Still Dreaming of the American Dream

After the wholly repugnant speech Donald Trump gave in South Dakota — on lands stolen from Lakota and Dakota nations because there was gold alleged to be in the Black Hills — it’s important to remember this one point.

Donald J. Trump is not this country. He may be a product of it, but he is not this nation. He may believe L’etat, c’est moi, but this premise is not this country’s past and will not be its future.

We are the United States of America, including the many citizens he denigrated in his white-nationalist-written speech.

Trump may speak for and to a minority of people who voted for him in 2016, those whose rights were given preference by an electoral system designed to ensure white slave owners would not lose their grip on power to the Black people they once enslaved.

But Trump is not this country, nor are his base alone. We the people are collectively the United States of America.

This country’s origins, though flawed by slavery and oppression of indigenous people, began with the right intentions. The founders sought to overthrow autocratic monarchic government and its oppression for the right of individual self-determination, fairness, and collective effort toward a more perfect union. It is this spirit we should recall and re-embrace each Fourth of July, disregarding the crackpot fulminations of the fascist criminal who would rather see this nation divided. He seeks to defer history’s looming punishment meted out to those who have abused the trust of this nation for their own personal gain under Trump’s administration.

History doesn’t wait, however, not even for a bloviating white man with access to monied and powerful friends.

History doesn’t wait for us, either. Like this nation’s founders we have choices to make and action to take if we wish to ensure the future is kinder and our history more forgiving.

In an 1858 debate with his opponent, Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln spoke of the Declaration of Independence:

I think the authors of that notable instrument intended to include all men, but they did not mean to declare all men equal in all respects. They did not mean to say all men were equal in color, size, intellect, moral development, or social capacity. They defined with tolerable distinctness in what they did consider all men created equal—equal in “certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This they said, and this they meant. They did not mean to assert the obvious untruth that all were then actually enjoying that equality, or yet that they were about to confer it immediately upon them. In fact, they had no power to confer such a boon. They meant simply to declare the right, so that the enforcement of it might follow as fast as circumstances should permit. They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society which should be familiar to all, constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even, though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people, of all colors, everywhere.

History looks to us to enforce the rights in the Declaration of Independence, waits for us to continue to labor toward a free society. We are called to value the life of all its people, to further the pursuit of happiness across this nation.

I’ll repeat my closing from last year’s Fourth of July post:

We must recall our nation’s identity began with a shared belief that we are all created equal, that we are endowed with certain unalienable Rights including Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Seeking to establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, we instituted a government to secure our inalienable rights and these common interests.

We can and will check this government of and by the people when it fails us just as we checked a monarch in 1776, just as we’ve checked executives and other elected office holders who have failed their oaths. We have continually refreshed our representatives and justices to the same end.

As we have for 243 years we still have work to do. Ted Kennedy spoke of the ongoing nature of this nation’s mission when he said, “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”

Recommitting to the American dream, I leave off with hope that we can and will continue to pursue a more perfect union.

Wishing you and yours a safe and responsible pandemic-enhanced holiday — wash your hands, wear a mask, maintain appropriate social distance but celebrate together nevertheless.

 

Consider this an open thread.

Three Things: Numbers, Hearings and Racist Code

There’s always more than three things to address but here’s three we should look at more closely.

~ 3 ~
This is what we’re up against.

823 Americans have died of COVID-19 since yesterday. In contrast, South Korea, which learned of its first case of COVID-19 the same day the U.S. learned of its own, has only lost 281 of its citizens.

We lost not one American to an attempted shoe bombing in 2001 and yet an immediate program was developed and implemented to detect future shoe bombing attempts, requiring air travelers to take off their damned shoes and go through multiple screenings.

But Trump can’t be arsed to shut up and let the professionals handle stopping an ongoing daily stream of deaths from COVID-19.

This administration is killing Americans. Trump’s not even hiding the fact he’s willing to ignore deaths to manipulate numbers by insisting testing for the virus should be suppressed. He has the temerity to brag about his performance which has resulted in the unnecessary deaths of more than 120,000 Americans.

Yesterday the House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing on oversight of the Trump Administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Called to testify before the committee:

Robert R. Redfield, M.D., Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (statement at 27:39)

Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., Director, National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes o Health (at 33:40)

Admiral Brett P. Giroir, M.D., Assistant Secretary for Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (at 38:25)

Stephen M. Hahn, M.D., Commissioner, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (at 43:54)

 

Some of the GOP’s efforts are useless, wasteful filibustering — like Rep. Bob Latta’s (OH-5) question about how the human body makes antibodies. This is something he should have been briefed on let alone read on his own long before this hearing. He should have read this basic biology question MONTHS AGO when the pandemic began. So was his question about how the vaccine would be distributed WHEN WE’RE 6-18 MONTHS OUT AT BEST from having a viable, effective, safe vaccine through Phase III trials.

Rep. Diana DeGette asked Fauci about vaccine development (at about 1:28:00); I think he was extremely optimistic saying he thought there would be one by early 2021. But the question wasn’t as specific as it should have been; there are clinical trials in progress for a couple of candidates, but it’s not clear what phase they are in.

Reported last week by StatNews:

There are more than 100 projects around the world centered on the development of a vaccine for the coronavirus. As of May 11, eight candidate vaccines were being tested in clinical trials in people.

An official at the National Institutes of Health said in mid-May that large-scale testing could begin in July with a vaccine potentially available by January.

