Archive for November, 2014

Here’s What the Media Isn’t Telling You About the Protests in Ferguson

November 30, 2014

By Zak Cheney-Rice  November 26, 2014

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FERGUSON, MISSOURI — Jessica Dunkins, 29, woke up Tuesday to find out she no longer had a job.

Source: Sebastiano Tomada

It happened abruptly. A grand jury in Clayton, Missouri, chose not to indict Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson on Monday evening for the Aug. 9 killing of Michael Brown. As demonstrators converged on the quiet suburb of Ferguson, some started smashing windows, and before long a stretch of West Florissant Avenue became engulfed in flames.

Dunkins got a call that night from her boss at the Prime Beauty Supply store. “People are trying to break in,” he told her. That was the last thing she heard, until she walked to the corner of Florissant and Chambers the next morning and found this where her job used to be:

Source: Sebastiano Tomada

“I don’t have time for shit like this,” she told Mic. “This is so disrespectful to the Mike Brown family. … It’s not right, it’s not right.”

Tears streamed down her face as she spoke. Her hands quivered when she asked to borrow an extra pair of gloves. “Who all’s going to help with some money so I can pay my rent?” she went on. “[Wilson’s] still not going to jail … and [now] I don’t have no job.”

There are hundreds of stories like this in Ferguson this week. All of them are heartbreaking and important  — and all elicit wishes that the verdict had come down differently. But as anticipation turned into devastation Monday night, the media’s fixation on looting, rioting and destruction left little room for what’s really been happening in Ferguson, long before the CNN vans showed up.

And that’s a problem, because those stories need to be heard.

Source: Sebastiano Tomada

The violence that exploded Monday was confined to just one night (so far). Meanwhile, a string of nonviolent protests took place every night of the previous week — and almost no one in the mainstream media is talking about it.

This is not necessarily surprising. Contrary to the scolding rhetoric of President Barack Obama and Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, most protesters in the St. Louis area share Dunkins’ disaffection with the recent violence.

“We’re peaceful,” says Tory Russell, an activist from St. Louis. “That’s the one thing I want people to know about us.”

Source: Sebastiano Tomada

Groups like Hands Up United and Millennial Activists United have been committed to community building and nonviolent protest since day one, and their work in the months since August proves it.

In fact, most demonstrations in Ferguson unfold peacefully — assuming the police don’t escalate them with wrongful arrests and chemical-spewing teargas canisters. But you’d never know it from the billowing smoke clouds and flashing police sirens you see plastered across your TV screens.

Source: Sebastiano Tomada

Source: Sebastiano Tomada

Source: Sebastiano Tomada

Case in point: Around noon Tuesday, protesters gathered at Kiener Plaza in downtown St. Louis and marched to a nearby courthouse. They clapped and chanted slogans all the way. Ashley Yates of Millennial Activists and local artist Damon Davis were among the hundreds in attendance.

“Who is Mike Brown? I am Mike Brown,” the crowd shouted over and over again.

They eventually moved onto the Laclede’s Landing ramp of Interstate 44 and shut down the freeway for almost a half hour. According to reports, a squad of police officers in riot gear met them there and escorted them off under threat of arrest (and mace).

Disruption is an important part of civil disobedience. It’s a tool Ferguson’s demonstrators have wielded successfully, with recent actions at the St. Louis Opera and a Rams NFL game this fall drawing attention to the ongoing struggle, even when the news cameras aren’t around. In these cases, it’s all been done peacefully.

So next time you turn on the news and see nothing but burning buildings and gutted storefronts, know that you’re only seeing a fraction of the story. The rage is definitely here. But many people in Ferguson are choosing to fight injustice in other ways, too, and their stories aren’t being told enough.

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Zak Cheney-Rice

Zak is a staff writer at Mic.

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November 29, 2014
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The Washington Post

Ferguson Isn’t About Black Rage Against Cops. It’s White Rage Against Progress.

On Aug. 17, police in Ferguson, Mo., wait to advance after using tear gas to disperse a crowd protesting the shooting death of Michael Brown. (Charlie Riedel/Associated Press)

When we look back on what happened in Ferguson, Mo., during the summer of 2014, it will be easy to think of it as yet one more episode of black rage ignited by yet another police killing of an unarmed African American male. But that has it precisely backward. What we’ve actually seen is the latest outbreak of white rage. Sure, it is cloaked in the niceties of law and order, but it is rage nonetheless.

Protests and looting naturally capture attention. But the real rage smolders in meetings where officials redraw precincts to dilute African American voting strength or seek to slash the government payrolls that have long served as sources of black employment. It goes virtually unnoticed, however, because white rage doesn’t have to take to the streets and face rubber bullets to be heard. Instead, white rage carries an aura of respectability and has access to the courts, police, legislatures and governors, who cast its efforts as noble, though they are actually driven by the most ignoble motivations.

White rage recurs in American history. It exploded after the Civil War, erupted again to undermine the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision and took on its latest incarnation with Barack Obama’s ascent to the White House. For every action of African American advancement, there’s a reaction, a backlash.

The North’s victory in the Civil War did not bring peace. Instead, emancipation brought white resentment that the good ol’ days of black subjugation were over. Legislatures throughout the South scrambled to reinscribe white supremacy and restore the aura of legitimacy that the anti-slavery campaign had tarnished. Lawmakers in several states created the Black Codes, which effectively criminalized blackness, sanctioned forced labor and undermined every tenet of democracy. Even the federal authorities’ promise of 40 acres — land seized from traitors who had tried to destroy the United States of America — crumbled like dust.

Influential white legislators such as Rep. Thaddeus Stevens (R-Pa.) and Sen. Charles Sumner (R-Mass.) tried to make this nation live its creed, but they were no match for the swelling resentment that neutralized the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, and welcomed the Supreme Court’s 1876 United States vs. Cruikshank decision, which undercut a law aimed at stopping the terror of the Ku Klux Klan.

Nearly 80 years later, Brown v. Board of Education seemed like another moment of triumph — with the ruling on the unconstitutionality of separate public schools for black and white students affirming African Americans’ rights as citizens. But black children, hungry for quality education, ran headlong into more white rage. Bricks and mobs at school doors were only the most obvious signs. In March 1956, 101 members of Congress issued the Southern Manifesto, declaring war on the Brown decision. Governors in Virginia, Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia and elsewhere then launched “massive resistance.” They created a legal doctrine, interposition, that supposedly nullified any federal law or court decision with which a state disagreed. They passed legislation to withhold public funding from any school that abided by Brown. They shut down public school systems and used tax dollars to ensure that whites could continue their education at racially exclusive private academies. Black children were left to rot with no viable option.

