Five Proposals Local Activists Should Pursue To End Police Misconduct And Militarization After Ferguson

Darren Wilson's "Fractured Orbital Socket"

Darren Wilson’s “Fractured Orbital Socket”

In 1992 I was a small child watching cartoons when Dan Rather suddenly interrupted to alert the country to the riots in LA. At the time I understandably had no concept about what was going on (I was living in Alabama), nor did I have an ability to comprehend what may have caused the uprising. However even then I felt that the response wasn’t entirely irrational. Today we look over the devastation “caused” by people who supposedly lack the moral clarity to “remain civil” in the face of a system that continues to give a full legal endorsement to killings motivated  by white supremacy. Thus it is time to undeniably and defiantly assert that our political and judicial systems remain throughly infested with the virus of racism. However at the same time, recognizing the reality of this problem is an incomplete political awakening. If we truly do not want Michael Brown to have died in vain, it is time to forcefully push for a dramatic re-envisioning of what we desire our Police Departments to look and act like in the years ahead.

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I used to work in the legislative department with the City of Long Beach, a “majority minority” locale with a political system that is structurally biased in favor of the whiter, higher-income suburbs. As a result of this arrangement (and an insanely powerful Police Union), public safety costs continue to fluctuate anywhere between 50 to 75 percent of the annual budget. This figure also does NOT include special allocations for extra (many times federally subsidized) appropriations for materials that the City Council more or less rubber stamps whenever they are put forth for a vote. Whenever this problem of the metastasizing Police budget comes up, labor groups largely defend the costs, as they are cognizant of the politically tenuous place that all public sector workers face in our Prop 13 strapped city. Meanwhile despite or perhaps because of record low crime rates (which I personally believe are achieved via the tried and true practice of “juking” the stats), the white suburbs of Long Beach are more than content with retaining our garrison state at the expense of any other form of community investment.

What I have described above is not in anyway a unique political reality. In fact across the US despite massive cuts to the public sector as a whole, the Police and other “first responders” retain a special ability to grow and solidify their place as the supreme concern for municipal constituencies. In fact in some places, including Ferguson, the Police are helping to assist cash-strapped local governments in collecting revenue through what are essentially regressive forms of taxation against people with no real means to properly defend themselves against this obvious form of discriminatory theft. Additionally with people of color losing their influence as a political block thanks to voter suppression, corruption amongst their local representatives, felony voting rights laws, and gerrymandered districts (etc), there is little hope for the ballot box to act as the ultimate solution to this problem.

You can see the problem of political regulatory capture locally in Long Beach. For example 9th District (and LBPOA endorsed) Councilman Rex Richardson can write & receive praise for a stirring letter relating his own experiences to Michael Brown, that never once mentions the role that the police had in Brown’s death, nor did Richardson offer any substantive reforms to our own very flawed Police Department. Yet that same councilman probably represents the best hope that activists have towards engendering some change for police policies.

So what do we do? Well being an eternal optimist I do see a few major sources for statutory reform to the police that can also function as very good points for political organizing. None of these proposals will end “steroidal over policing” overnight, but I think that effective and well financed campaigns in support of these goals could advance the overall agenda of disarmament, and a re-balancing of community interests over those of the Police Industrial Complex.

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1. Local Hire Provisions For Police Officers

Essentially a law like this would require that police officers who are employed by a particular locality must also be full-time residents of that same place. In a perfect world I would require that Police Officers patrol the same neighborhoods where they live, but as local hire requirements are only tenuously constitutional I’ll settle for a civil service reform that upends the current idiotic system where Police Officers enter a city each day as essentially an occupying force. Bridging the gap between the community and its sworn protectors requires instilling a congenial familiarity that the present tactics of “cruise around in your patrol car until something happens” inherently avoids.

2. Independent And Empowered Civilian Police Review Boards

An elected official whom I used to work with once gave this assessment of Long Beach’s beleaguered citizen review board; “it is toothless and useless”. In my city the Police Department and City Manager cynically use the CPCC process, which according to the City Charter itself has no real punitive power over the cases it examines, to essentially whitewash any investigation into Police misconduct. Every local police authority must have a separate, independently appointed and overseen entity, with actual demonstrative and statutorily defined ways of punishing officers who are found to have abused their power or acted negligently in the field. If Michael Brown’s death has shown us anything it is that the current judicial system makes it next to impossible to even obtain an indictment for an officer because of the way in which the district attorney office and police department rely on each other to work.

