Subscribe via RSS Feed

Trenchant Historical Commentary on Eric Garner’s Murder (II)

[ 17 ] December 7, 2014 |

Thurgoodmarshall1967

Thurgood Marshall:

Although the city instructs its officers that use of a chokehold does not constitute deadly force, since 1975 no less than 16 persons have died following the use of a chokehold by an LAPD police officer. Twelve have been Negro males […]

It is undisputed that chokeholds pose a high and unpredictable risk of serious injury or death. Chokeholds are intended to bring a subject under control by causing pain and rendering him unconscious. Depending on the position of the officer’s arm and the force applied, the victim’s voluntary or involuntary reaction, and his state of health, an officer may inadvertently crush the victim’s larynx, trachea, or hyoid. The result may be death caused by either cardiac arrest or asphyxiation. An LAPD officer described the reaction of a person to being choked as “do[ing] the chicken,” in reference apparently to the reactions of a chicken when its neck is wrung. The victim experiences extreme pain. His face turns blue as he is deprived of oxygen, he goes into spasmodic convulsions, his eyes roll back, his body wriggles, his feet kick up and down, and his arms move about wildly[...]

The training given LAPD officers provides additional revealing evidence of the city’s chokehold policy. Officer Speer testified that in instructing officers concerning the use of force, the LAPD does not distinguish between felony and misdemeanor suspects. Moreover, the officers are taught to maintain the chokehold until the suspect goes limp, despite substantial evidence that the application of a chokehold invariably induces a “flight or flee” syndrome, producing an involuntary struggle by the victim which can easily be misinterpreted by the officer as willful resistance that must be overcome by prolonging the chokehold and increasing the force applied. In addition, officers are instructed that the chokeholds can be safely deployed for up to three or four minutes. Robert Jarvis, the city’s expert who has taught at the Los Angeles Police Academy for the past 12 years, admitted that officers are never told that the bar-arm control can cause death if applied for just two seconds. Of the nine deaths for which evidence was submitted to the District Court, the average duration of the choke where specified was approximately 40 seconds.

Share with Sociable

Officially Sanctioned Hippie Punching

[ 43 ] December 6, 2014 |

Just because you are a police officer doesn’t automatically mean you support the racist killing of black people by your co-workers. There are some Bunny Colvin types out there. Including in St. Louis. But the official disapproval of standing with people fighting against racist law enforcement officials is really strong. In the protests over Eric Garner’s murder going unpunished, a single fire fighter in Providence appeared before the protests in a window and raised his fist in solidarity. This was filmed. He was punished while the firefighters openly mocking the protestors were not. Providence journalist Steve Ahlquist is responsible for the coverage. He’s sad and angry that it led to the punishment of the firefighter.

Commissioner Paré recognized the humanity of the action immediately. It was the sincerity of the gesture and the humanity expressed that made a silhouette with raised fist so dangerous. For the system to work, one side must be strong, powerful and monolithic and the other side must be weak, compliant and diverse. When the strong show tenderness and tolerance or the weak demonstrate strength and solidarity, the system strains to breaking, and punishments must be meted out.

I feel sad that my footage has caused the firefighter censure and official punishment. Commissioner Paré says the firefighter should have remained neutral, but were the disdainful looks or dismissive chuckles of other figures in the windows neutral? Dismissive attitudes also lack neutrality, yet it never occurred to me or the protesters to note such attitudes, because they are common. It seems neutrality is only neutral when it serves those in power.

If in the future I film police officers at protests laughing or taking a dismissive attitude towards the activists, will Commissioner Paré take them to task for their lack of neutrality? Perhaps the police should wear helmets to hide their emotions and mask their humanity. No one can see the tears of a stormtrooper as the trigger is squeezed.

Neutrality über alles.

If this kind of enforced anti-protestor mentality exists among firefighters, imagine the peer pressure among the police.

Share with Sociable

Dead Horses in American History (XV)

[ 26 ] December 6, 2014 |

A reader sent this to me, to which I give thanks.

$(KGrHqV,!pME9o3nVHW3BPib)9ZBuQ~~60_57

This is the cover of the February 12, 1898 issue of Harper’s. Thanks to Google Books, the greatest invention since indoor plumbing. You can buy a print of it here. Or you can buy it and give to me as a gift.

