Tuesday Reads: Baltimore Burning

Baltimore police confront violent protesters

Baltimore police confront violent protesters

Good Morning.

One of the advantages of being old is that you can remember quite a bit of history. I remember the riots that tore apart American cities in April, 1968, following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. The assassination was only the trigger that set off the anger that had been building for years in people who felt disrespected and desperate. One of those riots took place in Baltimore. Spiro Agnew was governor of Maryland when it happened. Soon he would be Richard Nixon’s Vice President. Nixon ran on a “law and order” platform, and as president he initiated the “war on drugs.”

Here’s a description of Baltimore in April, 1968, from someone who was there.

Armored troop carriers rolled down the streets over deep tread marks in the soft blacktop. Tanks had preceded them. There were troops already bivouaced in Druid Hill Park. It wasn’t a town in Czechoslovakia, or Poland, or Afghanistan. It was Crabtown, grave-site of Edgar Allen Poe, birthplace of the United States’ national anthem, and headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. In the United States.

It was Bal’more, Mar’lan’. It was the time we call 1968. King had just been assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, and city officials had persuaded Governor Spiro Theodore Agnew to call in the National Guard.

Houses and businesses had burned before, and firemen had been shot before in the inner city, but troops occupying the city, this was new.

Sound familiar?

Baltimore in April, 1968

Baltimore in April, 1968

 

Baltimore in April 1968

Baltimore in April 1968

 

Forty-seven years later, Baltimore is burning again. This time the trigger was the death of Freddie Gray after a beating by police that was caught on video by a bystander. Why is anyone surprised by the violence? It was bound to happen again in one of many cities where militarized police forces target poor neighborhoods and police officers kill black citizens with impunity because they know they will go unpunished. We’ve seen black men die at the hands of police again and again in the past year–in Ferguson, Long Island, Cleveland, Dayton, Los Angeles, New York City, and many more cities.

This time, Baltimore Maryland’s governor is Larry Hogan. Forty-seven years later, his solution is the same as Agnew’s–call in the National Guard to shut down violent protests. Will it work? Maybe it will suppress the anger for a time, but it will remain simmering under the surface until Americans deal with the real problems behind it.

The good news in 2015 is that, thanks to cell phone cameras, Americans are finally seeing in real time the inevitable results of bad policing, racial profiling, and economic inequality. Will anything change this time?

This morning I’ve collected some of the best news reports and opinions I could find on the latest outbreak of violence over a police killing–this time in Baltimore.

Baltimore April 2015

Baltimore April 2015

From The Baltimore Sun: Riots erupt across West Baltimore, downtown.

Violence and looting overtook much of West Baltimore on Monday, injuring more than a dozen police officers and leaving buildings and vehicles in flames.

As night fell, looters took to Mondawmin Mall and a Save-A-Lot and Rite Aid in Bolton Hill, loading up cars with stolen goods. About 10 fire crews battled a three-alarm fire at a large senior center under construction at Chester and Gay streets, as police officers stood guard with long guns.

About 10 p.m., police confirmed shots were fired at an officer in the area of Virginia Avenue and Reisterstown Road in Northwest Baltimore. The officer was not hit and the suspect fled.

Fifteen police officers were injured in a clash with school-age children that began around 3 p.m., and two remain hospitalized, police Col. Darryl DeSousa said in a press conference Monday night. Earlier, police spokesman Capt. Eric Kowalczyk said one officer was unresponsive and others suffered broken bones.

Police arrested 27 people, DeSousa said.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake declared a curfew across the city starting Tuesday and for the next week, from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. for adults and 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. for children aged 14 and younger. She drew a distinction between peaceful protesters and “thugs” she said engaged in rioting Monday intend on “destroying our city.”

“It’s idiotic to think that by destroying your city, you’re going to make life better for anybody,” Rawlings-Blake said.

At Rawlings-Blake’s request, Gov. Larry Hogan signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency and activating the Maryland National Guard. The order does not affect citizens’ rights, but is required to activate the Guard and authorize federal assistance, Hogan spokeswoman Erin Montgomery said. It is not “martial law,” Maryland National Guard Adjutant General Linda Singh said.

Read much more at the Sun link.

Baltimore, April 2015

Baltimore, April 2015

The riots began shortly after the funeral of Freddie Gray, who was killed while in police custody  on April 12. From the Atlantic: The Mysterious Death of Freddie Gray.

Freddie Gray’s death on April 19 leaves many unanswered questions. But it is clear that when Gray was arrested in West Baltimore on the morning of April 12, he was struggling to walk. By the time he arrived at the police station a half hour later, he was unable to breathe or talk, suffering from wounds that would kill him.

Gray died Sunday from spinal injuries. Baltimore authorities say they’re investigating how the 25-year-old was hurt—a somewhat perverse notion, given that it was while he was in police custody, and hidden from public view, that he apparently suffered injury. How it happened remains unknown. It’s even difficult to understand why officers arrested Gray in the first place. But with protestors taking to the streets of Baltimore since Gray’s death on Sunday, the incident falls into a line of highly publicized, fatal encounters between black men and the police….
Black men dying at the hands of the police is of course nothing new, but the nation is now paying attention and getting outraged.Authorities can’t say if there was a particularly good reason why police arrested Gray. According to the city, an officer made eye contact with Gray, and he took off running, so they pursued him. Though he’d had scrapes with the law before, there’s no indication he was wanted at the time. And though he was found with a switchblade, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said, “We know that having a knife is not necessarily a crime.”
Police wouldn’t have found the knife if they hadn’t chased after Gray and searched him with no probable cause. They claim he ran when he saw police, but is that a crime? I don’t think so.
Friends and family gather for Freddie Gray's funeral

Friends and family gather for Freddie Gray’s funeral

Police brutality in Baltimore is nothing new. In September 2014, The Baltimore Sun published an investigative report on police violence against citizens: Undue Force. A brief excerpt:

Over the past four years, more than 100 people have won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil rights violations. Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson.

Those cases detail a frightful human toll. Officers have battered dozens of residents who suffered broken bones — jaws, noses, arms, legs, ankles — head trauma, organ failure, and even death, coming during questionable arrests. Some residents were beaten while handcuffed; others were thrown to the pavement.

And in almost every case, prosecutors or judges dismissed the charges against the victims — if charges were filed at all. In an incident that drew headlines recently, charges against a South Baltimore man were dropped after a video showed an officer repeatedly punching him — a beating that led the police commissioner to say he was “shocked.”

Such beatings, in which the victims are most often African-Americans, carry a hefty cost. They can poison relationships between police and the community, limiting cooperation in the fight against crime, the mayor and police officials say. They also divert money in the city budget — the $5.7 million in taxpayer funds paid out since January 2011 would cover the price of a state-of-the-art rec center or renovations at more than 30 playgrounds. And that doesn’t count the $5.8 million spent by the city on legal fees to defend these claims brought against police.

Read the rest at the link.

Baltimore in April 2015

Baltimore in April 2015

Gray may have been injured during the beating on the street, but his injuries may have been exacerbated by being taken on a “rough ride” in a police wagon without a seat belt.

From the Baltimore Sun: Freddie Gray not the first to come out of Baltimore police van with serious injuries.

When a handcuffed Freddie Gray was placed in a Baltimore police van on April 12, he was talking and breathing. When the 25-year-old emerged, “he could not talk and he could not breathe,” according to one police official, and he died a week later of a spinal injury.

But Gray is not the first person to come out of a Baltimore police wagon with serious injuries.

Relatives of Dondi Johnson Sr., who was left a paraplegic after a 2005 police van ride, won a $7.4 million verdict against police officers. A year earlier, Jeffrey Alston was awarded $39 million by a jury after he became paralyzed from the neck down as the result of a van ride. Others have also received payouts after filing lawsuits.

For some, such injuries have been inflicted by what is known as a “rough ride” — an “unsanctioned technique” in which police vans are driven to cause “injury or pain” to unbuckled, handcuffed detainees, former city police officer Charles J. Key testified as an expert five years ago in a lawsuit over Johnson’s subsequent death.

As daily protests continue in the streets of Baltimore, authorities are trying to determine how Gray was injured, and their focus is on the 30-minute van ride that followed his arrest. “It’s clear what happened, happened inside the van,” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said Monday at a news conference.

Here’s a first-person description of one of those “rough rides” from a victim:

Christine Abbott, a 27-year-old assistant librarian at the Johns Hopkins University, is suing city officers in federal court, alleging that she got such a ride in 2012. According to the suit, officers cuffed Abbott’s hands behind her back, threw her into a police van, left her unbuckled and “maniacally drove” her to the Northern District police station, “tossing [her] around the interior of the police van.”

“They were braking really short so that I would slam against the wall, and they were taking really wide, fast turns,” Abbott said in an interview that mirrored allegations in her lawsuit. “I couldn’t brace myself. I was terrified.”

The lawsuit states she suffered unspecified injuries from the arrest and the ride.

“You feel like a piece of cargo,” she added. “You don’t feel human.”

