John T. Williams

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.

(more…)

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?

(more…)