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The Myth and Reality of the Warrior Cop

by Invenium Viam on December 10, 2014 · 1 comment

Donatello, Raphael, Leonardo,

Extreme Make-over of NYC Police as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

“Of course I’m dangerous. I’m police. I can do terrible things to people with impunity.” Rusty Cohle, True Detective


Most people would agree that law enforcement is a dangerous profession. But how dangerous is it really?


Is it as dangerous as entertainment media depicts, given the endless river of film and television dramas that show police officers engaging in extended firefights with street thugs, bank robbers, drug smugglers, outlaw bikers, mid-east terrorists, and other wanton evil-doers? Is it true that police officers are frequently gunned-down by steely-eyed, hardened criminals armed with the latest fully automatic assault rifles and several hundred rounds of body-armor-piercing ammunition? Are squad cars routinely riddled with bullets while feckless rookie cops cringe behind them struggling desperately to make themselves small? Do the streets of American cities really run red?


Of course not. But if the American daily diet of violent police drama were any measure of reality, the average life expectancy of an ordinary patrolman on the street would lie somewhere between that of a mayfly and the common gerbil.


So, if you had to guess the number of police actually killed by gunfire nationwide last year, what would you guess? Several hundred? Several thousand?


How about thirty-two? Would you guess thirty-two? Put another way, about as many police actually died from gunfire last year as were mowed-down by a handful of Southie homeboys in scally caps in the movie The Town, or by a crew from the Brotherhood of Eurosophisto Badasses, Local 19, in any of way too many Die Hard movies that the L.A studios keep cranking out. At least Bruce Willis is still turning out big-balls pictures and making honest money, so it’s not all bad.


As is frequently the case, however, the facts paint a picture entirely different from what most people think they know.


In 2013, the number of police officers nationwide who were killed by gunfire was, in fact, just 32.[1] The FBI puts the number at 27, but includes only those fatalities resulting from “felonious action,” which could include a copyright violation in the state of Michigan (car country) or knowingly selling a spavined horse in Wyoming (cow country).[2]  Of the 32, two were killed by accidental fire, which means they were killed by a misfired or mishandled weapon, or were killed inadvertently by a fellow officer or by other “friendly fire” (an oxymoron I’ve always detested). While that number constitutes a significant portion (30.5%) of the total number of all 105 line-of-duty deaths among all U.S. police officers in 2013, it is also true that a police officer was more than twice as likely to be killed by causes other than gunfire that year, including a range of non-hostile and accidental causes such as heart attacks (10), falls (4), and electrocution (1).


It’s notable that cops in television dramas and movies are frequently shown shot to death but almost never shown keeling over with a massive heart attack while chasing a rail-thin teenager through the dark alleys of South Central, or being electrocuted by downed power lines after a storm, or being struck on a busy highway by an inattentive rubbernecker who fails to yield the lane at the scene of a multi-car accident on a foggy morning commute. But those causes, too, are how police officers frequently die in the line of duty.


It’s also notable that if you combine police fatalities in 2013 caused by automobile accidents (25), being struck by a vehicle (8), and vehicle pursuits (4) — while excluding “felonious action” vehicle deaths such as vehicular assault (5)  — more police officers were accidentally killed by cars in the line-of-duty than were killed by guns.


Let me be clear: it is not my purpose here to minimize or denigrate the service of police officers who die violent deaths at the hands of criminals, or who die in the line-of-duty by any cause including accidents. Any death of a police officer in the line-of-duty for any reason is tragic. Nor is it my intent, in any way, to minimize the loss to their communities, to their brother and sister officers, or to their friends and family, when a police officer falls or is struck down. Any police officer who makes the ultimate sacrifice in service to his or her community is a hero in my eyes.


However, I do want to examine how common cultural perceptions influence both the organizational culture within a police department and public policies relating to it. Both local authorities and police departments can and do misunderstand the role of police in a democracy, often it seems by misapprehending how much real danger policing actually entails. Those erroneous ideas and beliefs serve to perpetuate a number of myths that lead to the creation and maintenance of a warrior culture within some police departments — including a culture of habitual institutional violence and a siege mentality — that ultimately undermines community support for police officers in performing their duties, which further endangers their lives and makes their jobs more difficult,  and thereby does a grievous disservice to the communities they serve.

