And About All This Tanking

NBA tanking is always a popular topic. I don’t think the league cares about it quite as much as some fans, but it is a big deal. I am generally not opposed to tanking. A team may fairly conclude that it’s better off starting over than throwing good money after bad on a non-competitive roster. More importantly, I think the league is generally best off not dictating strategy to individual franchises.

With that as a caveat, I think the league has a duty to limit (not eliminate) tanking as a long-term strategy. Sam Hinkie’s infamous “The Process” is not good for the business of basketball, even if one might reasonably conclude that it was the best strategy for the Philadelphia 76ers. Hinkie’s strategy was built on economic theory. In essence, if one is allowed to lose a bet, but then bet double-or-nothing in perpetuity, he should continue betting until he wins. Hinkie applied this thinking to the draft. Keep betting (i.e., being bad enough to guarantee good odds of winning the draft lottery) until you win (i.e., land franchise-altering talent).

Although Hinkie is no villain–in fact, the Sixers appear to be improving–the league should be highly motivated to identify and limit perverse incentives to forego improvement. Bad franchises need to acquire young talent at the expense of winning, but they also have a duty to develop talent for long-term competitiveness. They shouldn’t be allowed to bet double-or-nothing in perpetuity without penalty.

As structured, The NBA’s draft lottery distributes the odds of getting the top pick too finely. There’s really no good reason that two teams whose records vary by a game or two should get different mathematical odds of having the chance to draft Tim Duncan (versus Keith Van Horn). Yet that’s what we have, and the consequence is perverse incentives to actively sabotage late-season games so as not to “lose ground” on other bad teams. This is not just “playing the kids.” I’m talking about benching a kid who is playing well in order to lose.

I would offer two basic reforms:

Reform 1: Tier the Ping Pong Balls

Rather than distribute ping pong balls weighted precisely by record, I would place the worst teams in the same tier and assign them all the same probability. There’s no real downside to this.

  • Tier I: Worst 5 records
  • Tier 2: Other lottery teams

The lottery would still feature names drawn at random, but here’s the kicker. I’d give the commissioner the power to expand Tier 1 to include 8 teams or 10 at his discretion. I’m all for go-nowhere teams developing young players at the expense of winning, but the point is to create conditions where a one or two game difference in record doesn’t change the odds of getting a good player. That should cut down on perverse incentives.

The Draft Should be a Hand-Up, Not A Way of Life…

The other change I’d implement is a three (consecutive) year limit on appearing in Tier 1 for each franchise, excluding traded picks. Again, you shouldn’t get to tank in perpetuity. So for example, if the Sixers were a Tier 1 team for three seasons they’d be in Tier 2 in the fourth (unless they made the playoffs). However, if they traded their pick to Portland the Blazers would get a Tier 1 pick if Philly finished with a bottom five record.

To be clear, I would not bar a team from winning the draft lottery for four consecutive seasons if the ping pong balls fell their way. Random chance would still be random. Rather, my intent is to limit tanking as a long-term talent acquisition strategy.



The NBA Could Use a Few Tweaks But So Could Fans

This “rest and scheduling” issue is the talk of the NBA right now. Powerful moneyed interests are feeling threatened and have responded in their usual way: like a 5 year old going limp in a grocery store checkout line. Still, if you can get through all the blubbering, hyperventilating, and slobber, they–and I’m talking national TV networks here–have an actual point. We know the economics. The big networks (esp. ESPN/ABC and TNT) pay the NBA for broadcast rights. They make their money by charging advertisers insane prices to peddle their wares to the nation. The prices are based on ratings, and the league’s broadcast model is heavily star-dependent.

Nevertheless, as ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh points out, the rest issue cannot be ‘bah! humbugged” away. A lot of the belly-aching about how lazy these millennial NBA stars are, and how their bodies really don’t need that much rest is rhetoric we can trace from the plantation to the plant floor, and safely ignore. The truth is that professional basketball is labor of the high repetitive stress variety. It may lack football’s explosive brutality, but it is hell on soft tissue, ligaments, and tendons.

