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Baltimore Businesses Request Police Crackdown on Low-Level Crimes

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 12/06/2021 - 1:43am in

Tags 

Politics

In Baltimore’s Fells Point neighborhood, a group of 37 restaurant and business leaders are threatening to withhold taxes and other fees until city officials enforce traffic and parking laws, stop “illegal open-air alcohol and drug sales,” and “empower police to responsibly do their job.”

The businesses sent their complaints in a June 8 letter addressed to Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, City Council President Nick Mosby, Councilmember Zeke Cohen, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, and Police Commissioner Michael Harrison. The letter comes as cities across the country are seeing a spike in homicides and gun violence, while other types of violent crimes have largely decreased. Three people were shot in Fells Point last weekend.

“What is happening in our front yard — the chaos and lawlessness that escalated this weekend into another night of tragic, unspeakable gun violence — has been going on for far too long,” the business leaders write. They go on to demand the restoration of “basic and essential municipal services,” including picking up trash, enforcing traffic and parking laws through ticketing and towing, stopping open-air sale of alcohol and drugs, and empowering police to fight “a culture of lawlessness.”

But Mosby, the state’s attorney, told The Intercept that the solutions outlined in the letter would do little to curb the recent uptick in violence, and that her office has been focused on prosecuting homicides and nonfatal shootings. “In a city like Baltimore, where our nonfatal shootings and our homicides are up, our resources should be reallocated to ensure that we’re going after violent offenses,” Mosby said. She added that Baltimore only solves one out of four homicides a year, and the city stacked up a huge backlog of cases throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. The Baltimore Police Department reported a higher homicide clearance rate last year at 32 percent.

In office since 2015, Mosby gained national fame for charging the six police officers who took part in the arrest that killed Freddie Gray. Last year, amid the pandemic, her office met with public health experts to try to minimize exposure to the virus in local jails and among law enforcement officers. As a result of those conversations, Mosby stopped prosecuting low-level offenses experts have found do not have a significant positive overall impact on public safety: drug possession, paraphernalia, sex work, trespassing, minor traffic offenses, open-container alcohol, and urinating and defecating in public. Her office dismissed more than 1,400 cases for such offenses, eliminated warrants for individuals who had been charged with them, and pushed Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to reduce the prison and jail population.

Mosby is one of several reform-minded prosecutors across the country facing backlash for their decarceral approach to criminal justice and being blamed for spikes in gun violence and other crimes in major cities from Philadelphia to San Francisco. The response is nothing new, she said, but it “is undermining.” One of the shootings to which the business leaders objected took place “feet away from police officers, and yet here’s this misconception that somehow these policies are to blame because we’re not prosecuting open-container? It’s illogical. Because we’re still prosecuting assault, we’re still prosecuting attempted murder, we’re still prosecuting malicious destruction of property.”

Hogan, a Republican, has fought Mosby at nearly every turn; in 2019, he called on the state attorney general to pursue cases her office declines to prosecute and announced that he would use state funds to carry out the effort. In 2020, however, Hogan issued two executive orders that resulted in the release of close to 2,000 people, after Mosby’s repeated urging. Mosby’s office also opened a sentencing review unit in December to review and reduce excess sentences for juvenile lifers and elderly people behind bars.

Mosby’s office monitored the impact of their policies over the last year and found that between February 2020 and 2021, Baltimore’s overall incarceration rate went down 18 percent, with an 80 percent reduction in drug arrests in 2020. Between March 2020 and 2021, Baltimore saw a 20 percent reduction in violent crime, excluding nonfatal shootings and homicides, and a 36 percent reduction in property crimes, which Mosby attributes not directly to her policies but to greater stability and leadership of the Baltimore Police Department. Unlike in cities like Philadelphia, where the police have fought District Attorney Larry Krasner at every turn, Mosby’s office claims to have a good relationship with BPD.

Mosby said her office fundraises for young people to help curb gun violence during the summer, and not one of the business owners who signed the letter has contributed. She added that her office has held nine town halls to explain her policies, but none of the businesses participated.

