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?
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?”
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.
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.
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.
According 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.
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.
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.
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.
I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of all the stories about America’s out of control Police Departments. The last few weeks have been especially illustrative of police departments that use deadly force first and cover it all up later. There’s just one story after another of police shooting and killing unarmed citizens and hapless dogs. Almost immediately afterwards, we get some kind of arrest, story, or whatever that says the police acted righteously. Why are so many unarmed people being killed by heavily armed police officers? WTF is going on?
There are four recent incidents where the police used deadly force in highly questionable situations. The first shooting is from Texas, the second from Ohio, the third is a strangling in New York City, and the latest shooting is from Missouri. This is obviously a national problem.
First up, an off duty officer killed a teen supposedly shoplifting in a Walmart after seeing a few security guards chase the teen out the door. Was deadly force really necessary over a smart phone cover? This sounds a lot like the Zimmerman defense if you ask me. This young man was Latino.
A 19-year-old shoplifting suspect in Conroe was shot and killed by an off-duty sergeant who said the teen choked him to the point of nearly passing out, police said.
The Conroe Police Department said officers were dispatched to the Walmart on N. Loop 336 W after store employees tried to stop a young man, Russell Rios, who allegedly stole a pair of iPhone cases early Wednesday evening.
Off-duty police Sgt. Jason Blackwelder was briefed by the workers and chased down the suspect in a wooded area southwest of the store, according to police.
Once in the woods, the suspect and the officer became engaged in a very intense struggle, and at one point the officer was being choked by the suspect, said Sgt. Dorcy Riddle. … to the extent that he thought he was going to lose consciousness.
Blackwelder fired his weapon, striking Rios and killing him. The sergeant was treated for minor injuries at the hospital and later released.
This actually was the second shooting involving a Walmart. This one involved a black teenager examining a Toy Gun. Now mind you, we had weeks of open carry assholes carrying actual loaded semi-automatic weapons around stores. Only the shoppers felt threatened by these jerks. However, those were all white folks toting the real thing so the security guards must’ve have thought it was no big deal.
As it turns out, John Crawford, the man shot dead by police was killed after doing nothing more than picking up a toy gun in the store.
Crawford, 22, was identified, in part by the mother of his child, who he was on the phone with at the time police shot him dead.
That woman, LeeCee Johnson, said Crawford went to the area to visit family members.
“We was just talking. He said he was at the video games playing videos and he went over there by the toy section where the toy guns were. And the next thing I know, he said ‘It’s not real,’ and the police start shooting and they said ‘Get on the ground,’ but he was already on the ground because they had shot him,” she said, adding: “And I could hear him just crying and screaming. I feel like they shot him down like he was not even human.”
Last month, an NYPD office strangled an unarmed black man with an illegal chokehold even while he was telling them he could not breathe. The incident was videotaped. The police later arrested the videographer and the man’s wife in unrelated charges seemingly to put their testimony in any court case against the choker into question.
Confronted by police trying to arrest him for allegedly selling illegal cigarettes, Eric Garner raised both hands in the air and, with passive defiance, told the officers not to touch him. Seconds later, a video shows the officer behind him grab the 350-pound man in a chokehold and pull him to the sidewalk, rolling him onto his stomach.
“I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” Garner said repeatedly, his cries muffled into the pavement.
The video of the Thursday skirmish shows the Staten Island man lying on the ground motionless after the incident. An asthmatic, Garner was later declared dead at a nearby hospital, according to CNN affiliate WCBS. Police said he suffered a heart attack and died en route to the hospital.
“This is a terrible tragedy that occurred yesterday. A terrible tragedy that no family should have to experience,” said New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, calling the video of the incident “very troubling.”
Police told WCBS that 43-year-old Garner, a father of six, had a lengthy criminal history and had been previously arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes in May.
Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who is seen on video choking Garner, was put on modified assignment and stripped of his shield and gun as the New York Police Department continues to investigate the incident, WCBS reported. The chokehold tactic is prohibited by the NYPD.
The most recent shooting involved an unarmed black teen who was being harassed by the police for not getting on the sidewalk. This young man was two days away from his first year in college.
An unarmed black teenager fatally shot Saturday by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., had been struggling for the officer’s gun, law enforcement officials said Sunday as hundredLs of protesters gathered outside the police department.
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said the youth, Michael Brown, 18, allegedly struggled for a Ferguson police officer’s weapon in a patrol car before the officer fired several shots about noon Saturday. Witnesses have said the youth had his hands in the air as he fled the patrol car.
Brown’s mother said she didn’t understand why police didn’t subdue him with a club or Taser.
“I would like to see him fired,” Lesley McSpadden told the Associated Press, referring to the officer who shot her son. “I would like to see him go to jail with the death penalty.”
Belmar said there would be a thorough investigation, with possible inclusion of the FBI. Because Brown is African American, the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People has said it would seek a federal investigation.
Is this part and parcel of the militarization of police happening since 9/11 or is it an outcropping of the rampant, outrageous racism that has been noticeable since the country elected its first black president? I can remember being in Denver about two years ago during an Occupy march. I also remember watching tons of riot police in military vehicles rushing around the downtown streets to intercept what was obviously a peaceful gathering of Americans in keeping with our constitutional rights. But, SWAT raids are commonplace these days.
It’s 3:00 a.m. Your children are screaming and your dog is lying dead in a pool of blood. Scorch marks and shattered glass cover the floor. You’re being held at gunpoint by towering figures wearing black and holding AK-47s.
This isn’t a Hollywood movie set. Odds are this is a predawn SWAT raid targeting a family of color. Mission objective: search the home for a small amount of drugs.
There are an estimated 45,000 SWAT raids every year. That means this sort of violent, paramilitary raid is happening in about 124 homes every day – or more likely every night – not in an overseas combat zone, but here in American neighborhoods. The police, who are supposed to serve and protect communities, are instead waging war on the people who live in them.
Our new report, War at Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing, takes a hard look at 800 of these raids – or at least what state and local law enforcement agencies are willing to tell us about them. We found that almost 80% of SWAT raids are to search homes, usually for drugs, and disproportionately, in communities of color. During these drug searches, at least 10 officers often piled into armored personnel carriers. They forced their way into people’s homes using military equipment like battering rams 60 percent of the time. And they were 14 times more likely to deploy flashbang grenades than during SWAT raids for other purposes.
Public support for the failed War on Drugs is at its lowest ever, and yet police are still using hyper-aggressive tactics and heavy artillery to fight it. This paramilitary approach to everyday policing brutalizes bystanders and ravages homes. We reviewed one case in which a young mother was shot and killed with her infant son in her arms. During another raid, a grandfather of 12 was killed while watching baseball in his pajamas. And we talked with a mother whose toddler was covered in burns, shot through with a hole that exposed his ribs, and placed into a medically induced coma after a flashbang grenade exploded in his crib. None of these people was the suspect. In many cases like these, officers did not find the suspect or any contraband in the home.
Even if they had found contraband, the idea of cops-cum-warriors would still be deeply troubling. Police can – and do – conduct searches and take suspects into custody without incident, without breaking into a home in the middle of the night, and without discharging their weapons. The fact is, very few policing situations actually require a full SWAT deployment or a tank. And simply having drugs in one’s home should not be a high-risk factor used to justify a paramilitary raid.
We can no longer accept such brutal tactics as a routine way to fight the War on Drugs. It’s time for an exit strategy.
Jason L. Riley is a Wall Street Journal columnist and vocal critic of what hecalls “race hustlers”—“the second and third-tier types” who lead the civil rights groups of the present.
For him, the greatest barriers to black advancement aren’t economic disadvantage and persistent discrimination, they’re “anti-social behavior” and “counterproductive attitudes toward work, school, marriage, and so forth.”
