Thursday Reads: What Happened to Lennon Lacy?

lennon-lacy crime scene

Good Morning

As I was browsing the news this morning, I came across an article in the Daily Beast about an incident I have often wondered about–the death of teenager Lennon Lacy on August 28th of last year in the small town of Bladenville, North Carolina. On the morning of August 29, Lacy was found hanging from a swing set by a woman who called 911 to report “a suicide,” and asked if she should try to cut the person down. The dispatcher told her to go ahead. That was the beginning of either an unforgivably botched investigation or a police cover-up. (The photo above is of the swing set from which Lacy’s body was found hanging.)

The story broke in the midst of the Ferguson protests over the shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson, just one the suspicious deaths of young black men reported in the wake of the publicity about Brown’s death and the protests that followed. I’m ashamed to admit that I never searched for more information on the story until today.

Here’s the story that got me started; frankly the headline is a gross understatement. I’m just going to excerpt some of the problems with the “investigation” and then give you some more background on the case.

Cops Didn’t Collect Evidence on Hanging of Black Teen Lennon Lacy, by Justin Glawe

Coroner Hubert Kinlaw told Dr. Christena Roberts, a pathologist hired by the North Carolina NAACP to conduct her own investigation, that he was prevented from taking photos of the crime scene by police—and that cops even threatened to take away his camera.

Furthermore, Kinlaw told Roberts as part of her investigation that police at the scene “didn’t want an autopsy performed,” and that Kinlaw took it upon himself to order one with the local district attorney. (Kinlaw has turned down repeated requests for comment.)

However, an officer from the State Bureau of Investigation said in a report that no photographs were taken at the scene because the sole crime scene technician was at “another homicide.” (No other homicides could be found in news reports for that 24-hour period.) So the authorities don’t even agree why photographs weren’t taken.

The teenager’s hands weren’t bagged when his body reached the medical examiner, which is  commonly done to preserve DNA evidence for retrieval by investigators.

The shoes that Lacy’s family members says weren’t his never made it to the autopsy table….

Radisch notes in her report the two belts delivered with Lacy’s body must have had been cut, because they didn’t seem long enough for Lacy to hang himself.

Radisch would only be left to speculate because the authorities didn’t measure the swing set where Lacy was found.

Well, someone could probably have gone to the crime scene and done that after the fact, but I guess no one bothered. Please read the rest of the article at the link. Glawe explains in detail why it would have been nearly impossible for Lacy to hang himself from the place where his body was found.

Lennon Lacy

Lennon Lacy

Fortunately, the FBI is investigating Lacy’s death, but the fact that police just called it a suicide and didn’t collect any evidence will severely hamper their efforts.

On December 19, 2014, The Washington Post reported on why the FBI had been been called in.

— Teresa Edwards was driving to Bo’s Food Store when she spotted the teenager walking along the dirt road. It was getting dark. He was alone. She recognized him as Lennon Lacy, one of her son’s best friends. She stopped to ask him if he needed a ride.

“No, ma’am,” she recalls him saying, “I’m just thinking.”

Lacy had plenty on his mind that night in August, and many would soon puzzle over what those thoughts might have been. The next morning, Lacy, who was black, was found hanging by two belts from a wooden swing set in a predominantly white trailer park. State authorities called it a suicide. His family, and many others here, wondered whether Lacy’s death was something else: a lynching.

It looked to them as if his body was on display. He didn’t leave a note. And Lacy had been dating an older white woman for months. He was found wearing unlaced white sneakers that his family said were not his, one of several unsettled issues. Last week, in a scene echoing the civil rights era in the South, the FBI was called in and the NAACP held a protest march over Lacy’s death….

People who knew Lacy don’t think he committed suicide. Others are unsure what to believe. But many here say the possibility that Lacy, a popular high school senior who moved easily between black and white social circles, was the victim of a racially motivated killing demands more investigation.

“We know suicide is possible,” said the Rev. Gregory Taylor, a black preacher in a town where there are two churches named First Baptist, their memberships split along racial lines. “It’s just hard to accept that a black youth would hang himself given the history of ‘strange fruit.’ The facts don’t add up.”

It was Thursday, Aug. 28, when Edwards, who is white, saw Lacy on the dirt road. She also doesn’t believe the teen killed himself.

Lennon Lacy's grave after it was desecrated.

Lennon Lacy’s grave after it was desecrated.

Bladenboro has a long history of racism, and the Ku Klux Klan only stopped “parad[ing] through” the town in 1997. Moreover, Lacy’s body was found in an area that black children had long been warned to stay away from. Here’s a summary of some of that history from the Global Grind:

Here’s the truth — the statistic listed above marking the number of black bodies strung from trees in Bladenboro [“86 black people were lynched [in North Carolina] between 1882 and 1968”] is an image that is hard to let go.

And so is the racially charged climate of the rural town. In fact, Lacy’s neighbors, a white couple living in a trailer home right behind the Lacy family home, were instructed by police to remove a Confederate flag and a sign that read “Niggers keep out” from their front yard.

The Guardian asked the couple why they had put up the signs. Sykes said that it was his idea. “There were some kids who ganged up on our kid and I put some signs up.” Asked whether he now regretted doing so, he replied: “Yeah, I regret it now.”

Carla Hudson said she had begged her husband to take the signs down. “I told him he had to stop that. It wasn’t how I saw things – there’s not a racist bone in my body.”

In recent years, that tension hasn’t always been visible. According to The Guardian, Lacy “joined a multiracial youth group across town at the Galeed Baptist church where he went for weekly services and basketball ministry, and his friends were black and white, in almost equal measure.”

Though invisible in some facets of Lacy’s life, that tension is hard to ignore, especially considering how the teenager died.

Michelle Brimhall, Lennon Lacy's girlfriend

Michelle Brimhall, Lennon Lacy’s girlfriend

Back to the WaPo article:

Although the police claimed Lacy was “depressed” about the death of a great uncle, his family said he was exited about playing in the first football game of the season. He had already laid out his uniform in anticipation. The family also said that at least one of the belts used to hang Lacy wasn’t his. Most mysterious of all, his brand new Air Jordans were missing and when Lacy was found his feet were jammed into white sneakers that had no laces and were way too small for his feet.

Claudia Lacy identified her son. A state bureau of investigation agent interviewed her at the scene. She said that her son had just buried his great-uncle but that he didn’t seem depressed. The medical examiner performed an autopsy, failing to find any signs of a struggle or fight. Lacy’s death was ruled a suicide. No mention was made of the white sneakers — they didn’t arrive with Lacy’s body for the autopsy. It’s unclear what happened to the shoes, although the state bureau of investigation collected them, Kinlaw said.

To Claudia Lacy, the investigation felt rushed.

“Why were they so quick to call it that?” she asked now. “Was it because of my race? Was it because of my social status?”

The is much more information at the link.

Lacy’s white girlfriend, who was 31, left town shortly after his death. According the The Daily Mail, she believed he was killed because of their relationship and she didn’t feel safe staying in “Crackertown.”

Speaking exclusively to DailyMail.com she said: ‘I believe Lennon was murdered. The police ruled his death as suicide but Lennon would never harm himself. He’s got too much love for life.’ …. speaking in the town where she has moved to get away from Bladenboro, Brimhall spoke of how they had planned a future together, despite the age gap, and how he had a life in front of him which showed he would not commit suicide.

Read much more at the Daily Mail link. Other media outlets have been unable to get in touch with the woman. Was she forced to leave town?

Lennon Lacy

Lennon Lacy

More quotes from Lacy’s family at MadameNoire:

[T]he family says suicide can’t be possible. Lacy didn’t have any issues that they know of when it comes to depression or mental illness over the years. And despite losing a great uncle he was close to right before his own death, Lacy’s mother says he grieved in the same way the rest of his family had, but carried on with his preparation for the football season.

“I know my son. The second I saw him I knew he couldn’t have done that to himself – it would have taken at least two men to do that to him.”

His brother, Pierre, agrees: “If my brother wanted to take his own life, I can’t understand why he would do it in such an exposed place. This feels more like he was put here as a public display – a taunting almost.”

Here’s the oft-quoted Guardian story. It’s excellent. Teenager’s mysterious death evokes painful imagery in North Carolina: ‘It’s in the DNA of America.’

I’ll end with a piece by Michael W. Waters at HuffingtonPost, The Life and Death of Lennon Lacy: Strange, Still.

