Friday ReadsPosted: August 22, 2014
I’ve been sick the last few days and also busy trying to get the car fixed so I can safely drive it around town again. I’m going to have to make this shorter than usual because for the last couple nights I’ve spent a lot of time in the bathroom and then basically collapsing on the bed. So, here are a few in depth articles you may want to read.
Since Scalia’s appointment in 1986, he has succeeded brilliantly in seizing the spotlight, establishing himself as a conservative hero. He told one questioner to “get over it!” when asked about Bush v. Gore, and responded to pro-choice protesters with an indecent Sicilian hand gesture. Confronted politely by a gay student, he snapped, “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder?”
But Scalia may have outdone himself in his 2013 dissent in the case of United States v. Windsor. For years, he has been unrelenting in opposing constitutional protections for gays and lesbians. In his 2003 dissent in Lawrence v. Texas, Scalia warned darkly that the Court majority “has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda” even though “many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children’s schools, or as boarders in their homes.”
In Windsor, the Court’s majority struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which forbade federal recognition of same-sex marriages that were legal under state law. In an opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the majority concluded that its “purpose and effect” were “to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.”
The opinion was the triumph of the “homosexual agenda” Scalia had denounced.
Scalia has been one of the worst justices ever. He’s been responsible for some authentic judicial overreach to push his theocratic agenda. The only thing that will save us from the likes of him and more is it seems we’ll be getting Democratic Presidents for awhile. I doubt he’ll outlast another President Clinton.
An interesting article at The New Republic suggests that Officer Darren Wilson will not be convicted since laws are written that basically give cops a license to kill.
In any clash of witness testimony, police officers begin at huge advantage. Although the courts insist that juries give policemen no extra credence because of their badges as an “essential demand of fairness,” that’s not how jurors actually think or behave. Large percentages of potential jurors readily admit to giving police testimony extra weight, and many more likely act on this implicit bias. And in this case, the favoring of police testimony is compounded by another more pernicious bias: racial prejudice. Extensiveresearch shows that Americans are far more likely to believe that African Americans—and especially young black men—have committed crimes and display violent behavior. It therefore won’t take very much to convince a jury that Officer Wilson was acting out of self-defense.
But these cultural biases are only part of the story of why a conviction will be near-impossible. The central reason is a recent trend in many states’ criminal laws. Throughout history, claims of self-defense and compelling police activity have served as justifications for the use of deadly force. Most people intuitively understand that self-preservation is a basic right and that police must sometimes use violence to protect society and apprehend criminals. But generally, we expect situations of justified violence and legal killing to be the rare exception, and most people would probably imagine that policemen and citizens raising claims of justifiable homicide must meet a substantive burden of proof. But today, in states like Missouri, these justifications barely require any evidence at all.
It remains to be seen whether Wilson will face criminal charges, but a limited review of similar killings by police suggests that the officers more often than not walk away without an indictment, and are very rarely convicted. Delores Jones-Brown, a law professor and director of the Center on Race, Crime, and Justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, looked at 21 publicized cases from 1994 through 2009 in which a police officer killed an unarmed black person. Of those, only seven cases resulted in an indictment—for criminally negligent homicide, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, or violation of civil rights—and only three officers were found guilty.
Let’s take a closer look at five specific cases in which an unarmed black man was killed by officers while allegedly fleeing or resisting in some fashion.
I think you’ll remember most of these cases and the outcomes are disheartening.
What companies are getting rich providing little towns and cities with weapons of war that are usually confined to military use? Here’s a quick list at Alternet.
The companies getting mileage out of the unrest in Ferguson are vast. The LRAD Corporation manufactures the long-range acoustic devices that have emitted piercing noises at protesters in Missouri. These sound devices can cause headaches and other types of pain. The police in Ferguson are also using the Bearcat armored truck manufactured by Lenco. That vehicle, costing $360,000, was paid for with Department of Homeland Security grant money, according to the New York Times. Since 2003, over $9 million in grants from Homeland Security have flowed to police in St. Louis, according to the Times. Overall, since the September 11 terror attacks, $34 billion in such grants have been given to law enforcement agencies across the country, showing it is the federal government fueling police militarization.
