Nel's New Day

June 13, 2020

DDT: Week 177 – Beyond Well-Publicized Disasters

While Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) worries about re-election—his only focus—he has Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to protect him from the International Criminal Court.

Afraid the International Criminal Court will discover U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan, DDT signed an national emergency executive order allowing him to threaten economic sanctions and visa travel restrictions on its staff. That includes any foreign person in human rights organizations researching and reporting on criminal activity if it is used by the ICC, for example a Netherlands-based group investigating rape and torture by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and at CIA interrogation sites. Unlike most allies, the United States is not part of the Rome Statute creating the ICC, but Afghanistan is. The U.S. could handle torture internally but has not tried any “rendition program” cases. The current CIA chief, Gina Haspel, ran an agency black site using “interrogation techniques” such as waterboarding. An analysis from David Scheffer, first U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues:

“The argument essentially boils down to the contrarian view that U.S. forces and intelligence personnel can commit atrocity crimes inside any of the 123 states parties of the Rome Statute (including all but one NATO ally, every country of the European Union, all of South America, and much of Africa, East Asia, Central America, and the Caribbean) without accountability before the ICC.”

DDT coordinated the sanctions with Israel during Pompeo’s visit to Jerusalem last month after ICC’s prosecutor opened an investigation about Israel’s alleged crimes in the West Bank and Gaza. Although briefings did not mention the plot, Israeli officials leaked the information. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brought Yuval Steinitz, leader of the team countering the ICC investigation, to the meeting, and the two countries continued the secret coordination on the issue since Pompeo’s visit.

Federal officials are hiding information about their distribution of $511 billion taxpayer monies to “small businesses” despite promising in mid-April to make the information public. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin called the data “proprietary” and “confidential information” during a Senate hearing and did not require any proof for need and eligibility from applicants. Eleven news organizations are suing for information about amounts and recipients. 

Congress assigned three bodies to oversee the $2.3 trillion law: a Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery (SIGPR); the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee with inspectors general from the agencies involved in the bill  under the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency; and a congressional oversight commission. After an agreement to the oversight, DDT made a signing statement erasing it in a claim that it violated the separation of powers and the rights of the president.

Often accused of no empathy, DDT’s accusation about the police brutality toward a 75-year-old peace activist went as viral as the police assault on Martin Gugino. DDT got falsehoods from the evidence-free right-wing, Russia-related One America News Network after two police officers in Buffalo shoved the man to the sidewalk and left him bleeding from the head. DDT’s tweet:

“Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. @OANN  I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?”

Gugino approached a police officer with his cellphone in his right hand, and police yelled, “Push him. Push him.” After nine days, Gugino is out of the hospital but can’t walk because of his skull fracture. The two officers are facing assault charges. Russian national Kristian Rouz, author of the false story, also writes for the Kremlin-owned news outlet Sputnik. Rouz puts Kremlin propaganda into his articles without explaining the “allegations” are hoaxes from Vladimir Putin and associates. 

Vincent D’Andraia, facing multiple charges including misdemeanor assault and menacing against a woman, became the first NYPD officer arrested for police brutality in the protests. The woman said she was peacefully protesting when D’Andraia told her to get out of the street. When she asked why, he pushed her and called her a “stupid f—— b—-” before he hit her cell phone out of her hand and violently shoved her to the ground and into the curb. The woman was hospitalized and treated for a seizure and concussion. Afterward, D’Andraia, his lieutenant, and several other officers who were watching kept on walking.

Minnesota’s Department of Safety and the Anoka County Sheriff’s office admitted troopers and deputies slashed tires on cars during protests in Minneapolis after presented with video reports. The state spin:

“State Patrol troopers strategically deflated tires … in order to stop behaviors such as vehicles driving dangerously and at high speeds in and around protesters and law enforcement.”

Several journalists found their tires slashed, including Andrew Kimmel, a Los Angeles TV and documentary maker, with cut tires on his rental car. Officers promised to watch the car of New Yorker writer Luke Mogelson. He returned to find his tires cut and the officers “laughing” with “grins on their faces.”

Posts from Lt. Robert Gamin, president of the Brevard (Florida county) Fraternal Order of Police, promoted more police brutality recruiting law enforcement members suspended, fired, or arrested for violent behavior. He deleted the posts and “apologized,” saying he was frustrated.

Congress gave Customs and Border Protection funding for food and medicine after migrants kept dying. The agency spent the funding on dirt bikes and ATVs before trying to conceal it in the wrong budget categories.

Failing to react to DDT’s acceptance and even promotion of police brutality, most GOP legislators use the same policy as the willful blindness from the mythical three monkeys: hear no evil; see no evil; speak no evil. Reporters, tired of legislators expressing ignorance of anything DDT says, printed out DDT’s tweet about Martin Gigino to show Republicans. Most of those asked for responses refused to look at the post and declined to answer as they dashed away.  

Yesterday’s spike in the stock market replaced over one-fourth of its plunge from the day before. Investors bought after Larry Kudlow, director of the White House National Economic Council, said he’s “not the health expert” but “there is no second spike …. No second wave” of COVID-19. Roughly half the states show significant spikes. My own small county on the Oregon coast went from ten cases less than three weeks ago to almost 200 by today partly from an outbreak from fish processing plant Pacific Seafoods—workers, friends, family, etc. Fourteen months before the current recession starting in February—before COVID-19 hit—Kudlow said he couldn’t see a recession. Kudlow isn’t an economist either. Back in the time of George W. Bush, Kudlow Kudlow denied the housing bubble and said at the beginning of Bush’s recession, “There’s no recession coming.” In early March this year, Kudlow also said the virus was “contained” and the economy “looks sound.” Kudlow isn’t an economist either.

