2015.73: Opportunist Dan Patrick and the Goforth Murder

Yesterday, as those of you who follow me on The Twitter Machine know, I had jury duty. I didn’t get picked, of course—in fact, didn’t even make it to the courtroom. But I did learn some things, about which I will blog later, and I ran into an old friend, whom I’ll call “Frank.”

I met Frank in martial arts class. Frank, who lives in Cypress, Texas, is a a Harris County Deputy. Many times he has filled his patrol car with gas, while in uniform, at West Road and Telge in Cypress. I know Frank’s oldest kid. Good kid. Frank is five years from retirement, and has a couple of businesses he’s building in anticipation. We’re not close, but we like each other and we always take a few minutes to catch up when we run into each other at the courthouse.

It appears that the murder of Deputy Darren Goforth was not motivated by any relationship between him and his killer. If that is true, then it’s just dumb luck that Goforth got killed, and not Frank. It’s just luck that I didn’t lose a friend. Some guy who knew Darren Goforth like I know Frank — not well, but well enough to take personally the wound of his passing — is grieving today instead of me. Frank’s kids aren’t fatherless, his wife isn’t husbandless. Just dumb luck. And if Fortune had frowned on Frank instead of Darren Goforth, Frank’s wife and kids and friends wouldn’t be grieving because Frank was a cop, but because Frank was their own. Just as Darren Goforth’s wife and kids and friends (including Frank) are grieving because Darren Goforth was their own.

But you can expect politicians to make political hay of this personal tragedy.

Our brains try to make sense of things. If Darren Goforth had been murdered out of uniform and had his private car stolen, we might have explained his killing to ourselves as a robbery gone overboard. If he had been murdered in uniform by a white man, we might have explained his killing to ourselves as an act of madness. But because he was murdered in uniform, we explain his killing as being because of his uniform, and because he was murdered by a black man, we explain his killing to ourselves as racially motivated. Because, in the part of our brain that is trying to make sense of the senseless, correlation might as well be causation.

If you combine “motiveless murder of cop” with “black-on-white crime,” it’s natural to think that the murder was a political assassination, retaliation for something that white cops have done to black men. It could have been that. Or it could have been an act of madness — the killer might have seen the Deputy sprout wings and horns, and might have acted to save humanity from the vanguard of the demonic invasion. Or the truth could be somewhere in between — for example, the killer might have confused the deputy with someone else against whom he had a real grievance. Smart money always says that the truth is somewhere in between, but sometimes smart money is wrong. We don’t know what motivated the killer. The accused man has a history of petty offenses1 and some mental-health diagnoses.

So why does the first explanation — political assassination — seem like the best one? And why would the political-assassination theory not seem like the best explanation if, ceteris paribus, the killer had been a white man? Because white people aren’t perceived as having a grievance against the (white-dominated) government, and black people are.2 “Guilty conscience” isn’t the right phrase, because the government is sociopathic and feels no guilt, and anyway those who serve the government would deny with every fiber of their being that the grievances are legitimate. But the government and those who serve it recognize the grievance.

And, recognizing the grievance, they do something about it: they take advantage of it. Here’s Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s prescription to “put an end to this violence against law enforcement – now!”:

As more details of the tragic death of Harris County Sheriff Deputy Darren Goforth unfold, a morbid reality is unveiled about America’s negative attitude toward our law enforcement officers. It must end now or we run the risk of fewer men and women willing to go into the profession and families insisting their spouses change careers.

Police officers are judged 24/7, 365 days a year for their entire career. One mistake can get them sued, fired or killed. I want to remind Texans and the rest of our country that these brave souls are the thin line between a country of law and order and a society of total lawlessness where no one is safe.

I challenge all Texans to think about how underappreciated our officers must feel, how dangerous their jobs are, how they leave their families everyday not knowing if they are coming home and more importantly, if there is anything you can do to help make their job a little easier.

Join me in changing this negative attitude toward those that protect us, by practicing the following:

Start calling our officers sir and ma’am all of the time. It’s a show of respect they deserve.

Every time you see an officer anywhere, let them know you appreciate their service to our community and you stand with them.

If you are financially able, when you see them in a restaurant on duty pick up their lunch check, send over a dessert, or simply stop by their table briefly and say thank you for their service.

Put their charities on your giving list.
If your local law enforcement has volunteer-citizen job opportunities, sign up.

Join me in a special prayer service to honor our fallen law enforcement heroes on Wednesday, September 2nd at the First Baptist Church of Conroe, 600 N Main St. Conroe, TX 77301 at 5:15pm.

All lives matter and we need to put an end to this violence against law enforcement – now!

This is ripe for fisking — to begin with, “fewer cops” would not be a problem if we also had fewer criminal laws. Legalize drugs, fire two thirds of the cops, judges, prosecutors, and defense lawyers, and we’ll have less crime. Laws require more cops and cops require more laws and pretty soon the prison-industrial complex has eaten our world.

