Why Are Those People In Baltimore So Angry?

This is why those people in Baltimore are so angry. Freddie Gray went into police custody alive and came out dead. There’s been no official explanation as to how, exactly, a man had his spine severed while on his way to police headquarters. He was riding in a police vehicle after having been arrested for giving police officers a sideways glance and then for having been discovered to be carrying a knife. The officers involved swear that they didn’t do anything. But the city’s citizens don’t have to work particularly hard to assume that the people tasked with arresting him had something to do with his injuries and his subsequent death.

Also, this is why those people in Baltimore are so angry. Freddie Gray wasn’t the first citizen given a “rough ride” after all. Twice before the Baltimore has settled with people arrested by city police and subsequently injured while being given a ride to the station. The arrested are put in the back of a vehicle but not belted. They’re then subject to whatever kind of driving the driver engages in. This was front page news at least once before. Sussing out what happened to Freddie Gray wasn’t hard.

Also, this is why those people in Baltimore are so angry. Assuming that the police had something to do with it would be a remarkably easy assumption to make even if all of the available evidence didn’t already point squarely at the police. This has been happening for generations after all. Outright brutality after outright brutality after outright brutality…

Also, this is why those people in Baltimore are so angry. The only thing that has happens in response to any of this is city officials using taxpayer dollars to pay off its police department’s victims. That appears to be the entirety of the city’s long-term strategy. It is unclear if firing the guilty cops, if charging the guilty cops, if shaming the guilty cops ever even crossed anybody’s mind. Paying the victims sure did though. Making it all go away sure did too. Because that’s what paying off victims does: it repairs the shattered relationships, right? It makes it okay that the police abused privilege. It makes it okay that politicians sanctioned the abuse. It makes it okay that voters rewarded the sanction.
Also, this is why those people in Baltimore are so angry. Because the murderous thugs that have been perpetrating these crimes literally for years have the audacity – the unmitigated gall – to demand that those protesting their criminality do so peacefully. Because now at this very moment is when peace has finally started to matter. Not when the police are killing a citizen whose only apparent crime was making eye contact with a police officer. Not then. Certainly not then. Never then. But definitely now, when an innocent person is dead at the hands of the police, when innocent people have been beaten so badly so that the city thinks it better to pay them than to risk trial, when the notion of justice is laughable fantasy.

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204 thoughts on “Why Are Those People In Baltimore So Angry?

  1. This makes perfect sense. If i or somone from my community whom i dont even know is wronged by the police then i have a legitimate reason to loot and burn a third person’ s property. This is surely will surely go down as another another great moment in liberal logic.

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    • This would be a really great point, were the post about why the rioting is legitimate. The careful reader will note, however, that the actual post is about why the people in Baltimore are angry.

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                • I can’t quote you because I’ve never noticed you acknowledge that there might be some problem with policing; that they make mistakes, they harm and kill people. All I’ve ever noticed is you defending cops, sometimes with the presumption that the person they’ve harmed is automatically guilty of something. That said, I don’t bother to read most of what you have to say, so my bad.

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                        • Knock it off, Not Me. Your tone is disrespectful, and it’s not just towards Zic but whenever you address anyone you disagree with. You perform the indispensable role of making everyone else look good by comparison but it does get a bit much sometimes.

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                          • DRS,

                            As far as this discussion is concerned, , you are the only who has adopted a personalized and disrespectful – and now condescending – tone, unless it was with her “even notme” comment. It’s as though you’re trying to provoke , so that the eventual response will prove your pre-judgment correct…

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                              • Can’t say much about “other topics” and “other commenters,” , and I don’t want to get into the position of playing Notme’s internet defense attorney. For one thing, the pay’s lousy. If, however, on all of those other topics with other commenters anyone was proceeding as the commenters here have proceeded, I expect I’d have a lot to work with. Undermining a discussion is easy. It’s often accomplished virtually subliminally.

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                              • It’s as though you’re trying to provoke , so that the eventual response will prove your pre-judgment correct…

                                Notme reminds me of one those weaselly little shits that knows how to walk a fine line keeping his/her nose clean while provoking people to act a certain way towards then only to turn around and cry victim when it actually happens.

                                This to :

                                So the truth of the matter is that you make baseless allegation that you can’t support and then when you are called out you change the subject.

                                Is the sort of passive aggressive shit I that I have less than no respect for. I don’t care that called him/her/it on it and if it happens again, so be it. There’s nothing wrong with calling bullshit when a weasel is being a weasel, especially given the history. Someone that wants to throw punches better be prepared to take a few.

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                    • Yawn. Scratch. That’s how my dog changed the subject when she didn’t like my instruction to her.

                      Do you understand what irony is, notme? If so, I was pointing out the irony of your original statement. This is usually considered a form of humor; and it was humor at your expense, because the very things you were saying are unjustified (with the possible exception of burning,) are the things that cops in Baltimore had done that drove people to the streets protesting. That’s ironic.

                      Now I’m not quite sure how you think I changed the subject, but you wanted to know if I’d be upset if it was my business burned or looted (of course I would, I don’t suggest that these things are okay,) and I wanted to know if you’d be upset if the cops killed your kid when there was not justification other than eye contact offered.

                      You never answered that question. I’d be upset if my business was looted. What about your kid? I presume the answer is yes, so why aren’t you upset about somebody else’s kid? Are other’s lives disposable and of no worth, but other’s businesses must be protected?

                      notme, I’d be the first person in the room to stand up and defend good policing. I’ve done that, in print, repeatedly — stories published under my name in newspapers and magazines. But I’ll also criticize bad policing, bad police administration, and a culture of policing that puts a priority on policing techniques instead of public safety and the well being of citizens.

                      In all honesty, did you read the Ferguson Report? That link goes directly to it. You go read that, or even read some of the summaries like this one from the Washington Post.

                      You do that, and we can have a serious talk. But you’ll have to work really hard to get beyond a simplistic view of my thoughts here; I don’t think cops are bad one way or the other, but I do think there’s a lot of bad policing policy that creates and fosters some bad cops.

