What I’m Reading, December 18, 2014

Katniss Everdeen, Thank You For Your Service, Ben Adams, Overthinking It, December 15, 2014

The individual experience of a veteran is as diverse and varied as any other institution with millions of members – prior to serving, those who served in the military come from all walks of life and backgrounds. During service, the experience of each service member varies widely, from a desk job in Washington DC to driving a warship through the Pacific to humping a rucksack and a rifle through the Taliban-controlled mountains of Afghanistan. And after leaving the military, veterans can be seen in all facets of society, making art, starting businesses, Overthinking things, etc.

But it is far too easy to leave this individuality behind and force the modern American* combat veteran into one of two competing narratives: the Courageous Hero or the Downtrodden and Broken Victim. In the Hero story, the veteran was born waving an American flag, traveling stoically across the sea to do battle with a distant enemy and returning home unbowed and unbroken; in the Victim story, the veteran was exploited by forces beyond his control, forced into the desert, subjected to unthinkable tragedy, and is now a hollow shell, subject to either crippling depression or psychotic breaks.


As with Katniss, veteran stories of heroism and victimization aren’t necessarily wrong. To be sure, many veterans have in fact accomplished any number of heroic deeds, sacrificing themselves for their fellow soldiers and civilians caught in the crossfire. And to be sure, many veterans have in fact been victimized by combat, coming home either not at all, or with wounds both physical and mental.

But in the stories we tell ourselves, the actual living, breathing, veteran frequently becomes just a stand-in for an undifferentiated mass of Veterans.

Gun nuts’ racial duplicity: How Ferguson and Garner undermined their Second Amendment crusade, Amanda Gailey, Salon, December 15, 2014 Continue reading


Actually, It’s About Ethics in Lawyering

St. Louis County, MO prosecutor Robert McCulloch may be the subject of an ethics complaint over his arguably less-than-zealous presentation to the Darren Wilson grand jury. I like John Cole’s suggestion for how to handle the complaint:

I have an idea. They could run the ethics meeting just like he ran the Grand Jury. Just throw all the information out there and let them decide. And they could only interview the people who think he has done wrong. I mean, apparently that is how you run these sorts of things.

Cole kind of has it backwards—if they ran the ethics complaint the way McCulloch ran the grand jury proceeding, the Missouri State Bar would pretty much take McCulloch’s side, but I know what he’s getting at.


MLK’s Nonviolence Meme (UPDATED x 2)

I’ve seen the following meme passed around on Facebook in recent days, generally in response to the protests in Ferguson. I think that the quote lacks context.


The meme, in case you can’t see the image, it quotes Martin Luther King, Jr. as follows:

Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones. Violence is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding: it seeks to annihilate rather than convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.

A common tactic to discredit a movement is to point to illegal acts of some people and associate that with the entire group. That way, people start to see nothing but violence in months of peaceful protests with only sporadic violence by some people, combined with people’s reactions to a grossly disproportionate police response (and I don’t think that ought to be a controversial characterization of the situation in Ferguson from August until a few days ago, but others may disagree).

I think it’s important to look at the MLK quote in its broader context. He drew a considerable amount of inspiration from Gandhi, who for all of his virtues had an almost comically naive view of how people should have responded to Germany in WWII. That said, nonviolence is a strategy that is much more complex than just saying “don’t be violent.” Without expressly defending certain things that may have happened on the protesters’ side in the past few months, I will say that history reveals again and again that you can only push people so much before they start to push back, and people in Ferguson have been pushed quite a bit. Now, getting back to the MLK quote, here’s a larger section from the speech (his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964):

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Initial, Hastily-Scribbled Thoughts on the Darren Wilson Grand Jury

[By popular request (i.e. at least one person), here are some thoughts* I jotted down on Facebook earlier today, partly in response to articles on NPR and Vox. Edited to correct spelling/grammar/formatting only.]