The van’s driver stated in a deposition that Abbott was not buckled into her seat belt, but the officers have denied driving recklessly.

Anyone believe the denials? I sure don’t.

More helpful stories on the Baltimore riots, links only:

USA Today Sports: Orioles COO John Angelos offers eye-opening perspective on Baltimore protests.

Joseph Cannon at Cannonfire: The Reasons Why, Fighting Back, and Insanity and Reality.

Think Progress: Maryland Police Union President Says He’s Never Heard Of ‘Rough Rides.’

The Root: Baltimore Police Union’s Boss Inflames Tension With ‘Lynch Mob’ Remark; ‘Rough Ride’ Alleged

Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic: Nonviolence as Compliance.

Politico: White House awakes to ‘national crisis‘ and Mayors to Washington: Do Something!

Vox: Protests in Baltimore escalate over death of Freddie Gray after arrest.

Newsday: Philadelphia mayor defends Baltimore leader’s riot response

What else is happening? As always, this is an open thread. Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread.

 

 

 


Lazy Saturday Reads: Time to Put Our Problems into Perspective

Volcano Cambuco, Chile

Volcano Cambuco, Chile

Good Morning!!

Today is a good day to put things in perspective and meditate on how fortunate we are here in the United States, despite our serious social and political problems. Elsewhere, dramatic, uncontrollable earth changes are happening with disastrous results.

A disastrous earthquake hit Nepal this morning, with hundreds reported dead so far.

From the NY Daily News: 7.9-magnitude earthquake hits Nepal, kills 792 people, triggers Mt. Everest avalanche.

A 7.9-magnitude earthquake in Nepal killed at least 792 people, destroyed homes and landmarks and triggered an avalanche on Mt. Everest Saturday, officials said….

The devastation first struck Nepal’s densely populated Kathmandu Valley, sweeping through the capital Kathmandu before rippling outward.

“Almost the entire country has been hit,” Krishna Prasad Dhakal, deputy chief of mission at Nepal’s Embassy in New Delhi, told Reuters.

Nepal’s tourism jewel, Mt. Everest, was shaken by the country’s worst earthquake in 80 years, setting off an avalanche that killed eight and injured at least 30, officials said.

Here’s some shocking video from YouTube:

 

This was truly a giant earthquake. [Update: As I write this, USA Today is reporting 876 confirmed dead.]

The earthquake sent aftershocks in all directions, killing 20 in India, six in Tibet, two in Bangladesh, and two Chinese citizens at the Nepal-China border. The rumbling was also felt by some in Lahore, Pakistan and Lhasa.

A 6.6.-magnitude aftershock hit Nepal about an hour after the initial earthquake, and smaller aftershocks continued every few minutes as emergency responders rushed to save citizens and treat them in overcrowded hospitals….

The cosmic quake also injured dozens more and destroyed several centuries-old temples and towers, including the Dharahara Tower, one of the Nepal’s most famous landmarks, which dates back to the 1800s. People were trapped underneath it after it crumbled.

Nepal is going to need a lot of help and soon if lives are to be saved.

USA Today: Nepal quake occurred at major plate boundary.

Saturday’s catastrophic earthquake in Nepal occurred because of two converging tectonic plates: the India plate and the overriding Eurasia plate to the north, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Tectonic plates are the large, thin, relatively rigid plates that move relative to one another on the outer surface of the Earth.

Plates are always slowly moving, but they get stuck at their edges due to friction. When the stress on the edge overcomes the friction, there is an earthquake that releases energy in waves that travel through the earth’s crust and cause the shaking that we feel.

At the location of Saturday’s earthquake, about 50 miles to the northeast of the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu, the India plate is converging with Eurasia at a rate of about two inches per year towards the north-northeast, driving the uplift of theHimalayan mountain range.

Although a major plate boundary with a history of large-to-great sized earthquakes, large quakes in this area are rare in the documented historical era, the U.S. Geological Survey reports. Over the past century, just four events of magnitude 6.0 or larger have occurred within about 150 miles of Saturday’s earthquake.

One, a magnitude 6.9 earthquake in August 1988 about 150 miles to the southeast of Saturay’s quake, caused nearly 1,500 fatalities, USGS said.

The largest event, a magnitude 8.0 known as the 1934 Nepal-Bihar earthquake, occurred in a similar location to the 1988 quake. It severely damaged Kathmandu, and is thought to have caused around 10,600 deaths.

 

This photo from CNN shows emergency rescue workers in Kathmandu rushing an injured person to a hospital.

150425130218-nepal-earthquake-stretcher-super-169

 

The Guardian is posting live updates on the situation in Nepal.

 

I may be living in dignified poverty in a country filled with out-of-control religious fanatics and right wing haters, but at least I’m alive and well, with a roof over my head, heat, running water, electricity, and food to eat.

On Wednesday, Chile experienced a massive volcanic eruption that also set off earthquakes.

Gizmodo reported it live, with photos and gifs from news sites and Twitter.

Calbuco, a stratovolcano in southern Chile, began erupting yesterday [Wednesday] at 7pm local time. First spewing massive ash clouds then, at 10pm, erupting explosively as its fragile structure collapsed inwards….The Calbuco volcano in southern Chile is erupting for the first time in 42 years…

See more photos at Cruel Buzz:

15 Breathtaking pics of volcano eruption in Chile that forced 4000 to evacuate.

I’m including some of these amazing photos in this post.

From ABC yesterday: Chile Volcano Eruption: Inside a Ghost Town as Volcanic Ash Rains Down.

A volcano that was dormant for 42 years in Chile has erupted twice this week in a magnificent display. But the stunning twin blasts captured on photo and video has forced about 4,000 residents in towns nearby to evacuate as ash blanketed their neighborhoods.

The city of Ensenada, at the foot of the Calbuco volcano, was one of the most thickly covered in ash – which caused roofs to collapse and raised concerns about possible water contamination, respiratory illnesses and more grounded flights.

Chile’s national geology and mining service also warned people to prepare for a possible third and “even more aggressive eruption.”

volcano-eruption-calbuco-chile-1__8801

The LA Times: Calbuco volcano: Two earthquakes caused by fracturing rock, officials say.

A missing hiker was found alive late Thursday as ash from Chile’s Calbuco volcano continued to fill the air, piling on roadways and closing borders in the region.

The volcano first erupted Wednesday, marking the first such activity in more than 42 years, billowing a huge ash cloud over the sparsely populated, mountainous area in southern Chile.

A second, more powerful eruption hit around 1 a.m. Thursday, creating swarms of lightning storms. Stunning photos captured the phenomenon, known as “dirty thunderstorms,” which illuminated the night sky.

The eruption rained down as much as 15 to 20 inches of ash in the nearby town of Ensenada, officials said, closing schools and canceling flights. Several surrounding towns, including Alerce, Colonia Rio Sur and Correntos, were also evacuated.

About 7 p.m. local time, two earthquakes associated with fracturing of rock occurred. The largest happened less than 3 miles east of the main crater, with a magnitude of 3, officials said in a 9 p.m. update. An additional “minor” eruption is possible, officials said.

volcano-eruption-calbuco-chile-4__880

According to the article, no deaths have been reported so far, and officials say they don’t have food or water shortages; but this eruption was huge.

Volcanic ash was falling in the Argentine resort city of Bariloche, about 68 miles east of Calbuco, the Associated Press reported. Officials there were analyzing the ash to see if it posed a threat to drinking water.

Officials closed several border crossings between Argentina and Chile, after “poor environmental conditions” made the roads impassable.

From Reuters early this morning: Chile volcano prompts new evacuations, flights to Argentina canceled.

Chilean volcano Calbuco, which erupted without warning on Wednesday, is still puffing out ash and smoke on Friday, prompting new evacuations and leading airlines to cancel flights to Argentine capital Buenos Aires, some 1,400 kilometers east.

Calbuco, considered one of the most dangerous along Chile’s chain of around 2,000 volcanoes, erupted twice in 24 hours on Wednesday and Thursday, sending up a spectacular 17 kilometer-high (11 miles) cloud and coating nearby towns in a thick layer of gray ash.

Authorities have set up a 20 kilometer (12 mile) cordon around Calbuco, which is located in the scenic Los Lagos region, around 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) south of capital Santiago.

An increase in volcanic activity caused potentially deadly lahars, a mix of water and rock fragments that flow down a volcano’s slopes and river valleys, prompting authorities to evacuate an additional 2,000 people.

“This is a complex (volcanic) process that could last for weeks,” said Rodrigo Alvarez, head of Chile’s mining and geological service.

volcano-eruption-calbuco-chile-15__880

Of course we do face catastrophic risks here too. Remember that all that volcanic activity under Yellowstone National Park?

The Christian Science Monitor reports: Scientists find huge magma reservoir in Yellowstone ‘supervolcano’ (+video).

Scientists and tourists have always known that Yellowstone National Park featured lively geologic wonders – regular small earthquakes and two-thirds of the world’s geysers, including Old Faithful – all constituting what’s known as a “supervolcano.”

