Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Baltimore: a perspective


An awful lot has been said and written about the current riots in Baltimore.  Unfortunately, all too often what's been said comes from a particular perspective, rather than a birds-eye view of the whole very complex situation.  Furthermore, much of it has been inflammatory, with the speaker(s) unable or even unwilling to give credence to any viewpoint except his/her/their own.  I'd like to try to give a more balanced perspective.

First, let's be absolutely clear that I'm not soft on crime - and crime, not protest, is what we're dealing with here.  If anyone wants to burn vehicles, loot stores, stick a knife into firefighters' hoses while they try to do their jobs, throw stones at cops, and so on - deal with him with whatever level of severity is required to make him stop.  At the very least, arrest him;  if he resists, make him stop resisting by any and all lawful means available;  if he won't submit to lawful arrest and poses a danger to arresting officers or to the public in general, use whatever force is required - up to and including lethal force - to end the danger.  That's it.  No further discussion required.  In the same way, if owners of businesses or homes or vehicles or whatever find that police protection is not available - or that a damned fool mayor "gave those who wished to destroy, space to do that" - they should be allowed and encouraged to use legitimate force, up to and including lethal force if necessary, to defend their own property and/or lives and/or families.  Again, no further discussion required.

However, let it also be noted for the record that there really aren't many rioters and looters in Baltimore compared to the overall population of its inner city.  I'll be surprised if there are more than one to two thousand of them.  The real problem is that the others in the inner city don't act to stop them, not because they can't, but because they don't see any point to doing so.  The relationship between police and inner-city residents in Baltimore is, to say the least, fraught with tension, distrust and violence, and has been for many years.  In that sense, Baltimore is Ferguson writ larger - and more than Ferguson;  it's a microcosm of the social and economic ills that have affected this country for the past half-century.

The Executive Vice-President of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team, Mr. John Angelos, put out a series of Twitter statements that set out the problem very clearly.  CBS put them together into a single text, which I'll quote in full because I think it's important.

... the principle of peaceful, non-violent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society. MLK, Gandhi, Mandela, and all great opposition leaders throughout history have always preached this precept. Further, it is critical that in any democracy investigation must be completed and due process must be honored before any government or police members are judged responsible.

That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.

The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, an ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importance of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ball game irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.

Words of wisdom that I can't help but endorse.  I believe he's right.

There's also the question of police attitudes towards those they're sworn to "serve and protect".  Regrettably, in many cases those attitudes have become negative, hardened and entrenched.  I've written about the problem before.  The investigation into Mr. Gray's death is still ongoing, but prima facie it looks extremely bad for the Baltimore police.  I don't see how they can avoid charges of murder in this case.  It appears to be yet another example of police overreach that's become all too common across the country.  As fellow blogger Earthbound Misfit puts it:

The Baltimore cops killed a man whose sole crime was not wanting to talk to them. They denied him medical attention, then they not only tuned him up a little in the back of a paddy wagon, they crushed his larynx and snapped his spine.

And people aren't happy with being beaten by the cops and yes, they don't believe that they'll get a fair shake from the justice system. Because they don't. When the cops don't act according to the rule of law, only a fool would expect that the people on the other side of the batons, the tasers, and the guns will respect the rule of law. Too many people, including cops, seem to confuse the meaning of the words "respect" and "fear".

. . .

Yes, a lot of what goes on in any riot is opportunism and hooliganism. Yet, one should not lose sight of how well the ground was prepared for it.

There's more at the link - and again, I can't help but endorse what she says.  I think she's right.

More and more voices are making the point that the police function in the United States is broken.  It needs to be fixed, otherwise we're going to have more Fergusons, more Baltimores.  Here are just a few articles I found today.


Karl Denninger:
... it appears that from the standpoint of the cops it no longer mattered if you ... "arrest" that person under dubious circumstances that the cops will not disclose, shackle that person and throw them in a police van unrestrained (that is, no seat belt), causing in some form or fashion subsequent to arrest an injury so severe that this individual's spinal cord is virtually severed and he dies.