3. Statutory Caps On Police Armaments

I saw a tweet (but sadly didn’t screenshot it) from Long Beach Councilman Roberto Uranga in August that expressed some concern over “police militarization”. Frankly I don’t know why every politician in the country, regardless of their ethnic or political background, isn’t jumping on this growing resentment over the Police and their toys. If you are a public cost-cutting   Republican or a Progressive Socialist mad at decreased resources to the poor this is an easy issue to address. Black, brown, and white folks all have their own reasons for getting uncomfortable when we start seeing tanks rolling around in our neighborhoods. That said there is a powerful economic lobby behind this arms race, and the insidious way in which these expenses creep into local budgets rely on continued fear and/or complacency amongst average voters.

So if we are to reverse this trend we need to re-imagine what purpose our Police Departments serve. Are the Police essentially the local military wing of the state, serving the interests of whomever is in charge at the time with some varying degree of restraints depending on the circumstances? That description of our current reality might make people feel uncomfortable to acknowledge, but to blindly assert that people dressed for fighting ISIS exist to “protect and serve” is patently absurd.

Instead let’s take a cue from Firefighters, entities with a shared purpose that has radically changed from their original mission (fighting fires), to a more general raison d’être of responding to medical emergencies. Perhaps our we can require our Police to think less of their job revolving around their weapon, and focus more on their secondary role of being the first responders to incidents of domestic violence, the overuse of drugs and alcohol, and quality of life crimes. Police who see their jobs as “social workers with a badge” are far less likely to kill unarmed civilians, and we can engender this sort of conceptualization for their job ONLY IF their is a political will to do so.

4. Citizen Participation In City Attorney Races

The City of Long Beach has paid millions of dollars to families whom our Police Department improperly killed in the line of duty. We could have paid far less money, but our City Attorney (possibly at the behest of the LBPOA who endorsed him for re-election) decided to litigate instead of settling and admitting liability. And despite a record amount of money spent on this race in 2014, not that many people really seemed to care about who filled this incredibly important position. The result of this complacency should serve as a reminder that community activists, especially those who seek to influence public policy at the local level, of the need to bring a broad awareness of ALL positions of power to the voters in every cycle.

5. Body Cameras

This is the short-term, but potentially very powerful policy solution to this problem of officer-involved violence. Body cameras can be expensive and there is a legitimate privacy concern about creating yet another facet of our surveillance state, but like the effort to tape all police interrogations I can’t see a particularly powerful argument against using technology to force a new degree of openness and transparency between the police and the people they serve. Additionally the Police themselves are protected by these cameras when their actions are being unfairly misconstrued by an understandably upset criminal, and given the free-wheeling way in which Police Departments accept public money for new toys it could be relatively easy to make receiving more funds for men and materials conditional on adopting these devices at large.

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These five proposals are just a sample of the major reforms that are necessary at the local level to prevent another tragic altercation like those between the Police and Mike Brown or Douglas Zerby. None of these proposals will immediately undo the “occupation” mindset of our Police, or stem the racially based fear that allows the political system to uphold this sort of violence against people of color. However with effective, well financed campaigns that address specific fixes like these, we can start the long overdue process of deescalating this war on the poor that has claimed way too many people in the last few years.

On the other hand If we are unwilling to pursue this new course of action, the alternative is to become comfortable with “Fergesons” occurring with an increased regularity and tenacity.


Our Neighbors Without Homes And An Immoral Failure Of Leadership In Long Beach

I see raids like these in the park frequently, especially when a filming project is going on nearby.

I see raids like this in the park frequently, especially when a filming project is going on nearby.

Last night I was walking near Bixby Park when a lady with a shopping cart asked to pet my dogs. I obliged and the lady proceeded to tell me that “I have one of my own, but he’s in ‘doggy jail’ after I got picked up on another unpaid ticket warrant”. I asked her what happened. “LBPD tells us not to sleep on the beach and to go to Rainbow Lagoon, and guess where all my tickets come from”. “Now I have to pay $100 to get him out of there”.

Given the already near-impossible task of raising that $100, I didn’t have the heart to tell her that she could get a ticket for panhandling in this city.