Lance Sovine, a letter signatory who owns the Fells Point gift shop E.C. Pops, claimed that city officials lost all control of the neighborhood during the pandemic. “They have to realize that we’ve made an investment to be there. We’ve continued to pay our rent at a huge loss to ourselves, but we believe in Fells Point,” Sovine told The Intercept. He added that he had nothing against the elected officials, but wanted them to come hold a press conference at “2 a.m. this Saturday night” in Fells Point to see what business owners are facing. “It’s called ‘eat what you cook,’” Sovine said. “You know what? They won’t do it. That needs to be a direct quote.”

Asked about the focus by the state’s attorney’s office on prosecuting violent crime, and evidence that cracking down on low-level offenses can lead to death for Black people, Sovine said he understood the concern. “I’m frustrated with that as well,” he said, adding that he’s also frustrated by people driving dirt bikes up and down sidewalks, vendors selling alcohol on the street to minors, and DJs playing loud music in the square.

“I’m with it. I understand. What happens, sometimes it’s ridiculous,” Sovine said, referring to the police killing of 20-year-old Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, in April. Shortly before he was killed, Wright told his mother over the phone that police had pulled him over for having an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror. Police later said they pulled Wright over for driving with expired tags.

“We’re not trying to destroy our own community,” Sovine said. “We’re trying to say, ‘Hey, what’s going on in our community is unacceptable.’”

In their letter, business owners complain that they had obtained “expensive liquor licenses” and were subject to routine code inspections, while individual vendors are “illegally selling large volumes of alcohol, marijuana, and a range of other illicit substances … [and] are brazen individuals who conduct their business in plain sight because they know Baltimore City will do nothing to prevent or punish them.” Two of the establishments are part of a restaurant group that local residents accused of racial discrimination last year for barring people from entering, the Baltimore Sun reported.

While right-wing pundits often use Baltimore as a stand-in to describe increasing homicides across the country, the city has seen a reduction in other violent crimes. There’s evidence that the increase in shootings in major cities is a result of ease of access to guns.

“This is a resource issue, and it’s counterproductive to use our limited law enforcement resources on these lower level offenses,” Mosby said, noting that many such offenses often lead to a death sentence for people of color. “Freddie Gray merely made eye contact with police in a high-crime neighborhood, and decided to run. Sandra Bland failed to put on a turn signal. She ended up dead. Eric Garner, allegedly selling loose cigarettes. George Floyd, allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill during a global pandemic for groceries. Daunte Wright — it’s either air fresheners or expired tags.”

The post Baltimore Businesses Request Police Crackdown on Low-Level Crimes appeared first on The Intercept.

The Lie That A Kinder, Gentler US Empire Is Possible

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/06/2021 - 10:09pm in

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://medium.com/media/a7e8e11004444d2f8b9c75eaa02117e9/href

Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar has once again been the center of an artificial controversy launched in bad faith, this time over a tweet where she mentioned the United States and Israel in the same breath as Hamas and the Taliban as perpetrators of “unthinkable atrocities”.

“We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity. We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban,” Omar said while sharing a video of her wildly unsuccessful effort to get a straight answer from Secretary of State Tony Blinken on accountability for US and Israeli war crimes.

This provoked a bunch of ridiculous garment-rending histrionics from Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats, not because it is absurd to compare murderous warmongering regimes like the US and Israel with vastly less destructive regional forces like Hamas and the Taliban, but because it is considered unacceptable in mainstream politics to suggest that the US and Israel are anything other that beneficent powers who at worst make the occasional innocent oopsie.

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This pathetically mild criticism of a power structure which has killed millions and displaced tens of millions just in the last two decades, during a pathetically unsuccessful attempt to get any kind of concession about war crimes and crimes against humanity from a prominent US official, drew so much outrage and vitriol from the US political/media class that Omar was once again forced to issue another pathetic walkback of her comments.

