusing to serve Paul because he’s a cop.

This was a decision made by teenagers who worked at the store. Teenagers have a poor track record on good decision making. This is why we try to keep them away from booze.

But, apparently, there was not one adult on duty at Dunkin’ that day who could explain the basic idea of how service industry jobs work: A customer comes in and orders food. You take their money, give them the food and wish them a nice day.

This is true if the customer is a construction worker, an artist or a ninja.

Now, as an individual, a person who works for a corporation that sells food to people might not like serving ninjas. Ninjas are experts in the dark arts and silent assassinations. These kinds of actions can be offensive to people who read Harry Potter or prefer noisy assassinations.

However, work isn’t the place where you get to carry out your personal prejudices against ninjas. If the ninja puts down $5 for coffee and a double chocolate, you take his money, give him his food and wish him a nice day.

I also would advise against posting on social media something like, “I just served Snake Eyes, that ninja from G.I. Joe, and he was a total douche.”

You can tell that to your other teenage friends over the Busch Light you asked someone to buy for you at the Kum & Go, but that’s about it if you want to keep your job.

Now I don’t know why these young people were uncomfortable around Paul. My guess is they heard Paul was a dirty, lying cop through a friend who once rode in a car with a guy who drove by one of the Black Lives Matters protests.

I’ve seen friends who are active in BLM posted negative things about Paul. I have told those people that Paul is my friend and my experience with him is different.

Few could explain their disdain for Paul other than to say they didn’t like the statements he made about some of the violence and lawlessness that occurred in the vicinity of BLM protests or after the events.

Now, again, I am decidedly pro-Paul, but I think this is a case where people are only going to accept what they want to believe is true regardless of the facts.

Confirmation bias is a powerful thought pattern and it’s hard for people to break it without vigilant practice.

So, if some people who support BLM have concluded that Paul is a bad guy, that’s understandable.

Well, it’s understandable, but still poor behavior.

I wonder what preponderance of evidence on which these youths made the decision that Paul is a bad guy not deserving of coffee and donuts.

I know some people believe all cops are bad. Cops, so the thinking goes, enforce an unjust system that imprisons and kills minorities to the benefit of straight, white men.

Paul is the most visible cop in Iowa. Therefore, he becomes the target of partisan disdain for police in general.

The problem is this judgement is acted upon without knowing Paul as an individual.

Also, refusing service to anyone for almost any reason is a slippery slope to “whites only” lunch counters.

The argument I make, the one I always make, is Paul is a human. Every human deserves to have their dignity respected.

You cannot fight against unequal treatment and injustice by treating people unequally.

That said, one needn’t delve too deeply into the ethics interpersonal codes of conduct to understand what should have happened when Paul tried to order at Dunkin’.

The youths are welcome to their prejudices. When I run into people I don’t like. I operate on a simple philosophy: Get it over as quickly as possible without conflict.

I don’t know how long it took the master race of infants at Dunkin’ to refuse to serve Paul, but I can almost guarantee it took more time than just to have given him some coffee and a donut and send him on his way.

Everyone — everyone — deserves coffee and donuts if they want them.

Daniel P. Finney, independent journalist

Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way telling stories about his city, state and nation. No more metrics or Google trends, he writes stories about people and life ignored by the oligarchy.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I launch this new venture continuing the journalism you’ve demanded. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

Crime and Courts, des moines, Des moines police, People

Whites must face hard truths of history if America is to make good on its promise of equality

Photo by Nick Shandra via Unsplash

The truth is, there are happier stories in my notebook. I just don’t feel like telling them right now. I feel like talking about anything other than the racism being confronted in our nation is tantamount to capitulation.

I’m an anxiety-riddled, middle-aged white man who desperately wants the world to calm down. But I hear my fellow humans’ outcry. And I worry that when I say I want things to settle, that I’m being heard as saying that their cause is less important than my comfort.

White silence is white violence, goes one chant.

I am not remaining silent. I just don’t know what to say or do.

I feel like everything I might say will come off as a white guy trying to make it about himself.

That’s how I felt about a group of celebrities who circulated a black-and-white video talking about how they won’t tolerate racism anymore. They meant well. Their cause was just. But they looked silly. The whole thing felt, at best, overacted and, at worst, attention-seeking.

