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Streak's Blog

Streak's blog misses Streak, but less sad.

Updated: 2018-01-23T09:20:12.222-06:00


If Modern Conservatives chop a society to bits, does it make a sound?


I ask, because we are seeing evidence from multiple states that the modern Republican party is intent on destroying the basic fabric of society.  In Alabama, Louisiana, Kansas, Wisconsin and Oklahoma, Republicans have cut taxes, gutted funding for education and healthcare, and have consistently asked the people with the least to sacrifice the most.

In all of those states, the economy is struggling, and they lag behind national averages.  Today, Oklahoma released their budget where they kept massive cuts to the education in place, and absolutely gutted programs for the poor.  A friend put it this way when asked who was carrying the weight of the budget failure:
Families of children with Developmental Disabilities that receive services via the In Home Support Waiver, individuals with DD who attend Day Programs (25% cut will effectively put them out of business), Anyone who receives homecare and assistance via the Advantage program, families and children receiving services via the Autism Contract. Anyone who works or gets assistance via one of the many county DHS offices that will now be slated for closure. Any of the 200-700 DHS employees who will be eliminated.
None of these families can afford this.

But here is the problem.  I have seen little evidence that the same people who deny climate change and evolution will even acknowledge the crisis or their role in it.  Most of them, from what I have read, blame Obama for the economic woes, even as they pass legislation aimed at transgendered people using bathrooms.

There is such a huge disconnect between Republicans and reality that I am not sure any of them will even put this together.  My Republican friends seem either oblivious or in denial about what their vote means to the the poorest of the poor.  

This isn't faith. This is madness


I don't want to jump on my former state of Oklahoma.  I think it was Anglican who noted that when you aren't living in the state, it is kind of piling on to post stories about Oklahoma's dysfunction.  I agree, but can't help but read these stories and weep for my friends who still live there.  And there have been many stories, of late, unfortunately.  Conservative and often fundamentalist Republicans run Oklahoma with very little oversight.  They passed a bill the other day that will allow open carry without any training--a bill that was opposed by most of the state's economic leaders as well as the state's cops--but that doesn't matter to fundamentalists.  Facts do not matter to fundamentalists.  For a fundamentalist, cutting taxes will make the economy boom, and a crumbling economy and infrastructure will not dissuade them.  Just the other day, I found a story I had posted two years ago--Oklahoma House approves tax cut-- with this assurance from the bill's author:  State Rep. Leslie Osborn, house author of the bill, predicted it would help bring economic growth to Oklahoma.“Our state has seen economic growth and record revenues due to our competitive income tax policies and pro-business environment,” said Osborn, R-Mustang. “This measure allows Oklahomans greater control over their hard-earned money. They will either spend or invest those dollars and further strengthen our economy.”Now two years later, and the only thing that has happened is that tax cut.  Those same Republicans will blame all of this on the declining price of oil and gas, but the economy and state revenue were in decline well before that.  None of that matters to fundamentalists.  The crashing state economy will not dissuade them that tax cuts are always good for the economy.  Always.  Facts will not matter.  As we are seeing in Kansas and Louisiana, where Republicans have also sold the idea that lower taxes make the economy soar, and if you think those states are soaring, then you might need some new glasses.  Then yesterday, I read this story about Oklahoma and abortion policy.  The push for "morality" and their hatred of abortion resulted in a bill that will revoke licenses of abortion doctors.  Because life and liberty.  Note, that this law authorizes the state to revoke doctor's licences for performing a legal procedure.  Set aside the insanity of suggesting that this is pro-life or will actually help women or children in any way (meanwhile, due to Republicans hatred of Obama, some four out of five Oklahoma hospitals will not provide birthing services), let us note that this law will absolutely draw legal challenge, meaning that the state that has been struggling to pay for core services, will have to pay for expensive litigation to defend this indefensible law.   All while poor people will die in rural Oklahoma for a lack of care.  But never fear, because the fundamentalist knows how this all works.  "Supporters of the bill said it will help protect the sanctity of life."If we take care of morality,” bill supporter David Brumbaugh, a Republican, said during deliberations, "God will take care of the economy."As one of my friends noted that isn't how any of this works, but never tell that to a fundamentalist, because facts simply do not matter.  By this logic, of course, Donald Trump would be living in a pit of despair with no food or water--if taking care of morality led to economic prosperity.   But for the fundy, being pro-life means killing Oklahomans you don't care about while saying you are protecting life. [...]