The animus for Time Magazine’s “song of the 20th century” was a photograph of a Southern lynching. A Southern lynching would often draw an entire region of spectators together for a day of socializing. Small children were even present in the crowd, lifted high upon shoulder for an uninterrupted view of the day’s fatal proceedings. It was a strange, albeit frequent Southern spectacle, one that claimed many Black lives.

Given the frequency of this horrid practice, and the abundance of lynching photographs in circulation, many that doubled as postcards, it is unclear why one particular photograph troubled, then inspired Abel Meeropol, a New York English teacher and poet. Yet, it did. Unable to free his mind of this troubling image over several days, Meeropol sought consolation through his pen. As ink dried upon its canvas, its residuum formed words that have haunted generations, words etched into our collective memory as lyric by the incomparable Billie Holiday:

“Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.”

Now seventy-six years removed its initial recording, there is still cause to sing this sorrowful song.

On August 29, 2014, another Black body was added to the crowded annals of those swung by Southern breeze. In a cruel twist of irony, the body of seventeen year-old Lennon Lacy was not found swinging upon a Southern tree, but upon a Southern swing set – a fact only beginning the strangeness surrounding his death. Authorities in Bladenboro, North Carolina, abruptly ruled Lennon’s death a suicide, declaring that he was depressed, and closed the case in five days.

Still, many questions remain.

Yes, there are many questions that must be answered.

I recall that it took months before the murder of Trayvon Martin became high profile. It’s time the same thing happened with the Lennon Lacy story. This smells like a police cover up to me. The police in Bladenboro are known for stopping black teenagers who are walking at night. Could it be that an officer or officers stopped Lacy and accidentally killed him in a struggle–like what happened to Eric Garner–and then tried to make his death look like suicide?

What do you think?

As always, this is an open thread. Feel free to post links and discuss topics of your choice. But I hope you take a moment to think about and discuss what happened to Lennon Lacy.


Thursday Reads: Who Will Police the Police?

police brutality2

Good Morning!!

At least it’s a good morning for those of us who don’t have to live in fear of being murdered or having a loved one murdered for no good reason by policemen who will not be held accountable.

Yesterday it was Eric Garner’s family that had to deal with the decision of a grand jury in Staten Island not to indict the man who killed their husband, son, father. Will Tamir Rice’s family soon suffer the same fate?

From The New York Daily News, Protests, marches and ‘die-ins’ erupt after grand jury’s decision not to indict chokehold cop Daniel Pantaleo in death of Eric Garner.

Although stark video failed to sway a grand jury to indict a cop in the chokehold homicide of Eric Garner, it captured the shock and rage Wednesday on the Staten Island street where he was killed….

“He got away with a homicide!” one irate woman screamed into her cell phone. “Who gets away with a homicide? Who? Name one person, and it’s on video! Oh my God! What more do you want?”

Chants of “Justice for who? Eric Garner!” broke out in front of 202 Bay St., the beauty supply shop where Garner was placed in a chokehold by Officer Daniel Pantaleo and taken to the ground with the help of other cops as he pleaded “I can’t breathe!”

Jamillah Rivera, 25, of Staten Island said it was hard to fathom that anyone could watch the sickening video of Garner’s takedown — first published by NYDailyNews.com — and not see anything illegal.

“I was there, I saw the whole thing,” said Rivera. “The cop (Pantaleo) stuck up his middle finger to all of us. He thought it was a big joke. How does someone like that go free?”

Good question.

Daniel Pantaleo chokes Eric Garner on video.

Daniel Pantaleo chokes Eric Garner on video.

Daniel Pantaleo already had a troubled history when he choked Eric Garner to death in July. From the AP via Huffington Post:

Court records show that within the past two years, three men sued Daniel Pantaleo — the officer seen wrapping his arm around Garner’s neck — over allegedly unlawful, racially motivated arrests. Garner was black.

In the first lawsuit, settled by the city in January, two black men accused Pantaleo and other officers of arresting them without cause and subjecting them to a “humiliating and unlawful strip search” on the street in which they were ordered to “pull their pants and underwear down, squat and cough.” The men said they were held overnight on charges that were ultimately dismissed.

In a second lawsuit, a man accused Pantaleo and other officers of misrepresenting facts in a police report and other documents to substantiate charges that also were dismissed.

The first lawsuit cost the city $30,000.

The suit, which was settled in January…alleges that Pantaleo and several other officers — Joseph Torres, Ignazio Conca, and Steven Lopez — “unlawfully stopped” a vehicle on Jersey Street in New Brighton. Another officer, Christian Cataldo, arrived at the scene later.

Two of the car’s passengers, Darren Collins and Tommy Rice — a federally convicted gun felon who had been released from prison five months prior — wound up suing in Brooklyn federal court.

According to the lawsuit, after getting license and registration information from both the car’s driver, Morris Wilson, and Collins, the officers ordered Collins and Rice out of the vehicle for a search.

After they were handcuffed, “Pantaleo and/or Conca pulled down the plaintiffs’ pants and underwear, and touched and searched their genital areas, or stood by while this was done in their presence,” the lawsuit alleged.

Pantaleo then took the two men to the 120th Precinct stationhouse, where Pantaleo and Torres strip-searched them again, forcing them “to remove all of their clothing, squat, cough and lift their genitals.”

The men were charged with drug crimes, but the cases were later dismissed. Pantaleo had lied about seeing drugs in plain sight in the car in order to justify the stop and search.

Garner protests

In August, Tommy Rice reacted to the killing of Eric Garner by Pantaleo:

One of the men who filed a lawsuit against the NYPD after Officer Daniel Pantaleo falsely arrested him two years ago said he was “shocked and disappointed” the cop had been let back on the streets.

“I was kind of stunned,” said Tommy Rice, 43, of the moment he saw video of Pantaleo putting a deadly chokehold on Eric Garner.

“I went to Internal Affairs two years (ago) and they did nothing to this cop,” he said. “They let him back on the streets.”

In the second lawsuit, which is still active, Rylawn Walker accused Pantaleo of falsely arrest him in February 2012. Marijuana charges against Walker were dismissed and the records sealed shortly after the arrest. While White label cbd oil and similar oils have been used for their health benefits going back to the dawn of civilization (even before the Great Wall of China was built!), people are just recently rediscovering the profound positive impact these oils can have on treating ailments.

The Daily Beast has a good piece on an earlier case similar to Eric Garner’s–it’s the story of the real life “Radio Raheem” from Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing.

In Do the Right Thing, as the policeman squeezes the life out of Raheem, one of the onlookers can be heard shouting, “They did it again… just like Michael Stewart.” That’s because the death of Raheem was inspired by the tragic story of Stewart who, like Garner, was cut down by New York law enforcement and whose case ran into problems with the grand jury. Jonathan Moore, a famed civil rights attorney who represented the Stewart family in a subsequent suit against the city, is representing Garner’s family.

At 2:50 a.m. on September 15, 1983, Michael Stewart was spray-painting a wall at the L train’s First Avenue subway station. He was a black, 135-pound art student at Pratt Institute, as well as an aspiring model. New York City Transit cop John Kostick observed Stewart graffiti “RQS” on the wall, and after approaching him, said he surrendered without conflict. “Hey man, you got me,” Stewart said, according to Kostick. The 25-year-old was on his way home to the Clinton Hill neighborhood where he resided with his parents, and his father was a retired MTA maintenance worker.

chokehold-protestAccording to Kostick, while awaiting a van to transport Stewart to the nearest police station, his mood changed. He sprinted from him, and fell to the ground. Once inside the van, several officers allege they subdued him en route to the District 4 transit police station in Union Square. Stewart allegedly tried to run again when they arrived at Union Square. Twenty-three Parsons students later claimed to have observed a struggle between Stewart and the transit police outside the District 4 station, with student Rebecca Reiss alleging she heard him shriek, “Oh my God, someone help me… What did I do? What did I do?” Stewart was eventually booked at the station for resisting arrest and unlawful possession of marijuana (a single joint), and was then hogtied with an elastic strap, and transported to Bellevue for psychiatric evaluation. By the time he arrived there at 3:22 a.m., with a blood alcohol content more than twice the legal limit, he was comatose. He died 13 days later.

Read much more about it at The Daily Beast link.

Isn’t it interesting that the police officers involved in two recent police-involved shootings also had questionable backgrounds?

Darren Wilson, who shot and killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in August, had previously worked for a police force that had to be disbanded because of racial problems and corruption. From The Washington Post on August 23:

After going through the police academy, Wilson landed a job in 2009 as a rookie officer in Jennings, a small, struggling city of 14,000 where 89 percent of the residents were African American and poverty rates were high. At the time, the 45-employee police unit had one or two black members on the force, said Allan Stichnote, a white Jennings City Council member.