Because of COVID-19, DDT shut down four of his five top-earning hotels and resorts, leading to laying off or furloughing 2,800 employees with the loss of tens of millions of dollars. Revenues weren’t good before the virus, and he couldn’t even pay $20,833 per month rental fee for his golf club in Pine Hill (NJ). The new COVID-19 law keeps him from making up revenue from the government, but Great Britain plans to give him an almost £1m tax rebate for his Scottish golf courses. Both resorts avoided corporation taxes because of heavy losses’ reports, supposedly £155m in 2018. Democrats in the House asked for documents regarding loans and other funds by May 21 regarding the bailout funds as a possible gift from a foreign government but received no responses.

The latest Trump book covers Melania. Among other topics, Mary Jordan’s The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump explains the First Lady waited to move into the White House to negotiate her prenup. Her marital problems are no business of anyone else except for the exorbitant cost to taxpayers. Flights on Air Force jets during the first three months of her 2017 sequestration in New York cost $676,635, and security at Trump Tower expenses averaged between $127,000 and $146,000—a day. Melania didn’t move to the White House for almost five months, and Secret Service received an additional $60 million to protect DDT’s family. A WaPo article describes Jordan’s view of Melania Trump’s mythmaking the media has swallowed, debunked through over 100 interviews with her associates. Jordan said, “She is . . . much more like DDT than it appears.”

Frustrated by CNN’s polling and disappointed by ones from Fox, DDT went to evidence-free OAN promising him one that “looks as though it will be in favor of” the president. After using loaded questions to move approval to DDT, the poll came out a perfect 50-50 split in Florida, a statistical improbability. It also gives a lead to DDT among undecided voters—which makes Joe Biden a lead among decided voters. The poll came out with an article accusing the “deep state” working with Democrats to create polls demoralizing GOP voters.

On June 13, another 25,000+ COVID-19 cases for a total of 2,142,224 with 117,527 deaths.

 

June 6, 2020

Are We Tired of Winning?

[Update: Yesterday both the media and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) overlooked a note about a major “error”: the “misclassification error” by the Bureau of Labor Statistics put the unemployment rate at 3 points higher than reported, making it 16.3 percent for May. Other corrections were an increase to 5.4 percent in March and 19.7 percent in April.]

Lt. Bob Kroll is the head of Minneapolis’s police union, and his police officers killed George Floyd with one of them using his knee to press down on the black man’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. Floyd had no pulse for the last two minutes and 53 seconds before the officer stopped. In April, Kroll said, “I’ve been involved in three shootings myself, and not one of them has bothered me.” The rest of his comments in this article are equally horrifying. Col. Matt Langer, head of the Minnesota State Patrol, said his officers’ actions “aren’t particularly pretty” but necessary. Their attitude reflects the growing police brutality throughout the United States.

Police brutality is finally exposed by the thousands of videos caught not only by news cameras but by the ubiquitous cellphones. Jim Pasco, executive director of the labor union  Fraternal Order of Police, said:

“We certainly, as a profession, have been diminished by events that have been witnessed on video over the course of the last couple of weeks. And the burden is on us to reestablish and build a relationship with the community. We can’t do our job without the community. So the burden is on us going forward.”

Two other high-profile murders of innocent black people preceding Floyd’s killing exacerbated the anger. In south-eastern Georgia, 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery was killed on February 23, 2020 while jogging. The unarmed black man was pursued and confronted by a white man and his son in a pickup. The killers were known, but no arrests were made for 74 days, but another white man, also arrested for felony murder, had recorded a video, including the racial slurs.

In the other case, 16-year-old ER tech Breonna Taylor was killed about midnight on March 13 when Louisville plainclothes officers broke into her apartment with a ”no-knock” warrant for two men allegedly selling drugs far away from the apartment. A judge signed a warrant for Taylor’s apartment because a detective had lied about the drug-dealers using the apartment for packages. Taylor, also a university student, and her boyfriend Kenneth Walker were asleep. A licensed gun owner, Walker grabbed his gun and called 911; police fired, hitting Taylor eight times. Police found no drugs in the apartment and had already found the suspect in the investigation before breaking into Taylor’s apartment. The warrant was illegally obtained; no one has been charged for the killing. 

U.S. attitudes toward police brutality since a law enforcement officer killed Michael Brown in Ferguson (MO) have changed. Six years ago, 43 percent viewed Brown’s killing as part of the problem in police treatment of blacks. That number increased to 74 percent after police killed George Floyd. Police talk about being yelled at, having water bottles and other projectiles thrown at them. Yet the videos of police force show them dressed in riot gear and violently pushing demonstrators around. T. Greg Doucette, a Durham (NC) lawyer, collects these videos to prove the problems are not just one time and not just one police officer. He’s up to 310 from cities all over the United States.

One video shows a high-level Philadelphia police officer beating protesters on the head with his baton, including a 21-year-old Temple University student, before he arrests the young man. Two days later, the protester was released after the officer was found to be lying and taken off street duty and after he was again filmed beating a protester. Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner said he is charging the officer.

The Kentucky National Guard killed a black Louisville (KY) chef, David McAtee, who often fed police officers for free. Police left McAtee’s body lying in the street for over 12 hours. Police body cameras were not activated during the shooting, and the city mayor fired Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad. A bystander who livestreamed the tragedy said the gathering was “there chilling,” not protesting—eating, drinking, and listening to music in the parking lot—before large numbers of police and National Guard members arrived and told them to leave.

