Putting down a Slave Revolt in Baton Rouge

How to stop a slave revolt

How to stop a slave revolt

Peaceful assembly happens every day in the United States, whether it’s you and your friends meeting for lunch. Maybe you’re gathering for Sunday services at your church. In Baton Rouge, it could be an LSU football game at Tiger Stadium. What you don’t see at those peaceful assemblies are police in armored suits that look ridiculous to even veterans of modern combat. The cops turned out to face black members of the community as if they were stopping a slave revolt.

What’s the difference? Your friends at lunch or your congregation at church aren’t considered a “threat”.Neither are the fans who gather on LSU’s campus for football games. What made protests over the weekend in Baton Rouge a “threat”?

BRPD knows better

BRPD and the EBR Sheriff’s Office understand crowd control. They participate in major crowd control exercises at those LSU games. Those crowds are quite different, in that they’re overwhelmingly white. What we saw in Baton Rouge wasn’t crowd control. It was the suppression of what BRPD perceived as a slave revolt. What happened in Dallas was the work of a madman. BRPD approached their city’s problems as white-cops-versus-unruly-blacks. They plead the excuse that the crowd was violent:

Baton Rouge’s display of military-grade equipment followed last week’s fatal shooting of Alton Sterling as two Baton Rouge police officers tried to arrest him. Protests there turned violent over the weekend; the Baton Rouge Police Department said that one officer’s teeth were knocked out and that a number of firearms were confiscated during one of the rallies

The Baton Rouge Police Department did. Did the protesters intend to be violent from the start? Would they have thrown objects at the cops had BRPD taken a less-aggressive stance? Did the cops need to turn against members of their own community? The catch is that BRPD doesn’t consider black folks part of the community. They saw this reaction to them committing homicide as a slave revolt.

The Washington Post runs down, and yet again, how the feds offer military surplus weapons and equipment at deeply-discounted prices to local police. BRPD clearly has taken advantage of these programs to produce their own little badly-trained militia.

BRPD could have handled this like Dallas did

Alton Sterling was killed by a BRPD officer. The department new there would be outrage in the community. Still, they decided to go to war in full military gear. This follows a pattern of racism and poor policing by the department over a period of years. Now that racism is stoked by an incredible amount of military-grade hardware, like we saw in the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, MO:

One image from the weekend shows two Baton Rouge SWAT officers armed with semiautomatic carbines affixed with close-quarter optics. One officer has two 30-round magazines clipped together so that, if needed, he can reload faster. The officer is wearing a tactical-style, low-profile helmet with a night-vision boom attached — although it is missing the actual night-vision device.

Ridiculous. It’s clear that what happened in the Alton Sterling homicide was shoddy police work. Furthermore, their behavior is arguably criminal. From the beginning of the confrontation, all the way through terrible handling of witnesses and evidence after the cops killed Sterling. BRPD’s response to their own poor performance is to take the attitude that the blacks need to be put in their place.

Unacceptable.

Restaurants, Essence Festival, and #closedforessence

Essence Festival 2016

We had a great discussion about Essence Festival last year, how restaurants don’t do well during Essence, which is held annually over the Fourth of July weekend here in New Orleans. While I have no doubt that there are restaurants downtown and in Da Quarters that don’t want to serve a house full of black folks, there’s a lot more to the story than that.

Essence isn’t about dining, pubs, and clubs

This year, WalkOn’s is in the crosshairs. The pub, located on Poydras and S. Rampart, closed over the weekend, citing the need to do renovations. This caused a major social media backlash, prompting a lot of tweets using the hashtag #closedforessence. Brett Anderson’s article for Da Paper cites one commenter:

“I just put two and two together to decide that there was a racially motivated reason for their closing,” Devin Balance-Montrel said of Walk-On’s, which he called “racist” on Twitter. The 24-year-old African-American explained that he used to work in the French Quarter, at Montrel’s Bistro, a restaurant owned by family members that closed in 2013. “When other restaurants around us would close during Essence, they’d call it a ‘black out.’ They’d close because they didn’t want to deal with black customers.”

Mister Balance-Montrel would be dead wrong here. There a very important reason restaurants downtown close down for Essence weekend: Essence Fest goers don’t go out to eat in those restaurants when they come to town. For that matter, doesn’t

Music!