Last Friday, Riley responded to Al Sharpton’s call for criminal justice reform with this Twitter broadside: “Liberals want to discuss black incarceration rates but not black crime rates,” he said. “Stop pretending the two are unrelated.” The implication is that black criminality is to blame.
There’s no question that relative to their population, black Americans hold adisproportionate share of arrests and convictions for crime. But it’s important we don’t confuse that with a propensity for crime. Put another way, black overrepresentation in crime statistics has as much to do with policing and the legal process as it does with the actual crimes committed.
For millions of black and Latino New Yorkers, the city is a literal police state.
It’s worth noting that just a few hours after Riley made his assertion, the New York City medical examiner ruled Eric Garner’s death a homicide by chokehold. If you haven’t followed the coverage, Garner was killed in July during a struggle with Staten Island police officers. Because a witness (who was later arrested on gun charges) videotaped the encounter, we know that the 43-year-old father of six had just stopped a fight, and was agitated by the police presence. “Every time you see me, you try to mess with me,” he said to the officers, protesting prior treatment. “This stops today.” Within minutes, police had placed Garner in a chokehold and wrestled him to the ground, where he struggled, gasped for air, and died.
Bystanders would catch two other instances of police violence over the next week. In the first, an officer is seen stomping on the head of a man arrested for marijuana possession, and in the second, an officer is shown using a chokehold on a pregnant woman after she grilled food on the sidewalk outside of her home (which, apparently, is against the law in New York City).
The reason for these stops is a policing approach called “broken windows,” first articulated by scholars James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling in a 1982 Atlantic Monthly essay and later adopted by the NYPD in 1993. Broken windows prioritizes cracking down on minor offenses on the theory that doing so can preempt serious crime. Or, to use the metaphor of the idea, actual broken windows create the appearance of disorder, which creates actual disorder as criminals take advantage of the inviting environment. Rather than wait for the serious crimes to begin, police should “repair the windows”—focus on petty crime like loitering, and you’ll stop the worse crime from taking hold.
It’s an elegant concept, but there’s little evidence it works. “Taken together,” notes a 2006 study from the University of Chicago, “the evidence from New York City and from the five-city social experiment provides no support for a simple first-order disorder-crime relationship as hypothesized by Wilson and Kelling nor for the proposition that broken windows policing is the optimal use of scarce law enforcement resources.” Yes, the massive New York crime decline of the 1990s coincided with broken windows policing, but chances are it had more to do with a reversion to the mean (“what goes up, must come down, and what goes up the most, tends to come down the most”) than any new approach.
If broken windows were just a waste of resources, it wouldn’t be a huge concern. But as a policy, broken windows has also had the effect of terrorizing black and Latino New Yorkers.
Perceptions of urban “disorder” are tied tightly to race and have been for more than a century (as detailed in sociologist Khalil Gibran Muhammad’s The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America). As we’ve seen on a regular basis—from Jonathan Ferrell to Renisha McBride—people of color, and blacks in particular, are feared as criminal in ways their white counterparts aren’t.
This is one of the most enlightening quotes I’ve seen for some time. The police union’ associate basically believes that resisting arrest is a reason to use deadly force. This is in regards to Garner’s death outlined above.
The police officer who killed a Staten Island dad with a prohibited chokehold was just doing what he had been trained to do.
So claimed Pat Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, in strident and eyebrow-raising defense Tuesday of NYPD officers, during which he called the medical examiner’s conclusions about Eric Garner’s death “absolutely wrong.”
“It is not a chokehold,” Lynch insisted. “It was bringing a person to the ground the way we’re trained to do to place him under arrest.”
Lynch, who is not a doctor, also said the ME’s office was “mistaken” when it concluded after an autopsy that the 43-year-old Garner’s death was a homicide.
“I’ve never seen a document that was more political than that press release by the ME,” Lynch said. “Chokehold. That’s not a medical term.”
Lynch also ripped Mayor de Blasio for not backing the officers in this case. “The mayor needs to support New York City police officers unequivocally,” he said.
De Blasio defended the ME, calling the office “the gold standard in this country for the work they do.”
Lynch’s remarks appeared to be aimed at taking the heat off Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who was caught on a shocking cellphone video wrapping an arm around Garner’s neck and dragging him to the pavement.
“I can’t breathe!” Garner could be heard yelling. “I can’t breathe!”
That video sparked nationwide outrage and Pantaleo was yanked off the street as the Staten Island prosecutor launched an investigation. Pantaleo has not been charged with a crime.
Lynch said Garner had been stopped a week earlier by police officers for peddling unlicensed cigarettes on the street.
“He was warned to stop the illegal sale and was not placed under arrest but was warned, admonished and sent on his way,” Lynch said.
So Garner knew he was in big trouble when cops caught him selling loosies again, the union president said.
“But the next week he said he wasn’t going to be arrested,” Lynch said.
Flanked by Sergeants Benevolent Association President Ed Mullins, Lynch decried the “insulting and unjustified manner in which police officers are being portrayed by politicians, race baiters, pundits and even our elected officials.”
So, as I write this, I’ve found out that 49 year after the Watts Riots, Ferguson MO–a primarily black community close to St Louis–has erupted in riots. That’s the SWAT group patrolling the area outside a Walgreen’s that I’ve juxtaposed to an old photo of Watts.
What started as a peaceful prayer vigil Saturday evening to remember a young man gunned down by police, has escalated into full scale riots and looting in Ferguson, Missouri.
Angry mobs have smashed windows, set fires and looted businesses as a massive showing of police, some wearing riot gear have moved into the area along West Florissant just south of 270.
Police are also responding to reports of shootings throughout the area. At one point, windows of a News 4 live truck were smashed out by the angry crowd.
There are reports that police have dispersed the crowd in Ferguson, but the mobs have moved into some neighboring communities.
News video and amateur video from the scene have captured mobs of crowds racing into stores and businesses and then rushing out with armloads of stolen goods.
Tear gas has reportedly been used by police in some areas.
Two groups of protesters gathered around 8:00 Sunday night in Ferguson to bring awareness to the death of Michael Brown, 18, who was shot and killed by police Saturday.
At least fifteen area police agencies have been called to Ferguson. Police set up a staging area at West Florissant and Ferguson Road. Police are also staging at the Plaza at the Boulevard parking lot, where officers are seen putting on riot gear. Dozens of police vehicles are on scene, from all over St. Louis County, including Chesterfield, Country Club Hills and the Missouri Highway Patrol.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Our weird winter weather is continuing. This morning’s temperature outside my house is zero degrees! And we’re expecting five more inches of snow this afternoon, most of it during the afternoon rush hour. I guess all I can do is grin and bear it.
Now let’s see what’s happening in the news today.
Lots of people are excited about the ruling yesterday by US District Court Judge Richard Leon that NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records is “likely unconstitutional,” but the decision is on hold pending appeal by the Feds and as Reuters notes this morning, SCOTUS is probably going to have the final say on what happens to NSA surveillance programs following revelations from the massive trove of data stolen by Edward Snowden and passed to Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras.
“This is the opening salvo in a very long story, but it’s important symbolically in dispelling the invincibility of the metadata program,” said Stephen Vladeck, a national security law expert at the American University law school.
Vladeck said 15 judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court have examined Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, the provision of law under which the data collection takes place, without finding constitutional problems. “There’s a disconnect between the 15 judges on the FISA court who seem to think it’s a no-brainer that Section 215 is constitutional, and Judge Leon, who seems to think otherwise.”
Vladeck said there is a long road of court tests ahead for both sides in this dispute and said a higher court ultimately could avoid ruling on the big constitutional issue identified by Leon. “There are five or six different issues in these cases,” Vladeck said.
Robert F. Turner, a professor at the University of Virginia’s Center for National Security Law, predicted Leon’s decision was highly likely to be reversed on appeal. He said the collection of telephone metadata — the issue in Monday’s ruling — already has been addressed and resolved by the Supreme Court.
