America loves its sidewalk executions

Excerpt from a comparison of US police use of deadly force to other countries (and the racial influences in those differences):

Worse, police in the U.S. expect to be shown special deference by members of the public at large. Noble sounding as that idea is in the abstract, in practical terms it has devastating results. Given that doctrine of “respect,” any hint of disrespect or disobedience during a routine encounter – even completely imagined – can escalate into a sidewalk execution.

Combined with an ongoing legacy of historically charged, extraordinary demands of respect from racial minorities by law enforcement, such situations become exceptionally dangerous for non-White citizens.

Since a policeman can expect total deference, all it takes to legitimize a shoot to kill action is feeling threatened. The doors to playing God and/or cowboy are wide open. This legal derivation, perverted as is sounds, is no accident. It is a full reflection of American culture and mythology. Today’s shooting practices and incidents allow the police to tap into the imagery of the Lone-Ranger sheriff establishing justice in a lawless landscape.
In an international context of other civilized countries, though, U.S. practices are clearly outside the bounds of what is seen as legally permissible.

Eric Garner was street-executed by the NYPD on suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes. They were filmed on a bystander’s camera. There won’t be a trial.

An initial version of this post was corrected for factual accuracy.

After Ferguson: In defense of non-peaceful resistance

The regular suspension of due process and the repeated failure to restrain or reasonably manage the use of lethal force by the state against its citizens violates the American social contract on a fundamental level.

The social contract is an “agreement” that the state will have a legitimate monopoly on the use of force, instead of all individual people having the use of force all over the place with no rules, in exchange for meeting those basic conditions and maintaining the safety of all people and protecting their property.

Although it’s never possible to preserve that balance 100% of the time — and the United States has an unusually extensive set of loopholes for normal civilian use of force — it is reasonably considered in effect if it is upheld the vast majority of the time and with consistent, non-discriminatory application. Significant and repeated failure of the balance or failure to apply the principles consistently across the population would constitute a breach of the contract.

With a widespread and ongoing breach in the social contract by the state, the use of force is legitimately de-monopolized and reverts to the people to use on an individual or collective level, against threats and oppressors, including but not limited to — racial supremacists, exploitative businesses, and the state. The data has been clear for some time that a breach of the social contract exists between the state (federal, local, and everything in between) and the Black citizens of the United States.

Therefore: Violent resistance to police and destruction of select private property in the aftermath of a particularly egregious violation such as witnessed in Ferguson last week (suspension of the rule of law and restricted rights to peaceful assembly) is quite easily morally justifiable — though obviously optional — until the restoration of a legitimate social contract between the people and their government, which re-monopolizes the use of force.

To be clear: I’m not calling for violence and destruction; I’m just saying it’s not inherently unacceptable right now, and that decision is a matter of basic self-determination by those for whom the social contract has been broken (a sub-population which does not include me). For the majority of Americans, the social contract remains intact and normal rules of conduct apply. For a regularly legally and forcibly repressed sub-population without redress of grievances, the contract is currently void.
Read more

Unsecured guns still magically don’t count as child endangerment

There was an important post on TIME by Aaron Gouveia about the disparate handling of two cases involving 9-year-old girls who were put in potentially unsafe situations by their parents in the past few months. The more recent of the two cases was the now infamous situation where a 9-year-old girl at an Arizona gun range was handed an Uzi submachine gun — notoriously hard-to-control — and promptly lost her grip while firing and killed the instructor. The latter was a case where a working mother let her child play unattended in a nearby playground with other kids this summer after the girl’s laptop was stolen and she had nothing to do all day while mom was working.

Many other commentators have expended a lot of internet ink pointing out the absurd overreaction of law enforcement and the other parents who narc’d on the mom, particularly given that there was actually an extremely low risk of anything terrible happening and just a generation or so ago 9-year-old kids were wandering all over their communities without any adult supervision at all and no cell phones. The mother in this case has been severely and disproportionately punished, as we’ll see in a moment.

There is one angle not really covered by Gouveia which is that the mother and child in the playground case were Black (unlike the family in the other case), and there is a long history in the United States of forcing Black mothers to work extremely long hours for poor compensation while shaming and even criminalizing how they are compelled to raise their kids under those circumstances.

Nevertheless, Gouveia summarizes the two cases well in his article and raises the other crucial contrast in how the cases were handled with regard to a kid on a playground surrounded by other kids and parents versus a child executing a man by accident. And that’s the gun angle:

Instead of a loaded weapon, Harrell armed her daughter with a phone, and sent her to a playground with lots of other kids and adults. The only shooting that took place was the cool water from a splash pad and some hoops on the basketball courts. There were even volunteers who came by the playground with free snacks. While perhaps not ideal since Harrell was at work, she sent her daughter to a family-friendly place with an environment geared toward fun and summertime frivolity. The same kind of place I routinely rode my bike to at the age of nine.