Gee, Kristen Bell, I never once thought you were a Confederate Battle Flag waving member of the KKK even though you are a white woman who is a successful actress.

I kid, but I’m sympathetic to a point. For whites in America at the moment, it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t. The white privilege here being, of course, that for too many black and brown Americans, it’s too often just damned.

I believe it’s good that white people are uncomfortable. Black and brown people are uncomfortable all the time.

When I was a freshman at Drake University, my roommate was a black guy from Milwaukee. He came from urban-Midwest. I came from small- and midsize-Midwest. Our perspectives were very different.

The Drake men’s basketball team got into trouble for paying for a recruit to stay in a hotel off campus. The recruit was black. An assistant coach, also black, got fired. I was a newsman in training. I thought it was a story about corruption in basketball recruiting.

My roommate thought it was about a poor kid who didn’t have the grades to get into Drake and an assistant coach trying to make sure he had lodging and food.

I think we were both right, but it always bothered me that I never thought about the recruit, a guy the same age as my roommate and I, not having food or a place to stay. I wish I could say that the lesson my roommate taught me stuck and informed my reporting for the rest of my career, but it didn’t.

Journalism is a blood sport and the lust to chase a story and beat the competition often overwhelms even the most disciplined practitioners of the trade. There’s a sign in the newsroom of my former employer that reads “Every second counts.”

There’s probably some truth to that in the digital world, but these days we should all take a few seconds to infuse what we do with more empathy.

I learned a lot from my roommate that freshman year. He was the barber in his group of friends. Often our room had four or five black students hanging out and talking while they waited for my roommate’s clippers. I played video games, mostly Madden football, with the guys. We were friendly.

I was fool enough to think I was “down” with black people because we’d played some video games and shared a few pops.

But one day at lunch, I decided to sit at the table with some of the guys who played video games in our room. Things got quiet. Nobody said I couldn’t sit there, but clearly my presence screwed up the vibe. I realized this was a time and space where black students felt they could unwind and be themselves.

I may be a guy they’d play video games with, but I was still white. I did not understand their path through this world. And me being there was taking away one of the few spaces they had to let loose on a mostly white campus in the middle of a mostly white town in a mostly white state.

I remember supervising interns at my previous employer. One was a Drake student who said he wanted to go to a black barbershop near campus on a dare before he graduated. I asked him why. He said he thought it would be funny.

I didn’t think it would be funny. The barber would welcome the business, but my roommate had taught me that the barbershop plays a different role in the black community than it does in the white community. I told the intern my story about sitting with the black guys I knew from Madden. I suggested maybe it was OK that black people had something to call their own in a country where few venues allowed such things.

I thought about calling up my old roommate. I haven’t talked to him in a good 15 years. There’s no hard feelings there. He went back to Milwaukee. I stayed in Des Moines. People grow. They drift apart.

But I asked myself why I was calling. I didn’t like the answer. I think I was calling him because I wanted him to absolve me from being a racist. I wanted him to tell me that I wasn’t a part of the problem. I wanted to be certified as a good guy.

But he can’t do that. No one can do that.

The hardest part of Black Lives Matter for white Americans, I think, is that we’ve read history books and seen stories that present us, meaning whites, as the heroes. We’ve seen images of our heroics so much, it’s easy to believe we are the greatest people who ever lived.

We won World War II. (We didn’t, actually. It was a team effort, but all that Russian blood spilled on the Eastern front didn’t fit our Cold War narrative that the commies were in every corner.)

We learned history through the lens of white colonialists. Columbus, they told us, discovered America. How one discovers something that has been there since continents divided and already had a people and a culture was not discussed, nor were the various atrocities committed by Columbus and his crew against natives.

For centuries, white people have travelled the globe, showed up in someone else’s land and said, “All this stuff is ours now. You will worship our God and work for us or we will kill you.”

And many times the white people killed a lot of the native people anyway, sometimes all of them.

There’s a pretty good case to be made that white people, as a race, are among the greatest villains in history.

Am I saying you, as an individual, dear reader, are a racist villain?

No, I am not. Neither are the people who support Black Lives Matter.

What they are saying is things are fouled up and they have been fouled up for a long time.

At the risk of trivializing this with a nerdy pop culture reference, white people are the Empire from the “Star Wars” universe.

