Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I Don't Understand these Radical Changes

When I heard that an America-born Jihadi died for ISIS, I pretty much just shook my head. Maybe it's because my own spiritual search has always been a bit noncommittal and my political persona developed very early in life, but seeing people like John Walker Lindh or Adam Gedahn or Jihad Jane sort of fries the circuits of my understanding.

It's not that I don't grasp the idea of fighting or dying for something larger than oneself or being spiritually moved by some system of thought--those things are enough a part of the human experience that I can even grasp where, in a certain context, they could be viewed as noble. It's just that people from our particular culture finding that particular brand of restrictive, violent,  and ultimately, eliminationist strain of religious war strikes me as uniquely...weird.

It's not that I can't criticize my culture. American culture is kind of race and class-biased, has a short attention-span, values the trivial over deep analysis, and is not without its own violence and parochial religious attitudes in certain pockets. But I love it because I can criticize it and the understanding is that it's my prerogative to do so. Al-Qaeda and ISIS don't seem to be quite so understanding about the intellectual prerogatives of the individual, and argue, not with apologia, but, you know. Beheadings and that sort of thing.

I utterly can not grasp the appeal. But if there is some number of people drawn to that kind of violence, I have to guess there must be one. Which makes me a bit contemptuous of the idea that we necessarily have to go to war with the whole of radical Islam (in a "War on Terror", or even specifically on ISIL) to prevent "them" from coming "here". "They" are somehow able to have "their" ideas take root here, and just like the Tsarnaevs were already here and carried out an act of terror, there's no particular war front that will make us completely safe from that possibility. Dylan and Klebold, James Holmes, Jared Loughner, and Adam Lanza had no specific ideological radicalization at all, and managed to do a lot of damage to human life.   Anders Brevik would have despised the ideology that produced a Douglas McAuthor McCain (such an American name!), but he was no different in mindset, only his adopted labels. And was a gutlessly selective mass killer of innocent young people.

I'm left thinking that humanity has an enormous hang-up where we find excellent reasons to kill one another, and hardly any good enough reasons to understand one another. And this isn't the first time I've thought that, either. It's not always the case. It's just often enough the case to be genuinely depressing.

Friday, August 22, 2014

All These Grievances in One Place

In trying to understand what's happening in Ferguson, I find myself looking back at something like a history of social and economic injustice writ large. One thing you need to know is--Ferguson as a community got the worst end of the recession stick, with the population of actual poor doubling in the past 2 years.  And another thing you need to know is, Ferguson PD supports itself by fining Ferguson citizens. This isn't rare in smaller communities. They rely on locals' eagerness to stay local, to do their jobs, etc.

Another is that there is a trend of police brutality there. When one hears a story about a person beaten by cops and then charged because he bled on them, it almost sounds like someone must be exaggerating for effect. That this might have resulted in a question of how exactly the person came to be bleeding and whether the injuries were all that severe, is, well, a bit of a question. (It did not prevent one of the officers involved with the incident becoming a councilwoman.) But record-keeping might not be the strong point of this police force. After all, the slaying of Michael Brown has hardly anything like an incident report. And so sketchy are standards in this area, that even though this event should have possibly affected how area police forces engage with even "off"-seeming people, there was a similar incident (the police slaying of a young black man) and the story of the police differs from the narrative and video of people on the scene. (This was over so quickly with no attempt to do anything but shoot multiple times.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

ISIL Apparently Beheads US Journalist

This disgusting abuse and murder of James Foley reminds me very much of how sickened I was at the similar murder of Daniel Pearl.

I try to be temperate, believe in diplomacy, consider multiple solutions--it's just the immediate, visceral effect on me, as an American who believes in freedom of the press and needfulness of people to tell the story, provides me with nothing but options that result in ISIL being reduced to a pale pink mist.

I feel at a loss to understand what they think this display means to us--are we scared of them? I'm not Lindsey Graham, and I don't pee my panties at the idea of ISIL coming here to American soil and pulling that shit--but that they pull this shit anywhere on the planet bothers me. It makes me feel disturbingly angry and murderous myself.

I have to sit with how I feel about war when I find it plausible. This shit with crucifying Christians and massacring Yezidi and destroying sacred or at least historically worthy places and now strutting this act in front of our shocked Western faces?  Makes me think there very well is a point or a dozen at stake. And I may just be momentarily feeling some kind of righteousness that passes before you can say "War is a racket".

