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Bunker Mentalities, Security, and Time

By: cassiodorus
A long line of riot police with shields, in front an officer with a combat shotgun

It’s about the powerful dominating the weak.

Everyone, I think you’re going to see more of the bunker mentality in global politics in the future, of which the to-do in Gaza and the to-do in Ferguson, Missouri are mere instances.

So what’s it all about?

It’s about racism, to be sure — but there’s also an even wider mentality to be engaged here, which I hope to explore in this diary. Masaccio’s piece, frontpaged at Firedoglake, has an interesting point: it’s about domination, domination of the few over the many. The piece quotes from Michel Foucault’s classic “Discipline and Punish” and then discusses the topical matter of who gets to discipline and punish and who gets to be disciplined and punished:

This is a brilliant explanation of the reasons for the difference between the treatment of known scofflaw Cliven Bundy and Michael Brown, and many other dead Black Americans. The point of the delinquency is to mark the accused as not human, not a decent person, not a person entitled to any rights, not a citizen, not one of us.

– and —

The people who get to decide what is normal are the rich and powerful. They use their control over government to establish the line between acceptable delinquency and unacceptable delinquency and illegalities.

So arming cops to the point at which they shoot people down and arrest journalists in an air of total impunity has reached the level of scandal in America today. What is our glorious Congress, of the low opinion poll approval ratings, doing about all this? Well, some of them are going on AIPAC junkets in Israel, where they’ll probably find out if it’s kewl with the Israelis if they send US troops to Iraq or something like that. Yeah, Israel, that’s the ticket. Everyone’s favorite small-nation-sized bunker, with the requisite bunker mentality to boot. And doubling down on Iraq. Very kewl.

One of the primary conservative efforts in this era of last-gasp capitalism is the general effort to feed the bunker mentality among those with power, specifically money-power and weapon-power. In what used to be called the “society of the spectacle,” our elites cling to spectacular forms of what they think is “security” — wall off the masses, and stockpile weapons and ammunition. (It should be added here that, as regards our Congress, the Israelis are ahead of the game in the category of wall-building.)

As technology races ever forward, you better be sure you have your copies of the newest weapons, and to be sure to use them, too! This is no doubt the reigning attitude at the Pentagon, and at other places where “security” is the fetish of participants in the bunker mentality.

As I have suggested before, this is a conservative age, and one hallmark of a conservative age is the redundant reinforcement of hegemonic power out of a fear of the future. It doesn’t matter, then, that the next war in Africa will generate a bunch of blowback — there’s money involved, so Americans carry on with the existing obsessions — guns, money, power.

Never mind that such an approach doesn’t make its participants more secure — just look at the lives of those who are the victims of “security.” You wouldn’t want to be one of them, would you? The real future is sacrificed in bunker mentality concepts of “security,” in the sense in which George W. Bush said “History, I don’t know, we’ll all be dead” when asked by Bob Woodward about his place in history. Participants in the bunker mentality, then, have a problem with time.

The most curious combination of “security” and bunker mentality futurism has got to be the Pentagon’s strategies for climate change. Compound disaster through climate change is a significant medium-term concern, and ultimate solutions to climate change are also medium- and long-term. However, all of the scientifically-informed prognostications suggest that we begin action (which means “stop adding CO2 to the atmosphere at a rate of 2.3 parts per million per year) soon. Climate change has thus attracted the Pentagon’s attention as prompting a need for short-term action, while at the same time exposing the utter confusion about the future to be expected from participants in the bunker mentality.

It’s been public knowledge since 2004 that they’ve had a plan for climate change. Here’s the plan, in brief, as the editors of the Monthly Review explained it:


Defective X-Ray Pornscanners: You Can See Sideboobs But Not Sidearms

By: spocko Tuesday December 21, 2010 7:18 pm

Wired has a story today about a team of security researchers demonstrated how people can slip weapons and explosives past TSA’s Rapiscan full-body X-ray scanners.

The article talks about blogger Jonathan Corbett who published a YouTube video two years ago showing some of these same failings which the TSA pooh-poohed. Now these researchers from the University of California at San Diego, the University of Michigan, and Johns Hopkins are showing the same things and more.