Racial tension was endemic in Jennings, said Rodney Epps, an African American city council member.

“You’re dealing with white cops, and they don’t know how to address black people,” Epps said. “The straw that broke the camel’s back, an officer shot at a female. She was stopped for a traffic violation. She had a child in the back [of the] car and was probably worried about getting locked up. And this officer chased her down Highway 70, past city limits, and took a shot at her. Just ridiculous.”

Police faced a series of lawsuits for using unnecessary force, Stichnote said. One black resident, Cassandra Fuller, sued the department claiming a white Jennings police officer beat her in June 2009 on her own porch after she made a joke. A car had smashed into her van, which was parked in front of her home, and she called police. The responding officer asked her to move the van. “It don’t run. You can take it home with you if you want,” she answered. She said the officer became enraged, threw her off the porch, knocked her to the ground and kicked her in the stomach….

The Jennings department also had a corruption problem. A joint federal and local investigation discovered that a lieutenant had been accepting federal funds for drunken-driving checks that never happened….

All the problems became too much for the city council to bear, and in March 2011 the council voted 6-to-1 to shut down the department and hire St. Louis County to run its police services, putting Lt. Jeff Fuesting in charge as commander.

Michael Brown

Michael Brown

According to the WaPo, a fellow officer described Wilson as “average,” someone who “didn’t go above and beyond” but “didn’t get in trouble” either.

Timothy Loehmann, who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland on November 22, had also previously worked for a smaller police force before getting his job at the Cleveland PD.

From The Guardian US: Officer who fatally shot Tamir Rice judged unfit for duty by police in 2012.

Officer Timothy Loehmann, who killed Tamir Rice on 22 November, was specifically faulted for breaking down emotionally while handling a live gun. During a training episode at a firing range, Loehmann was reported to be “distracted and weepy” and incommunicative. “His handgun performance was dismal,” deputy chief Jim Polak of the Independence, Ohio, police department wrote in an internal memo.

The memo concludes with a recommendation that Loehmann be “released from the employment of the City of Independence”. Less than a week later, on 3 December 2012, Loehmann resigned.

So why the hell was he hired in Cleveland in March 2014?

On a Saturday afternoon last month, Loehmann and a partner, Frank Garmack, were dispatched to Cleveland’s Cudell Commons Park after a 911 caller reported “a guy” in the park was pointing a “probably fake” gun at people. Surveillance video recovered after the incident showed Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old, handling a pistol-sized pellet gun.

Loehmann shot the boy dead within two seconds of a police car driven by Garmack arriving to the park and pulling to a stop within feet of the child. In the video, released by Cleveland police a week ago, Loehmann appears to fire his gun as he opens the door to leave the police car.

Loehmann has been taken off patrol duties in Cleveland and the shooting is under internal review.

Read more at the link.

Tamir Rice

Tamir Rice

A few more details about Loehmann’s problems from The Washington Post:

Two years ago, when he was working for a police department in a Cleveland suburb, Tim Loehmann participated in firearms qualification training.

Loehmann struggled with the exercise, according to a memo penned Nov. 29, 2012, by Jim Polak, deputy chief of the Independence Police Department and obtained Wednesday by Northeast Ohio Media Group. He was “distracted” and “weepy,” Polak wrote, and did not seem “mentally prepared” for the task.

“He could not follow simple directions, could not communicate clear thoughts nor recollections, and his handgun performance was dismal,” Polak wrote.

The letter recommended that the department split with Loehmann, who later resigned and went on to graduate from the city of Cleveland’s police academy. A Cleveland police spokesman told the media group that officers didn’t look at the file before hiring Loehmann.

“Unfortunately in law enforcement there are times when instructions need be followed to the letter, and I am under the impression Ptl. Loehmann, under certain circumstances, will not react in the way instructed,” the letter reads.

police-brutality

The US Department of Justice is currently looking into civil rights violations in the Michael Brown case, and yesterday Attorney General Eric Holder announced there would be a similar investigation into Eric Garner’s death.

It seems to me that a nationwide investigation of police practices is called for at this point. There have been numerous cases of white police officers killing unarmed black men and boys. When will it end? This is a shocking and serious issue that must be dealt with as a systemic problem.

What do you think? What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and hug the people you love today.


Tuesday Reads: So Many Racists, A**holes, Morons, and Lunatics; So Little Patience

Obama and daughters books

Good Morning!!

Just look at those awful teenage girls wearing coats in a bookstore! How shocking! And the President in jeans and casual jacket! Impeach him immediately!

As everyone knows by now, GOP aide to Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN) Elizabeth Lauten learned the hard way that when you attack the President’s family on Facebook, lots of people see it; and then your ugly words go viral on Twitter and other social media sites.

Addressing her comments directly to the Obama girls, Lauten wrote that they should ‘‘respect the part you play,’’ and added: ‘‘Then again your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department.’’

Lauten also urged the Obama girls to ‘‘dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar.’’

Lauten later apologized for the comments and deleted the original post, which drew harsh criticism across social media.

In her pathetic “apology,” as Eugene Robinson noted on Rachel Maddow’s show last night, Lauten failed to say she was sorry for insulting any of the  members of the Obama family.

‘‘When I first posted on Facebook I reacted to an article and I quickly judged the two young ladies in a way that I would never have wanted to be judged myself as a teenager,’’ Lauten told The Commercial Appeal of Memphis in an email. ‘‘Please know, those judgmental feelings truly have no place in my heart. Furthermore, I’d like to apologize to all of those who I have hurt and offended with my words.’’

Whatever, lady. I’m glad you’re out of a job. Instant Karma is so satisfying.

Eugene Robinson

Eugene Robinson

Speaking of f**king a**holes, I’ve managed for a long time now to avoid seeing or hearing anything about MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” or its moronic hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. Unfortunately, this morning I accidentally clicked on a link to Mediaite and read something about their asinine TV show.

This morning the above-mentioned Eugene Robinson was on the program and dared to say that Michael Brown might have had his hands up when he was shot and killed by Darren Wilson. Robinson’s reasoning? A number of eyewitnesses said so and there’s nothing in the evidence that proves Brown wasn’t surrendering.

According to Mediaite’s Evan McMurry, things “got awkward.”

“I don’t believe there’s anything in the record, certainly not in the forensic evidence, that precludes the possibility that he had his hands up at some point when he was approaching the officer,” Robinson said.

“That’s an awfully low standard,” cohost Joe Scarborough replied. “There’s also no evidence that doesn’t suggest a flying saucer from Venus swooped over all of them. There’s no evidence that it’s precluded, Gene. I’m not being difficult. I’m just saying the truth actually does matter.”

“I think it’s a very uncomfortable question for you, Gene,” Brzezinski said. “Because if you say no, there’s no evidence his hands up, you’re probably insulting a lot of people. Do you feel uncomfortable with the question?”

Now what do you suppose Brzezinski meant by that? Oh yeah, Robinson is black and so Mika thinks he must have to lie in order to pacify other black people. Are you lying to please your puppet master Joe Scarborough and the racist audience to your show, Mika?

You can watch the video at the Mediaite link above.

nfl

The racists are also up in arms about the five St. Louis Rams players (all black) who had the nerve to express solidarity with Ferguson protesters by standing with their hands up before their football game on Sunday. St. Louis police officers were enraged by this mild display of support, and complained loudly in the media.

St. Louis police chief Jon Belmar then publicly claimed that the Rams organization had apologized for the players actions. A battle of words followed, in which the Rams denied apologizing and Belmar kept insisting they had. From the NY Daily News:

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said the St. Louis Rams apologized to local law enforcement officials Monday after five players walked onto the field Sunday with their arms raised high in solidarity with the Ferguson protesters, a claim the team denied in a bizarre war of words that erupted overnight between the team and cops.

Police immediately cried foul at the act during the Rams’ Week 13 home blowout of the Oakland Raiders, but the NFL sacked the cops’ request and chose not to discipline the players.

There was still fallout to manage and Rams COO Kevin Demoff tried to satisfy the outcry by local cops when he called Belmar on Monday and apologized for the players’ unsanctioned actions, according to the chief.

“Mr. Demoff clearly regretted that any members of the Ram’s (sic) organization would act in a way that minimized the outstanding work that police officers and departments carry out each and every day,” Belmar said in an email to the department, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. “My impression of the call was that it was heartfelt and I assured him that I would share it with my staff.” ….

But CNN’s Rachel Nichols said Rams spokesman Artis Twyman told CNN the team “did not apologize” to St. Louis police.

