Friday, August 15, 2014

Pressure Cooker

Can we all get along?
- Rodney King, 1992 Los Angeles riots


I don’t like being cynical.

Especially about the United States of America.

I’m not particularly good at that kind of pessimism, because I’m generally an optimist when it comes to my country.

And I’d like to say I’m surprised.

I’d like to say that I’m shocked.

I’d like to say that I’m surprised and shocked at the violence and the rage in Ferguson, Missouri.

But I’m not.

Of course I’m not.

I’m not surprised or shocked in any way whatsoever.

And I doubt you are either.

Oh we’re appalled, sure. Some of us are disgusted with the behavior of the rioters and the looters and the protesters.  And some of us are disgusted with the behavior of the police and the various governments.  Like Israel and Gaza, we’ve all got our usual suspects to blame for the conflict, our side to root for and cheer on. But still, whatever side we’re on, we’re all disturbed by the images on our screens.

But we’re not surprised. Are we?

And, you know, that’s the worst part, isn’t it? That, right there. None of us are shocked or surprised. No. This is exactly what we expect in America.

We’re used to it.

I’d like to say I’m outraged, and I am to a certain extent, but not nearly as much as I should be, because the violence, on both sides of the street, cops and protesters, is the norm and not the exception. 

I’d have been surprised if it didn’t happen.

This is part and parcel of The Big Lie we Americans tell ourselves. That one about our vaunted exceptionalism.  Heh, heh, exceptionalism. Riiiiight. Exceptionalism isn’t even a real word, but then that’s par for the course. Tell me, America, what’s so damned exceptional about fearing the police? About living in fear of authority? What’s exceptional about armed troops in the streets? About armored vehicles and automatic weapons on the corners, in the playgrounds, guarding the schools and the store and the police stations? About blockades and showing your papers? What’s exceptional about being shot down without trial or due process? What exactly is exceptional about dead kids in the street? What’s exceptional about tear gas and rubber bullets – or lead ones for that matter? But then what’s so exceptional about an armed population? About citizens who solve their differences with pistols and assault weapons? What’s exceptional about racism and inequality and disparity and naked hate? What’s exceptional about crime and riot? What’s exceptional about the arrest and detainment of journalists and reporters? What’s exceptional about political division that verges on civil war? These things are all too common around the world.

Come now, tell me, America. 

Compare the images from Ferguson, Missouri to Gaza, to Moscow, to Tiananmen Square, to Brazil, to any of a hundred supposedly inferior Third World places we see on our TVs every single day and tell me again about our great American exceptionalism.

If you want to be exceptional, America, then you have to be the exception.  Q.E.D.

The events of Ferguson, Missouri over the last week are the norm in America.

And there is nothing particularly new about any of it. From the Whiskey Rebellion to Ferguson, this is how we so often do business in America. Shoot first, ask questions later, let God sort it out.

The violence in Ferguson is the natural consequence of short sighted policies enacted out of fear, out of reflex and political laziness and a lack of national will. It exists because we are too damned lazy to do anything about it except wring our hands and blame somebody else.

The violence in Ferguson is a direct result of our exceptional inability to face the real problems and deal with them as a mature nation, as a civilized society, and as a reasonable people.

Both the initial confrontation and the resulting violence, those things really aren’t surprising in America at all. They happen all of the time. The media is daily full of similar events. We’ve watched this same scene play out over and over.  Dead kids. Riots. Looting. Burning buildings. Clouds of gas. Police intimidating and almost machinelike in military gear. Enraged citizens. Bloviating politicians. Posturing pundits. A media more interested in manufacturing news than in reporting it. And, of course, as always, a dimwitted easily led American population dutifully lining up on either side each according to political affiliation like good little clockwork automatons, short on facts, long a rumor and rhetoric, shrieking and manically shaking their fists at each other.

Here’s what will happen in Ferguson: Eventually a handful of rioters will be prosecuted and found guilty of property damage or public disorder or some other equally convenient charge. Soon thereafter the police will be exonerated of any wrong doing, though the chief will talk about how they could maybe do things better and how they’re gonna hire themselves more police of color, because, heh heh, you know.  Violence will erupt again, briefly, when it becomes apparent, again, that there really is no justice to be had despite all the promises. But this time the police will be ready and it’ll all peter out into sullen rage and renewed cynical resentment. 

The lessons will be reinforced: Black and white, Right and Left, Rich and Poor, and Fuck the Police.

By then, of course, America will have long forgotten about Ferguson, Missouri.

And we will go on as before.

And the problems that cause this will remain. Unaddressed. Unsolved.

My cynicism and the violence in Ferguson, they’re both symptoms of a much larger problem. A problem that’s been simmering and bubbling for decades – hell, centuries – and every once in a while it boils over. We get scalded, sure, and it’s terrible, and we all scream, why? Why doesn’t somebody do something?  Why can’t we all just get along?

But we never turn down the heat. We never fix the real problem.

We just put the lid back on and hope it’ll be different next time.

Then we forget about it.

Until the pressure cooker explodes in our face yet again.

Last Saturday, a unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, was shot dead by a white police officer.  The shooting occurred around noon in Ferguson, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis, as Brown and a friend walked down a street.

That part is not in dispute.

But nearly every other detail of the event is.

Police say that Brown was shot during a struggle with the arresting officer when he tried to grab the cop’s gun.

Other reports say Brown was killed while kneeling in the street with his hands up.

Of course there’s no video of the event. We’ve got a billion gigabytes of cats and boobs and rednecks doing stupid shit with guns, but somehow the important stuff never gets recorded, does it? All we have is the cop’s word. And the conflicting words of supposed witnesses. Brown, conveniently, isn’t around to defend himself.

Barring the ability to travel through time, we’ll never really know what happened. Not really. Not indisputably. We’ll each believe what we want to believe, whatever best suits our own viewpoint and perception.

But, ultimately, what it comes down to is that an unarmed black teenager was shot dead by a white cop. Again.

As I said up above, there’s nothing exceptional about this scenario. In America, it happens all too often.

At its core, this is about racism – both the individual and the institutionalized kind.

Yes, it's about race. Yes it is. That is the very crux of the matter.

And don’t try to pretend that it’s not.  Race and how we view race in America from our various perspectives always shapes how we perceive incidents like this.  Everything, the inevitable violence, the mollifying empty promises, the gravid media analysis, the openly racist comments, the subtly racist comments, the contemptuous dismissal of the race issue, everything that always follows this kind of event depends from this basic fact: In America it’s always about race.

Ignoring that fact or pretending that it’s not so in order to avoid dealing with it is precisely why it continues day in and day out.




When the police refer to the black population as “animals,” on record, to a reporter, it’s about race.

When the population is predominately black and the police force is predominately white, it’s about race.

When the dialog focuses on the dead teenager’s appearance, his clothing, his friends, his school record, his family, his habits and haunts and hangouts, when the media publically debates whether he was a “good son” or a “thug,” it’s about race.

When the media openly speculates about the victim’s possible drug use or criminal history, it’s about race.

When your perception of the dead teen’s guilt or innocence is determined by which political party you belong to or which political pundit you listen to, it’s about race.

When you attempt to justify the death of a black teenager because other black people smashed windows and lit shit on fire in protest, it’s about race. 

When you attempt to dismiss another dead black teenager at the hands of the police by quoting statistics about “black on black” crime, it’s about race.

When you’re more outraged about the unconstitutional arrest and intimidation of white reporters than you are about the unconstitutional shooting of a black teenager, it’s about race.

When you’re more concerned about the militarization of white police than you are about the fact that those same police gunned down a black teenager for no apparent reason other than he happened to be walking down a public street while black, just like any of a hundred other black teenagers gunned down by those in authority, it’s about race. 

When you suggest with a knowingly raised eyebrow that a black teenager ought to be smart enough to immediately submit to police authority without any trace of resentment or risk summary execution, but you think a bunch of white ranchers are patriots for defying the government and pointing assault rifles at federal agents, it’s about race.

When those things, all of those things, are what determines in the court of public opinion whether or not the dead kid deserved what he got or whether he was a victim, well, folks, then it’s about race.

When a white cop shoots dead an unarmed black teenager, it’s about race.

In America, it’s always about race.




Where were the up-armored police forces when it was the Bundy Ranch? Where was the tear gas? Where were the journalists being dragged away in handcuffs while police confiscated their cameras?

And the real question is where were the bodies of those who refused to submit to lawful authority?

That’s what I asked on Twitter.

The responses were … educational.

Take Dante DaDemonkiller for example:


Ah, paramilitary white secessionists of the  Bundy Ranch, armed and organized (heh heh) are good then, right?

I have to wonder what Mr. Demonkiller and those of his Libertarian persuasion would say if Black Panthers, organized and armed with assault weapons, had shown up in Ferguson to defend the black population from white police officers?

Visualize it, visualize your TV screen full of angry defiant black men in paramilitary clothing coming from across the nation, carrying assault rifles, standing shoulder to shoulder in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, facing down the police. Go on, picture it.  What do you see? Patriots? Do you see patriots? Is that what you see?

Don’t make me laugh.

Oh certainly, I’m speculating here. Perhaps Dante the Demonkiller would cheer when Nation of Islam soldiers took up arms against the government of Ferguson.

But I suspect not.

Tell me it’s not about race, go ahead, I’ll try to keep a straight face.




Why do I compare the two events?

Why do I invite division?

Oh yeah, it’s me. I’m the one.

It’s not the fact that once again police shot down an unarmed black teenager.  Noooooo, that’s not it.

It’s me, I’m the one inviting division by asking why it’s okay for white militia to come from across America and point guns at the government without so much as one single arrest, but an unarmed black kid can’t walk down street in his own neighborhood without risking a death sentence?

Yeah, it’s me.

If you think questioning the status quo is what causes division, there’s nothing much I can say to you.

The events in Ferguson are, to some extent, about the line where rightful protest becomes wrongful riot.

But what gets lost in that discussion is why the protest began in the first place – and the riot, for that matter.  When people feel they’ve been treated poorly, when they have no hope of anything better, when their very lives and the lives of those they love can be taken without consequence, then they tend to fight back via any means available.  Yes, black people riot in America, true, and so do white people and yellow people and red people and it turns out that violent riot isn’t the exclusive domain of any one race.  If you think it is, if you think white people smashing windows and beating the shit out of each other after a sporting event is just “boys being boys” but black people reacting in rage on the streets of Ferguson is how “animals” behave, well, folks, as I said, all you’re doing is proving me right.

Riot is wrong. It’s criminal and illegal and dangerous, counter-productive, and worse, it distracts from the real issues. But here in America, what distinguishes riot from protest is very, very different depending on race, affluence, neighborhood, and political affiliation.

Much of the hand-wringing during this last week is over militarization of America's police force.

Yes, our police forces are growing increasingly mechanized and more heavily armed.

Social media and the news are rife with discussions about government programs to distribute surplus military equipment to police departments. Our screens are saturated with pictures of cops, insectile and menacing in military style armor, scowling impassively at the camera from behind the gaping muzzles of their heavy weapons. 

But what’s missing here is the counterbalance.

While it’s true that our police forces have up-armored, so has the civilian population.

We’re armed to the fucking teeth, we Americans.

Or did you miss those Tea Party rallies, the gun shows, all those militias, or those pictures from the Bundy Ranch? And the gangs and the criminals toting semi-auto armor piecing weaponry.  Guns fill our stores, our homes, and our streets and a loud vocal well funded fraction of Americans wants more guns, more more more.

And what? You think cops should face that armed populace with their trusty old .38s and a smile? C’mon.

This is nothing new. Back in the 1870’s following the Civil War, former soldiers, some Union but many former Confederates, terrorized the West using surplus military equipment and tactics.  You’ve maybe heard of the James Gang, right? The Youngers? The Daltons? The Wild Bunch? Eventually the various police forces and private security companies used military tactics to hunt those criminals down and restore order. In the  1930s, during the heyday of Prohibition, gangsters roamed the streets of America, robbing banks and blazing away with Tommy Guns.  You’ve heard of this, right? Seen the movies maybe? Sure, Ma Barker, Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, Machine Gun Kelly. And again, eventually the G-Men got themselves some Thompson submachine guns of their own. And armored cars. And surplus war equipment. And they set up road blocks and id checks and tapped phones.  After World War II the same thing happened. And after Vietnam. And here we are.