Now, seismologists at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City have made a new discovery about Yellowstone’s subsurface plumbing, specifically a reservoir of hot, partly molten rock more than four times larger than the shallower magma chamber that scientists already knew about. To give that some perspective, the newly discovered reservoir would fill the Grand Canyon 11 times, compared with 2.5 times for the shallower chamber.

“For the first time, we have imaged the continuous volcanic plumbing system under Yellowstone,” says Hsin-Hua Huang, a postdoctoral researcher in geology and geophysics at the university and the study’s lead author, in a statement. “That includes the upper crustal magma chamber we have seen previously plus a lower crustal magma reservoir that has never been imaged before and that connects the upper chamber to the Yellowstone hotspot plume below.”

The researchers, whose findings were published in the journal Science this week, emphasize that Yellowstone’s plumbing system is no larger – nor closer to erupting – than before. Now, however, they have used advanced techniques to make a complete image of the system that carries hot and partly molten rock upward from the top of the Yellowstone hot-spot plume – about 40 miles beneath the surface – to the magma reservoir and the magma chamber above it.

But the deeper chamber does mean that the shallow chamber can be replenished again and again.

If that thing blows, we can all kiss our asses goodbye. But we can’t just cower in our houses in fear, can we? We have to face today’s current events, and they can be pretty awful.

Of course, as I wrote at the outset, we do have some serious political and social problems in the good old USA.

I for one am very glad I don’t live in Missouri. Remember the black woman who was elected mayor of the small town of Kinloch? The racism seemingly runs deep in that place, which isn’t far from Ferguson. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports:

Alleging voter fraud, Kinloch refuses to swear in new mayor and alderman.

KINLOCH • Betty McCray, Kinloch’s newly elected Mayor, arrived at City Hall on Thursday morning with an entourage and the intention to fire multiple city employees.

But before she could enter the building, McCray was told she was the one who was out of job.

In the parking lot, McCray was met by a half-dozen police officers and City Attorney James Robinson, who held a manila envelope under his arm containing articles of impeachment.

“You can’t come in as mayor,” Robinson said. “You have been suspended.”

McCray refused to take the envelope, saying, “You may be the attorney now, but I promise you, you won’t be later.”

Robinson also told Alderman Eric Petty, an ally of McCray’s, that the board had drafted articles of impeachment against him. Petty, too, refused to accept them.

“We won,” he said. “It’s time for them to move on.”

Can you believe that? I guess it’s time for the Justice Department to investigate another Missouri police force.

Kinloch, the first city in Missouri to be incorporated by African-Americans, is situated between Ferguson and Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. It once thrived with more than 10,000 residents. Then in the 1980s, the airport began buying homes for a noise-abatement program, purchasing roughly 1,360 properties. The city’s population plummeted, and poverty and blight took hold.

Today, Kinloch, which has fewer than 300 residents, is marked by pilfered coffers, shady land deals and increasingly bitter fights over the last remnants of political power.

During the past five years, the city has seen the imprisonment of a former mayor on federal fraud and theft charges, the hiring of a convicted felon as city manager, the selling of a previous city hall building to an alleged drug dealer and the unseating of at least two aldermen.

WTF do they need so many police officers for 300 residents?!

We’ll have to keep an eye on that story.

A few more reads for you, links only:

Washington Post: So far, NBC News finds Brian Williams embellished at least 11 times.

Paul Krugman on Clinton Rules.

Charles Pierce on his long-time nemesis, the goggle-eyed homonculus: Watching Scotty Blow, con’td, Road Trip. In which Scott Walker learns the difference between Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Vice: Thousands Gather in Istanbul to Demand Turkey Recognize Armenian Mass Killings as Genocide.

NewJersey.com: Stephen A. Smith rips Patriots’ Tom Brady: You had time for George Bush, but not Barack Obama? For once, I have to agree with this perennial Patriots-hater.

Boston Globe: Tom Brady’s White House Absence: The 10 Most Interesting Theories.

Right now I’m wondering if I can even root for Brady next season–especially after I heard he was spotted at an Apple store in NYC last night.

Raw Story: Tennessee Gov. Haslam signs bill allowing handguns in parks.

Talking Points Memo: 2009 Memo Describes Concerns About Oklahoma Deputy’s Training.

ABC News: Each Death in Baltimore Makes Mistrust Harder to Overcome.

New York Times First Draft: Christie’s Wife Leaves Wall Street Job. So the scandal-plagued NJ governor must be planning to run for the GOP nomination.

USA Today: How the Comcast, Time-Warner Deal Unraveled. YAY!!!! One for the good guys.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a nice weekend.

 

 


Friday Reads

Good Morning!

b45c61b8d9b03b61212dc3786b170d81I really have never quite figured out why a lot of people can’t figure out the basic rule of being nice to other people. You learn the lesson of mean almost immediately in this country.  My dad would always come home from his business, cook dinner to relax, and watch the news.  He was particularly fond of Huntley and Brinkley. One of my earliest images of the evening news is of southern police turning hoses on black children and adults.  I can’t imagine that image ever leaving me.  You would think that this far after the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, Stonewall, and all the other movements we’ve had to just bring basic respect to each other’s lives that this country would be less hostile to others.  But no, we continue to see out and out bigotry and hatred of others daily.  This occurs on many levels.

So, it was a bit of a surprise to me to find Adam Sandler making a movie.  I thought we’d moved beyond his unfunny brand of humor.  He seems to have made a decent living making fun of others.  His new script included every trope and stereotype about Native Americans possible.  The Native American actors on the set walked off.  Good for them.

About a dozen Native American actors have walked off the set of an Adam Sandlerspoof western in protest at its depiction of Apache culture, including characters with names like Beaver’s Breath and No Bra.

The group quit on Wednesday after taking offence at jokes in the The Ridiculous Six, reportedly a satire of The Magnificient Seven which is to be Sandler’s first film for Netflix.

In addition to certain characters’ names, they complained about a female character squatting and urinating while smoking a peace pipe and the inappropriate positioning of feathers on a teepee, according to the Indian Country Today Media Network.

The film stars Sandler, Nick Nolte, Steve Buscemi, Dan Aykroyd, Jon Lovitz and Vanilla Ice. Sandler co-wrote it with his veteran collaborator, Tim Herlihy.

It is to be released via Netflix, the first of a four-movie deal with the streaming service, which has scored high repeat viewing figures with Sandler hits such as The Wedding Singer.

The mostly Navajo Native American actors were told The Ridiculous Six, which is being filmed in New Mexico, would be humorous but not racist, actor Loren Anthony told the Indian Country Today Media Network.

“So I agreed to it, but on Monday things started getting weird on the set. One thing that really offended a lot of people was that there was a female character called Beaver’s Breath. One character says: ‘Hey, Beaver’s Breath.’ And the Native woman says: ‘How did you know my name?’”

When the actors complained, the director said the disrespect was not intentional and the film is a comedy, said Anthony.

He also complained about alleged inaccuracies. “We were supposed to be Apache, but it was really stereotypical and we did not look Apache at all. We looked more like Comanche.”

Another Navajo actor, Allison Young, said producers rebuffed her protests. “They just told us: ‘If you guys are so sensitive, you should leave.’”

Young said she cried. “This is supposed to be a comedy that makes you laugh. A film like this should not make someone feel this way. Nothing has changed. We are still just Hollywood Indians.”

It also seems these days that many people are confusing giving all people access to benefits henceforth reserved for a privileged few as something to go all martyr about. The blacklash to this has moved beyondold-tv-set appalling to me.  At least in this case the protesters are identified with a white supremacy group and are being honest about the outrage of having to share their special little snowflake status with others.  Of course, Fox and Friends have taken up the cause of the “War on White People”.

The white freakout over college students grappling with “the problem of whiteness” has just found a new target.

The National Youth Front’s leader, Angelo John Gage, told TPM in a phone interview Thursday that he believes the bulletin board amounted to discrimination. He repeatedly took issue with the portrayal of white people and Christians as having “privilege.”

“State and federal law says you must keep the school discrimination-free. They’re not doing that,” Gage said. “The Civil Rights Act says you can’t have discrimination based on race, sex, gender — all that stuff. Here comes a board that discriminates against people for their race, sex, gender, religion. It’s the complete opposite.”

He defined privilege instead as something “handed to you.”

“‘Oh you’re black, here you go, here’s a scholarship.’ That’s a privilege,” Gage explained. “Or here’s a racial quota. ‘You’re not qualified but you’re black, so here’s the job’ — otherwise it’s racism.”

Gage said he first learned of the bulletin board when he came across an article on Campus Reform, a student news website backed by the Leadership Institute, which organizes conservative groups on campus. Fox News ran with Campus Reform’s story in a “Fox & Friends” segment, which Gage said he watched.