So you can see the problem. When a star-driven broadcast model fails to deliver stars you best believe advertisers won’t keep paying premium prices. Revenue stability is of course in everybody’s long-term interests, but grinding up players’ bodies is not.

So, how to solve the issue? Well, I have one big thing and a few minor suggestions.

One big thing: NBA fans are just gonna have to learn to love the non-stars.

Basketball is improvisational art. As an NBA consumer, whether your taste is for Steve Kerr’s Warriors or Chuck Daley’s “Bad Boy” Pistons, aesthetics are a big part of what you are consuming. A game with Lebron James’ artistry is not the same product as one where he rests, even if the final score is identical. Yet artistic brilliance is a finite resource. To regularly produce it the artist needs time to recover. That’s just part of the deal.

But NBA fans in particular are spoiled rotten on this point, which is part of why the broadcast model has crept away from being star-driven to being star-obsessed in recent years. NBA fans are simply not habituated to times when their favorite players are not available. Baseball has its “getaway day” lineups on Sunday afternoons and its September call ups. In the NFL, the 30-carry RB is a thing of the past. Everybody has a “committee” now. Hell, in weeks 14-17 you don’t even know what you’re getting because teams are resting players.

Those fans don’t always like it, but they are generally habituated to players resting to treat or prevent injury. As a consequence they pay a fair bit of attention to non-stars and so-called role players. I’d wager that the typical NFL fan can tell you the backup tight end on his favorite team, because that guy plays regularly. The typical baseball fan knows the fourth outfielder (and probably at least one minor league prospect he’s never even seen). In sharp contrast, many, many NBA fans are so casual that they don’t even follow any particular team. They may know Russell Westbrook’s triple-doubling and James Harden’s beard, but they can’t name any other OKC or HOU starters (much less backups). I’m not saying this is most NBA fans, but way more than some insignificant portion, and far more than other sports.

THIS REST ISSUE CANNOT BE RESOLVED WITHOUT FIRST ACKNOWLEDGING THAT NBA FANS MUST CHANGE. I’m a marketing guy, and the marketing orientation is fundamentally about giving the people what they want. But, this is one of those moments where playing to the casual fan’s star-obsession is enabling a tragedy of the commons. Fans have to learn to want something else, or at least live with something else. Thing is, the league is so deep right now and the product is so good this shouldn’t be hard.

What the NBA can do.

  • Alter the schedule to accommodate regular season series play — This to me is low-hanging fruit. Teams should play 2-3 game series across non-consecutive nights in the same city to cut down on the insane every-road-game-in-a-different-city travel. You could see real benefits to player health before having to entertain cutting games. Teams already don’t play every other team. So if you lose a few inter-conference matchups each season, big whoop. You rotate inter-conference games by division like the NFL. Apart from cutting travel, it also cuts down on the complaint that “Lebron is only gonna be in city X once this season. Therefore, he must play.”
  • Play more 10-man rotations — Too many coaches are grinding star players down with 30+ minutes of high-intensity, high-stress basketball, in part because the league is so deep with athletes. It’s way past time to see more 10-man rotations. For all the talk of how playoff seeding doesn’t matter because one road win wrests home court advantage away, it’s amazing to me that more coaches don’t institute more minutes restrictions to get to the playoffs rested.
  • Expand rosters at the start and close of the regular season — Insert two call-up periods during the season for D-Leaguers and free agents, one pre-Christmas and one in March, where rosters expand to 16 players.
  • Promote teams AND stars — The NBA’s own marketing reinforces the “stars-and-scrubs” bias of its most casual fans. So, it is routine, for example, to see TNT/ESPN promos where the team names are never stated in the voiceover; only the names of stars. The NBA could be more diligent about having at least some product promos that mention teams and standings.

2016 Presidential Election: What The Hell Just Happened?

This quote tells you everything you need to know about what went wrong.

