Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Fry Mumia: Part One

On April 6, 2009, the US Supreme Court, in a sudden fit of sanity, declined to hear the appeal of Mumia Abu-Jamal. This decision ended a decades long process of appeal after appeal by Mumia and brought him one step closer to the death penalty.

If you are reading this and scratching your head in bewildered confusion at the mere mention of Mumia's name, take comfort. The fact that you do not know who he is means you are either A) gainfully employed, B) a person with a basic understanding of personal hygene or C) someone who is not Facebook friends with Susan Sarandon, Danny Glover, Fidel Castro or the European Parliament. Either way, I salute you.

So who is Mumia Abu-Jamal? Simply put, he is a cop killer.

On the night of December 9, 1981, Officer Daniel Faulkner pulled over a light blue Volkswagen bug traveling the wrong way on a dark Philadelphia street. Office Faulkner asked the driver, Mr. Cook, to exit the vehicle after which the Officer was punched in the face. Faulkner retaliated, striking Mr. Cook with his flashlight. In a nearby parking lot, Mumia was working a late shift as a cab driver when he heard the commotion. Entering the scene, Mumia saw the officer struggling to arrest Mr. Cook, who just happened to be Mumia's brother. Mumia drew his Five-shot .38 revolver and shot the distracted Officer Faulkner in the back. Officer Faulkner managed to respond and fire off a shot of his own hitting Mumia in the upper abdomen. Mumia fired more shots and missed the struggling Officer. In response, Mumia moved closer, placed the gun inches away from Officer Faulkner's head and fired, hitting him just above the eye and killing him instantly. Mumia staggered away and sat down on a nearby curb until the police arrived seconds later.

Despite the fact that he was found on the scene with his .38 revolver by his side containing five spent shells, despite the fact that he had Officer Faulkner's bullet in his stomach, despite the multiple eye witnesses who identified him as the shooter and despite the testimony of the hospital guard who over heard him take credit for the murder stating he hopes "the mother ****** dies!", Mumia Abu Jamal claims to be innocent.

Lets see here...Motive? Check. Murder Weapon? Check. Multiple Eye witnesses putting him at the scene? Check. Sorry Mumia, even OJ Simpson would find you guilty.

Unfortunately, countless Useful Idiots do not.

Mumia's army of naive believers is legion. A simple Google search for "Free Mumia" reveals website after website dedicated to the proposition that Mumia is a political prisoner. This silver-tongued charlatan has inspired a virtual cottage industry, fueled even more by the internets power to inform and deceive. Everything from Mumia inspired podcasts to the ever present "Free Mumia" t-shirts are literally only a click away.

His protests to the contrary, being put in jail was the best thing to ever happen to Mumia. Before killing Officer Faulkner, Mumia was relatively unknown outside his own Philadelphia circle. While he is proud to be one of the founders of the Philadelphia chapter of the Black Panthers, his association with the Marijuana Users Association of America receives little attention. He never finished college and spent years working as a reporter bouncing around from one local Philadelphia radio station to another where his progressive political shtick never translated into a lasting audience. At the time of the shooting, he was President of Philadelphia Association of Black journalists.

Since murdering Officer Faulkner, Mumia has received an audience and, ironically, a credibility he could never have earned on his education or talent alone. He has been a regular on National Public Radio. He has received an honorary degree from the New College of California Law School. He has written countless books and essays pandered off onto an all-too-willing audience. He has been named an honorary citizen of 25 cities across the globe including Paris, Montreal and Palermo and he has received the support from virtually every Hollywood Celebrity to ever don a picket sign and bullhorn.

All this popular support not withstanding, Mumia is nothing more than an arrogant, cowardly, two faced liar who will do anything to save his own skin. He is, after all, Parisian. The Pro-Mumia propaganda machine is so strong and so pervasive, you cannot talk about Mumia without in turn confronting the many blatant and obvious lies that the legion-of-the-duped pass off as fact.

Mumia and his ilkdamning claim that Officer Faulkner was shot with a .44 caliber pistol, not Mumia's .38 caliber which, you know, just happened to have five spent shells and just happened to be sitting right next to Mumia at the crime scene. This charge is patently false. The prosecutions ballistics expert called during the 1982 trial stated very clearly that Officer Faulkner was killed with a .38 caliber bullet. The defenses own ballistics expert, at the same trial, conceded that the bullet was a .38.