“Fox and Friends” host Elizabeth Hasselbeck spoke with an Appalachian State student earlier this month who said she was cyberbullied after she posted a photo of the bulletin board on Facebook. The photo was picked up by Campus Reform. The student, Laurel Litter, who is white, told Hasselbeck that the felt the bulletin board intimidated her and made her feel shameful about her heritage:

White people!  There are things in our heritage of which we should feel very ashamed!  Slavery?  Lynchings? Jim Crow Laws? I’m sure you can add to the list. I’ve gotten to the point where my rule of not dealing downloadwith mean people implies I mostly avoid white christians unless I know they’re not “that kind” of christian.  You know, the freaking mean, judgmental, hating on others kids demonstrated so illustriously by many of our elected officials. Here’s some more examples of our uncivilized and inhumane behavior. A very dear friend of mine was brutalized at university for being gay 40 years ago.  We’re not beyond that either.

CBS46 obtained exclusive video of what Carver School of Technology students described as a five-round fight with punches being thrown by about 20 students at one point, all because classmates hurled racial and homophobic slurs at two students.

Tim Jefferson, 16, said it all started as he and a friend left their last class to go home.

During the fight, Jefferson said one student even pulled out a screwdriver and jammed it in his face, right next to his eye. Jefferson said he has several injuries.

“My face, my eye, my lip, on my back, my spine right in the middle, the back of my neck and I got hit in the back of my head,” Jefferson said.

Jefferson’s mom, Sabrina Giles, said this is about the eighth time this year that her son and his friend were attacked because of their sexuality so she’s transferring him to another school.

Jefferson hoped to teach the bullies a lesson of their own.

“I’m going to press charges. I want some justice. If God willing, I’m going to get justice and I want the boys who did this to go to jail,” Jefferson said.

Atlanta police charged four students in the fight. Three juveniles will face state charges of affray. The other student, Jefferson’s friend, who said he was bullied, will face a charge of disorderly conduct.

The continued invention of christian persecution in this country reached a fervored pitch yesterday when my governor announced he’d fight big sodomy and big business for his right to humiliate the GLBT community with laws that allow bigots to exclude them and any one else they don’t like from a seat at the lunch counter if they scream “You’re persecuting me because of my religion”!  Oh, SCOTUS and the Hobby Lobby Decision!  Look wtf you’ve done!

Jindal’s op-ed is actually a follow-up of his previous support for Johnson’s bill. Asked for the governor’s stance on the bill by the New Orleans Times-Picayune, a Jindal spokesman said the governor definitely supports it.

“This is a common sense bill that provides necessary protections for individuals to prevent adverse treatment from the state based on religious beliefs regarding marriage,” the spokesman told the newspaper.

Pence, at first, seemed adamant in not giving in to any criticism or pressure, be it byDemocrats or national or local businesses, in changing the the religious freedom law he signed. Eventually though the pressure was too much and Pence called on lawmakers to clarify the law. Hutchinson seemed to see the writing on the wall and also sent the religious freedom bill back to his state legislature. Jindal’s op-ed is a move that the other governors didn’t take and a clear line in the sand that he wants things to go differently in his state.

images (4)This nonsense and grandstanding on the Op Ed page of the NYT came on the same day that national support for marriage equality has reached a big plurality. Fully sixty one percent of Americans believe it should be legal in every state in our country.

A week before a closely watched U.S. Supreme Court hearing on the issue, public support for gay marriage reached a new high in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, with 61 percent of Americans – more than six in 10 for the first time – saying gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry legally.

Identical or similar majorities favor gay marriage on two key issues before the court: Sixty-one percent oppose allowing individual states to prohibit same-sex marriages. And 62 percent support requiring states to recognize gay marriages performed legally in other states.

This puts the majority of the Republican party at odds with the majority of the country.  It also indicates that little Bobby Jindal will do anything to the state of Louisiana, its economy, its people, and its environment to attract a few whackado Iowa Republican caucus goers.   Poor Bobby!  Point to the place on the doll where the mean married gay people hurt you!  What?  You can’t point to your imagination?  How about pointing to your blatant political strategy based on hating on people.

When it comes to defending big business over the rights of the average citizen, Bobby Jindal is your guy. After the BP oil spill – which began five years ago this week, dumping hundreds of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf – Bobby Jindal was frontandcenter, defending BP.

But now that he’s running for President – unannounced as of now – Jindal is working to shape his image as the defender of religious liberty and freedom, for Christians.

Literally, for Christians.

The New York Times this morning published what appears to be an un-fact checked op-ed by the Louisiana Governor, in which he specifically states his plan to fight “discrimination against Christian individuals and businesses.”

Not, say, “people of faith,” or, “those with deeply held religious beliefs,” but “Christian individuals and businesses.”

Hopefully Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the ACLU, the American Humanist Association, and other like-minded organizations are at their keyboards reminding the 43-year old Roman Catholic Republican about the First Amendment.

So why exactly is Jindal preparing to defend these Christians (and not Muslims, Jews, or people of unaffiliated faith – or of no faith at all)?

“I’m Holding Firm Against Gay Marriage” is the title of his Times op-ed.

“I plan in this legislative session to fight for passage of the Marriage and Conscience Act,” Jindal writes. When he made the same statement in front of the Louisiana legislature last week, it received not a single moment of applause. Even the bill’s author wasn’t clapping.

That bill is so anti-gay, so sweeping, it states that no one and no business or organization in Louisiana has to recognize the legal marriage of a same-sex couple.

Your employer doesn’t have to extend medical coverage to your spouse. The DMV could state your legal name, had you changed it after marrying a person of the same gender, is invalid (as happened in Florida), and hospitals might be able to deny visitation and medical decision rights from you or your husband or wife.

Louisiana already has a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but Gov. Jindal is planning a run for president, and he needs to distinguish himself from the rest of the pack.

maxresdefaultSo, when is removing rights from people so other’s won’t feel put out and can do whatever they want to others based on their bigotry any where near to religious discrimination?  All you have to do is read the justification for slavery, Jim Crow Laws, and  Laws that once prevented people of different colors from marrying and you’ll read the same old tired bigoted arguments.    Notice that I haven’t even got to any conversation on immigration today and I’ve already filled the page up with examples of mean, bigoted hate-filled assholes.

Love one another.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Tuesday Reads: Zimmerman Speaks, Cruz Announces, and Hillary Clinton Prepares to Run

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Good Morning!!

Get your barf bags ready before you read the new “interview” with George Zimmerman. I put that word in quotes, because the so-called “interview” was with Zimmerman’s divorce lawyer Howard Iken, not an objective journalist who might have asked uncomfortable questions. I couldn’t bring myself to read the whole thing, but you can do so at the Ayo and Iken website. You can also watch the video if you can stomach it. I did read a couple of press reports:

The Orlando Sentinel reported, George Zimmerman: President Obama amped up racial tension against me.

In his first public comments since the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would not prosecute him for violating Trayvon Martin‘s civil rights, George Zimmerman says he was victimized by President Obama….

In it, he faulted the media for portraying him as a racist and the criminal justice system for bringing him to trial but saved his harshest criticism for Obama, whom he accused of trying to prosecute “an innocent American.”

“For him to make incendiary comments as he did and direct the Department of Justice to pursue a baseless prosecution, he by far over-stretched, over-reached,” Zimmerman said.

The president, whom he referred to as “Barack Hussein Obama,” should have told the public, ” ‘Let’s not rush to judgment,’ ” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman told his attorney that he doesn’t feel guilty about killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was unarmed and walking to his father’s home after buying skittles and iced tea at a local convenience store.

He said he’s convinced there’s nothing he could have done differently that would have allowed both him and Trayvon to survive their confrontation that night.

“In all fairness, you cannot as a human feel guilty for living, for surviving,” he said.

Talking Points Memo: George Zimmerman Compares Himself To Anne Frank, Says Obama Victimized Him.

“I believe that God does everything for a purpose, and he had his plans and for me to second guess them would be hypocritical and almost blasphemous,” Zimmerman said. “Had I have had a fraction of a thought that I could have done something differently, acted differently so that both of us would’ve survived then I would have heavier weight on my shoulders.”

His lawyer, Howard Iken, asked him whether he was the same man he was five years ago.

“Absolutely not,” Zimmerman said. “I have to have my guard up significantly. … I still believe that people are truly good at heart, as Anne Frank has said, and I will put myself in any position to help another human in any way I can.”

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Apparently “God” actually wanted Trayvon dead and Zimmerman just happened to be the medium for “God’s” handiwork. Because, you know, “God” is a racist who hates black teenagers….

Don’t put away that barf bag just yet. The next topic is Ted Cruz’ announcement yesterday that he’s running for president. Cruz made the big announcement at Liberty University in Virginia, which was founded by Jerry Falwell. You can read the full transcript at Time Magazine. Cruze praised the “christian” college profusely, but please note that Cruz himself chose to get his education at Princeton and Harvard.

Cruz led off the speech with a lengthy and sentimental description of his and his wife’s family history. Then he launched into his dream for the future of America.

I want to talk to you this morning about reigniting the promise of America: 240 years ago on this very day, a 38-year-old lawyer named Patrick Henry stood up just a hundred miles from here in Richmond, Virginia, and said, “Give me liberty or give me death.”