This summer when visiting my folks in St. Louis, I said, “I don’t think Trump can beat her, but she could lose. There’s a difference.” In the aftermath of what really ought to be the final death knell in the would-be Clinton political dynasty, this quote attributed to Chuck Schumer makes it plain to see how awful the political instincts of these Democratic centrists really are.


Though it is possible that someone has misquoted Schumer, the sentiment expressed here was unmistakably at the heart of the Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC) campaign. To be clear, it almost worked. Clinton got enough votes to win the popular, but lost the Electoral College based on Trump’s clean sweep of Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. She lost those states on a quixotic chase after so-called moderate Republicans, who would never, ever vote for her. I told my mom the Friday before the election that Trump had to win the tossup states and flip two that usually go blue to win. He did just that.

So, what happened?

Again. He really didn’t beat her. Her losing is the story.

As I see it, there’s two parts to this: (1) the votes Trump won; (2) the votes HRC didn’t. There is some overlap, but she mostly lost votes from people who opted out.

The alt-right racists and the “never-a-woman” crowd got Trump a lot of his vote totals. Based on the data I saw (and always take early exit polling with a huge grain of salt) he dominated on White voters. But for all the talk of blue-collar “angry White guy” revolt, Trump’s staunchest support came from the $50k-and-up small business owner types. One area you have to give him credit in is beating her with the White people who are the apple of her eye. To her credit, she did okay with less well off Whites.

Here’s the thing though. Trump’s level of support shouldn’t have been enough to win the White House. In fact, I actually wonder how far off the models were about his performance (if at all). The models didn’t think he would be impressive, and he wasn’t. As I understand it, he slightly underperformed McCain’s and Romney’s respective totals in 2008 and 2012. (Remember. Those two performances prompted all manner of “woe-is-me-soul-searching” among Republicans about whether they could ever win the White House again.) It’s hard to imagine ANY Republican nominee–Jeb, Rubio, Cruz, etc.–performing considerably worse than Trump just did.

Record low voter turnout is why she lost. In no way do I mean to minimize or discount sexism and racism or the weight of the faux-scandals in this election. But those factors mostly explain the votes that Trump got. They are less compelling explanations of the votes she didn’t get. The most compelling explanation for that is catastrophic strategic failure. Put it this way. In the waning days of the campaign, she was running ads featuring prominent Republican endorsers here in South Carolina. “Goldwater girl” to the last, I guess.

The Clinton team made it abundantly clear in the 2008 primaries that a 50 state door-to-door campaign to GOTV was old-fashioned. She would win, they said, with record-breaking fundraising and by sticking to the urban and suburban areas with high strategic value in the general election. They believed that right into 2016. HuffPo has a piece out today saying the HRC team relied on “small organizing,” which includes micro-targeting via text/direct, mail in lieu of traditional boots on the ground. Of course, all modern campaigns use micro-targeting. It’s an issue of emphasis.

When you put micro-targeting at the heart of your GOTV strategy you are running a low-turnout campaign. As Meredith Rolfe shows, candidates have a decent amount of say over whether an election has a “high” or “low” turnout in the aggregate. They control the presence of environmental cues that signal to people that others are (or are not) voting. It’s the lawn signs, the campaign buttons, the door-to-door canvassing, the buzz — all the stuff micro-targeted campaign messaging, by definition, does not provide.

The much disparaged Podesta emails also appear to show that the DNC (far too often in the role of surrogate, or at least inappropriately ardent supporter, of the HRC campaign) has spent considerable effort disciplining and de-funding the state and local party volunteers most responsible for mobilizing actual voters. If that is too conspiratorial for your taste I’ll put it another way. Republican voter suppression–an entirely predictable matter, given a gutted Voting Rights Act–worked in a number of states that Clinton needed, Wisconsin among them. The governor has declared open warfare on election-day registration and student voters. Surely, the GOTV efforts there were the most sophisticated given the level of Republican opposition. I mean, voter suppression in Wisconsin doesn’t even have to be framed as a race issue. Nope. As I understand it, Clinton never even campaigned in Wisconsin post-convention. That is face-to-palm, head shaking stuff. Evidently, the organizing principle of the campaign was that the corporate types in White Fish Bay and Appleton would more than offset any suppressed votes in Madison and Milwaukee.

