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Don’t focus on the riots

riotI just can’t get too upset about the rioting in Baltimore. I’m not going to condone violence or theft, vandalism or arson. I’m not going to argue that torching a CVS is going to bring any justice for the past, present and future victims of police brutality, and I’m not particularly interested in getting into some detached, privileged*, trivial discussion of the appropriate tactics that the citizens of Baltimore should take in order to improve their city**. It’d be super easy for me to sit here and make pronouncements on the lives of others. But, if I’m to be honest, I can’t, and so a burning pharmacy doesn’t get my dander up.

It’d be difficult for me to particularly more insulated from the events in Baltimore (or past events in Ferguson, or wherever else people are reacting, violently or otherwise, to police abuse). I’m white. I’m middle-class. I live in a comfortable neighbourhood in a relatively well-off city. I’m nowhere near Baltimore. I’m not even in the United States. So I’m not prepared to pass judgement on those who have been living under such oppression for years and decades.

I am willing, however, to pass judgement on powerful over-privileged*** murderers.

Last night, I turned on CNN. Yeah, yeah, I know, but I’d been following events on Twitter and wanted to get a less-140-characters-based view of things. Mainly the view–I knew what I was in for from the talking heads. I knew the story was becoming the rioting and the “rioting”. I knew that few would care very much about Freddie Gray, and less so all the other indignities this community suffered in recent–and not-so-recent–history. Still, I was a little surprised at just how much of a mouthpiece everyone was for the police and the state.

Van Jones was there. Remember when he was a radical? I still, mildly, identified as a conservative back then, and I remember right wingers going HAM against this guy. The memories were absolutely surreal compared to the new CNN Reality. Jones was laying into protesters and rioters. The violence and vandalism was solely the result of these looting ne’er-do-wells. There wasn’t a peep about cops assaulting and murdering citizens, cops throwing rocks at protesters, or the entire justice establishment doing absolutely nothing about the systemic abuse and harassment suffered by so many black residents.

Of course, Jones wasn’t the only one. CNN dusted off Don Lemon to give us another dose of the pullitzer-worthy reporting that made us all wretch during the journalistic atrocities perpetrated during the Ferguson protests. Well, he was in fine form, doing his best to coax the leaders of a Baltimore church to denounce the rioters and protesters. The church had been constructing an affordable housing residence for seniors which burned during the riots (though at this time, it’s not clear if it was related to the rioting or not). During most of the interview, the leaders of the church did their best to focus on the injustice and oppression that led to the anger that exploded in a few sections of Baltimore. This, of course, wasn’t good enough for CNN. They needed easy black-and-white good-and-evil viewpoints…and apparently a bunch of cops murdering someone wasn’t black-and-white enough (or maybe it was too black and white). 

Baltimore, then, is like so many other cities with their own Freddie Grays: a place in which private capital has left enormous sections of the city to rot, where a chasm separates the life chances of black and white residents — and where cops brutally patrol a “disposable” population.

–Shawn Gude

The war of rhetoric online is probably even worse. Yes, there are some good (familiar) voices out there offering perspective, and there are a number of people worth following to get insight into the actual causes of the unrest, but there is just too much easy grandstanding from people who have absolutely no skin in the game.

I’m not interested in out-Martin Luther King-quoting anyone. I can’t know for sure how he would feel about Baltimore, and neither do you. Anyway, I’m not sure the writings of 1960s murder victims will bring us all to that eureka moment. I won’t wave the flag of Ghandi or condescendingly ask What What Jesus Do? All your martyrs are dead.

And that’s the problem. Too many people are dead too soon. It’s easy enough for white people to lionize the revolutionaries we’ve already killed. We need to stop the killing, and we need to hold the people responsible for the killing responsible. In this situation, the cops.

I saw–I’m sure we all saw–images of the cheque-cashing business burning. I found this particular event illuminating. We’ve had a lot of back-and-forth about payday lenders and their ilk. It’s a rather common phenomenon in North America that as a neighbourhood, city, state, province or country hits hard economic times, stores close and payday lenders are some of the only businesses that will fill the now-vacant storefront. They’re kind of a scourge. They’re parasitic; they’re gauche; they’re predatory. And they’re absolutely necessary. Communities that are wracked by poverty need cash. They need credit, and they often can’t get it through banks or credit unions. They’re certainly not getting it from the government.

We’re so paranoid about welfare. Those people will spend it on filet mignon or lingerie. We have absolutely no reason to believe this, but we hold our prejudices close. We need strings. We need workfare (even though it is and always has been a failure). We need to micromanage the lives others. The neighbourhoods are poor because they’re bad. They can’t be trusted with money or credit. Funny thing is, what poor people tend to really need is money. Yes, they need a job, but they need a job to earn money, not for some fanciful puritanical notion that mopping floors, living in a cube farm or shuffling papers actually makes you a better, fuller person.

The payday lender is the icon of so much that is wrong with our society, our politics, our economy, our inequality and our oppression. It’s linked to red-lining, supports the case for reparations and demonstrates the need for a Guaranteed Annual Income. Where society fails to help, the predator steps in. And despite the demand for these sorts of lenders, and perhaps even the benefit they bring, the industry is inherently predatory. It’s usury. They’re polished up, respectable retail loan-sharks. We should do everything we can to eliminate every single one of them from our beloved nations, but we’ll only do that if we actually begin to address poverty, inequality and the systemic oppression of our otherwise lovely system of democracy and capitalism.

So I watched the cheque cashing place burn. It wasn’t with glee. It’s most definitely sad. That was someone’s business. It was someone else’s employer. It was a source of quick cash for the resident who was pressed for money. Just like the burning CVS and liquor stores, there’s no cheering for this sort of tragedy. I never want to see flames escape from a building again.

But it was symbolically poignant. The pilot fish to capitalism’s shark, these stores hover around economic carnage feasting on the scraps. For all the wealth the free market brings, capitalism is inclined to collapse in on itself without sufficient vigilance. You can support the free market, support payday lenders and still seek to address the underlying economic failures that give rise to these ectoparasites. So when I saw the building burn, I saw the ruin of rioting and arson, but I also saw all the economic wreckage that gave rise to the poverty-based industry. As an act of arson, it was horrible. As an effigy, it was poetic.

Baltimore will be left will all this ruin…but it had been so ravaged by poverty and injustice that many of Baltimore’s Before pictures would look like After pictures for many other cities. I see the level of poverty and disrepair, and I cannot fathom living in such a city. This is, again, a product of my tremendous privilege. I know this. And I know my privilege, and the recognition thereof, will be mocked.

It’s a swerve. I’m not sitting here rooting on the destruction. I’m not lionizing protesters or looters or arsonists or rioters. I’m not even saying I understand. I don’t. I can’t. But I can understand that a degree of rage could build up in a people for which there are very few outlets that are even somewhat appropriate, so I just can’t judge.

I can judge the cops. I called them over-privileged. I know this statement will be picked apart. It’s so easy to parse language and play semantics when it’s not your neighbours, friends and family being murdered. I’m sure there are cops who have less privilege than I do. Some, no doubt, have more. It’s not really a contest, though.

For me, here’s a good measure of privilege: If you arrest/abduct someone, step on their head, break their neck, their windpipe, take them on a “rough ride”, have much of it videotaped, have there be witnesses, and absolutely nothing happens to you, that is a level of privilege very few of us will ever enjoy.

I used to be a conservative, usually more on the libertarian-ish side, but a conservative nonetheless. I was taught that cops were my friends. The son of a bureaucrat and a teacher, both university-educated, I never had any reason to doubt that. I totally understood where the law-and-order crowd was coming from.

Then you start to hear things. A friend gets harassed by the cops, maybe. A protest gets violently suppressed. A pretty young girl gets knocked over by a baton-wielding body-armoured cop while she’s chanting something about flower power or other hippy crap. Cracks appear.

Eventually, you see more and more, if you want to. Trayvon Martin, well, maybe he started it, so you can’t say who was at fault. Then Mike Brown is murdered, we think, but he’s a big guy. We weren’t there. Then there’s video of Stacey Bonds being stripped and assaulted for walking while black…but Steve Desjourdy was found not guilty (after being found guilty, but we can ignore that). You’re torn.

Then you see Walter Scott murdered.

It’s been said, over and over again; if the authorities had just arrested Freddie Gray’s killers, we wouldn’t be here. Even if they then let them take a trip to the Bahamas, we’d probably be sufficiently placated. All of this is the fault of the police. All of it. You want to be a law-and-order type, you investigate Freddie Gray’s killing. Otherwise, you’re just a useful idiot for state-sponsored murder.

All right, let’s go over all the caveats, all the qualifications, everything I have to say lest I be assumed to be some sort of armchair criminal. Of course rioting is bad. Of course looting is bad. Of course throwing rocks is bad. Of course arson is bad. Of course it’d be a lot better if we could just have peace in Baltimore.

Oh wait.

The refusal to seek out the root causes of violence is the primary reason that America is such a nexus of it. Yes, I feel for people who have their businesses burnt down. I just know to send the invoice to the cops who killed Freddie Gray.

–Freddie Deboer

What kind of peace do we want in Baltimore. The peace of having your throat and neck crushed by the police? Is that actually peace? Why do we assume that the status quo is peace? Why is acquiescence in the face of injustice and oppression some sort of ideal state?

No, I don’t support rioting, but I abhor what came before.

[Image tweet]

*Yeah, I said it.

**Metaphorically, they probably should burn down their entire power structure.

***Sure, maybe you hate the word. That’s on you.

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236 thoughts on “Don’t focus on the riots

  1. This is a very well written post.

    I like how the geniuses at Fox News have made the connection between Baltimore and Ferguson. But of course they miss the real connections, and fixate on outside agitators.
    As with my other comments on the neo-feudalism that is at the heart of the current political establishment, what is happening Baltimore isn’t much different than what is happening in any large urban area in America.

    The state becomes the handmaiden of the propertied class, who pay little and receive a lot. For 40 years we have been given endless lectures on how the state is the problem, by the very people who are the most eager to seize the controls of the state. They themselves don’t believe that the state is the problem- for them, the state is the solution, and the power of the people is the problem.

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      • “I will admit that I do not lament the fact I don’t get Fox News.”

        I think that it’s not that you don’t get it, it’s that you don’t want to get it. It’d be like looking at a very evil political faction, realizing just how evil they are, and also just how powerful they are.

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    • For 40 years we have been given endless lectures on how the state is the problem, by the very people who are the most eager to seize the controls of the state.

      I don’t necessarily disagree with this statement, but I would definitely add that for much longer than 40 years, there have been endless lectures on how the state can be the solution to our problems from people who are either purposefully lying about their priorities to facilitate seizing control of the state for their own purposes or folks who mean well but are eternally feckless.

