Happy New Year

Best wishes to all of  you, and thanks to your response to my recent fundraiser I am in good shape for the immediate future. I’m anticipating a lot of new things coming up this year, but for now let’s all just stay healthy and snarky. 🙂

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Is the NYPD Making Itself Superfluous?

The New York Times reports that NYPD officers have more or less stopped policing, but there hasn’t been an uptick in crime. Maybe there will be now that the not-policing is in the papers; we’ll see.

In the week since two Brooklyn officers were killed by a man who singled them out for their police uniforms, the number of summonses for minor criminal offenses, as well as those for parking and traffic violations, has decreased by more than 90 percent versus the same week a year earlier, and felony arrests were nearly 40 percent lower, according to Police Department statistics.

The two precincts directly affected by the deaths – the 79th, where Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were killed on Dec. 20, and the 84th, where they were usually assigned – saw a single criminal summons in the week. Officers wrote no parking or traffic tickets. By contrast, the combined tally of criminal summonses alone during the same week last year reached 130. …

… Yet reports of major crimes citywide continued their downward trajectory, falling to 1,813 from 2,127 for the week, a nearly 15 percent drop, according to Police Department statistics.

Which begs the question, is NYC being over-policed? Consider the killing of Eric Garner. Here was a guy selling untaxed cigarettes who was surrounded by, what, five law enforcement agents (?) and manhandled violently enough to result in his death. Couldn’t they have just taken his name and address and issued him a summons?

Maybe a large part of the NYPD should stay off the job a bit longer. We may learn we can do without a lot of them. As Zandar said,

So your brilliant, devious plan is this: you’re going to show the people who believe that the NYPD is full of power-hungry bullies and paramilitary goons what for by displaying to the country exactly how most of the collars you make are in fact wholly unnecessary exercises of petty microagression towards the citizenry you hold in open and rancorous contempt.

Okay then.  Go with that plan, guys.

See also “Crime Has Changed. The NYPD Should Change, Too.” The high crime wave of the 1980s and 1990s is long over. Maybe rigorous policing helped bring it down, and maybe it was getting the lead out. And maybe it was a combination of factors. But it’s time to stop treating NYC like some kind of war zone. It just plain isn’t.

New York Times editorial board:

The list of [police] grievances adds up to very little, unless you look at it through the magnifying lens of resentment fomented by union bosses and right-wing commentators. The falling murder rate, the increased resources for the department, the end of quota-based policing, which the police union despised, the mayor’s commitment to “broken-windows” policing — none of that matters, because many cops have latched on to the narrative that they are hated, with the mayor orchestrating the hate.

It’s a false narrative. Mr. de Blasio was elected by a wide margin on a promise to reform the policing excesses that were found unconstitutional by a federal court. He hired a proven reformer, Mr. Bratton, who had achieved with the Los Angeles Police Department what needs doing in New York. The furor that has gripped the city since the Garner killing has been a complicated mess. But what New Yorkers expect of the Police Department is simple:

1. Don’t violate the Constitution.

2. Don’t kill unarmed people.

To that we can add:

3. Do your jobs. The police are sworn public servants, and refusing to work violates their oath to serve and protect. Mr. Bratton should hold his commanders and supervisors responsible, and turn this insubordination around.

Do read the whole thing. The New York Times editorial board has been outdoing itself on this issue. See also: Police Respect Squandered in Attacks on de Blasio.

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The NYPD Crisis Is Getting Worse

… and it’s the cops who are making it worse. The New York Post reports that Mayor de Blasio was booed and heckled at a police academy graduation by members of the audience.

Joan Walsh writes about New York’s white backlash. I don’t know what percentage of NYC’s white population is backlashing; most white people I know are liberals and are appalled at the way the patrolmen’s union has been behaving. My sense of things is that the city has moved on from the Crown Heights riots of 1991 or the Amadou Diallo shooting of 1999, when opinions tended to divide along racial lines. I think most New Yorkers were ready to end stop-and-frisk, for example.

The insubordination against the Mayor and the Chief of Police is utterly unnecessary and has gotten out of control, and is dangerous to the city and people of New York. The only interests it serves that I can tell are that of right-wing politicians trying to tear down Mayor de Blasio.

Walsh writes,

Although white New Yorkers may still be inclined to give the police the benefit of the doubt – as I saw on my Facebook page this year – the video of Eric Garner being killed has had an effect on their certainty that cops are always the good guys. The murders of officers Ramos and Liu may have changed that, at least temporarily.

But we should also remember that the officers killed were named Ramos and Liu. The NYPD has diversified enormously since my childhood, though its leadership has not. The families of the two dead officers haven’t joined in the denunciations of De Blasio, or the movement against police violence.

