All ye who care about the Constitution, direct your eyes to Ferguson, Missouri

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The fiasco in Ferguson, Missouri this week began with the shooting death of a teenager named Mike Brown, at the hands of a police officer. Because brown was black and the officer was white (we assume, although so far he has escaped identification), there will be a predictable Red Herring tossed into the discussion by members of a particular sect of the political right. They’ll probably dig up a photo of Michael Brown in some “thuggish” pose. If he ever smoked pot or got sent to the principal’s office, they’ll throw that out there too. The implication being, what, that he just deserved to die on general principle? I don’t know.

Members of a particular sect of the left will focus on the racial dynamics. They’ll say that if Brown had been white, he would not have been shot. This may or may not be true in this specific instance (though it seems likely, we’ll never know for sure), but the history of police violence and harassment of black Americans is overwhelming and continuing. 

However, the goings on in Ferguson, Missouri since Saturday, when Brown was killed, have transcended his character or his race. The municipal government in Ferguson, Missouri has launched a wide-scale armored offensive against its own citizens and, by close and immediate association, the Constitution of the United States. The as-yet empty and timid response by the governor of Missouri, Jay Nixon, and the president of the United States, Barack Obama, can be taken as a quiet endorsement of a fascist police state, and an open invitation to police nationwide to attack their own citizens and suppress dissent with the threat of deadly force.

In short, the municipal, state and federal governments seem to be daring the people of Ferguson, Missouri to use the Second Amendment of the Constitution to defend their rights to the First and Sixth.

Let’s go chronologically, beginning with what happened Saturday afternoon.

1. The United States Constitution, Amendment Six: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”

Michael Brown enjoyed none of these.

Brown was executed in the street by an agent of the State of Missouri without having been arrested or charged with a crime. The police account of the story and the eyewitness account of the story differ in only one way — the police say Brown shoved the officer inside the police cruiser and went for his service weapon, whereas eyewitnesses say that isn’t true. Either way, what happened next was that the officer drew his weapon, Brown fled and the officer shot him. Brown — who was unarmed — was wounded and raising his arms in surrender when the officer shot him dead in the street. Nobody disputes this. 

Insofar as the Constitution is concerned, it doesn’t matter what illegal activity Brown may have been suspected of doing, but for the record, the officer initiated the confrontation because Brown and his friend were walking in the street as opposed to the sidewalk. 

The law allows officers to use deadly force to save their own lives, but that is plainly not what happened in this instance. Brown submitted himself for peaceful arrest, at which point he could have been charged with whatever (Jaywalking? Resisting arrest?) and enjoyed his Constitutionally guaranteed right to a trial. 

Instead, a single Ferguson police officer detained, charged, convicted and executed an unarmed teenager and has not yet even been identified. 

2. The United States Constitution, Amendment One: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Wednesday, police in Ferguson arrested two journalists, one from the Washington Post and the other from the Huffington Post. Officers said they were under arrest for trespassing at an open McDonald’s, at which they were customers. And that’s just the employed reporters.

It doesn’t begin to describe the First Amendment abuses by police in Ferguson. They have pointed rifles in people’s faces and demanded they shut off their camera phones. They have thrown tear gas into crowds of peaceful protesters and onto private property. They have shot innocent people with rubber bullets. They have thrown tear gas at television news crews and dismantled their equipment. 

They have done so much of this that individual instances of it are hardly even worth detailing. It is obvious this is the municipal government’s intentional, tactical response to protest in Ferguson, Missouri. 

On Monday, police were protecting people and local businesses from a riot. That was Monday. Since then, the overwhelming majority of aggression and violence has been committed by police, who for the last two days have arrived on the scene of peaceful protests in full armor, pointed automatic weapons at protesters and attacked them with non-lethal weapons. 

The message from the government in Ferguson, Missouri is clear: You do not have the right to speak freely, to publish, to assemble or to criticize your government here. 

Mike Brown’s death was unnecessary and tragic and the officer who shot him, if there is any justice, will be arrested, informed that he is being charged with murder, and confronted with the witnesses against him in a speedy and public trial. 

May the legacy of Mike Brown be that his death was the flashpoint that began a reversal of what had been a slowly and silently expanding fascism in the United States of America.

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TRANSLATED: Rick Perry’s Q&A with Texas Monthly

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For its July edition, the magazine Texas Monthly did an interview with Texas governor Rick Perry.