      It’s unclear to me why I ought to trust your point of view any more than I trust the folks you spend so much time railing against.

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      • Well you shouldn’t simply trust someone else’s point of view.
        And if there were any people still around arguing that the state is always and everywhere the answer, I wouldn’t trust them either.

        But consider the actual points of view being presented for us in the current political climate.

        There are no politicians or pundits who actually believe in market fundamentalism. Sam Brownback for example doesn’t actually want to diminish the power of government to improve the lives of Kansans.

        He is eager to apply the coercive power of the state, but only at selected targets. He is happy to have the state levy fees and fines on the poor, but sees taxes on the rich as unjust.

        This is why I am referencing Corey Robin. What is happening in Kansas, Michigan, Texas and a dozen other states isn’t a contest between free market capitalism versus a command economy; it is an application of neofeudalism, of a drive to empower the privilege of the wealthy holders of property first and foremost, and white males secondarily.

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  2. This is a terrific post. It’s a strange to read pro-riot tweets and realize that they are primarily intended to establish a kind of activist cred. And then see the push-back from anti-pro-riot tweets which are motivated by the same thing. Maybe this is not an issue that is benefited by blogging. Go send some money to a business that was looted, or to a church group that was trying to calm the crowd, or an activist organization that was agitating to shut the city down. At least that’s an actual statement.

    The point I just couldn’t get about the non-violence as compliance view was: let’s say some guy read about Freddie Gray and then went home and kicked his dog, or set his neighbor’s house on fire. Would the same articles still be written? What the hell is violence doing to actually address the underlying issues?

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  3. Having lived through riots in my own Los Angeles in ’92 I think it bears noting that riots are damn scary to have happening around you. Being confined to my apartment for three days did not fertilize my initial sympathies for Rodney King, unjust though his beating was. It made me fear that I would become another Reginald Denny, who also was a victim. The whole event shook my faith, badly, in the ability of the legal system to which I was then an acolyte to deliver either justice or even safety.

    Eventually my concern for my own safety subsided, The city and I returned to a state of tenable equilibrium. But of course it had happened. And what disturbed me most, in the long run, was how after the violence had subsided, politicians all invoked the awfulness to justify what they had always wanted anyway. It was proof that everyone had been right about everything all along. Fear became a political lever. I understood better how the crowds of antiquity yearned to sacrifice their liberties to the promise of order and safety made by the likes of Pericles and Sulla and Caesar and Octavian. And I realized that we are made of the same stuff as those crowds, so we are vulnerable to the same sort of demagoguery.

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  4. Thank-you. You said what I’ve been struggling to put into words and you did so far better than I could ever hope to do. In another thread on another post a lot has been said about the rioting not being “justified.” I have to wonder though if that’s the right question to ask. Of course it’s not justice to destroy the property of an uninvolved third party.

    But it may just be necessary.

    I’ll admit I’m not the most plugged-in when it comes to daily news. My satellite radio crapped out on me, I can’t abide commercial radio, and I only sporadically tune into NPR. Last Sunday here at the OT we had an OTC mentioning the rioting, but the context was really just an opportunity to rag on CNN. It wasn’t until yesterday that I learned from my FB feed that peaceful protests had been going on in Baltimore for a whole week prior to violence erupting.

    Why? Quite simply because no one gives a fuck about peaceful protests. “Oh, look, Herbert. The negroes are protesting.” “Hmm-mm. What’s that dear?” It doesn’t get any real attention until some shit burns.

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    • Around here, we got a police officer taken off the beat, because people were saying “we think you might have used excessive force.” (obviously actual criminal investigation is still pending) — but this is what peaceful protesting does. It allows people to raise concerns — “why, when you’re already under investigation, are you allowed to go about your business, possibly hurting more people??”

      The police officer himself requested this reassignment (to a desk), because he recognized that the protesters had a point.

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  5. I was watching late-night comedy show once and a comedian was doing a riff on American attitudes to welfare/the poor/etc. I wish I could remember who he was but I came in mid-rant and he never did get identified at the end. Anyway, one of his lines was that the real problem Americans have with people on welfare or getting food stamps is not that they’re getting government money but that they’re pikers: they settle for too little. If you’re going to steal from the government, you’ve got to steal BIG! So poor people should band together and incorporate themselves into defense contractors or rename themselves Newt Gingrich so they can bill government agencies six-figure fees for providing historical analysis. I think there’s something to that.

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  6. I was a little surprised at just how much of a mouthpiece everyone was for the police and the state.

    Seriously, you shouldn’t be by now. It’s so prevalent.

    Look, I was in a criminal justice class last spring taught by a police detective. It was a required class for a few certificate programs, and so there were a variety of students there (mostly paralegal or criminal justice majors). I have courses right now with a lot of criminal justice majors. Some of my best friends from school are criminal justice majors; the guy that used to work at the golf course, the guy that works as a restaurant manager and wants to be a cop, the girl that keeps hitting on me, the conservative kid that’s involved with primary caucuses, the prison guard; maybe a few more. It’s not like I’m totally anti-police or something.

    There are five things that happened over a ten-year period which profoundly shaped policing in America. (Class material here– it’s on the exam!) These are: 1) Clinton’s grants to put more cops on the streets (remember midnight basketball?), 2) the Bush administration’s refusal to renew the grants (a good call on their part, for a number of reasons), 3) which came at a time when cites & counties were experiencing serious budget shortfalls, 4) but were loathe to lay off police officers for fear that it would “send the wrong message” and crime would skyrocket, 5) which led to the shifting of services formerly provided by other departments & agencies to the police. As an added benefit, municipal liability was severely reduced, as the police are given the benefit of the doubt on almost any occasion (I remember an incident of a cop shooting a homeowner who had locked himself out of the house– of course, there were no charges; in fact, it was commonly held to be an example of “good police work”).

    From a policy standpoint, the issue is one of how to incentivize the provision of community services away from the police.
    In the list of the six major roles of the police that we had to memorize for the test, “coordinator of community services” was right at the top in the text.
    This isn’t radical. This is what is being taught right now across the nation to persons seeking to become police officers.

    It seems rather apparent that, in cranking up the dial from “boy scout” to “Navy SEAL,” it would likely be a good thing if there were more than just one notch in the middle that reads “police officer.”
    Until we can come to the idea that perhaps laying off a few police officers might not be such a bad idea, our “coordinators of community services” will continue to be deployed fully authorized to use deadly force as a discretionary measure.

    The biggest hurdles that I can see are: 1) the police unions, who benefit quite a bit from more police hiring, and 2) the inability of the average citizen and the courts to question the use of force by the police.

    Prospects to things getting better any time soon: Little to none.

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  7. This is a passionate and well-written essay, but as is my wont (hey, it’s the Internet, and I’m me) I’m going to focus on the small chunk that doesn’t sit well with me.

    That’s the chunk where you seemingly blame the C word – capitalism – for what has happened here.

    Granted, you outsource some of that to Shawn Gude’s tweet, and you pull back somewhat with things like For all the wealth the free market brings, capitalism is inclined to collapse in on itself without sufficient vigilance. You can support the free market, support payday lenders and still seek to address the underlying economic failures that give rise to these ectoparasites; but still there feels like this vague accusation that it is largely the amorphous forces of “capital” or “capitalism” that have led us to this sorry pass.

    If you want to say that capitalism has failed, or is failing, to solve these specific problems in this specific place, you will get no argument from me; the facts are before us.

    If you want to say that different approaches may be warranted, ditto.

    But I don’t see how “failing to solve the problem” therefore automatically means “is responsible for the problem” in the case of a concept so broad as “capitalism”. (I also think that nearly any attempted solution that attempts to take capitalism out of the equation entirely is probably doomed.)

    There is, however, a group out there that, if they fail to solve a given problem, can and should be held to blame; they are specific people, not concepts, and can be named by name.

    I note the glaring omission of the ‘D’ word from this essay; perhaps it’s gauche, with a national election fast approaching, to note that Baltimore is effectively, and has been for decades, a one-party town, nearly from top to bottom; leading to all of the predictable incompetence and corruption that implies, which not only affects the city’s economic prospects and its educational system, but also the governance of – among other things – an apparently incompetent and corrupt police force.

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    • It is undeniably true that the group most directly responsible for this is the police, and that this sort of thing tends to happen under Democratic local governments (as cities tend to be liberal, and cities with large non-white populations tend to be run by Democrats).

      However, the point about capitalism that Shawn is making is, I suspect, more than just that it has exacerbated the problem. It has created the environment in which the problem exists, and is perpetuated. It’s the petri dish in which this particular type of police-citizen relationship grows, and which leaves certain groups powerless to do anything about it.

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          • I say you already knew that, but then the one response to my comment about capitalism in Sam’s thread was, “Communism is awful!” So maybe it’s not clear that saying, “Capitalism has failed in the following way…” does not mean “So we should all be commies because it does not fail at all!”

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          • Fine, then, if both capitalist and non-capitalist states have these exact sorts of problems with how the police related to the citizenry, how does capitalism creates the environment in which these problems persist?

            I’m not trying to catch you in a gotcha. I’m really trying to understand the argument.

            ps (in response to the edited comment) – I’m really not interested in the capitalism vs. something other than capitalism argument. Neither of us is likely to change the other’s mind on that. What I’m trying to get at is, what are the specific elements of capitalism that you think create and/or exacerbate these problems in ways that non-capitalist alternatives might not.

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            • Economics is a red herring. It’s not a “both sides do it” if you can find examples under every single nook or cranny.

              It’s a “WHY DOES THIS KEEP HAPPENING???” at that point.

              Find the places that do *NOT* have this happening. Hell, look at the places where this sort of thing is unthinkable. Look at them. How are they different from the places (all of the places!) where this keeps happening?

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              • If we’re going to decide that economics is a red herring even before we look at the places where it does not happen and find the differences, we might very well miss some important differences. Like, how do those places deal with their poor? What happens when economic, social, or political pressure is placed on their systems for dealing with the poor (say, a massive influx of poor immigrants)? How does their criminal justice system relate to their treatment of the poor? And so on.

                I suspect what you’ll find is that economics do matter, and that they matter in ways beyond simply objective measures of poverty and inequality. Economics matters in that, because we live in a world where economics determine our political and social structures, and perhaps more importantly, our political and social mindsets, our particular economic approaches will have a big influence on how we allow the poor to be treated.

                If you doubt this, I recommend revisiting our Kansas thread from last week.

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            • Ugh, a long comment was eaten. Basically, let’s start by noting that capitalism ~= markets more generally (a fact lost on both sides, frequently). Let’s further note, again, that criticizing capitalism does not mean I want the U.S. to become the U.S.S.R.