I know about the anti-homeless ticketing policies in Long Beach because I used to be in a position to at least recommend changes to a system that (by any objective view) is unconstitutional, non-sensical, and inhuman.

Forced evictions constitute gross violations of a range of internationally recognized human rights, including the human rights to adequate housing, food, water, health, education, work, security of the person, freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and freedom of movement.

-United Nations Human Rights Commission

A few months ago when I was working for the (now) Mayor of Long Beach, Robert Garcia, I was tasked to investigate the circumstances and policy implications behind an incident involving two volunteers from Mr. Garcia’s Mayoral campaign. These volunteers (who were also constituents of Robert’s city council seat), received tickets for feeding homeless people in a park adjacent to city hall. Specifically they were cited for distributing food without a license to do so; a health and safety measure that on its face is nondiscriminatory, but is being employed in a discriminatory manner (on the basis of wealth). Essentially we had a perfectly fine law, intended to be used to prevent unlicensed restaurants from creating a public health risk, being used instead to constructively evict homeless people from the city. I reported my findings to my Chief of Staff, but changes came to the ordinance in question, nor (to my knowledge) was any substantive change in policy implemented by the City Prosecutor or the LBPD.

With the recent arrest of Arnold Abbott, the 90 year old activist in Ft. Lauderdale who has continued to feed the local homeless population despite a new law restricting such activities, there is now a renewed focus on these pernicious and (frankly) evil laws that exist throughout cities in this county. And indeed even the Federal Government has taken notice of both the reasoning and effects of these local laws. But despite a 2012 Department of Justice Handbook (one that I personally made available to both Garcia and his replacement at District 1) recommending vast changes to ordinances against “illegal camping”, “food distribution”, and “panhandling”, there is little to no political will to change the system in place.

If anything things are getting worse for the homeless both nationwide and specifically inside of Long Beach. Instead of cities investing in a true “housing first” strategy to address the growing problem of extreme poverty in the wake of the financial crisis, city politicians and bureaucrats have largely taken the unbelievably cynical route of justifying massive cuts to social services on the basis of fiscal prudence, while simultaneously increasing anti-homeless citation efforts and building municipal infrastructure in a way to prevent access by the poor.

Politicians do this because they know that the homeless don’t vote, and that the people with property do not want to even see homeless people, much less interact with them in a public restroom, park, or library. Anti-camping laws are used to create uncertainty for the homeless over where they can safely leave their property or sleep. Access to safe restroom facilities and drinkable water are denied after dark or in their entirety (“we’re in a drought after all“). Asking for food or money, (the later of which can be done freely by children or by a charity without cause for worry) becomes “loitering” or “soliciting”, and can be citable by police. All of these offenses can either result in a detention on criminal charges or sizable fines (at a 10% interest rate in California) for the person subjected to them.

In the face of these regulations the message to homeless individuals from the community is abundantly clear: get out.

This sort of detestable treatment exists on a bipartisan basis. Ellen Degeneres donated $10,000 to the Santa Barbra’s Sheriffs office to fund a bicycle unit devoted to handing out these anti-homeless citations. Here in Long Beach the “Friends of the Bixby Park” provided the city with a $30,000 donation to install obnoxious, super-bright LED lights in the park that serve no purpose other than to make the area unusable as a sleeping space for the local homeless population. Friends of Bixby board member Claudia Schou is also on record as opposing the rehabilitation of a restroom in the park because “Most visitors do not use the restroom”. Schou’s claim is both hilariously untrue and demonstrative of her groups intent to create a space that is only accessible to people with a home (facts that make it truly scary how much the group has influenced the voting of 2nd District Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal as of late).

It should be obvious that these anti-homeless policies are; inherently discriminatory, counter to good public health practices, not in anyway fiscally prudent (our jails become de-facto public housing eventually), and exist only because local politicians are almost universally cowards. But the impetus for changing these laws isn’t just coming from activists and annoying bloggers like myself. The courts across the country in both blue and red states, are striking down these measures for a variety of different reasons. Church groups (like the one that reached out to Mayor Garcia) defeated a feeding bans in Dallas on the basis that the law represented an unlawful restriction on religious freedom. The ACLU used a similar tactic to force a Federal Judge to strike down Orlando’s ban. And here in California there is a continued effort to force the state to enact a “Homeless Bill of Rights” after the 9th Circuit went H.A.M. on the City of LA’s violation of homeless property rights and idiotic ban on sleeping in cars.

