Category Archives: riptides

Killed By Police

A week after hundreds of thousands of youth protested the lack of meaningful political action to reduce gun violence, and almost two weeks since the brutal murder of Stephon Clark by Sacramento police for the “crime” of holding up a cell phone in his grandmother’s garden, it is important to remember that  “1 in 13 people killed by guns are killed by police.”

Writing for Counterpunch, John W. Whitehead provides a sobering list of homicidal gun violence perpetrated by those who purport to enforce the rule of law, excerpted below.

Images are from the excellent Artresponders cultural activism collective, whose intermedia project titled Cops, Color and Casualties we will explore in a future DP.

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There are countless incidents that happen every day in which Americans are shot, stripped, searched, choked, beaten and tasered by police for little more than daring to frown, smile, question, or challenge an order.

Growing numbers of unarmed people are being shot and killed for just standing a certain way, or moving a certain way, or holding something—anything—that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or igniting some trigger-centric fear in a police officer’s mind that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety.

With alarming regularity, unarmed men, women, children and even pets are being gunned down by twitchy, hyper-sensitive, easily-spooked police officers who shoot first and ask questions later, and all the government does is shrug and promise to do better.

 

 

Killed for standing in a “shooting stance.” In California, police opened fire on and killed a mentally challenged—unarmed—black man within minutes of arriving on the scene, allegedly because he removed a vape smoking device from his pocket and took a “shooting stance.”

Killed for holding a cell phone. Police in Arizona shot a man who was running away from U.S. Marshals after he refused to drop an object that turned out to be a cellphone. Similarly, police in Sacramento fired 20 shots at an unarmed, 22-year-old black man who was standing in his grandparents’ backyard after mistaking his cellphone for a gun.

Killed for carrying a baseball bat. Responding to a domestic disturbance call, Chicago police shot and killed 19-year-old college student Quintonio LeGrier who had reportedly been experiencing mental health problems and was carrying a baseball bat around the apartment where he and his father lived.

Killed for opening the front door. Bettie Jones, who lived on the floor below LeGrier, was also fatally shot—this time, accidentally—when she attempted to open the front door for police.

 

 

Killed for running towards police with a metal spoon. In Alabama, police shot and killed a 50-year-old man who reportedly charged a police officer while holding “a large metal spoon in a threatening manner.”

Killed for running while holding a tree branch. Georgia police shot and killed a 47-year-old man wearing only shorts and tennis shoes who, when first encountered, was sitting in the woods against a tree, only to start running towards police holding a stick in an “aggressive manner.

Killed for crawling around naked. Atlanta police shot and killed an unarmed man who was reported to have been “acting deranged, knocking on doors, crawling around on the ground naked.” Police fired two shots at the man after he reportedly started running towards them.

Killed for wearing dark pants and a basketball jersey. Donnell Thompson, a mentally disabled 27-year-old described as gentle and shy, was shot and killed after police—searching for a carjacking suspect reportedly wearing similar clothing—encountered him lying motionless in a neighborhood yard. Police “only” opened fire with an M4 rifle after Thompson first failed to respond to their flash bang grenades and then started running after being hit by foam bullets.

Killed for driving while deaf. In North Carolina, a state trooper shot and killed 29-year-old Daniel K. Harris—who was deaf—after Harris initially failed to pull over during a traffic stop.

 

 

Killed for being homeless. Los Angeles police shot an unarmed homeless man after he    failed to stop riding his bicycle and then proceeded to run from police.

Killed for brandishing a shoehorn. John Wrana, a 95-year-old World War II veteran, lived in an assisted living center, used a walker to get around, and was shot and killed by police who mistook the shoehorn in his hand for a 2-foot-long machete and fired multiple beanbag rounds from a shotgun at close range.

Killed for having your car break down on the road. Terence Crutcher, unarmed and black, was shot and killed by Oklahoma police after his car broke down on the side of the road. Crutcher was shot in the back while walking towards his car with his hands up.

Killed for holding a garden hose. California police were ordered to pay $6.5 million after they opened fire on a man holding a garden hose, believing it to be a gun. Douglas Zerby was shot 12 times and pronounced dead on the scene.

 

 

Killed for calling 911. Justine Damond, a 40-year-old yoga instructor, was shot and killed by Minneapolis police, allegedly because they were startled by a loud noise in the vicinity just as she approached their patrol car. Damond, clad in pajamas, had called 911 to report a possible assault in her neighborhood.