Other experts say the more likely timeline is summer or fall of 2021.

The other factor beyond the capabilities of the vaccines and developers which will predict the time to public distribution is Congress and the White House.

If we still have that malicious narcissist in the Oval Office without a veto-proof Democratic majority in the Senate, nationwide roll-out of a vaccine by the U.S. government may not happen even if an efficacious vaccine is found.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 don’t care…

Just like Trump.

~ 2 ~
The Mary Sue presented a nice overview of what happened in Tulsa this past weekend.

In short, Team Trump fucked themselves hard.

What happened this weekend was supposed to be a point where Trump turned the narrative back in his favor and moved the attention away from the activists and change that have controlled the news cycle for months. But what really happened was instead of taking the attention away from the K-Pop teens for his failures, those things all combined to add one more line to an endless line of failures that we can only hope will keep going until November.

It wasn’t just a loss of narrative and momentum but the complete trashing of campaign data harvesting.

We don’t know exactly what the data accumulated by Trump’s re-election campaign looks like after receiving ~800,000 registrations for the Tulsa rally. Some were valid, some were valid but no-shows, some were legitimate addresses of people who had zero intention of attending — likely sent by TikTok accounts.

And a mess of them must have been K-pop fans who are still feeling their oats after they DDoS’d police video monitoring during anti-racism protests as well as spamming right-wing hashtags.

Parscale’s operation better have had a good backup before the Tulsa registrations began, though I have suspicions somebody’s ass wasn’t well covered.

I mean, who is foolish enough to brag about more than 1,000,000 registrations like that, without a hint of skepticism about the data’s integrity?

Somebody prone to hubris, that’s who.

And somebody else isn’t going to pay Team Trump for data gleaned through Tulsa.

~ 1 ~
The ACLU filed suit this morning against the Detroit Police Department for its wrongful arrest of Robert Williams based on racist facial recognition technology.

The Washington Post published an op-ed by Williams explaining what happened to him and why facial recognition software should be banned.

The next morning, two officers asked if I’d ever been to a Shinola watch store in Detroit. I said once, many years ago. They showed me a blurry surveillance camera photo of a black man and asked if it was me. I chuckled a bit. “No, that is not me.” He showed me another photo and said, “So I guess this isn’t you either?” I picked up the piece of paper, put it next to my face and said, “I hope you guys don’t think that all black men look alike.”

The cops looked at each other. I heard one say that “the computer must have gotten it wrong.” I asked if I was free to go now, and they said no. I was released from detention later that evening, after nearly 30 hours in holding. …

It’s not just the software at fault, though. DPD made absolutely no attempt to confirm Williams’ identity against images they had before they took him into custody, processed him, and detained him overnight in holding.

They literally can’t be bothered or they are racist as hell in a minority majority city.

The ACLU is calling for a ban on facial recognition in Detroit, Williams being a perfect example of how flawed and racist the technology is as well as an assault on innocent citizens’ privacy.

 

Boston’s city council banned facial recognition technology this morning, setting an example for Detroit.

What’s your municipality doing about facial recognition technology?

Are you blowing off this issue because you’re white and you couldn’t possibly be misidentified?

Sure.

~ 0 ~
The House Judiciary Committee hearing on politicization at the Justice Department is still under way as hit Publish. If you haven’t been following along and want to catch up, here are four Twitter threads covering the hearing.

Marcy https://twitter.com/emptywheel/status/1275821690170335237

Jennifer Taub https://twitter.com/jentaub/status/1275825424405323776

Courthouse News https://twitter.com/ByTimRyan/status/1275821746923417603

CNN https://twitter.com/jeremyherb/status/1275820657289428994

This is an open thread.

The Tussle in Tulsa: A Retrospective

I had been worried about the risk of violence in Tulsa this weekend given Trump’s tweet bordering on incitement ahead of his rally.

Fortunately my concern was for naught. Didn’t see a single Hawaiian shirt cross my Twitter feed while watching the lead up to and after the event, not a one in the approximately 6,600 attendees.

But the event itself didn’t live up to other expectations.

I have to believe Brad Parscale will be looking for new contracts. Or perhaps he’ll be retained just to keep him from mucking things up further somewhere else in the election cycle food chain.

He’d claimed 800,000 had reserved for the event, a number which seemed wholly unrealistic considering the population within a four-hour drive of Tulsa and the advertisements placed for non-white attendees. We know now a confluence of activist engagement via social media platform TikTok, K-pop fans, and mounting concerns about COVID-19 contagion as well as risk of violence may have artificially boosted reservations and kept attendance down.

Parscale’s claimed this morning that protesters blocked access to the venue, pointing to an AFP photo of a gate with a couple handfuls of protesters and what looks like an equal amount of media.

Unfortunately for Parscale, AFP took a photo of another gate with red-hatted, pale-skinned, maskless attendees streaming through the gate.

And other media outlets took photos outside the venue showing an awful lot of pavement.

The speech intended for outdoor overflow audience was cancelled. Wouldn’t even need a sound system to speak to this few people.

The big feat of the day: one-handed drinking.

Attendees were subjected to a 20-minute ramble about the “fake news” from his Westpoint speech last weekend after which he had difficulty walking down a ramp.

What a perfect example of the cobra effect — trying to defuse a problem but only making it worse. But Trump is too much of a narcissist to allow criticism of his person to go unanswered.

The lowest point in Trump’s speech yesterday was his remarks about COVID-19 testing.

