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TIME Op-Ed: Politicians Are To Blame in Ferguson

November 25, 2014 in Politics & Elections

We are witnessing a tragedy in Ferguson. This city in Missouri has become a focal point for so much. The President and the late Michael Brown’s family have called for peace. I join their calls for peaceful protest, but also reiterate their call to action – ‘channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change.’

In the search for culpability for the tragedy in Ferguson, I mostly blame politicians. Michael Brown’s death and the suffocation of Eric Garner in New York for selling untaxed cigarettes indicate something is wrong with criminal justice in America. The War on Drugs has created a culture of violence and put police in a nearly impossible situation.
In Ferguson, the precipitating crime was not drugs, but theft. But the War on Drugs has created a tension in some communities that too often results in tragedy. One need only witness the baby in Georgia, who had a concussive grenade explode in her face during a late-night, no-knock drug raid (in which no drugs were found) to understand the feelings of many minorities – the feeling that they are being unfairly targeted.

Three out of four people in jail for drugs are people of color. In the African American community, folks rightly ask why are our sons disproportionately incarcerated, killed, and maimed?

African Americans perceive as true that their kids are more likely to be killed. ProPublica examined 33 years of FBI data on police shootings, accounted for the racial make-up of the country, and determined that: ‘Young black males in recent years were at a far greater risk of being shot dead by police than their white counterparts – 21 times greater.’

Can some of the disparity be blamed on a higher rate of crime in the black community? Yes, but there is a gnawing feeling that simply being black in a high-crime area increases your risk for a deadly altercation with police.

Does bad behavior account for some of the interactions with law enforcement? Yes, but surely there must be ways that we can work to prevent the violence from escalating.

On the other side of the coin, defenders of the War on Drugs say, look at Mexico if you want to see drug violence unchecked by police power.

Isn’t there another alternative where we utilize police power to counter violence, but for the most part leave non-violent citizens alone?

As I’ve visited our …read more


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Most White People in America Are Completely Oblivious

November 25, 2014 in Blogs

By Tim Wise, AlterNet

Black people have to learn everything about white people just to stay alive. White people just don't get that.

I suppose there is no longer much point in debating the facts surrounding the shooting of Michael Brown. First, because Officer Darren Wilson has been cleared by a grand jury, and even the collective brilliance of a thousand bloggers pointing out the glaring inconsistencies in his version of events that August day won’t result in a different outcome. And second, because Wilson’s guilt or innocence was always somewhat secondary to the larger issue: namely, the issue of this gigantic national inkblot staring us in the face, and what we see when we look at it—and more to the point, why?

Because it is a kind of racial Rorschach (is it not?) into which each of these cases—not just Brown but all the others, from Trayvon Martin to Sean Bell to Patrick Dorismond to Aswan Watson and beyond—inevitably and without fail morph. That we see such different things when we look upon them must mean something. That so much of white America cannot see the shapes made out so clearly by most of black America cannot be a mere coincidence, nor is it likely an inherent defect in our vision. Rather, it is a socially-constructed astigmatism that blinds so many to the way in which black folks often experience law enforcement.

Not to overdo the medical metaphors, but as with those other cases noted above, so too in this one did a disturbing number of whites manifest something of a repetitive motion disorder—a reflex nearly as automatic as the one that leads so many police (or wanna-be police) to fire their weapons at black men in the first place. It is a reflex to rationalize the event, defend the shooter, trash the dead with blatantly racist rhetoric and imagery, and then deny that the incident or one’s own response to it had anything to do with race.

Reflex: To deny that there was anything racial about sending around those phony pictures claimed to be of Mike Brown posing with a gun, …read more


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Robert Reich: College Gets You Nowhere

November 25, 2014 in Blogs

By Robert Reich,

While a college education is now a prerequisite for joining the middle class, the middle class is in lousy shape.

This is the time of year when high school seniors apply to college, and when I get lots of mail about whether college is worth the cost.

The answer is unequivocally yes, but with one big qualification. I’ll come to the qualification in a moment but first the financial case for why it’s worth going to college.

Put simply, people with college degrees continue to earn far more than people without them. And that college “premium” keeps rising.

Last year, Americans with four-year college degrees earned on average 98 percent more per hour than people without college degrees.

