Thursday Reads

A statue depicting Christopher Columbus is seen with its head removed at Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park on June 10, 2020 in Boston. (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)

Good Morning!!

The movement inspired by the murder of George Floyd has inspired more than the Black Lives Matter protests. People are toppling statues now, and not just the ones of confederate traitors.

Someone beheaded the Christopher Columbus statue in Boston’s North End yesterday. (The North End used to be Boston’s “little Italy.”) WBZ (CBS) Boston: Beheaded Christopher Columbus Statue In Boston Will Be Removed From North End Park.

The Christopher Columbus statue in Boston’s North End will be removed after it was beheaded early Wednesday morning. Mayor Marty Walsh said it will be put in storage and there will now be conversations about the “historic meaning” of the incident and whether it will ever go back up.

The statue in Christopher Columbus Park on Atlantic Avenue was surrounded by crime scene tape as the head lay on the ground next to the base.

Now, as police investigate how it happened, local indigenous groups are calling on the mayor to remove the statue for good.

“It’s a park dedicated to white supremacy,” said Mahtowin Munro of the United American Indians of New England. “It’s a park dedicated to indigenous genocide.” [….]

The head was also cut off back in 2006. The statue was doused with red paint in June 2015 with the words “Black Lives Matter” spray-painted on the base.

Another statue of Columbus was taken down at Minnesota’s state capitol in St. Paul. Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Protesters topple Columbus statue on Minnesota Capitol grounds.

Protesters lassoed a statue of Christopher Columbus outside the State Capitol Wednesday afternoon and pulled it to the ground, saying their action was a step toward healing for Indian communities.

People danced in a circle around the Christopher Columbus statue after it was toppled on Wednesday night on the Minnesota State Capitol grounds in St. Paul.

Dozens of people gathered by the statue on the grounds outside the Capitol before pulling it down. American Indian Movement activist Mike Forcia talked to a State Patrol captain sent to the scene to encourage protesters to follow a legal process for removing the statue, which has stood on the Capitol grounds since 1931. Forcia said they had tried that route many times and it had not worked.

The protesters then looped a rope around the statue and quickly pulled it off the stone pedestal and to the ground. The patrol officer watched from a distance as protesters sang and took photos with the statue for about half an hour.

State officials said they had been warned about the action via social media. It was mentioned at a news conference an hour and a half earlier with Gov. Tim Walz. Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said then that the patrol would meet the protesters and seek an alternative resolution.

In Richmond, VA, a Columbus statue was pulled down, set on fire, and rolled into a lake. Another Columbus statue was vandalized in Houston and another in Miami.

Two other stories of note on the topic of racism and Black Lives Matter protests:

Associated Press: Pope sends strong message to US Catholics after Floyd death.

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis called George Floyd by name, twice, and offered support to an American bishop who knelt in prayer during a Black Lives Matter protest.

Cardinals black and white have spoken out about Floyd’s death, and the Vatican’s communications juggernaut has shifted into overdrive to draw attention to the cause he now represents.

Christopher Columbus statue dumped in lake in Richmond, VA

Under normal circumstances, Floyd’s killing at the hands of a white police officer and the global protests denouncing racism and police brutality might have drawn a muted diplomatic response from the Holy See. But in a U.S. election year, the intensity and consistency of the Vatican’s reaction suggests that, from the pope on down, it is seeking to encourage anti-racism protesters while making a clear statement about where American Catholics should stand ahead of President Donald Trump’s bid for a second term in November….

Last week, Francis denounced the “sin of racism” and twice identified Floyd as the victim of a “tragic” killing. In a message read in Italian and English during his general audience, Francis expressed concerns about violence during the protests, saying it was self-destructive.

Read more at the link.

CNN: A Missouri woman asked Merriam-Webster to update its definition of racism and now officials will make the change.

Kennedy Mitchum wasn’t expecting much when she emailed Merriam-Webster last month, but she wanted to let the dictionary publisher know that she thought its definition of the word racism was inadequate.

