Nel's New Day

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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