Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

POSTED: Wednesday, August 20, 2014, 3:24 PM
FILE - This file photo posted on the website freejamesfoley.org shows journalist James Foley in Aleppo, Syria, in July, 2012.In a horrifying act of revenge for U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq, militants with the Islamic State extremist group have beheaded Foley — and are threatening to kill another hostage, U.S. officials say. (AP Photo/freejamesfoley.org, Nicole Tung, File) NO SALES

The humanity amid the heartbreak is staggering:

“There is no sense to be made of senselessness; you cannot find any kind of sanity in insanity,” the Rev. Paul Gausse told parishioners during his homily. “War begets war, the only answer is in prayer.

Gausse told the Roman Catholic congregation that he had joined Foley's parents, Diane and John Foley, at their home in Rochester on Tuesday night. As he was leaving, he said, Diane Foley turned to him: “She said, ‘Father pray for me that I don’t become bitter. I don’t want to hate.’ That’s a woman of deep faith.”

Will Bunch @ 3:24 PM  Permalink | 0
POSTED: Tuesday, August 19, 2014, 5:22 PM
Men walk away from a cloud of tear gas during a protest Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. Brown's shooting has sparked more than a week of protests, riots and looting in the St. Louis suburb. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

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.


Will Bunch @ 5:22 PM  Permalink | 0
POSTED: Monday, August 18, 2014, 8:38 PM
(Jim Lo Scalzo)

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:

Will Bunch @ 8:38 PM  Permalink | 0
POSTED: Monday, August 18, 2014, 3:49 PM

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.

Will Bunch @ 3:49 PM  Permalink | 0
POSTED: Sunday, August 17, 2014, 8:04 PM
People protest the police shooting death of Michael Brown a week ago in Ferguson, Mo., Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014. Despite heavy rainfall and lightning, hundreds of protesters gathered Saturday night at a busy thoroughfare that has been the site of previous clashes with police. Dozens of officers, a much more visible presence than the night before, stood watch — including some with shields. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

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.

Answers.

I thought we'd have them by now.

Will Bunch @ 8:04 PM  Permalink | 0
POSTED: Wednesday, August 13, 2014, 10:05 PM
A member of the St. Louis County Police Department points his weapon in the direction of a group of protesters in Ferguson, Mo. on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. On Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, a white police officer fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in the St. Louis suburb. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

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.



Will Bunch @ 10:05 PM  Permalink | 0
POSTED: Wednesday, August 13, 2014, 5:57 PM

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.

Will Bunch @ 5:57 PM  Permalink | 0
POSTED: Tuesday, August 12, 2014, 4:01 PM

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.

UPDATE: Good analysis of the picture from Josh Marshall.

Will Bunch @ 4:01 PM  Permalink | 0
About this blog
Will Bunch, a senior writer at the Philadelphia Daily News, blogs about his obsessions, including national and local politics and world affairs, the media, pop music, the Philadelphia Phillies, soccer and other sports, not necessarily in that order.

PLEASE COMMENT WITH PASSION...

...but not with racial slurs, potentially libelous allegations, obscenities or other juvenile noise. Such comments will, at our discretion, be deleted in their entirety, and repeat offenders will be blocked from commenting. ALSO: Any commenter advocating killing any government official will be immediately banned.

Reach Will at bunchw@phillynews.com.

Will Bunch
Also on Philly.com
Stay Connected