Friday, January 30, 2015

Two Excellent, Recent Articles Regarding The Menace Known Worldwide As The Albuquerque Police Department

Damn, it's getting to be like dealing with ISIS there in the Rio Grande Valley - the lawless cops and their many, many helpers:

Rolling Stone:
Unauthorized camping is a petty misdemeanor. The officers could have told Boyd to move along and left it at that. ... [S]etting off a spectacular circus, with as many as 40 police officers reportedly joining the standoff. Among them were uniformed cops and members of the SWAT team, the tactical K-9 unit and the Repeat Offender Project squad.

Not present, Boyd's family would later allege in a complaint, was anyone clearly in charge.

...Boyd's death conformed to many of the patterns governing deadly police violence in Albuquerque. Living with mental illness, Boyd fit the profile of the marginal Albuquerqueans most likely to find themselves shot to death by the city's police. The escalation of a low-level encounter to a standoff involving numerous heavily armed officers wasn't anything new, either. Few were surprised when footage from the lapel camera that Officer Sandy was required to keep running was inexplicably absent. And, as in so many previous officer-involved shootings, Boyd's death was followed by a press conference by the chief of police, who declared the shooting justified and painted Boyd as a dangerous criminal.

But Boyd's case was different. While Officer Sandy's camera didn't produce any video, the helmet-mounted camera of the other shooter, Officer Perez, captured the whole awful sequence of Boyd's death.

...In the past five years, the police department of Albuquerque, a city of just 550,000, has managed to kill 28 people — a per-capita kill rate nearly double that of the Chicago police and eight times that of the NYPD.

...In many respects, the systemic meltdown of the APD (department motto: "In step with our community") offers an excellent lens through which to understand how police in America can run amok. Militarization of gear and tactics, an overreliance on specialized tactical units, a blue wall of silence that protects bad cops from the consequences of their actions, and a heavy hand in interactions with mentally ill citizens — all these factors, present in other departments around the country, are painfully evident in the story of how Albuquerque's police came to kill so many of its citizens.

...But many observers trace Albuquerque's recent problems with excessive force to a decade ago. In 2005, officers Richard Smith and Michael King were killed in the line of duty by a man they were picking up for a mental-health evaluation. King had been an academy classmate of Police Chief Ray Schultz, who, in a tearful press conference after the killings, called it "one of the saddest days in the history of the Albuquerque Police Department." Inside the department, former officers say, the deaths were a turning point: Officer safety became the order of the day.

"It wasn't about the mission," says a former SWAT member. "The new culture was: 'anybody you could shoot.' "

Thomas Grover, a lawyer and retired APD officer who now represents cops in personnel disputes with the department, says, "The general directive of the department became, 'You do what you've got to do to go home at night — and forget the citizens.' "

...The same year Smith and King were killed, Martin Chávez, a centrist Democrat, was running for a third term as mayor on a promise to increase police staffing from 1,000 officers to 1,100. When Chávez won, the department struggled to find enough qualified hires to make good on his promise.

..."Standards were getting lower and lower," says retired APD Lt. Steven Tate, who was the director of training at the police academy at the time. "They were hiring people that other agencies in New Mexico wouldn't take."

The department didn't formally change any hiring policies, Tate says. Instead, it bent the existing rules.

...Among those hires were four officers who had just quit or been fired from the state police for double-dipping — getting paid for outside work even as they were on the clock for the state. They were among the contractors teaching classes at Coyote Canyon, a training site southeast of Albuquerque run by the Department of Energy where former Navy SEALs and Delta Force operators rub shoulders with state and local police officers, taking part in realistic live-fire drills and courses with names like "Rolling Day/Night Convoy Ambushes." Though some former APD officers defend the realistic shoot-house training and expert instruction, others wonder whether such a militarized, gun-focused environment is a healthy part of training for young, impressionable officers. "Looking back," one former officer told local KRQE News 13 reporter Jeff Proctor when he investigated police training at Coyote Canyon, "I'm really not sure how convoy ambushing translated to working as a police officer."