Killed for looking for a parking spot. Richard Ferretti, a 52-year-old chef, was shot and killed by Philadelphia policewho had been alerted to investigate a purple Dodge Caravan that was driving “suspiciously” through the neighborhood.

Shot seven times for peeing outdoors. Eighteen-year- old Keivon Young was shot seven times by police from behind while urinating outdoors. Young was just zipping up his pants when he heard a commotion behind him and then found himself struck by a hail of bullets from two undercover cops. Allegedly officers mistook Young—5’4,” 135 lbs., and guilty of nothing more than taking a leak outdoors—for a 6’ tall, 200 lb. murder suspect whom they later apprehended. Young was charged with felony resisting arrest and two counts of assaulting a peace officer.

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Finally, from the Sociology Toolbox, four charts that communicate the heart of the story:

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Descent Into Darkness

On this, the fiftieth anniversary of the massacre at My Lai, we turn to historian Howard Jones, with an excerpt from My Lai: Vietnam, 1968, and the Descent into Darkness. Jones places the massacre in the context of American exceptionalism: our exceptional disposition towards atrocity. The second image is a 1968 assemblage with skulls titled My Lai, by Hans Burkhardt.

 

A VERITABLE SYSTEM OF SUFFERING

 

 

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We also urge consideration of an exceptional film, The Sound of the Violin in My Lai, available in its entirety at the website of the equally as exceptional Madison Quakers.

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Erasure of the Unseen

Now comes the estimable Rebecca Solnit elucidating how degrees of power shape, distort and often obliterate what experiences, and whose experiences, become publicly visible and acknowledged. The entire essay is worth close consideration; a couple of brief excerpts below, with images from the studio of Lesley Dill.

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I ENVY LIGHT

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Though Solnit focuses mostly on sexual abuse of women by more powerful men, we would suggest that the identical dynamic applies to a more distant form of violence. Jill Stauffer, author of Ethical Loneliness: The Injustice of Being Heard, directed us to a remarkable analysis of drone warfare in an essay titled Phenomenology of a Drone Strike, in which Nasser Hussain traces how the military power to obliterate “unseen” civilian bodies becomes inscribed within the perceptual parameters of the weapon itself:

“We have become too accustomed to seeing from the air, which violates all the familiar geometry and perspective of our mundane, grounded vision. The exhilaration of the bird’s-eye view, or the god’s-eye view, so palpable in early accounts of flying, stems from the possibility of outstripping human limitations. But in another respect, aviation is very much tied to the modern mode of seeing, because from the very beginning it has been linked to photographic and cinematographic representation. Shooting a film, or focusing on a target, are not cheap puns, but reminders of a shared genealogical origin. Indeed, this way of looking is so naturalized that we forget that seeing through an aperture produces a particular and partial visual construction.

Aerial vision at once expands the range of view and hones in on a perceived target. But this focus inwards, this claim of precise aim, is not just one among other ways of looking. Rather, the accuracy of the drone’s eye structures more than vision; it shapes the way we think about, talk about, and evaluate a bombing. We focus on the target, the moment of impact. We dispute how contained or collateral the damage was, how many civilians died alongside the chosen target. These questions begin to eclipse all other questions about the global military apparatus that makes the strike possible or about civilian injury that goes beyond body counts.”

EXPLODING WORD HORSE

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“Inequality makes liars of us all.”

 

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A Different Beast Entirely

As promised in an earlier post, we open our ears to the voice of civil rights attorney Michelle Alexander in an excerpt from her devastatingly accurate account of our system of mass incarceration, The New Jim Crow. Images are from the website of the Equal Justice Initiative.

 

 

 

 

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Our question: do we have the courage to face the implications of Alexander’s brilliant stripping away of the disguise?

Below, a link to a video from the Equal Justice Initiative, tracing the passage from slavery to mass incarceration.

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On A Catapult to Infamy

When we published our interview with a real estate entrepreneur named Donald J. Trump on April 1, 2014, during which he described his plans to transform the entire island of Ireland into the world’s largest golf course, we received many emails expressing horror and dismay that such a man might soon walk the Emerald Isle forever, swinging titanium clubs with those miniature hands.

We responded by gently underlining the date of the post, a day when we celebrate the levity of fools, even should they eventually become President. That was our last April 1 offering; we recognized – through Irish fog – that satire could no longer compete with naked reality.

Exhibit DJT: consider the below montage of excerpts from a recent interview between Time magazine and that same individual, in a different suit yet richly endowed with the same toxic persona. Captioned images of his “signature” scrawl, for the most part delivered into the world through the blunt force trauma of a Sharpie, have been added by DP.

