It's not like tying kids to chairs and putting bags over their heads makes us the baddies. Does it?
In Part Nine Million of our series "the cruelty is the point" (credit Adam Serwer), we bring you this story from Mother Jones about the treatment of migrant kids at a juvenile detention center in Virginia, one of just two juvie lockups where the government stores "unaccompanied minors who are deemed threatening." The story, by Samantha Michaels, traces the ongoing legal case against the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center, which started with a lawsuit in 2017 accusing the facility of using harsh disciplinary methods against migrant teens who haven't committed any crimes but are locked up because of their immigration status. (Not that harsh discipline is healthy for any kids in lockup, regardless of their rap sheets!) This week, the case is getting new attention because a crowd of nationally recognized prosecutors and even a few state attorneys general have filed an amicus brief as the case moves forward on appeal. We'll get to those details in a moment.
The suit argued that instead of getting the kids necessary mental health care for PTSD and other disorders stemming from their experiences as migrants, staff at the facility instead subjected them to punishments like being routinely tied to chairs for misbehavior, sometimes with a bag over their heads so they could get the full Gitmo Jr. experience.
Yeah, seems like the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 is pretty on-point!
A prosecutor suing her own police force for perpetuating a racist conspiracy is not something you see every day. But that's what Kimberly Gardner, the chief prosecutor for St. Louis, Missouri, is doing.
Kimberly Gardner is the first African American circuit attorney in the history of St. Louis. She was elected in the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson. Gardner won her election after running on a platform of rebuilding trust between law enforcement and St. Louis's black community.
Since taking office in 2017, Gardner has sought to reform both her office and the practices of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. And the city's white establishment has fought it, kicking and screaming at every turn, even going as far as to appoint a special prosecutor to criminally investigate her.
Now, Gardner is suing the City of St. Louis, the St. Louis Police Officers Association labor union, a special prosecutor appointed to investigate her office, and others for violating her civil and constitutional rights through a "racially motivated conspiracy to deny the civil rights of racial minorities."
The suit argues that the local officials targeting her have violated the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 and the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution and makes explosive allegations, like, "On information and belief and based on recent media reports, there are white supremacists on the St. Louis police force."
As the complaint notes,
The stakes are high. This case cries out for federal enforcement.
It didn't even happen in Rampart!
More than a dozen LAPD officers are under investigation after falsifying evidence and wrongly identifying people as gang members in South Los Angeles. Allegedly.
Last year, a woman who believed her son had been misidentified as a gang member went to a local precinct. The review of her son's case led officers to uncover massive corruption of the department's elite Metro Division. According to a statement from the LAPD:
The supervisor immediately reviewed the circumstances, including body worn video and other information, finding inaccuracies in the documentation completed by an officer.
The parent was notified that her son would not be identified as a gang member and any references to him as such were removed. Concurrently, the Department initiated a personnel investigation into the actions of three involved officers.
The subsequent investigation revealed that what happened to that woman's son was neither a mistake nor an isolated incident.
Let's hope it doesn't get worse in 2020
If there is any one thing that has surprised me over the last few years, it has been the staggering propensity of people to believe in the kind of crazy ass shit it seemed as though everyone had collectively stopped believing in a long time ago. I, at least, had assumed that things like "scientific racism" and the Satanic Panic were relics of their respective bygone eras. I certainly did not ever expect to hear anyone try to seriously reference "The Bell Curve" except as a joke, and I definitely thought that we were living in a post West Memphis Three world when it came to anyone thinking that people were going around doing Satanic Ritual Abuse.
But, as they say, here we are.
Last year, people fell for hoax after hoax, conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory, mainly because those hoaxes and theories, as ridiculous as they were, confirmed some belief they had about the world in a way they found particularly satisfying. And as much as I'd like to say "Let's hope this year is better!," I think the best we can hope for is that it does not get worse.
The Cop And The Coffee Cup
This is a recent one! In fact, it just happened last week. A story about a 23-year-old Kansas police officer (and veteran!) who went to McDonald's for coffee, only to be greeted, cruelly, with the words "fucking pig" written on his cup went viral, and boy was the Blue Lives Matter crowd pissed about it. How dare this lowly McDonald's employee disrespect the boys in blue! Surely such a thing would never have happened if everyone hadn't been so rude about talking about police brutality all the time!
Except that such a thing did not happen, and the police chief who posted the picture of the cup on his Facebook page announced that the cop it had supposedly happened to had admitted the whole thing was a "fabrication." Nice. So someone nearly lost their minimum wage job because this guy decided to be an asshole for literally no reason whatsoever. America!
