Monday, August 12, 2013

Last Call For Stop And Frisk

This morning a federal judge in New York dropped a brutal ruling against the NYPD's awful "Stop and Frisk" program, stating it violates a number of civil rights, and ordered the program to be monitored by an outside party.

In a decision issued on Monday, the judge, Shira A. Scheindlin, ruled that police officers have for years been systematically stopping innocent people in the street without any objective reason to suspect them of wrongdoing. Officers often frisked these people, usually young minority men, for weapons or searched their pockets for contraband, like drugs, before letting them go, according to the 195-page decision.

These stop-and-frisk episodes, which soared in number over the last decade as crime continued to decline, demonstrated a widespread disregard for the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, according to the ruling. It also found violations with the 14th Amendment.

To fix the constitutional violations, Judge Scheindlin of Federal District Court in Manhattan said she intended to designate an outside lawyer, Peter L. Zimroth, to monitor the Police Department’s compliance with the Constitution.

The decision to install Mr. Zimroth, a partner in the New York office of Arnold & Porter, LLP, and a former corporation counsel and prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney’s office, will leave the department under a degree of judicial control that is certain to shape the policing strategies under the next mayor.

The ruling, in Floyd v. City of New York, follows a two-month nonjury trial earlier this year over the department’s stop-and-frisk practices. 

This is pretty huge, frankly.  And it should, in a perfect world, bring an end to Stop and Frisk for good in NYC, because there's no way the program doesn't violate the 4th and 14th Amendments.  We'll see what the NYPD does in response, but anything other than "end the program" is just going to make it worse for everybody.

Let's put this one down, guys.

Speaking of Bull...

This facepalm comes to you courtesy of my home state.  In Sedalia, Missouri the state fair is going on.  Though I'm not sure how it works in civilized parts of the country, it's still a fairly big deal here, with crowds and family traditions planned around the event.  And now, I'll always have a dollop of shame when thinking of the midway and the families smiling and laughing.

During the rodeo show, a clown with an Obama mask (yeah, it's just as racist as you just thought) went out in the crowd while the announcer and others cheered for him to get hit by the bull.  It wasn't "just in fun" and it wasn't a single errant comment that caused the problem.

“They mentioned the president’s name, I don’t know, 100 times. It was sickening,” Beam said. “It was feeling like some kind of Klan rally you’d see on TV.”
On Sunday evening, Kari Mergen, Missouri State Fair spokeswoman, told the News-Leader that the Mark Ficken, president of the Missouri Rodeo Cowboy Association, was an announcer at the rodeo. It was unclear whether Ficken’s voice was the one heard on the video.
In a statement sent by Mergen, the fair denounced the incident.
“The performance by one of the rodeo clowns at Saturday’s event was inappropriate and disrespectful, and does not reflect the opinions or standards of the Missouri State Fair. We strive to be a family friendly event and regret that Saturday’s rodeo badly missed that mark,” the statement reads.

Glad to hear that the guy who said it can't be bothered to apologze.  I don't know Kari Mergen personally, but she deserves a medal for even giving a modest attempt at burying this turd of an event.  Claire McCaskill expressed her displeasure, and Jay Nixon had nothing nice to say.

This was nothing more than a blackface routine with a recognizable black face.  Missouri has a long, racist history and at times like this I wonder if we will ever climb out of the pit we've dug for ourselves as a state. It is so difficult to raise free-thinking and intelligent kids in a region where you can't be safe from hate... even at a time-honored  event like the state fair.

Congressional Freshmen For Sale

Gotta get the new crop of freshmen in the House while they're young and impressionable.  Just ask Kentucky's Andy Barr of KY-6 in the central part of the state.

Mr. Barr, 40, a first-time elected official, has raised nearly as much money this year from political action committees run by major banks, credit unions and insurance companies as longtime lawmakers like Speaker John A. Boehner and other party leaders. 

The flood of financial industry cash — $150,000 in political action committee donations to Mr. Barr in just six months — is hardly an accident. 

One afternoon in April, Mr. Barr hosted credit union lobbyists and executives in his House office just before a committee hearing, promising that he would help protect a federal tax break worth $500 million a year, the executives said. Last month, he introduced legislation to eliminate a new federal rule intended to prevent banks from issuing mortgages to customers who could not afford to repay the debt — a measure pushed by bank lobbyists who had visited his office. 

“People support him because they agree with him,” Catherine Gatewood, Mr. Barr’s spokeswoman, said after he declined requests for an interview. 

Sure they do.  Andy Barr's district includes Powell and Estill Counties, places with nearly 25% poverty rates.  And he's wanting to make it easier for banks to commit predatory lending there and to remove protections for his constituents.  Why?  Because the banking industry paid him $150,000 to do so.  Chump change when you're buying an ally for a half a billion dollar tax cut.

But it's not just Republican freshmen cashing in, oh no.

The imbalance is apparent on the Democratic side as well. Each of the seven freshman Democrats on the committee has raised more industry PAC money so far this year than the committee’s top Democrat, Representative Maxine Waters of California, who has had a testy relationship with the industry. 

These freshman Democrats joined this year with Republicans on the committee — over the objection of Ms. Waters and the Obama administration — to support measures advocated by Wall Street banks that would roll back some of the strictest provisions of the landmark Dodd-Frank financial regulations, which were passed in 2010 in the aftermath of the global recession. 

A spokeswoman for Representative Patrick Murphy, a Florida Democrat who has taken in more industry PAC money than any other Democratic freshman, $53,500, said his votes had been cast based on what he believed was in the best interest of his constituents, not to please potential contributors. But she agreed that the pressure to raise money was intense. 

The system is what the system is,” said Tiffany Muller, Mr. Murphy’s deputy chief of staff, adding that her boss supported changing campaign finance rules. 

People wonder how we have 90-95% of incumbents get re-elected to an institution with a 9% approval rating.  It's because your Representative gets bought within weeks and spends all their time fundraising from lobbyists to stay in the House. 

Maybe we want to do something about that, yes?


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