Mike Kueber's Blog

May 5, 2015

Baltimore

Filed under: Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 2:29 am
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The Baltimore story, like the Ferguson story, seems to be fading.  But because nothing has been resolved, the story will be back, and this might be a good time to consider what the story is.

The story seemed to start with Trayvon Martin being killed by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch guy.  The victim was an unarmed young black guy and the assailant was an armed white guy.  Technically, Zimmerman was Hispanic, but the media called him a white Hispanic.  President Obama immediately empathized with Martin – “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” and even after Zimmerman was acquitted, the president waxed nostalgic, “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”

Actually, the story might have started even earlier with Henry Gates, the black Harvard professor who got into an argument with a white Cambridge policeman James Crowley, who suspected Gates of breaking into his own home.  President Obama immediately took sides by saying:

  • I don’t know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that. But I think it’s fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home, and, number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there’s a long history in this country of African Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately.”

Eventually, as more facts were learned, President Obama backed off his position and called this a “teaching moment,” followed by a Beer Summit with Gates and Crowley in the Rose Garden.

Between the Harvard and Baltimore incidents, there have been several famous incidents involving young black men and usually white authority figures:

  • John Crawford (Dayton man shot by a white policeman while brandishing a bb/pellet gun in a Walmart)
  • Eric Garner (Staten Island, choke hold while resisting arrest)
  • Tamir Rice (12-year-old boy with a replica pistol in Cleveland)
  • Walter Scott (Charleston man shot while running away from a white policeman)
  • Akai Gurley (Brooklyn man killed when an Asian policeman accidentally discharged his weapon and a bullet ricocheted off a wall into Gurley)
  • Michael Brown (Ferguson man shot while charging a white policeman.)

The recent incident in Baltimore involving Freddy Gray prompted a lengthy article this weekend in the NY Times magazine titled, “Our demand is to stop killing us.”  The article profiles a couple of activists who have been working since Ferguson to drum up support on social media for their issue.  After reading the article, I read dozens of the comments and was surprised that many of them suggested that the activists were misguided – i.e., that inner-city blacks have more to worry about from black criminals than they do from white police.  One writer suggested that inner-city blacks wouldn’t be in danger from the police if they didn’t commit crimes and didn’t resist arrest.  That reflected my thinking because most of my knowledge related to the Brown (Ferguson) and Garner (Staten Island) incidents.  Another commenter point out that Tamir Rice and John Crawford hadn’t committed crimes and weren’t resisting arrest, and he could have added Akai Gurley to the list.

Rice, Crawford, and Gurley are possibly victims of profiling, but who can blame a policeman for being edgy when dealing with young black males in high-crime areas.  Just today, the NY Times reported on the death of a young white policeman in Queens, Brian Moore, who noticed a suspicious young black male fidgeting with his waistband, and when he tried to question the man, the man suddenly pulled the gun and shot the policeman in the head.  Incidents like this are bound to produce hair triggers.

The NYPD had already suffered a targeted killing of two policemen (Hispanic and Asian) by a black man in December by a man who linked his actions to protests over the Ferguson and Staten Island incidents.

So what is the story?  The simplistic narrative is that white policemen are killing black men.  Going a little deeper, the argument is that the killings are inadequately unpunished by the judicial system because black lives are not valued.  And ultimately, there is a rationalization that inner-city youths are frustrated with lives that have no hope.  There was an article in the NY Times yesterday about a federal program that enabled families through vouchers to move into better neighborhoods, and that seemed to be an immense help to the kids in the family, especially if the move occurred before the kids were 12-years old.  That sounds promising, just like school vouchers.

On an a brighter note for our policemen, yesterday a Texas policeman with a pistol engaged two Muslim extremists with assault weapons and body armor intent on crashing into a cartoon show that was making fun of Mohammed.  Although details have not been reported, the policeman was able to kill both extremists without being injured.  Sounds like a Clint Eastwood moment.

April 9, 2015

The Walter Scott killing in SC

Filed under: Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 6:50 pm
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I had a Muslim friend who, whenever she heard of a terrorist incident, first hoped that the terrorists weren’t Muslim.  I confess to feeling the same way when hearing a report that a policeman killed an unarmed person – i.e., I hope the policeman wasn’t white and the deceased wasn’t black.  Well, this week in South Carolina, the policeman Michael Slager was white and the deceased Walter Scott was black.

