The Pace Picante Sauce Defense

by Belle Waring on April 16, 2015

Oh God, I don’t even think this is funny enough to have a vaguely humorous headline. Let’s just say it’s black humour goddammmit mordant. You may have lost track of which black man got gunned down by which police just lately, but historically famed home of racial harmony Tulsa, OK, has seen one of the worst shootings in a while. (I say this and then I don’t even know because there are so many that are so bad. This is bad in a special way, though.). 73-year-old reserve Deputy Robert C. Bates shot and killed Eric Harris during an undercover, illegal gun-buy sting operation.

Well, more like Eric Harris ran from the for-real county deputies when they tried to arrest him, then two of them got on top of him while he was face-down on the ground, then Barney Fife shouts “taser, taser!” and shoots the man. “Oh! I shot him, I’m sorry!” he says. He’s apologising to the other cops, you understand. Not the guy he just shot. To be over-generously fair, he owes them an apology too because his dumb ass might have shot them as easy as anything, but it hardly seems like the main problem. (You can watch the video here. I can’t handle these usually, but there’s a description too if you don’t want to watch an actual human be mortally wounded and then treated worse than an injured dog.) The Tulsa County Sheriff’s spokesman has explained that the two deputies “did not hear” the shot. [Um. I have uh… Guns are loud, is what I’m saying.] They did hear Eric Harris say he had been shot, because they heard him say “he shot me” eight times before saying “I’m losing my breath,” to which the cop replies, “fuck your breath.” They were kneeling on the man’s head and his lung was filling up with blood and that was the last he ever heard from another human being. My daughter and I have asthma and that makes this particularly vivid and awful to imagine, just like with Eric Garner, struggling just to get one good intake of breath. They didn’t try to render first aid to him. When the EMTs/firemen came they had to uncuff him and set him upright to try to help him but it was too late. What? Even if you thought you were justified in shooting someone, why would you be indifferent as to whether he lived or died? And if there were any question in your mind…wouldn’t you want the person to live?

Then aside from the obvious wrongness there are a million other wrong things. Robert C. Bates was a big donor to both the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Department and the current sheriff, whose campaign re-election fund he spear-headed. And it seems unlikely Bates had even cursory training to follow up on whatever shifts in police work, such as granting basic human rights to black citizens, might have rolled around since he was a police officer in Tulsa for a single godforsaken year in 1964-1965. (He could have worked for 20 years and retired with a full pension 30 years ago. And don’t you kind of wonder why he stopped after one year?) Unnamed sources in the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office say that three separate officers supervising Bates’ reserve deputy training were ordered to falsify records to say that he had been trained when he had not, and that each of the three who refused were transferred out of the position to a less desirable one. This is unnamed sources talking, but they are same unnamed sources who named Robert C. Bates to the Tulsa World reporters before his identity had been released to the public. The Sheriff’s Office has released the names of the courses Bates allegedly took in order to qualify as a reserve deputy, but no documents signed by supervisors were made available—this inclines me to believe the unnamed sources.

Further, although the Office claimed Bates was certified to use three service weapons, including the revolver he used in the shooting, “[Sheriff Stanley] Glanz said the Sheriff’s Office has not been able to find the paperwork on those certifications. The sheriff’s deputy that certified Bates has moved on to work for the Secret Service, Glanz said during the radio interview.” Riiiight. Canada’s Secret Service. But guess what? Nothing ever goes wrong in police work, and everything is transparent and vitreous, like unto a thin scum of ice taken from a shallow on a melting day and held up, winter-pale, to the sky! Check it: “The training record speaks for itself. I have absolutely no knowledge of what you are talking about [i.e. the purported falsification of training records],” [spokesman] Albin said. “There aren’t any secrets in law enforcement. Zero. Those types of issues would have come up.”

Two things. One, watching the video in the article just above I learned that the training you must really undergo to become a reserve deputy is not negligible. The reporter, Dylan Goforth, said that students who were just starting classes now would “graduate” in September, and that they met at least twice a week for three or four hours at a time, and sometimes for a third day. The whole thing is still a horrible idea, but it appears that even within that, Bates was a horrible exceptionally bad reserve Deputy. Second, he shot him with a REVOLVER?! And the claim is that Bates just mixed up the gun and the taser? Do you know what’s a lot different from a taser? A revolver. Ah, OK, this is his own goddamn gun from home. This is the Wild West, he was playing Cops and “Black People” [sanitized for your protection] and was firing at the man with a six-shooter. I’m sure some police officers use revolvers nowadays somewhere as a service weapon, but…The Sheriff’s Office’s exculpatory press conference they say the taser and the revolver weight almost the same? If true, that is actually an excellent argument for why he shouldn’t have been allowed to carry his own “personal” weapon, not an excuse for mixing them up.

The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office did its own investigation (described in the link above) of the incident and determined that Bates committed no crime, and that he was in fact a “true victim” of “slip and capture” which is the “scientific explanation” for trying to do one thing and doing another by mistake. (Happily there are other authorities and Bates has been charged with manslaughter; unhappily he faces a max of four years.) This tweet from the TCSO is just magnificent: “arresting deputies thought Harris was possibly armed due to the way he was holding his hands. Close to waistline.” Is there anywhere much else to hold your hands? Aside from on top of your head?

What’s the Oklahoma everything’s OK way to react to this? Ask Sheriff’s Major Shannon Clark: “I saw on one channel the other night, they had some expert on there, talking about what was done or what should have been done, and he was from New York,” Clark said. “He doesn’t have a clue about Oklahoma law enforcement.” New York City? Welp, time to close this up, nothing to see here.

{ 155 comments }

1

MPAVictoria 04.16.15 at 3:00 pm

Why is a 73 year old even allowed to be a reserve deputy? Also why are reserve deputies allowed to be armed? What a combination of awful ideas.

2

Lynne 04.16.15 at 3:19 pm

Wait. The guy that certified Bates is working in Canada? :(

You’re right, it is easy to lose track of these events in the States. Have they always been this common, or is this an unusual number? It’s almost literally unbelievable.

3

The Modesto Kid 04.16.15 at 3:19 pm

“He made an error,” Sheriff Glanz said, according to The World. “How many errors are made in an operating room every week?”

4

The Modesto Kid 04.16.15 at 3:21 pm

Oops grabbed my scalpel instead of my forceps. Sorry about your liver.

5

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© 04.16.15 at 3:22 pm

“It was an accident, I just wanted to torture him with mah TASER, ya see!”
~

6

Main Street Muse 04.16.15 at 3:26 pm

What Belle is describing is modern American exceptionalism…

Last summer, a teenager was found hanging from a swing set in North Carolina – his feet stuffed into shoes two sizes too small – there are allegations that the (predominantly white) police department did not really investigate the cause of death of a black teen (who was allegedly dating a white woman.) Was it a lynching? FBI is apparently investigating this. http://nydn.us/1CS2K2c

7

Belle Waring 04.16.15 at 3:31 pm

I’m just pretending about Canada. This is where your pretend girlfriend comes from.

8

Kiwanda 04.16.15 at 3:36 pm

It gets worse about the training:
Sources: Supervisors told to falsify reserve deputy’s training records; department announces internal review
(via DailyKos)

Oscar Grant was another victim (maybe) of “Taser Confusion”. I think in that case and this, the Taseree was already lying facedown on the ground. But, they probably needed a tune-up.

9

SN 04.16.15 at 3:38 pm

The point about exceptionalism makes me wonder whether there is a word for this particular mode of reasoning where there are these people doing things that no one in their right mind would think should be legal but then when the people are the police we’re supposed to somehow step back in reverence. In the case of the military, it’s a side effect of militarism–so it falls under the broader category of authoritarianism. But one wants a more specific word for this legalized criminality.

10

Pete 04.16.15 at 3:38 pm

It’s becoming apparent that US local police should not be allowed to both shoot people and run homicide investigations. All police shootings should be reviewed at Federal level, just like the UK IPCC system.

(I saw the statistic claimed the other day that US police had shot more people in 2015 already than UK police had in a century, but no verification or actual numbers)

11

Glen Tomkins 04.16.15 at 4:17 pm

SN,

Perhaps the word you’re looking for is “fascism”.

12

Dr. Hilarius 04.16.15 at 4:41 pm

The “thin blue line” is a cliche but also quite real. An attorney friend started posting stories of unjustified police shootings on his Facebook page. I commented it not just a problem with a few rogue officers, the larger problem was these cops being protected by other officers and by departments unwilling to discipline them.

I got some very outraged pushback from current police officers. Nothing substantive by way of rebuttal, just the usual stuff about how thankless it can be “serving and protecting” ungrateful bastards like me.

13

bob mcmanus 04.16.15 at 4:47 pm

9,11: Nah. The centurion and samurai had that license. It falls under authoritarianism, or perhaps better oligarchy. Oligarchy vs democracy can be viewed either as a structure of power or a structure of privilege and rights. Under oligarchy, plebes, peasants and slaves have no rights although the oligarch, but not his servant, can grant mercy.

The written or coded law is of course irrelevant to the facts on the ground.

14

parse 04.16.15 at 4:50 pm

I’m just pretending about Canada. This is where your pretend girlfriend comes from.

Given the recent performance of the U.S. Secret Service, finding out that the deputy wen to Canada instead of Washington DC would be the only relevant detail that made things better, rather than worse, for the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Deparment.

15

Rich Puchalsky 04.16.15 at 5:40 pm

“All police shootings should be reviewed at Federal level, just like the UK IPCC system.”

Congress instructed the Attorney General to collect statistics on the number of shootings starting in 1994, and this was ignored. The reason that there is no verification or actual numbers is because those actual numbers are concealed.

16

Cian 04.16.15 at 5:58 pm

(I saw the statistic claimed the other day that US police had shot more people in 2015 already than UK police had in a century, but no verification or actual numbers)

I think the UK police shoot fewer people just because they don’t carry guns by default. The actual firearms officers do have a long history of unjustified shootings (the riots a few years ago in London were kicked off by one) and cover ups. This is particularly true in London, though compared to Chicago/NY/LA they’re saints.

17

Eszter 04.16.15 at 6:23 pm

Belle, thank you for addressing these heinous acts. A couple of related links of interest.

I’m glad you didn’t post the video. It is important that such evidence exists, but I don’t understand what people get out of watching other people getting killed (I don’t get this in the case of accidents either such as on a highway or whatever context). Here are some related reflections:
https://medium.com/matter/black-men-being-killed-is-the-new-girls-gone-wild-da5c150b70c4

Also, this:
“On September 1st, 2007, seven years before NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo would choke Eric Garner to death in a video watched all over the world, he filed a heartbreaking civil complaint against NYPD Officer William Owens, the City of New York, and the NYPD over an awful incident in which he was illegally strip searched near his home. ” More here:
http://m.dailykos.com/story/2015/04/15/1377940/-Copy-of-the-heartbreaking-civil-rights-lawsuit-Eric-Garner-filed-against-the-NYPD-in-2007

18

anonymous 04.16.15 at 6:31 pm

A cursory search brought up this article comparing a tazer to a Glock. Of course the pistol in question was a 357 magnum; snub-nose, but still?

http://sfbayview.com/2009/01/did-bart-cop-who-killed-oscar-grant-mistake-gun-for-taser/

19

MPAVictoria 04.16.15 at 6:35 pm

“but I don’t understand what people get out of watching other people getting killed “

I can never actually watch the videos when this kind of thing happens. I always try and read a description instead. I have enough pain rattling around inside my head. I don’t need to add anymore.

20

anonymous 04.16.15 at 6:36 pm

Cian at 16. The number was something like 135 for March 2015 shot in the US which was more than the number killed in the UK since 1900. A little confusing because as I loosely recalled the UK 1900 date total was maybe less than half the 135 so I wasn’t sure if that was the earliest date with available records?

21

Ben 04.16.15 at 6:44 pm

I try and watch them, as a way to bear witness .

I focus on the body language of the cops. What is this person feeling after he’s done this thing?

Recently it’s been hard to keep up.

22

Barry 04.16.15 at 6:55 pm

The Modesto Kid 04.16.15 at 3:21 pm
“Oops grabbed my scalpel instead of my forceps. Sorry about your liver.”

No, more like ‘the guy we gave several hours of training to and let do surgery because he donated a wing of the hospital …’.

23

Barry 04.16.15 at 6:58 pm

SN 04.16.15 at 3:38 pm
“The point about exceptionalism makes me wonder whether there is a word for this particular mode of reasoning where there are these people doing things that no one in their right mind would think should be legal but then when the people are the police we’re supposed to somehow step back in reverence. In the case of the military, it’s a side effect of militarism–so it falls under the broader category of authoritarianism. But one wants a more specific word for this legalized criminality.”

It’s authoritarianism, just the same.

24

Glen Tomkins 04.16.15 at 7:00 pm

bob mcmanus, 13

Well, we don’t live in centurion or samurai times anymore. And one of the characteristics of fascism that made me suggest it as more specific to this case than the more general concept of authoritarianism, is precisely the atavism your comment points out. You might have said that these OK police were acting as if they thought of themselves as White Knights of the KKK, rather than samurai or centurions, and the atavism would have been more specific to our own history. Why go to the history of other societies, when that of the OK policemen has its own rich tradition of militant ethnic and class privilege?

Well, that, and I’m not sure where centurions fit in with samurai or our own feudal knights. I’ve never heard that the Roman system gave its army’s officers the right to dispense summary justice.