Share with Sociable

The Price of Poverty

[ 108 ] December 6, 2014 |

Being poor is horrible for so many reasons. Among them is that life’s little inconveniences for the non-poor can be utterly devastating. Getting sick and missing a couple of days of work means you can lose your apartment. The car breaking down destroys your life. Linda Tirado, from her new book on living in the New Gilded Age:

It is impossible to be good with money when you don’t have any. Full stop. If I’m saving my spare five bucks a week, in the best-case scenario I will have saved $260 a year. For those of you that think in quarters: $65 per quarter in savings. If you deny yourself even small luxuries, that’s the fortune you’ll amass. Of course you will never manage to actually save it; you’ll get sick at least one day and miss work and dip into it for rent. Gas will spike and you’ll need it to get to work. You’ll get a tear in your work pants that you can’t patch. Something, I guarantee you, will happen in three months.

When I have a few extra dollars to spend, I can’t afford to think about next month—my present day situation is generally too tight to allow me that luxury. I’ve got kids who are interested in their quality of life right now, not 10 years from now.

Here’s the thing: we know the value of money. We work for ours. If we’re at 10 bucks an hour, we earn 83 cents, before taxes, every five minutes. We know exactly what a dollar’s worth; it’s counted in how many more times you have to duck and bend sideways out the drive through window. Or how many floors you can vacuum, or how many boxes you can fill.

It’s impossible to win, unless you are very lucky. For you to start to do better, something has to go right—and stay that way for long enough for you to get on your feet. I’ve done well in years that I had a job I didn’t mind terribly and that paid me well enough to get into an apartment that met all the basic standards. I’ve done less well in years where I didn’t have steady work. The trouble’s been that my luck simply hasn’t held out for long enough; it seems like just when I’ve caught up, something happens to set me back again. I’ve been fortunate enough that it’s rarely compounded, and I’ve stayed at under sea level for short periods instead of long-term. But I’ve stared long-term in the face long enough to have accepted it as a real possibility. It’s only an accident and a period of unemployment away.

Of course, the rich will say that Tirado and others are just lazy. Sure. No one knows work like poor people. Because they do it, and a lot of it, whenever they can.

Share with Sociable

Academic Integrity and Union Busting at the University of Oregon

[ 64 ] December 6, 2014 |

As I discussed awhile ago, the teaching assistants at my alma mater, the University of Oregon, were discussing going on strike over the university’s refusal to provide them paid sick leave. In response, the university threw academic integrity out the window and threatened to allow students to have their current grade be the grade for the course and encouraged professors to give scantron finals. Well, the TAs did go on strike and the university has moved forward with its plans. For one, the university is threatening TAs (or GTFFs as they are called in Eugene) on foreign visas with deportation if they strike. That’s a pretty low blow.

The faculty union has come out in support of their TAs. Here is its statement:

Today, the University of Oregon administration escalated its tactics against the striking graduate employees that will have profoundly negative implications for undergraduates.

The College of Arts and Sciences decreed unilaterally that final examinations and end-of-term assignments will be optional in graduate-assisted courses taught in the Departments of Linguistics, Philosophy, and Ethnic Studies.

If the GTFF strike continues after Dec. 12, the Associate Dean for Humanities in the College of Arts and Sciences will assign all grades in the affected courses, based on only a portion of the graded assignments and tests listed in course syllabi. In the Department of Philosophy, the department head and all graduate instructors have been removed as instructors of record. More departments may suffer a similar fate.

This course of action threatens to damage the mentorship between teachers and students, relations of trust among colleagues, and between the university community and the administration. It also interferes with the ability of teachers to do what they do best: to educate students. This harms students who hoped to improve their grades with end-of-term writing assignments and final examinations.

The apparent goal of this attack is to break the GTFF and not, as the administration insists, to maintain “academic continuity.”

Every effort by faculty members and the university senate to deal with the problem of assigning grades during the strike in a manner that upholds the professional integrity of teachers and the expectations set out in course syllabi has been rejected.

Furthermore, because the administration has declared final examinations to be optional, grades will not have the same value for all students.

Such callous disregard for academic freedom and the welfare of students forces faculty and students between a rock and a hard place. Rather than work with faculty to create meaningful options for grades to be delayed, the administration has chosen to compromise the integrity of undergraduate education at the University of Oregon.

I have a bit more information. I was forwarded an e-mail from the Associate Dean of Humanities, Judith Baskin. At the request of the person who sent it, I have redacted the course name this e-mail applies to. It reads as follows:

Dear Students,

I am responsible for ensuring that you receive a timely grade for
the work you have done in [COURSE NAME].

On the Academic Affairs website
(affairs.uoregon.edu/academic-continuity [1]) the Provost has advised
that students in courses taught or supported by GTFs may be given the
option to forgo the final assignment/exam and take their current grade
in the course.

