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Archive for the ‘The Law’ Category



SF Police Murders (Murderous Police in the City of Love)

Feb25

by: Rebecca Gordon on February 25th, 2016 | Comments Off

The original post can be found here at TomDispatch.com.

 Murderous Police in the City of Love

Posted by Rebecca Gordon

In one of the widely circulated cellphone videos of the killing of Mario Woods by San Francisco police in December, you can hear the young girl filming his death screaming. “Are you fucking serious?” she shrieks over and over at the crowd of cops encircling the young black man. According to police, Woods had refused to drop a kitchen knife they claim he was carrying. He was nonetheless attempting to walk away from the officers. “You had to shoot him that many fucking times?” the girl cries.

The Supreme Court has ruled that police officers are justified in using deadly force under two circumstances: either to protect their own lives (or the life of an innocent person) or to prevent a suspect from escaping as long as the cop believes that suspect is about to kill or seriously injure another person.

Did the officers really believe that Woods — who appears in the video to be much smaller than the five officers who fired on him, and who is clearly trying to get away — would have suddenly lunged at them all and killed one or more of them? Did they truly believe that Woods, who had already been pepper-sprayed and pummeled by bean-bag rounds, was about to immediately slay an innocent bystander?

Both scenarios sound absurd, but the law puts great faith in the credibility of a police officer’s fear. Under the legal standard governing police use of lethal force, the existence of an actual threat hardly matters, as long as the officer has an “objectively reasonable” belief that there is such a threat. In that belief, there’s plenty of room for unconscious racial bias. It may be hard to accept that those five officers couldn’t have found another way to neutralize Woods short of death, but as Vox‘s Dara Lind noted in December, “There are plenty of cases in which an officer might be legally justified in using deadly force because he feels threatened, even though there’s no actual threat there.”

Add one more factor to this mix: police officers are trained to shoot to kill, not injure. They are taught to fire at the chest because it improves their chances of hitting their target. Combine the unimpeachability of an officer’s judgment under the law with the racist impulses virtually none of us can escape and a kill-not-capture modus operandi, and you end up with the startling figure of 1,134 killings by law enforcement officers across the U.S. last year, a figure you would expect to come out of an actual war zone.  Of those who died at the hands of the police in 2015, young black men were nine times more likely to be victims than other Americans.

No city is immune from the American epidemic of police killings that has only recently begun to gain wide attention — not even a liberal bastion like San Francisco. In her latest post, TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon, whose new book, American Nuremberg: The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes, will be published in April, takes a look at officer-involved killings in the “City of Love.” 

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Against The Tide: The River Of Discrimination Flowing Against People With Disabilities

Aug3

by: Hannah Finnie on August 3rd, 2015 | Comments Off

Credit: CreativeCommons / Catherine Oakley.

There is a constant flow of discrimination against people with disabilities. That river is tucked away, far from most Americans’ consciences. Maybe when there’s a p.r.-heavy milestone, like the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act happening later this month, people
pay attention. The rest of the time, Dara Baldwin tells me, people tend to forget.

Baldwin has been working professionally in the field of disability rights since 2009, but her advocacy work began when she was much younger, growing up with family members who had disabilities. Her maternal grandmother had rheumatoid arthritis, and used a wheelchair from age twenty two onward. Seeing the challenges her grandmother faced, Baldwin decided to dedicate her career to advocating for disability rights. Now, she works as a public policy analyst at the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), finding legislative solutions to the kinds of problems her grandmother faced on a daily basis.

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A Lack of Precaution is the Biggest Problem in U.S. Chemical Regulation

Jul31

by: Heidi Hutner on July 31st, 2015 | 2 Comments »

A group of partially used lipstick tubes.

What's in your cosmetics? You may be surprised to learn that many health and beauty products manufactured and sold in the U.S. are filled with harmful chemicals. Find out more by checking out the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. CREDIT: POMO MAMA (flickr).

America is unlike many other countries in that the use of chemicals across a wide swath of applications – from medicinal to pesticide to consumer product uses – there is no “precautionary principle” in effect. This means that chemicals DO NOT have to be proven harmless before they are used and that, once in use, they are only removed from the marketplace if something bad happens. In effect, U.S. policy toward chemicals closely mirrors the country’s judicial system: chemicals are assumed innocent before proven guilty. The precautionary principle, by contrast, is based on the assumed-guilty-before-proven-innocent model, in which chemicals must be proven safe BEFORE they are used.

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KKK Posing as Victim of “Cultural Genocide”

Jul9

by: on July 9th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

An group protests a KKK rally by holding up signs delcaring love.

In Athens, Atlanta in September, 2007, a group protests a KKK rally. The Klan is discussing holding another rally in response to the anti-Confederation flag movement. Credit: CreativeCommons / 57allison.

For literally decades, calls have gone out by civil and human rights advocates to remove of the battle flag of the Confederacy from public sites like state capitol grounds and other government buildings. This movement gained enormous momentum recently following the brutal racist murders of nine parishioners at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charlestown, South Carolina by an avowed white supremacist.

On his Facebook page, the 21-year-old gunman posed for pictures wearing a military-style jacket with insignia patches of flags of apartheid South Africa and white ruled Rhodesia (today known as Zimbabwe). In another picture, he waved a Confederate battle flag, and in another, he stood holding a burning American flag. In addition, he wore a T-shirt with the number 88 printed on the front, he had 88 Facebook friends, and he scribbled that number in the South Carolina sand. “H” is the 8th letter of the alphabet, and in white supremacist circles, “88″ symbolizes “Heil Hitler.”

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Marriage Equality

Jul8

by: Lynn Feinerman on July 8th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

Get Married, Get Equal!