...John maintains that most Albuquerque cops are careful, restrained and good. But the changes on SWAT provoked a moral crisis for him. His whole career, he'd pushed back against the characterization of police as violent thugs. "I understand: We represent authority. 'Fuck authority' — I get that. But to take it to dehumanizing us, where you're just a murderer, a criminal, a wolf in sheep's clothing, I found that very offensive. And so to come to the end of my career and see that it was true — it totally messed me up."

As these changes were taking place inside the department and police shootings began to spike, there was little public outrage. "The targets of police violence were gang members, drunks or street people, and so it wasn't like they were preying on the people who had voted for the politicians," says Jerry Ortiz y Pino, a state senator who represents Albuquerque. "They were preying on the people the politicians were all too glad to see silenced."

The hostility of the city's government to its homeless population is perhaps best illustrated by an episode from 2010, when police began arresting volunteers who were feeding the downtown homeless on Sundays. "Who gave them permission to feed the homeless at all?" asked an internal police e-mail concerning the operation against the volunteers. The e-mail made clear that the initiative had the approval of City Hall. "Darren White [public-safety director at the time] is allowing us to take the gloves off and deal with some issues of concern," the e-mail began. "WOOOOOOOOOOOO HOOOOO!!!!!!!"

For former APD Officer Dan Klein, the jailing of people for feeding the homeless shows why it's so hard to get popular support for police reform: "If your income is above $200,000 a year, and you live in a nice gated community, and you don't want to be bothered by the panhandler, and you don't want your kids to be accosted by the drunk outside of Trader Joe's, are you crying elephant tears for James Boyd?" he asks. It's not a problem unique to Albuquerque, Klein adds. "It's everywhere — we're just the pimple that is bursting."

...Eight years earlier, a federal jury had awarded a homeless African-American man named Jerome Hall $300,000 in a suit alleging that Gonterman, then a patrol officer, had applied a Taser to the unarmed Hall so relentlessly that Hall was eventually hospitalized with burns to his face, stomach, back, neck, shoulders and calf. According to his lawyer, Hall also lost part of his ear to the Taser burns.

"I've used Tasers," says Klein, the former officer. "The only way you can burn someone's ear off is if you're torturing them. And that guy's a major now!"

It also became clear that for all his public rhetoric of cooperation, Mayor Berry and his administration weren't just going to meekly accept the Justice Department's findings and recommendations. In June 2014, city lawyers argued in federal court that the DOJ's conclusions shouldn't be allowed into evidence in a trial concerning police use of force, saying the report was plagued by "inconsistent language," "inaccuracies" and "questions of reliability."

...It will be months before a judge hears the case against Perez and Sandy and decides whether there's enough evidence to try them for murder or some lesser charge. For observers in Albuquerque, the stakes couldn't be higher. Mike Gomez, who has helped lead the fight to hold police accountable since his son was killed, says the stark video evidence makes this the best chance to put the brakes on a police force out of control.

"The guy was killed in front of the whole world," he says. "If we can't hold you accountable for this, what can we hold you accountable for? What's it going to take?"

The New Yorker:

Stephen, in his eulogy, said that he considered the chief of police, Raymond Schultz, his friend. ... Stephen said that his son’s shooting resembled that of many young men in Albuquerque who were mentally ill and had been killed by police. He begged the chief and the mayor, who worked in Renetta’s building, to meet with him to discuss what had gone wrong. “My wife and I extend our hands to you, Mr. Mayor, and to you, Chief Schultz,” he said. “Please don’t reject our offers.” Schultz was not there. He and Stephen never spoke again.

