The Widdershins

The clarity of objective facts…

Posted on: August 22, 2014

Good afternoon Widdershins. While having been away for a few days, I hope everyone is hale and hearty this fine Friday.

This week there has been more of the same in Ferguson, Missouri — peaceful protests until they weren’t, smoke Michael Brown Convenience Storegrenades, tear gas, arrests, shootings, claims of Molotov cocktails, then more arrests.  It seems as if things have been calmer over the last day or so, but with the funeral of Michael Brown on Monday the chances for the tinderbox of emotions to again flare are great.

We may never know what happened on August 9th in those precious few seconds between eighteen-year old Michael Brown and Officer Darren Wilson. I won’t pretend to even venture a guess. All I know is Michael Brown is dead, Officer Wilson is in hiding, and I’m sorry for the law-abiding citizens of Ferguson.

One of the most insightful and erudite statements I have heard this past year was from Robert Caro, the renown historian who has spent his professional career chronicling the life of Lyndon Johnson. When asked about absolute certainties regarding Johnson, Caro said, “There may not be one truth, but there are an awful lot of objective facts.”

With that said, let’s review some of the objective facts about the events in Ferguson:

  • Michael Brown’s body laid uncovered in the middle of a neighborhood street for four hours after he was killed.
  • Darren Wilson didn’t call-in the fatal shooting. In fact, no one from the Ferguson Police Department called-in the shooting. The St. Louis County 911 operators got their information from other sources.
  • No ambulance was ever called for Michael Brown. In fact, according to witnesses his body was hauled away in an SUV.
  • To date, there has been no official police report released giving Officer Wilson’s account of the killing.
  • The eyewitness reports are sketchy, contradictory, and are of questionable veracity. Eyewitness accounts are invariably untrustworthy.
  • The raw video footage of the convenience store “strong arm robbery” of $50.00 ($16.95 wholesale) of Swisher Sweets was released by the Ferguson Police Department over the objections of the Justice Department and without notice to State Police Captain Ron Johnson or the Governor’s Office.
  • Thomas Jackson, Police Chief of Ferguson, MO

    Thomas Jackson, Police Chief of Ferguson, MO

    Police Chief Thomas Jackson said the video was relevant at first, then admitted Officer Wilson did not know of the robbery when he engaged Michael Brown. In a later “walk-back,” the Department offered conjecture that Wilson might have spotted the Swisher Sweets and put two and two together even though no robbery report had been made at the time.

  • Spontaneously, a police report of the convenience store robbery appeared a couple of days after Michael Brown’s death.
  • Citizens of Ferguson were told not to protest, then they were told they could protest. There was no curfew, then there was a curfew, then there wasn’t a curfew. The National Guard was not going to be deployed until it was. State Police Captain Johnson was placed in charge by the Governor then his authority was put in question by the deployment of the Guard.
  • With the preliminary autopsy report, there are no signs of a struggle apparent on Brown’s body. There are no powder burns. At 6’3” the shots killing Brown were one entering above his right eyebrow and the other entering the top of his head.
  • In a community with the demographics of Ferguson, its police force has 55 officers — 52 of which are Caucasian. Ferguson has one black city council member.  That council member is a former member of the police department and was accused of involvement in a police beating incident.  Based on available data, there is only one U.S. city with a greater representational disparity than Ferguson — Riverdale, Georgia.
  • If you are an African-American in Ferguson you have an 86% likelihood of being stopped by police, a 92% likelihood of being searched, and a 93% certainty of being arrested.  These statistics are in contravention of the police actually finding more “contraband” while stopping and searching Caucasians.
  • Ferguson has a supply of police “body cameras,” but has not deployed them.
  • Ferguson has a sordid history of police beatings and shootings.  One particularly egregious one is that of Henry M. Davis who was taken into police custody and severely beaten.  He was charged with four counts of destruction of government property for having had the audacity to bleed on the uniforms of the officers beating him.  Mr. Davis has since relocated from Ferguson.
  • Ferguson, Missouri has been named a “Playful City USA” by the people who name such things for the fourth consecutive year.

These are all objective facts. They don’t tell us the “why” or “how” of the killing, but they give us a reasonable insight into the last twelve days of violence. Without fear of contradiction, the police and political leadership of Ferguson, Missouri, did not miraculously awake on August 9th suddenly eaten up with a chronic case of the dumbass.