I want to ask each of you to imagine, imagine millions of courageous conservatives, all across America, rising up together to say in unison “we demand our liberty.”

Today, roughly half of born again Christians aren’t voting. They’re staying home. Imagine instead millions of people of faith all across America coming out to the polls and voting our values.

Today millions of young people are scared, worried about the future, worried about what the future will hold. Imagine millions of young people coming together and standing together, saying “we will stand for liberty.”

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That’s not too specific, but I’m pretty sure that by “liberty” Cruz means taking away freedom of choice from women, taking away health care from millions of Americans, blocking immigration reform, and increasing income inequality through tax cuts and removal of government regulations that protect the environment and the health and safety of workers.

Cruz went on to provide some specifics:

Five years ago today, the president signed Obamacare into law. Within hours, Liberty University went to court filing a lawsuit to stop that failed law. Instead of the joblessness, instead of the millions forced into part-time work, instead of the millions who’ve lost their health insurance, lost their doctors, have faced skyrocketing health insurance premiums, imagine in 2017 a new president signing legislation repealing every word of Obamacare.

Imagine health care reform that keeps government out of the way between you and your doctor and that makes health insurance personal and portable and affordable.

Yes, you’ll just have to imagine that, because you won’t get it with a Republican president.

Instead of a tax code that crushes innovation, that imposes burdens on families struggling to make ends met, imagine a simple flat tax that lets every American fill out his or her taxes on a postcard.

Imagine abolishing the IRS.

So taxes would get paid on the honor system? And with a flat tax, the burden would fall mostly on lower wage earners. Again, it’s about “freedom” for the rich and the rest of us can pay for it.

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Women  and LGBT people can forget about their freedom under a Ted Cruz presidency.

Instead of a federal government that wages an assault on our religious liberty, that goes after Hobby Lobby, that goes after the Little Sisters of the Poor, that goes after Liberty University, imagine a federal government that stands for the First Amendment rights of every American.

Instead of a federal government that works to undermine our values, imagine a federal government that works to defend the sanctity of human life and to uphold the sacrament of marriage.

There’s much more of Cruz’s “freedom” talk at the link.

Some reactions to the speech:

Think Progress: Ted Cruz Just Laid Out The Most Anti-Woman Agenda Yet.

FactCheck.org: FactChecking Ted Cruz

The Week: The Obama-like rhetoric, record, and divisiveness of Ted Cruz.

Mediaite: Jon Stewart Mocks Ted Cruz’s Televangelist-Like Big Speech.

SFGate: The Ten Best Things About Ted Cruz Running for President.

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On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton seems to be getting close to announcing her own run for president. Yesterday she had a private meeting with President Obama.

From Politico: Hillary Clinton meets Barack Obama at the White House.

Clinton was in Washington for an event about the future of urban policy hosted by the Center for American Progress in the morning and the presentation of the Toner Award at a dinner in the evening.

In between, the all-but-declared Democratic presidential candidate swung by to see her old boss in the building she’s hoping to move into.

The White House wouldn’t comment about whether a meeting was going to happen earlier in the day, but White House press secretary Josh Earnest confirmed afterward that it had happened — though he provided few details.

“President Obama and Secretary Clinton enjoy catching up in person when their schedules permit,” Earnest said. “This afternoon they met privately for about an hour at the White House and discussed a range of topics.”

I wonder if they talked about Clinton’s announcement and what Obama would do to back her up?

Music lesson

Also at Politico, Gabriel DeBenedetti wrote that Clinton and other Democrats are thrilled that Ted Cruz will be running for the GOP nomination.

Ted Cruz: Hillary Clinton’s wrecking ball.

Democrats from both inside and outside the Clinton camp have groused for months that the all-but-certain candidate was moving too slowly in formulating and projecting a rationale for running for the White House outside of her gender and the dreaded “it’s my time” argument. She was relying too much on a platform of inevitability, they said — the same platform that doomed her bid in 2008. But those closest to the former secretary of state have counseled patience, arguing that a core element of Clinton’s plan was to get out of the way and let the dueling wings of the Republican Party savage each other while she floats above it all.

Cruz, they say, is Hillary’s wrecking ball.

People close to Clinton smiled at the sight of the first-term senator wandering alone on stage at Liberty University, implicitly threatening a civil war with the “mushy” establishment of his party that he loves to decry — while at the exact same time Clinton sat comfortably alongside heavyweights from her own party’s progressive and labor elements, who have thus far entirely declined to challenge her.

Meanwhile the clamoring of some liberal groups to recruit Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the progressive darling, was entirely unheard in downtown Washington as Clinton spent her morning discussing domestic policy at the headquarters of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank run by her allies. The presumptive Democratic front-runner sat near a pair of union bosses and current and former urban mayors, making sure to throw in some love for liberal hero Bill de Blasio, the New York City mayor, as she previewed pieces of her likely domestic policy platform.

She touched all corners of the Democratic Party in the morning performance before meeting with President Barack Obama in the White House and speaking at an award ceremony for political reporters in the evening, dogged only by barbs from her Republican critics.

So for Clinton, Monday was smooth sailing. For Republicans, her camp figures, it signaled the beginning of a wild and messy primary contest that will let Clinton appear to be the adult in the room before she takes on a bloodied GOP nominee.

Could the GOP clown car be even more packed with loonies in 2016 than it was in 2012?

What are you hearing? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a great day.

NOTE: The paintings of piano players by Matisse are meant as a tribute to our fearless leader Dakinikat and her new moneymaking enterprise.


Friday Reads and all that Jazz

10710993_10152844142993512_6766093555877670106_nGood Morning!

I’ve spent this week getting used to some changes in my schedule and activities while trying to find a way to get all the things paid for above and beyond teaching for what seems like next to nothing any more.  One of the things I learned this week is that some things really never change.

Bourbon Street, New Orleans is pretty much an endless parade of the same kinds of people  in the same groups with the same clothes and looks on their faces.  I’ve never gigged on Bourbon Street until this week even though I’ve gigged around New Orleans and the French Quarter a lot over the 20 years I’ve lived here.  I usually play at upscale restaurants so mostly, I’m very much in the background.

I’m still somewhat in the background but now it’s more like being the music behind the performance.   I’m accompanying a very talented drag performer with an awesome voice and having great fun!  I hope you enjoy the pictures!  I’m going to share a few other stories that are locally relevant and not as happy.  So, this top picture is Miss Jessica Duplantier singing with me checking out her show last week.   You’ll see a lot more of her and Eureka Starfish as the post goes on.

I’ve been thinking once again on how tribal human beings can be and how easily we forget how badly we can treat each other.  I also think we all have convenient short memories and long standing insensitivities to wrong done to others.   I’m getting tired of watching racism parade its ugly head.   I’m also getting extremely tired of people acting willfully ignorant about things that seriously represent injurious historical actions.

I‘m pretty sure we all know about  “pickaninny” culture even though many of us were not raised in the deep south.  It was a staple of Hollywood movies, literature, advertising, and many other aspects of popular culture prior to the civil rights movement.  I’m not going to actually reproduce any of that here on the post but I will point to the links and to this article highlighting the new poster for the North Shore Strawberry Festival.

The 2015 Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival poster was unveiled Tuesday (March 17), and immediately provoked a social media debate, with some calling the image racist.

The poster, created by artist Kalle Siekkinen, depicts two faceless children rendered in dark brown or black paint. One holds a flat of strawberries. The poster made the rounds on various Facebook pages, with some saying the image, done in a folk art style, implied cultural insensitivity. Others wrote that such concerns were misplaced.

Shelley Matherne, public relations director for the Strawberry Festival, said that the annual poster is produced by the Ponchatoula Kiwanis Club and that officials of the festival had not seen the work until Thursday’s unveiling. They became aware of the controversy via social media. Festival organizers are meeting with Kiwanis representatives Thursday (March 19) evening to discuss how to proceed, Matherne said.

The festival put a post about the poster on its Facebook page. The comments under the post — 81 as of 5:15 p.m. Thursday — were no longer public.

I have followed, spoke to and seen most of the social media storm.  I cannot believe that folks do not recognize the “pickaninny” stereotype and what it means to the historical movement to dehumanize and infantilize Black Americans.  You can look at the variety of comments there exclaiming that it’s racist free ‘folk art’ showcasing black children and judge for yourself.  The Festival people are standing by the poster and the poster’s defenders are vociferous.  I’m still appalled and I stand by that.

eureka starfish gagaI’m appalled on many levels by several recent events indicating that the struggle does indeed continue on many fronts.  There were several notable absences in the Selma commemoration including the Congressman that spoke at a White Supremacist gathering on his way to his seat.  He was in a posh resort being wined and dined by the AEI.  That’s obviously much more important than making a symbolic gesture to his constituents many of whose lives were profoundly changed by the civil rights movement.

U.S. Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 3 House Republican who has been criticized in the past by civil rights leaders, stayed at a posh Georgia resort with his wife earlier this month rather than attend events in Alabama marking the 50th anniversary of the Selma civil rights march.