We are at the moment in “The Empire Strikes Back” where Luke learns his father is Darth Vader, the most evil man in the galaxy — a man who murdered children and played enforcer for a brutal dictator.

Vader revealed his parentage to Luke and offered him a place by his side. Luke rejected it.

Will white Americans accept the sins of our Founding Fathers and choose to reject the racism that is built into the fabric of the country?

It starts simply enough. Acknowledge and accept history. White people weren’t always good guys.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t be and do good now. To risk another pop culture references by amending my favorite Billy Joel song: “We didn’t start the fire, but we can fight it.”

Daniel P. Finney, independent journalist

Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way telling stories about his city, state and nation. No more metrics or Google trends, he writes stories about people and life ignored by the oligarchy.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I launch this new venture continuing the journalism you’ve demanded. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

Crime and Courts, des moines, Des moines police

Why Des Moines’ racial profiling ordinance is a failure before it starts

A well-meaning Des Moines City Council passed a racial profiling ordinance this week. The idea is to prevent police from picking on minorities when enforcing the law.

Racial profiling ordinances feel good, but they don’t amount to much.

Make an ordinance that says don’t do it.

Fine.

The problem is it’s unenforceable.

Then a cop pulls over a minority.

The minority says he was racially profiled.

The cop said it was a broken taillight.

Cop said. Minority said.

Now what?

Des Moines police already have a policy against racial profiling.

There’s one important difference: A police policy allows the department to investigate patterns of behavior.

The city can only look at the single instance in a single complaint.

Single complaints are weak when it comes to something as complex as racial profiling.

How do we know what the cop was thinking the moment those lights came on?

Is he thinking that’s a black guy where he shouldn’t be or is he thinking that’s a car with a violation?

Even the best detectives aren’t psychic. You can’t do much from a single instance, especially involving vehicles at night where darkness often makes the race of a driver difficult to spot through the back window.

Des Moines police also do spot checks of body and car cameras for racial profiling and other tactics.

A single incident of racial profiling is unacceptable.

It’s also hard to prove.

But a pattern?

That’s a trail of evidence that gives police administrators the power to discipline or fire cops who can’t get with the program.

This system is imperfect, too. It requires trust that police can police themselves, a belief some in our community mark akin to fantasy.

The easiest and most reasonable move would be to ask the Iowa Department of Transportation to include race on driver’s licenses.

Then, every time a cop runs a license for any reason, it’s recorded. Because the state collected the race data, there is less potential for police tampering.

You get hard data that shows who is being pulled over or otherwise stopped by police.

That data can also help shake out patterns of bad behavior and lead to getting rid of bad cops or reforms in how officers’ do their jobs.

This ordinance may evolve, but right now it’s a feel-good measure that doesn’t even satisfy the protestors and reformers who pushed for the change.

Daniel P. Finney, independent journalist

Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way telling stories about his city, state and nation. No more metrics or Google trends, he writes stories about people and life ignored by the oligarchy.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I launch this new venture continuing the journalism you’ve demanded. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

Crime and Courts, des moines, Des moines police, Faith and Values, People

From quarantine to curfew, America compounds tragedy

Photo of the Humanity Wall in Ghent, Belgium.
Credit: Matteo Paganelli via UnSplash

This is the year of compounding tragedy.
Coronavirus pandemic for the plague of racism.
Medical quarantine for police-enforced curfews.
It’s all just so damn sad.

America — and Iowa — just started to open up from nearly two months of quarantine. Scientists told us it was too soon, but the economy continues to crumble with nearly a quarter of Americans unemployed.

Good idea or not, we went back out. We shopped. We sat down for a meal at restaurants. We grabbed a beer. There was talk of sports starting again. We attempted normal.

Then a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd. The officer shoved his knee into the back of Floyd’s neck. Three other Minneapolis police officers stood by like cowards and listened as Floyd pleaded for air and eventually died.

The justifiable outrage followed. People held protests and demonstrations. A police officer killed Floyd — on video.

Do you see it now? their voices cried out. Do you see what we face?

People protested, marched and demonstrated across the country. In Des Moines, groups held protests at the State Capitol and Des Moines police headquarters without incident.

That was during the day.

At dusk, a different kind of people came to express outrage in unjustifiable ways.

The after-dark crowd shot fireworks at police. They threw rocks and bricks at police. Adults handed lit flares to teenagers to throw at police.