He’s made comments before about the number of tests correlating to the number of cases. Comic Sarah Cooper has famously riffed on this.

But this time he’s expressed an intent to withhold health care from the public for personal aims — to keep the reported number of cases artificially low, without regard to the effect this would have on actual reduction of COVID-19 cases.

Aside from revealing again he’s so utterly toxic, this statement needs investigation. It’s impeachable if he both demanded a reduction or slow-down in tests, especially if he did so for the purposes of improving his polling numbers.

None of his efforts skewing reality have paid off as he’d like. We can see the tangerine emperor’s ass.

And nothing he’s done will make this grim number go away.


This is an open thread.

Three Things: SCOTUS on LGBTQ+ Discrimination, Qualified Immunity, Gun Rights

Very big SCOTUS day today. Huge — and that’s in spite of the court declining to hear cases on multiple issues.

~ 3 ~

In BOSTOCK v. CLAYTON COUNTY, GEORGIA and two other cases, the Supreme Court ruled in 6-3 decision that firing an employee for being gay or transgender violates the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Title VII (42 USC § 2000e-2 [Section 703]) reads,

It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer –

(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;

Dissenters were Justices Kavanaugh, Thomas, and Alito; Alito filed a dissenting opinion which Thomas joined. Kavanaugh also filed a dissenting opinion.

Overview of the three cases from Human Rights Watch:

In R.G. & G.R. HARRIS FUNERAL HOMES v. EEOC and AIMEE STEPHENS, Aimee Stephens worked as a funeral director at R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes. When she informed the funeral home’s owner that she is transgender and planned to come to work as the woman she is, the business owner fired her, saying it would be “unacceptable” for her to appear and behave as a woman. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in March 2018 that when the funeral home fired her for being transgender and departing from sex stereotypes, it violated Title VII, the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in employment.

In ALTITUDE EXPRESS INC. v. ZARDA, Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor, was fired from his job because of his sexual orientation. A federal trial court rejected his discrimination claim, saying that the Civil Rights Act does not protect him from losing his job because of his sexual orientation. In February 2018, the full Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that discrimination based on sexual orientation is a form of discrimination based on sex that is prohibited under Title VII. The court recognized that when a lesbian, gay or bisexual person is treated differently because of discomfort or disapproval that they are attracted to people of the same sex, that’s discrimination based on sex.

In BOSTOCK v. CLAYTON COUNTY, Gerald Lynn Bostock was fired from his job as a county child welfare services coordinator when his employer learned he is gay. In May 2018, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reconsider a 1979 decision wrongly excluding sexual orientation discrimination from coverage under Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination and denied his appeal.

The dissent weighed in at more than 140 pages out of the entire 177 page syllabus and decision handed down by SCOTUS today.

The first sentence of the dissent:

There is only one word for what the Court has done today: legislation. The document that the Court releases is in the form of a judicial opinion interpreting a statute, but that is deceptive.

Right-wing ideologues are in a furor over Justice Gorsuch’s delivery of the opinion. They must have had absolute faith in Gorsuch to be so incredibly outraged that his interpretation didn’t sustain bigotry. He wrote,

An employer who fired an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids. Those who adopted the Civil Rights Act might not have anticipated their work would lead to this particular result. But the limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands. Only the written word is the law, and all persons are entitled to its benefit.

Today’s decision doesn’t end all discrimination against LGBTQ+ persons, only employers defined by Title VII. There is still a need for more legislation to ensure all persons in this country may rely on the same rights in housing, credit, property ownership and more. The House passed the Equality Act in May 2019 to address these shortcomings; the bill is now languishing on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk in spite of support for the bill from 70 percent of Americans.

Steve Silberman noted a trait shared by two of the three dissenting jurists:

One of the most passionately angry voices today:

“Bungled textualism.” ~chuckling~

~ 2 ~

The SCOTUS declined to hear cases seeking reexamination of the doctrine of “qualified immunity.” Thomas was the lone jurist who wanted to hear cases; in a six-page dissent he wrote, “qualified immunity doctrine appears to stray from the statutory text.”

There will be greater pressure on lawmakers to address qualified immunity in legislation.

Opinion piece about qualified immunity:

Rep. Ayana Pressley on qualified immunity:

~ 1 ~

The SCOTUS declined to hear multiple Second Amendment cases after it avoided addressing New York City’s regulation of guns back in April because the city repeal of the restriction render the case moot.

Justices Thomas and Kavanaugh dissented, wanting to hear a case related to New Jersey’s regulation of concealed carry guns.

~ 0 ~

There’s actually four things today — SCOTUS also declined to hear the Trump administration’s petition regarding California’s SB 54 which prevents the state’s law enforcement resources from being deployed to aid federal immigration enforcement. Alito and Thomas dissented, wanting to take up the matter; surprisingly, Kavanaugh voted with Roberts and Gorsuch to decline.

We are still waiting for a decision on Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals policy (DACA), which could cost the U.S. as many as 27,000 health care workers at the worst time possible if SCOTUS finds DACA unconstitutional.

This is an open thread.

The Why of “Defund the Police” [UPDATE]

[Update at the bottom of this post. /~Rayne]

Apart from the purely economic rationale that a function which has so repeatedly failed should not continue to be funded, there are ample reasons why policing as we know it in this country needs to be deconstructed and replaced — in shorthand, defund the police.

Last night on HBO, John Oliver did an amazing job of discussing the problems with policing in America. It’s so good I can’t add anything. It’s a primer from which we should start.