...Wealthy residents tend to live in the northeastern corner, at the foot of the Sandia Mountains. The division reflects the social climate throughout the state, which has the widest income gap between rich and poor in the country. Gilbert Najar, the director of the police academy in Silver City, New Mexico, who worked for the Albuquerque Police Department for twenty-five years, told me that the department “did policing one way in the South Valley, where there were a lot of immigrant families and people of lower socioeconomic status, and we knew we could violate their rights. But we did not dare commit those tactics in the affluent neighborhoods, where we knew they would file complaints on us.”

...Samuel Walker, an expert in police accountability who was hired in 1996 to co-author one of the reports, after the police killed thirty-two people in ten years, said, “When we gave an oral presentation to the city council, I had a very strong impression that many city-council members were not interested.” He described his conversation with Martin Chávez, the mayor, as one of the most hostile interviews he’s ever conducted. He said that the police chief would not look him in the eyes when he briefed him. One city-council member refused to meet with him or return his calls.

...Morrison said that officers were socialized to be cynical about civilians. “We’re taught to almost dehumanize them,” she said. “It just got to the point where it’s, like, they’re a piece of shit. We don’t care if they raped a baby or were speeding in traffic—everybody’s a piece of shit.”

Lost My Reading Glasses

I'm now using ancient, badly cratered ones instead, and it's more than a month until I can get in.

It's the gnomes, I tell you....


In despair over the weather forecasts. Rains stopped here after December 20th, and I don't think it will rain again. Ever.

(H/t Gabe for the picture)

Bike Down!

Thrill a minute over at Step One. Had just taken class, was walking down T Street, waved hello to Krystle Morales as she arrived, turned the corner, and heard someone moaning in the distance down 19th Street. Flashing lights in the gutter; bicycle down!

Turned out OK, though. Fellow has banged up pelvis and ribs, but wasn't seriously hurt. Hit a small branch in the bike lane. It's the details that get you!

2016 Isn't Even Here Yet

ABC News headline: "Mitt Romney Calls Hillary Clinton 'Clueless'".

"I know you are, but what am I?"

Missing Woman Unwittingly Joins Search Party Looking For Herself

And as Jonathan notes: "Isn't the search for self the ultimate quest?"
The group was travelling through Iceland on a tour bus and stopped near the volcanic canyon in the southern highlands Saturday afternoon, reports the Icelandic news organization

One of the women on the bus left to change her clothes and freshen up. When she came back, her busmates didn't recognize her.

Soon, there was word of a missing passenger. The woman didn't recognize the description of herself, and joined in the search.

Freedom Demands That We Surrender Freedoms

Vindictive baloney from the Sooner State:
Atheists need not apply: A bill proposed by Oklahoma Republicans would restrict the right to marry to people of faith, and would mandate all marriage licenses be approved by a member of the clergy.

House Bill 1125, filed on Tuesday by Republican State Representative Todd Russ, is a radical measure that would end secular marriage licenses in the state. In addition, the bill would bar all judges and other secular officials from performing marriages in Oklahoma.
Well that's a bold proposal to try and end same-sex marriage! Since Oklahoma doesn't recognize common-law marriage, atheists or agnostics or people whose faiths don't require clergy simply wouldn't be allowed to marry at all.

But what happens to religious clergy who would be willing to sign off on same sex marriages? Are they to be sold into slavery, or something? What is the penalty to be if court clerks try to marry people anyway? Boiled in oil, perhaps?

Too many loose threads. Badly-written legislation invites court intervention. Probably by some liberal judge who thinks America is supposed to be about freedom, or something.

"State Of The City" Address By Mayor Kevin Johnson, Memorial Auditorium, January 29, 2015

I've lived in Sacramento since 1990, and Memorial Auditorium is less than three blocks from where I work - I used to work across the street - but in all these years I've never been inside. Part of the reason is that it was closed for many years for earthquake retrofitting, but still, I knew no graduating high school students from Sacramento well enough to get an invite.

Still, Jackie suggested I come along to view the annual "State Of The City" Address By Mayor Kevin Johnson. Like me, she didn't have a ticket either, but someone she knew was going to give her two tickets at the door and maybe we could both get in.

