Thursday, January 1, 2015


Good Riddance 2014



(Thursday January 1, 2015, Times Square, NYC) Inherent in our species is our sense of consciousness.  Among the distinguishing factors that separate us from our closest genetic relatives is our ability to be self-aware and to plan for and imagine our future.  The is no doubt an evolutionary biological explanation for this characteristic just as evolutionary biologists have posited solid theories on the acquisition and efficacy of other human traits such as empathy, the maternal instinct, and selflessness. 

An off-shoot benefit from our ability to plan ahead based on past experience and each individual’s goals and needs within the context of their own life, is the deeply held ideal of new beginnings; of believing tomorrow might be better than today, that each sunrise can be appreciated for what the promise of the day might be.  This was particularly beneficial when we began living in small societies founded during the hunter-gatherer, agrarian era of our development.  Those ancestors knew from bitter and blessed experience alike that a crop could fail and wither in the field or it could thrive with the right amount of rainfall and sunlight. 

Another facet of our self-awareness, one that seems more nuanced and not easy to nail down is the natural inclination towards optimism or pessimism.  We are all born as blank slate, the Tabulu Rosa as described by Descartes, practical and pragmatic if nothing else.  Our species would not have thrived if our relatives from antiquity were not pragmatic and practical, cautious and measured in all the many and varied tasks and challenges they faced in what was a very hostile environment.  When a band of hunters took off from the community in search of game it served no evolutionary purpose to be neither pessimistic nor overly hopeful which borders on optimistic; they learned how to gauge risk versus reward and that trait is a Darwinian imperative.   They were a practical lot and learned to live, work, and survive in larger and larger groups through establishing a social order akin to a large extended family.  As practical, pragmatic beings they began to develop in increasingly complex and sophisticated ways from the methods they used in tool-making an ever expanding familiarity with and knowledge of the natural world, as well as how to harness the resources of the natural world around them. 

As the millennia rolled on all manner of rites, rituals, and religions were established which added to the social order.  Most of the earliest beliefs were based on the phenomenon in the natural world; a world they lived in but had not yet began to fully understand.  Gods were found in storm clouds and the thunder and lightning that could awe and frighten them equally.  Their world was rife with hazards, both real and imagined, yet they never stopped learning and with every generation a more robust set of genes and memes were passed down. 

They began to quantify time, to set aside specific days as the beginning of one season or another.  Nature provided their clocks in the stars and tides, in the winds and rains, and in the fields.  They also began to honor milestones; they would seek to appease and pray for the blessings of various gods; a god for planting, a god for harvest; a god for healthy childbirth and a god of death.  Soon calendars and time pieces were invented and their relationship with what had been an amorphous idea of time became more and more definable and quantitative.  Births and death were markers in time as vivid as seasonal changes in the world around them.  They had long ago conquered the cold and darkness of the nights with the light and heat of fires.  But time remained an uncontrollable force of nature; a cruel, linear, forward trek without a means or method to alter its pace or primacy among the natural phenomenon.

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At the stroke of 12:00 midnight this morning 2014 fell away and 2015 was ushered in.  We are said to “celebrate” the beginning of a New Year with all its possibilities and dreams; with a sense of a new beginning and a shedding of the past year’s skin now cracked and dried.  Yes, we celebrate the New Year but it seems, especially this year that we are as much celebrating the end of the past year as much as the start of the new.

2014 was a difficult year in America and in New York City.  We were forced to look into the mirror of society and stare at our collective reflection that was for some, not quite what they’d thought they’d see.  We were forced to stare at that ugly, unflattering reflection only to see we remain residents of a “house divided against itself”, and have had to examine our own lineage and genealogy as hundreds upon hundreds of unaccompanied child immigrants from Central America created a humanitarian crisis as well as revealing the sharp teeth of those who would draft legislation radically altering our own history as a country of immigrants while denying even basic rights to those derisively called “illegals”.  Our borders should have been secured decades ago but were not and that is not the point. Now the very definition of what it means to be an American citizen is up for grabs.

We learned that despite all our accumulated knowledge, scientific and technological sophistication that mysteries are still possible, that nature still has the edge and that certainty at times is dubiously uncertain.  We saw that it is still possible for a huge passenger airliner, such as the Malaysian Air Flight 370, to completely vanish from the face of the earth without a trace, and that a primitive lethal virus can emerge without warning, infect a population, and vanish back into its natural host before we can even mount a strong defense.  Ebola was the virus of the year in 2014 but other emerging viruses will likely introduce themselves to us in the future.