Yet Oliver’s work was tremendous not just because it examined the history of this country’s failure to reform policing, but because the end of his program gave a black voice a platform long overdue (31:56).

I want to reverse what he did by insisting you listen to author Kimberley Jones first, her entire comment and not just the excerpt Oliver shared. This is a powerful statement you should not miss:

And then watch John Oliver’s program last night. In this order you can see that everything about policing in America has been constructed on lies.

You’ll hear and read puzzlement about calls to defund the police.

What does it mean? asked because their privilege has never forced them to look carefully at how fucked up policing is in the U.S. (note carefully the person and context surrounding them when they ask).

What do they want instead? as if “they” are a separate group, disclosing the bias at the root of the problem.

Why can’t we just fix it? again, privilege blinds those who ask to how fatally flawed policing has been from the start. Some who have internalized this country’s systemic oppression will also ask this same question.

The wealth of this country was built on economic theft, and American policing has been constructed to preserve this massive looting of hundreds of years of black lives.

What Kimberley Jones doesn’t point out is that the looting didn’t stop with black lives. The ground Americans stand on was stolen from yet more brown people who were eradicated, and then farmed and developed by stolen people under whips and chains and at gun point. The theft continues apace under a legal system which ensures the gap of wealth remains uncrossable, that power likewise remains solely in the hands of those with wealth.

There is no fixing a police system designed to protect capital created from ongoing crime.

 

Defund the police, by which it means see with clear eyes the original sin of placing preservation of property rights over human rights, the original sin of treating some humans as less worthy than others.

Defund the police, by which it means to re-prioritize our spending with those same clear, open eyes with an aim to realize reasonable distributive justice, developing and preserving human lives.

 

UPDATE — 09-JUN-2020 11:15 AM ET —

Because there’s a lot of complaining about the unofficial slogan, “Defund the Police,” I think these couple of tweets are worth consideration.

Quit complaining. Focus: we need to change how we ensure public safety. What are you doing about it?

Start attending your local county/city/town/village council meetings. Research your local law enforcement entity’s performance. Are municipalities measuring complaints against law enforcement along with use of force? What has your locality done to ensure there is adequate access to mental health care, addiction, housing, and domestic crisis intervention, all of which affect the number of calls to police?

You can also do other research right now before you attend a local meeting.

Citizens Police Data Project – https://www.CPDP.co

CPDP takes records of police interactions with the public – records that would otherwise be buried in internal databases – and opens them up to make the data useful to the public, creating a permanent record for every CPD police officer. Examine this as a model for tracking your local law enforcement’s performance.

Mapping Police Violence – https://mappingpoliceviolence.org/nationaltrends

A research collaborative collecting comprehensive data on police killings nationwide to quantify the impact of police violence in communities. Check your state against others for trends in death by cops.

Police Use of Force Project – http://useofforceproject.org/

This Campaign ZERO project investigates the ways in which police use of force policies help to enable police violence in our communities. Read their report examining 100 communities.

Police Union Contract Project – https://www.checkthepolice.org/

This Campaign ZERO project reviewed police union contracts and police bill of rights legislation to examine how they make it more difficult to hold police accountable. Read their summary report of 81 cities in 15 states.

The Open Policing Project – https://openpolicing.stanford.edu/

This project at Stanford University aims to help researchers, journalists, and policymakers investigate and improve interactions between police and the public by collecting and analysing data from police traffic stops across the country. Read their findings.

Policing Project – https://www.policingproject.org/

This NYU School of Law project works to ensure accountability and democratic participation on the front end, before police violence requires ineffective back-end accountability. Read their work to date.

National Police Accountability Project – https://www.nlg-npap.org/

A National Lawyers Guild project dedicated to holding law enforcement accountable for misconduct. If you’re a lawyer, check for one of their online webinars.

 

This is NOT an open thread. Please stick to this topic in this thread.

Three Things: A for “Antifa”, B for Brutality, C for Commit (Murder)

Messy title, sorry — couldn’t think of something snappy and I’m even struggling with a lead in. Let’s just get to it.

~ 3 ~

A/B switch: “Antifa”

A little article about a tiny town caught my eye this weekend. Some racist gits in a rural area of Washington state played cat-and-mouse with a multi-racial family trying to camp in the area while driving a bus-turned-camper.

Local racists harassed them, accusing them of being members of “Antifa” — the made-up bugbear conjured from anti-fascist philosophy by Trump’s brain trust, hereinafter referred to with appropriate scare quotes. Even the local paper reports “Antifa” exists as an organization when there isn’t one.

What struck me as odd is how intensely a local gun shop owner and at least a dozen local residents believe there is an effort by “Antifa” to bus in their anarchist members to make trouble.

Right…busloads into a town with an estimated population of 6,600.

How did this notion about bogeyman “Antifa” become so quickly and deeply embedded in a remote area of the U.S.? Especially where the possibility of any anarchists making a big splash let alone filling a bus is utterly ridiculous.

It’s not just this one small town, either. It’s much of the Pacific Northwest and beyond — so many people looking like doofuses, claiming victory over non-existent anarchist hordes.

This mythology has even eaten the already-compromised brains of candidates like this one:

She’s threatening people with an automatic weapon in a campaign ad and then complains because Facebook took down her advertisement. Greene is simply unfit to hold office if she can’t understand threats of violence are simple violations of Terms of Service.