Moving isn't easy


Leaving Oklahoma has been difficult.  As SOF liked to say, there is a reason we stayed in Norman for 23 years.  It is time for us to change, that is for sure, but it has not been easy.  Yesterday, I really hit a wall when I realized that while I have some relatives in town, and some high school friends (from 30 years ago) who live here, I had no one to call for lunch, or to grab a beer with.

I knew this would happen, and had been prepared for this.  A friend who recently moved to Oregon warned me that my connections in Norman were so built in that I didn't have to work at it.  But now, I find myself without a network of like-minded people.  I know some people, but I don't think we have a ton in common.

It is during these times that I really understand why people go to church.  There is a built-in community there and a built-in way to meet people.  And maybe I will be open to finding a liberal congregation of some kind down the road.  But I can't return to the church of my youth--it is now on the other side of town.  Musing on that yesterday also made me angry.  I was reading about the massive cuts in social services in Oklahoma, and snarkily wondered if this Fort Collins church would organize a mission trip to help children and the mentally ill in Oklahoma survive their attack by other conservative Christians?  Probably not.

So I decided to take some action in ways that I can.  I signed up for a bluegrass jam session tonight, and there is another tomorrow.  I think SOF will bring her fiddle tonight and we will see what it looks and sounds like.

I have to create my Fort Collins network, and that is daunting right now.

New Beginnings/old issues


So I have not blogged in a while.  Facebook has taken much of that energy--it simplifies the linking process and I am there anyway connecting with friends and family.  But now we are in a new beginning, so I am exploring whether or not I want to resume blogging.

We moved, for one thing--from Norman, Oklahoma, where we lived for nearly 24 years--to Fort Collins, Colorado where I attended high school and several years of college, as well as where I met SOF.  It is weird being back in Colorado after so many years.  I love it here in many ways, though I so miss our friends from Oklahoma.  Oklahoma is a tough place to be right now.  The people with the absolute worst instincts and interests are in charge of the state, and that is really showing.  The governor had to dip into the rainy day fund to keep schools from closing early, and we just saw this news item:
With budget cuts, thousands of Oklahomans with mental illnesses are expected to lose care | News OK: As a result of state budget cuts, more than 73,000 low-income Oklahomans with mental illnesses and substance use disorders are expected to lose some access, if not all access, to the state-funded services they depend on.
Schools are still getting cuts, mind you.  And this cut to people with mental illness comes on top of a system that was already leaving people behind--and this doesn't even count the people who have been excluded from healthcare due to the Governor's spiteful rejection of the ACA's Medicaid expansion.  Further, the state just voted to cut an additional 100,000 off existing Medicaid rolls.

Colorado is no panacea, and it would be a mistake to think so.  But my initial reading of politics here is that while the same people are a powerful force here, they are not in charge--yet.

These same people in Oklahoma and Colorado are often very vocal about their Christian faith.  I know this is not news to anyone still reading this blog.  Indeed, this is the problem I have been grappling with for years.  It certainly has not gotten easier.  One of my conservative friends used to push back at my anger and frustration with the argument that conservative Christians were not for these bad things (torture, etc), they were for other things and unfortunately were in the same camp as these bad things.  I used to buy that with torture, even as polling showed Christians as one of the biggest supporters of torture--but I can no longer even give them that latitude.  Conservative Christians run Oklahoma right now.  They are spending an unbelievable amount of tax money that could be used to help people--instead using it to change the law and allow the Ten Commandments on state grounds.  These people are gutting social services for the very needy of Oklahoma and at the same time defending tax cuts that benefit the very wealthy.  They are causing incredible harm--and not passively. They are doing this to the poor.