You couldn't get away with treating a dog this way; you'd go to prison for animal cruelty.  But it's all ok in this case, right, and only "suspensions" (and paid ones at that) are warranted while what facially looks to be yet another whitewashed "investigation" is conducted.  Nobody is sitting in the dock cooling their heels as would be the case if you had committed the same assault upon a dog, never mind that if anyone not in a magical blue costume had done that to another human they'd be facing at least manslaughter charges.

Does this mean that people ought to burn the city to the ground?  No.  But at what point do the citizens of this country come to the conclusion that this is not an isolated incident or rare thing; it is instead a pattern of intentional contempt for human decency and the protections allegedly afforded under the Constitution, petitioning for redress has failed, suing for money doesn't bring back the dead and the intentional destruction of people without cause, ending in their death by those in magical blue costumes must stop?

These events in Baltimore are not isolated.  There is myriad evidence this sort of lawless conduct is not only endemic it facially appears to be formal and national policy.


The American Conservative:
Only a handful of conservatives have much to say about what policing ought to be like (although there is some hope that a Right On Crime approach will continue to find success in practice and support among voters.) Mostly, it seems like conservatives would rather go back to the era of  “zero tolerance” policing under Martin O’Malley, when up to 100,000 arrests in a city of 636,000 people were made, precipitating a successful lawsuit from the NAACP and the ACLU.  Despite costing billions of dollars and thousands of lives, decades after declaring a War on Drugs, it’s fairly safe to say that drugs are winning or have won. (Baltimore, to its credit, has put great effort into a less punitive drug court system that addresses some of this reality.) Conservatives also generally underestimate the degree to which police brutality is systemic, not anecdotal and have yet to commit to any program that holds police accountable. One of my patients who lives in the neighborhood showed me scars from his encounters with the police and described them as a “necessary evil” to keep drug dealers in check—often through stealing drugs or money from them. Stories of corruption are just frequent enough to make any police encounter a roll of the dice—everyone acknowledges that there are good cops who care about justice and will treat you fairly, but you never know if it’s one of them pulling you over.


From blogger Badtux the Snarky Penguin (language alert - much profanity):
Nonviolence worked for MLK Jr. because he had white allies, white allies who’d seen that apartheid and second class citizenship was wrong, white allies who were plentiful enough to get **** done at the national political level. But the black population of Baltimore — what allies do they got? Not the cops, the cops consider the black population of Baltimore to be porch monkeys, niggers, apes, whatever slur you want to talk about. Not the politicians, they’ve known about “black dog” runs for a long time, the city’s been sued over them dozens of times over the past two decades and paid out millions to people injured this way, the politicians don’t give a ****. What about the voters in Baltimore? You mean the same voters who keep putting those politicians who don’t give a **** into office? Yeah right. What about the Department of Justice? Suuuure, pull the other one, right?

So why *not* burn **** down? Will it distract people from the fact that cops in Baltimore can murder black men with impunity? But ****, people *already* don’t give a **** about the fact that cops in Baltimore can murder black men with impunity, so how can you make them care *less*?


Unless and until we address those realities, we're going to have more Fergusons and more Baltimores.  Where will the next one happen?  Your guess is as good as mine.  I can only hope it won't be in my area, or any area through which I'm passing at the time.

Peter

9 comments:

Comrade Misfit said...

This is, I fear, only going to get worse. We are too close to the dystopian prediction of George Orwell, that the future will be a boot stamping on a human face.

B said...

Its not that the cops are any worse, it is just that what with Facebook, and better reporting wer hear more about it.

"Road Thereapy" has been happening for years. We just never heard much about it. THe rest is nothing new either.

THat is not to say that any of it is right....in fact, if it doesn't stop, things will only get worse. But realize that the entitlement crowd has become an ever more lawless part of our society as well.

Welfare has destroyed the once proud and decent black society by destroying the family....and it shows.

Richard Blaine said...

It's going to get worse because there are factions that want it to get worse. I've been watching the mainstream media shake every white cop / black death in front of the public as often as possible with the obvious intention of creating just these kinds of events. I've watched our President and his administration help that along.

Rioting is not protesting. I might maybe stretch so far as to see burning a police vehicle as a form of protest but it's still a crime - looting and vandalism of private property is not protest it's opportunistic criminal activity.

