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NFL Players Salute Ferguson–Cops’ Turn To Protest

Good For Them

It’s encouraging to see athletes stand up, show leadership, and express connection to the communities that support them.  I take exception to the old “I’m not a role model” stance of celebrities, particularly athletes, as expressed by Charles Barkley so many years ago.  When these performers accept millions upon millions of dollars to play games or, in the case of actors, play make believe, they do so knowing full well that the spotlight follows–and they should accept that with the spotlight comes a tacit responsibility to conduct themselves in a manner befitting the adulation and compensation they receive.

http://thefreethoughtproject.com/rams-players-bold-political-statement-entering-field-hands-up-dont-shoot-pose/
don't shoot

So, its “Us Against Them”…

And, once again, some Police demonstrate the how and  why our nation continues to have these incidents of conflict, escalation, and and brutality with an overt “how dare they” response to public criticism and opinions contrary to their own.  The best thing the police could have done, in this instance, is to sit back quietly rather than respond aggressively to what they saw as an affrontry, but what most people regarded as a demonstration of solidarity.  Notably, the SLPOA spokesperson, Jeff Roorda, is a former police officer who was dismissed after twice being charged with falsifying reports–he appealed, but lost.

The St. Louis Police Officers Association called for the players involved to be disciplined and for the Rams and the NFL to deliver a “very public apology,” its statement read in part.

“I know that there are those that will say that these players are simply exercising their First Amendment rights,” SLPOA business manager Jeff Roorda said in the statement. “Well, I’ve got news for people who think that way: Cops have First Amendment rights too, and we plan to exercise ours. I’d remind the NFL and their players that it is not the violent thugs burning down buildings that buy their advertiser’s products. It’s cops and the good people of St. Louis and other NFL towns that do. Somebody needs to throw a flag on this play. If it’s not the NFL and the Rams, then it’ll be cops and their supporters.”

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Ferguson: When The Pot Inevitably Boils Over, We’re All Going to Burn

Excessive-force

http://aattp.org/op-ed-seven-simple-steps-to-end-police-brutality-and-restore-justice-to-america/

Not being privy to the facts, I can’t begin to comment on the specific events in Ferguson, beyond that it fails the “stink test” though not as badly as the do many other police-related acts of violence.  The sad truth is that Ferguson, as painful as it has been to so many, is just part of a chain of incidents, and the unrest occurring there represents a continuity of events, and frustrations, that has been going on almost forever.  It is only going to get worse, because each time an officer of the law is acquitted other officers become less fearful resting and potentially constructive article which I agree with whole-heartedly. I would, however, add a few items that, I think, would help to alleviate the sense of powerlessness, not to mention the scent of obfuscation and and concealment that hangs over so many incidents of police violence.

1.) In the face of an incident, police officers should be treated as would any citizen.  If I kill a man in the street, I am almost certain to be arrested, processed, and confined pending a hearing.  It is likely I will be perp-walked before cameras, my name and background released to the press.  When a police officer kills a man in the street (or commits any criminal act either in public or private) the police department involved generally makes efforts to shroud the officer’s identity, and months–sometimes years–can go by before the investigation, and any charges, are addressed and during that time the officer may continue to serve, or at worst incur a reduction in duties.  It is little wonder that citizens suspect collusion between police perpetrators, district attorneys.  A potential crime is a potential crime.  Giving police privacy that civilians don’t enjoy is a luxury we, as a nation, can no longer afford.

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D.A.H.O.F. Enshrines Kevin Sorbo

<> at Grimaldi Forum on June 9, 2011 in Monaco, Monaco.Hercules was half god.  Kevin Sorbo, the actor who famously played him for years on syndicated television, is not half god–he’s half mortal.  The rest is all dumb ass, and in recognition for this he is the latest candidate to earn a place in the storied Dumb Ass Hall of Fame.

A vocal self-proclaimed conservative, Sorbo is a regular contributor to right-leaning internet publications, but has never been known for the sort of breathless anger and disregard for fact that characterizes most opportunistic wingnut commentators.  He passed as rational, if somewhat misguided, until recently.

In response to the riots which followed the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by a police officer, and the subsequent efforts by police and local government to distract and evade demands for accountability, Sorbo fell into a very typically racist rebuttal, describing the protestors as something less than human, and less worthy of justice:

“Ferguson riots have very little to do with the shooting of the young man. It is an excuse to be the losers these animals truly are. It is a tipping point to frustration built up over years of not trying, but blaming everyone else, The Man, for their failures. It’s always someone else’s fault when you give up.”

Losers. And animals.

Then he blames the press. ”Want the riots to end in Ferguson? Ban the media who are nothing more than agitators promoting the circus environment and inciting outsiders to join in the frenzy” 

When the story quickly went viral, Sorbo cowardly pulled his comments from his facebook page and offered up a half-assed mea culpa that wasn’t so much an apology, but a ‘what I meant to say was….” clarification in which he still managed to be an dumb ass.

“Okay….I stand humiliated and humbled. My most sincere apologies for my post on the events in Ferguson. I posted out of frustration and anger over the violence and looting. My words were never meant to hurt the African-American community. My use of the word “losers’ was directed at those doing the looting and vandalising and violence toward others. Anyone who does that is a loser in my book. So I will not apologise to those who are looting stores and vandalising there own community. I am very sorry for the police shooting. To answer violence with violence is not the answer here. Real leaders need to emerge out of that community to deal with the problems with the excessive use of police force. I agree with you that the police action has only added to the reaction of the residents of Ferguson. Yes. I am an idiot and do hold myself accountable for the way my post came off.”