Maybe the solution would be to repeal the Patriot Act? Anyway, I think it’s important to note that this lawsuit was brought by Larry Klayman, a certified right wing nut who used to head Judicial Watch and now runs something called Freedom Watch.
In the 1990s, he filed numerous lawsuits against President Bill Clinton and his administration, alleging a litany of personal and professional transgressions. Mr. Klayman later nettled Vice President Dick Cheney over his secret energy policy meetings and claimed that members of George W. Bush’s administration might have known in advance of the 2001 anthrax attacks in Washington.
More recently, Mr. Klayman, who has been called “Litigious Larry,” sued OPEC, accusing oil-rich nations of price fixing and of trying to “bring Western economies to their knees.” And he sued Facebook and its founder for $1 billion when, he said, it was too slow to take down a web page that threatened Jews with death.
The guy is a weirdo, so I have to wonder what it was that convinced a conservative Bush-appointed judge like Leon. And will ne be able to convince our right wing Supreme Court? I’d love to see NSA reined in, but I have serious doubts as to whether it will happen.
More on Klayman:
Mr. Klayman is a fixture of sorts in Washington. He founded, and then parted ways, with the conservative interest group Judicial Watch, which continues litigating grievances despite Mr. Klayman’s bitter departure. (He sued Judicial Watch, too, accusing it of breach of contract and other offenses.) His 2009 book is titled “Whores: Why and How I Came to Fight the Establishment.”
Mr. Klayman has not spared the current Democratic administration. At a Tea Party rally in October, he urged conservatives “to demand that this president leave town, to get up, to put the Quran down, to get up off his knees, and to figuratively come out with his hands up.”
Last year, Mr. Klayman filed a lawsuit in Florida arguing that Barack Obama was ineligible to be president because “neither Mr. Obama, nor the Democratic Party of Florida, nor any other group has confirmed that Mr. Obama is a ‘natural born citizen’ since his father was a British subject born in Kenya and not a citizen of the United States.”
On June 6, just a day after the Guardian report [on Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA phone data collection], Klayman filed suit in Washington on his own behalf and on behalf of two clients — Charles and Mary Ann Strange, parents of a Navy SEAL killed in a disastrous helicopter crash in Afghanistan in 2011….
Klayman said he and Charles Strange were being targeted by the government because of their claims relating to Strange’s son’s death, which include a complaint that a Muslim imam cursed the dead SEAL team members during a ceremony at Dover Air Force Base.
“My colleagues have received text messages I never sent,” Klayman told the judge. “I think they’re messing with me,” he said, referring to the government.
Klayman implored the judge to rule against the NSA program not only on legal grounds but in order to avert what the conservative gadfly said was a violent revolution on the verge of breaking out due to the federal governments [sic] unbridled use of power.
“We live in an Orwellian state,” Klayman said, warning that citizens angry about surveillance were about to “rise up.”
If litigation fails, “the only alternative is for people to take matters into their own hands,” he told Leon.
I wonder what parts of these arguments convinced Judge Leon?
Despite the weirdness, Charles Pierce is cheering Leon’s decision:
No matter what you think of Snowden, or Glenn Greenwald, and no matter what you think of what they did, this ruling does not happen if the NSA doesn’t let a contractor walk out of the joint with the family jewels on a flash drive. This ruling does not happen if we do not know what we now know, and we don’t know any of that unless Snowden gathers the data and leaks it to the Guardian. This entire country was founded after a revolution that was touched off to a great extent by the concept of individual privacy. I can forsee it becoming common practice, to use the best VPN service available to protect ourselves and our famillies.
Read all about it at the Esquire link.
I know it’s difficult for some males to understand this, but if Americans do have a right to privacy, then American women should also have that right in making decisions about what happens to their bodies–they should be able to choose whether or not and/or when to have a child. Therefore, they should have access to birth control and abortion without the interference of the state. If women–who represent more than 1/2 of the U.S. population–can’t have privacy; then there is a very big disconnect in the law that needs to be clarified. Are women people? Are they citizens? Griswald and Roe were also decided on the basis of privacy.
After their fluff piece on NSA on Sunday, CBS’ 60 Minutes announced yesterday that Lara Logan, who was “suspended” after she hosted an utterly false report on the Benghazi attacks, will be returning to the program next year. Politico’s Dylan Byers:
Logan and McClellan took leave following public pressure over an Oct. 27 report in which security contractor Dylan Davies claimed to have been present and active at the Sept. 11 raid on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi. Reports later indicated that Davies had told both his contractor and the FBI that he was not present at the compound on the night of the attack. Logan later apologized and “60 Minutes” retracted the story.
Despite public criticism and internal frustrations among some members of the “60 Minutes” team, CBS News chairman and “60 Minutes” executive producer Jeff Fager decided to stand by Logan. Earlier this month, he held a meeting with CBS News staff in which he defended the 42-year-old journalist, saying that as EP he was ultimately responsible for failing to catch the mistake.
As an antidote, I recommend reading TBogg’s take on this decision at Raw Story: Lara Logan is tan, rested and ready to come back and be kind of bad at her job again.
Last week, it was revealed that LA Sheriff’s Office deputies who have been indicted by a Grand Jury had illegally arrested and “roughed up” two foreign diplomats in 2011. From the LA Times:
An Austrian consulate official was improperly arrested and searched by L.A. County sheriff’s deputies at the Men’s Central Jail, according to four indictments filed against 18 department officials.
The incident occurred in 2011 when the official and her husband were visiting an inmate who was an Austrian national….
The Austrian consul’s husband was arrested outside the jail because he had walked near the doors going into the visiting center, according to one of the indictments unsealed Monday.
When the consul requested to speak to a supervisor about her husband’s arrest, she too was placed in handcuffs and arrested, even though she had committed no crime and would have been immune from prosecution, the indictment said.
The couple were taken to a deputy break room and searched, the indictment said.
Read more details at the link. And from Firedoglake, Peter Van Buren explains why this is so outrageous:
One of the primary jobs for any embassy or consulate abroad is the welfare of its citizens. Indeed, many of the first diplomatic outposts abroad were set up to protect sailors and merchants. This work typically includes visiting one’s citizens in foreign jails, a task young diplomats around the world conduct. As a State Department foreign service officer myself for 24 years, I must have done this hundreds of times. But no matter how many times I did it, it was always an unsettling feeling to walk into a jail, go through security into a cell or holding room, and then walk back out.
Getting out, and being treated properly inside, was however more than an act of faith on my part. Diplomats abroad are protected people; under both formal treaties and long-established traditions (“diplomatic immunity”), a country should not mess around with another’s diplomats. Take a look at Iran– over thirty years since the kidnapping of American diplomats in Tehran, our two countries still are a long, long way from reestablishing relations.
I once safely visited in an underground facility of an Asian country’s secret police an American Citizen who likely had been tortured. The system generally works everywhere, from first world countries to crappy police states in the developing world. However, one rough area where it does not work is in Los Angeles.
Please read the rest if you can.
Today we learn that the NYPD also abused a foreign diplomat. The woman, a deputy consul general at the Indian embassy in NYC was arrested and handcuffed on the street and then subjected to a strip search at police headquarters. From The Guardian:
Bulldozers have removed security barriers outside the US embassy in Delhi as a diplomatic row prompted by the arrest of an Indian diplomat on visa fraud charges in New York intensified.
India’s national security adviser on Tuesday called the treatment of Khobragade “despicable and barbaric” and the country’s foreign secretary summoned the US ambassador. Politicians – including Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and vice chairman of the ruling Congress party, and Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate of the Hindu nationalist opposition BJP – refused to meet a visiting US congressional delegation.