Uh huh.

Whether through its callousness or incompetence (does it really matter which?) the Clinton campaign convinced scores of the party’s base voters that their votes didn’t matter. (Of course, the only ones the national talking heads give a rip about are blue-collar White guys.) Not shockingly, many stayed home. Her loss was not so much a matter of blue-collar White guys flipping to Trump. They picked him, not the other way around. As always for the Democrats, the loss really came down to who stayed home. Clinton needed a high turnout election by playing to the party’s base rather than to its power brokers. She got record low turnout and was running ads featuring Republican endorsers into the final week.

Today I Lost My Twitter Troll Virginity


See. What had happened was…

I follow @SonofBaldwin on twitter. He’s a writer who pens insightful stuff on racism, queer issues, and TV/movies/comics. He’s one of these people where even when I hold a contrary position, he challenges me to re-visit it. He wrote a piece on October 6th. Short version: it’s about a Black friend in a gentrifying Manhattan neighborhood who got a snarky note on his door about being too loud from White neighbors.

I don’t know how loud he was. But, this wasn’t about music or instruments. This was about talking. We’ve all been in scenarios where we thought people were being too loud. I lived in apartments as a kid and as an adult. I worked in residence life for five years on two different college campuses. I can assure you. The way to NOT get a noise issue resolved is to leave a snarky note. That’s really opening things up at Defcon 3. So rather than say, “Can we chat later?” Mr. Snarky Note lead with a version of “and next time I’ll call the cops.” Who thinks that making a criminal complaint for something that is annoying but almost certainly not a criminal trespass is a thing that you do? And, that it’s likely to work?

Dude’s response letter to Mr. Snarky Note was, to put it mildly, hilarious. Read it, seriously. The brother just returned his neighbor’s snark with extra hot sauce. I replied thusly—on October 6th: That was some hilarious ish right there. It was. I do not apologize nor regret putting it in print. I continue to chuckle about it, even until this very day. That’s all it ever needed to be.

So, you can imagine my surprise when, on the morning of October 12th, as I sit for breakfast at a local eatery, minding my own business, scrolling through my twitter feed while biting into some buckwheat pancakes (one of which was not done), I see the following (NOW EDITED) tweet.




The original tweet added, “You can use a sports analogy since that may be intellectually easier for you.” That bit is now gone. 

Now, see. They done already messed up my pancakes. (I ain’t mad at ya, Eggs Up Grill, but I do NOT like doughy pancakes.) But, Laura got me straight. They were making me some new ones, so cool. I’m like, “Okay. We can do this.” You can see a series of my tweeted replies in the image below (start at bottom) that went to Mr. Makone (blue underline), Son of Baldwin (red underline), and the author of the response letter (yellow highlight).



The table includes his comments and my remarks about them with numbers to the corresponding tweets.

Numbered Tweet (red box) His reply and my commentary


The first part of my two-part reply addresses why I found the reply letter funny. It was a classic case of someone taking unwarranted liberties, then getting what was coming to them. It’d be different had Snarky Note come to the guy personally and been rebuffed. Nope. He chose to issue the cop threat. Then he got one-upped, like nobody else can call the doggone police to issue a nuisance complaint. Evidently, the butthurt inspired someone to step forward in defense of Snarky Note’s honor, you know, lest the heavens fall. Enter Tony Makone.


In response to my query about whether he had any Qs, he wrote:


Even though the guy took a shot at my intellect, my response in tweets 1 & 2 is, I think, measured.


I continued on #3 because dude is determined to issue some intellectual challenge, all while assuming as fact the very thing he came to me to discuss—whether police presence is warranted. This is of course begging the question or circular reasoning. He not only offers no proof of his faulty premise, he directly undermines it by asserting that the law in NYC needs greater clarity. Then he presumes to tell me what I should think? So, I checked him by pointing out his fragility (for coming at me with the sports quip that he edited out).