In the early 1980s, graduates earned 64 percent more.

So even though college costs are rising, the financial return to a college degree compared to not having one is rising even faster.

But here’s the qualification, and it’s a big one.

A college degree no longer guarantees a good job. The main reason it pays better than the job of someone without a degree is the latter’s wages are dropping.

In fact, it’s likely that new college graduates will spend some years in jobs for which they’re overqualified.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 46 percent of recent college graduates are now working in jobs that don’t require college degrees. (The same is true for more than a third of college graduates overall.)

Their employers still choose college grads over non-college grads on the assumption that more education is better than less.

As a result, non-grads are being pushed into ever more menial work, if they can get work at all. Which is a major reason why their pay is dropping.

What’s going on? For years we’ve been told globalization and technological advances increase the demand for well-educated workers. (Confession: I was one of the ones making this argument.)

This was correct until around 2000. But since then two things have reversed the trend.

First, millions of people in developing nations are now far better educated, and the Internet has given them an easy way to sell their skills in advanced economies like the …read more


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Ferguson, Goddamn: No Indictment for Darren Wilson Is No Surprise. This Is Why We Protest

November 25, 2014 in Blogs

By Syreeta McFadden, The Guardian

Ferguson is a microcosm of all the narratives about race and America that we fear and suppress.

“I’ve been dreaming of death. Seeing pictures of death. Seeing pictures of bloody sheets hanging on clotheslines.”

Just days before Michael Brown and his brown body encountered a white police officer and a gun in Ferguson, Missouri, the 18-year-old child said that to his stepmother. She told the world of this foreshadowing during Brown’s funeral two months ago, as anger turned to tears, and this small community ignited a wave of protests and activism that would continue for more than 100 days – and will begin anew, starting right now.

In the months since, all of the leaks and all of the tweets warning that there would be no indictment for Darren Wilson – that instead there would be black“violence” and a perpetual “state of emergency” – have served as constructed preparations to manage our disappointment, for the big reveal that our criminal justice system was still as broken as it ever was. And now that the grand jury’s decision has arrived in the form of a smirking white prosecutor, all of the agony of that wait has culminated in nothing more than the sum of our grim expectations, to ignite cynicism and an old rage.

Today, Mike Brown is still dead, and Darren Wilson has not been indicted for his murder. And who among us can say anything but: “I am not surprised”?

I remember sitting on a grand jury once. The state and county attorneys present their singular narrative, their small bits of evidence, to construct a case that says that the offender is guilty – or not. And when you sit on the grand jury, you’re not given much in terms of a complete accounting of events that could lead to any of the possible charges.

The 12 citizens on the Ferguson jury may have heard more “than any other …read more


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China Takes another Step toward Capital Freedom

November 25, 2014 in Economics

By James A. Dorn

James A. Dorn

The launch of the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect takes China a step closer to capital freedom. Before the new trading link, officially known as the Mutual Market Access (MMA) program, investment opportunities for foreign investors have been limited to a select group of fund managers. Now all foreign investors can directly buy shares listed in Shanghai via the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Likewise, capital is now freer to move southward into Hong Kong.

By giving global investors a wider choice of mainland stocks, President Xi Jinping hopes to pave the way for rebalancing China’s lopsided economy. Injecting new capital into consumption-oriented firms will help grow the nonstate sector and improve the allocation of resources. Meanwhile, by allowing Chinese investors direct access to the Hong Kong exchange, the MMA will help diversify portfolios, mitigate risk and increase pressure for even greater capital freedom.

The new property rights structure, however, is limited by quotas placed on daily trading volumes. Foreign investors have the right to buy stocks of 568 firms listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange but are subject to a daily quota of US$ 2.1 billion on a net basis — that is, on the difference between the value of shares bought minus shares sold. The daily quota for investment in Hong Kong is US$ 1.7 billion.

The linking of the Hong Kong and Shanghai stock markets marks progress, but real liberalization can only come if the mainland ensures property rights under the rule of law.”

One significant restriction of the MMA program is that offshore investors in the Shanghai market must enter buy/sell orders before the market opening, which limits rapid responses to new information. Unless trading can take place continuously, capital markets will be less robust.