Think about this for a moment. Essence is about the music. Yes, there’s Rev Al and others at the workshops and panel discussions, but that’s not why folks come to down over the Fourth. They come for the music. They come for the music. And the music is in Da Dome. It’s not at Walk-On’s. It’s not at One Eyed Jacks. It’s in Da Dome. Rembert Browne’s 2012 article for the late-great Grantland is still the best review/description of Essence:

There were many acts at Essence, from the nostalgic (Dru Hill, Eve, Carl Thomas) to the rising stars (Melanie Fiona, Robert Glasper, Gary Clark Jr.). These acts, however, were held not on the main stage but in smaller venues within the Superdome. On that main stage each night were a series of acts with large followings, but they all concluded with two monster acts that could go toe-to-toe with any festival’s headliners.

Essence isn’t really a daytime thing

So, you wake up in your hotel room after a great experience in Da Dome the night before. You were in there until after 1am. You had to get back to your hotel, so assuming you didn’t hit a 24-hour place when you left, you didn’t get in bed until between 2am and 3am. It’s a safe assumption you weren’t at Ruby Slipper or Clover Grill at 8am.

Once you’re up and showered, it’s likely lunch time. You’ve got a couple of options, go explore some of New Orleans. A number of places recognize that Essence Festival folks are out and about in the afternoon, as Anderson notes:

Napoleon House routinely closed over the Fourth of July weekend dating back to the 1970s, although new owner Ralph Brennan changed the practice after he purchased the historic bar and restaurant last year.

So, there’s a crowd for lunch. Or is there? A lot of people hit the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, which is the hub of activity for the workshops, discussions, presentations, and general fan-fest-style activity during the day. If you opt for the Convention Center, you’re sucked into and controlled by Essence Festival. That’s not 450K fest-goers being shunned by restaurants who don’t want to serve black poeple, that’s black people simply not going out to eat.

Essence Festival is about Fashion!

The first acts every evening for Essence begin around 7pm. The lights don’t come on in Da Dome until after 1am, after those “monster acts” wrap. Essence-goers get to the dome between 5pm and somewhere during the first act. Now, consider your routine for going to a concert. Rembert got busted fashion-wise in 2012:

Paranoid motherly digressions and self-conscious age admissions aside, it was a joy being a part of this crowd. Even though I got a few strange looks the first day because I wore a tank top and shorts (Coachella attire) to the Superdome, once I had proven myself worthy by knowing words to songs I shouldn’t know the words to, I felt as if I had been pardoned and was allowed to stay with the party people.

It takes time to get ready

Now it’s 3pm-4pm, and your wife is telling you it’s time to get back to the hotel. Fashion takes time. Essence tends to be an older crowd, and everyone’s on vacation, so nobody’s running back to the hotel. Now it’s 5pm or so. The restaurants would be starting happy hour or early-bird specials. Is anyone there? Nope. The Fashion Gods must be appeased.

Now it’s 6:30pm-7:30pm. The first acts are on stage as folks stream into Da Dome. Does anyone have a 7pm dinner reservation? Not. A. Chance. We’re talking about a concert in Da Dome here, one with a packed house. You can’t just show up at 10pm and expect to actually see. Experienced Essence-goers know this and plan accordingly. Do those plans include pre-gaming at Walk-On’s? Doubtful.

The bottom line on Essence Festival is simple: everyone needs to settle down their knee-jerk reactions and realize how a big evening event works. They just don’t include dinner at a restaurant.

Insight into the NRA’s support of Republicans

1024px-National_Rifle_Association.svg - NRA logo

The National Rifle Association as mainstream GOP PAC

Democrats see the NRA as the face of the gun lobby. It’s an accurate, but incomplete view. Digby points out that the relationship between the NRA and the Republican Party is so much more. Not only that, but the pair have a long history. Two elections in the 1990s illustrate how the pairing works. In 1992, when the NRA helped go after Oklahoma Congressman Mike Synar:

This lesson came about from a previous Oklahoma race in 1992 when they became involved in the race against Rep. Mike Synar, a very outspoken liberal Democrat and enemy of the NRA and other GOP-affiliated special interests.They worked with other organizations to run ads against him about flag burning and other issues but also ran against him on guns. It backfired on them when Synar fought back against the NRA as an extremist organization and won. They came after his again in 1994 by recruiting a Democratic primary opponent and helping him win with a whisper campaign that said Synar supported the banning of hunting rifles. A Synar aid is quoted in the piece saying “They were smart. It was like boxing ghosts.” That primary election was an earthquake that foreshadowed the electoral rout that was to follow in the fall.

The NRA vs. Dave McCurdy

The OK GOP, with the help of a lot of NRA cash, chipped away at Synar’s credibility in 1992, and defeated him in 1994. The NRA then threw money at the Republican in the general, Tom Coburn. Coburn spent ten years in the House, moving to the Senate in 2005. In the 1994 OK Senate race, the NRA directed some of the $70 million they spent nationwide in an effort to oust Senator Dave McCurdy. The GOP/NRA didn’t go after McCurdy on guns, but rather by calling him a “Clinton clone”.

