Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Fun City

Michael Brown ultimately died because he was jaywalking in the middle of the street, and a police officer told him to move, and then things got murky in the little minds of officials vainly trying to cover up the ensuing facts and thus directly causing even more trouble.

It's weird.  Because before the whole place went ka-boom, Ferguson, Missouri was designated a "Playful City USA" winner by the KaBOOM! corporate non-profit charity. They won because rather than spend a lot of money for fancy community recreation, the town fathers had cleverly banned Sunday afternoon traffic on selected streets, allowing Ferguson's poor people to get up off their couches of dependency and go out to frolic amongst the potholes. For this cynical effort, the town was rewarded with an unspecified grant funded by such conservative corporations as Home Depot, Disney, Doctor Pepper and giant health insurance predator, Humana. 

Go play in the streets, kids, but only on corporate-designated days. Talk about sending mixed messages to the residents of Anytown, Dystopian States of Amurka! Do you suspect that Ferguson's KaBOOM! grant might have been used to fund police overtime for traffic control on the play-streets, given that no actual play equipment seems to have been purchased?

(I tried to find out more by going on the official Ferguson website, but it appears to have either crashed, or been hacked.)

And meanwhile, how apt is it that the multinational producer of the popular InSinkErator garbage disposal is also headquartered right there in 22% poverty level Ferguson, Missouri?

The people of Ferguson, Missouri were getting damned tired of it long before the shooting of Michael Brown. His death was simply the last straw in a long series of straws. People finally had just about enough of being treated like trash, mere leftovers to be shoved down the societal drain and mashed into pulp when they weren't being told that the streets were all the playground they were ever going to get.

Now, of course, they're being tear-gassed right back off the streets. They have nowhere to go. It's like they're living in an open-air prison, a little Gaza-on-the-Mississippi. The optics are certainly eerily similar.

So, after nine days of "unrest," will the Powers That Be rescind Ferguson's Playful City designation, now that the National Guard has arrived to declare that the fun is over? 

As if to make their point, the police have designated the local low-wage Target store as Command Control Central, the better to target all those citizens, newly designated as the willfully unemployed "those people," anarchists, outside agitators and terrorists. Did I mention that Target is also a corporate sponsor of KaBOOM?

When they're not human fodder for InSinkErators, people can't even use the sinks in Ferguson to wash the police mace out of their eyes. From a CNN clip, which aired last week, of Don Lemon interviewing an unidentified woman who'd reported a previous run-in with the alleged shooter of Michael Brown:

Woman: I was maced and I had come up to QuickTrip because they said I could use their sink. So I was trying to clean out my eyes with some water and one of the employees told me to go get some milk, because that would help. So as I was pouring milk in my eyes, the officers had come in and told me to get out.

Lemon: When was this?

Woman: This was like a month ago. I came outside and I was trying to pour milk in my eyes and Wilson told me if I poured milk in my eyes, I was going to be arrested. And I was trying to tell him that my eyes were burning because I was maced, but he told me to 'Shut the F up.' So, another man told me to get in my car and turn the air and put my face in front of the vents, so that's what I did.

Lemon: So were you arrested? What happened?

 Woman: No, I wasn't arrested. When I got in my car and turned the air on and put my face in front of the vent. Wilson made me get out of the car and sit on the concrete and he took all my information and ran my name. And I was still trying to pour the milk in my eyes because I couldn't see, and he's telling me to 'shut the F up' and 'sit the f down' and I was looking at his name tag and I was telling myself that I would never forget who he was and what he did to me. And I prayed on it and I asked God to get revenge on him and I'm sorry this is the way it happened, but what's done in the dark always come to the light, and I saw the news this morning—

Lemon: But you're OK? Everything is OK?

Woman: I'm OK now. And I saw the news this morning when they released his name. I knew I knew exactly who he was and I know who he is right now.

Meanwhile, in a belated attempt to quell the unrest even better, Obama has evolved from heartbreak to concern to forensic pathologist-in-chief, a kind of President Quincy, MD. He is sending his henchman Eric Holder to oversee a third autopsy, and who knows, maybe even give a pep talk to a Homeland Security Fusion Center while he's at it.

Too bad the post-mortem is on just one body instead of on the entire body politic.

The politicians of America would prefer that the truth of democracy's demise, along with the leftovers of disposable humanity, just go down the giant InSinkErator into oblivion while the plutocrats gorge themselves at their endless feast.


Kat said...