The removal of the barriers was one of a slew of retaliatory actions taken by the Indian government as outrage at the arrest grew, including the withdrawal of import clearances and special airport passes. The incident has become a major story in India, dominating TV bulletins.
The false statements were that Khobragade had agreed to pay the housekeeper the New York minimum wage ($9.25), but had agreed privately with the woman that her actual salary would be only 1/3 that amount.
Furious with the US for the arrest and alleged strip search of its high-ranking diplomat Devyani Khobragade, India today retaliated with a slew of measures to pare down the privileges of American diplomats. (10 latest developments)
US diplomats in consulates across India have been asked to surrender identity cards issued to them and their families, which entitle them to special privileges. India has also withdrawn all airport passes for consulates and import clearances for the embassy.
The Delhi police removed barricades outside the sprawling US embassy in the capital.
Ms Khobragade was subjected to a humiliating strip search and was kept in a cell with drug addicts after her arrest for alleged visa fraud in New York last week. (Read) Noel Clay, a spokesperson for the US State Department, told NDTV that standard procedures had been followed during Ms Khobragade’s arrest.
The US has implied that she enjoyed only limited immunity.
As part of its reciprocal measures, India is asking for details like salaries paid to Indian staff employed in US consulates, including those working as domestic helps with the families of American officials.
It seems that, between the NSA revelations and the increasing use of police state tactics by law enforcement, the US is managing to alienate much of the rest of all the world.
I’m out of space, so I’ll wrap this up. Now it’s your turn. What stories are you focusing on today? Please post your links in the comment thread and have a great day!
Thursday Reads: Civil Rights Struggle, Syria Intervention, NYPD Spying, Boston Bombing, and “League of Denial”Posted: August 29, 2013
I’ve got so much news for you this morning, I don’t know if I’ll have room in a reasonable-length post, so I’ll get right to it. I’ll begin with some stories on yesterday’s 50th anniversary of the March On Washington.
PBS had an amazing interview with Rep John Lewis in which he recounted his memories of that day in 1963 and the speech he gave as a youthful leader in the Civil Rights Movement: ‘I Felt That We Had to Be Tough’: John Lewis Remembers the March on Washington. I hope you’ll read the whole thing, but here’s a brief excerpt:
REP. JOHN LEWIS, D-Ga.: On that day, I was blessed.
I felt like I had been tracked down by some force or some spirit. I will never forget when A. Philip Randolph said, “I now present to you young John Lewis, the national chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.”
And I went to the podium. I looked to my right. I saw many, many young people, staffers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, volunteers. Then I looked to my left. I saw all these young people up in the trees, trying to get a better view of the podium.
Then I looked straight ahead. And I saw so many people with their feet in the water trying to cool off. And then I said to myself, this is it, and I went for it.
On meeting with President Kennedy before the March, and how the podium and the crowd came to be so diverse:
He [JFK] didn’t like the idea of a March on Washington.
When we met with him, A. Philip Randolph spoke up in his baritone voice we met with the president. And he said, “Mr. President, the black masses are restless. And we are going to march on Washington.”
And you could tell by the movement of President Kennedy — he started moving and twisting in his chair. And he said, in effect, that if you bring all these people to Washington, won’t it be violence and chaos and disorder?
Mr. Randolph responded and said, “Mr. President, there’s been orderly, peaceful, nonviolent protests.”
And President Kennedy said, in so many words, I think we are going to have problems. So we left that meeting with President Kennedy. We came out on the lawn at the White House and spoke to the media and said, we had a meaningful and productive meeting with the president of the United States. And we told him we’re going to March on Washington.
And a few days later, July 2, 1963, the six of us met in New York City at the old Roosevelt Hotel. And in that meeting, we made a decision to invite four major white religious and labor leaders to join us in issuing the call for the March on Washington.
NPR had a wonderful story yesterday about the history of the Civil Rights Movement’s signature song: The Inspiring Force Of ‘We Shall Overcome’.
It is not a marching song. It is not necessarily defiant. It is a promise: “We shall overcome someday. Deep in my heart, I do believe.”
It has been a civil rights song for 50 years now, heard not just in the U.S. but in North Korea, in Beirut, in Tiananmen Square, in South Africa’s Soweto Township. But “We Shall Overcome” began as a folk song, a work song. Slaves in the fields would sing, ‘I’ll be all right someday.’ It became known in the churches. A Methodist minister, Charles Albert Tindley, published a version in 1901: “I’ll Overcome Someday.”
The first political use came in 1945 in Charleston, S.C. There was a strike against the American Tobacco Co. The workers wanted a raise; they were making 45 cents an hour. They marched and sang together on the picket line, “We will overcome, and we will win our rights someday.”
There’s much more about how the song was passed from group to group and changed over time. Please give it a listen–it’s only about 8 minutes long, but really fascinating.
Not a single Republican appeared at yesterday’s commemoration of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. George W. Bush and his father George H.W. Bush couldn’t come because of health issues, but John Boehner and Eric Cantor are presumably in good health, but they refused offers to make speeches at the event, according to Roll Call.
That wasn’t a wise choice, said Julian Bond, a renowned civil rights activist, in an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday afternoon.
“What’s really telling, I think, is the podium behind me, just count at the end of the day how many Republicans will be there,” Bond told news anchor Alex Wagner. “They asked senior President Bush to come, he was ill. They asked junior Bush, he said he had to stay with his father.
“They asked a long list of Republicans to come,” Bond continued, “and to a man and woman they said ‘no.’ And that they would turn their backs on this event was telling of them, and the fact that they seem to want to get black votes, they’re not gonna get ‘em this way.” [….]
Cantor’s decision to turn down the invitation to speak is especially striking given his stated commitment to passing a rewrite of the Voting Rights Act in the 113th Congress, and the many opportunities he has taken over the past several weeks to publicly reflect on the experience of traveling with Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., to Selma, Ala.
Sadly, Dr. King’s dream of peace has not made much progress in the past 50 years. And now the U.S. and its allies are considering another military intervention–in Syria.
Fortunately, the UK is now hesitating. NYT: Britain to Wait on Weapons Report Ahead of Syria Strikes.
Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, who runs a coalition government, is facing political difficulties from legislators mindful of the experience in Iraq, when assurances from Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction proved inaccurate and a false pretext for war.
Mr. Cameron bowed on Wednesday to pressure from the opposition Labour Party and to some within his own coalition who want to allow United Nations weapons inspectors a chance to report their findings and for the United Nations Security Council to make one more effort to give a more solid legal backing to military action against Damascus.
At BBC News, Nick Robinson explains why Cameron “buckled.”
If you think that NSA domestic spying is invasive, you should take a look at what the NYPD has been up to since 9/11. Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman of the AP have a new book out called Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Secret Spying Unit and bin Laden’s Final Plot Against America. There’s an excerpt at New York Magazine: The NYPD Division of Un-American Activities. It’s long, but a very important story. Please give it a read if you can.
Yesterday Apuzzo and Goldman published a related shocking story at AP: NYPD designates mosques as terrorism organizations.
The New York Police Department has secretly labeled entire mosques as terrorist organizations, a designation that allows police to use informants to record sermons and spy on imams, often without specific evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
Designating an entire mosque as a terrorism enterprise means that anyone who attends prayer services there is a potential subject of an investigation and fair game for surveillance.
Since the 9/11 attacks, the NYPD has opened at least a dozen “terrorism enterprise investigations” into mosques, according to interviews and confidential police documents. The TEI, as it is known, is a police tool intended to help investigate terrorist cells and the like.
Many TEIs stretch for years, allowing surveillance to continue even though the NYPD has never criminally charged a mosque or Islamic organization with operating as a terrorism enterprise.
The documents show in detail how, in its hunt for terrorists, the NYPD investigated countless innocent New York Muslims and put information about them in secret police files. As a tactic, opening an enterprise investigation on a mosque is so potentially invasive that while the NYPD conducted at least a dozen, the FBI never did one, according to interviews with federal law enforcement officials.