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        • Notme,

          I think you mean the second sentence of the last paragraph, which marks the moment the majority are reminded that there are things they understand to be worse than police brutality. I think the last sentence is as problematic. To insist that justice is a “laughable fantasy” is nihilism, not politics. As such no doubt emotionally satisfying statements are uttered and sent off to computer screens everywhere, another group readies its own combatively self-righteous justifications, which tend to be somewhat more successful, possibly because they are only mostly rather than completely hopeless.

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          • Yes, i guess it is the second sentance i was addressing. You make a good point about what justice means as it can and usually does mean different things to different people. When i was a 1L, one of my 3L friends told me that there was no such thing as justice. It took me awhile to understand what he meant and that has stayed with me for a long time.

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        • The first sentence of the last paragraph is “Also, this is why those people in Baltimore are so angry.” Presumably you meant the second sentence, but you are still left with a non sequitur. The topic is why these people are angry, not why therefore their response is legitimate.

          The thing is, even when the response is wrong, the stimulus is real. Even if you are indifferent to whether or not their grievances are just–even if all you are interested in is the preservation of property–then you still should be interested in the underlying causes, if only for the pragmatic purpose of preventing future violence.

          If, on the other hand, the main interest is in clucking with disapproval of Those People, then I can see how this discussion would mystify.

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          • Richard Hershberger: The topic is why these people are angry, not why therefore their response is legitimate.

            Says the blogger:

            Because the murderous thugs that have been perpetrating these crimes literally for years have the audacity – the unmitigated gall – to demand that those protesting their criminality do so peacefully.

            I am not sure in fact that “the murderous thugs” are significantly among those calling for peaceful protest. I’m also not sure whether the blogger means to imply about those who demand peaceful protest and are aware of no other practical means to enforce their demand other than by calling upon the police. Is everyone who calls for peaceful protest or denies a right to riot, and looks to the police in circumstances of social disorder, to be seen as an accomplice of murderous thugs? How is the average citizen supposed to distinguish ahead of time those who are allowed to voice and act upon this demand from the “murderous thugs”?

            The “radical” left puts the people constantly in the position of choosing between supporting the police, or the state, as a whole or rejecting the state as a whole. It seems only exceedingly rarely to be a winning strategy.

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          • As i interpret sam’s thoughts, the last paragraph seems to be saying that people are angry in part becuse the “guilty” party, the police, demand that their alleged crimes are only protested peacefully . Futhermore, he seems to agree that the legitimate anger gives them the right to protest in whatever manner they see fit, including violence against people and property.

            I am for as much peaceful protest as people want but i have a hard time justiying violence.

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            • I claim no hotline to Sam’s thoughts. I can only comment one what he wrote, and your interpretation overshoots his words. It may be that he therefore considers the rioting to be legitimate, but this conclusion is not inevitable.

              Trying to understand why someone does the wrong thing–even acknowledging that there is a real grievance–is not the same thing as justifying the wrong action. Once we go down the path of equating these, the necessary conclusion is that we must avoid understanding their situation. This is pretty much the worst possible way to approach a problem such as we have here.

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                • Worth noting: the difference between

                  “I agree that the two aren’t the same. However i think some posters here do think a legitimate grievance justifys the wrong actions.”

                  and

                  “This makes perfect sense. If i or somone from my community whom i dont even know is wronged by the police then i have a legitimate reason to loot and burn a third person’ s property. This is surely will surely go down as another another great moment in liberal logic.”

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              • Richard Hershberger: It may be that he therefore considers the rioting to be legitimate, but this conclusion is not inevitable.

                Trying to understand why someone does the wrong thing–even acknowledging that there is a real grievance–is not the same thing as justifying the wrong action.

                No, but the blogger writes in such a way as to invite the latter interpretation.

                Does “murderous thugs” refer to individual police offers, to a significant number of police officers, to all police officers? Which group is guilty of “unmitigated gall” when calling for peaceful protest only? A few, some, or all police? A few, some, or all politicians and other observers? It seems to me that the blogger is calling upon without explicitly stating the traditional argument, a war logic, justifying “collateral damage.” The war started by evil people forces the good people to do things that are not in themselves good, or that viewed separately are bad, but which are “understandable.” Who decides who is allowed to act upon that argument, or declare war, or ignore the claims of the evil people, the murderous thugs or their accomplices or the ones who happen to wear the same uniforms or who happen also to be calling for peaceful protest and decrying rioting, that they are acting according to the identical logic, and deserve also to be understood, and not judged?

                No, the blogger doesn’t state that rioting and mayhem are justified, but in his rage he associates himself with the rioters. He perpetrates the verbal imitation of a riot. He states that justice itself is inconceivable, meaning that no judgment of the protestors – or of his own statement-in-protest, neither for nor against, yet in sympathy – is possible. So he excuses the rioters without justifying their behavior, not because he disapproves of it or approves of it, but because at this moment there is no justification at all.

                Apparently, however, there is some justification somehow for rhetoric, suggesting an ulterior motive or unstated self-justification, or perhaps a justification by passion: He feels he is right and that is the closest thing to right available in this situation. He doesn’t consider that others may also have feelings that seem as right to them, but are different from his.

                When would we judge that this moment of the suspension of justice in favor of rule by emotion has passed? Who makes that decision?

                The political questions arise here. One faction says things like “justice is a laughable fantasy,” while appearing to seek excuses for riots, and while ridiculing those calling for peaceful but not violent protest.

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            • Have you thought to ask Sam if that is what he meant? At most, that might be a subtext to the actual words in the paragraph, because the words in the paragraph absolutely unquestionably don’t contain that literal meaning.

              I read it as entirely targeted at the hypocrisy of the police in calling for the unquestionably good thing that is peace – always has been good, always will be good – but only after having spent decades committing the violence that stoked the rage that led to the present violence that now, finally, targets them.

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  2. Yep, valid reasons indeed…to protest.