Yet Harrell is the one arrested. Who lost her job. Who spent 17 days in jail, temporarily lost custody of her daughter, and faces 10 years in prison.

Harrell’s detractors claim someone could’ve kidnapped her daughter at the playground, which is true. But while there is a low risk of child abduction at a public playground in broad daylight, it pales in comparison to the risks involved with letting a 9-year-old fire a machine gun. So please stop referencing the 2nd amendment, because I’m certain our Founding Fathers weren’t contemplating the benefits of letting children fire hundreds of rounds per minute when they drafted the right to bear arms.

As usual, guns in the United States get special treatment*, especially when “accidents” happen in public or in the home, again and again and again.

So, in addition to the important context of criminalization of Black Motherhood, these contrasting situations (and their handling) speak to the wider problem of how local law enforcement and prosecutors handle gun-related accidents involving children (most of which involve a child’s death or serious injury, rather than that of the adult instructor).

7,500 children a year are admitted to U.S. hospitals with gunshot wounds, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Of those, 500 die each year. Many others are pronounced dead on scene. Yet, authorities routinely refuse to file child endangerment charges against parents when children accidentally shoot each other or themselves with unsecured firearms. Take a look at this set of clippings by David Waldman of the dozens and dozens of children under 14 who died through accidental shootings in 2013, and note how the cases were resolved. It’s most often deemed an “accident” and the case is closed without charges against anyone, including the adults. Which is insane.
Read more

Missouri Republicans keep making the case for Missouri Democrats

Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments during the 2012 U.S. Senate election may be the most famous example of Missouri Republicans being so effortlessly terrible that voters are forced to pick the Democratic nominee regardless of that candidate’s merit, but he’s far from the only one.

Recently, of course, I blogged about the Missouri state legislator who said he would rather let everyone overdose on prescription drugs than have Missouri implement a database to track misuse of prescriptions for medications, just as every other U.S. state has done.

Today we were treated to three-term Republican Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder’s views on the crisis in Ferguson, which were either the loudest dog whistle of the decade or the most tone-deaf political remark uttered in the Show Me State since Congressman Akin’s non-scientific beliefs on rape “shut that whole thing down,” in terms of his career.

Here’s the quote from Kinder via RawStory:

“We do not do justice in America in the streets though,” he argued. “We have legal processes that are set in motion, that are designed after centuries of Anglo-American jurisprudence tradition, they’re designed to protect the rights and liberties of everyone involved.”

“That includes the Brown family, for justice for them and for the community. It also includes the officer who has not yet been charged,” he added. “Our constitutional and our Bill of Rights protections have to be followed here, and we do not do justice in the streets.”

“That’s one of the great advances of Anglo-American civilization, is that that we do not have politicized trials. We let the justice system work it out.”

Anglo-American civilization and jurisprudence? We do not do justice in the streets?

For someone commenting on a racially charged crisis, resulting from a White police officer unilaterally gunning down an unarmed Black teen he did not suspect of any crime, in a state (and country) with a long and ugly history of White lynch mobs enacting “justice in the streets,” this is about the worst possible thing he could have said short of actually just dropping n-bombs and death threats all over the broadcast.

Democratic Governor Jay Nixon’s policy response to Ferguson has been pretty terrible, and his rhetoric has been pretty misguided, but this line by the Lieutenant Governor is a pretty good demonstration of why Nixon ended up as the only credible option for reasonable voters, Democrats or otherwise… Complete awfulness as an alternative makes a great case for living with mediocrity.

AFD Radio Exclusive: Firsthand reports from Ferguson


Eyewitness accounts from Ferguson MO by longtime area residents and from the National Moment of Silence 2014 rally in Chicago.

Ferguson/NMOS14 Discussion:
AFD 96 – Ferguson / NMOS14

Recorded late afternoon of Sunday August 17th, 2014

Segment 1 Panel:
– JP from St. Louis County: Lives near Ferguson, 10-year U.S. military veteran, 20 year county resident
– Ama from St. Louis County: Lives next to Ferguson, wife owns a business there, 12 year county resident, participant in Ferguson rallies
– Michael from South Carolina: Returning guest, host of “Pound4Pound Boxing Report” show

Segment 2 Guest:
– JP from Chicago: Co-host of the “Nerdgasm Noire” show, lifelong Chicago resident, participant in the NMOS14 rally in Chicago

What we talked about this hour:

– Longstanding tensions with police in Ferguson and the wider St. Louis County
– The geography of the Ferguson protests and manifestations of outrage
– Militarization of American police forces
– Respectability politics: Why dressing and speaking a certain way won’t save Black Americans
– National Moment of Silence events
– Personal stories of being harassed by police in the St. Louis area, including Ferguson
– Raising children under / growing up with an abusive police force
– Organizing for future change, from social media to events on the ground


RSS Feed: Arsenal for Democracy Feedburner
iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.

