What I’m Reading, September 21, 2015

Police Officer Fired For Racial Bias After Falsely Claiming Black Man Attacked Her With Golf Club, Andy Campbell, Huffington Post, September 17, 2015

Seattle Police Officer Cynthia Whitlatch was fired Tuesday for showing racial bias and a lack of remorse when she improperly arrested a 69-year-old black man who was using a golf club as a cane.

“I was disappointed by your failure during your Loudermill hearing to take any responsibility, or show any understanding that your conduct at issue here was inappropriate,” Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole wrote in her decision to fire Whitlatch. “In particular, when I asked you what if anything you would do differently in retrospect, you stated that you would do nothing differently.”

‘The narrowing of opportunity in modern America’ (And the rise of the “mandarin” class), Nick Sorrentino, Against Crony Capitalism, February 15, 2015 Continue reading


Incivility Is Not a Crime


Citizens have the right to “mouth off” to police. We have the right to question how we are being treated, why we are being arrested, why we are even being approached. Far too many police deploy accusations of disturbing the peace or obstructing justice to quiet citizens who question them within legal bounds. As long as we don’t threaten or enact physical harm on police officers, we can “mouth off” all we want. We don’t have to be polite to police officers, and they clearly have very little interest in being polite to us. And for those who keep demanding that we act civilly, the point is, “incivility” is not a crime.

If it were, half of America’s police forces would be behind bars.

– Brittney Cooper, “America’s war on Black girls: Why McKinney police violence isn’t about ‘one bad apple'”, Salon, June 10, 2015 (h/t Natalie)


What I’m Reading, January 5, 2015

On Nerd Entitlement, Laurie Penny, New Statesman, December 29, 2014

These are curious times. Gender and privilege and power and technology are changing and changing each other. We’ve also had a major and specific reversal of social fortunes in the past 30 years. Two generations of boys who grew up at the lower end of the violent hierarchy of toxic masculinity – the losers, the nerds, the ones who were afraid of being creeps – have reached adulthood and found the polarity reversed. Suddenly they’re the ones with the power and the social status. Science is a way that shy, nerdy men pull themselves out of the horror of their teenage years. That is true. That is so. But shy, nerdy women have to try to pull themselves out of that same horror into a world that hates, fears and resents them because they are women, and to a certain otherwise very intelligent sub-set of nerdy men, the category “woman” is defined primarily as “person who might or might not deny me sex, love and affection”.


Heterosexuality is fucked up right now because whilst we’ve taken steps towards respecting women as autonomous agents, we can’t quite let the old rules go. We have an expectation for, a craving for of a sexual freedom that our rhetoric, our rituals and our sexual socialisation have not prepared us for. And unfortunately for men, they have largely been socialised – yes, even the feminist-identified ones – to see women as less than fully human. Men, particularly nerdy men, are socialised to blame women – usually their peers and/or the women they find sexually desirable for the trauma and shame they experienced growing up. If only women had given them a chance, if only women had taken pity, if only done the one thing they had spent their own formative years been shamed and harassed and tormented into not doing. If only they had said yes, or made an approach.

This, incidentally, is why we’re not living in a sexual utopia of freedom and enthusiastic consent yet despite having had the technological capacity to create such a utopia for at least 60 years. Men are shamed for not having sex; women are shamed for having it. Men are punished and made to feel bad for their desires, made to resent and fear women for having denied them the sex they crave and the intimacy they’re not allowed to get elsewhere. Meanwhile, women are punished and made to feel bad for their perfectly normal desires and taught to resist all advances, even Eventually, a significant minority of men learn that they can ‘get’ what they want by means of violence and manipulation, and a significant minority of women give in, because violence and manipulation can be rather effective. (Note: accepting the advances of an awful man does not make these people bad women who are conspiring to ‘make life hell for shy nerds’. I’ve heard that sort of thing come out of the mouths of my feminist-identified male nerd friends far too often.)

And so we arrive at an impasse: men must demand sex and women must refuse, except not too much because then we’re evil friendzoning bitches. The impasse continues until one or both parties grows up enough or plumps up the courage to state their desires honestly and openly, without pressure or resentment, respecting the consent and agency of one another.