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The irony of a Minnesotan assassinated in Somalia

by Dan Burns on December 5, 2014 · 1 comment

somaliaHere’s worthwhile and insightful discussion about young Somali-Americans going back and joining militias. Note that a lot of young Americans, of all backgrounds, whose families have been here for generations, even centuries, feel exploited, too, though perhaps not in quite the same ways. And in many cases that unfortunately makes them more prone to, among other problematic matters, buying into the right wing’s, and corporate media’s, crass, bottom-feeding sensationalism about Somalis.

How could young men from South Minneapolis come to believe that they are doing something noble by joining al Shabaab and possibly killing someone like Abdullahi ali Anshur? What bitter lessons could these young men have learned in Minnesota that would make them embrace jihad?
Some of the young who were recruited to al Shabaab and ISIS were high school dropouts and juvenile delinquents. They were drifting without purpose, looking for something to believe. Life in America is hard and complicated. Most often their immigrant parents had marginal jobs working for minimum wage or driving cabs. To impressionable adolescents, the choice was clear. Stay in America and become losers like their parents or go back to their homeland and become winners.
George W Bush was asked why Islamic radicals hated America. He said, “They hate our freedom.” And that’s about right. Most nationalists in the Middle East hate the freedom America expresses in taking their natural resources and reducing them to second class citizens in their own country.
(Twin Cities Daily Planet)

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sadclownSo they took the Minnesota House back by 5 seats, on the “strength” of about 51% turnout, the lowest since 1986. In an election where, nationwide, old people, and hardly anyone else, turned out as if it meant something. (Which it does, but, convincing our voters of that…well that’s our #1 problem. Has been, for a long time, now.) In Minnesota, we could well end up with supermajorities, or close to it, in both chambers, after 2016. In particular, Al Franken’s romp over Mike McFadden – who was supposed to be a strong candidate, you know, a Romney-esque “centrist uniter,” – makes clear just where the MN GOP is as far as legitimate, long-term competitiveness. That would be “nowhere.” Their only chance to come back from nowhere is for sane Republicans to take back the party from the Tea Partiers, theocrats, and Paulbots, and convince voters outside of their base that, having done that, it just might be safe to vote Republican again. Assuming, on the basis of absolutely no evidence, that that process has even started, how many election cycles will it take? Three? Five? Ten? And their base voters heading for the pearly gates, and not being replaced, all the while.

The other huge loser in all of this is Minnesota’s corporate media, which was all but overt in its support for Republican candidacies, especially Stewart Mills III in MN-08. What was left of their reputation for consistently worthwhile political reporting and analysis has sunk like the Pequod, and with about as much chance of raising it, anytime soon.
Also like the GOP, they do have a legitimate, if difficult, option. Currently, corporate media’s positive political coverage, in Minnesota and everywhere else, is split roughly evenly between corporatists and the right wing. In order to much better reflect where the overall public is actually at, they could just move the space they give to right-wingnuts now, over to progressives. That, too, is really about their only chance, for the long run.

There’s a Catch-22. The real purpose of corporate media’s political “reporting” is to promote corporatism. Their current approach works well for that, albeit to an ever-shrinking viewer/reader/listenership, because in their current split the corporatists look pretty good, compared to the ranting freaks of the hard right. Those same corporatists won’t look good at all next to intelligent, knowledgeable, articulate progressives telling it like it is. Hence, the dilemma. But that’s their problem.

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Hubbard News being humiliated over Pointergate

by Dan Burns on November 7, 2014 · 4 comments

That would be “5 Eyewitness News” here in the Minnesota metro. It’s owned by the state’s top Republican financier, Stan Hubbard. You have to read the whole article, for all of the context.

What you are about to read and watch is stranger than fiction. It’s so racist and so outrageous, that people are questioning whether or not it’s satire from The Onion. It’s real though, and that’s what is so shocking and heartbreaking about the whole ordeal…
Sadly, only racism allows such an ugly story and stereotype to be advanced about a young man who was clearly not flashing a gang sign with the mayor of Minneapolis. He deserves a public apology and heads should roll at this station for even allowing it to ever make it to the air.
Furthermore, some real investigative journalism needs to uncover just why the police were willing to get behind such a phony story. Something smells off in a major way. Could it be because the mayor is behind the police wearing body cameras and the police faked this story hours before the pilot program was due to launch? Or could it be that she called out police corruption and vowed to clean it up last month?
(Daily Kos)

Stan Hubbard and his wretched minions are getting their comeuppance, in a way, through a whole lot of “tweets.” For example, apparently Jeff Johnson is not yet completely irrelevant.
Again, you have to click and read the whole thing. Unreal.
Comments below fold.


