Nel's New Day

May 18, 2013

Saturday Catchup: Maps, Police Brutality, Michigan School, Shelter Dumping, Agency Heads

The GOP has obsessed about scandals and President Obama’s failures during the past week, while the media has obsessed about the GOP obsessions. The scandals, much to the GOP dismay because of their hard work, are falling apart, thus today’s blog moves on briefly to other news.

Maps fascinate me, and geography students at Humboldt State University (which is in California’s northern hippie-heaven) have developed a doozey called “Geography of Hate.” They examined more than 150,000 geocoded tweets that indicate the location of the user for the time between June 2012 and April 2013, searching for ones with racist, homophobic or anti-disability words.

After deciding whether the tweets were using the terms in a hateful way, they determined that a majority of hateful tweets come from smaller towns and rural areas. For example, some of the biggest spots for homophobic tweets are along the border of Oklahoma and Texas, and one of the biggest hubs of racist tweets is in a seemingly empty area of western Indiana. Far more racist tweets come out of the middle of North Dakota than in Fargo. Homophobic tweets have a wider spread across the nation than racist ones which are centered in the Southeast. You can pull up the map to find any county in the country.

The project is a follow-up to a similar study on floatingsheep.com that mapped racial tweets after President Obama’s reelection in 2012. In both cases, students used the Dolly Project (Digital Online Life and You), an archive of geolocated tweets, for the data. 

Another map shows the dominant religion in each state: red, Evangelical Protestants; blue, Catholics; yellow, Mainline Protestants; and green, Other (which means Mormon in the three green states). This map of religion has a strong parallel with political “red” and “blue” states. Only four states with an evangelical plurality went for Barack Obama in the 2012 election: Florida, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington. And only four states with a Catholic plurality went for Mitt Romney: Arizona, Louisiana, Montana, and Nebraska.

Largest_religious_plurality_by_state

Because the information from Association of Religion Data Archives is limited to people who belong to congregations, the numbers of “unclaimed” in each state may skew the results. For example, the Pacific Northwest may not be dominated by evangelicals because it has more “unclaimed” people. States with the highest “unclaimed” percentages are Maine, Oregon, Vermont, Alaska, and Nevada. People who want the exact numbers in all the states can go to this Google document.

The point, however, is that the map of religion in the United States looks a lot like the map of politics.

YouTube is inundated with videos of police brutality, and actions of the police trying to prevent this from happening, are backfiring. Makia Smith is suing the Baltimore Police Department, the police commissioners, and police officers for beating her up and smashing her camera because she filmed the officers beating up a man. She claimed that Officer Church said, “You want to film something, bitch? Film this!” Then he reached inside her car, grabbed her telephone-camera out of her hand, threw it on the ground, and smashed it with his foot. Three other officers joined Church in beating up the woman before arresting her.

Church failed to appear for trial, twice, and prosecutors dropped the charges. She still had to hire a lawyer to recover her impounded car.

Last week in Bakersfield (CA), David Silva was beaten to death by eight Kern County police officers. The 911 caller said she taped everything from when the sheriffs arrived until Silva was left dead in the street. A few hours after the death, the police went to the witnesses’ home to confiscate videos. After a witness, Melissa Quair, refused, the police brought a search warrant and took the phone and video. Jason Land, another witness, was arrested.

The FBI is now checking into the death after video footage came up missing on one of the phones. One of the deputies confronting Silva has the same name as a deputy accused in the 2010 death of a man who was struck 33 times with batons and tasered 29 times. The lawsuit resulted in a judgment of $4.5 million for the plaintiffs. The death of a jail inmate in 2005 at the hands of three deputies resulted in a $6-million civil judgement.

Several days after the attack, all the police officers accused of being involved in the beating were still on duty.

Last July, Washington D.C. police confiscated Earl Staley’s smartphone after he photographed a police cruiser hit a motorbike and then hit the rider, who was bleeding on the ground. When he got the phone back, the SIM memory card containing all his data, passwords, and photographs had been removed. The confiscation came one day after police officers were ordered not to take phones from people who were photographing them. Stakey is suing.

In a good news/bad news story, the Buena Vista School District (MI) has re-opened after closing on May 7 when it ran out of money. It took over a week for the state to release enough money to recall 27 laid-off teachers and let the 430 students finish the current school year. The irony of the situation is that the teachers offered to work for no pay until something could be worked out, but Gov. Rick Snyder, responsible for $1 billion cuts to education, refused to let them despite the fact that the state constitution guarantees every child a free education.

Again on the good side, Nevada’s health department is no longer sending psychiatric patients on a one-way bus trip out of state in an action called “shelter dumping.” Over 1,500 patients had been sent from Rawson Neal hospital (Las Vegas) before the policy was changed.

The Sacramento Bee broke the story, using James Flavy Coy Brown as an example. He arrived from Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services (Las Vegas) with his walking papers, a schedule detailing his 15-hour bus ride from Las Vegas to Sacramento, a three-day supply of medication (including one for schizophrenia), and directions to call 911 for help. His “address at discharge” read “Greyhound Bus Station to California.” Officers took the confused man to Loaves & Fishes which provides daytime services to homeless people.

The most amazing news of the past week is that the Senate approved President Obama’s nominee to head up Medicare and Medicaid, Marilyn B. Tavenner, by a 97-7 vote. The agency will now have its first confirmed chief in six and a half years since Dr. Mark B. McClellan left in October 2006. The agency spends more than $800 billion a year, more than the Defense Department.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), still working for his re-election, voted against Tavenner. The other Republicans opposing Tavenner were Sens. Michael D. Crapo (ID), Jim Risch (ID), Ted Cruz (TX), Ron Johnson (WI), Mike Lee (UT), and Rand Paul (KY). The president’s first choice who was never confirmed, Dr. Donald M. Berwick, was a temporary recess appointment for 17 months in 2010-2011.

In even more astounding news, the Senate unanimously confirmed a new Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz. It’s understandable that the conservatives would support him because of his love for coal mining, oil drilling in the Arctic, and fracking everywhere. The Senate Energy Committee has also cleared Sally Jewell, the former CEO of outdoor retail giant REI and friend to fracking, to lead the Interior Department.

Next week, however, the conflicts and the GOP’s manufactured scandals will return, including the discussion of Gina McCarthy, nominee for the EPA head, and Richard Cordray, nominee for director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The GOP has sworn that they will never vote for anyone for that position—it’s like “no new taxes.” If the GOP frustrates the Dems enough, it could bring the end to the filibuster.

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