A video from Buffalo shows a 75-year-old man trying to give a police officer a paper. The officer pushes him to the sidewalk where he lay, inert and bleeding from an ear. He is in the hospital in serious condition. When one officer tried to lean over the prone man, a colleague grabbed him, and they all walked on. The police department originally said the man “tripped and fell,” but the emergence of the video forced them to change their story. The two officers who shoved the man are suspended without pay, and 57 law enforcement members of the Emergency Response Team resigned in protest for the discipline although they stayed with the police department. A police union official said the suspended officers who injured the man were “simply following orders.” The two officers are now facing second-degree assault

Pandering to his base, DDT urged law enforcement to be much harder on the protesters and falsely lumped them all together as “low life” and “scum” led by far-left antifa and anarchists. An authority on crowd control procedures and author of a guidebook about it, Edward Maguire, said many police chiefs seem to do the opposite of recommendations for effective control. Policing groups’ crowd-control tactics advise against using armor-clad officers unless absolutely necessary because it reduces their inhibitions about using force and makes protesters more violent by dehumanizing officers. AG Bill Barr’s new secret police throughout Washington, D.C. who refuse to give their name or affiliation show how police can cause violence.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker received reports of more than 300 violations of press freedoms between May 25 and June 3, including physical assault, arrest, and damage or seizure of equipment. Those reports usually number about 100 to 150 a year. Claims came from free-lancing journalists to AP and CNN reporters, all identifying themselves as members of media. Despite Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’s promise to stop the attacks against journalists after black/Latino reporter Omar Jimenez was arrested on May 29, law enforcement in Minneapolis didn’t let up, and police followed their example across the U.S. The year 2019 saw only 34 reported assaults against reporters through the entire 12 months.

In several cities, police deliberately destroyed water bottles, snacks, and medical supplies for demonstrators, sometimes in a tent for that purpose and other times at locations such as LGBTQ bars in Raleigh (NC), Des Moines (IA), and the legendary Stonewall Inn in Manhattan. After they slashed everything, they gassed the supplies to give people chemical burns if they were used. Law enforcement also beat and arrested medics and others present.

Like the lawyer, I started keeping track of the police brutality, but the list has become too long for a blog post. Here are a few “highlights” from reports and videos. Sometimes police stopped when they saw they were being recorded; other times, they continued.

Police used the same knee technique as on Floyd in Seattle and Sarasota (FL) while victims begged for help. 

Police permanently blinded in one eye at least two journalist, free-lance journalist Linda Tirado in Minneapolis hit with a “less-lethal” bullet weekend editor at a local television station Balin Brake, 21, by a police-thrown teargas cannister that ruptured his eye and fractured the occipital bone.  

Police hit a black student recording the protest in Austin (TX) in the back of his head with a bean bag projectile causing severe brain damage.  

Peaceful protesters weren’t exempt from violence: Huntsville (AL) police shot tear gas and rubber bullets because protesters’ permit expired an hour earlier; a Charleston (SC) policeman arrested a young kneeling black man who gave a speech about love and peace; New Orleans police teargassed demonstrators who refused to leave a bridge; Columbus (OH) police pepper-sprayed Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH), 70, who tried to de-escalate a situation; Dallas police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at kneeling, non-violent demonstrators and others who chanted “hands up, don’t shoot”; they fired a projectile at a young woman walking home with groceries.

Police pepper-sprayed journalists with the Detroit Free Press ; Andrea Sahouri of the Des Moines Register; and Kaitlin Rust of WAVE 3 in Louisville (KY). Others were hit with projectiles such as Cerise Castle with the NPR affiliate in LA or punched them such as LA reporter Lexis-Olivier Ray. They and others arrested and harassed all identified themselves as media; police frequently responded, “I don’t care.”

Two NYPD SUVs drove into a group of protesters.

Arrested journalists include Bridget Bennett, Agence France-Presse and Ellen Schmidt Las Vegas Review-Journal.  

And more.

Some police have been fired, such as the police chief at Troy University (AL) who said Floyd caused his own death and two police officers in Atlanta for using excessive force.

White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, claimed the US. law enforcement has no systemic racism. He claimed the “99.9% of our law enforcement officers are great Americans.”

Are you tired of winning?

June 2, 2020

DDT Hides in Bunker After Fueling Violence

One week ago, white police officers deliberately killed a black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis. Floyd had been accused of paying for cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill but didn’t resist when police handcuffed him and put him into a police car. He may not have known the bill was counterfeit. For some unknown reason, they took him out of the car, and one of the officers knelt on Floyd’s neck with his knee for almost nine minutes—over two minutes after Floyd had no pulse. The others watched.

Protests building during the week boiled over into violence by last Friday in over 75 cities across the nation. This morning, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), called the governors of the 50 states to harangue them for looking “weak.”  He accused governors of looking like “fools” to people in the world who laughed at the U.S. “If you don’t dominate, you’re wasting your time,” DDT declared. He ordered governors to “use the military” and stated “we have a wonderful military” while frequently referring to the Occupy Wall Street movement. “You’re allowed to fight back,” DDT said while calling the protests a “war.”   

DDT ranted for most of the first 17 minutes, but AG Bill Barr also repeated his evidence-free accusations against left-wing organizing and ordered governors to arrest protesters. GOP governors, such as Brian Kemp (GA) and Doug Ducey (AZ), took the opportunity to preen about their accomplishments. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker did call out DDT for his rhetoric and mishandling of his state’s pandemic. About the telephone call, Massachusetts GOP Gov. Charlie Baker blamed DDT’s comments for their “bitterness, combativeness and self-interest” instead of “compassion and leadership.” Baker also praised peaceful protesters in Boston for their “powerful statement.”

Last Friday, after DDT fueled violence with violent comments, he went to his bunker for terrorism attacks because of the protesters. The next morning, he bragged about how safe he felt in the White House with the “most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons.” DDT has pushed his followers to be violent since he was inaugurated, continuing to praise white supremacist protests such as the one on May 1 when armed people broke into the Michigan capitol and stopped the legislative work. He said, “These are very good people, but they are angry.” Now, protesters are “bad guys.”