So, yes, we’re giving surplus military equipment to local police forces. Of course we are. Because otherwise we have to leave it in Iraq or Afghanistan. Or we could let that equipment rust on military bases across the nation because we don’t have the funding or forces to maintain it, or we could dump it over the side of the transport ships into the sea like we did coming home from Vietnam. 

Those MRAPs and armored vehicles cost us, you and me, a very large fortune – and that’s a bill we and our children are going to be paying on for a very long time.  Those machines were designed for a specific role in a particular conflict and they came too late to be of much use. So what the hell do we do with them? We do what we always do, we hand them out in some forlorn hope of recouping maybe just a bit of the massive cost of war.  This is nothing new. Our national guard armories are full of WWII field pieces, and Korean war jeeps, and Vietnam era helicopters. 

And so the national guard and the police find themselves with obsolete armored trucks that are in large part prohibitively expensive to operate and not really very useful for much of anything other than starting conspiracy theories.

The body armor and the assault rifles? Well, hell, folks when you’re facing militia in body armor and armed with assault rifles, what the fuck do you expect?  That’s what happens with escalation, one side up-armors, so the other side up-armors, so the first side up-armors more, which means the other side has … well, you get the idea. 

Which, inevitably leads to the “well, yeah, but see, the [citizens/government] started it! We’ve got to react, man, got to! We can’t let the [citizens/government] get the upper hand! Fascists! Nazis! Mobs! Revolution! Blah blah blah, round and round, in a perfect case of the self-licking ice cream cone.


Does that mean that we shouldn’t be discussing the limits of law enforcement and its role in our communities? No, of course not. Obviously we need to talk about it, and take action, and watch closely. Of course. But that isn’t the point here and that discussion is part of the larger conversation we should be having.

There’s no damned point in patching up law enforcement if the laws and the society they support aren’t just and equal to begin with.

[end edit]

And now we’ve drifted far, far from the real issue.

The violence in Ferguson, and in Sanford, and Los Angeles, and Watts, and Selma, wasn’t caused by militarization of the police force. That was most certainly a contributing factor, but it’s not the cause.

The violence in Ferguson wasn’t caused by the current occupant of the White House, or the previous one for that matter. Nor was it caused by illegal immigrants, or Benghazi, or the IRS, or NSA, or 911, or UFOs. 

The violence in Ferguson sure wasn’t sparked by the arrest of white reporters. It wasn’t caused by the media or the pundits or social media, though all of those things certainly fanned the flames.

The violence in Ferguson wasn’t caused by liberals. It wasn’t caused by conservatives. It wasn’t caused by republicans or democrats or the goddamned Nazis.

It wasn’t caused by any of those things. Those things are side effects.

Allowing ourselves to be distracted by side effects blinds us to the real causes and therefore to actual solutions.

The violence in Ferguson, Missouri is about race. 

Everything that’s happened begins from that simple point.

And until we deal with that, that right there and all the myriad complex problems that depend from it, the centuries of social inequality, the lack of justice, the us and them mentality, the poverty, the drugs, the guns, the politics, the lost potential and opportunity, and especially the rage, until we face that head on and actually do something about it in a fair and reasoned manner, then scenes like Ferguson will continue to play out on the evening news.

I don’t like being cynical.

Especially about the United States of America.

I think we’re better than this.

I think we can be exceptional.

But I’m not holding my breath at this point.


  1. Yes. It is about race. I hope we don't have to solve that first or it will be a long damn wait. Maybe we can chip away at the edges, nibble at the problem and work our way to it gradually.

    The alternative is too depressing to contemplate.

    1. Well, shoot, I just typed out a wonderful response to Jim's post, but I am not seeing it, but essentially I wrote that racism is only a symptom of the larger issue, which is the seemingly endless need to feel superior to others. It is the idea that if I work hard enough I can have more than I need, and in the process will be seen as a success. It is the need to be viewed by others as a success. Rather than having an internal locus of self-worth, we seem to all need to have someone else tell us how good we are as a person based on how much we have. There is a never-ending lust to be better than the next person, and racism is just another form of that, it is another way to express "I am better than them." It may not be remotely true, but there is that need to FEEL that way. It really isn't about racism, it's about a false sense of being better, worth more, more educated, or smarter, you name it, there is someone who will claim to be the best at it. Get rid of the overwhelming sense of competition among ourselves, and some of this will go away. Life is not a competition; I am not the best at any thing, I don't want to be. I want to have enough to live in relative comfort, and help as many people as I can along the way. Are there blacks I do not like, sure, but then there are even more whites that I do not like, simply because I know more whites than I do any other race or color. I do not like or dislike people based solely on all that, I like people because of who they are, and if they are assholes, well, there's a good chance I won't like them.
      Change the societal need to feel superior, and racism will become a thing of the past. It is that simple, and that difficult.

    2. Excellent point Jon. I learned long ago that humankind has an innate need to have someone to look down upon. Those who do not fight against this are part of the problem, not part of the solution. Your analysis is so on target.

  2. Jesus. This. You knocked it out of the park again.

  3. If a white person is hurt in a "protest", the cop that did the hurting has consequences. Think of the Occupy Oakland protests (i.e. vandalizing banks) of 2011 or the UC Davis pepper spray incident.

    1. The Bloomberg/JPMorgan Chase/Goldman Sachs paid cops did shitty things to Occupy Wall Street, but not many consequences when those two banks made very public "donations" to the police. We live in a "Nation of Laws" (someone could start a LOLCats type sarcastic blog of banks and the other Powers That Be getting away with all kinds of shit), yet HSBC launders drug money and a bunch of other illegal shit, yet they get a fine, no one arrested, and continue doing shit because they are a systemically important bank. Some bank we never heard of in Jordan, NPR reports they are being brought up on charges for financing terrorism. Really? Like the Mexican drug lords weren't terrorizing anybody? Killing people in Mexico? We do not live in a nation of laws.

      "The violence in Ferguson is the natural consequence of short sighted policies enacted out of fear, out of reflex and political laziness and a lack of national will. It exists because we are too damned lazy to do anything about it except wring our hands and blame somebody else.

      The violence in Ferguson is a direct result of our exceptional inability to face the real problems and deal with them as a mature nation, as a civilized society, and as a reasonable people."

      OWS tried to do something about the criminals on Wall Street, they got the same shitty treatment by the cops.

    2. John Pike, Pepper-Spraying Cop, Gets $38,000 Disability ...

    3. The REAL LOOTERS identified

    4. OWS wasn't treated nearly the same as the rioters. They were allowed to camp out a long time before finally being cleared. It went on for weeks. Ferguson had riot cops and tear gas going in hours.

      A few outliers in some cities, but in general they were given a LOT of rope.

      One other question.. what if it had been a poor White or Hispanic neighborhood and the cop had been black.. we wouldn't have ever heard about it and there would certainly have been no riots. There is still a volatility on both sides of the racial divide and neither wants to step back. The black community is extremely sensitive, and the white side is extremely reactionary.

  4. Very succinct and an accurate assessment. Again. It is about race. We know it but don't like to admit that we are still that backward.

    One small correction; "In America, it happens all to often.", should be "In America, it happens all TOO often."

    1. That was "succinct"?? Some good points lost in the repetition.

    2. tl:dr

      There it is, the soundbite generation. ADHD America. Didn't have time to read the article, still had time to comment.

  5. Replies
    1. referring to army hippie chick :)

  6. So, perhaps the United Federation of Planets and the Klingons are playing their games with us after all. It's that old "balance of power" thing, isn't it?

    If I remember right, it was about race in that episode, too.

  7. As someone who was born in Alabama in 1958 and watched the horrors of racism each night on television with my parents (and sometimes directly in front of me) all through the Civil Rights movement, I agree. This is about racism. The only good thing about this is that we have diversity in America. You don't have acts of racism when everyone is the same race.

    1. I was 15 during the Vietnam War protests and then People's Park riots in Berkeley.... and the police scare the CRAP out of me still. Even though I'm an older, straight white woman. Every time I deal with one, I have this urge to RUN. But I know better. We were taught over the years to say, "Yes Sir" and "How high (do you want me to jump)?" when confronted by any police-type person. Especially if they had a gun. Even if they were wrong. You know...settle it in front of the Judge....

      But I know that isn't an option for some people. Sometimes you are going to die. How insane.

  8. Some folks believe if a black lays a hand on you, they deserve to die. Zimmerman justified his action by a boo-boo on his head. Darren Wilson claims he was hit in the face.

    Most people don't see this as justification for an execution. But some folks follow a strict code of "you touch me, you die". They will always believe a "combative" black deserves to be put down.

  9. Can you imagine the carnage had the protesters in Ferguson taken advantage of their Second Amendment rights while attempting to exercise their First Amendment rights? Where's Wayne LaPierre? Shouldn't he be all over cable news shouting that the folks in Ferguson wouldn't have been beaten, shot at or gassed had they been open carrying as the Constitution allows? Why aren't the gun rights supporters advocating for the rights of the people of Ferguson to protect and defend themselves and their property? They don't seem to have any problem with the white people in the surrounding communities buying up as many guns and ammo as they can get in the face of such unrest, but I guess that right doesn't extend to their black and brown brothers and sisters a few miles down the road.

    1. The 1 thing southern plantation owners were absolutely scared to death of was ARMED blacks; it was their worst nightmare and why John Brown had to dance danny deaver.


    2. You mean like these folks? http://www.dallasnews.com/news/metro/20140820-huey-p.-newton-gun-club-leads-open-carry-rally-in-south-dallas.ece No words of support from LaPierre and the folks at the NRA yet. But I'm sure we'll see that soon, right?

  10. Bingo! Right on the nosey! And it echoes what I have been saying. It's ALWAYS about race. Hooray for the often unspoken, but always believed inherent superiority to our fellow humans just based on how much melanin one has in their skin. (Or which kind of dangly bits one has, which is another conflict that has no beginning and no apparent end.) Dear dread Cthulhu (if I may borrow the phrase), I am beyond godsdamned tired of all the divisions we set up amongst ourselves--artificial precepts of ranking based on shit that does NOT matter when figuring up the worth inherent in each sacred being that lives. All the things that make the news: race, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, ethnicity, ya da ya da ya da? Not ONE single bit of that truly measureth a man...nor anyone else. Then what does matter? How about: were they kind, did they honor the sacred being of their fellow humans? Did they always strive to be the very best "them" that they could? Did they recognize, honor and sustain the incredible interconnections we all have with each other? Did they work diligently to find those connections and reject anything that denied the commonalities of human life? (In other words, ain't a one of "them" a corporation, know what I mean?)
    I don't give a good two fucks about what your religion is, as long as you live a spiritual life. Note the difference, and again, there's no requirement for a specific denomination or dogma. I don't care what color you are, what sex you are, where you're from (or your family was from)...I only know this, from John Donne:
    "No man is an island, Entire of itself, Every man is a piece of the continent, A part of the main...Any man's death diminishes me, Because I am involved in mankind..."
    Thank you again, Jim, for saying the things we need to hear out loud.

  11. Maybe it's just me being too sucked into the whole thing after two days of reading things unfold on Twitter in realtime. But, after watching thousands of people gather for vigils and marches in over a hundred cities on Thursday night for #NMOS14, seeing all the pictures and anger and hope for change... I certainly don't want to watch it end with us right back at the status quo.

    Also, I'm having a hard time picturing a low middle class community of people (black or otherwise) in a town of 20k being as armed to the teeth as the police were. In a general nationwide sense, you're probably right about the domestic arms race, but then you have Capt Ron Johnson go in without any of the armaments that the county police had, and proceed to accomplish exactly what they could not.

    Also also, another sidestory to all this is the role of social media to the whole thing. Twitter was where I got nearly all of my news, since that's what was closest to the source. That's where the firsthand witnesses were posting their stories and pictures and etc. including pictures of the actual event. That's where #NMOS14, which was massive, got organized. The traditional mainstream media was always about a day late on reporting anything going on.

    1. Twitter is where I got my first-hand news the last few days about Ferguson, too, but I was careful to cross-check with several other news sites I usually read, first, before I commented either on Twitter or face-to-face with family members or on any blog. I'd rather be right (verified) than first.

    2. Does the fact that the stolen property was found on Brown (and thus, that he assaulted the clerk) make the statement that he died over a struggle for the officer's gun more likely?

    3. The consensus approach seemed to work well - assume that most people are not lying and not conspiring, watch and see if what they're independently saying is consistent with each other.