25

Dean C. Rowan 04.16.15 at 7:00 pm

Passing through Fruitvale BART station an hour or so ago, I thought of Oscar Grant. Kinda like thinking of RFK when I drive past the site of the Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire. It’s just sick that these public spaces are so easily associated with tragedy and violence.

I don’t watch the videos, partly because of the needless emotional jolt, but also because videos are–or can be–distorted records, worse than verbal accounts. Lawyers know this. Remember Rodney King?

26

Nick 04.16.15 at 7:33 pm

It’s odd that people always assume that soldiers of the past could hack up anyone they wanted — in truth, their societies would regulate violence, just like our society regulates violence. Obviously the guidelines were different everywhere and when, but the fantasy of a Roman soldier striding around smiting whoever he feels like is not, probably, true.

And even if it was true, so what?

27

someguy88 04.16.15 at 7:39 pm

‘Happily there are other authorities and Bates has been charged with manslaughter; unhappily he faces a max of four years.’

What are you some kind of vicious, retrograde, conservative? We need to be emptying our prisons not filling them with people who commited innocent mistakes.

28

MPAVictoria 04.16.15 at 8:01 pm

“What are you some kind of vicious, retrograde, conservative? We need to be emptying our prisons not filling them with people who commited innocent mistakes.”

Not sure if serious….

29

William Berry 04.16.15 at 8:09 pm

Forget it MPAV: it’s “someguy88″*.

*88. Really? (Fellow in the news lately has it tattooed on his face.)

30

William Berry 04.16.15 at 8:13 pm

31

Pete 04.16.15 at 8:13 pm

It’s odd that people always assume that soldiers of the past could hack up anyone they wanted

Well, not quite anyone, but anyone in occupied territory, or while the officers aren’t looking.

32

Friend and Retaliation 04.16.15 at 8:27 pm

88 = HH = Heil Hitler. It’s a white supremacist thing.

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2008/10/white_supremacists_by_the_numbers.html

Not saying that in Someguy’s case that’s the reason he picked it. (Sincerely.) Maybe he was just born in 1988.

33

Glen Tomkins 04.16.15 at 8:30 pm

Nick,

It occurred to me only after I had already finished my response to bob mcmanus, that he had gotten that odd centurion thing from The New Centurions, a movie from way back when in which LAPD police officers think of themselves as the last upholders of civilization or some such. I never saw the movie, so I’m not clear if it endorsed this idea or was a critique of it.

At any rate, you’re absolutely right about the Roman army. The Romans were quite legalistic, whatever else you might say against them, and absolutely did not invest anybody with the right to kill, or in any other way impose justice, out of hand, with the possible exception of dictators (an actual governmental office). These LAPD officers in this movie basically hallucinated some example from a past they didn’t understand in order to invest their own taking of the law into their own hands with some sort of fake authority by fake example. This is an instance of the sort of myth that is characteristic of fascism, a justification for atavism, a return to an imagined rough justice that some supposedly less effete and corrupt time had supposedly practiced, and thereby preserved the civilization that we are letting slip to the barbarians.

34

Nick 04.16.15 at 8:51 pm

Glen, thanks, I didn’t know that. Basically, it’s pretty similar to the MRA fantasy that in the past, men could rape any woman they wanted. The fact that this isn’t true of any known society has never hindered them from imagining that there was once a time when they would be free. I suspect it’s because a lot of people are stupid enough to imagine that if they were transported back in time, they would be like gods on the earth, easily able to bestride the simple society of yesteryear.

35

MPAVictoria 04.16.15 at 8:54 pm

“I suspect it’s because a lot of people are stupid enough to imagine that if they were transported back in time, they would be like gods on the earth, easily able to bestride the simple society of yesteryear.”

Also why every libertarian believes they would be living in Galt’s Gulch with the Randian supermen….

36

Barry 04.16.15 at 8:58 pm

“Also why every libertarian believes they would be living in Galt’s Gulch with the Randian supermen….”

They might be, until it was time for their turn on the dinner table…..

37

bob mcmanus 04.16.15 at 10:00 pm

Just finished Geoffrey de Ste Croix, Class Struggles in the Ancient Greek World in which he makes clear that the Senatorial Class during and after the Principate and later and the equites after the Antonine age made the law, were the law (judges) and bought the law. The law protected Paul in the province, as a reasonably wealthy citizen, but as wealth concentrated, citizenship became less valuable relative to the patron-client relationship.

The Law did not protect Cicero or Gaius, who were not exceptions, but the rule.

Of course, in practice, interests and conflicts came into play as slaves had valuable.

GdsC discusses Aristotle and politics, democracy vs oligarchy. The haves and the have-nots had total power over the other depending on the “constitution” in effect, and each believed that is as it should be. (Democracy in Attica etc of course being again the rule of property owning citizens, always land, and excluding slaves, women, and urban craftsmen. The most important rule was to prevent concentration of wealth)

Liberalism and the Rule of Law is madness. Classes rule. Mao spoke the truth.

38

bob mcmanus 04.16.15 at 10:19 pm

The application to the present topic is the rich asshole in the post who bought a hunting license. The cops have a fair point in asking “Well, who’s gonna stop us?,” and really only rich assholes who pay the salary will stop them if the killings start costing the oligarchs more than the value of keeping the proles working, scared, and obedient.

Rent-earning wealth buys you a personal or class army. And it takes an army to control an army.

Ideologies (fascism, communism, anarchism, liberalism, racism/anti-racism, patriarchy/feminism) are only means tools to justify existing or desired concrete social structures (relative power of factions) which are almost always either oligarchy or very rarely democracy.

39

Bruce Wilder 04.16.15 at 11:39 pm

SN’s original question was: “these people doing things that no one in their right mind would think should be legal but then when the people are the police we’re supposed to somehow step back in reverence. In the case of the military, it’s a side effect of militarism–so it falls under the broader category of authoritarianism. But one wants a more specific word for this legalized criminality.”

authoritarianism is certainly a term applied to the political psychology entailed by (hierarchically) organized, state-sponsored violence. Or, in general, in being a frightened follower in a hierarchically organized society. There’s are complementary psychological profile for the individual oriented to social dominance — low-ranking police are unlikely to display many characteristics of social dominance orientation, although there’s something to the idea that the police and petty career criminals tend to be drawn from the same social class and even same families.

The observation that some behavior qualified as something “no one in their right mind would think should be legal” implies a degree of self-supervision that is simply misplaced, given the context, and it ignores what we know about the psychology of the authoritarian follower: extreme moral conventionalism; extreme aggression against out-groups, an outlook of simplistic expedience, fear.

bob is certainly right that the trend is a symptom increasing income inequality and social stratification and concomitant political impotence of liberals and the left. The Cossacks work for the Czar or the KGB works for the Party, samurai, centurions — the regulation of violence is like the regulation of heat in a house: design of the thermostat matters for some purposes; for others, it’s the desires of the person setting the thermostat. This a ultimately a problem of determining who is going to set the thermostat.

If we let this become a matter of cosmopolitanism — and business-friendly cosmopolitanism is approved politics in the U.S. for a reason, a bad reason — we might get some nominal promises of police reform, tinkering with the thermostat.

Seeing the attitudes of the police or any other part of what we used to call the working classes, the great mass of authoritarian followers, as a matter of a personal pathology or an alien psychology (“no one in their right mind”), it seems to me, risks taking the cosmopolitan out that’s being offered by Teh Man.

40

Sebastian H 04.16.15 at 11:53 pm

“I focus on the body language of the cops. What is this person feeling after he’s done this thing?”

This is the key. So many of the cops in these videos make it clear that they don’t feel any worse than if they had just killed a dog.

41

Colin 04.17.15 at 12:05 am

@anonymous: The ‘US cops kill more in a month than UK cops in a century’ has been coming up a lot recently. Depending on how it’s defined, the last century of UK police action could include both the Irish War of Independence and the Troubles, which were certainly situations where you had UK police routinely going on patrol with guns and good reason to be twitchy. I wonder how much of the total numbers killed by UK police were killed in (Northern) Ireland. Certainly, the Irish War of Independence and the Troubles would account for a large proportion of the violent *deaths* of UK police in the 20th century.

42

Marshall 04.17.15 at 12:48 am

Ideologies [are] tools to justify existing or desired concrete social structures (relative power of factions)

The hammer’s on the table, the pitchfork’s on the shelf
for Heaven’s sake have Mercy on yourself

43

anonymous 04.17.15 at 2:32 am

Colin: I read a brief report from Daily Kos a few days ago. Your query however led me to do a further search which resulted in finding the article linked below. Turns out the numbers aren’t quite as dramatic but are still quite a contrast:
http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2015/apr/15/addicting-information/liberal-blog-us-cops-killed-more-people-one-month-/

Regarding Bruce Wilder’s comments above and bob mcmanus observations it seems obvious we are being shown the big stick and the leash is getting a lot looser. With the relatively recent ubiquity of firearms possession, especially concealable pistols, it’s probably getting really difficult to calibrate restraint when almost any everyday pedestrian encounter could turn almost instantly deadly.

44

Rich Puchalsky 04.17.15 at 2:36 am

“Regarding Bruce Wilder’s comments above and bob mcmanus observations it seems obvious we are being shown the big stick and the leash is getting a lot looser. “

I think that’s not true. Police in America always shot and killed this many black people. What’s changed is that now a far higher proportion of these shootings get recorded on video.

I also have no idea what you mean by “relatively recent ubiquity” of firearms possession. Again, I don’t see what has changed.

45

anonymous 04.17.15 at 3:01 am

“relatively recent ubiquity” Maybe it’s a generation gap. I remember a time when there was actually debate about making ownership of pistols illegal. Long rifles that weren’t bolt action and had a magazine capacity of greater than 3 rounds were frowned upon and in some cases or for some uses illegal. Snipers were not heroes. Maybe it was the case that a large percentage of adult males had some World War 2 experience including being shot at… often. Maybe it was also from the days of prohibition and machine guns. Maybe it’s a faulty childhood recollection.

You might be right about the camera bit, but I think not about the shooting. May have been more a matter of necessity and practicality……. I.E. no need and no fear. Everybody and her brother was just not running around armed to the teeth.

46

Rich Puchalsky 04.17.15 at 3:06 am

As far as I know, actual surveys show that the percentage of households with guns is declining.

47

anonymous 04.17.15 at 3:25 am

” actual surveys show that the percentage of households with guns is declining.” Well that’s good news. So you think the interpretation of recent rather outrageous police violence against unarmed citizens who are also Black Americans is not really a show of authoritarian force meant to impress any and all observers but rather just a matter of getting better and more timely information? Well gee whiz I was impressed. Guess I shouldn’t have taken it so personally. Have police killings declined? That would be good news as well especially since it might be evidence for a trend of the power of digital information to reform behavior. BTW what does “always” mean in this phrase? “Police in America always shot and killed this many black people” . And how about “this many”? Sorry I can’t continue this little chat but I must drag my old self off to bed however I sincerely and unsnarkily promise to read and learn from any follow up response.

48

LFC 04.17.15 at 4:05 am

Some people have said they don’t watch the videos; I don’t either. The descriptions are bad enough. The problem of police racism/violence/lawlessness is, or so I gather, considerably worse in some police depts than others; there are some police depts, incl some urban ones or others that deal w minority communities, where apparently it’s not much of a problem, others where it very obviously is a problem. Much apparently has to do w the quality of leadership in the dept, the degree to which ‘community policing’ has been adopted, good training, the ‘culture’ of the dept, etc. These concrete considerations don’t seem to have gotten much attention in this thread (though I prob haven’t read every single comment).

I’m not sure, btw, why Bruce Wilder @38 thinks b. mcmanus is saying that “the trend is a symptom [of] increasing income inequality and social stratification and concomitant political impotence of liberals and the left.” That’s not what mcmanus wrote. mcmanus wrote @36 that “Liberalism and the Rule of Law is madness.” From which a reasonable inference is that mcmanus doesn’t care about the “political impotence of liberals”; from his standpoint, the more politically impotent they are, the better.

49

dsquared 04.17.15 at 4:05 am

I wonder how much of the total numbers killed by UK police were killed in (Northern) Ireland.

Sixty-nine deaths attributed to the RUC in the CAIN database I think. But of course this doesn’t include the Army.

50

nick s 04.17.15 at 4:08 am

Apparently Geritol Kop took an Active! Shooter! training class courtesy of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department, which makes me wonder whether terrible person Joe Arpaio is making coin from LARP events aimed at wealthy Americans of a certain political strand who want to Take Down One Of Those People. And I apologise to the LARP community there, because LARP is several orders of magnitude less weird than getting to play at cop in exchange for large donations.

It would be nice if the federal government were minded to shut these kinds of police operations the fuck down.

51

Rich Puchalsky 04.17.15 at 4:30 am

Since no one knows how many police shootings there are, it’s impossible to really track the rate over time. But there is no good reason to think that previous decades had less racist police or more restrictions on use of force than we have now. The best guess that I know of is that the rate of police shooting black people has always been high.

