Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Oh FFS -- STOP THE KILLING

Now we have the incident yesterday in El Cajon, CA, in which a troubled black man was shot dead by police because, jeepers, they were just so damned scared for their lives and the safety of others when the dude acted erratically and didn't follow commands "just so."

How many times do we hear that? How many times has hindsight shown that, whoopsy, dude was unarmed, posed no objective threat, and ultimately there was no necessity to kill him, but them's the breaks, the shooting/killing was "within policy" so the officers involved cannot be held criminally liable for their actions.

In this case, there are reports that the police have confiscated all community cell phone video of the incident and are being tight-lipped as hell -- except to impugn the dude they shot and killed, the way that Standard Protocol has demanded.

Video of the aftermath of the shooting has been posted to Facebook (scroll down, I prefer not linking directly to Facebook as it is so annoying), however, and police deny "confiscating" any citizen video.

No, this has got to stop. The holy fear that says someone (particularly if black) behaving "erratically" needs killing is itself crazier than the disobedient black man on the street. Nine times out of ten if not more often, there is no objective necessity to kill the crazy Negro or other disobedient individual, but it is "within policy" to do so, so why not? Why not kill him/her if there are no consequences for doing so -- except a riot here and there, massive protests all over creation, lawsuits out the wahzoo settled for millions, and plenty of media "scrutiny."

Until the next time, and then the whole sequence of events repeats all over again.

Again and again and again. Nothing changes. Somewhere else, another Crazy Negro (or other victim) is shot down, and again it will be ruled "within policy" even though the cop who kills may be sent to trial for manslaughter or murder.

Almost always such cops are cleared of criminal culpability. They're "just doing their jobs."

I've been watching parts of the trial of Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez in Albuquerque. They were charged with Murder 2 for the execution of James Boyd on a Sandia Mountain foothill trail in March of 2014.

This execution sparked major protests in the city of Albuquerque and the aftermath led to major reforms and DoJ oversight of the Albuquerque Police Department. They hardly kill anyone anymore.

The trial has brought to light a whole raft of issues that were barely touched upon in the initial reports and the protests that followed.

Sandy and Perez were designated killers -- as was suspected -- but they weren't the only ones at the scene (there was another sniper on hand whose view of the crazy Boyd was blocked by the cops who ultimately shot and killed Boyd.) I had no idea there was another police sniper on scene until the trial.

Allegedly, neither Perez nor Sandy went to the mountain side to kill Boyd. This is much like the claim that police "don't shoot to kill" they shoot to "neutralize the threat by aiming for 'center of mass'. In other words, when they shoot they shoot to kill. But they won't admit as much because that's not nice.

So Sandy and Perez didn't go to the mountain side to kill Boyd, they went to "provide cover" for officers who were assigned to arrest Boyd and bring him into custody.

OHKAY.

Boyd was armed with two knives which he refused to drop over several hours of negotiations between himself and CIT officers. He agreed to put them away, but he would not put them down.

Eventually, after further negotiations, he agreed to surrender and was in the midst of doing so when police launched a flash-bang grenade and a dog against him in order to effect his arrest. Boyd took his knives from his pockets in order to defend himself against the dog and turned away from both dog and police at which time he was shot in both arms and his back. He fell, paralyzed, and the dog bit him several times in the butt while officers commanded him to "drop the knives". He said he couldn't do so because he couldn't move (he was effectively paralyzed.) The officers continued to command him to obey.

Finally, they realized he was telling the truth and could not comply. They kicked the knives out of his hands, and sometime later called in paramedics who were stationed below.

Boyd was give first aid and taken to the hospital where one of his arms was amputated, and his other wounds were patched up as best they could be, yet he died several hours later from the combined effects of the gunshots.

From appearances, Boyd's killing was completely unnecessary and outrageous, thus the protests. He was surrendering and posed no threat -- even though he still had knives in his possession -- when he was shot. WTF? Crisis intervention had worked with him for an hour or more until called off by SWAT officers, who then escalated the situation by stationing officers with weapons pointed at him.

At the point he agreed to surrender and was in the process of doing so, they further escalated the situation by firing a flash bang and loosing a dog on him, which caused him to react in self-defense, both to draw his knives again and to turn away from the dog and the police, who then killed him.

The defense is that Perez and Sandy were defending the K-9 officer who was unarmed and in jeopardy of his own life because he was close enough to Boyd to be stabbed by him.

OHKAY.

I've believed all along that Perez and Sandy will be acquitted. Regardless of any objective "fear for their lives and the safety of others," it's been clear enough to me that even though there was no necessity  to kill Boyd, it was within the APD's use of force policy at that time, and therefore it was a defensible act, though it was repugnant and wrong.

[Note: this afternoon, the judge in the trial of Sandy and Perez dismissed the lesser included voluntary manslaughter charge against them. This is significant, and it signals an eventual acquittal on all charges.]

This is the problem that leads to so many of these killings: they don't need to happen, but they happen because police department policies and the expectations of commanders essentially require them in situations where officers perceive a threat from disobedient individuals, particularly if they are black or mentally ill. The designated killer-officers on scene often have little choice -- according to their experience and training and the expectations of their commanders. Regular cops -- not designated killers -- pick up this "ethic" (if you can call it that) and do likewise. They can't help it; they are trained and conditioned to kill when they perceive a threat to their lives and the safety of others, even when there isn't any objective threat. Or the threat is so minimal that other means of handling the situation would be more effective and would preserve the life of both officers and disobedient victims.

I don't know what happened in El Cajon, of course. The police are keeping the facts and evidence under wraps the way they do, and witnesses are notoriously unreliable without back-up evidence which isn't available.

But reports so far indicate that this incident fits the pattern of so many others. Family member calls for help with a erratic loved one, police arrive, and "fearing for their lives and the safety of others" shoots and kills the erratic victim. Protests erupt, police are mum, and eventually it is determined that the killing was "within policy" and probably a large payment will be made to the victim's loved ones.

Then it happens again somewhere else.

It's insane and corrosive and it's got to stop.


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Cianna Oliphant (sp?) Explains It All For You



At the Charlotte City Council meeting last night.

Damb. I couldn't keep the tears back myself...

That Was More of a "Debate" Than I Thought It Would Be -- Snurf, Sniffle, Cackle

[Cross Posted at NC and Ian's Place]

To the extent I watched — I do have what’s known as a “life” after all — I thought the thing was less surreal than, say, Chuck Todd declared it to be.
As long as you could cut through the posturing and bullshit, it was easy enough to see that Trump’s criticisms of Hillary’s policies were mostly on point as were her criticisms of his practices (just “business”). From that perspective, it was all very polite and genteel. After all, these people travel in some of the same circles, know and admire many of the same people, and work for similar political and economic objectives. Their “debate” is more about mechanics and process than it is about goals.
Trump clearly is out of his political league, but that’s hardly news. That’s a known quantity that some consider to be to his advantage. If the polls are correct, something is obviously working in his favor — and would be, I think, even if the Clinton Hate weren’t so strong.
The closest comparison I can think of is the Reagan phenomenon of 1966 when it was axiomatic that this actor/spokesmodel for GE didn’t have a chance against seasoned pro/master politician Pat Brown, incumbent Governor of California.
The shock waves that ran through the state the morning after the election and tsunami that overwhelmed the political establishment in California is hard to grasp today. Nearly sixty years of Progressive rule in California was set to be dismantled, beginning with public education and not stopping to this day.
The shock was that Reagan was elected at all. It was widely considered to be impossible. Yet it happened in part because of the rise of the hippies, the riots in the ghettos, and the nascent student rebellion against the war and so much else that had gone wrong in the country.
The election of Reagan was seen by the voters as a slap in the face to a failed (Progressive) status quo, and it didn’t matter who was harmed as voters lashed out at their rulers.
Much the same dynamic took place in the 1980 election for president which Reagan won handily — but not so shockingly. The antipathy toward Carter’s failures was enhanced by media such as nightly “America Held Hostage” reports on the teevee.
Will a similar dynamic lead to a Trump election this year? I don’t know, but I’ll say this: the dissatisfaction with the establishment is almost as strong today as it was in 1966 in California and 1980 nationally. The reasons for it are different, but the dynamic can’t be denied.
Trump would be a disaster on many levels for many Americans, and his stable of neoLibCon warmongers and looters would be let loose to spread their misery and destruction far and wide.
Clinton’s ascension, however, would mean no improvement in the lives of most Americans, and her stable of neoLibCon warmongers and looters would have a festival of misery and leave their own trail of destruction in their wake.
How voters choose between them, I have no idea. They are both ultimately monstrous. And that is emblematic of the government they seek to oversee.
Strap in, it’s gonna be a rough ride…

Monday, September 26, 2016

An Absence of Empathy

The National Conversation that has been roiling for years now over the constant litany of police killings of so many black men and others seems to be getting us nowhere. The killing continues like clockwork, three a day on average, day in and day out, year by year. Bam! Another one dead, another family loses their father, brother, son. Another grieving widow. Another question, "Why?"