Many White Americans still clueless on Ferguson, finds Pew poll

Not surprising, but still very disturbing results from a Pew poll on the Ferguson situation.

47% of White Americans think “race is getting too much attention” in a story of nearly exclusively White police forces openly oppressing and attacking a two-thirds Black community after shooting down an unarmed Black kid without any known probable cause at the time.

Meanwhile, only one third of White Americans believe the “police response has gone too far.” You know, the response where police are firing dangerous nerve gas and bullet-alternatives (which have killed people in other cases) into crowds with children in them.

But in defense of the clueless masses, the mainstream news media reports keep uncritically repeating the fanciful law enforcement claims that they were under siege by “Molotov cocktails” no one has seen and “coordinated” attacks on their command center, which doesn’t seem grounded in reality. So, even if some people still wouldn’t have a problem with the police response when given the real facts of the situation, a larger proportion don’t have access to those facts in the first place to make an accurate assessment.

“A system of racism…is much more important than the individual racists.”

tito-jackson-boston-city-councilFollowing another round of bigoted tweets from Boston Bruins fans, Boston City Councilman Tito Jackson wrote a very long Facebook post arguing that it’s time to move beyond the entry-level “gee whiz, Boston says a lot of racist stuff, doesn’t it?” and start talking about how Boston makes life terrible for its Black residents all life long, from poor health outcomes to chronic unemployment to micro-aggressions on a daily basis. Here is an excerpt from the full post:

At a time when the Supreme Court strikes down affirmative action, arguing erroneously that race doesn’t matter anymore, and makes a case that we live in a post-racial society we can point to this and other high profile cases and show race has, does and still matters more than ever. In Boston, race does matter in life expectancy with the difference in life expectancy in the richest part of the Back Bay at 91.9 years and the poorest part of Roxbury at 58.9 a 33 year difference in life expectancy at birth.

I think the most important part of these conversations is that the high profile cases are just the tip of a huge iceberg, that exists in a system of racism, that is much more important than the individual racists. The relevance is not the sentiment but the reality that racism has undeniable effect on who is incarcerated, who is educated, who is nominated, who is elected, who is incarcerated, who graduates and who is effected.

As a black man, I face racism on a daily basis even though I wear a suit, have a degree and an elected office. You see, it is not my achievements, my mind that this insidious system categories but the potential threat that I am as a black man large or small. The high profile incidents pale in comparisons in frequency to the everyday elevator rides where folks grab their purses, the dehumanizing interactions with cab drivers who don’t want to bring me home to Roxbury and the times that I have been pulled over by police (not only in Boston) for no reason.

The teachable moment is simply that we cannot fix what we do not face. Racism is real. Racism is alive and well.

Boston cannot and will not live up to the true meaning of Boston Strong until we acknowledge the present issues: double the dropout rate for Black and Latino boys in schools, achievement gap, 3 fold unemployment rates, address the issues of the past i.e. busing and decide collectively on what we want our future to be for our children.

And he has a particularly strong reminder for the Millennials who want to wish away racism:

We know that the younger generation does not see themselves through the same racial lenses, but when they take their glasses off, the rose tinted virtual reality game of “We are all the same” is replaced with the black and white reality of disparity…

We must use this special, important and urgent moment in time to not walk away, silence and avoid these issues.

We can’t just say “we’re all part of the human race, mannnnn” and suddenly make everything better. Race may be a biological fiction, but race as a social construct exists, and it results in racism. We can’t change it without first accepting that the system exists (and goes well beyond just tweets with the N-word or recordings of NBA owners saying stupidly vile things).

Jackson’s post — and specifically the admonition to younger folks — calls to mind a recent article by the ever-great Ta-Nehisi Coates:

…liberals do not understand that America has never discriminated on the basis of race (which does not exist) but on the basis of racism (which most certainly does.)

Ideologies of hatred have never required coherent definitions of the hated. Islamophobes kill Sikhs as easily as they kill Muslims. Stalin needed no consistent definition of “Kulaks” to launch a war of Dekulakization. “I decide who is a Jew,” Karl Lueger said. Slaveholders decided who was a nigger and who wasn’t. The decision was arbitrary. The effects are not. Ahistorical liberals—like most Americans—still believe that race invented racism, when in fact the reverse is true. The hallmark of elegant racism is the acceptance of mainstream consensus, and exploitation of all its intellectual fault lines.