It was, as the best interviews are, a rhetorical boxing match. Perry is a popular Republican governor of a growing red state with a robust economy. This makes him a comfortable man.

He was interviewed by Brian D. Sweany, who is the editor-in-chief of Texas Monthly, a nationally respected magazine that I like very much.

You can read the original interview here. Consider this an artistic interpretation of how that interview went:

BRIAN D. SWEANY: Governor Perry, you got this job through a slick backdoor cheat and don’t even deserve to have it. You’ll also notice that I have a middle initial in my byline, whereas your name only contains three syllables. Whaddya think about that?

RICK PERRY: Well, if you want to just ignore my entire political career, then yeah, I guess you’re right. But, look, I’ve been in this game since 1985, Ok? And I’ve done the hard jobs. I’ve done the hard jobs and I’ve done the dirty jobs, but I came out clean, didn’t I? Yes I did. The thing is, I’m a bit of an outsider. I’m always nosing around at the edges of politics, trying to figure out how it works. I guess I’m technically a politician, but I’m not very good at politics. I’m not a smart man, Brian, but I know how to turn every knob in this cockpit.

BDS: You pretended to be a liberal to get popular, and once you did you turned conservative to get the money. You’re a hypocrite and a phony.

RP: I was raised by hillbillies. I have the soul of a hillbilly. Liberal? Conservative? Like I said, I’m a bit of an outsider, poking around at the edges. I’m still trying to figure out what both of those terms mean.

BDS: What were your biggest screw-ups?

RP: You know, I wouldn’t say I’ve ever actually screwed up. What I would say is that there have been a couple times where people thought my reasoning didn’t make sense. By the way, I read a book, and I want to tell you about it. There’s this book about how you can become an expert on anything by doing it 10,000 times, and I would say that I’ve done politics way more than 10,000 times, wouldn’t you? But I guess if I had to name one thing, I’d say it was that thing with the HPV vaccines. I still think I did the right thing, but people did seem to think it was stupid, so I guess I’d go with that, if I had to name a slip-up.

BDS: Good boy. Now you’re gonna sit here and take it while I drill into you about this. To me? Looked pretty clear you were just tossing your buddy some business and you made it worse by being all obnoxious.

RP: I’m pretty sure I did the right thing, but because people couldn’t understand my reasoning I learned a new thing about politics. It was probably like my 12,000th politics thing or something like that. I’m a sensitive guy. I was just trying to help women.

BDS: All right, fine. Then what good stuff do you think you’ve done because I can’t think of anything.

RP: Well, I did pass that tort reform thing. That was huge.

BDS: From 2003? Dude, you were pandering!

RP: Look at my stats after that, though! We’ve got, like, tons more doctors now. There’s a doctor near almost everybody. People are haters, man. But even my haters know I’m right. They have to attack me for something. But you just look at my stats, look at my record after that, and tell me things aren’t better. Job got done, didn’t it?

BDS: I’ve got a couple bullets to fire at you. They’re not much, but they’re all I’ve got on this. Ready? Here goes. Bullet one: Like 13 or 14 years ago, you went against a couple of medical programs, even though you now say health care is numero uno. Bullet two: Texas has the fewest insured people of any state. Knock these down and we can move on to a real question.

RP: Having nearby doctors and having health insurance are not the same thing, bro. One is part of your environment, and one is a consumer decision made by you. Even your hero, Obama, says Medicaid is broke, so why would I put money into a broke thing?

BDS: Why do you seem to be the most hard-assed of the Republicans? I mean even Arkansas seems more chill than you. Arkansas.

RP: Yeah, but Arkansas isn’t all that Republican.

BDS: (Audible sigh). All I’m saying is, I want us to fit in with everybody else. I want Texas to be one of the popular kids that wears the latest fashions and listens to the coolest music, and you’re just making us like a bunch of jocks in dirty cowboy boots.

RP: Look, those other states? They’re fine, they’re good, they do a good job. But they’re dorks! They’re desperate dorks huddling around the pretty girl, sniffling and pushing their glasses back up their noses and spitting dork lines to the prom queen, which is Obama. And they’re doomed! They’re totally doomed to get their hearts broken. They’ve made it impossible for guys like me, because now the President won’t let us do anything.

BDS: But, dude, some of this stuff happened under Bush, so are you saying this is a problem of pencil pushing? Of clerical tedium? I sincerely hope that’s not what you’re saying, because that will have made this line of questioning a complete waste of time.

