Remember "gassing his own people"? That's what George W. Bush said about Saddam Hussein, and it was part of his case for invading Iraq. But of course, there's gas and then there's gas: Even as a weapon, some gases are worse than others. What about tear gas, which the police in Ferguson, Mo., seem to be using (no pun intended) liberally? Is all tear gas the same? And when is it safe to use against protesters...or those breaking the law?
Philadelphia-based freelance journalist Joanne Stocker, along with Robin Jacks, are here to raise some very uncomfortable questions:
Social media reporting during the Arab Spring brought new evidence of expired tear gas sales, drawing criticism from human rights organizations. Amnesty International, in particular, criticized the United States for selling military leftovers to oppressive governments such as Egypt's and Bahrain's. Tear gas has not been used this wantonly in an American city in modern times; even its deployment against WTO protesters in 1999 and Occupy Oakland in 2011 was isolated and largely away from residential areas. Chemical munitions deployed in residential areas can be deadly: Physicians for Human Rights, an independent organization, recorded 34 tear gas related deaths in Bahrain from 2011 to 2012, many from inhalation in close or confined spaces.
One of the underlying issues in...that place that I said I wasn't going to blog about tonight...is the lack of respect for the U.S. Constitution. Denying people their right to gather in the public square and air their grievances against the government, stifling speech and arresting journalists (as happened again tonight, in that place) and other observers violates the protections that we were supposedly granted in the Bill of Rights. But the truth is that fundamental disrespect for the rule of law runs deeper.
In Pennsylvania, we've been shredding our own state Constitution -- a historic and much revered document in its own right -- for years. In 2013, I noted that our current governor, Tom Corbett, has been so abusive to key provisions of the Pennsylvania Constitution that you could even make a case -- morally, not politically -- for his impeachment. One of the worst offenses, I argued, was his fracking policies that violate the state's guarantee of clean water and clean air for all citizens.
As they like to say on the website Upworthy...you won't believe what happened next:
OK, it's Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, so maybe the more appropriate headline would have been "Sky hook." That said, the former NBA star and iconoclastic public intellectual has something to say about race -- and, more importantly, class -- relations in America, and it's worth a read. I don't agree with everything -- the headline, "The Coming Race War Won't Be About Race," seems aimed more at getting Web clicks than describing what the article actually says. But I agree with 95 percent of it -- here's a taste:
I’m not saying the protests in Ferguson aren’t justified—they are. In fact, we need more protests across the country. Where’s our Kent State? What will it take to mobilize 4 million students in peaceful protest? Because that’s what it will take to evoke actual change. The middle class has to join the poor and whites have to join African-Americans in mass demonstrations, in ousting corrupt politicians, in boycotting exploitative businesses, in passing legislation that promotes economic equality and opportunity, and in punishing those who gamble with our financial future.
Otherwise, all we’re going to get is what we got out of Ferguson: a bunch of politicians and celebrities expressing sympathy and outrage. If we don’t have a specific agenda—a list of exactly what we want to change and how—we will be gathering over and over again beside the dead bodies of our murdered children, parents, and neighbors.
It's been more than a week now since an unarmed teenager named Michael Brown was gunned down in the streets of Ferguson, Mo., just outside of St. Louis. Indeed, I was sitting at this computer at exactly this hour, seven days ago, writing about this case for the first time, and I -- just like the people of Ferguson and anyone else who was following the developments -- was asking for just one thing.
I thought we'd have them by now.
The tear gas was practically still in the air in the fall of 1968 when the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence -- yes, that was a thing -- formed a working group to probe the civil disorder that had just occurred at that year's Democratic National Convention in Chicago. It was there, some will recall, that police in baby blue helmets clubbed and dragged bloodied anti-war protesters through the streets, while TV viewers looked on and crowds chanted, "The whole world is watching." To describe the incomprehensible scenes, the so-called Walker Commission coined a new term. They called it a "police riot."
There's been no police riot in Ferguson, Mo. -- not yet anyway (and hopefully never). But what is happening in the working class suburb just outside of St. Louis is, in some ways, far worse. A tense situation in the aftermath of Saturday's fatal shooting by a police officer of an unarmed college-bound 18-year-old named Mike Brown has been made much more tense, night after night, by brutal, bone-headed policing that makes one wonder if Birmingham's brutal Bull Connor has been re-animated.
I thought I was losing my capacity to be shocked -- but events in Missouri over just the last couple of hours have crossed a frightening line, one that makes me pray that this assault on fundamental American values is just the aberration of one rudderless Heartland community, and not the first symptoms of nation gone mad with high-tech weaponry to keep its own citizens in line.
As someone said on Twitter, baseball is becoming the newspapers of professional sports. The customers are getting older rapidly, and the ratings/(circulation) has plummeted by half -- at least for events like the World Series, which (usually) don't involve your hometown team. People do love their hometown team, at least when they're playing well -- which is why Philadelphia didn't even notice from 2007-11 that baseball was waning elsewhere. And local TV contracts are keeping many franchises rich -- but for how long? Keith Olbermann did a spot-on piece on this (watch below). The only spot where I differ is that Keith looks for something to blame, and he singles out interleague play, which I agree has clearly lost its luster. I just don't think there's any magic moment where you could have altered the trend line...just like newspapers.
Times change. Period.
The (soon-to-be-Pulitzer-Prize-winning) photo from Ferguson by Whitney Curtis for the New York Times is worth 1,000 words.
Light content as I work on a couple of stories for the ol' newspaper.
It's hard to beleive, but I'm coming up later this month on my 12th anniversery as a blogger -- dating to August 2004. My first 'blog" (the term is short for "Internet blog") was called Campaign Extra! and it was strictley devoted to politics, so the first few posts captured all the excitement of that summer's Democratic convention in Kansas City, where the party nominated Michael Dukakis to run against the eventually winner, George Wilson Bush, or, as most Americans came to know him, "G."
The following year, 2006, came this blog, Attywood. The rooster of subjects expanded, but as Lead Zeppelin famously sang, the song stayed pretty much the same. The goal was still to get the news and unbiased commentary to you, the utilizer of news, as rapidly as possible -- without the interruption of flow caused by editers. I quickly learnt that nothing was lost by elminating the centerman, as they say in the business world, and something important was gained: Fastness.
Freed from the messy act of intercourse with my editors, who waste literally years with their insistance on dotting every "t" and crossing every "i" meant that I had more time to write about more things -- some of which I knew a lot about and some of which about I literally knew nothing at all. It was a win-victory situation for everyone! And if I made the occasional act of not getting something right (like, apparently our 37th president, George Herman Wilson Bush, was not an original cast member of "Our Gang," although I still haven't had time to double-check that on Wikipedia), you the consumerist will let me know!