Now it’s true that figureheads in the GOP have been willing to push the vaporous entity “Antifa” using their bully pulpit — like Sen. Ted Cruz droning on last summer about a non-binding Senate resolution, S.Res. 279, submitted by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) declaring “Antifa” a terrorist organization while pointing to a Pacific Northwest group which may or may not have truly existed and whose domain address has been defunct for three years.

But most right-wing voters don’t run around saying, “But Ted Cruz said…” about any topic. If they did he might have had a chance at winning the primary in 2016, but he’s just a placeholder.

Same for Bill Cassidy — he’s just another empty suit in a GOP seat.

Some organized effort has been put into building and consolidating pro-fascist sentiment among people willing to arm themselves, take to the streets, and cut down trees in the woods, and openly harass persons of color.

Here’s my theory: “Antifa” isn’t just a bogeyman. It’s a test, like an A/B switch. The folks who adopt this concept so deeply they are willing to take action outside the norm can also be persuaded to take other action.

QAnon likely serves a similar purpose, providing a centralized mythology for persons identified as too weak to reason out of a wet paper bag but willing to invest some degree of effort for their new “faith” system.

What can’t be seen apart from idiots like this gun shop owner and his compadres is how this uptake is being tested online. This small town gun shop owner didn’t pull the idea of bus-packing “Antifa” terrorists out of thin air; he must have gotten through broadcast media and social media, of which only social media would allow a two-way push-pull of content.

Who or what is at the other end of whatever pushed this “Antifa”-on-buses meme to this tiny town in northwestern Washington? Is it just Facebook content and Fox, or is something more in play?

Is it like the Russian influence operations which were able to convince people to organize Trump rallies via Facebook in 2016?

Or is it something more simple — a convenient distraction from the continuing mass death event we know as COVID-19?

~ 2 ~

B for Brutality

Greg Doucette has been collecting and curating cases of police brutality and abuse from across the country since protests began after George Floyd’s murder-by-racist-cop.

As of this afternoon Doucette has collected at least 384 independent cases, nearly all captured on camera.

This many cases over the last week’s time suggests there are not merely a few bad apples, but that the entire barrel has now gone rotten.

Brutality is normalized from top to bottom of law enforcement, deeply embedded into policing.

These persons employed by our tax dollars are not protecting anyone. It’s not clear who they are serving apart from property owners; they are not serving the greater public interest.

Most telling: in cities where curfews were not enforced or were lifted, there was no violence.

The police have been the source of violence — many of nearly 400 cases itemized so far provide ample evidence of this fact.

It’s time to look for better models to serve the public’s needs. We are paying too much for services which do not work. We need to do more than reform policing. It should be torn down, plowed into the ground, and something better built from scratch.

Look at the City of Los Angeles’ projected budget allocation:

New York City’s budget is similarly distributed with a massive skew toward policing.

What this currently pays for is abusive police who assault the public, escalate tensions, after failing to make a good faith effort to de-escalate and mediate community conflict.

The money is there; priorities need to change. Tax dollars need to be spent more effectively on the root causes which have driven the need for policing — more money for mental health resources, community housing for the homeless, therapy for drug addiction, child care, after-school programs, and crisis intervention instead of militarized policing which moves to violence far too eagerly, too often.

It’s time to abolish police as we’ve known them and build something better, healthier for our society.

If you’re balking at this idea, ask yourself why.

~ 1 ~

C for Committing Murder — mass murder by COVID-19

Given the large number of rallies across all 50 states protesting police brutality and racism, it’s reasonable to expect an uptick in COVID-19 cases.

The police bear a substantive portion of responsibility for anticipated cases arising from the protests due to poor policing practices including imposition and enforcement of curfews. Like the nearly 400 documented cases of brutality and abuse, police kettling of protesters into tight clusters breaking social distancing appeared organized and systematic.

Like repeated use of bridge closures to limit protesters’ movement even when being herded away from protest sites toward home at the end of the day.

New York City was particularly bad; it not only shut down bridges, forcing protesters into narrow streams, but it shut down subway stations for several days, sometimes at NYPD’s orders. Protesters bunched up at the subway finding themselves without transportation, hemmed in by police. Lack of alternate public transportation did not help matters.

The situation was further aggravated by police seizure of bikes for stupid (read: no) reasons.

Kettling wasn’t confined to New York City. There are many tweets documenting cases in larger cities like Seattle and Chicago.

An additional risk factor for protesters is their exposure to chemical irritants like pepper spray and tear gas. This Twitter thread explains the risks irritants pose.

Stress caused by police abuses may make protesters more vulnerable to COVID-19 exposure.

Which may have been the point: abusive police encouraged to use bad police practices may have been engaged in passive-aggressive large scale murder by exposure to biological agents.

We can only hope that the increased use of masks by protesters discouraged coronavirus transmission and reduced injuries caused by chemical irritants.

Yes, chemical irritants, Bill Barr, you lying sluggard with zero background in science. Let an expert in chemistry tell you.

Barr poses a threat to the health and welfare of the American public and needs to be impeached. Even if the GOP Senate will slack off and fail to remove him, the Dem-led House should impeach Barr for his abuse of office and his lying to the public so that Congressional records tell the future Barr’s bullshit was and is unacceptable from an attorney general.

~ 0 ~

And then the white nationalists embedded throughout police forces across the country, for which I haven’t enough energy remaining though it’s urgently in need of attention.

