Saturday, September 22, 2007

Quick Jena 6 Roundup

My man The Field Negro is on it, noting that not only was the march in solidarity with the Jena 6 a success (I've read somewhere it described as a harbinger of a resurgent Civil Rights movement - which I hope is true), and that of course the BBBs largely dropped the ball in providing any sort of meaningful coverage.

On the success end, for once CNN turned out to be actually useful:
Thousands of protesters clogged the tiny town of Jena, Louisiana, Thursday to show their indignation over what they consider unjust, unequal punishments meted out in two racially charged incidents.

They swarmed over the grounds of Jena High School, where nooses were hung from a tree in early August 2006, about three months before six black teens known as the "Jena 6" were accused of beating a white classmate.

While the tension was palpable, news broke Thursday afternoon that the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal ordered a hearing within 72 hours to determine if the only one of the six still behind bars can be released.

The order has "got to be good," Mychal Bell's attorney, Bob Noel, told CNN. "It means we have a day in court. Any day in court is going to be a good day."

Earlier, there was an aura of a pilgrimage at the site where the controversial tree once stood before school administrators had it removed.

Many people touched the ground and some retrieved a lump of dirt, said CNN's Eric Marrapodi. He said the part of the town he was in was ill-prepared for the crowds -- no water or toilets were available.

In the background, groups shouted "Black power" and "No justice, no peace."

The estimated 15000 to 20,000 demonstrators shut down the town of 3,000 in central Louisiana. Many residents left for the day, and government agencies, businesses and schools were closed.

Sgt. Tim Ledet of the Louisiana State Police said protesters in buses were still bringing people to town at midday because of the gridlock, but many protesters got off and walked into town on foot.

[snip]

Hundreds of college students from historically black schools such as Howard University in Washington traveled to Jena, along with civil rights activists such as Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who helped organize the event. Martin Luther King III also attended, saying, "This is about justice for the six young men."

Sharpton called Jena the beginning of the 21st century civil rights movement.

"There's a Jena in every state," Jackson told the crowd in Jena on Thursday morning.

JoAnn Scales, who brought her three teenage children on a two-day bus journey from Los Angeles, California, to Jena, made the same point.

"The reason I brought my children is because it could have been one of them" involved in an incident like the one in Jena.

"If this can happen to them [the Jena 6] , it can happen to anyone," Scales said.

Ondra Hathaway was on the bus with Scales.

"If this young man [Bell] was railroaded to do time as an adult, how many more people has that happened to?" she said.

Jackson said on CNN's "American Morning" on Thursday that the charges against the black youths, their possible jail terms if convicted and their bail amounts are "excessive."

Punishing the teens with probation would have been sufficient, Jackson said.

Bails for the Jena 6 were between $70,000 and $138,000, and all but Bell have posted bond. Bell, 17, has been in prison since his arrest. The judge has refused to lower his $90,000 bail, citing Bell's record, which includes four juvenile offenses -- two simple battery charges among them.

Bell was 16 at the time of the attack; 17 is the legal adult age in Louisiana.

One of the more disturbing events surrounding the protest:
ALEXANDRIA, Louisiana (CNN) -- A Louisiana city that hosted many of the "Jena 6" protesters Thursday became the site of a racially charged incident of its own.

Authorities in Alexandria, less than 40 miles southwest of Jena, arrested two people who were driving a red pickup Thursday night with two nooses hanging off the back, repeatedly passing groups of demonstrators who were waiting for buses back to their home states. [...]

The driver of the red truck, whom Alexandria police identified as Jeremiah Munsen, 18, was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor -- a reference to the 16-year-old passenger. Munsen also was charged with driving while intoxicated and inciting to riot, according to the police report. [...]

The passenger told police he and his family are in the Ku Klux Klan and that he had KKK tattooed on his chest, the police report said. He also said that he tied the nooses and that the brass knuckles belonged to him, the report said.
Hat tip to my man, Nezua!