52

Belle Waring 04.17.15 at 4:34 am

nick s: for realz? I would call Joe Arpaio the scum of the earth had I not just expressed my love of tidal marshlands so recently. I have seen and loved greasy-slick oyster beds, Joe Arpaio, and you are no shoal of clay set upon the sands of a salty creek, sharded with the upward blades of dee-lickamus oyresters!

anonymous: I have to say that horrible as these last eighteen months have been, I do believe that ubiquitous video, normally a tool of control for the government and property owners, has been turned in some measure against them. Cases that would have been swept under the rug locally and never reported on nationally at all are making it into the headlines precisely because there is video, IMO. I mean, whenever you see a shooting like that in North Charleston, and you read the false report initially filed by the murderous cop and signed off on by his fellow and superiors, you wonder how many hundreds of cases there have been that were just that bad–cold-blooded execution, like how you would be walking down a corridor in Lubyanka ahead of your captors, and then shots would come from behind, and then that was all–have been covered up over the years.

I encourage people to click through to the exculpatory press conference link to see a picture of a taser with a weapon “like that” carried by the killer (I am very suspicious as to why it is not his actual weapon, though). They are indeed quite similar, although the Sheriff claimed Bates’ snub-nose .38 had laser sights, making them yet-more-similar. Laser sights? Um, where do they go, exactly? Also, that revolver has a safety; are you telling me he took the safety off, started to strain his hand against the substantial trigger-pull, and then thought it was a taser? Now, as much as it seems like this rich white shitbag bought a hunting license to shoot Negroes, it does seem as if it could have been a mistake–I say that because he clearly wasn’t expecting the recoil (he drops the gun, even). THESE ARE ALL REASONS WHY 73-YEAR-OLDS SHOULDN’T BE DOING UNDERCOVER POLICE WORK WITH THEIR SNUB-NOSE REVOLVER FROM HOME.

I have to say mc-manus-sensei has the right of it w.r.t. Roman soldiers. They weren’t 007, and they couldn’t kill valuable slaves or rich people, but if they murdered some people around the edges in the provinces, nobody was going to stop them. Let’s be realistic.

53

Vasilis Vassalos 04.17.15 at 4:40 am

The level of complacency of local populations and civil society for this awfulness is awe-inspiring. It is also amazing that the laws protecting police officers in these cases are not under constant pressure to be changed.

Maybe if the cops involved experienced strong community disapproval (as some military personnel did during Vietnam) it would help drive home the message that they committed terrible acts.

54

PaulB 04.17.15 at 7:54 am

We do have fairly complete statistics for deaths at the hands of police in England and Wales (covering nearly 90% of the UK by population) over the last few years, because they all get referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Its lastest report lists for the last (financial) year “12 road traffic fatalities, no fatal police shootings, 11 deaths in or following police custody, 68 apparent suicides following police custody, 39 other deaths following police contact”. It has a table going back 10 years which lists 23 fatal shootings, with none in the last two years (as of April 2014).

I failed using google to turn up reports of any fatal shootings by police in Scotland or Northern Ireland during the last ten years. Certainly there have been very few.

In the US, an article linked to in another comments gave 98 fatal police shootings in a month (a number arrived at by counting news reports).

A fair statistic would be “On average US police shoot dead more people in a day than UK police do in a year”.

55

rea 04.17.15 at 12:00 pm

*88. Really? (Fellow in the news lately has it tattooed on his face.)

Not to imply anything about the commentor here, but “H” is the 8th letter of the alphabet, so “88” is US white supremist code for “Heil Hitler”

56

Collin Street 04.17.15 at 12:08 pm

My sister pointed out over dinner the other night that workplace bullying was generally a sign of people promoted beyond their competence, or of other problems of that ilk: bullying isn’t a cause of dysfunctional workplaces, but a symptom.

Strikes me there could be something similar here. Police violence seems to go down as non-bullshit-crime-clearance-rates go up, but maybe it’s the other way around, and if we want to stop the police killing innocent people we have to teach them how to spot the guilty ones first, then talk them through the process of getting convictions that don’t rely on perjury or coerced confessions.

57

Barry 04.17.15 at 12:49 pm

Vasilis Vassalos 04.17.15 at 4:40 am
“The level of complacency of local populations and civil society for this awfulness is awe-inspiring. It is also amazing that the laws protecting police officers in these cases are not under constant pressure to be changed.”

On the right, complacency is no longer an excuse; it’s quite a deliberate desire for fascism. All very carefully wrapped up in the flag and carrying the Cross, as the saying once went.

Note the Bundy case – people refuse to pay their rent, form an armed band to hold off the police, and the right sure didn’t have a problem with that.

I would ask people to consider what would have happened if the Bundys were black, but that would have been quietly wrapped up decades ago, the first time they decided not to pay their rent.

58

Rich Puchalsky 04.17.15 at 12:51 pm

VV @ 52: Let me push back a little here — is this really community complacency, or — for maybe half the U.S. — community approval?

Actually I’ll pick out Bruce Wilder’s “bob is certainly right that the trend is a symptom increasing income inequality and social stratification and concomitant political impotence of liberals and the left. ” If you’re talking about income inequality, then it’s gone up. Political impotence of the left, sure if you’re talking about economics. But what does this have to do with police shooting black people? Were there seriously supposed to be fewer black people shot per capita during FDR’s era? During the 60s? During the 80s? The U.S. system has been built on shooting black people for terroristic purposes right from the beginning of the U.S.

We have the highest incarceration rate of any country, except perhaps for North Korea. We routinely have our police shoot larger numbers of people in a day than many medium-sized countries do in a year. These are choices of our democracy. No oligarchy could really have us do this simply through propaganda: it requires wide-scale working-class buy-in. In short: racism is what the white working class gets as a a reward for supporting oligarchical politics. It’s a vital part of how our politics are structured, not something mysteriously overlooked.

59

oldster 04.17.15 at 12:52 pm

Police are first responders. If they come across an injured person, they have a duty to assist them. Why does that duty lapse when they inflicted the injuries?

And why is Officer “f your breath” not being charged with something like the following:

“Criminally negligent manslaughter[edit]
In jurisdictions such as Pennsylvania, if a person is so reckless as to “manifest extreme indifference to human life”, the defendant may be guilty of aggravated assault as well as of involuntary manslaughter.[2]

In many jurisdictions such as California, malice may be found if gross negligence amounts to willful or depraved indifference to human life. In such a case, the wrongdoer may be guilty of second degree murder.”

“Willful or depraved indifference to human life” is a pretty good description of saying “f your breath” to man whom you are suffocating after he has been shot.

60

Belle Waring 04.17.15 at 1:43 pm

You know, Kiwanda, one tries not to take things personally and yet I must ask, did you read my post before linking to the same story linked in the post?

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MPAVictoria 04.17.15 at 2:04 pm

“Not to imply anything about the commentor here, but “H” is the 8th letter of the alphabet, so “88” is US white supremist code for “Heil Hitler””

I always just assumed it was the year he was born or graduated or something….

62

someguy88 04.17.15 at 2:44 pm

Rich Puchalsky here are some links.

http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/how-many-americans-the-police-kill-each-year/
http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/another-much-higher-count-of-police-homicides/
http://www.vox.com/2015/4/10/8382457/police-shootings-racism

After adjusting for population growth it looks like killings are increasing. This suggests it might be something other than racism. My hypothesis would be militarization. That is something that seems more fixable. Not easy but easier. ( Also when you crudely look at the racial composition of the prison system and the racial composition of police killings, using the Vox numbers, it looks you would expect slightly more black deaths than we actually see.)

Anyone can use this data to bolster their choosen narrative anyway they want. 1K per year! 7% of all homicides are police generated!

63

William Berry 04.17.15 at 2:44 pm

rea @54:

Exactly.

And I wouldn’t straight out make the implication either; I would only suggest that using that as part of a ‘nym is kind of asking for it. “Abstain from the very appearance of evil”, etc.

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MPAVictoria 04.17.15 at 3:45 pm

“I would only suggest that using that as part of a ‘nym is kind of asking for it.”

Too be fair I had no idea that “88” could mean that. I mean not even a clue. So maybe someguy doesn’t either?

65

anonymous 04.17.15 at 4:05 pm

Rich Puchalsky at 57 and Someguy88 at 61: Yes there’s definitely the militarization thing, funded massively by homeland security. Witness the tank like thing with the 50 cal? machine gun turret and all the black uniforms at Ferguson. But I believe there is another wider layer, another strata laying over the top, thinner but much wider; the firearmization of the country, the proliferation. I think the police are forced to react in different ways by the omnipresent threat.

And isn’t is easier, more likely, that one would react less carefully, more forcefully, against the other; the maligned, despised, or maybe just insignificant other. I suspect to some degree this trend takes on a life of its own.

Today the needle points one way, towards one set of “others”, tomorrow another. Awareness of this should give one certain cause for concern. You’ll note there were no traditional minorities anywhere in sight around that bridge over the Virgin River in far NW Arizona and yet the guns were there and they were pointed. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain and how he might point the needle towards you.

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Rich Puchalsky 04.17.15 at 4:16 pm

“I think the police are forced to react in different ways by the omnipresent threat.”

I think that this is nonsense. Criminals don’t have any more guns than they used to have; the general crime rate is down; the most violent drug gang wars are generally over. Police aren’t “forced” to react differently in any way than they have in the last 60 years.

As for militarization… the guy in this incident wasn’t shot with a fully auto big gun. Garner didn’t die in a special extra-military choke hold. Martin didn’t die because Neighborhood Watch had been replaced by a SWAT team. Those are anecdotes rather than statistics, and maybe militarization does have something to do with the overall rates at the margins. But I don’t think that it has much to do with the basics of what’s going on.

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Layman 04.17.15 at 4:50 pm

“I think the police are forced to react in different ways by the omnipresent threat.”

Which omnipresent threat exactly?

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Layman 04.17.15 at 4:59 pm

Attempts to count the number of people killed by police officers in 2013 came up with over 1000, based on news accounts. By contrast, the FBI reports that 27 police officers were killed in the line of duty that same year. It ain’t a fair fight, apparently.

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Tom 04.17.15 at 5:07 pm

@88 and anonymous: what does the falsification of the Walter Scott’s killing report have to do with militarization and the “omnipresent threat”?

This is quite a gem too: “it looks you would expect slightly more black deaths than we actually see”.

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Kiwanda 04.17.15 at 6:15 pm

@Belle, 59: “You know, Kiwanda,…” (tl;dr)

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Ogden Wernstrom 04.17.15 at 6:15 pm

Belle, in the OP, I think you are hung up on too many of the details…most of which are not primary causes of this death. If the official, required processes and procedures had been followed, they should- and probably would-have prevented this death.

“Second, he shot him with a REVOLVER?!”
Is your complaint that he used 150-year-old technology, when there is 100-year-old technology available? Would you rather he had a pistol with greater ammo capacity? He should not have been armed; but, armed, he should not have drawn; but, with weapon drawn, he should not have fired. Police have mostly-abandoned revolvers out of fear that they’ll be outgunned, and I think training now emphasizes that the officer should keep shooting until certain that there is no longer a threat. Six-shooters might be preferable to sixteen-shooters.

“…this is his own goddamn gun from home”
Many departments require their hired officers to buy their own handguns, usually from a list of specific models, and volunteers are even-less-likely to be given guns. One of the Mounted Posse members I know carries the gun made famous by Dirty Harry. (The other one I know carries no gun, but carries bear spray and horse-euthanizer to cover the anticipated roles of a gun. Yes, I live in a county whose Sheriff has a volunteer Mounted Posse, mainly for search & rescue, occasionally for crowd control. Other types of Sheriff-assisting volunteers are reserves and scouts.)

“…they say the taser and the revolver weight almost the same…”
You can ignore that it’s a revolver. For police use, the taser manufacturer has models that have the look and feel of the Glocks that are so popular with police departments. I think the weight and feel is going to be pretty close to the handguns of the real officers, too.

“…manslaughter; unhappily he faces a max of four years.”
Happily, he’s being charged by the county – so he should get to live in an Oklahoma prison…as a former-officer, recent-LARP-cop. I find estimates that each year in prison reduces life expectancy by two additional years – which makes 4 years roughly equivalent to life for a 73-year-old male in the US.

I’m happy that he admitted to a mistake. Real law enforcement officers know enough not to do that, because the civil courts will take everything you own and give it to the victim’s family. If he lives to release, he should be penniless, unable to legally own a gun or to vote, and may have to apply for socialist GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE, if there is any left in Oklahoma by then.

The info you provide shows that others may need to be called-to-account for their actions. I hope that Oklahoma can root out any fraudulent or corrupt behaviour in the chain of events that allowed this guy to be there. I fear that political patronage, falsifying his training and testing records and whatever else went on may not be crimes in OK if the beneficiary is one of the gang. Plus, police omertà probably covers reserves, too.

A bit off-topic: I’m sure that all of those people who are calling for heads to (figuratively) roll at The Rolling Stone (for neglecting the details of good journalism) will be screaming for consequences all along the line in Tulsa. (JK)

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parse 04.17.15 at 6:29 pm

I’m happy that he admitted to a mistake. Real law enforcement officers know enough not to do that, because the civil courts will take everything you own and give it to the victim’s family.

My impression is that individual officers, even where there actions are judged to be inappropriate, are typically shielded from civil penalties, which are paid by the city or county that employs them. Perhaps that’s just because the government has deeper pockets. Are there notable cases when officers have actually been held civilly liable for their behavior on the job?