OH Karen, can the story get more awful? Of course I had to click on the link to the sponsor of this playful city nonsense.
Here are their "partners". Nice bunch.

Everyone has to have their feel good non profit these days. The proper role of poor folk is to humbly and graciously accept the largesse of these civic minded heroes. They must never expect that playgrounds be publicly funded. Those days are over. Kaput. Get over it.
It is appropriate that Target be the command center since they have such a sophisticated policing operation. (The sophistication is not put to use for silly things such as protecting customer data, though.)

Pearl said...

And meanwhile the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) sends me daily bulletins pleading with me to send money to support our President lest we lose the Senate majority in Congress as well as other horrors awaiting us. No less than Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden and other dignitaries ask me personally (I'm begging you)to help out. I rather enjoy these desperate e-mails and if there were a place to respond would tell them why I am not saving their necks.
Last night on CNN a white cameraman from CNN affected by tear gas was interviewed with streaming eyes. He made a strong statement supporting the people demonstrating and said they should not be negatively judged as he had been decently treated by them and they were good people. Refreshing amid the chaos. They should promote him to reporter status.
If you had tuned into the news last night and didn't know what was happening you would think it was some third world country blowing up instead of that closer third world country - the U.S.A.

Karen Garcia said...


Thanks, I hadn't delved any deeper into the "award" but have since linked to KaBOOM's official site and named a few of the sponsors. Would you be surprised to also learn that both Laura Bush and Michelle Obama have teamed up with this greed-washing p3 (public private partnership)to fight the scourge of the "Play Deficit?" the easy corporate tax deductible/govt grant way?

Jeeze... you really cannot make this stuff up.

Denis Neville said...

Some of my happiest childhood memories were times spent at the playground. I always found it sad many years later, seeing the unusable, neglected playgrounds of the inner city where I worked. May bringing play to the kids in that community fill their childhood memories with similar delights.

However, the one thing those corporations can't spin or hide is that they are crippled inside:

McDonald's, through the McDonald's Foundation, in 2012 announced a new partnership with KaBOOM!, a national non-profit that envisions a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America.

“McDonald's and Ronald McDonald House Charities are committed to serving children and families through community-based programs, especially those like KaBOOM!, which emphasize play and a welcoming environment,” said McDonald's President and CEO.

"Despite its many benefits for children and communities, play is on the decline across the country, particularly in the neighborhoods that need it most," said Darell Hammond, KaBOOM! Founder and CEO. “McDonald's is helping to bring play to thousands of children across the country and we are grateful for their support."

How low can McDonald's go to disrespect its employees? McDonald’s claims it gives back to the community by working with schools and local organizations. LOL!

"Nothing is more essential to a child’s health and happiness than safe places to play and grow where they can imagine, explore and create," said Darell Hammond, Founder and CEO of KaBOOM!. “We are thrilled to partner with Morgan Stanley for this new program to help give the children of Newark the childhood they deserve by working with cities to increase healthy resources and play opportunities for kids and families."

Morgan Stanley, the subprime villain?

The national non-profit organization KaBOOM has named Chicago as a 2013 Playful City USA community for its efforts to provide children with access to a wide variety of safe opportunities for play. This is the first time Chicago has been recognized, and it is one of 217 communities this year. “Throughout Chicago, we are investing in better public spaces and build stronger communities,” said Mayor Emanuel. “Together, working with parents, neighbors and community leaders, we can ensure that our children have safe and engaging environments to play and learn in every neighborhood.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel? Deaf to the marginalized swaths of Chicago suffering from escalating street violence, inadequate transit and the largest mass school closing in U.S. history.

KaBOOM!? From a Glassdoor employee review: “Ironically, it is not an easy place to work if you are a parent as there is no work/life balance.”

Kat said...

Morgan Stanley passes the partner test:
Cause Marketing Partner

Associating your brand with KaBOOM! and the Save Play cause marketing platform will allow you to connect with moms, dads, grandparents, and others who care greatly about kids. This branded platform empowers your trade partners and customers to join your company in saving play.

Cause Marketing Partners…

Receive rights to the Save Play and/or KaBOOM! name and marks and promotional support from KaBOOM!

Activate their campaigns in designated channels

Provide a minimum guaranteed contribution to KaBOOM!