A newly filed congressional “post-travel” disclosure dated Wednesday shows Scalise skipped the Selma event to attend a Republican “off-the-record” retreat hosted in Sea Island, Ga. The event was hosted by the American Enterprise Institute from March 5-8.

Not far away from us, Mississipi Trees still bear “strange fruit”. All of this is a haunting reminder that our President may be black, but our American Society still has far to go to achieve the dream of liberty and justice for all.

CLAIBORNE COUNTY, MS (Mississippi News Now) –The FBI and the MBI are investigating a suspicious death in Claiborne County.

A body was found on property located off of Rodney Road.

The Coroner, J.W. Mallett, confirms the man was found hanging from a tree. Officials say the body was hung using bed sheets.

According to the Coroner the body has not yet been identified because the body has apparently been there so long that identification, by visual means, is nearly impossible. The body has been sent to the State Crime Lab for autopsy.

The Claiborne County branch of the NAACP is indicating the man found hanging is Otis Byrd.

The FBI is only saying that he is a “man last seen March 2nd; and his family filed a missing persons report with the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Department on March 8th.”

In a news release, the FBI say the body was found during a ground search by the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Department and the Mississippi Wildlife Fisheries and Parks.

54-year-old Otis James Byrd was last seen when a friend dropped him off at Vicksburg’s Riverwalk Casino earlier this month.

His family and friends hadn’t heard from him since then.

The NAACP has now sent an email requesting the US Department of Justice “join the current investigation of the suspicious hanging death of Mr. Otis Byrd.”

The email goes on to say: “Mr. Otis Byrd’s body was [found] today, Thursday, March 19, 2015. After several days of missing, [he] was found hanged to death.”

The FBI says the body was found “a half mile from his last know residence.”

Some odd things have been happening in the city that relate to a really strange true crime case.  I thought I’d bring up the arrest and extradition of Robert Durst.  It’s one of those stories that makes you wonder St Pat's with Jessica DuPlantier and Dasani Watershow our society can manage to let so many folks rot in jail for very little while a true sociopath can wander about at will.  I guess you shouldn’t wonder too much because the guy is and was rich and can pretty much afford to work the justice system.  It’s a strange story, nonetheless.

Durst was arrested Saturday in New Orleans in connection with the 2000 fatal shooting of Berman at her Benedict Canyon home. He was charged Monday with murder, and the next day transferred to the mental health facility at a state-run prison in Louisiana.

His extradition to California has been delayed as authorities in New Orleans deal with the drugs and weapons allegations.

Meanwhile, New York authorities remain interested in Durst as they continue to investigate what happened to his first wife, Kathleen, who disappeared in 1982.

Kathleen Durst vanished after she expressed the desire for a divorce. To a friend, she had confided worries about what her husband might do.

Following the disappearance, Berman acted as an “informal spokesman” for Durst. The pair had met at UCLA, where they went to school together.

Prosecutors in Los Angeles allege that Durst killed Berman to prevent her from speaking to police about the disappearance of his wife. Durst could face the death penalty for the murder charge with special circumstances.
Less than a year after Berman’s death, Durst turned up in Galveston, Texas, in connection with the killing of an elderly neighbor, Morris Black. Black’s dismembered body, in several plastic bags, was discovered in the waters offshore. A trail of clues led to Durst’s arrest.

Durst didn’t deny dismembering Black, but he said he inadvertently shot him while wrestling a gun from him.

A jury acquitted him in 2003.

Although Durst’s life has seen a series of high-profile brushes with the law, suspicions about him exploded into a national sensation as they played out in a six-part HBO series, “The Jinx.”Eureka Starfish

The making of the documentary had opened up some new evidence.  Durst’s New Orleans Hotel Room is turning out to be one of those FBI forensic crime scenes from TV dramas mixed with crime psychologists and crime scene scientists.  Check out the picture on this one.  The guy oozes sociopath.

Murder suspect Robert Durst, subject of HBO’s ‘The Jinx,’ had more than $42,000 in cash, a fake ID and a latex mask when authorities arrested him in New Orleans last weekend, newly obtained records show.

Inside Durst’s hotel room at the J.W. Mariott on Canal Street, police say they found $42,631 in cash, mostly in $100 bills packed in small envelopes, according to an affidavit for a warrant to search Durst’s home in Houston, signed by a judge in Harris County, Texas, on Tuesday (March 17).

The new details were made public Wednesday after authorities in Houston searched the real-estate scion’s home at the request of Los Angeles officials, who have charged Durst in the 2000 death of his longtime confidante and spokesperson, Susan Berman.

According to the document, members of the FBI’s Violent Offenders Task Force found Durst on in the lobby of the hotel a little before 7 p.m. Saturday. When FBI Special Agent William Williams approached the 71-year-old man from behind and identified himself, Durst had a small backpack with him but claimed he did not have any type of identification.

When agents searched Durst’s room — he was staying in room 2303 under the name Everette Ward — they found a Texas ID with the same alias, and not his real name, the record states.

“That’s pretty good,” Durst said to the agents when confronted with the fake ID, according to the Texas document.

So, now I suppose I will have to watch the HBO thing.

Bourbon Street on a Monday
Well, that’s enough for me today.  I’m going back to sleep for awhile!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Tuesday Reads: Utter Exhaustion Edition

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Good Morning!!

I finally arrived in Boston yesterday after driving for three days. With the days so short, and the nights so dark, I ended up having to stop for the night earlier than I would have in the summer. I was tired last night, but I’m even more exhausted this morning. Everything hurts, and my brain isn’t working properly. I’m supposed to drive up to New Hampshire for Christmas, and I have no idea how I can do that.

I’d like to write a beautifully organized post, but I don’t think I’m capable of it. So here are some news stories that caught my flawed attention this morning.

Another police officer gets away with murder, this time in Milwaukee. From the Journal-Sentinel:

In one of the most highly anticipated legal decisions in recent memory, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm announced Monday that former Milwaukee police officer Christopher Manney will not be charged in the fatal shooting of Dontre Hamilton at Red Arrow Park.

Chisholm determined that Manney’s use of force was justified self-defense.

Hamilton’s family has repeatedly called for Manney, who has since been fired, to face criminal charges.

Speaking to supporters outside the federal courthouse in Milwaukee, Hamilton’s brother Nathaniel said he and the other family members would not waver in their determination.

“We deserve justice,” he said. “Justice is our right.”

As you’ve probably already guessed, Dontre Hamilton was a black man, and Christopher Manney is white. This is getting to be a regular thing, and it’s really getting old. The police unions can complain all they want. The simple truth is that police officers are killing a hell of a lot of black men.

dog-tired

The NY Daily News reports that the Department of Justice will review the shooting to determine whether Hamilton’s civil rights were violated.

There’s been some pushback on the claims by police unions that protesters of police-involved deaths like those of Michael Brown and Eric Garner and government officials who sympathized with their families are responsible for the recent murders of two NYPD police officers in Brooklyn. Here’s an essay by Kareem Abdul Jabbar in Time Magazine: The Police Aren’t Under Attack. Institutionalized Racism Is.

According to Ecclesiastes, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose.” For me, today, that means a time to seek justice and a time to mourn the dead.

And a time to shut the hell up.

The recent brutal murder of two Brooklyn police officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, is a national tragedy that should inspire nationwide mourning. Both my grandfather and father were police officers, so I appreciate what a difficult and dangerous profession law enforcement is. We need to value and celebrate the many officers dedicated to protecting the public and nourishing our justice system. It’s a job most of us don’t have the courage to do.

At the same time, however, we need to understand that their deaths are in no way related to the massive protests against systemic abuses of the justice system as symbolized by the recent deaths—also national tragedies—of Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, and Michael Brown. Ismaaiyl Brinsley, the suicidal killer, wasn’t an impassioned activist expressing political frustration, he was a troubled man who had shot his girlfriend earlier that same day. He even Instagrammed warnings of his violent intentions. None of this is the behavior of a sane man or rational activist. The protests are no more to blame for his actions than The Catcher in the Rye was for the murder of John Lennon or the movie Taxi Driver for the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan. Crazy has its own twisted logic and it is in no way related to the rational cause-and-effect world the rest of us attempt to create.

Those who are trying to connect the murders of the officers with the thousands of articulate and peaceful protestors across America are being deliberately misleading in a cynical and selfish effort to turn public sentiment against the protestors. This is the same strategy used when trying to lump in the violence and looting with the legitimate protestors, who have disavowed that behavior. They hope to misdirect public attention and emotion in order to stop the protests and the progressive changes that have already resulted. Shaming and blaming is a lot easier than addressing legitimate claims.

More at the link.

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The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times have each editorialized on the issue.

WaPo: The blame game over police deaths in New York goes too far.

LA Times: Protesters didn’t cause slayings of New York police officers.

The Daily Beast: The NY Police Union’s Vile War with Mayor De Blasio.