So she was surprised when an editor responded and even more surprised that the company agreed to update the entry.

Mitchum has gotten into a lot conversations about racism and injustice where people have pointed to the dictionary to prove that they’re not racist. It’s happened a lot more lately as the world reacts to the death of George Floyd while in the custody of four Minneapolis police officers….

Kennedy Mitchum

“I kept having to tell them that definition is not representative of what is actually happening in the world,” she told CNN. “The way that racism occurs in real life is not just prejudice it’s the systemic racism that is happening for a lot of black Americans.”
Merriam-Webster’s first definition of racism is “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” [….]

Mitchum said she sent her email on a Thursday night and got a reply from editor Alex Chambers the next morning.

After a few emails, Chambers agreed that the entry should be updated and said a new definition is being drafted.

“This revision would not have been made without your persistence in contacting us about this problem,” Chambers said in the email, which was provided to CNN. “We sincerely thank you for repeatedly writing in and apologize for the harm and offense we have caused in failing to address this issue sooner.”

Meanwhile, a backlash against Trump and his pet AG Bill Barr is building over the violent clearing of Lafayette Square to facilitation Trump’s ludicrous Bible photo op last week.

Tom McCarthy at The Guardian: ‘An abuse of power’: alarm grows over top Trump lieutenant’s military masquerade.

…[T]he top law enforcement official in the country, the attorney general, William Barr, is facing an internal crisis of confidence and growing calls for his own resignation.

Barr stands accused of directing violence against peaceful demonstrators outside the White House earlier this month, and with peddling a conspiracy theory advanced by Donald Trump in an attempt to smear protesters, who enjoy wide public support.

Trump/Barr attack on protesters in Lafayette Park

In the first 16 months of his tenure, Barr caught criticism for compromising justice department independence with his seemingly lockstep defense of Trump, whether he was protecting the president from the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller or intervening in criminal cases against the former Trump aides Michael Flynn and Roger Stone.

But Barr’s critics now fear that he has taken a new step, of trying on a military hat as the president’s top lieutenant in the antagonistic posture the White House has taken against street protests that have sprung up after the killing of George Floyd, an African American man, in Minneapolis by white police officers.

A bit more:

The attorney general’s denial at the weekend that systemic racism was a problem in US law enforcement prompted new calls for his resignation.

“I think there’s racism in the United States still, but I don’t think that the law enforcement system is systemically racist,” Barr told CBS News’ Face the Nation. “And I would say, you know, the president, before any of this happened, was out in front on this issue.”

On no planet has Trump been “out in front” in the campaign against racist policing, said Kandace Montgomery, director of Black Visions, a Twin Cities-based activist organization.

“William Barr is a white man who is serving a racist administration, so of course he’s going to deny the fact that the current law enforcement system is systemically racist,” Montgomery said.

Bill Barr checking out the “troops” before ordering them to attack peaceful protesters.

The Washington Post: More than 1,250 former Justice Dept. workers call for internal watchdog to probe Barr role in clearing demonstrators from Lafayette Square.

More than 1,250 former Justice Department workers on Wednesday called on the agency’s internal watchdog to investigate Attorney General William P. Barr’s involvement in law enforcement’s move last week to push a crowd of largely peaceful demonstrators back from Lafayette Square using horses and gas.

In a letter to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, the group said it was “deeply concerned about the Department’s actions, and those of Attorney General William Barr himself, in response to the nationwide lawful gatherings to protest the systemic racism that has plagued this country throughout its history.”

“In particular, we are disturbed by Attorney General Barr’s possible role in ordering law enforcement personnel to suppress a peaceful domestic protest in Lafayette Square on June 1, 2020, for the purpose of enabling President Trump to walk across the street from the White House and stage a photo op at St. John’s Church, a politically motivated event in which Attorney General Barr participated,” the group wrote.