The last time this kind of thing happened — this time at a Starbucks — the whole thing turned out to be a misunderstanding, involving a barista joking around with an old friend who happened to be a cop.
Greta Thunberg Is A Crisis Actress Named Estella Renee!
A really fun thing about conservatives is that they are so into their own shit that they truly think that the only reason anyone disagrees with them is because they are getting paid to. By who? George Soros, probably. This year, they decided that climate change activist Greta Thunberg couldn't possibly be "real," and thus created a variety of conspiracy theories about how she was either an actress herself or a non-existent person being played by an actress. Can't fool them!
Satan Is Using Chemtrails To Keep People From Hearing God's Voice
If I had to pick an absolute favorite group of conspiracists, it would be the flat-earthers. If I had to pick a second favorite? CHEMTRAIL PEOPLE. I love them so much, especially when they go out in their yards and spray vinegar bottles at the sky to combat the chemtrails. It is my favorite thing.
My other favorite thing is when people mix and match their bullshit. Like when Firefighter Prophet Mark Taylor claimed that chemtrails were keeping people from hearing "God's frequency."
It only makes sense!
Kate Bush Is A Murderer!
Kate Bush - The Red Shoes youtu.be
This year, the very serious "QAnon Researchers" imagineered a ton of extremely stupid things for their fellow "Patriots" to fall for. However, far and away, my favorite thing they came up with was the time they decided that Actual Living Goddess Kate Bush was a murderer, and that her 1993 video for "The Red Shoes" was a reenactment of her "initiation kill" into Hillary Clinton's Cannibalistic Satanic Child Sex Ring. Why? Because they think that people only wear red shoes as a way to let the world know that they love to kill and eat children, and also that those people love to "rub it in the faces" of people who hang out on the internet all day making up weird conspiracy theories about everything.
Post-Birth Abortions Abound (But Not Really!)
In January of this year, Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia, a a pediatric neurologist, appeared on a radio show wherein he explained what happens when a fetus is not able to survive outside of the womb:
When we talk about third-trimester abortions, these are done with the consent of obviously the mother, with the consent of the physicians, more than one physician by the way, and it's done in cases where there may be severe deformities, there may be a fetus that's non-viable. So, in this particular example if the mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that's what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.
Due to a fairly severe misunderstanding of what the term non-viable even means, wingnuts across the country and in the White House lost their ever-loving minds screaming about how doctors and mothers were just straight up letting babies die for no reason, rather than providing standard end-of-life care.
Since then, regardless of the amount of times this has been debunked, we have had to contend with legions of morons who absolutely believe that women are going around, going through nine months of pregnancy, delivering the baby, and then, once the baby is born, killing that baby.
Drinking Bleach. No, Really.
This year, we encountered the Genesis II Church, a church that encourages its followers to drink bleach — AKA "Magic Mineral Solution" in order to cure almost every ailment on earth, particularly those ailments caused by vaccines.
While it's hard to know exactly how many people saw this and thought "Oh, what a fabulous idea, guess I'll go drink some bleach now!" — we do know that, at the very least, Alan Keyes was into it. And now we are going to just keep our mouths shut.
Quillette's Fake 'Marxist-Leninist-Alinskyite Construction Worker' Op-Ed
This year, the right-wing site Quillette became the premier site for self-described members of the "Intellectual Dark Web" — a group consisting primarily of the kind of unbearable people who adhere to long-debunked "scientific" rationalizations for bigotry and tell you their "IQ" within moments of meeting you.
Of all of the stupid things they published this year, the absolute best was an op-ed written by a "Marxist-Leninist-Alinskyite Construction Worker" who described being very dissatisfied with how intersectionality and political correctness had just ruined Democratic Socialists of America meetings, warning that these practices were really going to put off working class Joes like himself. It would have been absolutely perfect if it were not so incredibly, obviously fake. — starting from "Marxist-Leninist-Alinskyite" and moving forward to the totally non-existent "Brooklyn Chapter of the DSA." It hit so many right-wing bugaboos — intersectionality, people with green hair, Brooklyn hipsters, talking about Saul Alinsky way more than any normal person has ever talked about Saul Alinsky — that anyone who had ever met anyone who was not a devoted Glenn Beck fan would have been able to realize it was a hoax. Which it was. As it turned out, the "Marxist-Leninist Alinskyite Construction Worker" of Intellectual Dark Webbed Dreams was just a 24-year-old guy from Illinois having a good laugh at their expense.