Too late, Kevin. Apologies made while in disaster control mode don’t count.

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Commentary

Some Late Thoughts on Ferguson, Missouri

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/14/us/missouri-teenager-and-officer-scuffled-before-shooting-chief-says.html?_r=0
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/14/us/missouri-teenager-and-officer-scuffled-before-shooting-chief-says.html?_r=0

I have been as appalled as anyone by the events in Ferguson, Missouri–from the killing that precipitated it, through the (literally) jack-booted thuggery of the local bureaucracy’s bumbling, violent attempts to suppress the inevitable reactions, the stumbling efforts to hide their conduct from the media, to the equally inept machinations to spin the story into a tale of a valiant public servant defending himself against a “Negro Super Criminal.”

What surprises me most was that people were surprised this happened, when just a few weeks earlier NYPD officers made national news strangling a man to death in the street for allegedly selling a single, unlicensed cigarette.  These encounters have become ubiquitous; they no longer surprise anyone.

Cops misbehave every day–they’re humans, they’re flawed, it happens–and until we summon the collective will to morally–not bureaucratically–demand accountability, this is what we get, and it’s what we deserve as a community.  Unfortunately, we don’t reap the proverbial harvest of our sins with anything approaching equitable distribution.  In America, a black man is killed every 28 hours by a police officer, security guard, or a vigilante.  Of course, this isn’t a new thing.  Scholars have pointed out that the high level of racial violence in America, as well as our predilection for using torture as an acceptable interrogation technique is rooted in the historical treatment of slaves–fascinating, though disturbing.  Now, it’s important to note that police violence isn’t exclusive to people of color–a quick and cursory look at incidents reveals that plenty of white people are beaten, tazed, strangled, shot, or killed by corrupt or incompetent officers whose aggression escalates growingly tense interactions between police and civilians.  My research–some of it admittedly  presumption based on the appearances of victims in images–is that poor white people are also targeted, though not as intensely.

It’s worth noting, that this phenomena isn’t just about killing.  The USA has, by far, the world’s highest per capita incarceration rate–over 500 per 100,000, more than 5 times the average for similar first world countries.  The disparity is largely made up of blacks (over 3,000/100K) and Latinos (over 1250/100K).  The easy response by those who deny the facts is to say “well, it’s because black and brown people are just more criminal, and more violent than white people.”  Uh, sure.  That’s it.

Still, the incarcerated are the lucky ones.  They survived.  Fortunately, people have begun to take more notice, and as their exasperation grows I fully expect to see more of these incidents. Hopefully it will not on the scale of what we’ve seen in Ferguson, but this is a cumulative response to a culture of aggressive policing that has been growing more and more militaristic over the past 35 years.  My parents weren’t afraid of police officers, nor was I when I was a child, but I am now.  That’s right–I’m a white, middle-class, small-town man who actively participates in local government, and I’m afraid of the police. I’m on a first name basis with our police chief, for whom I have a great deal of respect, yet I’m afraid of the police.  I have friends and relatives in law enforcement, and still, I’m afraid of the police.  I’ve raised my children to be wary of police, and to avoid interaction of any kind with them. Why?

milesBecause you just don’t know what you’re going to run into, or who. The city of Pittsburgh’s great Achilles heel is its untouchable, aggressive police department and its reputation for corruption and violence.  You absolutely don’t want to be a black guy in Pittsburgh and interact with the police because, even though most of the officers are upstanding, if you run into one of those who aren’t and it turns bad there will be zero accountability. They may kick your ass if you’re white, too, but the odds turn south if you’re not.

The problem is not endemic to Pittsburgh, but Pittsburgh is certainly representative of the greater problem.  Time and time again, violent confrontations end with district attorneys deciding not to press charges, split juries, and acquittals. When a civilian is arrested for a crime, names are immediately released, often combined with the showy “perp walks” that the media love so well, but when the accused is a cop, the name of the officer is–as was the case in Ferguson–held secret for as long as the department can manage to keep it under wraps.

If I shoot someone, I’m going to be arrested, printed, mug-shotted, perp-walked, and talked about in press releases and interviews and(assuming my crime is high profile enough) shown on the news.  I’ll be thrown in jail pending a hearing that will almost certainly end in a stiff bail requirement.  A cop, on the other hand, who guns someone down, often gets anonymity, and…some vague restriction known as “administrative leave with pay” which sounds a lot like a reward to me: you still get paid to be police, but you don’t have to do any policing.

People notice this stuff.  That was match that lit the powder keg in Ferguson: a teenager was left dead in the streets and cops refused to name suspect name because he is one of their own.  Again, these riots weren’t just about Ferguson–they are about the cumulative effect of literally hundreds of these cases, over and over, week after week, and the inevitable artful dodges and inexplicable acquittals that follow.  We have been conditioned to expect zero accountability. If citizens had any confidence that police would face a fair and transparent legal process equivalent to that which a civilian would face for the same action, not only would outrage be contained but the temptation towards questionable conduct would be greatly reduced–a result which, in the end, would make things safer for the officers.

One thing I don’t understand, however, is the relative silence of all the teabaggers and libertarians who are usually doing back flips and cursing from their sphincters over even the slightest “big government” infringement on the rights of “we the people.” I can’t think of anything more indicative of an oppressive government than the gunning suspects down in the streets, except perhaps for the systematic protection of those who swing the clubs and squeeze the triggers.  Perhaps the disconnect here is the interpretation of who exactly composes “we the people?”