Monday, November 21, 2011


More on the way police are trained to violently handle non-violent threats by Peter Moskos, a former cop and now sociology professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice:
In the police academy, I was taught to pepper-spray people for non-compliance. Ie: “Put your hands behind your back or I’ll… mace you.” It’s crazy. Of course we didn’t do it this way, the way we were taught.


When police need to remove protesters—whether that’s even the case here I don’t know—it needs to be crystal clear who gives the order, be it the president of the university or the ranking officer on scene. Officers on the scene shouldn’t be thrown under the bus because their superiors gave stupid (albeit lawful) orders. Accountability matters.

And if police need to remove these students, then the police can go in four officers to one protester and remove them. Lift them up and take them away. Maybe you need one or two more officers with a threatening baton to keep others from getting involved. It really can be that simple.

People don’t hate the police for fighting off aggressors or arresting law breakers. They do hate police for causing pain—be it by dog, fire hose, Taser, or mace—to those who passively resist. And that’s what happened yesterday at U.C. Davis.

Making some of the same points I was trying to make yesterday with regard to the larger structural problems regarding the paramilitarization of police, the criminalization of dissent, and brutality-as-guideline, The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal notes that Lieutenant John Pike is the expected outcome of a morally bankrupt system of savage barbarism in law enforcement (h/t Miller via G+):
Structures, in the sociological sense, constrain human agency. And for that reason, I see John Pike as a casualty of the system, too. Our police forces have enshrined a paradigm of protest policing that turns local cops into paramilitary forces. Let's not pretend that Pike is an independent bad actor. Too many incidents around the country attest to the widespread deployment of these tactics. If we vilify Pike, we let the institutions off way too easy.

That these changes in the police force have occurred is not in dispute. They've been sufficiently open that academics can write long papers detailing the changes in police responses to protests from the middle of the 20th century to today. They are described in one July 2011 paper by sociologist Patrick Gillham called, "Securitizing America."
Tell them they're at war, that's how they'll act. Dress them up in riot gear, give them tanks, tear gas, LRAD and other tools of warfare, and they will use them. (Maybe the first thing Chancellor Katehi can do is explain why the hell campus cops had riot gear to begin with.) Indeed, Pike should not be seen as a monster. (Hell, as one pepper-sprayed student noted in the interview I shared yesterday, he knew the student protestors on at least a superficial level, having chatted and had coffee and food with them.) Nor, sadly, should he be seen as an aberration. The monster is the system, and it makes monsters of everyone in the system.

Before things devolve at UCLA and follow the trajectory of Berkeley and Davis, UCLA professors fight back on the war on dissent:
Their crime, formally, was to violate a campus policy against camping. But in reality they were arrested for engaging in political speech at a time and in a manner that did not please the campus administration. For this political action, they may face disciplinary proceedings.
As UCLA faculty we call on you, to drop any charges that may be pending against these students. The freedom to debate controversial topics is at the core of university life. The students occupying Wilson Plaza on Thursday night were not posing a health or safety risk. They were not disrupting the educational mission of the university. They were holding ongoing discussions—what they call a “general assembly”—to share information and experiences, and decide together how to face the future.

Meanwhile, Mark Yudoff, president of the UC system, is appalled by the treatment of nonviolent demonstrators (h/t Edge of the American West). The cynic in me says this came far too late for Davis; if he'd made these comments following the thuggish behavior of cops on Berkeley's campus, then perhaps what happened at Davis could have been prevented. Nevertheless, hopefully his statement and actions will prevent further displays of police brutality and the crushing of dissent.

Chancellor Katehi released a statement, as well.

Wondering who accompanied Chancellor Katehi as she walked past the students' silent shaming and condemnation? That would be Reverend Kristin Stoneking. The Edge of the American West has her moving reflection on her actions:
Why did I walk the Chancellor to her car? Because I believe in the humanity of all persons. Because I believe that people should be assisted when they are afraid. Because I believe that in showing compassion we embrace a nonviolent way of life that emanates to those whom we refuse to see as enemies and in turn leads to the change that we all seek. I am well aware that my actions were looked on with suspicion by some tonight, but I trust that those seeking a nonviolent solution will know that “just means lead to just ends” and my actions offered dignity not harm.