      People on Twitter were always several hours ahead of the organized news sites, which you could tell by what their tweets said. Like, when most people not reading Twitter were still talking about the riot, the riot phase had been over for a day and a half. And so far I've not seen anyone outside of Twitter talk about the hundreds of peaceful demonstrations that happened Thursday.

    4. ... and of course I came here first and wrote my (not yet approved as I write this) second comment here first, before checking Twitter again to find out about last night's looters. >.> Sigh.

    5. Anonymous: you're the first I've seen claim that as a fact. Do you have a source you can cite here?

      ... and, having caught up on the looters, it turns out that the story is even more beautiful. The protesters had to defend the stores from the looters, because they don't have a valid local police force whose job it would be to do that on behalf of the community they protect and serve.

    6. I subscribe to the theory that Capt. Ron Johnson is actually Commander Samuel Vimes.

    7. Different anonymous here. Long AP article in our local paper headed with the ID of the shooting officer. The dead teen, Michael Brown, was identified on surveillance video from a local convenience store where he shoved the clerk around and stole a package of Swisher Sweets. He was stopped by an officer for walking down the middle of a public street at noon, which is not exactly safe. That officer at some point shot and killed Mr. Brown. So we are left with a classic "he said-she said-they said" between a policeman, a dead teenager, and a witness who was not involved in any crime, but was a friend of the deceased. Mr. Brown's family (particularly his mother) is devastated, never having known him to be involved in such a thing. No weapon was displayed on the surveillance video during the theft incident. The policeman involved has been in law enforcement in the area for six years and never has been written up for any infraction in either of two departments he served.

      Two thoughts, neither related to race: 1) I am most interested in the results of any toxicology tests performed on Mr. Brown. When people start doing outrageous things that are not in character there is often a reason for such actions. 2) One of the problems of arming our police forces with surplus military gear is a problem related to the denotations and connotations of words; when you put on the gear you associate with war, you put on that mindset as well. How appropriate is that for a force whose mission is to "protect and serve"?

      A thought related to race, and I am tired of crying about it too. Why is it still considered mostly acceptable to kill someone over something like a box of Swisher Sweets-especially if he or she is African American? Why is it that we can't make any progress on this and related issues? We are making more progress on the issue of marriage equality, a relatively recent issue, and at something approaching warp speed, too - but this racism/slavery thing has been hanging around our collective neck like a dead albatross for 300 years now. Three centuries! It is long past time we found a creative way to approach this problem and move forward.

      And very impressed with Captain Johnson. He is a man of courage and compassion.

  12. Jim, you're sounding like Ta-Nehisi Coates. Stop scaring me.

    I think what makes America exceptional is that we are the first Federation in the world founded on Enlightenment principles. This something that reactionaries would like desperately to fix.

    BTW, I think you overstate the case of the armed population. Yes, sometimes the military hardware may be needed. But these cases are rare--most small towns don't need the stuff, and it would be better for their police if they put it away, most of the time.

    1. The actual level of civilian armament, if that is even possible to measure in any useful way, is irrelevant. To the military, to paramilitary forces, what matters is worst case scenario. I say that as a former military planner and doctrine developer. You must always assume worst case scenario. Always.

      When militia groups and Tea Partiers and Second Amendment ammosexuals declare that they must be armed to the level necessary to scare those in power ... well, they scare those in power. The rest naturally follows.

      For what it's worth, that's how we got into Iraq the second time.

    2. Jim, did you see this, speaking of military and armaments?

      Veterans on #Ferguson: https://t.co/iXALMZsyJG

    3. I saw. For the most part I agree.

    4. Isn't it the political brothers of the Tea Party Republicans in Congress that arm the local police departments? Seems to me it's the unarmed civilians they see as enemies, not their own. And even you and me.

    5. Yes--it is easy to understand the over reaction of the local 'protect and serve' group. I work with 2 wives of police officers, and their reactions are always on the side of " OMG my husband is in danger". And you hit the nail on the head Jim. Until you can turn the tables of the scenario and exchange the roles of the involved blacks and whites...and come up with no difference in outcome...you have a race problem. I also see the problem as wider than that. Our propensity to quickly start looking for ways to blame the victim, as in "The black kid stole something and pushed the old man", or "Robin Williams was a coward", or "that college girl that was raped shouldn't have been drunk". And instead of thinking for themselves and saying "wait a minute...nobody deserves to be gunned down by police while unarmed; or feel so hopeless they hang themselves; or be raped no matter how they are dressed or how drunk they are", too many people just use this stuff to justify their sick/fearful lives. And media fuels it all.

    6. Following thought: it seems to me that "those in power" are much more scared by peaceful democratic egalitarian movements than by heavily-armed paramilitaries.

      There seems to be a faction among humanity (it is not just a US thing) that needs scapegoats, that needs people on the bottom, because it doesn't feel secure if there isn't someone they can abuse. Any democratic egalitarian polity must keep these people far from power if it is to remain democratic and egalitarian. And it seems to me we are doing a poor job of that, here in the USA.

      They hate us for our freedoms, and <sarcasm>it's not about race, because nothing is ever about race </sarcasm>.

  13. Attorney General Eric Holder was absolutely correct when, in reference to racial issues, he proclaimed us to be a nation of cowards. The issues are (ironically) not black and white but have many shades of gray and, instead of exploring those nuanced issues that shape our shared national experience, our cable network and radio pundits choose to sell controversy to whip up emotions, spread fear and boost ratings. Sadly, from what I've seen both recently and historically, the most dangerous "animal" out there is a scared white dude with a gun.


  14. I'm just going to say that...I need to hit the donate button. I'm getting schooled in essay writing, and I'm damn glad I found you.

    Peace. fortygeek

    1. If you do decide to donate, know that I appreciate it very much. Thank you // Jim

  15. Another great piece on current events, Mr. Wright - parsing the situation with your keen eye and take no prisoners terms. I wish I didn't share your cynicism of our country. I wish it didn't increasingly depress me with the way it is leaning.

    I only have one personal observation to make. I was at Kent State University on May 4th, 1970. There have been instances of white, unarmed "rioters" being killed and wounded by an out-of-control, all-white military group acting as a police force. Also with *very* bad leadership.

    That wasn't about race, it was about class. The end result was the same you predict for this case.

    1. Recent audio evidence brings up 3 points on that day: 1)"lock and load" order was given. Jim you know that order is only given in 2 situations; range practice and leaving the wire and entering 'indian country.' 2) "fix bayonets" ; no other order will chill an infantryman's heart like that one .3) "open fire". This last was followed by the volley of shots.
      PS It is also about race. Just a day or 2 later at a small black college, Jackson State in Mississippi an equal number of black students were killed. Some IN their dorm rooms. This event is mostly forgotten whenever Kent state is mentioned. Gee, wonder why!?


  16. This is a spot on argument. I did a post today at Leftypop about Ferguson and how it is about Fear and race. The whites fear black so they strike first. Your site was forwarded to me by one of my readers and I couldn't be happier that they did. Wonderful piece. Thank you.

  17. Exactly...it's all about race. And, after 150 years, we're still fighting the Civil War because there are people who still insist that the color of a person's skin determines what kind of a person he/she is. We hear it over and over again, all the dog whistles (subtle and not-so-subtle) that are used in every day judgements to explain why "those" people are doing whatever it is "they" are doing.

    And it's also about fear, fear of change mostly. The world is changing and there are lots of people who are terrified that it will leave them unprotected. And it's also about fear of what "those" people will want to do in order to revenge the generations of injustice that have put the country in the position it is today.

    I used to look forward to the future, thinking that the world would be a better place for my kids and grandkids in which to live. But, like you, I find myself getting more cynical. I find that I have to insulate myself from most of the daily news, keeping up with only the "big" stories and politics. It's not the way I want to live, but I have to do this to avoid getting depressed at the way the country seems to be trending. I'm not planning to stop, especially since I've found Stonekettle, but it sure gets hard to move forward when we have to fight the same battles I thought we took care of 50 years ago.

    Thanks for the excellent essays, Jim. They remind me that there are thinking people out there.

  18. What depresses ME is thinking about the level of committment - in lives, in time, in cash, in changes to everything from the way we look at each other to the way we think about or nation - it would take to change this in any significant way. It wouldn't matter who needed to do what to who, and how. It's a ginormous issue, and not only won't we address it, we can barely discuss it other than to justify the way things are now.

    Hell, we can't be arsed to keep blind people and drunks away from loaded weaponry; how the hell could we ever wrap ourselves around this hot mess.

    I think the only difference is that I'm okay with doing pessimism and cynicism. I don't like it, but I can accept that one of the major aspects of human nature is that a lot of the time we will ignore a problem until it jumps up and kills us dead. We avoid prostate exams. We have sex with crazy people. We throw blood and treasure - usually OTHER people's blood and treasure, if possible, but, there - into pointless foreign expeditions based on wishful thinking and completely batshit fantasy.

    We've been whistling past this racial graveyard for 300 years. Why the hell should we stop now?

  19. We continue to be a racist nation. Will we ever have real, honest dialog about it? I think not.

  20. Brown was walking with a friend, 22-year-old Dorian Johnson, on his way to his grandmother's residence in a nearby apartment complex. In an interview with MSNBC, Johnson says the two were walking in the street when a police car approached and the as-yet-unidentified officer instructed them to "get the fuck onto the sidewalk." They told the officer they were almost at their destination and would be out of the street in a minute. Johnson says at that point the officer slammed his brake, backed up and asked, "What'd you say?" while opening his car door and attempting to get out. The door hit Brown and then closed. Johnson says the officer then grabbed Brown by the neck.

    He continues: "They're not wrestling so much as [the officer's] arm went from [Brown's] throat to now clenched on his shirt. It's like tug of war. He's trying to pull him in. He's pulling away, that's when I heard, ‘I'm gonna shoot you.'"

    According to Johnson, the first shot followed not too long after. He and Brown both started running, Johnson ducking behind a nearby parked car and Brown continued past him. The officer fired a second shot, this one hitting Brown in the back. Johnson says Brown then turned around with his hands in the air and said "I don't have a gun, stop shooting!" The officer ignored Brown's words and fired several more shots.

    Parts of Johnson's version of the story are backed up by another eyewitness, Piaget Crenshaw, who has said "They shot him, and he fell. He put his arms up to let them know he was compliant, and that he was unarmed. And they shot him twice more, and he fell to the ground and died."

    1. If this somehow proves to have been the case, then how can anyone possibly expect there should NOT be any riot?? And O'Reilly wants the family to trust the authorities HE otherwise doesn't trust?


  21. Jim, this may sound like it's coming out of left-field .. but did you even see my comments about "=who= 'benefits' "?? Just 'wondering'...

  22. There are a very few times when it isn't about racism. For instance, when it is about money AKA classicism. Or is is about sexism. Or it is about religion.

    Then again, Heinlein had it right. “Political tags — such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth — are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.” What Heinlein missed was the fact that people want others to be controlled, they themselves are usually above needing the limits they would impose on others.

    1. Beware of binary situations or descriptions. They're almost universally oversimplifications. I'm as big a Heinlein fan as anyone, but he was writing fiction, not actually trying to solve the big problems, or even studying what causes them.

  23. Thank you Mr. Wright. I had a feeling that your next diatribe would address this issue. This makes me sick to be an American.

  24. Typo catch for you :

    "And, you know, that’s worst the part, isn’t it?" Think you meant :

    "And, you know, that’s the worst part, isn’t it?"

    This article & situation reminds me of something Isaac Asimov wrote in one of his many essays a very long time ago. (1970s? 1980s?)

  25. I couldn't comment the first time I read it because I was reading it on my phone. Nicely done, and you stuck the landing.

  26. Bullshit, Jim. Sure, in Ferguson and in many other cases race is obviously a major factor. But it's both dishonest and counterproductive to pretend that racism is the prime mover in all this. Cops murder white people all the time -- poor white people of course, but even some middle-class these days -- those incidents just don't stir up the national news as often as cases where you can write everything off to racism. Also, whites are largely too atomized now to protest as a community the way the blacks in Ferguson did -- not as much of a threat. And the fact that the authorities often let right-wingers act up without cracking down doesn't prove a damn thing -- at least not about the case you're trying to make. You think poor whites (or lefties) would be treated any better if they seemed to be getting out of control?