He mad now. So I must be drunk.


I had to set him straight in #4. Man, if you don’t get the hell outta my mentions and let me eat these pancakes…


That was exhausting. I know some of our people out here, like Son of Baldwin, Leslie Mac and Feminista Jones, Bomani Jones and Mina Kimes at ESPN, Talib Kweli, and others, spar with these colorblind racist Twitter trolls everyday. I got love for ‘em because I’m quite confident that like Sade said, “It’s never as good as the first time.”



Quick Thoughts on Kaepernick and Ellison’s Column at

Charles Ellison’s Aug. 31st column at the came across my twitter feed today. He looks to make the “pro-Black” case for standing during the national anthem. To say the least I am disappointed in the column, because rather than do much to convince us that standing is right Ellison mostly tries to convince us that Kaepernick is wrong.

Not that I have any readers, since I so rarely write on this blog, but if I did they would surely know that Black folk will be all over the map on Colin Kaepernick’s ongoing refusal to stand for the anthem beginning during the 2016 NFL pre-season. (How long he remains on an NFL roster, frankly, is an open question.)

Here’s my take. Refusing to participate in a ritual is a *personal* form of dissent. By definition one size does not fit all. At the extreme, few of us, for example, would hunger strike. Had Ellison left things at “here’s why standing is what’s right for me,” I’d have no problem.

But nope. Ellison went for the speculative and disingenuous hit piece on Kaepernick. There was a point to be made, but ultimately the column devolved to respectability politics scolding some other presumably more “divisive” politics. Ellison effectively “All Lives Matter”s Colin Kaepernick. I wouldn’t question the man’s #wokeness because he stands for the anthem. I question it because pulls from the standard bag of cheap shots when writing about Black athletes.

  1. He plays pocket watcher. Despite clearly not know how much money Kaepernick has contributed to whom, Ellison gives us the salary details and the insinuation that he hasn’t or won’t write a check to “the cause.” If that weren’t sufficiently gratuitous, he followed it up with the already tired trope about Black athletes as mere Twitter activists. Ellison’s blurb says that he’s a “veteran political strategist.” I won’t inquire about the size of the checks he’s writing, or exactly to which causes, but I do wonder who he’s worked with and what they’ve done for the people.
  2. He lies by omission. This is part of a larger “Kaepernick doesn’t have an end game” critique. Kaepernick has stated clearly that he is considering additional actions and will announce them. Ellison could have easily said he doesn’t believe that, but was either not competent enough or honest enough to mention it. That was weak, but even that obscures a fundamental problem with this “no end game” line of criticism. Personal protest is supposed to be limited in scope. Hunger strikers aren’t trying to convince masses of people to hunger strike. They use an act of personal dissent to–at best–inspire others to engage in their own. That’s it. That’s all it has to be.
  3. He tries to own the legacy of Black protest. Ellison does exactly what we’ve seen conservative pundits do a million times when discussing race issues. Rhetorically, they are quick to invoke the iconography of MLK and try to make it mean whatever they want. Let them tell it, if King were alive today he would definitely be an immigrant-hating, gun-toting NRA member, and a reliably Republican voter. I’m not comparing Ellison’s politics to their’s, just his rhetorical device. Kaepernick is obviously now part of a long legacy of protest among Black athletes, yet Ellison blithely hand-waves away any such notion. Kaepernick is of course doing EXACTLY what Jackie Robinson claimed in his own autobiography to have done himself–refuse to salute the flag or participate in the anthem ritual. (Perhaps Ellison should actually read John Carlos–of the “iconic” fist pump–has supported Kap’s protest without reservation and placed it in the very legacy Ellison would deny him.