Learn more about how to become a Cause Marketing Partner

Past Cause Marketing Partners include: 24 Hour Fitness, Ben & Jerry's, and Kraft Lunchables
KaBOOM! will not partner with the following types of organizations:

Alcohol brands / entities funded by the alcohol industry

Firearms or other weapon brands / entities funded by weapon industry

Pornography brands / entities funded by pornography industry

Gambling brands / entities funded by gambling industry

Tobacco brands / entities funded by tobacco industry

Any computer gaming product with a Mature rating

Oh wait. Maybe it doesn't. No gambling brands. At any rate there is no ban on companies that purchase defective mortgages peddled by predatory lenders that stripped entire communities of all their wealth! So, fine-- go ahead Morgan Stanley!

Karen, your posts always have the most interesting (dismaying I guess is more like it) nuggets of info.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Charles Simic:

“They got up and applauded the rich guy for bankrupting companies and laying off employees and crowded afterward to get his autograph.”
“A society like ours in which the wealthy are spending millions to prevent the minimum wage from being raised for those sinking deeper and deeper into poverty, and to sabotage health insurance coverage for those who have none, is not a society at all but a state of war, as Mark Twain would have said.”
“A man changed himself back into a monkey through an operation and returned to live in the trees happily ever after, I once read in a tabloid waiting in line at the supermarket. I’m thinking that may not really be so bad.”


Zee said...

Am I the only one who's curious as to why the young woman interviewed by Don Lemon was "maced" in the first place?

Or that Lemon didn't ask that question himself?

Perhaps the black citizens of Ferguson are maced so frequently (by police?) that it's just taken as a given by reporters and therefore it's foolish of me--or anyone--to ask the question in the first place?

Before I pass any judgement, I think that I'll wait until the courts take a first crack at trying to unravel what happened the night that Michael Brown was killed, when witnesses have to attach their names to their testimony.

Denis Neville said...

@ Kat

Cause Marketing

• People are cause conscious in many aspects of their lives

• People seek authentic corporate cause commitment

• Consumers believe companies with cause can make a difference, as opposed to government

• Millennials, more than Non-Millennials, prefer active engagement in cause campaigns

• Purpose is ever-more embedded in purchases of cause-related brands

• Cause increasingly creates differentiation, if the other brand is associated with a good cause

So create a cause-based marketing campaign!

Cause Marketing Partners … “Put Lipstick on your Pig!”

But we all know when they put lipstick on those pigs, at the end of the day, they are still pigs.

Pearl said...

In Ferguson the violence of the state created the violence of the street | Gary Younge http://gu.com/p/4vzjy/tw via @guardian

Denis Neville said...

Zee asks why that young woman was "maced" in the first place?

The more important question is why the police ordered her out of the store, where she had gone for help after being pepper-sprayed in the face, and told her if she poured milk in her eyes, she would be arrested.

This reminds me of Martin Luther King's famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail," one of the classic documents of the civil-rights movement, written in response to a public statement of concern by white religious leaders of the South:

“I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against "outsiders coming in." … I am in Birmingham because racial injustice engulfs this community.

I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea.

You deplore the demonstrations ... But your statement fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative…

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.”


Valerie Long Tweedie said...

That quote, Denis, couldn't have been more perfect! So very profound and so very true!

Pearl said...

Denis: Thank you for that amazing quote from Martin Luther King. He was the man that should have been the first black President instead of being assassinated. Will there be another like him one day? One can only hope and dream.

Jay - Ottawa said...


Why was the young woman maced in the first place, you ask?

Let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, she had been doing something inherently wrong, like throwing stones or looting a store or spitting on a police officer, and could only be stopped with mace.

Let’s say her actions deserving mace were later proved and documented without dispute in an official report. Would the punishment meted out by the peace officer AFTER she was immobilized, further extending her pain and distress by preventing her from flushing out her eyes, be excused then? Your question seems to hold out the possibility that the officer may have been justified in this abuse after she was, so to speak, already down.

It’s true, there are conflicting reports about exactly what happened between the policeman and the dead man in Ferguson. An official report will clear that up. Sure. How judicious to wait this one out on the fence.

Let’s suppose, for the sake of argument and as a thought exercise, that Michael Brown did steal cigars and jaywalked and roughed up a policeman. At some point, one bullet, maybe two, from the policeman put a stop to all that, in fact knocked Brown down on his back. Brown was then helpless, seriously injured and obviously unarmed.

Would that scenario justify, say, a kick or two to the head for good measure by the lawman, as revenge for Brown’s previous threats and blows to the cop?

How about instead of kicks, say, four more bullets pumped into Brown at close range by someone, according to a coroner’s report, standing directly over him? Then this curious business about Brown’s body left in the street for an unusual length of time.

