Mike Kueber's Blog

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.


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
Tags: , ,

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.