Hong Kong, as the freest economy in the world, is an ideal place for global capital to enter the mainland. With the further opening of China’s capital account, Shanghai could one day outshine Hong Kong, but only if property rights are protected under the rule of law understood as a meta-legal principle whereby all individuals are guided by what F. A Hayek called “rules of just conduct.”

A system that limits the power of the state and enhances individual freedom under the law is one in which no one is above the law. Individuals are free to choose provided they do not infringe on the equal rights of others. That system has …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Big Takeaway from the Ferguson Ruling: White Supremacy Is Alive and Well

November 25, 2014 in Blogs

By Falguni A. Sheth, Salon

With “no indictment” announced against Darren Wilson, a perverted natural order of things was affirmed.

For days, large swaths of the U.S. and the globe waited to hear whether or not the grand jury would indict Office Darren Wilson. For a week, Missouri governor Jay Nixon had declared a state of emergency, calling out the National Guard to “maintain peace and protect those exercising their right to free speech.” Today, he repeated the same message.

“Together we are all focused to make sure that the necessary resources are at hand to protect lives, to protect business and to protect free speech.”

Given the record of arrests by Ferguson police of protestors and reporters, Nixon’s message was fairly simple to translate: he anticipated—correctly–that the grand jury would not indict Darren Wilson. Nixon’s fear was that in such a case, Black Americans’ ire at that decision would explode in violence and potentially violate the lives, businesses, and “free speech” not of black protestors, but of white denizens. Nixon hadn’t said it, but his assumption of violence reinscribed the assumption of Black madness, of the lack of rationality. “Protest” could only be irrational, because it would challenge the “natural order of things,” to paraphrase 17th century French economist François Quesnay. In his very actions, he all but indicated, what most of us knew and feared—that the grand jury would not indict Darren Wilson. And for Nixon, the Ferguson police, and the white residents of Ferguson that is as it should be.

The natural order, for Gov. Nixon, is one in which police violence will continue to be seen as “stopping criminals,” and preserving “freedom” for the whites of Ferguson. In the meantime, the Black citizens of Ferguson and their supporters across the globe will ascribe an enormous, though rather different, symbolism to the verdict: no indictment confirms the continued absence of legal—and indeed, moral justice.

Yet, it is hard to imagine that even had the grand jury indicted, that their decision would have much of an effect on the institutional, deeply-embedded problem of state-endorsed, police-led racial violence in Ferguson, St. Louis, or anywhere else in …read more


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Ferguson Decision: No Justice for Family of Michael Brown

November 25, 2014 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

No criminal charges were brought against Officer Darren Wilson.

There will be no justice for the family of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

After three months of deliberations, a 12-member grand jury in St. Louis County, Missouri, did not find probable cause to press charges against Darren Wilson, a white 28-year-old Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man, during a daytime confrontation on August 9.

The decision, which was announced on Monday night by prosecutors and preceded by an appeal for calm from Missouri’s Democratic Governor Jay Nixon, was predicted by the Brown family’s legal team. The governor, who declared a state of emergency before the announcement, said that local churches would be open as “safe havens” if violence broke out. Turmoil is expected because the killing has become a symbol of deep and enduring institutional racism and excessive policing in communities of color.

“The grand jury considered whether Wilson was the initial aggressor in this case, or whether Darren Wilson was authorized as a law enforcement officer to use deadly force in this situation, or if he acted in self-defense,” said St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch. “They determined that no probable cause exists to file any charge against Officer Wilson and and returned a ‘no-true’ [probable cause] bill on each of the five [possible killing-related] indictments.”  

“The physical and scientific evidence examined by the grand jury, combined with the witness statements, supported and combined with that physical evidence, tells the accurate and tragic story of what happened,” McColloch continued, saying that the Ferguson police officer first heard about a local convenience store robbery suspect before stopping Brown, who matched that description.  

McColloch said that the local police shared all of their evidence with the FBI, which has launched its own investigation under federal civil rights law, and would make that record public after his press announcement. He said those two investigations occurred in a sea of misinformation circulated by protesters and the media, including witnesses who later withdrew their testimony about seeing Brown gunned down.    

The Brown family’s attorneys have said …read more