Should the media be digging into these deaths - YES. Because the police are doing a VERY poor job of policing their own. Should they be trying police in a court of public opinion - NO. But that's what they've been doing - and not just to cops - recall Zimmerman? The standard cycle now seems to be Convict, make up "facts", create outrage - cash in.

Media get's cash, politicians use it to get more power, or blame their opponents to win reelection. I expected a big reaction after Zimmerman and it didn't really happen - I think it was too far removed from the event - Ferguson fixed that, and now Baltimore - get used to it, the manufactured race war is get warming up. And the Police are setting them selves up for a world of hurt by not really cracking down on their own trouble makers.

Murphy's Law said...

Point of order: Baltimore has a black police chief and the department is roughly sixty percent black. That right there shoots a hole in the claims of the pontificating outsiders that this is a case of a white occupying army oppressing a black citizenry.

Ritchie said...

I would suggest that the jobs were not "shipped out", they fled all by themselves due to an unwelcoming environment. Jobs, like capital, tend to go to places where they are treated well, and away from places where they are treated badly.

C. S. P. Schofield said...

I've made comments on several blogs about this, but I want to spread the message;

The Liberal Intellectual Radical Progressive establishment WANTS riots. Riots fuel the cycle that keeps them in power. Riots feed into the feelings of oppression that weld the inner city poor to the Democrat party that does them so much harm.

They also WANT the cops to be thugs. Unaccountable thugs. They are all for the Union contracts that make it next to impossible to doctor a sick police department. They want a cadre of loyal goons to enforce whatever fashionable decree of the day they may come up with.

They get to wring their hands and offer false sympathy to the downtrodden, but their history is full of bigotry, eugenics, and treating anyone who disagrees with their wonderful selves like brain damaged children.

The rioters are flat out wrong. The cops who were (ir)responsible for the man's death are wrong. But the biggest wrong is the system set up by the LIRP establishment to bring about both tragedies.

Anonymous said...

I take all this with a quotes with a grain of salt. I covered Baltimore for 20 years and during that time business left Maryland and Baltimore in droves because of a lack of educated workers and high tax burdens. It made no sense to reinvest in a city that could not provide a safe place to work and a continued erosion of the bottom line. Even the Baltimore Colts bailed on the city. Bethlehem Steel held 23,000+ jobs at Sparrows Point, if there are any left I would be surprised.

Chicago, Philly, Camden, Detroit we can name a dozen more in the same boat. All the billions in aid spent to reinforce poor performance and enlarge a bloated local government.

As an employer, why would I hire someone who quit school in 10th grade, can't write a complete sentence and who's attitude is you owe me?

I have not heard one word to defend the actions of the police in the death of the man in their custody so that can't be the reason for the rioting.

It's going to be a long hot summer.

Gerry

Tal Hartsfeld said...

One has to figure it this way:

There's always only been one real law in the history of civilization:
The prohibition of heresy.

Every society, past and present, has had this one actual "law".
Although never officially enacted, it is the undercurrent of just about all the laws that do wind up actually being written and enacted.

You may have a few "red herring" laws---those written to appease and pander the morally conscience, or some token "public safety" laws
...but they're only that: red herrings to disguise the underlying true intentions of any society. That being social engineering and the ensuring of collective conformity.

This is what societies have always been about and what they'll continue to be all about.

Chris said...

I have lived in or near Baltimore all my life except for four years in the Army. I have witnessed the decline, which has been under more or less liberal Democrat politicians for the last 50 years. All of what has been written above is accurate, and more.

One more point in this problem is that the previous mayor, who went on to be governor and now is considering a run for President, was Martin O'Malley. One of his programs, allegedly to fight crime, involved arresting people (overwhelmingly young black males) on trivial charges to boost his standing using some statistical program. Arresting as many as 100,000 young black males per year means they have a record that will prevent them from getting many jobs, even if the tax, (poor) education, and regulatory environment hadn't driven so many employers away.

Yes, he would be worse than Hillary. Not by much, but without the regular distraction of Hill/Bill scandals, Marty would push an agenda so Progressive that it would make the unlamented Hugo Chavez seem like Calvin Coolidge.