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Marshall 04.17.15 at 6:50 pm

Here’s one reason why people should look at videos, not just read descriptions. Not everybody has to look at everything, but “the people” do need to inspect “the videos” for themself.

https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/04/16/nbcs-conduct-richard-engel-kidnapping-serious-brian-williams-scandal/

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MPAVictoria 04.17.15 at 7:01 pm

“Here’s one reason why people should look at videos, not just read descriptions. Not everybody has to look at everything, but “the people” do need to inspect “the videos” for themself.”

Oh i am glad some people have the mental strength to look. I am just not one of them.

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Barry 04.17.15 at 7:28 pm

Anonymous: “Today the needle points one way, towards one set of “others”, tomorrow another. Awareness of this should give one certain cause for concern. You’ll note there were no traditional minorities anywhere in sight around that bridge over the Virgin River in far NW Arizona and yet the guns were there and they were pointed. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain and how he might point the needle towards you.”

Sorry, but to what are you referring to?

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Bruce Wilder 04.17.15 at 8:09 pm

Rich Puchalsky: “. . . sure if you’re talking about economics. But what does this have to do with police shooting black people?”

Seriously?

Rich Puchalsky: “Were there seriously supposed to be fewer black people shot per capita during FDR’s era? During the 60s? During the 80s? The U.S. system has been built on shooting black people for terroristic purposes right from the beginning of the U.S.”

I don’t have statistics at hand, but, generally speaking, I would expect to see significant variations regionally and over time. And, certainly not a constant rate: there would be waves. Both because that’s the nature of control and because there’s an ongoing political contest over what the system should be and what it should be based on.

If statistics could be created, we could see the very real terror campaigns of Southern Redemption in a wave of lynchings and incarceration in the 1880s and 1890s, continuing into the first decades of the 20th century in some places. Activities you’ve probably never heard of, like the mysterious Black Legion murdering black people in Michigan in the 1930s, wouldn’t cause a statistical blip, but might be politically significant because they had salience at the time, in motivating action and reaction.

There are marked cycles of political violence in U.S. history and there’s a pretty strong case to be made that we are well on track to realize a peak of political violence by the end of this decade. (Google Peter Turchin to see charts)

For our own politics now, the huge crime wave that swept over the country, but especially major cities, beginning in the late 1960s, had important political implications. To have a huge crime wave implies that crime rates were quite low in the 1950s and early 1960s, which they were. Half of young black men were not cycling thru jail, probation or prison in 1960.

Rich Puchalsky: No oligarchy could really have us do this simply through propaganda: it requires wide-scale working-class buy-in. In short: racism is what the white working class gets as a reward for supporting oligarchical politics. It’s a vital part of how our politics are structured, not something mysteriously overlooked.

Racism was used, historically, to oppose slavery, to justify slavery and to reconcile poor whites to an economic system built around slavery that incidentally impoverished them. In short, racism was and is a lever propaganda used and uses to manipulate. We could look at the predispositions of human psychology that make racism so easy and so pernicious and so manipulable. We could look at how racism fits the template of attitudes presented by authoritarian followers.

I don’t see racism as a “reward”, though. Oligarchy isn’t “rewarding” the underclasses for cooperating in oligarchy in any useful global sense. Sure, they pay the prison guards. But, first, they manipulate the wage scale.

The point of oligarchy is to use domination to extract income and resources. Now I am enough of an economic realist and liberal to see that there’s a balance involved. Domination can be useful and rewarding even for the dominated, in the right circumstances; hierarchy can be an enormously productive means of organizing productive activity. That’s the miracle of the industrial revolution. (At one time, it was the miracle of hydraulic civilizations, too, and we know how that worked out — so let’s not too excited.) But, like I say, there’s a balance involved: opposed interests in cooperation. And, domination is, well, domination. It slides over into extraction, even at the expense of diminishing overall output and efficiency.

The New Deal economy that I can be accused of being nostalgic for, was a fulfillment of a liberal egalitarianism that recognized the legitimate rights of everyone involved. It was based in part on various “mass” interest groups being at least minimally organized and represented in the economy. Labor unions, obviously. And, labor unions had a legitimate right to strike and to dispute over wages, and there was liberal political propaganda or doctrine to explain why high union wages, benefits and contract security spilled over to benefit the economy broadly. But, also a tradition and structures of community cooperation and self-help, (much of it organized around small-town locality or the ethnic balkanization of the cities). Mutual insurance, community banks and the thrifts (savings and loans) were products of these efforts, supported nationally by various federal institutions.

I feel like I have to rehearse this history to make clear that the economic context of our own time is the result of accumulated institutional change, all of it in the direction of disempowering the vast majority, of depriving them of effective rights and power, collectively and individually. The balance of the economy, of oligarchic domination of the political economy has shifted decisively. The individual has been stripped of institutional support for a variety of rights and claims, of the ability to negotiate.

And, in that context, a panopticon surveillance state has been erected and the police have been militarized.

To see these things as related would seem to have obvious political advantages, from a left point-of-view, even if it they were not “objectively” related as part of a political and propaganda program. Of course, I can see why from the Right, one might want to ridicule drawing lines between the dots, as a conspiracy theory. I don’t see why the left would want to focus narrowly on the pathologies of racial prejudice among police. The issue has salience because of race. Race is one of our last threads, the last means we have of identifying a policy as fundamentally unfair because it affects the mass as a group, and winning the argument. We are not organized as mass social groups, we don’t see assault on public schools, on labor unions, on rights in bankruptcy, on college tuition as what it is, an assault of a rapacious oligarchy on the mass of people, and we don’t have the means to push back. On race and issues defined on racial lines, we have some vestigial means to push back.

The thing is, even if it weren’t politically convenient to connect them, I think they really are connected. The political program that is militarizing the police and frightening people about terrorism and all the rest is deliberately eroding the rules the define when violence crosses an acceptable line. For me, the light dawned on Marblehead, when I learned in the midst of the Trayvon Martin case that the corporate lobbying group, ALEC, was a major and effective proponent of “Stand Your Ground” laws. It is really hard to reconcile the moral and legal mis-reasoning of “Stand Your Ground” with a corporate business agenda, unless that agenda extends into some very dark corners.

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mattski 04.17.15 at 8:19 pm

These are choices of our democracy. No oligarchy could really have us do this simply through propaganda: it requires wide-scale working-class buy-in. In short: racism is what the white working class gets as a a reward for supporting oligarchical politics. It’s a vital part of how our politics are structured, not something mysteriously overlooked.

They would be choices of our democracy if our ‘democracy’ functioned as such. But it functions more as a plutocracy at the highest levels.

Instead of saying ‘racism is a reward for submission to the oligarchy/plutocracy’ I think it’s maybe more parsimonious to say shit rolls downhill. If the message from the top is, “don’t fuck with your betters,” that is going to ripple outwards and downwards. And that brings us back to one of my favorite hobby-horses because afaict this is where the nation was first told in no uncertain terms that progressive government was not going to be tolerated by the reactionary elements of the upper crust.

I encourage everyone to view the entire visual essay on the HSCA.

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Rich Puchalsky 04.17.15 at 8:52 pm

BW: ” To have a huge crime wave implies that crime rates were quite low in the 1950s and early 1960s, which they were. Half of young black men were not cycling thru jail, probation or prison in 1960.”

I think this is quite seriously misguided. I don’t think that anything necessarily changed in terms of crime rates, but rather in terms of definitions of crimes. As soon as Jim Crow fell, mass criminal incarceration took its place and really has had largely the same social function.

BW: “I don’t see racism as a “reward”, though. Oligarchy isn’t “rewarding” the underclasses for cooperating in oligarchy in any useful global sense.”

Sure they are. First of all, economically. White people get all sorts of advantages over black people in America in terms of hiring and firing and salary. Second, psychologically. People in general positively enjoy the feeling of automatically being a step up in the social hierarchy and the feeling of dominating other people. What other kinds of preferential rewards for classes are there? You could say that everyone would be better off in an egalitarian society, but this would mean that you are on the left, so saying that oligarchies can’t rewards classes in any useful global sense is pretty much just restating your assumptions.

“The New Deal economy that I can be accused of being nostalgic for, was a fulfillment of a liberal egalitarianism that recognized the legitimate rights of everyone involved.”

I like aspects of the New Deal too, but remember that it didn’t challenge racism. It did not “recognize the legitimate rights of everyone involved”: it e.g. imprisoned Japanese-Americans in camps wholesale. The decline of the left in America isn’t because our new oligarchs are more skillful or powerful than the old ones; more than anything else it has to do with the 60s and the counter-reaction of the 80s. The left did the right thing in supporting the Civil Rights Movement, but of course this made any coalition based on economic class untenable.

ALEC does and did support “Stand Your Ground” laws, but I don’t see why this is surprising. The oligarchy wants votes, the white working class wants racism: that’s the basic trade that underlies the whole conservative coalition.

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Main Street Muse 04.17.15 at 10:51 pm

BW – “The New Deal economy that I can be accused of being nostalgic for, was a fulfillment of a liberal egalitarianism that recognized the legitimate rights of everyone involved.”

Whose rights? Not women – not blacks. It took WWII to leave companies without male workers before Rosie the Riveter got a job. And she was sent off to suburbia when the men came home. Blacks were not counted in the New Deal economy – witness the gyrations Kennedy & Johnson did in in the 1960s to persuade civil rights activist to accept that “tranquilizing drug of gradualism.”

US exceptionalism has been its violence – since it was founded, the country has been quick to use violence and fear – and the law – to terrify blacks and the poor whites and laborers of any color. Labor has had a very small window of successful negotiations and power – from about the end of WWII through the early 1980s. Brief, too brief.

BW: “We are not organized as mass social groups, we don’t see assault on public schools, on labor unions, on rights in bankruptcy, on college tuition as what it is, an assault of a rapacious oligarchy on the mass of people, and we don’t have the means to push back. On race and issues defined on racial lines, we have some vestigial means to push back.”

Not sure I’m seeing the pushback you’re seeing on racial issues. I keep seeing unarmed black men getting shot. Unless there’s a video, the narrative’s always about how the black guy who deserved to die. (See Trayvon Martin as an example.)

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LFC 04.18.15 at 1:04 am

@MSM last graph
what about the various demos in a range of cities, the Black Lives Matter mvt, etc?
That counts as ‘pushback’ or protest, surely.

@R Puchalsky
painting the entire “white working class” as racist is too broad a brush. Interesting that no one has bothered to even respond to my pt about organizational culture in police depts (see comment @47). I guess it’s not sufficiently in tune w the dominant theme of this thread, which seems to be Rage vs the Oligarchy.

@BW
See the I. Katznelson bk on race and the New Deal. Supposed to be good.

81

LFC 04.18.15 at 1:10 am

Belle Waring @51

I have to say mc-manus-sensei has the right of it w.r.t. Roman soldiers. They weren’t 007, and they couldn’t kill valuable slaves or rich people, but if they murdered some people around the edges in the provinces, nobody was going to stop them. Let’s be realistic.

And this connects to the current sit. in the U.S. how, exactly? ISTM a significant difference is the outcry that has followed these incidents of police violence vs unarmed black men. Not only did nobody stop the Roman soldiers in question, presumably not many people cared what they did. That does not seem analogous to the present moment.

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Rich Puchalsky 04.18.15 at 1:40 am

LFC: “painting the entire “white working class” as racist is too broad a brush”

Not specifying that I mean a large segment of a class rather than an entire class is a good way for me to weed out commenters that are worth taking seriously from those that aren’t.

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Bruce Wilder 04.18.15 at 2:02 am

Main Street Muse @ 78

There were a number of significant advancements in the political position, social status and economic interest of African-American and women in the course of the New Deal. That the New Deal programs that provided relief employment reached African-Americans is well-documented, as is the rhetorical support of FDR and, especially, Eleanor Roosevelt for the rights and dignity of African-Americans — rhetorical support that was critically important to a shared national acknowledgement that the country had a problem of severe racial injustice. FDR was the first President to appoint an African-American as a federal judge, the first to promote an African-American to the rank of Brigadier General, and overall the number of African-American professionals working in the civil service tripled during his Presidency.

Frances Perkins was Labor Secretary throughout FDR’s Presidency, the first woman appointed to a cabinet position, and she was an important figure in both pulling the labor movement into the New Deal coalition and in establishing important labor law and social welfare programs. Her career and accomplishments might be worth studying.

The expansion of labor unions, and the legal reforms that supported it, was dramatic during the 1930s. Industrial wages rose during the course of the New Deal, despite the persistent, high rate of unemployment. And, many labor unions fought hard against racial prejudice and racial discrimination, recognizing that racial or ethnic divisions undermined solidarity.

I could go on, but I don’t imagine it would do any good.

As for the pushback, this is it. This, right now, this thread, this series of media reports and national and international attention, what you’re doing. If it is not enough, it is because you are not enough, your arguments are not good enough, your willingness and capacity to act is not enough.

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Belle Waring 04.18.15 at 2:18 am

otherBW: sure some unions did, but lots were actively, hatefully racist, conspiring with their very employers against black employees or would-be-employees. I both strongly support labor organization and concerted eforts by the government to fight poverty in the US and recognize that both those lines of effort were deeply racist and sexist when exacted. What’s the problem with acknowledging that?

Ogden Wernstrom: the primary cause of Harris’ death was that he was shot by an old man who bought his way onto the active force. In writing a post I often include details, and the thing about this was that every moment was more WTF than the last. I kept thinking there was no way for it to get worse–guess what? The shooter claimed to have taken “active shooter” classes from Jor Arpaio’s racist sheriff’s department, but that was a lie too! Marveling at the sheer scale of incompetence and corruption on the local County Sheriff’s department is not meant to minimize the stark facts of the case.