The group asked Horowitz to “immediately open and conduct an investigation of the full scope of the Attorney General’s and the DOJ’s role” in that and other events.

“The rule of law, the maintenance of the Department’s integrity, and the very safety of our citizens demand nothing less,” the group wrote.

Barr was also publicly excoriated by former Judge John Gleeson for his attempt to drop charges against Michael Flynn. Paul Waldman at The Washington Post: A retired judge’s sharp rebuke of William Barr confirms the worst.

Judge John Gleeson

Back in May, long after Flynn had pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents in their investigation into Russia’s attack on the 2016 election — which got him fired as national security adviser after 24 days on the job — Barr took the extraordinary step of seeking to drop the case against him before he could be sentenced. In response, the judge in the case asked a respected retired judge to make a recommendation about how this highly unusual situation should be handled.

That retired judge, John Gleeson, not only recommended that Flynn be sentenced as planned but issued a scathing report condemning the Justice Department’s actions in the case:

In his argument, Gleeson said the government’s “ostensible grounds” for seeking dismissal were “conclusively disproven” by its own earlier briefs; contradict the court’s prior orders and Justice Department positions taken in other cases; and “are riddled with inexplicable and elementary errors of law and fact.”

A former federal prosecutor and judge for 22 years in Brooklyn — best known for putting the late mob boss John Gotti behind bars and presiding over the trial of “Wolf of Wall Street” stockbroker Jordan Belfort — Gleeson wrote that judges are empowered to protect their court’s integrity “from prosecutors who undertake corrupt, politically motivated dismissals. That is what has happened here. The Government has engaged in highly irregular conduct to benefit a political ally of the President.”

Not only that, Gleeson stated that “Flynn has indeed committed perjury in these proceedings, for which he deserves punishment,” but recommended that instead of a separate prosecution, Flynn’s misdeeds should be taken into account when he is sentenced for the crime he pleaded guilty to.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

Of course there is much more news out there. I’ll add some links in the comment thread and I hope you will too.


Evening News Reads: Freak Show and Violent Shootings

Good Evening

Warning, tonight’s post is a bit graphic.

There have been some violent, freakishly gory and strange events going on in North America lately. Is a full moon coming soon? I don’t know what else to say but just put the links out there.

In Seattle today, there were two shootings, and at the time of this post, 3 to 4 people are dead and the suspect may be in custody….or he may have shot himself.  This all happened near Washington University.

Police: Seattle cafe gunman may have shot self – CBS News

AFP: Seattle gunman shoots self after three killed in cafe

Woman dies in shooting outside Town Hall | Local News | The Seattle Times

I have many friends in Seattle, and one has a daughter that goes to WU… doesn’t it always make these violent mass shootings more worrisome when you know someone who lives where it happens.

In Indianapolis, another shooting has taken place:

Two dead, three wounded in Indianapolis shooting, police say | Reuters

A gunman killed one person and wounded three others at an apartment complex in Indianapolis on Wednesday, before turning the gun on himself, police said.

The shooter was hospitalized in critical condition but later died, according to interim Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Chief Rick Hite.

Police did not identify the victims or the gunman and said they could not comment on possible motives.

Then of course there is the Zombie attack in Miami, which just gets more disgusting and disturbing as the days go by. Earlier there was a photo which was allegedly a picture of the victim when he was brought to the ER. It was horrible and has since been taking of the Albany news site, but there are still copies of it on the web. Here is a link to the Village Voice that has the image still up on it’s blog…it is graphic.

New video shows more grisly details of face-eating attack in Miami – Miami-Dade – MiamiHerald.com

Rudy Eugene walked naked alongside the MacArthur Causeway before pouncing on a homeless man he found dozing in the shade of the elevated Metromover train tracks.

For almost 18 grisly minutes, Eugene savaged his victim, punching him and stripping the man’s pants before gnawing off the homeless man’s face — all as cars and cyclists rolled by on the busy causeway on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

The new details of the horrific attack were captured in additional video footage taken by security cameras at the nearby Miami Herald building.

