Ghosts in the Making


Summertime in Ferguson

When it was Trayvon Martin, I pitched a fit.

Michael Brown? Not so much.

It’s fair to ask why, and the answer is to simply look at what is going on in Ferguson, Missouri. The twenty-one thousand plus residents have seen their city torn to pieces, body and soul, as protesters and police battle over the murder of an unarmed black man by a city police officer whose record includes being fired as part of another small police department in Jennings, Missouri, that was disbanded by its city council for being so corrupt and generally awful. The town is in chaos; residents are intervening to slow the most vocal protesters, and are also reportedly attempting to prevent media from covering the events. Ferguson has become the latest incarnation of our nation’s sick heritage of deadly racism, emerged as a symbol of our dark slide toward militarized police, and found itself the butt of one of the worst jokes on the planet after a protester tweeted a comparison of the situation there to what is going on in Palestine, and instead of being indignant the Palestinians tweeted back with good-faith advice.

I first addressed the death of Trayvon Martin with friends on March 13, 2012, some weeks after the George Zimmerman stalked and pursued him for no good reason, shooting the seventeen year-old to death and then claiming self-defense. And when I first mentioned it, I did not expect what was coming. Certes, my gorge rose to learn the story, but like so many Americans the idea that an apparently murdered black man will die under the presumption that he needed to be shot just did not seem all that unusual. That is to say, like many I expected Trayvon Martin would become another forgotten lamb.

And, yes, I was wrong.

This time, the nation did not wait weeks. Before the name Michael Brown finished echoing after the first wave of press coverage the town was beseiged by chaos. Screaming and shouting from my evergreen corner of the country really doesn’t do me or anyone else any good.

And, yet, Justice still seems nearly destined for disappointing failure.

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Just … I Don’t Know, Say It’s Missouri, and Just Move On?


What part of this would be believable if Quentin Tarantino tried it in a movie?

A Naylor man faces domestic assault charges after allegedly shooting his wife during an argument Saturday morning.

At least he had a reason.  Or ... er ... thought he did.Bobby S. Leonard, 59, was charged Saturday with first-degree domestic assault and armed criminal action or first-degree domestic assault ….

…. Ripley County Cpl. Earl Wheetley was sent to a home on H.E. White Drive in Naylor about 8:25 a.m. Saturday in reference to a “female being shot by her husband.”

Wheetley found a woman, Carolyn Leonard, “laying on the front porch covered in blood,” according to his probable-cause affidavit. A man, Wheetley said, was holding a towel on the victim’s right shoulder.

When Wheetley asked what had happened, “she stated her and her husband was arguing, and he shot her,” said Wheetley, who was told Bobby Leonard was inside the trailer.

Wheetley said he was telling emergency medical services personnel what had happened when a man came out onto the porch. When the man identified himself as Bobby Leonard, Wheetley handcuffed him.

“I asked him if he had any weapons on him, and he stated, ‘No, the gun is in the house on the counter,'” Wheetley said.

After being told of his rights and acknowledging he understood those rights, Leonard asked whether his wife was dead, Wheetley said.

“I asked Bobby what happened, and he stated: ‘I got tired of her and shot her,'” Wheetley said.

(Friedrich)

So … right. It’s a reminder that cheap punch lines, while certainly worth a chuckle, are sometimes best kept to oneself. No, really. I mean, take your pick, right? Sanctity of marriage? Middle America? Family values? Oh. Well, damn. Right. Anyway, you see what I mean.

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Friedrich, Michele. “Man admits to shooting wife because ‘I got tired of her'”. Southeast Missourian. 9 July 2014.

Show Me: MO-7 Constituents Wonder What Universe Their Mutant Congressman Lives In


“The people that I’ve talked to seem to be doing well. In fact, when I got out in restaurants here in town, people come up to me. They want to see more sequestration, not less.”

