Tag Archives: injustice

Notes on the mess in Ferguson

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A screen grab (above) from a video apparently showing Michael Brown roughing up a convenience store clerk on the date of Brown’s shooting death by a white police officer apparently belies the idea of Brown having been a gentle giant, at least on the day of his death, but of course the unarmed Brown didn’t deserve to die for allegedly having stolen cigarillos. And law enforcement officers need to adopt non-lethal means of subduing subjects they deem dangerous or possibly dangerous, and of course we have way too many white cops shooting unarmed black men. All of that said, though, shit like torching police cars, as was done in Ferguson, Mo., last night (see news photo below), accomplishes exactly nothing.

A man runs from a police car that is set on fire after a group of protesters vandalize the vehicle after the announcement of the grand jury decision Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. A grand jury has decided not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown, the unarmed, black 18-year-old whose fatal shooting sparked sometimes violent protests. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Associated Press photo

I’ve yet to write about the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., for several reasons, including the fact that I wanted to wait for things to play out and the fact, to be honest, that I’ve been Fergusoned out, much like I’ve been Benghazi’d out. Not to compare the two (one is an event that is a symptom of our broad and deep societal ills, and the other a comparative non-event drummed up by the right wing), but because the sensationalist media have beaten both into the ground.

First: Let’s acknowledge, as taboo as it is to do so (on the left, anyway), that Michael Brown apparently was no angel. There very apparently is surveillance video, for fuck’s sake, of the 6-foot-4-inch, almost 300-pound 18-year-old (whose nickname apparently was “Big Mike”) very apparently roughing up a convenience store clerk on the day that he later was shot and killed by former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson (that day was August 9), and Wilson has claimed that when he encountered Brown, Brown had a handful of cigarillos that he’d apparently stolen from the convenience store.

(Whether this is true or whether Wilson was lying in an attempt to retroactively “justify” his shooting of Brown by trying to link Brown to a crime that Wilson has claimed he had been aware of is quite in dispute. [It seems to me that it’s quite possible that Wilson had had no knowledge of the convenience-store robbery before he encountered Brown on that fateful day in August, and if memory serves, early news reports [such as this one] indeed were that Wilson had not known about the convenience-store robbery when he encountered Brown.])

I’m no angel myself, but the exact number of times that I’ve roughed up a convenience store clerk while stealing from him is, um, zero. As there not only is surveillance video, but as Michael Brown’s companion on that fateful day, Dorian Johnson, apparently also has testified that Brown committed the convenience-store robbery (to Johnson’s surprise), that Brown committed the crime is, methinks, fairly indisputable, and it is not “character assassination” to divulge unflattering facts about Brown’s unflattering actions on that day, as Brown’s defenders have alleged. Brown’s character, at least as it was on that particular day, it seems to me, rather speaks for itself. On that day, anyway, very apparently, Brown was no gentle giant.

But: Did Michael Brown deserve to get capped, even if he had committed a crime? Brown was unarmed, and photos of Darren Wilson’s “injuries” allegedly caused by Brown show only some red marks (maybe one light facial bruise) that appear as though they even could have been pre-existing. (Wilson, by the way, is 6 feet, 4 inches tall, weighs around 210 pounds and is 28 years old.)

The fact that it’s verging on the year 2015 and despite all of our technological advances we still have no widely used non-lethal way of effectively subduing those whom law enforcement officers deem need to be subdued is testament to what degree life (especially non-white life) is considered to be cheap here in the United States of America.

Sure, we have Tasers, but those are good for only a limited range, and whenever cops claim, correctly or incorrectly, truthfully or untruthfully, that they feared for their lives, they don’t use Tasers or the like, but they use live rounds. With all of our technological advances, why do we allow this beyond-sorry state of affairs to continue? Why don’t we care enough to force the cops to change their tactics?

And, of course, it’s inarguable that black men are treated as automatically guilty by many if not even most white cops, who often act as judge, jury and even executioner, and that cops disproportionately are white males, like Darren Wilson.