18 minutes? Think about that…

Face-chewing victim face surgery, long recovery  | ajc.com

Police union officials representing the officer said the scene on the MacArthur Causeway was one of the goriest they had ever seen.

“He had his face eaten down to his goatee. The forehead was just bone. No nose, no mouth,” said Sgt. Armando Aguilar, president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police.

Poppo has been in critical condition in recent days, but police didn’t give an update on his condition Wednesday.

And if this was all just too crazy, over in Canada there has been strange things going on too.

Check out this headline:

The Press Association: Porn star hunted over body parts

You read that right…

Canadian police hunt male porn star over posted hand, foot | The Australian

Canada Severed Foot

A police officer removes a package from the Conservative Party headquarters in Ottawa, Ontario, containing a severed human foot. Source: AP

POLICE have launched a hunt for a male porn star after a human hand was found in the mail at an Ottawa post office, and a decomposing foot was sent to Canada’s ruling Conservative Party.

A nationwide warrant has been issued for Luka Rocco Magnotta, 29, also known as Eric Clinton Newman and Vladimir Romanov.

Montreal police spokesman Ian Lafreniere told a press conference the suspect has no criminal record and asked the public’s help in tracking him down.

Police in Ottawa had previously disclosed that both packages were sent to Ottawa from Montreal.

The gruesome discoveries, described by Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews as “very disturbing,” were made hours after a severed torso was also discovered by a janitor in Montreal early Tuesday in a suitcase in a pile of garbage.

Mr Lafreniere said the finds are thought to be linked after an investigation brought them to a Montreal apartment that is believed to be scene of the dismembering.

Luka Rocco Magnotta video allegedly shows suspect dismembering victim | News | National Post

Slaying suspect Luka Rocco Magnotta once dated Karla Homolka

This is all so crazy…

I will post updates to Seattle in the comments, and a few other strange news items that caught my eye.


Monday Reads

Good Morning!

Lots of things don’t surprise me these days.  That would include the news that Clinton and Obama were more fiscally conservative than either of the Bush presidents or Ronald Reagan or Nixon or Ford.  For that matter, Carter came in third. Once again, evidence shows that Republican memes are lies.  Here’s a list of possible excuses for the Republican binges.

Let me anticipate some of your objections before you make them. (1) Reagan was fighting a war, he jacked up defense spending instead of discretionary spending, and he inherited a recession with inflation that might, well, inflate his numbers. This is all true, but expanding defense was Reagan’s choice, and a dollar spent, on no matter what, is a dollar taxed or borrowed. (2) Bush was fighting a war and battling a recession, too. Yes, but he had neither inflation nor a Great Recession. (3) Don’t play relativity games with me…too much government spending is too much government spending, even if Obama’s predecessors were worse! There is a time for government cuts, but it’s not when you have 9 percent unemployment and your interest rates are below 2%. (4) The language of Obamacare and financial reform are better indicators of big government than federal spending. It’s fair to measure government size by its total involvement in people’s lives, but that deserves a longer post. (5) We should be more concerned about the taxes and spending to come than the spending that has past. But they haven’t happened yet, so they’re not part of the president’s record.

Economix shows us how the recession has decreased the number of people that have health insurance. Some have lost coverage due to job loss. Some have lost insurance because their employers have scaled down benefits.

The share of children and working-age adults who had insurance through an employer fell 10 percentage points during the last recession, according to a study released on Thursday by the Center for Studying Health System Change, a nonpartisan research group in Washington.

From 2007 to 2010, the share of children and working-age adults with employer-sponsored coverage fell  to 53.5 percent from 63.6 percent, according to the study.

The major contributor to the decline was the loss of employment during the downturn, with almost a third of the people younger than 65 living in a family where no one was working, according to the study. The study is based on the center’s 2007 and 2010 Health Tracking Household Surveys.