In some disciplines we learned that some of the most basic of “facts” are simply not factual at all.  Scientists were forced to reexamine their rationale regarding the “Big Bang” theory of the birth of the universe, mankind’s role in climate change, and other questions about the sciences we’d long thought to have been answered.   

We learned of the limits of our technological mastery and the darker side of our interconnectedness when millions of people’s lives were destroyed in massive computer hacking schemes and large scale identity theft operations.  We were asked to redefine privacy in this day and age of data collection while conversely spending more of our lives in the ether world of social media sites.  Along these lines the nefariousness of Internet trolling and predation forced many to wonder about the nature of their children’s lives “on line” as they sit sullenly with ear-buds firmly implanted rarely looking away from the miniature screens on their mobile devices.  

We were repetitively reminded that more people continue to die in the name of one god or another, for the precepts and doctrine of one sect or another, just as we have since the dawn of civilization.  Age old animosity continues to fan the flames of extremists, zealots, and rabid ideologues as if they are somehow stuck in the second century.  While we remain locked in what now feels like a state of perpetual war, we were shocked to learn of the abject failures of the Veteran’s Administration to adequately provide quality, timely care for the tens of thousands of our returned young warriors.  Yes, we are a patriotic people ready to salute before a football game, hat in hand, mouthing the words of our national anthem; yet allow our inept, craven, sleazy politicians to callously defund the VA, cut services for veterans, and generally break what was always the sacred trust between the populace and the military who serve for the greater good.  American military personnel have lost lives, limbs and sanity in Afghanistan and Iraq only to be shunted to the side upon their return.  This is beyond shameful.

But our elected leaders have no shame; they are a corrupt lot of self-serving politicos far removed from the lives of the majority of Americans and out of touch to the detriment of us all.  We have seen once again that what is good and profitable for Wall Street is bad and burdensome for Main Street.  But we keep electing the same greedy bastards and permit ourselves to be lead around by our noses by these criminally negligent “public servants” who serve their moneyed masters not the public good.

There were events that opened our collective eyes to issues we may have given little or no thought to previously. After footage from a surveillance camera captured the scene of an NFL player knocking out his girlfriend in an Atlantic City casino elevator, suddenly the country woke up to the harsh reality of the prevalence of domestic abuse and violence, including child abuse, sexual abuse, as well as the astonishing facts regarding the rate of “date rate” on college campuses across the land as well as even at the high school level.  We should be astute enough to not use athletes, amateur or professional or other “celebrities” who cultivate a “cult of personality” to be substitute “role models” for parents.  Whenever and however possible, be it altering the tax code for the middle and lower income workers and their families, to better educating our youth, our government should make it easier to keep families intact.  The two parent model has worked well for thousands of years and remains an important key to our children’s future, health, and success.

Sadly we have stood witness as far too many young people die premature deaths by way of illegal firearms.  One may have thought that after some of the most heinous murders over the last year, that finally our government would step into the breach, so to speak, and enact even the most modest, practical legislation to assist law enforcement in getting illegal guns off our city streets and out of our towns.  Obviously, that has not been the case.  So, by default, we allow our children to know a sense of fear and uncertainty while teaching them how to conceal themselves with their classmates beneath a Kevlar blankets as they huddle petrified in a classroom closet in the event of a school shooting.  Yes, it has come to this.  Is this more tolerable than effective legislation?  Apparently the Congress that is handsomely bought and paid for by the NRA seems to think so.

So, in another ever growing disturbing trend, we continue to misdiagnose and over-medicate our youth to the tune of an estimated $78 billion per year.  The long term repercussions of this practice are not yet known but what is known is troubling enough.  As we provide a host of prescription medications, from ADHD and anti-depressant drugs, to stronger anti-psychotic cocktails to younger and younger children, we place our faith in the big pharmaceutical giants, the doctors incentivized to write these prescriptions, and set up our youth for drug addiction in their teen years while still stigmatizing mental health issues in adults.  Drugs, be they prescribed or illicit, play an enormous role in American society and culture.  While some states have legalized marijuana and others have decriminalized possession of small amounts, crack cocaine, crystal methamphetamine, and resurgence in heroin usage, fuel an underground black market, serve as an abundant energy source for all manner of crimes, and new synthetic “designer drugs”, some meant to mimic the effects of oxycodone and other drugs in this family, are wreaking havoc among our youth in our cities as well as our vast rural regions. 