Vandals spray painted buildings downtown and shattered windows at Johnny’s Hall of Fame, Spaghetti Works and the Hy-Vee.

The troubles rumbled up Court Avenue to the Polk County Courthouse to break more windows and spray more paint.

Sunday, scofflaws looted and destroyed at Merle Hay Mall.

Police broke up the crowds with tear gas, pepper spray and flash-bang grenades. The whole ugly scene played out on local TV and news websites.

After two nights of violence, destruction and looting, the Polk County Supervisors ordered a curfew from 9 p.m., Sunday, until 5 a.m., Monday. It is now on hold indefinitely.

And for the first time since my former paragraph factory cut me loose, I was glad not to be in the thick of it — not because I wouldn’t want in on the big story, but because I don’t know what the hell you’re supposed to say about this season of misery.

2020 has been the year of suffering and sadness the likes I’ve not seen in my near 45 years.

COVID-19 killed more than 106,000 Americans, including more than 550 Iowans.

We can’t visit our elders, the most vulnerable population. People wave from a distance, through windows or across video screens.

As former Los Angeles Dodgers announcer Vin Scully said recently, “This is a hard time to go without hugs.”

We shuttered businesses. We stopped going to the office. Ten million people lost their jobs, including me.

And just when we parted the curtain ever so slightly — BOOM! — racism punches us in our collective noses.

Obviously, I condemn the actions of the Minneapolis officer, who now faces a murder charge, and his three criminally negligent partners who allowed this gross depravity to occur.

Yet what comfort can I give? Everything I say seems hollow and trite. Everyone around me seems blessed with a clairvoyance or certainty I lack.

A friend in my right ear says it was extreme left wing anti fascists who whipped up the violence. A friend in my left ear blamed white supremacists for intensifying violence and destruction.

Charles Bukowski, the poet and novelist, once wrote: “Everybody has a different way, everybody has a different idea, and the are all so sure.”

There are a lot of people who are certain these days. Dead certain. Certain enough to be cruel, to threaten and even take lives, to revel in self-righteous fury.

But I’m not sure. I don’t know what the right thing to do or say is. I want to help, but I don’t know how.

The scourge of racism has been with this land since the first slave ships landed in the Americas in the early 1600s.

This nation was built on the backs of slave labor. It took the bloodiest war in the nation’s history to end the practice.

The Thirteenth Amendment ended slavery in 1863, but the open and aggressive efforts to exclude African Americans from society continued unabated for more than 100 years until the 1968 Civil Rights Act.

Since then, we’ve dealt with a more sinister form of racism — the kind that is easy for white people like me to ignore because it doesn’t happen right in front of us every day and thus seems remote given our own experiences.

Then something like the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police happens and we are all forced to confront this ugliness again.

I say “we.” I overstate. I mean “white people.” Most white people live blind to racism not present in their own lives.

I support the marchers but not the looters and vandals. I believe black lives matter. I understand that as a white man, I’ll never wonder if the reason I got pulled over was because of the color of my skin.

I try to treat my fellow humans with love, dignity and respect. I remember that we are all children of God, created in His image.

But my sadness over George Floyd and racism as a whole is great.

Racism runs deeper and is more destructive in this country than anything I can image.

I am lost. I have no wisdom nor course of action that will bring us — all of us, black, white or otherwise — together, which is an unimaginable misery of its own.

I am, at best, a marginal Christian. I am uneasy quoting the Bible, I believe the treatises on human kindness put forth by Jesus in the Beatitudes to be, at a minimum, great philosophy.

Almost daily, I am drawn to the Beatitudes, in particular this line from the Sermon on the Mount described in Matthew 5:7: “Blessed are the merciful for they shall be shown mercy.”

This is something I’m sure about: Every one of us at some point in our lives will need mercy. I have many, many, many times.

Our African-American brothers and sisters need mercy now as they long have.

We must find a way to make mercy the beginning and ending of our lives, for mercy is the only cure for misery.

Daniel P. Finney, independent journalist

Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way telling stories about his city, state and nation. No more metrics or Google trends, he writes stories about people and life ignored by the oligarchy.

ParagraphStacker.com is reader-supported media. Please consider donating at paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

Content on ParagraphStacker.com is available for reposting and reprint for free to any news organization. Links to the republished piece are appreciated.