Tag Archives: justice

Repugnicans’ war on women is also a war on justice, decency and democracy

ED'S NOTE, GRAPHIC CONTENT-- A powerful political cartoon depicting the assault of Lady Justice has gone viral in the wake of recent allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The graphic image, seen here, shows her blindfolded and pinned down as her scales lie beside her, one hand covering her mouth -- an explicit reference to how California professor Christine Blasey Ford described an alleged sexual assault by Kavanaugh when they were both in high school in 1982.

So very apt.

I am not a blind feminist — I refused to support Repugnican Lite Billary Clinton for the presidency just because she’s a woman, for instance, and being called a “Bernie bro” by so-called “feminists” did not shame me into giving a penny or my vote to a Repugnican Lite female candidate, and, on that note, I oppose rank misandry posing as “feminism” — but I am a feminist in that I believe in equality for women, who continue to be held down by a patriarchal society.

And, of course, as a gay man I am intimately familiar with how our patriarchal society denigrates and oppresses anything and anyone considered to be feminine, and how it blindly obediently vaunts all things “masculine.”

The fight over the nomination of drunkard and sex criminal Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court is not just about the allegations of his sex crimes in and of themselves, of course, but is part of the ongoing “culture war” in which the right believes that right-wing, straight, “Christian” white men should continue to subjugate the rest of us with impunity.

So important is it to the right wing that stupid white men continue to rule that even Repugnican women (who universally are afflicted with Stockholm syndrome) are now said to be more fired up to vote in next month’s midterm elections than they were before the Kavanaugh fracas.

This is some sick and twisted shit, of course, but then again the Repugnicans are a fucking sick and twisted lot, a true basket of deplorables (I have to agree with Billary on that, although I find her plenty deplorable her-presidential-nomination-stealing-self).

That said, we must continue to fight against the fascists, which includes voting on November 6. They will vote for evil, as they always do; we must vote for good.

And we can take some solace in the fact that the Repugnicans must cheat in order to “win.”

The Repugnican presidential candidate won the popular vote only once since 1992 (Gee Dubya “won” “re”-election in 2004 by only 50.7 percent of the popular vote; he had lost the popular vote in 2000, and Pussygrabber also lost the popular vote in 2016).

The majority of the American people prefer a Democrat over a Repugnican, which is why the Repugnicans must do everything in their power to subvert democracy and throw elections their way, be it via widespread voter suppression or via such fascist bullshit as Bush v. Gore, in which the Repugnican-appointed “justices” of the Supreme Court, not the American people, picked the U.S. president in 2000.

And look how much the Repugnicans have had to cheat brazenly in order to shove Kavanaugh through. First, they had to pave the way by reducing the confirmation vote for a Supreme Court “justice” in the U.S. Senate from 60 votes to only 51 votes, which they did for Neil Gorsuch — after they had denied President Barack Obama the right to name a replacement for bloated piece of shit Antonin Scalia even though Obama had had almost a full year left of his presidency.

In addition to his white-male privilege, Kavanaugh has benefited not only from the anti-democratic Electoral College that gave us Pussygrabber and from the craven new simple-majority vote requirement for a Supreme Court “justice” in the U.S. Senate, but also from a fucking sham of an FBI “investigation” into his sex crimes, in which the “investigation” was done within only a few days and in which key individuals weren’t interviewed by the FBI at all.

Just as I never will consider George W. Bush nor Pussygrabber to have been legitimate U.S. presidents, I never will consider Gorsuch or Kavanaugh to be legitimate U.S. Supreme Court justices. Never.

How you got there fucking matters.

What we, the people, need to ensure now is that the Repugnican minority no longer can treasonously cheat its way into dominating us, the majority.

The fascist traitors “win” because thus far we have let them. Indeed, they always have counted on us to do so, because while they are shameless, violent and craven, we lean toward conscience, peace and decency.

We already have the majority; the only question is how much we’ll fight for it.

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His name was Stephon Clark, young father of two, and we failed him fatally

Image result for Stephon Clark

The rather opportunist Al Sharpton plans to attend the funeral of Stephon Clark (pictured above) in my city of Sacramento, California, on Thursday. Clark, the 22-year-old father of two, was shot to death by two Sacramento police officers on March 18 but had had only a smartphone in his hand. A little-discussed wrinkle in this racially charged incident, however, is that one of the two cops who shot Clark to death is black, as is Sacramento’s police chief.

As I’ve noted before, you have to take these cases of cops killing black men case by case. There is no one-size-fits-all narrative, as politically convenient and personally satisfying as such narratives may be.

For instance, Eric Garner, in my book, was murdered, choked to death by a thug posing as a police officer.

And Walter Scott by any reasonable person’s book was murdered, shot in the back as he ran away from a coward posing as a police officer.

Both black men were unarmed. Garner’s “crime” for which he was put to death by cop was illegally selling cigarettes on the street, and Scott’s was a broken brake light. The cop who murdered Garner remains free, while the cop who murdered Scott sits in prison (albeit he technically was found guilty of civil rights violations, not of murder).

Again, each case must be taken by itself. The Michael Brown case, for instance, spawned a movement that was based on some lies, probably especially the ubiquitous “[my] hands [are] up — don’t shoot!” meme.

The Barack Obama/Eric Holder U.S. Department of Justice’s own final report on the Michael Brown matter found that the physical evidence, including the autopsy of Brown, corroborated white cop Darren Wilson’s version of what had happened, which is that “gentle giant” Brown had not tried to surrender to him with his hands raised in the air, but instead had attacked him and tried to take his pistol from him.

The last page of the Obama/Holder DOJ report concludes:

… As discussed above, Darren Wilson has stated his intent in shooting Michael Brown was in response to a perceived deadly threat. The only possible basis for prosecuting Wilson under section 242 would therefore be if the government could prove that his account is not true – i.e., that Brown never assaulted Wilson at the SUV, never attempted to gain control of Wilson’s gun, and thereafter clearly surrendered in a way that no reasonable officer could have failed to perceive.

