Ferguson Missouri

The Donald Trump Show (The Brim Horizon)

Donald Trump announces his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination in New York City, New York, 16 June 2015. (Photo: Justin Lane/European Pressphoto Agency)

Steve Benen raises an interesting question:

… if Trump can rocket to the front of the Republican pack without the backing of a real national campaign, what happens when the GOP candidate starts trying?

We’re about to find out. Iowa’s Sam Clovis, a prominent Republican activist and media figure in Iowa, had served for months as the state chairman of Rick Perry’s presidential campaign, until this week, when Clovis gave up on the former Texas governor and joined Team Trump.

The problem with the Donald Trump Show is that it really does know how to get attention.

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My Own Incoherent Distress

Michelle Obama addresses the graduating class at King College Prep High School in Chicago on Tuesday, 10 June 2015. (Photo: Christian K Lee/Associated Press)

“That’s a burden that President Obama and I proudly carry every single day in the White House, because we know that everything we do and say can either confirm the myths about folks like us―or it can change those myths.”

Michelle Obama

This is not, technically speaking, fair.

Then again, such is life. Michelle Obama stood before the graduating class of King College Prep High school in Chicago, yesterday, and delivered remarks that some have taken as a suggestion that the First Lady has officially entered the fight:

At a time of roiling debate over the issues of race and opportunity, punctuated by the events of Ferguson, Mo.; Staten Island; and Baltimore, the nation’s first African-American first lady has added her voice. It is not a new message for her, but one that has taken on special resonance and one delivered with bracing candor in recent speeches. Along the way, Mrs. Obama has opened a window into her own life, not just in Chicago but also in the White House.

By her telling, even living at the world’s most prominent address has not erased the sting of racial misunderstanding. In recent weeks, Mrs. Obama has talked of “insults and slights” directed at her husband and caricatures that have pained her. It all “used to really get to me,” she said, adding that she “had a lot of sleepless nights” until learning to ignore it. But she said she realized that she and her husband had a responsibility to rewrite the narrative for African-Americans.

“That’s a burden that President Obama and I proudly carry every single day in the White House,” she told the graduating seniors of King College Prep High School on Tuesday, “because we know that everything we do and say can either confirm the myths about folks like us―or it can change those myths.”

(Baker)

Some of us might be pessimistic. After all, what signs have we that President Obama and the First Lady have changed any perceptions about dark skin? Indeed, if we measure by the headlines, we might suggest they have somehow managed to exacerbate race relations.

Then again, that would be a misperception, and this is the important part.

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The Strange Realm ‘Twixt Law and Justice

Detail of frame from 'Racist E-Z Cash', animation by Mark Fiore, 13 March 2015, via Daily Kos.

While it is generally considered unwise to sound as if I am joking about such grave matters―

Now that the Department of Justice report on Ferguson has been released, the veil has been lifted on a corrupt system that bled that town’s African-American citizens of their income, rights and freedom. Ferguson’s Municipal Court had become a criminal enterprise bent on increasing revenue by bleeding citizens dry.

The racist jokes and comments forwarded by city officials are the tip of the iceberg in this DOJ report. Though that sort of racism is abhorrent, extorting money under threat of additional fees, fines and jail time is what really boggles my mind. Funny how problems arise when you’ve got a judge who is also a prosecutor and defense attorney, all at the same time. (Not to mention the assorted co-conspirators who seem to be straight out of Idiot Racist Central Casting.)

Sure, Ferguson is a mess, but what is particularly tragic is that a system of debtors’ prisons festers nationwide. And while not every city or town robs citizens at the barrel of a (police) gun, racial disparities in the criminal justice system provide fertile ground for the abuses seen in Ferguson.

Mark Fiore’s post for Daily Kos is especially helpful, because we all know a few people who just cannot be bothered to comprehend those paragraphs, and in this case the editorial animator has been cool enough to provide a cartoon to explain it. And it even moves and talks. Just watch and listen.

So pass it along. Every little bit helps. Because this really is an example of the vast difference that can arise ‘twixt law and justice.

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Fiore, Mark. “Racist EZ-Cash”. Daily Kos. 13 March 2015.