Hey, idiots, MNsure WORKS

by Dan Burns on October 30, 2014 · 1 comment

hospitalBecause if you’re like me, you’ve only been hearing otherwise, from most purportedly legitimate sources. (That’s who I’m calling “idiots.”) That is absolute BS.


MNsure (on August 21) announced that 300,085 Minnesotans have enrolled in comprehensive, affordable health insurance coverage through the state health insurance marketplace…
To date, 180,566 are enrolled in Medical Assistance, 65,749 in MinnesotaCare and 53,770 in a Qualified Health Plan. Between September 30, 2013, and May 1, 2014, the number of uninsured Minnesotans fell by 40.6% to a record low. Open enrollment for 2015 coverage begins November 15, 2014.

In fact, while the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is still just a first step to government-run universal single-payer, it has been a far bigger success than many, including me, expected. Also remarkable is its effect on Medicare costs.


It’s not about right-wing pols attacking MNsure, and Obamacare in general. That’s expected; I don’t exactly go out of my way to present “both sides” when typing up my polite, respectful remarks about conservative candidacies, either.
And it’s not like there’s any indication that all of the MNsure bashing is seriously hurting Democratic pols in the state. Relatively few Minnesotans are directly affected, and for the vast majority of those who are participating (especially regarding the Medicaid expansion), it’s been positive.
It’s that corporate media has been so flagrantly, atrociously one-sided on this from the start, essentially acting as nothing but an amplifier for right-wing attacks. (For example, type something like “Star Tribune MNsure“ into your search engine of choice, and scan what the first few pages look like.) Just, stop paying attention to that crap. There are better alternatives. Like the facts.

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millspartying2Because that’s how a guy like him best aggrandizes #1. Like many mildly to moderately stupid people who have nonetheless found themselves in extremely privileged places through sheer accidents of birth and circumstance (George W. Bush is the most prominent contemporary example), Stewart Mills III is probably just plain incapable of really comprehending the potential effects on others of the policies that he supports.
– Along with the warmongering, the general worsening of unequal access to opportunity and resources is the worst result of the absolute political, social, and economic disaster that has been “movement conservatism,” “Reaganism,” or whatever you want to call it. Mills supports more tax cut welfare for the super wealthy like himself.


You can count on Stewart III to ride along as congressional GOP leadership continues to often bluff, and probably sometimes follow through on, government shutdowns, threats to default on the national debt, and whatever other despicable bullsh*t those worthless losers can think of.

And that’s just for starters.
If he somehow squeaks out a fluky, one-term win, entirely due to extremely wrongheaded DFL voter apathy/laziness in the district, Mills will in some ways serve as MN-08’s own Crazy Michele Bachmann – not able to personally do anything like the damage Bachmann has done, because that time has passed, but as an essentially clownish figure. And he certainly won’t get anything more done for his district in Congress than Bachmann has for hers. Not sure why he’d show up, except that he’s a cocky little f*cker (just like W.), and would undoubtedly do plenty of struttin’. Let’s prevent that, shall we? And, let’s prevent the fulsome – indeed, downright sickening – adoration he’d continue to enjoy, from Minnesota, and national, corporate media.


And the Band Played On …

by Invenium Viam on October 16, 2014 · 1 comment

titanic_sinking“We are born naked, wet and hungry. Then things get worse.” Anonymous 


In her superb narrative history A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, Barbara Tuchman examines the startling parallels between our times and those of the late middle-ages. One of the subjects she examines was the effect of the Bubonic Plague on the social and economic structures of the times.


Ebola may very well constitute another parallel with that distant century in the making. Yesterday, President Obama cut short a fundraising trip and returned to Washington to meet with his cabinet to develop a response plan for dealing with the emerging Ebola “crisis.” He’ll be doing the same today and perhaps tomorrow as well.


What that tells me is that there’s a very good chance our top public health officials have advised the President that there’s a significant chance that Ebola may now have entered into the general population here in the US. Political leaders often know more than they tell us, for fear of affecting markets or causing political backlash. If that’s the case, then we now have a major emerging public health crisis on our hands that the President has taken immediate action with his cabinet to address, as he should. The World Health Organization predicts that the number of new cases of Ebola in Africa could top 10,000 a week within a couple of months. That pencils out to more than a half-million a year.


