December 3, 2014 archive

Again No Indictment

A Staten Island grand jury returned a no bill of indictment against New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo, in the strangle hold death of Eric Gardner, an African American, during a struggle with police when they attempted to arrest him for what was essentially a misdemeanor.

Only 17 July, police stopped the heavy-set father of six on Staten Island under suspicion of peddling untaxed “loose” cigarettes. Garner had been arrested previously for selling untaxed cigarettes, marijuana possession and false impersonation.

A video shot by an bystander shows Garner resisting arrest as a plainclothes officer attempts to to handcuff him. Backing away from the office, Garner tells him: “This stops today,” which has become a rallying cry for protesters in New York.

A struggle ensues. Eight-year NYPD veteran Daniel Pantaleo responds by putting his arm around Garner’s neck in a chokehold – banned under police policy – and wrestling the asthmatic man to the ground with the aid of several officers. Garner gasps “I can’t breathe” until his 350lb body goes limp. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital. [..]

The NYPD outlawed chokeholds over two decades ago, exactly because they can be deadly if administered inappropriately or carelessly. Still, between January 2009 and June 2014, the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent agency that investigates police misconduct, received 1,128 civilian complaints involving chokehold allegations. Of these, only a small fraction of the cases are ever substantiated, just ten over the five and a half year window.

In the days after Garner’s death, Bratton said all 35,000 officers would be retrained on the department’s use of force policy.

The family has sued the city and the police department, as well as several officers involved in the incident.

Unlike the shooting of Michael Brown, the struggle that resulted in Mr. Garner’s death was caught on video that went viral.

This just another instance of the failure of prosecutors around the country to hold police accountable for the deaths of mostly black and mentally ill civilians. This needs to end.


TBC: Morning Musing 12.3.2014

I have 3 articles for you loosely related to Ferguson via racism, protest, and police murders.

The first is a law I think all states should have, in addition to police having to wear cameras that are on when they are on duty.

What I Did After Police Killed My Son

It took six years to get our wrongful death lawsuit settled, and my family received $1.75 million. But I wasn’t satisfied by a long shot. I used my entire portion of that money and much more of my own to continue a campaign for more police accountability. I wanted to change things for everyone else, so no one else would ever have to go through what I did. We did our research: In 129 years since police and fire commissions were created in the state of Wisconsin, we could not find a single ruling by a police department, an inquest or a police commission that a shooting was unjustified. There was one shooting we found, in 2005,  that was ruled justified by the department and an inquest, but additional evidence provided by citizens caused the DA to charge the officer. The city of Milwaukee settled with a confidentiality agreement and the facts of that sealed. The officer involved committed suicide.


On This Day In History December 3

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

December 3 is the 337th day of the year (338th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 28 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1947,A Streetcar Named Desire opened on Broadway.

Marlon Brando‘s famous cry of “STELLA!” first booms across a Broadway stage, electrifying the audience at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre during the first-ever performance of Tennessee Williams‘ play A Streetcar Named Desire.

The 23-year-old Brando played the rough, working-class Polish-American Stanley Kowalski, whose violent clash with Blanche DuBois (played on Broadway by Jessica Tandy), a Southern belle with a dark past, is at the center of Williams’ famous drama. Blanche comes to stay with her sister Stella (Kim Hunter), Stanley’s wife, at their home in the French Quarter of New Orleans; she and Stanley immediately despise each other. In the climactic scene, Stanley rapes Blanche, causing her to lose her fragile grip on sanity; the play ends with her being led away in a straitjacket.

Widely considered a landmark play, A Streetcar Named Desire deals with a culture clash between two iconic characters, Blanche DuBois, a fading relic of the Old South, and Stanley Kowalski, a rising member of the industrial, urban working class.

