November 2006 Archives

Tue Nov 21 03:06:32 CST 2006

nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted

UCLA campus police tasered a non-violent student as many as five times in a campus building because he refused to produce a student ID. I think that much is clear from this cam phone video. I know the video is disturbing because the guy is repeatedly screaming out in pain, but make sure you watch the last 20 seconds where a cop threatens to Taser one of the many other students who were so disturbed that they were challenging what the cops were doing.

So this guy, Mostafa Tabatabainejad (born in the U.S., of Iranian stock) thought he was being singled out to produce an ID. Maybe he's overly sensitive, or maybe he was right -- this is immaterial.

What's important is that the UCLA campus police shocked him five times because he wouldn't stand up. Some witnesses have said he was leaving when the UCLA cops grabbed him, and that's when he fell to the floor and refused to move. In otherwords, if the cops had just let him walk out, there would have been no passive resistance, and therefore, no need to shock the guy. Five times... Or more... When he was on the floor, screaming.

Because of abuse of "proto-Americans" by the British military, our Constitution used to guarantee U.S. citizens a "speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury," and prohibit "excessive" bail and fines, as well as "cruel and unusual punishments." And made it clear that we were to be "secure in [our] persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures."

I could type out the entire Bill of Rights, and list out hundreds of ways we've allowed it to be violated by our current government, but what would be the point? If Americans were brave enough to live up to the minimum standards set in ink by the men who risked their lives in signing that document when they founded this country, we wouldn't be where we are today: cowering behind the bullies who say they are protecting us, while, in fact, they are enjoying and abusing the powers we have given them. The powers to torture a man lying on the ground because he doesn't have "I.D." and then to threaten anyone who would question that abuse.

I can't really figure out how to fix such a fucked up situation. If i were the judge in the lawsuit this poor student will inevitably bring against UCLA, i'd say he should get to shock the people who shocked -- or helped shock -- him, as many times as Mustafa was shocked... and in front of plenty of spectators. Let's hear what the tough guys scream when they know they're going to be shocked, for the fifth time.

And i'd order UCLA to hand over 50% of its endowment to the ACLU. How else will they and the rest of the abusers learn?

But how does one give the current U.S. populace the courage, heart, and wisdom of the people who threw out the British and signed the U.S. constitution?

After watching this video, i decided to see under what circumstances the Austin Police Department can use Tasers. I have often heard that Tasers give cops an alternative to shooting someone. That Tasers disable someone and probably don't cause any serious effects to the victim's health, though that's disputed... Seemed like a good idea, though: giving cops an alternative to blowing someone away.

And then i watched the aforementioned video, which is at least an audio account of cops torturing a passive resistor because he won't stand up. This is what Americans watched on TV in the 1960s as Mississippi cops who beat down fellow-American passive resistors with firehoses, dogs, and nightsticks. Cops who were beating down non-violent men and women that were protesting the unequal, unfair, and illegal treatment Blacks received in the South. People who were non-violently struggling for the right of Black people to vote, and go to the same schools as Whites. To sit at the same diner counter, in the same movie theater, and in the same bus seats as whites. To drink from the same water fountains.

The UCLA cops could have easily handcuffed Mostafa (especially after he was shocked the first time and at least temporarily unable to move) and taken him out of the building. And why wouldn't they? If he was a threat to them or anyone else they are derelict in their duties in NOT cuffing him and dragged him out of the building. But they didn't. The only reason i can think of is that they were enjoying it. They were enjoying shocking this PASSIVE Middle-Eastern-looking, unarmed, non-violent, smart guy, otherwise they would have stopped and cuffed him. I'm sure there are good cops out there, but these guys are not them. They're bullies hiding behind badges.

So my googling "austin taser laws" yielded a U.S. Government report about how Austin is one of four Police departments that allows an officer to use a Taser in a situation that is NOT harmful. According to the report, an APD officer can use a taser if he feels the situation is "volatile."

But according to that report, there is only one government law enforcement agency in the U.S. that authorizes the use of Tasers even in situations that have no potential for violence: Orange County. In Orange County, officers can Taser anyone who refuses the order of an officer, even if that person is not a threat to anyone. Even if he or she is lying on the floor, passive. It's probably not lethal force, but could any of these officers have known whether this 23 year-old Philosophy student had a heart condition that would have been "revealed" by the repeated Tasering?

Interesting that UCLA is in Los Angeles county, just next-door to conservative, Taser-happy, Orange county. I guess we're getting a little glimpse of what it's like to be a "suspect" (I.e. Black man) in Orange Country. The words "fair game" come to mind.

A lot of people think some sort of balance has been restored now that Congress is barely controlled by the Democrats, as a balance to the idiot, sneering, good-for-nothing, FratBoy-in-Chief, George the II. But clearly, we have much, much, farther to go and many, many more mistakes to correct before we can feel secure in the Civil Liberties we once took for granted.


Posted by johan | Permanent link

Sat Nov 18 16:37:51 CST 2006

Not so much Mercury transitting Sol...

...as it is the backhoe transitting my frontyard.

Don't get me wrong. I find astrology quite entertaining, and occasionally even accurate. A lot of people on this planet seem to think that there's something going on behind the scenes. And i firmly believe that each person should be allowed to pick his or her own interface to that aspect of the Universe -- be it Islam, Buddhism, Astrology, Asatru, Satanism, PlayStation, or even Catholicism.

Me... well, the events of earlier today have reminded me that i'd be satisfied if i could get a reliable forecast of the Great Yellow Backhoe of Doom (GYBoD).

