Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Last Call For Eight Is Enough

Eight shots to his back while running away from a police officer.

This is how Walter Scott died in North Charleston.

A white police officer has been charged with murder, the mayor of North Charleston, S.C., said Tuesday, after a video surfaced showing him shooting and killing an apparently unarmed black man in the back while he ran away.

The officer, Michael T. Slager, had said he feared for his life because the man took his stun gun in a scuffle after a traffic stop on Saturday. A video, however, shows the officer firing eight times as the man fled. The state charges were announced in a news conference Tuesday evening.

The only reason Michael Slager is facing murder charges is because of this video, which was provided to the New York Times.  In it you can clearly see the officer reaching for Scott, who turns around and flees.  The officer then takes a shooting stance with his sidearm and fires eight times at the fleeing Scott.

Later in the video, it very much looks like Slager drops his taser next to Scott's body.

The shooting unfolded after Officer Slager stopped a Mercedes-Benz with a broken taillight, according to police reports. The driver, Walter L. Scott, 50, ran away, and Officer Slager chased him into a grassy lot that abuts a muffler shop. He fired his Taser, an electronic stun gun, but it did not stop Mr. Scott, according to police reports.

Moments later, Officer Slager reported on his radio, “Shots fired and the subject is down. He took my Taser,” according to police reports.

But the video, which was taken by a bystander and provided to The New York Times by Mr. Scott’s lawyer, presents a different account. The video begins in the vacant lot, apparently moments after Officer Slager fired his Taser. Wires, which carry the electrical current from the stun gun, appear to be extending from Mr. Scott’s body as the two men tussle and Mr. Scott turns to run.

Something — it is not clear whether it is the stun gun — is either tossed or knocked to the ground behind the two men and Officer Slager draws his gun, the video shows. When the officer fires, Mr. Scott appears to be 15 to 20 feet away and fleeing. He falls after the last of eight shots.

So no, he didn't take the officer's taser, and the officer shot Scott multiple times while he was running away.   Then he dropped the taser next to Scott's body.

This is the police in America in 2015.

The Incredible Evitable Jeb

Either the NY Times is still pretending that the GOP nomination hasn't been locked up by Jeb Bush because they want a nice long primary fight news cycle for the next year, or Jeb really isn't quite as good at this campaign thing as his dad and brother were.

Three months into what allies once confidently described as a “shock and awe” drive to overcome his rivals and dominate the Republican presidential field, Jeb Bush’s early campaigning looks like the juggernaut that wasn’t.

He is grappling with the Republican Party’s prickly and demanding ideological blocs, particularly evangelical leaders and pro-Israel hawks. He is struggling to win over grass-roots activists in Iowa and New Hampshire, states he has visited only a handful of times. And Mr. Bush’s undisputed advantage — the millions of dollars streaming rapidly into his political organization — may not be enough to knock out other contenders.

For all the Republican “bundlers” who have signed up to raise money for Mr. Bush, others remain uncommitted or are hedging their bets by aiding more than one candidate. Some are privately chafing at what they view as the Bush camp’s presumption of their loyalty.

Other wealthy donors, mindful of their power to reshape the Republican race with “super PAC” donations, have been more direct: The casino magnate Sheldon Adelson recently made what two people briefed on it described as an “animated” call to one of Mr. Bush’s top supporters after former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, a Bush adviser, criticizedPrime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in a speech in March.

It is a far cry, party officials, activists and donors said, from the early success of George W. Bush, Mr. Bush’s brother, in securing the 2000 Republican presidential nomination.

For the Bush family, inevitability is not what it used to be. “There hasn’t been a coalescing around him like there was for his brother in 1998 and 1999,” said Ed Martin, who led the Missouri Republican Party until February and is now president of the Eagle Forum, the conservative group founded by Phyllis Schlafly. “I just don’t have a sense among big donors and Republican leaders that this is Jeb’s to lose.”

This is all wishful thinking, frankly.  If the last week in Indiana proved one thing, it's that the corporate wing of the GOP is firmly in charge, and the Tea Party nut jobs aren't calling the shots anymore.  Bad bets in 2012 won't be made again this time around.

Jeb may be a meatball, but in the end I think he's more inevitable than Hillary as the respective 2016 nominee of their party.  Too much old money, old power, and old skeletons for something new to emerge from the party of the 1850s.

Rolled By Rolling Stone

Columbia School Journalism dean Steve Coll writes the autopsy of Rolling Stone's journalistic credibility as last November's disaster of a sexual assault story has now officially been retracted. Coll's 12,000 word deconstruction is longer than the original article by about a third and is absolutely brutal to the magazine, the Columbia J-school author, and her editors.

The collapse of "A Rape on Campus" does not involve the kinds of fabrication by reporters that have occurred in some other infamous cases of journalistic meltdown. In 2003, the New York Times reporter Jayson Blair resigned after editors concluded that he had invented stories from whole cloth. In February, NBC News suspended anchor Brian Williams after he admitted that he told tall tales about his wartime reporting in Iraq. There is no evidence in Erdely's materials or from interviews with her subjects that she invented facts; the problem was that she relied on what Jackie told her without vetting its accuracy.

"It's been an extraordinarily painful and humbling experience," Woods said. "I've learned that even the most trusted and experienced people – including, and maybe especially, myself – can make grave errors in judgment."

Yet Rolling Stone's senior editors are unanimous in the belief that the story's failure does not require them to change their editorial systems. "It's not like I think we need to overhaul our process, and I don't think we need to necessarily institute a lot of new ways of doing things," Dana said. "We just have to do what we've always done and just make sure we don't make this mistake again." Coco McPherson, the fact-checking chief, said, "I one hundred percent do not think that the policies that we have in place failed. I think decisions were made around those because of the subject matter."

Yet better and clearer policies about reporting practices, pseudonyms and attribution might well have prevented the magazine's errors. The checking department should have been more assertive about questioning editorial decisions that the story's checker justifiably doubted. Dana said he was not told of reporting holes like the failure to contact the three friends or the decision to use misleading attributions to obscure that fact.

For his part, Coll does provide a fair number of things that should immediately be improved by the magazine, and for journalists covering sexual assault in any capacity. Whether or not anyone listens is the key, but the bottom line is I would not expect to see anything resembling a hard-hitting expose' on college sexual assault and rape anytime soon, and the damage done by Rolling Stone here plays right into the idiotic right-wing myth that sexual assault simply doesn't happen on campus.

People, not just women, will be hurt and will not report assault because of this article and the fallout from it.  Period.

And that's Rolling Stone's biggest shame.

Were we as interested in flaying the malefactors behind journalistic malpractice when FOX or the Wall Street Journal commits it, daily.


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