Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ferguson case is not only about what happened at the car

Yes. I have given Officer Darren Wilson the benefit of the doubt, considered that his version of events may be true. And yes, I did read Darren Wilson's Grand Jury testimony about the killing of unarmed teenager Mike Brown. I read it because I like to read documents first-hand and not have network talking heads or biased prosecutor Bob McCulloch tell me what to think.

Assuming that Wilson's account of events is true, I believe he was afraid when he wrestled in the car with Mike Brown, a young, muscular black male who was 6 ft 4" tall and near 300 pounds. Wilson says Brown was beating him in the face and calling him "a pussy" who wouldn't shoot him. (Manhood on the line there, if Wilson is telling the truth.)

Wilson gives a detailed explanation for why he chose to shoot rather than mace Brown, including that he prefers not to wear a Taser, and he says the teen went after his gun. He also says that Brown made him feel small. When he grabbed Brown's arm, he says he "felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan," page 212 (BTW, Hogan is 6 ft 7). Wilson is 6 ft 4 and about 210 pounds.

Later he describes Brown on page 225 as having a look of intense aggression on his face, "like a demon." And he also says that he believes if Brown hit him again, Brown would kill him. Finally, he shoots twice while the two are at the car, hitting Brown in the hand. Then Brown takes of running, stirring up dust in his wake.


So, as it says in the screenshot above, after Brown takes off, Wilson calls for more police cars and then he takes off after Brown. This is where Wilson's story begins to get shady for me. After thinking about it a while, I believe Wilson, knowing that if he shot Brown to death he would face no penalties whatsoever, pursued the teen. The moment Wilson chased Brown, he had made his decision to shoot to kill. He had already decided that Mike Brown's life didn't matter.

The Michael Brown case is not about what happened at the car


While media outlets have made a big deal about what happened at the car, and indeed it is serious to assault a police officer, the focus on the what happened at the car is a distraction designed to convince everyone that Officer Wilson feared for his life. But the reason the Grand Jury could decide not to indict Officer Wilson rests legally in Missouri's unconstitutional law that gives police officers the right to shoot a fleeing, unarmed felon.

All those documents McCulloch dumped on the jury, dumped with no instruction or recommendation of charges, were provided to overwhelm the jurors' brains, making it easier for them to decide whatever McCulloch wanted them to decide. The center of that big fecal cake, however, is that outdated law.

If you attack a police officer, you are deemed a Class A felon in Missouri. So, if you believe Wilson's story about what happened at the car, then he had a right to pursue and shoot Brown because Brown was a felon based on the officer's say-so. Officer Wilson, and I'm sure every other police officer in Missouri knows that this law will always protect them. It gives them a license to killed unarmed people. All they have to say is, "He attacked me."

In Wilson's case, he took the incident account a step further. He not only said Mike Brown attacked him, but he played into the fear of big black men, dehumanizing Brown, making him sound superhuman, demonic even. (See study that many whites think black people have superhuman powers. Nine of the jurors were white, three were black.) Later when he describes how Mike Brown came at him after the teen had run more than 150 feet away, he uses language that makes Brown sound like a charging bull"
"He turns, and when he looked at me, he made like a grunting, like aggravated sound and he starts, he turns and he's coming back toward me. His first step is coming towards me, he kind of does like a stutter step to start running" (227).

But Mike Brown ran away after the first shots at the car. That's where I see a big hole in Wilson's story. Wilson called for extra police cars, but those cars had not arrived when he chased Mike Brown. When Wilson decided to chase Mike Brown, he knew that Brown was unarmed. The only way Brown posed a threat to Wilson was if Brown were close enough to grab Wilson.

Here are my questions: If Wilson were that afraid of Brown, then how did the officer think he was going to subdue Brown and handcuff him by himself? If he were that afraid of Brown, and since the teen had already allegedly shown he would attack a police officer, then why did Wilson pursue him alone unless he'd already made up his mind to gun him down if the opportunity arose? Do we need a law now that says if you're a little or thin guy with a badge, don't pursue an unarmed person who's bigger than you and who you already know you can't beat in a fight?

So, this is where we are, where I am--Wilson decided before he ever left his car that it was okay to kill Mike Brown because Mike Brown was a big black man. Yes, it's open season on black people in Missouri and much of the rest of the country, too. The Grand Jury's decision made that much clear.




Sunday, November 16, 2014

Nazis Next Door, Gruber, and More USA Secrets (video)


Description:
Because of a legal loophole, some Nazis who came to America after World War II and were kicked out of the country years ago are still receiving government benefits today. Eric Lichtblau, author of “The Nazis Next Door: How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler’s Men” joins to discuss.
This is rather appalling. The United States of America protected and hid Nazis, and Nazis here and now get government handouts. I mean, bona fide white people who also entered the country outside of legal immigration channels and who committed abominable crimes are out there getting free government money. They're out there living off the taxes paid by hard-working Americans! Hmm. Do they vote, too?