Let’s be clear about what all this means for us: Ebola has a fatality rate of more than 50%. If the virus gets into the general population here in the US — beyond the reach of the contact identification and isolation control measures now being employed — it could mean mass death measured by the millions in this country alone. Since our culture is one of extremely high mobility, outbreaks could occur simultaneously in large urban centers around the country and then filter rapidly into the rural areas.


In the 14th century, the Bubonic Plague had a similar mortality rate among the general population (actually approaching two-thirds). Tuchman points out that the wealthy fared far better than the urban poor, since they had the means to remove themselves and their servants to remote country estates where stocks of food, fuel and medicine were laid in and the outer grounds were patrolled by paid mercenaries to keep roaming beggars and bandits from the door.


Food prices soared as the breakdown of supply channels caused widespread shortages. Public security failed as the local gendarme’s abandoned their posts in the face of what appeared to be certain death. Roving criminal gangs and marauding bands of mercenaries pillaged, raped and burned at will unopposed by the power of government to enforce the laws. As the nobility fled the cities, the civil institutions failed and everywhere the social structures collapsed.


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The importance of local races

by Eric Ferguson on October 15, 2014 · 5 comments

Before she was in Congress, Michele Bachmann was a state senator, and before that, pertinent to the title of this post, she was on her local school board. The fact I don’t have to explain who she is might demonstrate the importance of that one school board race.

It might appear at this point that the importance of local races is stopping crazy people from getting their start in elective office. Not that I’m saying everyone in local elective office is crazy. Just the Republicans. Yes, that’s an overgeneralization. Not all are Bachmann-wannabes. Local offices are, however, the primary bench for candidates for higher office. My impression, which I hope is wrong, is that Republicans are well aware of this while Democrats largely ignore local offices. I mean that in terms of turning out on election day, researching candidates prior to seeing their names on a ballot, and of course in actually running for office. It’s too late to do anything about the last one for 2014, but there’s still time for the first two. We concede these races to Republicans at our peril, as they get to build a bench of people with electoral office while us, not so much.
That’s without even thinking about how local officials do their jobs and affect our lives, apart from their future electoral possibilities. They don’t get national media coverage, much, but when they do, it highlights the effect they can have; the school board in Jefferson County, Colorado, for example. Think the Democrats and independents who skipped last year’s election regret it now? Know how often this happens and we never hear about it? Me neither.
And just to not overlook the obvious, Ferguson, MO: a mostly black and Democratic city, a mostly white and Republican city council, and really low turnout in local elections. Though not equally low across partisan and demographic groups. Think that might explain some things?
Then there’s the effect of the explosion of dark money. We worry about the presidency and Congress being bought, but I’m thinking we saw in 2012 that there’s a limit to how much spending in a presidential race does any good, and I’m skeptical about its benefits beyond a certain point in US Senate races too, but down the ballot is different. It takes little money to swamp a local race. I’m thinking of that referendum in Columbus, Ohio, to raise local taxes to fund the Columbus Zoo. It failed when supporters were surprised and grossly outspent by Koch brothers money, which was used to tell voters their taxes would double when the actual increase was something like 1%. The referendum failed because the Kochs, despite having no connection, just felt ideologically offended and saw a chance to beat a tax increase with a bit of money and a bit of lying, and that was in a big city. Think of the anecdotes you’ve heard of some mayor getting on getting on the bad side of some special interest, and the low spending local race is suddenly hit with massive outside money, like Richmond, CA, where the mayor has $22,000 while his opponent has $1.3 million, courtesy of Chevron:

We’re having a hotly contested race the two at-large school board seats in Minneapolis and it’s drawn a little national attention for the fight over, depending on how you view it, expanding charter schools or privatizing public education. It’s again the exception that proves the rule, because what was the last Minneapolis election to get any national media? There was laughter at our 2013 mayoral race because our combination of an open seat and a $20 filing fee drew in 30-something candidates, but otherwise, that’s it for attention. And that’s in a city the size of Minneapolis. The only time I can recall St. Paul’s elections being noticed was when nominally DFL Mayor Randy Kelly endorsed George Bush in 2004, so some national media were watching as he got blown out in 2005. Those are the only instances I know of for cities the size of Minneapolis and St. Paul, so how much can we count on the media telling us about our own local races?
The answer is “not much”.