This hasn’t stopped for over twenty years. Remember this when your Fox News-watching aunt tells you that the NRA is all about “gun safety” and “Second Amendment rights”.

 

 

 

Sports by the numbers – FiveThirtyEight

Sports by the numbers – FiveThirtyEight

fivethirtyeight hot takedown

FiveThirtyEight.com and Sports – a great combination

I don’t write about sports a lot here, unless there’s an alternate angle. Here’s the angle for today: FiveThirtyEight.com. The NFL doesn’t hold my interest all that much. Basketball? Pelicans! #TakeFlight! However, I can’t keep up with my sons on the NBA. Baseball? I’m a Giants fan, and I support the New Orleans Zephyrs, but I don’t wear support for either on my sleeve. I keep my passion for La Joga Bonita, specifically for the US Men’s National Team and the USWNT, the New Orleans Jesters, and Arsenal Football Club on the Book of Zucker and YatSoccer. So, no angle, talk to me about football on YatSoccer.

The “Hot Takedown” podcast fascinates me. A lot of the data-driven work that Silver and his elves do had its origins with sport. That’s reflected by the fact that they dumped the New York Times and are now affiliated with ESPN. Go to the ep titled, “What Pat Summitt Did For The Game Of Basketball“. Go in to about 31 minutes. When they start talking about Durant, the numbers hit me. Here’s Durant, done with his contract with OKC, looking to go to a winner.

The NBA, Kevin Durant, and Championships

kevin durant 2014

Kevin Durant (courtesy Keith Allison)

There’s a lot of psychology involved in such a decision by a professional athlete. What I loved here was the discussion here about whether this type of personal decision actually works. What percentage of players who leave their current team for a “championship-level” team actually get there? There’s a distinction here between the player getting paid a bunch of money to build a championship team and the player looking to join a team to get a ring. Durant isn’t a Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James, whose expectations are to be the focal point of a winner. Well, maybe Durant is ‘Melo, actually, given that Anthony hasn’t been able to make the magic happen in New York. In addition, there’s factors like a player’s age and physical condition.

Then there was the discussion about why aren’t players like Durant looking to go to the NBA East if they want to be a champion, but that’s a different discussion. Suffice to say, “Hot Takedown” is a good listen.

AG Jeff Landry knows what’s best for New Orleans

AG Jeff Landry knows what’s best for New Orleans

jeff landry

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry (R-Tea Party)

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry (R-Tea Party) wants to help New Orleans:

This weekend – 50 two-person teams comprised of special agents at the LBI, St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office, and Hammond Police Department will patrol the outskirts of the French Quarter and the Central Business District. Moving forward – specials agents from the LBI are expected to team with task force members from the Sheriff’s Offices in Lafourche, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. John, and St. Tammany and the Hammond Police Department.

I’m pretty much struggling to understand what white-collar-crime investigators from the AG’s office are going to do to help with the crime situation. Landry’s word is “visibility”, but simply being visible isn’t all that much of a help. Now, if these folks are real investigators, isn’t there, some, you know, investigating they could be doing? According to Landry’s website, the Criminal Investigation Division of the Louisiana Bureau of Investigation of the Louisiana State Police (how’s that for a mouthful?) has three field offices in the state, in Baton Rouge, Breaux Bridge, and Alexandria. None of these people are based in New Orleans. That makes me wonder about another of Landry’s statements:

“By reallocating time, this new effort will not cost the City or the State anything new; but it will support and assist the NOPD, State Police, and FBI here,” added General Landry. “If we are to bring an end to the smear of crime, fraud, and corruption that tarnishes our great State’s reputation and affects the quality of life of all in Louisiana – law enforcement must work together.”

Not true, General Landry. If these investigators don’t live in New Orleans, someone has to cover their expenses. That’s a bit more than “anything new”. If Landry plans for this task force to run “perpetually”, does that mean he’s permanently pulling these LBI folks from the three cities where they’re based now? Were their tasks in those offices so unimportant he can just uproot them?

Still, those of us in the New Orleans metro area should be thankful for this increased visibility of cops, right?

Not so fast. Support from the Tea Party always comes with a hidden agenda. The Advocate offers some insight in their coverage of this task force:

Landry clashed with Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration this spring when he championed a push for state legislation that would have allowed him to label New Orleans a “sanctuary city” because of local limits on police collaboration with federal immigration officials. The effort, which would have allowed Landry to strip state bond money from the city, failed.