It’s also inarguable that Ferguson is just the tip of the iceberg. The main function of cops is to protect the socioeconomic interests of the plutocrats, the ruling elite. Cops serve and protect, all right, but whom do they serve and protect? Cops are tools of the elite, whether the cops know this or not, and whether the cops even care if they do know this.

So there is that dynamic that’s baked into the socioeconomic dynamics of the United States, as well as is the dynamic of institutionalized racism.

That said, while institutionalized racism rages on, we still must view every incident as an incident, with its unique details and factors and with its unique, individual actors, and we have to be careful not to allow individuals to become standard-bearers or stand-ins for our own views on race.

Just as Michael Brown apparently was no angel, I’m sure that Darren Wilson is no angel, either, and so to see black Americans portray Brown as what he apparently wasn’t (an innocent angel) and to see white Americans portray Wilson as what he probably isn’t (a “hero” who was just doing his job and protecting himself from a dangerous thug) has been disappointing, to put it mildly, because this is much more about sticking up for one’s own race than it is about any respect for the truth.

Indeed, the Ferguson case has been turned into a race war, in which Brown has been the proxy for black Americans and Wilson the proxy for white Americans – to the point that the grand jury’s decision, to many if not most Americans, apparently was supposed to go far, far beyond the very specific events surrounding Wilson’s shooting of Brown on August 9 in Ferguson, and was supposed to be a decision, a judgment, on whether or not American cops (most of them white) on the whole treat black American males unjustly, or even, more broadly, on whether or not the United States still has problems with racism.

That’s an understandable misunderstanding, I suppose, but it is a huge misunderstanding of the purpose of the grand jury nonetheless.

There was or there was not enough evidence to show that Wilson, in his capacity as a law enforcement officer, probably illegally shot Brown. (If the laws governing this question are fucked, that’s something else, and if the laws are fucked [and they are], then we need to change the laws.) That, however, was what the grand jury was to have decided: whether or not Wilson probably violated the letter of the law. That was the only job of the grand jury, and it was a narrow job.

And neither you nor I was there when Wilson shot Brown, which is another reason that I’ve yet to write about Ferguson until now: Most of us have an opinion on an event that we didn’t even witness, and for which we have only significantly different claims from different parties as to what did (and did not) transpire. Lacking that specific information, we fill the vacuum with our own opinions and prejudices and our biases that stem primarily from our own racial-group identity. Which is a sort of mob mentality.

Speaking of which, lobbing rocks and bricks and bottles and Molotov cocktails and smashing store-front windows and setting cars and buildings ablaze, while perhaps loads of fun for the participants, doesn’t do anything, that I can tell, to even begin to change the entrenched socioeconomic ills that plague the nation, the socioeconomic ills that are behind Michael Brown’s death.

I’m not staunchly against the use of violence as a political tactic – the plutocrats, our overlords, certainly never rule out the use of violence against us commoners, so we commoners never should rule out the use of violence against our plutocratic overlords, either – but violence, if used, should be strategic and it should get results. I don’t see that vandalizing store fronts and blocking roads and even setting businesses and other buildings and cars, including cop cars, ablaze do anything to even begin to change our corrupt system.

While the sources of the rage that induce individuals to take it to the streets are entirely understandable – those sources include institutionalized racism, ridiculous socioeconomic inequality from an economic system (capitalism) that is all about screwing others over for one’s own selfish gain, and the police state that we live under that protects and preserves this ridiculous socioeconomic inequality and institutionalized racism – again, I don’t see that the tactics that most of the enraged use on the streets actually are effective in bringing about real change.

Our fascistic, plutocratic overlords don’t exactly quake in their jackboots at the specter of small businesses having their front windows smashed out, and of course if a police car is torched, it is we, the taxpayers (which doesn’t include the tax-evading plutocrats), who will pay to replace that police car, of course. What do the plutocrats lose in these cases?

The plutocrats are perfectly willing to sacrifice a small, token amount in periodic property damage in order to perpetuate their ongoing socioeconomic rape, pillage and plunder of the masses and of the planet itself. (And it goes without saying, of course, that our plutocratic overlords are entirely untroubled by the periodic shootings of black men by white cops. After all, thus far the responses to these shootings, while they gain plenty of media coverage, haven’t threatened in any serious way the plutocrats’ iron grip on wealth and power.)