Anyway.  Maybe I will be back for more.

My recent hiatus


I haven't written here for a while.  It has been a difficult spring so far.  In February, my father passed away after several tough years.  As my mother said, it was not completely unexpected, but we didn't expect it that day.  My first response was shock, followed by a bit of relief.  He had been so unhappy for so long, and just feeling so bad that I was glad he was no longer in pain.  I was also glad for my mom in that her life had become pretty centered around his daily needs.

There was a part of me that thought that I would not struggle that much as we had gone through so much of that grief well before he died.  I actually said the eulogy and even sang a song I wrote about Dad, and it was not as hard as I feared, partly because of that sense of relief and years of working through the grief and understanding that Dad was not getting better.

But after some reflection that relief has morphed into sadness and even depression.  The finality has sunk in, and with it came missing the man who was, and even mourning the father who, at times, was difficult.  Maybe more accurately, mourning the father that I know he wanted to be, and of whom we saw glimpses.

It has been hard to separate out the grief of losing Dad from the other griefs in life--the death of both of my wife's parents; a disappearing history career, and with it a sense of floundering.  Throw in our diabetic 17 year old cat needing to go to the vet this morning, and you can see how this can all cloud the days.

I am not working through this alone.  Not only is SOF a steady and wise listening board, but my mother and I have been able to share this grief together.  Add to that some amazing and insightful friends, and I certainly don't feel isolated.

Anyway.  I hope to write more, but this will do for now.

Everything that is wrong with modern Christianity


Saw this the other day, and while I didn't think it was possible for me to dislike the former Minister from Arkansas any more, I found that I can muster more dislike after he said that women who curse in public are just "trashy."

This isn't about cursing, really. While I really like it, and hang out with a lot of friends who like to curse in humorous ways, I recognize that it isn't for everyone, and it isn't for every setting. When I was teaching in the classroom, I kept the cursing to a minimum, and avoided any of the potentially offensive words. Context matters.

But this isn't about cursing, it is about priorities. Huckabee is shocked that women throw around the f-bomb, but isn't at all offended by massive cuts to food stamps. He isn't offended when Republicans question rape victims. He isn't offended when Ted Nugent calls Obama a "chimpanzee" or Hillary Clinton names that even I won't write here.

And he isn't offended by torture. Why should he be? He is part of the American demographic (white evangelical) with the most support for torture.

But swearing is bad.

Gun culture


As one of my friends said, "literally the dumbest thing ever."  I am not sure.  I fully expect the Republicans to do something dumber this next week.  There appears to be no bottom.

Kansas Senate bill would let any legal gun owner secretly carry without permit | The Wichita Eagle The Wichita Eagle

Majority of U.S. public school students are in poverty


I knew inequality was bad, but didn't realize it was this bad.  For the first time in 50 years, more students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.  When you put this in the context of the modern governing philosophy of the Republicans and far too many Democrats, you see the farce of supply side economics.  You see the inhumanity of tax cuts and growing inequality.  You see the insanity of the people proclaiming "family first" who place more than half the nation's students in poverty, and refuse to address it beyond cutting taxes for the rich.

Majority of U.S. public school students are in poverty - The Washington Post

Sigh. Evangelicals can push back against some things.


Of course they can. And they do. Evangelicals will mobilize and push back against gay marriage or teaching the scientific facts about climate and evolution. And as we see here, they will absolutely get angry about an article criticizing their view of the Bible.

But those evangelicals look the other way (or worse, cheer) torture, demonizing the poor, depriving people of color the right to vote, and even feeding the poor. Just put Jesus in the role of all of those and seriously tell me those views have any Christian validity? Seriously?

But don't dare question the inerrancy of Scripture. That makes them angry.

