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US law enforcement in action: Austin police body-slam black teacher, tell her blacks have ‘violent tendencies’

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Not all police officers are like those in this report by Michael Miller in the Washington Post. Indeed, I imagine a very small minority are. But they are protected by police unions and by police departments: the miscreants remain on the force and are often promoted. The police need to rid themselves of such officer, but the police so far have shown zero inclination to do so.

Miller’s report begins:

Officials in Austin are investigating the violent arrest of a black elementary school teacher who was body-slammed by a white police officer during a traffic stop.

The investigation comes after the emergence of police video footage showing not only the June 2015 arrest but also a scene afterward, when another white officer told the teacher that cops are wary of blacks because of their “violent tendencies” and “intimidating” appearance.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time … it is the black community that is being violent,” the officer tells her. “That’s why a lot of white people are afraid. And I don’t blame them.”

The footage, first reported Thursday by the Austin American-Statesmanand KVUE, prompted an apology from police.

“My heart was sickened and saddened when I first learned of this incident,” said Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo, adding that the video was “disturbing.”

“For those that think life is perfect for people of color, I want you to listen to that conversation and tell me we don’t have social issues in this nation,” Acevedo continued. “Issues of bias. Issues of racism. Issues of people being looked at different because of their color.”

The controversy comes as the country remains on edge over issues of race and law enforcement. Footage of fatal police encounters and their aftermaths in Louisiana and Minnesota this month helped revive protests over how law enforcement officer use deadly force, while the deadly shootings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge have spurred further fears among officers over the threats they face on the job.

The Austin video emerged a day after bystander footage showed Florida police aiming their weapons at an unarmed black man as he lay on the ground with his hands in the air. A North Miami police officer ultimately shot the man in the leg as he tried to help a young man with autism.

Prosecutors told the Statesman they first viewed the video about two weeks ago and will likely present the case to a grand jury.

The video also prompted them to dismiss a resisting arrest charge against the teacher, 26-year-old Breaion King.

King broke down as she talked about the day last summer she was body-slammed by police.

“I’ve become fearful to live my life,” she told the Statesman. “I would rather stay home. I’ve become afraid of the people who are supposed to protect me and take care of me.”

‘Oh my God. Why are you doing this to me?’

Austin police on Thursday screened two videos of the incident on June 15, 2015.

The first video, taken by officer Bryan Richter’s dashboard camera, begins around 12:30 p.m. with the officer parked near a busy Austin street.

King, on her lunch break, passes in her white Nissan Versa — traveling 15 miles per hour over the speed limit, according to Richter. He then pulls out and pursues her, activating his siren.

It’s unclear from the video if King is aware of the officer before she turns left into a parking lot.

As she climbs out of her car, Richter tells her to stop.

“Ma’am, you’re being pulled over right now, so I need you to take a seat back in your car,” he says.

“Are you serious?” King replies.

“Yes, ma’am,” he says. “I’m not joking. Can I see your driver’s license? You’re being stopped for speeding.”

“But I’m already stopped, so technically can you stop me?” King asks as she removes her license. “‘Cause you didn’t pull me over because I’m parked.”

“Ma’am, you were about to go inside without a wallet, so I know you were only coming here because you know I was coming to pull you over,” Richter responds. “I can absolutely pull you over if you are already stopped, yes. Let me see your driver’s license.”

Richter then asks her to put her feet inside the car so he can close the door.

(“I did this so that if she decided to exit the vehicle again, it would give me some sort of reaction time to her doing so, versus her being half way out of the vehicle with the door open giving her an easy escape,” he wrote in his report, according to the Statesman.)

“Could you please hurry up?” King says.

“Okay, ma’am, stand up for me,” Richter says, placing King’s license on top of her car and reaching inside after her.

“No, why are you grabbing me?” she shouts. “Oh my God.”

“Stop resisting,” the officer says multiple times as a struggle ensues — barely visible on the video — in the doorway of the car. At one point, the car horn blares as they tussle.

The officer then takes a step back and orders her to “get out of the car,” before calling for backup.

“I’m getting out,” she says. “Let me get out. Do not touch me.”

“Don’t touch me,” she says again as the cop reaches inside and grabs her.

“Get out of the car now,” he says, yanking her out of the vehicle and throwing her to the ground.

“Oh my God. Oh my God,” she screams. “Why are you doing this to me?”

Richter then orders her several times to put her hands behind her back.

“Oh my God. Are you serious?” King moans. “Oh my God.”

“I’m about to Tase you,” Richter says.