BIG JOBS NEED A BIG P.

CAN YOU SURVIVE THE CYCLONE ROLLERCOASTER OF MY SELF?

I WILL MAKE YOU CRY WITH MY WEIRDNESS!

D IS FOR DERELICTION OF DUTY AND DELIVERY OF DEATH.

LOOK AT MY SIGNATURE AND NOT MY HANDS!

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Though corruption and monomania may be endemic in certain circles of the ruling elite, there are countless courageous individuals who fully comprehend their responsibilities to defend the constitution against the impulsive tantrums of an incompetent executive. Today, we single out the Honorable Bob Ferguson, Attorney General for the state of Washington.

Responding to a question put by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now regarding the need for a Special Prosecutor to investigate whether the Trump campaign received any compromising “benefits” from the Russian kleptocracy, Ferguson said:

My goodness. I mean, having the president of the United States fire the FBI director, who was in the middle of an investigation regarding Russian interference related to the president’s key advisers, to take an action like that is, frankly, shocking, from a constitutional sense. And so, what needs to happen is that independent investigation needs to go on. And frankly, a special prosecutor is the path to do it.

I think one key aspect of this that we see from the president is he does these outlandish actions. It’s in an executive order on a Muslim ban or firing the FBIdirector. I think the key to success in taking the president on and restoring the rule of law is put him in a forum that he is, frankly, going to be on the defensive and not as comfortable, and that’s the courtroom. That’s through a special prosecutor. You can’t tweet your way out of an investigation from a special prosecutor. You can’t tweet your way out of a courtroom. What matters there is the Constitution. That’s why I feel so strongly that special independent prosecutor is so badly needed.

Then, later on, regarding the recent executive order to roll back protections of National Monuments:

Donald Trump is the first president since Teddy Roosevelt to take the view that somehow he alone, the president, can roll back these protections for, frankly, some of our most beautiful places that we have in the United States. It’s our view that he’s wrong on the law and is wrong from a policy standpoint, as well. We, of course, are focused on the law. I’ve asked my legal team to go to work on it, because here in Washington state, we have a couple of those national monuments that could fall under the broad interpretation of this executive order that he’s issued. We want to stop that in its tracks.

Once again, to my earlier point, I think, frankly, the way to confront and take on this president is to take him to the courtroom. Right? That is where it’s a level playing field. That’s where the rule of law prevails. And I’m confident that if they go forward with trying to roll back protections for national monuments, they will lose once again in the courts.

From your lips to the ears of many judges, Mr. Ferguson! If, in his shallow twittering and dangerous narcissistic impulses, that existential scrawl identified by the initials DJT refuses to uphold and defend the Constitution that defines the USA as a Republic of Laws and not as a Locker Room of Swinging Ps, then let us build a giant catapult and send him flying towards the infamy that will be his only lasting legacy.

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Lost in Space

As various toxic billionaires continue to fantasize about expanding their contact networks and Twitter feeds into the universe, we turn to a revealing author/reader exchange published in the New York Review of Books. The images, relayed from an exceptional series of paintings by Jeremy Geddes, have been added by DP.

Let’s begin with an excerpt from author/physicist Freeman Dyson, who closes his October, 2016 review essay with the following ecstatic vision of our “escape” from the planetary cage:

When we first read the above, particularly the last paragraph, we thought the former Princeton physicist must be in some sort of perverse competition with Stephen Hawking, the prize being free tickets on the Bezos Express. We filed it away in our ever-expanding Annals of Hubris and Delusion, for future reference.

ASCENT

Thus were we relieved to see a thoughtful response in the most recent NYRB, jointly submitted by the distinguished mathematician Simon Altmann of Oxford; Sa’id Mosteshar from the London Institute of Space Policy and Law; and Alan Smith, from the Mullard Space Science Laboratory:

HYPOSTASIS

THE STREET

We note in particular the astute observation that what earthbound humans think of as “life” may not include whatever other life may exist elsewhere in the cosmos; surface area, starlight and food surely do not exhaust the possible parameters for “life”. While Dyson’s foolish insistence on such narrow requirements are surprising, coming from a scientist of such long and varied experience, his response casts an even dimmer light on the issue of human encroachments elsewhere in the universe:

To construe the issues concisely raised by Altmann, Mosteshar and Smith as “a clash of cultures”, thereby placing himself beyond substantive intellectual engagement, constitutes an astonishing, willful misreading. Yet the dramatic shift in his views regarding human identity at loose in the universe between his original essay and the above response is even more astonishing.