Corbett has a court case against the TSA which is continuing and you can donate to it here at TSA Out of My Pants. I hope he wins, in a way he was already successful because those scanners are no longer used by the TSA. But as one the the taxpayers who was conned out of one BILLION dollars for a defective product, I want my money back!

How do we get that money back? Qui tam lawsuits.  From the Legal Information Institute.

In a qui tam action, a private party called a relator brings an action on the government’s behalf. The government, not the relator, is considered the real plaintiff. If the government succeeds, the relator receives a share of the award. Also called a popular action.

For example, the federal False Claims Act authorizes qui tam actions against parties who have defrauded the federal government. 31 U.S.C. § 3279 et seq. If successful, a relator in a False Claims Act qui tam action may receive up to 30% of the government’s award.

Now I think this is a perfect opportunity for this kind of case.  I hope that Jonathan Corbett files one. It’s time a whistleblower flip the narrative and make bank on their important work. From legal discovery we could learn a lot, like  ”What did Chertoff know and when did he know it?”  Two years ago the incompetence of the company could be hidden by national security concerns, but now the product isn’t used anymore in airports. This company, and Chertoff, defrauded the federal government. We paid for a defective product. Shouldn’t we get our money back?

Rapidscan Systems will still try to evoke national security and not divulge “methods and practices” on the Rapidscan 1000, but we will say the issue is moot since it is not used by the TSA anymore. I’m sure there are 17 good reasons it’s not feasible to bring this case, but for 30% of a billion dollars those reasons might be overcome, don’t you think?

Who’s Using the Defective Rapidscanners Now? 

One of the points they make in the Wired article is that these scanners are still being sold to courthouses, jails, and other government security checkpoints around the country. I want to take steps to de-militarize our police, but I’m  sympathetic to their concerns that it’s scary out there with the NRA pushing guns everywhere all the time.

Maybe  these cities can also sue to get their money back for buying defective products.

Can We Trade In Our Tanks?

Lac-Mégantic Disaster Report Issued

By: KateCA Wednesday August 20, 2014 12:29 pm
Flames rise above Lac-Mégantic after the derailment

A report reveals new facts about the Lac-Mégantic disaster.

On July 6, 2013, a freight train parked with the engine running and left unattended at Nantes, Quebec began rolling, pulling 72 tank cars carrying Bakken crude, a highly flammable oil, behind it. All cars were the old dangerous DOT-111A/CTC-111A type which have a capacity of 30,000 gallons of oil each.

That something was wrong with the locomotive was obvious to people driving by at 11:45 that night. They saw a dark diesel smoke cloud and sparks coming from the locomotive’s exhaust as it sat there on the track. Fire Departments from Nantes and near-by Lac-Mégantic were called by a witness, quickly responded, shut off the train engine and doused the fire. They also called the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway (MMA), owner of the train. MMA sent in a few employees who determined that the train was ok and departed, leaving the train unattended once again.

Soon afterward, around 1:00 am EST, the train began rolling, gathering momentum as it headed down a 1.2% grade toward the town of Lac-Megantic, almost 7.2 miles down track. About 15 minutes later, right in the heart of Lac-Mégantic, 63 tank cars holding Bakken’s finest derailed, 59 of them began spurting oil, and the conflagration began. Oil streamed into storm sewers—resulting in explosions of towers of flame from manholes and even chimneys up into the black night—and into the nearby river, setting it on fire.

In the aftermath, 47 people were determined to be dead or missing. 42 bodies were found. Five others were never found and are presumed to have been vaporized by the conflagration. 40 buildings, including the town library and other historic structures, were destroyed, along with legal documents such as the wills of a few of the victims. By the end of the week, all Lac-Mégantic residents had been allowed to return to their homes, though some 20 families were unable to, their homes having been destroyed by the fires. MMA filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the month following the disaster and was finally sold in January of this year.

Canada’s Transportation Safety Board (TSB) has released its comprehensive report on what happened that night in Nantes and Lac-Mégantic. The 190-page report includes photographs with key details highlighted by arrows or circles, charts and timelines. Particular attention is devoted to the brake systems and their use (or not) that night. The lead locomotive was examined, track inspected, DOT-111 cars and the “Dangerous goods” they were carrying assessed, regulations and enforcement reviewed.  (Adobe version of the report is here.)