Based on those facts, the New York Times was prepared to immediately jump to conclusions.  According to its editorial board:

  • The case underscores two problems that have become increasingly clear since the civic discord that erupted last year after the police killed black citizens in New York, Cleveland and Ferguson, Mo. The first, most pressing problem is that poorly trained and poorly supervised officers often use deadly force unnecessarily, particularly against minority citizens. The second is that the police get away with unjustly maiming or killing people by lying about the circumstances that prompted them to use force.  The shooting death of Walter Scott on Saturday would have passed into the annals of history unremarked upon had a bystander not used a cellphone to document what happened after Mr. Scott encountered the police officer, Michael Slager, after a routine traffic stop.”

Let me count the ways the editorial board in incorrect:

  1. The shooting in SC is dramatically different than the deaths in NY, Cleveland, and Ferguson, and the prompt criminal charges in SC reflect that.
  2. Poor training and poor supervision have nothing to do with the SC cop shooting a fleeing man.
  3. Police lying, just like any other variety of lying, must be exposed by conflicting evidence.
  4. The killing in Ferguson didn’t “pass into the annals of history unremarked” even though there was no video evidence, so why would the Times suggest that the Walter Scott shooting would?

As I read some of the hundreds of comments to the editorial, most readers scoffed at the suggestion that the shooting resulted from poor training and poor supervision.  Then the next day, NY Times columnist Charles Blow shied away from the training and supervision issue, but joined the growing consensus that this issue of white-cop/black-victim was systemic and would have escaped detection without the video:

  • This case is yet another in a horrifyingly familiar succession of cases that have elevated the issue of use of force, particularly deadly force, by officers against people of color and inflamed the conversation that surrounds it.
  • What would have happened if video of this incident had not surfaced? Would the officer’s version of events have stood? How many such cases must there be where there is no video?
  • But I would argue that the issue we are facing in these cases is not one of equipment, or even policy, but culture.

I suggest that the editorial board and columnist Blow should keep their powder dry until two unreported facts are developed:

  1. Resisting Arrest. The incidents in NY and Ferguson involved victims who resisted arrest, and one of the Lessons Learned that was noted in passing was that it is never a good idea to resist arrest.  In SC, we have been told that the incident was a routine traffic stop, and then the video picks up with a fleeing victim.  Apparently, a witness saw the cop and the victim fighting on the ground.  This missing link seems like an important component of the story for me, but the media seems to have minimal interest.
  2. Racial animus.  After the cop in Ferguson, Darren Wilson, was cleared by state authorities, the feds attempted to prove a civil-rights claim by checking the cop’s history for any evidence of racial animus.  The same thing should be done here before concluding that this was a race-based shooting in SC.

Incidentally, the Charles Blow column included some interesting information about the Ferguson shooting that I was not aware of:

  • One of the most disturbing features of the Department of Justice’s report on the killing of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson was the number of witnesses who said that they were afraid to come forward because their version of events contradicted what they saw as community consensus.”

March 12, 2015

Jon Stewart brings some perspective to the SAE controversy and rampant racism in America

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 8:12 pm
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Last night on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart attempted to prove that he is an equal-opportunity satirist by devoting the second segment of his show to skewering Hillary Clinton for her lame, almost risible explanation for declining to send government emails from a government server – i.e., carrying two phones would be inconvenient.

But, true to his nature, Stewart reserved his most serious sarcasm, and the first segment of his show, for a video of a busload of SAE fraternity members drunkenly singing to keep black people out of the OU chapter of the fraternity – “You can hang them from a tree, but they will never sign with me. There will never be a nigger SAE.”

Stewart compared the SAE video to another video by an OU linebacker, Eric Striker, responding to the SAE video:

  • “I’m so motherfucking furious right now. SAE just fucked it up for all you fucking white fraternities. The same motherfuckers talking about racism don’t exist, be the same motherfuckers shaking our hand, giving us hugs, telling them how you really love us. Fuck you phony ass fraud ass bitches.”

Since the revelation of the videos, OU has disbanded the SAE fraternity and expelled the two SAE members for creating “hostile learning environment for others.”  The linebacker is being recognized on FOX Sports are an heroic leader of his team.

