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“Lipstick on a Pig: The LAPD’s Much Improved PR Machine and the Legacy of Saint Bratton”
In January of 2010, a woman came forward and accused LAPD officer James Nichols of rape. According to the LA Times, who broke the story in January of this year, she immediately reported this crime to his supervisor in the narcotics division. Shortly after, another woman did likewise, alleging that the same officer and his partner had forced her to perform oral sex back in 2009.
In the 3 years after both these rapes were reported, these serious accusations went nowhere - except that this department eventually transferred the officers to different precincts, a practice eerily similar to the cover-ups of child molestation by the rightly-maligned Catholic Church. In fact, it wasn’t until one of the victims, so distraught by a lack of progress by this department, filed a civil lawsuit against the officers involved that the LAPD actually took any real interest in the case. To my knowledge, that interest seems to have been limited to spinning what the LA Times reported on the story rather than bringing criminal charges to the DA against two possible serial rapists who may still be on the force today.
But it gets worse. Due to this department - and particularly this Chief’s - continued obeisance to what former Chief Parker called the “thin blue line,” one of the officers involved in both of those crimes, who was never charged by this department or its main benefactor the District Attorney’s office, was later accused of severely beating a bank executive, Brian Mulligan, in May of 2012. This wouldn’t seem out of character for Officer Nichols, a man who apparently sees himself as above the very laws he enforces - and who is encouraged to believe that by this department’s brazen disinterest in public accountability.
Again, however, rather than seriously investigating those accusations, the LAPD made a concerted effort to slander the victim via its cronies at the LA Times, accusing Mulligan of moral turpitude and publicly undermining his credibility by speculating that he was on “bath salts.” As if - even if that were true - it would justify Officer Nichols, an already accused serial rapist, of savagely beating him and holding him hostage in a hotel room. And now, since the LAPD refuses to hold officers like Nichols accountable for their continued, belligerent and criminal behavior over a 5 year period against those they swear an oath to protect, the entire city - all of us - are the subject of a $50 million lawsuit. When the LAPD refuses to hold itself accountable, it’s the rest of us who pay - sometimes with our sense of safety and security, sometimes with our very bodies and lives, and other times, perhaps most often, with our hard earned tax dollars in the form of settlements and verdicts.
There are many more incidents like these that have occurred on Chief Beck’s watch, some made headlines, others did not. From an LAPD drive-by on an unarmed autistic man in Koreatown that Beck deemed an appropriate use of force to allegations against the department of selling specialty SWAT weapons, possibly contravening Federal law, for which the whistleblower has now faced significant retaliation - the culture of the LAPD is insular, racist, violent, and utterly UNCHANGED from its notoriously problematic past. There is an expression for Chief Bratton and Chief Beck’s legacy at the LAPD, and it isn’t “transparency and fairness.” It’s “putting lipstick on a pig.”
And while this Chief struts before cameras after Chris Dorner’s state-sanctioned murder with a carefully coiffed mustache straight off the set of CHiPS and with all his deliberate hollywood pomp and polish talks about “transparency and fairness,” the common theme among all of these stories I’ve mentioned here is a lack of accountability, if not an absolute and steadfast resistance to those ideas. That is the culture of the LAPD. It always has been.
This force, this commission and specifically this criminally complicit Chief Charlie Beck - have proven to this community that they are incapable of transparency, fairness, and accountability. It is laughable that you expect us to entrust you with once again investigating yourselves. It’s clear you are incapable of that, if you’re even truly interested at all.
We deserve better.
World’s 100 richest earned enough in 2012 to end global poverty 4 times over
January 20, 2013
The world’s 100 richest people earned a stunning total of $240 billion in 2012 – enough money to end extreme poverty worldwide four times over, Oxfam has revealed, adding that the global economic crisis is further enriching the super-rich.
“The richest 1 percent has increased its income by 60 percent in the last 20 years with the financial crisis accelerating rather than slowing the process,” while the income of the top 0.01 percent has seen even greater growth, a new Oxfam report said.
For example, the luxury goods market has seen double-digit growth every year since the crisis hit, the report stated. And while the world’s 100 richest people earned $240 billion last year, people in “extreme poverty” lived on less than $1.25 a day.
Oxfam is a leading international philanthropy organization. Its new report, ‘The Cost of Inequality: How Wealth and Income Extremes Hurt us All,’ argues that the extreme concentration of wealth actually hinders the world’s ability to reduce poverty.