And Demoff backed up that claim when reached by the Post-Dispatch late Monday. “In none of these conversations did I apologize for our players’ actions,” Demoff told the Post-Dispatch. “I did say in each conversation that I regretted any offense their officers may have taken. We do believe it is possible to both support our players’ First Amendment rights and support the efforts of local law enforcement as our community begins the process of healing.”

My advice to Belmar and police departments all over the country: Get over it and stop killing innocent citizens.

John Boehner swears in Florida's Ted Yoho.

John Boehner swears in Florida’s Ted Yoho.

And speaking of moronic a**holes, John Boehner is set to do battle with the crazy caucus today. Reuters: Boehner to seek support for plan to avoid government shutdown.

House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner will try to sell fellow Republicans this week on a government spending bill that avoids a shutdown fight but allows the party to strike back at President Barack Obama’s immigration order.

Republicans have a lot riding on their handling of must-pass government funding. Having scored huge wins in Nov. 4 voting that handed them a majority in the Senate and gave them a bigger majority in the House, Republican leaders want to demonstrate that they can govern responsibly next year.

But many are still outraged that Obama bypassed Congress and is moving ahead unilaterally on immigration, granting what they claim is “amnesty” to people who came to the United States illegally.

House Republicans will meet on Tuesday after a 10-day Thanksgiving break to discuss their response, including a leading option for Boehner that would fund most government agencies through September 2015, with only a short-term extension for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

House Republican lawmakers and aides say this would give them a chance to use their stronger House and Senate majorities next year to pass explicit spending restrictions on some DHS agencies, to try to stop Obama’s immigration overhaul.

More details from Bloomberg Politics:

House Speaker John Boehner and his fellow Republican leaders are turning to large-animal veterinarian and Tea Party darling Ted Yoho to help avoid a second government shutdown in as many years.

The freshman Florida Republican has proposed a bill that aims to remove the president’s executive power when it comes to deportations. It’s a symbolic measure that would have essentially zero chance of passing in the last days of a Democratic-controlled Senate. But Boehner and his crew hope it’s enough to pacify a Republican caucus seething over President Barack Obama’s immigration actions last month.

Boehner and other Republican leaders have vowed to avoid a repeat of the 16-day shutdown last year. Their best shot may be coupling Yoho’s bill with a measure that would temporarily fund immigration agencies and provide longer-term financing for the rest of the federal government. The deadline is Dec. 11, when current funding ends.

Yoho, whose opposition to Obamacare contributed to the last shutdown, was an unlikely star of the 2012 election cycle, knocking off 12-term incumbent Cliff Stearns in a Republican primary for a North Florida district after selling his veterinary practice to run. Since being sworn in, the 59-year-old Republican has voted against Boehner for speaker, said an Obamacare tax on indoor tanning was “racist,” and suggested that a government shutdown could stabilize markets.

Yoho sounds like a lunatic. How on earth do people like this get elected?

Bill Cassidy tries to smile and fails miserably.

Bill Cassidy tries to smile and fails miserably.

Speaking of lunatics, last night I watched the final debate between Louisiana Senate candidates Bill Cassidy and Mary Landrieu. If the result of the runoff election on Saturday weren’t so important, the “debate” would have been a laugh riot. The main topics were abortion, guns, Obamacare, Cassidy’s double dipping at the expense of taxpayers and Landrieu’s weak support of the hated black President.

It was difficult to listen to what Cassidy was saying, because he is so strange-looking, and when he forces a smile, he looks like something out of a vampire movie. Even though Mary Landrieu is a pretty conservative Democrat, I couldn’t help liking her when I noticed she had a hard time not laughing out loud when Cassidy was talking.

From NOLA.com:

The gloves came off during the testy final U.S. Senate debate Monday night between Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu and Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy. Controversies dominated the discussion, including assertions that  Cassidyfalsified time sheets and Landrieu used taxpayer money to take charter airplane flights to campaign events.

Landrieu worked her main allegation, that Cassidy billed Louisiana State University for work he didn’t perform, into answers throughout the debate. She said it’s an issue that should follow him beyond Saturday’s election.

“If he wins, he will be fighting more than President Obama. He will be fighting subpoenas because he padded his time sheet,” Landrieu said. “He’ll talk about everyone else’s record but his own.”

Cassidy denied the allegations and defended his record. “These charges are absolutely false. The Landrieu campaign takes these charges, and they twist them anyway they can. I’m proud of the work I’ve done at LSU,” Cassidy said.

A physician, Cassidy said his work at LSU hospitals helped people, while Landrieu’s charter flights helped only her. Landrieu countered that she had taken responsibility for the flights, which she attributed to a bookkeeping error, and paid back the Treasury.

Read more at the link.

During their extended argument over abortion, I was surprised to hear Cassidy state as fact that a 20-month fetus is viable and capable of feeling pain. I was also shocked when Landrieu said she is against all abortions and thinks they are immoral, but that the government shouldn’t be making those decisions. At least she’s “pro-choice.”

After watching that debate, I thanked my lucky stars that my Senators are Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey.

That’s about all the news I could dredge up this morning. I’ll be so glad when the holidays come to an end. What stories are you following today?


Friday Reads: The Day After Thanksgiving

10c Henri Matisse (1869-1954)   Still Life with Sleeping Woman 1940

The day after Thanksgiving might very well be the slowest news day of the year unless you want to read about people fighting tooth and nail over “bargains” bargains at Walmart and other huge chain stores. Nevertheless, I’ve managed to dig up a few stories of possible interest.

Professor Jaeha Lee of at North Dakota State University and her colleagues actually published a study on the phenomenon of bad behavior by “Black Friday” shoppers. From The Conversation, Retail rage: why Black Friday leads shoppers to behave badly.

The manic nature of Black Friday has often led shoppers to engage in fistfights and other misbehavior in their desperation to snatch up the last ultra-discounted television, computer or pair of pants. What is it about the day after Thanksgiving, historically one of the busiest shopping days of the year and traditionally the start of the holiday season, that inspires consumers to misbehave?

The unique characteristics of Black Friday sales promotions and the frantic retail environment they create, coupled with the shoppers’ own physical and emotional states combine to loosen the emotional constraints. Retailers heavily promote their most desirable items at deeply discounted prices in order to encourage more foot traffic. Demand for those precious few items naturally exceeds supply, and that imbalance can lead to aggressive consumer behavior.

But another key ingredient results from the very timing of the sales, which may begin at midnight or early in the morning and require eager customers to camp outside a store all night: sleep deprivation. That means many Black Friday shoppers’ cognitive levels are not functioning at top form, resulting in impaired decision-making and heightened negative mood states, thus facilitating misbehavior.

Researchers found that most Black Friday customers are well behaved, and a “proactive” strategy would be to make store rules clear to shoppers and “monitor” their behavior even before get into the store; and remove rude and aggressive shoppers before they can start trouble. Read more at the link if you’re interested. My personal solution to “retail rage” is to stay out of stores as much as possible until after the new year, and do most of my shopping on line.

Matisse - Woman reading at a yellow table

Of course Ferguson is still very much in the headlines.

From Reuters, via Huffington Post, Ferguson Protesters Target Black Friday Sales.

(Reuters) – Protesters in Ferguson, Missouri began targeting Black Friday sales at major retailers overnight in a new tactic to vent their anger at a grand jury decision not to indict a white police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teen.

Kicking off their latest strategy inside a Walmart in another nearby suburb of St. Louis, about 75 demonstrators protested peacefully, chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot!”, bemusing bargain-hunters pushing their brimming shopping carts.

They dispersed peacefully when ordered by a small group of police, moving on to a Target store where they staged a similar demonstration. More protests were planned for Friday.

Before heading in convoy to Walmart late on Thursday, a group of some 100 demonstrators ate Thanksgiving dinner, sang, prayed and discussed their new strategy in the basement of a St. Louis church.

“We are bruised but not broken,” said Cathy Daniels, a woman known to the activists as “Momma Cat” who prepared the food. “We are regrouping. We are not going to take this lying down.”

It’s really impressive to me how organized the long-time Ferguson protesters have become.

reclining

PBS Newshour has compiled a useful chart that breaks down the differences and similarities among grand jury witnesses to the shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson. The results of the analysis:

– More than 50 percent of the witness statements said that Michael Brown held his hands up when Darren Wilson shot him. (16 out of 29 such statements)

– Only five witness statements said that Brown reached toward his waist during the confrontation leading up to Wilson shooting him to death.

– More than half of the witness statements said that Brown was running away from Wilson when the police officer opened fire on the 18-year-old, while fewer than one-fifth of such statements indicated that was not the case.