Of course the goons who hung nooses in Jena, thus starting a chain of events leading up to the present, have inspired some copycats in NC:
Police are investigating an incident in which students and faculty said four nooses were hung from a tree at the school.The finding occurred Friday morning at Andrews High School.Guilford County Schools said it was working with the High Point Police Department on the investigation.
Racism is very much alive and well in the US. Ignore at your own risk.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Taser = Death

A few taser-related news articles, just to give you a feel for their lethality:
Tasers on "kill"

Also from Drudge comes this outrage: A wheelchair-bound schizophrenic was waving knives and a hammer at her sister's family and police (after they were called to the scene). The cops' solution? Taser her 10 times in the space of two minutes. The result? Homicide, which is how the medical examiner ruled the woman's death as a result of the tasering.
By the way, there are audio tapes of that particular taser death, and a rather bluntly accurate quote from the woman's nephew:
"My aunt was basically tortured like an animal or something"
One Year Later

A year ago this week, James Chasse died in police custody after being beaten, Tasered, and hogtied by officers, and then transported to the county detention center instead of being taken to a hospital.

It shocked the city, given that police had targeted Chasse for merely acting suspiciously. After coming back from vacation almost two weeks after the tragedy, Mayor Tom Potter pledged to form a committee that would seek ways to reform how police interact with people who are mentally ill, and to push for more funding for mental health services.

A year later, some of that has happened. Police officers are now required to undergo crisis intervention training, and according to police spokesman Brian Schmautz, some 25 officers per month have taken the classes since February—that's approximately 200 officers as of this writing. And the 2007 state legislature, as boasted about by Potter in an Oregonian op-ed on the anniversary of Chasse's death, put more money into mental health services in part as a result of lobbying by Potter and Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler.

But a full year of politicians talking about reforms to the mental health system hasn't been enough for those still seeking justice for Chasse's death.

"Jim Chasse didn't die because of his mental health issue," said Jason Renaud of the Mental Health Association (MHA) during a Monday, September 17, protest outside of city hall. Instead, Renaud and dozens of other protestors argued, Chasse died because he was beaten by cops.

And that was the message of the day, as carried by numerous signs that read "Protect and Serve does not mean Beat and Kill" and "It's not about a few bad apples, it's about the whole barrel."

In a list of unanswered questions and unresolved concerns delivered to the mayor's office, the Mental Health Association asked repeatedly, "Why is the district attorney in charge of prosecuting police beatings and deaths?" and "Why haven't any police officers ever been charged with using excessive force?"

In other words, what activists are demanding isn't necessarily more funding for mental health, though they welcome it. Instead, they are asking for more accountability for officers who cross the line. The last question in MHA's letter speaks to the concerns of the activists gathered on the city hall sidewalk: "Since when is looking odd a crime?"

OC district attorney's office investigating Taser death
Officials are investigating the death of a 25-year-old man who collapsed after police responding to a domestic-violence-related call subdued him with a stun gun, district attorney's officials said.

Investigators immediately responded to the scene where Jorge Renteria Terrquiz lost consciousness after being hit with the Taser gun, district attorney's spokeswoman Farrah Emami said Monday.

Police fired the Taser at Terrquiz Sunday when they responded to the source of a hang-up call and found him beating his wife, police Sgt. Juan Reveles said.

An officer used the gun when Terrquiz attacked police, Reveles said. Terrquiz collapsed after he was hit and was taken to a hospital, where he died, he said.

Meanwhile, MinuteKlansman Pepper Sprays Migrant Activist

The difference between the MinuteKlan and the Police? Not much once you get past the uniform and badge:
SIMI VALLEY, California, Sunday, September 16, 2007: At 10 a.m., 40 pro-immigrant supporters and about 80 Minutemen and their supporters gathered on each side of the driveway leading to the parking lot of the United Church of Christ on Royal Avenue where Liliana took refuge from the Immigration Services. During the protest, a small group of three Minutemen came on the pro-immigrant side apparently to provoke. Pro-immigrant supporters complained to the Simi Valley PD, but to no avail. Despite the angry protests of immigrant supporters, the police didn’t force the Minutemen to move, Half an hour later at 11: 12 a.m. a Minuteman pepper sprayed Naui Hutizilopochtli, an immigrant activist, so badly that he had to be taken to the hospital by paramedics. The protests went on until 1 p.m. without further incidents.
More photos:
http://la.indymedia.org/news/2007/09/207304.php

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Paul Craig Roberts asks:

Why Did Senator John Kerry Stand Idly By?