Boston Magazine has published more photos from “Behind the Scenes of The Hunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.” Above is a photo of Tsarnaev exiting the boat in which he hid for hours as law enforcement searched all over Watertown for him. See more photos at the link.
In more hopeful news, one long-hospitalized survivor of the bombings was given the go-ahead to return home to California yesterday: Boston Marathon bomb survivor John Odom set to return home to Torrance (Daily Breeze News).
Nearly five months after a bomb almost took his life at the Boston Marathon, John Odom of Torrance was cleared by doctors on Wednesday to finally come home.
Odom’s wife, Karen, who has never left her husband’s side, has been chronicling her husband’s long recovery on Facebook, called it a “monumental” day.
“It’s official, John is released to go home!!!” she posted on the John Odom Support Page. “Although his recovery is nowhere near complete, there is no medical or physical reason he can’t fly home and continue his recovery in California. We are hoping to be home the end of next week, a few days shy of 5 months since we left on that now famous 4 day trip.”
“Famous” is one way to put it. The couple could have never imagined the journey they’ve been on since April 15.
Read the rest of this moving story at the link.
On October 8th and 15th, NPR’s Frontline plans to show League of Denial, “a two-part two-part investigation examining whether — as thousands of former players allege — the NFL has covered up the risks of football on the brain.” The documentary has so far been produced in partnership with ESPN, but last week the sports channel backed out of the collaboration presumably because of pressure from the NFL. From The New Republic: ESPN Quit Its Concussions Investigation With ‘Frontline’ Under Curious Circumstances.
“Frontline,” the prestigious, multiple-Emmy-winning investigative news show produced by Boston’s PBS member station, announced late Thursday afternoon that a 15-month-old partnership with ESPN in which they published a series of pieces exploring how the National Football League has (and has not) accounted for the relationship between playing football, head trauma, and brain damage, had come to an end. Dating back to last November, “Frontline” had run articles on its site featuring the work of Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada, ESPN staffers (and brothers) even as these articles appeared at espn.com and as the brothers did segments for ESPN’s award-winning investigative series “Outside the Lines.” The end result—in addition to abook that the brothers are publishing in October—was to be a “Frontline” documentary, League of Denial (also the book’s title).
According to “Frontline,” the documentary will premiere this season on October 8 and 15, but, “from now on, at ESPN’s request, we will no longer use their logos and collaboration credit on these sites and on our upcoming film.” Executive producer David Fanning and deputy executive producer Raney Aronson expressed their “regret” and credited ESPN with “a productive partnership.” They added, “The film is still being edited and has not been seen by ESPN news executives, although we were on schedule to share it with them for their editorial input.”
Aronson told me late Thursday that ESPN contacted “Frontline” last Friday to request that it remove ESPN’s logo from its website, citing the technicality that it was a “trademark issue.” It wasn’t until Monday, after the latest collaboration was published on “Frontline”’s website and aired on “OTL,” that ESPN also requested that language describing collaboration not be used, and that it became clear the collaboration itself was coming to an end.
The circumstances are indeed mysterious. Perhaps it was over-cautiousness on ESPN’s part or perhaps indirect pressure from the League. If you’re interested in this important story, go read Marc Tracy’s piece at TNR.
A couple more useful links on this story:
Bill Littlefield at NPR’s Only a Game: ESPN And Frontline Part Ways Over ‘League Of Denial’
The authors of the book League of Denial will continue their involvement with the Frontline presentation.
I’m running out of space, so I’ll end there, and add a few more links in the comments. Now what stories are you following today? Please share your links in the thread below.
Ray Manzarek, who as the keyboardist and a songwriter for the Doors helped shape one of the indelible bands of the psychedelic era, died on Monday at a clinic in Rosenheim, Germany. He was 74.
The cause was bile duct cancer, according to his manager, Tom Vitorino. Mr. Manzarek lived in Napa, Calif.
Mr. Manzarek founded the Doors in 1965 with the singer and lyricist Jim Morrison, whom he would describe decades later as “the personification of the Dionysian impulse each of us has inside.” They would go on to recruit the drummer John Densmore and the guitarist Robby Krieger.
Mr. Manzarek played a crucial role in creating music that was hugely popular and widely imitated, selling tens of millions of albums. It was a lean, transparent sound that could be swinging, haunted, meditative, suspenseful or circuslike. The Doors’ songs were generally credited to the entire group. Long after the death of Mr. Morrison in 1971, the music of the Doors remained synonymous with the darker, more primal impulses unleashed by psychedelia. In his 1998 autobiography, “Light My Fire,” Mr. Manzarek wrote: “We knew what the people wanted: the same thing the Doors wanted. Freedom.”
It’s difficult to describe how powerfully I was affected by The Doors’ sound back in January 1967. I was 19 years old, a sophomore at Ball State University in Muncie Indiana.
I had purchased their first album in the college bookstore on a whim–based simply my intuitive response to the cover art. I had never heard of the group–their music wasn’t being played on AM radio, that’s for sure.
I bought a lot of albums “sound unheard” in those days–a new kind of music was being born and the powers that be in radio didn’t know what to make of it yet.
When I got home, I put the LP on my cheap stereo record player and sat on my bed to listen. As soon as I heard the sound of Manzarek’s “piano bass” on “Break on Through to the Other Side” and his amazing organ intro and solo on “Light My Fire,” I was transfixed. This was really something new and unique. It’s not an exaggeration to say that music changed my life.
Along with Bob Dylan, Frank Zappa, Jack Kerouac, and a few other musical and literary influences, The Doors music helped me begin to realize that I was not alone, despite my sense of being out-of-place in my dull Midwestern town–there were other people out in the world who were like me, who didn’t want to accept the status quo in those days, who didn’t want to settle for the unexamined life. Little did I know as I listed to those songs that I would be living in Boston just a few short months later–a place where so much was happening, where so many other young people were opening up to new ways of being, thinking, and feeling.
I guess that sounds pretty corny now, but it’s the truth. The late 1960s was a time of real change, when “the doors of perception” really did begin to open and a different world began to form.
Back to the Times obituary of Manzarek:
The quasi-Baroque introduction Mr. Manzarek brought to the Doors’ 1967 single “Light My Fire“ — a song primarily written by Mr. Krieger — helped make it a million-seller. Along with classical music, Mr. Manzarek also drew on jazz, R&B, cabaret and ragtime. His main instrument was the Vox Continental electric organ, which he claimed to have chosen, Mr. Vitorino said, because it was “easy to carry.”
The Doors’ four-man lineup did not include a bass player; onstage, Mr. Manzarek supplied the bass lines with his left hand, using a Fender Rhodes piano bass, though the band’s studio recordings often added a bassist.
Mr. Densmore said, via e-mail: “There was no keyboard player on the planet more appropriate to support Jim Morrison’s words. Ray, I felt totally in sync with you musically. It was like we were of one mind, holding down the foundation for Robby and Jim to float on top of. I will miss my musical brother.”
From the Detroit Free Press: Ray Manzarek’s keyboards opened musical doors
It was the iconoclastic makeup of The Doors that helped make them a success from the monster debut of the group’s self-titled 1967 album.
There was Morrison’s otherworldly howl, Krieger’s Spanish-influenced guitar work, Densmore’s subtle, jazz-infused drumming and perhaps most striking of all, Manzarek’s keyboard, which did triple-duty as lead instrument, accompanying instrument and the band’s lone bass sound. Together, the group recorded numerous multiplatinum albums and had hits with “L.A. Woman,” “Break On Through to the Other Side,” “The End” and the Manzarek showcase, “Light My Fire.”