A Hopeful Look Ahead to the Rest of 2015 … Or … Something

Detail of 'The K Chronicles', by Keith Knight, 3 February 2015 (via Daily Kos Comics)As much as we might look at our last tantrum and wish to open with, “In cheerier news …”, well, right. Like we’re gonna do that.

At right is a detail from The K Chronicles, by Keith Knight (via Daily Kos Comics, 3 February 2015).

Any questions?

No, seriously, if you need to be filled in at this point in the story, by all means stand up … you know, mostly so your neighbors can know who you are and look at you suspiciously like they never have before.

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Knight, Keith. “Your rights”. The K Chronicles. 3 February 2015.

“Post-Racial” America

Sometimes the narrative is simply undeniable:

Seldom in Barack Obama’s presidency has he looked quite so impotent as he did last night, pleading from a podium in the White House for calm while the cable news split screens showed clouds of tear gas enveloping the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. He repeated the same themes as every time he has spoken about this subject — people have legitimate grievances but there’s no excuse for violence, we’ve come a long way but we have a ways to go, and so on. It never rang more hollow.

President Barack Obama delivers a statement to the press regarding the Ferguson, Missouri grand jury decision, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Nov. 24, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)But what should he have said? Obama never actually promised to bind up the nation’s racial wounds — that was a hope others placed upon him, far too naively. Even before taking office, Obama found that no matter how hard he tried to be unthreatening, to incorporate different perspectives into his rhetoric, and to stress what Americans share, many of his opponents would never see him as anything but an agent of racial vengeance. No matter what he did, whether passing an economic stimulus or reforming health care, some would spin a story of race around it, one in which whites were under threat.

If anyone ever thought that with little more than the power of his example Obama could mitigate racial resentments, let alone fray the institutional ligaments of racism, they were quickly disabused of those ideas. His presidency has seen an extraordinary backlash against racial progress, from the Supreme Court to the statehouse, where affirmative action is dismantled, the Voting Rights Act is gutted, one Republican legislature after another passes laws to make it harder for people (mostly minorities) to vote, and conservatives are told again and again that they are the racial victims whose problems are the fault of the black president coming after them because of the color of their skin.

(Waldman)

And this is where we’re at. In America. In the twenty-first century.

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Waldman, Paul. “Barack Obama, Ferguson, and racial wounds unhealed”. The Washington Post. 25 November 2014.

Holst, Lindsay. “President Obama Delivers a Statement on the Ferguson Grand Jury’s Decision”. The White House. 24 November 2014.

An Occasion When You Don’t Want the Punch Line

Appetite for destruction.

Stop reading now.

The owner of a nursing home in Washington State was arrested last week after police say a hidden camera caught him sexually assaulting an 83-year-old woman who has dementia.

(Hanson)

Signs, signs. To wit, you know it’s a sign that you need new friends when you see a lede like that and think, “Hey, G needs to read this!”

No, really. Do you even want to know why he needs to read it?

That’s what I thought.

A woman who was sexually assaulted and set on fire was in critical condition Monday, and police turn to the public for help in finding her assailant.

(Associated Press)

Again, you don’t really want to know.

A correctional officer in Ferguson, Missouri, is accused of raping a pregnant woman who was in his custody.

(Murdock)

I promise, you really, really don’t want to know; suffice to say, we might doubt my associate’s answer will ever be known.

But there is a common theme that goes beyond the (ahem!) mere observation that these are all sex crimes.

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Hanson, Hilary. "Nursing Home Owner Caught On Tape Sexually Assaulting Resident: Cops". The Huffington Post. 17 November 2014.

Associated Press. “Kansas Woman In Critical Condition After Being Sexually Assaulted, Set On Fire”. The Huffington Post. 17 November 2014.

Murdock, Sebastian. “Ferguson Correctional Officer Jaris Hayden Raped Pregnant Woman, Lawsuit Alleges”. The Huffington Post. 17 November 2014.

The Beeb on Ferguson, and Other Notes

Ferguson protests: How the shooting of a black unarmed teenager sparked days of unrest and made a nation look at itself.  (BBC)

As much as we might appreciate the sentiment offered by the BBC for its sentiment on the Ferguson outrage, I must unfortunately beg to differ: “. . . made a nation look at itself”? Right. Yeah, that’s exactly what happened. Right?