– There was an even split among witness statements that said whether or not Wilson fired upon Brown when the 18-year-old had already collapsed onto the ground.

– Only six witness statements said that Brown was kneeling when Wilson opened fire on him. More than half of the witness statements did not mention whether or not Brown was kneeling.

Check out the full chart at the link.

From the Guardian US, How Michael Brown’s family could still file a lawsuit against Darren Wilson.

If they do decide to go that route, the family’s first option would be to file suit against Wilson or the Ferguson police department or both for wrongful death in a state court. If they did that, the case would most likely be heard in nearby Clayton, Missouri, in the same courthouse where the grand jury that declined to indict Wilson sat.

The other option is to sue in federal court, for what is known as a “1983” violation (named for its place in federal law, Title 42 Section 1983 of the US code, not the year), which means a deprivation of civil rights. This would be filed in the US district court for the eastern district of Missouri, in St Louis.

While in federal court for the 1983 violation, they could at the same time assert the state law case of wrongful death. Importantly, a 1983 suit also contains a variety of provisions for shifting the burden of legal fees; if the plaintiff wins a 1983 case, the defendant has to pay all the lawyers’ fees and expenses, on top of any damages awarded.

“My guess is the family will go to federal court, both because of the fee-shifting rule and also because of a potentially better jury pool,” said Ben Trachtenberg, a professor of law at the University of Missouri. The state court jury pool would draw from St Louis County, which might be seen as more predisposed to support Wilson, while the federal jury would come from a wider geographical area.

matisse-henri-1869-1954 Reading woman in violet dress, 1898

At The New Republic, Brian Beutler tries to make the best of the outcome of the midterm elections, Six Reasons I’m Thankful for a Republican Congress. I can say that I agree with him, but I could be wrong. Here’s the introduction to the piece:+

I generally don’t go in for sentimental holiday rituals like announcing New Year’s resolutions or giving children candy on Halloween. But in the interest of promoting counterintuitive thinking about American politics and juicing this website’s holiday traffic, I’m making an exception this Thanksgiving. So here goes:

Today, I am thankful that Republicans won the midterm elections and will soon control the U.S. Senate.

I’m not arguing that a fully Republican Congress will produce better policy than a divided Congress, or that Democrats should feel relieved to have lost the midterms so badly. All I’m suggesting is that a Republican Senate is the best outcome for me, personally, and for the growth interests of my employer. And also, maybein the longer termfor the country’s fragile, wheezing political system.

Read his reasons at the link.

According to the AP (via the WaPo), some Southern Democrats want their party to get back to “basics.”

ATLANTA — Southern Democrats are joining others in the party who say that a return to advocating to lift people out of economic hardship and emphasizing spending on education and public works will re-energize black voters and attract whites as well.

“It’s time to draw a line in the sand and not surrender our brand,” Rickey Cole, the party chairman in Mississippi, said. He believes candidates have distanced themselves from the past half-century of Democratic principles.

“We don’t need a New Coke formula,” Cole said. “The problem is we’ve been out there trying to peddle Tab and RC Cola.”

Cole and other Southern Democrats acknowledge divisions with prominent populists such as Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is expected to run for president in 2016, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Yet they see merit in pushing stronger voting rights laws, tighter bank regulation, labor-friendly policies such as a higher minimum wage and other familiar party themes.

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Finally, a great British mystery novelist, PD James, died yesterday at age 93. I’ve read a number of her books. From BBC News:

Her agent said she died “peacefully at her home in Oxford” on Thursday morning.

The author’s books, many featuring sleuth Adam Dalgliesh, sold millions of books around the world, with various adaptations for television and film.

Her best known novels include The Children of Men, The Murder Room and Pride and Prejudice spin-off Death Comes to Pemberley.

The author told the BBC last year she was working on another detective story and it was “important to write one more”.

“With old age, it becomes very difficult. It takes longer for the inspiration to come, but the thing about being a writer is that you need to write,” she said.

There’s much more about James at the link. I absolutely loved her first novel, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman.–so much so that I’ve read it at least three times. It’s about Cordelia Gray, a woman who successfully runs a detective agency.

Here’s tribute to PD James by her close friend and fellow mystery novelist Ruth Rendell from the Guardian, PD James: ‘Any of the events in Phyllis’s books might have happened’.

She did not write sensation novels, she wrote books about real things, things that could have happened. She didn’t write at all like Agatha Christie. Christie had the most magnificent plots and great stories, but I don’t think anyone would say that she wrote believable stuff, people didn’t want that from her.

But any of the events in Phyllis’s books might have happened – and I think people liked that because they’d never had it in crime fiction before. Dorothy Sayers was a marvellous crime writer, whom both Phyllis and I admired very much, but she hadn’t got the same reality, and she also had that peculiar snobbishness that made her have her detective the son of a duke. Phyllis would have nothing of that.

Both of us thought more about the characters than the crime. Her plots were good, of course, but she took particular care in the creation of character. Place also mattered a lot to her: if you knew the Essex coast you’d want to read some of her books because of her wonderful descriptions.

She always took enormous pains to be accurate and research her work with the greatest attention. She made few mistakes, but on one memorable occasion she did have a male character get on a motorbike and reverse it (I think you can do that now, but this was 30 or 40 years ago), and of course she got a lot of letters about it. But she had a great sense of humour and thought it was very funny.

If one of her books had police work in it, the police work would be true, it would be very real. Her detective Dalgliesh – named him after a female teacher at her school, she just liked the name – is the most intelligent police officer in fiction that I’ve ever come across. He’s sensitive, intelligent, rather awe-inspiring and slightly frightening, but he is a real person, you can get really involved in him.

Both of these women were involved in British politics.

We never talked about crime – because it was what we both wrote about – and we never talked about politics. Phyllis joined the House of Lords several years before me. We were both utterly opposed to each other politically: she was a Tory and very much a committed Conservative, whereas I’m a socialist, I’m Labour and always have been. Once we were in for a vote and crossed paths going to the two division lobbies, she to the “content” lobby and I to the “not content” – and we kissed in the chamber, which caused some concern and amazement.

James lived a long and productive life and her writing gave pleasure and intellectual stimulation to millions of readers around the world. RIP Phyllis.

That’s all the news I’ve got this morning. What stories are you following, if any? I hope everyone enjoyed the holiday. I hope to see some of you in the comment thread, although I know it’s a busy day for lots of people.

Take care, Sky Dancers! I’m thankful for all of you.


Lazy Saturday Reads: Immigration Facts and Ferguson Fears

Vivien Leigh reads

Good Afternoon!!

 

President Obama’s executive action on immigration tops the news today. Ferguson is a close second. I’ll be focusing mostly on those two stories in this post.

Immigration

Before I get started, I want to point you to a new post by Darren Hutchinson of Dissenting Justice. It will give you some reality-based ammunition to deal with crazy wingnut friends, relatives, and Facebook and Twitter followers.

FACTS: President Obama’s Immigration Policies Are Absolutely LEGAL.

ATTENTION: Before you can argue that the government has violated a law, you must actually READ the law.

FACT: Congress has the exclusive power to pass laws regarding immigration (U.S. Const. Article I, Section 8, Cl. 4).FACT: Executive Power of the US is vested in the President, which means the President, not Congress, executes the immigration laws (U.S. Const. Article II, Sect. 1, Cl. 1)….

FACT: Consistent with the Constitution, the INA gives the Executive Branch (President, Homeland Security, Attorney General, and Secretary of State) the power to enforce immigration laws (8 U.S.C. Sect. 1103-1104)….

FACT: The Executive Can “Cancel” the Removal of Certain Deportable Individuals. 
The INA allows the Attorney General to cancel removal (deportation) or adjust the status of certain categories of undocumented individuals. The statute explicitly spells out the criteria for doing so. Thus, the statute provides an “intelligible criteria” for the Attorney General to follow. (8 U.S.C. Section 1229b(a)-(b))….

The Executive Can Give Temporary Protected Status to Certain Deportable Individuals. The INA also allows the Attorney General to grant “Temporary Protected Status” (TPS) to deportable individuals from certain countries that the Attorney General has placed on a TPS list. As required by Supreme Court doctrine, the INA gives SPECIFIC guidelines – or an intelligible principle – for the Attorney General to follow when determining whether to give TPS designation to a country. The statutory factors include serious conditions in the individual’s home country, like armed conflict; natural disasters; a request for temporary protected status by the country; or “extraordinary and temporary conditions” that preclude the safe return of the individual, so long as TPS does not conflict with the interests of the US.
(8 U.S.C. Sections 1254a-i)

Those are the highlights. There’s more at the link. I plan to save Hutchinson’s post for future reference. I’m thinking of printing it out in case I get in a political argument with my brother over Thanksgiving dinner.

jimmy stewart reads in bed

Obama has been vilified from day one by people who obviously have never read the Constitution or any U.S. laws dealing with their various political hobby horses, and I’m sick and tired of it.