Finally, we Americans need to recognize that it wasn’t only Darren Wilson who killed Michael Brown. Almost all of us killed Michael Brown. (Ditto for Trayvon Martin, as I have stated, and for many others.) Because we have continued to allow the inexcusable bullshit to continue, and as long as we continue to do so, as long as we continue to refuse to dive more deeply than the surface (such as by looking primarily or even solely at race and not nearly enough at class, and by failing to effectively hold accountable the plutocratic puppet masters who always are hiding behind the scenes and thus always get away scot-free), and as long as we continue to refuse to do the long, hard, sustained work of making – of forcing, if necessary – significant systemic changes (yes, including up to true revolution [“reform” always leaves the power structure intact, doesn’t it?]), there will be plenty of more Michael Browns and Darren Wilsons.

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On Chelsea Manning

"I am Chelsea Manning. I am female."

The former Bradley Manning (right) is shown at left in a photo (for some reason released by the U.S. Army) in makeup and a wig. Manning says that she now is a woman whose name is Chelsea. That’s perfectly fine with me; it’s no skin off my ass, although it’s difficult for me, admittedly, to get the pronouns straight, because I’m used to Manning being discussed as a male…

I haven’t written much on Chelsea Manning, formerly Bradley Manning, and maybe that’s because like the former Bradley apparently was waiting until after his trial and sentencing were over before he announced to the world that he is now a woman named Chelsea, I was waiting until after his trial and sentencing to commit a post entirely to her.

Manning — whom I will (do my best to) refer to now as a woman, since that is her wish — is a bit of an enigma. In Manning we see two hot topics, that of whistle-blowing and that of transgenderism. It’s probably unfortunate that because of the Manning case both topics are going to be conflated in the minds of the mouth-breathing knuckle-draggers, but, I suppose, that’s the way that it goes.

First and foremost to me, the 25-year-old Manning doesn’t deserve to sit in prison for 35 years, as she was recently sentenced to do.

Clearly, we have two different systems of “justice,” one for the little guys and little gals, like whistle-blowers Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, and one for the plutocratic elite, like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. (Ironically, perhaps, Glenn Greenwald’s last book, titled With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful, tackles this very subject.)

Bush and Cheney (and others, including Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice) should be executed for the traitors and war criminals that they are. That’s not hyperbole; I mean every word of that. They are responsible for the wholly unnecessary deaths of more than 4,000 members of the U.S. military and tens of thousands of innocent civilians in the Middle East. I generally am against the death penalty, but when it comes to mass murder, perhaps especially war crimes and crimes against humanity, you don’t deserve to continue to draw breath.

(Point of comparison: Most of or all of the 10 Nazis who were hanged at the conclusion of the Nuremberg trials had not killed another human being with his own hands, but were found guilty of having caused the deaths of others. If we applied the same standards of justice to the war criminals who comprised the unelected, treasonous Bush regime, they would hang, too. [Although I’d go with the more humane lethal injection, of course.])

It cannot be demonstrated that either Chelsea Manning or Edward Snowden has been responsible for the death of even one human being, but it’s incontrovertible historical fact that Bush and Cheney are responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands. Yet Manning is behind bars and Snowden is D.C.’s Public Enemy No. 1 — he had to seek freedom in Russia, of all places, since the United States stopped being about actual freedom long, long ago — while mass murderers Bush and Cheney, because of their status among the plutocratic elite, still roam free among us.

This is nothing like justice, and certainly there is no “liberty and justice for all” in the United States of America. Anyone who asserts otherwise is a fucking liar or a fucking coward or is incredibly fucking stupid or is some combination thereof.

While my philosophy tends to be that Everything Is Connected, I don’t see Manning’s whistle-blowing and transgenderism as fitting together like hand in glove. (Maybe if Edward Snowden announces that he now is a woman, I’ll start to suspect that there is some link…)

Perhaps if Manning was persecuted in the uber-macho military environment for not being macho enough, as she reportedly was, she was more likely to release classified information than if she had been treated well, but even then, it was her mistreatment at the hands of bigoted ignoramuses, not her transgenderism, that was the problem. Let’s not keep blaming the victims and letting the victimizers off scot-fucking-free, as we so much love to do.