Roberts of course is an old-school paleocon, with whom I would likely disagree on many issues. He does however grasp, with the sense of dread of someone whose beliefs in America have been recently and irrevocably shattered, the reality that the US is a police state masquerading as a democratic republic. Some excerpts:
Naïve Americans who think they live in a free society should watch the video filmed by students at a John Kerry speech September 17, Constitution Day, at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

[snip]

But the police decided that Meyer, an American citizen, had no right to free speech and no constitutional protection. They threw him to the floor and tasered him right in front of Senator Kerry and the large student audience, who captured on video the unquestionable act of police brutality. Meyer was carted off and jailed on a phony charge of “disrupting a public event.”

The question we should all ask is why did a United States Senator just stand there while Gestapo goons violated the constitutional rights of a student participating in a public event, brutalized him in full view of everyone, and then took him off to jail on phony charges?

Kerry’s meekness not only in the face of electoral fraud, not only in the face of Bush’s wars that are crimes under the Nuremberg standard, but also in the face of police goons trampling the constitutional rights of American citizens makes it completely clear that he was not fit to be president, and he is not fit to be a US senator.

Usually when police violate constitutional rights and commit acts of police brutality they do it when they believe no one is watching, not in front of a large audience. Clearly, the police have become more audacious in their abuse of rights and citizens. What explains the new fearlessness of police to violate rights and brutalize citizens without cause?

The answer is that police, most of whom have authoritarian personalities, have seen that constitutional rights are no longer protected. President Bush does not protect our constitutional rights. Neither does Vice President Cheney, nor the Attorney General, nor the US Congress. Just as Kerry allowed Meyer’s rights to be tasered out of him, Congress has enabled Bush to strip people, including American citizens, of constitutional protection and incarcerate them without presenting evidence.

How long before Kerry himself or some other senator will be dragged from his podium and tasered?

The Bush Republicans with complicit Democrats have essentially brought government accountability to an end in the US.
Oh, and before anyone plays the old "tasers are safe" card, even a cursory google search will strongly suggest the contrary.

"Democracy While Black"

Rev. in hospital after anti-war arrest

WASHINGTON, Sept. 12 (UPI) -- An anti-war minister and U.S. Air Force veteran was treated in hospital after his arrest by Capitol Hill police outside this week’s Iraq congressional hearings.

The Rev. Lennox Yearwood, president of the Washington-based Hip-Hop Caucus, was charged with disorderly conduct and assaulting a police officer after being denied entry to a House hearing room in which Gen. David Petraeus was giving evidence Monday, Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider told United Press International.

But a video of his arrest, posted on the Web site YouTube, does not seem to show any assault. Yearwood shrugs an officer’s hands off his shoulders and is immediately bundled to the floor by five or six policemen.

A spokeswoman for the Hip-Hop Caucus, Liz Havstad, told UPI that Yearwood was treated at George Washington Hospital for injuries to his ankle.

She said he had been released on his own recognizance Tuesday evening and had not had time to weigh whether to make a formal complaint about his treatment.

In a statement Wednesday, Yearwood, who was a U.S. Air Force reserve lieutenant until his honorable discharge in August, called his arrest an example of “democracy while black,” asking how he could “convince other African-Americans to come to Capitol Hill to participate in democracy, when Capitol Police will go so far as to jump me when I question my exclusion from a hearing that is open to the public?”

“We all know what 'driving while Black' is,” he concluded. “Well I'd call this 'democracy while Black.'"

Nine other protesters were arrested during the hearings, mostly for attempting to disrupt the proceedings.

The land of the free *

* if by "free" we mean, free to do what you are told and nothing else.
Great-grandma Betty pleads innocent to resisting arrest over dead grass

OREM - Betty Perry pleaded innocent Tuesday to charges she failed to water her lawn and resisted arrest when an officer attempted to cite her.

Perry appeared in 4th District Court in Orem to enter her plea in a case prominent Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred described as a gross injustice.

"Today, law enforcement in Orem has enshrined itself as the laughing stock of our country by prosecuting a 70-year-old great-grandmother for allegedly not watering her lawn," Allred said. "This ill-conceived action ensures Orem's law enforcement authorities first place in the [Guinness World Records] for stupidity."