And so it goes, over and over. Americans become desensitized to the killing. It's normalized for the most part. The narrative is already written, the sequence of events laid out. A disobedient Negro refuses to follow this or that command by police. The police see a gun, whether there is one or not, and they fire as the Negro attempts to comply. Or the Negro is running away. Or he's standing still and confused. He may be mentally ill or on drugs, or maybe he's just been in a car wreck and is injured and disoriented. Doesn't matter. If he doesn't obey -- or even if he does obey -- he's a dead Negro because cops are scared witness and mindless by the sight of or even the report of a Bad Negro -- or sometimes any Negro -- on the lose.

He is axiomatically a "threat to be neutralized" -- even when he's no threat at all. (I don't mean to leave out the many women who have been killed by police during this period of National Conversation. Black males are the iconic emblem of police killing, and they die in numbers far out of their proportion of the population. Too many women die at the hands of police as well.)

The common thread that runs through almost all these killings is an absence of empathy.

Police are rigorously conditioned to have no empathy for those they encounter, harm or kill. Those who fail conditioning and maintain some empathy for those they encounter are weeded out or placed in positions where their empathy will not interfere with its absence elsewhere.

"De-escalation" is one of the buzz-words we hear a lot in this National Conversation over Race and Policing (and Other Matters), and in so many of the cases that come to National Attention, the police are not de-escalating, they're deliberately escalating the situation.

It happened in the case of Joseph Mann in Sacramento where police are seen to be escalating the confrontation from their first encounter with him.

It happened with Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, where the officer who shot him is yelling at him and threatening him with her gun, while he calmly walks to his vehicle with his hands up. He is in no way threatening her, and when her back up arrives, she shoot him. It's almost unbelievable to witness but it happens more often than we realize.

In Charlotte, once again we see the police escalating a situation, yelling and screaming at Keith Scott, threatening him with their guns, while he sits apparently quietly in his car, until slowly and carefully, he gets out of the car, while police continue shouting at him. He looks around, sees multiple men with guns drawn, and slowly takes a step or two backwards with his arms at his side. Bam! He's shot four times from behind. He may not even have seen the officer who shot him.

He may or may not have had a gun in his hand. Whether he did or not, he was not visibly threatening the officers or anyone else. He was not being aggressive. The officers were threatening him. They were aggressing against him. And they escalate their threats and aggression as more officers arrived on scene.

In these and so many other instances, there was no rational cause for police to kill their subjects. There was no objective threat to officers or anyone else -- or in the case of Joseph Mann, the potential threat was largely contained, and I'll try to get into that in a bit. All the escalation was done by police in an essentially misguided effort to gain dominance and control of a person or situation, regardless of the outcome -- which in each of these cases was the death of the subject. How often this happens each year is really anybody's guess, as not all of these encounters end in death. Those that don't go largely unreported.

The common theme is a total lack of empathy on the part of police, and lack of empathy leads directly to the tragic outcome. Over and over and over again.

I'll try to use the Joseph Mann case as a teaching tool. There have been many similar cases, so it's not an outlier.

Joseph Mann was a 50-something homeless black man suffering from mental illness that was described a bit like schizophrenia. He also may have been under the influence of an illicit substance. He was reported to police by residents of an apartment house in a fancy neighborhood in north Sacramento who said he was acting strange and had a knife and a gun. They said they were scared for the children in the area. They did not say he was threatening anyone. They said he was acting strange. This is important.

A police cruiser arrived within minutes and residents told the officer that Mann was just down the street. Sure enough, there he was. The officer, through the loudspeaker of the cruiser ordered Mann to "drop the knife." He did not comply. Instead, Mann crossed the street and walked away. The officer followed, continuing to order Mann to "drop the knife."

At one point on his leisurely stroll, Mann engages a telephone pole with karate moves. Clearly this fellow is not in his right mind, a clue -- if any were needed beyond the prior statements of residents -- that Mann was mentally ill and possibly under the influence.

During his stroll, too, Mann comes close to encountering several pedestrians. He threatens none of them. This was observed by the officer following him in the police car, and it should have been another clue that even though Mr. Mann (apparently) had a knife in his hand, he was not threatening others. Indeed, in the calls to 911, residents described him as "throwing the knife in the air" and catching it, not directing it at anyone else. They also said he had a gun -- but that was false. I'll try to get into false reports like this and their consequences before the end of the post.

Shortly, Mann reaches the main street, the police cruiser still following him and orders still coming at him from the loudspeaker to "drop the knife." Mann finds an object in the median and throws it at the police car. The object, later identified as a mug, strikes the car -- though it was initially reported to have struck an officer.

Mann runs from the police car as others start arriving. He comes within a few feet of pedestrians but makes no threatening gestures toward them. He is pursued slowly by several police cars as they attempt to corral him. He runs away and in doing so, he runs toward a police car, gesturing toward it as if to say "get out of the way!"

He runs across the street and along a sidewalk as police cars continue to follow. He stops at one point, apparently to catch his breath, and the police cars converge, attempting to corner him, but he runs away, and makes it a few dozen feet down the sidewalk, still followed by police cruisers, when suddenly two officers run up on him and from about 20-30 feet away shoot him dead.

Until that moment, it appeared that the police had the situation well in hand. Mr. Mann was eluding them and was being disobedient, true, but he was not threatening anyone, and he was not so elusive as to be un-apprehendable. It may have taken time to tire him out enough to make apprehension possible, but his actions were not those of someone who posed a serious threat, nor were they ones of someone trying to hide from police.

The sudden appearance of officers on foot who shot and killed him was a shock. Where they had come from and who had directed them to shoot -- if anyone -- is still a mystery. If it had not been for the Sacramento Bee finding and publishing surveillance video of the shooting, we would not have known this had happened, as the SPD were refusing to release any video of the incident and had already fabricated lies about what happened (detailed in a previous post.)

Their false narrative essentially blamed Mr. Mann for his own death, which is Standard Procedure in almost all cases of police homicide. The victim is always and completely at fault.

Victim-blaming is so routine it almost goes unnoticed. The public takes it for granted, no matter what happens or how much the visual evidence contradicts the police narrative.

"If he had just obeyed, this wouldn't have happened." We know that's not necessarily true, but it's beside the point as well. Not every suspect or subject is capable of obedience either immediately or at all. When that's the case, police too often resort to summary execution, not as a last resort but as an expedient one.

That appears to have happened in this case.

It appears to have happened in the case of Keith Scott. He was said to have suffered a traumatic brain injury in an accident the previous year, he may have been smoking marijuana and he may have been taking other medication that made it difficult for him to comprehend what was happening and may have made it impossible for him to immediately and completely comply with shouted orders from gun-wielding police. At any event, he was not threatening police or anyone else, even if he had a gun -- which is not at this point established or certain by any means.

It appears to have happened in the case of Terence Crutcher as well. According to reports -- and we don't know how true or false they are because they come from police -- Mr. Crutcher stopped his car in the middle of a more or less rural road in Tulsa, got out and was wandering around apparently bewildered when confronted by the officer who eventually shot and killed him. She ordered him to show his hands and get on the ground, but he did not immediately do so. When video of the incident emerged, however, he had his hands high over his head and he was slowly walking away from the gun-wielding officer toward his car (which was reported to be idling with its front doors open, but in the videos, the doors are closed, and it is impossible to tell whether the engine is running.) When Mr. Crutcher  reaches the car, he puts his hands on the car and appears to be waiting to be searched or arrested. The officer apparently continues screaming at him to do something or other as her backup arrives. Mr. Crutcher starts to put his arms down, perhaps in an attempt to comply -- after disobeying -- and he is immediately shot with both a taser from the backup officer, and a bullet from the initial officer.

He falls to the pavement while the officers who shot him and other arriving officers back away slowly. The two officers who fired on him eventually hide crouched behind a police patrol car while other officers take over the scene, and two of them begin to render first aid to the dying Terence Crutcher.

Mr. Crutcher was unarmed and he is not reported to have threatened the officers in any way. He simply did not obey sufficiently fast enough to satisfy the officers who shot him with a taser and a bullet simultaneously. Given the fact that he was later said to be impaired by an illicit substance -- whether true or not, we don't know -- it's likely he could not obey directly, but from the available visual evidence he appears to have attempted to obey indirectly, only to be shot and killed for his efforts.

As in the case of each of the other incidents detailed here, the police initially issued false narratives about what happened, narratives which essentially absolved the officers involved of any culpability and placed all the blame on the victim.

