Philandro Castile

I don't often weigh in on this things but this one is special.

This is the exact opposite of the Jamar Clark case.

Phil Castile's encounter with the police should NOT have been fatal.  It was, according to his girlfriend, upon whom I am relying, a routine stop for an equipment violation.

The challenge in this stop was the registered gun that Castile was legally carrying.  As I listened to Valerie Diamond's account, I placed myself  in the shoes of both Phil Castile and the officer.  I will share here what I imagine each thought, and why this ended so tragically.

Officer: License and Insurance please.

Castile: Thinks: My License is in my wallet, I have to get past my gun to get it.  If he sees the gun, he may freak.  I had best set his expectations so there are no surprises. Officer, I am carrying a registered, concealed weapon.

Officer: Oh Shit!  Dude just threatened to pull a gun on me! Put your hands in the air.

Castile: Confusion - he asked for license  and insurance, should I give him that first and then put my hands in the air?

Officer: Panic - he's reaching for his gun!  I don't want  to die! [Shoots]

This is how I imagine the encounter went.

So, would it have played out differently if Castile were white?  It's difficult to know for sure, but I do think that a white man would have had a better chance for survival in this encounter.

White privilege is real, and does result in an officer giving a white suspect the benefit of the doubt.

About a year ago an officer in Mendota Heights died from white privilege.  Again, a routine traffic stop.  The suspect was white, but also a fleeing criminal.  He killed the officer.

I do not believe for a minute that Phil Castile posed any threat to the officer, but it would not surprise me if his blackness exaggerated the officer's sense of threat.

I do not believe that the officer was out to kill a black man either.  I think he just wanted to go home at the end of his shift.  I think he panicked, and I am not sure he would have done so if the suspect was white.  Although, if he had remembered what happened in Mendota Height, race might NOT have made a difference.  Hard to know.

And this is what makes it all so tragic; a man is dead, and another is certainly guilty of manslaughter.

It sounds like Phil Castile was a good man; may his memory be for a blessing.


It was just last week that Morgan and I walked into a  Caribou Coffee  in St. Paul.  The trivia question was "Where is Paisley Park?"  I was able to correctly answer Chanhassen.  He had just given a concert the night before and one of the Baristas had been there.

So today's  news of his death took  me by surprise.

I don't have much to say about him really.  His music was part of the environment I grew up in, but I never quite fancied  it.

The juxtaposition of that trivia question and the news of his death is sort of a memento mori, I guess.  It strikes close to home when you share a metro area with someone that high profile.
  • Current Music
    Subliminal, האור והצל

So, Volkswagen thing.

For those who may not know, VW is having a scandal because the software controlling the TDI engine was written to note when it was being emissions tested, and operate the engine in a way that it would pass, but under normal operating conditions, it was out of compliance, emitting 40x more of some pollutants than permitted.

I can only imagine that this happened because someone concluded that driveability and compliance were mutually exclusive.  At this point, US sales of TDI equipped vehicles are on hold while VW fixes the software.  In my eyes, if VW did not think that it could produce a driveable, compliant diesel engine, it should have said to the EPA, "your requirements are unreasonable; waive them or no TDI for the US Market."  Instead it created an ECU that behaved well when being watched.

Now VW President Winterkorn has stepped down, despite saying that he had no awareness of the program.  There are those who will say that it was his responsibility to know.  That is true.  But now that he does know, isn't it his responsibility to investigate?  What does his resignation do to advance the goal of making this right?  It seems to me that this particular move crosses the line from drama into melodrama.

Are EPA Standards for passenger vehicles too stringent?  Probably; diesel's selling point has always been higher mpg than gasoline.  It's certainly not cleaner. But VW has taken a pass on making that argument.  Instead, by choosing situational compliance, it not only cheated at the game, but it also participated in the fiction that the standards were achievable at the time they were set.

Where do things stand now?  Owners are afraid that any fix will cost them either mpg or performance or possibly both.  VW may need more than a software patch to achieve compliance.  It will cost them a lot if they need to upgrade these cars to include Urea injection, but that may be where things go.

Does this affect my attitude toward VW?  Not really; it's a corporation, corporations are all sociopathic, and failure to comply with EPA regs does not lead directly to customer's deaths, so in my book they're ahead of GM with its ignition switches, and FCA with it's remotely hackable CAN bus.

(no subject)

The Israeli Palestinian Conflict: Not a Civil Rights Issue.

I want to get a few thoughts down here. American liberals tend to view the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as a Civil Rights issue. It's a narrative we are comfortable with, that we understand well, and that we know how to pick sides in. The basic assumption is that the Palestinians are fighting for a right to self determination that is a threat to Israeli hegemony, and if Israel would only give them this freedom, there would be peace. If this were true, the Oslo accords would have resolved the conflict. But there are larger goals in play here.

It is important to understanding the current condition of the conflict to read Hamas' charter. It is a thick read, written in lovely regal language. But its thesis is clear. I will distill a few things here that I think are pertinent.

1. What does Hamas mean by liberation and resisatance? We liberals love these words. We hear them and our sympathies are immediately awakened to poor, hungry masses yearning to be free. But it is not people that Hamas is looking to liberate. It is land. (Article 6 and Article 15). The land is "every inch of Palestine." And that would be Palestine as it looked at the time of the British Mandate. Liberation of the land entails bringing the land under Islamic rule, as Hamas understands it (ibid).