Perry's next appearance will be on Oct. 11 for a pre-trial conference.

In July, Perry was cited by Officer James Flygare of the police's Neighborhood Preservation Unit for failing to water her lawn. Perry refused to give her name to the officer and, when Flygare tried to stop her from going back inside her house, she reportedly tripped and injured her nose.

She was arrested and taken to police station but released shortly afterwards.

An investigation by the state Department of Public Safety cleared Flygare of any wrongdoing, and city officials pressed charges against Perry on the landscape violation, a class C misdemeanor, and interfering with a police officer, a class B misdemeanor.

Allred, a high-profile Los Angeles attorney who has represented the family of Nicole Brown Simpson, O.J. Simpson's murdered wife, said she was there to provide support for Perry, whose criminal defense is being handled by M. Paige Benjamin, a Provo attorney.

Video footage of student tortured at Kerry event

Call it a follow-up to yesterday's post.





Blogger Antosca makes a few points worth mentioning:
First, Meyer is being kind of alarming and weirdly noisy, but not inappropriate. It's really odd how the police try to stop him almost immediately. As one of the videos shows, Kerry pointed to him and indicated that he should ask his question... he's not speaking out of line. I wonder about the context here. Had something happened between Meyer and the police earlier? Is it just that he exceeded a one minute time limit -- that's why he was attacked?

Second, John Kerry did not handle this well at all. I liked him all right before -- I voted for him, but what were the alternatives? -- but now I really dislike the man. His behavior here is pathetic. Listen to him droning sonorously on in the background as a guy is dragged down the aisles and pinned the ground. He does say something like, "Officers, can we--" but then trails off ineffectually... and you can also hear him make what sounds like a joke about Meyer: "...unfortunately he's not available to come up here and swear me in as President..." At that point, fair enough, maybe it didn't seem as bad from the stage as it looks on the video. But then the guy is screaming in pain, and Kerry is still droning on, not agitated, nothing. He should have gotten off the stage and told the cops to get the hell off that guy. It's not what a politician would do, but it's what a fucking man would do.

And third, the police officers in this video are absolute scum. They should all be fired, and the one who used the taser should be put in jail. It was bizarre and irrational for them to attack Meyer, a display of utterly unprovoked violence. The sheer brazenness of it, in front of an auditorium and multiple cameras, chills me. You can't go to a microphone and question an elected official (and again, there was nothing abusive or even particularly combative about these questions) without fear of being dragged off and tased? It's heartening that some audience members followed the police downstairs, telling them to stop and assuring Meyer that they would testify in his behalf -- but frankly, as far as I'm concerned, people watching this happen a few feet away would be justified in defending the victim from the officers with the use of any weapon available. The use of tasers on handcuffed prisoners, particularly when, like Meyer and Mostafa Tabatabainejad, the prisoner has done absolutely nothing wrong and is unarmed, is straight torture. You can't stand around and watch some innocent guy get tortured by the police. You ought to do whatever you can to make it stop.
We'll set aside the questions regarding the alleged lack of alternatives to Kerry in the 2004 election - there were some after all, although they were all but ignored by the corporate media. The point that using a taser on a handcuffed human being is torture is salient - I'd add that using a taser period is a form of torture, and one that can easily prove lethal. Also, the moral obligation of the bystanders is worth highlighting - they too have an obligation to prevent torture, especially when it's right in their faces. Looking at the video footage, it's pretty obvious that at least one of the cops was really getting off on the pain being inflicted on the victim. There's something sick about a society that not only seems to condone torture, but in which folks like Kerry can just keep droning on and on about nothing while it's going on in front of him, or in which bystanders just watch while it happens.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The smart money is on renting

Seth Sandronsky sez:
Are you a renter now? If so, are thoughts of buying a home dancing in your mind now that U.S. housing prices and sales are dropping like a rock? If so, consider this. Home buyers need solid data to make an informed purchase. Fortunately, Washington, D.C.’s Center for Economic and Policy Research has updated its snappy Housing Cost Calculator (www.cepr.net/calculators/calc_housing.html) for people just like you, based on Uncle Sam’s data.