Those narratives were contradicted by video evidence. Tulsa's PD promptly released video evidence which showed their initial narrative to be false. As they corrected the record, an arrest warrant was issued for the officer who shot Terence Crutcher to death.

In the cases of Joseph Mann in Sacramento and Keith Scott in Charlotte, police departments issued false narrative (ie: lies) about what happened and adamantly refused to release any police video of the incidents citing "integrity of the investigation." This is nonsense because they have already compromised the integrity of the investigation by issuing lies about what happened.

In the face of this kind of stonewalling in both instances, other video was produced which demonstrated that the initial police narrative was false. Both police departments held to their refusal to provide evidence from police cameras as long as they could -- in Sacramento's case, it was months, in Charlotte's it was days -- but in both cases, police eventually yielded at least partially and produced video evidence which showed that their story was not... what happened.

It became obvious that police escalated situations which were otherwise under control, or at least were not threatening to them or others. The "fault" in other words lies at least as much with the police as with the supposed culprits. The police were the threatening parties in all three instances. The police were aggressive while the supposed culprits were simply disobedient.

Of course the fact that they were black factored into the police aggression.

In all three instances, the police who fired the fatal shots displayed no empathy at all with the plight of their victims. Some of the other officers on scene interestingly did show traces of empathy, however. First aid was rendered by other officers in Tulsa and Charlotte (so unusual as to be remarked upon as officers routinely do not render first aid to those they have shot). It's not clear whether any officers in Sacramento rendered first aid to Mr. Mann. From the video evidence and the later narrative provided by SPD -- which corrected some of their initial lies -- officers waited for the arrival of EMTs some five minutes after Mr. Mann was shot 14 times. But prior to the shooting, apart from yelling at Mr. Mann over their loudspeakers, the officers arguably behaved appropriately in trying to corral Mr. Mann rather than harm him. While they weren't completely successful, they were were able to tighten the cordon gradually.

Experts in the control of mentally ill or substance impaired individuals could easily have advised other methods that might have worked better, but they were not consulted or on scene. People who work in the field know how to do it without harming or killing their patients/clients. Police do not, or they have those skills, their firearms skill too often overrides their other means and methods.

It's an empathy and a priority issue. The "sanctity of human life" is not a priority for many police officers and police departments. Asserting command and control is, regardless of the consequences to human life.

In our ongoing efforts to change the situation, the Conversation needs focus on the purpose of police and a definition of their primary objective. Right now they believe it is command and control, self-protection, and the protection of property, when in fact it should be -- must be -- the preservation of human life and protection of public well-being, including the lives and well-being of suspects and subjects.

They must be sensitized once again to empathize with people who aren't like them, maybe don't like them, and who perhaps cannot obey them instantly or at all.

It's not an impossible task but as the National Conversation continues, this task must come to the fore.






Sunday, September 25, 2016

Charlotte -- More Fog Than Sunshine



News report from Charlotte

I'm not impressed with Charlotte-Mecklenberg Police Chief Kerr Putney. He's been obfuscating from the beginning of the controversy over the police shooting of Keith Scott, and he outdid himself yesterday when announcing the immanent release of partial police video of the incident -- an incident which has understandably been interpreted by many as police murder.

Putney has said that his "job" is protecting his officers, and so much of what he has been doing since Scott's death is trying to divert attention from what his officers did.

This has been standard protocol for most police departments for many years; officers are presumed to be blameless by their departments. The victims are always and fully at fault for what happens to them.

That's been slowly changing in some cities where protests have followed some of the more egregious killings, but any change in the assumption of police blamelessness and victim fault is strenuously resisted by police unions, officers, and often by chiefs themselves. They simply cannot accept the idea that they are capable of doing anything wrong, particularly when they kill people.

Part of that blameless attitude is due to (Lt. Col.) David Grossman who travels the country promoting his "Killology" concepts to police officers and departments in lectures and trainings which assert that police kill when they have to, only when they have to, and there is no dishonor in doing so. Even, apparently, when they kill the innocent (I guess it's just "collateral damage," too bad so sad) they are serving a higher calling as "sheepdogs" protecting the "flock." This is literally insane, and yet it is the grounding philosophy of much of the policing in this country. (If you've ever seen Grossman speak, it's obvious he's not too tightly wrapped.)

In Charlotte, the police chief attempted to stonewall the public after his officers seemingly arbitrarily shot and killed Keith Scott last Tuesday. He refused to provide more than a very sketchy and incoherent outline of what happened. It was not backed up with any evidence, and he adamantly refused to release police video of the killing, claiming -- absurdly -- that he didn't want to violate the family's privacy and grief.

Not too surprisingly, this stonewalling -- as well as the killing itself -- led to protest. Some of the protest turned violent which got a lot of attention in the media, but overall the protests were non-violent and specific. The protesters wanted the video evidence of what happened, and they wanted accountability by and from the police. Simple, straightforward honesty was what they were and are still after.

Putney refused, citing the ongoing investigation which he said would be compromised by premature release of information and evidence. He promised "transparency" but not "full" transparency. Of course this led to more and more boisterous protest. WTF? Right?

Ultimately, on Friday, Keith Scott's wife Rakeyia Scott released her own video of the incident. Until that time, I don't think anybody outside her circle knew she had video of the police killing her husband.

Stonewalling and misdirection and withholding information is not limited to the Charlotte-Mecklenberg Police Department it would seem...

Pressure mounted on Putney to release police video as well, but he continued to refuse until yesterday.

Mrs. Scott's video does not show her husband until after he has been shot and is lying on the pavement, but it is graphic in that her pleas to the police not to shoot her husband go unheeded. She tells them he is not armed, that he has suffered a TBI (traumatic brain injury) and has just taken his medication. She pleas with her husband to be cooperative, get out of his vehicle and do what they say. The police keep screaming at him to "drop the gun," but Rakeyia Scott keeps telling them he doesn't have one, "he has a book."

All this is happening apparently while Mr. Scott is sitting in the passenger seat of a white pick-up SUV while police with guns drawn shout at him, and Mrs. Scott pleas with the police and Mr. Scott. When the video was released, there was no indication of where Mr. Scott was, and he is not visible -- so far as I can tell, anyway.

Nor -- until yesterday -- was there any indication of why  the police were confronting Mr. Scott at all. It was a complete mystery, largely because of Putney's stonewalling and refusal to provide basic information about what the hell was going on. It was all under investigation, and he would not "compromise" that investigation.

Nevertheless, he insisted that Keith Scott was to blame for what happened to him because he refused to obey commands to "drop the gun," a gun which Putney acknowledged could not be seen in any of the police videos he had reviewed -- videos he refused to release.

He did, however, release a photo found on the internet which he said showed a gun, purported to be Scott's, lying on the pavement at his feet after he had been shot and police had established a perimeter.

Not helpful. In fact, the photo merely inflamed matters more. It was not clear that the object in the photo identified as a gun was in fact Scott's gun, or even that it was a gun at all. There was no way to tell. The photo was too blurry. No such object appeared in Mrs. Scott's video of the scene mere seconds after Keith Scott was shot in any case. What does appear is what looks like police officers on scene repeatedly dropping and picking up black gloves which led to speculation that the black object in the photo released by the police department was a glove not a gun.

As it stands, there is still no way to tell.

Why Putney thought it was appropriate to release that photo under his department's name and cite it as "proof" that Scott had a gun is unknowable. It's part of the bizarreness of this incident and the behavior of the police department in the face of scrutiny and demands of the public for information.

Scott's family insists he was not armed and did not have a gun at the time he was shot. They insist that he had -- if anything -- a book, the Koran as it happens, which he liked to read while waiting for one of his children to get home from school. He was innocently waiting for his child to get home, reading a book in his truck while he waited, when he was set upon by screaming police with guns drawn.

According to Putney, the police were on site to serve a warrant on someone else. He would not say why, instead of serving that warrant, they turned their attention to Keith Scott, ultimately killing him.

Again, Putney's stonewalling caused intense speculation and a widespread belief that the police had no business confronting Mr. Scott at all, that it was in essence a random and arbitrary execution of yet another black man.

That is what Rakeyia Scott's video seemed to confirm. The police were out of bounds and out of control, and they shot and killed Keith Scott for no reason at all -- except that they could and would be almost certain to get away with it.

While Keith Scott is not shown in his wife's video of the incident until after he has been shot and is lying on the pavement surrounded by police still yelling at him, he is shown very briefly in one of the police videos released yesterday. He is seen slowly and cautiously getting out of the passenger side of the pick-up truck SUV and slowly backing away from the truck with his arms at his side. Within seconds, shots ring out and he falls to the ground.