There is mild tragedy in the missed opportunity. The pro-Black case for standing for the anthem is NOT because Kaepernick is wrong. He’s no more wrong than Frederick Douglas about the Fourth of July. But, neither are those who stand for flag or celebrate Independence Day. I stand for the anthem at sporting events, not out of any exaggerated sense of patriotism or even belonging. Like 99% of those at sporting events, it is purely perfunctory. Yet I am in no way troubled by this because there are lots of ways to express dissent. Within fairly broad ethical boundaries, the rightness or wrongness of any particular form is not something we can know straightaway. Sitting through the anthem is a perfectly legit form of dissent, but it’s only one. So is singing it as a long baroque love song, even though its not, like Whitney Houston and Marvin Gaye have done. As Sterling Stuckey reminds us, the rich and deep legacy of Black anti-racist resistance encompasses too many forms to count. It is patently silly to fall into the trap of declaring any one form THE right or wrong one.



Quick Thoughts on Wilbon’s Mission Impossible: Bruh

Thankfully, any /number /of folks /have stepped forward to refute Michael Wilbon’s unfortunate column at the new, “Mission Impossible: African Americans & Analytics.” (No. I’m not linking to it.) I’m not sure I have the time or energy to dig into everything that’s wrong with that column. So I’ll try to contain it to one sentence and a caveat. The column is reliant on worn-out, essentializng tropes about Black folk (at the barbershop, no less), about analytics, and oddly about the business of sports itself. (Is there anyone out there who honestly believes that these billion dollar franchises are going to refuse to use math and instead rely on some romanticized “eye test?” Or that they should? I mean…) The caveat here is that Wilbon’s take is in most crucial respects still the industry standard among columnists and broadcasters. Wilbon just happened to be focusing his lens on Black folk, so, let’s not put him out on curmudgeon island all by himself.

Let’s also note that people transform on this issue. I am a lifelong Mets fan. If you go back 4-5 seasons ago to any Mets broadcast on the SNY network with the award-winning (and mostly excellent) crew of Gary Thorn, Ron Darling, and Keith Hernandez, they basically just took turns screaming NNNNEEEERRRRDDDDSSS!!! into their mics. But they have actually softened over the years to where they include a number of rate/efficiency concepts directly into their broadcast. This should surprise no one. So much of the “anti-analytics” position is not a substantive critique so much as a dissociative rhetorical positioning strategy. It’s like a cowbell for the threatened and vulnerable. “We don’t wanna be like those guys, blogging from their mother’s basement.”

Having said all that, although I am disappointed with Wilbon’s take, I don’t feel a need to dog him out. The man is a pioneer who has long operated in the tradition of the late Ralph Wiley.  And hey, when you make your living with words, if you do it long enough, you too will swing and miss. I’m just miffed that his, “Good God, Lemon!” moment came on this topic at this time. It’s an important moment for analytics. Much of the low-hanging fruit has already been picked. Many fans, even if not a full-on majority, now intuitively get that efficiency trumps volume, that pitchers don’t really “win” games, and that you must distinguish between context and performance. They may never talk about specific stats, but big whoop. But now, many of the latest techniques being imported from multivariate statistics are good at highlighting very subtle (but crucial) distinctions. It’s not easy to craft insights about subtleties though. This is an issue that the billion dollar businesses that make widest use of these techniques struggle with mightily. In other words, the new frontier for analytics is less about new techniques. It is about finding new stories and new storytellers; people skilled at taking the distilled observations these statistics provide and crafting stories out of them. Insights always reside in stories. So, this is a moment where analytics and storytelling approaches to crafting insight need each other.

In the words of Ye, “We sayin’ the same thing like a synonym.”

The Seductive Logic of White Supremacy, Part 2

In part 1 I call “broken windows” policing what it is: fear-based collective punishment in the service of white supremacy. In part 2 I discuss broken windows’ most infamous policy innovations: stop-and-frisk and police militarization.

**Broken Windows Begets Stop-and-Frisk**

Broken windows policing in US urban areas traces its roots to 17th century “pre-professional” urban police forces deployed specifically to imprison the poor. In the rapidly industrializing urban centers of US in the 19th century, the “coppers” were the first line of defense against the poor, immigrant hordes, and waves of black Southern migrants. They were allowed broad discretion in use of force to defend that line. Thus, “fighting crime” has often amounted to little more than preserving nativism and white supremacy through collective punishment. James Q. Wilson and George Kelling formalized broken windows policing in the 1980s, they were mostly re-stating the views of their neoconservative mentor Edward Banfield, who in a 1969 article explicitly called for a return to the “pre-professional” policing style of the 19th century.