As he manages to get her hands behind her back, King stands up. Richter then tries to leg sweep, or trip, her. When that doesn’t work, he puts his arm around her neck.

There is a choking sound as the cop lifts the 112-pound woman into the air before slamming her down on the ground.

It appears as if King is partially able to break her fall with a hand and a foot.

The two continue to struggle.

“Put your hands behind your back,” Richter tells her.

“Would you let me get down please?” King says.

The cop then pushes his weight down onto her back.

“Put your hands behind your back,” he shouts.

“That’s what I was doing,” she says. “Are you serious? God.”

“Don’t stand up,” he tells her.

“I’m not trying to stand up,” she answers. “I’m trying to put my hands behind my back.”

“Are you serious,” she asks again as the officer puts her in handcuffs.

“Get up,” he says as he wrenches her up by her arms.

“Ow,” King says.

Another officer then appears on screen.

“Look at him,” King tells the second officer. “He’s treating me like sh––. I didn’t do anything.

“What are you doing?” she asks the officers as they put her up against the hood of Richter’s car and appear to search her. “I need a black police.”

“Walk,” Richter says, leading her off-screen by her arms, which are cuffed and pulled up behind her back at a roughly 90-degree angle.

“Why are my hands so high?” King asks.

“Stop fighting,” Richter can be heard saying.

“Jesus Christ,” he can be heard saying to another officer off-screen. “She has some fight in her. She didn’t agree I could pull her over when she was already parked.”

“So she came out of the car?” the other officer asks.

“Well, I told her to sit back down,” Richter tells his colleague. “And I kept telling her to get back in, close your door. ‘No.’ I said ‘All right, I’m just going to handcuff you and put you in the car. I’m not going to do this.’ And then she starts fighting.”

“You all right?” the other cop asks him. “You hurt? Injured?”

“No, I’m good,” Richter replies as King can be heard moaning. . .

Continue reading.

And do read the whole thing. Videos at the link.

The US has changed a lot. This sort of incident provides some insight into the source of Trump’s support.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2016 at 4:55 pm

Club Date Musicians, by Bruce MacLeod

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I wracked my brain to remember this—I recalled a long article in the New Yorker about club date musicians, but then I remembered Google.

Amazon has the book (also available here), though it seems to be out of print. Google Books provides a summary:

New York-area club date musicians play from memory, often drawing on repertoires spanning fifty years of popular music to produce arrangements on the spot. Impressive as their skills are, though, they occupy an ambivalent position: their art must be background, never overshadowing the event, whether a wedding, a bar mitzvah, or a debutante ball. Their artistic and musical skills, finely tuned for club date gigs, are rarely even noticed, much less remarked upon, by their audiences.

Club Date Musicians is a pioneering ethnomusicological portrait focusing on the three hundred to five hundred New York musicians whose primary income is derived from playing private parties. Interviewing more than a hundred musicians and observing more than forty performances, Bruce MacLeod lets the musicians speak for themselves.

MacLeod examines the relation of audience to performer, the ensembles’ social and musical organization, the musicians’ economic and social status, and the process of change within the musical culture. The reader will discover why New York club date musicians don’t use written music, how rock and roll has affected the occupation, and why the stereotypical picture of the bored, inept club date performer is unfair.

It was fascinating reading.

Somehow I’m reminded of the scene of the comics sitting around a diner table in Carnegie Delicatessen, their stories acting as the frame for one of Woody Allen’s good movies, Broadway Danny Rose, talking about the old days, how many venues were available in New York and just over the river in New Jersey. They were bemoaning how many had closed, and one said his last dates had been in Philadelphia and then in Baltimore. “To be a comic today,” he said, “you have to have a good set of tires.”

I wonder what the club date scene is like today.

Broadway Danny Rose is, I think, a movie about forgiveness.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2016 at 4:16 pm

Privatization of Municipal Services: Selling Off Democracy

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Erica Eichelberger reports at TPM:

Over the past decade, the city of Chicago has sold off more of its public infrastructure and services than any other city in the U.S. It is the poster child for privatization—for privatization gone wrong.

In 2006, the city leased four major parking garages to a Morgan Stanley-led firm for $563 million. In 2009, Morgan Stanley sued the city for threatening its profits by allowing a nearby building to open a public garage. Chicago had to pay $62 million to settle.

In 2008, Mayor Daley sold off 36,000 city parking meters to another Morgan Stanley-backed company, with little public input. It was later revealed that the deal was undervalued by $1 billion. Meter rates skyrocketed from $3 an hour to $6.50 an hour. And the firm charged the city millions for violating the contract by putting certain meters out of use for street repairs, parades, and festivals, and for giving free parking permits to people with disabilities.