A little more than half a century after Brown, the election of Obama gave hope to the country and the world that a new racial climate had emerged in America, or that it would. But such audacious hopes would be short-lived. A rash of voter-suppression legislation, a series of unfathomable Supreme Court decisions, the rise of stand-your-ground laws and continuing police brutality make clear that Obama’s election and reelection have unleashed yet another wave of fear and anger.

It’s more subtle — less overtly racist — than in 1865 or even 1954. It’s a remake of the Southern Strategy, crafted in the wake of the civil rights movement to exploit white resentment against African Americans, and deployed with precision by Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. As Reagan’s key political strategist, Lee Atwater, explained in a 1981 interview: “You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘N—–, n—–, n—–.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘n—–’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like ‘forced busing,’ ‘states’ rights’ and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things, and a byproduct of them is blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that.” (The interview was originally published anonymously, and only years later did it emerge that Atwater was the subject.)

Now, under the guise of protecting the sanctity of the ballot box, conservatives have devised measures — such as photo ID requirements — to block African Americans’ access to the polls. A joint report by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the NAACP emphasized that the ID requirements would adversely affect more than 6 million African American voters. (Twenty-five percent of black Americans lack a government-issued photo ID, the report noted, compared with only 8 percent of white Americans.) The Supreme Court sanctioned this discrimination in Shelby County v. Holder , which gutted the Voting Rights Act and opened the door to 21st-century versions of 19th-century literacy tests and poll taxes.

The economic devastation of the Great Recession also shows African Americans under siege. The foreclosure crisis hit black Americans harder than any other group in the United States. A 2013 report by researchers at Brandeis University calculated that “half the collective wealth of African-American families was stripped away during the Great Recession,” in large part because of the impact on home equity. In the process, the wealth gap between blacks and whites grew: Right before the recession, white Americans had four times more wealth than black Americans, on average; by 2010, the gap had increased to six times. This was a targeted hit. Communities of color were far more likely to have riskier, higher-interest-rate loans than white communities, with good credit scores often making no difference.

Add to this the tea party movement’s assault on so-called Big Government, which despite the sanitized language of fiscal responsibility constitutes an attack on African American jobs. Public-sector employment, where there is less discrimination in hiring and pay, has traditionally been an important venue for creating a black middle class.

So when you think of Ferguson, don’t just think of black resentment at a criminal justice system that allows a white police officer to put six bullets into an unarmed black teen. Consider the economic dislocation of black America. Remember a Florida judge instructing a jury to focus only on the moment when George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin interacted, thus transforming a 17-year-old, unarmed kid into a big, scary black guy, while the grown man who stalked him through the neighborhood with a loaded gun becomes a victim. Remember the assault on the Voting Rights Act. Look at Connick v. Thompson, a partisan 5-4 Supreme Court decision in 2011 that ruled it was legal for a city prosecutor’s staff to hide evidence that exonerated a black man who was rotting on death row for 14 years. And think of a recent study by Stanford University psychology researchers concluding that, when white people were told that black Americans are incarcerated in numbers far beyond their proportion of the population, “they reported being more afraid of crime and more likely to support the kinds of punitive policies that exacerbate the racial disparities,” such as three-strikes or stop-and-frisk laws.

Only then does Ferguson make sense. It’s about white rage.

Carol Anderson is an associate professor of African American studies and history at Emory University and a public voices fellow with the Op-Ed Project. She is the author of “Bourgeois Radicals: The NAACP and the Struggle for Colonial Liberation, 1941-1960.”

Fukushima Worker: They’re covering up how much contamination is flowing into ocean

November 29, 2014

ENENews


Fukushima Worker: They’re covering up how much contamination is flowing into ocean — Scientist: We are measuring higher radiation levels off Japan — Plume near California already exceeds expectations, and will keep rising for years to come — TV: “Cleanup can’t be done… They lied from the start, Tepco is a den of inequity” (VIDEOS)

Posted: 27 Nov 2014 03:50 PM PST

Fukushima fallout on vegetation in South Florida exceeded gov’t notification limit by over 1,000% — Nearly triple the highest level reported anywhere on West Coast

Posted: 27 Nov 2014 05:39 AM PST

Ferguson Grand Jury Papers Full of Inconsistencies

November 29, 2014

Demonstrators are confronted by police as they block a street during a protest ahead of the grand jury announcement on November 24, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. (photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Demonstrators are confronted by police as they block a street during a protest ahead of the grand jury announcement on November 24, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. (photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

By Holbrook Mohr, David A. Lieb and Phillip Lucas, Associated Press

28 November 14

 

ome witnesses said Michael Brown had been shot in the back. Another said he was face-down on the ground when Officer Darren Wilson “finished him off.” Still others acknowledged changing their stories to fit published details about the autopsy or admitted that they did not see the shooting at all.

An Associated Press review of thousands of pages of grand jury documents reveals numerous examples of statements made during the shooting investigation that were inconsistent, fabricated or provably wrong. For one, the autopsies ultimately showed Brown was not struck by any bullets in his back.

Prosecutors exposed these inconsistencies before the jurors, which likely influenced their decision not to indict Wilson in Brown’s death.

Bob McCulloch, the St. Louis County prosecutor, said the grand jury had to weigh testimony that conflicted with physical evidence and conflicting statements by witnesses as it decided whether Wilson should face charges.

“Many witnesses to the shooting of Michael Brown made statements inconsistent with other statements they made and also conflicting with the physical evidence. Some were completely refuted by the physical evidence,” McCulloch said.

The decision Monday not to charge Wilson with any crime set off more violent protests in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson and around the country, fueled by claims that the unarmed black 18-year-old was shot while surrendering to the white officer in the mostly African-American city.

What people thought were facts about the Aug. 9 shooting have become intertwined with what many see as abuses of power and racial inequality in America.

And media coverage of the shooting’s aftermath made it into the grand jury proceedings. Before some witnesses testified, prosecutors showed jurors clips of the same people making statements on TV.

Their inconsistencies began almost immediately after the shooting, from people in the neighborhood, the friend walking with Brown during the encounter and even one woman who authorities suggested probably wasn’t even at the scene at the time.