The last part of the SAE segment, however, was the most interesting, and relates to my previous discussions of logic and critical thinking. Steward showed a series of clips where conservatives tried to minimize the SAE incident by characterizing it as an isolated event that does not reflect a prevalent attitude. Then, as is Stewart’s wont, he showed conservatives arguing against welfare and food stamps based on isolated incidents of abuse – e.g., as buying salmon with food stamps.

But Stewart wasn’t willing to accept that both sides employ similar misleading tactics in making their arguments. He wanted the moral high ground that welfare fraud wasn’t prevalent whereas racism was. To win his argument, he used two punches:

  1. According to Stewart, the recently released Justice Department report on Ferguson was “as comprehensive a catalogue of race-based predations as anyone’s going to find.” Stewart failed to mention that the Department’s principal proof of racial animus in Ferguson was six racist jokes that had been communicated on employee computers.
  2. Megan Kelly on FOX was guilty of inadvertently incriminating herself and all conservatives by saying that any in-depth Justice Department examination of employee computers of most companies would likely find six similar jokes. Thus, according to Stewart, Kelly didn’t exonerate Ferguson, but rather indicted all of America.

Which brings us to our critical-thinking skills. Does the fact that some people send or receive jokes that compare President Obama to a chimpanzee mean that those people and their agency/companies are dangerous racists that must face the heavy hand of the law? Attorney General Eric Holder seems to think so because he has said the Ferguson government will be dismantled by the Justice Department unless it agrees to voluntary reforms. The SAE chapter has already been dismantled by OU.

Another question – is it more important to weed out racists than bigots? What about jokes disparaging Catholic priests or Muslims or Russians or illegal immigrants or fat people or gay people or people on welfare? If a company doesn’t vigorously weed out these snarky people, does the government intervene?

This is a slippery slope for government.

December 17, 2014

Bill Clinton on race relations post-Ferguson and post-Staten Island

Bill Clinton was recently interviewed by the modern Walter Cronkite, Jorge Ramos of Fusion TV (a network directed at millennials and Hispanics). During the interview, Clinton weighed-in on race relations in America in the aftermath of the Ferguson and Staten Island killings.  When asked if race relations in America were getting better, Clinton said “yes and no.”

  • Yes, there are more opportunities for blacks in business and the professions.
  • No, there is an on-going problem with the American majority acting out of fear because of preconceived notions based on race and socio-economic groups that don’t share the majority’s values and lifestyle, which results in arrest rates, with a wild racial disparity.

Clinton suggested that this on-going problem was manifested in the Eric Garner killing in Staten Island. While noting that Garner had six children, was overweight and afflicted by heart and lung problems, and was trying to supplement his income by illegally selling untaxed cigarettes, Clinton declared, “he didn’t deserve to die.”

The injustice to Garner prompted Clinton to comment on the Michael Brown killing in Ferguson. According to Clinton, even if the grand jury was right, with Brown “being super-aggressive and all that,” it is undeniable that Brown was chased down, unarmed, and shot.

Based on these two incidents, Clinton concludes that there is a huge problem because of the divide between the community and police. Further, this divide is caused (a) by preconceptions that are triggered in scared people, and (b) the fear of minorities in these communities that they are disposable and not important.

I find several flaws with Clinton’s position:

  1. As a factual matter, Brown was not chased down and shot. According to Grand Jury evidence, he was a fleeing felon who was pursued, but he wasn’t shot at until he turned and charged Officer Wilson. Are police not supposed to pursue fleeing felons? Are they not to shoot a charging felon who has already tried to take your gun?
  2. Clinton implies that the wide disparity with African-American arrest rate is based on more on racial discrimination than on actual criminal activity. What support is there for that suggestion?
  3. Clinton is using a straw-man argument in declaring that Garner didn’t deserve to die. Who has said that Garner deserved to die? His death was an accident precipitated by a sickly 350-pound guy resisting arrest.
  4. Clinton complains that the majority has a preconception (as well as a pre-wired DNA) to fear minorities from a lower socio-economic level, the same people who are arrested and incarcerated at alarming rates. It seems Pollyannaish for Clinton to think that people should ignore their common sense. He might be more effective if he focused on reducing criminal activity in those communities.

I think Charles Barkley has provided better insights on this issue.   He points out that the police are not the bad guys in these situations. Rather, they are the only people who are preventing these communities from devolving into the Wild West, much like northern Mexico. Instead of focusing on the police, Clinton should be focusing on how to transform these communities so that they share mainstream American values.