Kiwanda: LOL?

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Jim V 04.18.15 at 2:34 am

Hold all responding officers accountable when a “suspect” dies or is seriously injured due to police action. See how long that thin blue line holds. Unless individual police departments start clearing their “problem children” out, public outrage/legislation is going to cram it down their throats.

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anonymous 04.18.15 at 2:35 am

An interesting juxtaposition:

Rich Puchalsky: No oligarchy could really have us do this simply through propaganda: it requires wide-scale working-class buy-in. In short: racism is what the white working class gets as a reward for supporting oligarchical politics. ( What reward? ) It’s a vital part of how our politics are structured, Vital? How and why?) not something mysteriously overlooked.

Bruce Wilder: Racism was used, historically, to oppose slavery, to justify slavery and to reconcile poor whites to an economic system built around slavery that incidentally impoverished them. ( reconcile poor whites? How does that work?) In short, racism was and is a lever propaganda used and uses to manipulate. (why does it have leverage?) We could look at the predispositions of human psychology that make racism so easy and so pernicious and so manipulable. We could look at how racism fits the template of attitudes presented by authoritarian followers. ( well Ok )

Is racism entirely reflexive? Is there any lasting or effective tangible, or fungible reward?

Look I’m really not trying to be a smart sass and maybe failing but how @ 35% of the American population is basically persuaded by these types of themes to slowly strangle themselves is maybe the heart of the question. I down-loaded and read Altmeyer’s book a couple years back and studied racism in both historical and sociological courses ages ago but I can’t form a coherent theory. Vaguely something like deep-seated multi-generational insecurity. When you think about it heterosexual white males in America have lost at least the perception of an elevated position relative to all sorts of “others” in the past 60 years or so. Maybe it’s as simple as that.

Oh and while I was fumbling with this BW posted: “If it is not enough, it is because you are not enough, your arguments are not good enough, your willingness and capacity to act is not enough.”

Well-said. Thanks

87

Bruce Wilder 04.18.15 at 2:52 am

Rich Puchalsky: I don’t think that anything necessarily changed in terms of crime rates, but rather in terms of definitions of crimes.

I lived through the period. There was a lot more crime. It wasn’t a statistical artifact. I’m not sure why it happened. But, that it did happen? Yeah. It happened.

Rich Puchalsky: The left did the right thing in supporting the Civil Rights Movement, but of course this made any coalition based on economic class untenable.

The college-educated left saw politics as an extension of ethics. You took a moral position and did the right thing, and that was that. Except that’s not a workable theory of politics.

The institutional support of the left withered and died. The institutional support of the Right built from strength to strength. And, the Right’s program was to destroy the institutional support of liberalism.

The megarich are richer now than they were then, and they have a far more elaborate apparatus to manipulate politics and media, and much less effective opposition.

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Witt 04.18.15 at 2:58 am

Belle, I am grateful for your centering of this incident — and the broader issue of black Americans being killed by police — here at CT.

Regarding the confusing of a Taser with a gun, this is an important point that AFAICT has not been mentioned above:

The Sheriff’s Office has said Bates, who was chasing Harris, confused his gun — a Smith & Wesson revolver — for a Taser and shot Harris. Bates’ gun was holstered on his hip, while the Taser had been strapped to his chest, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Source: Tulsa newspaper article.

Adrenaline is a powerful drug, and I can well imagine that people might generally be confused. But that seems like one monster of a mistake.

In general I tend to find myself agreeing with Rich on this thread. White supremacy and institutional racism go so far to explaining many of the phenomena that we see that I don’t think we need to look much farther a lot of the time. What to do about them is an important question, but debating their influence is something I no longer have much time for.

Not to say that work like Radley Balko’s Rise of the Warrior Cop isn’t important, for example, on the militarization issue. But any explanation of black deaths that does not explicitly locate itself within a long and ignominious history is not one that will resonate with me.

(Others have noted the correlation between the fall of Jim Crow and the rise of mass incarceration. I would also point out that extrajudicial killing — aka lynching — thrived in the twentieth century with the consent and implicit — often explicit — cooperation of law enforcement officials.)

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Bruce Wilder 04.18.15 at 3:09 am

Belle Waring: those lines of effort were deeply racist and sexist when exacted. What’s the problem with acknowledging that?

What does “deeply racist and sexist” mean to you?

I have no problem with acknowledging that social and economic progress is gradual and incremental, accomplished with mixed motives, and productive of mixed results. Second-best institutions are as good as they get.

Is it really helpful to condemn every past effort for its shortcomings? Will that hurry the millenium?

90

LFC 04.18.15 at 3:26 am

I hadn’t read Henry F.’s recent thread about the Hugos b.c I don’t care much about SF and I read virtually no SF (or fantasy, or whatever the diff. genre names are), but I was just glancing through it now and I came on Belle Waring’s comment @125 of that thread. I found that comment revealing. I sort of knew what her views were (in re mcmanus in particular, is what I’m specifically referring to here) but to have them spelled out like that was helpful (that’s not quite the right word, but whatever).

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Witt 04.18.15 at 3:28 am

What does “deeply racist and sexist” mean to you?

I can’t speak for Belle, but I would point to the exclusion of domestic and agricultural workers from Social Security as an egregious example.

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Rich Puchalsky 04.18.15 at 3:35 am

BW: “The college-educated left saw politics as an extension of ethics. You took a moral position and did the right thing, and that was that. Except that’s not a workable theory of politics.”

JFK and LBJ were not impractical college leftists. JFK certainly didn’t want to pay back MLK Sr.’s “suitcase full of votes”, but he’d won the 1960 election because of it and as events progressed it became untenable to preserve the status quo. And as events progressed there was really only one choice the moderate left could make and still remain the left in any meaningful sense. LBJ certainly knew what he was having to do: “I think we just delivered the South to the Republican party for a long time to come” etc.

I could write a lot more about institutional support for the left, how it withered, etc., but that would take us even more off-topic. To a large extent, we’re in agreement. But notice that in terms of media, the oligarchical megarich are not exactly trying a classic law and order, “we need to shoot more people” campaign. Things like ALEC’s support for Stand Your Ground are more under the radar, calculated to meet grassroots demand rather than create it.

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Witt 04.18.15 at 3:54 am

Missed this earlier:

the corporate lobbying group, ALEC, was a major and effective proponent of “Stand Your Ground” laws. It is really hard to reconcile the moral and legal mis-reasoning of “Stand Your Ground” with a corporate business agenda, unless that agenda extends into some very dark corners.

I’m genuinely bemused by this. There is data going back more than a decade showing that the NRA is a funder of ALEC, and more to the point, that ALEC is responsible for propagating the NRA’s original iteration of the “Stand Your Ground” bill. It’s about as cut-and-dried example as I can think of for a piece of legislation matching a corporate business agenda.

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Ronan(rf) 04.18.15 at 1:11 pm

Re data on crime/homicide rates , both in long term historical and a more recent context

http://thepublicintellectual.org/2011/05/02/a-crime-puzzle/

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Ronan(rf) 04.18.15 at 1:12 pm

Sorry, that should be just homicide

96

Ronan(rf) 04.18.15 at 3:07 pm

Colin @40 – here are the most recent statistics (afaik) on the dead during the Irish Revolutionary period, up until 1921.

https://ronanfitz.wordpress.com/2015/04/18/the-dead-of-the-irish-revolution/

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Main Street Muse 04.18.15 at 3:18 pm

BW: “There were a number of significant advancements in the political position, social status and economic interest of African-American and women in the course of the New Deal.”

The advancements were not significant enough to protect Emmett Till and others who were lynched – or to get women into the workforce in great numbers. That required more than a few presidential appointments – that required significant pushback made by ordinary people – at considerable risk for their lives, particularly in the area of civil rights. Industrial wages may have risen in the 1930s, but unemployment was still very high. The heyday of unions was a brief, bright moment in American history. Very brief.

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mattski 04.18.15 at 3:52 pm

@ 85

I down-loaded and read Altmeyer’s book a couple years back and studied racism in both historical and sociological courses ages ago but I can’t form a coherent theory. Vaguely something like deep-seated multi-generational insecurity.

Deep-seated inter-generational insecurity is not a bad phrase. I would put it similarly. Basically, the right-leaning frame of reference is to look at this world as a battleground, a jungle, where only the ‘fittest’ survive. Survival can and often does necessitate ruthless, barbaric behavior. So, I don’t think it’s a stretch to think that people involved in the African slave trade had a certain level of ‘consciousness of guilt.’ They knew that what they were doing was immoral but suppressed pangs of conscience with the thought that, hey, it’s a brutal world and they needed to survive and prosper as best as they could.

In 2015, police shooting black males for no good reason is reasonably characterized as racism by the left. But insecurity is a better word. (Many) whites fear young black men. I have left-leaning friends who sometimes recoil if I send them a Youtube featuring a black rap musician. On some level there is consciousness of a justified black rage and fear of it. On some level (trying to get into the head of a white, conservative law enforcement officer) there is a belief that young black men tend to be inclined towards criminality. But everyone is afraid because this world is seen as a battlefield.

And political coalitions are usually complex, not monolithic. Various actors have various reasons for collaborating and getting legislation passed. That’s a problem for us lefty-types who tend to want to explain things in tidy stories. Some asshole wasn’t wrong when he said that freedom was untidy….

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Rich Puchalsky 04.18.15 at 3:59 pm

The defense that Bruce Wilder gives of the New Deal in racial terms is kind of beside the point. I don’t think that anyone was saying that FDR etc. were badly intentioned. But they really did not challenge racist power. Making appointments to the civil service and giving rhetorical support was better than doing nothing. Bruce Wilder seems to think that the oligarchy doesn’t reward whites in concrete, class-based terms, but those concrete rewards exist and were what the New Deal didn’t really contest. Instead, not pushing harder on racial equality was traded for political space that allowed economic left-liberalism that was supposed to lift all boats. That may well have been a reasonable trade: I wouldn’t try to second-guess FDR.

But it is the classic trade that all forms of the secular left tended to make up until the 60s, from the moderate left to the most radical. Black people pretty much had to depend on the religious left, and even more so on their own efforts. And that’s what consistently gets disparaged by the secular left up until the 60s, whether it’s Marxists talking about bourgeois moralism, New Dealers talking about how politics can’t be an extension of ethics, or whatever.

And the early 60s put the U.S. into a conflict that’s still playing out now. Our entire politics are organized around it. What’s the real division between the GOP and the Democrats? Is it the party of the rich vs the party of the poor? Hardly. The shortest descriptive division would be the party of racists vs the party of anti-racists, each with their own, shifting group of wealthy interests trying to attach their looting to popular concerns. That’s really why these videos keep coming, and are going to continue to keep coming. Asking why the police keep shooting unarmed black people is like asking why the Democrats don’t simply win every election.

100

JimV 04.18.15 at 4:07 pm

I started to write “it was a mild shock to see a comment from a “Jim V” above who is not me (JimV–without a space) …” and then I realized the word “shock” in that context is not going to and should not fly on this thread.

Having started a comment, I might as well try to be on-topic. For a long time now – since about 2000 – I have been getting more and more discouraged and depressed in my assessment of average humanity in general, and my country (USA) and its politics in particular. If there is a solution, and I don’t know that there is, the only hope I have is in technology – DNA testing, camera phones, for example. So I would like to see a major research effort into developing a reliable lie-detector, perhaps based on MRI technology. Put people under oath, in court and in congress and in political debates, and enforce the oath with reliable-detectors. Might help, as long as we have some shreds of democracy left by the time the lie-detectors are developed.

Back to the personal note, I don’t either endorse or not-endorse what “Jim V” wrote (I don’t disagree with it but it’s not the kind of comment I tend to make), and probably no one who knows me will read this thread or care if they do, but for the record, “Jim V” and “JimV” are two different people. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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TheSophist 04.18.15 at 5:19 pm

Belle et al,
The AZ Republic is reporting today that Arpaio’s MCSO is denying that Bates received any training from them. I have to confess I’m not sure whether MCSO or Tulsa pd is less credible.

102

mattski 04.18.15 at 5:38 pm

What’s the real division between the GOP and the Democrats? … The shortest descriptive division would be the party of racists vs the party of anti-racists, each with their own, shifting group of wealthy interests trying to attach their looting to popular concerns.

Well, Krugman might say it’s those in favor of preserving traditional hierarchies v those in favor forming new ones. There is always a discrepancy between what the leadership is trying to do and what the ‘rank & file’ want but I don’t think there’s much point in denying that your average democrat sees his/her interests as intertwined with the interests of everyone else while your average republican has a much narrower view of what constitutes his/her ‘community.’

And the early 60s put the U.S. into a conflict that’s still playing out now.

You are correct, Sir.

103

LFC 04.18.15 at 6:06 pm

The first black U.S. Senator in modern (post-Reconstruction) times was a Republican, the late Edward Brooke. Of course the wing of the Republican Party from which he came is almost extinct today, at least at the national level. The party’s center of gravity obviously has moved far rightward. (Whether it’s properly labeled a “party of racists” might be debatable, but I’m not in the mood to defend Repubs or be seen as defending them and, more to the point here, it’s not the sort of thing that can be debated in this kind of CT thread, or probably in any CT thread.)