These cases are litigated by cities at a great expense to tax payers by cities that steadfastly defend these laws. Despite the fact that the ordinances in question plainly violate the US Constitution, the UN Charter on Human Rights, and any sense of common decency, legislators are cognizant about how voters like you and me (i.e. those with roofs over our heads) are uncomfortable co-existing in the same space as the homeless. As a society we want these people to be unseen and unheard, maybe because they disgust us, or perhaps because they serve as a tangible reminder that the only thing separating us from them is a few paychecks.

It is time for this situation to change.

Ending poverty in Long Beach was a central tenant in several of the municipal campaigns that took place in 2014, including that of Robert Garcia- who spoke at length about the difficult situation he faced as a child after his family moved to California from Peru. Providing adequate housing and services for the homeless will be difficult, and requires a long term commitment from our city stakeholders. However our Mayor and City Council have it within their sole discretion, especially with a new police chief, to end these anti-homeless policies and direct our public safety officials to re-engage with this segment of the Long Beach Community in a manner befitting a supposedly enlightened society like ours.

The lady from the park finished petting my dogs and thanked me. I wish I had a few dollars to give her, but sadly I’m unemployed at the moment; partly because I advocated for policies that would have made this woman’s life a little less despondent. I just hope a few moments of scratching my dog’s head made her feel better about sleeping in a city where people have treated her so unkindly.


In Which The LB Post Lauds Sunny Zia For Not Knowing How To Do Her Job

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Amongst the various governmental institutions in the City of Long Beach there is a commonly understood problem with transparency. Former City Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske made “Open Long Beach” the central tenant of her time in public service, as has perennial nutbag Bill Pearl of LB Report. Since re-locating to Long Beach, former LAPD Deputy Chief Steve Downing has carried on an incredibly important effort to force some accountability within our local police force through public records request. And most recently the city worker’s union, IAM 947, won a huge multi-million dollar victory against the City for unilaterally imposing a furlough (without proper negotiations or disclosures) in 2009.

Given this obvious problem with our public sector telling the complete truth to non-governmental stakeholders, you would think that our local news services would be all over this issue with the precision and tenacity of the post-Watergate press corps. Unfortunately you would be horribly mistaken in this assumption:

Last night—for the fourth month in a row—Long Beach City College (LBCC) Trustee Sunny Zia put forth a motion: to have a breakdown of all the expenditures that the board is approving.

Oh my is the LBCC board trying to pull a fast one on the public by hiding spending allocations? Umm not exactly…

Under LBCC’s Board of Trustees’ bylaws, purchase orders that are under $25K do not need to be itemized or elaborated upon; instead, they are grouped together and approved as a single line item. Zia’s issue is the fact that every month, these small purchase orders account for the vast majority of LBCC’s expenditures.

Of this month’s $1.9M in expenditures—which the Board approved last night, with Zia abstaining—$1.6M were unitemized purchase orders—about 80% of the expenditures for the month.

“None of this is itemized,” Zia said at the meeting. “For the past four months, I’ve been asking for this information and these appropriations are being spent. This is something that nobody on this board knows what they are, who this money goes to, what the sources of funds are and what items are being approved. I’ve abstained from voting on it because, frankly put, I need to know what I’m approving. Again, I’ve repeatedly asked for this information and for some reason, it is being kept from us.”

Removing the subtext of this entire article (which is: “Sunny Zia positions herself as a reformer in the hopes of running for city council soon”), the real issue here is that Ms. Zia doesn’t truly understand her position as a part-time trustee.

Simply put, a college trustee at any level is specifically NOT supposed to be making decisions regarding the individual appropriations of how much an institution spends on mechanical pencils or what not. Those sorts of minor judgements are delegated to the management and bureaucracy. This division of power is based on the accepted public interest in having our trustees devoted mainly to making determinations regarding the macro-economic issues and mission of the college. We do NOT want trustees wasting their time on becoming part-time micromanagers. If this sort of limited responsibility doesn’t suite Ms. Zia, she should have sought a different position before deciding to run last year.

Making matters worse in this clusterfuck of a story is the LB Post’s apparent (continued) comfort in re-printing press releases from the people they cover without much in the way of objective critical analysis. Where are the rather obvious questions regarding Zia’s reasons for pursing this particular issue? Where is Zia’s specific evidence of wrongdoing by the board?

