Notes on the D.C. Sniper

When John Muhammed and Lee Malvo began riding around the Washington D.C. area shooting people at random, I appreciated my job working in Southeast Washington D.C. managing a community based law office for the poor.  I worked in Anacostia, just below the “Big Chair,” and my spot on Good Hope Road was 100 percent safe from the snipers.

Anacostia was poor back then. Foot traffic was light all day, there were few stores and where I worked, there are no shopping districts. It was, in other words, not a well populated area and not an area I would suspect the snipers viewed as a place to kill. Not only were there few places to set up to shoot people undercover but the isolation of the community, “east of the river,” made it even that more difficult. I would also joke that if they did shoot, there might be return fire from several angles. Such was the absurdity of the times.

I bought my gas “east of the river” and never thought about getting shot and bought my groceries as well at a newly opened Safeway on Alabama Avenue. The community was showing its first signs of long awaited development back then and the sniper was the furthest thing from people’s minds.   They had bigger worries, according to some, than some lunatics shooting people at random for no reason.

It was tense back in Washington D.C. I remember it well. One of the first killings – an elderly Ethiopian man on Georgia Avenue – is a spot not far from my home. When I pass it today I still look for the spot where the flowers were dropped after the killing.

The chatter was big in those days. I can recall saying to many that I didn’t think the killer was white but the killer seemed like they were military. I cannot profess to being clairvoyant on the issue; it was just a guess.  When the madness about white trucks was going on, I especially dismissed that as complete craziness.

It was a tough 23 days in the area (it seemed longer) and when Muhammed and Malvo were captured, it was a relief despite the fact that I had figured out a routine that was safe. People began going back out and there were no more tarps at gas stations (Anacostia stations never did that).

When Muhammed was executed in 2009, I wrote an essay again condemning the death penalty. It had nothing to do with Muhammed; it just was a chance to say again that murder and killing (especially by state action) is wrong. I received a few nasty emails for my stand.

But besides that, makes no mistake, Muhammed and Malvo ruined thousands of lives. No apology can be made for that.  Malvo is in prison forever. He is now 27 and is growing up in prison and will die there but for a pardon by a President, which is not forthcoming.

I keep wondering how he (Malvo) could make amends for what he did and can think of nothing. I also think of what Muhammed could do had his life been spared and can think of nothing. If one of those killed had been my family, I am sure if Muhammed were alive, I would ask the state to turn him over to us so we could decide his fate. But that is just emotion; it does not change anything about what they did. One of the sickest moments in human history right in my city. I remember it quite well.



Who could have known that this is an election about percentages now? This is especially so after GOP Presidential candidate’s long lost comments about the 47 percent of the population who are hopeless panhandling non-taxing paying victims.

Listening to the tape it is surreal to hear it because either Mr. Romney is just trying to drum up the cash with an extreme statement that again plays to the fears of the upper classes or he is just that out of touch with the real world.

When I heard it, I immediately thought of my many hardcore Democrat friends who have plenty of cash, nice homes, do not get government assistance (except for their Mortgage Interest deduction), and are going to vote Obama. These individuals don’t even work for the government and with some of them, their children go to private schools but they will happily pay taxes so the public schools can be good for the masses.

The statement by Mr. Romney was, as Atlantic Magazine writer-blogger, Ta’nehisi Coates, noted, playing “the southern strategy” on 47 percent of the population. It was. He is basically calling half the population low life beggars who do not take responsibility for their lives. I can’t imagine it scored any points for him with the many Republicans out there who are on social security, or who work for the government, or who benefit from a government program. Mr. Romney, of course, is trying to dial it back already.

Perhaps, he was just reacting to the other percentage that is big this year – the 99 percent?

While the “Occupy” movement is over in terms of gatherings, the point was made and is hammered home each day. One percent of the population is doing quite well; the other 99 percent, well, many of them are not doing so well. The movement, as short as it was, encapsulated the real issue that has always existed in the U.S.: economic inequality. The only reason why it is not a bigger issue is because things are not bad enough yet where people begin to really feel ripped off. This is when tensions might bring the case to bear such as in Spain or Greece.

The election of Mr. Romney, as crazy it might sound, could bring something to the surface if he once again redistributes more cash to the super wealthy.


President Obama’s children are learning Mandarin. He knows the future. Foreign Policy Magazine‘s latest issue with a theme of “Cities” is suggesting it as well.  The future of the world, the next century, this century, for that matter, will belong to China. Don’t laugh.

According to FP, 40 percent of the world’s most “dynamic” cities are located right now in China. Of the Top 20, 13 are in China. New York is there as is Tokyo, and Istanbul, but China dominates with Shanghai and Beijing right at the top. Sao Paolo (Brazil) is #4.

This is no surprise and everyone in the know knows it. The economic growth for these cities in China is off the charts. Shanghai’s economic growth 344 percent; Beijing – 398 percent, Wuhan – 404 percent.  What is New York’s economic growth? 32 percent.

This is why when I hear Mitt Romney, the GOP candidate say when he gets into office he is going to start a trade war with China, I laugh.  As President Obama had to do, Mitt will be summoned to China or some Asian economic conference or trade summit, and he will be told what is going to happen. There will be objects and the U.S. is still a major economic player, but they are hard pressed to dictate to China what will happen considering that China is our banker.  And, by the way, did I tell you that Chinese banks now dominate the financial sector as well at the top where once American banks ran the show.

Years ago, David Halberstam loosely predicted that China would rise. This was the early 1990’s, the U.S. was drunk with power and wealth and wasting it.  China, long since dismissed as backwards, had that huge land mass and all of those people who could work waiting. It has happened according to FP.  Here is an excerpt from the introduction to this must read issue.

“Many are places you’ve never heard of, from Fuzhou to Wuhan, and speak to the massive transformation of a country that looks to lead the 21st century’s urban revolution as much as the United States reinvented the metropolis for the 20th. The West will not be quite eclipsed by 2025 — 13 U.S. cities make the list, though only three in Europe — but the sun is indeed setting.”

PHOTO CREDIT: The Telegraph UK

bumpy’s blues

“Why are so many people afraid of the concepts post racial and post ethnic? Both are often brushed aside amid a competition over who can declare the most resoundingly that racism is still a vital problem in the United States, and that the physical marks of descent remain highly determinative of an individual’s destiny.”

David Hollinger, a fellow at the American Academy, wrote the above. It is from his article “The Concept of Post-Racial: How Its Easy Dismissal Obscures Important Questions.”  Hollinger’s point is that by focusing upon the existence of racism still today, despite statements about “post racial” and “post ethnic” we continue to reside in a narrow frame of reference. And he is correct.  Our days remain black and white.  Racism is here but the division between black and white should not drive the social analysis in the U.S.

Perhaps, the country is lousy and racist. But, what is done is done. Blacks and whites need to get along but everyone needs to get along. The best statement I have heardd of late was from a Latino woman who said everyone here in the U.S. is not black or white; there are others. Yes, yes, you would think there weren’t.  I get it.

Maybe blacks and whites have centuries to go before slavery and Jim Crow and mandatory minimums, and all the other racial ills can be forgotten. If so, the country can’t be held prisoner by this.

But are we post-racial?

But what about a better question: what is post-racial? It seems to be it isn’t the absence of race or racism but some transitory period from a country that ran on a toxic fuel called “white supremacy.” Maybe that is where we are headed.  Shouldn’t we know where we are headed? We should.  I mean that. I just want to know what is behind the Third Door, as George Clinton said.