Enter the home price, down payment, mortgage rate, tax bracket and future sell-date, and you will get the "net cost of owning." The calculator compares that to the cost of renting for the same period of time. CEPR's housing calculator features about 400 metro areas across the nation.

Your family and friends who are still employed in the mortgage and real estate sectors might not like you for it. Play around with the numbers for a bit and you might just decide you're better off renting. Why? The simple reason is the calculator relies on one important assumption: that the historic rise in U.S. home prices the past 10 years will return to the "more normal historic trend." Funny how most mainstream economists and pundits failed to see that the home bubble diverged from trend prices. Call it the blind spot of conventional wisdom.

Meanwhile, the U.S. housing bubble has disappeared like a fist when you open your palm. Hello recession?

Will the Dems be more tolerant of challenging questions?

I wouldn't count on it. The Democrats, as a center-right party (I'm thinking big picture, not just within the narrow confines of American electoral politics), I am rarely surprised to find authoritarian tactics associated with its candidates, past and present:
Student tasered for asking Kerry a question "inappropriately": "Toward the conclusion of Kerry's UF forum, Meyer approached an open microphone at the University Auditorium and demanded Kerry answer his questions. The student claimed that University Police Department officers had already threatened to arrest him, and then proceeded to question Kerry about why he didn't contest the 2004 presidential election and why there had been no moves to impeach President Bush. A minute or so into what became a combative diatribe, Meyer's microphone was turned off and officers began trying to physically remove him from the auditorium. Meyer flailed his arms, yelling as police tried to restrain him. He was then pushed to the ground by six officers, at which point Meyer yelled, "What have I done? What I have I done? Get away from me. Get off of me! What did I do? ... Help me! Help."
Hat tip to Avedon Carol.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Well, duh!

So Alan Greenspan admits the Iraq War was about oil. I know this is big news over in the corporate media, but there were plenty of us who were saying that all the way back about five years ago, when the Iraq War was just a gleam in Junior Caligula's eyes.

Mercenaries kill civilians, Blackwater gets expelled from Iraq (maybe)

Could see this one coming a mile away. Of course there's been considerable friction between these mercenaries and the Iraqi "government" & civilians for a while now:
The presence of so many visible, aggressive Western security contractors has angered many Iraqis, who consider them a mercenary force that runs roughshod over people in their own country.

[snip]

But Iraqis have long complained about high-profile, heavily armed security vehicles careering through the streets, with guards pointing weapons at civilians and sometimes firing warning shots at anyone deemed too close. And Iraqi officials were quick to condemn the foreign guards.

Al-Maliki late Sunday condemned the shooting by a "foreign security company" and called it a "crime."

Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani described the shooting as "a crime about which we cannot be silent."

"Everyone should understand that whoever wants good relations with Iraq should respect Iraqis," al-Bolani told Al-Arabiya television. "We are implementing the law and abide by laws, and others should respect these laws and respect the sovereignty and independence of Iraqis in their country."

Defense Minister Abdul-Qadir al-Obaidi told Iraqi television that "those criminals" responsible for deaths "should be punished" and that the government would demand compensation for the victims' families.

Despite threats of prosecution, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told Alhurra television that contractors cannot be prosecuted by Iraqi courts because "some of them have immunity."

In April, the Defense Department said about 129,000 contractors of many nationalities were operating in Iraq — nearly as many as the entire U.S. military force before this year's troop buildup.

About 4,600 contractors are in combat roles, such as protecting supply convoys along Iraq's dangerous, bomb-laden highways.

Blackwater, a secretive North Carolina-based company run by a former Navy SEAL, is among the biggest and best known security firms, with an estimated 1,000 employees in Iraq and at least $800 million in government contracts.

In May 2007, a Blackwater employee shot and killed a civilian who was thought to be driving too close to a company security detail.

Last Christmas Eve, an inebriated Blackwater employee shot and killed a security guard for an Iraqi vice president, according to Iraqi and U.S. officials. The contractor made his way to the U.S. Embassy where Blackwater officials arranged to have him flown home to the United States, according U.S. officials who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Now of course whether or not Blackwater really gets expelled is quite another matter altogether, as I'm sure that some White House thugs will lean on their Iraqi counterparts and remind them that "we have an arrangement, see, and you break the arrangement and someone might get hurt - get my drift?"