While DDT bragged about his safety, he lambasted Washington, D.C.’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, for not sending the D.C. police to protect him. Bowser tweeted back:

“While he hides behind his fence afraid/alone, I stand w/ people peacefully exercising their First Amendment Right after the murder of #GeorgeFloyd & hundreds of years of institutional racism. There are no vicious dogs & ominous weapons. There is just a scared man.”

Later, the Secret Service admitted that it coordinated with the D.C. police and the U.S. Park Police throughout the evening and night. Bowser said, “At no time was [D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham] concerned about losing control of protest activity in Washington, D.C.”

DDT’s advisers initially wanted an Oval Office address to ease tensions but rejected the idea because DDT has no policy proposals and no interest in a message of unity. His position is shown by a retweet from Buck Sexton, far-right radio host:

“This isn’t going to stop until the good guys are willing to use overwhelming force against the bad guys.”

DDT also emphasized that people are allowed to “fight back,” a phrase he repeated several times. His “good guys” are pushing for a race war by instigating riots in the name of protesters against systemic racism.  In the hour-long telephone all, DDT also told states to pass strict laws against flag burning and said that with a “different court” the Supreme Court may outlaw flag-burning. 

DDT said he put Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark A. Milley in charge but didn’t say of what. A military takeover? Introducing the Defense Secretary Mark Esper, DDT said that he was looking for arrests. A military takeover? Esper called the streets of U.S. a “battlespace.” DDT also said that he will “activate” him “very strongly. Later, he said that he was activating the Army into D.C., something he can do because D.C. is not a state. DDT said he was protecting the Second Amendment, allowing people to carry guns. He also claimed to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 to deploy the military everywhere in the U.S., ignoring a demand that people “disperse” and to their “abodes.” The Pentagon doesn’t know if DDT has taken that action, and DDT can take this action only if the states have failed.

DDT reiterated his sending in the military during an afternoon speech in the White House Rose Garden:

“If a city or state refuses to take the actions necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”

Pentagon officials seem uncomfortable with sending in their troops because they, unlike DDT, understand the law. The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 outlaws use of the military without permission of Congress. No president can help civil officials by ordering the military to enforce the law or suppress civil disorder. The law was passed because of military occupation of former Confederate states after the Civil War. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) also called the military to be deployed, but he would need another 267 other Congressional members to support this action.

Without any warning, the police broke up a peaceful protest near the White House after DDT’s speech by teargassing and firing rubber bullets at about 1,000 people so that DDT could walk across the street to give a photo-op at the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church. Asked if the Bible he held up was his, DDT said, “It’s a Bible.”

Police in riot gear assaulted two Australian journalists outside the White House while the area was being cleared for DDT’s walk to the church. Cameraman Tim Myers was repeatedly struck with a shield and punched while U.S. correspondent Amelia Brace was his in her back with a rubber bullet. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has told Australia’s embassy in the U.S. to investigate, after two Australian journalists were assaulted by police during a protest outside the White House. An officer tried to hold the other two back when one of them also tried to hit them with a baton while they tried to escape. Brace said that they were caught between the National Guard behind them as the police rapidly moved forward. The video is horrifying.

The Right Rev. Mariann Budde, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, said she learned of Trump’s visit by watching it on the news. She said she was “outraged.“   

“I don’t want President Trump speaking for St. John’s… I am the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and was not given even a courtesy call that they would be clearing with tear gas so they could use one of our churches as a prop, holding a Bible, one that declares that God is love and when everything he has said and done is to enflame violence.”

Before coming to Washington, Budde was rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Minneapolis. She said the church disassociates itself from the messages of the president.

“We hold the teachings of our sacred texts to be so grounding to our lives and everything we do, and it is about love of neighbor and sacrificial love and justice.”

Arlington County (VA) officials have pulled their police officers out of Washington, D.C. after they were used to fire chemical canisters and stingers at protesters that included families with children. The county’s police department had been helping National Park Police for crowd control. Libby Garvey, the chair of Arlington County’s board, said the photo-op “endangered all our officers. We don’t do that.”

DOJ said that a number of agencies would protect DDT, including the DOD, DHS, FBI, DEA, Marshals Service, Federal Bureau of Prisons, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Also involved are the Metropolitan Police Department, the Capitol Police, the Federal Protective Service, the U.S. Secret Service, and the D.C. National Guard.

DDT’s ranting tweets are usually saved for weekends, but today was an exception—hostile messages toward Democrats and Joe Biden after the polls show DDT lower than ever compared to Biden in the presidential race. In another tweet from mid-morning today, he posted a photograph with the statement, “Anarchists, we see you!”

On Sunday, while DDT was spreading hate and division, Democratic presidential candidate used social media to ask people to turn “anguish into purpose.” During the day, he walked around Wilmington (DE) to visit the site of the protesting on Saturday night.

In a frightening symbol of DDT’s administration, the lights were turned off at the White House last night. 

September 6, 2014

Good News for the Past Week

The Israelis didn’t kill any Palestinian children or other civilians last week, the U.S. Congress wasn’t in town to start World War III, and  the Department of Justice plans to investigate the police force at Fersugon (MO).  That’s a few of the good things that happened last week. Locally, the best news is that the conservative Freedom Partners (aka Koch brothers) pulled over $1 million of television ad buys in October for GOP Senate candidate Monica Wehby. Ads starting last month continue through the end of this month, but a Rasmussen poll showing incumbent Sen. Jeff Merkley ahead by 13 points may have discouraged more than the $1.6 million expenditure for Wehby.

On the national level, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will revisit Halbig v. Burwell that would have taken insurance from almost 10 million people in the nation. The argument was whether some wording in the Affordable Care Act meant that only the 14 state-run exchanges could provide subsidies for low-income people seeking insurance. If the earlier decision had held, ACA might be headed back to the U.S. Supreme Court because of differing circuit court rulings. The en banc (entire court) order vacates the earlier three-judge decision, infuriating conservatives because the court is “packed” with Democratic nominees. The “packed” conservative SCOTUS never seems to bother conservatives. Arguments are scheduled for December 17.