Well, I am not surprised. The U.S. government has rarely been transparent in its doings, which is why I think the conservatives who are going on and on about Jonathan Gruber's "stupidity of the American voters" video, one of several, shows that many of them don't seem to get that sleight of hand is not a new thing in Washington D.C. They seem to think it's something the current administration invented under President Obama.

But here's an article at The Upshot that explains why there's nothing shocking about Gruber's video. Nothing at all. Furthermore, given that Gruber's talking about the Affordable Care Act's language cloaking a tax increase, I think the "stupidity of the American voter" is a reference to moderates who don't understand how the ACA works, not those clearly on the Left who wanted a single payer, universal healthcare system. People on the Left are not anti-tax increase. That's a Right wing thing.

And all those objections the Republicans voiced during the crafting of the ACA? That was posturing, red meat to appease the base. Disguising a tax increase is always about appeasing the Right. People who were paying attention, though, understood what was happening, recognized the trade-off. I did at least.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Internal decapitation in real life, atlanto occipital dis-something (Video)



It's in the news again, atlanto occipital disarticulation. However, this time it's being called atlanto occipital dislocation. When I wrote about this way to die in 2010, I did so because the term was used on TNT's Rizzoli & Isles. This times I noticed it because it happened in real life.

Channel 9, serving Lakewood, Colorado, reports that a "Centennial man survived internal decapitation." Last month John Boyer, 25, was ejected from the back seat of his friend's SUV when his friend fell asleep at the wheel and lost control of the vehicle. The SUV jumped the guardrail and flipped over a few times. As a result, Boyer, who was not wearing a seat belt, awoke in the hospital where he was told his skull had separated from his spine. Read more at Channel 9.

This can happen after a severe whiplash, according to a guest doctor on The Doctors, but it's still very rare. Nonetheless, you'll find videos that discuss other cases on YouTube. Rarely do people survive this horrific injury.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Voice: America saves Damien, Pharrell saves Sugar

When America didn't save Sugar Joans (Pharrell's team) on NBC's The Voice, I became concerned that people may not vote for soul singers this year, including the talented Louisiana native Damien (Adam's team). But the votes came through for the natural.



As far as Sugar goes, Pharrell saved her, so cool. But despite being a tad surprised that America didn't, I admit I had some concern for her safety.

She slayed Aretha Franklin's version  of "I Say a Little Prayer for You," but it may have been the wrong song for the show's demographic. That and I think wearing that Pharrellesque hat the week before made her look like the Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz. People may have shied away from her unusual look.

Also, while Pharrell may be trying to bring back the 1960s in music ("Happy") and fashion (He had on love beads, even, and kept talking with his hands together and bowing his head like any minute he was going to say "Namaste."), the old school song he assigned Sugar plus the flower-child styling made her performance look dated.

One more thing, Pharrell may not have noticed, but the voting crowd seems to like a competitor less when a judge makes over her excessively, which he does with Sugar.



All that said, that girl Sugar can sing. But so can her teammate DaNica Shirey, and it's possible the vote was split between the two soulful singers, giving DaNica a slight edge. She sang Joni Mitchell's "Help Me," and really did it well. Of course, Mitchell's lyrics and music are fantastic, too. I'll always love Burt Bacharach and Aretha, but Joni Mitchell's "Help Me" has transferred better across the years than Aretha's arrangement of "Say a Little Prayer."

Shock of the night, Blake said he'd never heard "Help Me" before. Say whaaahhhht!



Some viewers may have been shocked that Elyjuh Rene went home because he did a wonderful job with Sam Smith's "Latch," however, he may have exhorted the audience to support him one too many times, interrupting an otherwise lovely performance with "Come on!" I find that annoying, and maybe other people do, too. I also think people don't vote against braces.



America also saved Anita Antoinette of Jamaica (Gwen's team), who has a really high lovability factor. She performed Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass," with the reggae revved up. But the first person saved on Gwen's team was Taylor John Williams. That did not surprise me at all. That boy has star all over him when he's performing, and he put his own spin on "Stuck in the Middle with You," the Stealers Wheel classic.

Friday, November 7, 2014

"Prison is big business" -- Angela Davis, P.3 Artists, and former prisoners say at Xavier University event (video)

On Tuesday this week, renowned activist Angela Davis, along with other panel members, discussed and presented information on slavery and the prison industrial complex. Davis is introduced at the 53:20 time mark. She opens commending the exhibition on Angola at the Ogden Museum.

One of the reasons we should recognize a connection between slavery and the prison industrial complex, says Ms. Davis, is the evidence that racism is driving the prison industrial complex. Louisiana's prison system reflects this trend which is global. Even in Australia, the Aboriginal people make up a disproportionate percentage of the prisoners. Then she discusses the evolution of the prison industrial system in America.

Saying she did not have time to go into detail about the connection between slavery and the prison system, she recommends the book Texas Tough  by Robert Perkinson. According to Amazon.com, the book is "a sweeping history of American imprisonment from the days of slavery to the present, explains how a plantation-based penal system once dismissed as barbaric became a template for the nation."