Given that Wilson’s account is corroborated by physical evidence and that his perception of a threat posed by Brown is corroborated by other eyewitnesses, to include aspects of the testimony of Witness 101, there is no credible evidence that Wilson willfully shot Brown as he was attempting to surrender or was otherwise not posing a threat.

Even if Wilson was mistaken in his interpretation of Brown’s conduct, the fact that others interpreted that conduct the same way as Wilson precludes a determination that he acted with a bad purpose to disobey the law. The same is true even if Wilson could be said to have acted with poor judgment in the manner in which he first interacted with Brown, or in pursuing Brown after the incident at the SUV.

These are matters of policy and procedure that do not rise to the level of a Constitutional violation and thus cannot support a criminal prosecution. Cf. Gardner v. Howard, 109 F.3d 427, 430–31 (8th Cir. 1997) (violation of internal policies and procedures does not in and of itself rise to violation of Constitution).

Because Wilson did not act with the requisite criminal intent, it cannot be proven beyond reasonable doubt to a jury that he violated 18 U.S.C.§ 242 when he fired his weapon at Brown.

VI. Conclusion
For the reasons set forth above, this matter lacks prosecutive merit and should be closed.

Indeed, case closed. Legally, anyway, but the myth of Michael Brown lives on, because the myth still is politically useful and personally satisfying to so many.

Unfortunately, in the Brown case the black community rallied around the wrong case. If I had ever tried to take a cop’s gun away from him (or her), I wouldn’t expect to be sitting here typing this sentence — and I am a white male.

The Brown case unfortunately immediately was turned into an inherently-racist-and-murderous-white-cop-vs.-inherently-innocent-young-black-man-guilty-only-of-being-black myth. According to the DOJ report on the Brown case, bystanders had lied through their teeth about what they had witnessed — very apparently in order to perpetuate the lie that every time a white cop shoots a black male, it only can be rooted in racism (and not, say, in very immediate self-defense because the black male is trying to take your gun from you).

The recent shooting death here in Sacramento of 22-year-old black man Stephon Clark also has some wrinkles that aren’t convenient to the aforementioned narrative that (only) white cops shoot young black men willy-nilly: One of the two cops who are reported to have shot Clark to death is black (see here too), as is Sacramento’s police chief, Sacramento native Daniel Hahn.

Hahn has said that he suspects that Clark was the man reported to have been breaking the windows of vehicles in a Sacramento neighborhood on March 18 before he was confronted by two cops in his grandparents’ backyard and shot to death.

All that Clark had in his possession, however, was a smartphone, and from the police helicopter video of the shooting, I cannot see that it was necessary for Clark to be shot even once, much more 20 times.* (A police body-camera video of the shooting that also was released does not give any more insight than does the helicopter video, other than that the cops apparently were trigger-happy; I struggle to even see Clark in the body-cam video at all until a while after he has been shot and is on the ground.)

I am not an expert in the excusable use of police force, but in the videos I don’t see Clark raising anything in the direction of the police officers or otherwise appearing to pose an immediate threat to them; I only see him being shot many times, apparently even after he already has fallen to the ground.

In the police helicopter video, before he is shot by the two cops it certainly looks like Clark isn’t up to any good, but running from police, probably especially if you are a black man, isn’t in and of itself indicative that you are dangerous and/or criminal; it always could be that you’re simply scared of being shot 20 times.

And even if Clark is guilty of having committed property crimes, there are penalties for that — and those penalties don’t include summary execution.

And it’s probably fair to say that many if not most white (and many other non-white) people do need to learn that human life — all human life — is far more important than is fucking property.

All of that said, it largely to totally has been ignored in the local protests over Stephon Clark’s shooting death that one of the cops who shot him — and the city’s police chief — are black. And I have to suspect that that’s because those two pieces of information aren’t convenient to the narrative that it’s only ever white cops and white chiefs of police who unjustly shoot and who support the unjust shootings of black men.

Sacramento has had some localized protests since Clark’s death, but it’s not at all like the city has been shut down, and to my knowledge not one person even has been hospitalized because of the protests. So it’s not like Sacramento has been enveloped in a conflagration, and many more Sacramentans have been touched by the heavy local media coverage than those who actually have been touched by any of the localized protests.

And again, I have to wonder if that outcome might have been different — if the protests might even have turned deadly — if Sacramento’s police chief weren’t black and if one of the two cops who shot Clark weren’t black. Does the race of the actors, rather than the acts themselves, matter that much? I suspect that it does.

Nonetheless, we need to continue to have the discussion about race and policing, and we have to examine where racism and police culture overlap, because very apparently there is a police culture that all cops can get sucked into, regardless of their race, and very apparently part of that police culture is the underlying belief that black lives do not matter as much as do white (and other non-black) lives.

And unnecessary police shooting after unnecessary police shooting amply proves that we must develop — and require the use of — non-lethal ways of neutralizing those we suspect of having committed a crime and/or of being about to commit a crime.

And for fuck’s sake we must stop executing people on the spot for property crimes, and we must hold every human being’s life as sacred. And we must prosecute — really prosecute — cops who don’t value human life, just as we prosecute the criminals who don’t value human life.

If we learn nothing else from the case of Stephon Clark, we need to learn that much.

*Since almost everyone in the world but I carries a smartphone, it seems to me that cops now have complete immunity to mistake or “mistake” smartphones for hand-held weapons. That is something with which we must as a society grapple — and fix.

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Cops’ first robo-killing is probably the scariest part of a week full of horrors

Corrected below (on Monday, July 11, 2016)

Last night in Dallas, Texas, cops for the first time ever used a robot to kill a perp on American soil, actually claiming that it was the only way. If we let this horrific abuse of police power pass, do we civilians not face routine robo-killings by the thugs of the state in the future? (Above is pictured one of the cops’ killing machines from the original movie “Robocop.”)

What a spectacularly fucked-up week it was, just after the Independence Day holiday on Monday, ironically.