The Ferguson police department has received two armored Humvees, a generator and a trailer from the U.S. military, according to the Associated Press. Police departments around the nation have received the military’s surplus equipment, which has brought weapons used in Afghanistan and Iraq to local towns and cities. Congress first passed a law authorizing the funneling of surplus military equipment to domestic law enforcement in 1990. It’s now known as the 1033 program, referring to the section of the program in the Pentagon budget.
The Justice Department has also gotten in on the action. Justice Department grants have paid for tear gas and rubber bullets, though it’s not clear if police in Ferguson used those grants to buy their own tear gas.
Whoever paid for it, the companies that make tear-gas are sure to benefit from the Ferguson demonstrations. Two corporations’ tear-gas products have been fired on demonstrators in recent days: Combined Tactical Systems (CTS) and Defense Technology. CTS, headquartered in Pennsylvania, is well-known for being a leading supplier of tear gas around the world, including to the governments of Israel, Egypt and Bahrain, which buy the weapons with the generous amounts of U.S. military aid given to them. Defense Technology, also based in Pennsylvania, has likewise profited from tear gas sold to Israel, Egypt and Bahrain, in addition to Yemen, Turkey and Tunisia.
I’ve seen some pretty outrageous examples of white privilege recently on Facebook and Twitter. I’m amazed by the number of people that really don’t realize that most black men are not unemployed by choice and that most black people don’t live on the government dole. Why do these damned tropes still exist? What can white people who abhor racism do about it? Here’s a bit from Truthout on Abolitionist Echoes.
In any unequal society, the dominant group receives intense ideological targeting. Thus, as a dominant group member, an urgent goal must be to resist the intoxicating ideologies – and material perks – that are so blinding, and to face the discomfort of being caught up in structural inequality. We have to see and own our privileged positions. Since these positions are defined structurally, we cannot simply wish them away because we don’t agree with them or we don’t want to be involved, or decide that we are not racist. Just as black people cannot wish away racism because they don’t like it, neither can white people. One of the lessons of structural inequality that is often crystal clear to oppressed groups is that this structural position has nothing to do with whether you are personally invested in them or identify with them. A black man cannot simply tell the police officer standing over him with a billy club, “I don’t see color” or “I don’t participate in racism.” Many individual white people, myself included, abhor racism and do not want to participate in reinforcing the oppression of others. And yet, like it or not, our position in the matrix of domination is such that we benefit from the system, at the expense of others, regardless of how nice we are or how much critical race theory we read.
We have to see and own our privileged positions.
In addition to facing and understanding our privileged positions as white people in a white supremacist society, we must also make sure that this awareness of our structural privilege position is translated into action and activism. Otherwise this process can turn into a paralyzing exercise in white guilt that helps no one. Worse still, it ironically turns racism into a problem of how white people feel, leaving white people’s needs and issues as the central focus of dealing with racism. The goal is not to see and then bemoan racism, but to actively fight against it. We have to face the bitter truths of our position and then ask ourselves, given where we stand in the matrix, how we can leverage that position to work to dismantle the system of structural inequality that we simultaneously occupy and abhor. Thus, how to fight and which actions to take must become the focus of white antiracism. Given that these structural inequalities are both longstanding and deep, the actions required to dismantle them will also need to be longstanding and far-reaching. There are multiple ways to take action, but what is essential is to be in service of dismantling the structural systems of inequality, including the unequal distribution of economic and political power and the structures of control from the legal to the ideological that are wielded to enforce them.
The old insult of “throwing like a girl” may have died this year. Here’s New York Magazine with all 6 of Mo’ne Davis’s strikeouts from Wednesday night.
Mo’ne Davis, the 13-year-old pitcher from Philadephia’s Taney Youth Baseball Association, burst onto the national scene by throwing a shutout in the Mid-Atlantic regional final, then became a full-on star by becoming the first girl to throw a shutout in the Little League World Series tournament. How big a deal is she? She’s on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated, and more than 34,000 people watched her team play in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Wednesday night. Davis lasted just two-and-a-third innings in that game, and left the mound with her team down 3-0. (They’d go on to lose, 8-1, to the team from Nevada.) But of the seven outs she recorded, an impressive six were via strikeout. Said Davis earlier this week about her repertoire: “I throw my curveball like Clayton Kershaw, and my fastball like Mo’ne Davis.” So yeah, despite not getting the win, she remains fully awesome.
Have a great Friday! What’s on your reading and blogging list today?