              The petri dish argument is essentially this: capitalist institutions, including its market institutions and the government institutions that prop them up, not only allow for the systematic discrimination of minorities within the market, but also determine the behavior of the coercive elements of that system (e.g., the police, the military, etc.). TNC lays out the historical picture pretty well in his reparations article, but it goes beyond that. The economic system results in the way we police the poor generally, not just black people, so what you have with poor black people is a sort of double whammy: a system that perpetuates their poverty and at the same time polices it aggressively. Ferguson, and the way its residents were treated (as the DOJ report lays out) is a perfect example, but Baltimore, Chicago, L.A., and so on are, if different, only so in the specific details.

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              • OK, I sort of see where you’re coming from. I don’t see us getting close to any sort of resolution in this space. It is a much larger conversation.

                My short response here is simply to point out that you appear to be using a particularly opportunistic definition of capitalism. The institutions that you find responsible for the present situation (the mercantilism that enabled the slave trade; the explicitly white supremacist features of New Deal labor legislation and post-war housing policy; the parasitic tendency of certain police departments and municipal governments to treat their citizens as a perpetual source of plunder through fines, fees and forfeitures; the list goes on…) don’t have a whole lot to do with my definition of capitalism, which is simply the private ownership of the means of production. Certainly, capitalism may be complicit in these outcomes, but no person or group of people would be able to perpetuate this sort of injustice without the explicit mandate of the state.

                Perhaps what we need is a term that better captures the symbiotic relationship that exists between official institutions and private actors and that enables these pathologies. I nominate “state capital.”

                The real question is whether we could come to agreement on an alternative to state capital that jives with my free market, capitalist preferences and your socialist ones.*

                * I use the word socialist as a placeholder. I don’t know enough about what you want to know the right word.

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                      • “even in China, the state serves capital ”
                        Where do more billionaires preside, the US Legislature or the Chinese Parliament?
                        The “State” does not serve capital in China. The individuals lucky enough to be born into Communist royalty, “Princelings” are Capital. The people of China serve them.
                        You want to replace a group of people that have “at least” produced something that people want to buy with a political elite that does nothing but extract rents.
                        I can not wait for the Clinton Presidency, billions will flow.
                        The whole spectacle will at least give me a chuckle, and New Zealand looks nice.

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                      • …the state serves capital (which is what I’m saying happens here).

                        has a point. I’m not sure that causality holds up in China, where it seems that capital quite clearly serves the state. Most of China’s development happens through party-directed lending from state-owned banks. And many of the people who managed to get incredibly wealthy in China did so because they were politically connected and managed to position themselves in a prime location relative to that spigot of state-directed funding.

                        It will be interesting to see what China looks like going forward. President Zi has empowered his deputy Wang Qishan to oversee a wide-ranging anti-corruption efforts and by some accounts this makes Wang the most feared man in China.

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                  • I have been calling it capitalism(3) in much the same spirit as Gary Chartier:

                    “capitalism-1
                    an economic system that features property rights and voluntary exchanges of goods and services.

                    capitalism-2
                    an economic system that features a symbiotic relationship between big business and government.

                    capitalism-3
                    rule — of workplaces, society, and (if there is one) the state — by capitalists (that is, by a relatively small number of people who control investable wealth and the means of production).[3] ”

                    If we run with state capitalism, I would propose we modify it to “state capitalism(3)”.

                    This will give future leeway to discuss how state capitalism(1) would function.(for those who still want state in their diet ;)

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                • “Certainly, capitalism may be complicit in these outcomes, but no person or group of people would be able to perpetuate this sort of injustice without the explicit mandate of the state.”

                  Please note that we’ve seen this sort of thing done without the state – see the end of Reconstruction for a fine example. A group of people smashed the existing state structure, and imposed their own.

                  Racist laws don’t come from the state – they come from people with power over the state.

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                • CK, it was my fault: I must have hit tab or whatever so that when I hit backspace, it actually sent the browser to the previous page. Ordinarily, I would be able to click forward or reload and it would have saved a cached version of my comment, but in this case, it had a cached version of a previous comment (one I’d already published), and still had that cached comment when I clicked forward.

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      • Chris: It has created the environment in which the problem exists, and is perpetuated. It’s the petri dish in which this particular type of police-citizen relationship grows, and which leaves certain groups powerless to do anything about it.

        Like , I am curious about specifics; but unlike him, this way of looking at the problem seems to me to risk something like “missing the tree for the forest” – that is, getting somewhat distracted by talking about some large concept that we feel passionately about, rather than the specific local screwups that led to this severe problem in a specific place; a place that just so happens to be governed, for a long long time, nearly-exclusively by a party monopoly; but let’s not mention that.

        If a particular tree is dying and we want to know why, we need to look at that tree, before we look at the forest it’s in.

        (I suspect the rebuttal to this will be something along the lines of “Baltimore may be just one ‘tree’, but Ferguson is another, etc. etc., pointing us to a systematic ‘forest’ failure.” And round and round…)

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        • As Ferguson showed, we can’t address this particular problem — cop violence — without addressing the underlying problems: racism and the way we deal with poverty. Without addressing the underlying problems, any changes we make the way we police, for example, will easily (and likely immediately) be undone by the fact that we still have a large group of marginalized, powerless, largely voiceless (particularly at the political level) individuals who are actively and passively discriminated against in all aspects of our society, and who are easy political and economic targets and therefore will, in the end, be treated as such by the coercive arm of the state.

          Now, there may be immediate steps to be taken, and if you look at the groups who are and have for some time been directly involved in this fight, you’ll see that they have some pretty straightforward ideas about what those steps should be: specific ideas about increasing transparency, civilian oversight, and accountability for police, changing the way police are trained in the use of force, eliminating certain types of policing (e.g., broken window policing and the use of fines for revenue generation, and so on). However, they don’t stop there. They have broader aims at addressing inequality, systematic economic, social, and political discrimination against black people, prison reform, reform of the criminal justice system more generally, and so on, designed to deal with the economic, social, and political systems that both perpetuate the poverty and disenfranchisement of black people and sick the police on them.

          It’s possible to work on both the immediate and long-term goals at the same time, while recognizing that the long-term goals are, in fact, long-term. It is not possible to solve the problems by achieving the short-term goals alone, because whatever reforms we make to the police will be undermined, and if we’re not careful, undone, by the failure to achieve the long-term ones.

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        • Here’s a specific:

          I was looking at going to Montevideo or Buenos Aires for anywhere from a semester to two years (and if I decide to stay after that, I’m cool with it). In fact, I’m going to a meeting later today to get more information on Buenos Aires (and Cordóba).
          Because Universidad de Buenos Aires is a public university, it is free to all citizens. As a foreigner, I would be required to pay around $100 a year in tuition.

          It’s a lot easier to deal with the poor when the system cranks out a lot less of them.
          It’s a lot easier to crank out a lot less of them when they have training available.

          In the U.S., all post-graduate students are required to learn, “Would you like fries with that?” as a part of their post-graduation career path.

          Can I get you something to drink?

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  8. Dude you should talk with Wall Street. All the new regulations on Payday Lenders?
    Their doing, because though folks sometimes need a hand up, payday lenders aren’t really… necessary.
    Not when there’s profit to be made elsewhere, at any rate.

    Are you really going to tell me that all those shiny new regulations have caused this riot? Because we’re pretty much seeing the end of payday lenders as they’ve been for the past 50 years or so… They’re being regulated out of existence, and deliberately so.

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  9. I just can’t get too upset about the rioting in Baltimore.

    This is understandable and I would be lying if I said that I am personally outraged by the rioting and looting that did go on. As I said yesterday, however, neither of us have to live in these neighborhoods. If someone came along and burned down the businesses in my neighborhood, I would likely have stronger feelings.

    And to join in on , I’m all for criticizing the elements of the economy and the government that fail, but just putting all the things that you don’t like under the catchall rubric of “capitalism” isn’t very illuminating.

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  10. Great post Jon! Some thoughts:

    1. I do get the sentiment behind the TBC quote and lots of other pro-riot stuff but I wonder and worry that the effect will be different than the intent. The riots of the 1960s helped paved way for Nixon and decades of right wing tough on crime policy which gave way to mass incarceration. Not all people on the fence get pushed to the correct or desired side. So maybe enough people will be pushed to
    the authoritarian right and vote for the guy
    who promises law and order.

    2. Riots tend to be non-discriminate in violence. I come from people who were the victims of riots. European governments encouraged progroms against the Jews to
    distract people from the real issues.

    3. Concerns about “misspent” charity or welfare are ages old. This is why I am cynical about the prospect of GBI.

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    • Riots tend to be non-discriminate in violence.

      No, they don’t, and your sentences that follow this one show that. The literature on riots has been figuring them out for two centuries, and “riots tend to be non-discriminate in violence” is not a conclusion you’re likely to find in it.

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      • I think that you may being a little unkind to what is saying. I took his meaning to be that riots are ostensibly about one thing, but that they tend to end up going after targets of opportunity.

        The draft riots of New York in 1863 were ostensibly about poor men being drafted while wealthy and politically corrected men could evade that fate, but the rioters burned down a black orphanage. Another example is Reginald Denny, who as far as I know was not a member of the LAPD. In both cases, the targets were no random, but a strong case can be made that they were indiscriminate.

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        • Ah, perhaps I didn’t understand “non-discriminate,” then (the draft riots are a perfect example of them being discriminating in their targets: they didn’t just go after black people, they went after known abolitionists as well).

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          • Granted, a lot hangs on how we view the term indiscrimminate.

            For me, if you’re rioting against the draft and you burn down an orphanage or if you’re rioting against the police and you beat a truck driver, I’m comfortable calling your actions indiscrimminate. I agree, however, those targets were chosen for a reason.

            I think that we are largely in agreement here. What we need is a term that describes behavior that has a purpose, but whose purpose is clearly at odds with the stated justification. I may be wrong, but I think that is what was trying to get at.

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            • Misdirected, though even that is somewhat inaccurate. When rioters do not attack the ultimate causes of their frustration, but instead attack scapegoats or proxies — Jewish people, black people and abolitionists who are seen as the cause of the war, businesses, or in the case of L.A., Korean businesses and white passers by — it is because the ultimate causes are either unavailable or too powerful and protected to be attacked. Wealthy New Yorkers were not a viable target, so the anger was taken out on someone else whom the Irish immigrants felt were responsible for their plight, free black people and abolitionists who were seen as responsible for the war itself.

              This is important, because it sheds light on what happened in Baltimore this week, or Ferguson in January, and will likely happen elsewhere as the police continue to murder black people at their current, unthinkable pace.

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              • “…as the police continue to murder black people at their current, unthinkable pace.”