Jurors also were presented with dueling versions from Wilson and Dorian Johnson, who was walking with Brown during the Aug. 9 confrontation. Johnson painted Wilson as provoking the violence, while Wilson said Brown was the aggressor.

But Johnson also declared on TV, in a clip played for the grand jury, that Wilson fired at least one shot at his friend while Brown was running away: “It struck my friend in the back.”

Johnson held to a variation of this description in his grand jury testimony, saying the shot caused Brown’s body to “do like a jerking movement, not to where it looked like he got hit in his back, but I knew, it maybe could have grazed him, but he definitely made a jerking movement.”

Other eyewitness accounts also were clearly wrong.

One woman, who said she was smoking a cigarette with a friend nearby, claimed she saw a second police officer in the passenger seat of Wilson’s vehicle. When quizzed by a prosecutor, she elaborated: The officer was white, “middle age or young” and in uniform. She said she was positive there was a second officer — even though there was not.

Another woman testified that she saw Brown leaning through the officer’s window “from his navel up,” with his hand moving up and down, as if he were punching the officer. But when the same witness returned to testify again on another day, she said she suffers from mental disorder, has racist views and that she has trouble distinguishing the truth from things she had read online.

Prosecutors suggested the woman had fabricated the entire incident and was not even at the scene the day of the shooting.

Another witness had told the FBI that Wilson shot Brown in the back and then “stood over him and finished him off.” But in his grand jury testimony, this witness acknowledged that he had not seen that part of the shooting, and that what he told the FBI was “based on me being where I’m from, and that can be the only assumption that I have.”

The witness, who lives in the predominantly black neighborhood where Brown was killed, also acknowledged that he changed his story to fit details of the autopsy that he had learned about on TV.

“So it was after you learned that the things you said you saw couldn’t have happened that way, then you changed your story about what you seen?” a prosecutor asserted.

“Yeah, to coincide with what really happened,” the witness replied.

Another man, describing himself as a friend of Brown’s, told a federal investigator that he heard the first gunshot, looked out his window and saw an officer with a gun drawn and Brown “on his knees with his hands in the air.” He added: “I seen him shoot him in the head.”

But when later pressed by the investigator, the friend said he had not seen the actual shooting because he was walking down the stairs at the time and instead had heard details from someone in the apartment complex.

“What you are saying you saw isn’t forensically possible based on the evidence,” the investigator told the friend.

Shortly after that, the friend asked if he could leave.

“I ain’t feeling comfortable,” he said.

 

Ferguson: ‘We’re Going to Shake the Heavens’

November 29, 2014
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Protesters in Ferguson, Missouri. (The News Commenter)
Protesters in Ferguson, Missouri. (The News Commenter)

By Amy Goodman, Common Dreams

28 November 14

 

s long as justice is postponed we always stand on the verge of these darker nights of social disruption.” So said Martin Luther King Jr. in a speech on March 14, 1968, just three weeks before he was assassinated.

Michael Brown’s killing in August continues to send shockwaves through Ferguson, Missouri, and beyond. Last Monday night, Saint Louis County prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch unleashed a night of social disruption when he announced that no criminal charges would be filed against Darren Wilson, the police officer who killed Brown. McCulloch inexplicably delayed release of the grand jury findings until nightfall. The prosecutor’s press conference deeply insulted many, as he labouriously defended the actions of Darren Wilson, while attacking the character of the victim, Michael Brown.

Soon after McCulloch’s announcement, Ferguson erupted. Buildings were set ablaze, burning to the ground. Cars were engulfed in flames. Aggressive riot police, ignoring much-touted “rules of engagement” agreements with protest organizers, fired tear gas canisters at outraged residents. Random gunfire rang out through the night.

“Black lives don’t matter,” said one young man protesting in the freezing cold in Ferguson on Monday night. Tear gas mixed with noxious smoke from raging fires nearby. Another protester, Katrina Redmon, explained her frustration with the failure to indict Darren Wilson: “He killed an unarmed black teenager. There is no excuse for that. A man was killed and somebody walked away … we want answers. Because it seems like the only way you can get away with murder is if you got a badge.”

I was interviewing the demonstrators outside the Ferguson police station, which was ringed with riot police. We were not far from the spot where Michael Brown was killed, shot at least six times by Darren Wilson, and where his corpse was left in the road, face down and bleeding, for more than four hours under the hot August sun as horrified friends and neighbors looked on. After protests grew following Brown’s killing, state and local law enforcement unfurled a shocking array of military gear and arms, helping expose how the Pentagon has been quietly unloading its surplus war-making materiel from Iraq and Afghanistan to thousands of cities and towns across the country. Since 9/11, over $5 billion worth of this gear has been transferred. The United States now has an occupying military force: the local police.

The riot police and National Guard swarmed the white side of Ferguson, while the black side of town, along West Florissant Avenue, was ablaze. There were almost no cops there. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency a week before the grand jury decision came down, yet the National Guard troops he deployed were nowhere to be seen in this part of town. About a dozen businesses went up in flames. Why was West Florissant Avenue left unguarded? Did the authorities let Ferguson burn?

In his 1968 speech, “The Other America,” Dr. King addressed fears of a forthcoming summer of riots like those that consumed Newark, New Jersey, Detroit and other black inner cities in 1967. King said:

“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.”

Those unheard, the citizens of Ferguson who have been taking to the streets for over 100 days, weren’t the ones setting fires. They were demanding justice. Solidarity protests involving thousands around the country and around the world are amplifying their demands, linking struggles, building a mass movement.

“We’re going to shake the heavens,” one young man told me, as he faced off with the riot police. His breath was visible in the freezing night air. He was shivering in the cold, but he wasn’t going anywhere. It is that fire, that inextinguishable commitment, not the burning embers of buildings, that those who profit from injustice have most to fear.

 

Giving thanks for our messy food system — and for the chance to fix it

November 27, 2014

This Thanksgiving when you sit down to eat, it might be an interesting experiment to try to thank everyone who brought you that food, if only from afar.

This would include someone who sold the food (a grocer or farmer-stand worker), and the farmworkers, but also many more. Don’t forget the people who transported your food, the people at the distribution hub, the government inspectors who work to keep it safe while reigning in environmental impacts, the breeders who provide the seeds, and the nearby animal-farm owner who provides the manure for fertilizer. If you have a processed food like ice cream, or meat (turkey!), you have another set of people to thank: hairnet-wearing factory workers, food scientists, flavor specialists, turkey-feed producers, poultry farmers, and importantly, the turkey itself.