    You said it yourself -- the farmers in the Whiskey Rebellion, the Bonus Army guys, the hundreds who've been murdered in Labor disputes, all the innocent bystanders killed by mistake in drug raids and more and more in cases of plain failure to grovel properly -- those were all black people? You know damn well they weren't. That explanation is way too easy and lets way too many people keep on feeling righteous while ignoring more problematic factors. Naturally It also helps keep us divided. Do I have to make the obligatory obeisance? Yes, racism is still here. There. Everybody satisfied?

    You want video? Well here's just one incident of many, but this one was caught on video in its entirety. Completely non-aggressive homeless (white) guy beaten to death by several cops. The instigating cop happened to be Latino. All the cops walked.

    Raw video: Kelly Thomas police beating

    I could go on all night listing police violence that clearly had nothing to do with race. Well, in some cases cops were black and the victims white. As for the police militarizing out of fear, again bullshit. More like hostility and intimidation. Look at this guy --

    Ferguson_sniper on armored car

    Ferguson_police sniper

    Sitting in the open, elevated above the crowd with no cover. Does that spell "I'm afraid for my life" to you? Or is it more like "We own you, get on your knees."

    1. As noted in the text, I'm doing my best best to nod and keep a straight face. Please, Sir, continue.

    2. Most of the essay is spot on, but, Jim, think about it - it is not JUST about Race. PaintedJaguar has a point. Police gunned down that white man in Ohio because he was wearing earphones and listening to music, so he couldn't hear them at first. I've had friends abused by police because the officer thought they were 'white trash' and not worthy of protection under the law.

      Saying it is all about race is ignoring lots of facts, just like saying it is not about race at all.

      I think you were headed in the right direction when you wrote about fear.

      If you give cowards guns, they will kill whatever frightens them. And you have tv news making people afraid of just about everything. Black men, Homeless people, Gay people, Brown people, Men with long hair or beards, People who dress different, look different, think different. Fear. Fear of losing something, whether that is material possession, reputation, standing, a lover. It all comes down to fear and how we are taught to deal with it - or, in this case, how we are taught to not deal with it at all.

    3. Both of you might need to read the essay again. I was quite specific about the focus, I stated it several times in fact.

    4. Oh, I've had my rant. But all right -- since it's you, Jim and not someone like Scalzi -- I'll try to keep a straight face too, although it's an eye-roll I'm holding back. The popular idea that racism is this country's Original Sin annoys me nearly as much as the idiots who think we're "post-racial". Slavery didn't spring from racism, you know, it's the other way 'round.

      What I'm saying is, to me you're sounding like someone who's bumped into a great big root-branch on a banyan tree and thinks he's got hold of the main trunk. However, I haven't any stake in persuading or preaching, except to register a token dissent..

      I've been around long enough to have lived in the segregated South and to have formed some notion of how far we have and haven't come from that arrangement. Not so very far, I think. Still, people like Clarence Thomas, Obama, Condi Rice, Colin Powell & son, have demonstrated that, given the chance, they can screw things up as well as any white boy. So there's that. Make no mistake, that is real progress, I'm not joking. It's also a fine example of how you can have movement along a particular axis without at all disturbing the surrounding matrix. If you could wave a magic wand tomorrow and turn everybody purple, we'd still be mired in most of the same problems, although the pain would be spread out a little more evenly -- for a while. Until the next round of musical chairs.

      As for recent events, I know where my sentiments lie, but really I can't claim to know the truth about either Ferguson or the Cliven Bundy thing except that they were both debacles involving law enforcement and race. I do feel confident in thinking Bundy is a waste of oxygen.

    5. You interest me strangely, Jag,

      What do you mean by since it's you, Jim and not someone like Scalzi ?

      I feel like I should take that as a compliment, but I'd like to be sure.

      As to the rest of your observation: I think you're maybe pushing my commentary a bit further than I intended it to go, but I'm not inclined to argue.

    6. paintedjaguar: "Slavery didn't spring from racism, you know, it's the other way 'round."

      In what alternate universe are you living? Of *course* slavery sprang from racism: from the belief that blacks were animals, not people, and that it was therefore acceptable to sell them, own them, make them work without pay, and even kill them if they pissed you off.

      Your main premise is completely false.

    7. Slavery didn't spring from racism (at least as we understand it today), and racism didn't come from slavery. We can blame colonialism for what we now call racism.
      The original slaves in the Caribbean were a "race" even lower than blacks: Irish. The reason early jazz sounds like a mixture of Irish tunes and African rhythms? That's exactly what it is.
      This is getting good reviews; I haven't read it myself: White Cargo: The Forgotten History of Britain's White Slaves in America

    8. Yes, Jim, it was a compliment. 1) Scalzi's site is somewhere I don't bother to go anymore -- I don't care for witch hunts. No, I wasn't tarred and feathered myself, because I saw which way the wind was blowing and didn't see any profit in giving that crowd an opening by commenting over there -- Internet Rule #33: There's no defense against someone determined to think ill of you. It was interesting to hear that you'd been burned, but not surprising. If I didn't expect better from you, I'd have kept my trap shut. 2) I never thought you were simplistic enough to actually be saying that racism is the Root of All Evil (plenty of other evil to go around) but these days it only takes a few people repeating "it's all about ___" and the wild hunt is on.

      Re what sgs posted above -- I put up a couple of things about the history of slavery over here -- The stench of a slave ship -- mostly as an excuse to promote this excellent article by Cindy Vallar -- Captain Blood - The History Behind the Novel (concerns slavery, Pirates, Errol Flynn's first movie and a fine historical novel -- some spoilers if you don't know the book and/or movie)

      Re what Anonymous had to say -- Slavery has a long, long history and only rarely had anything to do with race. That's mostly a recent wrinkle. In North America, the natives were keeping and trading slaves before either the white man or the black man ever arrived.

    9. To say that race didn't factor in to this event is disingenuous at best. To say that race isn't really an issue anymore is...uhm...mind-boggling

    10. I would argue that you are dancing on the edge of the fallacy of division form of fallacy of distribution, paintedjaguar, with the slavery dealie you've posed here.
      And I would argue that Mr Wright was pretty dang careful NOT to fall into the flip side of that - the fallacy of compostion.
      Arguments from the general to the particular as you seem to be doing or vice versa, the particular to the general, as Mr Wright has done here fascinate me.
      Both have their own perils as per construction.
      I disagree with Mr Wright fairly often in many ways and on many fronts but think he builds his arguments in a consistent and reasoned manner, avoiding fallacious reasoning pretty damn well.
      And has done that here, yet again.
      Alaska Pi

  27. 'We have met the enemy and he is us.' ~ Pogo
    As usual your essay conjures up many worthwhile questions, offers an essentially sound argument and strikes to the underbelly that is central to who we are.
    Your words flow with the ease a shot of single malt warming the belly just before it unsettles the mind and sends it into an orbit coterminous with a soul in search of home. Thank you for sussing out this haunting, yet garish truth.
    Best to you and your family, ~ Michael Touhey

  28. I'm a person of color. I'm actually a very profoundly assimilated, very privileged, very acceptable person of color (I'm American born and raised half-Chinese, half-Caucasian, child of intellectual liberals for what it's worth).

    I totally agree that these events are about racism.

    Because I am a person of color, I look to folks who aren't to make the first move. Because I cannot opt out of racism. Unlike white folks, I cannot elect to have a conversation not be about race. For me, in my experience, it's about race first, and it's only not about race if a nearby white person or collection of white people decide it isn't.

    If instead it's decided the conversation will be about race, I know that music and I know when I have the ability to be articulate and when I need to just curl up and take my lumps.

  29. Very cogent essay, as usual. I wanted to point out a grammatical error, i. e., "predominately" vs. "predominantly", but it seems the line has become fuzzy as with so many words in our language these days. So while I still prefer the latter, carry on, sir!

  30. Of course it's about race. With Bundy, the only ones called animals were the cows.

    1. And I remember that Bundy was pretty clear about how those black people sat on their porches down in Las Vegas and got handouts, etc. So.....

  31. That's military practice. Policing, though, rests on Sir Bobby Peel's idea that the police are part of the public.

  32. I totally agree with everything you said. Of course, it's not just those hooded cowards we have to worry about. check this out. Welcome to Durham, NC... Now, she does not represent Durham... but we made the news because of her! A small car accident. Her poor Hyundai got scratched. And this ensued: http://www.thegailygrind.com/2014/08/15/racist-woman-america-just-threatended-kill-muslim/

  33. Jim-
    I agree, but for one point--that I am EQUALLY "outraged about the unconstitutional arrest and intimidation of white reporters [as I am] about the unconstitutional shooting of a black teenager"

    First-Wesley Lowery, the notable Washington Post reporter arrested, is black. (I would suspect that had something to do with his arrest, but--in fairness--I wasn't there.)

    Second-though I'm distressed that our currently ineffectual American press was slow to cover this issue--I'm in horror that law enforcement attempted to cull that coverage through force of arms. It's difficult to "shine a light into dark corners" when one is zip-stripped in a cell.

    It's a logical fallacy to suggest that one cannot feel moral outrage at more than one offense at a time.

  34. In America, there are two things you are sure of finding in many instances: most everything is amazingly somehow related to race AND the associated double standards.

    And this is about the only REAL "trickle down" you get, and it comes from politics: the conservatives' continuous rage against food stamps and social programs? This is not about deficit and debt. It's about RACE. Cause if deficit and debt what the driving force behind it, they would go after Defense.

    The assaults on Medicaid, Medicare and the Affordable Care Act? Nothing but race related as so perfectly demonstrated by white people on Medicare criticizing the involvement of government at any level in healthcare: when questioned about such oxymoron, their typical answer is "But this is different: I've worked for it, I've earned it!"

    Open carry? If one doesn't see the double standards between white and black, it's because they are conservatives.


  35. From the movie 'Shooter' - Sen Meacham says: "There are no sides. There's no Sunnis and Shiites. There's no Democrats and Republicans. There's only HAVES and HAVE-NOTS." (About the only realism in that film.)

    At the street level its about race and tribalism; maintaining tension between Americans based on color, inertia, history, fear of the other and the entitlement of force in a small space. From the big picture perspective, the shooting and subsequent events in Ferguson are helpful to national leaders (oligarchs, billionaires, 20 year Senators, etc) who want to sustain that steady drumbeat of anger, pain, hatred and discontent at the local level to keep our gazes from looking upward and toward the state house or DC for answers.

    We need to continue to hate our neighbors and fellow Americans for their race or religion or politics so that we wear ourselves out, beating each other up so that come election day we see some paid advert that says "Vote for SoAndSo who believes like you do and supports your fears and hatred. Send him/her to the legislature and your pain will go away!" Oh HELL yeah! And we will make our mark or pull the lever, and waste one of the most powerful tools we have to start changing life at the street level. Just as the billionaires and their wholly owned Congressmen want you to.

    The people in charge fly over the local carnage and hatred and may even look down sometimes. They don't feel pain at the tragic loss of a young man's life. That shit never touches them. But, they are satisfied that their game will go on and on as long as the peasants are only revolting amongst themselves.

    We may be sheep. White ones and Black ones. But, some are better armed than others, and the shepherds are good with that. Tommy D

  36. At this point and time I see it as inevitable that Ferguson will be the next Watts, maybe not today but soon. The police there are doing anything they can to distract from and muddy the waters. When it burns I say they have earned it.

  37. I almost always agree with what you have to say. Almost. Two small points, this time I don't agree with. I'm genuinely sorry I don't agree with them. I just can't, anymore. I wish I could. Really.

    "I think we’re better than this."

    "I think we can be exceptional."

  38. There are a small group of would be oligarchs in this country that want you to believe it is all about race, or illegal aliens, or lazy unemployed people that don't want to work. They want the far right to believe it is about gun rights, the constitution, their tax dollars and Christianity. You all seem to have fallen for it. It is important that you be kept looking elsewhere so you do not realize they are slowly and surely stealing your government right out from under your nose. You can complain all you want to but while you do so remember people like Jim, a lot of us put ourselves in harms way over the years to continue to secure your right to vote. A lot of those people have given their lives for it. You can change all this if you wish starting in November. With a flick of a button or the pull of a handle you can say "We the People" are in charge again and you WILL do what we say. To tell you the truth I don't have faith in you any more and think you will be "too busy, too distracted, too tired" on that day. Please prove to me I am wrong! If you don't though stop the complaining because you will deserve what is to come!