“You just can’t imagine ‘Light My Fire’ without Manzarek’s organ,” says Andy Greene, associate editor of Rolling Stone. “He was unquestionably one of the best rock keyboardists ever. But more than that, he was proud of the band’s legacy (after Morrison’s 1971 death in Paris). The Doors came back in a big way in the ’80s and Ray was mainly the one carrying the flame.”
Greg Harris, CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, of which Manzarek was an inductee and at whose ceremonies he was a frequent performer, said the organist was “instrumental in shaping one of the most influential, controversial and revolutionary groups of the ’60s, (which owes) much to Manzarek’s innovative playing.”
For many fans and musicians alike, The Doors’ brooding and sometimes dark sound crystallized the experimental rock music emanating from Los Angeles, which stood in stark contrast to the lighter, soaring sound coming out of the San Francisco Bay Area that was typified by the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane.
In other news,
MOORE, Oklahoma — Officials lowered the death toll to two dozen this morning as emergency crews continued to search feverishly for survivors in the rubble of homes, schools and a hospital in an Oklahoma City suburb ravaged by a powerful Monday afternoon tornado.
Officials in Oklahoma City said on Tuesday that 24 bodies were recovered after a 2-mile wide tornado tore through Moore, a sharp decline from the 51 deaths they previously reported.
“We have got good news. The number right now is 24,” said Amy Elliott, chief administrative officer at the Oklahoma City Medical Examiner’s Office. The prior figure of 51 dead may have included some double-reported casualties, Elliott said.
“There was a lot of chaos,” Elliott said.
She cautioned that additional bodies could yet be recovered from the rubble.
At least 60 of the injured are children. Obviously, this story is far from over. I’ll update in the comments thread as I learn more–and please add what you hear as well! But it does sound like good news that there may be more survivors of this incredible storm than authorities originally believed.
More surprising (and disappointing) news breaking… From the BBC: Guatemala annuls Rios Montt’s genocide conviction
Guatemala’s top court has thrown out the conviction for genocide and crimes against humanity of former military leader Efrain Rios Montt.
The constitutional court ruled that the trial should restart from the point where it stood on 19 April.
On 10 May, Gen Rios Montt was convicted of ordering the deaths of 1,771 people of the Ixil Maya ethnic group during his time in office in 1982-83.
The 86-year-old was sentenced to 80 years in prison. He denies the charges.
The three-to-two ruling by a panel of constitutional judges annuls everything that has happened in the trial since 19 April, when Gen Rios Montt was briefly left without a defence lawyer.
The defence team had walked out of the court on the previous day in protest at what they called “illegal proceedings”.
The New York Times reports:
The decision by Guatemala’s Constitutional Court was a dramatic legal victory for General Ríos Montt, 86, and a blow to human rights advocates who had called his conviction a sign that Guatemala’s courts would no longer allow impunity for the country’s powerful.
General Ríos Montt was sent to prison immediately after the verdict on May 10 when a three-panel tribunal found him guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity. He was sentenced to 80 years in prison but was soon transferred to a military hospital for medical tests. Monday’s decision means that he will return to house arrest, where he had been held since the case against him began in January 2012.
The additional effects of Monday’s court ruling were unclear. The court did not invalidate the entire trial, which began on March 19. Instead, the court ordered that the proceedings be rolled back and reset to April 19, when a complex decision by another judge sent the trial into disarray, causing a brief suspension….Legal experts said repeating the final days of the trial before the same tribunal would be unlikely because it would amount to a form of double jeopardy for the general. But it was unclear if the rest of the trial would remain in limbo or could be restarted before a new tribunal.
General Ríos Montt was found to be responsible as commander in chief for a series of massacres and rapes and the forced displacement of the Maya-Ixil ethnic group during his 17-month rule in 1982 and 1983. During a month of prosecution testimony, the court heard wrenching descriptions by survivors of the army’s scorched-earth policy through the hamlets of the Mayan highlands.
I’ve long been appalled by the FBI’s use of elaborate sting operations to entrap hapless men in Muslim communities in the U.S. who would never have thought of or have been able to commit a terrorist act on their own. Here’s one recent example. In fact, I suspect that the Boston Marathon bombings may have resulted from the FBI’s targeting of accused bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
I recently read a book on this subject by reporter Trevor Aaronson called The Terror Factory, and I highly recommend it. According to Aaronson, there have been hundreds of convictions of American Muslims for supposedly planning “terrorist attacks,” but only a few of those involved actual attempted terrorist attacks. The rest were operations in which the FBI sought out a vulnerable person, provided the know-how, the plans, an the (fake) weapons. In many cases these men were very reluctant and had to be really pushed by the FBI “informants” who targeted them.
There have also been reports of the NYPD using similar tactics, and yesterday the AP focused on those efforts in one of their “big stories,” a report from an ongoing NYC trial.
A New York Police Department detective told a federal judge that he’s seen no evidence that one of his informants brought up the subject of jihad as a way to bait Muslims into making incriminating remarks. But text messages obtained by The Associated Press show otherwise.
And while the detective, Stephen Hoban, described the activities in a new legal filing in U.S. District Court as narrowly focused on a few people under investigation, text messages show a wide-ranging effort. Eager to make money, Shamiur Rahman, the informant, snapped pictures during prayer sessions, rallies and a parade; recorded the names of people who signed petitions or protested; and reported fellow Muslims who volunteered to feed needy families.
When the detective responded, his text messages nearly always sought more information:
“Did you take pictures?”
“I need pictures from the rally. And I need to know who is there.”
Rahman told the AP last year that he made about $9,000 over nine months spying widely on friends and others. He said the NYPD encouraged him to use a tactic called “create and capture.” He said it involved creating conversations about jihad or terrorism, then capturing the responses and sending them to the NYPD.
I wonder how many other large city police departments are emulating the FBI in this way? Could Boston be next? I sure hope not.
I’ll end there, and throw the floor open to your contributions. What stories are you following today?
Today we have seen a lot of back and forth with Komen For the Cure and Planned Parenthood. It is good to see that PP is getting some big donations in response to the ridiculous actions of the Komen foundation. So I am just going to highlight a few new articles on the whole “Pink You!” debacle…
I must say, when I saw the title of this MoJo link, I laughed and laughed.
Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which recently announced that it is ending grants to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screening because of a controversial investigation launched by an anti-abortion Republican congressman, currently funds cancer research at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center to the tune of $7.5 million. Like Planned Parenthood, Penn State is currently the subject of a federal government investigation, and like the Planned Parenthood grant, the Penn State grant appears to violate a new internal rule at Komen that bans grants to organizations that are under investigation by federal, state, or local governments. But so far, only the Planned Parenthood grants appear to have been cancelled.
An internal Komen memo written by President Elizabeth Thompson and obtained by Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic states that if “an applicant or its affiliates” is under investigation “for financial or administrative improprieties by local, state or federal authorities,” then “the applicant will be ineligible to receive a grant.” Penn State, the Pennsylvania university that the Hershey center is affiliated with, is currently under investigation by the federal government over the sexual assault scandal involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, who has been indicted on multiple counts of sexual abuse of children. In 2008, the Komen foundation awarded a five-year, $7.5 million grant to the Hershey center to study treatments that could reduce the risk of breast cancer.
This is why we know that the decision to withdraw support from Planned Parenthood was a targeted attack by someone, cough Handel cough, who had a personal agenda to defund Planned Parenthood from the get go.
Under the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, university officials are required to “issue a timely warning if a reported crime represents a threat to the campus community.” The Department of Education announced that it was investigating Penn State over possible Clery Act violations last November, and a Penn State spokesperson told Mother Jones that the investigation is ongoing. The Komen foundation has not yet responded to a request for comment.
Of course they won’t comment! For those of you getting talked down to by people who believe Planned Parenhood protects sex offenders/predators, then I think you may want to share the news regarding this grant of 7.5 million to a university that clearly had a sexual predator and child rapist on their payroll…and still do. (I believe Sandusky is still getting a pension, right?) If I am wrong about that let me know.