The surge in unemployment, coupled with the steady deterioration of the number of employers offering coverage and the number of workers signing up for insurance, is causing a “steady erosion” in employer-based coverage, said Chapin White, a senior researcher at the center who is an author of the study.

I wrote a post on Saturday on how  the Obama administration seems to have back pedaled on its birth control coverage mandate for all but strict religious organizations.  It appears that by providing self-insurance, organizations can avoid having private insurers providing the benefit for them.  This would mean many schools, universities and hospitals–large employers of women–could avoid the mandate to provide women’s preventative health care.

Taking a conciliatory tone and asking for a wide range of public comment, the Obama administration announced this afternoon new accommodations on a controversial mandate requiring contraceptive coverage in health care plans.

Coming after a month of continued opposition from the U.S. bishops to the mandate, which was first revised in early February to exempt certain religious organizations, today’s announced changes from the Department of Health and Human Services make a number of concessions, including allowing religious organizations that self-insure to be made exempt.

It appears that the Administration has no problem with religious institutions discriminating against women or persons that don’t hold their specific views.

Romney’s won the Puerto Rican primaries.  While the delegates are apportioned, Romney’s margin of victory will still give him the entire delegation.

Mitt Romney will win Sunday’s Republican presidential primary in Puerto Rico, CNN projects, based on vote results obtained from local party and election officials.

At 8:35 p.m. ET, with about 23% of total ballots accounted for, the former Massachusetts governor had a substantial lead with more than 25,000 votes — or 83% of the vote.

Rick Santorum was a distant second, at 8% with slightly more than 2,500 votes.

The other two candidates, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, were further behind with 2% and 1% of the vote, respectively.

Speaking at a rally Sunday night in Vernon Hills, Illinois, Romney said that Puerto Rican voters were clear about which of the four candidates “most represent their feelings” — and especially their desire to nominate someone who can bring about a stronger economy and smaller government. He said his party can appeal to Latinos, and win the presidency, with a low-tax, pro-business message.

I’ve been watching this story unfold with absolute horror.  This one has the feel of something that will make the wind change.  Seventeen year old Trayvon Martin was killed by a neighborhood watch “captain” with a police fantasy and a racist mindset.  The more you hear about his killer, the more it will make you wonder about who lives in your neighborhood.

On February 26, 2012, a 17-year-old African-American named Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in Sanford, Florida. The shooter was George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old white man. Zimmerman admits killing Martin, but claims he was acting in self-defense. Three weeks after Martin’s death, no arrests have been made and Zimmerman remains free.

Here is what everyone should know about the case:

1. Zimmerman called the police to report Martin’s “suspicious” behavior, which he described as “just walking around looking about.” Zimmerman was in his car when he saw Martin walking on the street. He called the police and said: “There’s a real suspicious guy. This guy looks like he’s up to no good, on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around looking about… These a**holes always get away” [Orlando Sentinel]

2. Zimmerman pursued Martin against the explicit instructions of the police dispatcher:

Dispatcher: “Are you following him?”
Zimmerman: “Yeah”
Dispatcher: “OK, we don’t need you to do that.”

[Orlando Sentinel]

3. Prior to the release of the 911 tapes, Zimmerman’s father released a statement claiming “[a]t no time did George follow or confront Mr. Martin.” [Sun Sentinel]

4. Zimmerman was carrying a a 9 millimeter handgun. Martin was carrying a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea. [ABC News]

5. Martin weighed 140 pounds. Zimmerman weighs 250 pounds. [Orlando Sentinel; WDBO]

6. Martin’s English teacher described him as “as an A and B student who majored in cheerfulness.” [Orlando Sentinel]

7. Martin had no criminal record. [New York Times]

8. Zimmerman “was charged in July 2005 with resisting arrest with violence and battery on an officer. The charges appear to have been dropped.” [Huffington Post]