104

js. 04.18.15 at 8:36 pm

I just happened to be reading a Victor Navasky piece in the Nation about the damaging effects of mid-century anticommunism in the US. He relates running into civil rights activist Jack O’Dell a few years back and asking O’Dell whether he was a CP member back in the day. O’Dell responds: “Of course I was. They were the only people doing anything Jim Crow, lynchings, the poll tax.”

105

Dr. Hilarius 04.19.15 at 3:31 am

js. @ 103: A late friend was an avowed anarchist when I met him in the early 1970s. Stan was non-doctrinaire, tolerant of almost anyone, and loved a good party. So I was surprised to learn he had been a mid-rank CPUSA member as a young man. When asked why, he said, “If you were interested in racial justice, they were the only game in town.”

106

Belle Waring 04.19.15 at 3:54 am

LFC: dude. DUDE. The current incarnation of the Republican party is that it is the party of racists. This is really too bad–it sucks even. It gives minorities very little leverage over the party that is meant to represent their interests. I want the Democrats to win the next presidential election, but I don’t look forward to the return of 90s centrist Democrats. Those…they were kind of racist bastards when you got down to it. They thought they could siphon off Republican votes if they loudly were hard on minorities with “welfare reform” and “Sister Souljah moments.” It worked…sort of…I guess? It shredded our social safety net further. It came from a generation of Democrats inured to losing, certain that if they could win the support of David Broder they could win. Fuck those people.

107

Bruce Wilder 04.19.15 at 4:31 am

Rich Puchalsky: FDR etc. . . . did not challenge racist power.

They challenged it. They did not overwhelm it or put it in the grave.

Rich Puchalsky: Bruce Wilder seems to think that the oligarchy doesn’t reward whites in concrete, class-based terms . . .

That’s a serious misunderstanding of the argument I was trying to make.

I think they do reward whites, out of a surplus diminished by the structure of relations they lay out. That’s an important distinction, because, if inequity is inefficient, it implies the possibility of rewards from reform efforts and serious dissatisfactions and grievances even among the henchmen and handmaidens of the system.

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js. 04.19.15 at 5:06 am

RP @98:

Bruce Wilder seems to think that the oligarchy doesn’t reward whites in concrete, class-based terms, but those concrete rewards exist

I made almost exactly the same point in a thread recently—not against BW, just the general point about white people getting class advantage just because of their whiteness—and you called my position incoherent, more or less.

109

someguy88 04.19.15 at 1:50 pm

Tom

I guess it shouldn’t bother me. It is human nature to want to fit every event into some pre-existing narrative where we are the good guys and they are evil. I am the demented one for trying not too.

This very crude, but when you look at the numbers, 40% of our prison population is black, and my reading of the Vox numbers is that 31% of police killings are black. Based on that, it really does not look like there is an epidemic of trigger, happy, racist police men specifically gunning for black folk. (Though there is an epidemic of somewhat racist, in that the sense that culturally America is unfortunately racist, trigger happy police men killing black and white folk.) If you stop, and actually think critically about it, you might see, how that might make sense. The Army of the Potomac was a pretty racist organization and yet.

But, whatever, I disagree with you, so I must be a racist.

110

Rich Puchalsky 04.19.15 at 2:10 pm

BW: “I think they do reward whites, out of a surplus diminished by the structure of relations they lay out.”

OK, but that’s pretty much what I was saying as well. You and I are more or less on the left, so you and I believe that everyone would be better off in a more egalitarian society and that an oligarchy first decreases the size of the overall pie and then shares it out preferentially but inequitably. But if you don’t take this as an assumption — i.e. if you are not on the left — then it’s quite possible to see the inequitable sharing-out as a class-based reward. Your objection that there is no global reward for underclasses imports your assumptions into the conclusion. (Maybe those assumptions are even objectively true in some way, but I don’t want to argue that in this thread.)

js: “you called my position incoherent, more or less.”

I really don’t remember which thread or comment this was. Are you sure that I wasn’t poking fun at the inconsistency between Marxism then and Marxism now? Because I remember a whole lot of lectures from Marxists about how race, gender, sexual orientation etc. weren’t important politically and how what mattered was class as Marx described it. Now that Marxists are confronting a left that is much more largely non-Marxist, they tend to say that all of that is important in some unconvincing way but I’ve never really figured out how they can possibly do this and still remain Marxists.

CPUSA pretty straightforwardly was operating on propaganda instructions to make the US capitalists look bad by bringing up how racist the U.S. system was. It was good that they did this, because the U.S. looking bad on the international stage was an important factor in getting legal racism changed. But I don’t think that they could have organized the black community in the U.S. in the same way as the religious left did, even without the repression of Communism in the U.S. (although since that repression actually occurred, this will always be an unknown counterfactual).

111

Rich Puchalsky 04.19.15 at 2:23 pm

mattski: “Well, Krugman might say it’s those in favor of preserving traditional hierarchies v those in favor forming new ones”

Yes, in a sense — it’s also the part of sexism and homophobia, and conservatism in general is about preserving hierarchies. But sexism didn’t produce a whole geographic area, the South, that politically goes for the GOP. Homophobia wasn’t what was used by capitalists to recruit easily identifiable strikebreakers that made some parts of the labor movement racist well through the 60s. It was really the battles over racism that produced the fault lines that exist now, and sexism, homophobia etc. got attached to the those lines.

I should also mention that “the party of racism” doesn’t necessarily mean the party is all racists. Racism is a set of policies, not an individual belief. And as Lee Atwater illustrated with his famous interview, it can appear to be a set of policies about taxation, Stand Your Ground, etc. Not every GOP politician has to be a secret racist in order for them to have bought into a system that gives them political power because they work towards racism. Similarly, not every Democratic politician is really anti-racist.

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bob mcmanus 04.19.15 at 4:03 pm

Waring: ” Fuck those people (DLC Democrats)”

Why am I Marxian?

1) Because if I exclude all the marginal racists, homophobes, sexists, moderates sellouts and compromisers etc pretty soon my coalition is down under 40%. This is the plan, the methodology of liberal capitalism and has been since nationalism buried the 2nd International. What the anti-racists minorities feminists LGBTQ do is their business and their reform politics but I am with the 99% even if they aren’t with me or with each other.

2) Because I find the idea of a Rainbow oligarchy and a rainbow serfdom unacceptable. I get no personal pleasures, can’t identify in any way with a black or woman president, a lesbian or Hispanic killing general or CEO. Maybe that is because I am a white hetero male. See #1, I define my own politics, and don’t tell others what to do. Maybe it is because I am not quite UMC. Maybe because identifying or adopting a particularizing identity doesn’t suit me, I have never been a joiner. Whatever. With the union, til the day.

3) Because without a direct primary prioritized attack of capitalist resources the underclasses can lose the resources, material and ideological, to fight. Forever. History does not tend toward the fucking light. You can have an oligarchy and serfdom that lasts for centuries. The Romans did not care much about skin color in the saltmines, the samurai were egalitarian about underage gender in the brothels.

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LFC 04.19.15 at 4:27 pm

Belle Waring @105

The current incarnation of the Republican party is that it is the party of racists. This is really too bad–it sucks even. It gives minorities very little leverage over the party that is meant to represent their interests.

It’s true that minorities don’t have that much leverage over the Dems b/c the Dems know it’s unlikely minorities will turn to Repubs. At least this is the case w/r/t African-American voters. The situation w/r/t Hispanics may be a bit different, esp. in a year when Marco Rubio is a presidential candidate and the other Fla-based candidate, Jeb Bush, is married to a woman who was born in Mexico, iirc.

Anyway, the Repub position on minorities is short-sighted from their own purely strategic, self-interested standpoint. I forget the exact figures, but I think the demographic forecast is that in 50 years non-whites (African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, others) will comprise the majority of the U.S. pop. (and of the electorate). If Repubs have not changed their line by then the party will be consigned to electoral oblivion on the presidential level.

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mattski 04.19.15 at 5:20 pm

Why am I Marxian?

4) Because I take my Jerk-fu seriously.

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bob mcmanus 04.19.15 at 6:31 pm

If Repubs have not changed their line by then the party will be consigned to electoral oblivion on the presidential level.

And by that time, the Democratic Party, or at least the elite, will be to the right of Reagan.

Or…the crazed stub of the Republicans, based in the South and West, will take into some form of civil war redux, with great cost and suffering, followed by another Rutherford Hayes/Coolidge return to normalcy and reconciliation, etc etc.

Those who see the US on an inevitable path toward Sweden are…well not to be insulting. Sweden isn’t even on that path. (Louis Proyect has uploaded a great Swedish movie to youtube about the general strike in Sweden in 1937 I think. Bo Widerberg directed it in the early 70s, when there was a Left).

Leaving aside climate catastrophes and scarcities and desperate zero-sum resource politics.

116

Rich Puchalsky 04.19.15 at 7:52 pm

It’s hard to know how much of an argument I can have with bob mcmanus without breaking the magical mcmanus-sensei thing that lets him continue to comment. I don’t think he’s trolling or crazy or disruptive or whatever: he’s just wrong. I don’t think he’s wrong because I’ve got big battalions and he doesn’t; I also represent a tiny, fringe political view.

1. Climate change catastrophes and scarcities and so on are exactly what Marxism has nothing useful to say about.

2. Saying that the underclasses are going to get trapped forever / for centuries is just the reverse of saying that we’re on that inevitable road to Sweden.

3. Marxism also is wrong about its whole analysis of the existence of a distinct underclass. “The 99%” doesn’t care that you care about it: it doesn’t care about you: it’s not a coherent entity: it’s not waiting for you to let it speak. All that I can see that you’re really trying to do is impose your own elite analytical framework on it — conservatives like to read Adam Smith, you like to read Marx. For some members of the underclass, their realest and most expressed political value is their desire to stomp on other members of the underclass.

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Bruce Wilder 04.19.15 at 8:44 pm

Probably just not a good idea to try to argue with bob mcmanus directly. But, then, I wouldn’t say he’s wrong, either.

Of course, I’m not a Marxist or Marxian(?) or whatever. I have no use for the claptrap apparatus. If bob mcmanus can handle it, more power to him. If he’s right in some comment, maybe he’s right for wrong reasons. So what? I don’t have to buy into the Marxist framework, which he’s never going to exposit in a comment here anyway, tg.

I think his comments are often incisive and informative, pointing out the blindness of our clubby little consensus. And, as far as I’m concerned, that’s true of his comment above about the trend of electoral politics and party competition.

RP: Saying that the underclasses are going to get trapped forever / for centuries is just the reverse of saying that we’re on that inevitable road to Sweden.

He didn’t say they will; he said they could. That’s not an equivalent but opposite prediction, it is a negation. bob is saying, there’s no actual mechanism putting us on an inevitable road to Sweden; it is magical thinking and nothing more. It is magical thinking to project 50 years ahead Republican Party doom because of racial demographics, when some of the States, where whites are a minority now (Mississippi and Georgia) are Republican strongholds. On the other hand, there really are political and economic institutions that can maintain extractive authoritarian regimes for centuries; pyramids — even social pyramids — can be stable and enduring structures, no matter how heavily they press on the bottom bricks.

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Bruce Wilder 04.19.15 at 9:02 pm

bob mcmanus: . . . without a direct primary prioritized attack of capitalist resources the underclasses can lose the resources, material and ideological, to fight.

This.

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Rich Puchalsky 04.19.15 at 9:05 pm

BW: “On the other hand, there really are political and economic institutions that can maintain extractive authoritarian regimes for centuries; pyramids — even social pyramids — can be stable and enduring structures, no matter how heavily they press on the bottom bricks.”

But there’s a tension between this and the “climate change disruptions” narrative. Does anyone really think that capitalist oligarchs can take anything that resembles current society and preserve it unchanging for centuries? That’s physically impossible. If we don’t crash, it’s going to involve unpredictable social disruptions: if we do crash, nothing like the current means of control are going to be sustainable. It’s possible to imagine an end state that involves the usual return-to-the-past scenario beloved of science fiction: the exhausted society after die-off returns to the old patterns of Egypt or Rome or what have you. But that has essentially nothing to do with what’s going on now, except insofar as what’s going on now makes society as a whole more likely to crash.

So, yes, we could have the underclasses trapped for centuries. We could also be on that road to Sweden. I don’t see either as inevitable: I don’t see an analysis that convinces me that one is really more likely than the other or that these two alternatives represent any major subset of the universe of possible outcomes.

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Bruce Wilder 04.19.15 at 11:39 pm

RP: there’s a tension between this and the “climate change disruptions” narrative. Does anyone really think that capitalist oligarchs can take anything that resembles current society and preserve it unchanging for centuries?

Who said anything about preserving the society unchanging? They’re going to change society, have already changed society and its political economy in profound ways, in the interest of trying to preserve their own damn selves.

If we don’t crash, it’s going to involve unpredictable social disruptions: if we do crash, nothing like the current means of control are going to be sustainable. It’s possible to imagine an end state that involves the usual return-to-the-past scenario beloved of science fiction: the exhausted society after die-off returns to the old patterns of Egypt or Rome or what have you. But that has essentially nothing to do with what’s going on now, except insofar as what’s going on now makes society as a whole more likely to crash.

I can’t really argue with “que sera, sera”, magical thinking all around, where fantasy science fiction is to be our guide.