The GOP now the "Torture Party" and the "Klan Party."


And I am well aware that most Republicans are not racist, or not openly racist.  Most of the people I know would never associate with a Klan member any more than they would openly endorse torture.  But those who vote Republican are supporting both.  They just don't want to acknowledge it.

The most recent example comes with the incoming Majority Whip, who, as it turns out, spoke at a White Nationalist conference back in 2002.  Of course, he "didn't know" they were racists, even though he has always spoken well of David Duke, and the Iowa Cubs knew enough about the conference to move hotels.

But the reality is that since the Dixiecrats left the Democratic party, the Republican party has been growing more and more racist.  After all, it was Ronald Reagan who made his famous "state's rights" speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi--where civil rights workers were murdered.  Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond led the right wing of the GOP for years.  And now, the GOP is the party that has decided that reducing black vote is a good thing, and that prosecuting cops who kill black men is a bad thing.

But they aren't racist. Just ask them. They can't be racist. Racists are bad people and they aren't bad people. And me pointing out that their party has just named a racist to be their majority whip will not change a thing.

If torture is the new GOP horror, the existing original sin is racism. And not one conservative Christian I have asked has addressed this in any meaningful way. I might as well ask for proof that Sarah Palin treats her critics with something approaching Christianity. I might ask to see pictures of a Yeti. Or a Republican to acknowledge climate change.

"Torture is the sort of thing we Americans do."


The saddest sentence I have seen of late comes from this Dish post, "America’s Tortured Conscience":
We Americans like to think that we are good people. (“We are awesome!“) Now it seems clear enough that torture is the sort of thing we Americans do.
Let that sink in a second.

And this from Mother Jones. I knew that we prosecuted Japanese for waterboarding (and remember famously John Ashcroft vociferously objecting to the idea that our waterboarding was the same as the Japanese. But I didn't realize that we prosecuted Japanese officials for other treatments--some of them not as bad as what we did to suspected terrorists. Wow.

And this last note, and one I meant to add to yesterday's post. In 2004, the common defense from conservatives was fear; even from my Christian friends. I remember one of SOF's friends reminding me that "9-11 was scary," as if I had somehow not lived through that day.

But even if we excuse the fear from 2004 (and certainly from 2001), what is their excuse today? Why would these same people of faith have not even thought about the fact that they tolerate the evil of torture?

So conservative Christians still support torture


I wish I could be shocked by this, and I am very mindful that every other demographic group has far too many people who find torture a reasonable and moral way to confront terrorism. But I am so disheartened that people of faith are leading the charge in the wrong way. Still. Readers will recall that when we first heard of the torture issue, I told SOF that this might be that wedge between the conservative Christian movement and the modern GOP. I didn't expect them to become Democrats, mind you. I just expected them to stand up to Bush and Cheney and tell them that if they tortured, conservative Christians would stay home. They couldn't support and defend torture. They just couldn't. But they did. And they did with an edge. Our friend Tony and I ran into a SBC pastor from Oklahoma who suggested that me even raising the issue of torture was helping the enemy. Not that torture was bad, me talking about it was bad. Tony later said that he had to stop talking about it in SBC circles, because other Baptists pushed back so hard. When I posted this story yesterday, I had two friends tell me that they knew long term missionaries who recently returned to the US and were shocked by the torture news. In both cases, they were told by American evangelicals that they were wrong--torture wasn't anti-Christian. In that same post, I felt so bad for the Christian friends who felt the need to point out they didn't support torture. But I also understood the non-Christians who shook their head in complete disbelief. How could a faith that was premised in overcoming the torture and execution of Christ somehow look at torturing Muslims and think that was ok? How could people who watched Mel Gibson's film on the crucifixion and focused on the issue of torture suddenly reverse themselves to find it acceptable? Via Slactivist, I found this heartfelt plea to Christians to remind them that the practice is antithetical to the very basis of the faith. You Cannot Be Christian and Support Torture - Brian Zahnd: I don’t know of a greater indictment against American evangelicalism than the fact that a majority of its adherents actually admit they support the use of illegal torture on suspected terrorists! The release of that survey in 2009 was the point where I stopped self-identifying as an evangelical. Today I’m not quite sure what brand of Christian you should categorize me as, but it’s not that!Evangelical support of torture is what we might call an “eruption of the real.” It’s a horrifying moment of unintended truth-telling where we discover that allegiance to national self-interest trumps allegiance to Jesus Christ.I have one conservative friend who, I think, simply thinks I have lost my mind over this and other issues. Perhaps he is right. Yet, I can't stop thinking about the problem of a religious faith based in morality and sacrifice becoming one that more easily defends the powerful and attacks the weak. All of that makes more sense when you see them defending torture. Anyway. About me continuing to rant on this. There are times when I feel that I should just give up and look the other way. It is useless and meaningless to shout into the darkness about poverty or racism or torture. I was pleased to find this very thoughtful essay by Bill Leonard on the issue of torture, race, and Christian conscience. (A nation confronted by conscience). He raised the hope that we could, as a people, question our assumptions about our own moral authority and the idea of American exceptionalism, as well as to discard the idea of a Christian nation. But his quote from Elie Wiesel spoke to me about perhaps why I continue to speak and write on this issue: In Words from a Wi[...]