Don’t let the past, important as it is, blind you to the present wherein our better angels can still act. Theft, jaywalking and punches don’t warrant a death sentence on the spot, no matter what a final report might conceivably reveal about the lead up.

What of the big picture that keeps emerging from all these incidents? In the US blacks have been mucked around with by whites for more than three hundred years. First slavery, then Jim Crow, then poverty and oppression for the majority. And the news keeps telling us insistently that nothing much has changed. Decade after decade minority provocation –– or nothing at all –– keeps getting met by police overreaction. That’s the point of these protests in the street and the commentary here and elsewhere. All that's important does not hang on one more report.

But still you side with the worthies who wrote Martin Luther King, Jr, in his Birmingham jail cell suggesting it was he and his people going too far, too fast, too soon.

Zee said...


I don't believe that I said a single word on the side of either Michael Brown or Officer Darren Wilson. What I think I said was that I want to wait until a full investigation is completed to determine, insofar as humanly possible, what happened leading up to the death of Michael Brown. And then, if Darren Wilson is found by a grand jury to have used excessive force, to see him tried in a court of law.

What I see happening, instead, is that Darren Wilson is being tried by the press, who are calling a host of “witnesses” on behalf of Michael Brown who have doubtful stories and who mostly refuse to give their names. Or, at least, the press seem unwilling—or uninterested—to ask them to identify themselves.

The young woman who came forward to be interviewed by Don Lemon recounted an event that took place “like a month ago,” long prior to the killing of Michael Brown. Her alleged “macing” was therefore in no way associated with current events.

Is it so hopelessly prejudiced of me to wonder why this nameless young woman suddenly comes out of nowhere to recount her month-past “macing” and then oh-so-conveniently points to Officer Wilson—a six-year police veteran with no prior reports of misconduct—as her tormentor?

This gives me cause to doubt that her story ever took place at all, let alone that she ever suffered any abuse at the hands of Officer Brown at all. Sorry, but it's my prejudiced, conservative, scientific nature to question everything.

If she appears as a witness in a court of law, I'm pretty sure that she will be asked exactly the same questions that I posed in my comment, and then some. Questions like: “What is your name? Why were you maced a month ago, and by whom? Did you file a police report charging the police officer(s) who maced you with use of excessive force? Did you report Officer Brown for his subsequent inhumane treatment of you at the time? Can anyone else corroborate your story? Surely there was a clerk in the QuickTurn store at the time? Why are you only coming forward now?” Without some good answers to these questions, I suspect that the jury would question her story, too.

And I don't think that these are questions that should be asked only in a court of law. A reporter who was interested in the truth might have asked some of these same questions in the interest of objectivity, rather than just letting this person smear Officer Brown anonymously with impunity on national television.

You say “It’s true, there are conflicting reports about exactly what happened between the policeman and the dead man in Ferguson. An official report will clear that up. Sure. How judicious to wait this one out on the fence.”

Well, what do you propose that I/we do? What does getting off the fence mean to you, if not to wait for an official investigation?

Should I join the growing national chorus demanding the head of Darren Wilson? Maybe grab up a few of my guns, drive off to Missouri, help form up a lynch mob and mete out the “justice” that so many in Ferguson already are convinced Darren Wilson “deserves?” If, indeed, Michael Brown was “executed” by Darren Wilson, well, then, I think Missouri is a capital punishment state, so doesn't Wilson “deserve” to die too?

Who needs an official report and maybe a formal trial, anyway? We've got all the witnesses we need, don't we?

“I saw this woman on teevee who claims that Darren Wilson brutalized her, too.

And Michael Brown's friend, Dorian Johnson, saw Wilson shoot Brown in the back while he was running away* so let's hang Wilson high!”

Thanks, but imperfect though our justice system is, I think I'll wait this one out on the fence.

*Except that the report of the coroner hired by Brown's family shows that Brown was shot in the front.


Zee said...


I also think that I have a pretty good grasp of police over-reactions to minor--or no--provocations at all on the part of minorities.


Certainly, these incidents all have their roots in institutionalized racism in this country that won't be resolved by any single report.

Still, efforts to change this will still have to happen starting with official reports as well as the mass protests that led to the reports.

There is a reason that the Albuquerque Police Department is under the supervision of the U.S. Department of Justice today: An "official" report by the DOJ that found that APD has a history of use of excessive force that has become "institutional" itself.