Page 129 of the report contains the Findings. TSB noted 18 specific factors that led to the conflagration in Lac-Mégantic. First, the train was left “on a descending grade” and with a locomotive “not in proper operating condition.” Several specific points pertain to the brakes, which were “insufficient to hold the train without the [locomotive’s] additional braking force” and which hadn’t been tested to ensure the brakes would actually stop all movement. Since no other locomotive was started while the train sat at Nantes, “no air pressure was provided to the independent brakes.” Moreover, the lead locomotive wasn’t wired for reset safety controls, and so forth.

And those DOT-111 tank cars? Once derailed, they “had large breaches, which rapidly released vast quantities of highly volatile petroleum crude oil, which ignited, creating large fireballs and a pool fire.”

MMA was criticized for lack of training and supervision of appropriate staff, poor risk management, and inadequate safety management. Transport Canada also came under fire for not providing “adequate regulatory oversight to ensure the associated risks were addressed,” for failure to ensure that “recurring deficiencies” at MMA were being addressed and corrected, and for conducting an insufficient number of audits which also had limited scope.

So there you have it, in a nutshell. Forty-seven victims of a horrendous oil fire in a small Canadian town which had its heart consumed by intense flames that spread from poorly designed and maintained oil tank cars carrying very volatile fuel, tugged along by a locomotive which had unaddressed problems and a braking system seemingly near tatters. Inadequate regulations and lack of rigorous oversight and enforcement complete this tragic picture.

Aerial view of Lac-Mégantic burning by Sûreté du Québec released under a Creative Commons Share Alike license.

Over Easy

By: Ruth Calvo Friday March 9, 2012 3:30 pm

Over Easy

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch joined in a call for Israel to allow investigators into Gaza as deaths soared and charges multiplied of abuses there.

‘The Israeli authorities appear to have been playing bureaucratic games with us over access to Gaza, conditioning it on entirely unreasonable criteria even as the death toll mounts,’ Anne FitzGerald, Amnesty International’s director of Research and Crisis Response, said in the release.

At least 2,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on July 7. Over 10,000 Gazans have been injured and half a million internally displaced. On the Israeli side, 64 soldiers have died in combat and three civilians have been killed by rocket attacks on Israeli cities. Both sides have been accused of violating the laws of war during the most deadly conflict between Israel and the occupied Gaza Strip since Hamas took power in 2007.

The rights groups said they want to send researchers into the territory to assess competing claims, and that Israel should not interfere with such independent investigations.

Journalist James Foley was beheaded in video released Wednesday, at the hands of a member of the militant group who spoke in the filmed event and is described by UK Foreign Secretary Hammond, who says he ‘appears to be British.’ Bombing of ISIS locations at Mosul dam continued yesterday.

Unconfirmed video and pictures of the photojournalist’s heartbreaking final moments emerged this morning via Twitter accounts claiming to be associated with the Islamic State, previously known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

In what looked like a prepared statement, Foley called on his family to rise up against the US, who he calls his ‘real killers.’

‘I call on my friends, family, and loved ones to rise up against my real killers, the US government, for what will happen to me is only a result of their complacency and criminality,’ he said.

A failure of a U.S. mission to free the hostages was announced yesterday; ‘The U.S. military launched a secret mission this summer to rescue a number of Americans held captive in Syria by the Islamic State but failed to find them, senior Obama administration officials said Wednesday night.’

Comprehensive studies have been completed on Neanderthal remains that have given a picture of the primitive man coexisting with modern men for almost 5,000 years. Kit seems to have used this in his overnight post, as well, but you may have missed that, so I wanted to throw it in here so we can contemplate the ancient legends that might have been caused by coexisting with species different from the now dominant one.

Now an international team of researchers collected more than 400 samples from the most important sites in Europe. The samples were purified and analysed using state-of-the-art dating methods at Oxford University.

The results provide the clearest insight yet into the interaction between our ancestors and Neanderthals, when they first encountered each other and why the Neanderthals went extinct, according to the lead researcher, Prof Thomas Higham of the University of Oxford.

‘I think we can set aside the idea of a rapid extinction of Neanderthals caused solely by the arrival of modern humans. Instead we can see a more complex process in which there is a much longer overlap between the two populations where there could have been exchanges of ideas and culture.’