                When I was driving in Maine, I saw a sign that said, “High frequency of moose strikes in this area.” I looked at my friend — another city slicker — and he said, “What qualifies as a ‘high frequency’?”

                “One.” I replied. “One is too many.”

                The problem is, I think the cops — like the residents of Maine and their tolerance for moose strikes — would not call the current pace unthinkable. I fear they’d use a phrase like “collateral damage” or “necessary evil” or “regrettable but unavoidable.”

                And these are the people we give guns.

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                • Guns and the license to use them with near total impunity.

                  [Edited to add] The Walter Scott case being a perfect example. The police had already basically said that the shooting was justified, until they saw and (this is important) realized everyone would see the video. Then, and only then, did they take action against the officer. Without that video, Scott would just be a statistic and the officer who murdered him in cold blood would still be walking around North Charleston with the murder weapon on his hip.

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                • That last part is so wrong.
                  I’ve talked with a cop, a really good guy, who forgot to cut the pie one time coming in on a raid. There was a guy that put a gun in his face and pulled the trigger. The weapon clicked rather than a bullet being shot– a misfire. That misfire quite literally saved his life.
                  In their role as first responders, cops often see some gruesome stuff, especially the highway patrol officers.

                  To their way of thinking, the difference between a murder victim or vehicular accident fatality and the person being shot to death or choked to death by the police is that the former are “victims” while the latter “had it coming to them.”
                  But there is no talk about “collateral damage,” or anything of the like.

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                • moose collisions (not strikes) was a bad, bad, bad choice of analogy.

                  The problem is, I think the cops — like the residents of Maine and their tolerance for moose strikes — would not call the current pace unthinkable. I fear they’d use a phrase like “collateral damage” or “necessary evil” or “regrettable but unavoidable.”

                  First, because we here in Maine (and neighboring NH, which also posts such signs,) have a low tolerance for moose collisions; that’s why we post the signs. See, moose have long skinny legs; and when they’re on the road at night, your headlights shine under their bodies, and the legs are too thin to see, most particularly if your headlights are on low beam. So we post signs in places were 1) there have been a lot of moose collisions and 2) there are a lot of moose that go in roads. That’s not because we have a tolerance for collisions, it’s because we’d like to help motorists avoid collisions.

                  For what it’s worth: my husband has hit a moose. We have, twice, had other vehicles hit a moose when they dimmed their lights for us as oncoming traffic. I’ve known dozens of others who’ve been involved in moose collisions, including at least four fatalities. You see, when you hit a moose, you often knock it’s legs out from under it, and the heavy body falls into the windshield.

                  I’ve talked to dozens of people visiting ME who’ve been cited by police for speeding, and one refrain was repeated, “The cop warned me it was dangerous because of moose.” That’s actually a good warning, particularly here, in the high country where there are a lot of moose.

                  So your example — that we have a tolerance — is backward. I’d say that the US, in general, has a far, far greater tolerance for cop murders than Maine has for moose accidents.

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                  • I misspoke.

                    My point is that Maine has incidents of high frequency collisions and low frequency collisions. It is not so much that you tolerate them but that they are a way of life for Mainers. An area with 10 collisions per year may not put up a sign as that is par for the course. But non-Mainers, we’d look at one moose collision in our neighborhood and it’d feel like a pandemic. Because our ‘par’ for moose collisions is zero.

                    So, what is the threshold for a high frequency of moose collisions? It would depend on who you ask. Mainers probably set that threshold higher. Which isn’t a bad thing.

                    What pace of killing unarmed black men is unthinkable? My guess is that the cops — much like Mainers with moose collisions — would set the number far higher than most others.

                    Of course, I don’t mean to equate Mainers with murdersome cops. I was drawing an analogy to the way two groups can look at the same situation and come to a very different conclusion about where the bar for acceptability is. Now, Mainers have an excuse for setting their threshold higher: moose collisions are part of their reality. Cops? Accepting unarmed folks being killed? Yea, I’m not sure what their excuse is other than covering their own asses.

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                    • Do some people deserve to be shot by the cops? Yea. Sure.

                      Does everyone who gets shot by the cops deserve to be shot by the cops? Hell fishin’ no.

                      The problem is the cops work backwards: he was shot, ergo he must have deserved it. Instead of, ya know, determining who deserves to be shot before actually shooting.

                      And if the choice is between a cop getting shot or an innocent person being shot by the cops, the preference should be the former. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Cops willingly accept the risk that comes with their profession. I reject the assumption of risk that being a law-abiding citizen — or even a law-breaking but non-fatal-threat citizen — means I might get shot by a cop.

                      Cops should only shoot when absolutely positively necessary to save the lives of innocents.

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                      • I’m going to have to say that I disagree.
                        I go more along the lines of no one should ever get shot by the police.
                        For any reason.
                        If there is a hostage situation, make the governor call out the national guard.
                        Non-lethal technologies have developed sufficiently to render deadly force obsolete (or near-obsolete).
                        Use of deadly force is, in many cases, indicative of a lack of creativity paired with disregard of constructive outcomes.

                        As far as rubber bullets and beanbag shotgun cartridges are concerned, I’m a bit more on the fence.
                        I think those are sufficient, if not too much.

                        But yes, I believe that for a police officer to be temporarily in a dangerous situation is preferable to indiscriminate deployment of deadly force, or of potential deadly force.

                        And say what you will about police officers having a dangerous job, but I’ve never known one to die five hours into the job. OTOH, I knew a guy in Edwardsport that died five hours into the job. He had just gotten the job after being out of work for five months. It still hurts to think about it.

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                        • I generally agree. The only situation I would support the police using guns is if a situation unpredictably escalates and lives are in danger. For instance, cops pull a guy over and he jumps out with an Uzi and starts firing into a crowd. Sure… drop the guy. Of course, that never happens.

                          Take Mike Brown. Why couldn’t that cop have simply rolled up his window, called for backup, and followed Brown until there were sufficient officers that he could be questioned and, if necessary, subdued safely? They all seem to want to go John McClain the moment anything happens.

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                    • Generally, the signs are put on places where habitat fosters higher moose populations; particularly areas of road that pass through boggy places (moose mucks), not based on numbers of accidents in any given location. Like the signs that show oncoming curves or steep hills with odd grades, they’re based on terrain and the assessment of potential danger while driving that terrain.

                      ETA: Perhaps cities and towns with high rates of cop shootings and violence should have to put warning signs at their city limits? Would a sign that read: “Warning: polices are armed and dangerous and have committed acts of violence” be the correct response?

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                      • I’d actually be curious how the police and government would respond to a private citizen putting up such signs. If I board a big billboard on 95 as it approaches Baltimore with that sort of message, how long before you think they came up with some law it was in violation of?

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                        • People put up signs on the side of the road frequently here. It’s private property, and it’s free speech.

                          And some are pretty offensive. You should have seen the anti-Obama signs leading up the the 2012 election; the gay-hate signs (on churches, too!) before our referendums on gay marriage.

                          I think the only way to limit such signs would be if they’re obstructing the view for safe driving or if the local community has some sort of sign ordinance.

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  11. I mostly skimmed — time is a luxury right now — but I plan to go backand read it in full. Still, I feel like you captured my general thoughts on the matter, namely that what is happening in Baltimore is a response. Is that response appropriate? Proportional? I am not positioned to tell. What I do know is that it is reactive and that if we want it to cease — in Baltimore specifically and elsewhere in general — we need to address the underlying issues, the initial action that caused the reaction.

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  12. Still, I was a little surprised at just how much of a mouthpiece everyone was for the police and the state.

    I couldn’t help but notice this too. I mean, one hears about the “liberal” media (defined as “which party does everybody but the people at Fox vote for?”) but they’re in the bag of the people with power.

    The whole coverage of the correspondent’s dinner instead of the riots? In the bag.
    The getting three police spokespeople, two policemen, and one man-on-the-street opposed to the riots to talk about the root causes of violence? In the bag.

    I’m stuck between listening to Democracy Now! and crazy people on the internet if I want to hear anything *BUT* the opinions of people who are already in the bag.

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    • I’m stuck between listening to Democracy Now! and crazy people on the internet if I want to hear anything *BUT* the opinions of people who are already in the bag.

      The economics of media pretty much demand you get into the bag.

      You can’t even compete with a new news source using traditional media channels. How are you going to get access? MSNBC, FOX, CNN… they are owned by the same folks who own Time Warner Cable, Comcast, DirecTV, Dish, etc.

      Top to bottom, if media was a government, media would be an oligarchy.

      What we need is Saint Ronnie to come back from the dead and break up Ma Bell again.

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      • When companies get that big, they get inextricably intertwined with the government, and the government becomes one of their major corporate interests. The companies aren’t in the bag; they are the bag. But I repeat myself from above.

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    • I think a factor of that is which party is in power.

      When Democrats talk about how red states are, in many ways, welfare states, they waste no time talking about how the Republicans in power are the ones who are impoverishing their state. This is all well and good as it is a fairly accurate statement. However, in this instance, Baltimore has been a Democrat stronghold for decades. Criticizing the government there and the policies that led to the city’s current status requires the party to shine the same spotlight on their own failed policies that they do on the Republicans. That is rarely how either party or their media machine works.

      This is something that has been running through my mind today as I was driving into work. I was listening to the discussion of the TPP and the summary of the discussion was that Democrats (who are not named Elizabeth Warren) are defending a trade agreement that is being pushed through by big corporations while Republicans are against the same agreement. It is …. interesting …. to see how each side will not just abandon the principles that they claim to have but will embrace the polar opposite as long as it gets a “win” for their party.

      That is a big part of the reason why the media have been reacting the way they have. The right-wing media, when they’re not focusing on “space to destroy” (As an aside, while this was the right policy to take, the mayor needs to fire her speech writer if her political career survives this. Stating “Having the police descend on a crowd of angry black men who are rioting because a black man died in police custody is like throwing gasoline on a fire” is an appeal to reason. Saying “We’re giving them space to destroy” is the type of comment that will have implications long after the riots are over.), have been more willing to blame the city government and the cops than they usually are when black people riot. This is not to say that there aren’t is a shortage of right-wing pundits who are saying “Yup, thug life again” but it is still a surprising amount who are willing to shine a light on the cops and the city government. For the left-wing media, it’s time to circle the wagons. Yes, many are saying “Black man dies in police custody AGAIN” but there are also a higher amount who are trying to spin this to soften the blow to the police/city government image. All you have to do is look at the almost-full-day time lag between Fox News reporting on the mayor’s remarks and CBS reporting on the mayor’s remarks to figure out which news outlet is trying to find the least politically damaging way to present these remarks.

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      • RE: the curious lack of blame for the city government, and the decades-long-monolithically-Democratic makeup of said government, is something I noted in my comment as well.