And from HuffPo: Police Unions ‘Standing Down’ After Controversial Comments In Wake Of NYPD Shooting.

Despite all the complaints about Obama’s leadership from Republicans, the economy is growing; and wealthy Americans sure seem to be doing okay.

The Hill, GDP grows by 5 percent as US economy picks up strong pace.

The economy grew at a 5 percent rate from July to September, the fastest pace in 11 years.

The strong growth recorded by the Commerce Department adds to the sense that the economy is approaching full speed for the first time since the recession of 2008 — and since President Obama was first elected….

The government found consumer spending grew by 3.2 percent from July to September, compared to 2.5 percent in the previous quarter.

The Commerce Department also shifted its estimate for the second quarter, finding strong growth of 4.6 percent between April and June. That’s up from its previous estimate of 3.9 percent.

Reuters, Dow Tops 18,000 for First Time on Upbeat GDP Report.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average broke through 18,000 for the first time Tuesday, propelled higher by a better-than-expected report on the economy in the third quarter. If the Dow closes above 18,000, it will have taken the index only six months to climb there from 17,000.

It took only seven months to get from 16,000 to 17,000.

The market’s rise has been good news for Americans who own shares, including the wealthy, corporations, financial firms and workers with retirement funds and pensions invested in stocks. For those who don’t own shares, it could mean a widening wealth gap, however.

How much wider can it get?

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But there’s also good news for us ordinary folks. From CNN, 89 straight days of lower gas prices.

The streak, the longest on record according to AAA, has shaved nearly $1 off the national average price of regular gas, taking it to $2.38 a gallon for the first time in five years. September 25 was the last day prices were higher for drivers. That day they increased by only a tenth of a cent. Prices have tumbled 36% since the high of the year, which was back in late April.

Not only have they been falling, but the plunge in gas prices has been picking up speed, tumbling nearly 2 cents between Monday and Tuesday.

Prices were 15 cents higher only a week ago and 44 cents higher a month ago. In numerous cities — including Dallas-Fort Worth, Kansas City, Missouri, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Topeka, Kansas — the average price now stands less than $2 a gallon, according to AAA. Springfield, Missouri became the first state to break the $2 average price last week. Missouri drivers are enjoying the lowest statewide average price at $2.05 a gallon.

The plunging price of oil — a 50% drop off the cost of barrel of crude since April, is the main driver in the gas price slide. But there are many other factors also affecting prices. Weakening economies in Europe and Asia, as well as more fuel efficient vehicles worldwide, have all cut demand for gasoline.

Unfortunately, I can testify that gas prices on the New York Thruway are still very high, with regular priced at close to $3.00 a gallon.

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North Korea suffered a major internet breakdown yesterday. Was the NSA responsible? The CIA. If so, good work! From Reuters, North Korea’s Internet links restored amid U.S. hacking dispute.

North Korea, at the center of a confrontation with the United States over the hacking of Sony Pictures, experienced a complete Internet outage for hours before links were restored on Tuesday, but U.S. officials said Washington was not involved.

U.S.-based Dyn, a company that monitors Internet infrastructure, said the reason for the outage was not known but could range from technological glitches to a hacking attack. Several U.S. officials close to the investigations of the attack on Sony Pictures said the U.S. government had not taken any cyber action against Pyongyang.

U.S. President Barack Obama had vowed on Friday to respond to the major cyberattack, which he blamed on North Korea, “in a place and time and manner that we choose.”

Dyn said North Korea’s Internet links were unstable on Monday and the country later went completely offline. Links were restored at 0146 GMT on Tuesday, and the possibilities for the outage could be attacks by individuals, a hardware failure, or even that it was done by North Koreaitself, experts said.

Matthew Prince, CEO of U.S.-based CloudFlare which protects websites from web-based attacks, said the fact that North Korea’s Internet was back up “is pretty good evidence that the outage wasn’t caused by a state-sponsored attack, otherwise it’d likely still be down for the count”.

Almost all of North Korea’s Internet links and traffic pass through China and it dismissed any suggestion that it was involved as “irresponsible”.

So what happened then, I wonder . . . . ?

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Here’s a story that should please JJ: Dish Network dumps Fox News, setting off social media war on Facebook.

Satellite-TV provider Dish Network dropped the Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network on Saturday night after the companies couldn’t come to terms on a new distribution contract, reports TVNewser.

According to Fox Executive Vice President of Distribution Tim Carry, contract talks have broken off and nothing is happening, depriving Dish’s 14 million subscribers of Fox News’ “fair and balanced” approach to current event coverage.

“Our phone line is open, we’re willing to talk,” Carry said. “Am I negotiating right now? I’m not.”

Executives at Dish say Fox is playing hardball with them by attempting to use the news channel as  leverage to increase fees for their sports and entertainment channels normally covered by separate contracts.

“It’s like we’re about to close on a house and the realtor is trying to make us buy a new car as well,” said Warren Schlichting, Dish Network’s Senior Vice President of programming. “Fox blacked out two of its news channels, using them as leverage to triple rates on sports and entertainment channels that are not in this contract.”

Hahahahaha! The Fox fans in Banjoville must being going nuts. But at least they can watch Turner Classic Movies.

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And here’s some even more scary news for racist Southerners. From Raw Story: Southern whites have more black DNA than whites in the rest of US: study.

Some of the states with the most racially charged attitudes towards African-Americans are also the states where the most whites have black ancestors, according to a recently released study.

Researchers examined 145,000 DNA samples provided to genetic testing company 23andme for ancestry analysis to determine that at least six million Americans who called themselves white had 1 percent or more African ancestry.

The study published this month in the American Journal of Human Genetics found that whites in the South were far more likely to have at least 1 percent black ancestry than any other part of the country.

“European Americans with African ancestry comprise as much as 12% of European Americans from Louisiana and South Carolina and about 1 in 10 individuals in other parts of the South,” the authors wrote….

And black Americans living in the South also had more African ancestry than any other region of the country. African-Americans in West Virginia and Oregon had the lowest percentage of African ancestry.

So . . . . what stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday!


Tuesday Reads: Can The News Get Any Worse? Probably.

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Good Morning!!

It’s difficult to imagine how the news can get any worse . . . and then it does.

Bloomberg: CIA Torture Report Set for Senate Release Over Bush Objections.

Dec. 9 (Bloomberg) — The Democrats on the Senate intelligence committee are preparing to issue their report on the harsh interrogation tactics the CIA used on terrorism suspects, defying the objections of current and former U.S. officials including former President George W. Bush.

The panel plans to release today a summary of a 6,200-page report concluding that the Central Intelligence Agency used extreme interrogation methods at secret prisons more often than legally authorized and failed to disclose all the activities to lawmakers and other officials.

Despite warnings from opponents of the report’s release, including some Republicans on the panel, that Americans would face retaliation overseas, President Barack Obama supports making the conclusions public, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said yesterday.

“The president believes that, on principle, it’s important to release that report, so that people around the world and people here at home understand exactly what transpired,” he said. Earnest said the administration has taken steps to improve security at U.S. facilities around the world.

Read the arguments for and against releasing the report at the link.  A brief summary of the conflict at USA Today: Obama, Bush teams battle over torture report. Of course Dick Cheney felt the need to butt in.

While Obama and aides support release of the report as to way to prevent future abuses, some Bush administration officials call it partisan second-guessing of techniques that proved necessary during the war on terrorism.

“What I keep hearing out there is they portray this as a rogue operation and the agency was way out of bounds and then they lied about it,” former vice president Dick Cheney told The New York Times. “I think that’s all a bunch of hooey. The program was authorized. The agency did not want to proceed without authorization, and it was also reviewed legally by the Justice Department before they undertook the program.” [….]

The dispute between Obama and Bush officials revolves around the legality of the interrogation programs and whether they yielded valuable intelligence as the U.S. raced to block terrorism in the years following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Cheney and other Bush administration officials say the programs yielded actionable intelligence that helped uncover possible terrorist plots.

Congressional Democrats say the report shows that tactics like waterboarding yielded nothing that could not have been obtained by other means.

The two sides agree on one thing: Release of the Senate report, detailing some of the less savory methods used to extract testimony from terrorism suspects, could lead to violent, anti-American protests in some countries.

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Reuters has a minor preview on the contents of the report: Sexual threats, other CIA methods detailed in Senate report.

The report, which Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein said would be released on Tuesday, describes how al Qaeda operative Abdel Rahman al Nashiri, suspected mastermind of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, was threatened with a buzzing power drill, the sources said. The drill was never actually used on him.

It documents how at least one detainee was sexually threatened with a broomstick, the sources said.

Preparing for a worldwide outcry from the publication of such graphic details, the White House and U.S. intelligence officials said on Monday they had shored up security of U.S. facilities worldwide.

The report, which took years to produce, charts the history of the CIA’s “Rendition, Detention and Interrogation” program, which President George W. Bush authorized after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Bush ended many aspects of the program before leaving office, and President Barack Obama swiftly banned “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which critics say are torture, after his 2009 inauguration.