There is no apparent reason for the police to open fire. Mr. Scott may not be doing exactly as they say, but he is not visibly threatening (such as raising a gun toward police as some reports said he did.) He is simply walking slowly backwards with his arms at his side. It is clear that there is nothing in his right hand. His left hand is not visible in the video. At any event, no gun is visible in Scott's hand.

The other video released by police yesterday does not show Scott being shot, though one does hear the shots, but it shows the aftermath of the shooting from an officer's point of view. At one point, while officers continue to shout at Scott and handcuff him, he is heard moaning and a police officer's hand is briefly in view. It is covered with blood -- we can assume it is Scott's blood -- and the officer asks for his bag in the back of his own truck. He needs gloves and equipment to staunch Scott's wound.

Interesting...

Particularly interesting due to the claim that Scott's blood, DNA and fingerprints were found on a gun recovered at the scene, and that is claimed to be proof that Scott was armed at the time he was shot. Unfortunately for police, that is not proof due to the fact that an officer is seen seconds after the shooting with blood (presumed to be Scott's) all over his hand, and at no time is there any visual evidence that Scott had a gun in his hand -- or anywhere else on his person.

Police assert it, but they cannot show it.

Later yesterday, Charlotte police released a photo of a gun lying on pavement, a blood smeared holster and an alleged half-smoked blunt. They claimed that these were Scott's.

During his press conference yesterday announcing the imminence of the police video release, Putney for the first time stated why the police confronted Keith Scott rather than serve the warrant they were there to do.

It was, he said, because the police observed Scott with marijuana, saw him rolling a joint in his pick up truck SUV and saw a gun. They claim they saw him "waving" the gun.

Putney claimed that the presence of marijuana and a gun was criminal, and therefore the police had to act for "public safety" reasons.

According to some reports, they left the scene to put on their bulletproof vests and then returned to confront Mr. Scott.

According to Scott's wife, he did not have a gun, but the police on scene insisted they had seen one in the truck.

According to police, the photos they released yesterday of a gun, a holster, and a blunt were Keith Scott's and they presumably were presented as the evidence that justified the shooting.

But absent any visible linkage between these items and Mr. Scott, and given Putney's propensity to stonewall and obfuscate, who knows whether these items are in fact Mr. Scott's, and further, who can say whether mere possession of such items is justification for a summary execution?

That's the problem here. That's the problem in many police killings. While they may eventually be ruled "justifiable" -- or "within policy" -- and the victim may be blamed, the killing itself indicates again and again that the officers involved have no interest or concern for the sanctity of human life; their only interest is in neutralizing a perceived threat, whether on not there is any objective threat to themselves or anyone else.

In this case, it appears that Mr. Scott was not at any time threatening the officers in any way. It is not certain that he had a gun, nor if he did, is it clear that he "brandished" it or threatened the officers with it. There has been an unconfirmed claim that he "pointed" it at officers, but there is no proof, and it has not been claimed by the police that he threatened them with a gun.

What has been claimed is that Mr. Scott disobeyed the officers' repeated commands to "drop the gun."

He may or may not have disobeyed. It's impossible to tell. There is no visual evidence he had a gun in his hand when he exited the pick up truck SUV. Even Putney acknowledges that. There is no visual evidence that Scott pointed a gun at police or that he threatened them in any way.

There is visual evidence that he attempted to comply and was shot down as he did so.

There is testimony from his wife and others that Keith Scott was involved in a road accident (motorcycle?) about a year ago in which he sustained significant injuries including traumatic brain injury. Whether that affected his response to police "commands" is worth considering. At any rate, there is no sign at all that Mr. Scott was threatening or aggressive or even particularly defiant.

In other words, there was no objective and visual reason for the police to shoot him, even though the shooting may eventually be ruled "justified."

This goes on all the time, essentially every day, throughout the country and it is long past time for it to stop.

I've claimed and I continue to claim that 90% or more of police killings are unnecessary. They happen because police are scared out of their wits by their contact with the public -- fear and loathing which is partly due to their training and conditioning -- and they are expected to shoot when they are so frightened they "fear for their lives and the safety of others."

So long as they make that claim, they're almost certain to be absolved of criminal liability -- and they will often be praised and promoted for "keeping us safe." So what if some Negro is dead?

That's the commonplace attitude among officers and their commanders, and that is wrong. It is a moral abomination.

It must change.

Right now, I'm more involved in activism from a distance over the killing of Joseph Mann in Sacramento, and step by step, I and others are taking action (me mostly by writing) to try to ensure that nothing like that happens again.

The killing of Keith Scott in Charlotte is catalyzing similar activism, and hopefully the police culture that allowed that killing will change -- and sooner rather than later. I have zero confidence that Kerr Putney will be the change agent, but you never know.

In Tulsa, the killing of Terence Crutcher has led to the arrest of his killer, but whether that will significantly affect police culture in Tulsa is hard to say. She may be a scapegoat, and nothing will change. We'll have to see.

Meanwhile, here are the videos so far released of the shooting of Keith Scott: (Via NYT)






















Saturday, September 24, 2016

"Armed" and Disobedient and Black -- and the Lies Police Tell

As my handful of readers may know, I've been involved in anti-police violence campaigns for a couple of decades now, starting with an effort in Sacramento spearheaded by the NAACP to curb police brutality in the mid-'90s. In those days, killings by SPD were rare (I wish they still were), but Sacramento police were notorious for essentially arbitrary and random violence and brutality toward civilians. The reports that we collected from citizens were horrifying and graphic. They were used as part of a long campaign to bring accountability and reform to the Sacramento Police Department, a campaign which was partially successful.

The important part of the success of the campaign, at least to me, was that there was a significant reduction in the use of brutal tactics by the SPD and a consequent rise in public respect and regard for the police. This was not simply a matter of implementing a "stop beating us" comand from the top -- there were many components to the reform effort -- but that was a big part of it.

Although the campaign was spearheaded by the Sacramento NAACP, the reports and statistics we collected demonstrated clearly that most of those subjected to police brutality at that time were white, for the most part poor whites. Hispanics, Asians, American Indians, and Blacks were not exempt by any means, nor, interestingly were women exempt, but there seemed to be a pattern of police brutality toward poor whites that was intended to leave a message of pain and terror in poor white communities, regardless of any actual criminality.

The same message was being delivered to other poor and ethnic minority communities in Sacramento. " Get outta line, or just be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and we'll beat the shit out of you."

(Note: Sacramento Sheriff's Department was -- and arguably still is -- worse by an order of magnitude, but the Sheriff's Department was not the direct target of the anti-police brutality campaign at that time. Nevertheless, they, too instituted some reforms as a result of the campaign -- as well as a result of numerous lawsuits brought against them for death and injury to civilians.)

One of the factors discovered during this campaign years ago was the litany of lies the police (and sheriffs) told to justify and excuse their brutality toward the public. These lies were ingrained into the culture of policing, so woven into that culture that I don't think the police even knew they were telling lies any more; lying was all but unconscious. But it was a fact.

They would routinely claim, for example, that the individual "resisted arrest," when it was patently untrue -- but nobody (who mattered) questioned police accounts, so why shouldn't they lie about their behavior and that of the public they supposedly served? Why shouldn't they? They lied about struggles that never took place. They lied about reasons for encounters. They lied about crimes supposedly in progress, flights of suspects that weren't and so on.

These lies were caught out and called out again and again, but this was before body cameras and the ubiquity of cell phone cameras, so it was the officer's word against the public's, and for the most part, the officer's word -- even if it was a lie -- trumped the public's testimony every time.

Every time. That was an immense frustration, of course, and if it hadn't been for the intervention of the police chief, the mayor and the city manager, I don't believe there would have been any change to police behavior as a result of our campaign.

There was a lot of media coverage, however, and those individuals did intervene, and there were reforms. Accountability mechanisms were put in place -- not the one we wanted, a civilian review board, but at least there was something -- and behaviors were modified. Community policing programs were instituted (we can argue about that another time), and the number of complaints of brutality against the police dropped remarkably. While people might not have trusted them completely, the level of respect and trust between the police and the public improved substantially.

So. Success? Partially, yes. The situation seems to have deteriorated since then, and there's apparently been a lot of backsliding within the police department, but I'm not close to that situation any more, so I can't really comment on it -- except for the singular recent episode of the SPD killing of Joseph Mann which I have referred to in past posts and will refer to again in this one.

As I say, Sacramento police were not known as notorious killers back in the '90s and they still aren't in comparison to some other cities. Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, etc. The number of killings by SPD is still quite low, although it has "ticked up" over the years. But the killing of Joseph Mann was shocking for the lies the department told to justify it, and for the obvious execution that took place in front of multiple video cameras.

It was a parallel incident to many of the outrageous street executions that have been taking place all over the country, documented by video and horrifying the public over and over again. Homeless, black, "armed", and in crisis, men (and some women) are targeted by police for summary execution nearly everywhere it seems. How did we descend to such depths of depravity where such conduct by police is acceptable or more and more routine?