More on this bad PR move: Komen struggles to defuse Planned Parenthood crisis | Reuters
The world’s leading breast cancer charity, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, struggled on Thursday to defuse a growing crisis over its decision to cut funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides abortion and birth control services.
The sudden rift between the two top U.S. women’s health advocacy groups triggered a furious debate on social media sites between supporters and opponents of abortion rights.
Democratic lawmakers called on Komen to reconsider its move as the organization was thrust into the center of an intractable dispute that some say will hamper its work for years to come [ID:nL2E8D2HHA]. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg pledged his own money to help Planned Parenthood recoup the lost funds.
I spent most of the day on other sites, commenting on many of the articles that we have linked to on the blog in the last 48 hours. It is unbelievable the amount of smartass remarks from idiots who see no problem with the decision to cut funding for cancer screening programs that are mostly used by lower-income women.
However, the comments from folks who are disturbed by the politicizing of something as important as saving lives…are something to see. I am happy about that.
For one thing, the right’s war on women has been going on with little or no response or fight from women who seem to be detached from the attacks on their given rights over their own bodies. There has been a dull hum from people who have talked and talked about the Christian Jihad against women…we here on Sky Dancing have been a part of that hum…but this decision from Komen to cut ties to Planned Parenthood has really slapped some sense into people! And that is one thing I am glad to see.
One more link on this: Susan G. Komen Top Officials Resign As Backlash Gains Steam
Dr. Kathy Plesser, a Manhattan radiologist on the medical advisory board of Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s New York chapter, said she plans to resign from her position unless Komen reverses its decision to pull grant money from Planned Parenthood.
“I’m a physician and my interest is women’s health, and I am disturbed by Komen’s decision because I am a very strong advocate for serving under-served women,” Plesser told The Huffington Post. “Eliminating this funding will mean there’s no place for these women to go. Where are these women to go to have a mammography? Do they not deserve to have mammography?”
With her decision, Plesser joins Komen’s top public health official, Mollie Williams, and the executive director of Komen’s Los Angeles County chapter, Deb Anthony, both of whom also resigned in protest.
Moving on to something else…and I may get some flak from this, when I complain about the injection of religion into politics and government, it goes both ways. Obama: Jesus would tax the rich – Jennifer Epstein – POLITICO.com
President Barack Obama on Thursday tied his proposal to raise taxes on wealthy Americans to his faith, telling leaders gathered for the National Prayer Breakfast that Jesus’s teachings have shaped that conclusion.
The rich should pay more not only because “I actually think that is going to make economic sense, but for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’s teaching that ‘for unto whom much is given, much shall be required,’” Obama said at the Washington Hilton, delivering remarks at an annual event that every president has attended since Dwight D. Eisenhower.
You know, I get what he is saying, but I just wish all this Jesus and Christian and God and religious manipulation would stop…from everyone!
It has no place in government…period.
There is this op/ed from David Ignatius. Is Israel preparing to attack Iran? – The Washington Post
You can go and read it at the link, I’ve been so focused on the Komen Krap and the violence in Egypt, that I really haven’t kept up with the latest out of Iran.
Now, this last article is disturbing…In NYPD Custody, Trans People Get Chained to Fences and Poles
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.
There seems to be a pattern of police brutality when it comes to crimes allegedly committed by Transgender persons.
And this isn’t the first time the NYPD has been accused of mocking and abusing a trans person. In October, Justin Adkins, director of the Multicultural Center at Williams College, was arrested for protesting on the Brooklyn Bridge as part of Occupy Wall Street. At The Bilerico Project, he reports almost exactly the same treatment that Breslauer got. When a male officer found out Adkins was trans, he asked Adkins what he “had down there.” Then, at the the station, this happened:
They had me sit down in a chair next to the filthy toilet, and handcuffed my right wrist to a metal handrail.
Why was I segregated from all of the other protestors? Perhaps the answer lay in the fact that police officers were coming by to ogle me, and were laughing and giggling at me through a window. It was obvious that prisoners were rarely handcuffed to a railing in this manner, because a number of officers asked a female officer why I was handcuffed to the railing. She told them something, I couldn’t hear what, but then, on each of these occasions, they would laugh and giggle while looking at me pointedly.
Adkins was chained up for eight hours, sometimes with his arm twisted painfully behind him, before he was finally released.
Adkins is waiting to hear back about his formal complaint filed with Internal Affairs. He has requested a standard procedure for arrest of Transgender detainees, however, his is not the first request.
A list of demands issued to the NYPD in 2009 by a group of transgender advocates and lawyers includes this:
NYPD officers place detained transgender women in cells with men in dangerous situations against their will no matter the circumstances. Transgender men have been cuffed to rails outside of cells for hours on end.
The list also says that, “In 2004, a transgender woman filed a law suit against the NYPD alleging a pattern and practice of engaging in unconstitutional and overly invasive searches of transgender people. Since then, at least four other transgender women have sued the NYPD about violations of their civil rights.”
The reporter ends this article with this:
So far I haven’t been able to get anyone from the NYPD to comment on this issue in any way. Emails to the Deputy Commissioner of Public Information have gone unanswered. When I contacted Timothy Duffy, the NYPD’s LGBT liaison, he declined to comment and referred me right back to the DCPI. All the advocates I talked to expressed some hope that the NYPD would change. But I bet lots of people in the trans community would feel a lot more hopeful if the department would make a public commitment to treating them like people. Until then, all they have to go on are some vague assurances of reform — and a lot of lawsuits that show the exact opposite.
Reform, that favorite of all stall tactics…
What are you all doing this evening? With all that has happened on the women front, I will be making brownies…lots of brownies!
Good Morning!! Today I want to focus on articles about Occupy Wall Street protests, which despite the critiques of those on both the right and left, are still going on in NYC and many other U.S. cities, including Boston, I’m happy to say. The Boston Phoenix has a blog to document the protests. On September 28, Chris Faraone wrote:
At this early juncture it’s already safe to say that Occupy Wall Street has succeeded. I’m not being sarcastic. Yesterday I wrote about the media storm that’s showered their protests from early on, and that’s rained down even harder since the New York Police Department began brutalizing demonstrators. And after last night’s Occupy Boston meeting on the Common, I’m convinced that the hordes have achieved something even greater than attracting press: regardless of what they actually accomplish in the end, Occupy has already become the hottest protest franchise since the Tea Party. Which is why it makes sense that contrarian Boston is emerging as the first city to strike while the brand is hot.
Last night’s kickoff meeting was at least a testament to the popularity of this movement. People have been angry for some time, but for many it was Occupy that motivated them – not the countless other protests that take place every week around here. Roughly 300 showed –with a significant number of reporters on the scene documenting –despite the event having been announced less than a day ahead of time, and almost exclusively through social media (Steve Annear, who you should follow on Twitter if you’re keeping tabs on the actions, also broke the story in the Metro). By a show of hands, a few dozen folks on the Common got their feet wet in Liberty Square during the first stretch of Occupy Wall Street. But for the most part, these were people – mostly young, but overall from a mix of backgrounds, ages, and ethnicities – who’d become interested by what they’d seen online and in the news.
The Guardian even published an article about the Boston organization:
There were socialists, anti-poverty campaigners, students, anarchists, computer hackers, the unemployed, and workers ranging from a vet to an accountant.
And, numbering around 200 and meeting to plot until late in the night, a group of Bostonians have decided to recreate the anti-Wall Street protests that are gripping New York.
Unlike previous attempts, such as a march that fizzled out in Chicago with just 20 people, the people behind Occupy Boston showed a strong dose of media savvy and organisational skill on Monday night, as they drew a committed crowd of volunteers to their cause: to occupy a slice of the city. Local TV crews were in attendance at the evening mass planning meeting, and it had been flagged on the front pages of Boston’s newspapers.