New York’s infamous (and now illegal) stop-and-frisk policy, popularized in the 1990s, is just the latest version of these age old contain-and-punish tactics. After years of collective punishment imposed on blacks and Hispanics under the guise of fighting crime (to a degree that European immigrants never faced) stop-and-frisk was successfully challenged in federal court. In Judge Scheindlin’s takedown she essentially ruled that New York couldn’t make a compelling case that stop-and-frisk was ever about anything other than race. The fact that nearly 90% of people stopped had violated no laws precludes even a post-hoc justification for stop-and-frisk, but far more importantly this kind of collective punishment is anathema to American jurisprudence. NYC Mayor William deBlassio withdrew the city’s appeal after taking office, ending stop-and-frisk as official policy. That is a victory for clear-thinking, humane people. It should be acknowledged as such.

Unfortunately, broken windows thinking is deeply embedded in contemporary urban policing. For example, deBlassio, widely viewed as an arch-liberal who campaigned on an anti-stop-and-frisk platform, remains an ardent broken windows devotee. He tapped former Police Commissioner William Bratton to reprise his role as architect of the city’s broken windows policing strategies from the 1990s. Bratton has vowed to continue aggressively confronting minor, so-called “quality-of-life” crimes. So not surprisingly, early reviews suggest that not much is likely to change on the ground for black and brown folk in NYC. deBlassio may be quicker to settle police misconduct civil suits than his predecessors, but he is no more interested in curbing the violent police encounters that are all but explicitly called for in broken windows policing. Even supposedly liberal politicians and bureaucrats either cannot see past broken windows or cannot effectively confront it.

**This Whole Thing in Ferguson Has Gone Sideways**

As you are no doubt aware, Michael Brown was shot down by local police in the “inner ring” St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, MO. In the immediate aftermath Ferguson PD refused to release a formal incident report, or any significant details of the incident. They held out until August 15th–most likely relenting only after pressure from the Department of Justice, who was already consulting on the investigation at the governor’s request. The Ferguson PD’s initial statements appear to conflict with multiple eye witness accounts. Notably, police at the scene collected camera phones from at least some eye witnesses. Yet no law enforcement personnel took statements from anyone on the scene. Darius Johnson, who was a party to the incident along with Brown, and presumably fired upon by the officer, was never detained as a suspect in a crime. Nor was he interviewed by Ferguson or St. Louis County PD as a material witness to a shooting. (He was interviewed by federal prosecutors days later, after giving multiple media interviews.)

By Sunday night into the early hours of Monday, angry residents took to the streets in protest. They burned a gas station to the ground and engaged in other intense but sporadic looting, mostly confined to an area roughly 5 minutes from the site of the shooting. (And coincidentally about 5 minutes from my high school.) A friend and classmate left a message on my voice mail late Sunday that ended, “Man, this whole thing in Ferguson has gone sideways.”


Since that time, things have moved well past sideways. The St. Louis County Police Department took over primary operations from Ferguson PD by Sunday evening (even if the Ferguson police chief mostly appeared on camera). Predictably, St. Louis County PD escalated tensions. For reasons that are to date being seriously under-reported, County PD began to treat the situation as a counterterrorism action beginning on Monday. They donned their counterterrorism finery and began to run plays from their counterterrorism playbook. They started by cordoning off West Florissant Ave., the main thoroughfare, with a mine resistant armored personnel carrier. They followed by teargassing protesters. That was Monday. On Tuesday, Missouri State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal confronted the Ferguson Police Chief at a press conference about being teargassed the previous day. By Wednesday evening, County PD had began a second round of smoke bombs, flash-bang grenades, rooftop snipers and LRAD sound cannon. By late Wednesday County PD was chasing people through residential areas, tossing teargas canisters into front yards without evident discrimination. Notably, the County officers openly harassed journalists. They fired teargas directly at an Al-Jazeera America crew filming on site, dispersing the crew. As crewmembers ran, officers then turned their recording cameras to the ground.