And Eric Garner’s family denounced the murders and expressed sympathy for the bereaved on the other side of the thin blue line. His daughter Emerald Garner laid a wreath at the site of the police murders two days later.

“I just had to come out and let their family know that we stand with them, and I’m going to send my prayers and condolences to all the families who are suffering through this tragedy,” she told ABC News. “I was never anti-police. Like I said before, I have family that’s in the NYPD that I’ve grown up around, family reunions and everything so my family you know, we’re not anti-police.”

Any group of people is going to include some hotheads, but as far as I can see the only people in positions of leadership or national prominence who are spouting inflammatory hate speech and stirring up enmity are on the Right.

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Show Me the Rhetoric

A plane was spotted flying over NYC with a trailing message banner saying “De Blasio, Our Backs Have Turned to You.” Hundreds of NYPD officers turned their backs on Mayor de Blasio when he attended the funeral of Officer Rafael Ramos earlier today.

Day before yesterday I encountered a fellow going on and on about how Mayor de Blasio had incited the murders, and I asked him to show me the actual words de Blasio had used to incite murder.  And of course he couldn’t; all I got back was a lot of attitude and bluster.

Per Gawker, according to a statement issued anonymously through the owner of the plane —

“It is our opinion that Mayor de Blasio’s dangerous and irresponsible comments about his and his wife’s concern for their son’s safety at the hands of the NYPD fueled the flames that led to civil unrest, and potentially to the deaths of PO Wenjian Liu and PO Rafael Ramos, as well as the continued threats against NYPD personnel. The Mayor shows us no respect, and encourages the public to follow his lead.”

I believe this is the statement by Mayor de Blasio that the officers found objectionable:

This is profoundly personal for me. I was at the White House the other day, and the president of the United States turned to me, and he met Dante a few months ago, and he said that Dante reminded him of what he looked like as a teenager. And he said, I know you see this crisis through a very personal lens. I said to him I did. Because Chirlane and I have had to talk to Dante for years, about the dangers he may face. A good young man, a law-abiding young man, who would never think to do anything wrong, and yet, because of a history that still hangs over us, the dangers he may face—we’ve had to literally train him, as families have all over this city for decades, in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him.

That’s it? That’s the “inflammatory speech” that went over the line? News flash — even black cops in the NYPD fear the white cops in the NYPD. As BooMan says, “You have to be submental not to understand that a police force that has made it its business to stop and frisk black people just because they are black is going to alarm the parents of a young black man. And that doesn’t even get into the history of using violence against black men and asking questions later.”

The police union started badmouthing Mayor de Blasio back when the city stopped supporting “stop and frisk,” which a  federal judge had ruled unconstitutional and arguably wasn’t reducing crime anyway. Stopping “stop and frisk” was one of the issues de Blasio ran on when he campaigned to be elected mayor, so arguably the people of New York supported stopping it (whether there is polling on this I do not know).

A few days ago Charles Pierce wrote about insubordination in the NYPD and CIA.

For the past two weeks, on two different fronts, we have been confronted with the unpleasant fact that there are people working in the institutions of our self-government who believe themselves not only beyond the control and sanctions of the civil power, but also beyond the control and sanctions of their direct superiors. We also have been confronted with the fact that there are too many people in our political elite who are encouraging this behavior for their own purposes, most of which are cheap and dangerous. In Washington, John Brennan, the head of the CIA, came right up to the edge of insubordination against the president who hired him in the wake of the Senate report on American torture. Meanwhile, in New York, in the aftermath of weeks of protests against the strangulation of Eric Garner by members of the New York Police Department, two patrolmen, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, were murdered in their squad car by a career criminal and apparent maniac named Ismaaiyl Brinsley. In response, and at the encouragement of television hucksters like Joe Scarborough, police union blowhards like Patrick Lynch, political zombies like George Pataki, and comical fascists like Rudolph Giuliani, the NYPD is acting in open rebellion against Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, and the civil power he represents over them. This is an incredibly perilous time for democracy at the most basic levels.

The NYPD need to remember who they work for, and it’s not the police union.

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Stuff to Be Grateful For

I am, of course, grateful for all you readers. But I’m also glad I don’t take investment advice from Glenn Beck or Ron Paul. Dave Weigel writes that the poor saps who bought up gold are watching their investment go down the drain. “Gold reached an all time high price of $1911 per ounce on August 23, 2011, during the debt limit crisis. By election day 2012, gold had fallen to $1777 per ounce. That amount of gold sells, today, for just $1178.”

We were supposed to buy gold so we would be protected when President Obama tanked the economy. Except the economy didn’t tank, and the stock market is soaring. See also Krugman. Beck still has a banner ad for Goldline on his website, I notice.