    Not valid to loot, pillage, and destroy, and to throw cinder blocks at firemen trying to put out fires.
    But now they’ve done it. The national guard is coming in, cops from other states are coming in and a curfew is in force. Now the news stories tack to one of locking down the city and making it safe and prosecuting the rioters…..and the important stuff….the stuff Sam lists…well that fades in the background….

    In the words of the mayor, nice work “thugs”.

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    • The city shut down bus service in the area, which is near a high school, and then cops removed all the high school kids from the buses. The kids stood around, the cops rushed in and broke up any large group of them, and then kids started throwing rocks at cops. All hell broke loose.

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      • do you know where, in this timeline, the ‘purge’ meme happened? Did the cops shut down the busses and remove the kids from the school in response to the purge post?

        I hashtagged my original post #flashmob because I thought the whole thing might have spun out of control based on a police flashmob response.

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      • …which, really, is textbook behavior of the police during protests: Corral a lot of people into a small group, order the group to disperse, the group has no actual way to disperse, cops start pushing, crowds gets unruly, things happen, suddenly no one is following police orders and people get arrested. (With the slight exception here that the police didn’t create this group…it was just a bunch of kids dumped off buses.)

        I like the idea it’s somehow illegal for kids to hang out in large groups. Were they even *protesting*? Or just, you know, groups of kids hanging out in public. (Back in my day, kids didn’t stay at home playing video games or playing on the computer. We hung out in public, where we were ordered to disperse for no reason.)

        This is actually an important point: We have essentially managed to *criminalize* protests in this country because it turns out it’s *very easy* for the police to manipulate things so at least one protester violate one law or another. Even if 99% of the protesters try with all their power to stay within the law, some individual will refuse or throw something, or just screw up and step over some invisible line, which gives the police the excuse to move in and shout contradictory instructions at people, and then pepper spray and arrest them when they can’t quite figure out what to do.

        Of course, these people have violated absolutely no law, so end up being released with no charges filed. Or the only charge is ‘resisting arrest’.

        I think it might be time to reconsider letting the police hold someone without charges (or letting them file tons of obviously bogus charges and then dropping them all) for a short period of time. I’m not sure they’re trustworthy enough to have that power anymore.

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        • Coates, in his writing about the standards of ‘peaceful protest’ that came out of the Civil Rights marches, talked a lot about how hard the participants trained to do peaceful protest. A lot of that training, he pointed out, was making sure participants really understood what they were doing — essentially giving up their right to defend themselves.

          So to ‘s excellent point — that we’ve criminalized protest — I’d add that we’ve done so unless people agree to give up the right of self defense, at least as a social contract in how we discuss and think about protest. The standard is not the Tea Party (the original) standard of throwing tea into the ocean, it’s the Civil Rights standard of surrendering the right to protect yourself from harm.

          This might be an example of syncretism in action.

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          • zicessentially giving up their right to defend themselves.

            This sort of “turning the other cheek” can be a kind of public opinion judo in democracies, using the demonstrated strength of the oppressing party against them in the court of public opinion.

            It’s a lot harder to militate public opinion against a group when there is no violence being committed by them (even retaliatory), but they are still on TV getting the firehose (or worse).

            Note that I am *not* saying one is obligated to follow this course, nor that it is always the best/most effective one.

            But there is a real practical logic to it, beyond any moral one.

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            • The biggest problem with it, as a method, is that out requires 100% commitment. One defector becomes the focus and ruins the narrative.

              Yesterday, protests were peaceful, as they had been in days before. Then cops went after teenagers who weren’t even part of the protest, the teenagers reacted, as teenagers are wont to do, and then things got out of hand. Narrative shot, protesters blamed, cops, who set it off, win.

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          • So to ‘s excellent point — that we’ve criminalized protest — I’d add that we’ve done so unless people agree to give up the right of self defense, at least as a social contract in how we discuss and think about protest.

            Oh, no, it’s worse than that.

            We have, as you said, already completely criminalized people being allowed to behave like actual real citizens with rights. To be ‘allowed’ to protest, we have to give up those rights.

            But it’s worse than that, because people aren’t even allowed to protest *anyway*.

            Even if 99% of protesters give up their rights, there’ll always be one guy that refuses to move or something. Even it *100%* of protesters give up their rights, they’ll start yelling at some random passerby. If they can’t figure anything out, eventually they’ll start giving orders, and then arrest people who don’t follow them perfectly because they can’t hear or don’t understand.

            And once they *start* arresting people, well, the entire thing is over, because that somehow makes the entire illegal and they feel free to just randomly start arresting people who haven’t committed a crime, or at the very least demand the entire protest disperse.

            This is all, completely, 100% deliberate. As can be shown by the entirely-different police behavior when the police *like* the protesters, and where protests somehow *don’t* always inexplicably descend into the police arresting people.

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            • Oddly, I have attended many protests, even some in the last year, that were allowed. I’ve seen even more (I walk though the capitol grounds daily, so I see three or four protests per week during the legislative session).

              I have seen up close, painfully close, what cops can do to protesters. Talk of protest being outlawed, however, is pointless, perhaps even counterproductive hyperbole.

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              • If the police can completely shut something down whenever they choose, it has been criminalized. The fact they often *don’t* choose to do that when it doesn’t bother them not only doesn’t matter, it actually makes things *worse*, because it’s harder to see there’s a problem.

                ‘I went to a protest last week, and was pepper-sprayed and arrested for no reason.’

                ‘Well, I went to one yesterday, and it all was fine. Maybe your protest got out of hand.’

                ‘Or maybe the damn difference is that your protest was 20 people protesting against teacher pay cuts, which the cops have no opinion on or even sympathize with, and mine was 500 people protesting against the police murdering people, and the cops appear not to *like* that sort of protest.’

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                • Yeah, that’s still hyperbole. If the vast majority of demonstrations are unmolested, there is something else going on. Hyperbole like this obscures it, perpetuates it.