        Even here, we seem to want to talk about abstract concepts like “capitalism/socialism”, instead of “who has long been in charge of skippering this city that has run painfully, catastrophically aground in multiple ways?”.

        If a city is rioting due to ongoing out-of-control police oppression (and, on the flip side, police failure to actually protect those same oppressed citizens from everyday violence and property crime), as well as horrific poverty and lack of opportunity, the leadership of that city should safely be presumed to be incompetent and/or corrupt.

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        • I think that part of the reason people ignore Democrats’ complicity, if not direct role, in the the racial, class, and policing issues that have led us to this point in Baltimore (as they did in Ferguson, where Democrats were complicit at every level, even running police organizations in St. Louis), is that, if the Democrats fuck it up this bad, who else is there? Republicans? They’re the Law and Order party, right? And their record on race over the last 50 years, including recently, ain’t so great. Not to mention their record on poverty. So noting the role of Democrats is essentially throwing one’s hands up in the air.

          Of course, I’ve said on unrelated threads that I wish the Republicans were a viable alternative for people interested in race and class issues, because it would make the Democrats get their shit together. Sadly, I don’t see either party making strides anytime soon, so for class and race issues, Democrats will be the only game in town, which is to say there won’t be any real game being played at all.

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          • An unexplored angle is just how much Law Enforcement Agencies like the Police or County Sherrifs are just politically unaccountable to anyone and any party. We were discussing this on LGM yesterday. The United States has always seemingly had trouble keeping the police accountable. There are a variety of theories about why including professionalization (you would not criticize your heart surgeon, why criticize the police?), the patrol car (takes police away from the neighborhood), there are some good reasons to keep law enforcement independent from politics (you don’t want politicians to have their own enforcers against opponents), etc.

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            • This seems like a cop out. They’re not responsive because politicians let them be not respond. Politicians could reign them in, but it’s not clear that they want to, or that we want them to. Granted, cops play a role in this, as we saw in Minnesota and St. Louis, but they play a role in this through the political process, and therefore by influencing our minds and our votes. If we wanted cops to be more responsive to political pressure, or to have more non-cop oversight, they would.

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          • Yeah, I don’t want to imply that I think the Republicans are any great shakes either. I don’t.

            It’s just that – and I know you hate counterfactuals – but if everything else in Baltimore were basically the same, except its leadership structure was largely- and long-Republican, I think we’d have no shortage of people rightly pointing directly to leadership Republicanness as the highly-probable cause for decades of actions and policies that have led the city to grinding, systemic poverty and police brutality, both largely affecting the city’s black underclass.

            But because the city’s leadership is and has been largely- and long-Democratic, we seemingly have to look for other places to assign the blame here.

            If I’m not totally imagining that, it seems kind of messed up.

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            • Oh, I didn’t mean to imply you were suggesting that. I was offering that up as a (speculative, it’s true) reason why people seem to ignore that Democrats are running these places. I mean, some of it’s just partisan politics, but even many of the usual anti-partisans have remained mostly silent on the Democraticness of these places. Again, I assume because not remaining silent would be to admit a level of hopelessness, at the political level, that I don’t think people can stand to admit.

              Now, the people on the ground are not happy about the Democrats. This was true in Ferguson and and Missouri more generally, and its true in Baltimore. I’ve seen a lot of criticism of Democrats from activists, but activists generally aren’t the people we tend to listen to. Furthermore, the elections in Ferguson suggest there may be changes in the party (in part because of the actions of activists), at least at the local level, as a result of what’s happening now, but they’ll be slow.

              As I frequently joke, this is a common conversation (in gist) that I’ve had and witnessed over the last 8 or 9 years:

              Former Supporter of the Iraq War: “If I’d known then what I know now, I’d have been anti-war in ’03.”
              Anti-War Activist: “We knew then what you know now, but you wouldn’t listen to us when we told you.”
              former Supporter of the Iraq War: “Of course we didn’t listen to you, you were anti-war!”

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          • Certainly you are correct to a good degree about the media and not dinging the D’s. But i think part of the problem is the media wants everything in short simple stories. The local and state D’s should get blamed for plenty of stuff. But if you really want to understand the way things are you end up digging into knotty topics like how to change institutions, cops tend to be conservative which more fits into the R vs D frame but mentioning that seems like just inciting partisan flames, the effect of regional and national polices on cities, etc. The media wants a simple story but all these and other things make complex stories.

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        • I’ll admit, when I read your comment above, I immediately thought “Chicago PD.”
          I suppose people in other parts of the country would think “NYC PD,” or “LA PD.”
          Albuquerque is another Dem stronghold with a (well-deserved) reputation for police brutality.

          And yes, jurisdictionally, it is entirely about the city government.
          The other end of it is that the federal courts will practically stop at nothing to ensure that no amount of wrong-doing, unethical conduct, or criminality at the municipal or county level is held into account.

          Seriously, a new cause of action for civil rights complaints (with statutorily defined immunities) is a thing I’ve been pitching to state legislators ahead of a meeting with the governor early next month.
          I don’t know if he will listen to me, but I know it will carry a lot more weight if I can get a couple of state legislators to sign on beforehand.

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        • If a city is rioting due to ongoing out-of-control police oppression (and, on the flip side, police failure to actually protect those same oppressed citizens from everyday violence and property crime), as well as horrific poverty and lack of opportunity, the leadership of that city should safely be presumed to be incompetent and/or corrupt.

          Or …. they look at the rioting as confirmation that the oppression is justified, cuz order is hanging in the balance, perhaps just one justified use of police force away from tumbling into chaos.

          So the reaction is to increase the beatings till morale improves.

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        • With a Democrat, you have the MSM that, after the honeymoon is over, treats him skeptically while the right-wing media calls him the anti-Christ. With a Republican, you have the MSM that, after the honeymoon is over, treats him skeptically [1], while the right-wing media performs acts on him that in many states used to be illegal.

          1. Read the New York Times and Washington Post during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. They’re cheerleading for it.

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    • Hmm what people call the “liberal media” are big companies “in the bag” for the Big Biz/DC power structure. Welcome to Liberal Media Studies 101, item 1 on the first day of class circa decades ago.

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        • Very puzzling jay. I agree that the “liberal ” media is corporate and doesn’t challenge the power structure and add that has been a common Liberal critique. So what than is your point? Does agreeing with liberals give you the icks? That reporters vote D doesn’t actually imply they are liberals. You do know that D aren’t one giant mass of people that agree on everything. Sort of like R’s have 3 or more sub groups. Like there are R’s who are completely DC and existing power structure and there are R’s who hate DC.

          CBS…which one Communist Broadcasting Service or Corporate Broadcasting Service?

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          • You do know that D aren’t one giant mass of people that agree on everything.

            If we took an opinion polls of journalists at major journalist outlets, to what extent would their opinions overlap?

            Is there a great deal of workplace ideological diversity at these outlets?

            CBS…which one Communist Broadcasting Service or Corporate Broadcasting Service?

            The one on your television that shows the evening news.

            What the difference between that and FOX, in your view?

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            • Why gee Jay, I think Fox has lots of partisan R’s and the other networks have lots of D leaners who strive just so hard to look non-partisan. All of them want exciting footage to talk in front of and generally live down to the worst stereotypes of journalism. What do you think is the diff?

              Why does is seem to creep you out that you agree with liberals on the MSM being to deferential to power?

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              • It doesn’t creep me out, particularly. I do, however, think it’s very interesting that the journalists are overwhelmingly socially liberal and overwhelmingly deferential to corporations.

                Fox, by contrast, is equally deferential to corporations but not socially liberal.

                Is the difference between news organizations really just about whether the person reading the news to the camera agrees with abortion on demand or gay marriage?

                Because that’s *REALLY* interesting, given the acrimony I’ve seen on this topic, I tell you what.

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                • What i see is that the type of person who wants to work at and move up in a large corporation is more likely to be comfortable with and think positivilly about large hierarchical orgs. So if you want to be a big star at Fox/CBS/NBC you are likely the kind of person who wants to fit in and believes in big companies/orgs. Since all the major media companies are part of other large conglomerates they are certainly going to have all the same outlooks and general desires of the owners of mega conglomerates. They are all deferential to power because that is in the interest of the large companies they are owned by.

                  The type of person who is suspicious of big companies and large orgs is going to writing a blog or articles in an outsider mag. Many of those people just like to rock the boat which is not the kind of person large companies want.

                  That the owners of large corps are often socially liberal, or at least fine with owning media companies who staff is, shouldn’t really be a surprise. Socially liberal, fiscally conservative peeps who are part of power structure have always been part of the US. They even used to be called republicans.

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  13. The person that should get more press coverage is that mother who saw her kid on tv and went out and hauled him back home. It is nice to see somone parenting their kids. I hope obama invites her to the white house as an example of what is right.

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    • Be careful what you wish for.
      She smacked her kid because she “didn’t want him to be another Freddie Gray”
      IOW, she knew that the police might just as well kill him for protesting, looking at them the wrong way, or jaywalking, and wanted to save him from their brutality.

      Yes, by all means, lets hear more from this woman on her experiences with the Baltimore PD.

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  14. I suspect that we won’t be able to discuss the issues without discussing cultures.

    I suspect that we won’t be able to discuss cultures without discussing white flight.

    I suspect that we won’t be able to discuss white flight without discussing class differences.

    I suspect that we won’t be able to discuss class differences without discussing incompatibilities between classes.

    I suspect that we won’t be able to discuss incompatibilities between classes without touching some third rails.

    Naming the third rails is, effectively, to touch them.

    There is an upside for too many people to punish those who touch third rails and too much of a downside to touching third rails.

    And that will eventually get us back to “therefore we cannot discuss the issues”.

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    • What issue? The issue of cops killing people they shouldn’t be killing? Oh no… I think that issue is very cut and dry and can and should be talked about.

      Stop it. Stop it, cops.

      What else needs to be said?

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    • Do you mean like this Gawker article?

      http://gawker.com/baltimore-is-a-shithole-undisturbed-peace-at-the-mar-1700526944

      This was also discussed on LGM last night. Along with the Rich Kids of Instagram.

      I gotta say that I grew up extremely comfortably by any reasonable standard of the word comfortable and the wealth and decadence displayed in the Gawker article and the Rich Kids of Instagram shocks me.

      The thing about culture is that we talk about in too many broad strokes when you can really cut it into a million different pieces. I know a lot of people who come from significant money. They have enough money that their lifestyles and career choices do not match. But they don’t rise to the Rich Kids of Instagram level of decadence. They tended to dedicate themselves to academics, the arts, non-profits, and childhood education while still living upper-middle class lifestyles (or above) but their purchase choices are much more controlled and not as obvious.