Chicago has sold off a slew of other public functions in recent years, from school janitorial services to recycling collection to transit fare cards to its Skyway toll road, and has also farmed out government health and mental health clinics. City officials say they need the upfront cash to fill budget holes.

Andre Delattre, the executive director of the consumer group U.S. PIRG and a Chicagoan since 2004, says that the wave of privatization deals that have overtaken the city in the past decade have “reinforced the sense amongst citizens that the city is captured by special interests looking to benefit from these deals—that that is what is driving these deals, not any intent to act in the interest of the city or residents.” (Chicago machine politics, revelations of police killing cover-ups, and a “rubber stamp City Council” don’t do much to mitigate this sentiment.)

Chicagoans aren’t alone. The decades-long national trend of local governments passing off the duty to provide citizens with services and infrastructure “reinforces the disaffection so many people have with government at all levels,” Delattre says. “That’s the major dynamic we’re seeing in the election this year.”

We know by now that many of the grand promises that pro-privatization advocates have made over the past few decades—the piles of cash for broke cities, the efficiencies the private sector would to bring to public service delivery—haven’t panned out. After a roughly 30-year experiment in selling off traditionally public municipal functions—from garbage collection to toll-road operation to nursing home care—many cities around the country have been left with shoddier services, lower general fund balances, and poorer citizens.

But to this day, there is little discussion of the ways in which municipal privatization also erodes democracy itself. Privatization contracts are usually backroom agreements approved with little public say in the matter. They contain so-called “non-compete” and compensation clauses that prevent cities from implementing policies that impinge on firms’ profits, even if the policies are necessary to protect the public interest. And contract lengths are typically extraordinarily long—Chicago’s parking garage deal will last 99 years—preventing generations of voters from having a say in policy around that service.

As the Chicago case shows, as privatization undermines the very purpose and nature of a city, it also undermines the people’s connection to the city, and their desire to invest in and contribute to it.

Private “Public” Services

“Privatization trumps our democracy,” says Ellen Dannin, an expert on privatization and former National Labor Relations Board attorney.

The trend toward outsourcing toll road operation illustrates this well. As road privatization has become more and more common in recent years, cities and states nationwide have found their agendas bound by contracts penalizing them for building mass transit and alternative road systems, allowing carpooling, and even responding to emergencies.

Between 1994 and 2006, 43 highways became so-called public-private partnerships, according to a 2009 report by the Frontier Group. Many toll road contracts include provisions discouraging governments from improving or expanding nearby public routes in order to funnel traffic—money—to the privatized road.

Virginia’s 2006 contract with two private firms to build toll lanes on the Capital Beltway requires the state to compensate the companies whenever carpools exceed 24 percent of traffic in carpool lanes for the next forty years—“or until the builders make $100 million in profits.”

In 2008, the private consortium that owns the Northwest Parkway in Denver, Colorado, opposed improvements to a nearby public road, pointing to contract language that barred improvements—for 99 years—on city-owned roads that might divert traffic and “hurt the parkway financially.”

The state of Indiana had to reimburse the private company operating the Indiana Toll Road $447,000 in 2008 because the state waived the tolls of people who had to evacuate during severe flooding. The company alsorefused to allow state troopers to close the toll road during a snowstorm because it would hurt profits.

“The terms [of contracts like this] may even create financial disincentives to government’s taking life-saving action,” Dannin warned in a 2011 paper. “[A] state or local government that is so short of money that it must ‘sell’ valuable public infrastructure has more to consider in a disaster than just saving lives. If it needs to ask how much protection it can afford, it may…be tempted to decide against taking actions that will require reimbursing the contractor.”

These types of deals “tie the hands of…government by saying, ‘you’re going to have to pay if your transportation system changes,’” says Tony Dutzik, a senior policy analyst with the Frontier Group, an environmental policy think tank in Washington, D.C.. Metropolitan areas have doubled their population size over the past few decades. Drastic changes in technology are bound to take place within a couple decades, let alone 75 or 99 years. “We could be in drones in 75 years!” Dutzik laughs.

“For environmental reasons, it’s infuriating” as well, says Ben Davis, an analyst at In The Public Interest (ITPI), an anti-privatization research and policy organization, because these contract clauses prevent states and municipalities from adapting transportation policy to address climate change.

Some 700 jurisdictions across the country have elected to privatize transportation policy on the traffic enforcement side as well, in the form of red light cameras. These are the cameras mounted at intersections that take a photo of your license plate when you run a red light. The company will then issue the ticket, usually after approval by local authorities. . .