The shooting deaths on Tuesday and on Wednesday of 37-year-old Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and 32-year-old Philando Castile near St. Paul, Minnesota, both of them black men, by white cops sure looked unnecessary.

It’s true that we don’t have every piece of information, and nor do we have full video footage of everything from beginning to end — the Sterling videos that I have seen start just before he is shot to death in a parking lot, and the Castile video starts after he already has been shot in a car (and is dying) — and the officers involved in the shootings deserve to be tried in real courts of law, not in the court of public opinion (which these days is held largely if not mostly on the Internet), but from what we know thus far, the shootings sure appear to have been wholly unnecessary.

My best guess is that these were spooked, adrenalized cops who were too trigger-happy, and, in a society in which black men’s lives are at the bottom of the pecking order where the value of human life is concerned, these cops just weren’t very concerned about not shooting first and asking questions later.

Then came the shooting deaths of five cops last night in Dallas (not far from where JFK was assassinated) by an-as-far-as-we-know-right-now militarily trained lone wolf, 25-year-old Micah Johnson, a black man of the Dallas area who reportedly had claimed that he especially wanted to kill white cops for the wrongful killings of black men by white cops.

On NPR today I heard the head of the nation’s largest cops’ union embarrass himself by stating that the shootings of cops because they are cops need to be treated as hate crimes. 

He further embarrassed himself by actually stating that just as we shouldn’t hate others because of the color of their skin, we shouldn’t hate anyone because of the color of his or her uniform (yes, he actually used those incredibly corny words). He asserted this as though the problem that so many of us have had with our cops actually were the color of their uniforms, or, OK, the fact in and of itself that they are cops — and not, oh, say, their rampant abuse of power and deadly force, such as by blowing away unarmed or otherwise non-threatening black men and by otherwise abusing their power against people of color and other vulnerable minorities.

The cops have had a long history of abusing their power in the United States of America. Many of them have been little more than state-sanctioned thugs, and let’s face it: The cops’ main job is to maintain the socioeconomic status quo, a status quo that isn’t about liberty and justice for all.

That said, don’t get me wrong; I don’t advocate the killing of one member of a group because you’re pissed off at another member of that group, be that group a racial group, a religious group, an occupational group, or any other group of people. I believe that we must deal with individuals, and not with entire groups of people. Micah Johnson’s “logic” that because two white cops in Louisiana and in Minnesota apparently unnecessarily killed — maybe murdered (well, maybe it was manslaughter; it’s all in the intent) — two black men, he should kill cops (especially white cops) in Texas speaks for itself.

And let’s be clear in our thinking and in our words: Blacks didn’t kill those cops in Dallas; one apparently mentally ill, or at the very least seriously unhinged, young black man did. (I don’t assert that Johnson had no legitimate grievances, but murdering random cops because they’re cops isn’t OK.) And all (white) cops did not kill Alton Sterling and Philando Castile (and way too many others); specific (white) cops killed them.

The problem is when we hold an entire group of people guilty for the acts of a relative few. It’s a mistake that often has deadly consequences and that can spiral into something like a civil war.

On the issue of hate crimes, I don’t argue that Micah Johnson didn’t hate cops; he very apparently did. (Again, I don’t argue that he had no grounds for his hatred; I only point out that he apparently had that hatred.)

But let’s be crystal fucking clear on what a hate crime is. Wikipedia defines a hate crime thusly:

A hate crime … is a prejudice-motivated crime, often violent, which occurs when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her membership (or perceived membership) in a certain social group.

Examples of such groups can include but are not limited to: sex, ethnicity, disability, language, nationality, physical appearance, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation. …

“Hate crime” generally refers to criminal acts that are seen to have been motivated by bias against one or more of the types above, or of their derivatives. Incidents may involve physical assault, damage to property, bullying, harassment, verbal abuse or insults, … or offensive graffiti or letters (hate mail).

Cops aren’t listed among the groups that so often are targeted in hate crimes, and implied but not explicitly spelled out in Wikipedia’s entry on hate crimes is the power differential that we have seen in the vast majority of hate crimes committed in the United States of America.

Whites who have committed hate crimes against blacks, for example, usually have far outnumbered blacks; ditto for “Christians” who have far outnumbered Jews and Muslims; heterosexuals and gender-conforming individuals who have far outnumbered non-heterosexual and non-gender-conforming individuals; etc. With the vast majority of hate crimes, it’s the relatively powerful who are targeting the less powerful to even the relatively powerless.

One thing that we can’t say about cops is that they are relatively powerless compared to the general population. Um, they are not. Sure, we commoners far outnumber the cops, but most of us commoners don’t have their arsenals or their training — or their being backed up by the U.S. military if they need such backup. (All of this is made possible with our own tax dollars, but that’s another blog piece.) And, of course, the cops often if not usually have the full cover of the “justice” system should they ever actually be held to account in a court of law. And, of course, they know this fact even before they unnecessarily shoot someone to death, carelessly (manslaughter) or even intentionally (murder).

Therefore, call what Micah Johnson did last night in Dallas an act of terrorism — the use of fear and/or violence to try to achieve a political objective — but let’s not fucking call it a hate crime and by so doing shit and piss on all actual victims of actual hate crimes, past, present and future.

Let’s not buy the cops’ union thugs’ bullshit rhetoric that cops (as a group) now are the poor victims when American history is filled with incidents of cops’ thuggery against the populace, usually the relatively powerless.

Clearly, having had the first black man in the Oval Office hasn’t magically solved our problems. We, the people, have much work to do, primary among which is to devise non-lethal ways of neutralizing individuals whom cops deem need to be neutralized. It’s unfuckingacceptable that shooting someone in the year 2016 still is seen as an acceptable way of neutralizing him or her.

With the technology that we have, we should have solved this problem years ago.

On that note, we, the people, also must NOT allow state-sanctioned killing by robot to become the norm.

The cops in Dallas last night killed Micah Johnson by affixing a bomb to a robot, directing the robot to Johnson’s vicinity, and then detonating the bomb. It was the first time that cops anywhere on U.S. soil used a robot to kill someone.*

What the fucking fuck?