                  For clarity’s sake, protests I’ve attended or witnesses in the last twelve months include: immigration rights, anti-immigration, migrant worker rights, anti-abortion, pro-choice, pro-union, anti-police violence, pro-gay rights, pro-gun, pro-decriminalization of drugs, and probably about 20 other causes of various sizes. Like I said, 3 or 4 per week, some with hundreds, maybe thousands of demonstrators, often bused in from around the state.

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      • you seen MotherJones reporting eyewitness accounts by teachers and parents?

        Police were forcing busses to stop and unload all their passengers. Then, [Frederick Douglass High School] students, in huge herds, were trying to leave on various busses but couldn’t catch any because they were all shut down. No kids were yet around except about 20, who looked like they were waiting for police to do something. The cops, on the other hand, were in full riot gear, marching toward any small social clique of students…It looked as if there were hundreds of cops.

        (teacher’s facebook post on what happened).

        A teacher at Douglass High School, who asked not to be identified, tells a similar story: “When school was winding down, many students were leaving early with their parents or of their own accord.” Those who didn’t depart early, she says, were stranded. Many of the students still at school at that point, she notes, wanted to get out of the area and avoid any Purge-like violence. Some were requesting rides home from teachers. But by now, it was difficult to leave the neighborhood. “I rode with another teacher home,” this teacher recalls, “and we had to route our travel around the police in riot gear blocking the road… The majority of my students thought what was going to happen was stupid or were frightened at the idea. Very few seemed to want to participate in ‘the purge.'”

        A parent who picked up his children from a nearby elementary school, says via Twitter, “The kids stood across from the police and looked like they were asking them ‘why can’t we get on the buses’ but the police were just gazing…Majority of those kids aren’t from around that neighborhood. They NEED those buses and trains in order to get home.” He continued: “If they would’ve let them children go home, yesterday wouldn’t have even turned out like that.”

        So your description is confirmed by several eyewitness accounts. I should think somebody’s got cell-phone footage of violence breaking out. I bet they’re frightened right now.

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  3. Personally, I hold no belief that one is morally obligated to protest this sort of injustice peaceably.

    I do, however, believe that you have a moral obligation to target the individuals and the institutions that are doing you wrong. Burning, looting and physically attacking random individuals and businesses is never justified.

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    • Took the words right out of my mouth.

      Too often a response to this response (and, yes, it is a response, as Sam points out) is that these protesters are breaking some sort of rule. And, yes, they are breaking laws (some of which they shouldn’t). But let’s not lose sight of who broke the rules in the first place: the government. And given that the government makes the rules and enforces the rules, I think it fair to holder them to a higher standard with regards to following those rules.

      It really is ridiculous to say to a marginalized group that they should engage with the system that marginalizes them on the system’s terms in order to cease their marginalization.

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      • Kazzy: It really is ridiculous to say to a marginalized group that they should engage with the system that marginalizes them on the system’s terms in order to cease their marginalization.

        if they want to win, they should. Otherwise, next stop, Nixonland.

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        • I don’t get the Nixonland reference.

          But the thing is… to everyone saying, “The protesters should work within the system!” isn’t that what Freddy Gray was doing? I mean, the dude broke zero laws. And now he’s dead. Would that encourage you to work with the system? The system that killed him?

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          • Kazzy:
            I don’t get the Nixonland reference.

            The riots that coincided with the passage of the Johnson administration series of civil rights acts led to a political backlash that brought the Republicans out of the political wilderness that Goldwater had brought them into in ’64. And essentially froze any further wholesale advancement in socioeconomic equality for African Americans from that point to the present day.

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      • Well, better the police, than some random bodega owner. It’s possible, as is doing, to split the difference/actions here and say that one is under no obligation to protest peacefully when violence has been done unto you (or figuratively, to your people); but if you choose this course, the retaliatory violence should be directed at the (again, figurative) perpetrators of the original violence, tit for tat; not at further innocent, random victims who happen to be nearby and not as well-armed as the police.

        That this approach may be highly dangerous to you goes without saying. Still, two wrongs and all that.

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      • I’m not so much in the business of telling people what they should do. I know what I would do, but not everyone is me.

        Other than that, what’s odd? Anger at the police or the government is legitimate. Taking action against the police or the government may be legitimate.

        Taking action opportunistic action against random third parties is not legitimate.

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    • I would like to see this principal applied in the legal system, too. Taxpayers should the last resort, not the first, when it comes to paying out judgments against police officers and other government workers for cases other than good-faith accidents.

      But I’m just one of those anti-worker capitalist pigs. Good thing we have the police union out there fighting for workers’ rights, eh? Not to mention better working conditions.

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      • I’ve always thought that such settlements, at the very least, should be considered part of the police’s budget. I.e, the government should pay it, but then *bill* the police department. (Possibly spaced over a decade, or whatever.)

        All too often these settlements just appear to be unrelated things. ‘The city settled and will pay five million dollars to…’.

        No. The wording is ‘The city settled and the *police department* will pay five million dollars to…’.

        Of course, the city government, if it wants, *could* increase the police’s budget to cover that payment…but I’m hoping that at least *looks bad*.

        ‘Why are we giving these idiots more money if they’re going to throw it away because they can’t stop hurting our citizens? Do we have any way to make sure they don’t pile even more money up and light it on fire? …wait, why are the cops that still did this on payroll?’

        Addendum: Also, the lawyers having to defend the city in the first place should also be billed to the police department.

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        • I think such judgements should come out of the police union & police pension budgets. If the rank & file want to protect their own, right or wrong, they can pay the damages when they are wrong.

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          • The people who train, equip and supervise the cops need to be the ones who foot the bill. That is the city/state/county whatever. The gov invests the cops with power, so they need to be the ones to restrain it. If the gov doesn’t feel a bite they have little incentive to do something. Taking it out of the police budget seems the clearest way to deal with the monetary penalties.

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            • Isn’t a big part of the problem here how just the opposite is going on — that the group you’re suggesting should do the restraining (The govinvests the cops with power, so they need to be the ones to restrain it. ) is benefitting from the actions that you’re asking it to restrain, ?

              Property seizures, fines, fees, etc. are funneling money, and the Ferguson report suggests sometimes a lot of money, into the government coffers?