RP: Haha. That is what I’m saying.

BDS: Says here I have to ask you about Ronald Reagan. So: Ronald Reagan … GO!

RP: Like Reagan, I’m a big capitalism guy. And my state is makin’ it rain right now. I would say there’s a lot of Reagan in me, but I’d never go full Reagan.

BDS: We heard you got in a fight with Tom Craddick and David Dewhurst.

RP: Fight? With Craddy and Dewbaby? Nawl, those are my friends. Look, we’re smart guys and we’re passionate guys and we’re big strapping guys, and when you get smart, passionate, big strapping guys in a hot room, sometimes it gets a little raw and the bodies collide and I don’t think any of us need to be held accountable for what may or may not go on in there.

BDS: Remember when you vetoed all those bills in ’01? What was up with that?

RP: Well, I fought the speaker of the house. Laney. Laney and I fought.

BDS: Oh, bullshit.

RP: Here’s how I’d put it: We were all feeling each other out.

BDS: Let’s test your Texas history, shall we?

RP: Big fan of Sam Houston.

BDS: Yeah, he was good. He was pretty against Texas secession, which is funny, because you seem to like bringing up secession every now and then.

RP: Yeah. I really like him. I have a ring just like his, that’s how big of a Sam Houston fan I am. I also was studying up for this question on Wikipedia and I read about this guy named Dolph Briscoe, who was the governor of Texas. He built the roads from the farms to the towns and that was a pretty big deal. So I’d say I’m a big Dolph Briscoe fan too.

BDS: How come we’re still praising the jocks and cheerleaders all the time? I mean, still? In 2014? We give all our money to football coaches and practically no money to poets! That just doesn’t seem right, does it?

RP: You want me to hire some poets?

BDS: Not you, per se, but, I dunno, somebody. Doesn’t anybody have a love for poetry anymore in this state?

RP: I don’t follow. What would you want me to do about it?

BDS: I don’t know, I just get very emotional about poetry. Forget I brought it up.

RP: Aw, don’t go getting all … It’s Ok. I mean, things are getting better for nerds like you. You have to admit that. Our schools in Texas are pretty good, really, and the UT football team stinks. You have to feel good about that.

BDS: I do, thanks. With my next three questions, I’m going to try to get you to ramble about a given topic and see if you make a gaffe, OK? Topic one: tuition deregulation.

RP: I’d buff some stuff here, polish some stuff there.

BDS: Topic two: death penalty. And, you know, try to ramble a bit more.

RP: For it.

BDS: Topic three: seriously?

RP: Yeah.

BDS: Insult Bush, man. Come on, just do it. You know you want to.

RP: I do, but I’m not going to. Look, George Bush and I are not the same guy and this is not the year 2000. He’s good at some stuff, bad at some stuff. I’m good at some stuff, bad at some stuff. I would just tell you to look at my advanced stats and not worry about comparisons. I’ve got a BPS+ of over .600.

BDS: What?

RP: I don’t know.

BDS: So, how conservative are you, really? Are you, like, “I drove a Cadillac in the 80s” conservative or are you “confederate flag mud flaps” conservative? Are you a country boy with a shave or are you a city slicker in a hat?

RP: I mean, I don’t think we should impeach Obama, if that gives you some idea where I’m at. I think if we do that’ll just make people vote for Democrats. The other thing I wanted to say was, I don’t get why Hispanics aren’t Republicans. They should totally be Republicans right?

BDS: What are you gonna do after this?

RP: Probably hit up Whataburger.

BDS: I mean after your term as governor is over.

RP: I’ll be a little bit happy and a little bit sad. It would be kinda like when you taste something that’s sorta strong and then sort of … egh – you know what I’m trying to say? A taste that’s kinda icky?

BDS: You mean “bitter?”

RP: That’s it. It would be like if you had some of that, and then combined it with something sugary.

BDS: Bittersweet?

RP: Bittersweet, that’s exactly right.

BDS: How do you think you did, like, overall?

RP: Pretty good.

BDS: You wanna give me the scoop that you’re running for president?

RP: Nope.

BDS: Come on. I was nice, wasn’t I?

RP: (Blank smile).

BDS: You screwed it up pretty badly last time, you know. You’re not gonna do that again are ya?

RP: The last time, honestly, I just didn’t have time to be the governor and run for president. The sun got in my eyes, coach. I don’t have that problem anymore.