General Jeff Landry doesn’t like how the city handles immigration? Imagine that. Clearly he doesn’t like how NOPD does things to the point where he’s dropping his cops into the city. It’s curious that he’s decided to do this over the Fourth of July weekend, for Essence Festival. It’s the weekend with the biggest influx of African-American visitors to the city.

If Jeff Landry wants to help lower crime in New Orleans, he should deploy LBI to augment NOPD detectives, assisting with clearing violent crime cases, arresting the offenders, and breaking up organized criminal activity. Dropping a bunch of state cops in the CBD is only good to show the white people in suburbia and outside the city that you’re doing something in their eyes.

 

 

Louisiana is an Obamacare state!

Louisiana is an Obamacare state!

Obamacare from JBE

It’s going to take years to put out the dumpster fire that Jindal left behind, but fully implementing Obamacare is a good start:

 

“Expanding Medicaid in Louisiana was the easiest decision I’ve made since taking office in January, and I meet people from all walks of lifewho will be positively impacted by expansion,” said Gov. Edwards. “All the research shows that people with insurance coverage, including Medicaid, fare much better than those who are uninsured. Although my goal was to take immediate steps to get people health coverage, the more important goal is for people to have better health. Coverage is the important first step, and in the process, we are saving Louisiana taxpayers more than $180 million in this year alone.”

Accepting the Medicaid expansion and committing to fund programs that extend proper healthcare to everyone are essential. They’re compassionate. They’re the right feckin thing to do. When I travel to Europe, one of the common questions I’ll get asked is “Why don’t you Americans want to care for your sick?” I now tell them about my State Senator from #themetrys, Conrad Appel. Appel is currently my number-one “malaka”, as Adrastos affectionally refers to incredibly terrible people. Conrad here believes giving black people health care is a “luxury” that Louisiana taxpayers can’t afford. Such a shitty human being.

For all that John Bel Edwards is not a liberal, he is compassionate. There was a friend-of-a-friend comment on Lamar White’s Zuckerbook page where a #nonpartisanprogressive went on a rant about how un-progressive JBE is. Given that Lamar thinks rather highly of this individual, I was a bit confused. Nobody in Louisiana ever thought Governor Edwards was progressive. He’s a ConservaDem, and that’s not a bad thing. The Democratic Party is indeed the big tent, and JBE is an excellent example of how that works. Don’t like his position on abortion? Fine, work to re-establish the party outside of Orleans Parish and let’s elect more progressive Dems.

In the meantime, the poor get Obamacare. Go JBE!

“Working” at the Obama White House (@slatepodcasts, @Jacob_Brogan)

“Working” at the Obama White House (@slatepodcasts, @Jacob_Brogan)

slate working podcast

Listened to a great edition of the Slate’s “Working” podcast–an interview with Ms. Fiona Reeves, who work for President Obama as his Director of Presidential Correspondence. I just love any inside-the-White-House content, and this lady’s job is fascinating. Some takeaways:

  • It takes three weeks for a paper letter to get to the Office of Presidential Correspondence. Reeves calculates a week in transit (assuming regular first class postage), then two weeks for the letter to be screened for threats in the envelope.
  • The Obama Administration is the first to process email, forward it to the President, and respond
  • The Obama Administration discontinued accepting faxes as Presidential correspondence
  • Reeves and her staff select ten letters and/or emails a night to include in POTUS’ evening briefing book

Ms. Fiona Reeves and President Obama

It’s fascinating to see Barack Obama through the eyes of someone who has worked for him since OFA set up shop in New Hampshire, for the 2008 campaign. In some ways, Reeves fits the “Donna Moss” archetype from The West Wing, working for the campaign since the beginning, then going to a position in the White House, and staying for two terms.

The discussion about accepting email started the wheels in my mind turning. In “Enemies Foreign and Domestic” (West Wing S3E18), Charlie Young receives a letter routed to the Oval Office directly, because it had a private code number in the address that presidents use to bypass correspondence processing for truly personal mail. In the story, Bartlet chose the same private code number that FDR used. A letter from a boy who’d seen FDR speak in 1932 was delayed for decades, and made it all the way to the Oval because of that code. I assume that POTUS still uses a similar system, but I also wonder if President Obama has a private email that goes straight to him, or someone close to him, the electronic equivalent of that mail code? Sometimes I wonder if the issues of “private mail servers” that go back to the Bush43 administration start out with just the notion of a place where POTUS, or SecState, can talk to folks about simple things without someone reading everything they do/say. The rest becomes unintended consequences.