That was one of the issues that ran through the campaign to stop police killings in Albuquerque, a campaign I was peripherally involved with. Over and over again police were killing.executing homeless, mentally ill, "armed" individuals (mostly men, but one woman notoriously) and they seemed to relish the job. They would routinely lie about it, too.

People in ABQ finally said "enough" when police snipers Dominque Perez of the SWAT team, and
Keith Sandy of the Repeat Offenders Project shot and killed James Boyd in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains in March of 2014. Boyd was homeless, mentally ill, and disobedient. He was "armed" with two small folding knives which he used to ward off police on scene. Ergo, he was subject to summary execution. Perez and Sandy did the job, and they are now on trial for murder 2. During the trial, I learned there was another police sniper on scene who would have done the job -- except for the fact that Sandy and Perez and another officer were in the way. Oh for fuck's sake.

How did we descend to this level of depravity?

The absence of mental health care services, crisis intervention, and de-escalation/non-lethal tactics and options by police is well known, indeed it's notorious, throughout the country. The Boyd case is quite a bit more complex, however, and I won't go into that right now. The upshot over and over again is that people who shouldn't be dead are killed by police routinely. Police show "depraved indifference" for the lives of whole categories of individuals whom they kill with near total impunity, despite studies and task forces and reports, and particularly despite protests which have one message: STOP THE KILLING!

In some places -- including Albuquerque at least temporarily -- the message gets through. But in others? No. Not yet anyway.

If you are considered "armed" -- whether you are or not -- disobedient, and (particularly) if you are black, and you are in a confrontation with police, most often if the police are white, but not always, be prepared to die, because they will kill you.

They believe sincerely that killing you is their job. They have been rigorously taught and conditioned to believe you are an existential threat to be "neutralized," and almost always, when they perform their job in "neutralizing" you -- ie: killing you -- they are absolved of criminal liability, indeed, in many cases they are rewarded.

Recent cases include the street execution of Joseph Mann in Sacramento in July, police dashcam and private surveillance video of which has been released within the past week. There was a shaky and distant civilian video released in August, but it did not clearly show what happened. Sacramento police refused outright to release their dash cam and/or body cam videos of the incident claiming that doing so would "compromise the investigation." When the civilian video was released by Mann's family's attorney in August, however, it strongly suggested that the police account of what happened was a lie. Then, last Monday, the Sacramento Bee obtained and released a relatively clear surveillance video of the shooting, demonstrating all but conclusively that SPD had in fact lied about what happened, and showing without any doubt at all that Mr. Mann was summarily executed on the street, as have so many disobedient black men been executed.

The next day, SPD released three dash cam videos showing parts of the incident, confirming that indeed SPD had lied about what happened, and yes, Mr. Mann was executed by two police officers -- who I have been told will be fired within the next few months. The police chief has announced his impending retirement. The mayor has declared that "something" (unspecified) "should be done" about this... later clarified as "more transparency" which is not a solution at all, but he did appoint a subcommittee to review and make recommendations about "protocols..." I'm not holding my breath.

Meanwhile in Tulsa, a disobedient but unarmed black man, Terence Crutcher,  was shot and killed by a clearly panicking police officer, "in fear for her life," (the take away quote being, "I have never been so frightened in my life!") because... ???

Crutcher was not (apparently) obeying her "commands" -- when did police obtain the authority to command civilians, and who granted that authority? -- but he was not threatening her in any objective way, either (disobedience is not a priori a "threat.")  The initial statements from Tulsa police about the incident were lies, but that's standard protocol it seems.

Crutcher was not armed, and he did not "reach into" his vehicle for a weapon (there was none) as stated by police, nor did he "reach for" a weapon in his waistband or pocket (there was none.) According to his family's attorney, he could not have reached into the vehicle because the driver's side window was rolled up. The police account that he had done so was a fantasy, or it was a deliberate and cynical lie.

The statement by the officer that he was not showing her his hands (thus justifying her panic and fear) was shown to be... "inoperative" when video from police dash cams and a helicopter camera showed Crutcher walking away from the officer (with her gun drawn) with his hands raised high over his head. He disobeys her (in that he does not stop and get on the ground) but he does not in any way whatsoever threaten her. When he reaches his car, he does not reach into the vehicle and he does not reach into his pocket (contra the statements of police) yet he is shot with a taser and police bullet essentially simultaneously. He falls, gravely wounded, while police back away "infearfortheirlives and thesafetyofothers," as Crutcher bleeds out on the street -- standard protocol in police involved shootings. Later, the officers involved in firing upon Crutcher are seen crouched behind a police car while other officers tend to Crutcher, some (astonishingly) surprisingly not infearfortheirlives and thesafetyofothers, and actually providing something like first aid -- all but unheard of in cases of police involved shooting.

Betty Shelby, the officer who fired the fatal shot, was promptly charged with manslaughter.

Her panic and fear apparently not overriding clear evidence that shooting and killing Terence Crutcher was not justified in the eyes of the district attorney.

We'll await results of a trial.

In Charlotte, Keith Scott was shot and killed by a black police officer for reasons that are unclear despite statements by CPD that he was armed and disobedient -- and black -- and we know what that can and too often does lead to.

The Charlotte police department has adamantly refused to release body and dash cam video of the incident citing the ongoing "investigation," but also describing the videos as "inconclusive" and "ambiguous" as to whether or not Mr. Scott was armed and/or "threatened" the officers.

His family saw one of the videos (or perhaps more) and stated through their attorney that one can't tell what -- if anything -- Mr. Scott has in his hand, whether a gun or a book or anything at all, but also stating that police accounts of Scott "advancing" on officers or threatening them in any way are simply false. No such thing happened.

But who knows, as police will not release the videos, and a North Carolina law is shortly to go into effect forbidding  release of police video absent a court order. Oh my.

So Keith Scott's wife released her own video of the incident, a video which does not show Mr. Scott until after he's been shot, but which, interestingly, suggests that the still photo which CPD released which they claim shows the gun Mr. Scott had and "brandished" at police and "refused" to drop at police command, may not be a gun at all, and which shows conclusively that no such object was at Mr. Scott's feet shortly after he was shot.

Charlotte police not only have not released their own videos of the incident, they have been lying  ("as is standard in cases of police involved shootings" as I put it in a previous post) about what happened and have been issuing false information (such as the photo they have circulated showing a "gun" at Scott's feet.)

"Armed", disobedient, and black is too often a death sentence in this country. "Armed," disobedient and mentally ill in this country is too often a death sentence in this country. The mere report of someone "armed" and disobedient can too often be a death sentence in this country. And too often, police are protected from criminal culpability when they kill someone in this country.

On the other hand, police in this country are trained and conditioned to believe that a  disobedient black or mentally ill individual represents an existential threat to be "neutralized" -- regardless of whether he or she is "armed." Preferable "neutralization" is death.

Many police departments have designated killers whose specific job duty is the "neutralization" of threats. Most police departments place "force protection" (ie: protection of police officers) at the top of their priority list. Safety and protection of civilians -- particularly of suspects/subjects -- may not even be on their list of priorities at all.

Police are trained and expected to be confrontational, authoritarian, and aggressive in most cases where they suspect or encounter disobedience or anything less than immediate compliance with their often contradictory or incomprehensible "commands." In most cases, police are given free latitude to use any level of force they deem appropriate or necessary to gain compliance or to neutralize a threat based solely on their perception at the moment.

"Second guessing" their "split-second decisions" is forbidden. The only standard recognized by courts and many departments is the stated perception of the officer at the moment he or she uses whatever force the officer deems necessary including lethal force -- ie: "fearingformylifeandthesafetyofothers", invoked as a mantra. Thus it is almost impossible to hold police officers criminally liable or even administratively responsible for anything they do under color of authority (apart from some sexual misconduct.)

Killing is fine; lying about it is "standard protocol"; having an affair can (but most often won't) get them fired. Domestic abuse and/or rape might get them in court...

I ask again, how did we descend to such a level of depravity? And what does it take to reverse the descent?

That's a topic for another post. The issue is complex, but the problem is not hopeless. "Reform" is not always the answer, nor is it always possible. Sometimes "abolition" is the only way forward. It has been done a few times when irredeemably corrupt police departments have been abolished altogether, but the movement for abolition of police departments is only in its infancy. There is a growing recognition that something is terribly wrong with policing in this country, but the rot infects the entire justice and corrections systems, top to bottom. That rot is paralleled in the social service realm, education, economic and political sectors as well.

The United States has been on this downward socio/political spiral for more than a generation. Not that everything was perfect before -- far from it. What we need to do is recognize that the current course -- including police impunity, but not limited to it -- is unsustainable and there needs to be a collective determination to institute fundamental systemic change.