Credit: CreativeCommons / Victoria Pickering.

“Love is legal” tooted the headlines this past week, as we all rejoiced at the expanding vision of who is an “upstanding citizen.” Pride Day parades enthusiastically celebrated the inclusion of non-heterosexual love matches. As well they might.

For me, the most telling commentary on the SCOTUS decision was a one-liner: “Now it is no longer called ‘gay marriage,’ only ‘marriage.’” When I heard that line something in me realized that the gift the gay community may have given all of us is the framing of a vision of two EQUALS, two individual human beings, electing to establish an order in their relationship that has the potential to support the expansion and inclusion of community – a wider community, even deeper community, perhaps. Shall we say, a more enlightened love?

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Marriage Equality but One Paving Stone on Path Toward Social Justice

Jul7

by: on July 7th, 2015 | Comments Off

A sunset.

Credit: CreativeCommons / BMcIvr.

I have mixed emotions as I write these words on this truly historic day when the Supreme Court granted marriage equality to same-sex couples nationwide in Obergefell v. Hodges, thereby striking down bans in the remaining fourteen states.

On one level, I am ecstatic that our love and our relationships now hold the same legal status as different sex couples with all the economic privileges, benefits, and responsibilities, as well as enhanced claims of non-birth partners in the raising of children. Especially for upcoming generations, most will not have to live with the extreme levels of scorn and the second-class legal status, which so many of us endured.

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God(s), Same-Sex Marriage, and the Colossal Joke

Jul3

by: on July 3rd, 2015 | 4 Comments »

Wedding bands on top of a rainbow.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Robert Couse-Baker.

God/Gods’s Mixed Messages?

Since the Supreme Court of the United States ruled marriage for same-sex couples constitutional in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, most of the major religious denominations throughout the country have since issued statements in response to this historic and wide-ranging decision. As there are numerous religions and denominations within each, we find also numerous and very disparate responses along a continuum: from very progressive and supportive to extremely conservative and oppositional.

Anyone with even the most rudimentary understanding of world history recognizes that many if not most conflicts between peoples and nations have centered on different (though not necessarily opposing) religious perspectives and viewpoints.

So I find the enormously contrasting responses to the Supreme Court not particularly surprising. But my primary question centers on this: “If all religious denominations truly believe they have been touched by, are privy to, and are following the will and word of the True (with a capital “T”) God(s), how can they come away with such varied and often contradictory perspectives?

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Syriza: Plunder, Pillage and Prostration

Jul1

by: James Petras on July 1st, 2015 | 1 Comment »

An outstretched hand in black and white.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Alex Proimos.

Greece has been in the headlines of the world’s financial press for the past five months, as a newly elected leftist party, “Syriza”, which ostensibly opposes so-called “austerity measures”, faces off against the “Troika” (International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and European Central Bank).

Early on, the Syriza leadership, headed by Alexis Tsipras, adopted several strategic positions with fatal consequences – in terms of implementing their electoral promises to raise living standards, end vassalage to the “Troika and pursue an independent foreign policy.

I will proceed by outlining the initial systemic failures of Syriza and the subsequent concessions further eroding Greek living standards.

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Love Wins! Lessons from the Movement for Marriage Equality

Jun29

by: on June 29th, 2015 | Comments Off

An artistic rendering of The Statue of Liberty kissing a golden women of justice.Wow. For a brief moment I am feeling such gratitude for our Supreme Court—well, at least for five justices of the court! This is a time to celebrate. Gay and lesbian couples are finally recognized for their commitment to love their partners just as any heterosexual couple does. What an amazing moment of honoring and respecting people who choose love and commitment. What an amazing moment of honoring the sanctity of marriage.  I am overcome with joy and celebration.

With this decision, the Supreme Court made it clear once and for all that anyone who loves another person can marry that person in any state in this country regardless of their partner’s sex. No longer will gay rights advocates have to waste time and money litigating the right to marriage on a state-by-state basis. No longer will they have to waste time and money fighting for partner benefits from their spouse’s employer. No longer will they have to argue with hospitals to be at the bedside of their loved ones when they are sick and dying. (I realize that some of these battles will persist but they will be resolved much more quickly than if they had been challenged on a piecemeal basis.)

The impact on the families is enormous—as one of the plaintiff’s from the case in California said after hearing the decision, his children will no longer have to explain to kids at school why they have two daddies. Gay and lesbian youth who suffer a sense of loneliness, separation, and bullying will now know they are not alone, they are not crazy and that their love of someone of the same sex is not only natural but even recognized and held in equal regard as heterosexual love. What a beautiful day it is. 

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NRA’s Strategy of Blaming the Victims

Jun25

by: on June 25th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

A close up of four bronze bullets.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Josh.

I typically find pride in my ability to find words to express what I am thinking and feeling on a given topic. After reading the reaction from Charles L. Cotton, a board member of the National Rifle Association, however, responding to the terrorist act perpetrated against worshipers at a Bible study group at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston by a deranged racist ending in the fatal shooting of 9 good people, I fell speechless, enraged, and emotionally overwhelmed. I had to absorb, attempt to grasp, and reflect upon Cotton’s statement.

In my life, when I have felt emotionally overloaded and blocked, I find a way to process my feelings by taking on some kind of simple physical activity, one I can perform that gives me immediate gratification like mowing the lawn or performing housework. This time, I reached under the kitchen sink for the spray bottle of floor cleaner, gathered a cloth, kneeled to my knees, and scrubbed my kitchen and living room floors as my little doggies licked my face with soggy kisses. I then mowed both the front and back lawns, ate my lunch, and took a long and deep early afternoon nap.

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