It is hardly such a heavy-lift intellectually to see the problems of industrial civilization c 2015 as revolving around increasingly severe resource constraints globally, as an already excessive population increases, production and consumption increase, and the assimilative capacity of the environment is exhausted.

Maybe, humankind goes all “lifeboat earth, we’re all in this together, let’s share and help each other out, kumbaya”, but I don’t feature it somehow. Capitalism is all about creating scarcity and managing scarcity — in some perverse ways, our economic system is already well-adapted to the problem, just not well-adapted to responses that are particularly humane. Capitalism is well-adapted to responses that will tend to make the problem more acute for other people, further externalizing increasing costs, as the elites and the richest societies make gargantuan efforts to “adapt” and “mitigate” the droughts, sea-level rise, ocean ecology collapse and whatever else turns up. Socialize the losses; privatize the gains ad infinitum.

Writing Hollywood scripts is not my business. The implausibility of this scenario or that isn’t the point, and shouldn’t make people think no one knows anything. There’s a central theme, which is that there is too large a population for a shrinking resource base: a zero-sum game, at best, which is won by elites tightening the screws on the surplus population.

Even if you don’t personally see it that way, you can bet that lots of megarich have done that math. And, so, yes, back to the future style, it does have a lot to do with what is going on right now. People, who thought, “great, Reagan brought down the Commies, we don’t have to pay taxes or union wages anymore, glad that’s over” now think, “better get ready for whining and riots and insurrection from the proles” — “panopticon surveillance state? Don’t you just love your iPhone?”

And, those people are very nearly unopposed in our politics, because there’s so little institutional support for an alternative or opposing party or ideology, no where even to shelter the pretence of one for another day. Identity politics does have some things to do with that disabling, though identity politics may itself simply be the product of more substantive disabling, depriving of resources, access to institutional levers of support, etc.

Pyramids “collapse” by their weight crushing the bottom layer; they don’t topple over. The Roman Empire was in decline for 300 years from Trajan to the Sack of Rome in 410 AD, and continued stumbling along, even managing a revival of sorts under Justinian. But, the surplus available to support a complex society was declining, and the effects were forced down to the bottom layer of society, where civil wars and plagues and famines resulted in increasing depopulation and barbarian invasions, until finally the Plague of Justinian in 541-542 AD, marking a centuries long cycle of Bubonic Plague that ushered Europe into its Dark Ages. The structure of the Roman state was severely strained, but managed to survive, to be bob’s exemplar of the resilience of a severely oppressive, stubbornly conservative hierarchy.

Edward of Windsor (Edward III) reigned for 50 years, right on thru the Black Death that halved the population of England. Edward was the warrior chief of a Norman French aristocracy that ruled over Britain and sometimes half of France from massively fortified castles, extracting its sustenance by the sword and acting generally like gangsters. He was dead and in his grave, before the depredations of the lords ran head-on into the new reality, post-depopulation in the Great Rising or Wat Tyler’s Rebellion, but that proved little more than a passing episode, though long remembered among the common people. It was another 100 years before Henry Tudor, the greediest miser ever to sit the throne of England, put an end to the aristocracy’s battlefield pursuit of the game of thrones, and 200 more before the invention of constitutional monarchy ended the doctrine of divine right. Last time I looked there’s still a King in England.

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Rich Puchalsky 04.20.15 at 12:16 am

“panopticon surveillance state? Don’t you just love your iPhone?”

What kind of scenario has a resource collapse and still iPhones? Or a turning-to-obvious-brutality police state and people still happily using them? Meanwhile, getting back to this thread, iPhones create a panopticon that isn’t useable only by the oligarchy. It also allows events like these shootings to come to light when previously they were completely ignored.

Obviously I agree that the left needs institutional support. One of the things it needs institutional support for is against the temptation to “put the screws to the surplus population” by means of racial division, as is traditional.

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Val 04.20.15 at 12:17 am

BW – what you are talking about is patriarchy, and what you call identity politics actually has some answers to that.

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Val 04.20.15 at 12:23 am

And just in case focusing on patriarchy seems to ignore racism, it doesn’t. Gerda Lerner argued that the enslavement and subordination of women provided the model for the subsequent enslavement and subordination of conquered men (which I take to be the historical and material foundation of racism).

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Bruce Wilder 04.20.15 at 2:36 am

Val: what you call identity politics actually has some answers to that.

Yes, I believe I received those answers upthread. Unions were racist and sexist and the New Deal was racist and sexist, and shutup was the general drift.

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Val 04.20.15 at 3:08 am

BW @ 124
I didn’t read those comments that way – it’s a pity you did, I think. Qualifying what may have been achieved by unions or under the New Deal etc, doesn’t necessarily mean they were dismissed, does it?

Acknowledging the historical nature of patriarchy (by which I mean hierarchical systems of power in which men are dominant over women but which are also characterised by class inequity, racism, an exploitative relationship with the natural environment, and the use of violence as a legitimate means of resolving disputes) seems to me the first step towards changing those kinds of societies. Conversely I think if you can’t do that, you’re stuck with it. If you can’t acknowledge the power structure that has privileged you, you can’t really blame others for not changing, can you?

In the same sense I acknowledge that there are limitations to the kind of liberal feminism that focuses only on getting women into equal positions within fundamentally unequal and inequitable hierarchies (though I still think that will create some change for the better in itself)

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bob mcmanus 04.20.15 at 11:58 am

We have had a black bankster-serving war-mongering President about to be followed by a woman bankster-serving war-mongering President but are exceedingly unlikely in America to get a socialist bankster-hating anti-war President.

This is not trivial or irrelevant. One cannot imagine a woman leading Saudi Arabia or a black President of the Confederacy. I might be willing to posit that Indira Gandhi or Benazir Bhutto served the Patriarchy but I doubt that their fans will be willing to say that Obama is a conscious tool of racism or HRC will be a tool of misogyny. I might be willing to say it.

This does not mean that racism or Patriarchy do not exist or aren’t very powerful. Poor blacks and poor women are horribly oppressed in racist and sexist ways. It does mean for me that racism and sexism are tools of economic hierarchy rather than the other way around. Chris Rock is stopped for “driving while black” (or Forrest Whitaker frisked or Oprah dissed) because the pigs assume a black man can’t afford that car or is otherwise a poor criminal, that is, on economic presumptions.

And anti-essentialism (and anti-biological determinism) kinda demand the conclusion that the end or lessening of racism or sexism at elite levels will not entail a general or qualitative improvement in economic, and I think, social justice, except for the new rainbow bosses and billionaires. Social justice does not trickle down. Recent history provides plenty of evidence.

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bob mcmanus 04.20.15 at 12:07 pm

And I picked up the Gerda Lerner and promise to read the whole thing by the end of May. Maybe Woman’s Way of Knowing first.

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engels 04.20.15 at 12:29 pm

Now that Marxists are confronting a left that is much more largely non-Marxist, they tend to say that all of that is important in some unconvincing way but I’ve never really figured out how they can possibly do this and still remain Marxists.

And the fact that you ‘never really figured [this] out’ is supposed to be of interest to anyone else – how exactly? If you could attempt to give an argument for why you think Marxists can’t be feminists or anti-racists it might be more constructive.

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Rich Puchalsky 04.20.15 at 1:24 pm

“I doubt that their fans will be willing to say that Obama is a conscious tool of racism or HRC will be a tool of misogyny.”

Does Cornel West count?

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engels 04.20.15 at 1:32 pm

And ditto re your comments on Marxism and environmentalism.

I mean, if I wanted to I could post comment after comment about how French people have nothing useful to say about architecture, say, and I how I’ve never been able to understand how they possibly could, but the only conclusions most people would draw from that would be that 1 I don’t any French people and 2 I’m evidently a crank.

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Rich Puchalsky 04.20.15 at 2:25 pm

engels, you treat Marxism as this kind of contentless, intellectually vapid void suitable for lectures about how capitalism produces nerds — literally the only somewhat original idea I’ve ever seen you write here, which isn’t saying much. But no, it’s not like French people and architecture: Marxism has actual theories about why class is important and why race, gender etc. — and for that matter, environmentalism — are not really important and why people who are concerned about them are on the wrong track. bob mcmanus is willing to talk about that because he’s basically honest. You always give this bland denial that Marxism means anything in particular.

I don’t think that it’s going to be worth responding to you further.

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LFC 04.20.15 at 2:45 pm

B Wilder
a central theme, which is that there is too large a population for a shrinking resource base

If resources were more equitably distributed, the total size of the global pop. would matter less, though still be pertinent from the standpoint of strains on the environment.

The growth rate of global pop. is projected to slow somewhat and then pop. will level off in, I think, c.2050. The more important demographic trends are the regional differentials: aging pops. in the industrialized world, growing and increasingly young pops. in M.E., parts of Africa and Asia. (J. Goldstone had a decent overview of this in F.Affairs several yrs ago.)

These regional differences likely will have, and to some extent are already having, political, social, economic, environmental implications. These implications are not esp well illuminated by a blanket statement about “too large a [global] pop. for a shrinking resource base.”

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LFC 04.20.15 at 2:52 pm

@R Puchalsky
Might be interested in this:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Bellamy_Foster

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bob mcmanus 04.20.15 at 3:07 pm

133: Yeah I know Foster, and Gavrati Spivak, Frantz Fanon, Zillah Eisenstein, Adolph Reed, Jodi Dean and too many more to count

“Doesn’t matter,” “not important,” are Puchalsky’s words not mine, for Puchalsky’s purposes. I’m intersectional as hell.

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Pettr 04.20.15 at 3:58 pm

Is there a conspiracy theory that says The Bilderberg Group or similar has made a concious effort to promote “identity politics” among the left, like CIA promoted modern art? I feel there has to be, but Google gives me nothing.

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Rich Puchalsky 04.20.15 at 3:58 pm

All right, let’s use your words then. “It does mean for me that racism and sexism are tools of economic hierarchy rather than the other way around.” That’s incompatible with something like Val’s theory that patriarchy is the fundamental source of the problem. Or perhaps “Because I find the idea of a Rainbow oligarchy and a rainbow serfdom unacceptable”, which I think makes it pretty clear what’s important, if I can use the word important. Or when you generally distinguish between intersectionality and feminism, anti-racism etc.

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mattski 04.20.15 at 4:36 pm

And anti-essentialism (and anti-biological determinism) kinda demand the conclusion that the end or lessening of racism or sexism at elite levels will not entail a general or qualitative improvement in economic, and I think, social justice, except for the new rainbow bosses and billionaires. Social justice does not trickle down. Recent history provides plenty of evidence.

Lessons in the effervescence of language & thought from mcmanus-sensei.

We have had a black bankster-serving war-mongering President about to be followed by a woman bankster-serving war-mongering President but are exceedingly unlikely in America to get a socialist bankster-hating anti-war President.

As we all know opinions are like assholes, would you like to see mine?

It wouldn’t matter too much if Obama really was ‘socialist, anti-war.’ Occupying the office of the presidency doesn’t confer unrestricted power… duh. He has a limited space within which to maneuver. These days, very limited. And, whatever the motives of the chief executive, he/she–if they are sagacious–must choose his/her battles. That’s the nature of the beast. So it is guaranteed that the people who elect a reform-minded politician, even and/or especially president, are going to be disappointed in the results. Or perhaps you thought that moving an immense bureaucracy, and corporate/industrial/lobbying complex was going to be a breeze?

I’ve said it many times here at CT: JFK was shot because he was bucking the war machine. If you don’t believe me, read up on it. [One of the best resources.]

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mattski 04.20.15 at 4:42 pm

Also in the department of opinions:

If you have an hour you can spare out of your day, the following has salience to this discussion. I highly recommend it to my progressive-minded friends.

Peace.

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William Timberman 04.20.15 at 4:49 pm

The surface of Bruce Wilder’s argument changes, and often seduces us into engaging it at this or that point as our personal histories and personal tastes dictate. Getting to the core of it is more difficult. He asks us to take seriously the idea that human society as it exists, and as we experience it, is a complex organism perceptible in its parts, but difficult to comprehend as a whole. Even when we acknowledge all the bloody history we know about, and don’t know about, the reasons we’ve arrived here rather than some other place, however accidental they may be in part, are not trivial, nor can any particular force or event in that history explain the whole. No easy pickings here, no QEDs available even to the most erudite, let alone to the most passionate. Addressing his fellow liberals, he often maintains, as he does here, that our problems aren’t simply a result of ethical shortcomings, most especially not someone else’s ethical shortcomings.

This makes sense to me, but taken as a whole it seems too amorphous to serve as the foundation of a political program, much as my own thinking often does. Yes, the iPhone spies on us, but it also spies for us, as others have pointed out above. Can something be made of that by the hopeful sci-fi libertarians and capitalist cheerleaders who are so implacably fond of technological solutions to social and political problems? Maybe, but it seems a stretch. It appears we have an Archimedean difficulty. We can imagine a lever, we might even be able to construct one, but at the moment we can’t seem to find a place to stand, and the fulcrum point will depend on events which may not materialize, and which, in any case, we can’t predict. Not a lot of fun to be us in times like these, but at least we won’t be bored.

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LFC 04.20.15 at 5:06 pm

b. mcmanus:
I assumed you knew of Foster. That’s why my comment at 133 was specifically directed to R. Puchalsky, who seems to think there are no Marxists who write about the environment. (I think I’m out of this thread anyway.)