The report was published before the World Economic Forum in Davos next week, and calls on world leaders to “end extreme wealth by 2025, and reverse the rapid increase in inequality seen in the majority of countries in the last 20 years.”
Oxfam’s report argues that extreme wealth is unethical, economically inefficient, politically corrosive, socially divisive and environmentally destructive.
The problem is a global one, Oxfam said: “In the UK inequality is rapidly returning to levels not seen since the time of Charles Dickens. In China the top 10 percent now take home nearly 60 percent of the income. Chinese inequality levels are now similar to those in South Africa, which is now the most unequal country on Earth and significantly more [inequality] than at the end of apartheid.”
In the US, the richest 1 percent’s share of income has doubled since 1980 from 10 to 20 percent, according to the report. For the top 0.01 percent, their share of national income quadrupled, reaching levels never seen before.
“We can no longer pretend that the creation of wealth for a few will inevitably benefit the many – too often the reverse is true,” Executive Director of Oxfam International Jeremy Hobbs said.
Hobbs explained that concentration of wealth in the hands of the top few minimizes economic activity, making it harder for others to participate: “From tax havens to weak employment laws, the richest benefit from a global economic system which is rigged in their favor.”
The report highlights that even politics has become controlled by the super-wealthy, which leads to policies “benefitting the richest few and not the poor majority, even in democracies.”
The report proposes a new global deal to world leaders to curb extreme poverty to 1990s levels by:
- closing tax havens, yielding $189bn in additional tax revenues
- reversing regressive forms of taxation
- introducing a global minimum corporation tax rate
- boosting wages proportional to capital returns
- increasing investment in free public services
“It is time our leaders reformed the system so that it works in the interests of the whole of humanity rather than a global elite,” the report said.
The four-day World Economic Forum will be held in Davos starting next Wednesday. World financial leaders will gather for an annual meeting that will focus on reviving the global economy, the eurozone crisis and the conflicts in Syria and Mali.
I wanna point out that I live in Oklahoma, and I can tell you that the reason our levels of poverty did not go up all that much is because WE ARE ALREADY SO FUCKING POOR.
WE ARE SO FUCKED HERE.
And I think it is the same for many of those pale blue states. That graphic represents change. Not actual poverty.
Yeah, great point! The dark blue states are the ones with more than 20% ‘rising poverty’. Many of those pale blue states are already very poor states and their poverty is also still increasing, just not as fast as many of the wealthier states.
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I watched the marathon, 9+ hour Oakland City Council meeting last night - attended by hundreds of well-informed, passionate Oaklanders who stridently covered every single potential concern (and statistical reality) about Bratton and his pernicious brand of penal confinement of already oppressed communities - only to sadly see what so often happens when you work within our wholly corrupt, democratic system: complete obeisance to neoliberal articles of faith by alleged liberal Democrats. If the racist doctrines of conservative-think-tank-conceived “stop and frisk” & unabashedly classist “broken windows” theory can hold sway over politicians in Oakland - the whole country is truly lost.
What happened in Oakland last night was the apotheosis of what Loic Wacquantcalled, “the invisible hand paired with the iron fist,” or, the application of “the dogma of the efficiency of the market to the realm of crime and punishment.” In Prisons of Poverty, Wacquant also notes that this application “has as its mission to bolster the social, racial, and economic order via the punitive regulation of the behaviors of the populations prone to visible and offensive deviance because they are relegated to the bottom of a polarizing class and caste structure.” Basically - if you’re black, brown, or otherwise discomfiting to white, middle class consumers, the prevailing prescription of the state is carceral warehousing and other forms of coercive control and domination. Like “stop and frisk.”
Of course, Bratton himself is a red-herring. These ideas weren’t born solely from his ample forehead as Zeus mythically bore Athena. Instead, they are the product of a slew of unabashed white supremacists like Charles Murray, George Kelling, James Q. Wilson, Lawrence Mead, and were produced in large part by long-deceased (and endlessly discredited) Iran-Contra CIA spymaster William Casey’s think tank the Manhattan Institute and others like the Heritage Foundation, the Adam Smith Institute, the Bradley Foundation, the Institute of Economic Affairs, etc… to spread their unsubstantiated and profit-serving “theory” around the globe. That profiteering charlatans like Bratton and his partners at Kroll (Robert Wasserman and Kelling) have peddled this snake oil so successfully from Boston to Giuliani’s NY to London to Villaraigosa’s LA to Milwaukee to Paris to Baltimore to Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago and now to Quan’s Oakland should be the final proof that the Democratic Party is now, and perhaps always has been, irreconcilable to people who want to see the world outside of a free market framework.