One thing I find, when I try this experiment in thankfulness, is that everyone I imagine in this food chain is a good person trying, as best they know how, to bring us healthful and delicious meals. The food system has its problems, but they are structural, and just about everyone in it wants to correct those problems.

I heard from several of those people — mostly farmers — after Mark Bittman, Michael Pollan, Ricardo Salvador, and Olivier De Schutter published an opinion piece articulating the structural problems with the food system and laying out a set of goals for a national food policy.

The farmers were upset because they read this op-ed as an attack on their life work. I can understand that: The piece reads not as a loving critique, but as a rousing call to action. It makes sense that the people who currently bring us our food might interpret it as a call to action against them. But if you read the proposed goals with an open mind and a generous spirit, it’s hard to imagine anyone taking issue. Forget about how these things might be implemented for a second, and just ask yourself if you agree with these principles:

All Americans have access to healthful food;

Farm policies are designed to support our public health and environmental objectives;

Our food supply is free of toxic bacteria, chemicals and drugs;

Production and marketing of our food are done transparently;

The food industry pays a fair wage to those it employs;

Food marketing sets children up for healthful lives by instilling in them a habit of eating real food;

Animals are treated with compassion and attention to their well-being…

The details, of course, bedevil any interpretation or application of these goals. Does compassion for animals mean that we shouldn’t keep them in the tight confinement of battery cages and gestation crates? Does it mean that we shouldn’t eat them at all? When we are keeping our food supply free of toxic germs, chemicals, and drugs, who gets to decide what’s toxic? Does freedom from toxic bacteria mean we should crack down harder on the threat of French cheeses? How do we reconcile the people out there who equate all chemicals with “poison” and the people who would like to irradiate all food to kill off germs?

So yes, all hell breaks loose in the particulars. But the point is that both radiation proponents and chemophobes can at least agree on these goals in the abstract, before they plunge into the debate over what works and what doesn’t. I absolutely agree with the authors that it’s useful to define our core principles for a national food policy. Those principles would become a pole-star for all the people working, in their own ways, to improve the food system.

Bittman, Pollan, Salvador, and De Schutter want President Obama to lay out a national food policy and begin to implement it as best he can within the executive branch. Obama isn’t likely to do that, for the same reason he has refrained from taking a muscular stance on the Ferguson shooting, and the same reason he waited years before taking executive action on immigration reform.

That reason? Ezra Klein articulated it best in his conversation with political scientist Frances Lee.

“Doing what people think of as leading — going public, making big speeches, getting people excited — that can actually be harmful to passing his agenda. Because the more a president associates himself with an idea, the more important it becomes for the minority party to make sure that idea doesn’t pass.”

When a president takes up an issue these days, it becomes a partisan issue. The other party has every incentive to defeat it. And we’ve seen both parties reverse their position depending on who is proposing a policy. Sometimes forcing the partisan line down the opposing party’s throat is the only way to make progress (as seems to be the case with both health-care and immigration reform), but sometimes entangling an issue in partisan politics makes it tougher to solve.

There’s this old idea that if you want to change something, you do it through the national government — you go to the president, the most powerful man in the world. That’s often not the way work gets done in this era of obstructionism. Much more is being accomplished at the local and state levels, and on lower profile issues. David Festa of the Environmental Defense Fund has made a strong case that reform in national food policy can be made without the partisan bluster. Republicans, Democrats, agribusiness, food corporations, and farmers could all work together to address issues like fertilizer runoff, Festa argued. (In fact, in some places they already are.)

A good example is the Food Safety and Modernization Act, a bipartisan bill that passed unanimously in the Senate (though, to be sure, after years of ridiculous posturing). Since it became law, the FDA has been working with farmers to insure it protects eaters without unduly burdening farmers. Organic farmers were especially worried it could prevent them from applying manure to their fields, but the FDA has tweaked the rules to address these concerns. The details of the regulations are still in play (some food safety experts say the exemptions for small farmers went too far), but we actually seem to be working our way toward a rational outcome.

So if Obama does take on this issue, you can be sure he’ll do it as part of a larger, nonpartisan group. The goals that Bittman, Pollan, Salvador, and De Schutter have laid out aren’t liberal or conservative — they are simply sensible human, and patriotic. I’m thankful for the American food system, which allowed my parents to feed me well, inexpensively, and safely. And it’s because I care about our food system that I want to make it better. I’ve added my name to the list of those endorsing these goals; if you agree, you might do the same.

More by Nathanael Johnson

The newest benefits perk: Cheap solar power for your home

November 27, 2014

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MEDICAL, DENTAL, SOLAR

So your job gives you a 401k match and free pretzels? Cool, I guess — but your employer just got one-upped by a collection of big companies: 3M, Cisco, Kimberley-Clark, and the National Geographic Society just went in on the first corporate bulk solar purchase program. Now, their employees can install solar PV on their homes for about a third less than the national average. Brokered by the World Wildlife Foundation and solar marketplace Geostellar, the Solar Community Initiative program has the potential to reach over 100,000 people.

The WWF began by looking for sustainability programs to match with their corporate partners. “When we started thinking about major barriers for solar it kept coming back to cost and availability,” says Bryn Baker, WWF’s manager of renewable energy. “By leveraging the bulk purchasing power of that aggregate employee base, we tackled both barriers.”

There are a few different ways to use the power of numbers to defray the cost of solar, but until now, group power purchases have always been limited by geography, mostly because of state laws and specific policies applied by regional utilities. This is the first-ever nationwide solar purchase program, and the first to be sponsored by employers.

That bulk buying power, combined with Geostellar’s nationwide pricing program, is what makes the program work. By tapping the pool of 145,000 employees they were able to work backwards to find low prices that apply across the country. The average cost will be around $3 per watt, depending on the size of the home system. Homeowners’ power savings will depend based on sun availability, roof pitch, and other factors.

Ali Ahmed, a senior manager at Cisco in Cleveland, was the first person to take advantage of the program. He put a 17-panel, five-kilowatt system on the roof of his brownstone. He says the startup process took about two weeks from when he plugged his house into the Geostellar system to when he started producing power.

“Five kilowatts on my roof isn’t going to change a lot, but being able to multiply the effect and share it does something,” Ahmed says. “I like what Geostellar does from a big data standpoint, taking advantage of geospatial technology. They pass that efficiency on to the customer, so there’s not a big effort up front.”

