Tabclosing: Ferguson Edition

Season's Greetings

Reuters/Jim Young

  • Officer Darren Wilson’s Grand Jury Testimony” – The New York Times with relevant excerpts from the released testimony. It is, unsurprisingly, full of dehumanizing imagery right in line with the racist stereotype of the monstrous black man.

    And when I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan.
    The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked. He comes back towards me again with his hands up.
    At this point 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.

  • On Being a Black Male, Six Feet Four Inches Tall, in America in 2014” – W. Kamau Bell on the lengths men in big, black bodies have to go to seem unthreatening. Notable is that, at 6’4″, Bell is the same height as Michael Brown was. And Darren Wilson is.
  • Barack Obama, Ferguson, and the Evidence of Things Unsaid” – The always-crucial Ta-Nehisi Coates on the historical trends evident in the President’s response to the grand jury’s failure to indict. The subtitle of the piece is “Violence works. Nonviolence does to.” Which leads me to…
  • In Defense of Looting” – Willie Osterweil writing for New Inquiry, and making many important points. I don’t know that I agree with all of them, but I agree with a lot. My position on looting was best captured by someone on twitter who, in linking to this same article, said she was “anti-anti-looting.” (And the article itself has a footnote about the clunky yet necessary phrase, “not-non-violent.”) That’s where I am. When systemic protections have failed a community as profoundly as the police have failed the citizens of Ferguson, there should be a severe cost and a varied response. Nelson Mandela was, by his own admission, a saboteur and a terrorist. After the cops get away with killing and demonizing an unarmed child of your community, I understand the desire to set flame to a squad car, or smash a window. I’m not for it, but I get it, and I’m deeply suspicious of the motives of those in power who hand-wring about how terrible looting is while police seem able to kill with impunity.
  • Ferguson Shows How the Police Can Kill and Get Away With It” – Molly Crabapple on just how severe this problem is, and how the people marching in protests “are too clear-eyed to accept courts rigged in favor of murderers. They do not believe that victims must only respond with passive grace.”
  • Finally, when something makes me as angry as this does, I try to give money to people I believe might know better than I do how to take action against it. I’ve donated to the NAACP, the ACLU, and Amnesty International, and would encourage others to do the same.


Austin #Ferguson Solidarity Protest

Just pictures. Some mine, some collected from Twitter.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After the rally, the group marched to the Capitol.

There are marches like this happening in cities all over the country tonight.

EDIT: News story about the Austin protest.

No Justice for Mike Brown

Last night St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCullouch gave a long, rambling press conference in which he announced that the grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown. McCullouch, sounding more like a defense attorney than a prosecutor, repeatedly blamed social media and “the 24-hour news cycle” for the civil unrest which followed the shooting, and rather callously said of the grand jury that they “gave up their lives” to look over evidence in the case.

That last bit was necessary because he, as prosecutor, declined to take a position on whether or not the grand jury should indict. Here’s a Vox article on what that means, complete with this important quotation for former federal prosecutor Alex Little:

So when a District Attorney says, in effect, “we’ll present the evidence and let the grand jury decide,” that’s malarkey. If he takes that approach, then he’s already decided to abdicate his role in the process as an advocate for justice. At that point, there’s no longer a prosecutor in the room guiding the grand jurors, and — more importantly — no state official acting on behalf of the victim, Michael Brown…

Then, when you add to the mix that minorities are notoriously underrepresented on grand juries, you have the potential for nullification — of a grand jury declining to bring charges even when there is sufficient probable cause. That’s the real danger to this approach.

Mr. Little isn’t the only lawyer questioning the way this was handled. The National Bar Association almost immediately released a statement questioning the result, and requesting the U.S. Department of Justice to bring federal charges against Darren Wilson.

It’s crucial to remember: the grand jury has nothing to do with saying whether Darren Wilson was guilty or innocent. An indictment is just about whether or not to have a trial at all. By declining to indict, the grand jury declared that no crime was even committed in the fatal shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old, and the issue of Darren Wilson’s guilt or innocence need never be addressed.

The most important statement last night comes from Mike Brown’s family, who said,

We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions.

While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.

Join with us in our campaign to ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera.

We respectfully ask that you please keep your protests peaceful. Answering violence with violence is not the appropriate reaction.

Let’s not just make noise, let’s make a difference.

Let’s make a difference indeed. Let’s take military equipment out of the hands of the police. Let’s put a body camera on every cop in the country. Let’s do it in the name of Mike Brown and the many, many other victims of racially motivated police brutality. And let’s start with solidarity. There are are protests tonight all around the country, with a list aggregated here. I know where I’m going to be.

Read My Clever Friends

I have many of them, and they just keep on writing things you should read. Also I’m instituting an new tag, My Friends Write Things, to link all these posts together. I’ve propagated it back through my archives, so clicking that will lead you to a trove of work from my most-loved people.