Do black lives matter?


I have to ask.  It's not just Michael Brown.  Or Trayvon Martin.  Just this past week, cops in Cleveland shot a 12 old kid playing with a toy gun.  Just shot him down.  And then didn't even give him first aid.  Or remember John Crawford, who was shot down in a Walmart when he was playing with a bb gun.  Or Mirriam Carey gunned down in DC after approaching a Secret Service checkpoint.

Facebook has been grim.  I have read so many white people completely dismissing the concerns about race.  A Pew study reinforces that, suggesting that 63% of white people think that Michael Brown's death was not about race.  All while another study shows that black males are 21 times greater than their white counterparts to be killed by police.  

One of SOF's high school friends said, rather dismissively, that he didn't think of race.  Of course, he doesn't have to. He can choose to think about race or not.  He gets that option.  That is almost a perfect example of white privilege.

Others bashed Brown's parents and community for allowing that kind of behavior to continue.  (Should note, the right wing and media are already bashing the parents of the 12 year old.)  And again, in white privilege, you get to focus in on the details of the individual case.  You can choose to ignore the broader context.  You can argue that the cop acted correctly in this tragedy.  And you may be right, though I am not convinced.  But the broader context remains the fact that black people are killed at a much higher rate.  That should bother even conservatives.

But it doesn't.  John Fugelsang noted wryly that the people who boast about not trusting their government suddenly trust it when an unarmed black person is shot and killed.  I think that disconnect is about a lot of things, but including the idea that most well-intentioned whites (not Klan members, by any stretch) believe that racists are bad people--but they are good people--ergo, they cannot be racist.  And ultimately, they have to answer that nagging question of if this level of racism ends up with dead black kids, their own safety and security is because they are white and well-off.

This isn't right.  When cops shoot a kid playing with a bb gun and leave him to die, something is seriously wrong.  When people look at the tragedy of Michael Brown's death and opine that he was a "thug" who "probably would have killed others"--something is seriously wrong.

Tough day in Democracy


I knew yesterday's vote would be rough for us.  I read enough about Nate Silver's projections to know that my hopes for a better outcome would be dashed.  But it is still incredibly disappointing.  Republicans promise to harm the poor and the sick, and they still get elected.  Democrats actually provided healthcare reform, and they then stupidly run away from it.

As it is ever, my biggest disappointment is knowing that the faith of my youth has become so tribally Republican that I am not sure they can differentiate between conservative economic views and those of the Christ they worship.  I went back and reread my post the day after Bush's reelection, and it is still incredibly timely (to me, at least).  (Streak's Blog: One of my darkest days, (PS. American Christianity sucks!))