Like Salem, Oregon:

And Las Vegas:

There’s more of them. Trump’s Department of Justice under Jeff Sessions and Bill Barr have failed to do anything effective to root them out, though a GOP-led Congress throughout Obama’s administration and beyond has also played a role in suppressing oversight of white nationalist threats infiltrating law enforcement.

It looks less like neglect and more like deliberate abuse.

 

This is an open thread.

Tanks for the Memories

It’s June 5 in China as I type this late in the evening of June 4 in the U.S.

~ ~ ~

We’ve seen U.S. military personnel deployed to American cities which are not burning down and are not under siege; they’ve been deployed because Americans dared to exercise their First Amendment rights.

These are the same innate rights which founded this nation when colonists rebelled against the tyranny and oppression of an autocratic monarch, writing rebellious missives and tossing tea into Boston Harbor.

Troops and equipment were deployed on both coasts, to Washington D.C. and Los Angeles area.

Sen. Chris Murphy wants to know more about this aircraft also deployed:

Some of this military deployment was just plain stupid, sloppy, wasteful — flip-flopping resources from one place to another. I can’t imagine the military doing this; this is on Barr and Trump.

A federal riot team was dispatched to Miami for some reason. Perhaps it was because of Trump National Doral Miami golf course, or Mar-a-Lago, Trump National Golf Club Jupiter, and Trump International Golf Club West Palm Beach located an hour north. Perhaps it was because Miami-Dade County is only 15% non-Hispanic white and there would surely be protesting there. Maybe it was intended as an intimidation or voter suppression tactic which doesn’t appear to have occurred to Floridians.

The locals in Miami certainly didn’t know why.

With the news, a question hung in the air. Why Miami?

The answer is still shrouded in mystery, but the way the announcement was carried out has confused officials across different levels of government. Several law enforcement sources at both local and federal levels only learned about the team’s presence in Miami after reporters pointed them to statements from the Trump Administration.

Ultimately, the federal team is leaving Miami without being deployed.

Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis asked the National Guard to drop its work on COVID-19 support and take up patrol in Tampa because of protests there — but the protests have been relatively peaceful.

At least until police showed up.

There’s also the hyper-militarized police which can barely be distinguished from military. This one is particularly puzzling since Walnut Creek, California is a relatively wealthy and relatively white part of the state.

This tank-ish vehicle drew comparisons to tanks used in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

June 4, 1989, to be exact — 31 years ago.

It’s not just Americans who see a parallel; this is from a Canadian academic:

Some of my friends of Chinese heritage are disturbed by the comparison, suggesting Americans avoid it in no small part because many Chinese are still traumatized by the 1989 events. Others are concerned because China’s government still aggressively censors any mention of the 1989 protests, potentially removing users from social media. This is a serious punishment because all their identity, employment information, bill paying, credit scores are mediated through social media.

Other Chinese who don’t live in the mainland point to the comparison between 1989 and the US in 2020 and warn us not to end up like the Chinese — under an even more repressive state after hundreds of civilians’ deaths when the military put down the protests, squelching demands for a more democratic society.

It doesn’t seem possible that there could be more than a passing similarity between China in 1989 and the U.S. today, given the amount of freedoms many (straight white) Americans in this country possess.

We were reminded, though, the likely reason the military was called upon may have found inspiration in 1989.

Does Trump think this is just a noisy student uprising which can be put down with tanks? Do his bigoted, talentless minions likewise think police brutality is a nothing burger which can be squashed easily with a show of force?

It’s rather ridiculous what power has been called upon to protect the White House from the protesters who want police brutality against black Americans to end.

So much energy and resources wasted because Trump has a ridiculously shallow concept of power and how best to use it.

But even more ridiculous than all this overkill intended to suppress Americans’ First Amendment right to exercise free speech through protest is the Republican Party’s hypocrisy, from Sen. Tom Cotton’s obnoxious op-ed in The New York Times calling for military deployment against Americans, to this feckless gem from the House GOP caucus:

Utterly blind to their double standard — a president who uses the military to suppress constitutionally-protected speech in violation of his own oath of office is okay with them, but they threaten a totalitarian government which also suppressed speech with military force?

At least the Chinese show signs of breaking their suppression — in spite of attacks on Hong Kong’s freedoms — after their government’s initial handling of the COVID-19 pandemic cost the country valuable time to stop the disease from ravaging Wuhan’s population.

Free speech would have saved Chinese lives; it would have prevented President Xi Jinping’s and the Chinese Communist Party‘s loss of credibility caused by suppressing Dr. Li Wenliang’s warning about COVID-19

Somehow I doubt Trump will learn anything at all from China’s failure.


He certainly doesn’t seem able to learn from his own.

~ ~ ~

It’s now June 5 here in the U.S. as I finish typing this.

31 years ago, a lone man carrying bags in his hands as if he had just been shopping, stood in front of a line of tanks impeding their procession. The Chinese military had fired upon protesters, killing as many as 500 people in Tiananmen Square during the previous two days in an effort to put down the pro-democracy movement.

Tank Man, Tiananmen Square, 1989 - photo by Stuart Franklin
For a moment in time one man stood between the regime and an oppressive future.

I’d like to think there are more than one or two persons willing to stand up to systemic abuses and repression here, hold it in check longer than a moment in time.

The protesters in the streets over the last 10 days tell us there are.

The polls in November will tell us if there are enough.

What will our children say of this time in 31 years? What will they remember of us?

 

This is an open thread.

