This morning, my mind is occupied by one long-standing ethics issue, and the rest seem trivial in comparison. Let’s warm up by trying to find some way out of this mess.
The ethical problem seems increasingly beyond our ability to solve. Yesterday there was second mistrial in the retrial of Raymond M. Tensing, the former University of Cincinnati police officer who has been charged with the 2015 murder and voluntary manslaughter for fatally shooting Samuel DuBose, an unarmed motorist. This is the third example of a police officer shooting a black man under questionable circumstances being found short of being criminally responsible in a week:
In St. Paul, police dashboard video showed Officer Jeronimo Yanez shoot into the car where Philando Castile was sitting with his fiancée and her daughter, and acquitted the officer. In that case, the officer appeared to have panicked after Castile reached into his pocket for his wallet after telling the officer, unasked, that he was carrying a firearm. In Milwaukee, jurors acquitted Officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown after watching frame by frame as he shot once at fleeing armed suspect, Sylville K. Smith, then fired a second time after Smith tossed the gun he was holding and lay on the ground. Now, in Cincinnati, jurors couldn’t agree on the proper culpability of Officer Tensing. He stopped DuBose for a missing license plate, then asked him for his driver’s license. Instead of producing it, DuBose pulled the door closed with his left hand and restarted the car with his right hand. The officer reached into the car with his left arm, yelled “Stop!” twice, and used his right hand to fire his gun directly, into Mr. DuBose’s head, killing him.
What can we say about these scenarios, and many others? Continue reading
Why is racial discord the problem of the summer 2016? If anyone has what it takes to unify the country over race it is Barack Obama, who is President right now and who had been President for 7 1/2 years. If it makes any sense to be deciding the current presidential election on this issue, if this longed-for capacity is something that can possibly exist, then Barack Obama would be doing it now and would have been doing it for years.
Before you push us to judge whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump would do better in bringing us together in racial harmony, Mr. Healy, please say a few words about why President Obama has failed. Of course, neither Clinton nor Trump inspires hope for a new opportunity at racial harmony. That’s what Obama did in 2008. He was ideal for that issue and we voted for the hope. Now, so many years later, things seem even worse. Can you analyze how that happened? Because that did happen. I don’t see how we can begin to think about what more Trump or Clinton could do unless we understand why President Obama failed.
—–Law professor Ann Althouse, on her blog, responding to an op-ed piece in the New York Times by Pat Healy bemoaning the inability of either Trump of Clinton to respond to the Dallas shootings in a manner that unifies rather than divides.
1. I admit it: sometimes I look for other commentators who have discerned what I have discerned and use their quotes to state what I would normally be writing myself. Althouse is a left-leaning eccentric moderate who is not overtly political, and who is skilled at overcoming her own biases. She voted for Obama (at least once), and she plies her craft as a law professor in Madison, Wisconsin, as progressive a community as there is. I have found Obama’s leadership ability and Presidential performance wanting in almost all respects since early in his administration and have explained my analysis here. The price I pay for this is that those who are in denial over what should be obvious (though terribly disappointing and sad) feel that my consistent criticism gives them the opportunity to mask their denial by labeling me an Obama-hater, a partisan (as if I wouldn’t be equally critical of an incompetent Republican President with a flat learning curve) and even a racist. A quote like Althouse’s is not so much an appeal to authority—I disagree with Professor Althouse a lot, though not her dislike of men wearing shorts—but choosing to allow someone else to say well what I may not have said any better, and to prove that I’m not the only one coming to such conclusions.
2. The President’s comments on the shooting deaths of officer-involved deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile, in Falcon Heights, Minnesota were irresponsible, inflammatory, and typical of his approach to race relations from the very beginning, when he stuck his influential nose into a controversy between a competent white Cambridge police officer and a race-baiting black Harvard professor. Then, without knowing any of the underlying facts, he suggested that the white police officer was at fault and the black professor (a friend of his) was blameless. His remarks about the police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota issued from the same bias. I’ll just comment on the beginning of his statement, which is enough to make the point: Continue reading
I just had to flee my TV.
On CNN just now, “New Day” interrupted its coverage of the ambush and murder of five police officers last night to go to a Minnesota demonstration in response to the police shooting of Philando Castile . The girl friend and family of Castile were front and center; in the background, along with a throng of African-Americans (exclusively) we heard a woman weeping loudly and uncontrollably. (“Hey, Joe, see if you can make that sobbing as loud as possible. This is great!”)
The segment went on and on, longer, in fact, than any segment previously shown regarding the deaths of the Dallas police officers. We were told by the angry demonstrators that Castile was murdered (undetermined at this time, in fact), that “everything was on the video” (the video began after the shooting) and that local officials were incapable of fairly investigating. We were made to understand that the shooting was racially motivated (there is, at this time, no evidence to support this.) Typical of the whole scene was the statement made and supported by several individuals in the protest, that the coronor had ruled the death of Castile a “homicide,” so this means that the police officer must be charged with murder. Crowd: “Yes!”, “Uh-huh,” “That’s right!” Interviewer Chris Cuomo: “____” This is how you make all of America more ignorant, CNN. “Homicide” means only that Castile died from being shot: he was killed; he did npt die of accidental or natural causes. It does not mean that he was illegally shot, or murdered. Cuomo had an obligation to correct them, and if he thought that it would be too “insensitive” to correct misinformation being broadcast to millions, then he shouldn’t do the interview, or is in the wrong profession.
I suppose that there is always the chance that Cuomo doesn’t know that homicide and murder are not synonymous. There is a lot he doesn’t know. Continue reading
There have been two disturbing police shootings of black men in recent days, both incidents partially recorded on cell phones.
In Falcon Heights, Minnesota, an officer fatally shot 32-year-old Philando Castile as he sat in a car with a woman and a child. A day earlier, 37-year-old Alton Sterling was shot and killed during a confrontation with two police officers outside a Baton Rouge, Louisiana, convenience store where he was CDs. Neither of these cases have been investigated yet; the officers involved have been placed on administrative leave. In both cases, however, the initial impressions of the incidents were those of relatives of the deceased: Castile’s wife and Sterling’s mother. Guess what they had to say about their deceased loved ones and the police who shot them
This is, as a judge would say in a trial, extremely prejudicial. The emotional and angry reactions of the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown seized and controlled the “narratives” in those two cases before the facts were confirmed and the fatal encounters clarified. Today, CNN presented Mrs. Castile, who declared that placing the officer involved in her husband’s death on administrative leave with pay was proof of the low value placed on black lives. She, of course, knows what happened, and that her husband couldn’t possibly have been responsible in any way for his demise. The shooter should be punished now, by loss of his income, before any investigation has been undertaken or completed. He’s guilty—of racism, of murder. Continue reading