    1. I agree with what you are saying in theory but, you also have to consider that maybe not every person has a day to stand in line waiting to vote. Also, think about where those neighbourhoods, with 8 hour voting lines, are and admit that state governments are making it even harder to register let alone actually cast a ballot on purpose. How demoralizing is it to know your own government wants to muzzle you? Yes it's frustrating that people aren't voting but how much of that apparent disinterest can be blamed on actual focussed and successful laws to keep people from voting. Fewer early voting days, shorter hours of the polling stations on those early voting days, no weekend voting and again 8 hour waits.How is it possible that people are waiting all day to vote in 2014 in America. The SCOTUS is allowing voter rights to be taken away. They allow companies to be people and those companies then lobby and fund the destruction of more voting rights. Back to race... and I'll give you class.

      Also my vote isn't magic. I always vote. I feel better, smugly virtuous even that I voted but my one vote doesn't change anything, my mayor is still a tool who might be re- elected and that is disheartening. Yes if everyone who cared about the betterment of society and everyone in it as a whole voted we could make a difference, maybe... hopefully, but it's really hard to see possibilities when you are always treated like crap scraped from under someone's shoe.

  39. Thank you for identifying the crux of the problem. I completely agree with your analysis. When will we evolve? I have been waiting my entire life. Each and every human being should be treated with respect and compassion and a truly equal and fair opportunity in America. But that simply is not the case.
    I taught my children that hurting people and breaking things never solves problems, that in fact, violence creates more danger and more complex problems. Imagine a culture where we all treated each other with respect, compassion and dignity and where we could truly comprehend and create equality.
    But I am a day dreamer. Reality is the source of my nightmares.

  40. "The violence in Ferguson is a direct result of our exceptional inability to face the real problems and deal with them as a mature nation, as a civilized society, and as a reasonable people." Hell, Jim, it's hard to face and deal with real problems. {snark} It's not like the politicians we pay to run the government actually have the good of the country in mind. It's not like the elite class gives a damn about the rest of us. It's not like the working man and woman has time to really think about this, or have the time to help fix it. The poor and disadvantaged have no voice. So, how the hell do we get this sorted out. I don't want to agree that it will just go on and on and on, but I do. Who will step forward? If it's the President, he will get called on it and be accused of talking about RACISM AGAIN. I'm sick to death about this. This kid is dead. He's one of a long line of dead, innocent kids. What ever happened to tasers? Why deadly force?

  41. Jim,

    As a life long resident of St. Louis (both city and county) and as someone who spent the first 13 years of my life in Ferguson, I am heartsick over what is happening there right now. Putting aside the shooting of an unarmed 18 year old for a minute, the militarization of the police in the county (and the cities in the counties) has shocked me to the core. This could have been handled buy the City of Ferguson and St. Louis County in a much better way.

    The pictures of the police in military gear was.... I can't describe the shock and anger and fear I felt. It's as if it's "us" against "them", where "them" is every citizen.

    Regardless of whether Mike brown robbed a store, the penalty is NOT death for robbery. Every night I watch my local news and am afraid, for me, for my developmentally delayed child and for every citizen in the area. My son is white, but if he doesn't react as fast as a police officer demands, which is likely, knowing him, will I be planning his funeral? He is also tall, although not as big as Mike Brown. Police have shot any race of people for the smallest of reasons.

    Thank you for publishing this.

  42. Of course it is about race. From American Free Press: "A 2012 study by the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention revealed that in 2010 black youths committed six times more murders, three times more rapes, 10 times more robberies and three times more assaults than did their white counterparts. Similar statistics were released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the “Uniform Crime Reports.” They determined, “In the year 2008, black youths, who make up 16% of the youth population, accounted for 52% of juvenile violent crime arrests, including 58% for homicide and 67% for robbery.” By contrast, the only categories where white youths surpassed blacks were in liquor law violations and driving under the influence."

    Michael Brown robbed a store and roughed up the owner, which led to a run in with the police. Did he grab for the gun? Maybe. Clearly he was violent (roll video). So what exactly do we need to discuss? That we should treat other races or ages the same as the group that is statistically much more prone to crime and violence?

    Of course it is about race. If it was one of the dozens of black on black murders that occur every day, no one would bat an eye. Well maybe if it was 60 in one weekend in one city, they might, but other than that, nah. Sharpton and Jackson couldn't be bothered.

    Anyone have a suggestion to solve black youth crime and violence? Let's talk about that. How about legalizing drugs? Takes the money out of it, doesn't stick black kids with a felony record, no "turf" to fight over. Just an idea. Not sure I'm for it.

    1. Of course it is about race.

      You're misappropriating a phrase that doesn't belong to you, and, I suspect, using it incorrectly. Please tell us, in your own words, in the language you would use talking to good friends, in the comfort of your own home, or a neighborhood bar, exactly what "Of course it is about race" means to you.


      group that is statistically much more prone to crime and violence

      I'd suggest you go over to motherjones.com and check out Kevin Drum on the amazing--to put it mildly--correspondence of the drop in atmospheric/environmental lead pollution, with it's resulting drop in blood lead levels to the worldwide--no, I'm not kidding--drop in violent crime in all races and cultures exposed to lead. Blacks in America--and probably many other places--have been historically exposed to higher concentrations of lead than those who could afford to live somewhere other than "the shade of the freeway" (the biggest offender) in tenements coated with leaded paint, and owned by slumlords with no inclination at all to do anything about it until forced by Congress and the EPA. Add to that their historic mistreatment here in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, and you have a classic positive feedback loop that is only now being potted down.
      Only a suggestion, of course, since I can't force you to learn. I have to say I'd be stunned if you actually did, and totally gobsmacked if you learned anything from it. I predicted, back when Drum first started writing about this, than the right wing in this country would never, ever, willingly accept any scientific explanation for the rise and fall of violent crime that went against their cherished notion that blacks are just basically criminal types, and I've seen nothing yet to change my mind. I'll add that there will be Democratic Mayors and Police Commissioners who are equally unwilling to accept the data. Rising crime rates are good for business. They give TPTB something to promise to protect everyone from. Falling crime rates are always due to their diligence therein. *sigh* Ya just can't win...

    2. Hey, I was once held up by a couple of black teenagers with pistols. In a posh suburban neighborhood too, so I guess you have to give them points for enterprise, but they never even mailed back my wallet like they promised because they're all congenital liars of course. Then there was that drunken Greek that threw a table at me for dancing in his hangout. And the Hungarian that razed my home to build some stinking townhouses. Oh, and the cracker pig who perjured himself trying to pin a felony charge on me over in Tennessee. Not to mention the good old boy who stole my lucky tiki back in junior high. I'm pretty sure all those guys must have had some Negro blood too. Stands to reason, am I right? Oh yeah, you wanted to know how to keep those kids out of trouble, almost forgot. Why not give them a little walking-around money? Maybe give them some grub and let them get up and say a few words, then slip 'em a little cash. You know, like Bill and Hillary. They've done a lot less damage since they both got on the program, though I hear Hill might be backsliding. Seems to be working for their kid, too, and she's a redhead. Probably got a temper on her.

  43. My husband, who's from a much more violent country asks, why do peaceful demonstrations always turn violent (in regards to Ferguson)? Why? Because it's about race and hate. They know it. Just tonight I told my husband I felt like that Civil Rights has almost made a complete circle. Like blacks, Hispanics, women, gays..."non-Americans" are having to fight for our rights yet again. You think that the Civil Rights Act would be enough, but it's not. You can change laws, but you can't change the mindset with such laws. They are going to hate not matter what you say. No matter what laws you pass.

    I'm beyond trying to comprehend. I have accepted the face that the majority of the human race will always hate one group or another just for being different. The U.S. is no different than anywhere else in this regard. I'm sick of it. I don't want to be one of those people that say, "Oh well, what can I do?" Nothing is the truth. No matter what I say or whom I vote for, it still won't change the mindset of those who hate.

  44. According to SourceWatch: "The American Free Press (AFP) is a publication launched by Willis Carto, who previously published Spotlight magazine through his now-defunct Liberty Lobby, an organization worked with racist anti-segregationists and neo-Nazi holocaust deniers. AFP was launched by Carto in August 2001 following the court-ordered closure of Spotlight. Many of the staff of Spotlight continued on with American Free Press.
    Carto continues to publish deceptive materials in which history is treated as a huge Jewish conspiracy. During the war with Iraq, for example, his Barnes Review attempted to exploit anti-war sentiment by publishing fake whistleblower memos on media bias in the Iraq war, which cast the Iraq war as a conspiracy by 'Jews who run the media and government.'"
    Doesn't sound as though AFP is a reliable, unbiased source--of anything.


    1. You are shooting the messenger. Look up the stats they reference for yourself at http://www.ojjdp.gov/pubs/244476.pdf.

  45. There's this, too, to be considered:

    "Yes, there is good reason to think that many of these unjustifiable homicides by police across the country are racially motivated. But there is a lot more than that going on here. Our country is simply not paying enough attention to the terrible lack of accountability of police departments and the way it affects all of us—regardless of race or ethnicity."

    Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/08/what-i-did-after-police-killed-my-son-110038.html#ixzz3AeZoHDFt

    You asked your Facebook minions to look for what's missing. Could this be what's missing?

    1. An excellent link, Terra. Police NEED more accountability. I believe that lapel-cameras would be an excellent idea for ALL law enforcement -- and it has proven to help both police and clients (us). More transparency and more restraint. On both sides.

  46. As a St. Louis area resident I agree this is 100% spot on. Before reading this I had already noted specifically that (1) Ferguson looks like occupied Palestine, complete with brutal attacks on journalists and casual threats to kill uppity unarmed civilians; (2) the Bundy Ranch protestors, many more of whom seemed to be seeking violence, were treated far better; and (3) given that we just had a bill passed in Missouri saying that open carry can't be prohibited, the Panthers damn well ought to be patrolling the streets of Ferguson en masse with long arms.

    St. Louis' highly fragmented metro area has a history that's all about racism. For example, a major reason why we have the crummiest public transportation system of any major metropolitan area I've seen other than Antananarivo is that the folks in the white-flight suburbs did not want bus or train lines going to their municipalities lest Negroes be able to get out there. (Instead, they expect their low-wage workers, who can't afford to live in the area, to maintain private cars at their own expense to get to work.) Ferguson used to be highly white, and as soon as black people started moving in, many whites fled, leaving Ferguson now almost 70% black.

    However, Ferguson's mayor and four of five city council members are white, and their white police chief claims that only 3 of 53 officers are black because they can't find "qualified" applicants. Somehow St. Louis has managed to find a lot more than three black people in this area who possess "the necessities" (as a senile sports commentator might put it) to be cops. I don't know anything about the Ferguson city council members but, and I say this as a white person, the black voters in that town need to get together and vote en masse ONLY for black candidates until this cesspool of dominance behavior is cleaned up.


  47. Loved your post, and agree with the points. The new site looks great, and I even enjoyed reading the new "Using My Material" section.

    Gave a link to this, to a dear friend of mine who lives one mile from the shooting site. Thank you!

  48. It's all about race.....When a white person describes a section of any Southern city as "sketchy", you know it's about race.

  49. Jim,
    " When you’re more concerned about the militarization of white police than you are about the fact that those same police gunned down a black teenager for no apparent reason other than he happened to be walking down a public street while black, just like any of a hundred other black teenagers gunned down by those in authority, it’s about race.

    When you suggest with a knowingly raised eyebrow that a black teenager ought to be smart enough to immediately submit to police authority without any trace of resentment or risk summary execution, but you think a bunch of white ranchers are patriots for defying the government and pointing assault rifles at federal agents, it’s about race.

    When those things, all of those things, are what determines in the court of public opinion whether or not the dead kid deserved what he got or whether he was a victim, well, folks, then it’s about race. "

    No need for Sharpton, Jackson, or an investigation. Looks like you and scoobie have solved another mystery. The cop is guilty, right?

    1. I should have added another line: When you can't talk about race without bringing up Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson, it's about race.

      And I'll thank you not to put words in my mouth, I didn't say the cop was guilty. I didn't say he wasn't. You need to work on your reading comprehension.

    2. In light of the autopsy results, care to revise your comment, Anonymous?

    3. You mean that he was shot 6 times?

    4. And the part where most of them were in the front. And the part where apparently none of them were from close enough to leave powder traces (although the cops are refusing to release his clothes, which is damningly suspicious all on its own)..