Baker says they wanted the program to be cheap and uncomplicated: Aside from cost, the other major barrier to entry for home solar installs is that it’s really fricking confusing. Potential solar customers first have to decide what kind of array they’d like to install; then they must navigate tax credits, how to work with their local utility, and financing. Baker says that’s why Geostellar was appealing. Geostellar, which bills itself as “The KAYAK of solar,” works with local utilities and installers to aggregate all the moving parts into one place. That means users can set up an entire system with a few clicks on one single website visit. Spend a few minutes plugging in your address, and Geostellar can provide a rough estimate for how big of an array your house can hold, what it would cost, and how much money it would save you.

“We manage the whole process,” says David Levine, Geostellar’s CEO. “We do a detailed system design, and help the person qualify for financing, then we contract with a local installer. We send them the system design we produce, they do measurements to make sure the designs works, then we order the equipment and pay for it.”

While plenty of people agree that bulk purchases are a smart, fast way to scale the growth of solar for the American public, others worry Geostellar’s lowball pricing might push installers to undercut each other to get bids in states where costs are higher.

“The goal is to bring the cost down, but also to have a healthy industry,” says Meaghan Barrier, program coordinator at Northwest SEED, which organizes community solar projects in Washington. “We don’t just want it to be a race to the bottom in terms of cost.”

There are also some flaws in a blanket system, because solar is regulated on a state-by-state basis. By scaling it nationwide Geostellar misses out on some state-specific tax incentives. For instance, in Minnesota and Washington, solar users get bigger tax credits if they install inverters and panels manufactured in-state. Levine says they had to compromise on local panels because they didn’t have infrastructure in all the places they would potentially install arrays. There are logistical hurdles, too: Plenty of roofs won’t work because they’re too shady or sloping (mine, for instance, isn’t a great option), some HOAs have rules against solar panels, and renters (for the time being) are SOL. But as far as a large-scale solar program goes, the Solar Community Initiative still rates highly for its broad reach and simplicity to execute.

Because of that, the WWF program has been popular. Levine says that since announcing the program in October, they have 30 installs under contract and another 300 planned. Their goal was to get 1,000 in the first year, which equates to about five megawatts of power; the early numbers in the first few weeks put them on a solid path to surpass that. He says he hopes it’s a model for how to grow renewable energy.

And the WWF isn’t stopping with partner companies. Levine says that they’ve opened up the program to let anyone in the U.S. or Canada participate through the end of the year (the code is “solarmojo” if you want in). He says they’ve already been approached by unaffiliated companies and by community groups (like the Cleveland Sustainability Board) to help roll out similar large-scale programs.

And, at a base level, Baker says she thinks the program helps make solar seem like a viable option for your average American. “We’ve seen that nine of 10 people love the idea of solar, but 97 percent of them overestimate the cost,” she says. This helps people understand the economic and environmental benefits.”

For Ahmed, those benefits are immediately apparent — even in the chill of a Cleveland winter.

“I was very worried that I wouldn’t be producing power, because it’s been so cold here in Cleveland,” he says. “But I have been. I already got my October power bill, [and] there was [only] about a week in October when I was making power and it’s already lower.”

CDC Official: “Public health emergency in the US” from Fukushima radioactive material

November 27, 2014

ENENews


CDC Official: “Public health emergency in the US” from Fukushima radioactive material; Gov’t wanted to quarantine people contaminated with radiation, but had no authority

Posted: 26 Nov 2014 07:14 PM PST

“A hallucination of your worst fears”: Legal scholar Patricia Williams on what Darren Wilson’s testimony reveals about racism in America

November 27, 2014

WEDNESDAY, NOV 26, 2014 11:25 AM CST

“That’s precisely the danger of prejudice and stereotypes. That you don’t see the human being in front of you”
KATIE MCDONOUGH Follow
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TOPICS: PATRICIA WILLIAMS, DARREN WILSON, MIKE BROWN, MICHAEL BROWN, RACIAL JUSTICE, POLICE VIOLENCE, RACISM, GRAND JURY, ROBERT MCCULLOCH, ANTI-BLACKNESS, FERGUSON, POLITICS NEWS

“A hallucination of your worst fears”: Legal scholar Patricia Williams on what Darren Wilson’s testimony reveals about racism in America
St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office photo shows Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson photo taken shortly after August 9, 2014 shooting of Michael Brown, presented to the grand jury and made available on November 24, 2014. (Credit: Reuters)
After hearing the news that a grand jury had declined to indict Darren Wilson for fatally shooting Michael Brown, I picked up my copy of Patricia Williams’ “The Alchemy of Race and Rights” to revisit her writing on the death of Eleanor Bumpurs. In particular, I wanted to read a passage in which Williams explores fear, the racialized perception of threat and the use of deadly force in the 1984 case.

Bumpurs was a 66 year old, badly arthritic African-American woman who was shot and killed by Stephen Sullivan, a white New York City police officer. After being confronted in her home by several officers there to evict her, Bumpurs brandished a knife. She was shot twice. Like Wilson, Sullivan faced no charges. (At the time, one of Bumpurs’ seven children responded to the non-indictment by observing, “The judge and the Police Department are saying, ‘If you’re poor, if you’re black, then there’s no justice.’”)

And this is what Williams wrote in 1991:

I have tried to ask myself a progression of questions about the Bumpurs death. […] What I found more difficult to focus on was the “why,” the animus that inspired such fear and impatient contempt in a police officer that the presence of six other well-armed men could not allay his need to kill a sick old lady fighting off hallucinations with a knife. It seemed to me a fear embellished by something beyond Mrs. Bumpurs herself; something about her that filled the void between her physical, limited presence and the “immediate threat and endangerment to life” in the beholding eyes of the officer.

Why was the sight of a knife-wielding woman so fearful to a shotgun-wielding policeman that he had to blow her to pieces as the only recourse, the only way to preserve his physical integrity? What offensive spirit of his past experience raised her presence to the level of a physical menace beyond what it in fact was; what spirit of prejudgment, of prejudice, provided him such a powerful hallucinogen?

However slippery these questions may be on a legal or conscious level, unresponsiveness does not make them go away. Failure to resolve the dilemma of racial violence merely displaces its power. The legacy of killing finds its way into cultural expectations, archetypes, and isms. The echoes of both dead and deadly others acquire an hallucinatory quality; their voices speak of an unwanted past, but also reflect images of the future.

