Friday, August 15, 2014

Beyond WTF. . .

For the past several weeks, I've been trying to think of a blog post that fully captures all the events of the past few weeks, but honestly, I can't except to say that a fair number of these stories have felt like stomach punches. The war in Gaza, the invasion of Ukraine (you're not fooling anyone Putin) by Russia, ISIS and the genocide in central Iraq, the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, MO.  Oh, and now Rick Perry has been indicted for abuse of power (actually, that news is actually happy in a schadenfreude way).

So, all in all, its not just been a what the fuck kind of a month, we've gone well past that. So, let me take a few of these issues and flesh them out for my own sanity.

Death of Robin Williams

As I go down the list, this is the easiest one to categorize - its just sad.  I can't say I was the biggest fan of Robin Williams' movies, but he was easily one of the funniest men ever. From all the accounts I've heard, he was one of the nicest people ever.  And that makes sense because, in my experience, people who go through depression tend to be the nicest and most compassionate people around.  So, his death wasn't a WTF kind of a moment, but a "Ah, fuck" kind of a moment. Like I said, a stomach punch.

Ukraine and ISIS

There's nothing surprising about either the invasion of Ukraine or ISIS' attempts to recreate the Caliphate. Its really just sad.

Gaza and Ferguson

I lump these two stories together because, ultimately, they are about the same thing - right idea, wrong way of doing it. Israel wants to protect itself from Hamas, a terrorist organization.  Good and commendable idea. 1000% on board. To do that, Israel bombs the shit out Gaza, cutting off power, water, kills over a thousand civilians (Hamas killed two civilians), bombs UN buildings, hospitals, and generally makes life deadly for the people of Gaza, who are ALREADY REFUGEES and are prevented by blockades from Israel and Egypt from leaving. Err. . .what? Oh, and the deputy prime minister started to openly call for genocide in Gaza.

Aside from preventing Hamas from killing Israeli civilians, which it seems pretty bad at, what does the destruction of broad swaths of Gaza do for Israel? It doesn't make Gazans less likely to support Hamas (who can cast themselves as "freedom fighters"). It doesn't end the cycle of violence. It doesn't garner Israel greater international support, which is Israel's achilles heel. No, all it has done is piss off the world and the Obama Administration, which is problematic because Israel's economy depends of American foreign aid.

Luckily, there is a ceasefire in effect, and hopefully, that will lead to peace. In the meantime, the Israeli government did itself no favors, and might have even done permanent damage to Israel. That's because Israel, despite its tremendous military, is a small country with limited natural resources. It always has been. So to survive and thrive, Israel has to depend on foreign trade and goodwill. In other words, the biggest threat to Israel isn't Hamas, it's the EU, the US, and the greater international community.

And that's why Hamas has been doing what its been doing - it wants Israel to bomb the shit out of Gaza. It wants thousands of "telegenic dead" (to paraphrase Mr. Netanyahu). Not only does the bombing create a useful recruiting tool, it also isolates Israel from the international community.  At this point, the only country that is regularly backing Israel is the United States, and they're none too happy with Israel right now.

Oh, and by the way, for those anti-Semites out there who now think its cool to unveil your anti-Semitism because some of us have criticisms of the Israeli response to Hamas, FUCK YOU. I want Israel to not just survive but to thrive. I just think Netanyahu's government is a disaster.

The death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, also strikes me as one of those, right idea, wrong way of doing it things. Here's what we know: Michael Brown and his friend were a couple of teenagers walking down the middle of a residential street. A police officer with the Ferguson PD spots them and decides to instruct them to use a sidewalk.  Okay, this is a good idea - these kids put themselves at risk and were disrupting traffic.  But in the ensuing altercation, the officer ends up wrestling with Brown, Brown flees from the officer, who then shoots him from 35 feet away. Wait, what?

Now, it has been alleged that Brown had just robbed some cheap cigars from a mini-mart kind of a store.  But, as the Ferguson Police Chief made clear in his statement today, the Police Officer didn't know that. So how does a conversation about jaywalking lead to the death of an unarmed man who was apparently fleeing (or, as the witnesses described, surrendering)?

Naturally, this sort of thing leads to community anger, and some protests. Which leads to the second right idea, wrong execution moment. The Ferguson PD sent out officers to keep and maintain order during the protests.  This is a good idea because protests can turn into riots (which they did on Sunday night). Also, police need to make sure the protesters are safe.

However, the Ferguson PD, along with other departments, did things in the most ass-backwards way possible - they called out the SWAT teams.  This leads to an interesting question - why the fuck does Ferguson, Missouri, a town of 28,000 people, which didn't have a SINGLE HOMICIDE IN 2014 UNTIL MICHAEL BROWN DIED, have a SWAT team? Are there dozens of unreported hostage situations occurring in town? This egged on the protesters, and some began looting.  By Wednesday night, the police - in jungle camouflage (apparently there are jungles in this part of Missouri) - were the ones initiating violence by firing tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowds. Oh, the police managed to arrest a reporter from the Washington Post for "trespassing" at a McDonald's where the manager was happy to have him there.

So let's go over the fuck-ups, shall we?  Not only did the Ferguson PD not prevent violence and looting, but actually caused violence in the town, and arrested members of the media who write for newspapers that are printed and distributed in the District of Colombia, which is only the place where THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES AND MOST OF THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA RESIDE. No, I'm sure no one outside of people on Twitter noticed.  It was so bad that the Governor of Missouri had to remove the Ferguson PD from the situation and put the Missouri Highway Patrol in charge.

And here's where we see the entirety of the fuck-up.  In contrast to the aggressive and violent Ferguson PD, the Missouri Highway Patrol calmly intermingled with the locals. They let the locals protest for as long as they wanted, so long as the protests were conducted peacefully.  No one was teargassed, and there were no reports of violence.  The right idea - maintaining order - coupled with the right execution - not being total assholes - lead to good results. Imagine that.

By the way, the Ferguson PD appears to be far from done being assholes - today, for no good reason, they released information that Michael Brown had stolen cheap cigars through what is called a strong-arm robbery (no weapons involved, but physical intimidation used). Whether that is the case or not, it admits that the officer didn't know Brown was involved in any crime at the time of the shooting.  Is the information of the robbery pertinent and/or relevant? Not at this time. Does an attempt at character assassination piss off everyone in Ferguson? Yes.

Look, I get wanting to protect Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Michael Brown, but any time a jaywalking incident turns into a one-sided gunfight, and an unarmed teenager is shot to death, it's not just bad, it's unforgivable. At minimum, he has be fired.