              I’d at least consider an audit before as part of developing restraint policies; and then figure out who’s supposed to foot the bill for exceeding police restraints after that audits been completed; and probably on a town-by-town basis.

              I’ve looked a lot of city/county/state budgets, and the costs vs. the income of policing a rarely on the same page.

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              • I wonder if it would be possible to create a neighborhood time bank that would provide security. Given enough time and success the neighborhood could save both in taxes and fees. Maybe making the areas more prosperous and less prone to institutional predation.

                There would be some needle threading with training, but at least the community would be directly invested in it’s own policy and tactics.

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              • I think there are plenty of punishments for cops who commit infractions. At the highest level they can go to jail and for lesser, but serious problems, they can be fired.

                Cops, like normal people, are part of system and are products of training and hierarchy and orders. If we really want different cops their training, both initial and on-going throughout their careers, needs to greatly improve. Their hierarchy needs to have some investment in avoiding cops going over the line. People often compare the military to the cops on various things. One thing the military often does is hold leaders responsible for the idiot actions of their people. Yes i know not completely but still it happens. I’d like to see sergeants and Lts and Capt lose promotions or be demoted when their people screw up.

                I’m fine with an audit. I’d hope for some federal oversight of the Balto PD which would look at how much is being paid out and where the money they take in goes.

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                • Cops, like normal people, are part of system and are products of training and hierarchy and orders. If we really want different cops their training, both initial and on-going throughout their careers, needs to greatly improve. Their hierarchy needs to have some investment in avoiding cops going over the line.

                  Totally agree.

                  I’m simply pointing out that what you identified as the agent for restraint also contributes to existing policy; seeking cash flow (fines, property seizures, first-responder training and equipment) under the guise of protecting citizens upon whom they prey. At some point, this goes from policing to extortion, and before we can ask government to restrain police, we’re probably going to have to recognize how we use government to extort money from citizens with police as the tool for that extortion.

                  You know, better than I, the costs, from lost work time on up, that this extortion — if it is extortion — places on the people being policed.

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                • I think there are plenty of punishments for cops who commit infractions. At the highest level they can go to jail and for lesser, but serious problems, they can be fired.

                  Compare/contrast to the punishments for the lower classes who commit infractions.

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                • greginak: I’m fine with an audit. I’d hope for some federal oversight of the Balto PD which would look at how much is being paid out and where the money they take in goes

                  Do you think the political climate of the City of Baltimore is more or less “cop-friendly” than an Obama administration Justice Department?

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                  • I think fed oversight by fed judges has helped in some cities. If i remember correctly LA was overseen by the feds for a while which people say improved things.

                    Changing institutions,especially big ones, is hard. It often takes someone from the outside, in a different hierarchy and with power to affect change.

                    So if the answer is will Fed oversight help? From what i’ve read it has helped in the past in other places. Whether anyone cares about something that has worked in the past or what can be learned from it , is a different question.

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                    • The ramparts scandal happened when the LAPD were set off the leash in a Republican mayor’s administration and a Republican governor’s administration due to the 80’s to 90s crime wave and the aftermath of the Rodney King riots (both of which led to the election of a Republican mayoral and gubernatorial administrations).

                      The City of Baltimore has been led by Democratic administrations since the late 1960s, and except Martin O’Malley, by persons of color since 1987. If the most Democratic politics the Democrats have ever Democrated can’t run a police force for the benefit of its population, and not in opposition to them, what help is a federal judiciary that’s still stacked with Republican appointees (though now slightly tilted toward Dems in the 7th year of a Dem press administration)?

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                      • The City of Baltimore has been led by Democratic administrations since the late 1960s, and except Martin O’Malley, by persons of color since 1987. If the most Democratic politics the Democrats have ever Democrated can’t run a police force for the benefit of its population, and not in opposition to them,

                        I think this is a *very* important point. It was easy to figure out what was really happening in Ferguson, obviously the problem was lack of representation of minorities in the government, right?

                        But Baltimore, which, looking at the recent history, is much much worse situation, clearly disproves that.

                        It appears that police departments aren’t under the controls of their governments. Period.

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                      • I’m not talking about elected govs which have some, but limited effects, on changing institutions like PD. Consent Decrees have been used on 20 -30 big city PD’s to give outside actors power to force changes. They have had success is changing PD’s.

                        This is one of those areas where teh usual tropes; BSDI or D vs R aren’t’ that useful.

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        • This. I think people underestimate the extent to which a police chief has to worry about budget concerns. A chief who has to keep going back to the city for more money to cover brutality settlements will not go unnoticed forever. Will it get results as fast as when a middle manager at a major corporation getting the company sued for sexual harassment? Probably not. But that money isn’t free. It comes out of budgets for other pet projects of elected officials or it comes when those elected officials have to put their names on tax increases. You can’t step on those toes forever.

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    • I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments.

      However, its been my observation that when violence breaks out, whether rioting or formal warfare or something in between, innocents are always harmed, always. Keeping violence contained to solely the guilty parties is never, ever possible, however desirable.

      Maybe if the CVS Drugstore was referred to as “collateral damage” the media would be more accepting of it.

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      • that’s an excellent point. It’s important to be precise — are there are few bad apples or a few bad policies that create lots of bad apples, for instance.

        But it’s really missing the point here — the context of how much of baltimore is engaged here has been missed by most of the reporting. From a perspective of actually reporting events like this (this is common in war reporting, too,) any individual eye-witness report will be from an engaged/happening-here perspective, and it’s easy to fail to put that into the context of all the ‘it’s-not-happening-here” that doesn’t get reported. Nobody writes news stories about all the people who safely make it home from their evening commutes; they write about the accident.

        tldr: context matters, and lack of context can make things that happen seem bigger and more widespread than they actually are.

        /jr, I tagged you by accident.

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      • If you change just a few words, the Constitution says we don’t have free speech.

        Less snarkily, context matters. Simply because that we’re taking about two social groups does not make the meaning of the words the same when applied to both.

