Tranquility or Justice?

It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.

And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.

– Martin Luther King, “The Other America” (March 14, 1968)

This week’s featured posts are “The Skittles Analogy” and “The Asterisk in the Bill of Rights“.

Some quick thoughts about the quote above: King gave this speech three weeks before his assassination, so it is very close to his last word on the subject. Such radical King quotes have largely been white-washed out of history. Instead, each January MLK Day is largely a celebration of color-blindness, as if the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow and sundown towns could just be waved off, and we could best move forward by pretending that none of it ever happened. King himself never held that view, as you will quickly see if you read entire speeches rather than a few carefully selected lines.

This week everybody was talking about Charlotte

Since the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott on Tuesday, Charlotte North Carolina has seen daily demonstrations. The demonstrations appear to have been mostly peaceful, but occasionally turned violent. One person was shot and eventually died, but police claim they didn’t do it and no one seems to know who did. I haven’t seen anything about whether the dead man was a protester.

To me, there seem to be two issues related to police killing blacks. First, the black community has no confidence in the investigative process, and I can understand why. Take the Freddie Gray case, for example. He was apparently healthy when Baltimore Police took him into custody, and then he died of a spinal cord injury. No one seems to be at fault; every charge has resulted in a not-guilty verdict. And in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, the police seemed more interested in doing public relations for Officer Wilson than a neutral investigation.

There’s at least a partial a solution to this part of the problem, and it’s already law in Wisconsin: any police shooting requires an outside investigation; a police department can’t be allowed to investigate its own officer.

Second, American police tactics are senselessly confrontational. Even in shootings that are judged to be justified, I’m often left wondering: “Did you really need to push it to that point?” Standard practice seems to be to start by barking orders, and then to keep escalating until either the orders are followed or the civilian is dead. That’s what I see in the Scott video. In many other cases, people wind up dead because police don’t understand they’re dealing with someone who is deaf or mentally handicapped or otherwise incapable of understanding their demands.

Police in other countries don’t behave that way, as this article about Scottish police tactics makes clear.


While we’re talking about black lives not mattering, conservative columnist Glenn Reynolds tweeted “Run them down” in response to protesters who blocked an interstate in Charlotte. He then defended the tweet on his Instapundit blog. Twitter suspended his account for promoting violence, and USA Today suspended him as a columnist for a month.

If you think this isn’t about race, imagine, say, white Catholics blocking a road leading to an abortion clinic. Would anybody suggest running over them?

and tonight’s presidential debate

Like Frank Bruni, my main worry about the debate is that the bar for Trump has been set so low. If he makes it through the evening without calling Hillary a bitch or talking about his penis again, lots of people will be impressed by his performance. I remember the first 2000 debate, when Gore ran rings around Bush on substance, but the headlines the next morning were that Gore sighed too loudly.

One measure of what Hillary is up against is just how contradictory or constricting all the “expert” advice is: She shouldn’t raise her voice or interrupt Trump. She should keep her answers short, but tell her own story and project a positive vision. Point out when he’s lying but don’t get mired in fact-checking. Show her intelligence and reveal his ignorance without sounding like a know-it-all. Either do or don’t talk about the specifics of her plans for governing. And brush off his attacks as silly.

And then there’s sexism. A woman can’t possibly look “presidential”, because the American people have no image of a woman being president. And I can guarantee that tomorrow morning Trump will not be criticized for shouting, frowning, interrupting, dressing wrong, blustering, not showing proper respect, or any of the things Clinton has to be on guard against. Anna Waters, a Northwestern student who debated in high school, outlines all the built-in disadvantages female debaters have to overcome. Another high school debater complains about the challenge of “trying to both confront stereotypes but at the same time being weirdly beholden to them”.

and you might also be interested in

The National Museum of African-American History and Culture opened this week on the National Mall in Washington, DC.


Hottest summer ever.


John Oliver compares Hillary’s scandals to Trump’s in some detail, and then concludes:

This campaign has been dominated by scandals. But it is dangerous to think that there is an equal number on both sides. And you can be irritated by some of Hillary’s; that is understandable. But you should then be f**king outraged by Trump’s.


If you’ve been thinking that Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson represents the “good” side of conservatism, you might want to think again. When he was running for president as a Republican in the 2012 cycle, he brushed off any concern about global warming, arguing that “In billions of years, the sun is going to actually grow and encompass the Earth, right? So global warming is in our future.” He went on to call for building new coal-fired power plants.

In case the insanity of this remark isn’t already obvious to you, imagine applying the logic to other issues: There’s no point worrying about nuclear war, because the sun is eventually going to burn all our cities anyway. And after the solar catastrophe, who’s going to care what our national debt was?


warren2Elizabeth Warren crossed the border to Nashua Saturday morning to give a pep talk to the door-knockers and phone-bankers gathered at the local Democratic headquarters. I had a chance to snap this picture.

She said she was going to talk about three things that are in danger in this election, but then she added a fourth. A Republican sweep in this election would result in

  • ending the Affordable Care Act and defunding Planned Parenthood
  • rolling back Dodd-Frank and the other Wall Street reforms that were passed after the 2008 collapse.
  • Donald Trump immediately appointing a Supreme Court justice.
  • “Donald Trump and the Republicans are making hate OK.”

Her summary of Democratic values was

  • Every young person is entitled to get an education without being crushed by debt.
  • No one who works full-time should live in poverty.
  • After a lifetime of hard work, people are entitled to retire in dignity.
  • “Let me say something that is deeply controversial in Republican circles: We believe in science, that climate change is real, and we have a moral obligation to pass on a livable Earth.”
  • Equal pay for equal work and a woman’s right to choose.
  • When Wall Street CEOs break the rules, they should go to jail like anyone else.
  • Money should not own our government.