All of this, of course, is only compounded by the repeated allegation that Kroll has succeeded with this “theory” (and their unique ability to implement it through consultancy) by distorting the data they themselves collect (see also: LAPD). As Chief Howard Jordan noted in his own presentation before the City Council last night, “cops count” - which, as echoed recently by LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, is quickly becoming the ironic mantra of the internationally-organized, neoliberal policing strategy campaign he has now allied himself with in Bratton and Kroll. Yes, “cops count,” and when you’re running a quota-guided campaign of repression like “stop and frisk,” the people who tabulate the data probably shouldn’t be trusted with that responsibility, should they?
As a country, we need to take a long, serious look at ourselves and our penchant for “post hoc ergo propter hoc” fallacious zealotry - to divest ourselves of the notion that complex issues like crime and public safety can be solved with simple, single-bullet solutions (which, given the excessive-yet-sanctioned violence of the police - is perhaps a terrible turn of phrase in this case) and to take a little more time out of our day to recognize and appreciate complexity. Broken Windows has never empirically been proven to reduce crime. Data that does demonstrate a correlation between supercop Bratton and crime reduction does not equal causation. Myriad factors should be considered. After all, just because I drink coffee every morning and have never been attacked by a fire-breathing, scaly dragon does not mean that coffee is a magic elixir that prevents dragon attacks.
We need to do better, friends - and it starts with refusing conventional, market wisdom as the basis for everything we do. It starts with understanding that we are fighting not just against a single, isolated and racist cop like William fucking Bratton - but rather a highly coordinated and resurgent system of white supremacy functioning through the retrenched security state that has now gotten its toe hold in beloved Oakland, California. We saw what beautiful, brilliant speeches made before a supposedly sympathetic City Council can do. The vote was 7-1. We saw what packing a meeting, sending up over 250 of the best community orators I’ve every had the pleasure to witness to plead for reason could do. The Oakland City Council could have thrown a crumb to its constituents - it could have voted to exclude the polarizing figure Bratton represents from admittedly needed, OPD restructuring efforts while still enacting all their other misguided, pro-Law & Order measures on their agenda. The forces of neoliberal capitalism, however, wouldn’t even concede that much. Instead, they plowed forward with the politics of fear - steamrolling an intelligent and concerned citizenry, many of whom will now be increasingly in the crosshairs of a further unleashed police force, in their total capitulation to efficiency, force, coercion and control.
I think I saw a glimmer of what needs to be done last night. After @hyphy_republic was forced from the microphone by overbearing pigs doing the council’s bidding, a group of BRLP comrades situated themselves near the microphone to prevent any recurrence of intimidation toward the remaining speakers. They stood resolute before the pigs, ensuring that the rest of the speakers would have the time they needed to say what had to be said. It’s that kind of inter communal self-reliance that needs to be encouraged, not derided as “hooliganism” as the Oakland City Council so often does. It’s that kind of solidarity we need in our communities.
We have a lot of work to do.
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When you think about Aaron Swartz, I want you to think about what it says about “justice” in this country when the plea deal has almost completely replaced a trial as the predominant resolution of criminal prosecutions. A staggering 90% of criminal complaints are resolved through plea deal rather than a free and fair trial. This, of course, also explains why prosecutors boast such striking conviction rates - they never have to prove their cases to begin with. They overwhelm and intimidate, bullying the innocent and the guilty alike in order to prevail without the cost and inconvenience of a trial.
Prosecutors pile on charges because the threat of increased jail time is a great bargaining chip against a defendant in order to resolve matters in a cheap, efficient manner. Not because they pursue justice, but because they pursue cost effective outcomes for an already overburdened court system. Many of you can only imagine how this disproportionately affects the poor and marginalized among us. Some of you are those people and don’t need to imagine this at all.
In the UK, these questionable practices are forbidden:
“Prosecutors should never go ahead with more charges than are necessary just to encourage a defendant to plead guilty to a few. In the same way, they should never go ahead with a more serious charge just to encourage a defendant to plead guilty to a less serious one…”
When I was in court before my trial, I witnessed a particularly distressing lecture from a judge to a public defender. The defendant refused to deal and it clearly upset the pre trial judge.