Four McDonalds restaurants have been shut down in Moscow in the name of consumer protection. Several are under ongoing investigation as well, in a burgeoning competition in sanctions.

‘Multiple violations of sanitary norms were detected in the sourcing of food and waste disposal in McDonald’s restaurants during inspections carried out between the 18th and 20th of August,’ said an official statement from the watchdog, Rospotrebnadzor.

The company has said that it will study the allegations against its franchises, and ‘will do everything to ensure that the restaurants open as soon as possible.’

‘McDonald’s main priority is offering its customers quality and safe produce,’ said a statement on the McDonald’s website.

Those golden arches will make an interesting addition to Putin’s trophy case, along with admirer Sarah Palin and the bears.


(Picture courtesy of Peachland Joe at

Things that go Stomp in the night

Wednesday Watercooler

By: Kit OConnell Wednesday August 20, 2014 8:43 pm


A model of a neanderthal with a walking stick

“So, want to go out for drinks on Friday?”

Tonight’s video is “Giant Rubber Duck Sails Into Port of Los Angeles,” from LA’s ABC7.

The famous giant duck, designed by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, sailed into the Port of Los Angeles early Wednesday morning.

The duck is just one of the attractions at the five-day Festival of Tall Ships.

At 2 p.m., the six-story-tall duck sculpture will lead a parade of domestic and international ships making their way along the Main Channel.

Event organizers say the rubber duck is an impressive sight to see.

‘This is 61 feet, 11 tons, about 85 feet wide and about 110 feet long,’ said Craig Samborski, spokesperson for the Festival of Tall Ships. ‘I was shocked when I saw the size of it right in front of me.’

Until recently, scientists mostly agreed that Homo sapiens wiped out the neanderthals. Then came evidence of interbreeding. Now a new study suggests that neanderthals faded gradually and were assimilated over time into the human population as their numbers dwindled, rather than the widespread violent extermination believed before. From Live Science:

To help solve the mystery of when Neanderthals went extinct, scientists analyzed bone, charcoal and shell materials from 40 archaeological sites from Russia to Spain. They employed advanced techniques for more precise dating of these specimens that involved ultra-filtering molecules from bone samples for examination and removing organic contaminants that could make specimens seem younger than they actually are.

The new findings suggest that Neanderthals disappeared from Europe between about 41,000 and 39,000 years ago.

‘I think that, for the first time, we have a reliable extinction date for Neanderthals,’ said study author Tom Higham, a radiocarbon scientist at the University of Oxford in England. ‘This has eluded us for decades.’

The Neanderthal extinction occurred across sites ranging from the Black Sea to the Atlantic Coast of Europe. The timing and geography suggest Neanderthals may have overlapped with modern humans for 2,600 to 5,400 years, opening the door for genetic and cultural exchanges between the two groups for millennia.

These findings suggest that modern humans did not rapidly replace Neanderthals in Europe — say, via violent means. Rather, the Neanderthal extinction ‘might have been more complex and drawn out than previously thought,’ Higham told Live Science.

There is some genetic evidence that Neanderthals in Western Europe may have experienced declining genetic diversity about the time when the first modern humans began arriving on the continent, Higham said. “This might mean that they were fading out at this time, although, of course, our evidence suggests that there was a long period of overlap during which this occurred,” he said.

Neanderthals may not even have truly disappeared, but instead have been assimilated into modern human populations. “We know, of course, that we have a genetic legacy from Neanderthals of about 1 to 2 percent, so there was interbreeding,” Higham said.

Bonus: A right-wing think tank was forced to apologize for telling Amnesty International to “suck it,” via Talking Points Memo

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A Folk-rap-rock Police State Opera for Ferguson & beyond (with libretto)

By: wendydavis Friday September 28, 2012 7:08 am

We all must be hearing music when witnessing militarized police assassinations and crackdowns on protests, journalists, and dissidents of any flavor.  Here are some of mine. Were I a victim of the same rather than an observer, they might be different; who can say?  What do you hear? 