Please be advised that should the GTFF strike continue to Dec. 12, I
will enter the grade you achieved in [COURSE NAME] up to December 1 as
your approximate grade for Fall term. This grade will be based on the
grading information given to me by your Instructor. If you wish you
may accept this grade as your final grade. In that case, you need
not complete any further work for this course and the grade I entered
will not be altered.

* If this is your preference please send me an email to that effect
(jbaskin@uoregon.edu) by date XXXX. Be sure to include your name,
student number, and the course number and name; you may include your
understanding of what the final grade would be. I regret that,
given the large number of courses with which I am working, I cannot
give you the grade I will be entering at this time but I assure you
that it will be based on the information your Instructor supplied for
work competed as of Dec. 1.

*

* OR

*

* You have the option to complete the final exam / assignment as
described on your course syllabus and/or by your Instructor. You may
submit that work either to the Department of [BLANK] or electronically (if this was your Instructor’s
preference) by the date and time assigned by your Instructor. At such
time as your work is graded, the approximate grade will be replaced by
a grade based on all your course work, including the final
assignment/exam. If you have any questions, please feel to email me
(jbaskin@uoregon.edu) or contact me via Blackboard.

Judith R. Baskin, Philip H. Knight Professor of Humanities

Associate Dean for Humanities, College of Arts and Sciences

So there you have it. “You may include your understanding of what the final grade may be.” Great! Tell me you are getting an A and then I don’t have to bother looking it up. And why even bother taking a final? Just go celebrate the Ducks’ victory at Rennie’s! (a local bar) Now this is some academic integritude!

Share with Sociable

Should the Disruptive Silicon Valley Overlords Be Welcomed?

[ 252 ] December 5, 2014 |

This isn’t the most important topic, but rather than make this point again and again in comments I thought I’d make it here. Before that, read Weigel and Fisher and Heer’s twitter essay. And now, to set up my discussion, the always-smart Pierce:

So, no, contra Chait, and even though the magazine unquestionably has regained a lot of its lost quality, especially in its actual reporting, I think the notion that The New Republic is “an essential foundation of American progressive thought” is a ship that sailed a long time ago. Everybody I know who wrote for him thought Frank Foer was a terrific editor, and I’m sure he’ll land somewhere, as will the enormously gifted writers he seems to have nurtured, if they choose not to play in Hughes’s sandbox. (There cannot be a 2016 presidential campaign without Alec MacGillis. I simply won’t allow it.) I am as sure of that as I am that Chris Hughes is going to make a complete hash of the magazine he bought as a chew toy. At least this form of malpractice will be less likely to kill people in distant lands. I guess there’s that.

I don’t disagree with any of this, precisely. Certainly, if this was The New Republic in 2003 I wouldn’t really care that it was effectively ending; I don’t care about its brand. But, to me, the regained quality of the current publication is more relevant than what it was publishing in the 90s or early 2000s. It’s crucial that of his list of the magazine’s sins, only Jeffrey Rosen’s (utterly disgraceful) Stotomayor hatchet job dates from after 2004. (UPDATE: And, yes, as a commenter rightly points out, the awful treatment of Scott Beauchamp by Foer.)  Rosen is a somewhat special case; while he does some good work, especially recently, he has consciously seen himself as preserving the tradition of Frankfurter and Bickel, which is problematic because this tradition is massively overrated. (My only objection to Robert Cover’s classic summary of Frankfurter is that it’s unfair to Bobby Murcer, who while no Mantle or DiMaggio was an underrated player in the end.) At any rate, while Rosen’s contrarianism was typical of TNR 15 years ago it was an outlier now, and was in remission even in Rosen’s own work.

The issue can be thrown into sharp focus by Freddie deBoer’s outright gleeful response to the coming of the Silicon Valley hatchet men. My question: which, specifically, of Jonathan Cohn, Isaac Chotiner, Julia Ioffe, John Judis, Alec MacGillis, Noam Scheiber, Jason Zengerle, Rebecca Traister, Brian Beutler, Rebecca Leber, Alice Robb, or Danny Vinik were producing a “warmongering racist antileft trashpile?” deBoer surely can’t be making a guilt-by-association with past editors argument, given that he’s directly cashed paychecks from the former TNR editor responsible for promoting The Bell Curve, “No Exit,” and Camille Paglia. The thing is that gutting TNR is not going to affect the people responsible for TNR’s past warmongering and racism in any way. The only Iraq War bootser who’s leaving is Wieseltier, who’s going to be just fine, and whose writing will not be mourned but his back of the book will be. The careers of Andrew Sullivan and Betsy McCaughey and Charles Murray and (the now repentant anyway) Peter Beinart and Mickey Kaus and Robert Kaplan and Marty Peretz and Michael Kinsley and all of the Kagans will proceed as they were. Michael Kelly, as best as this blog can determine, will remain deceased. The only people losing anything year are some talented journalists who have been doing some very impressive work, and readers who seem likely to be losing one of the increasingly small number of spaces that pay for good political writing.