A robot that can deliver a bomb can’t deliver a tranquilizer dart or a knock-out gas? Really? Blowing Micah Johnson up via R2-D2 was the cops’ only option?

No, the cops blew Johnson up because he’d killed cops, and they wanted their instant revenge on him. The actual justice (well, “justice”) system might have allowed him to live, so they, the cops, had to be the prosecutors, judges, juries and executioners, you see.

And by so doing, the cops only further demonstrated last night that they have become a serious problem that we, the people, need to solve — lest the cops’ killer robots come for us next.

Correction (Monday, July 11, 2016): My bad: Apparently the cop who shot Philando Castile to death is Mexican American, not white. (In the viral video, only the cop’s forearms are visible, and he is light-skinned, so I’d thought that he was white.)

This is a rather ironic photo of the cop:

St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez, who shot and killed Philando Castile during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights on July 6, 2016, is shown taking part in the Standing of the Memorial Guard event during Law Enforcement Memorial Day and National Peace Officer's Day at the Minnesota Capitol in May 2014. (Courtesy of city of Falcon Heights)

(No, it’s not a Photoshop job. It was taken two years ago and it’s from here.)

The cop, named Jeronimo Yanez, has claimed, via his attorney, “This had nothing to do with race. This had everything to do with the presence of a gun.” (Of course, it’s not like any cop actually would admit it if his [or her] shooting death of someone had been racially motivated…)

Our society’s racial pecking order is fairly ingrained, it seems to me, and we can internalize and act out that pecking order unconsciously, methinks.

I just can’t imagine Philando Castile having been shot to death as he was had he been white (or perhaps Asian or Latino).

*NPR quotes a subject-matter expert as saying that bombs/explosive devices affixed to robotic devices have been used by the U.S. military in Iraq, but that last night’s was the first such use here on American soil.

Indeed, our police are becoming more and more militarized, and we, the people, fail to put a stop to this anti-constitutional bullshit at our own peril.

I vehemently oppose the use of armed/weaponized robots or drones to kill civilians on American soil — and their use in all other nations should be prohibited as well.

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It’s another summer of race-relations hell, but I believe it is getting better

In this undated photo provided by the Bland family, Sandra Bland poses for a photo. The family of Bland, who was found dead in her Texas jail cell, assert that she would not have taken her own life, but authorities are pointing to mounting evidence that they say shows she hanged herself. (Courtesy of Bland family)

Associated Press image

Sandra Bland (shown in a family photo above) very apparently died for having driven while black in Texas. That conclusion is fairly inescapable. That said, Dear Black People: Hulk Hogan (like Donald Sterling and Paula Deen) is not The Spokesperson for White People. Just putting that out there. (Hogan is photographed below with his daughter, whose relationship with a black man induced him to use “the ‘n-’ word” repeatedly eight years ago on, um, a sex tape…)

Brooke Hogan Defends Dad Hulk with a Poem

Maybe I have a short memory — maybe this comes up every summer, when we have hot temperatures and hot tempers — but this summer seems to be a repeat of last summer, in which race relations were at the fore.

I’m not saying that race relations shouldn’t be discussed nationally — clearly, we in the United States of America have many unresolved, ongoing issues and problems surrounding race (and many other things) that we have to solve, as they won’t simply go away by themselves, as much as we might wish that they would — but at the same time, it seems to me that so many people benefit from the continued interracial strife that they have no real interest in resolution.

White supremacists and black supremacists, for instance, derive their senses of identity, meaning and purpose from continued interracial conflict. I don’t expect them to hold hands for a rousing round of “Kumbaya” any time soon. And, of course, as I’ve noted, race relations aren’t only binary, aren’t only black and white or black vs. white or vice-versa; we see from Donald Trump’s brand of politics that attacking Latinos can pay off politically within the right wing, just as attacking Jews paid off politically in right-wing Nazi Germany.

And, of course, race-based reportage does quite well in the media, and the media corporations that profit from it know that fully well.

This is not to downplay or minimize very real injustices, such as the fate of 28-year-old Sandra Bland. I agree with Matt Taibbi’s assessment that however Sandra Bland died while captive in a Texas jail earlier this month, because she very apparently was pulled over in the first place primarily or only because of racial profiling — and therefore apparently was subjected to race-based harassment by the law-enforcement officer who pulled her over — the Texas law-enforcement and criminal/“criminal” justice/“justice” system officials were responsible for everything that happened to her afterward.

When I say “responsible” I mean morally, ethically and karmically responsible, of course; unless it can be proved conclusively that Bland did not die by self-strangulation, of course no one in Texas will be charged with murder, despite the headline of Taibbi’s piece that proclaims that “Sandra Bland Was Murdered.”

Personally, were a law-enforcement officer to stop me, whether I were on foot or in a car or on a bicycle or whatever, and/or give me any directive and/or request that was not blatantly unreasonable, I probably would comply with his or her order or request. I probably would not argue with him or her. An illegal stop or arrest usually can be sorted out later. The time and place of the stop or arrest probably is not the time and place at which the legality or illegality of it is going to be officially, legally established.

That said, Taibbi notes that “Law-and-order types like to lecture black America about how it can avoid getting killed by ‘respecting authority’ and treating arresting cops like dangerous dogs or [swarms of] bees.” 

I don’t want to come off as one of those kinds of white people, and I do view — for years now I have viewed — the primary role of law-enforcement officers and the criminal/“criminal” justice/“justice” system not as maintaining public safety, the safety of us commoners, but as maintaining the socioeconomic status quo; the taxes of we, the people, fund the cops and the court system, but they function primarily not for our benefit, but primarily to keep the rich — a disproportionate number of them right-wing white people — firmly in power.

And true, of course we shouldn’t have to regard our cops like dangerous animals that might go off on us at any moment, but when the reality, at least for the time being, is that often we do, the safest thing to do then is to regard them as such, it seems to me. You might call that cowardice or caving; I consider it to be survival. You will be less able to celebrate your victory of being right and the cop being wrong when you are in a hospital bed, and you won’t be able to celebrate your victory at all if you’re dead.