The move raises the first serious prospect of the Wall Street protests spreading beyond New York and comes as other events are also being planned in Los Angeles and Washington.
Noam Chomsky even made a youtube video of support.
This thing is really growing. Could it be that the young people of this country are really going to stand up and fight? I sure hope so. Is this happening where you live? If so, please share what you know. I’m starting to get excited about this!
Getting back to the New York protests, Emptywheel had a post today on the NYPD and their history of violations of civil liberties. I’m not going to excerpt from it, because you really need to read the whole thing–it’s not very long.
At FDL, David Dayen has a post about Van Jones’s Take Back the American Dream organization and how it is “building off #Occupy Wall Street.”
The Campaign for America’s Future expected their conference to be a launching pad for an American Dream Movement that would be a counterpart to the Tea Party, a left populist movement that would branch out across the country. And that movement has built itself up over the past couple months, and was in part responsible for the invisible town hall revolution over August.
But CAF found itself caught by an organic protest movement, a disparate movement organized by a simple theme, an expression of the feeling of mass injustice. Nobody on the left was totally prepared for #OccupyWallStreet, which sprung up on its own. But the groups that have been organizing in similar ways and with a similar theme were more than prepared to support it.
The spirit of #OccupyWallStreet has given a booster shot to this Take Back the American Dream Conference, which last year was completely moribund. The first session at the conference was a paean to #OccupyWallStreet, with video from New York City (the live feed crashed, unfortunately) and even one organizer who camped out in Zuccotti Park speaking. “If we demand something from Wall Street, we’re telling them that they have the power, but we do,” said the organizer from the Working Families Party in New York.
“They went down there to the scene of the crime against our future,” said Van Jones at his keynote address, in admiration of the #OccupyWallStreet protesters. “They’ve been beaten, they’ve been pepper sprayed, they’ve been falsely arrested, but they never broke their discipline. They told the police officers who were arresting them, we are the 99%, we’re fighting for you, we’re fighting for your pensions too.”
“Something’s happening in America. Don’t you give up on this movement!” Jones concluded.
Yes, something is finally happening. Will it continue to grow? I sure hope so!
I also want to call your attention to an interesting piece at Salon by William Hogeland, author of three books on the revolutionary period in American history. Hogeland compares the Occupy Wall Street movement to the so-called Whisky Rebellion. Hogeland writes about radical protests movements against our founding fathers, who were, after all, the elites of their day. Here’s just a sample:
The difficulty in dealing with our founding battle for democratic economics arises in part because the movement was not against England but against the very American banking and trading elites who dominated the resistance to England. That complicates our founding myth, possibly unpleasantly. Also, it was a generally losing battle. With ratification of the Constitution, Hamiltonian finance triumphed, and people looking to Jefferson and Madison for finance and economic alternatives to Hamilton are barking up the wrong tree, since what those men knew, or even really cared, about finance could be written on a dime. (Anyway, in pushing for creating a nation, Madison supported Hamiltonian finance down the line. Their differences came later.) When Occupy Wall Street protesters say “It’s We the People!” they’re actually referring to a preamble, intending no hint of economic democracy, to a document that was framed specifically to push down democratic finance and concentrate American wealth for national purposes. Not very edifying, but there it is.
The Tea Party, meanwhile, has taken up founding economic issues from a right-wing point of view, associating itself with the upper-middle-class Boston patriots (often mistaken for populist democrats) who led a movement against overrreaching British trade acts in the 1760′s and were important to the impulse toward American independence. I’ve written fairly extensively about where and how I think the Tea Party goes wrong on the history of the founding period. But at least they’re framing their objections to current policy, and framing the historical roots of their ideas, not mainly in cultural but in economic terms.
Like it or not, though, it is Occupy Wall Street that has the most in common, ideologically, not with those Boston merchants and their supporters but with the less well-known, less comfortably acknowledged people who, throughout the founding period, cogently proposed and vigorously agitated for an entirely different approach to finance and monetary policy than that carried forward by the famous founders. Amid horrible depressions and foreclosure crises, from the 1750′s through the 1790′s, ordinary people closed debt courts, rescued debt prisoners, waylaid process servers, boycotted foreclosure actions, etc. (More on that here and here.) They were legally barred from voting and holding office, since they didn’t have enough property, so they used their power of intimidation to pressure their legislatures for debt relief and popular monetary policies. Their few leaders in legit politics included the visionary preacher Herman Husband, the weaver William Findley, and the farmer Robert Whitehill.
I found this article absolutely fascinating!
At the LA Times, there’s an editorial about the “message” of the “Occupy” protests along with a photo of protesters at LA City Hall.
The political left has been searching for the last couple of years to find an answer to the tea party. Some hoped last year’s rally in Washington led by TV comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, a response to right-wing rallies attended by such conservative media celebrities as Glenn Beck, would spark a national movement. That didn’t happen. Now they’re pinning their hopes on Occupy Wall Street, which in many ways is a mirror image of the tea party. Both groups are motivated by frustration over the rotten economy and are vague about causes and solutions, though if their positions could be summed up in a one-line manifesto, it might be: The tea party, dominated by elderly conservatives, blames government overspending and overreach for our economic problems and would therefore like to cut federal spending, while Occupy Wall Street, dominated by young liberals, blames corporate greed and would therefore like to tax the rich and decrease corporate political power.
It is, of course, far too early to suggest that Occupy Wall Street represents a resurgence of the left. But we do seem to recall that in its initial days the tea party was similarly dismissed by pundits, especially those on the left who preferred to see the protesters as kooks rather than the vanguard of a political shift. What matters isn’t the size of the protest, the attire of the demonstrators or the misspellings on their signs; it’s whether the relatively tiny number of people who can be bothered to show up and march can inspire and energize other like-minded people enough to get them to the polls.
Finally, at Huffpo, there’s a piece by Judith Samuelson: A Baby Boomer’s Advice to the Millennials Occupying Wall Street
Whether their disgust with Wall Street is fueled by a lack of jobs or a more complex analysis was not apparent to me, but I trust we will be hearing more from the Millennials. Scholars are suggesting they will be a force to be reckoned with. In fact, you might already be experiencing their tendency to want to be heard in the workplace, in the classroom or at the dinner table, for example.
There are a lot of them; 90 million by some count, comprising the largest generation in our history. They are the most racially diverse generation ever, and they have been, and are being, shaped by remarkable events such as 9/11 and the ongoing global recession; by their parents — the boomers of yore; and, of course by technology — the first generation to take instant communications for granted. I believe that Millennials will shape our response to issues that bedevil us — through their passion about social issues, their facility with technology and social networking, and through their continued willingness to vote — as they did in big numbers in the last Presidential election.
Many of them will go to business school — or are already there. A quarter of post-graduate degrees are in business, and 20 percent of undergraduates are pursuing business degrees. Even at liberal arts colleges that may not offer “business” as a major, students flock to economics instead, or as close as they can get to the subject. This may be the result of parental pressure to exit school with some hope of finding a job (unlike baby boomers, Millennials are close to their parents and apparently even listen to them) but it is also in pursuit of the skills, language and heroes they have grown up with — more Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg than Bob Dylan and Robert Redford.
The question I have been thinking about is how they will bridge these two worlds — passion for social issues, and comfort with technology and business. I know from experience that real change is hard; that to influence business, and Wall Street, requires people skills as well as analytics, patience, and multiple approaches to gain the attention and commitment of the power brokers who set the rules and design the reward systems. Protest is a not an insignificant part of the puzzle, however, and always has been; just ask Walmart, Nike or Nestle.
In the spirit of Baby Boomers’ sharing their experience, strength, and hope with the Millennials, here’s a boomer anthem that might be appropriate:
What are you reading and blogging about today? Please share!