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LFC 04.20.15 at 5:11 pm

p.s. except to mention that between B Wilder retelling English history from c.1350 to c.1640 and mattski doing his usual JFK thing, and etc etc, one might as well just the play the tapes as read the thread…

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LFC 04.20.15 at 5:12 pm

correction: just play the tapes

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Bruce Wilder 04.20.15 at 5:53 pm

LFC: one might as well just play the tapes as read the thread…

I only wish. I thought my reference to my own alleged nostalgia for the New Deal would be read with reference to the tapes, but, no . . .

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AcademicLurker 04.20.15 at 5:56 pm

The tapes are useless unless someone can restore the missing 18 minutes.

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Rich Puchalsky 04.20.15 at 6:04 pm

LFC as usual thinks that the statements are true only if they apply to absolutely every member of the class under discussion. I agree that Foster exists, and that he attempted a reinterpretation of Marx and Marxism as having been environmentalist all along. If Foster’s work is now part of core Marxism for many Marxists then I’m glad that they are coming over to the right side, but I think that this has more to do with the rest of the left setting an example that they had to find a way to follow than in anything inherent to Marxism.

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Rich Puchalsky 04.20.15 at 6:32 pm

William Timberman: “Addressing his fellow liberals, he often maintains, as he does here, that our problems aren’t simply a result of ethical shortcomings, most especially not someone else’s ethical shortcomings.”

I’m not endorsing a reading of history in which the problems are simply someone else’s ethical shortcomings, but I do think a reading of American history that doesn’t treat anti-black racism as one of the most important social organizing forces is leaving too much out. Not that Bruce Wilder is doing this, but his description of the New Deal as challenging racism although not overcoming it just doesn’t seem to me to be true in the most important ways. When the New Deal had to compromise to get things done, it consistently compromised in the direction of avoiding having racists dig in their heels. That may have been the only compromise possible at the time. But at the level of politics rather than at the level of what the New Dealers thought, it wasn’t a “challenge”.

Later Democratic politicians didn’t have this compromise available to them: they were too fenced in by prior commitments. This predictably broke the institutional supports for the left that Bruce Wilder writes about. I agree about their importance. But those social supports were vulnerable precisely because they depended on the false solidarity of a class that didn’t really exist.

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William Timberman 04.20.15 at 7:02 pm

Rich Puchalsky @ 145

It’s a judgment call, and not an easy one. I’ve tended to endorse what’s often derided as identity politics mostly because I grew up in the South during the last days of full-on Jim Crow. As an unwilling witness on an almost daily basis to racial injustice and cruelty, which, mind you, were presented as to me utterly normal occurrences, not to be noticed, let alone to be commented on, I’ve never been able to fully accept the idea that there’s such a thing as parochialism in the pursuit of equality. Bob mcmanus does his best to see everything through a class lens, which isn’t exactly wrong, but I’m not entirely persuaded either that his explanations trump my own experience, at least in particular cases.

Where I agree with Bruce Wilder is that there was indeed something different in the air during the era of the New Deal, and it was still in the air during my childhood in the 50’s. My father was a white Southerner, who as it happened, had a black wet nurse, much honored in the family, but never considered an equal. He was, on the other hand, an officer in an army which had been integrated since 1947, and I can testify that he tried to live up to the ideal that integration represented. He reminded me in retrospect of Lyndon Johnson. The N-word was never far from his Dixie lips, but he genuinely believed that black people deserved to be treated as equals under the law, and he tried — for the most part successfully — to live according to that belief.

Anecdotes prove nothing, I suppose, but in the aggregate I keep thinking that they must add up to something. Which leads me to a final point: intent makes a difference, even if cynics are poorly equipped to evaluate it. I’m pretty sure that the political compromises which FDR claimed to be necessary were in fact necessary. When President Obama makes the same claims, I”m much less sure. On what do I base that distinction in judgment? Well, that’s probably worthy of at least a whole new thread, but I suspect that you already have a fair idea….

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gianni 04.20.15 at 7:23 pm

Rich P : Marxism explains “why race, gender etc. — and for that matter, environmentalism — are not really important and why people who are concerned about them are on the wrong track”

Rich, I like you and all, but you consistently dramatize the Marxian emphasis on class and warp it into something most people of Marx-ish persuasion would not recognize. Yes, at the level of pure theory, Val’s notion of patriarchy as the original model for exploitation stands in contrast to the orthodox Marxist formulation given by Engels. Maybe inside the academy, these disagreements about fundamentals and root causes and the like would produce deep divisions. But even there, I have not seen it.

Outside the academy, I have a hard time picturing any of the individuals I know who identify as Marx-ian making these sorts of claims: that the feminists ‘are on the wrong track’, that the environment ‘is not really important’.

The core of the tradition was written well over a century ago. For various reasons, both intrinsic and extrinsic to the ideas themselves, it is still used to inform social analysis, both doctrinaire and innovative alike. It is this combination of a long history with present vitality that continues to attract people to these ideas. Your narrow interpretation of what Marxism ‘really is’ ignores the aspects of the tradition that sustain it today.

If you want to argue that these newer ideas are just theoretical accoutrements, added to keep up with the changing times but fundamentally a betrayal of the core tenants of Marxism…. well you are free to do so. But the only people who will agree with you are the most orthodox, the most dogmatic, of the Marxist camp. Those people may still exist, but I haven’t met any. Citizens and activists concerned about present social problems – like that of unaccountable police violence – have little patience for the question of whether class-based or race-based exploitation is more fundamental. Marx-ish types are able and willing to participate in political activity of feminists and anti-racists, and vice-versa, and when you ask them why they will tell you that this is a feature of these ideas, not in spite of them.

Basically I am arguing that it is your narrow definition of what constitutes Marxism that is doing most, if not all, of the work in your contention that Marxism and feminism (etc) are incompatible. It is a variant of the ‘Maoism was not really Marxism’ game (and its many variations) that we are all so tired of playing.

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mattski 04.20.15 at 8:14 pm

The tapes are useless unless someone can restore the missing 18 minutes.

THANK YOU!

:^)

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Ogden Wernstrom 04.20.15 at 8:42 pm

parse 04.17.15 at 6:29 pm:

My impression is that individual officers, even where there actions are judged to be inappropriate, are typically shielded from civil penalties, which are paid by the city or county that employs them. Perhaps that’s just because the government has deeper pockets. Are there notable cases when officers have actually been held civilly liable for their behavior on the job?

After some research, I think that my (tiny bit of) knowledge is rather dated, and I was probably too optimistic about Eric Harris’ survivors’ ability to file suit.

Yes, typically, governments are shielded from civil suits – but, as I understand understood it, misconduct is not shielded, nor are actions “outside the scope of employment”, even if performed while on-the-job. Your word, “inappropriate” is not a high enough standard. When a government employee is disciplined for their actions, for example Michael T. Slager’s firing, that…used to be enough.

IANAL, but conditions which allow a civil suit to be filed against a government entity (smaller than US Fed or State) will also allow a suit against the individual(s). Whether the government indemnifies the person is up to that government, and it is commonly done – that’s not just deeper pockets, though.

Inappropriate behaviour and mistakes are not the same thing as misconduct, but admitting an error on-the-record will make a plaintiff’s case easy to prove; you are right that such an admission alone is not enough to override the shield of liability.

Civil rights violations are probably the most-commonly-claimed misconduct these days, due to US Federal law. It appears that the burden of proving misconduct usually falls on the plaintiff; I expect that the police departments are not in any hurry to help out.

Searching for more info, it appears that minor (routine?) misconduct generally is not enough to remove the shield, and civil-rights-violation claims appear to get a hearing most easily – because there is specific US Federal law which overrides any other immunity from constitutional-rights violations cases. Other types of case seem to vary a lot from location to location, but the last 30+ years seem to have moved toward immunity from almost everything no covered by 42 USC 1983 – that is, only constitutional-rights violations seem to get to court, these days.

Searching for examples, I do not find a good one which clearly backs my assertion. My searches are gummed-up by insurance companies that offer legal coverage to government employees, and cases which were settled without trial.

We now return to our Rumble Royale match, Pulchasky vs. mcmanus vs. Wilder vs. LFC vs….

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Rich Puchalsky 04.20.15 at 9:06 pm

gianni, I think that usefully disagreeing with your comment would take up too much of the thread, so I guess that I’ll just try to stop the anti-Marxist comments already.

Here’s a sketch of what a real answer would be:

1. Yes, during activism there are not deep disagreements, but this is because step 1 of activism is to not disrupt what’s going on. Theory is important, but it’s exactly what we never get to talk about during actual social action. Blog arguments, on the other hand, can be arguments because nothing useful is really being interrupted.

2. I really do deeply disagree with the theory involved and think that it leads to bad results. For instance, just to check out what John Bellamy Foster was doing lately I read his latest Monthly Review article. In reference to it, it’s true that liberals try to set themselves up as gatekeepers, and I have no wish to gatekeep Naomi Klein, but I’ve seen this style of Marxist argument (“we need the socialist revolution in order to do X”) at every stage of the environmental movement, and it would have doomed e.g. the Montreal Protocol. I pretty much trust John Quiggin’s numbers on how much decarbonization would cost, and no, we don’t really need “an ecological-cultural revolution” in order to do it, and saying so decreases our chances of actually doing it. It’s the century-old co-optation of left goals in the service of bad theory.

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William Berry 04.21.15 at 4:38 am

Bring the pot to a slow, rolling boil. Stir in a good dollop of instincts of RP, a little tongue of BW, a dab (the reasonably coherent part) of bob mcm, and a healthy dash of WT, for leavening. Turn it down and let it simmer a while, and you just might have something.

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engels 04.21.15 at 10:25 am

Puchalsky- last comment before you take your ball and go home- I don’t think Marxism ‘this kind of contentless, intellectually vapid void’ (that’s ludicrous). I just think it is perfectly compatible with feminism, anti-racism and environmentalism, and since you’ve been the one asserting- repeatedly- that it isn’t the burden of proof is clearly on you to give some kind of argument for that claim. Since you’ve failed to do this- again- perhaps you could go through some of the figures on Bob’s list and explain how your view applies, eg. explain why is Frantz Fanon not an anti-racist or why Zillah Eisenstein is not a feminist.

(PS. your ‘deep disagreement’ with John Bellamy Foster seems to be just that you are not a ‘deep green’- ie. you believe green politics is consistent with capitalism. Again, that’s a perfectly respectable liberal position, and a very common one, especially in America, but it’s not any kind of argument, is it?)

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Rich Puchalsky 04.21.15 at 5:30 pm

I’ll try to bring this back to the original subject of the thread. What can actually be done to stop police in the U.S. from shooting unarmed black people? Let’s take that as the goal of activism, for the moment, although it implies much broader goals.

The possible answers that I’m familiar with fall (vastly oversimplified) into the categories of: social revolution, movement politics, partisan politics, technophilic politics, cultural politics, legal enforcement, and regulatory change. Social revolution means that society would be broadly changed, into a socialist state or a functioning anarchy or something similar. Partisan politics involves taking the Democrats to be the defenders of black people in America and trying to make sure that they win, or that better Democrats win. Movement politics tries to bring people together for large-scale protest in order to change the range of political possibility. Technophilic politics means embracing the panopticon and trying to use it to restrain police behavior (e.g. with belt cameras and cell phones). Cultural politics tries to broadly convince all of America that racism is wrong and hopes that this ripples down to police behavior, or that anti-racism becomes the majority position for all political parties. Legal enforcement points out that police killing people is in theory illegal and that courts could start to change how they treat these cases. Regulatory change would address police organization, training, and central control or lack thereof.

The reason I’ve spent time going through history is to explain why I think some of these won’t work. Partisan politics only works if the right people win most of the time, and with one of the two parties essentially organized around racism, this won’t work. Legal enforcement and regulatory change assume that the executive or the high courts have a free hand to make the changes needed, but this runs up against the reality of political opposition in this case. For instance, there are so many police departments in America for the same reason as there are so many school boards in America — so that locals can continue their preferred local discriminatory policies. Movement politics, well, I don’t want to get into that but people saw what happened with Occupy recently.

Cultural politics is what LGTBQ people have been using to great effect, but I think the history of the U.S. means that having it work for racism is going to be even more difficult. It may remain the best available alternative. I’m not a great believer in technophilic politics, although that also has had some effect and is why this thread exists.

That leaves social revolution. Essentially, I don’t see it on the horizon. We could get any kind of unpredictable thing happening because of social collapse of one kind or another, but building up for large-scale social change involves the kind of thing that Bruce Wilder talks about a good deal: creating power centers in society that support a new politics. Over the long term, who knows; over the short term, not likely. If we really go into crisis, all bets are off, but I see no reason to think that the left is prepared to use crisis usefully. I tend to think that cultural politics goes in the direction of preparing people for gradual change anyways.

But we live in the short term. Or rather, the people who get shot die in the short term. I think that we have to devote some effort to activities that have at least a chance of some short-term effect. This has nothing to do with what is compatible with what in the long term. It’s merely an observation that sometimes improvisation within the system works.

The people who, as in the article I linked to above, agree that we have a short-term critical problem and then say that we need to address it with their preferred long-term solution are doing what I described as “co-optation”. In this particular case I think it’s especially bad because their theory and therefore their long-term solution aren’t right, but I’ve agreed to stop going on about that.

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engels 04.21.15 at 6:24 pm

Shorter Rich: having been called on my bullshit (again) I’m changing the subject (again)

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