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These questions, all these years later, have not gone away. And in the grand jury’s decision and the public’s response to the death of Eleanor Bumpurs, we saw images of the future many times over. I reached out to Williams, a legal scholar and professor of law at Columbia University, to discuss the grand jury’s decision in the Wilson case, Wilson’s testimony, prosecutor Robert McCulloch’s strategy and race and the justice system in 2014.

Our conversation has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

What are your thoughts on the outcome of the grand jury hearing?

It’s really disappointing. This is a grand jury for an indictment. It’s not a conviction. The standard for a grand jury is very, very low. There is a famous cliché in the law that you could indict a ham sandwich because the standard is so low.

And this wasn’t even the ultimate trial, this was just to determine that there was a reasonable suspicion that something had happened that could be prosecuted. In that sense, the prosecutor [Robert McCulloch] did a completely horrible job. That’s why, at the outset, there was concern about this particular prosecutor.

What do you make of McCulloch’s strategy in this case?

As in many of these trials, like the Trayvon Martin case and Jordan Davis, the public seems to feel that the victim is the person who needs to be prosecuted. And reading the transcript [in the Wilson case], it was so blatant.

One of the functions of a prosecutor is to prioritize, to make a case that there is reasonable cause. McCulloch didn’t do that. He chose to present a mess with no attempt to persuade. That’s what prosecutors are supposed to do, and he didn’t do that. He emptied several bales of hay and told the jury to go sort through it. Relevance and focus is absolutely what you need to create a case. He didn’t try to create a case.

If he had a strategy, it seemed to be more about acting like a defense attorney.

And because prosecutors so often use police as their witnesses, there is a tendency in many prosecutors — and you saw this really dominate here — to feel that the police are on the same side as the prosecution. While in fact, the prosecutor’s duty is to the people. That’s why the courts are styled as “the people” versus a particular defendant. It is not “the police” versus a particular defendant.

McCulloch’s duty is to the public space, to all the people of the state. Not the police. That distinction, of the prosecutor representing the public and not police interests, seems to have been erased. And that conflation seems to have driven this grand jury presentation.

You mention the legal cliché of being able to indict a ham sandwich, but that changes when we talk about police officers. It’s rare for an officer to face charges.

Police officers are designed to protect public order. They have a responsibility to use the least violent option in any confrontation, and they are supposedly trained to do that. While their job is certainly stressful, you can’t have people with PTSD running around supposedly protecting the public order.

When you read the transcripts, it sounds like Wilson’s defense was, Well I was so panicked and terrified. He certainly capitalized on this idea of “Big Mike.” But remember, Darren Wilson and Mike Brown are the same size. You wouldn’t have guessed that based on the transcript.

This panic about the hulking predator… if that is your feeling, then you shouldn’t be a police officer. It’s not a description of an accountable state actor. And the notion that police are state actors is lost here.

You see this in this general sense that [many people believe] the police have to do whatever they can to protect themselves. But that is not their mission. That’s a complete misstatement of their duty. Public safety is their mission, not their own. It is almost an old fashioned sacrificial mission that is entirely lost in this sense of, We are at war and we are soldiers. We shoot first and ask questions later.

Can you say more about Wilson’s testimony in this context?

Wilson aired a series of stereotypes that pluralized Michael Brown. In the Renisha McBride case, Theodore Wafer, who was convicted in her killing, kept saying “them,” kept talking about “them.” It was them versus me, and I was terrified.

There was that stereotyped plural in everything he said. He was describing not even a human being, he was describing a terrifying shape onto which all kinds of historical fear [about the black body] were projected.

Dehumanizing. Beastializing. Cartooning. That’s precisely the danger of prejudice and stereotypes. That you don’t see the human being in front of you, you see a template, a projection, a hallucination of your worst fears that makes the fear greater than the situation that you’re actually in.

What does reform look like to you at this moment?

The civil rights movement is changing, technology is changing, surveillance is changing, the ability to control populations is changing.

I’m delighted to see that Mike Brown’s family is pushing for cameras on police officers, but at the same time, I think that cameras absolutely everywhere have potential for their own abuses that we are only beginning to deal with and appreciate.

So looking at the long-term, I think we are living in a moment of great societal change that makes it very hard to predict exactly what kind of enduring reforms will work best. Everybody is a bit like a deer frozen in the headlights.

There is an incredible amount of energy right now. It seems that the conversation changes in the wake of the non-indictment, but the focus — on systems, on process, on justice — remains very much the same.

I hope it will continue. I think that the kind of hard work that it’s going to take to make these changes has to do with changing the police departments, which means changing the geography of communities. The checkerboard nature — black and white, wealthy and low-income — has to change. And that is a bigger, bigger battle.

One of the things I am writing about is what I think was one of the galvanizing moments — how Mike Brown’s body was left there for four and a half hours. Police said, Oh we couldn’t get the coroner, we didn’t have the resources. They let that body lie there for four and a half hours while the entire neighborhood looked on. Everybody saw the disrespect of letting a body lie there for that length of time.

It reminds me of the disrespect shown in the Eric Garner case. Where the EMTs wouldn’t even touch the body. They saw this man literally struggling for his last breath, and just watched. There is this untouching. Once you kill someone, you do not touch the black body. You do not bother to give the body dignity or respect.

Then you had the family, the neighbors, and the children coming home from schools all screaming and crying on the other side of the police ribbon. This is what I think galvanized the energy of this particular response. That so many people saw first hand for so long the police walking slowly around, casually, while the body was left there. We didn’t treat Hitler’s body that way.

People teeming with emotion over the distress. When you are watching a family going crazy hour after hour. That so many people were on the street seeing that happen. At least in Ferguson, that will never be forgotten.