Just A Reminder, For Us All
If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
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Will racist cop recognize the outside world after two whole weeks in jail?
Last year, New York City police officer Michael J. Reynolds was visiting Nashville, Tennessee, which everyone should do, when he got drunk and broke into the house next to his Airbnb, which no one should do. He didn't just fall asleep in a child's bedroom like a pre-Iron Man Robert Downey Jr. He terrorized the family inside. Conese Halliburton, who actually lived there, described Reynolds kicking in her door, as if he was re-enacting the SWAT raid of his dreams. Video surveillance footage backed up her account.
In surveillance footage with audio shared by Halliburton's neighbor, [Reynolds] can be heard saying "Try to shoot me, and I'll break every f---ing bone in your f---ing neck," before calling them "f---ing n------."
Although Reynolds didn't kill anyone like a common Amber Guyger, he roamed around Halliburton's home like a wild animal, shouting, "This is my motherfucking house!" Halliburton's sons tried to protect her from Reynolds, who refused to leave until Halliburton told him she'd called the police. Reynolds straight-up threatened their lives before finally leaving. Once he was outside, Halliburton could hear another man ask Reynolds, "Did you make her strip?"
They're not Norwegian dissidents, after all.
Not content with its plan to effectively end asylum for new applicants, the Trump administration has dreamed up some brand new fuckery to hit asylum-seekers with. Immigration attorneys tell Buzzfeed News and the San Diego Union-Tribune the Border Patrol has taken to issuing fake court notices to asylum seekers, as a way of keeping out immigrants who could otherwise legally be allowed into the US. Yes, you read that right. We have to repeat it to believe it ourselves: The Border Patrol is telling migrants they have nonexistent court dates so they won't exercise their rights to legally enter the land of freedom and equal justice under law.
Because without respect for the law, you don't have a country, right? Doesn't mean the law has to respect you.
It's all about Order and Order.
Attorney General Bill Barr likes to think of police officers as a brave army that's literally at war -- with crime, or with evildoing criminals, or maybe with the communities they police. And if people don't like it, they should just shut up, submit to lawful authority, and stop resisting. Back in August, at a Cop Convention in New Orleans, Barr explained that American law enforcement shouldn't be hamstrung by all this stupid stuff about "rights," because cops are right and anyone a cop decides is a criminal is wrong:
We need to get back to basics. We need public voices, in the media and elsewhere, to underscore the need to "Comply first, and, if warranted, complain later." This will make everyone safe – the police, suspects, and the community at large. And those who resist must be prosecuted for that crime. We must have zero tolerance for resisting police. This will save lives.
Barr didn't explain how a 10-year-old who gets shot to death within seconds of cops pulling up on him was being too much of a loudmouthed resister, but on Tuesday he offered further thoughts on who deserves police protection and who doesn't. He seems to think that "comply first, and if warranted, complain later" offers too much latitude, because there's entirely too much complaining about unarmed black people getting shot by cops.
But at least the Walmart shoplifter is no longer at large.
A federal appeals court ruled this week that a homeowner isn't entitled to compensation after police wrecked his house and left his family homeless. Leo Lech's Greenwood Village, Colorado, residence was the setting of a 19-hour standoff with police in June 2015. An armed shoplifter, who'd scored two belts and a shirt from Walmart, broke into Lech's home and held off pursuing officers with a handgun. The cops fired tear gas into the residence, exploded walls, blew out windows, and finally drove a military-style armored vehicle through the front door.
SWAT officers apprehended the shoplifting suspect, who had nothing to do with Lech, but in their wake, they left behind the climax of an Avengers movie.
"The interior of the Lech Home was a mass of debris and destroyed belongings from the projectiles launched into the home by the Defendants. Chemical munitions or other projectiles were stuck in the walls. The Lech Home was completely uninhabitable and its condition posed a danger to anyone entering the home," one of Lech's attorneys, David Williams, wrote in a federal lawsuit filed in August 2016.
You'd think, under those circumstances, Lech would've won the free house lottery. If he didn't receive a giant novelty check at a public ceremony, the cops could've at least come back on the weekends and helped rebuild like on "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." They'd already had demo day. But this was like a bad "Property Brothers" episode where they demolish your house and then tell you to fuck off.
Can a white guy get some due process around here?