      I am very curious about which really rich kids become 24 hour party people and which ones dedicate themselves to doing interesting things other than partying. I suspect it has to do with parenting. I remember reading stories in New York Magazine when I was in High School and the stories were basically covering the Kids Set. These were kids with a lot of money and very uninvolved parents who were basically left alone. Other people probably had parents who treated them like high school students and did not leave them alone.

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        • I don’t know if we can change them. I think we just need to make sure that they don’t control the political majority.

          I used to work for a family that lived on the Upper-West Side in an amazing apartment. The apartment had a kitchen of the size that you would normally find in a suburban house. They also were hands-on parents and made sure that their kids went to schools known for academic rigor. The kids were also raised with a “you are really lucky but you still need to work (not summer jobs but post-education jobs)” way.

          On the other hand, Paris Hilton went to a private school called Dwight. The joke about Dwight is that it stands for “Dumb White Into Getting High Together”

          So it is all about culture. You gotta get parents to care about how they raise their kids and how those kids would turn out. Vanity Fair was already covering the club and party hard exploits of Paris Hilton when she was under 18, certainly under 21. She was smart enough to turn her party girl reputation into a cash empire but others are seemingly content to just travel and party all the time like the rich-kids of Instagram. I suppose one way to cover this is with a strong estate tax.

          Look at this decadence:

          http://richkidsofinstagram.tumblr.com/

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        • To a certain extent, it also is how the media covers over decadent consumption. A few weeks ago there was an article about how some hotshot at VICE spent 300,000 dollars on one dinner in Vegas. All of the articles mentioned that the dinner was celebration for winning 100,000 dollars on Blackjack.

          My immediate thought was “So he came out 200,000 dollars in the red. Why didn’t the articles point that out?”

          I wonder how many people had thoughts like mine and how many others had thoughts like “Man, that Vice guy is a total baller. I wanna be able to drop 300,000 on a meal”

          I imagine if I were the editor or employee at a Buzzfeed or Business Insider place that covered the decadent Vegas dinner and raised the 200,000 dollars in the red issue; I would be looked at like a scold and potentially quickly shown the door for missing the point.

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      • …still living upper-middle class lifestyles (or above) but their purchase choices are much more controlled and not as obvious.

        I love the fact that you can write this sentence non-ironically.

        As for all that “shocking” behavior, how do you think someone living in dire poverty somewhere in the developing world would view your lifestyle?

        I always find it funny how people tend to place the appropriate amount of wealth for an individual to have somewhere just a bit higher than the amount of wealth that they themselves have.

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    • I actually think that talking about culture is important but the problem is that when talking about culture, all the proudly dysfunctional white people never get talked about. Lots of people want to talk about proudly dysfunctional people of color but not proudly dysfunctional white people. When dysfunction is found among non-white people, its cultural. When it’s found in white people, it is just that that particular white person is proudly dysfunctional.

      As to white flight, a lot of that isn’t because of culture. White flight occurred because of policies designed to help white people move into the suburbs while keeping African-Americans in the city with a decreased tax base.

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  15. As with Sam Wilkinson’s post, this post leaves me confused as to what the blogger and others expect the authorities to be doing differently, exactly, regarding the incident itself. Or, rather, the bloggers seem to be borrowing lines from past arguments, while remaining oblivious to what actually is being done here, and also to the ways in which this particular incident differs from others.

    On April 12, Freddie Gray was taken into custody and severely injured. Speculation, but it’s only speculation at this point, has focused on the so-called “rough ride” practice affecting some pre-existing injury. He died on April 19th.

    So, it’s now been ten days since the matter became a homicide investigation. Six officers were suspended without pay, and the PD accused them of, at minimum, failing to provide proper medical attention and failing to buckle him in. Those officers are presumably “lawyered up.” No one posting to this site or commenting in this thread or protesting or not protesting or rioting or reporting knows what precisely transpired, nor which officers, or others, are guilty or provably guilty of which crimes. There are at least two major investigations ongoing, one at the city level, one at the federal level. The Baltimore PD is expected to deliver its findings to this point on Friday. The new US Attorney General is speaking on the matter as I write this comment.

    Yet we read in this post and similarly on the other post and thread statements to the effect that nothing is being done and that the entire matter has been swept under the rug – for example:

    If you arrest/abduct someone, step on their head, break their neck, their windpipe, take them on a “rough ride”, have much of it videotaped, have there be witnesses, and absolutely nothing happens to you, that is a level of privilege very few of us will ever enjoy.

    Six “absolutely”‘s in the post, typically used to intensify an assertion that, contrary to the implication, is highly debatable at least. If I were one of those officers, I would reasonably be in fear for my life and freedom, and not just from the legal system and not just from one side in the ongoing conflict – once my identity was made known. At the very least, we do not know whether “absolutely nothing” will happen to “you,” and whether each of “you” will undergo the same “nothing.”

    Given the extremely high profile of the Gray incident, the subsequent legal process will likely be subject to intense scrutiny at every stage. As we have seen many times, this situation makes any prosecutor’s task more difficult. The bloggers seem to be demanding “charges! now!” without regard for whether they are the right charges against the right defendants. As for the specifics of the case or cases that may be made, as far as I can make them out, I’ll leave off here, since the story is likely to change quite soon, and is subject to change unpredictably.

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    • It didn’t seem to make the job more difficult in Ferguson, unless the job is “advocating for the police.” In which case, no, it still didn’t make it more difficult, just made the prosecutor have to be more transparent about it.

      The problem in Baltimore is, similarly, a lack of transparency. If all this public attention makes them more transparent, that’s great. If nothing else, it makes it more difficult for the sort of behavior that apparently caused Gray’s death, and which also seems to have a long history in Baltimore, more difficult to excuse with no or only cursory investigative processes.

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    • As if the riots are about Freddie Gray, or the Ferguson riots were about Michael Brown.

      Yes, the “past incidents” are exactly the subject here. The pattern and history of police misconduct, class warfare, and economic destruction is what fuels this riot, and the ones to come.

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      • …among other things. Whether we choose to “focus on the riots,” focus on the incidents, or focus on the history of life on Earth, or focus on some hazy middle-background of long-abiding political-economic and social problems illuminated by burning drug and liquor stores, assertions of the sort to which I was referring are prejudicial to the inquiry.

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    • The legal protections extended to the police are the exact same legal protections that ought to be extended to the youths who end up with severed spines in the back of their vans.

      I have no problem with saying “there should be an assumption of innocence!”

      The problem comes when we only say that sort of thing about the police officer who shoots an unarmed man who is running away and never about the unarmed man who was running away.

      The problem isn’t that the cops get treated the way that everyone should be treated. The problem is that nobody else gets treated the way that everyone should be treated.

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    • : “As with Sam Wilkinson’s post, this post leaves me confused as to what the blogger and others expect the authorities to be doing differently, exactly, regarding the incident itself.”

      One simple thing the authorities could be doing differently is actually expressing the ideas that were written in those posts. So far the official response to Gray’s death has all been with the subtext of “tragic, isolated incident … we’re following SOP to get the bad apples”. Instating a policy that (police ride + ER = police officer charged) may be an unreasonable burden to put on cops in a squeaky clean PD, but it becomes less unreasonable when the PD has dozens of such cases and has paid out millions in settlements. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only possible response. “Charges, now!” would be one way to actualize the idea that this is a systemic issue, but simply *expressing* the idea would be a start. This was the issue that a lot of people missed about Coates’ article on reparations. Actual cash payments are one response, but the bare minimum would be to simply acknowledge the systemic nature of the problem and do a thorough accounting. Of course, why would someone in charge of a system have any incentive to admit that a systemic failure occurred?

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      • trizzlor: So far the official response to Gray’s death has all been with the subtext of “tragic, isolated incident … we’re following SOP to get the bad apples”.

        Strikes me as a subjective assessment that doesn’t happen to square with mine, though I suppose it might also depend on how you define “official” and “response.” The more narrowly you define it, the more a given official may limited by law (and reasonable self-interest). Law enforcement authorities aren’t supposed to be instruments of vengeance or even, directly, of social justice. That’s not our legal concept. Sooner or later everyone wishes it was, but not necessarily for very long.

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        • I’ve looked and looked, but I can’t find a single statement from the Mayor that expresses any of the sentiment described in these posts. Typically it’s this:

          “I recognize that there’s frustration over this investigation … But I want to be clear: there is a process, and we have to respect that process. In order to have justice, and not just seek justice, the investigation has to follow procedures.”

          Now contrast that with Obama’s statements:

          Since Ferguson, and the task force that we put together, we have seen too many instances of what appears to be police officers interacting with individuals — primarily African American, often poor — in ways that have raised troubling questions. And it comes up, it seems like, once a week now, or once every couple of weeks. And so I think it’s pretty understandable why the leaders of civil rights organizations but, more importantly, moms and dads across the country, might start saying this is a crisis. What I’d say is this has been a slow-rolling crisis. This has been going on for a long time. This is not new, and we shouldn’t pretend that it’s new.

          The good news is, is that perhaps there’s some newfound awareness because of social media and video cameras and so forth that there are problems and challenges when it comes to how policing and our laws are applied in certain communities, and we have to pay attention to it and respond.

          What’s also good news is the task force that was made up of law enforcement and community activists that we brought together here in the White House have come up with very constructive concrete proposals that, if adopted by local communities and by states and by counties, by law enforcement generally, would make a difference. It wouldn’t solve every problem, but would make a concrete difference in rebuilding trust and making sure that the overwhelming majority of effective, honest and fair law enforcement officers, that they’re able to do their job better because it will weed out or retrain or put a stop to those handful who may be not doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

          This really isn’t hard: 1) Talk to people in the community about why they’re unusually upset; 2) Acknowledge their views and demonstrate that you understand their concerns; 3) Outline where you agree and/or disagree with those concerns; 4) Show what specific new measures you are taking to address this unusual situation, or justify that the old measures in place are sufficient. How much attention was given to any of these points, in comparison to the attention given to “thugs and looters”?

          Perhaps I’m just not seeing it, what statements from the authorities have you seen that gave you a positive impression?

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          • trizzlor,

            Well now you’re shifting the emphasis. You originally described what you heard to be a “subtext,” and now you’re referring to a lack of a positive statements you’d like to hear. I don’t hear that subtext when the Mayor refers to having “justice.” The statement referred to particular questions of the sort being raised by Jonathan and Sam. News reports suggest that she is actively in the process of engaging the community in reference to “systemic” questions and along the lines of your four points: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/politics/bs-md-freddie-gray-leadership-20150422-story.html#page=1

            But I’m not really sure what you want to hear, and what the perfect timing and tenor of statements would be in your mind. I’m not sure what specific sentiments you’ve seen in these posts that she should be adopting. I’ve seen a number that I think she or any other public official would have to be utterly irresponsible if not insane to adopt.