The mouthiest that I got with a law-enforcement officer that I can remember is when I was at a pro-labor-union protest at the California state Capitol in late February 2011 and the state police (officers of the California Highway Patrol, especially one of them) were enforcing supposed rules, regulations and ordinances on those of us of the pro-labor crowd while they allowed the anti-labor “tea-party” traitors who were there only to heckle and try to provoke us from across the street to do the same things that we were doing, with complete impunity. I pointed this out to Officer Friendly (and reported his actions later to the CHP).

My sense of that situation is that cops, most of them being right-wing themselves, tend to crack down much harder on left-leaning groups of people than on right-wing groups of people, since they usually agree with the latter.

However, on that day in February 2011 there were many people around, and many if not even most had their “smart”phone or other video-recording devices out, so it’s not like this cop was going to do anything to me for simply having complained to him about his and his cohorts’ unfair treatment.

What happened in the Sandra Bland case, from what I can tell, was that two stubborn people clashed, which often is a recipe for disaster. Sandra Bland probably felt that she had been racially profiled because she probably had been. I’m guessing that her mindset was that she wasn’t going to take it. The cop, conversely, wanted her complete compliance with his commands, which he did not get. Again: It was a recipe for disaster.

While the cop had the right to ask her to step out of her vehicle — the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1977 that it is not a violation of one’s constitutional rights (in and of itself) to be told to get out of a vehicle when stopped by a law-enforcement officer — whether or not the cop who stopped Bland had the right to ask her to put out her cigarette is much grayer.

One retired law-enforcement official interviewed by the Los Angeles Times stated, “No one, including a police officer, wants to get a burning cigarette jammed into their face or eye; it’s basic procedure. The officer asked politely if she would mind putting out her cigarette. The violator then raised her voice, actively resisted multiple lawful directions to get out of the car. The officer requested a backup officer to respond. The officer raised his voice several times in what turned out to be a futile effort to overcome that resistance.” (Consider the source of that loaded quote, of course.)

Why, exactly, the cop asked Bland to put out her cigarette I’m not sure. While a still-burning cigarette could be used as a weapon, it seems to me that most likely the cop just wanted to abuse his authority and control, and perhaps to test his control over Bland.

Of course, he might be someone who is bothered significantly by cigarette smoke that is close by; I am one of those people, and I hate it when people smoke in public and I have to deal with their smoke.

But while Bland was non-compliant, the cop, who, because he had a lot more power in the interaction than did Bland (he had not only a lethal weapon but also the full force of the Texas “justice” system, which he knew always is going to give him the benefit of any doubt, behind him), had that much more responsibility than did Bland to keep the interaction from escalating.

Yet the cop threatened to “light” Bland “up” with his Taser — Tasers are supposed to be used defensively, not threatened to be used as a bargaining chip, as far as I understand — and when Bland, who at this point had been grabbed by the cop by the wrist, proclaimed that she had epilepsy, the cop replied, “Good.”

Only because there was video and audio of this did the cop’s Texan superiors Orwellianly understate that the cop had violated the department’s “courtesy policy.” Otherwise, the cop probably would have lied about the entire interaction (including how wholly professional and polite he had been), and his lies would have been taken as gospel.

As I do, another police expert who was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times correctly puts the onus on the cop:

Seth Stoughton, a University of South Carolina law professor and former Florida police officer, said Enicinia [the cop’s name is Brian T. Encinia; he is Latino] missed several opportunities to deescalate tension and should have explained in calmer tones what he was doing and why.

“He certainly has the legal authority to get her to step out of the car,” Stoughton said. “But in this case, if he is exercising his authority because she defying his direction to put out the cigarette, then that is more based on his ego than public safety…. Just because it is legal to order her out of the car doesn’t make it a professional approach in modern policing.

“This is a systemic problem with policing,” Stoughton said. “There is emphasis on compliance over cooperation.”

There are no laws that require an officer to order alleged violators to extinguish a cigarette in their car during a traffic stop, he said.

“It was a request, not an order,” he said. “If a person was out of the car, then an officer could determine it poses a safety threat and order it be put out. But it is hard to argue that inside the car.”

Again, Encinia might have a hard time breathing around cigarette smoke, as I do, but again, he had significantly more responsibility than did Bland to prevent the interaction from spinning out of control, but he fairly clearly had little to no interest in doing that, and perhaps he even wanted an ego-boosting fight with her. (I don’t know, since I wasn’t there, and since even if I had been there, I’m pretty intuitive but I am not telepathic.)

In a nutshell, I suspect that being a black woman with, presumably, an Illinois license plate on her car, Bland was profiled as being a certain type of individual who is not welcome in the deep-red state of Texas and therefore was pulled over — and had that not happened, she very most likely still would be alive.

While what happened to Bland (if she indeed did take her own life) does not match the legal definition of murder, of course, it is difficult to impossible for me not to conclude that she was killed by systemic injustice. She was, in effect, killed for being black (and perhaps also for being from out of state, and from a blue state) in Texas. She was killed by the actions and the inaction of many, many people. And of course black lives matter.

And then there is Hulk Hogan, who this past week was in the news, Donald-Sterling style, for having been recorded repeatedly using the word “nigger” in a sex tape that was made eight years ago and later was leaked. (Apparently Hogan was not pleased that his daughter was in a relationship with a black man. [Donald Sterling, recall, similarly didn’t like his girl-toy associating with black men.])

“This is not who I am. I believe very strongly that every person in the world is important and should not be treated differently based on race, gender, orientation, religious beliefs or otherwise,” the Hulkster has proclaimed.

That’s not very credible. It’s not absolutely impossible that Hogan truly has had a change of heart in the past eight years, but as most people develop their belief systems early in life and tend to keep them intact until death, it seems quite unlikely.