And in the last quarter of 2014 we were forced once again to recognize a sorry truth, the majority of young Black men in this country fear the Police and see them as “the enemy”.  Much has been written and spoken about this stark reality (plenty of it right here on this site) but all the talk, words, marches, protests and demonstrations coupled with the demagogueing, hate filled speech and race baiting on both sides of this deep abyss will do nothing towards initiating effective changes that are satisfactory to both sides.

Yes, we learned and saw much in ourselves and country in 2014 and, most of us are probably happy to see it go.  We have learned one overarching truth in the past 12 months, that being, “everything old is new again”.  Problems that have been kicked down the road, shunted to the side or otherwise simply avoided and ignored will always come back with a bite and we surely have been bitten in 2014.

The Brooding Cynyx wish all our readers, followers, commenters, and participants in the debates we attempt to bring forward, a very Happy New Year and all the best in health, happiness, prosperity and peace.  We can begin to exorcise some of the cultural and social demons that reappeared last year if we can communicate with purpose, without anger, rancor and venom.  Maybe at the end of this year, 2015, we won’t be so happy to see it go as we are now with the last moments of 2014 just slipping over the horizon.     

 Copyright The Brooding Cynyx 2015 © All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, December 30, 2014




(Tuesday December 30, 2014, NYC)  Cops are accustomed to walking fine lines.  The hierarchical structure of the NYPD itself as a civil service Law Enforcement Agency with a well-defined chain of command and control provides the regimentation required to have a 34,000 member force function effectively and efficiently. The NYPD is steeped in tradition and a rich, proud history and in good times and bad the men and women of the Police Department perform their assigned tasks in accordance with the laws that govern the USA, the State of New York, and The City itself.  To many it can be seen as an insular, self-protecting fraternity and, like many large entities both public and private, in some ways it is just that.  While the public presence of the Members of Service (MOS) is highly visible throughout the Five Boroughs, some of its customs and codes are familiar only to the MOS.  There is an internal cohesiveness of the type required among men and women whose lives often can depend on their coworkers. 

In the latest maelstrom with Law Enforcement as a whole and the NYPD in particular convulsing through the country and NYC, it has been interesting to follow the coverage of events in the local media.  Lately every half-assed scribe, hack reporter, and TV talking head most with little or no actual experience or knowledge of the NYPD is suddenly an expert on policing, the NYPD, and the codes and customs, written and unwritten, of the MOS. Some of the trash that has been printed in the papers and spoken on the airwaves has been disingenuous at best, derisive, divisive, and inflammatory at worst.  Those who have written and spoken so callously with the feigned air of the “experts” have generally made matters worse.  Like it or not the media often helps shape public opinion and defines the lines of the debate.  These people given the size of the audiences they can reach are quick to point the finger at the NYPD for being “irresponsible” and “disgracefully disrespectful” towards Mayor Bill de Blasio after two Officers were assassinated in Brooklyn on the Saturday before Christmas are themselves atop the pinnacle of irresponsibility and disrespectfulness.  They fail to recognize, or chose not to see, some of the most relevant facts regarding the relationship between the MOS of the NYPD and the de Blasio administration and the Mayor himself who has done more to widen the already deep rift that has torn the relationship between City Hall and One Police Plaza apart.  One would be hard pressed to find a time in the past anywhere approaching the level of estrangement between a Mayor and the PD.

It did not have to be this way; the NYPD did not pick this fight, so to speak but as the first waves emanating out of Ferguson Missouri began to break on our shores, Mayor de Blasio did as much as any one person could to promulgate and exploit the racial divisions that the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson could do.  And, as the Mayor of the largest city in the USA, also, by the way, the “Safest Big City” in the country thanks to the efforts of the NYPD over the last 20 years, his words echoed from coast to coast.  And time and again he chose his words with little thought often speaking in terms that painted the NYPD as a reckless street gang of brutal racist thugs who young Black men need to fear.  He shamelessly made these points using his own biracial teenage son as one of the legions of Black youth that have to be taught how to interact with the police if they are ever stopped for any reason.  One might think that the Mayor of the largest, safest City in America that is also the most diverse and has the most diverse PD of any in the land would be possessed of better political acumen but obviously he lacks that skill.  His mayoral candidacy was based largely on an anti-Police platform employing so many of the “dog whistle catch phrases” he and his advisers were sure would reach their intended constituents.  And they did.  But like so many other ambitious, spineless, self-serving, politicians before him he learned quickly that being the Mayor of the City of New York is infinitely more challenging and complex than being a mere candidate in a pool of no-name lightweights.