Two sports legends worth remembering today: Golfer Arnold Palmer died yesterday at 87. He was part of that first generation of athletes that TV made into icons.

And Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully called his last game. Scully is 88, and has been announcing Dodger games on radio and TV since 1950, when they played in Brooklyn. The Dodgers gave him a great send-off: The final play he broadcast was a walk-off homer that clinched the division title.

and … and …

no, I just don’t have a closing in me this week. Let’s hope my sense of humor recovers soon.

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Comments

  • Anonymous  On September 26, 2016 at 11:53 am

    I really needed some humor at the end of the sift this week. Please don’t omit it again.

  • Luke Swartz  On September 26, 2016 at 12:03 pm

    I agree with your points on the low bar for Trump and double-standard for Hillary, but there are some other dangerous signs that tonight’s debate will be good for Trump’s polls: https://medium.com/@lswartz/why-donald-trump-will-win-the-debates-5613ba8de6d0

  • Alan  On September 26, 2016 at 12:06 pm

    A typo slipped through: “spinal chord” for “spinal cord”.

    • weeklysift  On September 26, 2016 at 12:13 pm

      That was kind of a creative typo. I guess a spinal “chord” would be a combination of notes that gives you shivers. I’ll fix it anyway; thanks for pointing it out.

  • Derek  On September 26, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    Doug, I have to offer a different opinion of the Wisconsin law investigating police shooting. I live in Wisconsin and this is hardly an independent investigation. It is independent in that the investigators do not work for the department being investigated, but they are all police or former police. This is a problem. What many people are pointing out is that the police cannot investigate themselves. It is still police investigating themselves. Why not make up a panel of defense and prosecuting attorneys?

    • weeklysift  On September 26, 2016 at 12:44 pm

      Good point. It does seem to be progress to get the investigation out of the local department, but it’s still not an ideal solution.

  • Anonymous  On September 26, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    Another typo: “[Elisabeth Warren] added a forth/fourth”

    • weeklysift  On September 26, 2016 at 12:44 pm

      I can’t spin that one. It’s just a mistake; I’ll fix it. Thanks.

  • Anonymous  On September 26, 2016 at 12:58 pm

    Here’s the way I see the two candidates in tonight’s debate, using a high school analogy..
    Hillary Clinton is the smart girl with glasses that sat in the front of the class and always had the answer when no one else did. She wasn’t elected prom queen, but she was voted to be in charge of the floats, because then everyone knew they’d get done. She wasn’t elected homecoming queen, but she was voted head of the yearbook committee because everyone knew she’d make it a great yearbook.

    Donald Trump was the big mouthed guy who always pushed his way to the front seat of the bus so he could pinch the girls as they went by while broadcasting his opinion of their physical appearance. No one ever asked him to be in charge of anything or voted him prom king, but he did collect a sniggering group of sycophants who liked to hear him say the things they never dared to. Kind of like the Biff character in the movie Back to the Future.

    I sincerely hope the smart girl comes out ahead tonight and exposes the big mouth for the bully he truly is.

  • Josh  On September 26, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    Your point about the police seemingly escalating confrontations by default reminded me of the beating of 84-year-old Kang Wong by NYPD officers a couple of years ago:

    http://nypost.com/2014/01/19/cops-beat-elderly-man-after-he-jaywalked/

  • SamChevre  On September 26, 2016 at 4:26 pm

    Second, American police tactics are senselessly confrontational. Even in shootings that are judged to be justified, I’m often left wondering: “Did you really need to push it to that point?”

    This point is really key; I think it drives some of the “All Lives Matter” comments.

    Here’s a a semi-random case: the only reason I know about it is that I knew Jonathan.

    Note the times: he’d gone into the ER at 9:30, aware that he was having a psychiatric crisis. (He was not mentally stable, and this was the hospital where his care team was located.) At 4:30 the next morning, he still hadn’t been evaluated and treated.

  • Jacquie Mardell (@jacquiemardell)  On September 26, 2016 at 6:30 pm

    I think it was Vin Scully’s last game at Dodger stadium, but I believe he plans to travel with the team to San Francisco for the final series with my Giants. So at least we Giants fans will have that to take away from this frustrating season.

  • Jeff Rosenberg  On September 26, 2016 at 6:34 pm

    So, here is a closing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKuNveXwmwo You can always count on one’s Jewish (though somehow I don’t think they have a lock on this) grandparents to invoke some wise counsel and then reinforce it with some consequence (guilt being the default) lest you don’t follow their prescription.

  • DMoses  On September 26, 2016 at 8:10 pm

    Can we stop being so damned meta about news?

    I don’t care whether or not Clinton’s emails looks bad. I care whether it is bad. And every time we have to have a conversation about Clinton’s scandals and we say “well it looks bad” we’re feeding the narrative that it is. Our media, and by extension the news which talks about the media has talked so long about what the effect of “what happened” they they are failing to talk about “what actually happened”.

    Just come out and say that the scandals are no issue. There was no pay for play at the Clinton Foundation. There was no impropriety with the email server. Hell, both have been set up with what appears to be the utmost of care for withholding the spirit of the law. Its not helping when Oliver describes one of the, by all accounts, most clean politicians of our age [with 40 years of public work no less!] as “a cookie with more than the average number of raisins” because of things that “look bad” and because when he himself makes up a scandal he can fool people into thinking it actually happened.

    The best example of this is how he still claims that the uranium deal approval looks bad and “is unfortunate”. But Clinton had nothing to do with the deal, its not even possible it could be unfortunate with the sole exception that it an be used as political ammunition to fool rubes… and apparently John Oliver who cannot be assed declare it bull even after he listed out all of the reasons that it should be entirely discounted.

    I am not sure i am ranting at you as much as at a cloud.

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