That said, Hogan is 61 years old and was born in Georgia and raised in Florida. (His fellow racist Paula Deen is 68 years old and also was born in Georgia, where she has remained.

Let’s please not presume that all (or even most) white people routinely throw around the word “nigger” in private. White racism (as is all racism) is largely a function of one’s age and one’s upbringing, including the region where he or she was raised and the region where he or she has been living for a while now (and how much racism has been prevalent and how much it has been tolerated — or even encouraged — in that region).

Donald Sterling is 81 years old; he was born in Chicago but apparently has lived in the Los Angeles area for the vast majority of his life. I chalk up his racism more as a function of his age than of his geography.

Socioeconomics, including one’s highest level of education and one’s income, also affect one’s level of racism, regardless of his or her race.

The likes of Hulk Hogan, Donald Sterling and Paula Deen are not spokespeople for the entire white race.

Thankfully, younger whites tend to be significantly less racist than older whites — as with homophobia, racism’s eradication probably depends mostly upon older people finally kicking off and taking their bigotry with them to their graves and urns — and again, with racism there are regional differences. There is no region of the U.S. that is entirely free of racism, of course, but some regions inarguably are much worse with racism than are others. (Fuck, I’m a white [albeit gay] guy and truly I would be afraid to drive through Texas. Perhaps especially with California plates.)

And where lovely white people like Donald Sterling and Hulk Hogan are concerned, I do have a problem with violations of privacy, which would include being recorded secretly or having one’s consensual recording (such as a sex tape) taken from his or her possession and then leaked to others.

All of us have a constitutional right to privacy, whether we’re racist or not. Yes, that constitutional right to privacy would include being able to say even the vilest things within the privacy of our own fucking homes, much how the constitutional right to free speech enables us to say even the vilest things. It is at our own peril that we allow the constitutional right to privacy to fall to the wayside by not defending others when their right to privacy is violated. Defending their right to privacy is not the same thing as agreeing with their words.

And I don’t believe for a nanosecond that non-whites, in private, never make any racist or negative, race-based comments about members of other races or similar comments that they wouldn’t want leaked to the public. Again, all of us have the constitutional right to privacy, and it’s quite easy for us to be hypocrites and burn the likes of Donald Sterling and Hulk Hogan at the stake when we certainly wouldn’t want certain utterances of our own to be secretly recorded and publicized (or to be recorded for our own use but then publicized against our wishes).

Finally, it can come as no surprise that, the New York Times reports, Americans right now hold a dim view of race relations. The Times reported this past week:

Seven years ago, in the gauzy afterglow of a stirring election night in Chicago, commentators dared ask whether the United States had finally begun to heal its divisions over race and atone for the original sin of slavery by electing its first black president. It has not. Not even close.

A New York Times/CBS News poll conducted last week reveals that nearly six in 10 Americans, including heavy majorities of both whites and blacks, think race relations are generally bad, and that nearly four in 10 think the situation is getting worse. By comparison, two-thirds of Americans surveyed shortly after President [Barack] Obama took office said they believed that race relations were generally good.

The swings in attitude have been particularly striking among African-Americans. During Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign, nearly 60 percent of blacks said race relations were generally bad, but that number was cut in half shortly after he won. It has now soared to 68 percent, the highest level of discontent among blacks during the Obama years and close to the numbers recorded in the aftermath of the riots that followed the 1992 acquittal of Los Angeles police officers charged in the beating of Rodney King.

Only a fifth of those surveyed said they thought race relations were improving, while about 40 percent of both blacks and whites said they were staying essentially the same.

Respondents tended to have much sunnier views of race relations in their own communities.

For instance, while only 37 percent said they thought race relations were generally good in the United States, more than twice that share, 77 percent, thought they were good in their communities, a number that has changed little over the past 20 years. …

That 77 percent of the poll’s respondents believe that race relations are pretty good in their own communities but that only 37 percent of the respondents believe that race relations are generally good in the nation as a whole demonstrates two things, I suspect: One, that a lot of Americans probably live in neighborhoods that aren’t very diverse — Americans tend to self-segregate by race (and by other demographics, such as income and age) — and so, surrounded mostly by people like themselves, there isn’t a lot of race-based conflict in the typical American’s daily routine.

And two, having a journalism degree and valuing the First Amendment, I’m not a knee-jerk blame-the-media type, but race-based news/“news” stories, because they get viewers and readers hot and bothered and so they get the media outlets viewers and readers (and thus more money), I surmise would lead us to believe that interracial relations are significantly worse than they actually are.

I don’t at all mean to downplay what happened to Sandra Bland or to Eric Garner or to Walter Scott or to way too many others. Their deaths/murders of course needed to be reported within the news/“news” media. I mean only to point out the simple fact that when interracial relations go smoothly, very rarely is it ever considered to be “newsworthy.” When interracial relations go significantly badly, especially if death or violence or property destruction is involved, all of us hear about it.

And in today’s instantaneous media environment, we hear about it instantaneously. And no media outlet wants to be seen as being outdone by the others, so we have wolf-pack journalism/“journalism,” and so when something is in the news/“news,” we see incessant, relentless coverage of it until it’s taken over by a new outrage or tragedy or debacle.

That we hear primarily only of the bad gives us a skewed view of how horrible things actually are. Your chance of dying in an airplane crash is 1 in 11 million. Your chance of dying in a vehicular crash, however, is 1 in 5,000. But horrific plane crashes that the media cover relentlessly make flying in airplanes seem to be much more dangerous than it really is.

Not too dissimilarly, I believe, the vast majority of interactions between cops and civilians end without injury or death. Most cops actually are not out to harm or to kill anyone (most — of course, no one wants to experience, or should have to experience, the exceptions to that rule).

And Hulk Hogan and his ilk are not representative of all or even of most white people. A sweepingly generalizing sentence that begins with “(All) white people…” is as likely to be as bullshit and as racist as is a sweepingly generalizing sentence that begins with “(All) black people…” And to me it’s just as offensive and just as racist to paint all white people with the same broad brush as it is to paint all members of another racial group with the same broad brush. Respect needs to work both ways for it to work at all.