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              • So when you turn the words around and apply them to the police, you have entirely new meanings that shed little, if any light on the meanings of those words when they were applied to Baltimore residents and protesters more specifically.

                All that to get here?

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                • So do we want words to mean the same thing when we use them in different sentences or do we want to emphasize the importance of context?

                  Because if we do the latter, we’re going to find that, huh, women and minorities are hardest hit again. How does that keep happening?

                  Keep in mind, I am *NOT* on the side of The Authorities here.

                  I just very much do not want to see the argument made in public that the riots shouldn’t be blamed on anyone but a few bad apples.

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                  • It doesn’t matter what we emphasize. There are the realities of language and meaning. “A loose collection of people defined by geography and race has a few bad apples” simply does not license the sort of inferences that “a well organized group with a common goal, rules, procedures, A’s institutional accountability has a few bad apples” does.

                    The people who get hurt by absolutism and essentialism are never the people with power. If we don’t emphasize context, we end up where we are now.

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            • “The world is not a game of Mad Libs.”

              So when they wrote “a well-regulated militia”, did they mean an association of private individuals or did they mean an officially-authorized body of civilians who provided their own arms and operated only under government direction?

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              • They mostly meant the latter, but that’s in part because the Scotch Irish didn’t have much representation at the Constitutional Convention. (which is a handy way of saying: there were people who believed in the former, and to a large extent still do. They just weren’t terribly influential).

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      • Jaybird: Here’s what I don’t like about that argument. Some light word substitution gets me to an affirmation of how there are only a few bad apples in the police department but the vast majority don’t do anything like this.

        I’m trying to get your point here. All I’m coming up with is that there’s a situation you know of where “it’s not a general problem, it’s a few bad apples” is an argument you think is a wrong and dangerous, therefore just never use it anywhere? Don’t want to hear it ever?

        That can’t be the point. What’s the point?

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      • Oh, I’m a crazy person.

        I’m more wondering on what impact this will have on us, as a society.

        I am pretty sure that more cities will have protests/riots before the end of the summer.
        I am pretty sure that this will result in more white flight.
        I am pretty sure that this will result in insurance rates going up in certain parts of town that will result in prices going up on the products sold in those particular stores.
        I am pretty sure that this will change the issues that candidates will be talking about in their stump speeches and at the debates.

        I am tentatively sure that 2016 will not be “The Year Of The Woman”.

        But, as I said, I’m a crazy person.

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    • one of the most interesting changes I’ve seen in ‘the media,’ one of those vague terms that you can have mean whatever you want it to mean, is that what we consider traditional media (TV, newspapers, TV & Newspaper websites, etc.) are lagging indicators now, mostly due to social media.

      I prefer a bit more precision; corporate media is useful here; but there are lots of sources available to young that are media, and people are constantly filtering information for their own biases and sense of truth. I predict a pattern of responses to overpolicing and minority voting because there is the evidence available convicting Baltimore, where they preferred to pay out cash reward for police violence instead of address police violence. (Haven’t yet heard if Baltimore milked the justice system for its coffers.)

      There are several levels here:

      1. over policing.
      2. abusive policing
      3. violent policing
      and of course,
      4. representation in local government.

      So we get small towns, electing black mayors and staffs quit or the mayor’s impeached before they can enter office and the revelations that the size of the PDs are all out of proportion to the population these (predominately minority) towns. I suspect we’re going to see a lot of aging town fathers voted out of office in little towns all through the south and up through the heartland industrial belt voted out of office like this; I hope they quickly learn that everyone quitting and locking the city hall isn’t the appropriate response.

      I think what’s happening in Baltimore and those new mayors are all reflections of the same social unrest we’re experiencing, a combination of the police state and the employment problems, and the people most experiencing those problems will respond by 1) voting, 2) protesting, 3) rioting, and 4) simply talking to their friends about how they feel.

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      • Corporate media has proven worse than useless here. I had thought that a return to yellow journalism would be the solution we’d end up with but I think that internet/twitter will provide the medium rather than print/television.

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        • How people doing points 1-4 in the last sentence gets generally disseminated is the cutting edge, every other form of media is a lagging indicator of that conversation. Right now, yeah, twitter, etc.; once upon a time it was watch fires, smoke signals, and drums. Media that is most active changes, now at rapid pace.

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      • Lots of theories: Lots of hopeful people on the right and pessimistic ones on the left believe that riots and social unrest help conservatives, especially when they occur under Democratic administrations, and that the reaction could be politically significant even if the Democratic nominee manages to win anyway.

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        • I would be quite surprised. This is a place where the Democrats are different from the Republicans. The Democrats are good at preventing the left from shooting itself in the foot. They’ve come out and said what needed to be said about rioting being bad. If it were the Republicans, they’d be trying to avoid alienating the rioters and mainstream voters and to some degree alienating both.

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        • I was just tossing out one possibility.

          What you describe is possible but I don’t think this kind of thing is at the forefront of people’s minds like in 1968 even though it seems to be at specific times like this, nor is the ‘unrest’ as sustained and widespread as it was in those days. If one of these episodes flares up in Sept-Oct ’16, that might be different. Given the pace at which these have been occurring, I suppose that’s not that unlikely (an event like this over that summer seems highly likely now). But if it’s not in the temporal vicinity of the election, I think this tends to recede from people minds. Not so much the police accountability issue, but mainstream concern about law and order stemming from rioting in response to police violence. It’s important to distinguish between those.

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  4. Here is my cynical thought and maybe has an answer but I wonder if all the articles that Sam linked to have a backfire effect.

    I read those articles and get angry at the injustices and abuses. So does Sam. So do many people on OT to varying degrees.

    Yet, I can’t help but wonder if a lot of people just get overwhelmed and/or depressed by the news and it just causes them to shut down at the hardwork of reform and improvement. Or it confirms their biases about the criminal element and that the victims of police brutality “deserved it”

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    • I’m sure learned helplessness is part of it, and buses are confirmed, but the biggest issues are a.) It doesn’t actually affect most of our lives, and b.) We haven’t the slightest idea what to do about it anyway.

