A vicious man bites the dust

Edward Koch, onetime mayor of New York City, died today. Heart failure was the putative cause. So, we now know he had a heart, thus debunking rumors to the contrary.

Austerity mongers take note

Some Americans do like to have a capable government on hand

Microsoft and the NYPD

The New York Police Department recently revealed its implementation of a Domain Awareness System it jointly developed with Microsoft. The Press Release states that:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly today announced a new partnership with Microsoft designed to bring the latest crime prevention and counterterrorism technology capabilities to New York City and to law enforcement, public safety, and intelligence agencies worldwide. The NYPD and Microsoft worked together to develop the Domain Awareness System, a sophisticated law enforcement technology solution that aggregates and analyzes existing public safety data streams in real time, providing NYPD investigators and analysts with a comprehensive view of potential threats and criminal activity. For example, analysts are quickly notified of suspicious packages and vehicles and NYPD personnel can actively search for suspects using advanced technologies like smart cameras and license plate readers. The NYPD and Microsoft jointly developed the system by bringing together Microsoft’s technical expertise and technologies with the day-to-day experience and knowledge of NYPD officers. As part of the agreement, the City will receive 30 percent of revenues on Microsoft’s future sales of the Domain Awareness System, which will be used to support innovative and cutting-edge crime-prevention and counter-terrorism programs. The Mayor and Police Commissioner were joined at the announcement in Lower Manhattan at the NYPD’s Lower Manhattan Security Initiative headquarters by Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway, Commissioner of the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications Rahul Merchant and Vice President of Microsoft Americas Services (Ret.) Lieutenant General Mike McDuffie.

Dominique Straus Kahn can’t keep it in his pants

Having escaped from New York with his person intact, although a civil trial remains a real possibility, our hero returned to France only to soon find himself implicated in and briefly imprisoned because of the Carlton Affair:

Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer said it was wrong for his client to be prosecuted for “simple libertine activity” after he was charged with helping to run a prostitution ring last night.

The former head of the International Monetary Fund – who quit his post last year over charges, later dropped, alleging he sexually assaulted a hotel maid in New York – denies a charge of “aggravated procurement in an organised gang”.

Mr Strauss-Kahn was released on a €100,000 (£83,000) bail last night. He is understood to have admitted that he attended orgies in what has been dubbed the “Carlton Affair”, named after the hotel in which the sex parties took place. But Mr Strauss-Kahn maintains that he was unaware prostitutes were involved.

The case also revolves around suspicions that some of his business associates were among those running the ring and were misusing corporate funds while doing so.

A (fictional) Sex Slave

The 1,000,000 Hoodie March and the Occupy Movement

The Occupy Movement has just taken up Trayvon Martin’s cause. Martin was the Florida youth recently killed by George Zimmerman, a community watch member, for walking while black through Zimmerman’s gated community. The community is located in Sanford, Florida. Martin was visiting his father at his father’s girlfriend’s home at the time of the killing. Martin was rightfully walking the streets of that Community since his father’s girlfriend lived in the community.

It is noteworthy that Zimmerman, a mixed race man, had prior contact with law enforcement because of incidents in which he had acted violently or had posed a threat to another person. On the other hand, Martin, a young black male and a high school student of good standing, lacked a criminal record, was never a suspect in a crime, etc. Despite these differences and the fact that Martin had not committed a crime before Zimmerman shot and killed him, the Sanford Police Department exonerated Zimmerman for his killing of Martin. It did so because Zimmerman had appealed to Florida’s Stand-Your-Ground self-defense laws. Zimmerman claimed that Martin was a threat to him. Yet there is no sound evidence whatsoever indicating Martin threatened Zimmerman, anyone else or anyone’s property while he walked to his father’s girlfriend’s home. This lack of evidence makes Zimmerman’s shooting of Martin appear wholly unjustified. There is evidence supporting the claim that Zimmerman confronted Martin without police authorization.

At first glance, the Martin killing evokes images of racial profiling by the assailant, George Zimmerman, and the Sanford Police Department, while it also exposes the mindless brutality of a law that authorizes gun carriers to shoot-to-kill those individuals the gun holder believes to be a threat and wherever they feel threatened. Moreover, ambiguous evidence (an audibly distorted 911 call) exists which indicates the presence of a racial bias in Zimmerman during his confrontation with Martin. This bias, should it be proven to have existed at the time of Martin’s death, would undermine Zimmerman’s self-defense claims. It would also expose Zimmerman to manslaughter or second degree murder charges.