You all know I not a fan of Obama when he ran for president in 2008, and I still think he’s a conservative technocrat who is far to willing to support privatization of public services. But he is the President of the United States now. I support his efforts to reform immigration laws. He’s only taking executive action because Congress is full of stupid and irrational people who are too lazy or stubborn to cooperate with him. Sadly, the DC media is largely made up of wealthy, privileged people who got their jobs because through nepotism and/or because they attended elite universities and are too lazy or stupid to provide accurate information to the public. Therefore, people who don’t focus on politics like we do get false information from TV news or “journalists” who do not understand what journalism is.

Rant over.

A few more links on the immigration story:

Washington Post Wonkblog, Flow chart: Who qualifies for Obama’s immigration offer?

The president’s executive action would delay deportation for the undocumented mother of a child born in the U.S. on Thursday — but not an undocumented mother who gave birth here one day later. Similarly, the president has offered deferrals to children brought to this country by their parents before their 16th birthday — but not a few weeks after.

Such deadlines serve a purpose: They’re meant to discourage new immigrants from coming in the future, or to dissuade women already here from giving birth with the goal of securing deferrals. But they also show that the president’s action falls far short of a comprehensive solution. It offers, instead, a fragmented answer that will leave many immigrants disappointed.

Check out the flow chart at the link for details.

liz-taylor_steve-mcqueen

Greg Sargent at The Washington Post, Bringing perspective to Obama’s move on deportations.

Now that President Obama has announced his executive action to temporarily shield millions from deportation, confirming the administration’s view that this move is well within his authority, the battle now shifts to a political fight over the policy itself, and over whether it violates “political norms.” Is this action so provocative an affront to Congress that it sets a precedent for future GOP presidents to use discretion to selectively enforce laws liberals like?

Embedded in the legal opinion that the Office of Legal Counsel released to justify the move is an important nugget that should, in theory, help take the steam out of the idea that this move is a flagrant violation of political norms.

Obama’s action temporarily shields from deportation the parents of children who are U.S. citizens and legal residents, and also expands the program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) to protect people brought here illegally as children. But it excludes parents of DACA recipients.

The reason for this offered by the OLC memo is that protecting parents of legal residents is in line with Congressional intent, as expressed in statute, while protecting DACA parents isn’t:

[T]he parents of DACA recipients are differently situated from the parents of U.S. citizens and LPRs [Legal Permanent Residents] under the family-related provisions of the immigration law. Many provisions of the INA [Immigration and Nationality Act] reflect Congress’ general concern about separating individuals who are legally entitled to live in the United States and their immediate family members….But the immigration laws do not express comparable concern for uniting persons who lack lawful status (or prospective lawful status in the United States with their families…Extending deferred action to the parents of DACA recipients would therefore expand family-based immigration relief in a manner that deviates in important respects from the immigration system Congress has enacted.

This legal opinion probably precludes any future expansion of this program to cover parents of DACA recipients. And it underscores two things: First, that the proposal is heavily focused on providing relief from humanitarian hardship endured by U.S. citizens and permanent residents, a longtime intention of Congress, as expressed in statute. Second, it shows that the proposal’s legal rationale is tightly circumscribed to reflect that Congressional intent.

Follow me below the fold for much more . . .
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Lazy Saturday Reads: Governor, Police, and Media Stoke Fears of Riots in Ferguson

 King reads2Good Afternoon!

A Grand Jury decision is imminent in the Michael Brown shooting case in Ferguson, Missouri. For the past couple of weeks the media has been full of reports of how police departments in the St. Louis area are preparing for what they predict will be violent protests.

The general assumption is that Ferguson police officer, who killed Brown at about noon on August 9, will not be charged. The simple truth is that white police officer who kill black people are rarely charged and almost never convicted. Furthermore, the LA Times reports that law enforcement officers who kill citizens in Missouri are given “wide latitude.”

Missouri law provides wide latitude for police to use deadly force, particularly if the officer believes it’s necessary to protect his or her safety or the safety of others.

But that law might not shield Wilson. “If Michael Brown was trying to surrender at the time, that makes this defense not applicable,” Washington University law professor Peter Joy said. “So the question is: Was Michael Brown clearly trying to surrender at the time that the fatal gunshots were fired?”

Several witnesses who saw the shooting reported that Brown’s hands were in the air when Darren Wilson shot and killed him, but, as far as I can tell, most media sources recently have changed the narrative to the police version–not based on direct observation–in which Wilson supposedly feared for his life because the unarmed Brown “charged” at him after being hit with at least two bullets.

There is another investigation by the Justice Department into whether Darren Wilson violated Michael Brown’s civil rights, but

Joy said a federal indictment seemed unlikely, at least according to the publicly reported accounts of the shooting thus far.

“That would require that Officer Wilson intentionally planned or intentionally meant to violate the civil rights — that is, take the life of — Michael Brown because of his race,” Joy said.

The media narrative has gradually been revised since August, when we saw what were essentially police riots in which Ferguson and St. Louis police used military surplus equipment to control peaceful protesters and reporters and photographers who were covering events on the ground. Now we’re repeatedly being told that Brown was the aggressor, with the unwritten implication that he deserved to die.  Back in August, some law enforcement officers threatened to kill protesters and even arrested numerous members of the media who were simply doing their jobs.  But that’s all forgotten now. Now the corporate media appears to be fully behind the Ferguson and St. Louis police; and both the police and the media are preparing for what they expect–and apparently hope–will be violent and dangerous riots.

Moneta Sleet Jr./Ebony Collection

Since the Grand Jury decision may come very soon, I thought I’d gather the latest updates on this important story for today’s post. I’ll admit up front that I’m not an nonpartisan observer in this case.

First, the LA Times article I linked to above has a good summary of the two sides to the story of the shooting, Back Story: What happened in Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Mo.?

Also from the LA Times, a report of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s recent announcement about government preparations for what he apparently assumes will be riots, National Guard on call if Ferguson grand jury decision triggers violence.

The National Guard will be ready to assist law enforcement in Missouri if unrest erupts after a grand jury announces whether to indict a white police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Gov. Jay Nixon announced Tuesday.

“Violence will not be tolerated,” Nixon said at a news conference with officials from the Missouri State Highway Patrol, St. Louis County police and St. Louis Metropolitan police. The governor said the agencies would form a unified command to deal with protests. “Residents and businesses of this region will be protected,” Nixon said….

Nixon said that the rights of peaceful protesters would be respected but that officials would have no tolerance for violent agitation. “Our dual pillars here are safety and speech,” Nixon said in the televised news conference from St. Louis. The National Guard, he said, would be available “when we determine it is necessary to support local law enforcement.”

Nixon added: “The world is watching.”

Photo of Martin Luther King Jr

Nixon did not say whether there have been any efforts to diffuse anger on the part of local police officers or prevent more police overreactions to peaceful protests.

The story also quoted St. Louis police chief Jon Belmar.

“The community is on edge. … There is a large sense of anxiety out there. This is a little unprecedented,” St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told reporters in a televised news conference. Belmar added: “If you talk to chiefs around the country [as I have], they’re concerned and prepared for this to perhaps lap into their communities also.”

Gee, I wonder why? Could it be because police shootings of unarmed black men are so common in this country? Belmar also defended the use of military equipment to control protests.

Belmar defended the agency’s response by saying that such gear was necessary for his officers’ protection and pointed out that no protesters lost their lives during August’s demonstrations, which were occasionally marred by looting and gunshots. “My goodness, could we be that fortunate moving forward?” Belmar said of the absence of fatalities.

The St. Louis County Police Department has spent about $120,000 to replenish equipment such as shields, batons, tear gas and flex handcuffs after weeks of unrest in the aftermath of the shooting depleted supplies and damaged equipment.

King reads3

Here are some recent examples of white policemen shooting unarmed black men:

The New Republic, A Dash Cam Didn’t Stop This White Officer From Shooting an Unarmed Black Man (fortunately, this officer was arrested and charged. Whether he’ll be convicted or not, we don’t know yet)

Mother Jones, August 13, 2014, 4 Unarmed Black Men Have Been Killed By Police in the Last Month.

Here’s piece on this subject by Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart, The terrifying police shootings of unarmed black men.