It's a truth universally acknowledged that "law and order" conservatives will turn into common ACLU members whenever a white guy is faced with actual accountability. Head White Man in Charge Donald Trump is staring down the barrel of an impeachment inquiry, so it's only natural that the Fraternal Order of Police would publicly defend his constitutional right to shred the Constitution.
The National FOP released this statement on Tuesday. Please don't try to read while drinking coffee.
That's just precious. First, let's talk about how the police generally treat the "indigent living on the street" or "homeless people," as they're called in non-Victor Hugo fan fiction.
A few years back, Crown Heights, New York, cops beat up a homeless man who was sleeping (with permission) in a synagogue. Miami police arrested a woman last year for "obstructing the sidewalk" with her homelessness. San Francisco police were recently accused of handing out tickets to homeless people "like candy." If the homeless can't pay the fine for their unseemly poverty, they are subject to a bench warrant, which kicks them off the waiting list for a shelter. The cycle just grows more vicious from there.
Homelessness is a complex problem with no easy solutions. I'm sure there are police officers who try to balance the rights of homeless people with the laws that criminalize their existence. But it insults our intelligence and moral sensibilities to compare the least powerful among us to the most powerful man in the world. Trump tried to extort the Ukrainian president so he could gather dirt on his political opponent. He's not the likely subject of a Bob Dylan protest song.
Look Under Your Chairs, Fortune's Most Powerful Women! It's A Baby Kirstjen Nielsen Stole From Its Mommy.
Sorry not sorry.
Former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen appeared yesterday at Fortune magazine's "Most Powerful Women Summit," an event that had lost some participants, like Hillary Clinton and singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile, because who wants to be onstage with an engineer of concentration camps? Fortunately, she was interviewed by "PBS NewsHour" correspondent Amna Nawaz, who didn't let Nielsen get away with any doubletalk -- or rather, tried not to let Nielsen get away with doubletalk, although every effort to fact check the former gulag chief was met by more bafflegab.
The Guardian notes the conference was "attended by people who paid a $13,500 fee to join Fortune's Most Powerful Women membership." Well worth it, since they all got their names listed in a handsome leatherbound book and received a certificate suitable for framing. That kind of thing looks very impressive to college admissions officers, we hear.
If you don't like it, he'll have another one in a few months.
Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg was for Medicare For All before he was against it. Now, he's for it for all who want it, which we guess is not everyone. It's confusing. But the South Bend, Indiana, mayor is trying to torpedo Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who support Medicare For All. Let's take a look at Buttigieg's current position.
Whoa, those are a lot of promises there, slick. It's similar to the Republican shuck and jive on health care. They were going to gut the Affordable Care Act but they were also going to keep everything voters liked about it, such as protections for people with pre-existing conditions. It was the sort of sleight-of-hand "magic" Marianne Williamson might've appreciated. I still haven't met the people who are so in love with their health insurance plans they fear the government separating them like immigrant families at the border. I do have friends with very generous, fully funded health care plans but they work for Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and Wonkette (individually, not all at once). That's a relatively small percentage of the country. So are the folks with sweet union plans Joe Biden vows to protect. But Medicare For All has great appeal for Americans who are stuck with plans they might as well have retrieved from a bubblegum machine (and also Wonkette). That's a bigger group than pundits and politicians want to admit.
Finally some shitty immigration enforcement at the Canadian border, eh?
[Story updated with new info, see note at end] A British couple and their 3-month-old baby are getting treated to the full force of immigration law under the Stephen Miller regime after accidentally entering the US on an unmarked back road that crossed the Canada-US border. For over a week, they've been in family immigration prison in Pennsylvania while the wheels of US immigration law slowly work at getting them deported for a wrong turn. Here's how it all went pear-shaped for the Connors family, according to the Washington Post:
Originally from the United Kingdom, the two couples and their three young children were driving near the U.S.-Canada border on Oct. 3 during a visit to Vancouver when an animal ventured into the road, forcing them to make an unexpected detour. But before the family could get very far, flashing lights from a police car appeared in their rearview mirror. The officer that pulled them over was American — they had accidentally crossed the border.
The brave Border Patrol agents ignored the miscreants' excuses that, as British citizens on valid passports, they were OK to visit the US. After all, they didn't cross at a port of entry, so clearly they were terrorists, human smugglers, or worse, maybe. In a complaint the family filed Friday with the Inspector General for the Homeland Security Department, Eileen Connors explained that they were all kept in a freezing, dirty Border Patrol facility, then flown to the Berks Family Residential Center in Leesport, Pennsylvania, and treated like the dangerous criminals they clearly are:
"We will never forget, we will be traumatized for the rest of our lives by what the United States government has done to us," Connors wrote in a sworn statement, later adding, "We have been treated like criminals here, stripped of our rights, and lied to. … It is undoubtedly the worst experience we have ever lived through."