Claims have been made that the Judge at the trial, Judge Albert Sabo, has sentenced more people to death than any other judge in the United States. There are two problems with this claim. First, this naked assertion has no merit considering no such records have ever been kept. Second, Judge Sabo has never sentenced anyone to death considering all his murder trials have been jury trials and the jury has been responsible for sentencing.

This most damning claim in favor of Mumia's innocence comes from the 1999 testimony of Arnold Beverly in which he claims to be the real shooter. He claims that he was hired by the local mafia to kill Officer Faulkner for his interference with their drug dealings. While on its face, the testimony seems exculpatory, any digging below the surface reveals a blatant, desperate lie. None of what Arnold Beverly claims can be supported by the evidence or the sworn testimonies of any of the witnesses present, including Mumia and his brother. Mumia's own defense attorney Daniel R. Williams called the testimony "insane", "absurd", "outrageous" and ultimately a "lie". (Dan Williams, Esq., "Executing Justice" (St. Martin's Press, 2001), pp. 328-330.)

The Arnold Beverly testimony created a rift between the four member defense team handling Mumia's case, with two lawyers not wanting to participate in the ruse they called "assisted suicide" and two other lawyers desperate enough to try anything. In the end, Mumia broke the tie and decided NOT to use Arnold Beverly's confession in his 1999 appeal. How can Beverly's claim have any credibility when Mumia himself does not believe it? This simple fact has not stopped every Mumia supporter from trotting out the Beverly confession as though it were the gospel truth.

In 2001, Mumia changed his mind and attempted to bring the Beverly confession into court, but because he had known about the confession for over a year and not used it in court for his defense, legally the confession was inadmissible. Which is almost a shame, considering Beverly claims to have shot Faulkner with a .38 caliber revolver, apparently unaware that Mumia has been trying to pass off the .44 caliber lie for quite some time. Consistency, it seems, has never been team Mumia's forte.

Nothing, in fact, has more haunted Mumia's defense than its own incompetent inconsistency. It has never offered a logical explanation for the events of that fateful night that does not include Mumia shooting the officer. For years they have hung their hat on a "running man" theory expect none of their witnesses can agree on which way he ran, and none of them actually claim to have seen him do the shooting.

Furthermore, they have never offered an explanation for how Mumia ended up with Officer Faulkner's bullet in his belly. One defense witness, William Singletary ,claims Mumia was shot by Officer Faulkner after he already had a bullet in his brain. Mumia claims he was shot by Faulkner first, and then he sort of passed out until police arrived. Arnold Beverly claims that Mumia was shot by another police officer who responded to the Officer Faulkner shooting.

When facts and logic evade them, all Mumia supporters can rely are emotive claims of injustice, their favorite being that Mumia is the victim of racial prejudice. Sadly enough they are right, only not in the way they intended.

Stay tuned for part two. Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel!

(For more information on the details of the case, I suggest going to Mumia.org and danielfaulkner.com to see both sides of the case. While you are at it, here is a fun game to play. One website includes blanket assertions with no back up data and the other side includes well researched and documented facts. Bet you can't guess which side is which?)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Hire Education

Confession time. First: I have a secret crush on Reba Mcentire. Ever since I saw her use an elephant gun to blow holes in a giant worm in the movie Tremors I have always gotten a little blush at the mere mention of her name. Ladies, in case you are wondering, the true way to mans heart is through the barrel of his gun.

Second: I think College education, as it is done today, is a scam.

This does not mean that I am advocating that current students should quit school and waste away their lives playing video games in mom's basement. I am simply stating that the college education we our receiving today is not worth the money we are putting into it and it needs to change.

Over the last fifty years, the price of college education has increased at almost double the cost of inflation. The average college graduate now finishes school with $20,000 in student loans, a 58% increase since 1993. Despite- or as I would argue, because of- government student aid, a college degree has never cost more.

Why do we go to college in the first place? Forget all the lofty ideas of broadening your horizons, developing your mind and diversifying your experiences. We go to college for one reason and one reason only: to get a job.

Unfortunately, modern halls of scholastic achievement have forgotten their role in preparing the modern workforce. Perhaps it is because educators, protected by the umbrella of tenure, have forgotten the need to compete. Regardless of the reasons, colleges fail to provide their students with the competitive advantage they think they are buying when they fork over $20,000 a semester for a degree. In the current marketplace, landing what we perceive as a good job without a college degree is virtually impossible. However, so many people are going to college that the value of a degree seems little more than the paper it is printed on. It is sad to say that a college degree has never been worth more and worth less than it is today.