9. Zimmerman called the police 46 times since Jan. 1, 2011. [Miami Herald]

10. According to neighbors, Zimmerman was “fixated on crime and focused on young, black males.” [Miami Herald]

11. Zimmerman “had been the subject of complaints by neighbors in his gated community for aggressive tactics” [Huffington Post]

12. A police officer “corrected” a key witness. “The officer told the witness, a long-time teacher, it was Zimmerman who cried for help, said the witness. ABC News has spoken to the teacher and she confirmed that the officer corrected her when she said she heard the teenager shout for help.” [ABC News]

13. Three witnesses say they heard a boy cry for help before a shot was fired. “Three witnesses contacted by The Miami Herald say they saw or heard the moments before and after the Miami Gardens teenager’s killing. All three said they heard the last howl for help from a despondent boy.” [Miami Herald]

14. The officer in charge of the crime scene also received criticism in 2010 when he initially failed to arrest a lieutenant’s son who was videotaped attacking a homeless black man. [New York Times]

15. The police did not test Zimmerman for drugs or alcohol. A law enforcement expert told ABC that Zimmerman sounds intoxicated on the 911 tapes. Drug and alcohol testing is “standard procedure in most homicide investigations.” [ABC News]

The police down here in New Orleans are considered to be so out of control that the DOJ may be taking over operations shortly.  We also have had several suspicious shootings down here recently. 

New Orleans police officials confirmed Thursday that the 20-year-old man who was fatally shot by a plain-clothed narcotics officer during a drug raid at a Gentilly house a day earlier was unarmed. New Orleans police officer Joshua Colclough, 28, fired a single shot Wednesday evening that killed Wendell Allen, 20. Police officials were guarded in their comments about the shooting Thursday, citing the ongoing investigation.

“We have not been able to yet completely understand what exactly occurred,” Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas said Thursday.

The shooting took place inside a red-brick, two-story home at 2651 Prentiss Ave. in Gentilly. Officers were executing a search warrant at the home following a days-old probe of marijuana dealing. Serpas said officers later found drug paraphernalia and 138 grams of marijuana — about four and a half ounces — inside the residence.

It was the second fatal shooting of a suspect by police within a week in the NOPD’s 3rd District, a relatively sleepy swath of residential neighborhoods that stretch from Lakeview through Gentilly. In last week’s incident, in Mid-City, two officers were badly injured in a gunfight before the alleged gunman, 20-year-old Justin Sipp, was killed by police gunfire.

Here’s another horrifying story from NY.

A trans woman says that when she was arrested for a minor subway violation, NYPD officers belittled her, called her names, asked about her genitals — and kept her chained to a fence for 28 hours. Now she’s suing. And it turns out she’s far from alone.

In her lawsuit, Temmie Breslauer says she was arrested on January 12 in a subway station for illegally using her dad’s discount fare card (only seniors and people with disabilities can get these). She says the arresting officers — the suit names one, Officer Shah — laughed at her. When they took her to the station, a desk sergeant asked her “whether she had a penis or a vagina.” Breslauer explained that she was in transition. Then, instead of putting her with female inmates or in her own room, the department allegedly chose this course of action:

[S]he was fingerprinted, seated on a bench, then painfully chained to a fence wherein, for no apparent reason, her arm was lifted over her head and attached to the fence to make it appear that she was raising her hand in the classroom. She sat there in that position for 28 hours.

She also says officers not only refused to call her “she,” they instead referred to her as “He-She”, “Faggot,” and “Lady GaGa,” and asked her “So you like to suck dick? Or what?” Meanwhile, people arrested for the same minor crime (misdemeanor “theft of services”) she was were calmly processed and allowed to leave. Finally, she was able to go before a judge, who gave her two days of community service. She says the whole ordeal aggravated her existing PTSD and left her sleepless and suicidal.

Makes you wonder what ever happened to honest, decent people, doesn’t it?

So, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?