      Most of the people offering solutions, or at least directions we might take, aren’t on our conceptual or political radars. Those who are on those radars tend to be too invested in the status quo to offer anything more than platitudes and “vote for our candidates.”

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  5. I notice that the conversation here has been going hot and heavy. I’ll respond to bits and pieces and if I’ve missed something of yours, my apologies:

    1. It is remarkable to see people rush to the “It isn’t all police!” defense for murderous police. It is technically true that it wasn’t the entirely of the Baltimore Police Department that murdered Freddie Gray. But which officer has come forward to explain how it was that the man’s spine was severed? Which officer has arrested his or her coworkers? Which prosecuting attorney has brought charges? Which prosecuting attorney has DISCUSSED charges? What exactly has this system – one that is mostly good apples doing good things that we all must appreciate to the point that we let the few bad apples operate – done to let us know that it isn’t rotten to the core? It has now been weeks. I am open to explanation.

    2. Am I endorsing rioting? No. Did I endorse rioting? No. Can you read it that I’m endorsing rioting? Yes! You’re a free person who can do whatever you’d like! But that doesn’t mean I was. I was contextualizing why it was exactly that people might be well past the point of peacefully gathering while waiting for the majority to rain justice down upon them.

    3. If you’re going to describe my position as nihilism, I’d hope that you’re willing to provide some evidence that nihilism is a bad idea here, or, alternately, that being hopeful is a reasonable thing to do. Because I don’t see any reason to believe that this situation is going to get better, that Freddie Gray’s killers are going to jail, let alone to trial, let alone to be charged. (It is situations precisely like this which long ago convinced me to abandon whatever childish belief I had in the concept of anything more substantive and meaningful than ‘might makes right.’)

    4. Finally, if you’d like to describe me as being on the “radical left,” you have the same freedom that I described in point 2, but I really don’t think that believing simultaneously that the police routinely get away with murder and that it would be ideal if the police would murder fewer people each year rises to level of radicalism.

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    • 1. Who has rushed to the argument that it’s not all police?

      2. I think that the whole “well, you have to understand why Scott Roeder was so very angry” argument is easily misunderstood no matter how many “I do not condone violence, I do not condone murder” disclaimers you put in there.

      3. If you’ve come to the conclusion that might makes right, what’s the problem here?

      4. You’re nowhere near radical enough.

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      • 1. I think one undercurrent of one segment of this conversation implies that to criticize the entirety of the police is simply too much, as if there is any reason to have any faith in Baltimore’s police. For those taking that position, there ought to be some available evidence informing the conclusion, evidence, for example, that the police will even substantively address the wrong of Gray’s murder. Is there any reason to believe that?

        2. Scott Roeder was the murderer in that case, just as the police are here. I think you want me to see justifications for Roeder as synonymous with justifications for rioters, but I’m frankly rejecting the comparison, as they’re focused on two unlike things.

        3. I don’t want it to be that might makes right. But might makes right is what drives our politics. Any other claim – that citizens have rights, for example – is propagandist horseshit shoveled to get us through the day, not because there’s any evidence of its truth.

        4. That might be true. But I have as many problems with “Let a bunch of guys with guns patrol the streets” as I do with “Let a bunch of guys with guns in uniform patrol the streets.” I’m extremely dubious that Freddie Gray ends up surviving his encounter with armed men if they’re a bunch of self-appointed militia types.

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        • 1. So other people in other places?

          2. I’m not comparing Roeder to the police *OR* to the rioters. My comparison was to “Well, you have to understand…” arguments that follow “I do not condone violence/murder” disclaimers.

          3. What is truth? If the only truth is that might makes right, why not ally yourself with might? If there is a moral fabric that impels you to say “I am going to take THIS side rather than THAT side” (I mean, other than “might makes right”), what is it?

          4. What’s your enforcement mechanism for keeping cops off of the streets? More cops?

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          • 1. Do you really think there aren’t people within this thread who have clearly come down on the side of the police and in opposition to the idea that the citizenry should be angry with its policing.

            2. Okay then.

            3. I have no idea what truth is. I don’t think that I believe in it? I take the sides that seem right(est) to me, the sides that tend to maximize liberty for those with the least of it (if I had to generalize). But me believing in whatever I believe in doesn’t substantively matter for other people.

            4. My enforcement mechanism doesn’t matter. The cops aren’t going anywhere, hence my conclusion that the possibility of justice was laughable. It ain’t happening.

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            • 3. If you believe that ideas are like viruses, it’s very important to have very good offensive ideas that can infect other people and very good defensive ideas that can protect you from the offensive ideas from others.

              Saying stuff like “rights talk is just bullshit propaganda” might lead people to believe that you think that the sentence “Freddie Gray had his rights violated by the police!” is just bullshit propaganda.

              4. At the very least you should buy a gun.

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        • 3. I don’t want it to be that might makes right. But might makes right is what drives our politics. Any other claim – that citizens have rights, for example – is propagandist horseshit shoveled to get us through the day, not because there’s any evidence of its truth.

          That is a bit much, no?

          Rights aren’t binary. There are degrees. Some people live in countries that are virtually one big prison, like North Korea. Some people live in countries where individual rights are heavily policed. And some people have the good fortune to live in places where political authority is shared responsibly and force is rarely used. We are somewhere in the middle.

          Also, I think it is worth pointing out that nihilism is, to some extent, the preserve of privilege. In other words, it’s much easier to start yelling about how we should burn it all down when you know that you won’t have to live in the ashes.

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          • I never said anything about “burning it all down.” I simply observed that we live in a society where the story we’re told about its function doesn’t align with what’s plainly visible: that the majority’s might makes right. I don’t take a position about whether this is right or wrong because it really doesn’t matter. Society isn’t going to flip because some political philosopher far smarter than me says something about the human condition.

            I’d also disagree with your contention that America is “somewhere in the middle.” For some Americans (right, white, conservative, straight) ours is a great place that values rights completely. For other Americans, it isn’t. That’s the majority’s doing.