To be fair the author did print this quote from Board Chair Jeff Kellogg:

“I gotta tell you, Trustee Zia, when you make an allegation toward me personally as a member of this board in conducting in unethical behavior, I take that very seriously,” Kellogg said. “I am insulted by that kind of comment […]. It is the policy of this board [to not itemize purchase orders under $25K]; it is how we do things. You have said you wanted to do this repeatedly and no other member of the board agrees with you. I gotta tell you, to make allegations of unethical behavior against this board is unfounded, it is inappropriate, and it is absolutely insulting […].”

This should have been the main point of the article. Zia is accusing her colleagues of unethical behavior in an incredibly reckless fashion. She has taken no time to understand either the purpose of her job or the mechanisms available to her to position, and she’s doing seemingly for personal political gain. It would be nice if our local press corps highlighted this obvious fact.


Breitbart Reporter Breaks Shocking News That People Lie On The Internet

 

"You're wearing a striped shirt with a striped tie. You look like a fucking optical illusion. Go away."

“You’re wearing a striped shirt with a striped tie. You look like a fucking optical illusion. Go away.”

Yesterday I had the pleasure of upsetting Breitbart UK’s children’s toy reporter Milo Yiannopoulos, who beset a small army of angry men’s rights dweebs all over my twitter mentions. I barely knew who Yiannopoulos was at the time, and frankly judging from his twitter account he seems like the sort of neo-reactionary fascist that I wouldn’t allow near my dogs. Nevertheless I decided to check out what sort of hot takes come from a man who honestly believes that gaming culture isn’t a cesspool of awful sexism, and what I found was a garbage dump of really terrible opinions.

BEHOLD what people are getting paid to write in 2014:

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Strong start Milo. Great job pissing off the good folks at Disney with your boring/obvious headline. Their lawyers are very understanding about copyright violations.

Everyone dissembles on the internet,

Ahh a man with an online thesaurus. Continue….

whether little white lies on dating sites or whoppers on anonymous forums. The odd harmless bit of embroidery in real life helps to keep conversation sparkling, or avoid awkward moments. But, increasingly, untruths are used online not just as social lubricant, but to fish for sympathy and attention, and even, in some extreme cases, for money. 

This is called Capitalism young Milo. Why do you hate freedom?

In fact, you can make quite the career out of playing the victim online, particularly if you have an ideology to hawk.

You work for Breitbart.

Recently, I’ve been reporting on a controversy in the video games industry known as “GamerGate,” which was kicked off originally by questions surrounding the claims of two feminists whose statements did not, said critics, bear scrutiny.

That’s certainly one way to call the sexist maelstrom that these sad shut-ins have started. I prefer the “Benghazi of the video game world“.

Yet both women raised large amounts of money on the basis of claims they were victimised or harassed. Despite one woman having a long track record of dishonesty, bloggers repeated her claims without question, and she now enjoys a permanent income of over $3,000 a month without even having to get out of bed.

Again she’s living the American dream and is (according to your own characterization) personifying the pure essence of the Randian ethos. Don’t hate the player Milo, hate the game(ers).

And crowdfunding site GoFundMe, a “do it yourself” fundraising site that people use to raise money for anything from school fees to holidays, is becoming saturated with politically-charged entreaties from people who claim that a combination of unfortunate personal circumstances and  “government cuts” have forced them into penury.

Yeah where would people have gotten the crazy idea that governments on both sides of the Atlantic have been engaged in a years-long masochistic orgy of austerity measures?

Sob stories are one of the primary currencies of the internet, because they appeal to kind but credulous people – which, let’s face it, is most of us – because it’s easier to tell lies when you’re not looking your victim in the face, and because nobody wants to be the guy who asks for “proof” of another person’s suffering.

Milo is an entirely reasonable and intelligent man who doesn’t give to animal shelters just because of that Sarah McLachlan commercial. NO he calls up the ASPCA and demands videos of dogs being euthanized before he tosses them a spare pence or two.

Perhaps we should, though

No that sounds like a terrible idea, but go on….

The same instinct that propels us to donate to charity when we see an emotionally manipulative ad on TV is at play online, except, because anyone can now become a charity on behalf of themselves and use social media to promote their cause, space has been opened up for fraudsters, liars and people who perhaps don’t need the money so much as they want attention for their causes or for themselves.