To have such a highly evolved total lack of judgment, they had to be actively working toward their world-class wrongness in decision-making. People don’t make every possible choice a mistake by chance. One former big city police commissioner said, “If they made a decision, it was the wrong one.” If these people were at a horse track, they would have easily hit the Pick 6 Superfecta.

In studying leadership, one thing becomes monumentally clear — not everyone is blessed with innate good judgment. To preempt the potential lack of judgment, most organizations have the good sense to put processes and procedures in place to force decisions through chokepoints in order to give better judgment a chance to intercede. Those opportunities for better judgment don’t seem to exist in Ferguson or if they have, they have been purposefully ignored.

The problems of chronic unemployment and police harassment did not blossom in Ferguson over the last twelve days. They have taken root for at least the last fourteen-years since statistics on police procedures were first collected. The collection of police data was mandated by state legislation in response to unwarranted police harassment reported from across the state of Missouri.

Good judgment, or even passably bad judgment, would tell a reasonably sane and functioning human, “if you collect Tank and Pointed Gundata proving a course of desultory conduct, then you must do something about it”. Otherwise, you have collected the data proving your guilt or even worse, proving your disregard for those on the receiving end of the police misconduct.

Plenty of commentators have posed the obvious scenario of transposing the races of Michael Brown and Officer Wilson. I don’t like such tiresome obvious exercises. Here’s the thought experiment I find more insightful: If the entrenched biases propping up the status quo in Ferguson did not exist, how long would such chronically bad judgment be tolerated?

Of one thing we can be sure, the bad judgment that preceded Michael Brown’s death and witnessed over the last nine days will not be remedied by the sheer stubbornness of outlasting the protesters.  Neither will it be repaired by ignoring the changes inherent with the passage of time.

Unfortunately to some people the only thing scarier than soldiers, police in riot gear, and tanks tooling around the streets is the inevitability of change.

Please take this discussion wherever you like since this is an open thread.


55 Responses to "The clarity of objective facts…"

Thanks for this post Prolix. You succinctly laid out the facts.

From what I’ve read, Ferguson was a majority white city after the 60s-70s white flight out of St. Louis proper. Then, after the reurbanization/gentrification of St. Louis, a lot of minorities were priced out of the city and moved to the suburbs and so Ferguson gradually changed over to a majority A.A. town. This gentrification process is happening in a lot of the country. The thing I don’t understand is why the A.A. citizens of Ferguson didn’t use their majority at the ballot box and elect more politicians that reflected them.

There was an article at Think Progress on elections in Ferguson but I don’t know if I buy their line of reasoning.

@1, The change in local municipal elections was a subtle, but effective, means of voter suppression subterfuge. Hold city elections in off years in April — quiet without hoopla, guaranteed to continue the status quo in terms of elected officials and power structure.

@1, Fredster, I wrote the above comment before I read the article in “Think Progress” — I do believe it would go a long way in remedying at least some on the electoral problems. In 2012, a 54% turnout is impressive, but with the odd years April local elections, I can see how the city elections are lost.

@2: Now I don’t know the commenter here but it seems like these schedules in MO have been around for a long time:

Missouri has done it this way from long before I was born in the 1950s. You make it sound like a right-wing plot.

When I was 18 and started voting in Missouri, I remember that the spring municipal and local (school district, etc.) elections could center on local issues–not statewide and national issues. In November, local issues are drowned out in the noise of the national election. Since moving from Missouri, this is something I miss.

The same problem in voting patterns in this article also show up in primaries. In practice (rememeber, I used “in practice” above), only the most commited show up at primaries, too. Should we eliminate primaries because of who shows up?

Or maybe we need to find a way, some way, any way, to encourage people to show up at elections and primaries that aren’t in November?

Folks there just need to get a voter registration drive going and then do a massive GOTV effort when the local elections are held.

Here’s an interesting tidbit I ran into on this post — if you want to get student aid, the application is 10 pages. If you want social security, the app is 8 pages. If you want a passport the app is 6 pages. If you want O’care, the short form app is 5 pages.

But if you want a tank, the application is one page, that’s one whole page. To also assist you in your tank acquiring experience, you may apply for more than one tank on the same one page application! Efficiency of the military industrial complex has something going for it.

Prolix@5: Yeah, that’s something the Congress critters really need to address. Read an article and the local sheriff who was interviewed (In Miss.) explained how he just really needed his armored assault vehicle or whatever you call them in case Bubba gets all cranky or something. 🙄

I’ll see if I can find the article.