The play presents Blanche DuBois, a fading but still-attractive Southern belle whose pretensions to virtue and culture only thinly mask alcoholism and delusions of grandeur. Her poise is an illusion she presents to shield others (but most of all, herself) from her reality, and an attempt to make herself still attractive to new male suitors. Blanche arrives at the apartment of her sister Stella Kowalski in the French Quarter of New Orleans, on Elysian Fields Avenue; the local transportation she takes to arrive there includes a streetcar route named “Desire.” The steamy, urban ambiance is a shock to Blanche’s nerves. Blanche is welcomed with some trepidation by Stella, who fears the reaction of her husband Stanley. As Blanche explains that their ancestral southern plantation, Belle Reve in Laurel, Mississippi, has been “lost” due to the “epic fornications” of their ancestors, her veneer of self-possession begins to slip drastically. Here “epic fornications” may be interpreted as the debauchery of her ancestors which in turn caused them financial losses. Blanche tells Stella that her supervisor allowed her to take time off from her job as an English teacher because of her upset nerves, when in fact, she has been fired for having an affair with a 17-year-old student. This turns out not to be the only seduction she has engaged in-and, along with other problems, has led her to escape Laurel. A brief marriage marred by the discovery that her spouse, Allan Grey, was having a homosexual affair and his subsequent suicide has led Blanche to withdraw into a world in which fantasies and illusions blend seamlessly with reality.

In contrast to both the self-effacing and deferential Stella and the pretentious refinement of Blanche, Stella’s husband, Stanley Kowalski, is a force of nature: primal, rough-hewn, brutish and sensual. He dominates Stella in every way and is physically and emotionally abusive. Stella tolerates his primal behaviour as this is part of what attracted her in the first place; their love and relationship are heavily based on powerful-even animalistic-sexual chemistry, something that Blanche finds impossible to understand.

The arrival of Blanche upsets her sister and brother-in-law’s system of mutual dependence. Stella’s concern for her sister’s well-being emboldens Blanche to hold court in the Kowalski apartment, infuriating Stanley and leading to conflict in his relationship with his wife. Blanche and Stanley are on a collision course, and Stanley’s friend and Blanche’s would-be suitor Mitch, will get trampled in their path. Stanley discovers Blanche’s past through a co-worker who travels to Laurel frequently, and he confronts her with the things she has been trying to put behind her, partly out of concern that her character flaws may be damaging to the lives of those in her new home, just as they were in Laurel, and partly out of a distaste for pretense in general. However, his attempts to “unmask” her are predictably cruel and violent. In their final confrontation, Stanley rapes Blanche, which results in her nervous breakdown. Stanley has her committed to a mental institution, and in the closing moments, Blanche utters her signature line to the kindly doctor who leads her away: “Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

You say changes come so rapidly

Late Night Karaoke

A Rather Tenuous Grasp

File this one under yet another failure of supposed elites who turn out to know very little about the subjects they’re “professional experts” in.

St. Louis Police Claim It’s Their ‘First Amendment’ Rights Not To Protect Football Players Who Supported Protestors

Mike Masnick, Tech Dirt

Tue, Dec 2nd 2014 9:33am

It’s been pretty obvious that law enforcement in the St. Louis area has a rather tenuous grasp on the concept of the First Amendment. Obviously, they’ve done a fairly terrible job recognizing the right to “peaceably assemble” for quite some time, even having a court declare its “5 second rule” approach unconstitutional. They’ve also ignored the freedom of the press by repeatedly arresting journalists. And, remember, the local prosecutor has claimed that it was really all those people speaking out on social media who were to blame.

But it appears that the misunderstanding of the First Amendment has been taken to new, and even more ridiculous levels, following a brief show of support for the protestors by some players for the St. Louis Rams (the local NFL football franchise for you non-sportsball people). The Rams’ wide receivers decided to all put their hands up — the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture — in support of Michael Brown and the protestors. It’s a small, but meaningful gesture, showing they supported the protestors. And it shouldn’t have been taken as anything more than that.

Instead, the St. Louis County police decided to respond… by suggesting that, because of this, the police would no longer protect the Rams.