The Chancellor was not trapped in Surge II tonight, but, in a larger sense, we are all in danger of being trapped. We are trapped when we assent to a culture that for decades, and particularly since 9/11, has allowed law enforcement to have more and more power which has moved us into an era of hypercriminalization. We are trapped when we envision no path to reconciliation. And we are trapped when we forget our own power. The students at UC Davis are to be commended for resisting that entrapment, using their own power nonviolently. I pray that the Chancellor will remember her own considerable power in making change on our campus, and in seeking healing and reconciliation.

The Edge of the American West points me to another great blog post — this one explaining just how laughable the sudden emphasis on health concerns vis-à-vis student camping is. It happens at schools with big-time athletic programs all the time, with Duke's Krzyzewskiville being a perfect example:
[L]et’s look at the reason for calling the police in the first place.  I keep hearing the arguments that universities have to call in the police to protect the students, that the Occupy encampments are unsanitary, unsafe, and insecure.   That’s almost comical when you teach at Duke where “tenting” is one of our most venerable student traditions.   A tent-city called K-Ville has been thriving since 1986.  Krzyzewskiville ( is an encampment of students staying in tents, in winter, for weeks at time in order not to lose priority getting into Duke basketball games.  A few years ago, my students and I even looked at the community rules and community standards for K-Ville in order to understand self-organizing community groups, constitutions, and regulation.  You can read the university’s own evolving rules for this extraordinary phenomenon here:  If K-Ville can thrive safely, securely, and with proper sanitation even in the heat of winning and losing basketball championships, for a quarter of a century, so can a well-organized group of students fighting for their education, for better funding for their university, and for their future. (And certainly the photographs, linked to in the comment section below this blog, show an encampment at UC Davis that was clean and orderly as an ad in a sporting goods catalog:

Of course we’re going to riot,” he said. “What do they expect when they tell us at 10 o’clock that they fired our football coach?” Reading such painfully moronic justifications for the student riots at Penn State a few weeks ago, all I could think of was the episode of This American Life from a while back covering the culture of drinking/partying at the school. Lucky for us, they decided to re-visit that story and provide an update in light of the recent developments. A must-listen piece.

Mentioned in the TAL story is Michael Bérubé's recent op-ed in which he suggests that Paterno's commitment to improving academics at Penn State led to a culture of complacency when it came to taking a critical look at the football team and big-time college athletics:
Joe Paterno — author of the “Grand Experiment” that sought to uphold academic standards in a major football program, the English major from Brown, the coach whose favorite poet is Virgil and who said, after his first national championship, that Penn State had to improve its library because “you can’t have a great university without a great library.” He and his wife, Sue, led the capital campaign that quadrupled the library’s size; the new wing bears their name.

Mr. Paterno and three university presidents — Bryce Jordan, Joab L. Thomas and Graham B. Spanier — were determined to compete with their counterparts in the Big Ten off the field as well as on. The Paterno family endowed two professorships that testify to their commitment to the humanities; one is in the library. The other is in English. I’m well acquainted with that professorship, since I happen to hold it.


And yet there is a sense in which the Paternos’ academic legacy makes the scandal worse, or more complicated, insofar as their reputation for academic integrity was well earned. Because of that reputation, Penn State faculty members were permitted to feel less conflicted about the school’s football program than our counterparts elsewhere; we took pride in the fact that the school had never run afoul of the N.C.A.A. and that its football coach benched star players for missing class. Now we are in shock.

Amidst all the firings and calls for resignation, let's not forget about Sepp Blatter, the corrupt troglodyte head of FIFA who needs to step down now before he embarrasses himself and the sport further.

The Montreal Protocol outlawed CFCs, in order to protect the ozone layer. But one of the replacements, HFCs, are a potent greenhouse gas, with significantly greater global warming potential per molecule than carbon dioxide. And use of HFCs is increasing. Uh oh.

And here's your fun link of the day. Speaking of This American Life, the Bay Area comedy group Kasper Hauser, creators of the hilarious SkyMall parody SkyMaul, have a couple TAL parody podcasts. Not only do they nail Ira Glass' voice and delivery, but pretty much everything else about the pieces is pitch-perfect. “What's a bontoon?”

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