Many commenters seem to be squaring the circle by just assuming that the departed will easily be able to find similarly good jobs that will allow them to do serious work rather than produce clickbait. I hope this is right, but it seems to involve a faith in the meritocracy of the journalistic marketplace better suited to The New Republic circa 1998 than our actually existing world circa 2014. Serious political journalism has generally been a loss leader. For all its sins, I don’t see how turning the magazine into another traffic-chaser under the aegis of a CEO who speaks Meaningless Buzzword and apparently lacks the attention span to read more than 500 words at a time is a good thing.

Share with Sociable

Trenchant Commentary on Eric Garner’s Death

[ 19 ] December 5, 2014 |

Richard Pryor on police killing black people with choke holds.

Share with Sociable

Rolling Stone…

[ 223 ] December 5, 2014 |

Well, this is a problem.

In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced. We were trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault and now regret the decision to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account. We are taking this seriously and apologize to anyone who was affected by the story.

Much remains to play out, but at a minimum it does appear that Rolling Stone failed to conduct due diligence in its reporting. As a few people have noted, given the destructive impact of the “false accusation” narrative on rape victims’ willingness to come forward, it’s absolutely critical that journalistic outlets do their best to nail down the facts.

Share with Sociable

The Kia of the Fighter World

[ 2 ] December 5, 2014 |

My latest at the Diplomat takes a look at the export prospects of the Sino-Pakistani JF-17:

The JF-17, a joint Sino-Pakistani fighter project, is a single engine fighter developed, conceptually, as a modern MiG-21. Given how global fighter fleets have deteriorated since the end of the Cold War, the idea seemed sound; a low-cost fighter that didn’t present major technical challenges, and that could serve as a cheap option for revitalizing many air forces. Like many such low-end projects, however, the “maybe good enough” JF-17 has yet to catch on with defence ministries fixated on prestige and technology.

Recently, however, indications have emerged that a few countries might have an interest.

Off to Brazil this afternoon; blogging will be light, but hopefully not non-existent.

Share with Sociable

Rod Dreher: A Piece of Work

[ 79 ] December 5, 2014 |

This is Roy’s beat, but his rundown didn’t cover Dreher, whose blog I’ve found myself lurking on lately for reasons I can neither explain nor defend.

Dreher starts off sounding more or less sane, decent, and human, calling the non-indictment “deeply, deeply disturbing” and approvingly quoting a Southern Baptist leader that “ it’s high time we start listening to our African American brothers and sisters in this country when they tell us they are experiencing a problem.”

But then…the updates start. “Bobby” whom we are assured is a lawyer, sets him straight (while getting a key point of law wrong), explaining the non-indictment was the proper outcome. This relieves Dreher of the burden of worrying about things like racial injustice and police accountability, allowing him to settle back into his comfort zone of sneering at liberals. Via more missives from “Bobby” we learn that liberals who purport to be troubled by…exactly what Dreher appeared to be troubled by just the other day are nothing but posturing hypocrites because they hold the absurd expectation that police should work to prevent crime while not unnecessarily killing black people, which is apparently a completely unreasonable request. Yoga classes, “SWPL”s, kale, and gentrification all make guest appearances in what Dreher tells his readers is Bobby’s “wisdom.”

Share with Sociable

But Who Moved My Cheese? An Inquiry Into the New Disruptively Proactive Paradigm

[ 73 ] December 5, 2014 |

Well, this is not promising:

The irony is that the end of TNR as we know it comes less than three weeks after the 30-year-old Hughes–who had the good fortune to have been Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard roommate, and helped Zuckerberg launch the social networking behemoth–spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to stage a gala Washington dinner celebrating the magazine’s 100th anniversary. Among the 400 attendees–who supped on “ribbons of beet-cured char,” “beef tenderloin [with] truffled potato crepes” and “apple pecan tart [with] warm bourbon-caramel sauce”–were keynote speaker Bill Clinton, Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. Wynton Marsalis entertained. Vidra also gave a speech, talking mostly about himself, according to one attendee, and, in a brief mention of TNR’s editor, mispronouncing Foer as “foyer”–a gaffe that provoked gasps and laughter.