Friday, September 23, 2016

"As Is Standard In Police Involved Shootings..."

Sacramento Police Department issued a false narrative -- a series of lies in other words -- in defense of two of their officers shooting and killing a homeless mentally ill man named Joseph Mann on a main street in North Sacramento last July.

Citizen video contradicted the police narrative almost right out of the gate, but the clincher was the recent release of surveillance video that clearly showed two officers running up to Mann -- and executing him on the spot, from about 20-30 feet away, in a fusillade of bullets, while he was standing still, not "lunging" at them at all, but seeming to question why they were running up to him.

The Sacramento police lied, and they have maintained their lies until today, insisting that their narrative is correct and one should not believe one's lying eyes. Nevertheless, the police chief has announced his retirement (effective in December), and I'm told the two officers who ran up to and killed Mr. Mann are (supposedly) going to be fired.

I would recommend that these officers be fired and prosecuted for murder 2 or manslaughter, but that's unlikely to take place due to the many layers of legal protection police have in performance of their duty.

Apparently part of the duty of modern police is the summary execution of disobedient Negroes, homeless or mentally ill men in crisis, and/or any "armed" Negro whatever. Whether actually armed or not. Doesn't matter.

It is then part of their duty to lie about what they have done, and it is part of the duty of their commanders to back up the lies to the bitter end if need be.

The lies in this case are stark and obvious, while they are not quite so clear in other instances of police killing.

This is the tissue of lies SPD spun on July 11, 2016, the day of the incident, as published in the Los Angeles Times:

A man was fatally shot by two Sacramento police officers Monday morning after he acted “really crazy” and charged the office[r]s with a knife, police said.
The man, who was in his 50s or 60s, was spotted about 9:25 a.m. waving a knife in the 1100 block of Lochbrae Road when police were called to investigate, according to Sacramento police Sgt. Bryce Heinlein. 
Callers complained to a police dispatcher that the man was not making sense and was behaving irrationally. 
When the first officer arrived on the scene, the man charged at him, prompting the officer to lock himself in his police cruiser. The officer called for backup and tried to leave the area, but the man walked around the police cruiser and blocked it with his body.
When two backup officers arrived, the man with a knife took off running. The officers began chasing him on foot, and one of them suffered a non-life-threatening injury to his lower body during the pursuit, according to police. 




Heinlein said the man refused to comply with the officers’ commands and acted “really crazy.”
When the officers approached the man, he turned around and charged at them, Heinlein said. At that moment, both officers fired their weapons, striking the man. 
The man was taken to an area hospital, where he died later Monday morning. The injured officer remained in the hospital for treatment. 
The officers have been placed on paid administrative leave. The Sacramento Police Department, Sacramento County district attorney’s office and Office of Policing Accountability are investigating the shooting. Police recovered a knife at the scene, officials said.
Heinlein said the incident happened rapidly.
“This is a very quick evolving situation that occurred,” he said.
The officers were not wearing body cameras, but their police cruisers were equipped with dash cams, which filmed the incident. Officials were reviewing the video footage on Monday, Heinlein said.
So far, only 30 officers who work bike patrol in downtown Sacramento have been fitted with body cameras as part of a pilot program, he said.
Although body cameras haven’t been made available to all officers, the police department hopes to expand the program.

I've highlighted the lies. As shown in the videos which were later released from a civilian, from dash cams, and from a surveillance camera, Mr. Mann never "charged at" police during the entire incident and pursuit. He instead tries to get away from them, or failing that, tries to make them go away. He is clearly having a mental health episode, perhaps aggravated by illicit substances, and he does act "crazy" at various times during the pursuit.

The officer in the first patrol car is not "blocked" by Mr. Mann from leaving the area although Mr. Mann does cross in front of his vehicle (in a crosswalk no less!!). The officer does not try to leave the area. Instead, he follows Mr. Mann at a discreet distance, shouting at him through the loudspeaker to "drop the knife." Whether Mr. Mann has a knife or is brandishing one during this slow speed pursuit is difficult to tell from the video, but assuming he did have a knife in his hand, he is not threatening anyone with it. He is clearly attempting to get away from the officer pursuing him.

At this point, it is necessary to note that the first dashcam video starts out in a very fancy neighborhood of Sacramento called Woodlake where Mr. Mann is walking on the sidewalk near some very expensive and fashionable real estate. It's as if he were strolling around Beverly Hills or Bel Air.

Apart from being black and possibly carrying a knife and acting "strange" Mr. Mann shows no threatening behavior during the initial contact with  police. He does not, however, obey.

There is no "foot chase" at all. Instead, officers arrive in some numbers following Mr. Mann's attempts to get away from the initial officer following him at a discreet distance and issuing orders over his loudspeaker. All the arriving officers stay in their vehicles. Mr. Mann picks up something from the median of Del Paso Blvd. and throws it at the first police car, but what it is is impossible to tell.

Other police cars attempt to surround and contain Mr. Mann as he darts from one side of the street to the other. Finally, he runs along a sidewalk on the south side of Del Paso Blvd (I'm familiar with the area because I lived there at one time), stopping to catch his breath at one point, then continuing on, as two officers on foot, guns drawn, confront him beside a brick building. They do not chase him, they run up to him. They  are at least 20 and possibly 30 feet away. Mr. Mann stands still, raises his arm as if to say "go away", and the officers open fire. Mr. Mann falls, they continue firing, striking him 14 times.

Other officers then arrive on foot. One appears to kick the body as Mr. Mann lay dying on the sidewalk.

If any officer was "injured" it's not visible in any of the video released, and later stories did not mention any injured officer.

The incident does not unfold rapidly. In fact, it takes several minutes, and unfolds quite slowly and deliberately -- that is until the point that the two officers run up and shoot Mr. Mann to death. That occurs within seconds.

The police narrative was filled with falsehoods. False narratives are Standard Protocol in police involved shootings all over the country, however, as we've over and over and over again.

Here is some video which contradict SPD's lies:

1) Video taken by a witness released August 5, 2016



This video contradicts the police narrative, but because it's shaky and distant, it is hard to be sure what is going on.

2) This is a surveillance video obtained and released by the Sacramento Bee on September 19, 2016

It clearly shows two officers running up to Mann and shooting him within a second or so of arrival



3) This is the first of three dashcam videos of the incident released on September 20, 2016 by the Sacramento Police Department



It demonstrates the lies in the initial police narrative

4) This is the second dashcam video released by SPD




5) And this is the third dashcam video released by SPD



Police all over the country lie with impunity about many things, but because of all the attention focused on police killings especially, it is a wonder that they continue to like about the killing of black and brown men in particular, when the truth is so relatively evident in so many videos.

SPD felt forced to release these videos, despite the fact that they contradicted the official story, in part because of the early release of the surveillance video which showed the execution of Joseph Mann with little or no filter.

Whether justice will eventually be served, who can say. But for now at least some of the public interest is being served.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Essentials of Disruption/Destruction

I've said I'm not much interested in the presidential campaign this year largely because the two main candidates are.... simply appalling. That's not to say that one or the other doesn't have some positive qualities, that's not the point. The point is that both of them represent ideals of the State and society that are loathsome. They are both ideologically neoLibCon. They are both exploiters and oppressors. Neither has a shred of faith in or genuine interest in the well-being of the masses.

Hillary is the avatar of the perpetuation of the status quo, and under other circumstances, that might be enough to get her back into the White House all by itself. After all, we've been propagandized for years that "everything's fine," the world is a better place, the economy is steaming along nicely, everyone who wants a job can find one, and now we are learning that incomes for the Lesser People are rising for the first time since 2007!!!! Yay!!!!!

Whut? Think about it. Household incomes are rising for the first time since 2007... what does that imply? Obvious, isn't it? Household incomes have been declining or flat since 2007. Ah, now that makes sense, because that's clearly the case. Actually, statistically, the median household income has been in decline since 1997. There may -- or may not -- have been a slight uptick in 2015 over 2014, but the overall trend is downward, and that hasn't changed.

Think. When was Obama elected on a promise to halt/reverse the Great (for the Rabble, the Endless) Recession? Ah. 2008. And guess what? He hasn't done it. At least not for the Rabble, not even close. The High and the Mighty, however, have made out like the bandits they are.

For many of them, there never was any Recession at all.

And Obama made sure that situation was institutionalized.

Hillary represents the continuation of, indeed the intensification of, the policies that make it so.

Thus, of course, the majority of the Highest of the Mighty support her candidacy over that of one of their own class, Donald Trump.

At least they have until recently.