Why Idris Elba Can’t Play James Bond, Phil Nobile Jr., Badass Digest, December 29, 2014 Continue reading


How to Tell the Difference Between a Police Raid and a Home Invasion (Hint: Sometimes You Can’t)

By Tim McAteer (Wikipedia:Contact us/Photo submission) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsThe Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported last week on the story of a 59 year-old nurse, Louise Goldsberry, who found herself pinned down in her apartment during a home invasion. Fortunately, she kept a gun in her home, and so was able to defend herself…right?

Well, no, because the home invaders were actually cops, including the U.S. Marshal’s Office and the Sarasota Police Department, looking for a suspect in a child rape case. Goldsberry stated that she was standing at her kitchen sink, while her boyfriend Craig Dorris was in the next room, when she saw a man “wearing a hunting vest…aiming a gun at her face, with a red light pinpointing her.” She reportedly screamed and ran to her bedroom to get the gun for which she has a concealed weapons permit. She didn’t know whether to believe him when the man claimed to be a police officer, because she said she had no idea why the police would be behaving in this way in her apartment.

Dorris managed to at least somewhat defuse the situation, although both of them ended up in handcuffs for at least half and hour. Police found the child-rape suspect in a different part of town later that night. He had never been in Goldsberry’s apartment, and Goldsberry had no idea who he was. The U.S. Marshal who was at Goldsberry’s door, Matt Wiggins, admitted that the tip regarding the suspect’s location was about the apartment complex as a whole—they had no reason whatsoever to suspect that he was in Goldsberry’s apartment, except for this:

But when the people in Goldsberry’s apartment didn’t open up, that told Wiggins he had probably found the right door. No one at other units had reacted that way, he said.

Maybe none of them had a gun pointed at them through the kitchen window, I suggested. But Wiggins didn’t think that was much excuse for the woman’s behavior. He said he acted with restraint and didn’t like having that gun aimed at him.

“I went above and beyond,” Wiggins said. “I have to go home at night.”

This is a prime example of the First Rule of Policing, as defined by Scott Greenfield: Make it home for dinner. No matter what led to the situation where a gun was pointed at Wiggins, he intended to defend himself. Wiggins made a decision that, because the occupant of a particular apartment did not answer the door politely, they must be up to no good. As much as anyone may want to see child rapists get pummeled, this is simply a bad general rule.

This demonstrates another principle identified by Greenfield: police assume you know exactly why they stopped you or are pointing a gun at you, and may start beating you or shooting at you if you don’t do exactly as they say.

That’s the funny thing about not having the slightest clue why a guy is pointing a gun at you. The cops start with the assumption that you’re guilty, and therefore know exactly why they nabbed you. This bit of confusion can, and often does, lead to a problematic reaction.

Goldsberry is actually pretty lucky that the cops didn’t just start shooting, although I don’t think she should be sending the Sarasota Police Department or the U.S. Marshals any thank-you notes.

We are always being told by the gun lobby that we need whatever firepower we can get our hands on to protect ourselves from home invasions. What happens when your home is invaded by police who are in the wrong place? Do we have to live our lives as though, at any moment, police could break down the door?

“I was thinking, is this some kind of nutjob?” [said Goldsberry.]

No, just a well-trained officer who knows how to go after a man assumed to be a dangerous felon, but isn’t so good at understanding a frightened woman confronted with an aggressive armed stranger coming after her in her own home.

Wiggins offered the Herald-Tribune perhaps the most chilling statement I’ve seen uttered by law enforcement in some time:

“I feel bad for her,” Wiggins conceded, finally. “But at the same time, I had to reasonably believe the bad guy was in her house based on what they were doing.”

Goldsberry wasn’t arrested or shot despite pointing a gun at a cop, so Wiggins said, “She sure shouldn’t be going to the press.”

(Emphasis added.)

Why shouldn’t she be going to the press? Wiggins, at least from the tone expressed in the Herald-Tribune article, seems annoyed that he has to answer for what happened in Goldsberry’s apartment. I think Radley Balko sums up my thoughts on that quite well:

Photo credit: By Tim McAteer (Wikipedia:Contact us/Photo submission) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.