Ah, here we go. Read the last part of the article: it’s about officer protection. Oh, okay then.

Let me get this straight now: we’re protecting ourselves so that we can better serve?

chat@8: Well of course:

Both Moore and Bailey said they’d be happy if they never had to use their MRAPs.

“I may not use that armored vehicle but once a quarter or once every few months, but I need it to be available. And I’m confident with a military-grade vehicle that there’s nothing in Rankin County that’s going to penetrate it, so therefore I don’t have to worry about my officers,” he said.

Look at it this way: It will look really spiffy in the Christmas parade.

The Panthers are playing New England, but I’ve got Raiders/Packers on the teevee. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz…

@10: Me, too.

I may indeed doze off on this one.

I would say he’s definitely a pocket passer.

The Battleship Lorenzen?

It really looks like him, and Jared is a lefty.

Oh I think it is him. That pic was probably from a few years back, maybe in an earlier time with the river monsters? Reading the article, it seems like ***he just likes to play football*** !

Quelle suprise!


@13, yes, that is Lorenzen, looks like he’s slimmed down in that picture.

Seems like he was injured a few months back and was thinking about calling it a day. There were major celebrations by all the turfs in the league.

yes, that is Lorenzen, looks like he’s slimmed down in that picture.


Looks like I may have choice of two NFL games tonight: the Titans/Panthers and the Saints/Colts. Not bad for not having the NFL network. Thee burning question is: Will Jimmy dunk or not? 😉

@18, in terms of purchasing power, the middle class was better off in the 90s with Big Dawg which is the only time in the last 30 years real purchasing power increased. Of course as the conservodroids always like to point out, Clinton enacted the largest “tax increase” in history, but as the conservodroids ignore, there was the largest growth in the economy in the last 30 years.

So much for data driving the supply-side incantations of Paul Ryan during his “what I want to do for and to poor people” seances.

@22, Fredster, Chat, what is the SEC network going for a month down your way?

Prolix, sorry ’bout that; the internet burped while I was typing. Not sure of price for just the SEC network or even if that alone is available. I think with Charter it’s part of a sports package you have to buy. I haven’t bought it. Besides, I don’t think I could handle 4 hours of Paul Finebaum. 🙄

Heh…I can’t even get their site to load. LOL!!

@25, yeah, what’s with the internet today? Even Google and gmail has been acting up.

@27: Not sure what’s going on. I just checked cox communications (nola) and the SEC channel is included if you have their higher level digital packages. They call it “advanced tv” preferred or premier.

It’s included with my expanded package. Considering their game day crew, I would not have paid extra for it,

Oh my..the Dirty Boids went down in the ATL.

OMG – Dolphins win!!!

Saints still ahead but just barely, by three. Had a nasty sack of Ryan whatsHisName one of the backup qb’s.

Saints got a f.g. with 2:00 left. Holding on here…

Yay for the Dolphins!

I do miss the nineties. Things were better then.

Go Saints!

Saints won, 23-17, but was not pretty.

Not pretty at all Annie and next week will probably be all backups and such.

annie said: I do miss the nineties. Things were better then.

Oh I so definitely agree. You still had reasons to be hopeful about the future. Now, not so much.

Prolix, really liked your post, and especially appreciated the list of objective facts.

Fredster, at least they won! 🙂

@annie: This is true and it’s only preseason.

I’m glad Prolix did this post. It was begging to be written about and I honestly didn’t know exactly how to do it. And besides, he’s a whole lot better writer than I am and he knew how to hit the important points.

Anyone around today? Oh, okay, just checkin’. Going back to 49ers/Chargers.

I.m there too. Hope that Kwame isn’t hurt too badly.

It’s kind of a boring game.

Sounds like he did indeed bleed Red and Black.

Hear, hear!

@51: Yep. Folks need to start a protest movement like they did with Walgreens.

Laker says that the Rams qb seriously injured his knee. What do you guys think about pre season games? Are they worth it?

annie@53: Yeah, I saw that about Bradford. That’s a rough one considering he already had an ACL injury.

Preseason games are (in my opinion) mainly for practice in a game situation and to see how the new guys are doing and some of the older ones from the team if they’re on the bubble. They can be fun to watch but then they don’t “count” for anything really.

Sam is out – again – for the year.

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