And the report only "happened" because of a handful of determined protestors who demanded an official investigation instead of mob rule.

Jay - Ottawa said...

“Certainly, these incidents all have their roots in institutionalized racism in this country that won't be resolved by any single report.”

Agreed, that’s it, that’s my point. No matter which way officialdom closes the books on Brown’s death, the Ferguson events in their entirety already reconfirm the case about institutionalized racism as well as the heightened risks of militarizing the police. The oppression of minorities is going on all the time, I believe you are aware. Because of the blowback in the Ferguson community, our minds are set to thinking about this old issue once again.

The subject under review is not so much about Wilson and Brown. Nor is it about Don Lemon’s interview, or the rules of evidence. It’s about the continued evaporation of justice in minority communities. There is good reason for non-minorities to take special notice; the PTB are beginning to treat us all as minorities. Martin Niemoeller's famous quote comes to mind at this point: "First they came for the Socialists...."

“I think I'll wait this one out on the fence.”

Your reactions can be a bit jolting. What I’m always hoping for, I suppose, is not another lecture on the scientific method nor longueurs on the rules of evidence but, in light of all that’s happened in Ferguson and throughout American history, a fresh expression of solidarity with the oppressed. Instead, you so often lead with, expand upon and end up with reasons to stand apart with new degrees of separation.

Denis Neville said...

“Our understanding of racism is shaped by the most extreme expressions of individual bigotry, not by the way in which it functions naturally, almost invisibly (and sometimes with genuinely benign intent), when it is embedded in the structure of a social system.” - Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

For many young black men, their first introduction to our criminal justice system occurs when police randomly stop them on the street. Police say stop and frisk is essential for their work. Alexander likens being racially profiled in this manner to the Jim Crow era of segregation and humiliation of African-Americans in the Deep South:

“Ultimately, these stop-and-frisk operations amount to much more than humiliating, demeaning rituals for young men of color, who must raise their arms and spread their legs, always careful not to make a sudden move or gesture that could provide an excuse for brutal — even lethal — force.

Like the days when black men were expected to step off the sidewalk and cast their eyes downward when a white woman passed, young black men know the drill when they see the police crossing the street toward them; it is a ritual of dominance and submission played out hundreds of thousands of times each year.

Parents and schoolteachers counsel black children that, if they ever hope to escape this system and avoid prison time, they must be on their best behavior, raise their arms and spread their legs for the police without complaint, stay in failing schools, pull up their pants, and refuse all forms of illegal work and moneymaking activity, even if jobs in the legal economy are impossible to find. Girls are told not to have children until they are married to a "good" black man who can help provide for a family with a legal job. They are told to wait and wait for Mr. Right even if that means, in a jobless ghetto, never having children at all.”

David Simon, who made Baltimore a metaphor for our nation’s urban tragedy:

“We are simply brutalizing and dehumanizing an urban underclass that we no longer need as a labor supply. These really are the excess people in America. Our economy doesn’t need them. And certainly the ones who are undereducated, who have been ill-served by the inner-city school system, who have been unprepared for the technocracy of the modern economy, we pretend to need them. We pretend to educate the kids. We pretend that we’re actually including them in the American ideal, but we’re not. And they’re not foolish. They get it. They understand that the only viable economic base in their neighborhoods is this multibillion-dollar drug trade. In some ways it’s the most destructive form of welfare that we’ve established, the illegal drug trade in these neighborhoods. So as long as they stay in their ghettos and they only kill each other, we’re willing to pay for a police presence to keep them out of our America. And to let them fight over scraps, which is what the drug war, effectively, is. Since we basically have become a market-based culture, that’s what we know, and it’s what’s led us to this sad dénouement. I think we’re going to follow market-based logic right to the bitter end.”

“The rage may frighten us; it may remind us of riots, uprisings and buildings aflame. We may be tempted to control it or douse it with buckets of doubt, dismay or disbelief. But we should do no such thing. Instead, when a young man who was born in the ghetto and who knows little of life beyond the walls of his prison cell and the invisible cage that has become his life, turns to us in bewilderment and rage, we should do nothing more than look him in the eye and tell him the truth.” - Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

Anonymous said...

Zee: The chances of getting an honest official investigation in this case as in so many others, is 0.
Remember the Zimmerman trial about Trayvon Martin.

Please use your scientific mind to recall the history of justice for blacks. That is why so many people are marching in the streets. They remember and have reason to.

Pearl said...

The above is from Pearl and I am not anonymous.