The ACA has gotten so popular that at least one Democrat, Arkansas’ Sen. Mark Pryor, is boasting about it in a tough re-election fight. Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS weak response is that good benefits don’t matter if they’re part of “Obamacare.” Pryor’s opponent, Rep. Tom Cotton, showed his desperation by accusing Pryor of voting for Medicare “cuts” through the ACA, a common conservative lie. As Pryor states in his TV ad: “My opponent knows I did not cut Medicare benefits. I cut waste and protected benefits.

At the same time, more GOP-run states are accepting federal Medicaid funding through ACA, bringing the total number of states to 27, ten of them with GOP governors.  Pennsylvania outright accepted the funding last week, Tennessee plans to do so, and other states—Indiana, Missouri, Utah, and Wyoming—are considering the same step.

DB_medicaid_map_lg In another fit of desperation, a state representative from Utah, who is a doctor when not debating in legislature, has a unique argument against health care. “Sometimes access actually can mean harm,” said Utah Rep. Mike Kennedy. “I’ve heard from National Institutes of Health and otherwise that we’re killing up to a million, a million and a half people every year in our hospitals. And it’s access to hospitals that’s killing those people.”

Even more upsetting to conservatives, insurance costs are not rising as fast as in the past and in some places are actually going down. When Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield tried to raise premiums by 12.5 percent, the Connecticut insurance department made them lower the average premium to a 0.1 percent decrease. California, which has seen increases of up to 40 percent in the past, will have an average increase of 4.2 percent. Oregon saw a drop of 2.5 percent. If Halibig v. Burwell were allowed to stand, people using the federal exchange would have an increase of 322 percent (and that’s not a typo!).

A ruling from another circuit court, the 7th, brought marriage equality to Indiana and Wisconsin. That’s the third federal appeals court to rule in favor of same-sex marriage. The 10th Circuit struck down bans in Oklahoma and Utah, and the 4th Circuit ruled against bans in Virginia. The 6th Circuit, deciding on bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee heard arguments a month ago. In the 7th Circuit decision, Judge Richard A. Posner used a variety of sources, including 19th-century English political philosopher and social commentator John Stuart Mill, to respond to the states’ arguments that many people find same-sex relationships repulsive.  Posner wrote:

 “Heterosexuals get drunk and pregnant, producing unwanted children; their reward is to be allowed to marry. Homosexual couples do not produce unwanted children; their reward is to be denied the right to marry. Go figure.”

U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman, the 80-year-old Reagan appointee who’s been on the bench for over 30 years, might want to read Posner’s quote. In Louisiana, Feldman became the first in a string of over 20 federal judges to rule against equality on the basis that same-sex couples cannot procreate. One could ponder whether Louisiana has a law that fertility and desire to bear children are prerequisites to marriage. Feldman is one of those people who believe in human rights by popular vote.

In another decision in Louisiana, Federal Court judge Carl Barbier ruled that BP was “grossly negligent” leading up to the April 20, 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. With proper care, the company and its subsidiaries could have prevented the explosion and oil spill that killed 11 and spilled 4.9 million gallons of oil into the Gulf waters. BP is 67% negligent for the spill, and oil-service company Halliburton and rig owner Transocean are 30% negligent.

fire BP

According to the ruling, BP made decisions that were completely unsafe and “motivated by profit.” For example, BP drilled 100 feet deeper, just eleven days before the disaster, although the company’s geologists warned against it. The negative pressure reading on the morning of the explosion should have led to more safety tests. Instead, officials decided to continue working. The explosion occurred that evening.

Under the Clean Water Act, a corporation acting in a grossly negligent manner can be fined up to $4,300 per barrel spilled: the cost of the civil case could be as much as $18 billion. BP plans to appeal. Shares of BP in the United States dropped 5.9 percent at $44.89 and closed down almost 6 percent in London, the worst one-day slide in more than four years. BP has already agreed to pay $4.5 billion in fines and may face other bills from a Natural Resources Damage Assessment.

Louisiana’s five women’s clinics that perform abortions will stay open, thanks to a ruling from U.S. Federal Judge John deGravelles.  A new law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have patient admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles was to go into effect last Monday, but the judge ruled that doctors can continue to perform legal abortions if they are seeking these privileges. The judge will hold a hearing within a month to make a more permanent ruling.

Judge Lee Yeakel helped Texas women by striking down the state’s “brutally effective system of abortion regulation.” The overturned law required all women’s clinics to be outfitted as ambulatory surgical centers, costing each one between $1 million and $1.5 million. Yeakel, a George W. Bush appointee, tried to block the law mandating admitting privileges last fall but was overruled by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. He did succeed in stopping the rule for admitting privileges in McAllen and El Paso.

Ohio’s cuts to early voting and the state’s elimination of same-day voter registration violate both the Voting Rights Act’s ban on racial discrimination in voting and the constitution’s Equal Protection clause, according to U.S. Federal Judge Peter Economus. An injunction barring the Ohio’s restrictions on voting go into effect before the November election, and the judge ordered the state’s Secretary of State Jon Husted to add a second Sunday of early voting.

not darren wilson This photo is NOT Darren Wilson, the police officer who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson (MO) a month ago, despite Chicago firefighter Kevin O’Grady’s claim. For the record, the photo, which went viral, is of motocross rider Jim McNeil who died in a 2011 crash. The photo was taken in 2006 after a motor accident at a friend’s house. There is no indication that Wilson suffered injuries. In another bogus photo posted by Kansas City Police Department Officer Marc Catron, an image of Michael Brown pointing a gun at the camera and biting down on a wad of cash is actually of Joda Cain, a Washington County (OR) murder suspect.