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            • I’m afraid I don’t see the shift. I initially described a subtext of SOP or letting the system run it’s course. I then quoted a statement from the mayor articulating that sentiment, which was consistent with all of the other snippets I had heard to form my initial opinion. Is your point that you don’t see the same subtext in the quoted statement? Or that you saw other statements that counter-balance that subtext? Because either way I must have missed it.

              What would I want to hear? I thought Obama’s response hit all the main points, but really I would like to see any indication that the authorities understand why – after dozens of similar incidents and millions in payouts – the idea that “there is a process, and we have to respect the process” may no longer be convincing. That doesn’t mean Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has to put on a balaclava and torch a payday lender. She just has to express the merest of sympathies towards the view that this is a systemic problem (which was my main takeaway from the two OT posts you mentioned).

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    • 1. This is getting ridiculous – Freddie Gray is dead, and you’re arguing that we really need to be worried about the safety of the police officers complicit in his death? Why? Can you provide an example in which an officer suspected of murdering a suspect was him/herself then murdered? Injured? Attacked?

      2. Meanwhile, this vaunted system which you keep insisting we place our faith in is as we speak attempting to make the claim that Freddie Gray intentionally severed his own spine. It wasn’t the police in other words; it was Gray, out to get the police! This is what we’re meant to believe in?

      3. Of course, we’d know exactly what we could believe in if the findings from Baltimore’s investigation were being made public, but just tonight there’s word that investigation’s conclusion will be turned over to prosecutors rather than shared with the public.

      4. How much more do you need to recognize a shattered system? If a department claiming that a suspect severed his own spine isn’t enough, and if a department refusing to share the findings of its own investigation isn’t enough, what is? Video? A confession? Both? More?

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      • Sam Wilkinson: you’re arguing that we really need to be worried about the safety of the police officers complicit in his death? Why?

        You’re not following the argument – which has more to do with why no one – guilty, innocent, or unsure – would be speaking now, but, in general terms, every citizen’s rights – including personal safety as well as freedom from being thrown to the wolves for the sake of appeasing their outrage- are fundamental in a rights-based system. I don’t understand why you need to be reminded that the likely gross violation of Freddie Gray’s rights, and the rights of others historically, cannot justify the violation of anyone else’s rights.

        Sam Wilkinson: this vaunted system which you keep insisting we place our faith in is as we speak attempting to make the claim that Freddie Gray intentionally severed his own spine.

        The notion that “the system” makes claims strikes me as a paranoid view. As far as I know, the Washington Post reported second- or thirdhand on the supposed content of an affidavit. Has anyone else had anything additional and informative to say? If I were one of the officers in potential criminal and civil jeopardy I wouldn’t put much hope in it, especially at this point.

        If the reporting on the content of the affidavit is accurate, and if eventual testimony along the same lines is received as credible, is supported by physical evidence, and makes sense within a full re-construction of the events of that day, then maybe it will prove meaningful, but that’s all entirely speculative now, since we do not even know what charges will be brought or even what description of events the state will adopt.

        Sam Wilkinson: Of course, we’d know exactly what we could believe in if the findings from Baltimore’s investigation were being made public, but just tonight there’s word that investigation’s conclusion will be turned over to prosecutors rather than shared with the public.

        You put much greater value in the immediate publication of the findings of an investigation than I do. Someone interested in justice being done within the legal system would prefer that prosecutors handle and present the evidence at the appropriate time to a jury as little as possible poisoned by sensationalistic and politically motivated reporting, opinion journalism, and politics.

        Sam Wilkinson: How much more do you need to recognize a shattered system? If a department claiming that a suspect severed his own spine isn’t enough, and if a department refusing to share the findings of its own investigation isn’t enough, what is? Video? A confession? Both? More?

        See above. The “department” has made no such claim. In the WaPo story that I read the department through its spokesperson was predictably reluctant to comment at all. The department’s responsibility is to follow the law and, if possible and appropriate, to cooperate with whatever indictments or proceedings.

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          • If this helps at all, to my understanding, CK is saying that, if those are your values, then observe them at all times, and not just selectively.
            At this point, there is a police officer accused, and sure the evidence looks a bit damning, seen in a particular light.
            Yet blinded by the light you need not be.
            Or something to that effect.

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            • If this helps at all, to my understanding, CK is saying that, if those are your values, then observe them at all times, and not just selectively.

              Going a bit afield, but this underestimates the ability of people to rationalize and abstract and “go meta.”

              When Kant asks “Should we lie, even to the murderer?” I can ask, “Should we assist killers?”

              (And yes I realize some will say that lying is somehow a more basic kind of thing that helping killers, but that tells me much about your personal ontology and not so much about the rest of the world. This is a map-territory thing.)

              Likewise, I can always abstract out details until we strip away the reasons to distinguish one act from another.

              For example, the argument against affirmative action is that it is racially selective, which is exactly the thing that pro-affirmative-action folks are supposed to oppose. However, this ignores the existence of manifest racial imbalance and the role AA might play to restore some balance.

              Or not. That’s an empirical claim. Maybe it works. Maybe it does not work. But pointing out that it is racially selective is deliberately ignoring the logic of the thing. it is shutting out salient facts.

              Or perhaps it is not. A certain kind of ethicist might say “it is wrong to act against a moral mandate even if doing so will manifestly reduce another harm.”

              Which I guess is the whole consequentialism versus deontological thing. Or something.

              But anyway yeah, you should be consistent. Except for when you should not.

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          • I’m happy to leave it at that, except to say I believe you are projecting upon me statements of “faith” that I haven’t made. My attention has been to the arguments, assumptions, and assertions made by Jonathan, yourself, and others that I consider unjustified and, as our new AG might say, counterproductive.

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      • Achhh. The refusal to make the report public is horrendous. No matter how bad the report is going to sound for the cops, keeping hidden is going to make it worse. Everybody, well most people, will assume, correctly, its being hidden because it has damning evidence in it.

        I hope the prosecutor immediately releases it. That would be the smart thing.

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        • My guess would be that all investigative reports are not public domain as a matter of policy.
          When it becomes a record subject to subpoena, i.e., as part of an on-going case, then it can become public domain.

          Having obtained police reports from a station house on prior occasion, the type of document (report, memo, note, etc.) is important, as is the relationship of the requester to the document.

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  16. Last night, there were protests in Union Sq. in NYC. This is one of the leaflet’s the NYPD handed out.

    On the surface, there doesn’t seem anything particularly wrong here; pedestrians must not block the streets, and they must allow room for other pedestrians going the other way, and if you block the flow of traffic, you might be arrested for disorderly conduct.

    Normally, it would be easy for me to not really consider this at all.

    But I’ve been spending a lot of time recently considering how we police. The events that sparked the riots in Baltimore, are making me seriously consider this simple-seeming public-safety handout.

    Is there a line events from simply being on the streets to peaceful protest to civil disobedience that gets crossed, pushing events to riot simply because there are a lot of people out for a protest, and not room for them all on the sidewalk?

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  17. And so it begins.

    Doesn’t surprise me really. How many times did we hear about a suspect, supposedly searched and handcuffed in the back of a squad car, still manages to get at the hidden gun they had and commit suicide. Three, four? How many times did that story fly and no one was found guilty of murder? Three, four, every SINGLE EFFING TIME?

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    • Notme,
      We can cite some sources if you’d like. Deliberately sorting the lowest income people into places by their lonesome (rather than living in mixed income communities where the whole “village” can help) hasn’t done wonders for anyone, ya know? This was done deliberately and with racist intent, and I have the documents to prove it (at least in Pittsburgh).

      I mean, I assume you’ve met middle class black people and don’t think their culture is all that bad.
      (the two black gents waiting to get on a bus were making the same point you were yesterday, about how the “story of the day” was the woman whupping on her son to get him home and away from the protest).

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  18. This is interesting.

    [State’s Attorney Marilyn] Mosby announced a series of charges now facing the six police officers involved in putting Gray in custody and transporting him in the police wagon on the morning of April 12. The charges vary for each individual, but include several counts of manslaughter, second degree assault, misconduct in office, and false imprisonment among others. The most serious charge she listed was second degree depraved heart murder, which only one officer faces. A warrant has been issued for the police officer’s arrest, Mosby said.

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          • Perhaps not. But it’s fairly easy to come up with historical examples of police officers not being charged for alleged behavior and only the most egregious behaviors have resulted in other officers being charged.

            There are a smaller number of examples of officers not being charged until pressure is applied.

            In each of these examples, it’s fair to question what the tipping point was that resulted in an apparent change of attitude on the part of the DA.

            If the riots weren’t the tipping point here, what was?

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            • I have way too much evidence of it.

              Years ago, I was tricked into devising a scheme of bankruptcy fraud, supposedly as part of the plot line for a short story. When I got a notice in the mail, I knew exactly what was up. I reported the matter to the authorities, but was told that they couldn’t accept a report, but only a completed investigation. Because I personally devised the scheme, I knew exactly where to look, and in fact I found it. There was over $45k in undeclared income, and much more in undeclared assets.
              In the meantime, I was subjected to a number of crimes of violence, extortion, identity fraud, wire fraud, etc. I reported this to the FBI, who told me that their policy dictated that all matters be handled according to local law. I reported the matter to the St. Louis County PD, who told me that their policy prevented them from investigation, as bankruptcy is a federal matter; thus any crime committed in relation to a bankruptcy is likewise federal (actually, there is concurrent jurisdiction there).
              If you mean this to understand that I had over 40 felony crimes enacted against me for having reported a crime under federal law, that’s exactly what I’m saying.

              The prosecution for having posted the MLK quote was undertaken as part of the retaliation scheme. I discovered the courts are far more likely to judge a matter according to the identity of the parties rather than the factual substance of the case.

              Some three years later, I was a piping inspector at a refinery sitting right on Lake Michigan. To say the least, there were some serious discrepancies with engineering specifications. It was my job to enforce those engineering specifications, which quickly earned me a reputation as someone “holding up production.” It got really serious pretty quick. There were threats of violence against me, etc. I got with security and received a camera pass, supposedly so that I could document the engineering shortcomings. Actually, I wanted to be able to record the threats against me when I had to walk into a room alone with two other people threatening me. That camera pass ended up getting me fired. “Insubordination” they called it, although security has authority over all parts of the plant, bar none.
              Less than twelve months after I left that place, over 50k of toxic sludge spilled into the lake from the vary area I was at. Knowing fully that the federal authorities were quite happy to sit with their thumbs up their asses, and the local authorities as well, how is it possible such a matter could be reported?