And let us please, not forget Jackson State, two killed and twelve others shot by National Guard and many other ‘security agencies’ two days later; few were even aware of it.  LA 1992 after the Rodney King verdict, 50 dead, 2000 injured before it was over.  Detroit ’67, Watts ’65, Harlem ’64…and the beat goes on.  But it must stop.

#TWIBnation (This Week in Blackness, apparently), one of the few black journalist organizations on the ground in Ferguson.  Warning: it’s hideous, but all sound, no video.  You may be feelin’ this afterward:

Seen on Twitter:

 “There’s a reason you separate military and the police. One fights the enemies of the state, the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people.”

~ Commander William Adama (Battlestar Galactica)

And close to: “Why do white people keep telling us how we should act in the face of all this racist shit?”

The Golden Shovel Days

By: David Cox Wednesday August 20, 2014 8:28 am

2.6 Billion dollar Revel Hotel & Casino

In his 1989 documentary Roger & Me, Michael Moore examined the demise of Flint, Michigan, after GM shuttered its auto assembly plants and moved them to Mexico. In an effort to revitalize the economy, the convention and visitors bureau set off with a plan to bring tourists to Flint and replace lost revenue. First building a Hyatt Regency hotel and then, Auto-world. An automotive based theme park, as well as, Water Street Pavilion, a festival market place.

There’s an old saying I learned while living in Alabama which says, “You can’t do business with folks who ain’t got no money.” A business analyst illustrated with a piece of paper folded into four quarters. “Some people want to do business with you and will,” As he tore off a quarter, dropping it to the floor. “Some people don’t want to do business with you, but could,” he explained, tearing off another quarter. “Some people want to do business with you but can’t, some people don’t want to do business with you, and won’t.” So even if you’re selling twenty dollars bills for five bucks, not everyone’s interested. Only a small percentage of all the business out there is actually available.

The first rule of Real Estate is location, location, location, so why not build a hotel and convention center in Flint? Why wouldn’t tourists flock to a Mecca of American urban decay to spend their hard earned entertainment dollars? Why not a crime inspired theme park, Ghetto World! (Where the roller coasters ain’t scary, but getting off is!) But remember, just because these attractions closed down, doesn’t mean that they were unsuccessful. Land owners made money, construction companies made money, architects, designers and the suppliers made money and in all probability, the politicians made money too.  The only people to lose on the deal were those people dumb enough to put up the money and in most cases… that was you and I.

Community block grants, redevelopment grants, municipal bonds and on and on, I saw this while living in Montgomery. In an effort to lure shoppers back downtown, the city used block grant money to erect concrete sun shields to shade the sidewalks. It didn’t fix the parking problem or change the fact, that air conditioned shopping malls were closer than downtown. Twenty years later, they used block grant money again, this time to tear the shields down, declaring them an eyesore; your tax dollars at work.

Montgomery has tried to lure tourists and has genuine attractions worth seeing, the problem is most tourists are headed to Florida and don’t want to stay the night in the Cradle of the Confederacy. It’s not that these plans are necessarily bad; the real question is, are they cost effective? Is spending a $1.00 to draw in .85 cents in revenue, a good idea?  Is it a good idea spending millions of dollars, putting the tax payers on the hook for profits which go directly into the pockets of developers? It means jobs! It always means jobs! Good jobs too! As a hotel maid or a desk clerk, a parking attendant or a security guard. Because once you’ve been to Montgomery and seen the sites, you’ll probably want to come back next year and see it all over again.

The Minnesota Vikings have been negotiating with the state and city of Minneapolis for a new football stadium. The Minnesota Football Stadium Task Force found, “when a [NFL] team wins, people’s moods improve,” and that personal income for residents of a city with an NFL team with 10 wins increases about $165 per year.” Following that logic, let’s build two stadiums or even three! I could use the money!  Clearly, building a billion dollar stadium guarantees a winning sports franchise, right? A $975 million dollar price tag with $348 million covered by the state and $150 million more, covered by a new “hospitality tax” in Minneapolis. So the Minnesota tax payers get $165 in promised new income, plus get to feel better about their lives, living in a state with a winning football franchise and only costing them $321.45 each! The state was to fund a portion of their share with (charitable gambling) i.e. lottery games. The revenue was estimated at $34 million annually in 2012, rising each year after. But strangely, as soon as the deal was inked the revenue forecasts were revised down to $16 million in 2013. A further study estimated revenues 2013 – 17 would fall to $1.7 million annually, a 95 percent reduction.