Now after Hillary's Unfortunate Incident at the 9/11 Memorial, they seem to be hedging their bets. Trump may not be The One -- yet -- but if Herself craps out, who they gonna turn to? And after all, Trump has long been One of the Tribe and he seems to be picking up steam among the Ignorant Rabble, soooooo.... why not?

After all, he is a Disruptor/Destructor. And that's important to the success and well-being of his class.  Part of their culture is the disruption and destruction of rivals below them. Trump is a master at that. He showed it on his TV show for years and years, and he is certainly adept at it in life. Not only does he disrupt and destroy, he often gets his victims to like it. Now that is a highly desirable skill among the rich and powerful. In fact, it is a necessary one given the ideological foundations of the modern political economy.

Obama has that skill too, though he's far more subtle about it than The Donald. He's been soothing the savage beast of the Rabble throughout his entire reign at the top, and he's better at it than any politician I know of.

Hillary simply does not have that skill, though her husband does, though that can't overcome some of his other qualities that we need not get into here.

Hillary inspires resistance, not so much because she's The Devil Incarnate (as she's been characterized by a large segment of the Internets) but because she tends to scold rather than uplift, tends to negatively characterize her opponents, tends to be less than inspirational in large gatherings, tends to be so wedded to preserving and extending the status quo, she's all but unable to recognize that the status quo hasn't worked for the majority for a generation or more.

She can see discreet elements of failure, but not the whole, basically because she's wedded to the whole picture, a picture which from below is horrendous.

She doesn't seem to see that, nor can she grasp it.

On the other hand, Trump sees it clearly -- because he's profiting from it -- and seeks to exploit the Rabble to the maximum degree he can, first by being elected, and then who knows what will follow?

No one.  No one can be sure, and that is a big part of his appeal. This was also part of Reagan's appeal. There were lots of dog whistles for those who were attuned, and there was his (suddenly forgotten and ignored by the media) governorship of California that clued some people into what his governance as President would become, but it was an era of hailing the hero, in contrast to the "failed" status quo represented by Carter, and in the public eye, a celebrity is almost always Heroic, no?

But nobody could be sure what Reagan would do, anymore than they could be sure what  Trump will do in the White House.

Hillary, like Carter, they already knew all about -- too much about. And they could anticipate policies that would do little or nothing on their behalf, or would actually make things worse for the many while ensuring that things would get better and better for the few.

Trump on the other hand can play the Rubes like a room full of marks much like the hucksters who sell real estate courses do. They dazzle the Rabble with the promise of getting rich! rich! rich!. But when it comes to it, the only one who really gets rich! is the course promoter. Gee, who'd a thunk?

Trump is pure show business, pure con-man. But that's what it takes anymore. Obama is more cerebral, but he's just as much a con-man, as too many people found out after he was elected. The con was that he held out such promise to the Rabble, but he delivered mostly  to the High and the Mighty whom he served.

Trump is a different kind of con-man; he serves no one but himself. No one. The concept of "public service" is anathema to him -- something he makes clear if you cut through his gobbledygook. He's in this for himself alone, period. End of discussion.

OK. So why does that appeal to anyone else? Well, why are gangsters often held in high esteem? Because, at least for those on their side, they hold out a promise of well-being, even prosperity, so long as you don't cross them. In other words, if you're on their side, you'll be OK -- until you aren't.

Gangster rule works, at least it can, but it is also disruptive and destructive of the Established Order.

Gangster rule is a rival and a threat to the Establishment. And the Establishment has to make deals with the Gangsters or be uprooted and destroyed by them. "Deals" are what Trump promises. "Deals".

Hillary offers essentially nothing new at all. She started her campaign with the implied slogan: "No you can't," and she really hasn't budged an inch since then. It's still a "No you can't" campaign, and it's hard to see any resonance among the People. She offers the Rabble nothing but a long-hard slog to gain marginal improvements -- eventually. "Stronger together," indeed, but to what object, when ultimately her message is that "nothing can be done," and "there is no alternative." (h/t Baroness Thatcher, may she burn in Hell.)

Further, Hillary posits that she knows best, and the rest of y'all need to go along with it. It's for your own good after all.

Sigh.

Trump promises to upend and overturn all that, sweep t all away, and in the end rule as a dictator, strongman, gangster. This is the ideal of his class after all. Whether this is the time for that, I can't say, but I was shocked to the bone in 1980 when Reagan won against arguably one of the nation's best presidents -- one who was, however, incapable of controlling the pile on of negative forces that undermined his authority and ability. Reagan just swept all that aside. This is what Trump promises to do as well.

If the status quo doesn't work for the majority -- and arguably it doesn't -- then a quasi or literal revolution is required.

But as I've long maintained, if the Revolution is to come, it will come from the Right.

I didn't think it would be quite as openly gangsterish, but that's what it looks like is in the offing.

Oh boy.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Who Is Scott Adams and Why Does Anybody Listen to Him?

So I've been running across this name "Scott Adams" over and over again in connection with the defense of Trump and his campaign. Adams is mentioned as if he were a guru, a super-knowledgeable man of savvy honesty who finds in Trump what America Needs Now.

Interesting. But who the hell is he, and why does anybody listen to him?

I tracked him down via a link at NC and wandered over to his site wherein his latest cogitation proclaims him not to be a Trump supporter after all, or at least not an enthusiastic one, because he's doing well in his life and therefore rationally, he is -- or at least ought to be -- a Clinton supporter, but when it comes down to it, so he says, it doesn't really matter because in the end, he's fine, just fine, with either one of them in the White House.

Got that?

Oh, and he is the creator of "Dilbert."

I thought his latest cogitation on Trump's "risk assessment" was savvy as heck because it had nothing whatsoever to do with anybody's risk but his own. We learn that in Trump's view the only important interest is that of Himself; what happens to anybody else is solely their problem. Too bad, so sad if things aren't going well for the losers and moochers.

Now if you are seriously contemplating electing someone to the Presidency, you might want someone who at least says and now and then acts as if there were other people in the world for whom they have an interest or concern.

That's not Trump, not by Scott Adams assessment, not by a long shot.

One can and should question or criticize Hillary's sincerity, for it is in my view that of a lawyer working for a client, not that of an activist intent on bettering the lives of anyone but herself and her clientèle. This is pretty straightforward. On the other hand -- and this is where I think it gets important -- she seems to understand that her clients' interests are served better over the long run by relenting somewhat on the squeeze they put on the Lesser People.

Trump has none of that. Even according to one of his chief online defenders, Scott Adams, Guru.

It's all and only about him, all the time. If someone else benefits from his self-absorption, so be it, but their well-being is not his interest or concern.

He's not interested in the public good, he's interested in his good. Solely and entirely. And that's just fine with a large enough segment of the electorate -- including Scott Adams -- that they would seriously consider him for President (or King-Emperor, whatever ... caudillo, Leader, Fuhrer...).

It's all there in Scott Adams' consideration of Trump's "risk assessment."

And Scott Adams, Guru, seems utterly blind to what he's saying. Particularly blind to the fact that his defenses of Trump and denunciations of Clinton are objectively pro-Trump, much as many other internet media political pontificators have been. Even when they profess to be... something else.

Within Trumpism, they see something desirable for them to gain no matter what happens to anyone else, whereas within Clintonism, they see something for them to fear, no matter what happens to anyone else.

How exactly they expect to gain under a Trump regime remains a mystery. Perhaps they believe that by "persuasion" -- a term Scott Adams uses a lot with regard to Trump's abilities -- they, too, can gain riches and power, just as Trump has done.

Of course, as described, Trump's "master persuader" shtick is that of a gangster. He can "make it so" because of the implicit threat that if it is not so, he'll break your legs (metaphorically or literally) or he'll have one of his people do it.  Or he'll ruin you. No doubt at least some of his supporters believe in their own persuasive abilities...

In other words, you exist solely to serve his/their interests. And all this is being normalized during the present Grand Guignol. No one is really questioning it. Not even Herself, Mrs. Clinton.

She doesn't question it in part because these are the people she's serving and would be serving if she is elected to the Presidency.

Both of these candidates primarily represent the interests of a cruel and thieving gang of thug-aristos who happen to run the country in their own interests. Difference is that Trump is one of that thieving gang, where as Herself works for them.

So We, the Rabble really have nothing to choose between in this electoral season.

That will drive down turn out, something that always pleases Party apparatchiks, and that is likely to mean that whoever wins the popular vote will do so by a plurality rather than majority. Those who do vote -- and I'm not sure I will -- for president will be more likely to choose either Johnson or Stein rather than Trump or Hillary than would otherwise be the case, and that vote is likely to be sufficient to deny either of the major candidates a majority. Whatever the case, the candidate who wins will no doubt rule as if with a mandate -- just as Bush-Cheney did.