Police Chief Tom Jackson has also been found to lie about his reason for releasing a videotape of Brown allegedly robbing a convenience store. Jackson had said that he did thie because of a Freedom of Information Act request. There were actually no requests, but requests have not led Jackson to release the incident report for Brown’s killing. There is also some evidence that the police omitted images of Brown paying for the cigars from the video.

The best news for Leon Brown and Henry McCollum is that DNA has exonerated them from charges for rape and murder. The two men, on North Carolina’s death row for over 30 years, have been released from prison. Ages 15 and 19 at the time of their arrest in 1983, the two mentally challenged men were told that they could go home if they confessed to the crimes. Now that they are 46 and 50, biological material collected at the crime scene has been connected to a known sex offender who lived just feet away from where the 11-year-old girl was found. Since their arrest, the police force has also hidden boxes of crucial evidence and not disclosed it to either the defense team or the prosecuting attorney.

Twenty years ago, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia used the McCollum to justify the death penalty in an unrelated case. He said, “How enviable a quiet death by lethal injection compared with [rape and murder]!” Justice Harry Blackmun answered, “Buddy McCollum … has an IQ between 60 and 69 and the mental age of a 9-year old. He reads on a second grade level. This factor alone persuades me that the death penalty in his case is unconstitutional.” Now McCollum will not have to suffer the “quiet death by lethal injection.”

Voting, women’s rights, health care, death penalty, marriage equality, transparency–all these are beginning to succeed because of the judicial system. Now we’ll wait for the appeals.

August 23, 2014

Ferguson (MO): Two Weeks of Strife

brown bodyTwo weeks ago today, Michael Brown’s body was allowed to remain on a Ferguson (MO) street after a police officer killed him. During the ensuing demonstrations, militarized officers intimidated, tear gassed, assaulted, and arrested protesters including threats to kill journalists and refusals to give them names when asked.

More news ensuing from Brown’s killing:

This catalog of military gear and weapons used in Ferguson is horrifying.

This interactive map shows the way that free federal supplies have militarized the United States, allowing many places to resemble war zones. One of the heaviest armed areas is Maricopa County (AZ) because of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s aggressive perspective on serving his community. Not listed on this site are such acquisitions as the snow parkas sent to New Orleans.

The ACLU released this report in June, less than two months before police officer Warren killed Brown. It reflects the increase in militarization that will continue because of the weapons’ industry contributions and lobbying to legislators.

It doesn’t matter if Michael Brown stole a box of cigars. But he didn’t steal them. The complete video of Brown in the store shows him paying for the cigars. And neither the owner nor employees called the police to report any theft. The call came from a customer in the store

Although a grand jury has been convened to determine a prosecution of Darren Wilson, the man who killed Brown, Missouri law will most likely exonerate him because prosecution must disprove a defendant’s claim of self-defense. “Any reasonable doubt on the issue requires a finding for the defendant.” Missouri law also permits deadly force “to effect the arrest.” The grand jury has nine whites and three blacks, two of them women.

St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert P. McCulloch said that there is no incident report on Brown’s killing. Two weeks after the death, people are petitioning McCulloch’s recusal from the case on grounds of bias.

jamilah nasheedWhen State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed tried to deliver 70,000 signatures to St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch on a petition calling for a special prosecutor, police threatened to arrest her. After two minutes, the police backed down, and she was allowed to enter a public building.

St. Louis County police raided a Ferguson church last Wednesday—for the third time. Greater St. Mark Church used part of the property for first aid treatment of people injured in police attacks during demonstration; people were also able to get food and water there. The latest raid had 20 police, but unlike earlier raids, they didn’t carry assault weapons or remove supplies.

“I’m into diversity. I kill everybody, I don’t care.” That’s what Oathkeeper and St. Louis police officer Dan Page told fellow Oathkeepers (the same group that caused the standoff at the Cliven Bundy ranch in Nevada). An investigation following Page’s pushing CNN’s Dan Lemon resulted in Page’s temporary suspension from the force. The video of his speech to the Oathkeepers is here.

A St. Louis-area police officer working in Ferguson falsely accused a group of protestors of shooting at police, said Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson holds a racial “double standard,” and asserted that he would like to punch attorney general Eric Holder. Later he had to admit that he wasn’t telling the truth about the shooting because reporters had a video tape. He also accused Johnson’s approach as “Hug a Thug.” Other police officers have referred to demonstrators as “animals.”

After eyewitness Piaget Crenshaw came forward with a video of Brown’s killing, the police confiscated her phone and refused to release the video. She said she witnessed Officer Darren Wilson running after Brown and shooting him several times for no apparent reason after Brown stopped running and turned to face Wilson. She also described the struggle at the police car when it appeared that Wilson tried to pull Brown into the car and Brown broke away.

Ferguson gets the second-largest part of its budget from fines and court fees. An annual average of 1.5 cases and three warrants in this town of 21,000 nets the government $2,635,400. Although the town is two-thirds black, whites who are stopped in cars are half as likely to be searched or arrested. The discovery of contraband is far more likely with whites than blacks.

The ACLU sued Ferguson for barring journalists from reporting and sought a court order to tell police that this was illegal. A judge provided a court agreement “that the media and members of the public have a right to record public events without abridgment unless it obstructs the activity or threatens the safety of others, or physically interferes with the ability of law enforcement officers to perform their duties.” The police ignored the order. Information about treatment of the journalists is here.

Getty images staff photographer Scott Olsen, who took the following photo, was one of the members of the media who was arrested and later released.

scott olsen

Because voting participation is extremely low, 12 percent in the most recent election in the Ferguson area, community members set up a tent in town for a voter-registration drive. One volunteer said, “We’re trying to make young people understand that this is how to change things.” Missouri RNC executive director Matt Wills has expressed outrage about this action and called it “completely inappropriate.”