  • The Husband Stitch” – Carmen Machado, one of the best fantasists writing today, in Granta with a gorgeous story inspired by Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
  • Mothers” – Carmen Machado again, because she is a force of nature. This time in Interfictions, with a story about two women in a broken relationship who make a baby. Carmen has put personal experience at the service of fiction with astonishing force and efficacy. You can read a little about the writing of this story on her blog.
  • Becoming” – Anna Noyes in Guernica with a story from the point of view of a chimpanzee being raised as a human. I was lucky enough to see an early draft of this memorable story in workshop, and am thrilled it’s found a home.
  • Quality of Descent” – Megan Kurashige in Lightspeed with a story about a man meeting a woman who definitely has wings, and may or may not be able to fly.
  • Ideal Head of a Woman” – Kelly Luce in Midnight Breakfast with a story about a museum employee who has an unusual relationship with a piece of sculpture.


  • The Gospel of Paul” – Ariel Lewiton writing in the LA Review of Books with a profile of bookseller and new author Paul Ingram. In addition to being a gorgeous portrait of a fascinating man, this is also the best record of the culture of Iowa City that I’ve read.
  • Did Eastern Germany Experience an Economic Miracle?” – Ben Mauk writing in the New Yorker about regional economic variations in Germany 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
  • Freedom to Fuck Up” – Thessaly La Force interviewing Merritt Tierce about her novel Love Me Back, discussing pregnancy, abortion, and sex in fiction.
  • Reconciliation” – Monica Byrne on the need for reconciliation between the United States and Iran, and how that can begin with connection between individuals. If you’re an American and her article makes you want to visit Iran yourself, she’s also written a how-to for U.S. citizens on her blog.


Tabclosing: By The Numbers

A few (how many?) articles and sites that I want to save.

  • The $9 Billion Witness” – An article about the woman who was willing to whistleblow on J.P. Morgan-Chase’s misconduct during the financial crisis. I just keep reading these articles. I want to remember, always, that these people are crooks, and that they own us. A fun excerpt about former Attorney General Eric Holder:

    In September, at a speech at NYU, Holder defended the lack of prosecutions of top executives on the grounds that, in the corporate context, sometimes bad things just happen without actual people being responsible. “Responsibility remains so diffuse, and top executives so insulated,” Holder said, “that any misconduct could again be considered more a symptom of the institution’s culture than a result of the willful actions of any single individual.”

    In other words, people don’t commit crimes, corporate culture commits crimes! It’s probably fortunate that Holder is quitting before he has time to apply the same logic to Mafia or terrorism cases.

  • War of the Words” – Long article about the conflict between Amazon and the Hachette group, incorporating more context than those articles usually do.
  • Tabletop Whale” – A Seattle designer’s tumblr, where he posts some very impressive infographics in animated .gif format.
  • Scientists Have Discovered How Common Different Sexual Fantasies Are” – There’s an article, but the interesting bit is the table at the bottom, where all the fantasies in the survey have their responses broken down by percentage.
  • These Are The Movies Recommended By The Church of Satan” – I have a real soft spot for the Church of Satan. Part of that is because, despite the words of reactionary Christians who want to use them as a rhetorical cudgel, it’s members are very open in not believing Satan exists, which tickles me. Another part is that they serve as a weird, fifth column force in support of separation of church and state, as in this recent example, where schools were handing out bibles and not letting atheists hand out books–until the Church of Satan started handing out coloring books. Then, suddenly, it was decided that maybe religious proselytization on school grounds was a bad idea. “Lucien’s Law. It’s like the nuclear option of church/state separation cases. When nothing else works, count on Satanists to settle the matter!” Anyway. I kind of like the Church of Satan, and found this interview in io9 delightful. I didn’t bother to count how many movies are discussed, but it’s some integer.
  • Greg Egan’s Foundations – A series of articles by the most rigorous hard science fiction writer who has ever lived on the topics of physics that most inform modern hard science fiction. “These articles are for the interested lay reader. No prior knowledge of mathematics beyond high school algebra and geometry is needed.” Though, as is always the case with Greg Egan, that doesn’t mean the reading will be easy. Egan, always, asks you to think.
  • Theorem of the Day – Robin Whitty curating an online museum of mathematical theorems.
  • Molly Crabapple’s 15 Rules for Creative Success in the Internet Age” – Just what it says on the tin. Things like, “Be a mercenary towards people with money. Be generous and giving to good people without it.”
  • Finally, a video of Anna-Maria Hefele, demonstrating the many ways she is able to sing two notes at once. I’d heard some examples of polyphonic singing before, but nothing like this.

Yao Ming’s Ideal Team

Former Houston Rockets center Yao Ming did a Reddit AMA to promote his new Animal Planet documentary about elephant poaching. I always liked Yao when he was a player, so was pleased to read his answer to the question, “Can you describe your vision of perfect basketball? If you are given free rein to build a basketball team, what would it be like?”

He replied, “My ideal team would be the Spurs. San Antonio Spurs.”

Voting in Iowa

Given my post the other day about how much better voting in Iowa was than voting in Texas, I’d be remiss if I didn’t link to this article from the ACLU, “I was arrested for voting.

When I was convicted on a nonviolent drug charge in 2008, my defense attorney told me that once I served my probation, I would regain my right to vote automatically – correct information at the time. But Gov. Terry Branstad suddenly changed the rules in 2011, and now all citizens with a felony conviction lose their voting rights for life. Our Secretary of State Matt Schultz, in fact, has made this subversion of democracy a point of pride. He has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars hunting down and prosecuting people with past convictions who unknowingly registered or cast a vote.

Considering how successful disenfranchisement tactics have been, I suppose it’s unsurprising that a state with a Republican Governor has been instituting some of them.