Katie McDonough is Salon’s politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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Everything the Darren Wilson grand jury got wrong: The lies, errors and mistruths that let Michael Brown’s killer off the hook

November 27, 2014

WEDNESDAY, NOV 26, 2014 02:45 PM CST

The prosecutor’s document dump was designed for transparency. It shows how transparently flawed the process was
PAUL ROSENBERG
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TOPICS: RACHEL MADDOW, MICHAEL BROWN, DARREN WILSON, FERGUSON, EDITOR’S PICKS, NEWS

Everything the Darren Wilson grand jury got wrong: The lies, errors and mistruths that let Michael Brown’s killer off the hook
St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office photo shows Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson photo taken shortly after August 9, 2014 shooting of Michael Brown, presented to the grand jury and made available on November 24, 2014. (Credit: Reuters)
The fix was in from the moment Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown. Data is sketchy and incomplete, but police shoot scores of unarmed blacks every year, and rarely face significant consequences, so why should why shouldn’t Wilson get away with murder? Still, at least giving the appearance of justice for all, and requiring Wilson to stand trial hardly seemed too much to ask—unless, of course, you were St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch, who defended Wilson and attacked his accusers, the media and social media in a night-time press conference Monday that seemed perfectly timed and perfectly toned to elicit the most angry, unfocused and uncontrolled response possible.

As part of his theatre of openness and impartiality, however, McCulloch included a document dump which may have been intended to be overwhelming, and therefore ignored, but which has already proven sufficient to undermine McCulloch’s ludicrous posture of legal rectitude.

“This process is broken. The process should be indicted. It should be indicted because of the continuous, systematic result that is yielded by this process,” said Benjamin Crump, Michael Brown Family Attorney. But an integral part of that brokenness is the charade of justice, which ordinary people find it easy to see through nowadays. Reporting on MSNBC from Ferguson on Tuesday, Zack Roth noted, “I just spoke to a woman in Starbucks, who was saying, ‘It appeared like the prosecutor was acting as Darren Wilson’s defense attorney, rather than looking out for the interests of Michael Brown and his family.’” In short—McCulloch quite blatantly over-played his hand.

Ezra Klein made an innocent layman’s argument for what had gone wrong, calling Wilson’s own testimony “unbelievable,” saying:

I mean that in the literal sense of the term: “difficult or impossible to believe.” But I want to be clear here. I’m not saying Wilson is lying. I’m not saying his testimony is false. I am saying that the events, as he describes them, are simply bizarre. His story is difficult to believe.

And because it’s so difficult to believe, Klein argued, quite sensibly, we need the full-blown trial process to run its course, in order to see if his incredible testimony can hold up.

But author, attorney and NBC analyst Lisa Bloom did the best job of zeroing in on precisely how the grand jury process had failed in a number of appearances on MSNBC the day after McCulloch’s announcement. In a virtual replay of the Trayvon Martin case, subject of her book Suspicion Nation, the prosecutors simply dropped the ball and did not do their jobs.

“The biggest thing that jumps out is prosecutors who aren’t prosecuting,” Bloom said, “prosecutors who let the target of the investigation come in, in a very friendly, relaxed way, and simply tell the story. There is absolutely zero cross-examination. Cross-examination is the hallmark of our system, it’s the crucible of truth. And I don’t say that to use flowery language. That’s how we get at the truth.”

Before she read the transcripts, Bloom noted, “I suspected that he wasn’t cross-examined, instead he was just allowed to talk in a narrative and tell a story and in fact, that’s exactly what happened,” which is a lawyer’s way of saying what the woman in Starbucks told Zach Roth—the prosecutors were treating Wilson like he was their witness, helping them make their case against the accused—Michael Brown. They were not treating him like a suspect or defendant, or even a witness for the other side. They were treating him like one of their own—which, of course, is exactly what he was. And that’s the basic problem, in a nutshell.

While McCulloch had gone out of his way to paint all the witnesses against Wilson as unreliable, offering confused and contradictory testimony, Bloom zeroed in on the most obvious contradiction provided by Wilson himself. “Darren Wilson, as you can see in these pictures, doesn’t have any obvious injuries, maybe, if you look really closely, a tiny bit of pinkness on his face,” Bloom said. “That is completely inconsistent with his story that Mike Brown, with full force, he says, punched him twice, solidly in the face—big, strong Mike Brown. Inconsistent with his injuries, he’s not cross-examined about that, or about anything else.”

That was hardly the only example Bloom cited on air that day. “There are so many parts of that transcript that jumped out at me as a trial lawyer that I would want to cross examine him about if I were the prosecutor,” Bloom said. “For example he said he didn’t like the community. He said it was not a well-liked community. It was a community that he said is filled with gangs and violence and drug activity, not well-liked.”

Of course, Mike Brown is not in a gang, Mike Brown wasn’t doing any drugs, except, perhaps marijuana,” Bloom observed. So the prosecutor’s questions should have been obvious, “Did you not like Mike Brown? Did you have a vendetta against Mike Brown?” Those are the sorts of questions that you’re supposed to learn to ask in law school—if not by watching Law & Order— they’re like a trial lawyers’ ABCs. “That’s just the beginning of what the prosecutors could have done but didn’t do,” Bloom said.

It wasn’t just the prosecutors, of course. In Wilson’s original police interview, he tells the entire key section of the story—from when he exited his vehicle to when his supervisor showed up and sent him back to the police station—without interruption. Any other sort of shooting suspect would never be allowed to go on for so long without interruption, narrating the key moments in which he killed someone. But then there was the tough follow-up question, right?

Er, not exactly:

Okay. When a, let’s just continue with this. When you get to the police station, what’d you do?

It’s not that the investigators didn’t know how to question witnesses, pushing them to see if they’d stick to their story. You can read how other witnesses were questioned, and the differences quickly become apparent. It’s not a matter of investigatory ability, but of will.

“There was so many gaps in the presentation of evidence, the grand jury didn’t have enough to get to probable because the prosecutors didn’t give it too them.’ Bloom summed up, early in the day on “Ronan Farrow Daily.”

That night, on her show, Rachel Maddow brought a broader framework to bear on the situation. She framed Darren Wilson’s fantastical narrative by recalling the history of the “super-predator” panic of the 1990s, kicked off by conservative policy maven John DiIulio, who, Maddow noted, later apologized for having been so wrong. As a result of DiIulio’s scare-mongering, children as young as seven were locked up, even as the juvenile murder rate plummeted.

“This crime bomb probably cannot be defused,” DiIulio wrote in 1995, in a passage Maddow highlighted on screen. “The large population of seven- to 10-year-old boys now growing up fatherless, Godless and jobless – and surrounded by deviant, delinquent, and criminal adults – will give rise to a new and more vicious group of predatory street criminals than the nation has ever known. We must therefore be prepared to contain the explosion’s force and limit its damage.”

But the juvenile murder rate had actually already peaked in 1993, and was beginning to decline drastically. By 2000, it was lower than it had been in the early 1980s. Texas Governor Rick Perry said it best: “Ooops!”