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            • For some Americans (right, white, conservative, straight) ours is a great place that values rights completely. For other Americans, it isn’t. That’s the majority’s doing.

              That is an overly simplistic telling of how things are. Almost as simplistic as the “citizens have rights” narrative against which you are arguing.

              And again, not commenting on right or wrong is a function of privilege. The people living in the places don’t have that luxury. They have to figure out right and wrong if they ever want to get out. And when the rest of us simply throw up our hands and abandon right and wrong, we leave those people adrift.

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              • We can keep doing this or we can simply disagree, but I find it beyond silly to imagine that there are oppressed rich, white, straight, conservatives, no matter what the GOP’s presidential candidates will tell you.

                As for not commenting on right or wrong – me knowing what I find to be right or wrong and it functionally being right or wrong are two different things. For instance, I find murdering Freddie Gray to be wrong. Doesn’t mean that the law will find the same thing, and in fact, it almost certainly won’t, and realistically, that means that Freddie Gray’s murder was in fact right. I won’t agree but it won’t matter.

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                • We can keep doing this or we can simply disagree, but I find it beyond silly to imagine that there are oppressed rich, white, straight, conservatives, no matter what the GOP’s presidential candidates will tell you.

                  Come on. That is obviously not the side of the equation that on which I was focusing.

                  And yes, you are certainly entitled to embrace your own nihilism. All I am saying is that the people living in these places don’t really have that luxury. For them, nihilism leads to annihilation.

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        • Sam Wilkinson: I’d hope that you’re willing to provide some evidence that nihilism is a bad idea here, or, alternately, that being hopeful is a reasonable thing to do.

          Nihilism is never a good idea, since from the perspective of every other idea it is a contradictory idea, and since it’s own point of view precludes “good” or “bad.” Evidence is irrelevant to that question.

          Pessimism or hope regarding particular outcomes any of us might judge desirable is a different question. My own expectation is that given simultaneous investigations at different levels of government, exposure of wrongdoing and indictments are the most likely outcome. Conviction on some charge as well as substantial civil penalties also seem likely, though it’s impossible to say so with confidence until all of the facts are in.

          Sam Wilkinson: But which officer has come forward to explain how it was that the man’s spine was severed? Which officer has arrested his or her coworkers? Which prosecuting attorney has brought charges? Which prosecuting attorney has DISCUSSED charges? What exactly has this system – one that is mostly good apples doing good things that we all must appreciate to the point that we let the few bad apples operate – done to let us know that it isn’t rotten to the core? It has now been weeks. I am open to explanation.

          Anyone capable of testifying meaningfully or providing relevant information has by now been discouraged in the strongest possible ways against making any public statements at all, both for his or her own sake and safety, and for the sake of any potential legal processes.

          As for point 4, I believe I’m the only person who used the word “radical,” and, when I did, I put it in quotation marks, and did not apply it to anyone in particular. To be clear, however, I do think your tone and rhetoric, , qualify as radical as the term is used, focused as they are on indicting a state “rotten to the core” and laughably incapable of delivering justice, and therefore disqualified from demanding non-violent conduct from the citizenry – in other words therefore disqualified from maintaining its defining claim to a monopoly on violence.

          If you yourself are not self-consciously radical, in favor of replacing this government or form of government with a different one, then your position is mainly incoherent or pre-political. You yourself seem to have no answer to comrade ‘s question other than “emote.”

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          • CK,

            Your expectation is perhaps based on faith in the system for some reason. Maybe having hope in the system the next time around makes sense for some, but it certainly wouldn’t be grounded in any of analysis of American policing reality. Just a few month’s ago, a cop caught on camera murdering a man selling cigarettes wasn’t even slapped on the wrist. Abusive police rarely even go to trial, and those that do are rarely found guilty. Why should anybody believe that anything different is going to happen in this case?

            As for the rest of it – is a position radical if it has the entirety of the evidence behind it? What evidence is there that Baltimore is going to address Freddie Gray’s death in a meaningful way? I certainly provide more than enough to underpin why (some) citizens might not have faith in their city. You seem to believe that they in fact should have faith. Why?

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  6. Come on, the protesters have it all wrong. If you want to cause massive economic damage to a region with no consequences, and to massive cheers from large segments of society, you simply have to be a long-term employer who shuts down a business because you can save 3% by moving it offshore.

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  7. greginak: I think there are plenty of punishments for cops who commit infractions. At the highest level they can go to jail and for lesser, but serious problems, they can be fired.

    Theoretically, yes, they can.

    In my own city, this is what a cop’s punishment for brutal violence looks like.

    – Cop repeatedly tasers unconscious aboriginal teenager

    – Years later, drunk and off-duty, same cop assaults man on crutches, threatens to kill both his victim, and the security guard who breaks up the fight, and to track them down and burn down their houses with their families inside.

    – On-duty cops arrive, drunk cop resists arrest.

    – On-duty cops don’t take off-duty cop to the station, but drop him off at home

    – Three years later, off-duty cop’s assault charge finally makes it to court, where he is fined $500.

    – Two years after the $500 fine, and ten years after the taser incident, cop finally receives his punishment for tasering the kid, now a 25 year old man: loss of 120 hours’ pay.

    – Two years after the 120 hour time-out, cop is promoted to sergeant.

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    • Yeah i know we are talking in theory. If we are talking solutions one of the most straight forward is to start actually punishing cops when they do things wrong. Of course that is harder to put in practice but all the solutions are hard to put in practice. Going with the simple and direct has a better chance of working then some of the other things raised above. If people think taking settlements out of the police budget, which i would be for btw, or cop pensions would work then why not just go for the much more simple punishment aspect.

      A cop who uses undue force should be either off the force or go through significant retraining and under a microscope for a long time. His/her sergeant/Lt should be also culpable and suffer at least a career hit for having one of their people over use force.

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  8. This entire situation makes me think only of this:

    “And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family?

    Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?… The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If…if…We didn’t love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation…. We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.”

    – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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