In the original essay, Dyson describes humans as “midwives” and active “creators of a living universe”; highly evolved beings making a conscious science-driven decision to send “Noah’s Arc seeds” into infinity. But in his response to the letter, humans are suddenly reduced to being merely “part of nature”, thus “free to evolve and diversify” — just like a virus or fungus. What’s more, those who voice ethical, environmental or philosophical objections to such a darkly determinist view of human existence clearly do not understand the basic expansionist nature of all life. Fine for gathering taxes and pushing paper, but no room on the Bezos space train for such dolts and ditherers. Oh my….

Finally, while Dyson in all his blustering arrogance hardly warrants analysis of his painfully weak grasp of Shakespeare, he might do well to meditate long and hard upon other words from Twelfth Night, as spoken by the fool, Feste: “Foolery, sir, does walk about the orb like the sun, it shines everywhere.” 

WHITE COSMONAUT


Beauty and Sustainability

Now comes Sandra Lubarsky, Chair of the Department of Sustainable Development at Appalachian State University, with an essay first published in Tikkun magazine in 2011, and excerpted below. The images are from the studio of Gail Boyajian, whose work unabashedly sustains and celebrates the life-affirming exuberance of beauty.

DAWN REFLECTIONS

DUSK REFLECTIONS

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Professor Lubarsky expands on these ideas in a conference lecture that includes a critique of human supremacist aesthetic relativism that results in mindless celebrations of ugliness, as exemplified by the obscene Sugartop condo development excreted by shameless developers upon a once-beautiful Appalachian ridgeline.

EGO DUMP ON DISTANT RIDGE

Returning once more to the words of Sandra Lubarsky:


Surveillance Capitalism

Now comes Shoshana Zuboff with an important essay in the Frankfurter Allgemeine; apparently she concluded that a German readership is more attentive to the profound issues of personal sovereignty and privacy raised by her analysis, excerpted below. The images are from the artist SpY.

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Deeper into the essay:

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And finally, in her closing paragraphs:

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What can we summon as a properly indigant response to those who wish to impose their coup des gens, a vicious assault on self-determination and on freely-expressed subjectivity?

Resist and disrupt the behavioral algorithm.

Refuse “smart” technology.

Strike the data mine. 

We look forward to Zuboff’s book, Master or Slave? The Fight for the Soul of Our Information Civilization, forthcoming in 2017.


Violence of the Incompetent

Our title descends from Isaac Asimov, “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” So it goes with the varied forces of “order” deployed at Standing Rock, and their unhinged use of excessive weapons, better suited to the battlefield. Using such weapons against unarmed, peaceful Water Protectors is both cowardly and criminal.

Consider the violence committed against Sophia Wilansky, a recent college graduate who joined the Water Protectors in expression of her own deeply held conviction that the ongoing exploitation of fossil fuels amounts to wanton ecocide. While exercising her constitutional right to assemble and protect the water supply, Ms. Wilansky was viciously attacked by police with rubber bullets and an explosive concussion grenade, severely injuring her arm.

SOPHIA WILANSKY PRIOR TO HER INJURY AS THE RESULT OF CRIMINAL INCOMPETENCE

SOPHIA WILANSKY PRIOR TO HER INJURY AS THE RESULT OF CRIMINAL INCOMPETENCE

Here is the testimony of volunteer medic Brandi King, who served as an Army medic for eight years, upon witnessing the wounds inflicted upon the young woman:

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The Morton Sheriff Department, compounding the cowardice of using such a weapon against Ms. Wilansky by fabricating a ludicrous explanation from some delusional alternative univese, released the following statement:

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Democracy Now asked Ms. Wilansky’s father, Wayne Wilansky, to respond to such explanations:

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As for the use of water as a weapon deployed in sub-freezing weather conditions, we turn to Angela Bibens, a coordinator with the Water Protector Legal Collective, as quoted in The Los Angeles Times:

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Next comes Jesse Lopez, a surgeon and volunteer medic at Standing Rock, as quoted in The Intercept:

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Such actions constitute a criminal abuse of power; the perpetrators must be held accountable, and brought to justice. Returning to Mr. Wilansky:

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Rage Against the Elites

Among the hundreds of commentaries churning Tuesday’s bitter butter, two stand out for DP consideration, the first from Naomi Klein, with its core argument excerpted below:

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HISTORICAL ROOTS FOR A BLEEDING EDGE PLATFORM COMPANY

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Next we have The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald, in an analysis that echoes his previous dissection of the Brexit “surprise”:

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wake-up