But why is it that the United States imprisons more people than any other nation? That's a question to ponder after listening to the video.

She quickly touches Ferguson, Katrina, and disaster capitalism as well. Then she focuses on the capitalization of producing surplus bodies by taking away programs that steer people away from prison and the privatizing public programs, such as public education.

Her most important point, she says, abolishing the prison system and the aftermath of slavery. But don't miss the 30-minute question-and-answer period.

The first half of the video focuses on the Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola. Located on a former plantation and named for an area in Africa from where about half of the nation's slaves came, Angola appears to be trapped in time. A former Confederate major bought the property and turned the slave quarters into prison cells.

So, it seems as though Louisiana whites in power made a statement early about where it intended to put its black population. That's my thought, not theirs explicitly.

One of the speakers, Henry James, is a man who was freed through DNA evidence and advocacy after being wrongfully convicted of rape. He was sentenced to life in prison and served 30 years before the Innocence Project and others proved his innocence.

Former prisoner Carmen Demourelle also spoke. She's a straight-talker.


Xavier University - Slavery: The Prison Industrial Complex from Jason Berry on Vimeo.

Here is the description straight from the video's information text.
    Slavery, The Prison Industrial Complex, a Panel Discussion with P.3 Artists Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick. Xavier University, Qatar Pharmacy Pavilion, Qatar Auditorium, Room 112A & B (1 Drexel Drive)
    Panelists: Angela Davis, Political Activist, Scholar, Author
    Keith Calhoun, Artist
    Chandra McCormick, Artist
    Carmen Demourelle, Former Prisoner
    Henry James, Exonerated Former Prisoner
    Norris Henderson, Former Prisoner, Public Defender, Political Activist
    Moderator: William P. Quigley, Law Professor and Director of the Law Clinic and the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center at Loyola University, New Orleans
    This round-table discussion examines the failed systematic machinery of mass imprisonment and the combined efforts under way to abolish it. The discussion includes prominent activists, artists who have documented the Angola Prison for years, and former prisoners—who provide a first-hand viewpoint. The participants come together to both inform the public and discuss strategies for change while reminding us of the crucial, invigorating and ever-present affinity between activism and art.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Ledisi and Jazmine Sullivan: NPR Field Recordings, NOLA

Thanks to a Facebook friend, I became aware of these NPR Field Recordings filmed in New Orleans during Essence Fest this past summer, Ledisi, a New Orleans native, and Jazmine Sullivan.


Ledisi sing's "Woman" on a French Quarter balcony.



Jazmine Sullivan sings "Stupid Girls."

Friday, October 31, 2014

Marvin Gaye's family wins first round in "Blurred Lines" Case

The judge ruled against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams in this first leg of the "Blurred Lines" case, rejecting the duo's attempt to have the Marvin Gayes family's case thrown out of court.
"Defendants have made a sufficient showing that elements of Blurred Lines may be substantially similar to protected, original elements of Got to Give It Up," Judge John Kronstadt of the US District Court for Central California said."
As a result of the judge's ruling, Thicke and Pharrell will have to face Gaye's family in court. Get out your popcorn, folks.

The judge also ruled that the case against Thicke and Paula Patton may move forward. Gaye's family has charged that the pair stole elements of Gaye's "After the Dance" for its tune "Love After War." I didn't know about that one. Damn, Robin, write your own stuff, please!

Read more at ABC Australia or at the Chicago Tribune, and yes, I'm one of the people who thinks "Blurred Lines" sounds too much like Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give It Up." I also discussed it with a friend of mine, a professional musician and songwriter, and she too said the song's are obviously too close for copyright comfort.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Macy Gray at Tipitina's, great show

On Wednesday, October 22, thanks to a friend with an extra ticket, I got to see Macy Gray at Tipitina's in New Orleans. It's a standing-room-only intimate venue with quite a colorful history, so by the time we walked back to our cars my feet were on fire. But seeing Macy was worth the pain. She is not only talented, but funny and down-to-earth. She's also 6 feet tall in her stocking feet. I didn't know that.

Near the beginning she sang one of my favorite's of hers, "Caligula," as well as some others such as "A Moment to Myself." But she also performed new material: "Bang Bang," for example. Closing with her greatest hit, "I Try," she led the audience in a sing-along, which you'll see in the video. But I'm not sure we needed her to encourage us to sing with her, as you can see.



Macy also told us a funny and creatively embellished story (I'm sure) during the middle of the concert about why she and her band came "all the way from Los Angeles" to New Orleans. Her guitarist, she said, played an instrumental part in their decision. I wish I had recorded it, but one of the reasons they came, other than New Orleanians party and drink a lot, was "the women in New Orleans have the best vaginas in the world." The audience cheered both the drinking and the vaginas.

That statement brought back memories of V-Day 2008 held at the Superdome. Eve Ensler declared then, "New Orleans is the vagina of America!"

Cary Nokey opened for Macy. I was unfamiliar with him, but he is also gifted. He has a great voice, great hair, and he definitely gave the crowd its money's worth in entertainment.