Or not. ISIL is feeling like a special case, right now.

If Your State Has Jay Nixon Then Your State Could Use Some Fixing

I joke about politicians not being real "profiles in courage" from time to time, but seriously, this is the kind of leadership Missouri has right now:

While St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCullough’s (sic) *objectivity is in question by many Black Democrats, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon quietly threw his support behind him.

In a statement Tuesday evening, Nixon announced his support, saying McCullough should not recuse himself from the investigation into the police shooting of Michael Brown unless he wants to.

“From the outset, I have been clear about the need to have a vigorous prosecution of this case, and that includes minimizing any potential legal uncertainty. I am not asking St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCullough to recuse himself from this case,” he said.
The punch line goes like this:  McCullouch has said he’ll recuse himself only at the request of Nixon.

As of February of this year, there was chatter that he wasn't ruling out a 2016 run. I think Mrs. Clinton might like to take him off her VP short-list.

(Nota bene: the name of the prosecutor here, Robert McCulloch, was in fact misspelled in this article. However, I still think he might not be the best guy to try whether a police slaying is ever wrong.)

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Body's Story and A Burning Town

Just moments after my Twitter feed advised me that the Ferguson PD elected to crack down on the curfewed protesters and journalists about two hours early, I got a good idea about why--

The independent autopsy of Michael Brown's body had been released (and where is the autopsy from the local ME? one might well ask, as well as ask why another federal one might be requested before this young man's bones are put to rest). And the wounds tell a story. They can't not.

“People have been asking: How many times was he shot? This information could have been released on Day 1,” Dr. Baden said in an interview after performing the autopsy. “They don’t do that, even as feelings built up among the citizenry that there was a cover-up. We are hoping to alleviate that.”
Dr. Baden said that while Mr. Brown was shot at least six times, only three bullets were recovered from his body. But he has not yet seen the X-rays showing where the bullets were found, which would clarify the autopsy results. Nor has he had access to witness and police statements.

But the entry wounds to the arms and head of Michael Brown from a distance suggest to me shots not to incapacitate but kill--two to the head? I think he was down and his hands may have been up to shield himself--a totally submissive posture and not out of line with what eyewitnesses have indicated.  And I don't really have time to argue why this is not what anyone does with a suspect picked up for walking in the street who may meet the description of an unarmed person who boosted some 'rellos from a convenience store.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

TX Gov. Rick Perry Under Indictment


Things are looking a little discombobulated for Rick Perry, insofar as he's been indicted for a couple of felonies by a grand jury.  Here's some details:

The case stems from Perry’s vetoing the $7.5 million biennial funding for the Travis County Public Integrity Unit last year. He threatened to withhold the money unless District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg resigned
Okay--it's all there. It is legal for him to veto funding. It is not legal for him to use that as leverage against someone. Out loud. Where the people can hear. 

See, this is the abuse of power part--he used his veto to specifically affect a given official's behavior.

Now I am not born yesterday, so I realize an indictment is not a conviction, and even if convicted, his sentence is negotiable and due to his being Governor, it will likely not be totes the pits.  But I still have to suppose this is not so great for the whole running for President thing. I think. Unless federal indictment becomes the new totally hot. It could happen.

I don't do this a whole lot...

It is very rare that I go all in on a single story on my blog the way I have with the police slaying of Michael Brown and the resulting chaos in Ferguson, MO this week. This grabbed me in a particular way not just because it's yet another example of a life needlessly ended, because it's an example of the overreach of "duly constituted authority" or because it highlights the militarization of local police forces and some of the endemic racism that persists even in our supposed post-civil rights-struggle consciousness. It's that it engages all those issues at once. I promise--I'll get on to other things--it's just that it's been a rough week and I found it worthwhile to narrow my focus.

That said, I want to point out two good reads from Erick Erickson and Mark Steyn. Why, yes, that is another thing that is pretty rare for my blog. But no, really. I think recognition that local government here really behaved in evasive and deceptive, overhanded and underhanded ways is something that liberals and conservatives alike should be thinking about because our relationship as citizens to this larger thing called the civil contract matters, and if governments, whether local, federal or state, can just make stuff up as they go along, our theory that government is made up of, for and by the people is blown. That lack of transparency and uncertainty of expectation isn't what we need.