Saturday, January 10, 2015

Last Call For Slow Going In Fast City

To the surprise of exactly zero people, NYPD Comimssioner Bill Bratton today confirmed that New York's Finest are New York's Not Workingest.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton is confirming a work slowdown, following reports that criminal summonses have declined by 90 percent. 
In an interview with NPR's Robert Siegel, Bratton said the department has taken a close look at the numbers. 
"We're coming out of what was a pretty widespread stoppage of certain types of activity, the discretionary type of activity by and large," he said. He added that despite the slowdown is prosecuting smaller, quality-of-life criminal offenses, major crimes in the city are down overall. 
Bratton also said he's aware of how difficult the past few weeks have been for officers. Late last year, police responded to widespread protests in the city, following a grand jury's decision not to indict a police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner. And just last month, two police officers were shot and killed in Beford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. 
"I'm very conscious of the impact of all of those on my personnel," Bratton said, adding that the department is taking a measured approach as it returns to normal policing.

Bratton appears to be saying that the NYPD is now returning to whatever normal is, i.e. harassing the hell out of any non-white resident of the five boroughs that they can find.  Not sure if the NYPD is actually doing so, but we'll see over the next month what the numbers are.

I wonder what Bratton promised the unions and the rank-and-file.  They wouldn't be ending the slowdown unless they got something out of it.  My guess is major, major concessions from City Hall about police union contracts...and the knowledge that they can successfully push around Mayor de Blasio in the future.

Very interesting to see where this goes.  On the other hand, it's possible that the NYPD isn't "coming out of the slowdown" at all, and that Bratton's going to be hung out like a beef carcass. Either situation is a win for the NYPD.  It's just a matter of how much they run up the score at this point.

Of course, there's always the possibility that the NYPD are in fact angels protecting New York from icky brown people, so what do I know?

Slaughter In Nigeria

Last weekend's attack on an African Union military base in Nigeria by Islamist group Boko Haram may have turned out to be far worse a massacre than anyone imagined.  Reports now say the nearby town of Baga in Nigeria where the base was has all been wiped off the map, along with as many as 2,000 people.

Gunshots punctured the early morning quiet. “They came through the north, the west and from the southern part of the town because the eastern part is only water,” one resident told the BBC. “So, when we [went] toward the western part, we saw heavily armed Boko Haram men coming toward us.” At the sight of the incoming insurgents, the soldiers put up a scant fight before abandoning their base and leaving residents defenseless
“There is definitely something wrong that makes our military abandon their posts each time there is an attack from Boko Haram,” local state senator Maina Maaji Lawan told the BBC, adding that residents’ frustration knew “no bounds.” Frustration, however, soon gave way to something substantially worse. 
It’s not clear how many people were killed in Baga. Early reports on Thursday said hundreds. Others said it was many more. Musa Alhaji Bukar, a senior government official in Borno, said Boko Haram killed more than 2,000 people which, if true, would mean the group equaled its total kill count last year in one attack. More were said to have drowned in Lake Chad while attempting to swim to a nearby island. Some estimatessaid more than 20,000 people are now displaced as result of what one reporter called Boko Haram’s “most horrific act of terrorism yet.” 
Baga, local government officials say, is simply no more. It’s “virtually non-existent,” Bukar told the BBC. One man who escaped with his family toldAgence France-Presse he had to navigate through “many dead bodies on the ground” and that the “whole town was on fire.” Another man told Reuters he “escaped with my family in the car after seeing how Boko Haram was killing people … I saw bodies in the street. Children and women, some were crying for help.” He added: Bodies were “littered on the streets and surrounding bushes.” 
“The indiscriminate killing went on and on and on,” Lawan told BBC.

And of course Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan is powerless to do anything, as Nigeria's government is so utterly corrupt that any attempts to combat Boko Haram end in abject failure. Northeastern Nigeria along Lake Chad now completely belongs to Boko Haram, and now they are pushing into neighboring Niger, Chad, and Cameroon.

It doesn't look like anyone is going to be able to stop them.

Orange Julius Gives Them The Gas Face

With gas prices down to around $2 a gallon from $3.50, the notion to raise the federal gas tax by a bit in order to pay for the Federal Highway Trust Fund to keep America's interstates running seems pretty reasonable.

But let's remember you're dealing with 2015 Republicans like John Boehner, who are never reasonable. Steve Benen:

The Highway Trust Fund, which plays a central role in financing U.S. infrastructure projects, is financed through a federal gas tax. It’s been a pretty effective system, at least up until recently – the current tax hasn’t changed in more than two decades, and as a result, American investment in infrastructure has fallen to its lowest point since 1947. Making matters slightly worse, the Highway Trust Fund is on track to run out of money in May. 
The simple, efficient, and painfully obvious solution is to approve an overdue increase to the gas tax – with prices at the pump already having plummeted, this is an ideal time – which would bolster the fund, boost investments, and help both the economy and our infrastructure, which even Republicans concede is currently “on life support.” 
Indeed, while Democratic support for an overdue gas-tax increase comes as no surprise, some conservative GOP lawmakers also agree that we don’t have much of a choice.

But oh well, John Boehner won't even allow that up for a vote in the House.

Asked for further clarification, Boehner spokesman Michael Steel told Greg Sargent, “The Speaker doesn’t support a gas tax hike. Period.”

Now Orange Julius does concede that somebody has to pay for the Highway Trust Fund, or thousands of construction jobs will be lost this summer and our interstate highways won't get repaired.  The obvious and easy way is to bump up the gas tax.

But that won't happen.  What will happen?  We don't know, that's up to Republicans.

Good luck with that whole "governance" thing, boys.
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