The Million Hoodie March was a collective expression of a demand for justice to be achieved in the Martin killing. But it was also more. The March gained in significance because it occurred in New York City (a place which specializes in racially motivated policing and low-consequences police brutality) and included the Occupy Movement as a significant element in the protest. The March not only affirmed prior protest actions that had occurred in Florida, as it was meant to do, it added to them. It thus registered more than a public’s disgust with racist violence; the protest also reflected the growth of a multi-class and multi-identity movement for justice in the United States. In the wake of this protest action critics of the Occupy Movement can no longer plausibly claim that a local Occupation is an instance of single-issue movement focused only on Wall Street. (Although, some have criticized the Occupy Movement for seeking to co-opt the Million Hoodie March. It appears that they find cross-movement solidarity troubling.) The March also shows the support of the Movement for Black American civil rights advocates and those committed to defending minorities from police harassment and discrimination. Anti-racism and the demand for social justice have much in common, of course, and the building of a cross-class and multi-identity movement is the goal pursued by most left protest movements.

In the end, the Million Hoodie March ought to be considered a positive development in struggle for justice in the United States. It reflected the strength of two important social movements while demanding justice in the Trayvon Martin killing.


The Million Hoodie March

You can cry me a river, cry me a river….

Mike Lupica, clownalist extraordinaire who writes for the Daily News, recently interviewed New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. The article Lupica produced from his talk with Kelly led with this choice passage:

Somehow they keep coming at Ray Kelly, from Jersey and the media and the City Council, as if Kelly is the bad guy here, as if Ray Kelly, of all people, is some kind of threat to his city. It is amazingly dumb, and on Sunday Kelly was asked why he thinks he takes as much fire as he does lately.

“Maybe,” Kelly said, “they’re not comfortable with success.”

Yes, success is the proper word to use if one defines success as the NYPD acting with distinction as Wall Street’s political enforcer, as the tormentor of brown people, as the killer of innocent civilians, as the suppressor of free speech and free assemblies, as the avoider of accountability for its crimes, etc.

Kelly on his critics: “Sometimes it sounds sometimes like people are more comfortable stereotyping me.”

Really? Is that all ya got, Ray?

Why do tough guys like Kelly whine so often and loudly?

A boy toy

Another boy toy

A measure of how far we’ve fallen as a democracy

Jim Naureckas of Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting tells his readers that:

Responding to a report in the online publication the Awl (11/17/11) about 26 journalists who had been arrested around the country at Occupy protests, New York City mayoral spokesperson Stu Loeser declared in a note to the press (New York Observer, 11/17/17), “You can imagine my surprise when we found that only five of the 26 arrested reporters actually have valid NYPD-issued press credentials.”

Since the Awl story was tallying arrests nationwide, it’s not surprising that few of the journalists had credentials issued by New York’s police — who are notoriously reluctant to issue such credentials anyway. What’s telling, though, is the triumphant way the spokesperson reveals this fact — as if reporters who lack “valid” permits from the authorities should expect to be arrested if they try to report the news anyway.

The idea behind the First Amendment, of course, is that no one is required to seek permission from the government before attempting to report the news. And few situations call out more urgently for independent journalistic scrutiny than the state’s use of force against nonviolent political protest.

This is an old story. But it remains timely in any case. For one thing, the security-surveillance apparatus hardly wants an independent media scrutinizing what are often the criminal acts committed by some of its members. After all, depictions of system generated criminality hardly affirm America’s self-conceit as a society ruled by law. Nor do they serve to legitimate governmental power. For another thing, it is sad but true nonetheless that the mainstream media companies could not be bothered to defend the First Amendment rights of their ‘lesser’ counterparts. But what use would these rights be to most of the ‘journalists’ working for these companies. They typically self-censor their coverage of the world, tacitly deriding, as we have recently seen, critical analysis of the claims made by public figures as the work of “truth vigilantes”! These official journalists practice what has been called “stenographic journalism,” which amounts to the mere recitation of the claims of the powerful. These official journalists find contentment in their servitude. Thirdly, the story is timely because “Whatever we know about our society, or indeed about the world in which we live, we know through the mass media” (Luhmann, 2000, p. 1). The mainstream media in the United States are, of course, the preeminent sources of what we know about the world. Their observations carry social and political weight. Their unwillingness to critically engage the world they observe and report on along with their unwillingness to defend the legal rules intended to secure a free press secures for the powerful the capacity to define what is true and what is false, what is acceptable and what is unacceptable. Their actions and reports can thus serve to normalize police misconduct and even state terror, which is to say, the mainstream media can transform official violence into legitimate behavior. This possibility reveals the presence of a “Big Brother” telling us what to believe and what to do.

The upshot: A free press, that is, one unauthorized by a government but also one that can rely upon well-respected constitutional guarantees, stands as a necessary countervailing institution to any sitting government, but especially to an increasingly intrusive and militarized one like we have the United States today.