One of the burdens of being a black male is carrying the heavy weight of other people’s suspicions. One minute you’re going about your life, the next you could be pleading for it, if you’re lucky. That’s what happened to Trayvon Martin in February 2012 and Michael Brown last month. And two other recent shootings add further proof that no standard of conduct, it seems, is too good or too mundane to protect a black man’s life particularly from a police officer’s bullet.

John Crawford III was talking on his cell phone in the Beavercreek, Ohio, Wal-Mart and carrying an unloaded BB air rifle he picked up in the superstore on Aug. 5. “There is a gentleman walking around with a gun in the store,” Ronald Ritchie told the 911 operator. “Yeah, he’s, like, pointing at people….He’s looking around, waving it, waving it back and forth….He looked like he was trying to load it. I don’t know.” Fair warning: As the graphic video shows, Crawford was shot and killed by police. Ritchie has since changed his account of what happened.

You can watch the video at the link. Capehart also discusses the Brown case and the case in South Carolina (story linked above).

Levar Jones was pulled over for a seat-belt violation by now-former South Carolina state trooper Sean Groubert on Sept. 4. Thanks to the startling and graphic dashcam video we get to see every African American’s worst nightmare unfold in seconds….

Groubert asks Jones, “Can I see your license, please?” Jones, who was standing outside his car at the gas station convenience store, turned and reached inside to retrieve it. “Get out of the car! Get out of the car!” Groubert shouts before opening fire on Jones at point-blank range. After being hit in the hip, Jones can be seen moving backwards away from his car with his hands in the air as two more shots ring out.

injustice2

Instead of using these recent cases to highlight and deal with the problem of police shootings of unarmed people, it seems that local and state governments like those in Missouri are simply doubling down on the people who protest them. I’m really concerned that all the talk of “riots” being inevitable in Ferguson is going to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Caitlin Dickson of The Daily Beast reports that at least one expert agrees with me: Riot Prep Could Fuel Ferguson Violence.

Despite a concerted police effort to quell demonstrations, protesters have carried on consistently and, for the most part, calmly since Brown’s death at the hands of police officer Darren Wilson this past August. But the impending grand jury decision on whether Wilson will be indicted in Brown’s death—and leaks of evidence suggesting he won’t—has law enforcement, residents, and business owners preparing for violence on the streets.

In addition to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s announcement on Tuesday that the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the St. Louis Metropolitan police, and the St. Louis County police will join forces (with the National Guard on standby) in handling demonstrations following the grand jury decision, almost every national news organization—from CNN to The New York Times, the Associated Press and Reuters—has reported that Ferguson residents and business owners have been taking matters into their own hands. Gun sales are up, local gun-shop owners told reporters. People like Dan McMullen, whose insurance agency is located near a spot where the few instances of vandalism and looting took place following Brown’s death, was quoted by both the New York Times and CNN as saying he’s stocking up on guns in case of a riot….

Despite Governor Nixon’s declarations that “violence will not be tolerated” and “residents and businesses of this region will be protected,” some experts wonder whether all the emphasis on preparedness—from the $120,000 spent by the St. Louis County Police on riot gear to the sudden demand for guns—may do more harm than good.

“I don’t think this is the way we should be thinking about what might happen,” American University professor Cathy Schneider told The Daily Beast.  Instead, Schneider, who is an expert on social movements and racial tensions, argues that what we should be thinking about is, ‘how do we convince a community that the police will act to serve them, that the justice system will defend their interests, and that the verdict will be just?” [….]

“If one side is buying guns and preparing, what do you think the other people are doing, who think those guns are going to be used against them?” Schneider asked. Instead of acknowledging that Ferguson’s black community “is in pain and wondering whether justice will be done,” Schneider said, such intense preparation sends the message that “we think your community is dangerous and we’re armed and prepared to kill you.”

King reads5

It also doesn’t help that Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson–who should have been fired by now–has announced that Darren Wilson, the man who killed Michael Brown, will be welcomed back to the local force if he isn’t indicted by the Grand Jury.

Here’s an excellent op-ed by Mary Sanchez of the Kansas City Star: The fire next time … may engulf Ferguson, Mo.

By every indication — from both the street and civic offices — Ferguson, Missouri is expected to blow.

The grand jury decision on whether a white police officer will be charged in the shooting death of an unarmed 18-year-old black man could come any day. Many are expecting no indictment of the officer, no criminal charges alleging that he went too far the day Michael Brown died.

If that’s the outcome, God help us all. Keeping the lid on the public reaction will be a gargantuan task.

Of course local leaders fed the outrage from the very beginning by trying to protect Darren Wilson and by leaving Michael Brown’s body lying exposed in the street for four hours.

Sanchez refers back to the riots in Los Angeles in 1965 as well as those in 1992 after the failure to indict police who beat Rodney King within an inch of his life. Why don’t government leaders deal with the root problems at work in these cases?

In Watts nearly 50 years ago the name was Marquette Frye, not Michael Brown. Frye, 21, was pulled over in a traffic stop, suspected of being drunk. When other family members arrived, a fight broke out with police. Word spread, alleging police had over-reacted.

For six days people rioted. There were 34 deaths, more than 1,000 people injured, $40 million in property damage and more than 1,000 buildings were destroyed.

In 1992, the person at the center was Rodney King. He’d led police on a high-speed car chase, fleeing after fearing that his probation would be revoked from a robbery conviction. When he finally was stopped, what happened next shocked the nation. The video of the officers assaulting King without mercy when they could have simply handcuffed him was played over and over on television.

When those officers weren’t indicted, the city erupted again. This time, 53 people died, more than 2,000 were injured, the property damage was pegged at $1 billion and another 1,000 buildings were destroyed.

In both cases, commissions were formed and good people went to work unraveling how one incident could ignite such violence. The underlying causes were found to be similar despite the nearly 30 years that had passed: the burdens of poor education, lack of jobs, poverty, racial tensions, and inferior housing and transportation.

Sanchez goes on to recommend changes that local and state governments will most likely either ignore or respond to with lip service.

Martin Luther King Jr Day Pic

We’ve seen over the past several years that virulent racism is alive and well in this country, and we simply are not dealing with it.

This nation was founded on the enslavement of black people, and despite the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, efforts to desegregate schools, and affirmative action, black people are still treated as second class citizens by many Americans. A number of states have even instituted voter ID laws that essentially act as poll taxes did in the Jim Crow era to keep black people from voting, and the Supreme Court has affirmed the right of states to do this.

We are now on the verge of another flashpoint in the history of race conflicts in our country–the possibility of violence following a failure to punish Darren Wilson for essentially ignoring the humanity of black teenager Michael Brown.

When will it end?

A few more reads to check out if you’re interested:

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Protesters prepare for the worst in Ferguson.

Huffington Post, Beyond the Indictments: Black and Brown Deaths at the Hands of Police Are a Crisis Boiling Over.

Fellowship of Reconciliation, Ferguson Under Indictment.

Juan Williams at Fox News, Are liberal news outlets begging for a race riot in Ferguson?

Ben Swann, Michael Brown’s Parents Testify Before UN Committee Against Torture.

Michael Martinez at CNN, Ferguson case raises question: Where’s the data on officer-involved killings?

Christian Science Monitor, Ferguson verdict: Why St. Louis schools will know first.

AP via Boston Globe, Churches prepare for possible Ferguson unrest

What stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a great weekend.


Super-Lazy Saturday Reads

 cat-readingGood Morning!!

It’s just one thing after another these days. I’m all stressed out again, because my mother broke her clavicle and I need to get out to Indiana ASAP. Unfortunately, I also have to go to the dentist this afternoon and then I have to figure out what to do about the jury duty I committed to in October, get the car checked out, and pack. Meet the top pediatric dentist near nyc, Elan Kaufman DMD. On top of that my car is due for an inspection sticker at the end of October. I’ll have to try to figure out if I’ll be back here by then or whether I should get the inspection done early.

Anyway, I’m hanging in there, realizing that my problems are nothing compared to so many other people in this crazy world. So what’s happening out there this morning?

Donald Trump continues to dominate the media. The good news is if they’re focusing on him, they can’t beat up on Hillary Clinton at the same time–or can they?

Trump’s misogyny knows no end–yesterday he turned his attention to fellow GOP candidate Carly Fiorina. From Ken Walsh’s Washington at U.S. News:

Another day, another insult from Donald Trump – and still another feud in the making.

This time, the Republican presidential front-runner belittled former business executive and presidential competitor Carly Fiorina, who has been making gradual progress in the polls but still lags behind Trump in the GOP race.