The city of Ferguson has hired the PR firm Common Ground [below] to help them with their problems that resulted from racial differences.

Ferguson PR firm

Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson told the press that police shooter Darren Wilson had no disciplinary reports in his file. He’s probably correct because until 2010 use of force complaints were filed with the cases and not the officers’ files. The officer would complete non-fatal use-of-force reports and give it to the supervisor before it would be put with the case file. Jackson started to change the protocol, but there is no record of how long it took to implement the process. No one knows if he had any disciplinary reports.

In defending the U.S. justice system, Missouri’s Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder said, “We have legal processes that are set in motion, that are designed after centuries of Anglo-American jurisprudence tradition…. That’s one of the great advances of Anglo-American civilization, is that we do not have politicized trials. We let the justice system work it out.” Kinder was admitting that the justice system in this nation is based on white ideals and white standards.

Hedy Epstein, 90-year-old human rights activist and Holocaust survivor was arrested in front of Gov. Jay Nixon’s office in St. Louis with seven other protesters for failure to disperse.

Fox contributor Todd Starnes wrote on his Facebook page that President Obama is “orchestrating the Michael Brown tragedy.” Alex Jones called the demonstrations a “staged (by the military) race war.”

On Fox and Friends, contributor Bo Dietl explained away the police officer’s shooting Michael Brown by saying “bullets go that way.” He also condemned Captain Ron Johnson, who led the Highway Patrol in Ferguson, for apologizing for Brown’s death in a speech at an African-American church.

Both Egypt and Russia have called for international intervention in Ferguson following the use of tear gas and rubber bullets. For the first time ever, Amnesty International has sent a delegation of observers and organizers to provide support to community members and watch police response to protests because of the police violence in Ferguson. The police forced the observers out of the protest area at gun point.

The good parts:

Julianna Mendelsohn, a North Carolina teacher, has raised over $150,000 to feed children in Ferguson because the delay in school opening is causing them to go hungry. In a district of 11,000, over 68 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

With school not yet opening, teachers have volunteered their time to work with students in the public library, providing a safe place for children. About 120 children came for the “classes.” The library also gave residents a place to get bottled water and check their emails.

black guns 1And:

This image from Texas may soon be reflective of Missouri. The white police force in Ferguson police was heavily armed while demonstrators, primarily black, had almost no weapons. Photographs of whites–mostly male–proliferate on the net in stores, restaurants, shopping malls, parks, etc. and see black people open carrying. In a protest against police violence, the 30 members of the Huey P. Newton Gun Club want a change. Their website reads:

black guns 2“The recent murders of unarmed black, brown, and whites across the United States of America has eradicated trust in the police states. Individuals across this nation have been stripped of due process, subjected to state-sponsored police terrorism, and continue to suffer the fate of being terminated extra-judicially.”

Black activist Huey P. Newton co-founded the militant Black Panther party with Bobby Seale in 1966, resulting in U.S. gun control laws. The Huey P. Newton Gun Club might encourage gun control.

August 13, 2014

Protests Might Make a Difference – Stop the Brutality

Ferguson, Missouri, is a suburb of St. Louis. Two-thirds of its population of 21,203 is black, but four out of five city council members are white. The black superintendent of schools was forced out for unknown reasons last November and replaced by a white man. Of the 53 police officers, 50 are white, yet blacks account for 93 percent of the arrests.  Of the 54 police officers, 52 of them are white. As Rachel Maddow pointed out in this video, the police officers’ prejudice against people of color in this town has been rampantly open for many years. The situation came to a tipping point four days ago when a town police officer killed Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, possibly by shooting him in the back ten times.

When people gathered in protest after the teenager’s killing, police fired tear gas at them, sometimes when people were standing in their own backyards. The FAA banned air travel under 3,000 feet over the town from August 12-18. Yesterday morning, police claimed that the man who was shot and critically wounded by a St. Louis County police officer had pointed a handgun at the officer. A woman was also shot in the head and wounded. Looting has been reported, but townspeople say that these are not by Ferguson’s residents. These photos show the police in this small town.

Police Shooting Missouri

Witnesses to the killing say that Brown and a friend were stopped by a police officer for walking in the middle of the street. Brown’s hands were in the air when the last shots were fired, according to the witnesses. Police claimed that Brown was fighting over the officer’s gun.

One of the peaceful protesters tear gassed Monday was Missouri State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal. Yesterday afternoon she asked Police Chief Tom Jackson if she would be gassed again. There was no response until he discovered she is a State Senator when he looked shocked and said, “I hope not.”

tank with people in front

The armored mine-resistant vehicle and riot gear-clad officers give the impression of a war zone rather than police employed to protect citizens. There was no violence when police lobbed tear gas into groups of demonstrators and journalists. Journalist Radley Balko wrote in his book The Rise of the Warrior Cop:

“Law-enforcement agencies across the U.S., at every level of government, have been blurring the line between police officer and soldier. Driven by martial rhetoric and the availability of military-style equipment—from bayonets and M–16 rifles to armored personnel carriers—American police forces have often adopted a mind-set previously reserved for the battlefield.”

The federal government sent billions in surplus military equipment during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to state and local police departments. Since 2006, they have acquired 435 armored vehicles, 533 planes, 93,763 machine guns, and 432 mine-resistant armored trucks–$4.3 billion worth of equipment. Military equipment in these police agencies increased from $1 million in 1990 to almost $450 million in 2013.

With all this hardware, police departments are looking for more reasons to use SWAT teams and other heavy-handed tactics. Search warrants seem to be a good excuse; 79 percent of SWAT deployments from 2011 to 2012 are for this purpose. The result is sometimes death, as in the case of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, a seven-year-old killed during the SWAT team attempting to deliver a search warrant in Detroit.

swat police girl in teal shirt

Recruiting videos for SWAT teams feature images of officers “storming into homes with smoke grenades and firing automatic weapons,” according to The New York Times. SWAT teams resemble occupying forces and enact repressive, punitive policing.

