22 October 2017

Headline of the Day

Cy Vance Represents Everything Wrong with the Justice System
The Outline
Of course, Paul Blest is referring to Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., not his dad who was secretary of state.

Vance is almost certainly going to be reelected next year, but it now appears that he let the rich and powerful skate in exchange for campaign donations:
If you’re looking for an example of unequal treatment perpetuated in our criminal justice system, you should look no further than the decisions made by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office

Last week, as reports of Harvey Weinstein’s decades of sexual harassment and assault became public, news emerged that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus “Cy” Vance Jr. had declined to prosecute Weinstein in March 2015 for misdemeanor sexual abuse, a charge that carries the maximum of three months in jail or one year’s probation, plus a $500 fine. It was later found that the prosecution was in possession of a recording from a sting operation, including the victim, where Weinstein had admitted he had committed the assault. Still, Vance declined to file the charges. Last week, the International Business Times reported one major conflict of interest regarding the case: Weinstein’s lawyer, David Boies, donated $10,000 to Vance in August 2015, four months after Vance declined to prosecute.

The case is emblematic of Vance’s time in the DA’s office. Throughout his two terms – and he’s likely to win re-election next month – Vance has shied away from prosecuting powerful people like Weinstein, even when the cases are solid, and he’s chosen repeatedly to go after less- influential people when the cases are suspect or the crimes committed didn’t hurt anyone. Beyond Vance’s own office, however, it highlights a more pressing, systemic issue: there are two different justice systems for two different Americas.

The Weinstein decision echoed another one made earlier in Vance’s career as DA, a position he was elected to in 2009. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, was accused in 2011 of sexually assaulting a housekeeper at a hotel in Manhattan. Vance also declined to bring charges in that case. “I look at the DSK case as a paragon,” Vance told the New York Times in a 2013 interview, “because we absolutely believed this poor woman should be believed over this powerful man, and when additional facts came out, we were willing to show them to the defense.” (Those “additional facts,” as Colorlines noted in 2011, didn’t have anything to do with the accuser’s account of her assault at the hands of Strauss-Kahn.)
And then there are Trump kids:
Apart from Vance’s miserable failure at doing either of these things, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. were, similarly to Weinstein, left untouched by Vance in 2012 even after Vance’s major economic crimes division recommended that he should bring charges of felony fraud against them for “misleading prospective buyers of units in the Trump SoHo, a hotel and condo development.” Less than six months later, ProPublica reported, the Trumps’ lawyer had donated and raised over $50,000 for Vance’s re-election. It was only after the ProPublica story came out that Vance — who is running for re-election unopposed — returned the donation. 
The most favorable interpretation is that Vance doesn't want to prosecute rich people because they hire armies of lawyers, but that interpretation seems to be rather naive given the juxtaposition of campaign donations.

I don't think that this is an isolated incident.

21 October 2017

Remember Those Apocryphal Stories of Vietnam Vets Being Spat On?

One Case, and it was a war suppporter
There have been many claims over the years that returning Vietnam vets were spat on by protesters.

It turns out no one had been able to find a single contemporaneous report of this ever happening.

Well, someone has finally found one, only the veterans being spat on were VVAW members protesting the war, and the spitter was a war supporter:
A couple of days ago, the New York Times published an opinion piece by Jerry Lembcke “The Myth of the Spitting Antiwar Protester.” Lembcke wrote a book a few decades ago debunking that myth but it is still going strong… stronger than ever, actually. The trope of “they’re spitting on our veterans” is popular with anti-kneeling fanatics who maintain that athletes who protest during the national anthem are “spitting on the graves” of those who died to defend the flag and the freedom to do as you’re told and stand during the national anthem.

I have always found Lembcke’s argument and evidence compelling but I don’t like to take anything for granted. So I did a little extra digging. Some of that was digging through a stash of old Amex/Canada magazines that I have held onto for 45 years or so. A Vietnam veteran named Al Reynolds wrote an account published in the May-June 1973 issue reporting on the Vietnam Veterans Against the War contingent in the “Home with Honor” parade staged in New York City at the end of March of that year.


So there it is, folks. The making of a myth. An older woman in a fur coat, with carefully teased hair, her face distorted with rage, spitting at Vietnam veterans protesting against the war is transformed into a Legionnaire, with a red face, waiting at the airport gate to spit on returning G.I.s for not winning the war and finally into anti-war “maggots” protesting poor little John Rambo who was just doing what he had to do to win. So where does that leave us in October 2017? My, my, look at all the rhinestone Rambos!
There you have it. One report, and it was a war supporter spitting on veterans who were trying to end the war.

Not exactly what draft-dodger Sylvester Stallone raged about in Rambo.

Vlad, Baby, You Are a Word Class Troll, and I Mean That as a Compliment.

Say what you will, but more than any other world leader, Vladimir Putin is the trolling master:
Russian President Vladimir Putin says that Americans don't show enough respect for President Trump.

"Mr. Trump was elected by the American people. And at least for this reason it is necessary to show respect for him, even if you do not agree with some of his positions," Putin said at the Valdai International Discussion Club when asked what advice he could give his U.S. counterpart, according to state-run Tass Russian News Agency.

Putin said that "disrespect is shown for [Trump]" in the U.S., which he called "regrettable."
Seriously, I am in awe.

Well, played.