2. Where does Hamas fit among Islamic movements? Hamas is a unit of the Muslim Brotherhood, specializing in the Liberatioan of Palestine (article 2). What this means is that the goals of Hamas are in service to the goals of the Muslim Brotherhood.

3. What about the two state solution? Article 13 of the charter should be read in its entirety to understand why this will not work so long as Hamas holds poltical power, but here is a brief quote."There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are a waste of time and a farce."

So, what we should be noticing here is that what Hamas wants for the land it calls Palestine (which is to say the 1947 borders) is the same Islamic rule that, over the past few years was selected and rejected in Egypt, the Egyptians ultimately preferring the political oppression of a military government to the religious oppression of rule by the Muslim Brotherhood.

The next question is what do the Palestinians want? I can't answer that. The Palestinians, if offered an election, will find themselves in the unenviable position of choosing between Hamas and Fatah. I am convinced that the election of Hamas a decade or so ago was less about alignment with Hamas' goals than it was about throwing the Fatah bums out. I think that during a period of calm, throwing the Hamas bums out would be a real possibility, but that during a time of live fire, there is a tendency to cleave to the more belligerent party which would work in Hamas' favor.

Eliminating Hamas is essential to being able to give the Palestinians the freedom to explore their desires. Achieving this would mean reoccupying Gaza without settling it, and subjecting it to the political oppression now found in Egypt, while working assiduously to improve prosperity. When there is a strong, moderate Gazan majority, it should fight, and win, a war for indepedence that would culminate in its having its current borders with, depending on Egypt's goodwill some additional land in the Sinai. The West Bank could be part and parcel with this or not depending how West Bank and Gaza Arabs feel about each other.

Current liberal attempts to influence the peace process or to coerce Israel into yielding too much too soon do not ultimately support core liberal values like equality or self-determination, because they enable Hamas, for which these values are best relegated to the dustbin.

Sandy Hook: Why this is not about gun control.

With an inevitability that is not unlike clockwork, in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, I have received petitions calling for the reversal of the second amendment.  I have not yet seen, mostly because I have not looked for the inevitable assertion that this would not have happened in an armed society. 

Gun control advocates hold that stronger gun control laws would have prevented the shooter from obtaining the gun.  Well, we have pretty strong drug control laws.  Banning guns would make them about as hard to obtain as pot.  There is no reason to believe that a shooter who is planning something like this would hesitate to buy a gun illegally, and no evidence that we could make them any more difficult to obtain than drugs.  All we would do is reify what I think of as Edelman's* Law: outlaw guns and only outlaws will have guns.

Gun access advocates hold that "an armed society is a polite society,"* because the prospect that anyone you might seek to harm has the power to kill you will serve as a deterrent.  The problem with this ideal in our context is that it presupposes that the shooter values his life, when in fact many shooters are playing out a narrative that culminates in their death.  It is part of the plan that they will be shot or shoot themselves.  An armed society cannot deter against someone who is determined to die.  Can an armed society mitigate the damage that a shooter can cause?  Maybe, but this risks to such a defender would be enormous.  If he succeeds he will be hailed as a hero  and tried for murder.  He will most likely be acquitted of the murder charges, but the civil wrongful death suit brought by the shooter's family will be a bit more of a crap shoot.  In the event that such a defender should harm a bystander . . .  well what seemed morally clear when the defender pulled his gun, becomes a lot less morally clear then.

To a certain degree I have been wasting my time talking about gun control to make a simple point.   This is an easy debate to have.  The gun control advocate can say his piece, the gun access advocate can say his piece, and none of it really matters.

There is another conversation that arises too when these occur, and that is access to mental healthcare.  It's a good discussion to have, because it has power to help people in a general sort of way, people who can identify that they have a problem and find the humility to seek help for it, assuming they have the resources.  But perhaps not our shooter.

 We build civilizations in order to mitigate risk.  But the reality that none of us want to live with is that however much we mitigate risk, and by whatever means we do so, it is beyond our power to eliminate it entirely.  What ultimately makes an event like this so tragic is that the event that is unforeseen, and therefore unpreventable.  We might rush to condemn ourselves for our failure of imagination, for not banning guns, for not arming school adminisrators, for not getting this guy the mental help he needed, but these are all ways of imagining that we are in control of things that are beyond control, and while that does not let us off the hook for preventing the preventable, it also places limits on our culpability for the actions of actors beyond our control.

*Edelman's Sporting Goods bumper sticker

** Heinlein, Robert A. Time Enough For Love.

(no subject)

I would have preferred
If he came on eagle's wings
Than for this ransom

How does one of us
Redeem a thousand of them?
Here he is, with us.

The willow branches
The sweet scent of the etrog
Gilad Shalit free

יותר שמחתי
אם בא על כנפות נשר
מפדיון הזה

איך יפדה אחד
ממנו אלף מהם
כאן הוא אתנו

ערבי הנחל
ריח מתוק של אתרוג
שליט בן חורין


How many of these books have you read?

Ganked from DovBear

How many of these books have you read?
Here we go with another absurd blog meme.

Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here. Instructions: Bold those books you've read in their entirety, italicize the ones you started but didn't finish or those from which you've read an excerpt.

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