Three Things: Loads of Bricks, White Chicks, Made-up Schtick

[NB: I want to make sure you take note of the byline. Thanks. /~Rayne]

Especially after last night this one’s been really bugging me so I’ll lay it out here first.

~ 3 ~

Why was riot gear more important than personal protective gear for the nation’s health care system back in March? This has bothered the hell out of me since I looked at the purchase orders and dates.

31-JAN-2020 — Trump declared a public health emergency under the Public Health Service Act

13-MAR-2020 — Trump issued two national emergency declarations under both the Stafford Act and the National Emergencies Act (NEA)

17-MAR-2020 — Federal purchase order from Veterans Affairs signed for POLICE PROTECTION EQUIPMENT FOR WASHINGTON D.C. VA POLICE IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19 OUTBREAK

18-MAR-2020 — Trump invoked emergency powers via Executive Order under the Defense Production Act

19-MAR-2020 — Trump named the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as the lead agency in the COVID-19 emergency response efforts (designation previously held by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS))

19-MAR-2020 — California issued Stay Home order

21-MAR-2020 — Illinois, New Jersey issued Stay Home orders

22-MAR-2020 — New York, Ohio issued Stay Home orders

23-MAR-2020 — CT, LA, MI, OR, WA issued Stay Home orders

23-MAR-2020 — Federal purchase order from Veterans Affairs signed for POLICE GEAR, DISPOSABLE CUFFS, GAS MASKS, BALLISTIC HELMETS, RIOT GLOVES

06-APR-2020 — FEMA seized orders of N95 masks
16-APR-2020 — FEMA seized orders of N95 masks
21-APR-2020 — FEMA seized orders of N95 masks

Why did the federal government seize private orders of N95 masks in April when it could have been ordering them instead of riot gear in March?

The government clearly had COVID-19 in mind because it’s spelled out in the order for POLICE PROTECTION EQUIPMENT entered Tuesday 17-MAR-2020 after the first national emergency declaration — the order uses PRESIDENTIAL ISSUED EMERGENCY DECLARATION, OR A MAJOR DISASTER DECLARATION as its emergency acquisition justification.

But why not order personal protective equipment for health care roles instead?

Why were they planning for riots in March, which is clear from the order for RIOT GLOVES on 23-MAR-2020?

They could predict rioting but not mass deaths from contagion?

Something really smells here.

I’d hate to think the White House used its power to acquire riot gear in order to pull off last night’s double-header campaign stunt-voter suppression gig.

Because that’s what this POS was.

Still can’t wrap my head around the U.S. Park Police and National Guard using tear gas and flash bang grenades on peaceful protesters to clear a path to St. John’s Episcopal Church in D.C. last evening so Trump could have an unauthorized photo-op in front of the church.

I don’t ever want to hear that Christians support Trump because he protects their religious freedoms when he just crapped all over them, especially if it turns out the White House planned for this months ago instead of working constructively to stem COVID-19.

~ 2 ~

The press has been traumatized by police assaults on them as they covered the protests over the last several days. In my opinion this is deliberate; it keeps the media from investigating what were the triggering events moving police toward violence against peaceful if angry protesters, launching property damage which further triggered police abuse. Protesters repeatedly caught on camera white people, some times in clusters, taking active roles in beginning property damage.

There are videos of black protesters trying to stop white people — too often dressed in black, acting in teams — who were the original actors causing property damage.


They ignore the pleas of black people to stop the damage.

There are several videos in which piles of bricks are pointed out by black protesters — bricks where no construction is apparent, left on sidewalks or in the middle of the street. One video shows white persons dressed in black removing barricades around the bricks. An academic noted on Twitter that any images of brick piles documented in Fayetteville, AR were there because brick walkways are constantly under repair. But at least a couple images show bricks piled on ashphalt street surface or concrete sidewalk, with no obvious construction or repair work in progress.

Yet another video circulating shows a black-clad white man handing out what is believed to be cash to black persons and pointing them to construction materials for the purposes of a temporary barricade. Wish the person recording the video had asked questions of their subjects.

There are some other disturbing signs about the content shared about white people allegedly involved in the property damage. This one may be a fake — there’s nothing in local news about this person.


There are claims in the thread about this person I can’t validate because I don’t use Facebook. Something about this is synthetic. Claims made attributing the source of support behind some of these vandals are clearly false and have been debunked.

The police have done themselves no favors, failing to arrest many of these vandals — in some cases simply watching them. Note how black protesters make this white vandal stop and drag them to police who are watching, doing nothing until forced to do so.

Police have also de-legitimized themselves by failing their duty to protect and serve, instead attacking citizens who are exercising their First Amendment rights.

Something isn’t right here, whatsoever. It looks systemic — rather like COINTELPRO and yet potentially manufactured at another remove — and the media needs to stop licking their wounds and get digging.

The press also needs to ask itself why this was not the face of this week’s civil rights protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder-by-cop.

~ 1 ~

Meanwhile, this man on the left:

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) with Confederate flag
continues to work on Trump’s and the GOP’s agenda:

deliberately ignoring this reality.

U.S. COVID-19 DEATH TOLL, JUNE 2, 2020 - 2:00 PM ET VIA WIKIPEDIA
Nearly a thousand more Americans have died since yesterday morning.

~ 0 ~

One last thing: if you have time for a reading assignment, I recommend Anne Applebaum’s essay in The Atlantic, History Will Judge the Complicit. I’m so pissed off at Trump for making me miss John McCain right now.