A right-winger who wants legal regulation over the charity industry? Well this is a novel idea.

No longer do people give $500 to scientists curing cancer, or protecting children, once a year.

Probably because they are too busy spending that $500 curing their own cancer or trying to keep their own children alive thanks in part to those savage government cuts you glossed over earlier chief.

(Charities themselves are relaxed about that, because they get so much money from the government these days.)

It’s almost refreshing to see a right-winger who rejects neoliberalism and instead embraces the age old “turn poor people into mulch” ideology.

Instead, ordinary people pepper their lives with little $5 bursts, each time they see a “worthy mission” or suffering person on social media.

When Milo Yiannopoulos plays Minecraft he makes sure that the weak and suffering have their place (under a pile a bricks).

It’s easy to see why. Giving makes us feel good, and in today’s attention-deficit, piecemeal culture, we prefer 100 hits of dopamine and self-righteousness spread throughout the year than we do one big burst of smugness. But it’s one thing to give to a charity or donate to a bike ride or half-marathon in aid of cancer, or sick kids. It’s quite another thing to just hand people money on the basis of implausible stories.

Yes because established charities are paragons of righteousness and ethical financial behavior. Keep racing for the Cure y’all.

Yet people do – so, predictably, unscrupulous sociopaths are taking advantage, because with such ready access to gullible people and payment systems such as PayPal, which make it easy to handle large volumes of small payments, almost anyone can set themselves up as a person in need and start soliciting cash from an online profile.

Damn unscrupulous bastards using GoFundMe to get “training” on how to protect kids in the legal system.

Some profiles don’t ring true, and are fairly obviously fake. Others have a suspicious whiff of politics or ideology about them.

Have beliefs on how a particular policy should be conducted in your society and want funding to make it happen? WELL YOU SHOULD STARVE YOU INSOLENT DEMON FROM HELL.

Still others are probably real, but lay the pathos and political posturing on so thick it can be hard to take them seriously. Take the GoFundMe profile I’m currently reading. The person, a transsexual woman, says she wants money to go back to university. She had a cancer scare (she says she was “diagnosed with cancer” but later admits she doesn’t have it, so presumably this was a slip of the tongue). So did her father and grandmother, at the same time.

Because Milo is a great journalist he doesn’t link to the profile in question, nor does he provide screenshots supporting any of what he is alleging here. So I’m just going to assume that he, like most somewhat sane people, thinks that Justine Tunney is a dolt.

She became “depressed” after reading an article in a newspaper she did not like. She is disabled, and, she says, unable to walk or urinate properly after surgery readers are led to conclude was gender reassignment. “Queer Resistance,” a movement of gay people against government cuts, is heavily plugged in her profile.

Again an even somewhat ethical journalist would ask for a comment from the person he is alleging to be engaged in some sort of low-level scam. But Milo as works for Breitbart, presumably that whole training on “how to properly demonstrate the facts as they exist” was instead replaced by “queer bashing for clicks 101″.

The strategies used by people who want free money from strangers are working. The woman above raised £1,693, £443 more than her target of £1,250. Another woman on the site, who describes herself as a “queer babe,” says her workplace “docked her pay by 50%” for “being disabled.” She raised £2,500.

Both profiles were shot through with sharply-written, politicised complaints about government policy and contained eyebrow-raising claims. But, with the help of a few tweets from well-followed journalists, punters were roped in to helping people on the basis of a few paragraphs of purple prose. The very people who fact-check for a living – reporters – are perhaps the worst offenders when it comes to sharing around pleas for cash.

Again, Milo provides not one scant link or example to support this assertion, so I’ll just assume he’s talking about this plea from fellow conservative journalist Charles C. Johnson:

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 10.47.40 AM

Is it going too far to suggest that many of these identical-looking profiles are somehow co-ordinated, perhaps benefiting people who look very little like the women in the profiles? That’s the subject of a forthcoming investigation by my colleague, Jeremy Wilson.

I’m waiting on pins and needles for this inevitably objective and well sourced piece [12 hour fart noise].

Whatever the truth behind individual online begging bowls, social and financial incentives on the internet run counter to truthfulness and integrity, which explains the explosion of manipulative entreaties in recent years.

Ahh yes because it was dishonest online pleas for hundreds of dollars that brought down the global economy and not a mountain of fraudulent credit default swaps that were enabled by decades of deregulation in the financial sector.