Continue reading.

And do read the whole thing. It’s important, and there’s a lot more.

The article provides many example of how government at all levels in the US is abandoning its role and shirking its responsibilities. At the Federal level, for example, we see that Republican Senators deny that they have any responsibility to act on confirmations for Executive appointments, though the responsibility is clearly specified in the Constitution. Federal, state, county, and municipal governments are rolling over for corporations and shirking their governmental responsibilities. Take a look at the infrastructure across the country: it is abysmal, and it is the government’s responsibility to maintain it. It is not being maintained.

The US really does seem to be in a downward spiral. The coming decade will be interesting, particularly if Trump becomes President and the GOP continues to control Congress, both House and Senate.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 July 2016 at 4:20 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Law

Pistols at the Pool, Machine Guns on Parade and Nothing We Can Do

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Our government seems to become ever more removed from its appropriate focus on serving and protecting the public and increasing the general (rather than the corporate) welfare. John Hamilton, the mayor of Bloomington IN, writes in the NY Times:

I’M the mayor of a small Midwestern city and I’m at my wit’s end about guns. My first job is to help keep my city safe, but two recent events showed me the limits of what I can do.

Item 1: On a beautiful day this summer, our public swimming pool was full of kids taking lessons and their families enjoying the sun. A man arrived and walked around the pool, with a handgun visible on his hip. He was not a law enforcement officer in uniform. Just a parent, it seemed, unknown to most there, walking around the pool, packing a pistol. No one had any idea if it was loaded or not. You can imagine the stress and worry this led to, with the memories of Orlando (and San Bernardino and Charleston and Newtown and on and on) fresh in people’s minds.

Item 2: For our annual Fourth of July parade downtown, the sidewalks and streets were packed with thousands of children, parents, students, retirees — all in their patriotic finest. A float rolled by featuring armed men from a private firearms training center with military-style machine guns held at the ready, ammunition belts attached, atop a pickup truck. The celebration took a nervous-making turn.

This is all happening in Indiana, with a governor, Mike Pence, who has long fought against any reasonable restrictions on guns. His extreme views on this, and other issues, are apparently one reason Donald J. Trump chose him as his running mate. The nation as a whole will now get a better look at the kind of attitude on gun laws that has earned Governor Pence an A rating from the National Rifle Association — and has made it harder for me to do what my constituents want when it comes to making them safe.

The people of Bloomington expect their mayor to protect them against violence. I received dozens of calls, emails and desperate messages after the incidents at the pool and the parade, urging me to act to prevent potential disaster.

My constituents aren’t against all guns. They respect Second Amendment rights. They just don’t want handguns carried around at their public pools. They don’t want machine guns in their parades. Nor does my Police Department. Nor do I.

And in fact, my city used to have reasonable restrictions in place on the possession of firearms in parks, city facilities and at City Council meetings.

But five years ago the State Legislature prohibited cities from enforcing virtually any individual local regulation of firearms, ammunition or their accessories. The statehouse said we couldn’t restrict what kind of guns or ammunition can be carried, displayed, worn, concealed or transported, with a few very limited exceptions like courtrooms and intentional displays at official public meetings.

The state did nothing to fill this vacuum it created. It did create one exception to protect itself — prohibiting anyone but officers, legislators or judges from carrying guns in the statehouse. And in one more technical twist, the state said if any city ever tries to restrict firearms or ammunition, it would be subject to paying triple the lawyers’ fees for anyone who sues us.

So despite what a vast majority of Bloomington wants, we can’t ban a handgun from a public pool or a machine gun from a parade float. . .

Continue reading.

I do understand his error in nomenclature: I don’t think that the weapons described as “machine guns” were capable of fully automatic fire. But that’s beside the point. Neither were the weapons used at Sandy Hook or in Orlando or in San Bernardino, but that didn’t stop mass killing of innocent people.

And with events like that in the news so very frequently in this country (and so rarely in other advanced countries, for whatever reason), I think it’s perfectly natural to feel skittish if a stranger shows up at a swimming pool, carrying a gun and not dressed for swimming. If I were at a mall and saw one or more men carrying AR-15-style rifles, I would get the hell out because I can think of very, very few reasons why such weapons would be carried into a peaceful mall on a shopping day, and one of those reasons is very bad—and we’ve seen that bad reason in action much too frequently.