Parking was a zoo, so we were late arriving and her friend had already split, so there was no way to get inside. Still, Jackie persisted and persisted, pushing and pushing, stressing out that Sacramento Choral Society was already inside and just about to start. When one of the guards bowed her head in what appeared to be prayer, she saw her chance. We quickly bounded past and vanished into the crowd.

Festivities had just started. Lots of local politicos there. Lots and lots of them! We wandered through the upper tier of seats trying to find the best seats there, and I learned just how dangerous doing that is in the dark in an unfamiliar place like Memorial Auditorium! Ooooohhhh!

Gazing at the stage from the cheap seats, house left.

Sacramento Choral Society (with Donald Kendrick conducting) sing the national anthem.

The well-known artist David Garibaldi (and his well-known assistant whose name I can't remember) create an electronic (or at least multi-media) painting to stirring music. There was another video shown to stirring music that I liked, which portrayed Sacramento as a bustling world city - what the Maya might call the "Center of Creation".

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson announces an investment by the San Francisco 49'ers ownership team in the proposed Sacramento professional soccer bid.

Final tableau.  "Lip Service" sings behind the notables.

The band.

Afterwards, as we were making our exit, a reporter from KCRA TV-3 stopped us, pushing a camera and mike in our faces, and asked our reactions to the speech. Startled, Jackie gushed about Mayor Johnson's sports initiatives, but forgot about the arts initiative. I followed up about the arts. I don't think our interview aired, however.

Outside we bumped into Adam Sartain, who was there to hobnob with his fellow political wizards. They were all there, too!

Afterwards, we stopped at Step One. Pepper had asked me to come Thursday evening to give a testimonial to Fierce Funk on camera (camera hound that I was Thursday night, I couldn't resist) but the camera crew had already left. So, we just visited Pepper and friends instead, and talked about old times.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Ballerina Brides From the American Ballet Theatre - BRIDES Magazine Photo Shoot

Forgot to post this last September - distracted by the Astronomy.

Six ballerinas associated with American Ballet Theater were getting married at the same time, so Brides Magazine to a photo shoot featuring them. One of the six, Brittany, hails from Linda Walker's Tucson Regional Ballet, and she is the pride of the studio. (Last visited there in October, 2013.)

More beautiful pictures.

Wendy Whelan's "Restless Creature" At The Mondavi Center

On Saturday evening, I was over at the Mondavi Center with Sally. The event was Wendy Whelan's "Restless Creature": a modern dance show where she danced duets with four different partners, each of them her choreographer. Each of the dances were distinctly different in style.

Even though I follow ballet to some extent, I clearly don't follow it closely enough. Wendy Whelan is a major ballerina recently-departed from a long career with New York City Ballet (starting in the 80's), and now venturing into modern dance. My problem was that most people seemed to know who she was, but I hadn't heard of her. Throngs of ballet-bunhead girls filled the hall, and they clearly knew who she was. I felt a bit like the lost little brother who knew none of it, and kicked the seat in front of him instead.

Pam was there with Elaine. Saw Megan Stark too! Ruth Rosenberg led a question and answer session afterwards.

The four dances were:

  • Ego et Tu (with Alejandro Cerrudo);

    Conditional Sentences (with Joshua Beamish)

    The Serpent and the Smoke (with Kyle Abraham)

    First Fall (with Brian Brooks)

    I liked "The Serpent and the Smoke" the best (daydreaming that if "Breaking Bad" was set to music, Abraham and Whelan could be Walter and Skyler White). Lots of quick, serpentine motions. My second-favorite was "First Fall". This one was the real crowd-pleaser, with challenging and adroit shifts of weight. "Ego et Tu" was my third-favorite and "Conditional Sentences" my least-favorite. I found the Bach (Partita No. 2 in C Minor BMV 826) to be tedious after a while. Still, Beamish was the most well-spoken of the four choreographers, and described well his intentions with the dance.

