August 25, 2014
The Long Term Efects of a Police ShootingMy voluntary editing of an online newsletter devoted to America’s “Drug War,” for the four years between 1997 and 2001 provided me with an intense education in the injustice that had become so intrinsic to American policy shortly after passage of Richard Nixon’s Controlled Substances Act of 1970. While the policy had never been an intelligent response to the problems posed by addiction, Nixon’s contribution literally turned what had been disaster into a global catastrophe so progressive that it ranks high on the list of imminent dangers now threatening our feckless species; many of which may have seemed like good ideas at the time.
My antipathy toward police had its beginning with the shooting of a 22 year old African immigrant named Amodou Diallo in the Bronx by four NYC policemen on February 4, 1999, when they riddled him with 19 shots– simply because he ran from them to seek refuge in the vestibule of his apartment. Diallo had reason to run; he was black; an illegal immigrant from Guinea who was making a precarious living as a street vendor. He was also unarmed. The cops were all white and in civilian clothes. They were members of an elite Street Crime Unit that had been created by then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani (and was subsequently disbanded because of multiple charges of excessive force). At the time, the story of Diallo’s slaying enraged so many citizens that all four shooters were arrested and charged with murder. After a motion for change of venue was granted, the trial was moved to Albany and all four were acquitted. Only one– Kenneth Boss– remained on the force but was forbidden to carry a gun. That restriction proved so intolerable that he sued the City three times to have it rescinded.
Finally, in 2012 his persistence was rewarded and his right to carry a gun was restored by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Of considerable interest to me was the reference to Ms Diallou's friend, Ms Bah, whose mentally disturbed 28 year-old son had been shot by NYC police in a setting that was eerily similar to their killing of Amadu Diallo in 1999.
Is there a pattern to these fatal shootings? What a stupid question. The only ones who doubt it are red state Republicans, police officials, and overbearing meat heads like Sean Hannity.
August 22, 2014
A Suspicious New ClaimThis morning, a new claim was made on behalf of Officer Darren Wilson, the man who killed an unarmed black teen named Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, an event that has provoked a degree of unrest and interest that is almost unprecedented. In brief, it's the unsubstantiated claim that Officer Darren Wilson, the policeman named as Brown's killer, sustained an orbital blow-out fracture just before he shot Brown. If so, it would be powerful mitigation of the claim that the shooting was either unprovoked or motivated merely by the theft of a box of cigars.
Blow out fractures are well known; they are produced by direct trauma to the eyeball and its surrounding bony orbit. They are often complicated by troublesome double vision (diplopia) from the herniation of a small fat pad that supports the eyeball and which usually requires surgical correction. Such an injury would constitute such a powerful rebuttal of the claim that Wilson's killing of Brown was either unprovoked or motivated merely by the theft of a box of cigars that its delayed release is- at the very least– highly suspicious.
A blowout fracture would also be expected to produce a black eye, noticeable misalignment of the eyeballs and x-ay evidence of a fracture, all of which are objective and, by themselves, would have at least mitigated the growing unrest.
Given the abundant evidence that similar shootings of young males by US police have become remarkably common, further developments in this case should continue to be of great interest. To see a list of this month's shootings, simply clicking on "August" in the drop-down menu for 2014 will reveal the known details on the 46 such events (including Michael Brown's) that have been listed so far this month. Most of the HTML links to media sources are live.
August 20, 2014
Nixon's Impact on the Modern World 1It may come as a surprise to many, but the modern American President who has had the biggest impact on the contemporary world is almost certainly Richard M. Nixon, the least respected and the only one ever forced by his own dishonesty to resign.
Nixon did accomplish a lot in his six years in the White House, most of it was through ad-hoc measures that were not carefully thought out, but are still affecting us adversely. A good example was his unilateral decision to take the US off the gold standard, thus changing a multinational policy that had been adopted at the Bretton Woods Conference in New Hampshire in the immediate aftermath of World War Two and had been working reasonably well.
The consensus is that Nixon's move encouraged OPEC to raise oil prices and brought about the first "oil shock" in 1973. A second "oil shock" followed in 1978.
In 1971, Nixon tried to force North Vietnam to make concessions in Geneva by ordering the secret bombing of the Ho Chi Minh trail, a campaign that not only failed to discourage its use to transport supplies and reinforcements to South Vietnam, but left behind a plethora of unexploded anti-personnel weapons that continued to kill and maim children decades after America was forced to withdraw its forces in an ill-advised war.
Neverteless, Nixon's greatest crime against humanity should eventually be seen as the "War on Drugs" he committed us to with the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, a transparently dishonest piece of legislation that– unaccountably– continues to be enforced as both US and UN policy despite its universal record of failure and generally disastrous consequences.
Progressive American EmbarrassmentAmerica is being progressively embarrassed in the eyes of the world; does our establishment even get it? Probably not. As I’ve been trying to point out for the past several days there’s a site on Wikipedia documenting that the callousness and stupidity now being exhibited by police in Ferguson MO is nothing new. To a shocking degree, it’s been standard police operating procedure for years when the “bad guys” are people of color, especially young males.
The demonstrations in Ferguson now seem to be taking on a mind of their own. I don't think they will stop until a majority of America's black citizens feel that they are being taken seriously and respected as citizens by their oppressors in America's police establishment. In my view, that will also require serious modification of our inane and destructive drug policy and the grossly unfair way it is enforced. I will soon have some suggestions in that regard with respect to realizing the marvelous potential of cannabis and turning it into an asset.
These are areas where Obama cannot remain the passive defender of the status quo he has been for five years. It's his moment to rise above the painful mediocrity with which he has governed thus far. He has the brains and the rhetorical skills; it's time he found some better advisers and used the "Bully Pulpit" of the Presidency with insight and conviction.
Posted by tjeffo at 01:10 AM
August 16, 2014
A Long-Overdue Protest in FergusonOn July 19th, I referred to a phenomenon that has long been a consequence of our destructive drug war: the militarization of American police agencies. In the last sentence, I included a link to a database that lists the shooting victims of American law enforcement. I'm still not sure how, or by whom that database was started, but it seems to have been well maintained since 2009, at least. It contains both the identities of the victims and the circumstances under which they were shot; usually with links to press or TV accounts. Just browsing it is a revelation: the great majority of victims were young males of color who were shot early during an encounter with their local police. There are often links to media accounts of the shootings that include protests from friends or family disagreeing with the "official" interpretation– often stridently. A substantial number of the incidents were formally investigated and the police use of deadly force was almost always found to be justified.
In fact, the current ruckus over the killing of Michael Brown by police in the Saint Louis suburb of Ferguson is rather typical of the group; except that it's generating far more media coverage than any similar event within recent memory.
One has to go back the beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police which was caught on amateur video and became an oversight sensation when released to the media.
In the aftermath of the King verdict, in which the cops were all acquitted, prompting three days of rioting that produced over fifty deaths, and in which the LAPD did not distinguish itself by either its intelligence or its courage. There were additional costs: Rodney King was a chronic alcoholic who eventually died suspiciously after being enriched by a large settlement for the beating administered by the LAPD.
Some accurate and careful analyses have been written since Michael Brown's death, such as the one by Jewelle Taylor Gibbs that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle. My only disagreement with her is relatively minor: I hold Richard Nixon far more culpable than Ronald Reagan; it was Nixon who (literally) dreamed up the Controlled Substances Act. All Ronnie did was to follow Tricky Dick's script (with appropriate coaching from Nancy).