The Christian Science Monitor asks what I think is an irrelevant question: Did torture yield results? I really don’t care; some things are just wrong period.

The 480-page document reveals the results of Senate investigation into the CIA’s use of torture and other techniques that violate international law against prisoners held on terrorism-related charges. Though many details of the Senate’s findings will remain classified – the document is a summary of a 6,000-page report that is not being released – the report is expected to conclude that the methods used by the CIA to interrogate prisoners during the post-9/11 years were more extreme than previously admitted and produced no intelligence that could not have been acquired through legal means….

The Los Angeles Times writes that the report is expected to say that the CIA used methods of “waterboarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions and other so-called enhanced interrogation techniques more frequently than was legally authorized at then-secret prisons known as ‘black sites.’ ”

The report will also likely state that the intelligence acquired from the use of such techniques was not useful to finding Osama bin Laden or preventing attacks on US interests, and “nearly all the intelligence gleaned through harsh techniques could have been obtained from more traditional intelligence-gathering systems,” the Times adds.

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We probably should brace for attacks on President Obama for daring to go on BET and talk about racism and then follow that up by joking around with Stephen Colbert.

BET Exclusive: Obama Talks Race, Racism and How Far America Has to Go. Watch the interview at the link. Joyce Jones highlights the main points:

Barack Obama – not the president, but the man – has a dream: his children will be viewed as individuals and judged not by the color of their skin but based on the content of their character, their behavior and their talents and gifts. Sadly, he observed in an exclusive interview with BET Networks, “misguided attitudes” mean that people of color still have less margin for error, particularly if they are male….

Hours before the interview aired, his critics on the right began lashing out at him for, according to Breitbart News, “playing the race card more overtly than ever before.” Others will say it’s about time he spoke up about the series of police-involved deaths of a disproportionate number of African-American men, which he acknowledged. But he also said that “institutionally” he is required to remain silent during the investigations of those incidents, which would be compromised “if it appeared that I was trying to steer to a particular outcome.”

That doesn’t mean he does not empathize with those who’ve expressed their anger and frustration more publically. The president recalled a meeting he had last week that included several young African-American leaders whose experiences of being stopped or treated suspiciously for no reason reminded him of his own. He also said that as long as the protests remain peaceful, they are necessary.

More details from CNN:

“I’m going to stay on this,” the President said Monday in an interview with BET, a network that reaches a predominately young African-American audience. “Not only am I going to stay on it … but hopefully the entire society says, ‘Let’s finally try to make some real progress on this.'”

Once criticized for shying away from the topic of race early on in his presidency, Obama has recently taken a more active role in sharing how his personal experiences help him to empathize with all kinds of people affected by the recent protests on racial tensions — from protesters, to victims, to law enforcement officers, to families, and most importantly, to black youth.

In his interview with BET’s “106 & Park,” the President cited a meeting he had with nonviolent protesters Monday — between ages 18-25. For him, he says, listening to young African-Americans describe their own experiences of being stopped for no reason, or being unjustly labeled as suspicious, strikes a personal chord.

“My mind went back to what it was like for me when I was 17, 18, 20,” the President said. “As I told them, not only do I hear the pain and frustration of being subjected to that kind of constant suspicion, part of the reason I got into politics was to figure out how can I bridge some of those gaps and understandings so that the larger country understands this is not just a black problem or a brown problem, this is an American problem.”

The President also made a point to invoke Attorney General Eric Holder’s race and civil rights record, saying, “He’s got a similar set of stories and experiences he can share.”

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The Boston Globe on Obama’s Colbert Report appearance:

Obama kicked off the show sitting in for Colbert to perform a regular feature of the program called ‘‘The Word’’ wherein Colbert’s rants are accompanied by snarky messages to the audience.

So when Obama, as Colbert, declared that there are aspects of ‘‘Obamacare’’ that people from both parties actually like, the text aside to the audience read, ‘‘Everything but the Obama.’’

Later, Colbert observed that the economy had been creating more jobs of late.

‘‘You have employed a lot of people — mostly as secretary of defense,’’ Colbert cracked in a reference to Obama recently nominating his fourth top civilian at the Pentagon.

‘‘That’s boosted our numbers a little bit,’’ Obama replied.

Colbert, whose on-screen persona is that of an insufferable conservative scold, accused Obama of exceeding his authority on immigration. ‘‘When did you decide to burn the Constitution and become emperor?’’ he asked. The question was heard as a joke by many in the audience at George Washington University. But to Obama’s critics, the question had a ring of truth.

Obama dropped the comedy and replied, ‘‘Actually, Steve, everything that we have done is scrupulously within the law and has been done by previous Democratic and Republican presidents.’’

Watch part of the episode at the link.

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You know how Republicans are constantly claiming that their anti-abortion laws are designed to keep women safe? From Think Progress: Large Study Confirms That Abortion Is Extremely Safe.

After analyzing data from nearly 55,000 women who received abortion care under California’s Medicaid program, researchers at UC San Francisco concluded that hardly any of them had serious complications within six weeks of their procedure. Just 126 cases necessitated follow-up care for surgery, a blood transfusion, or other conditions that require hospital admission.

Other studies, including data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have also confirmed abortion’s safety. We already had some evidence, for instance, that giving birth is about 14 times riskierthan having an abortion. But the new UCSF study goes a bit further than previous research by tracking the complete data on all of the health care used by women who have received abortions. Since many women have to travel long distances to end a pregnancy, the UCSF researchers also examined women’s follow-up care at facilities closer to where they live….

Despite the mounting evidence in this area, the notion that abortion may be dangerous for women is a pervasive assumption that hasbolstered the passage of dozens of state laws tightening restrictions on clinics and doctors. In a press release announcing their findings, the study authors indicated that they hope the new study “will contribute to the national debate over abortion safety.”

“Abortion is very safe as currently performed, which calls into question the need for additional regulations that purportedly aim to improve safety,” said Ushma Upadhyay, an assistant professor at Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), a leading research program based at UCSF.

Of course scientific studies won’t move right wing extremists, who do not believe in science in the first place.

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Yesterday I was relieved to see many women writers pushing back against the UVA rape story backlash and asking readers to remember that “Jackie” is a real person with real emotions, and the kinds of memory failures she may have evidenced are comment in human beings. I’m running out of space, so I’ll just provide some links to some of the articles I found.

From Buzzfeed, Annie Clark writes: There Are Too Many Jackies.

Clark and her friend Andrea Pino were students at UC Chapel Hill when they were sexually assaulted. Together they filed a complaint with the Department of Education under Title IX. Their work is what triggered the Obama administration to take a stronger position on sexual assaults on college campuses.

Read about it in Vogue, Campus Sexual Assault: Annie E. Clark and Andrea Pino Are Fighting Back—And Shaping the National Debate. Clark and Pino started an organization called End Rape on Campus (EROC).

More important articles:

Roxanne Gay, Our Stories.

TPM, UVA Rape Victim’s Roommate Says Her Story Is Not A ‘Hoax’.

Buzzfeed, How Police And Hospitals Shut Down Rape Victims.

Jessica Valenti, Who is Jackie? Rolling Stone’s rape story is about a person – and I believe her.

Amanda Marcotte, UVA controversy allows woman-haters to get really, really ugly.

Maya Dusenbery, On Rolling Stone, lessons from fact-checking, and the limits of journalism.

Caroline Fairchild, Why the media obsession with Rolling Stone’s UVA rape story is all wrong.

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Finally, some NBA players have begun wearing “I Can’t Breathe T-Shirts.”

From ESPN, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving address reasons for ‘I can’t breathe’ shirts.

NEW YORK — As he stood amid 70 or so media members inside a cramped Cavaliers locker room Monday night, LeBron James explained the significance of the powerful words that stretched across his torso during pregame warmups.

“If it feels important to me then I respond,” said James, who wore a black t-shirt with the words “I CAN’T BREATHE” prior to the start of his team’s game against the Nets at the Barclays Center. “If it doesn’t, I don’t. There are a lot of issues I have not talked about. For me, it is about knowledge and about a gut feeling that hits home for you. You feel it, and go about it.” [….]

…the story of the night was the activism of a number of NBA players. Before the game, the Cavaliers’ James, Kyrie Irving and the Nets’ Deron Williams and Kevin Garnett among others all wore the same black t-shirts. They are the latest professional athletes to make a personal statement on the death of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old Staten Island man who was killed on July 17 after he was wrestled to the ground and choked to death by police officers arresting him for selling untaxed cigarettes. Last week a Staten Island grand jury decided not to bring charges in the police-involved death. That decision has prompted protests around the country, as protesters have mobilized around Garner’s last words: “I can’t breathe.” A video recording of the arrest has been viewed by millions.

Unbeknownst to the players, protesters swarmed Atlantic Avenue outside the Barclays Center during the game, holding a “die-in” to protest the Garner ruling. The hashtag #RoyalShutdown was used by activists on Twitter as a rallying point.

That’s all I have. What stories are you following today? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and enjoy your Tuesday.