Ferguson

The Ben Carson Show (Phenomenon)

Source photos: Ben Carson announces his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, 5 May 2015 (Paul Sancya/AP). A biblical inscription is chiseled into the wall of Ben Carson's home, with 'proverbs' spelled incorrectly (Mark Makela/The Guardian, 2014).

Tom McCarthy tries to explain the Ben Carson phenomenon for The Guardian:

He is more than an American success story, brilliant brain surgeon and bestselling author of 10 Christian-themed books. He has also coined some of the most outlandish statements ever uttered on the national stage, a purveyor of bizarre conspiracy theories and a provocateur who compares abortion to slavery and same-sex marriage to pedophilia.

This week, Carson restated his belief that the pyramids were built by the biblical Joseph to store grain, and not by Egyptians to entomb their kings. He believes that Vladimir Putin, Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Abbas attended school together in Moscow in 1968. He believes that Jews with firearms might have been able to stop the Holocaust, that he personally could stop a mass shooting, that the Earth was created in six days and that Osama bin Laden enjoyed Saudi protection after 9/11.

The Carson conundrum is not fully captured by a list of his eccentric beliefs, however. He also confounds the traditional demographics of US politics, in which national African American political figures are meant to be Democrats. Not only is Carson a Republican – he is a strong conservative on both social and economic issues, opposing abortion including in cases of rape and incest, and framing welfare programs as a scheme to breed dependence and win votes.

He has visited the riot zones of Ferguson and Baltimore but offered little compassion for black urban poor populations who feel oppressed by mostly white police forces.

Even Carson’s core appeal as a Christian evangelical is complicated by the fact that he is a lifelong adherent to a relatively small sect, the Seventh-Day Adventist church, whose celebration of the sabbath on Saturday instead of Sunday and denial of the doctrine of hell have drawn accusations of heresy from other mainstream Christian groups.

That last probably plays more strongly with the British audience; in the United States, Christian is as Christian does; Dr. Carson’s penchant for false witness and exclusionary, judgmental scorn are his own ad hoc iteration of faith, shot through with neurotic self-contradiction as it struggles to justify his self-centered pretense of humility. If one seeks strangeness about the SDA experience in general, it is a different phenomenon.

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Pass/Fail

"TRUE OR FALSE: Objecting to certain police tactics is the same as hating all police officers."  (Jen Sorensen, 30 December 2014, via Daily Kos Comics)Remember how the cycle works.

It is a really simple idea: We would like to be able to support our law enforcement institutions and personnel.

This argument has been going on for a while; cartoonist Jen Sorensen asks an obvious question. Indeed, it is so obvious a question one need not wonder why the public discourse flees it in screaming terror.

So here’s the thing: When an ugly episode arises involving law enforcement, we are reminded that these episodes come about because of a proverbial few bad seeds. Yet these few seem rather quite protected by other police traditions that require the participation of the rest of those allegedly good officers. Didn’t see a thing, or the guy was definitely reaching for a gun, or what, do you want a guilty person to go free just because of a technicality?

But that is just a fallacy, a fundamentally dishonest reaction. It always seems to come down to an all-or-nothing proposition put before us by police supporters.

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How To Blame Women for Anything

Left: A protester throws a smoke bomb back at police in Ferguson, Missouri, August 2014 (photo: Reuters).  Right: Dr. Ben Carson at CPAC, 8 March 2014 (photo: Susan Walsh/AP).

Every once in a while, the question of conservatives and racism arises, and in most cases such inquiries are at least a little sickening. For instance, former RNC chairman Michael Steele is a lot more tolerable as an individual on the television screen now that he’s been booted from the gig and no longer has to pander to other black people by wearing his hat sideways and explaining that this is just how conservatives roll. Still, though, there is almost always reason to wonder. For years, conservatives kept Alan Keyes around, and there really are no polite analogues from literature or history; it is as if his role was to say things that made white supremacists feel better about themselves.

The latest right-wing champion of color is Dr. Ben Carson, who recently explained to American Family Radio, a broadcast arm of the premiere hate organization American Family Association, that racism in these United States is to be blamed squarely on women:

“Certainly in a lot of our inner cities, in particular the black inner cities, where 73 percent of the young people are born out of wedlock, the majority of them have no father figure in their life. Usually the father figure is where you learn how to respond to authority. So now you become a teenager, you’re out there, you really have no idea how to respond to authority, you eventually run into the police or you run into somebody else in the neighborhood who also doesn’t know how to respond but is badder than you are, and you get killed or you end up in the penal system,” Carson said.

“If the so-called leaders were really interested in the community, they would be trying to deal with that problem, because that’s happening every single day,” he added.

When host Lauren Kitchen Stewards broke in to tie his remarks to young people’s “sense of entitlement,” Carson traced it all back to the women’s liberation movement.

“I think a lot of it really got started in the ’60s with the ‘me generation.’ ‘What’s in it for me?’ I hate to say it, but a lot of it had to do with the women’s lib movement. You know, ‘I’ve been taking care of my family, I’ve been doing that, what about me?’ You know, it really should be about us,” he said.

(Blue)

This is a point that cannot be understated: Black people are not going to vote for a black politician simply because that politician is black.

One would think it obvious, but the steady stream of Obamanoia from the right wing is enough to make a prima facie argument that Republicans do need reminding from time to time.

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Bill Kristol, Failing to Make Sense

ABC News Contributor and Democratic Strategist Donna Brazile, ABC News Contributor and The Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol, ABC News' Cokie Roberts, and The Wall Street Journal Columnist Bret Stephens on 'This Week', 30 November 2014. (ABC News)

Does one ever wonder what, exactly, Bill Kristol gets paid for?

