On Monday a Missouri grand jury declined to indict police officer Darren Wilson for shooting 18-year-old teenager Michael Brown in August -- and rioting has ensued in Ferguson, MO, where the shooting took place. It seems certainly odd that a grand jury found no reason to question more broadly whether a police officer acted within his legal rights by shooting an unarmed black teenager at least six times, and while nobody has a right to looting and destruction, certainly we have a duty not to lump peaceful protestors in with looters, and just as surely we can understand the despair folks in Ferguson must feel. I argue against despair, of course, and though that may look like a matter of habit, I assure you that, just as Trayvon Martin's death isn't for nothing, neither is Michael Brown's -- before his death, how many black teenagers do you suppose got shot to death by cops who never received even this much scrutiny afterward? In any case, our options don't end with the grand jury's decision. Both Common Cause and the ACLU help you tell President Obama and Attorney General Holder to eradicate racial profiling in police practices.
Meanwhile, if you've missed previous opportunities to tell the EPA to enact the most vigorous carbon emissions limits possible, then Public Citizen still helps you do that. Part of the problem with, well, everything these days is the amount of say big energy corporations get about everything -- they tell us tough carbon emissions regulations would KILL TEH JOBZ!!!!, which, as you know, is utter bunkum, since people will need jobs to redesign and refit power plants to comply with the new regulations. I miss the days when I could hear actual conservatives warn us that big government mandates shouldn't cause more misery than they aim to stop. We don't hear those people anymore, and of course I'd disagree with them in this instance anyway, because the alternative to vigorous carbon emissions regulations is utter disaster -- badlands instead of farmlands, refugees from coastal areas swallowed up by rising oceans, and the chaos and war that would go with all that. We would look upon these times, interesting as they are, with some wistfulness in that future -- unless we act now.
Meanwhile, Change.org helps you tell Texas Gov. Rick Perry to spare Scott Panetti, a severely mentally ill prisoner, from execution. Mr. Panetti murdered his wife's parents in 1992, but had long been diagnosed as schizophrenic, and had been hospitalized, on average, once a year for over a dozen years before he committed the crime (he was, of course, not taking his medications at the time). The Supreme Court has said, more than once, that executing a mentally-incompetent citizen is cruel and unusual punishment, but Texas has been trying to kill Mr. Panetti for years, and now plans to execute him next Wednesday, December 3, so we should act soon, because a civilized society doesn't cruelly execute people who have no idea what's going on around them. You recall Ricky Ray Rector, executed by the state of Arkansas (under then-Governor Bill Clinton) despite his mental incapacity that led him to refuse finishing his last meal because he wanted to save it for later? Mr. Panetti's execution would be like a blast from the '90s, a decade we should generally avoid revisiting.