Rolling Stone magazine reports that Trump was watching Fiorina recently on a television newscast, in the presence of Rolling Stone reporter Paul Solotaroff, when the billionaire real-estate developer said, “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?”

Trump added: “I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?”

Watching Trump run for president is like watching a 5-year-old boy act out with no restraints.

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The Guardian reports on Fiorina’s response: 

Fiorina, speaking on Fox News to Megyn Kelly – who has also been targeted by Trump – said she considered his remarks to be “very serious”.

She added: “Maybe, just maybe, I’m getting under his skin a little bit because I am climbing in the polls.”

Trump has forged a consistent lead in polling for the Republican candidacy, with former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Fiorina considerably further behind, polling in single figures.

Maybe. Or maybe Trump is just a gigantic asshole. He also attacked Ben Carson and tried without success to defend his comments about Fiorina. From The Washington Post: 

Carson attacked Trump in unusually sharp terms yesterday, seeming to question his faith. On Thursday, Trump went after Carson’s energy level — and played down his medical accomplishments, saying he was only an “okay doctor” (Carson was the first neurosurgeon to separate conjoined twins attached at the head.)

“He makes [Jeb] Bush look like the Energizer bunny,” Trump said on CNN Thursday morning. “Who is he to question my faith? … When he questions my faith, and I’m a believer big-league in God, the Bible…I will hit back for that.”

“He was a doctor… perhaps an OK doctor,” he also said, adding that “Ben Carson will not be the next president of the United States.”

Trump’s comments, which are the most aggressive he has made about Carson, come less than a day after the retired surgeon pointed to his faith when asked what he believes to be the biggest difference between himself and Trump.

“The biggest thing is that I realize where my success has come from, and I don’t any way deny my faith in God,” Carson Wednesday night. “And I think that probably is a big difference between us.”

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Can you imagine having a president who says things like “I’m a believer big-league in God?” Is this really happening? On Fiorina:

Trump defended his comments on Fox News Thursday morning, dismissing the notion that he was talking about Fiorina’s physical appearance.

“Probably I did say something lik that about Carly,” Trump said. “I’m talking about persona. I’m not talking about look.”

So criticizing a woman’s face is not about her appearance? Yeah, right. Not much of defense. But the media won’t hold Trump accountable no matter what he says.

Meanwhile traditional conservative pundits profess to be utterly mystified by Trump’s success in his “campaign” so far. Brian Beutler at The New Republic: Donald Trump’s Biggest Conservative Enemies Helped Create Him.

Donald Trump’s durable lead in Republican primary polls, and improving approval ratings, continue to befuddle people who ought to have better insight into the state of the conservative mind. Writing for National Review, Jonah Goldberg and Charles C.W. Cooke have each diagnosed Trumpism as a failing of the conservative voters who comprise Trump’s base.

Cooke believes that Trump “has succeeded in convincing conservatives to discard their principles,” begging the question of whether Trump’s supporters ever really shared the principles that animate conservative organizations and National Review writers. Goldberg insisted that “no movement that embraces Trump can call itself conservative,” which helped give rise to #NRORevolt, an online backlash, thick with white nationalists and other conservatives who are fed up with elites who try to write non-conformists—from moderates to protectionists to isolationists to outright racists—out of the movement.

The anti-tax group Club for Growth is a big part of that purification apparatus. It is currently organizing and raising money for an effort to excise Trump before his view that hedge fund managers should pay their fair share in taxes metastasizes through the Republican primary field.

Republican consultant Steve Schmidt, who presumably sympathizes withNational Review and Club for Growth, described their frustrations as the described their frustrations as the result of a fatal disjunction between mass conservatism and the ideology that’s supposed to underlie it. “We’re at this moment in time,” Schmidttold NPR recently, “when there’s a severability between conservatism and issues. Conservatism is now expressed as an emotional sentiment. That sentiment is contempt and anger.”

This explains Trump’s rise and persistence, but fails to account for how“contempt and anger” became such valuable currency in Republican politics today. That omission is predictable, because such an accounting would implicate nearly everyone who now claims to be astonished and dismayed by the Trump phenomenon.

Read the rest at TNR.

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A couple of weeks ago, I made a resolution that I would read Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog and Peter Daou and Tom Watson’s #HillaryMen blog every day. I’ve been doing it, and the effort has been paying off in terms of maintaining my equilibrium in an insane media atmosphere.

Silver had a nice, level-headed post on Trump and Bernie Sanders yesterday: Stop Comparing Donald Trump And Bernie Sanders.

A lot of people are linking the candidacies of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump under headings like “populist” and “anti-establishment.” Most of these comparisons are too cute for their own good — not only because it’s too earlyto come to many conclusions about the campaign, but also because Trump and Sanders are fundamentally different breeds of candidates who are situated very differently in their respective nomination races.

You can call both “outsiders.” But if you’re a Democrat, Sanders is your eccentric uncle: He has his own quirks, but he’s part of the family. If you’re a Republican, Trump is as familial as the vacuum salesman knocking on your door.

Silver lists 7 differences between the two candidates–check them out at the link.

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And from #HillaryMen, another sensible post: The Sad, Sisyphean Struggle of Hillary Haters.

Writing for Politico, Jack Shafer explains why he thinks “Being a Clinton apologist is a hard life.”

Which got us thinking: what must it be like to be a die-hard Hillary hater? Obsessing over one of the most accomplished and resilient public figures on the planet? How depressing and demoralizing is it to latch onto fabricated scandal after fabricated scandal, only to have every one fade away?

How frustrating is it to expend so much time and mental energy bashing, bashing, bashing, only to have Hillary come back stronger than ever?

And how awful is it to be on the wrong side of women’s history, to help reinforce the gender barrier that prevents women and girls from realizing their full potential?

We’re not talking about fair-minded critics and principled political opponents. They have every right to disagree with Hillary and to dislike her if they’re so inclined. We’re talking about haters, people who have a pathological need to savage Hillary. People who make an industry of their hate.

Think of the self-righteous rants on Morning Joe, the seething vitriol of Maureen Dowd, the feverish swamps of rightwing trolls. Think of the reporters and pundits who mindlessly repeat Rove-funded frames and narratives, hoping to taint Hillary’s public image, to sully her character. Think of the Republican and conservative operatives who have tried in vain for more than two decades to silence her.

Go over to #HillaryMen to read the rest.

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As a bonus, here’s a nice column by Brent Budowsky at The Hill: Big truths about Hillary.

In olden days, great columnists such as Walter Lippmann and James “Scotty” Reston would periodically step back and put great events into perspective.

As America’s summer of political discontent and distemper ends, and as Americans shift from the fun of enjoying our favorite political performer to the mission of selecting our next president and as a pope of epochal significance prepares to address a joint session of a vastly unpopular Congress, let’s look at matters from a larger perspective.

It is revealing that while GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump gets a pass from many in the media for repeated comments that were verbally abusive toward women, the candidate who would be the first female president, Hillary Clinton, is treated like a pinata by pundits on television news — which, according to Gallup, is one of the least trusted institutions in America.

When Clinton stands with virtually all of America’s democratic allies by forcefully supporting a plan to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and stands with Pope Francis in support of treating refugees and immigrants humanely, she is acting like a stateswoman, commander in chief and humanitarian.

Meanwhile, the policies of GOP presidential candidates would leave Lady Liberty crying in New York Harbor as the pope arrives in America.

It is a big truth that Clinton would be the first female president, an achievement equal in historic magnitude to President Obama becoming our first black president.

If she is elected, moms and dads from Topeka to Tangiers will be telling their daughters that they too can achieve anything if they work hard and dream big.

By contrast, the Republican front-runner describes moms and daughters as fat pigs, dogs, slobs, disgusting animals and bimbos.

More big truths at the link. The piece is well worth reading.

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A bit more news, links only:

Japan Today: More than 100,000 flee floods in eastern Japan; 7 missing.

New York Daily News Exclusive: James Blake, former tennis star, slammed to ground and handcuffed outside midtown hotel by white NYPD cops who mistook him for ID theft suspect.

Chron.com: Baltimore police arrest pastor a week after Gray protests.

The Daily Beast Exclusive: 50 Spies Say ISIS Intelligence Was Cooked.

Politico: David Brock: The New York Times has ‘a special place in hell.’

Gawker: Reporter Claims He Was Fired for Asking Louisiana Senator David Vitter About His History With Prostitutes.

CNN: Homo naledi: New species of human ancestor discovered in South Africa.

National Geographic: This Face Changes the Human Story. But How?

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