Rep. Billy Long (R-MO)

Rep. Billy Long (R-MO)There is nothing new under the sun about the idea that a politician, in seeking to justify himself, will simply make something up about what his constituents want. And while the internet age has certainly exposed potential pitfalls, lying about one’s constituency has generally been something of a safe bet.

Perhaps that is changing.

Jennifer Bendery of Huffington Post reported yesterday on Missouri’s 7th District Congressman:

Nobody is particularly happy about the arbitrary, across-the-board spending cuts taking effect as a result of sequestration. That is, except for maybe Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.), who said Tuesday that his constituents want even more cuts to kick in.

“The people that I’ve talked to seem to be doing well,” Long told local news affiliate KOLR10 News. “In fact, when I got out in restaurants here in town, people come up to me. They want to see more sequestration, not less.”

Long said people in other parts of the country may be feeling pain as a result of the $85 billion in cuts. But not his community.

“We haven’t seen any measurable effect here at all,” he said.

It is, of course, easy enough to make such a claim, especially if he just ignores anyone who might take issue with his assessment.

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A new kind of vigilante


In the small town of Gerald, Missouri, Bill Jakob seemed a godsend. With support from the local police department, the federal agent took on the local methamphetamine problem. Over nearly five months, the man colloquially referred to as “Sergeant Bill” led the charge, searching homes, seizing evidence, and arresting suspects in the town of less than twelve hundred, a place so wracked by the drug trade that its mayor calls the area “a meth capital of the United States”.

And then a reporter—always a pesky reporter—decided to look into the story, and what Linda Trest of The Gasconade County Republican discovered brought the whole operation to a scandalous collapse. As Monica Davey explains for the New York Times:

Sergeant Bill, it turned out, was no federal agent, but Bill A. Jakob, an unemployed former trucking company owner, a former security guard, a former wedding minister and a former small-town cop from 23 miles down the road.

The fantastic vigilante is now the target of a federal criminal investigation, and Gerald has lost three of its five police officers. The drug allegations themselves are in doubt. Seventeen plaintiffs have filed a civil rights lawsuit, and Mayor Otis Schulte is the target of of an impeachment petition.

This is your War on Drugs.
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Budweiser takeover bid: That’s what you get for the Clamato venture!


Oh, for …. It’s not even worth it. This blog entry, I mean. Then again, the proposed beer deal is questionable, too. Clearly, InBev’s $46.4 billion takeover bid for Anheuser-Busch is about money and market share. InBev, a product of the 2004 merger of Belgian and Brazilian companies, brings to the table reputable labels including Stella Artois and Bass, as well as the ever-popular Beck’s. Anheuser-Busch, of course, is responsible for that best-selling atrocity known as Budweiser.

The proposal has sent ripples of dismay through Budweiser country. Missouri Governor Matthew R. Blunt called the offer for the St. Louis-based megabrewer “deeply troubling”, and said that he was putting state resources to the task of keeping Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis.

There are all sorts of (not quite) dramatic considerations. Anheuser-Busch could make a play for the other half of Grupo Modelo in order to raise the takeover price. The company is ill-suited, compared to other large corporations, to fend off a takeover. A rift may be opening within the Busch family. And InBev chief Carlos Brito has emphasized concessions intended to sweeten the deal, including headquartering in St. Louis and making Budweiser the flagship brand.

This last, of course, might seem a surprising suggestion for a company with reputable names in its stable, but in the end it’s not. This is, after all, an attempt to create the world’s largest brewing company: that Budweiser is a crime against beer is of little concern when the stakes are so high. After all, Anheuser-Busch is iconic, and Budweiser a household name.

And while the takeover, if successful, would mark the end of an American era, it is probably too much to ask that the product quality somehow improve. Budweiser is, after all, a trademark in repugnance. Barring that, however, Carlos Brito could win much affection by publicly terminating, denouncing, and promising to never make such a horrendous mistake as the Budweiser & Clamato venture.