Ironically, Clinton ended his interview by lamenting about black parents with good values having to explain to their kids about the death of these two unarmed black men. That explanation doesn’t seem difficult to me. Both deceased men were criminals who resisted arrest. The one who acted in a “super-aggressive” fashion was shot in self-defense by a police officer; the other was a Goliath who was accidentally killed while being subdued.

This sort of explanation is far easier than trying to re-wire people to ignore the obvious.

December 2, 2014

Empathy and Ferguson

In the past few months, I’ve admitted to three of my best friends that I have an extreme lack of empathy. When extreme bad shit happens to people around me, I don’t get upset or feel sorry for them. As Thomas Hobbes said, life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

I once suggested in this blog that Republicans tend to be less empathetic to people outside the American mainstream because Republicans often have less exposure to those outside the mainstream. But while that may explain why I’m a Republican; it doesn’t explain why I lack empathy.

Alternative explanations might include my ethnicity – i.e., my German DNA – or my upbringing – self-reliant farming stock.

Regardless, I am certainly afflicted with this character flaw, which I first remember noticing when Michael Dukakis was asked in a presidential debate about capital punishment in the context of his wife being hypothetically murdered. Dukakis responded dispassionately about why he still opposed capital punishment and was roundly criticized in the press for failing to passionately describe the hate he would feel for the murderer. Like Dukakis, I would have the same tendency to focus on the right answer instead of articulating empathy – more Spock and less Bill Clinton.

Earlier today on Facebook, my Spock-esque empathy got me into lots of trouble. One of my most political and highly emotional friends (young, pretty social worker) posted something about her SA grandmother getting mugged for some cash. As you might expect, she demanded capital punishment if the thug is ever caught. The following items are her initial post and follow-up comments in response to various notes of support:

  • There are no words for how I feel right now. I’m angry. Angry. Livid. OMG I want to punch something. Ugh. I’m so livid right now. Grrrrrrrrrrr!!!!
  • Someone robbed a family member of mine.
  • She had just cashed her check and they robbed her forcibly. God forgive me but I hope they die in a violent car accident!!!!
  • No one fucks with my family!!!
  • Seriously I hope the burglar dies in a horrible car accident or something. I know it’s mean but tonight I don’t care!
  • Badly shaken up. Which makes me furious!!!!
  • I just don’t know what the fuck is wrong with people??? People who mess with the elderly are pretty fucking low and worthless!!
  • If I had been there I would’ve hurt someone for sure!!!!

Of course, me with my Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus mentality of Mike Dukakis, skipped past the empathy and sympathy thing because a dozen people had already covered that aspect of the situation. What no one had pointed out was that for the past few days my Facebook social worker wanted to lynch Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson and the entire criminal justice system in America because of the harsh way that Michael Brown was treated after robbing an elderly Korean shopkeeper. Wasn’t there some cognitive dissonance going on here? So I posted:

  • What about that old Korean shopkeeper in Ferguson who was robbed? He was someone’s family member, too. Oh yeah, his shop and a dozen others were burned down by rioters who thought the police officer should have been able to subdue the 300-pound, charging robber without shooting him.”

Not surprisingly, my social-worker friend was displeased:

  • “Mike Kueber, at no point have you ever heard me condone the rioting of Ferguson. Please don’t make this a political point when it comes to my grandmother getting mugged, k?

Of course, she wasn’t the only one displeased. Several of her friends took me to task, and my friend thanked them for their support. E.g.,:

  • “Thank you I. T. You said something I wanted to say but was floored about an unnecessary political potshot over something I have never condoned at all but someone felt the need to make an opportunity out of it rather than show sympathy for my grandmother. Must feel so big and proud I guess? Whatever turns someone’s motor I guess.

Because I accepted my faux paus in wanting to discuss Mars, while everyone else wanted to discuss Venus, I decided against pushing the cognitive-dissonance argument:

  • “Ana Alicia Perez, I’m sorry for failing to compartmentalize the two incidents. The Ferguson issue just really bothers me, especially after seeing all the fawning press yesterday approve the St. Louis Five protest. Tim Tebow gets excoriated for his gesture, but the Five has license to mock the police – Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.”