  • Tuesday, January 27, 2015

    Joe Ransom "White Whale" Interview

    In early November, Joe Ransom posted a wonderful Breaking-Bad-inspired video for his song "White Whale". Now, he has posted an interview describing his inspirations, and also posted a link where the digital album can be downloaded.

    Joe Ransom is a Melbourne, AU, musician who now lives in Mexico City. He wanted to come to Albuquerque to film his video, but instead did so in Chihuahua, near Ciudad Juarez.

    Take a look and a listen. Link to Digital Album.



    "American Sniper"

    I went with Joe the Plumber and saw 'American Sniper'. A very well done movie, but Chris Kyle is such an unreflective person - basically just a pure warrior on steroids - that the movie comes very close to being about absolutely nothing at all. Just very, very, very loud sound and fury, signifying nothing.

    The Michael Moore critique, that being a sniper isn't honorable, missed its target. In urban warfare snipers are necessary to provide cover and thus have value. The warrior part didn't bother me very much. What bothered me was the utter lack of interest in Iraq. (Kyle has won a reputation of being a liar too; not that it mattered much in the movie).

    There is a long history about celebrating pure warriors, but it's important to note they don't make much of an impression on history. When the Romans departed Britain after hundreds of years, it was almost as if they had never been there at all. When the Americans finally leave Iraq, it will be almost as if they had never been there at all. Americans never cared about Iraq and care even less about it now. All that blood and treasure, for what, no one can say.

    And we're supposed to not notice that the opposing sniper Mustafa fights on behalf of the Sunnis early in the movie, and the Shias late in the movie. In the context of the movie, this egregious error doesn't matter, but the fact that it doesn't matter is the entire problem. It's like a World War II movie that can't distinguish between Japs and Nazis; between the Atlantic and the Pacific. These distinctions do matter!

    Joe The Plumber Weekend (Jan. 23-26)


    I picked up 2 "free" IMAX tickets at the Wildlife Care Assn. fundraiser in December, so I invited Joe the Plumber to see American Sniper. As a Liberal's Liberal, I wasn't much interested in seeing the movie, but I thought it would appeal to Joe. Plus, if you're going to watch people getting ripped apart by bullets, it may as well be on a huge screen with Surround Sound.

    Joe's been more-or-less homeless since I first met him in 2001, but I haven't seen him lately since he's stranded in Rancho Cordova without a vehicle. I haven't been able to catch up much on homeless news since early 2013, when he tangled me in the stolen laptop fencing scheme (from which it was awkward to untangle). A lot's happened in homeless circles too, like people passing away, etc. Since Joe loves to talk (albeit somewhat incoherently, due partly to minor brain damage from the 2003 beating on Del Paso Blvd.) I'll hear all about it, plus other lurid Sacramento underbelly tales. If I'm lucky, he'll talk during the movie, and I won't even notice the flying body parts.

    Surprisingly, Joe didn't like the movie much. Said it brought back bad memories!


    Today was one of those "joys of homeownership" days. In the distant corner of the shed, I found an immense pile of what I thought at first were squirrel droppings (eventually decided these must be rabbit droppings no more recent than 2011), under which was a 3" thick, 2 sq. ft. slab of shit cemented with pee. No wonder the neighbor's cat has been "acting out" there! In the basement, I picked at a sliver of what turned out to be rust on the washing machine drain pipe, revealing a huge hole. As wash water sprayed out across the basement, a shelf toppled over, dumping an old TV and VCR, a sack full of paperback books (some of Helga's Buddhist philosophy and science fiction movie collection), and half a quart of motor oil in a squalid, soggy pile. I miss apartment life.

    Had to move a bunch of stuff into the yard for cleaning.