Headline of the Day

House (of Representatives) Negroes Rally Against Russia
Black Agenda Report
Today's must read take-down of the Congressional wing of what BAR executive editor Glen Ford calls the, "Black Misleadership Class."

20 October 2017

Headline of the Day

Thanks, Obama: Trump Plans to Make It Easier to Kill Civilians with Drones

True dat.


This SNL sketch is both hilarious and terrifying:

19 October 2017

Live in Obedient Fear, Citizen!

Someone leaked the ICE asset forfeiuture guide to The Intercept, and it is a truly chilling:
An internal handbook obtained by The Intercept provides a rare view into the extensive asset seizure operations of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, an office that trains its agents to meticulously appraise the value of property before taking it.

HSI’s 71-page “Asset Forfeiture Handbook,” dated June 30, 2010, underscores the role seizures play in “helping to fund future law enforcement actions” and covering costs “that HSI would otherwise be unable to fund.” It thus offers an unprecedented window into ICE’s wide-ranging asset forfeiture operations and the premium the agency places on seizing valuable property. Forfeiture proceeds can bolster ICE’s partnerships with local police departments, which are now the subject of heightened debate given the Trump administration’s hard-line immigration agenda.
 We need to change the rules on asset forfeiture, because we have cops engaging in shakedowns

This Is the Stupidest Thing I've Read All Day, including Twitter

There is a happy ending though, because the author of this post on Reddit has finally realized that you don't have to pay to take books out of the library.

How do people not know this?

Admittedly, I live just outside Baltimore City, where the local library is known as the "Enoch Pratt Free Library," which is a bit of a tell, but I am still stunned.

Keith Ellison, Please Resign as Deputy Chair of the Democratic National Committee

I know that you and Tom Perez are supposed to be working together well, but once again, the so called centrists have decided retribution against perceived slights from the left takes precedence.

Just quit. Don't tell Perez why, he doesn't deserve an explanation, and don't discuss it with the press, just leave.

Let the action speak for itself:
A shake-up is underway at the Democratic National Committee as several key longtime officials have lost their posts, exposing a still-raw rift in the party and igniting anger among those in its progressive wing who see retaliation for their opposition to DNC Chairman Tom Perez.

The ousters come ahead of the DNC's first meeting, in Las Vegas, Nevada, since Perez took over as chairman with a pledge this year to unite a party that had become badly divided during the brutal Bernie Sanders-Hillary Clinton 2016 primary race.


The removal and demotion of a handful of veteran operatives stood out, as did what critics charge is the over-representation of Clinton-backed members on the Rules and Bylaws Committee, which helps set the terms for the party's presidential primary, though other Sanders and Ellison backers remain represented.
Those who have been pushed out include:

  • Ray Buckley, the New Hampshire Democratic chairman and longtime DNC official who ran against Perez for chair before backing Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn. Buckley lost his spots on the Executive Committee and DNC Rules Committee.
  • James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute and prominent Sanders backer, is no longer co-chair of the Resolutions Committee and is off the Executive Committee, a spot he has held since 2001.
  • Alice Germond, the party’s longtime former secretary and a vocal Ellison backer, who was removed from her at-large appointment to the DNC.
  • Barbra Casbar Siperstein, who supported Ellison and Buckley, was tossed from the Executive Committee.
The moves exposed a rift in the partnership between Perez and his deputy chair, Ellison, who have publicly broadcast their "bromance" since Perez tapped Ellison for the post in a show of unity after their hard-fought race this year for the party's chairmanship.
It's one thing to make nice for the good of the party, and ignore, among other things, an Islamaphobic whisper campaign during the contest for DNC chair.

It's another thing to stand idly by while these same people continue a vendetta against the liberal wing of the party.

Walk away.  It's time.  Just walk away.

I Did Not Expect This

Warning, graphic video
The officers who brutalized David Dao on a United Airlines flight a few months ago have been fired:
According to the initial police report, Dao was said to have pushed away an officer's arm, causing "the subject to fall, hit, and injure his mouth on the armrest on the other side of the aisle." Another officer corroborated that account, but none of this is visible on the videos passengers posted online.

Thomas Demetrio, Dao's attorney, said video evidence is what doomed the officers.

"Do not state something that is clearly contrary to video viewed by the world," he said in a statement. "Our cell phones are the best deterrent to ensure mistreatment becomes a rarity."

The inspector general inquiry said that officers had "deliberately removed material facts from their reports." Aviation officials fired the security official who had "improperly escalated the incident" as well as an official involved in removing facts from a report on the incident.
You have the constitutional right to tape LEOs in action.  Use it.

As the counselor notes, "Cell phones are the best deterrent to ensure mistreatment becomes a rarity."

This May Be the Worst Thing That I Have Ever Said

We just had a workplace shooting in Maryland and Delaware yesterday.

3 dead and 6 wounded. Just another day at the office.

My wife and I were discussing this as I was getting ready to go to work, and I said, "My advice is always to shoot the boss, not your co-workers."

Sharon,* ever the optimist, asked a very wise question, "How about not shooting anyone."

Without thinking, I replied:
This is America, that's not an option.
That was literally the first thought in my head, like some kind of like a Rorschach test.

That may have been the worst thing that I have ever said in my entire life.

I'm not sure if it reflects poorly on me, on our society, on my understanding of our society, or the universe.

*Love of my life, light of the cosmos, she who must be obeyed, my wife.