For the life of me, I just can't quite get my mind around good moral people voting for sociopaths who take great glee in "punching down" at the powerless and the weak.  Their religion says to feed the poor and help the prisoner.  Their faith says to help the sick and the old.  Their vote is diametrically opposite.  It shores up power and wealth, and erodes the fragile lives of the poor, sick, elderly, and middle class.

In the last year, we added a puppy to our house, and in the last week, we added yet another rescue, bringing our total dog population to four.  I have felt a little defensive about that as some seem to think we have lost our minds, or exceeded some norm for animals.  I feel just fine about it for several reasons.  1), our new rescue, Scooby was in a bad place and headed for trouble, and we helped him and his former owners.  My vote was to help people, and outside that, I am trying to do what I can in my circle to help people.

And 2), having four dogs reminds me of how much more I like them than people. Dogs bite each other when one is being abusive or bullying.  Republicans seem to elect them to office.

Good man with a gun becomes bad man with a gun


Report: 'Buzzed' Man Allegedly Killed Boy In Game Of 'Gun Tag'

This is how this works.  Up till this man killed a three year old with his gun, he was most likely a good man with a gun.   What is a good man with a gun?  Just a legal gun owner, and the gun rights people want there to be more and more of those.  Because freedom.  And because more guns is always better.

Gun culture demands it.  The NRA tells you to be very afraid--that criminals will break in, and the police won't respond, or that the UN and that evil Barack Hussein Obama will take your guns away.  Or that ISIS will come across the border and you will need that nine mil.

Gun culture doesn't filter our irresponsibility, or history of drunkenness, or youth or anger issues.  Nope.  More guns make us safer, they say.  Good people with gun will stop the bad people with guns.  And anyone who questions that becomes a bad person--presumably without a gun, though that is irrelevant.  The Gun Tribe doesn't like anyone who questions access to guns, and those people are bad.

So when a good man with a gun kills someone, the gun culture just says, "they will go to jail for using their gun wrong."   (unless they are a cop, of course, and kill a young black teen).  But you never know who the bad people are until they shoot someone they aren't supposed to.  And any effort at restricting those people, or even discouraging young and stupid people from getting guns is a violation of freedom, and makes you a bad person.

Just guessing, but this political message about guns will not upset gun right's advocates


NRA's Election Message: "Vote Your Guns" Because ISIS Might Be Outside Your House | Blog | Media Matters for America

Even more dishonest than the woman blogger.  Even more destructive.  Even more paranoid and crazy.

Yet, the supposedly adult and sober and reasonable gun owners will just look the other way.

Remember when Republicans talked about compassion?


Or even when they, under George W. Bush, spent a lot of money to fight HIV in Africa?

We may be to that place where even W looks reasonable by comparison, as the modern GOP House just moved to gut spending for Ebola.  Evidently there is nothing worth paying tax dollars for, if you are a conservative Republican.  Why don't those Africans just pay for their own medical care?

This isn't new, but every time I hear one of these Republicans quote the Bible or reference Christianity, I feel the bile in the back of my throat.  I keep wondering when the grownup Republicans I know will stand up to this stuff. There appears to be absolutely no bottom to their malevolence.

The end of chronic homelessness?