And my friend seemed to accept this dénouement:

  • “I understand Mike. Look back on my feed and I posted an article about the guys who stopped the rioters from destroying a family-owned shop… Probably I posted it two or three days ago. I have never condoned the rioting as it doesn’t make sense how anyone is going to make a point by destroying their own city. It is stupid. Did I agree with the legal decision? No. Did I agree with a bunch of people costing millions in damages to their city and hurting small businesses that Jeromy and I support rather than big business? No. I don’t know anything about the Tim Tebow thing other than he is homophobic so I don’t like him anyway. And as for the nfl thing I saw that and rolled my eyes. It was tacky and I don’t think the NFL can be anything of a moral high ground considering the players who have been caught with drugs, beating their wives, dog fighting, etc.”

But later a straggler friend of hers weighed in:

  • Oh I hate it when someone commits a violent crime such as that on elderly citizens. There should be a double or triple penalty for idiots that do this. I can truly and sincerely understand your frustration in that they rot in hell. I totally agree with you. And that gentleman speaking about Ferguson needs to just shut up. Anna, anyone in the neighborhood that can describe this person? Any witnesses ?!?! OMG. I hate to hear this. Sounds like an assault as well. We need to speak to our elders & tell them to please be aware of their surroundings. I walked into Valero last evening to use ATM and a line of 6 hoods lined up behind me …. Waiting …. I grabbed my card and split !!! I know what they wanted !!! Rectums !!! They’re everywhere. Be careful Peeps !!! I am SO sorry, Ana. God bless your poor granny. She’s in my prayers. Hoping the men in blue find that dork.

I might have overlooked the “shut up” suggestion, although I find particularly abhorrent, but the reference to the “men in blue” was too much to pass up. So I responded directly to the straggler:

  • [Straggler], pray tell, what do you want the men in blue to do when they find the robber. Darren Wilson wants to know. I love it how so-called liberal-minded people casually throw around the term, “shut up.” “Shut up” about abortion if you don’t have a vagina; “shut up” about immigration if you aren’t a native American. Great arguments.

The straggler, who has a graduate degree from UTSA, weakly defended her position by saying:

  • “They know their Job description. Ask them. Thnx.”

And that finally ended our conversation, with I suspect no minds changed. They see this as heavy-handed police and prosecutors, and I see it as a conscientious policemen dealing properly with a thug. Although I have a hard time empathizing with young black males going around with chips on their shoulders (e.g., Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown), I don’t understand their failure to empathize with a policeman having to patrol Ferguson and deal with a known robber who has already tried to take your gun while you were sitting in your car.

Someone, however, who has done a good job of empathizing with everyone, is NO Saints tight end, Benjamin Watson, who posted the following on his Facebook wall (and who also posted a 48 on the NFL’s Wonderlic test, tied for 3rd highest ever):

 

At some point while I was playing or preparing to play Monday Night Football, the news broke about the Ferguson Decision. After trying to figure out how I felt, I decided to write it down. Here are my thoughts:

  • I’M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.
  • I’M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.
  • I’M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I’m a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a “threat” to those who don’t know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.
  • I’M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.
  • I’M SAD, because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.
  • I’M SYMPATHETIC, because I wasn’t there so I don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self defense like any of us would in the circumstance. Now he has to fear the backlash against himself and his loved ones when he was only doing his job. What a horrible thing to endure. OR maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led to him eventually murdering the young man to prove a point.
  • I’M OFFENDED, because of the insulting comments I’ve seen that are not only insensitive but dismissive to the painful experiences of others.
  • I’M CONFUSED, because I don’t know why it’s so hard to obey a policeman. You will not win!!! And I don’t know why some policeman abuse their power. Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish and lord over the populace.
  • I’M INTROSPECTIVE, because sometimes I want to take “our” side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it’s us against them. Sometimes I’m just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that’s not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That’s not right.
  • I’M HOPELESS, because I’ve lived long enough to expect things like this to continue to happen. I’m not surprised and at some point my little children are going to inherit the weight of being a minority and all that it entails.
  • I’M HOPEFUL, because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than those of our parents and grandparents. I see it in my personal relationships with teammates, friends and mentors. And it’s a beautiful thing.
  • I’M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel. So, finally, I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.