In other words, if you shout loud enough – particularly as a member of a minority, or even just posing as one – you can garner sympathy, attention and hard cash. And you do even better if you fabricate or ham up abuse, harassment and threats you supposedly received. Not quite the brave new online world we were promised, is it?

Milo Yiannopoulos wears slip-on clown shoes (made by Gucci) because he obviously can’t be trusted to tie his own.


“America’s Team”

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One of the interesting unintended consequences of the aftermath from the Mike Brown shooting has been the rest of the country bearing witness to the rather strident racism within the St. Louis area. There is a degree of surprise in the tone of those outsiders covering this story, in that a city that isn’t immediately associated with a racist past can exhibit such ferocious displays of white supremacy, especially in 2014. As someone who lived their briefly not too long ago, I have a different perspective on the the city and I believe that the topic is worthy of some elaboration.

I’ve frequently said it before (and it’s important to mention that the following statements are based on anecdotal evidence) but St. Louis was BY FAR the most racist city I have ever lived in. I have resided in places with obvious and well-documented periods of racial discord, including Birmingham, Boston, Memphis, and now the LA-area. However I can say definitely that St. Louis-style racism was an entirely different beast all together.

I’ll never forget incidents like a city councilmember from a St. Louis suburb addressing my Boy Scout troop and attempting to convince the children that the beloved Cardinals would be better off moving to the city he represented, Clayton, because “children like you wouldn’t have to come in contact with those dangerous drug-crazed criminals in the inner-city”. When 12 year old me confronted the councilmember with the fact that he represented city built by white flight (and that what he was saying was blatantly racist) he replied “I knew people like you in law school and I hated you”.

There was also the private school system which, because it effectively served almost the entire white-middle class of St. Louis, featured a  application process that rivaled the horribly competitiveness of a professional sports league. Children like me were explicitly warned by members of our community that we better keep our grades up if we wanted to avoid PUBLIC SCHOOL- which were (according to our “racial realist” adult mentors) pretty much indistinguishable from HBO’s “OZ”. My parents still talk about a principal at one St. Louis school who upon meeting them (and seeing that they are both white), praised me and my sister for being from “good genetic stock”.

The reasons for why racism might have pervaded St. Louis without notice have been discussed at length since the Mike Brown incident. Red-linging, white flight, de-facto economic segregation are all very good explanations. However my own theory is that St. Louis, until this year, did not have to come to terms with its racism because unlike Memphis/Boston/Birmingham/etc the city had avoided a nationally broadcast and violent crisis like the one we have seen unfold in Ferguson. As a result the white community that has birthed such racial luminaries like Jim Hoft, the Loesch’s, and Rush fucking Limbaugh could continually convince itself of the post-1954 big lie that racism had been vanquished with Brown v. Board.

Anyways that is just some of the context necessary to see why horrible shit like this keeps happening when fans of America’s team decide to get real.


Today In Post-Racial America

Love how people are still surprised that dumbass cartoons like this can be published in widely circulated newspapers.By3OhtLIMAAD_76

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This sense of surprise is especially hilarious when one considers that awful racist opinions like the ones expressed in this latest edition of TakiMag (aka “Wonkette for upperclass Neo-Nazi’s”) are allowed to be considered a legitimate form of sociological analysis instead of being rightfully dismissed as the insane ramblings of people who should be on Haldol:

Once at Harvard, Obama was instantly recognized as one of the few black students who were on the same cognitive level as the students who got in without affirmative action. (Nationally, the average black who takes the LSAT scores at only the 12th percentile compared to whites.) Obama’s ego blossomed as he became talked about as the First Black President. A classmate who had been in the 1970s rock band the Runaways compared Obama’s new self-image to Joan Jett’s.

“Paleoconservative” is just two dollar term for “white asshole with an entitlement complex”.


Some Context Behind LBFD Chief Mike Duree’s 9/11 Shitstorm

mike-duree

I might be broke and unemployed but even I wouldn’t want to change places with Long Beach Fire Chief Mike Duree right now, as he’s allegedly committed the ultimate sin for his profession and lied about participating in the 9/11 clean-up:

 Long Beach Fire Chief Mike Duree is at the center of a controversy stemming from lies he reportedly told about his role following the 9/11 attacks and the authenticity of a piece of steel he claims came from Ground Zero.

