Note: The first episode shown during the First Quarter 2015 was a rerun of #335 on December 22, 2014.
Episode #688: Only In America
First Broadcast: 12/29/14
First of all, we at Free New York offer our sincere condolences to the families of Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, the two NYPD officers who were shot & killed in Bedford-Stuyvesant on December 20 by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who had also shot and wounded his former girlfriend, Shaneka Thompson, in Baltimore earlier that morning, and shot & killed himself on a G-train platform later that same afternoon. From that chronology of events, it should be obvious that Mr. Brinsley probably had some degree of mental imbalance, as sane people don't usually go around trying to murder other people and commit suicide afterwards. It should also be obvious that the many protests around the city and nation against the lack of indictments of the police officers who killed Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and many other unarmed black men across the country--protests whose rallying cries include, among others, "Hands Up, Don't Shoot"--are not responsible for the actions of an insane man who was going around shooting people. It should be further obvious that the desire to reform police procedures nationwide so that no more unarmed black men are killed by police in the future, and so that police who do kill unarmed black men actually go to trial for doing so, as part of a broader effort to stop police from automatically assuming that all black people are criminals, is not "anti-police" by any reasonable definition. Yet, none of those facts stopped PBA head Pat Lynch, the SBA, George Pataki, Rudy Giuliani, and others from somehow equating all of the above protests and attempts at reform with a desire to kill the above officers, and mysteriously claiming that Mayor de Blasio is responsible for their deaths. How do you explain this extreme overreaction by Lynch, et. al., to people who are, for the most part, expressing a genuine desire for peace and less violence, not the least of whom is a mayor who, for the most part, is respecting these people's constitutional right to protest a system that is in need of such reform? Is it because this mayor, who is white, openly discussed how he had "the talk" with his son, who is black, about how he needs to be careful when interacting with police who might be predisposed to think of him as a suspect--a talk which is a fact of life in every family with black children in the United States? Is it because this mayor, unlike the previous two mayors who spanned the last two decades, isn't showing automatic fealty to the police and actively campaigned on a platform of police reform? Is it because thousands of people across the city are no longer sitting idly by while their police department violates the Constitution by actively discriminating against black people? Or is it simply because Pat Lynch and the PBA have always been a thorn in the side of whoever happens to be mayor, and will continue to use histrionics as long as there is still a contract to negotiate? At any rate, it's ridiculously unfair to use the above murders as an excuse to silence efforts to reform the police, and I hope Mayor de Blasio realizes that there are a lot more New Yorkers who are in favor of reform than who oppose it.
Episode #689: A Canadian Ghetto
First Broadcast: 1/5/15
It's now 2015! And there have been plenty of articles speculating how the year 2015 as we know it is different from the 2015 imagined in the movie Back to the Future Part II, which also reminded me of how Total Recall fared in its speculation about the future. From there, we discuss toilets on the International Space Station and the Apollo spacecraft (compare to 2001), before ruminating on the ridiculous amount of sequels and remakes due to be released in the next few years from now. Action-packed! Or something...
Episode #690: In Response
First Broadcast: 1/19/15
The killing of 12 staff members (4 of them artists) of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo by extreme Muslim fundamentalists in Paris shocked millions of people throughout the world, many of whom gathered together to march in support of the Freedom of Speech, including several world leaders whose support for that freedom appears to be hypocritical at best. Unsurprisingly, some idiots on Fox News appear to be using current events as an excuse to advocate fear and murder of all Muslims--because that's how you take a stand against violence, right? Is it really too cliché to ask people to give peace a chance? That would be nice for a change.
Episode #691: Isn't Entirely Horrible
First Broadcast: 1/26/15
President Obama gave his latest State of the Union address on January 20, which included a memorable dig at his critics, and it sounded like it contained a lot of good ideas. Too bad he proposed it to a Congress that seems determined to oppose him at all costs. We then discussed the multitude of oppositional responses that were made to his address, and how it's near impossible to craft an articulate response to a speech you don't usually get to see too far in advance. Is all this just laying the ground work for the 2016 election? I can think of at least two decent potential candidates.
Episode #692: Not An Emergency Vehicle
First Broadcast: 2/2/15
Apparently, the city's botched response to the 2010 snowstorm and the damage wreaked by Superstorm Sandy in 2012 inspired both Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo to be abundantly cautious in preparing for the "Blizzard of 2015" that struck New York City on January 26th & 27th this year. In turn, they banned all non-emergency vehicles from city streets and closed the subway to the public, starting at 11:00 PM Monday and lasting until around 9:00 AM Tuesday morning, when it became obvious that this blizzard was not dumping nearly as much snow on NYC as it was on, say, Long Island, or Boston. By that time, many non-essential businesses in the city were already closed after following the Mayor's advice to stay home. By Wednesday, the city was pretty much back to normal. But was it necessary for the Mayor and Governor to overreact the way they did? You can probably guess my opinion by the way I phrased the question, but I'll say it anyway: No, probably not, but I understand the urge to be "better safe than sorry," and I'll choose to not lose any sleep over it.
Episode #693: C.P.R.
First Broadcast: 2/16/15
On February 10, NYPD officer Peter Liang was indicted for the death of Akai Gurley, the unarmed black man whom Liang shot and killed in the stairway of a Brooklyn housing project in November of last year. Liang was charged with second-degree manslaughter, reckless endangerment, second-degree assault, and official misconduct. This is not a bad thing. If it was the other way around, and Mr. Gurley had shot and killed an officer who wasn't threatening anyone, then there would undoubtedly be calls for the death penalty, so it's only fair that a cop who needlessly kills someone be processed through the judicial system as well--though not to death. We're not fans of the death penalty regardless of who's applying it to whom. Perhaps an eventual conviction and sentencing will help break the trend of black men being unnecessarily stopped and arrested by police, convicted and imprisoned at rates higher than white men, and killed by police in numbers that would be too high at any amount. Does this all amount to a systemic effort to disenfranchise black men from voting, in methods not much different from those used during Reconstruction? Is that also the reason why so few black men become police officers in New York City? Do all the needless interactions with law enforcement throughout black men's lives eventually add up to a record that prevents many of them from passing a background check? Or does it all give them more than enough reasons to shun law enforcement as a career altogether, further reducing the number of police who can truly see their own actions through the view of a person of color? I don't have any easy answers, but I think these are good questions.
Episode #694: It's Not A Myth
First Broadcast: 2/23/15
After some brief déjà vu, we discuss how this February is shaping up to be the coldest February in New York City since 1934--a year in which New York City experienced the coldest day in its history: February 9, 1934, when the temperature reached -15° Fahrenheit. On the one hand, it's nothing compared to the 100 inches (more or less) of snow that Boston has received this winter. On the other hand, the western part of the U.S. is experiencing a record heat wave, which is perhaps the beginning of a mega-drought, the likes of which have not been seen by humans on this continent within the last 800 years. Are these just the latest signs of anthropogenic climate change? I would say yes, but it's a bit too cold to concentrate...
Episode #695: Wear A Shirt
First Broadcast: 3/9/15
Back in the 1960s, prime-time TV programs with an arc were few and far between, and episodes within a series were basically interchangable. Dallas and Star Trek: The Next Generation were some of the shows in the '80s that may have inspired all those to follow to make arcs routine. Now, arcs are so ingrained in some programs--even anthologies--that interchangability of episodes has become next to impossible. So, that very things that have improved the quality of some television so much have also made that same television extremely difficult to watch casually. Does the Internet share some blame, now that it has made catching up on missed episodes a great deal easier, compared to the past? And please do us all a favor and wear something other than a "wife-beater"? Otherwise, you might end up here...