One final observation, totally off the topic of the interview: POTUS didn’t re-model the Oval upon taking office in 2009. They’re standing on the rug from the Bush43 administration in that photo. President Clinton had a dark blue rug–the Bartlet Oval was modeled off of Clinton’s. It will be interesting to see what Hillary does with the room.

Cinemark: The villain here is still the shooter.

Cinemark: The villain here is still the shooter.

There’s not much worse that can happen to someone than losing a child. Trust me on that one. You’re angry, hurt, and absolutely-fucking-insane with grief. I get the need to have someone pay for what happened, the need to have the death be someone’s fault, and for them to admit to you that it was their fault. Thing is, in the case of the Aurora, Colorado mass shooting, the fault doesn’t lie with Cinemark, the owner of the theater, even if they have the deep pockets:

U.S. District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson, who cited decisions in another Colorado mass shooting, said those failures could have contributed in some way but were not the substantial factors in the deaths and injuries. Instead, the shooter’s “premeditated and intentional actions were the predominant cause of plaintiffs’ losses,” Jackson wrote in his decision.

The fault belongs to the shooter, plain and simple. It is an unreasonable expectation that every public facility, such as a movie theater, shopping mall, nightclub, or school should be turned into armed camps with cameras, metal detectors, and security guards. The victims and families involved in this shooting knew that, yet they still went for the deep pockets. Cinemark aren’t fools, either; they were willing to settle:

Originally, 42 survivors and relatives of those killed filed federal lawsuits against Cinemark. Earlier this month, 27 of them signed agreements to resolve the lawsuit without a trial, according to federal court records. Details of the agreements were not available.

Better than half of the plaintiffs settled. Cinemark doesn’t need the bad publicity. As for the other fifteen, I’m going to chalk it up to rage and grief, the need for someone to be at fault, rather than perhaps, oh, I don’t know, greed, motivating their refusal to settle.

The villain is the shooter. It’s not even the State of Colorado, whose law allowing defendants in civil suits to recover expenses. Those 15 plaintiffs knew this might happen. Their attorneys knew. I totally understand the anger they feel over their loss.

For Cinemark to actually file to recover their expenses is interesting. It’s awful PR. There’s a petition asking Cinemark to withdraw the claims. The company should let it go, in full Elsa-style.

Making MOS Designations gender-neutral

Marine firing his rifle in training.

On The Gist podcast yesterday, Pesca remarked on changes the United States Marine Corps is making to 19 Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) designations, to make them gender neutral. They’re replacing “man” in those designations with other descriptors:

  • Basic infantry Marine.
  • Riverine assault craft Marine.
  • Light-armor vehicle Marine.
  • Reconnaissance Marine (to include three other recon-related jobs that include the word “man”).
  • Infantry assault Marine.
  • Basic field artillery Marine.
  • Field artillery fire control Marine.
  • Field artillery sensor support Marine.
  • Fire support Marine.
  • Basic engineer, construction and equipment Marine.
  • Basic tank and assault amphibious vehicle Marine.
  • Armor Marine.
  • Amphibious assault vehicle Marine.
  • Amphibious combat vehicle Marine.

Pesca’s take was two-pronged: he naturally had some snarky comments about the awkwardness of some of these titles, as well as a few comments about reactions folks had to the changes in comments to posts on Facebook. As Pesca noted, it appears that Marines object to being called “Marine”.

Not being in the military, I can’t say I have an opinion on these designations, but they did bring me back to how Star Trek: The Next Generation handled gender-specific pronouns in Star Fleet. The writers basically punted, having subordinates call all superior officers, “sir”, regardless of gender. At the time, I thought it was an interesting concept. Now, given that more and more women serve in our Forces, and the ban on transgendered folks openly serving has been lifted, this is a good thing.

Still, I keep thinking about LT Firstborn and his use of a very specific spoken-word convention on the submarines. Like ST:TNG, I could see the language of war remaining as simple as possible, monosyllabic where possible. Maybe “man” and “sir” are still the right way to keep it short and simple?

Amicus Podcast – Solicitor General Don Verrili

Amicus Podcast – Solicitor General Don Verrili

Screenshot from 2016-06-30 07:54:46

One of my favorite work-nerd things is the Amicus podcast from Slate/Panoply. I’ve been a fan of Ms. Dhalia Lithwick (I well and truly squeeed when she was on TDS last month) for years, and to hear her as well as read her column is a lot of fun. Her end-of-term podcast is an interview with outgoing Solicitor General Don Verrili, and it’s a fascinating look into arguing before the present-day SCOTUS. This is a great listen. If you know a Government teacher, I highly recommend you pass  Amicus on to them as a teaching tool.

 

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