    5. I see nothing in the autopsy reports that contradicts what a friend of the Policeman reported to a radio show as his story. You must be more knowledgeable than me. What would it matter about powder traces?

  50. I don't know how you do it Jim but once again you've hit the proverbial nail on the head with 100% accuracy. Thank you once again for putting into words the same point I've been trying to make since this incident took place, with a much higher degree of clarity. Yes, you ARE my god.

  51. Johnny Hogue:
    So apartheid is cool, because racial purity is best for everyone? It's what all those pesky darkies want, anyway...gotchya.

  52. Fee Fie Foe Fum ..... I smell the blood of a TROLL, by gum!


  53. dundee, michigan, a small community of less than 4000 people has one of those MRAP vehicles. Cost $850,000 and Dundee got it for FREE!. i wonder why they need it? black friday sales at Cabellas or the Beef Jerky Outlet? Why were all these vehicles ordered when not needed? our tax money folks.

  54. many of the claims jim has made are indeed false, the fact that Michael Brown had ran, stopped, turned around and then charged at the officer is now factual since the video of the eyewitness accounting surfaced sometime this weekend, he made many assumptions, and it is no doubt that assumptions about people is a large part of what racism is, his assumptions are dangerous and drive the racial wedge just a little deeper. Americans need to open their dialog with black america, especially in regards to crime and violence

    1. Isn't he cute, Folks? Let's give him a big hand.

    2. "Americans need to open their dialog with black america" this sounds like "separate but separate and inequal" garden variety racism. Methinks you meant to say

      "Us Superior White Americans need to open our dialog with them inferior black americans."

      Got Racism?

    3. See, there's America and then there's "black" America, which is like America but can't be on the streets at night.

      You really gotta love this jackass, don't you?

    4. Brown turned around and charged a gun with his bare hands? Wow, brave kid. Maybe they should have recruited him instead of shooting him, you think?

  55. Thanks, Jim, for another intelligent, articulate analysis!

  56. @ Jim Wright: Blah, Blah, Blah...stating the problem is always the easiest thing to do. Ok, the real underlying problem is race and/or inequality. If you ever read "Foreign Affairs" you will find every intellectual out there can tell you the problem, NO ONE has a real solution. This is the same case here. Even though you may think you are a real hero for being able to speak the truth that no one whats to address i.e. Race is the underlying problem and that is what needs to be fixed, that doesn't do anyone any good. No ONE! A real hero would come up with a realistic solution that can be enacted in this Country. Now that would actually help. Anyone can look at this country and say "Race is still a problem and should be addressed..mmmm...ok". Go ahead and try and fix it....lol. The same goes for income inequality, divisive politics, corruption etc. etc. etc.
    Have a nice day

    1. Heh heh. Besides those loudly denying that race is a problem in America, let alone in Ferguson, you do see the irony of your comment, right?

      You know, that part where any random dipshit can bitch about a blog post on the internet without, you know, actually offering any kind of constructive criticism.

      Sorry I didn't live up to your expectations, Mumby, I'm fresh out of heroing today.

    2. Yeah, Jim! NOBODY should EVER talk about a problem, unless they have a 10 point plan spelled out that's been tested and revised!
      I know for me, I NEVER go to my doctor until AFTER I have diagnosed myself and come up with a treatment plan and medical regimen!
      PS - you may not have a blog to link to, but at the very LEAST, sign your name, anonymous critical people! It comes off more than a bit cowardly to take a shot, but refuse to back it up...I'm just sayin'..

  57. There]s is no one solution, no magic wand we can wave and make it all better. That's remarkably simplistic. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try and find answers, solutions to our problems. Nothing is gained by giving up.

  58. paintedjaguar made a point I can agree with completely.

    If tomorrow we could make the human race monochromatic this problem would not disappear. What it is at its core is a capacity for, a propensity to, a drive, to group identities. If you removed all of the easily identifiable visual characteristics we ascribe to the races we have drawn boxes around, we would just make it about something else. Any population will have it's disenfranchised. If they are so rude as to not be immediately obvious we will assign defining characteristics.
    We will happily make them from our brothers and sisters if necessary
    They will be recognized by
    Their clothes
    Eye color
    Religion (or lack of)
    The fact that THEY live over THERE when obviously HERE where WE live is better
    Or their fucking shoe size.
    WE will know who THEY are
    Even the political divide that you quite rightly say informs much of the debate falls somewhere along the same continuum. We define populations against other populations and groups within those populations. And we have a sense of an order to these populations and groups. "Know your place"
    I firmly believe that this is an inheritance from our evolution as a social species. It makes sense for a hunter gather kinship group to have a sense of group identity to work together and defend each other.
    When I was a kid my parents had chickens. White chickens, leghorns I believe. One day someone gave my father a Rhode Island Red rooster. A beautiful bird, iridescent feathers
    They put it in the coop with the others. By the next morning it was dead.
    No way were they gonna have one of THOSE living with them
    My point is that not only are we Americans not exceptional as a nation but our species is not as exceptional among animals as we would like to think. The very human characteristics that drive incidents like what happened in Ferguson, or Gaza, or Bosnia are the same hardwired social instincts that drove those FUCKING CHICKENS. This is not higher order brain function. This is old old stuff. It may have gotten us out of the veld but unless we come to grips with it for what it is it will be how will exit the stage.

  59. I have had a few minutes of grim amusement in the last week listening to the local Teabaggers (several of whom work with/for me) trying to wrangle the Ferguson situation into something that simultaneously feeds their "GOVT IS THE ENEMY" and "THEM BLACKS DON'T APPRECIATE WHAT WE DONE FOR EM" with a side-dish of "IT'S OBAMA'S FAULT!!!".

  60. First step is admitting there is a problem. Geeze, you want the guy to do everything? Here's a few just off the top of my pointed head:

    End the vicious cycle of poverty and crime, by ending poverty and funding robust educational initiatives. Reject the economic assertion that we need 4% unemployment to maintain a healthy economy, and just end Ignorance and Want.

    Fund community policing initiatives that get LEO face-to-face with the people they serve. Even if it means walking a beat. Humanize yourself, and your public.

    Video cameras on cops, that stream straight to an independent oversight organization. Not YOU, NSA.

    A top-down evaluation of training, hiring and the criminal justice system as a whole. If the stats keep coming up as biased, then there's bias. Own it and end it.

    No private prisons. None. They sell their investors on recidivism, therefore they cannot be trusted with preventing it.

    And LOVE EVERYBODY. Dammit.

  61. Anyone who thinks this isn't about race ought to go and look at the comments on any newspaper story about this issue. The vitriol and seething racism being spewed out by some is all you need to see. Maybe I shouldn't be, but I'm shocked at what some people are saying. Did we hit a time warp and all get sent back to Mississippi, circa 1926?

    Of course there are people who are racist. That's not a surprise to anyone. What shocks me, however, is how willing people are to publicly display that racism on this issue. Perhaps I just haven't been paying attention, but I don't recall ever seeing it so publicly exposed. What's normally kept at least somewhat in the shadows is now right at the surface, bloody and raw. Maybe it's good that it's so out in the open -- no one can say with a straight face (Justice Roberts, I'm looking at you) that this country has moved beyond the racism of the past.

    I fear this won't end until there is some sort of massacre. Nothing but an indictment of the officer involved will placate the community. Even with that (if it happens), the unrest has now drawn in so many from outside the community, people who are looking for a fight, that I don't know that they'll stop absent a massive use of force and bloodshed. And, horribly, a good chunk of the country's citizens, the very same ones who constantly decry the gubmint and its power, will be cheering for the blood. Good God.

    1. I agree, Wolff. I have to step away for air often when keeping up with this mess. I'm also not surprised at the racism in the comment sections of articles, but I'm shocked and appalled at the sheer numbers of them. Several black friends of mine have been saying for more than 20 years that racism has yet to reach the boiling point in this country.

      I really worry we as a country won't come to our senses soon enough.


  62. Sir, Thank you for another post provoking a lot of family discussion. After finding your site a couple weeks ago, we've been catching up on the backlog (including a command performance of reading 'America' out loud--an exhausting experience when read with emoting, LOL). Donation just sent!

  63. Black people used to know in a sense their place. Alas, we have been lulled into a false feeling of equality...this is really quite dangerous! It can and will get you killed. There are two systems: One for Whites and one for the Blacks, Browns, and Tans. Because this is a fact more indelible than gravity, does it not make sense that Blacks should not be "thugs" or "thieves". White "thugs" and "thieves" when approached by Law Enforcement are not going to be summarily executed on the streets; they will be arrested and then enrolled into the Criminal Justice System. Every race has its ne'er-do-wells, foibles, and weaknesses, but for Blacks we ought to know that our human failures are going to be judged so much more harshly---execution on the spot for stealing. I know this is not fair or right, but it is reality and whining about it certainly does nothing to make it go away. I am not saying that being a Black American citizen of good and upright moral character provides any kind of inoculation against racism...it most certainly does NOT! In fact being of such a good character makes a Black person even more of a target for racial hatred. It just makes sense to me, as a Black Man, to do all that I can to avoid any contact with White Police Law Enforcement. Yes, I have been stopped driving while Black, stopped walking while Black, and the whole tiresome and frightening gamut. Frightening because in these moments of apprehension these White Police Officers literally have my life in their hands and they are free to snuff it out on a whim and make up whatsoever story they choose. Frightening! So why? Oh Why give them a reason to apprehend you after you've just knocked over the local "QuikTrip"? Why do this, you Black Man, when you know that they [White Police Officers] are going to deal with you in the harshest possible way?

  64. Jim,

    I've been following your blog and Facebook stream for a few months. I can't wait for your books. Very few people, even fewer writers, have your ability to see through the shitspray of modern society and clearly see the asshole that's creating it. Your work is important. We, humanity, need your words, because they force us to look in the mirror that we have been avoiding at all cost. Please, keep writing.

    I'm sure that you are busy. Between writing, woodworking, family and perpetually snatching a retarded cat from Darwin's grasp...you have enough on your plate. Then, if that's not enough, you have the most beautiful land on earth, in your back yard, crying to be explored for the sheer marvel of it. I know I would.

    So, when I ask you to take more of your time and focus it on your audience, I can't blame you for throwing up your hands and giving me dumb looks. I'm going to try anyway:

    Jim, pick up a microphone.

    We need to hear the satire in your voice as you read 'A Few Thoughts on Religion'.
    We need to hear CWO Wright read 'Absolutely Nothing' with a tone only reserved for subordinates with unforgivable character flaws. We need to hear the voice behind the words.

    Look at the upside. With a wider audience, you just might get a better class of enemy. out of the deal.

    1. I suspect he's gonna write sci-fi......

    2. I'm am writing a scifi novel, yes. However, I will also be publishing compilations of essays posted here, along with additional commentary.

    3. I agree with you, Jeff Cooper!

  65. Hear hear Jim. Another great article. What I find interesting is that recently a Black man was shot and killed by police for carrying a toy gun in a Walmart. Yet you never hear about similar shootings by police involving White men who open carry guns in Walmarts and other stores. Funny that.

    I agree with you that Wilson will walk despite cold bloodedly killing Brown.

    1. @Patricia: Oof. I do not think that term "cold-blooded" means what you think it means.

      Rather, to all accounts so far, "hot-blooded" is nearer the mark.

      Y'see, as far as I'm concerned, I'd prefer a police officer to shoot in cold blood - meaning that he or she has decided (maybe in an instant) that deadly force is the only option, with no other variables in the equation beyond the potential danger to him/herself and the public.

      As opposed to "hot blood", where being hyped on anger/adrenalin overrides any logic, compunction or training. I think the latter is more accurate here.

  66. "If you think it is, if you think white people smashing windows and beating the shit out of each other after a sporting event is just “boys being boys” but black people reacting in rage on the streets of Ferguson is how “animals” behave, well, folks, as I said, all you’re doing is proving me right."

    Holy shit this, exactly fucking this. Three years ago last week I was in the suburbs of Vancouver watching a mixed crowd of scumbags and drunken idiots tear up downtown vancouver, screaming at the TV to stop calling these people "protesters". They weren't protesting anything other than the fact that the boston hockey team was better than ours, but the talking heads on the cbc couldn't seem to stop referring to these (mostly white, or other middle class minorities) as "protesters" as if they were just exercising their article 2 fundamental freedoms by breaking into stores, beating shopowners half to death and torching cars with molotov cocktails.