Okay, yeah, we know. Right. That’s not even funny. Still, though, we do appreciate the Beeb’s hopeful sentiment, despite how “un-American” introspection actually is. No, really, remember that we dope introspective kids up in order to make them knock it off.

Okay, look, the truth is that when we “look at ourselves”, what we actually do is not look in the mirror, but point fingers at one another and yell a whole lot. Well, unless you’re a cop; then you point ugly guns at people and yell a whole lot. But internationals need to understand, the current President of the United States isn’t allowed to express human emotions without the danger of a white-led race riot. Remember what happened last time, when he said what any parent might say of a tragedy, that Trayvon Martin could have been his son. And remember the howls about how racist that is. Obama may be many things, but an idiot is not on the list. While his right-flank detractors scream about the race-baiting of sending the Justice Department to look into what appears, prima facie to be a police-sponsored murder and attempted coverup, his left-flank detractors are angry because he’s not showing enough “black anger”α. Meanwhile, supporters of the accused killer remind that Officer Wilson is “innocent until proven guilty”, a right stolen from the late Michael Brown, and wag their fingers about “rule of law”, which in their opinion means a white cop can shoot whatever black person he wants, the department can try to lie about it, and there’s nothing suspicious to be seen in that.

Americans seem to think this is the better alternative. Apparently, we are supposed to be scared senseless of our own reflections.

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α As we noted last month:

In the shadow of what happened and is happening in Ferguson, I’ve noticed that even the days of the Trayvon Martin debacle are, apparently, forgotten in much of the press. Even the distinguished Marc Lamont Hill, disclaiming that he “didn’t have any unrealistic expectations for Obama”, seems to ignore history in order to complain that the president is somehow blind to “black anger”. In his CNN opinion piece, the Morehouse College professor seems to have forgotten the facts that (A) Mr. Obama is a politician, (B) Mr. Obama is a politician who holds an extraordinarily important and controversial office, and (C) the fact of Mr. Obama’s ethnic heritage effectively requires that he downplay “black anger”.

And let me be clear: “Black anger” would appear to be wholly appropriate; the question is whether Dr. Hill prefers quick gratification or real progress. Right or wrong, the fact is that justice for Americans with dark skin is still a long time coming; the trend is to respond to “black anger” by punishing black people. Dr. Hill’s desire for a cheap quickie apparently takes precedent over real progress.

Or does that seem harsh?

Even so, it is at least somewhat accurate. That is to say that while politicians might rush to empathize with victims of crime and other tragedy, a black president saying the same thing about a dead teenager that a lot of us might say in other situations about, say, a white teenager who died, became a controversy about racism—how dare a black president sympathize with the challenges facing the black community!

British Broadcasting Corporation. “Ferguson Protests”. 2 September 2014.

Hill, Marc Lamont. “Obama, can’t you see black anger in Ferguson?”. CNN. 15 August 2014.

The Spirit of Lester Cowens … er … I Mean, Darren Wilson

 Well-wishers sign a poster in support of Wilson during a rally for him. (Huy Mach/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)

Via The Washington Post, three paragraphs from the team of Carol D. Leonnig, Kimberly Kindy, and Joel Achenbach that, to the one, just do not seem surprising, yet, to the other, well, we would rather not have read.

The small city of Jennings, Mo., had a police department so troubled, and with so much tension between white officers and black residents, that the city council finally decided to disband it. Everyone in the Jennings police department was fired. New officers were brought in to create a credible department from scratch.

 Well-wishers sign a poster in support of Wilson during a rally for him. (Huy Mach/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)That was three years ago. One of the officers who worked in that department, and lost his job along with everyone else, was a young man named Darren Wilson.

Some of the Jennings officers reapplied for their jobs, but Wilson got a job in the police department in the nearby city of Ferguson.

While it is true we might wish to not read such paragraphs, well, reality is not so accommodating. And the thing is, no matter how annoying or discouraging or depressing or (poor you!) oppressive of the rich, Christian, white man it might seem, it is also real. We cannot un-read it. Neither can we ignore it.

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