Alana Horowitz of Huffington Post sums up the sound bite:

Conservative pundit Bill Kristol said that Paul is “totally overrated” as a potential 2016 candidate.

“I predict Rand Paul will get fewer votes than his father got in 2012,” he said. “He’s more dovish than President Obama on foreign policy. Republican voters aren’t.”

To the one, here we have a pundit known for some sort of incisive something or other, yet he starts from a pretense of making the most obvious point possible and ends with something entirely irrelevant.

RADDATZ: OK. Rand Paul is targeting younger voters as well. Let’s take a look at our Facebook senti-meter. He is among the most talked about potential GOP candidate in the 18-34 year-old range, second only to Ted Cruz. And take a look at how they view him.

Perry, 61 percent positive; Rand Paul, 57 percent positive; Ted Cruz, 37 percent positive.

What do you think there, Bill Kristol?

KRISTOL: I think Rand Paul is totally overrated as a 2016 possibility. The media loves him. The media loves him because he takes a couple of liberal views, publicizes them in an incoherent way. I predict Rand Paul will get fewer votes than his father got in 2012. He’s as — he’s more dovish than President Obama on foreign policy. Republican voters aren’t.

And on law and order, yes, Republican voters — and I think most Americans — and I think an awful lot of African Americans think whatever injustice might happen in any individual case — and God knows there are cops who make mistakes and do things that they shouldn’t do — maybe not enough to get indicted.

Nonetheless, there’s no excuse for rioting and there’s no excuse for people apologizing for the destruction of property and the endangering of life. Law and order’s not just a political (INAUDIBLE). It really is part of a decent society.

(ABC News)

No, really, just try to follow that wreck. In truth, there is more leading up to the moment than the bite suggests, but nonetheless it is a hopeless pile of words trying to cover way too many things and, ultimately, represents Mr. Kristol at what passes for his usual self, starting with perfectly obvious considerations and descending immediately into incoherence. After all, one would think incompetence would be enough to forestall the Kentucky junior’s pres―

Oh.

Still, though, talk about opportunism. Any opportunity to complain about rioting. Trust us, it reads even worse in its own context.

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Horowitz, Alana. “Bill Kristol: Rand Paul ‘Is Totally Overrated’ For 2016”. The Huffington Post. 30 November 2014.

ABC News. This Week with George Stephanopolous. Transcript. 30 November 2014.

Something About Justice

Detail of cartoon by Matt Wuerker, 27 November 2014 (via Daily Kos Comics)This is what it comes to. This is the problem. And no, it is not so simple as black and white.

Jenny Durkan, formerly a U.S. Attorney from Seattle, offered some insights recently, in the wake of the Ferguson Grand Jury decision to not charge Officer Darren Wilson with any crimes related to the shooting death of Michael Brown, about why it is hard to secure any sense of justice when police officers have the appearance of being criminals. “I know firsthand,” she writes, “how difficult it is to prosecute police officers.” And then she recounts a really awful period in the history of the Seattle Police Department, a force whose misconduct demanded and received federal attention, a story that is still playing out, a hyperdrama that includes the police complaining that they cannot do their jobs properly and safely without excessive force.

There comes a point at which some might argue that of course the police are going to fight for every last scrap of force, and it really is properly arguable in the context of how the laws of our society operate and intermingle with diverse customs. Trying to identify a threshold between what is tacitly known and accepted—officers can customize their incident reports, omitting or rearranging details as they please to make for a more prosecutable narrative, and the state is allowed to destroy the evidence that would support or contradict those narratives—is an abstraction both peculiar and common. It is customarily inappropriate to speak ill of the police in any terms, which is its own bizarre question insofar as we should not hold our breath for any explanation of just how one applies to become black.

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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.

____________________

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 Fergie Shake (-down)

Jen Sorensen presents TURD:

The shooting was justified because we had video of him conspiring to defraud investors.  A real thug.A pre-emptive alert for the satire-challenged: this strip is obviously not endorsing violence against bankers. It IS saying that many in the financial world are real thugs who are never treated the way police often treat black citizens in Ferguson and many other places. The devastation caused by white-collar criminals—the loss of so many people’s homes and life savings, leading to broken families, poor health, depression, and suicide, has caused suffering on an immense scale. Yet bankers have to try very, very hard to get themselves arrested, and even then they usually aren’t successful.

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The Unfortunately Requisite Disclaimer.

Image note: Detail of cartoon by Jen Sorensen, 25 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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A Note to Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post

karen Tumulty of the Washington Post, via C-SPAN; undated.

To: Karen Tumulty

re: Spockbama

What a difference a year makes, madam. You won the Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting for 2013. Congratulations. Except it’s now 2014, and mere months later, you’re embarrassing the S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University by demonstrating just how badly they screwed up.

It’s not that I don’t like you, or think your work is excrement. But I just don’t get this whole thing where reporters both want to take sides, participating in the stories they cover, and be looked upon by the world at large as part of the noble Fourth Estate.

The Fourth Estate is dying because of people like you.

We, the People who are the alleged beneficiaries of the tireless work performed by the Fourth Estate, are not pleased at the prospect of its suicide. Once upon a time, we needed the media as Fourth Estate. In concept, we still do. But in practice? We’d be better off if you all took up basket weaving, or prostitution.

Better yet, why don’t the (ahem!) “journalists” just give up the pretense and run for office?

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