For a break away from my frustration about Ferguson, a note about my reinvention.  My networking resulted in an invitation to a stakeholder's meeting regarding homelessness in Norman, and my education continues.  I am learning so much about homelessness and about the effective (and no so effective) methods of fighting it. Here in Norman, as in many communities, we have several different "shelter" agencies who all deal with aspects of the homeless population.  As one person put it this morning, they have effectively managed homelessness here, in that it is largely hidden from the population.  But that isn't solving the issue.  So, they formed the organization One Vision One Voice to combine forces and share information and resources.  Pretty cool stuff.In addition, they are learning much about ways to address homelessness, and moving away from some of the older models.  That includes the idea of what was called "housing ready," where homeless people were given the possibility of getting housing if they completed some checkmarks.  Addicted people needed to prove their sobriety for ninety days, or the mentally ill needed to demonstrate some management of their symptoms.  This all worked for the short term homeless, but for the chronic and medically vulnerable population, this didn't work at all.  People living under a bridge have enough on their plate just living day to day to try to demonstrate some control of their demons.  It is basic Maslow's hierarchy of needs, if you think about it, but the model persisted because it had a logic to it.But OVOV and The Homeless Alliance are following the new model of "housing first," where they put these chronic homeless people in housing of some sorts (with guidance and social workers helping them, of course).  The results are pretty startling.  In OKC, the retention rate was in the 90s after a year and a half, and only 2 of those were actually lost back to homelessness.The other fascinating component here is that we may have been viewing the economics of fighting homelessness all wrong.  Most people agree that people should have housing, just as they think that people should have food.  But I can't tell you how many times I have heard the lament that we "just can't afford to feed or house everyone."I am not sure about the economics of hunger (though I suspect it is quite similar) but the Homeless Alliance people have some great numbers on the cost of homelessness.  Turns out it is quite expensive to keep them on the streets.  I am not sure I wrote down all the numbers correctly, but here is one stat that I am sure of:  one individual chronically homeless individual in OKC cost the city's taxpayers $160,000 in one year.  He was arrested multiple times, or picked up for being in the wrong place or publicly intoxicated.  He was taken by ambulance several times to the emergency room, and spent time in the hospital for pneumonia.  All of that well before we look at any costs carried by the social workers or social organizations.Turns out it is much cheaper to house people.  Here in Norman, they figure they can pay the annual rent and utilities for an individual for around $6,000.  Those who are housed are less likely to get arrested or harassed, and if you combine this with access to healthcare, the other costs plummet as well.Several people made the point that econo[...]

Another young black man shot by police


I am sure everyone knows about this recent event.  There is still much we don't really know about the shooting, but there are enough legitimate questions to question the police action in Ferguson, Missouri. has a nice rundown of the story here.  The Ferguson police released some images and video showing the dead youth robbing a convenience store, but then admitted that the officer who shot Michael Brown did not know of those allegations and was not stopping him for that reason.  The police say that the young man attacked the police officer and even reached for his gun, but several observers note that the young man was retreating from the cops and surrendering when he was shot.  One person live tweeted the shooting, and his account is chilling. One of the problems with racial issues in this country, in my opinion, is the emphasis on denying the past or larger contexts.  We are told to accept the basic particulars in each individual case as if they occur in a vacuum.  This shooting is a great example.  Perhaps the police are telling the right story, and this young man threatened and attacked a police officer.  None of that matters if he was retreating--certainly not in my mind, but as I said, there is much for us to learn. But this occurred in a context, and that context is not a good one for race relations.  For all the Supreme Court's conviction that racism is a thing of the past, Ferguson, Missouri is a largely black population run by an almost completely white police force and with only one black person on the city council.  Race, of course, tells us nothing about competence or ability, but this is horrible optics.  Those white police arrest black residents at a much higher rate (much higher) than whites.  The police department handled this badly by militarizing the city and treating those protesting as enemies. To be fair to Ferguson, Missouri, however, the problem is much broader than this one community.  One only has to think of the different responses between the Bundy ranch in Nevada and this community.  At Cliven Bundy's side, white separatists pointed sniper rifles at federal troops.  That didn't end with tear gas or tanks rolling in.  On the contrary, the government backed off.  Contrast that with the police shooting an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, or the savage beating of a black grandmother on the side of an interstate.  Or that kid shot in Walmart holding a toy gun. If that isn't bad enough, consider the difference between media portrayal of black victims to white suspects.  Right, not just between white suspects and black suspects, but even the portrayals of blacks shot in violent encounters.  There is plenty of room for criticism of individual criminal behavior, but that disparity suggests that the activists are not completely wrong when they say that the lives of black men count less than their white counterparts. [...]