County police also ordered reporters from the Washington Post and Huffington Post to stop filming before detaining them for several hours without charge before releasing them. They initially declined to provide the reporters an incident report naming an arresting officer before relenting to provide a report in 4-6 weeks. This is important, as both reporters allege that the officers were unduly violent when detaining them. County PD also arrested St. Louis Alderman Antonio French as he recorded events from his car and live tweeted while parked at the scene.

**This Ain’t Irony. This Ain’t Even Coincidence**

On my twitter feed I saw tweets of solidarity with the people of Ferguson, MO coming from Palestinians, coupled with helpful hints on dealing with teargas and other so-called counterterrorist tactics. Many people pointed to the irony of a US city reduced to a war zone while people in an actual war zone looked on in shock and horror. But they are wrong to call the events in Ferguson irony. Irony’s defining quality is the unexpected, but willful blindness in the face of the unpleasant does not make the unpleasant unexpected. Ferguson is what collective punishment can look like, and increasingly does look like. What is happening in Ferguson is not irony. It is the burlesque of white supremacy. Extra-legal law enforcement killings and forcefully quelling the rage of those at the bottom of the order is the entirely foreseeable cost of maintaining such an order. Not everywhere, but anywhere. Not all the time, but anytime.

**Posse Comi–What’s That Now?**

Local law enforcement has been steadily militarizing for years now. Much of the build-up of military grade equipment has gone unnoticed, as much of it finds its way to local law enforcement from or through the Department of Homeland Security. This business in Ferguson has put it on full display. Of course, black and brown communities have seen militarization from the gun barrel end for quite some time. The War on Drugs has local police serving simple (and often outrageously broad) search warrants, and even chasing down rumors from informants, with full-on SWAT teams.

The enormous scope of federal agencies with broad authority to operate with local law enforcement on issues like drug trafficking, immigration, natural disasters, and terrorism threatens to render posse comitatus effectively meaningless as local police departments increasingly see themselves as para-military organizations. They are already equipping and training officers as paramilitary soldiers. For example, in a 2011 report centered on the Occupy protests, Raw Story, citing work by journalist Max Blumenthal, noted that Israeli-style counterinsurgency training has become the latest thing in urban policing. Police departments nationwide are sending officials to train with the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). These “exchanges” have become a something of a cottage industry. Interestingly, it does not appear that law enforcement from areas of that include white separatist and militia groups known to engage in terrorism are lining up for these exchanges. Rather, law enforcement from the large cities (e.g., New York, Oakland, Philadelphia, Washington, DC.) and college towns (e.g., Ann Arbor, Berkeley) are lining up for counter-insurgency training.

Coincidentally, former St. Louis County police chief, Tim Fitch (who just resigned in December 2013), traveled to Israel for counterterrorism training. Not so coincidentally, County PD serves as the regional counterterrorism “fusion” center, where they coordinate counterterrorism strategy across all levels of law enforcement. As I noted earlier, St. Louis County PD began coordinating operations on the ground in Ferguson within hours of the shooting. So any suggestion that police response to the citizens of Ferguson resulted in any way from incompetence or boobery just doesn’t seem to square with what we know. This has always been a counterterrorism action.

So, I Decided It was Time To Start My Own Blog

After years of putting up posts here and there on other blogs I decided to start my own in this small little corner of the blogosphere. Initially, I was thinking of simply having a place to put some of my working papers up to make them available to friends and colleagues to read. I may yet do some of that, but I think instead this will mostly be a place for a few musings every now and then about marketing, consumer culture, race and ethnicity. Oh yeah, and sports! Can’t forget sports.

Since I’m getting hungry I’ll keep this short.

I have no idea where this will lead, but it should be fun.