Meanwhile, we see once again that being a supply-side economist means you’ll never say you’re sorry. No matter what.

Kansas very stupidly re-elected Gov. Sam Brownback in spite of his record, and on December 1 some schmuck named Rex Sinquefield, writing for Forbes, gushed,

In the two years since Kansas’ tax-reform measures went into effect, the promises of Governor Sam Brownback’s administration are becoming a reality. I challenge tax-and-spend naysayers to dispute the following facts:

  • 8,400 seasonally adjusted non-farm jobs have been added since September;
  • Workers saw their earnings grow by 3.3 percent in a year; and
  • The Sunflower State’s unemployment rate is now 4.4 percent, down from 5.2 percent a year ago.

Note the name Rex Sinquefield. Remember to not take investment advice from him, either.  The Kansas City Star reported on December 19:

The new Kansas jobs numbers were released Friday morning, bringing horrible news to state taxpayers and Gov. Sam Brownback.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the total number of nonfarm jobs in Kansas fell by 4,100 in November.

Kansas’ disturbing experience was at odds with how much of the rest of the country did. A total of 37 other states gained in employment in November, while only 13 others, including Kansas, dropped.

What Sinquefield failed to mention was that his numbers came from a brief hiring blip in October. In fact, the economy of Kansas is in even worse shape than was known on election day. Brownback is proposing even more draconian budget cuts and wants to raid pension money to make up the difference.

The supply-siders are struggling to put lipstick on the Kansas pig, saying that Brownback’s mistake was that he did too much too soon. All that supply-siding has to be more gradual.  Yeah, that’s it.

So, be grateful you are not Sam Brownback.

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Hodie Christus Natus Est (Palestrina)

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Hodie Christus Natus Est

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On Crime, Crazy and Culture

From the New York Times:

In a recent paper on gun violence and mental illness (also discussed at Op-Talk last week), Dr. Metzl and Kenneth T. MacLeish write that in the 1960s and ’70s, “when the potential assailants of a crime were Black, U.S. psychiatric and popular culture frequently blamed ‘Black culture’ or Black activist politics — not individual, disordered brains — for the threats such men were imagined to pose.”

When crimes are committed by white shooters, Dr. Metzl told Op-Talk, “there is a prevailing cultural narrative that tries to localize the question of what caused this or what is to blame to the pathologies of an individual white brain.” After the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, “there was a push to talk about Adam Lanza’s brain and his DNA, and talk about it in terms of individual mental illness.” But in the case of a black shooter, some in America have shown a tendency toward “defining black crime more broadly in terms of black culture,” a tendency he sees in recent rhetoric “that links this individual and by all accounts senseless crime, and a crime that wasn’t supported by any of the main political protest movements, to those very protest movements.”

Remember the Isla Vista shootings? Remember how quickly the entire Right absolved male entitlement and pickup culture and chose to say Elliot Rodger was just mentally ill?

But when a violent black man with a long criminal record randomly murders two police officers, it’s the fault of protests. Or black culture. Or anything but the mental state of that one man.

The problem here is that it’s not an either-or. Someone driven to extreme actions probably is in some extreme mental state. But which state? The only “excuse” in my book is out-and-out psychosis. I realized last spring that the people claiming Elliot Rodger was just “mentally ill” had no grasp of what psychosis is. Psychotics don’t just believe things that are odd or not mainstream; they believe things that are utterly nonsensical — Algebra is a green octopus. Your aura is eating my head. That kind of thing.  Here’s a good description of what psychosis is like.

However, it’s also the case that people who are angry or agitated or spoiling to do something awful might seize on issues in the news and weave them into their personal myths. The NY Times article continues,

Mr. Brinsley did apparently make Instagram posts referring to Michael Brown and Eric Garner. However, said Dr. Metzl, “there is often some sort of political connection to senseless crimes, at least in the narratives of the people who try to justify their senseless acts.”

“People who might be at risk or imbalanced in some way certainly coopt these messages and take them on as their own personal rhetoric to commit violence,” he explained. “But to me it’s a mistake to take that connection literally and to say that that is a reflection of the protest movement itself, when clearly what’s happening is a very pathological use of that language for a very different set of means and ends.”

People who are not psychotic but who are prone to anger or fear and harbor a desire to harm others can be pushed into violent acts by inflammatory rhetoric or by soaking in a hateful culture. Such a person might be driven to kill women (and men who love them) or Jews or Sikhs mistaken for Muslims.  That’s why inflammatory and hateful rhetoric is irresponsible, especially coming from public officials or people in media. If someone like Bill O’Reilly goes on and on for years demonizing and reviling someone like Dr. George Tiller, it’s almost inevitable that someone will, sooner or later, act on that rhetoric and murder George Tiller. It’s a wonder it didn’t happen sooner, in fact.