As the first Commissioner of the NYPD and future President of the United States, Teddy Roosevelt once remarked, it is far easier to be a critic instead of being in the arena, engaged in the fight.  Rather than step boldly into the arena as Mayor, Bill de Blasio remained in perpetual “campaign mode” never missing an opportunity to at least verbally pacify his unruly, clamoring, “broad coalition” of New Yorkers who vaulted him to victory.  When he reached back in time and appointed Bill Bratton as his NYPD Commissioner it was likely with a sense of nostalgia and a political nod to his experience.  Bratton had been the Commissioner in the first term of Rudy Giuliani’s administration and was a very effective, innovative leader who began the concerted efforts to reclaim Our City from the staggering crime rates and poor quality of life that had come to define huge swathes of the Boroughs.  But twenty years has changed Bratton just as we all have changed to some degree over two decades of living, learning, and experiences.  The Bratton of 2014 is nowhere near the Bratton of 1994 and that became painfully obvious almost from his first days on the job.

The highly anticipated “summit meeting” tomorrow with the Mayor and the presidents of the three major Police unions is not expected to yield any results towards repairing the rift.  It would be a start if at least, privately, de Blasio apologized for some of his most egregious anti-NYPD rhetoric but that is not likely to happen.  Some in the media claim that the recent protests against the Mayor by MOS of the NYPD are “union” activity and that the unions are “over-playing their hands”.  This could not be further from the truth.  Turning their backs towards a Mayor who has not supported them is a respectfully silent statement.  The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), Sergeants Benevolent Association (SBA), and he Detectives Endowment Association (DEA), the “Big Three” of the Police unions have not encouraged their membership to conduct themselves in any way that might be perceived as a “work slowdown” or “job action”. Such activity would come dangerously close to violating the Taylor Law, the New York City legislation enacted in 1967 that prohibits any job actions and particularly a strike of the MOS of a “vital civil service” and was aimed specifically when written, at the NYPD.  But that was another time, in another City and the NYPD has never violated the Taylor Law and absolutely no one is suggesting doing so now. Columnists such as the NY Daily News’ Pete Hamill has written many untruths about the current crisis, the NYPD and his views , which he is as entitled to as he is air to breath, are wrong and his opinions simpleminded, idiotic, and misinformed.  But he has the potential to reach a broad readership and he should be more professional in his pontificating and bloviating.  He is but one of a host of media “professionals” who have either inaccurately reported events and/or provided unsound and often unfounded commentary.  But there is not a Cop that has ever expected a “fair shake” from the press or TV media; they are constantly being accused of some grievous wrongs, brutality, racism, and various other “charges” that serve merely to illustrate how little they really know about our City, the NYPD, and life on the streets.

Tomorrow night the NYPD will be out in full force performing a monumental task that they have down to a science.  They will use their tried and true tactics, perhaps as much of an art as a science, and will in a organized manner usher in upwards of one million people into Times Square and the surrounding blocks who’ve come to see in the New Year at this most famous crossroads in America.  Crowd control is one task the NYPD does exceptionally well and has set the standards other large cities have always tried to emulate.  The uniformed Police presence will be extremely visible but there will also be hundreds of other “plain clothes Cops” from a variety of Commands, Squads and Units on site to assure the safety and security of the reveling throngs.  From the Emergency Services Unit (ESU) to the Counter Terrorism Unit, the Police will be on guard for threats of any and every kind in addition to managing a literal sea of humanity.  There will be thousands of tourists from across the country and around the world in Times Square tomorrow night and none need worry about their safety.  Some visitors may not even be aware of the current crisis we are experiencing and, like many others, they usually want to shake hands with Cops and wish them well. For a few hours every year, the last hours of every year, people are grateful and appreciative towards the Cops and that does mean something; it always has.

Copyright The Brooding Cynyx 2014 © All Rights Reserved