              I reported what happened in the bankruptcy to a US Senator’s office, who demanded a full report. In writing the report, I discovered the appropriate cause of action, and filed suit. My process server was kidnapped in an attempt to serve an elected official at the county level. Same runaround from the authorities.
              A US District Court found no wrongdoing in the kidnapping of persons to prevent elected officials from having to attend a court of law. Just last month, an appellate court found the same.

              Essentially, the very purpose of a federal court is to ensure that US citizens have no manner of rights whatever. Their highest priority, on any objective level, is to ensure unimpeded criminality and unethical conduct, provided such occur within the halls of government.

              That is a big part of why I want to go to Uruguay, consulting with an adviser from Argentina earlier this week. That is, I believe the notion of people being kidnapped by the police is still fresh enough in their minds that the courts there would refuse to condone it. That simply is not the cause here.
              I believe the people of Uruguay are a people who live under rule of law. I believe that they retain some manner of rights. I believe those rights are able to be vindicated in a court of law.
              By direct personal experience, I can tell you that none of this is true in the United States. We are simply not a people who live under rule of law, but the entirety of the Constitution and the US Code are fully without effect, should that prove necessary to preserve criminality in government.
              A US citizen has no manner of rights whatever. Any illusion of having some manner of rights can be dispelled very quickly on any contact with the authorities. Citizenship here is one of the most worthless things on earth. There is quite simply no manner or means by which the rights of a US citizen may be vindicated. Ensuring no manner of municipal liability is of far greater concern to our judiciary.

              Now, none of this speaks to Baltimore in particular, other than that Baltimore is not so removed from the rest of the United States.

              That said, the decision of the state’s attorney to actually bring charges is nothing short of extraordinary.
              But the evidence that nothing would have happened without the riots is overwhelming by these lights.

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          • Mosby apparently started an independent investigation somewhat immediately upon learning of the incident, which is why she was able to produce charges this quickly.

            I’m not sure how much harder the people would have needed to riot for the Baltimore 6 and some randomly selected significant number of their accomplices to be thrown into the streets to be torn to pieces, in the name of swift justice and denial of “overprivilege.”

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              • She began an independent investigation quickly for several interconnected reasons. Given recent history, she would have had good reason to expect that civil disturbances were a distinct possibility, and she must have noted the loud demands in other roughly similar situations for “charges! now!” Though it may have been beyond her or Baltimore officialdom’s power to head off disturbances in this instance, it’s possible that the next time something like this happens the people, and bloggers, will be slower to assume the worst. It’s also possible that police departments nationwide will reform from within, helping to produce fewer incidents (or fewer incidents of this type…). “The system” may not be completely beyond self-correction, even if it’s also in no danger of perfection.

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                  • As the leak of the testimony of the other prisoner on the transport suggests, the Baltimore police are not interested in reforming from within.

                    Also, a death while in police custody automatically means an investigation. This is not what people are up in arms about, obviously.

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                    • The leak was not by “the Baltimore police,” unless you know of some mass meeting of “the Baltimore police” where the decision to leak the testimony – or affidavit – was agreed to by consensus.

                      What “people are up in arms about” (actually they are for the most part not up in arms, for which we may be thankful) seems to vary quite a bit from person to person. The bloggers seem to be up in virtual arms about police behaving brutally with apparent impunity. The State Attorney seems to me to have moved toward some major puning, if you ask me – as was predictable (though the form it took was even more punific at this relatively early point than I for one expected).

                      Whether out of reasonable self-interest or out of a level of moral rectitude approaching the level of beautiful souls like yours and jaybird’s and Sam’s and Jonathan’s, or some combination, it seems to me that some police and some officials have shown themselves capable of responding and adjusting in the wake of this and other incidents. If you prefer to call that adjustment something other than “reform from within,” you may have to look for alternative terminology elsewhere, perhaps jaybird’s nethers.

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                        • Kazzy:

                          was not saying that the leak was made by the police, but that the leaked testimony gives us some sense of the general mentality of the BPD.

                          Which Chris knows how, exactly?

                          As far as I can tell, Chris knows this by close consultation with the same presumptions that provide him with his preferred “ontology of groups.” Some might wonder if his reaction gives us some sense of some other “general mentality.” My own view is that constantly generalizing about mentalities is a good way to heighten conflict. The author of What Is To Be Done? – at least the one that Chris may have been consulting – might approve, but I don’t think the rest of us are obligated to do so.

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                          • The police are an institution, an entity that licenses certain behaviors in its name, as well as individuals with collectively tolerated behaviors. The leak was tolerated, not in any way condemned by the police, and consistent with other tolerated and not in any way condemned behavior by the police in this case (e.g., lying on their reports). If any of this looks to you like a move toward reform from within the institution, then we also have different ideas about what that would entail.

                            Also, you spend a lot of time talking about the mentalities of others (see, e.g., this subthread).

                            Which Chris knows how, exactly?

                            I’m imputing a fairly abstract “mentality” (I would call it an attitude, or even valence) from behavior. That’s generally how people infer such things.

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                            • Chris: Also, you spend a lot of time talking about the mentalities of others (see, e.g., this subthread).

                              I am interested in the mentality that generally looks to generalize about mentalities, but I’ve tried to identify particular statements and individuals, and to differentiate between types of criticism. To say more, I’d need more on your ontology of mentality, or specific examples of statements of mine that have focused prejudicially or distortively on mentalities rather than on specific statements or arguments. Not saying there are none, especially seen from the perspective of a generalizing mentality.

                              As for reform from within the Baltimore PD, that’s a separate question from reform from within police departments nationwide. As for the BPD in particular, there was already movement toward administrative reform ongoing. Of course, much will depend on your definition of “reform,” which could range from simple adjustments in demeanor or tone, or alterations in assumptions, to a wide range of administrative and legal adjustments.

                              You’ve already stated on Twitter your belief that only “convictions” will be sufficient to “deter” police nationwide. To me (and setting aside the implication that police in general have no concern for the welfare of citizens), this statement presumes, unrealistically, that police watching these events wouldn’t mind someday being in the position of Caesar Goodson Jr, or that higher officials would be happy to see their departments in the same position as Baltimore’s – regardless of whatever sentences are someday handed out (or not).

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                              • ,

                                This comments closer to the heart of the matter, which seems to be your underlying assumption that police have an active concern for the welfare of citizens. Is this something you genuinely believe? Although this might be true in a general sense, do you (honestly) believe that police care equally about the welfare of all citizens? That Freddie Gray could have just as easily been Thurston Howell in one of Baltimore’s richer enclaves?

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                                • Sam Wilkinson: your underlying assumption that police have an active concern for the welfare of citizens. Is this something you genuinely believe?

                                  Do I believe that some meaningful percentage of police officers do not qualify as sociopaths? Yes..

                                  Sam Wilkinson: do you (honestly) believe that police care equally about the welfare of all citizens?

                                  As for whether police officers generally are liberal saints in full and perfect emulation of Jesus Christ, but more correct politically – no.

                                  Sam Wilkinson: That Freddie Gray could have just as easily been Thurston Howell in one of Baltimore’s richer enclaves?

                                  No.

                                  I suspect that producing a situation in which that was the case absolutely would require alterations in human nature and social reality that I do not believe are on the agenda. Better, of course, to have no Freddie Gray incidents in either neighborhood.

                                  More to the point, if justice blind to social and economic origins or political position or history is your goal, then I am skeptical you will get there by peeking opportunistically – by selectively attacking and condemning groups and individuals – such as the police, or the rich, or white people, or privileged people, or conservatives, or liberals, etc. – defined by social and economic origins or political position or history.

                                  Whether I myself am skeptical ought not to matter to you, however, very much. The problem for you is that, even if you’re right and I’m wrong and a good couple years or decades or centuries of non-differentiating oppression of the oppressors would move us appreciably in the direction you’d prefer, you seem to lack a constituency sufficient for the implementation of that program, especially versus a much larger and more powerful set of constituencies prepared to resist it.

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                              • That you speak of an inside at all suggests that police departments can have an orientation, if they have an extension. My inferring of “mentalities” is merely the inferring of such orientations.

                                his statement presumes, unrealistically, that police watching these events wouldn’t mind someday being in the position of Caesar Goodson Jr, or that higher officials would be happy to see their departments in the same position as Baltimore’s – regardless of whatever sentences are someday handed out (or not).

                                It does not presume that. It presumes that police will recognize that a failure to convict, even with this much social pressure, will make prosecutors significantly less likely to indict in the future (they’re not exactly in the habit of indicting now). Implicit in much of what the police do, in Baltimore or elsewhere, is there very realistic sense that there will be no consequences. Certainly, this whole process amounts to consequences, consequences police would like to avoid, but it is already rare, and another failure (like the one in Ferguson, and the one in New York) to follow through on the consequences would be telling, both for the police and those who must fear them.

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                      • You and I hold different ontologies of groups.

                        “The police,” using neither your ontology of groups or mine (be consistent, hey? particularly since much of this comment seems blatantly condescending; if I am misreading that part, I apologize, but I suspect I’m not the only one who read it that way) have not responded to this, nor have they in any way reformed, from within or from without. This is one act, from outside, at the end of a very long string of injuries and deaths that have not produced the same result.

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                        • Also, “the police,” under your version or mine, failing to respond to the leak (which they easily could have done) is all the sign I need. I mean, they don’t have to contradict the information, because to do so would also be a leak. They could merely have condemned the leak. Instead, it took an outside force, the same outside force who investigated and ultimately charged the police independently, to condemn the leak and the role of the police (under my version) in it.

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                          • There are leaks all the time in big stories. That’s a sign the press is actually doing its job. (as long as the leak, is, you know, true. Unlike, say, “Officer Wilson has a broken eye socket”)

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                      • level of moral rectitude approaching the level of beautiful souls like yours and jaybird’s and Sam’s and Jonathan’s

                        I am one of the evil folks on the board, CK.

                        Any overlap between my views and the views of the good people on this board is coincidental.

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                • I spoke with some people at the Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division a few years back; 2011 – 2013.
                  At that time, there were 23 major police departments they had targeted for civil rights abuses. Eleven of them settled, and manpower was shifted accordingly.
                  They were waiting for Phase II of the operation at that time, though funding was uncertain.
                  Looking back to that conversation from where I stand now, I am fairly certain that funding never came through.

                  The really bad part of that is what you can get looking at the census figures. Any 23 major cities is well over 50% of the US population.

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  19. Nixon in Hell has this take:

    Insightful guy, that Nixon in Hell.

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  20. Say the word “riot” and all thinking stops.

    The most important question is never asked: how many people participated in the violence?

    Wasn’t it just about two dozen? And wouldn’t the widespread knowledge of that change the image people have of what happened?

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