Of course electing Barack Obama as president in 2008 wasn’t the magic bullet that was going to slay racism in the United States of America once and for all. As the New York Times’ reportage indicates, however, many if not most of us apparently to some degree thought that it was, at least in the “gauzy afterglow” of his initial election.

But since Obama’s arrival in the White House didn’t magically wipe out racism — since racism is much bigger than is any one person, even the president of the United States of America — nor does Obama’s departure from the White House a year and a half from now mean that racism inevitably is going to get even worse than it is now.

It’s quite trite, but it’s quite true: racism’s eradication or its persistence is up to us, to each and to every one of us.

Had I been asked to take the New York Times’ poll, I’d have responded, truthfully, that I believe that race relations in the United States actually are getting better, not worse.

That probably strikes most as counter-intuitive, given what’s in the news/“news” these days, but I say that because although racial relations in the U.S. continue to be quite messy, we’re talking about them.

Not talking about racism perpetuates it. All of us, regardless of our race, need to continue to talk about racism and we need to continue to act to eradicate it.

It’s incredibly messy. It’s awfully ugly. But we must do it nonetheless.

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Attacks on Elizabeth Warren demonstrate her strength

Warren listens to Yellen testify on Capitol Hill in Washington

Reuters news photo

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has the stuff of which U.S. presidents are made, which is why she has plenty of detractors. (And she really rocks purple. Just sayin’: I want eight years of a purple-wearing president.)

Reading Yahoo! political commentator Matt Bai’s recent column on why he believes Vice President Joe Biden should run for the 2016 Democratic Party presidential nomination, I was stopped cold by Bai’s casual, cavalier remark that besides Biden, “There’s [Vermont U.S. Sen.] Bernie Sanders, who’s an avowed socialist [as though there were something wrong with that], and Elizabeth Warren, who sounds more like a Jacobin.”

I recalled that the Jacobins were associated with the French Revolution, but I couldn’t recall exactly what they were about, and so I looked them up on Wikipedia. Wikipedia notes of the Jacobins, in part: “At their height in 1793-94, the [Jacobin Club] leaders were the most radical and egalitarian group in the [French] Revolution. Led by Maximilien de Robespierre (1758–1794), they controlled the government from June 1793 to July 1794, passed a great deal of radical legislation, and hunted down and executed their opponents in the Reign of Terror.”

Wow.

For all of the right wing’s bullshit about “class warfare” — which, conveniently, according to the right wing’s playbook always is waged by the poor against the rich and never vice-versa — Elizabeth Warren actually has not called for a violent revolution.* She has called for a return to socioeconomic fairness and justice, which is more than reasonable, especially given what has happened to the American middle class since at least the 1980s, during the reign of Reagan (another reign of terror from history, not entirely metaphorically speaking). But if you can’t win an argument these days, you just accuse your opponent of being a terrorist (not entirely unlike Repugnican Tea Party Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s recent comparison of Wisconsinites standing up for their livelihoods to the terrorists who comprise ISIS).

Matt Bai makes only one other brief reference to Warren in his screed about why, in his estimation, Biden should run for president for 2016: “Biden’s a middle-class champion who makes the case for economic fairness with more conviction than [Billary] Clinton and less vitriol than Warren .”

I agree that Billary has little to zero credibility on the issue of socioeconomic justice, but if you Google “vitriol” you will see that it means “cruel and bitter criticism.”

Wow. Warren is passionate, absolutely. She’s one of the relatively few passionate and progressive elected officials in D.C., and passion is a normal response to socioeconomic injustice that is deep and widespread. But when has Warren ever been bitter and/or cruel? WTF, Matt Bai?

I’m not the only one who has recognized this. I was pleased to see soon later that Salon.com writer Elias Isquith wrote a column on Bai’s drive-by bashing of Warren and on the establishment’s fear of Warren — fear of Warren because she actually threatens to upend the status quo in Washington, D.C., the status quo that is toxic for the majority of Americans (and much if not most of the rest of the world) but that is working out just fine for the denizens of the halls of power in D.C. (which would include Bai, whom Isquith refers to as “the star pundit-reporter and longtime communicator of whatever the conventional wisdom of the political elite happens to be at any given time”; I would add that Bai is a mansplainer par excellence as well).

Isquith, too, takes issue with calling Warren a “Jacobin,” and Isquith compares a quotation of an actual Jacobin (the philosophy of whom is that “[the] policy ought to be to lead the people by reason and the people’s enemies by terror. … Terror is nothing other than justice, prompt, severe, inflexible; it is therefore an emanation of virtue; it is not so much a special principle as it is a consequence of the general principle of democracy applied to our country’s most urgent needs”) to a quotation of Warren (one of my favorites):

“I hear all this, you know, ‘Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever.’ No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory — and hire someone to protect against this — because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless — keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

This statement (from August 2011, when Warren was running for the U.S. Senate) is eminently fair and reasonable — I’d call it “common sense” if the wingnutty fascists hadn’t already bastardized that term for all of their harmful ideas and opinions.

Why the establishmentarian attacks on Warren, whose actual words and actual record have nothing whatsofuckingever to do with what her detractors and critics claim about her? Isquith offers a plausible explanation (links are Isquith’s):

… The first and most obvious reason is that Washington is, to put it gently, a swamp of corruption where many influential people live comfortably — thanks to Wall Street. Maybe they’re lobbyists; maybe they work in free-market think tanks; maybe they’re employed by the defense industry, which benefits greatly from Wall Street’s largesse. Or maybe they’re government bureaucrats who find Warren’s opposition to the “revolving door” to be in profound conflict with their future plans.