“This was all a miscommunication and I am personally embarrassed and deeply regretful that this is a topic of conversation especially to those who gave their lives in New York, the last thing I would want to do is disrespect that,” Duree said Friday. “As a former active duty Marine, I understand the importance of respect.”

He denies making false statements and instead insists that he was misquoted in a blog post on sail-world.com covering the Heroes Regatta, an event created to honor first responders, including police and firefighters, especially those who gave their lives in New York on Sept. 11, 2001. The regatta was at the Long Beach Yacht Club in May.

According to the blog post, Duree said, “(a)fter 9/11 … we (LBFD) were asked to send a team to help with the search at the World Trade Center. I was part of that team. We spent two weeks there going through the rubble. I was allowed to keep this piece of twisted metal as a remembrance.”

That post has been deleted from Sail World’s website, but I screenshotted the cached version below

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 2.18.26 PM Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 2.18.35 PM

 

In case it isn’t clear, Duree is in trouble for two reasons:

1) Claiming that he and a LBFD team participated in the World Trade Center clean up (which is apparently not the case), and

2) Using an artifact from that disaster as a trophy for this regatta event (i.e. the reason that Sail World was talking to him in the first place).

Duree adamantly denies that he ever represented the piece of metal used for the trophy as an actual piece of steel from Ground Zero and said he was never interviewed by the author, Rick Roberts.

“We did talk throughout the day, but he never said he was talking to me for any sort of story,” Duree said. “And when I did see the article, I asked for a removal or a correction.”

Personally I find it hard to believe that a media-savvy, intelligent professional like Duree (whom for the record I’ve met on several occasions when I worked for the city) really didn’t know about what constitutes an “on the record” interview. Additionally the fact that Duree is just NOW asking for a correction (over four months AFTER the article was originally posted) undercuts his credibility on this issue. Frankly it seems that the Chief was engaging in the time-honored tradition of embellishing ones service record, something that in the military or public safety profession can get you into a world of shit if you’re ever caught.

Duree explained that shortly after the attacks, several firefighters, most with ties to New York including Deputy Chief Rich Brandt, went to help. A month later, a larger group of firefighters, including Duree, went to the site of the attacks and toured Ground Zero and attended funerals. They also presented donations raised locally for the New York first responders, but Duree denies he ever said they were working through The Pile.

The second issue regarding the “trophy” thing is also hard for Duree to deny, particularly as the Sail World folks got a picture of the debris in question:

Alt_HeroesRegatta20140563H

Adding to this already problematic story for Duree is the presence on the LBFD of Brogan Healy, who’s first job out of the Fire Academy was with the NYFD. Healy’s first day on the job was 9/11, and if we’re judging his media skills by this 2002 NY Times article profiling him, he knows how to give a good interview and makes for an excellent spokesman for the “wtf Duree” side of the controversy. And this story is going to continue to grow, especially as national Firefighter blogs continue to spread the rather unseemly details of Duree’s alleged statements and actions.

However as we proceed into this story it’s worth mentioning why Duree would be subject to this attack now, instead of when the article was first published. It is entirely possible that (like most normal people) members of the LBFD at large, including folks like Healy who would be presumably most offended by it, simply don’t take to Sail World dot com on a regular basis. But the fact that Duree has been at the center of controversies over the re-arrangement of Long Beach’s Lifeguards on the new fireboats, the implementation of Rapid Medical Deployment, and host of other cost-cutting measures since 2012, makes one think that the Long Beach Firefighter’s Association is the main driver behind this story. (AS THEY SHOULD BE as a Union representing members in those aforementioned controversies).

Again nothing that has been presented so far effectively contradicts the allegation that Duree lied about his role or is lying about using the artifact as a trophy, but it is also fair to say that the current controversy would not have come to light if Duree (and to an extent Pat West) hadn’t been in such a contentious relationship with the Firefighter’s Union over the past few years.

As a resident of as someone who once worked in a policy position within the City of Long Beach I have to say that this story, while gross, doesn’t amount to grounds for firing Duree. That said these statements from Duree do present serious questions as to his character and veracity of his public testimony going further. In other words, perhaps we should all be a little more hesitant to believe the Chief the next time he says that RMD is working just fine, or similar contentions that require the public to more or less trust in his expert opinion.