I've felt all along that the fear of Hillary unleashing nuclear holocaust is exaggerated, just as the belief that Trump wouldn't do so is silly. These things are not decided by presidents alone. There can be no nuclear or other war without the active participation of the military, and the military has its own set of interests and means of persuasion. The lies that got us into the current set of conflicts were generated within a certain faction of the military-surveillance state, one that was given its head under the persuasive power of Cheney, primarily, and with appalling, disastrous, monumentally catastrophic results. Our rulers may be dumb as bags of hammers, but they seem to be able to learn on occasion from their failures. I sincerely doubt they will be getting into something as horrific as the Bush-Cheney regime was allowed to any time soon again.

On the other hand, the fear of nuclear holocaust -- accidental or deliberate -- is real, certainly for anyone of my generation. The risk is as real no matter which of the major candidates is eventually installed in the Big Chair, in part because the act of nuclear war is driven from outside their own power.

Scott Adams' defenses of Trump and denunciations of Clinton seem to be driven by the kind of corporate interest libertarianism that is really unconscious of any interest but self-interest. It's akin to the libertarian motto: 'I demand the liberty to impose my authority on you.' Because Clinton is not all in with that notion, but Trump is, there is fear that if Clinton were elected, she might put some additional curbs on those demands, whereas Trump would make it easier for the impositions of free authority on the Lower Orders. Just so long as it doesn't interfere with his freedom and authority, right?

How this devolves in the end, I dunno. But whatever the case, it's not going to be good for the many, only for a faction of the few.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Censorship

Don't know exactly what's going on, but media documentation of direct action at the pipeline site in North Dakota is being targeted for suppression by law enforcement. There have also been reports of Facebook deleting videos of police action against the demonstrators and media.


Water Protectors Arrested by Militarized Police from Unicorn Riot on Vimeo.

I saw NewsHour's report on the action last night; it was quite a bit better than most mainstream news reports.



Red Warrior Camp maintains a Facebook page and its news is usually better overall. But some of their material has been deleted by Facebook.

Unicorn Riot has done exemplary work, but they have been harassed and arrested.

Sacred Stone Camp is the other primary information source.

It's estimated that 6,000 or more are now gathered to protect the water.

The camps are getting ready to endure through the winter.




Reversals of Fortune

Though I've pretty much boycotted this year's Grand Guignol Political Spectacle, some of the reversals that have taken place and the incidents leading up to them have been kind of interesting.

For example, the Hillary Hysteria over her (apparent) pneumonia seems to have marked a turning point in the presidential campaign. She's back, yes, but seemingly subdued, perhaps even chastened (what? Hillary chastened? Nah!) at being caught out sick as a dog, unable to function at least for a time, and hauled around like a sack of potatoes by her "detail."



Jeeze, bad optics, right? [Note: there aren't actually 3 different angles. It's the same video, three different ways. There's only that one video -- so far -- of her apparent collapse.]

Terrible, really. But only in the sense that the Spectacle was momentarily interfered with. That was not supposed to be seen. At least not yet. Or was it?

Suddenly, there was this "body double" eruption, as if on cue, but no one ever questioned whether the "Hillary" who was unable to walk to her waiting armored car (is that really what she travels in? Whoo.) was the "double." Did it not occur to them, at all, that the incident was staged? Is it that their imaginations fail, or is there a narrative at work, one that requires a "double" for PR purposes only? Ie: when she emerged from Chelsea's $10.5 million pad all cheery and chipper with her hair combed and her face smoothed. That was the double, so goes the widespread rumor. "Proof" of which is all over the InterTubes.

Got to love the InterTubes, no?

I came to think that perhaps the "double" was the "Hillary" waiting for and then tossed into the van because we never saw her face, only the back of her head and her dragging feet. I know enough about movie making to know that they do this kind of thing all the time. It's routine to have a double in distant shots or back of the head shots so that the principal can take care of other scenes or take some time off.

The Internet bought it without a pause. Easily manipulated, aren't they? And then there's the whole lack of critical thinking thing...

The "double" accusation may well be due to something real -- it's been a fairly common practice at high levels of politics for many a long year -- but maybe the "double" doesn't appear where and when most people think.

So there was that.

The diagnosis of pneumonia can't be assessed by us groundlings, though it is certainly plausible. All those saying Nay seem to have no clue about the effects of pneumonia or they're being deliberately obfuscatory, either of which wouldn't surprise me a bit, for lies and cultivated ignorance are both a big part of the Spectacle. Cultivated ignorance and lies asserted with supreme arrogance and authority, let it be said.

Wait. That's the definition of the Trump campaign, no?

Well, think. Is it? Or rather, is it so in contradistinction to the Hillary campaign?

Ah. They both do it, in other words, perhaps Trump more assertively than Herself, but she's no slouch in the cultivation of ignorance and the propounding of lies department. They do it differently -- Trump all bluster and bullying, She-Demon (so Hillary has long been characterized by the Internet) does it through legalistic mumbo-jumbo and parsing.

Oh, the Parsing! Ah, the Clintons are back, aren't they?

Hillary talks like a lawyer and parses like a lawyer, lies like a lawyer and relies on the rubes' ignorance of the facts like a lawyer. It's pretty obvious to any of us who are familiar with the customs and culture of the Legal Profession. She's just carrying out her duties to her clients...

He, on the other hand, Trump "has no filter," and just says whatever pops into his coiffed and bleached blond head, much of it (most of it?) utterly false. Amusing, but false. No parsing and legalist mumbo-jumbo from Trump, heck no. Just in your face lies and falsehoods.

Wow.

When I see this, I think of him as a representative of his tribe, the ultra rich who actually work for a living rather than living off of inheritance and dividends. Trump isn't Leisure Class, but he is Upper Class, rough-edged nobility in a way. Trump's offspring would be Leisure Class if he'd let them, but it seems he forces them to work for him, just like all his other dependent employees.

These people are, as a rule (in my personal experience) mean, expolitative, deceptive, cruel, destructive, unrepentant, bullying, thieves, liars and con-(wo)men. It's a whole subculture at the top of the pyramid, one that is largely responsible for the economic and political mess we've been in for so long now. They are surprisingly successful agents of Chaos, and they are as American as apple pie.

You can trace the ilk back to the beginning of European -- ie: British -- settlement on this continent.

And you can trace it back in Britain for many a long year before their American Imperial Adventure. There are many similar examples throughout Europe's former aristocracy, and present in its current ever more vicious/Fascistic power-structure.

Hillary and her tribe work for and curries the favor of people like that.

Get the picture?

So we come to the sudden and almost unbelievable reversal of her fortunes subsequent to the 9/11 Incident. Suddenly and inexplicably, the polling reversed, and her trendline started falling, collapsing really, and Trump was declared to be "surging," as only he can.

A repeat of the primaries, no? Where he was thought to have no chance, and one by one, he slew the competition until he was the last man standing and would face off against the Hildabeast, only to slay her too, or so it would seem.

In fact, at the moment Trump is President-presumptive, no need of an "election," just declare him the Victor Over Hitlary and have done with it.

She seems to have retreated into her shell and all but conceded.

Of course there can be and probably will be a couple of more reversals before this thing plays out -- the media need them for the horserace narrative and all -- but if Trump is ultimately to be crowned King-Emperor, this has already been gamed out by the PTB, and his coronation is intended to advance a particular faction's agenda, which they have decided Hillary cannot do, or perhaps has refused to do.

The role of the President, after all, at least in modern times, is to keep the Rabble in line while the real power behind the throne advance their own pecuniary and power interests. Obama was installed obviously because of his ability to hold the Rabble in thrall, even when they fussed and fretted, while the looting and exploitation of same went into hyperdrive. Neither of his presidential opponents had even a tenth of his persuasive ability.

Same thing seems to be going on with this Trump-Hillary contest. He seems to be able to keep enough of the Rabble in thrall (if only by setting loose their worst instincts) while she faces nothing but brick-bats and contempt even if her abilities and policies are, in her masters' view, both better and more useful to their ultimate designs.

If she can't control the Rabble, she can't be president.

Not in this country, not during this era.

If Trump can keep only half the Rabble enthralled, that may be sufficient, since the other half has repeatedly demonstrated that they won't -- can't -- do anything to interfere with the interests of the PTB. Trump will rally his half to cheer on the exploitation and looting by the High  and the Mighty. Hillary can't-won't do that. But she won't interfere with it, either.

She may have a couple more chances to pull this thing out of the fire, but I suspect They have made their decision, and She won't do for the next phase of the neoLibCon adventure in Global Domination. Whereas Trump maybe a loose cannon, at least he's one of the tribe. He can be controlled or eliminated as needed, but he's probably been told what his role will have to be, and he's agreed to it for it will not only make him richer than his wildest dreams, but will give him at least the illusion of infinite power as well. Who could object to that?

On the other hand...

Well, we just don't know, do we?