    Graeme Sutton
    Victoria, BC

  67. I tend to disagree with you, often. This is bang on the nail.


  68. Really liked this article on Crooks & Liars today: http://crooksandliars.com/2014/08/ferguson-cop-who-killed-mike-brown-shot

    Short version: the policeman who shot Michael Brown fired more rounds in one incident than the entire British police force did last year.

    Is there some way we, as a nation, can do better?

  69. Where is the incident report on the Michael Brown shooting? I thought the officer responsible was supposed to write it immediately after the shooting? Again, where is it?


    1. Perhaps you know this by now but, apparently, there is no incident report -- the officer did not write one. It's unknown why he didn't do it, but the speculation is that it was on the advice of counsel.

      Nope, nothing to see here, move along. Right.

  70. I must confess I'm hesitant to write this letter , I respect your work and would like to comment on your essay about Ferguson . Plus , your wrath is harsh .
    I live in south Florida , we are pretty much a melting pot here . The police forces are diverse , the neighborhoods are diverse .
    And my husband is a retired police officer , the day he retired he told me that the best thing about his retirement is leaving without never having to draw his weapon . Because that's how you know if you've had a good career , you didn't have to use deadly force , you don't want to live with that on your conscience .
    I guess it's hard for me to be objective , I want to believe that the officer was fighting for his life . And like you stated , we will never know . Maybe Ferguson is a racist department . Round and round we go .
    My main problem is the blaming and hatred of all Police Officers , not from you , but the threads are thick with them . Just like the threads on sites claiming it wasn't about race are filled with hateful racist comments .
    The militarization of our police departments are policies enacted by Cities and States and sometimes the Federal Government ..
    But a majority of these policies are implemented because of the heavily armed public , especially the anti government movement , those are the ones he feared the most . My husband had to take classes on the Sovereign Citizens .
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/jjmacnab/2012/02/13/what-is-a-sovereign-citizen/ .
    Pretty much like what Cliven Bundy , and a lot of the Tea Partiers are all about .
    We need to decriminalize drug use , we need more community police , and obviously cities need more diversity and training . We need more money invested in struggling communities .
    What we don't need is more hatred and generalities about race and law enforcement .
    We need level headed policies and politicians ( I know , good luck ) .
    I'll have a bourbon now ... Hopefully you'll keep me around so I can send you bourbon ; )


    1. As I said to Lori when she first sent her comments to me via email: there's nothing she said that I would disagree with.

      The are good cops out there. Police officers who've dedicated their lives to serving and protecting the public. And they risk their own lives every single time they respond to a call, every single time, and they never know what they're walking into. And yet, they still serve.

      And there are bad cops out there, self centered arrogant jackasses who think they are above the law. Who abuse their authority every single day.

      I've had opportunity to train with police officers as part of my military service. I've met both kinds, far more of the first than the second though. And the thing is, just like those of us in the military, all those who are hardworking and dedicated and honest and honorable suffer the same taint of distrust and dishonor when things like Ferguson happen.

      Part of the solution is have high standards, both as an organization and as society. And while it's perfectly natural for tight-knit organizations who share danger to close ranks around one of their own, it's also imperative that those organizations police their own and hold each other to account. If the public doesn't trust the police, if the police are not respected and admired, then they are an occupying army.

      But to be respected and admired, you have to worthy of respect and admiration.

  71. Racism is a pejorative term, an epithet. "Racist" is name calling. It has been used for decades and leads nowhere. Show me a thing called "racism"... how big is it, what are its dimensions? It's a generality with no parameters and is used by the media to stir up emotional, irrational reactions before the facts can be known. And I thought the basic facts were known days ago: Michael Brown and his buddy stole a specific brand of cigars used for "blunts" (marijuana wraps), walked down the middle of the street with the stolen goods in full view, making noise that could only be explained by them being on drugs. The altercation with the officer occurred when the officer started to get out of his car and Brown (who was about 300 pounds) slammed the door on the officer and attempted to get the officer's gun, causing it to discharge in the police vehicle. Brown ran but when the officer got out of his car and told him to halt, Brown turned around and rushed him and he was shot in the front. Is that not correct? I saw nothing of this in the article above. When you push people's buttons before the facts are known as the media consistently does, you get stupid behavior whether its Rodney King, Michael Williams or 9/11.

    "Racial prejudice" is a better word than "racism" but then you wouldn't get away with the emotionalism of this article. The "animals" reference above: Did the officer say all blacks are animals? That would be racial prejudice. Was he describing uncivilized, insane behavior? I think so. When the current authoritarian ideological indoctrination tells us that we are all animals (with which I disagree, but is nonetheless considered to be a fact in most schools) then how is his statement "racism"? Is the whole population of Ferguson black and the whole police department white?

    It ain't that complicated. Mankind can be triggered into destructive mob behavior and we know it from 7,000 years of recorded history. Pushing peoples buttons to cause them to react, whether it is the black community of Ferguson, or any other race, or Israelis or Palestinians or Muslims or Christians, it's the same thing. That's why there needs to be journalistic integrity which we don't have in this country. The media uses the lowest common denominator of mankind, the "animal" mob behavior button, to create these incidents. And then irresponsible people perpetuate the lies and the button pushing through their emotional reactions in the media.

    1. You know, Mr. Groton, I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve seen every kind of logical fallacy there is and every kind of ignorant troll, but upon rare occasion I am still surprised by the sheer Stygian depths people like you are willing to lower yourself to solely in order to maintain your miserable worldview.

      It takes a lot to surprise me, Mr. Groton. Well done, Sir. Well done indeed.

    2. Mr. Groton, it sounds as if you were there by your play by play description of the events that day. Will you be testifying? I look forward to seeing your face on the news, along with that anonymous Josie woman, and your factual accounts of what actually happened.

    3. And yet another version of the "facts" surfaces.

    4. Mr. Groton congratulations. You have set a new low for stupid.

    5. To summarize: Racism is not a thing because Mr. Groton says it's not a thing. Problem solved. We can all go home now.

    6. I have not been at this game as long as Mr. Jim Wright of stonekettlestation.com fame and a FB friend, but I have been at this long enough to smell pseudo-intellectual blather from bovine-minded simpletons with large vocabularies but small minds.

      And you, Mr. Groton, with this one singular post, have won the Top Award for that decidedly tiny section of notoriety.

      You are, as my high school educated, but very smart father would say, an "educated idiot."

    7. " Show me a thing called "racism"... how big is it, what are its dimensions?"
      Show me a thing called "love"... how big is it, what are its dimensions?
      Show me a thing called "god"... how big is it, what are its dimensions?
      Show me a thing called "ignorance"... how big is it, what are its dimensions?

    8. Hey! LOVE doesn't exist EITHER because "how big is it, what are its dimensions? It's a generality with no parameters and is used by the media to stir up emotional, irrational reactions before the facts can be known".....

      You're an idiot. Especially because you think we're all dumb enough to swallow this crap.

    9. For purposes of description of locations on the body, medical people use 'anatomical position' as reference - which is the body standing erect, feet slightly apart, arms slightly out to the side, and palms facing forward (so just to be clear: a cut on the crease of the elbow would be described as located on the front of the body.)

      Now, anyone who has seen the autopsy report, has seen that all the wounds Michael Brown received were on the front of the body as anatomical position determines is the front of the body.

      So now, picture someone charging towards you, 'bum-rushing' you. Other than possibly the one on the thumb, none of the entry points on the arms would be visible from the front. They would, however, be completely visible if that person was running away from you.

      Then take the figure from the autopsy report, and imagine it with it's hands up above it's head in surrender. Look at how close all the points of entry would be. That'd be a pretty tight hit pattern, wouldn't it?

      The coroner also noted that there was no gun shot residue on Mr. Brown's body, yet the officer claimed the gun went off while the two men were struggling over it IN the police vehicle. Gun shot residue is detectable on surfaces 3-5 feet from the point of firing. Mr. Brown was wearing a short sleeved shirt.

      Why was there no gs residue on his hand and arm?


    10. " Brown ran but when the officer got out of his car and told him to halt, Brown turned around and rushed him and he was shot in the front. Is that not correct?"

      No it is not. Have you ever heard of the word "ALLEGED"?? We use that when nothing has been proven. this version is ALLEGED, and again not in agreement with eye witness reports

      "I saw nothing of this in the article above."

      Of course you didn't. A person does not take allegations and present them as fact as you have done, which is an idictment of your character. Or should I say LACK of character

      " When you push people's buttons before the facts are known as the media consistently does, you get stupid behavior whether its Rodney King, Michael Williams or 9/11."

      LOL You talk about pushing buttons, and this is EXACTLY what you are doing.. In the absence of facts, you simply latch onto a version that suits your agenda, and present it as fact. I can only see two reasons for this. Trial by social media and character assassination, or you are desperate for attention

      "Racial prejudice" is a better word than "racism" but then you wouldn't get away with the emotionalism of this article. The "animals" reference above: Did the officer say all blacks are animals? That would be racial prejudice. Was he describing uncivilized, insane behavior? I think so. When the current authoritarian ideological indoctrination tells us that we are all animals (with which I disagree, but is nonetheless considered to be a fact in most schools) then how is his statement "racism"? Is the whole population of Ferguson black and the whole police department white?"

      Actually racism is the perfect word for it. Coming from probably the most racist country in the world, I have seen racism up close and personal for 50 years of my life, and I can smell one a mile away. Right now my nose is twitching...

      " That's why there needs to be journalistic integrity which we don't have in this country. The media uses the lowest common denominator of mankind, the "animal" mob behavior button, to create these incidents. And then irresponsible people perpetuate the lies and the button pushing through their emotional reactions in the media."

      WOW!!! I mean WOW!!!!! You are a fine one to be poinjting fingers when you have just described EXACTLY what you have done here. Perpetuate lies. Push buttons. I guess you were born to be part of this vile media you speak of. you are fully qualified

    11. Mr. Groton. I beg to differ. I'll start with your first sentence.

      "Racism" is a belief. It is neither a pejorative term, as in "Washington Redskins", nor is it an epithet, as in "Fighting Sioux". The word itself is a noun, a person place or thing. This "thing" is the "belief" that one race is superior to another or to look at it another way, the belief that one race is inferior to another. You cannot touch it or hold it in the physical form.

      Racism, however, can take hold of a person and destroy any goodness he was born with.

      This brings us to your second sentence, which is also incorrect. "Racist" is not name calling. Racist, like racism, are both nouns. However, this time, the word describes a person, a person who believes in racism.

      Racism is alive and well, even in this day and age. Why? Because racists exist and teach their young to continue their belief of superiority. Racists are not born. A racist teaches their young to become racist. It is a vicious cycle. You see, as long as racism exists, all men are not believed to be created equal.

      You see, Mr. Groton, It is not the media who continue the practice of racism. It is the racists, themselves.

      May God help us.

    12. Racism is war... war on "other" people by an self empowered authoritarians.. and we all know what the first casualty of war is. The officer is not in jail.

    13. Others have already responded to most of this nonsense better than I, so I'll leave the "big picture" be. But I want to address one specific point: the cigars. You seem quite confident that Michael Brown stole those cigars. Yet, when the surveillance video was publicly released a couple days ago, it clearly shows him paying for the cigars. The store didn't report a theft, and had no idea the cops were accusing Michael Brown of stealing the cigars until they came in later and demanded the surveillance videos. You really should check your "facts" before you report them.

      Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maA1FUJqhew

      ~ peregrinations

  72. Stephen B. Groton appears to have obtained his "facts" from a source other than eyewitnesses and autopsy reports.

  73. I find it interesting he knows exactly what happened during the Michael Brown incident when no one else knows because no details have been released. Here lies the problem...right wing media spews speculation and assumptions and their simple-minded crowd of followers, eager for information to confirm heir biases, gobbles it up and regurgitate it as fact.

  74. I was born in 1948. In 1949, whites in north St. Louis instigated a major race riot because some black people had the effrontery to swim in “their” public pool in Fairgrounds Park, which had just been desegregated.

    In the early 1960s (just as the civil rights movement was beginning to make its presence felt) our family piled into the station wagon and drove down to Florida. That involved passing through the south. I still recall the “whites only” signs on gas station restrooms and drinking fountains. At one point we were having lunch in a roadside cafe and some pobucker in another booth was gong on about those uppity n****rs in “East St. Louis Missouri” (geography was obviously not his best subject) stirring up trouble. It made us all uneasy, but we avoided talking about it until we were back in the car; I think my parents—staunch Cold War Democrats—recognized that they were in enemy territory.