This is an open thread. Bring it.

105,746

Apart from having to hide in the bunker this evening, how convenient for you, Bronx Colors user, that the media has been under fire for two days and unable to hold you accountable.

How convenient for you the media and public have changed the subject to this country’s original sin, racism.

So convenient it’s almost as if the distraction was organized.

So convenient the riot gear purchased by the feds earlier this year may have found a good use, depending on how it was distributed when received.*

What a pity personal protection equipment for the entire American health care system hadn’t been ordered at the same time the riot gear was purchased. We’ll chalk that up to another one of your gross failings.

The dust will eventually settle on the streets, the tear gas will drift away, the arrested will pay bail and head home.

And the subject will return to your gross failings because they continue to mount every day. We’ll grant you that much: your malignant neglect of your role as president to protect and defend the Constitution and the people who live within its reach is greater than that of any American president in history and grows apace.

COVID-19 US death toll, June 1. 2020 800h ET
You owe this many Americans and their surviving family and friends an apology, at a minimum, for having failed so wretchedly handling the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly all of these deaths could have been avoided had you gotten off your ass and done what was needed in January after China and WHO announced the risk of pandemic.

Being a malignant narcissist, though, I’m sure this will only make you feel like a victim.

You’d be better off staying in your bunker, whether below the White House or on one of your goddamned golf courses. It would cost this country fewer lives if you spent the rest of your term at one of your resorts, tooling around in a taxpayer-rented golf cart, chasing a little white ball.

_________

* Links to purchase orders:

Order signed 23-MAR-2020, $25,963.10, for POLICE GEAR,DISPOSABLE CUFFS, GAS MASKS, BALLISTIC HELMETS, RIOT GLOVES

https://beta.sam.gov/awards/89062523%2BAWARD?keywords=%09%2036C26220P0825%20&sort=-relevance&index=&is_active=true&page=1

Order signed 17-MAR-2020, $63,333.96, for POLICE PROTECTION EQUIPMENT FOR WASHINGTON D.C. VA POLICE IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19 OUTBREAK.

https://beta.sam.gov/awards/89176706%2BAWARD?keywords=%09%2036C24520P0413%20&sort=-relevance&index=&is_active=true&page=1

NB: 105,773 — U.S. death toll from COVID-19, June 1, 2020 8:00 a.m. ET via Wikipedia’s COVID-19 pandemic data page.

Assaults on Free Speech and the Cities We Didn’t See

Last night I thread a series of tweets documenting law enforcement abuses including attacks on journalists in different cities across the country during protests against police brutality.

I collected more than a half dozen reports from Minneapolis alone of attacks on journalists from different news organizations. This number doesn’t represent the entire number of journalists attacked in that one city.

Those attacked included:

Michael Anthony Adams, journalist, VICE
Tom Aviles, photojournalist, CBS affiliate WCCO
Jennifer Brooks, columnist, Star Tribune
Julio-Cesar Chavez, cameraman, Reuters and
Rodney Seward, security advisor, Reuters
Carolyn Cole, photographer, Los Angeles Times
Molly Hennessy-Fiske, journalist Los Angeles Times
John Marschitz, sound engineer, CBS (national)
Unidentified team member with Omar Jimenez, CNN
Unidentified camera person (reported by CNN but doesn’t appear to be on their team)
Nina Svanberg, journalist, Express-Sweden
Linda Tirado, freelance photographer
Ali Velshi, correspondent, MSNBC (and his team including Morgan Chesky and Richard Lui)

It’s not clear from Jennifer Brooks’ tweets from May 28 that her identity was clear to the police vehicle indiscriminately spraying tear gas out of a window toward the crowd.

Linda Tirado lost the sight in her left eye after being hit with a rubber bullet in the face.

I don’t have any tweets from Louisville KY but I’ve read that there was at least one more incident yesterday involving a member of the press. If you have anything about this and other police attacks on media not listed here, please share in comments.

Los Angeles was at least as bad as Minneapolis in terms of attacks on journalists.

These aren’t random accidents. This is a clear pattern of behavior.

Law enforcement across the country is attacking the exercise of the First Amendment.

They aren’t doing this relying on qualified immunity; their attacks on members of the press are violations of the Constitution where the identity of the media is clear, where law enforcement has made zero effort to validate the identity of the media persons they attacked.

Law enforcement are doing this with qualified impunity — assumed but not granted by voters.

Ignoring the rule of law which is the foundation of law enforcement’s existence means law enforcement has de-legitimized itself.

They are criminal gangs when they break the law and fail to protect and serve the public’s interest by attacking media which informs the public.

It’s absolutely essential that elected officials and the public demand accountability from law enforcement for their attacks on media during protests this week, before law enforcement becomes even more unaccountable for a broader range of failures to protect and serve the public

~ ~ ~

While Twitter has been awash with reports of police abusing protesters and the press — which interestingly failed to stop many white instigators engaging in property damage across the country — there were three cities I noted which did not devolve into riots while observing protests of police brutality.

They were Santa Cruz, California and Flint, Michigan.

I’ll let these tweets speak for themselves.

There weren’t reports in my timeline of property damage and rioting in either of these cities last night.

There also weren’t reports in these two cities of white agents provocateur escalating tensions by damaging property as there were in every city where police abused protesters.

It’d be nice to know if there is a more direct link between police brutality during protests and the appearance of white agitators.

This is an open thread.

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