Weekly links: Ferguson & the grand jury

Happy Black Friday. This is probably my least favorite of American pseudo-holidays, and the coverage on CNN this morning was nothing short of depressing. Seeing people lined up outside Walmart for hours and then fighting over discounted TV's makes me feel like the aliens from They Live are actually here; we all need to put on the glasses!

The combination of a holiday week and one, huge story dominating the news meant for a week of light reading. Reading about Ferguson is somewhat strange for me. I understand the outrage, but as a white, middle-class male, it's impossible for me to truly empathize with a minority situation. So instead of trying to understand the experience through minority eyes (which seems insensitive and patronizing), I focused, instead, on the grand jury process itself. 

The grand jury system is corrupt
This article was released before the grand jury results, and discusses the grand jury process and praises the way the St. Louis County prosecutor planned to handle the process (although, like everything else, he managed to find a way to screw it up). I was not that familiar with the grand jury process before this, and it's interesting to see how it works and why virtually every case brought to a grand jury proceeds to a full trial.

Police misconduct rarely results in charges
Since the prosecutor controls so much of the grand jury process, and relies so heavily on police to be effective, it makes sense that this process suppresses police misconduct and insulates them from potential charges. This article, and the following one, highlight some statistics related to this and explore why this might be the case.

Police officers who shoot civilians almost never go to jail
My final piece on the Ferguson grand jury. Others have commented more effectively than I ever could on the bizarre and heavy-handed tactics used by police throughout the entire Ferguson debacle. The trend in our country since 9/11 towards surveillance, militarized policing, and tactics like stop and frisk reflect a culture of fear that our politicians are all to happy to exploit and that has lead to repeated violations of rights guaranteed to all of us under the Constitution. It's scary, and disproportionately affecting the people already most marginalized in our society. 

Miraculously, there were two other articles worth reading this week about something other than Ferguson!

Hagel's exit shows Obama has taken power from Pentagon
I've commented enough about my feelings in regards to the President. His incredibly insular nature has been very damaging to the country, and his decision to concentrate much of defense policy in the National Security Council is something Congress ought to push back on. An important part of the cabinet structure is requiring nominees to win approval from Congress; Obama's use of advisors outside that process has removed an important element of oversight for who's really influencing the direction of the nation. 

Are Democrats the real racists?
Over drinks earlier this week, I had a conversation in a similar vein of this article but about Latinos. It's disconcerting to me that the Republican party continues to exclude or marginalize minority voices. I believe Republican policies have more to offer every segment of America, but we seem to be obsessed with presenting ourselves in a way that allows Democrats to paint us as the party of the white and affluent. At some point the party is going to have to realize that it needs to risk angering its base for the sake of survival.