 

Ferguson and the NFL

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 12:59 am
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While reading USA Today today, I noticed an article reporting on five St. Louis Ram players doing a pre-game protest against the Ferguson incident. As the players came out of the stadium tunnel, they raised their hands into a “Hands Up. Don’t Shoot!” pose.  The protest upset the St. Louis Police Officers Association into demanding that the NFL punish the players. Inexplicably, though, the NFL meekly decided to do nothing other than respond as follows in an email:

  • We respect and understand the concerns of all individuals who have expressed views on this tragic situation.”

What a disgrace!

What a pusillanimous wimp the NFL has become! Its handling of the Ray Rice incident – first trying to downplay it with a two-game suspension, but then increasing the suspension to a lifetime ban after a video went viral – was recently rejected by an arbitrator as capricious and arbitrary.

Talk about a lynching! The NFL’s handling of Adrian Peterson’s child-abuse incident was similarly ham-handled. By contrast, the legal system handled both incidents reasonably, with the Rice matter granted deferred adjudication and the Peterson matter resulting in a misdemeanor plea.

So why should the NFL take action against the St. Louis five? While listening to Mike & Mike (and Adam Schefter) this morning and then First Take’s Stephen A. and Skip later in the morning, I learned that they were in complete agreement that these players were merely exercising their constitutional right to free speech and should be commended for showing some social consciousness that Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods seemed to lack.

Their monolithic position caused me to start talking to at my TV screens during these shows, wanting any of these talk-show people to ask whether NFL players are free to stake out other political positions on Sunday. The answer to that question is so obviously “no,” that I can’t understand why these talking heads failed to see the inconsistency. Hell, players can’t even use non-approved headphones when they walk into the building. On game day, the NFL owns the players; there is no free political or commercial speech.

When I search the internet to see if anyone else was taking up this argument, and there was deafening silence. ESPN didn’t even have an article mentioning the protest. Finally, however, I was able to find a single media source calling out the NFL. According to Newsday:

  • Rule 5, Section 4, Article 7 of the NFL rulebook states “throughout the period on game-day that a player is visible to the stadium and television audience (including in pregame warm-ups, in the bench area, and during postgame interviews in the locker room or on the field), players are prohibited from wearing, displaying, or otherwise conveying personal messages either in writing or illustration, unless such message has been approved in advance by the League office.
  • The League will not grant permission for any club or player to wear, display, or otherwise convey messages, through helmet decals, arm bands, jersey patches, or other items affixed to game uniforms or equipment, which relate to political activities or causes, other non-football events, causes or campaigns, or charitable causes or campaigns.”

Newsday reported that one of the protesting players had arm wraps that read “Mike Brown” and “My kids matter” written on them. I will be shocked if there is not any other verbiage in the rules that allows the NFL to punish the players. What if some white players want to do something to show their support for the SLPOA?

The NFL’s current position regarding this protest seems untenable, and it makes me wonder for the first time if Roger Goodell is not up to the job.

November 29, 2014

A system that insulates the police

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 1:42 pm
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My least favorite columnist in the SA Express-News is Brian Chasnoff. My distaste for him results from not only from his white-liberal viewpoint, but also a clash of my curmudgeon against his whippersnapper.

His column in today’s paper is titled, “A system that insulates police.”

The apparent thesis of the column is that Ferguson is not an anomaly and that we almost had a similar situation in San Antonio a few years ago. The column reads as follows:

  • An unarmed black man walks down a street. A police officer in a patrol car veers into his path. The confrontation provokes anger, then explodes into violence: The officer, who is not black, shoots the black man in the head. Months later, a grand jury declines to indict the officer. I’m not depicting the August shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, although these facts also describe the incident sparking angry protests this week across the nation. I’m sketching, rather, the 2006 shooting of Jospeh Fennell by police officer Robert Rosales in San Antonio….”
  • The shooting in Ferguson unfolded differently but with echoes of Fennell….”
  • “An inch or two, and it could have been Ferguson.”

I left the following comment for Chasnoff on the newspaper website:

  • Brian, too clever by half. ‘The shooting in Ferguson unfolded differently but with echoes of Fennell.’ Echoes? You could have easily written a substantive column that distinguished the two incidents instead of selectively focusing on superficial similarities that echo of the laughable Kennedy/Lincoln coincidences.”