“May I remind you,” he said to the public defender he had ordered to approach. “You’re job is to make your client aware of the potential consequences of going to trial.”
It was news to me. I thought the job of a public defender was to ensure a defendant’s rights.
After my trial, the prosecution suggested during sentencing that my insouciance in going to trial should be weighed against me. He said that he had made every effort to strike a deal with me but that I was unwilling to listen to reason.
Nevermind that I stood accused of battery on an officer - a charge which was a pure fabrication and which I was compelled to fight on general principle. Nevermind that I continued to express that I would entertain a deal so long as it didn’t include that charge. So rather than take a deal that consisted of pleading guilty to something I didn’t do, I had to fight five charges before me. I like to pretend that I wouldn’t have taken a deal anyway - that I believed justice would prevail on all counts - but I knew better. I just couldn’t bring myself to admit I did something I didn’t do. And the City Attorney decided to make me pay for that.
When you think about Aaron Swartz, a young man.who hung himself after two years of facing trumped up, Federal charges that were clearly meant to elicit a plea - I want you to think about the vast majority, the 90%, who don’t all have his name, wealth, or other available resources. I want you to think about how many people are in jail, not because they are guilty, but because the smart choice often is to take a deal rather than fight for justice. And if that’s true, even in one case, what does that say about justice in this country?
The thing about Aaron Swartz shouldn’t be what a special genius he was - it should be how utterly unremarkable his tragic fate would be if he wasn’t our beloved Aaron Swartz.
Austerity disaster: Sandy victims thrown to lending sharks, privatized relief
January 8, 2013
In a shameless display of putting politics before human needs, Congress began 2013 still scrapping over a $60 billion Hurricane Sandy relief bill fully nine weeks after the disaster hit. And if the Katrina experience is any indication, the bill may not bring adequate relief to struggling and displaced homeowners even when it is finally passed.
The damage wrought by Sandy to New York and New Jersey coastal areas was similar in scale to that to New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Just two weeks after Katrina hit, Congress approved $62.3 billion in emergency appropriations, along with numerous subsequent emergency funding requests to cover the damages, which topped $100 billion. Yet as noted on the Occupy Sandy Facebook page, federal relief funds post-Katrina were gutted in favor of “privatizing and outsourcing relief, making room for predatory lenders, disaster capitalists, and gentrification developers.”
According to a report by Strike Debt, the vast majority of FEMA’s resources and efforts are spent on public assistance programs that provide infrastructure restoration. Individual victims of disaster are for the most part just offered personal loans – loans that have many features of predatory subprime lending.
Disaster victims are now being expected to shoulder relief expenses that used to be shared publicly. Most people believe they are covered by their insurance policies or by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), but many disaster victims have found that their insurance policies include obscure provisions that exclude coverage, and the only aid that FEMA gives to individuals is the opportunity to take on more debt.
It is a failing of our austerity-strapped federal disaster relief system that it can offer little real help to individuals; and it is a failing of our private, for-profit insurance system that the legal duty of management is to extort as much money as possible from customers while returning as little as possible to them, in order to maximize shareholder profits.
Most Sany Victim Are Left Stranded
The report by Strike Debt was based on observations made at a community meeting in Midland Beach, Staten Island, on November 18, 2012, as well as on interviews with FEMA and Small Business Association (SBA) representatives, volunteer workers, local business owners, and residents throughout New York City. According to the report, there are three main sources of financial support being offered to Sandy victims: insurance, grants, and loans. Federal support is available only once private insurance has been exhausted.
For federal aid programs:
* Victims are required to first apply for loans before qualifying to apply for FEMA aid, placing the economic cost of the disaster on the individual victim.
* Aid programs favor those who can take on debt, further exacerbating pre-existing inequalities among residents.
* Federal programs are inflexible and fail to meet even basic individual and community needs.
* Relief options are not clearly communicated or well understood. Policies are so complex that even lawyers are confused.
Except for temporary living costs, FEMA grants are accessible only after the homeowner, renter or business applies for an SBA loan. If the applicant qualifies for a loan, he or she is not likely to be provided further FEMA aid. Disaster loans are made through FEMA on the basis of credit history, and favorable interest rates are available only if the applicant cannot get credit elsewhere. That means favorable interest rates are offered only if an applicant cannot qualify for credit through a commercial bank. When the banks got in trouble themselves, the Fed dropped the Fed funds rate (the rate at which they borrow from each other) to nearly zero. But no such relief is extended to disaster victims.
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