But I won’t fisk Patrick’s statement today.

Instead I’ll note that he is singing to the choir, the majority of Texas voters, who don’t have a problem with law enforcement. In fact they adulate it, because they are scared. Patrick’s base of Scared White Republican Voters kisses law enforcement butt already; their doing so a little more passionately at his instruction is not going to change anyone’s negative attitude toward police officers.

Actually, that’s not true. SWRVs kissing law enforcement butt will change negative attitudes toward cops. It will make those attitudes worse by increasing the gulf between the police and the people who are not Patrick’s base. Patrick’s statement is for his voters, and for the praetorian class.

You know what will improve the negative attitude toward police officers? If they stop shooting innocent people and their dogs. What kind of man shoots someone else’s dog? The most common internal investigation I see in Harris County Sheriff’s Office personnel files is the discharge of a firearm in the direction of a dog. White people bribing cops with pie is going to save neither an unarmed person nor a dog.

What kind of man buys pie for a dog murderer?

If Darren Goforth had been a black logger (doing the most dangerous job in America, compared to police work, which is not in the top ten3) gunned down at a gas station, it would have been no less of a tragedy, but I would wager a great deal that Dan Patrick would not have piped up.

One of my Twitter friends, a firefighter, commented on Dan Patrick’s statement:

The answer is obvious: Patrick is of the political class, which  relies on the praetorian class to maintain power. Firefighters (and loggers) are not of the praetorian class.

The value of the praetorian class — and its good will — to the political class is obvious. Patrick is seizing the opportunity to remind the praetorian class that he is on their side, and to remind his voters to fear the bogeyman (“a society of total lawlessness where no one is safe”) so that they will increase their support for the praetorian class.

At the same time Patrick’s statement is a reminder to the aggrieved that he doesn’t give a damn about their grievances: You say black lives matter? That’s cute. Hey, waitress, more pie!

Patrick can take this attitude because he doesn’t really want to improve attitudes toward police officers. There is no benefit to him in it. The more police officers get murdered, the more the SWRVs will fear the barbarians, the more police they will demand to keep them safe, and the more liberty they will be willing to give up. Libertarians know that the murder of a police officer will be used as an excuse to curtail liberty.

Curtailing liberty is the agenda of both the left and the right; there is no political downside to a right-winger like Patrick in the death of a cop.


  1. These, when I saw them, screamed “mentally ill!” The explanation-seeking part of my brain didn’t even need to hear that he’d been found incompetent in the past to jump to that particular conclusion. 

  2. Frankly, I think both white and black people should hold a a laundry list of grudges against the government, but blacks indubitably get the worst of it. 

  3. The murder rate amongst cops — that is, how many cops are murdered every year per 100,000, is about 3. That compares favorably to the baseline murder rate for just living somewhere like Houston (9.8). 

8 Comments

  1. Our Lt Gov. can, and I say this with every ounce of respect I find that man to be due, blow me.

    It’s possible I’m not exactly part of his voter base.

  2. Mark- I am not calling all cops sir out of respect. I do not automatically respect all cops. I have seen too many cops lie on the witness stand to automatically respect them. I have read too many police reports that are repleat with lies to automatically respect them. I have seen too many citizens beaten or cut down by bad cops to automatically accord cops respect.

    In Harris County if a cop shoots and kills me tonight with no justification, he will very likely be no billed.

    So, If I call a cop sir during a traffic stop, it’s an act of self preservation. If I call him Sir and treat him with the respect he thinks he is due, then maybe I reduce the odds of that cop losing it and beating or shooting me.
    Maybe…
    The divisions in our country grow wider daily.

    Robb Fickman

    1. Best advice I ever got re: cops…

      “Treat all cops like you would a strange dog – sure, most dogs you meet will be friendly (or at least not aggressive), but now and then you come across a mean one (or one with rabies) and the problem if that it is almost impossible to tell at a glance one sort from the other.”

  3. Thoughtful, logical and entertaining piece, Mark. This may be the best line ever… “What kind of man buys pie for a dog murderer?”… Brilliant.

  4. Who would have thought farmers and truck drivers have the most dangerous jobs in America, right up there with the loggers? I’ll call them sir and buy them pie.

  5. I wonder, when Patrick was writing the bit about police being “the thin line” between the cowering citizenry and total chaos, it even occurred to him that the most infamous use of the “thin blue line” was in the case of Randall Adams, a man wrongfully convicted of killing a police officer, largely based on prosecutorial and police misconduct.

  6. Dan Patrick said, in an interview on Texas Standard today 3 Sep 2015:

    “Let’s not worry about the one officer or two officers out there on a Youtube dashcam video did something wrong. If they were wrong, I’ll file a complaint and if their department feels they were wrong then suspend them or fire them.”

    Let’s not worry? Really, Lt Governor Patrick, is that what you are telling Sandra Bland’s family?

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