As many have noted, this certainly sounds like Roorda saying that it’s the police’s “First Amendment” rights to look the other way should any threats come to the team or the stadium.

Of course, that’s not how the First Amendment actually works. It’s quite the opposite. As Sally Jenkins at the Washington Post points out, the reality is exactly the opposite. The First Amendment protects the public from government officials (including the police) from taking actions based on expression of members of the public. If anything, Roorda’s implied threat violates the First Amendment, suggesting that the government will punish people for their expression.

Of course, the First Amendment now also protects the press digging into Jeff Roorda’s own background and reporting what they find. Like the time he was reprimanded for trying “to ‘cover’ for another police officer filing a report that contained false statements.” Or how he’s against body cameras because they “sometimes don’t reflect exactly what happened” and saying that “cameras have been bad for law enforcement” because “it causes second guessing by the courts and the media.” Roorda has also defended an officer who a surveillance video showed was assaulting a handcuffed suspect, claiming the officer was “only defending himself” and saying he was doing “as he’s trained to do.”

In fact, we actually wrote about that last story and posted the video.

As we noted at the time, Roorda then lied about what’s in the video. Roorda claimed that the officer was crouched down and the suspect started moving forward at him. But the video shows no such thing. Roorda further claimed that such videos should only be used when it helps the police view of things.

Meanwhile, the St. Louis County Police still seem to think that their First Amendment rights include pretending that the Rams apologized to them when they did not.


A nation crippled by fear: Why America’s reaction to Ferguson, Tamir Rice and ISIS are all connected

Marcy Wheeler, Salon

Tuesday, Dec 2, 2014 06:58 AM EST

White people in this country are afraid — and it’s the key to understanding race relations and our foreign policy.

What was so striking about Obama insisting that there’s never an excuse for violence was not just the contrast with his resumption of his predecessor’s violence in the Middle East, a resumption of policies that have resoundingly failed.

It’s that the president decried violence even as various parts of government rolled out what looked like a counterinsurgency strategy in Ferguson. The Saint Louis area and, in the following days, groups around the country rebelled – most people, peacefully – against the serial, banal violence of cops directed against African-American sons. In Ferguson especially, the fears sown in the weeks before the verdict provided the excuse to roll out state instruments of violence that may well have exacerbated the violence after the verdict – and certainly didn’t contain it. Sure, technically the government is supposed to have a monopoly on violence – which is why Darren Wilson got away with shooting an unarmed black teenager without being charged. But of late, the legitimacy of the state’s violence has become increasingly fragile. The state’s excuses for violence, both overseas and in localities across America, are increasingly dubious. The legitimacy of their excuses was further undermined last week when it became clear Cleveland cops shot a 12-year-old boy, Tamir Rice, wielding a toy gun.

In his speech after the Darren Wilson news, Obama might better have spoken about fear, not violence.

Because fear incited by provocative videos posted online likely explains why Americans ignored the resurgence of violence in Iraq until a few Americans were killed (and ignore the frequent beheadings carried out by our allies the Saudis).  “As long as ISIS is beheading Americans there’s no way the president can stand up and say that Syria isn’t our problem,” Drew reported a source asserting.

And whatever else you think of Darren Wilson’s testimony – which conflicted in some ways with what he reportedly said immediately after the shooting – he used the language of fear and dehumanization to justify the killing. The big black teenager he shot, Mike Brown, was like “Hulk Hogan,” Wilson said. “It looks like a demon,” Wilson described Brown’s face. Brown “made like a grunting” before Wilson fired the fatal shots. “[T]he only other option I thought I had was my gun,” Wilson explained to the grand jury to explain why he started shooting Brown. As for 12-year-old Rice, he and his toy gun elicited a response from a caller for this reason: He was “scaring the s___ out of people.”

TDS/TCR (Cheek To Cheek)


Isolated Incidents

Ramming Speed

The real news, Jon’s web exclusive 2 part extended interview with Andrew Napolitano (ugh), and this week’s guests below.