The fundamental flaw in college lies with the curriculum. We still continue to utilize an outdated model of education that requires just as many general education classes as major specific classes. Thus our students are spending upwards of 50% of their money and 50% of their time on courses that have nothing to do with their major and, ultimately, their future career.

I knew going into college that I was never going to be a doctor, scientist, historian or art critic. Yet how many hours did I waste away learning the difference between the nucleus and the mitochondria, metamorphic rocks and igneous rocks, baroque and neo-classic architecture. While this may help me sound smarter at a cocktail party, it does not help me with my job.

This is not to say I advocate obliterating general education courses as a whole, but the hour requirements should be trimmed and their focus should be narrowed to practical skills and knowledge that we all need to function in modern society.

In practice this means we need courses that focus more on our Constitution and form of government so each student knows their role in our democratic process. Our English courses should not waste so much time on literature and put more emphasis on technical writing. The writing skills of our students have never been as bad as they are today, yet our colleges continue to waste valuable teaching time on The Odyssey and The Iliad, when what are students really need are courses on verbs, adverbs, commas and semicolons.

Additionally, our schools need to provide students with at least one business writing course that teaches them the basics of memo and resume writing. The key to getting and maintaining any job is your business writing abilities. No matter your degree or where you went to school, if your resume is not professional and polished, you might as well have a degree in underwater basket weaving from the University of the Interwebs.

I do all of the hiring for my office and I can tell you that less than 5% of the resumes that come across my desk could even be classified as "good." Less than 2 out of 100 are excellent. I would say a full 50% are embarrassingly awful. These contain everything from obvious formatting errors to grammatical mistakes a kindergartener could catch. Despite the fact that every person in HR will tell you this same thing, most schools do nothing about it.

Our Universities also need to provide their students with coursework in basic personal finance. Much of our current economic woes can be traced back to the fact that the majority of Americans, including college graduates, do not understand the magnifying power of compound interest. If the housing market has proved anything it is that we, as a society, are financially illiterate. Our Universities must do more to provide the financial information that our media and our K-12 education is not.

Part of reforming the education process means reforming our views on blue-collar work as well. As a society, we tend to consider blue-collar work as something of less value. However, many blue-collar jobs, such as a plumber, carpenter or a machinist, can provide an excellent quality of life for those who pursue them. Less than half of those who enter college will graduate. How many of these college drop outs would have been better off if we had pointed them to blue-collar vocational schools in the first place. Unfortunately, too many modern parents consider themselves a failure if their children become anything less than a lawyer or a doctor. This is a fundamental paradigm shift that we need to accept. We need blue-collar workers and we should be proud of anyone who pursues technical knowledge in a blue-collar skill or trade.

It is truly ironic that blue-collar vocational schools could teach modern universities a thing or two about education. Vocational schools don't waste any time on fringe knowledge. They provide hands on learning and provide the skill set their students need to succeed, nothing more and nothing less, all in about two years. Why do our Journalists need four years of education? Considering what passes as objective news these days, all it really takes to be a successful journalist is a lifetime membership in the Democratic Party and a thorough understanding of the Communist Manifesto. In reality, everything you need to know to be a successful journalist could easily be taught in a one-year vocational school and a one-year internship. This same methodology could be applied to a whole host of professions that now require four years of schooling despite only needing one year to learn the basic skills of the profession.

Considering a University's primary purpose is to make people employable, it is down right criminal that schools allow their students to graduate in anything that does not have obvious employment opportunities. Any school that charges as much for a degree in Feminist Studies or Philosophy that it charges for Business or Computer Science should be sued for fraud. If every time you tell people what you are majoring in and they ask "oh, that's nice, what do you plan on doing with that," you can consider yourself robbed.

My feelings towards college as a whole may come as a surprise to many of you, considering I have a Bachelors in Public Relations and a Master of Public Administration. However, I was smart enough to choose to go to Brigham Young University, a school that emphasizes the practical while at the same time being incredibly affordable. My graduate school (The Marriott School) is in the top twenty nationally (according to Forbes) yet it has a tuition about 1/10 of what you would pay elsewhere. In fact, the total student debt I racked up for my wife's degree and my two degrees is less than what most students pay for one year of undergrad. Simply put, my education is worth what I spent for it. It has provided me with a great job while helping me avoid crippling student loans.

Unfortunately, people in my same station in life will become increasingly rare as the cost of a college education continues to increase at the same rate the quality of college education decreases.

Ultimately, when considering the value of college education, we need to remember that it was not a college stiff with a degree in Latin American studies who saved us from the alien earth-worm invasion. It was an uneducated red-head with an elephant gun.