Don't drive on a back road if you and your little baby can't do the time, lady.
Black people should be safe in their own homes.
Atatiana Jefferson was shot dead in her own home Saturday in front of her eight-year-old nephew. Fort Worth, Texas, police officer Aaron Dean killed the 28-year-old black woman, senselessly and callously. Dean was responding to a wellness check from one of Jefferson's neighbors, who was concerned that the doors to her house were open late at night. I don't know why he called the police. "Protect and serve" does technically apply to black people, but it's not always worked out in practice.
Shockingly, Dean was charged with murder Monday. He'd resigned earlier that day, and interim Police Chief Ed Kraus said he would've fired Dean anyway for several policy violations. It's encouraging that it's against policy to murder black women in their homes. It's in the manual and everything.
Dean and another officer responding to the nonemergency call entered through Jefferson's backyard. When Dean saw Jefferson through her bedroom window, he shined a flashlight at her like a common pervert and shouted, "Put your hands up! Show me your hands!" He didn't identify himself as a police officer and didn't wait more than a few seconds before shooting her. This was not an effective wellness check.
Border Patrol Not Bringing Their Best. Like This (Alleged) Rapist. Who Was Allowed To Retire After Arrest.
The Very Best People, part infinity.
The Border Patrol has always been full of assholes. We know we shouldn't generalize. Some, we suppose, may be good people. But just in the last few months, there was the Border Patrol guy who pleaded guilty to running down a migrant with his truck, and the agent accused of raping multiple women he'd met online. Not to mention the Border Patrol agent charged with murdering four women in Laredo in 2018 -- he preyed on women he figured wouldn't be missed because they were prostitutes. And that's on top of the regular human rights violations, but that's when they're on duty.
So good news for the Border Patrol: Its latest accused isn't a serial killer, at least. But Gus Zamora, the husband of one of the agency's top commanders, was indicted by a grand jury in July for raping a female agent, who had considered him a mentor and friend. As the New York Times notes in its story on the case, the Border Patrol has a lot of difficulty recruiting and retaining women, who make up only about 5 percent of its 20,000 agents. Can't imagine why.
THAT IS NOT A THING
According to the City of Southaven, Mississippi, undocumented immigrants don't have a right to not be murdered in their own homes.
In the middle of the night on July 27, 2017, two Southaven police officers went to the wrong house with no warrant. They then shot Ismael Lopez in the back of the head, killing him instantly. And now, they want a court to say that this was all fine, because Lopez didn't have the right not to be murdered in his own home.
In a motion to dismiss brief in Linares v. Southaven, Katherine Kerby, the lawyer for the City of Southaven and Zachary Durden, the officer who killed Mr. Lopez, makes the insane argument that undocumented immigrants have no constitutional rights and can therefore be summarily executed with no constitutional violations.
Everyone loves it when black people forgive.
Amber Guyger's defense team might've preferred her trial was held in 1992 Simi Valley, but instead the now convicted murderer was at the mercy of a non-white judge and predominately minority jury. As a result, she was treated fairly. She didn't pull a Zimmerman and escape punishment for killing Botham Jean, but her sentencing was generous. The prosecution asked for no less than 28 years -- a poetic reminder that Jean would've turned 28 this week -- but the jury gave her ten (or a "dime" if you watch a lot of "Law & Order").
I'm not that upset about the sentence. She'll serve at least five years of serious time. The former police officer is also permanently a felon. She can never return to her normal life. She also seemed like the type of cop who held a reductive view of the world: There were "good guys" and "bad guys." She's now one of the bad guys.
I also don't mind that 18-year-old Brandt Jean forgave his brother's killer. That's his business. I'm the petty AF atheist of my Southern black family. Like Barnabas Collins, I am neither good nor gentle: I do not forgive. I'm sure as hell not hugging anyone, murderer or no. But Brandt reminds me of the kind, spiritual, forgiving people I knew growing up. I just wish that all the white people praising his "grace" would remember Brandt Jean whenever they encounter another young black man they don't know. Maybe they wouldn't instinctively cross the street or clutch their purses. Maybe they'd think he's just offering a hug gift-wrapped from Jesus and not trying to rob them ... maybe.
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