What are the substantive differences between the two situations:

  1. Ferguson’s Officer Darren Wilson was white; nonwhite Officer Robert Rosales was Hispanic. Blacks are not going to riot against Hispanics, which is why George Zimmerman had to be labeled a “white Hispanic.”
  2. Officer Wilson first interacted with Michael Brown for obstructing traffic in the middle of the street, and then tried to stop him when he noticed that Brown fit a detailed description (shirts, socks, size) of a recent, nearby robber. Officer Rosales stopped Fennell while innocently walking on a sidewalk merely because he met a vague description (short black male) of a non-recent robber.
  3. Michael Brown was the robber who Wilson was looking for; Joseph Fennell was innocently walking to work.
  4. Michael Brown reached into Officer Wilson’s car for his gun; Officer Rosales pulled his gun before talking to Fennell.
  5. Officer Wilson’s first shot was to wing Brown while the guy was leaned in through the car window. Officer Rosales shot Fennell because of Fennell’s sudden movement.

Although Rosales was not indicted, San Antonio paid $80,000 to Fennell for his minor injuries. I agree with Chasnoff’s comment about the difficulty of the SAPD trying to defend a civil action:

  • Already, the actions of the officer seem misguided. Why veer onto the sidewalk? Why point a gun?”

If I had been on the Grand Jury, I would have been tempted, in a very close call, to indict Rosales. Whereas indicting Ferguson’s Officer Wilson would have been a travesty of justice. (Not unlike the NFL’s lifetime suspension of Ray Rice.)

It seems that Chasnoff and the NFL’s Roger Goodell can be counted on to talk/do the political thing, but not the right thing.

November 28, 2014

Only in America

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 2:27 pm
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According to the Washington Post’s columnist Dana Milbank, St. Louis prosecutor Bob McCulloch’s prosecution of Officer Darren Wilson was pathetic:

  • “[McCulloch] almost certainly could have secured an indictment on a lesser charge simply by requesting it, yet he acted as if he were a spectator, saying that jurors decided not to return a ‘true bill’ on each possible charge — as if this were a typical outcome. As has been repeated often in recent weeks, a grand jury will indict a proverbial ham sandwich if a prosecutor asks it to.”

Apparently, Milbank is under the mistaken belief that a prosecutor is supposed to pursue prosecutions instead of justice, and he fails to recognize that a prosecutor shouldn’t indict a person simply because he can.

One of Milbank’s grievances against McCulloch was that he emphasized the inconsistent testimony of many witness, “But he was less troubled by inconsistencies that worked against Wilson. McCulloch implied Monday night that Wilson stopped his car to confront Brown because he recognized him as a robbery suspect. But Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson had said publicly that the robbery ‘had nothing to do with the stop.’”

This is not an inconsistency that worked against Officer Wilson, but rather one imagined by Milbank. If Milbank had bothered to read the transcript of Wilson’s testimony (page 209), he would have seen the following:

  • When I start looking at Brown, first thing I notice is I his right hand, his hand is full of Cigarillos. And that’s when it clicked for me because I now saw the Cigarillos, I looked in my mirror, I did a double-check that Johnson was wearing a black shirt, these are the two from the stealing.”

Thus, although Wilson didn’t immediately connect Brown to the robbery, he did make the connection within seconds after first telling Wilson to get out of the middle of the road, which renders Milbank’s argument a distinction without a difference.

This piece of information also serves to reveal the utter ridiculousness of the idea circulating in amongst liberal commentators that Officer Wilson should have waited for reinforcements before pursuing Michael Brown. Since when does America want its cops who are struck by a suspected robber to all the suspect to walk off while the cop waits for reinforcements?

As we say in the legal arena, is it reasonably foreseeable that the suspected robber we suddenly turn and charge you, that you will have to kill him, and that his neighbors will be so upset with your self-defense killing that they will riot and burn down their town?

Only in America.

November 26, 2014

Assorted thoughts about Ferguson

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 3:30 am
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Assorted thoughts about Ferguson:

  1. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. The Ferguson riots back in August were met with a heavy-handed so-called “militarized” police department, and the general consensus was that this militarization exacerbated the situation. The riot last night was met with an inert collection of law-enforcement and National Guard personnel, and the general consensus is that this conduct was disgraceful. According to former NY mayor Rudy Giuliani on MSNBC, studies reveal that a strong, active police presence is essential to prevent escalation.
  2. Hostile territory. CNN reporters made much of the fact that white officer Darren Wilson didn’t like the black city he was policing, based on the following Grand Jury testimony from Wilson: “There’s a lot of gangs that reside or associate with that area. There’s a lot of violence in that area, there’s a lot of gun activity, drug activity. It is just not a very well-liked community. That community doesn’t like the police.”  Although CNN suggested Wilson’s antipathy was directed at the entire city of Ferguson, the quote suggests to me that Wilson was referring to a particularly unsavory part of Ferguson. And it is completely unreasonable to expect that a policeman will not profile certain neighborhoods based on prior interactions.
  3. Did Michael Brown give up or charge Officer Wilson? Despite the renewed on-air assertions of Brown’s fellow robber, Dorian Johnson, that Brown was stopped with his hands in the air when he was shot, the physical facts are that Brown’s blood was found 175 feet away from Wilson’s car and that he ended up in the street 150 feet from Wilson’s car. These facts suggest strongly that, consistent with Wilson’s testimony, Brown was coming toward him when shot. The fact that the final shot went into the top of Brown’s head also supports Wilson’s testimony that Brown’s head was down and charging toward. (On the related issue of why Wilson took off on foot after Brown, according to the NY Times, “But when no one [at the Grand Jury] asked him why he had chased Mr. Brown, Officer Wilson brought it up himself, saying that after experiencing Mr. Brown’s aggression in the vehicle, he felt ‘he still posed a threat, not only to me, but to anybody else that confronted him.’”)
  4. Burn the bitch down. Shortly before the Grand Jury finding was handed down, the Brown family took the high road by issuing a statement asking that any protests following the announcement be peaceful. But shortly after the announcement, Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, was on the hood of a car wailing to a crowd. When she became overwrought, her husband Louis Head joined her on the hood of the car and repeatedly told the crowd, “Burn this bitch down.” Reminds me of that adage – judge me by what I do, not by what I say.
  5. Give ‘em a break. Their family lawyer Benjamin Crump later suggested that, although the comments by Brown’s mother and step-father were inappropriate, “Don’t condemn them for being human.” Another apologist said, “What do you expect when you shove a camera in front of grieving parents?” Huh – they were on the hood of a car at a protest; no one shoved a camera in their face!! The prosecutor, when asked whether perjury charges would be brought against all the lying witnesses (they were contradicted by physical facts or by other testimony), said that he gives them the benefit of a doubt – i.e., they actually believed their false testimony. Seems everyone is willing to be generous to a fault, except to Officer Darren Wilson, who is still under the specter of federal or civil prosecution.

August 25, 2014

An open letter to Time magazine about its Ferguson coverage

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 10:13 pm
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Dear Time magazine:
Your coverage in this week’s magazine of the Ferguson tragedy was a disgrace.  Although a close reading of the Von Drehle/Altman cover article reveals that the critical facts of the shooting are in dispute, your cover photo depicts the version provided by Dorian Johnson, who you describe as “Brown’s friend,” while failing to note that he was also the alleged accomplice in the earlier robbery.  Perhaps most readers would apply that fact to the kid’s credibility.
Then to fan-the-flames to the “hands up” version of the narrative, you begin the story with a two-page photo of demonstrators with their hands up, and later end the story with a collage of six photos circulating at #HANDSUPDONTSHOOT.  You seem to see this protest almost like a pep rally.
For good measure, you follow-up the Von Drehle/Altman travesty with three opinion pieces from kindred spirits – Rand Paul, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Sybrina Fulton (Trayvon Martin’s mom).  Are they the best serious thinkers you could find?  Why not include someone with a mind to defend the police under assault?
Just when I was going to through my arms up in disgust with the entire magazine, I got to Joe Klein’s column.  His angle was so different than the other four that you wondered if they were looking at the different worlds.  He quickly eviscerated their version with his lead sentences in the first two paragraphs:
  1.  At first, it seemed a perfect metaphor for 400 years of oppression….
  2. But the perfection of the metaphor is soon blurred by facts.
Those points are so obvious that the obvious question is why did you publish the other four articles in support of the metaphors that are blurred by facts?
Klein’s thoughtful and balanced column concluded with a statement that I agree with totally, but which I haven’t seen elsewhere in connection with the Ferguson tragedy – “Absent a truly candid conversation about the culture that emerged from slavery and segregation, they [problems emanating from a debilitating culture of poverty among the urban underclass] won’t be solved at all.
Hear, hear.
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