In a nutshell, the prosecutor presented exculpatory evidence to the grand jury, lobbed softball questions at the prospective defendant, and did just about everything he could to soft-pedal the case—given that the grand jury is supposed to be the time when the prosecutor presents a one-sided, self-serving narrative of the case in order to secure a conviction, I’m inclined to call bullshit on the whole thing.

A few other points:

1. Double jeopardy does not attach at the grand jury stage, so there is no legal reason why another grand jury couldn’t meet and indict Wilson. He is not “exonerated,” nor is he “not guilty” in a legal sense. In just about any other criminal proceeding, the prosecutor would be explaining that to us, instead of the other way around. Continue reading


Gosh, Who Could’ve Seen This Coming?

The fundraisers for Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department have surpassed $400,000, much more than the fundraisers for the kid he shot and killed. Wilson currently has no legal expenses to speak of, although even if the prosecutors never bring charges, a civil wrongful death claim is still a possibility. The kicker, of course, is that no one seems to know for certain what the $400,000+ is for, or where it is going:

This is one of those “read the whole thing” stories, because there’s just an unbelievable amount of Really Damn Sketchy going on. To sum up: Continue reading


When Cluelessness, Privilege, and Entitlement Meet, It’s Not Pretty

In case you can’t see the image in the above tweet, I have transcribed the entire statement at the end of this post. I just want to look at a few parts of the statement.

Our mission is to formally declare that we share the united belief that Officer Wilson’s actions on August 9th were warranted and justified, and he has our unwavering support. We believe that the evidence has and will continue to validate our position.

Everyone else, however, should wait until all the facts come out. Even if that takes forever. Continue reading


If Certain People Would Just Be Honest….

…..they’d admit that they simply find black people, along with just about anything black people do, unfamiliar, confusing, and terrifying:

One of the key leadership figures in the Ferguson crisis has been Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson. It’s a shame, then, that Soraya Nadia McDonald had to explain that Johnson has not been photographed flashing gang signs with members of the community.


The gesture – which looks a bit like an A-OK sign turned on its side – is obviously harmless. It’s evidence of membership in a fraternity, not membership in a gang.

But that didn’t stop a variety of conservatives from pushing the line that Johnson was somehow involved directly in gang activity.

But I guess it would be rude to call those people racists.


“It sounds like a war zone.”

At what point do we start saying Ferguson actually is a “war zone”?


Alleged Jaywalking

Michael Brown will forever be an alleged shoplifter. And an alleged jaywalker. He will never be convicted of any offense, because an officer of the Ferguson Police Department killed him before he could ever stand trial.

Of course this won’t stop some people from assuming that Michael Brown is guilty of some offense. Cowards, fools, and racists will call Michael Brown a robber, or shoplifter, or “thug,” as if that somehow settles the matter.

The Ferguson chief of police did nothing today to alleviate the tensions that he did so much to create. All he did was make a pathetic effort to deflect criticism off of himself and his department, and onto the person that one of his officers killed. An officer who, let us not forget, had no idea about the suspected robbery or shoplifting.

I’d say that the Ferguson Chief of Police should be ashamed of himself, but I think we’re past that point now don’t you?


What I’m Reading, August 15, 2014

This Is Why We’re Mad About the Shooting of Mike Brown, Kara Brown, Jezebel, August 11, 2014

As a black person in America, it’s getting exhausting to still have to explain, in the year 2014, your right to exist in this country. To explain that you are a human being whose value sits no lower than anyone else’s. To explain our basic humanity. And perhaps worst of all, to explain exactly why we are outraged.

We shouldn’t have to explain why it’s not acceptable for unarmed teenagers to be gunned down by the police.

We shouldn’t have to explain why even though Mike Brown’s life didn’t matter to you or a Ferguson police officer, it mattered to someone.

Political Ambitionz az a Rioter, RobtheIdealist, Orchestrated Pulse, August 12, 2014

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