McFadden Plans to Burn Workers Under Age 55

by Invenium Viam on September 23, 2014 · 1 comment

money-burningSo far, GOP Senate candidate Mike “Nutshot” McFadden has managed to keep his policy positions on Social Security and Medicare well under wraps. To my knowledge, the only definitive statement he has made about either is to support raising the age of Medicare eligibility.


Eric Black at MinnPost managed to wrestle that small admission out of McFadden in an interview published way back in July, but that’s about all he got.  McFadden’s dodging and twisting to avoid directly answering Black’s questions approached the comical, almost to the level of a ‘Who’s on first?’ exchange, as Black pointed out in his article and generously posted the full exchange on-line for all to enjoy.  McFadden has had very little more to offer the press since then.


That in itself is telling. The simple truth is that McFadden doesn’t want Minnesota voters to know what his policy positions are on Social Security and Medicare because he knows they’ll be unpopular. He prefers to lie by omission rather than risk creating tomorrow’s film-at-10 soundbite or self-damning black’n’white advert snippet.


There stands a paragon of moral courage.


This is where a little reading between the lines and connecting the dots becomes useful. In normal circumstances, I’d avoid both as a weak foundation for offering criticism. But you can’t divide by zero, and you can’t prove a negative, and you can’t criticize a policy position not taken, so reading between the lines and connecting the dots is about all we’ve got to go on.


We’ll start with McFadden’s published position on Social Security, which may yet turn out to be a stinking, maggot-infested political albatross around his neck.


Parsing the language here is important to a clear understanding of where McFadden truly stands on the issue. Disregarding for now the fact that Social Security and Medicare are promises made to all workers, not just “today’s seniors,” McFadden is only offering “… to fight to keep the promise …” of preserving social safety nets in their present form for “… today’s seniors …”  and “… our parents and grandparents …”.  In other words, he’s only willing to support continuing benefits under the current program for those workers at or near retirement.


He doubled-down on that position in his MinnPost interview with Eric Black. “What I wouldn’t support is anything that would change the benefits for people that are nearing retirement,” he told Black. “And by that I mean 10, 12 years from retirement.”


Current law provides full benefits at age 67 for those born in 1960 or later. Backing up 12 years means that McFadden only supports continuing Social Security benefits per the plan’s current embodiment for those persons who are now 55 or older. By inference, then, McFadden must support a different plan for those workers younger than 55.


The question then becomes: What kind of different plan?


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Rebecca Otto’s opponent implodes

by Eric Ferguson on September 18, 2014 · 2 comments

sad elephantState Auditor Rebecca Otto might as well be allowed to pick her opponents. Wouldn’t get much of a different result. Her primary opponent ran a well-funded lousy campaign, but I thought she might have been the one statewide DFLer to draw a serious opponent. Randy Gilbert is a professional auditor and a small town mayor, so he actually has a relevant resume for the job. The other Republicans are pretty much running just on “vote for me because I’m extremely rich” or “vote for me because I’m extremely conservative”, maybe spiced with shouts of “Obamacare!” and “voter fraud!”. So I wondered, after he was nominated, if Gilbert might be the Republican with the best chance. Then a week ago, Dan.Burns posted:

Whatever this turns out to be, this isn’t the highest-profile race on the ballot. But veteran politics-watchers know what kind of spillover effect, fair or not, these kinds of episodes can have, not long before Election Day.

It’s now less vague, maybe as bad as feared. KSTP reported they have suggestive emails, and sources speaking of turmoil inside the MNGOP. Since I’ve criticized KSTP before and I’m about to do so again, I’ll give credit where due: KSTP did go after a story that’s bad for their owner’s preferred party. The emails are substantive. They seem to show not just that Gilbert carried on an affair with a local realtor, but that their assignations happened in the houses she was selling. Well, that’s a unique form of trespassing.
Maybe not unique, but certainly bad for a candidate, is Gilbert’s decision to avoid the press and not answer questions. KSTP said he wouldn’t respond to them. I looked on his campaign web site, and as of this moment, there’s nothing about it. There’s “news” from last June about DFLers being divided, and something from 9/11 attacking Otto for being anti-mining. Nothing in between or since.