“Ultimately, John DiIulio took it back,” Maddow noted. “In a court filing just a couple of year ago John DiIulio finally expressed regret for what he had written back in the ‘90s, he signed a brief saying that he’d been wrong when he predicted a murderous future for all those seven-year-old boys he was so afraid of. Sorry about the whole super-predator thing. Sorry about all those kids now doing life in adult prison. But it turned out the glassy-eyed, afraid-of-nothing, super-human, monstrous American juvenile super-predator was just a racial fantasy.”

This is the historical backdrop, Maddow reminded us, against which Darren Wilson’s fantasy images of Michael Brown were constructed. Elements of that fantasy in Wilson’s own testimony included:

* Wilson saying that Brown had “the most intensive aggressive face, the only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked.”

* Wilson emphasizing Brown’s huge size (both men are about 6 feet 4 inches, though Brown was heavier—but not nearly as heavy as the police cruiser Wilson was driving at the time), and saying that “when I grabbed him [from inside the police car] the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan.”

* Wilson’s claim that he had to pull his weapon, because Brown could have killed him with a single blow: “I felt that another one of those punches in my face could knock me out or worse. I mean it was, he’s obviously bigger than I was and stronger and the, I’ve already taken two to the face and I didn’t think I would, the third one could be fatal if he hit me right.”

* Wilson’s crucial description of the unarmed Michael Brown allegedly charging him, leaving Wilson no option but to kill him: “It looked like he was almost bulking up to run through the shots, like it was making him mad that I’m shooting at him.”

In the end, Maddow summarized:

Officer Darren Wilson was afraid for his life. He says that was his defense. He thought he had met Hulk Hogan, a larger-than-life threat that he could stop only by shooting, and even then this demon that he saw would keep going through the shots by somehow bulking himself up to make himself immune to the shots, because he was so angered by them. Gunfire only made it angry, this demon.

Then she tied Wilson’s fantasy back to its recent historical context:

We are two decades out from the super-predator panic from the mid-90s, we now know that was just a racial fantasy, that nevertheless drove a lot of policy and changed a lot of people’s lives. The fact that that was two decades ago and there’s been an apology since doesn’t mean that fantasy is gone, or that it’s not still driving our judgment and our accountability.

The principle of reasonableness is one of the cornerstones of Anglo-American law. If Darren Wilson had a reasonable fear for his own life, and reasonably believed that his only protection was to shoot and kill Michael Brown, then he would have been legally justified in killing Brown. It would have been a case of justifiable homicide. And this is precisely the conclusion that grand jury reached.

But there is absolutely nothing reasonable about the racial fantasy of the young super-predator that Wilson was so obviously drawing on. The notion of someone mysteriously “bulking up” to run through a hail of bullets? That belongs in a comic book—and not a very good one, at that. And here is where we return to Lisa Bloom’s critique—any prosecutor worth their salt, even a rookie—should clearly have seen how wildly unreasonable Wilson’s mindset was, and cross-questioned him accordingly. The grand jury should have been left with no doubt that Wilson’s mindset and attitudes were anything but reasonable.

He was right in one thing, though. His self-description as a five-year-old had a disturbing element of truth in it, because his fantasy view of Michael Brown’s predatory superpowers is not the sort of thing that anyone much older than five can reasonable believe in.

But Maddow wasn’t the last MSNBC host to poke holes in the grand jury’s work that day. Lawrence O’Donnell followed up by poking holes in the testimony of the only witness McCulloch specifically quoted in his press conference, imbued with all the trust he scornfully denied to everyone else.

“There is no real reason to believe officer wilson’s story that Michael Brown was charging at him, but even if you do believe it, there is certainly no reason to believe that Officer Wilson could not have easily avoided being tackled by someone who’s been hit by four of his bullets,” O’Donnell pointed out—which, again, is precisely the sort of thing that a prosecutor’s cross-examination should have made obvious. “You don’t have to be an NFL running back to avoid that tackle.” But then O’Donnell moved on to his main point—was there any credible evidence supporting Wilson’s claim of this most improbable, suicidal charge? “That is one of the most important questions in this case,” he said, and then played a clip from McCulloch’s press conference, “One described his movement toward Officer Wilson as ‘a full charge.’”

“That was District Attorney Bob McCulloch mentioning the only witness who he thought worthy of quoting in his nationally televised announcement,” O’Donnell said. This witness, identified as Witness #10, must have given the most consistent, unvarying testimony in order to meet McCulloch’s standards, O’Donnell noted. But that was not the case in two important respects, where testimony changed between the initial interview with county police on August 11, and the grand jury testimony on September 23.

First, the witness changed testimony about where Brown was walking, “I seen the two young guys walkin’ down the street on the same sidewalk that I was on,” the witness said on Aug 11, an account at odds with everyone else. Six weeks later, the grand jury heard a different account. “I seen Mike Brown and his friend were walking down the street, closer to the curb, not on the sidewalk,” the witness said in September. Second, the witness dramatically changed testimony about where he was—saying he was 100 yards away on Aug 11 but only 50 to 75 yards away on September 23.

Even a witness 50 yards away is hardly in the best position to know what was going on—several others where only a few dozen feet away. And what was the corroborating testimony this witness provided? He said that Michael Brown made some unspecified body gesture—but not a gesture of surrender: “He did turn. He did some sort of body gesture. I’m not sure what it was, but I know it was a body gesture, and I could say for sure, he never put his hands up after he did his body gesture, he ran towards the officer full charge.”

What body gesture? “I’m not sure.” What? WHAT??? That’s the best witness McCulloch can come up with? A man who was 100 yards away when interviewed just days after the incident, and then 50 to 75 yards away six weeks later? Who saw a gesture, but doesn’t know what it was, only what it wasn’t? REALLY???

Once again, these are just the sorts of contradictions that an aggressive cross-examination would bring out. But instead they were buried—in plain sight, as it now turns out.

These are just a few of the glaring problems with the grand jury process. Many more will almost certainly come to light in the days ahead, because the entire enterprise was so blatantly conceived to bury the truth, rather than to struggle towards it. It’s a very old story, as old as the American justice system, really. We’re still struggling to get the justice part right.

Paul Rosenberg is a California-based writer/activist, senior editor for Random Lengths News, and a columnist for Al Jazeera English. Follow him on Twitter at @PaulHRosenberg.

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