“That dinner was like the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones,” a TNR veteran told The Daily Beast.

[...]

The friction escalated with the arrival of Vidra, who is said to have complained to Foer that the magazine was boring and that he couldn’t bring himself to read past the first 500 words of an article. According to witnesses, Vidra did little to hide his disrespect for TNR’s tradition of long-form storytelling and rigorous, if occasionally dense, intellectual and political analysis–to say nothing of his lack of interest in the magazine’s distinguished history–at an all-hands meeting in early October.

Presiding at the head of a long conference table, Vidra didn’t acknowledge Foer, who was seated beside him; he didn’t look at him; he didn’t mention him. Instead, as he started to speak, Vidra confided that he liked to stand up and move around the room as he communicated his thoughts, as though he were Steve Jobs unveiling the latest technological marvel. Oddly, he stood up, but he didn’t move.

Vidra spoke in what one witness described as “Silicon Valley jargon,” and, using a tech cliché, declared: “We’re going to break shit”–a vow hardly calculated to ingratiate himself with TNR’s veteran belle-lettrists, who feared that he was threatening the magazine’s destruction. Only a few interns dared to ask questions, which Vidra repeatedly dodged. “The senior people were too shocked to speak,” said a witness. “Jaws were dropping to the floor.” Through it all, Chris Hughes nodded approvingly, an unnerving grin on his face.

To be sure, that meeting was a warning sign. But the manner in which the two technology mavens administered their coup de grâce only two months later has left a bitter taste.

According to informed sources, Hughes and Vidra didn’t bother to inform Foer that he was out of a job. Instead, the editor was placed in the humiliating position of having to phone Hughes to get confirmation after Gawker.com posted an item at 2:35 p.m. reporting the rumor that Bloomberg Media editor Gabriel Snyder, himself a onetime Gawker editor, had been hired as Foer’s replacement. Yes, it’s true, Hughes sheepishly admitted, notwithstanding that he and Vidra had given Foer repeated assurances that his job was safe.

In fairness, I believe them when they say they’re going to “break shit.” Whether anything worthwhile will be built in the place of what was broken is another question. At a minimum, the adaptation-to-the-web issue appears to have been a red herring.

Share with Sociable

How to Celebrate Bhopal

[ 35 ] December 5, 2014 |

If you were prime minister of India, how would you celebrate the 30th anniversary of Bhopal, the worst industrial accident in world history? If you are Narendra Modi, you try to recreate it around your country by eviscerating environmental laws and giving chemical companies open season to pollute and kill.

VAPI, India — Factory owners in this city on the western coast of India have been fuming, railing, and arguing for years against a single troublesome number: the pollution index used by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, which identified Vapi as an area so badly contaminated that any further industrial growth there was banned.

They finally got some good news in early June, about two weeks after Narendra Modi was sworn in as prime minister. The new officials at the ministry told them that the pollution index would be revised — and in the meantime, Vapi’s chemical and pesticide factories were again free to expand, and to snap at China’s share of the global chemical export market.

Rightly so, said Harshad Patel, standing outside the plant where he works. The air had an acrid-sweet smell, and reddish-brown effluent was gushing from a treatment plant down the road at a rate of 55 million gallons a day into the Daman Ganga River, but Mr. Patel looked untroubled. “Clean India is fine — we also like clean India,” he said. “But give us jobs.”

Indian industries have often complained that convoluted environmental regulations are choking off economic growth. As a candidate, Mr. Modi promised to open the floodgates, and he has been true to his word. The new government is moving with remarkable speed to clear away regulatory burdens for industry, the armed forces, mining and power projects.

Not surprisingly, Modi is using the same strategy that U.S. corporations want in our nation–devolution to state regulators:

“We have decided to decentralize decision-making,” Mr. Javadekar said. “Ninety percent of files won’t come to me anymore.”

He said the new government was not phasing out important environmental protections, just “those which, in the name of caring for nature, were stopping progress.”

Environmental activists are alarmed at the plan to devolve power to state regulators, in part because state chief ministers have powerful incentives to support industry. “It would be a rubber stamp, because the chief minister would just call the pollution control guy and say, ‘clear it,’ ” said Jairam Ramesh, who served as environment minister under the previous national government. “In the state, the chief minister is the king, he’s the sultan.”

Bhopal for all!

Share with Sociable
Page 10 of 1,929« First...89101112203040...Last »