Police have attempted to keep media out of Ferguson. St. Louis Alderman Antonio French wrote, “A line of police cars with high beams on greets anyone trying to enter #Ferguson. It’s shut down. No media allowed.” Two journalists, Ryan J. Reilly of The Huffington Post and Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post, were arrested. Although both of them were released unharmed, they were roughed up as they sat working in a McDonald’s. Reilly reported that the restaurant was quiet until the police officers came in.  Lowery had just filed this story when he was arrested.

loweryEarlier tonight, when asked on Twitter who he feared more, protesters or police, Lowery (right) replied: “easy answer, i’m a black man – the police.” L.A. Times reporter Matt Pearce said on Twitter that when he informed Ferguson’s police chief what he knew about the reporters’ arrests, he replied, “Oh, God.”

The police requested people to disperse at dark, but the town has no legal curfew. Snipers pointing their guns at unarmed civilians throughout the afternoon. As I write this, police are firing tear gas canisters into the crowds who are using the hands-up signal of “don’t shoot.” It looks like a war scene out of Iraq.

Otherwise, there’s little news coming out of Ferguson. The police have said they will not release the name of the police shooter—although many people know the name in this small town—and will not reveal any other information until after the toxicology report which could take at least four weeks.

Two days after the killing of Michael Brown, two LAPD officers shot and killed Ezell Ford. Mentally handicapped, the 24- or 25-year-old was unarmed and shot in the back, according to his mother. The first shooter, LAPD Cmdr. Andy Smith said, “Mr. Ford basically tackled one of our officers and went for his gun.”

Although the Ford shooting generated very little media notice, the killing of Michael Brown has gone around the world. The difference is that people protested. It’s time for us to worry about the injustices in the United States as well as in other countries.

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.

November 19, 2011

Police Fight the Occupy Movement

What are the police doing about the Occupy Movement? A Google search shows 131,000,000 hits on police abuse in relation to the Occupiers, most of them describing police officers using pepper spray and nightsticks. For example, the image of an 84-year-old woman has received a huge number of hits. Anyone following the Occupy Movement in the news also remembers the abuse of the Oakland police resulting in an Iraq veteran losing his ability to speak because of  police actions. When the police don’t brutalize the protesters, they intimidate them.

Kicked out of  Zucotti Park, some demonstrators took refuge in churches and other shelters. As several of them slept at a United Methodist church on the Upper West Side, a plainclothes detective walked through the sanctuary, apparently counting heads. At the same time, his partner was asking questions at a homeless shelter in the church’s basement. “It is disconcerting that they would actually enter the sanctuary,” said the Rev. James Karpen, known as Reverend K, senior pastor of the United Methodist Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew, on West 86th Street. “Here we had offered hospitality and safety, which is our business as a church; it just felt invasive.”

Another police action is to ticket and threaten citizens for minor offences. An example is the $60 ticket for honking a horn in Denver (CO). After Daniel Garcia supported the protesters by honking his horn two or three times (something I do occasionally in my small Northwest town), he was pulled over by the police. According to the officer, there’s a city ordinance against honking in a non-emergency situation. The police officer actually searched the car, including the trunk. After ticketing Garcia, the officer said, “If I see you over here again, we’ll pull you over and impound your car for disturbing the peace.”

According to Garcia, his court date is December 23 (Happy Holidays!), and he plans to plead not guilty. The day after he received his ticket he watched another officer ticket someone who stopped to pick up a protester at the park. Other Denver residents reported being ticketed for stopping to drop off supplies for the protesters.

In Portland (OR) Police Chief Mike Reese told the media that the Occupy Movement was keeping them from important business—like investigating a rape. In fact, the 9-1-1 call for the case came during the day rather than during large-scale Portland police deployments and involved a sexual assault that had happened two days earlier. The police had already indicated that they didn’t consider that call a top priority emergency call.

The Police Executive Research Forum, an international non-governmental organization with ties to law enforcement and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has been coordinating conference calls with major metropolitan mayors and police chiefs to advise them on policing matters and discuss response to the Occupy movement. On November 17, PERF Executive Director Chuck Wexler acknowledged PERF’s coordination of a series of conference-call strategy sessions with big-city police chiefs. These calls were distinct from the widely reported national conference calls of major metropolitan mayors.

PERF has issued a guide against the Occupy Movement that encourages the use of undercover officers and snatch squads to “grab the bad guys and remove them from the crowd” and urges local law enforcement to use social media to map the Occupy movement. An earlier guide advocates the use of embedded media to control police messages, the use of undercover cops to infiltrate protest groups, the use and pitfalls of preemptive mass arrest, an examination of the use of less-than-lethal crowd control weapons, and general discussion weighing the use of force in crowd control.

TV watchers cheer when the protesters in the Middle East emerge victorious against tyrants but criticize anyone who wants equality in theUnited States. They encourage anti-Obama protesters to carry weapons but ridicule protesters who refuse to leave a site because they believe in equality.

According to writer Joshua Holland, probably 97 percent of police act professionally toward protesters.  One of the 97 percent is  former Philadelphia police captain Ray Lewis who was arrested during the Occupy Wall Street protests.  “They complained about the park being dirty,” he said. “Here they are worrying about dirty parks when people are starving to death, where people are freezing, where people are sleeping in subways and they’re concerned about a dirty park. That’s obnoxious, it’s arrogant, it’s ignorant, it’s disgusting.”

The other 3 percent are armed and dangerous and know that they’re unlikely to be held accountable. It’s time to do something about the 3 percent who are working for the top 1 percent.

 

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