My second theory is less political and more prosaic. Another reason Bai and his ilk find Warren discomfiting may be her glaring lack of false modesty and her disinterest in keeping her head down and paying her dues. Because despite being the capital of what is nominally the greatest liberal democracy on Earth, Washington is in truth a deeply conformist and hierarchical milieu, one where new arrivals are expected to be neither seen nor heard until they’ve been deemed to have earned their place. And while Warren may want to be seen as a team player, what she cares most about is reining in Wall Street. If she deems it necessary to accomplish her primary goal, she’s willing to step on some toes and lose a few fair-weather friends. …

I would add that patriarchy, sexism and misogyny certainly play a role, too. It might not be conscious in all cases, but I surmise that because every single one of our 44 U.S. presidents thus far have been men, there is an ingrained cultural, even visceral, belief among many, many Americans — even women — that the U.S. president should be a man. Thus, the likes of Matt Bai is rooting for Joe Biden; Bai’s support of Biden apparently stems, in no tiny part, from the fact that Biden is yet another older white man.

The U.S. president should be, in my book, the candidate who both is the most progressive and the most electable, and right now that candidate is Elizabeth Warren. That she happens to be a woman is great, as we are woefully overdue for our first female president.

Presidential preference polls consistently show both Warren and Biden to be Democrats’ second and third choices after Billary Clinton (who, after E-mailgate, might slide in the polls of Democrats and Democratic-leaners; we’ll see).

Joe Biden probably would be an acceptable-enough president – I’d certainly take him over a President Billary – but given his age (he’s 72 years old today and would be 74 were he to be inaugurated as president in January 2017, making him the oldest president at the time of inauguration in U.S. history [even Ronald Reagan was a spry 69-going-on-70 years old when he took office in early 1981]) and given his reputation as a hothead, I don’t know how electable Biden would be.

And while in fairness the vice president doesn’t get to do very much, what has Biden done over the past six years?

Biden’s age doesn’t bother me — if you can be the job, I don’t much care how old you are — but it would become a campaign “issue.” And while perhaps it’s not fair to Biden as an individual, it’s pathetic and sad and deeply disappointing that in our so-called “representative democracy,” our 45th president would be yet another white man, for a string of 44 out of 45 U.S. presidents being white men.

Elizabeth Warren is a twofer: an actually progressive Democrat who is electable as U.S. president, and thus also potentially our first U.S. president who is a woman.

Attacks on Warren by the shameless, worthless, self-serving defenders of the status quo are to be expected; when the voters hear and read what Warren has to say, versus the bullshit that the establishmentarians spew** about her, they will, I believe, put Warren in the White House, where she belongs.

*For the record, I don’t rule out the use of violence in a revolution. Our plutocratic overlords never rule out the use of violence (state violence, usually) against us commoners. Unilateral disarmament is bullshit.

I’d much prefer a bloodless revolution, of course, but again, when the enemy doesn’t rule out violence, you shouldn’t either.

**Similarly, were most Americans actually informed about what democratic socialism actually is all about, they probably would embrace it, which is why it has been so important to the establishmentarians and the wingnuts (really, “wingnut” is too-cuddly a word for right-wing fascists) to lie about what socialism is all about.

Such a dog-whistle word has “socialist” become, indeed, that Matt Bai simply dismisses Bernie Sanders’ entire being in one fell swoop in just one phrase (“an avowed socialist” — gasp!).

Thank you, Matt Bai, for so courageously doing your part to discourage all actual thought in the United States of America!

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Cop in Garner death should be tried for homicide

This is a grab from a video showing thuggish New York cop Daniel Pantaleo putting a forbidden chokehold on Eric Garner in New York City in July, causing Garner’s death, according to both a medical examiner and a forensic pathologist. Yet Pantaelo’s “punishment” thus far has been only desk duty.

While there isn’t enough evidence — just conflicting testimony — in the August death by cop of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, to ascertain whether the state grand jury got it right or not, a New York grand jury’s failure to indict New York police Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the July death of Eric Garner is fucking mind-blowing.

On July 17, Pantaleo put the 43-year-old Garner in a chokehold, reportedly for Garner’s resistance to being arrested for having illegally sold cigarettes. However, Garner’s resistance to being arrested, if there was such resistance, apparently was only verbal, not physical, and nor did he try to flee the scene.

Therefore, Pantaleo’s chokehold appears to be a textbook case of police brutality.

A bystander’s video of the interaction between Garner and cops that went viral shows several cops holding Garner down on the ground (including Pantaleo, holding Garner’s head down to the pavement), while Garner repeatedly pleads, “I can’t breathe!”

Garner, who reportedly had asthma, died — perhaps of asphyxia from status asthmaticus, which could be caused not only from a chokehold, but from the physical and emotional shock of suddenly being manhandled and dog-piled upon like he was.

In any event, while Pantaleo’s shameless fucking defenders blame Garner’s pre-existing health condition for his death — a textbook example of blaming the victim — a medical examiner and a forensic pathologist both concluded that Garner’s cause of death was homicide (death caused by another human being, in this case, by Pantaleo).

Video of Garner’s chokehold takedown went viral, and, as The Associated Press notes, “A second video surfaced that showed police and paramedics appearing to make no effort to revive Garner while he lay motionless on the ground. He later died at a hospital.”

“I became a police officer to help people and to protect those who can’t protect themselves,” Pantaleo reportedly stated in a written statement. “It is never my intention to harm anyone and I feel very bad about the death of Mr. Garner.”

Regardless of what Pantaleo’s intention was, his unnecessary, thuggish chokehold predictably could have caused harm or even death, and therefore, in my book, he at least is guilty of negligent homicide or manslaughter. Chokeholds, after all, are banned by New York police policy. Pantaleo clearly violated the establish standards and norms for his job –– we have the video proof of that fact — and because of that, someone died.

Pantaleo should have to pay the price for that, and his merely being put on desk duty is nowhere near justice in this case. Those paramedics and police who also failed to do their duty to Garner also should be punished. Minimally, their fitness to remain in their jobs should be ascertained.

I hope that Garner’s survivors sue the holy living shit out of Pantaleo, and I hope that the feds bring about the justice that the New York grand jury did not.

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Notes on the mess in Ferguson

robberystrongarmedrobbery2.jpg

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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