    Back in the early 1980s when I was still in the business sales department at Southwestern Bell Telephone, our district manager was a middle-aged black gent named Reuben Williams. Business sales was the department that went out and talked to business customers about phone and data systems, so everybody wore a suit a tie to work. Salaries were decent, so Reuben was fairly well off and always dressed rather like a British banker.

    I forget the context now, but at one point Reuben talked about an experience he had driving out to Creve Couer (or some other blindingly white suburb) for party at a friend's house. He was dressed casually (expensive shirt and slacks, I think) and was driving his upscale car. A cop stopped him, asked to look at this license, asked him where he was going, and generally treated him as though he must be Up to Something. It was, he noted, one of reasons he could never forget that he was black.

    The legal infrastructure of American apartheid has been largely demolished, but the ideology that spawned it didn’t just evaporate when that happened. Quite the contrary, it went underground, developed an elaborate set of code words, has been working tirelessly to reverse that demolition for the last half century.

    SSo when I see some nimrod going on about how there's no racism in America any more; or that’s it’s so rare that most black Americans will never experience it; or that they're exaggerating it if they do experience it; or that Evil Libruls and "race baiters" like Al Sharpton, Eric Holder and (of course) the Great Satan himself, Barack Obama, are just playing the "race card" whenever they bring it up, my reaction is somewhere between contempt and hostility.

    And let's not even talk about the wankers who insist that only white people are discriminated against now.

    Yes, things have improved dramatically since I was born; it would be absurd to deny that. But to pretend that centuries of racial animus have been completely erased is equally absurd. You don’t make that kind of insanity magically disappear in one generation, especially when it works so hard to perpetuate itself.

    We have come a long way, baby, but the fight is far from over.

    1. Chuck:

      May I please share this on my Facebook page? If I may, how should I credit it?

    2. Beautifully said!

    3. Chuck: bravo! Well said.

    4. I don't usually reply to any comments left for Jim but in this case I have to make an exception. Chuck, your post deserves an online standing ovation. Thanks for the excellent addition to Jim's usual brilliant essay.

    5. I agree with Kim,Chuck nails it. Very good post sir.

    6. I have to include my applause as well. Very well said, sir!


    7. Bravo!

      ~ peregrinations

    8. Feel free to share at Will (or at anyone else you know), just credit me. I'm a more-or-less professional writer, so I can use the exposure! (:-) In addition to my blogs (click on my profile to see them), I'm the senior performing arts critic at 88.1 KDHX here in St. Louis (http://kdhx.org/play/chuck-lavazzi) and the arts blogger at OnSTL.com (http://old.onstl.com/people/chuck-lavazzi/). And thanks for the comments on my comment.

    9. Over here in England, racism is less obvious that it used to be, My illustration of the situation here is best described by the remarks of my lovely, kind elderly neighbours. A visit to the hospital, where many foreigners work, caused them to indignantly condemn that fact. According to them, only British people should work within our borders.. Also, I was upset to hear them say of the consultant "He was a large black man - BUT he was very nice". Obviously, their expectation of him was that he would be otherwise by virtue of his race. Also, an Asian family moved into our green suburban Close, whereupon, my sweet neighbour commented that the previous owners (of many years) had failed to say Goodbye because they didn`t want to explain to whom they had sold. "As long as they behave themselves" was her observation. I am extremely saddened to know that this attitude is endemic. Perhaps it will change with the younger generation, but I doubt it.

  75. Mary Beth van der ZeeAugust 22, 2014 at 8:09 PM

    I have such hope for the USA. Look at this dialogue. Yes, it is all about race. But we in the US acknowledge it much more openly than other western democracies and so have more of a chance to change the thinking on all sides. Be kind to the unenlightened. We'll bring them around yet. We're a lot better than we were in 1958.

  76. Until we individually are willing to put aside the "plugged in" twitter/ instagram/ facebook/ youtube/ mentality, in other words, to stop being unthinking followers led by others, we will never be able to assess things for ourselves and determine reasonable solutions to the myriad problems that face our society.

  77. Thank you Jim. I too was beginning to get lost in all the media and got caught up in the,as you put it, "When you" attitude. This is about a young black man being shot dead by a white police officer and nothing more. Again in America.

  78. Jim, I find your comments seem to always ring true, this one especially. I grew up in MA. While in HS we had a road come thru the city that was going to wipe out an area that was predominantly black. That area, as well as other several places within the city, had been a stop on the Underground RR. Prior to the demolishment of the neighborhood we held a series of conversations throughout the city about how we would incorporate the people in our mostly white upscale city. From the school interactions we knew that people of color were as smart(and stupid); as good athletically( and awkward); as caring (and thoughtless); built the same as the majority whites ( gym showers). We knew them as classmates and friends. Played with them in class, on inter mural teams and jv and varsity teams. Our school system had been fully integrated since around the time of the Civil War but here we were 100 years later and there were still black neighborhoods. The consensus of the conversations was that the segregation in our community were the result of economics, which was wrong. In much of the country, even where racism is not a big issue, that is still true after another 60 years. Both racism and foundations economic segregation based on race are evils that need to be changed.
    My wife and I had difficulty making children, so we decided to adopt. In going thru the home studies, we had to address the kind of child we wanted. We decided that black, green, purple, yellow didn't matter. The quickest way turned out to be Korean, so both of our daughters are Korean. We have grown to the conviction that we may look different; wear different clothes; eat different foods; attend different churches, synagogs, temples,or none; speak different languages; but we are still one family of man.
    Racism is still too prevalent. It particularly pains me because two of my grandchildren have a black father. We may be a little more sensitive to some of the more subtle forms of racism that many other Plain Olds (as we call plain old white people) My wife and I are not ones to sit idly by while our grandchild is subjected to bigotry. We do what we can to change attitudes, and we are thankful that they are changing.
    On your other point of good police, all those I've gotten to know have been of the good variety. They do face a bewildering set of choices upon which their lives and those around them depend. My brother-in law was a cop during Watts. He entered an apartment in response to a report of a possible rotting body. He was greeted by the sound of a hammer falling on a misfire. Yes, there are times within our civil society that lethal force must be applied, but we as citizens must be sure there is accountability and that those we entrust with that authority have simple, very clearly defined rules of engagement.
    I've rambled a bit, but wanted to give some more in concurring with your post. Keep writing!

  79. Enjoyed. Anyone who makes me think that there is hope in this world deserves a small donation.

  80. A good piece. Thank you. A factor I've never seen written about is the application process for becoming a cop. Why doesn't the initial application/interview weed out racist and/or violence prone people? A cop I had a conversation with in Manhattan years ago told me that close to half of the cops were jd's in their youth and reached a point where they had to choose between jail or becoming a cop. What kind of person wants a job that may require them to shoot someone?

    1. Ruki444, there is no national standard for becoming a civilian LEO. Most agencies require a minimum age of 21 (but not all), most have gotten rid of height/weight requirements (but not all) and many (but not all) require some education, either a HS diploma, or 2 or 4 year college degrees. Most hiring processes include a physical agility test (again, no standard), a written/academic test (again, no standard), an oral interview board if the first two tests are passed (not standardized) and once a candidate is deemed "hireable", a background investigation is done (again, not universal, and no standards are uniform.) Once all this is complete AND the person accepts the job offer, the training begins. However, there are areas of the country that allow people to attend law enforcement academies prior to their hire, and those people are often given preference over those who did not follow that path.

      Training programs also vary. Academies will very in length and course content. Field training varies from anything to riding around for a week with an officer to a 34 week intensive, several trainers, multimedia programs and lots of ordinance/statute study. Most agencies have a probationary period where an officer can be terminated for any reason, and once they have completed probation, there has to be good, documented evidence to terminate them.

      I spent 28 years in civilian law enforcement in Oregon, 15 years of that as a Field Training Officer and as a Survival Skills instructor. I have seen people hired that "on paper" look fantastic and when you put them in a patrol vehicle either can't function due to fear, or otherwise demonstrate that they don't belong in the profession.

      To answer your questions, however... The initial process weeds out a tremendous number of people. I am guessing that in times of low employment opportunities, the ratio may be as high as 1 hire per 300 applicants, although 1 per 100 is pretty standard (depending on the agency size). You really don't want to weed out violence prone people, because there are times that violence is needed to deal with the issues that confront civilian LEO's. You try and weed out racist, sexist, and homophobic people during your process, but aren't always successful. The other component to that is that the job changes a person and their view of the world. I guarantee that I am not the same person that I was 29 years ago when I raised my hand and swore an oath; you cannot avoid that when you're exposed to the brutal things that people do to one another. Yes, many cops and criminals score the same elevated scales on the MMPI (those that measure the need for excitement/adventure and a disregard for personal safety), both of which are very helpful to the average beat cop. As for the type of person that wants a job that may require them to shoot someone, I can only answer for myself, and for many of the people that I had the honor of training, training with, or working special duty assignments with: There is a desire to help people, and with the skill set that we develop, protect people from those that would prey upon them. 'People sleep safe in their beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence in their behalf.'

      Ally House, LCSO Ret

    2. Have been reading and listening to the various arguments/statements and other than a false X-Ray there has been no attempt by police to prove their officer was harmed. This bothers me because they have tried to villainize the victim and praise the shooter but there has been no proof the cop was hurt or in a struggle or even bothered by his actions...a statement that he had been hospitalized or was seeking counseling, seeing his minister - and perhaps he is but although I believe there is no reason for this shooting they certainly would have waved proof of injurty IF it existed. They've dumped lies and innuendos from day 1 but have never shown any hospital record or even a hint there were injuries on the cop - therefore I'm coming to the concllusion there were none and that portion of his story is bogus...and that leads me to ask what else is a lie? Marlene

  81. Everyone can help by spreading awareness of the need to DRUG TEST THE POLICE for illegal drugs and definitely STEROIDS. Congress had time for STEROIDS in baseball while this crisis among First Responders has been apparent since the 80's. The side-effects from STEROIDS are particularly dangerous combined with a badge, a gun and pre-existing psychological issues that are not limited to race. We may not be able to change the hearts and minds of people, but this policy is a step in the right direction with legal precedents. Random testing and testing after any use of force should be mandatory.

  82. Late to this party but my thoughts about a root cause run a little differently than racism. It plays a significant role but there is something else happening with our police.

    Firefighters assume risk when they fight a fire. The especially run a risk when they enter a hazardous situation to save civilian lives, e.g. burning building, various rescue scenarios. This risk is managed and evaluated but it still exists. Even so, sometimes they lose their lives or health.

    Police used to assume similar risks. They paused and evaluated situations before using deadly force. This no longer seems to be the case. Now any item held in a civilians hand is a risk to their life and they respond accordingly. All they need to say is they were afraid and it lets them off the hook.

    So will suggest that pausing will result in police deaths and that is true. But the current situation is leading to unnecessary civilians deaths in larger numbers. (Sorry, a week ago I looked up the numbers but do not recall them.) The civilians deaths range in the 100s. The police death due to more or less casual encounters with civilians is around 20. (Casual meaning the police were not responding to a known situation with potential violence.)

    Just sayin'.

  83. This is not my first rodeo. In the summer of 1969 an Omaha, Nebraska police officer shot and killed 14 year old Vivian Strong. I was almost 11 years old. I remember standing on the roof of the big Victorian house my sister lived in and watching the flames and smoke rising into the sky. I stood on the roof and watched the National Guard roll into the city. A little over a year later my brother was shot and killed by another soldier in his platoon while serving in Vietnam. That soldier claimed that he had been the victim of racism earlier in the night. I cannot know for sure whether that soldier was the victim of racism that night or not but I do know that he had been the victim or racism during his lifetime because that was the world he lived in. Perhaps on that night her perceived racism where none existed and something inside him just snapped. I will never understand completely but my brother was an innocent victim of his comrade's rage.
    I wanted to believe the world had changed. I wanted to believe that we as a society could have a dialogue. I was wrong and once again I'm watching the world burn.

  84. I did a post today at Leftypop about Ferguson and how it is about Fear and race. The whites fear black so they strike first. Your site was forwarded to me by one of my readers and I couldn't be happier that they did. Wonderful piece. Thank you.


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