The Vikings principle owner is Zygi Wilf, a multimillionaire Real Estate developer from New Jersey. During all of the discussions and legal debates surrounding the new stadium, Wilf has been busy buying up adjacent properties. He’s planning on redeveloping the neighborhood; including a new light rail stop (tax payer funded, of course) 4,500 residential units, hotels, office space and retail space too! All dependent on funding supplied in part by the good citizens of Minnesota, who are to be paid back at some later date, profiting a very, very few, who’ll get paid today. This is what corporate Fascism is all about, public money supporting private projects to benefit the few, the well connected, the insiders.

It’s sort of like that movie, The Music Man where a con man comes to town convincing the rubes there’s a problem with their sports franchise. They need a new stadium and he selling stadiums! Convincing the rubes that if the children think they can make downtown prosperous, they can!

The Strange Case of Sympathy for Oppressors

By: BrandonJ Tuesday August 19, 2014 7:19 pm
Riot police lined up in front of an American flag dripping with blood

When it comes to police brutality, some white people just don’t get it.

On Sunday, The Guardian featured a piece on the shooting of Michael Brown. What was astounding was how it was about supporters for the officer, Darren Wilson, involved in the death of Michael Brown.

In St. Louis, Mo., protesters, “almost all white” as journalist Jon Swaine wrote, gathered to support Wilson as they felt media coverage was unfair and did not include the whole story of what happened. One person told Swaine the officer was “just doing his job.” As to what his job was that day or whether killing a person is a qualification to be a cop is still unknown.

A day later, Pew Research Center released a survey on Americans’ response toward Brown’s death and whether race was involved. The title of the piece, “Stark Racial Divisions in Reactions to Ferguson Police Shooting,” gave away the surprising conclusions. Overall, 44 percent of Americans thought the case raised “important issues about race,” while 40 percent thought race was “getting more attention than it deserves.”

The racial divide was significant as more whites agreed that race was not important in the case. Even 15 percent of whites were unsure about the question of race compared to two percent of blacks who were also unsure.

“Blacks and whites have sharply different reactions to the police shooting of an unarmed teen in Ferguson, Mo., and the protests and violence that followed. Blacks are about twice as likely as whites to say that the shooting of Michael Brown ‘raises important issues about race that need to be discussed’,” the report summarized.

This racial divide on an issue like this is not the first as Pew highlights similar opinions held by Americans the previous year with the Trayvon Martin case. At the time, 78 percent of blacks stated race was an important issue in contrast to just 28 percent of whites who agreed it was an important issue.

These two stories can be linked to the strange case of sympathy for those who commit violent acts when race is obviously a factor. The Ferguson Police Department initially blamed Brown for robbing a convenience store, although the store owner stated there was never a robbery.  In fact, in Swaine’s story, the only black person at the St. Louis demonstration referenced the event and said Brown had a “criminalistic bent” as a result.

Yet, it was later released the robbery had nothing to do with why Brown was stopped as the issue was walking in the middle of traffic. Whatever the case may be, such an error by the police questions their intentions surrounding this case.

However, the issue of race also ties in with the issue of police brutality. It must also include the system that permits such brutality in the first place. As Arun Gupta wrote in an article two years ago on Rodney King, “police abuses are not the result of a few bad apples, but our systemic solution to reoccurring economic crises, whether in the sixties, the nineties or today.”

A study from the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement two years ago found a black man was killed every 28 hours by “police, and to a lesser extent security guards and vigilantes.” If violence is the solution this system offers for black youth, then it is the wrong system to follow. What is happening in Ferguson invokes images of the poem “Harlem” by Langston Hughes where such deferred dreams can result in explosion if nothing is done.

Whether Wilson was “doing his job,” it does matter when shirts are sold with “Officer Darren Wilson—I stand by you.” This is a stand for violence and refusing to discuss important issues in this matter. It is a stand on an issue without taking into consideration all the facts of the case.

Furthermore, in the Pew survey, 33 percent of whites believed police actions in Ferguson “had gone too far,” while 32 percent believed it was “about right.” Moreover, 35 percent were “unsure.”