As far as whistle-blowing goes: Does any portion of or any individual within the federal government (or of a state or local government) deserve to be shielded from the consequences of his or her or its misdeeds?

Absofuckinglutely not. If you commit crimes or misdeeds with public funds (if nothing else, if you are a government worker, your salary comes from public funds), you can have no expectation to be shielded from the public’s eventually being informed about your crimes or misdeeds, and you cannot hide behind “security” or “state secrets” or some other bullshit for your illegal or unethical behavior.

And as emerging whistle-blower statutes and case law are finding, we’re long past the time when it’s OK to persecute and even prosecute the whistle-blowers while the criminals and wrongdoers go free.

More than anything else, Chelsea Manning is a political prisoner. Her “crime” is that she exposed the war crimes for which the D.C. elite ultimately are responsible.

Manning reportedly is going to ask President Hopey-Changey for a pardon, but of course President Hopey-Changey, whose prime directives are to show the world what a fucking bad-ass he is and to protect the D.C. aristocracy, never would be so bold and so interested in actual justice as to do something like that.

I expect Manning to spend several years in prison, as yet another example of how in the United States of America, there are liberty and justice for only some.

P.S. Reuters reports that Manning said in a statement:

“As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning; I am a female. Given the way that I feel and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I also request that starting today you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun.”

Reuters adds: “An Army spokeswoman said the Army does not provide hormone therapy or sex-change surgery.”

Fuck the backasswards, patriarchal, misogynist, homophobic, transphobic U.S. Army!

If mental health professionals deem it necessary to a prisoner’s well-being, then such treatment should be provided. And our tax dollars should not fund a military that actively discriminates against anyone, including prisoners, whose punishment is the deprivation of their freedom, and not that they must endure discrimination or other unjust or cruel or unusual punishment at the hands of the fucktarded fascists who run — and ruin — our “justice” and “correctional” systems.

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Cops’ right-wing bias is a problem

Image from Joe. My. God.

Yes, indeed, we have a problem of right-wing bias within law enforcement agencies across the nation. (Don’t even get me started on the right-wing bias within the bloated-beyond-belief U.S. military that our tax dollars make possible.)

While I don’t have a dramatic first-hand example, I do recall that when I attended a large pro-labor rally at the California State Capitol here in Sacramento in February, the California Highway Patrol officers (who act as the state police on state property such as the state Capitol grounds) were vigilant in making sure that those of us on the pro-labor side of the street followed the rules, such as keeping the sidewalk in front of us completely unobstructed.

However, the California Highway Patrol officers allowed the “tea party” traitors on the other side of the street (also state grounds) to completely block the sidewalk the entire fucking time — something that I pointed out to a CHP officer, who couldn’t have cared less.

Fact is, the cops are more likely to curtail the free-speech rights of progressives than of conservatives — since most of them apparently agree with conservatives.

Our tax dollars pay the cops’ salaries, yet we progressives don’t get fair and equal treatment at the hands of law enforcement officers, while wingnuts get preferential treatment.

Do we progressives need to have our own law enforcement officers to ensure that our own fucking tax dollars benefit us? And our own military, too? Do we need to secede?

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On justice in the United States of America

This man was incarcerated and then executed in Georgia for allegedly having taken the life of one human being:

Troy Davis has always denied murdering Mark MacPhail in 1989

Georgia Department of Corrections/AFP image

This man has been responsible for the unnecessary, wholly preventable deaths of tens of thousands of people for the obscene profits of the corporation that he once headed and those of the other oily subsidiaries of the unelected BushCheneyCorp. He remains free. In fact, he got a book deal and has been promoting his book all around the country:

In this image released by ABC, former Vice President Dick Cheney, right, speaks with Barbara Walters  on the daytime talk show "The View," Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011, in New York. Cheney appeared to promote his book, "In My Time." (AP Photo/ABC, Donna Svennevik)

ABC/Associated Press image

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