Most of us are already familiar with the GYBoD's effects upon the internet. And then there's the close relative (or perhaps just another aspect) of the GYBoD: the Great Yellow BULLDOZER of Doom. It's effects upon Arthur Dent's house are well known. And the (yellow) Vogon Constructor fleet was hot on its heels, of course. So quite clearly, many would benefit from a forecast of when such yellow mechanized beasts of destruction will be arriving in close proximity to our respective loci in space and time.

So let's return to Austin, TX, almost exactly 7am (the time of day when it becomes legal for people to start making Very Loud Noises) Saturday the 18th of November 2006, otherwise know as "this morning." I had to work last night, 2300-0100 to install patches on the servers i run.

After completing said maintenance, i popped disc 2 of Smiley's People into the DVD player, grabbed a bottle of La Fin du Monde, some crackers and cheese, and then fell sleep somewhere around 3am, midway through episode 4. (And all of the way through the bottle and the crackers and cheese.) About 5am, i got into bed.

And then, about 7am, i discovered that the GYBoD was in (what will soon be) the front yard of the fourth house from something-resembling North on my street, tearing things up so that minions of the City can install water service. Which i would very much liked to have known about in advance, because that's next door to my house, and the GYBoD destroying the street and front yard about 45 feet from my bed has quite a profound effect upon my life when it begins at 7am on Saturday morning, 3 or 4 hours into my nightly rest.

Anassadeina was also less than thrilled with this development, as she was sleeping over, and her car was parked right next to the destruction. We had a brief discussion about this. I imagine my half sounded a lot like, "Hmasmdsjj jjsmmm gfroo nooj...," though in my mind, i was saying "At least it will be over soon..." I was fairly sure that the GYBoD would make quick work of ripping up the street and yard, and quiet would soon return.

Which was somewhat true, i think. But then the Jackhammers started. So i pulled a pillow over my head, and activated my superpower, which is the ability to sleep through almost anything. I've slept through Jackhammers on my roof, before, and, on a seperate occasion, a chipper-sheader in my front yard. (Sorry LisaJulie. I still owe you for that.) It wasn't good sleep, of course, but it was sleep.

The only remaining question is the potential GYBoD connection between this bottle of "La Fin du Monde" and the Vogon Constructor Fleet. I'm unsure of what to make of that.


Posted by johan | Permanent link | File under: randomweirdness

Thu Nov 9 00:32:08 CST 2006

"You GO 80s dude!"

When i left my office for lunch today, it happened to be during class changes, so there were tons of students walking around. At first i thought i heard a sort of heavy metal ring tone. It was odd, though — too much bass. I turned a corner, and there was a guy wearing grey sweats from head to foot (including the hood), which was a little strange, given the temperature of about 85F (~30C). And he had a boombox on his shoulder, which was the source of the music.

From behind, the guy appeared oblivious as people turned to stare. At one point, another passerby yelled, "You GO 80s dude!" (erratically punctuated with not-very-sincerely stifled laughter.)

And then i recognized the music: Survivor, "Eye of the Tiger."

No, i'm not making this up.


Posted by johan | Permanent link | File under: randomweirdness

Sun Nov 5 16:31:43 CST 2006

Blood for Votes

From the Washington Post article, "Hussein Sentenced to Hang for Crimes Against Iraqis":

Hussein's defense attorneys warned that a guilty verdict and sentence of death would sparked renewed attacks against U.S. and other coalition forces in Iraq and lead to a wider civil war. They also accused the Bush administration and Maliki's Shiite-dominated government of colluding to schedule the verdict so it came two days before crucial mid-term U.S. elections, hoping to give Bush's Republican Party an electoral boost. Iraqi and U.S. officials have denied the charge.

This trial really has been a farce. The more noteworthy farcical events:

- The first chief judge resigned, "complaining of political interference in the case."

- A former U.S. attorney general, Ramsey Clark, who was working as a defense attorney was thrown out of court (and fired) for describing the tribunal as "a mockery of justice."

- Three other defense attorneys were murdered during the trial.

Clearly, this hasn't been a fair trial. Hussein is almost certainly guilty of many, many murders. But even the Nazi leadership had fair trials at the end of WWII. Fair trials for war criminals makes it clear that this isn't simply vendetta or revenge killings, it's justice, as best as humanity is able to carry out such a concept.

But Hussein's trial in Iraq is not justice. Oddly, it's not even really vengeance, per se. Hussein, and his three murdered lawyers -- and all of the hundreds of Iraqis that have died and will die due to this trial and execution being decided and carried out while the country is spinning out of control -- all of these people are essentially being murdered by George the II and the Republican party, desperate to squeeze a few more votes out of the gullible American public. In otherwords, the Republicans are trading human blood for votes.

Chapter 38 of the Tao te Ching: 38. Ritual

Well established hierarchies are not easily uprooted; Closely held beliefs are not easily released; So ritual enthralls generation after generation.

Harmony does not care for harmony, and so is naturally attained; But ritual is intent upon harmony, and so can not attain it.

Harmony neither acts nor reasons; Love acts, but without reason; Justice acts to serve reason; But ritual acts to enforce reason.

When the Way is lost, there remains harmony; When harmony is lost, there remains love; When love is lost, there remains justice; But when justice is lost, there remains ritual.

Ritual is the end of compassion and honesty, The beginning of confusion; Belief is a colorful hope or fear, The beginning of folly.

The sage goes by harmony, not by hope; He dwells in the fruit, not the flower; He accepts substance, and ignores abstraction.


Posted by johan | Permanent link | File under: politics