So, Mayor de Blasio has responsibly called for everyone to chill and to pause protests for a few days.

In his first extensive remarks since the killing, Mayor Bill de Blasio called Monday for a pause in protests over police conduct as he faced a widening rift with those in a grieving force who accuse him of creating a climate of mistrust that contributed to the execution of two officers. He called for “everyone to put aside political debates, put aside protests, put aside all of the things that we will talk about in all due time.”

“We are working toward a day where we can achieve greater harmony toward policing and community,” he said later. De Blasio had earlier met with the officers’ families and later noted, “There’s a lot of pain.”

Meanwhile, Patrick Lynch, head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association of the NYPD — the police union, in other words — has ramped up the hate speech. He has fanned resentment among the NYPD that they are being protested at all, blames City Hall for being against police, and has asked that the Mayor be banned from attending the funerals of slain officers. I don’t even want to know what’s going on on Fox News.

People are still posting obviously doctored videos that allegedly show recent protesters calling for the death of cops, because they so much want to believe that’s true. They want to make it an either-or. They want the cops to be blameless and all the fault placed elsewhere. It’s not that simple.

But, seriously, from what I can see there is not a proportional amount of hate speech coming from both sides, especially from officials and media figures. Individuals, no doubt. You’ll find people saying intemperate things across the spectrum, I’m sure. But among people in prominent positions or in media, it’s not equal at all. Is it?

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Fundraiser Time

I hate to rattle the tin cup again, but my recent trip out of state to be with family after the loss of my brother to pancreatic cancer left me short the rent money. I really don’t want to get behind. I just can’t bear having a pissed-off landlord right now. Any help will be appreciated.

If the “donate” button above doesn’t work for you, try this one:

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The Drawing of the Lines

The degree to which the Right is hysterically attacking Mayor Bill de Blasio over the murder of two New York policemen is either the measure of knee-jerk right-wing racism or knee-jerk right-wing animus toward anything they label “Left,” or both.

For example, Bill O’Reilly is calling Mayor de Blasio a “villain” who must resign. Let us not forget that this is the same Bill O’Reilly who helped incite the murder of Dr. George Tiller. O’Reilly has never taken responsibility or expressed remorse about Dr. Tiller’s murder, I don’t believe.

Meanwhile, convicted felon Bernie Kerik says “war is being raged on our homeland.” He also says Eric Garner’s death was Garner’s own fault.

On the other hand, the New York Times has been supportive of the Mayor and the protesters.

I believe I’ve already written that the reactions to police violence have been somewhat different from what they might have been in years past. The wall of white obliviousness doesn’t seem quite so solid, anyway.

It’s still there, though. By now you’ve probably heard about the Fox News Affiliate that was so eager to blame protesters for the murder of the two officers that they doctored a video to claim the crowd was chanting to “kill a cop.” But it was not. And the claim that Mayor de Blasio somehow made inflammatory anti-police statements is just conjured out of thin air. As Michael Tomasky wrote,

I covered New York politics for 15 years, and I saw some awfully tense moments between the police and Democratic politicians. But there has never been anything remotely like the war the cops are waging right now against Mayor Bill de Blasio for the thought crime of saying something that was completely unremarkable and so obviously true that in other contexts we don’t even bat an eye when someone says it. And for that, the mayor has blood on his hands, as Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association head Pat Lynch said Saturday evening after the hideous assassinations of two NYPD officers?

And what did Mayor de Blasio say?

This is profoundly personal for me. I was at the White House the other day, and the president of the United States turned to me, and he met Dante a few months ago, and he said that Dante reminded him of what he looked like as a teenager. And he said, I know you see this crisis through a very personal lens. I said to him I did. Because Chirlane and I have had to talk to Dante for years, about the dangers he may face. A good young man, a law-abiding young man, who would never think to do anything wrong, and yet, because of a history that still hangs over us, the dangers he may face—we’ve had to literally train him, as families have all over this city for decades, in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him.

And this was bad, because … ? It reminds me of the outrage when the President remarked that if he’d had a son he would have looked like Trayvon Martin. Yes, possibly so. But the way the Right reacted to this innocuous remark was so out of proportion to anything, you’d have thought the President had called for a melanin deficiency tax.

Whatever goes on in rightie heads is utterly alien to me.

But here is where the real lines are drawn. It’s not really between whites and blacks. It’s between the sane and the crazy. And it’s between people who actually want peace and justice and those that just want to politicize and hate and refuse to take responsibility.

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