    Spent much of the day addressing leaky faucets and broken drain pipes with Joe the Plumber, plus doing basement cleanup and working on a solution to the cat problem. Almost finished. Best part of the day was trapping the cat, forcing it to try and flee through the now-grilled window, and humiliating it by forcing it to retreat right past me. Hardest part of the day was spending 11 hours with someone who simply wouldn't shut up, ever.


    Out at Joe's storage unit. Even though he lives in Rancho Cordova, his storage unit is in North Highlands. Go figure.

    I seem to lose important things when Joe the Plumber comes over. Last time it was my ATM card; this time it's my reading glasses. But I can always find his storage unit.

    A Compendium Of Recent Dreams

    Not restful sleep:

    Dream 1:

    I fell asleep but had to reboot the process after half an hour because of an exasperating dream where I kept misplacing the lyrics of an audition song faster than I could sing them.

    Dream 2:

    I'm starting to dream about Sweeney Todd's neighborhood and my place in it. Last night, I dreamt I ran a grim beer hall where we enticed customers with pigeon meat pies (some raised in Franz Leibkind's coops; most grabbed in the street). Still, this was too fancy, so I had rat meat pies too, passed off as pigeon. I would chew the meat for a taste, then spit it out in corners of the darkened dance floor, because it's January and time to lose weight. I would do the Bottle Dance from Fiddler on the Roof to entertain the few customers, but without bottles, because alcohol is unhealthy and serving it isn't profitable. Still, the Sacramento News and Review gave the establishment one star, so it couldn't have been that bad.

    "I'm On The Board"

    Saturday night, I got to exercise my vast powers at DMTC. Dressed in my suit after the short ballet show at the Mondavi, I brought cleaning supplies to DMTC and arrived right at "Anything Goes" intermission. Putting supplies in the janitor's closet, I discovered one of the bottles had a rupture. Fluid was spilling.

    An usher passing by became concerned, and for good reason. A patron in a suit was spilling hazardous waste all over the floor of the janitor's closet. "May I help you?" she asked. I stood tall, looked her in the eye, and said, "That's quite all right; I'm on the Board."

    Tom McClintock Says Stupid Things About The Minimum Wage

    What the GOP wants is no minimum wage at all, but if people insist on one they should at least be grateful for what they have now and not seek more. McClintock isn't as obnoxious as Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, who advises the swarthy rabble to be grateful for the current minimum wage. She condescendingly tells of being happy as a teenager making $2.15 an hour. (I would have been happy too: minimum wage in 1970 was $1.60 an hour.)

    Stupid McClintock:
    Only [raise the minimum wage] if you want to rip the first rung in the ladder of opportunity for teenagers, for minorities, for people who are trying to get into the job market for their first job.

    The minimum wage doesn't support a family. We all know that. It’s not supposed to support a family. The minimum wage is that first job when you have no skills, no experience, no working history. That’s how you get into the job market, that’s how you develop that experience, develop that work record, get your first raise, then your next raise, then your promotion. That's the first rung of opportunity.

    If your labor as an unskilled person just entering the workforce is worth say $7 an hour at a job and the minimum wage is $10, you have just been made permanently unemployable. That first rung of the economic ladder has been ripped out and you can’t get on it. That is a tragedy.

    People From New Mexico Get So Melodramatic!

    People from New Mexico get so melodramatic these days! Everybody who is anybody has a Cartel connection. Like some kind of inverse Santa Claus, the Cartel must be so busy traveling around the state, and slapping various Land of Enchantment nobodies around, they don't have time for anything else:
    A recent trip by three Albuquerque strippers to the Pink Slipper Gentleman’s Club in Artesia ended in a kidnapping, police say.

    Two of them – a mother-daughter stripping team – kidnapped the third stripper and kept her blindfolded in a closet for a night this week over a $1,700 alleged debt incurred during the trip, according to the Albuquerque Police Department.

    ...The mother-daughter pair then started hitting the victim, and Alida Alvillar told her they would kill her and her entire family using Alida Alvillar’s “cartel connection” if she didn’t give them the money, according to the complaint.