Our government representatives are eager to protect (and enrich) themselves, but they don’t seem to care a damn about the public. They’re more interested in turning government functions over to private contractors.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 July 2016 at 12:59 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government, Guns

Video from the 2012 wood-planing competition in Uwajima Japan

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Thanks to /u/betelgeux of Wicked Edge for pointing this out:

Written by LeisureGuy

20 July 2016 at 5:38 pm

Posted in Daily life

Richard Cordray: Blacks Are Trapped in a System of Financial Barricades

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Pam Martens and Russ Martens report in Wall Street on Parade:

Richard Cordray and the Federal agency he heads, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), have been in the cross hairs of right wing Republicans and the corporations they front for since the agency opened its doors in 2011 to confront the abuses exposed in the financial crisis of 2008.

The agency’s work to level the playing field for all Americans and stop the vicious wealth transfer system that the deregulation era of the 90s has unleashed on the financially unsophisticated has fueled unprecedented backlash. During the Republican Presidential debate on November 10 of last year, a corporate-funded front group, the American Action Network, with ties to the Koch brothers, repeatedly ran an advertisement portraying the CFPB as a communist group. (See our detailed report here.)

The CFPB presents multiple threats to the financial looters. The CFPB has made it easy for consumers to file complaints; for whistleblowers to come forward; for the public toshare their experiences so that the agency can get an early warning on new financial frauds gathering momentum; and it provides financial education materials to the public covering a broad spectrum. It has also levied hefty fines against wrongdoers and exposed the sordid details of their schemes.

Despite the serial backlash Cordray has faced and the ongoing efforts to strip his agency of its independence, he isn’t backing down. Yesterday, Cordray became something of a whistleblower himself, delivering a speech to the NAACP’s annual convention in Cincinnati and exposing the myriad ways that African Americans are targeted by the institutionalized wealth stripping apparatus that has its entrenched tentacles spread across America. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 July 2016 at 5:20 pm

We should take domestic violence more seriously

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Melissa Jeltsen writes in the Huffington Post:

In the years before Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel made the reprehensible decision to commit mass murder by ramming his truck into a crowd gathered for a Bastille Day fireworks display in Nice, France, he terrorized his own family.

He beat his wife, Hajer Khalfallah, and his mother-in-law, his wife’s lawyer told the French newspaper Le Parisien. He was prone to verbal tirades and violent outbursts. His father described him as periodically erupting and breaking everything in sight. One neighbor who visited his apartment said it was “very tense,” with clothes tossed around and overturned chairs. Another neighbor recalled having to physically restrain Lahouaiej Bouhlel from hitting his wife.

In one particularly disturbing incident, he allegedly defecated on his daughter’s bed. He had also thrust a knife into one of his children’s stuffed animals, neighbors said, twisting out its insides.

Four days after Lahouaiej Bouhlel killed 84 people, a portrait has begun to emerge of the mass murderer ― not as a religious extremist but as an angry, volatile man who physically and verbally abused those closest to him on a regular basis.

As The Huffington Post has previously reported, this story is tragically familiar. In the past few years, many of the men who have committed heinous, unthinkable acts of violence against the public have had a history of abusing the women in their lives. Prior to unleashing their deranged violence onto the world, it appears they practiced it against the most vulnerable and accessible targets ― those living inside their homes.

Before Micah Johnson gunned down five Dallas police officers, in the deadliest attack against law enforcement officers in the U.S. since Sept. 11, 2001, he was accused of sexually harassing a female soldier, who asked that Johnson receive mental help and for a protective order against him.

Before Omar Mateen opened fire in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and committed the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, he beat his wife.

Before Robert Dear shot to death three strangers at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs last fall, he allegedly abused his wives, was charged with rape and arrested under a “Peeping Tom” law.

Before Tamerlan Tsarnaev planted bombs at the Boston Marathon with his brother in 2013, killing three people and injuring more than 260 others, he was arrested for assaulting his girlfriend.

Before Cedric Ford went on a shooting rampage in Kansas, killing three and injuring 14, he was served with a restraining order stemming from a domestic violence complaint filed by his ex-girlfriend. In her request for the order, his ex-girlfriend wrote that it was her belief that he was “in desperate need of medical and psychological help.”

Before gunman Man Haron Monis seized hostages in a cafe in Sydney, he was released on bail after being charged as an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife.

And so on.

And so on.

And so on.

Tragically, there are scores of other examples like these. To be sure, not all abusive men turn into killers; they are a minuscule percentage of the whole. But domestic violence is far too common, with 1 in 4 women expected to be a victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in her lifetime. . .

Continue reading.

In other words, domestic violence is not just a problem in itself and in the home. Sometimes it is an indicator of a much more serious predilection for mass murder.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 July 2016 at 2:15 pm

Posted in Daily life, Terrorism


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