“On Monday, I asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken about ongoing International Criminal Court investigations,” Omar said in a statement on her congressional website. “To be clear: the conversation was about accountability for specific incidents regarding those ICC cases, not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the U.S. and Israel. I was in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems.”

And that is it, ladies and gentlemen. That is as far as you are allowed to take criticism of the empire in mainstream American politics. Even that level of feeble, impotent criticism is far outside the boundaries for anyone in the mainstream political/media class.

So, in case it wasn’t already clear to you, progressive Democrats are a joke. They’re not a real thing. If they are literally barred from even meaningfully criticizing the US empire, let alone actually working to dismantle it, they’re a joke. They will never succeed in advancing any kind of real progressive agenda.

There’s this unspoken and unquestioned assumption among progressive Democrats that it is possible to advance progressive agendas without actually ending the US empire. That you don’t need to actually dismantle the US empire and strip down its military to the bare bones in order to get nice things like universal healthcare, a living wage, and more ethical behavior on the world stage.

This is pure fantasy. It will never happen.

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As long as the US is the center of a globe-spanning empire, it will be necessary to keep Americans too poor, too busy and too confused to interfere with the operation of the machine. You cannot allow a critical mass of Americans to have enough money to spend on political campaign donations, to have enough free time to research what’s actually happening in their world, to be sufficiently stress-free to look up and realize that your government is murdering children in their name, and also keep the empire running smoothly. You cannot have an imperialist oligarchy who runs things and also have income and wealth equality.

The empire feeds on oppression, exploitation, ignorance, and blood. It is impossible to dominate the planet with a unipolar world order if you don’t use violent force, and the threat of violent force, to uphold that world order. If you’re not strangling people at home and bombing people abroad, then you cannot have an oligarchic empire. Period.

The main rift you see on the leftmost end of the American political spectrum is between people who seek an end to the imperialist murder machine, and people who just want the imperialist murder machine to give them healthcare. The first group faces a very difficult uphill battle to get what it wants. The second group is just masturbating an impossible fantasy.

This is how you can tell who is for real and who is not: do they want to dismantle the oligarchic empire, or don’t they? If they do, they’re fighting for something real, but the oligarch-owned political/media class will not give them a platform. If they don’t, they may get a punditry job or a seat in congress, but they won’t ever actually give you anything besides feel-good empty narrative fluff.

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The solution, as I always point out, is to work together to destroy and discredit the oligarchic propaganda apparatus which enables the empire to determine who gets a platform and who doesn’t. As long as they are able to uplift vapid fauxgressives who pretend it’s possible to have a kinder, gentler US empire and marginalize people who actually want to dismantle the status quo, there will never be enough public awareness to force real change. All positive changes in human behavior are always the direct result of an expansion of awareness, so spreading awareness of the fact that there is an oligarchic empire which is exploiting and deceiving everyone should be the foremost priority of anyone who wants real change.

It’s not that you can’t beat the machine, it’s that you can’t beat the machine using the tools the machine has given you. A grassroots effort to wake each other up to reality is a very achievable goal, and once enough eyes are open, anything is possible.

____________________

The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following me on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud or YouTube, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fi, Patreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my books. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here.

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New York State Senate Passes Right to Repair Bill

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/06/2021 - 8:25pm in

The New York State Senate passed a comprehensive electronics right to repair measure, but the legislative session ended without State Assembly Action, so the legislation remains stalled.

What Scotland can learn from the G7 tax agreement

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/06/2021 - 8:22pm in

My column for The National is out:

Standard Inflation Theory Leaves Out Social Conflict and Costs

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/06/2021 - 7:55pm in

What That Means For Biden’s Inflation Policy Trilemma

Parking Reform Could Reenergize Downtowns – Here’s What Happened When Buffalo Changed its Zoning Rule

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/06/2021 - 6:55pm in

Rezoning cities to prioritize people instead of parking would free more space for affordable housing and encourage use of public transportation.

Just where Biden’s sympathies lie

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/06/2021 - 5:41pm in

Tags 

ireland, Politics, USA

I missed this a day or so ago, but if anyone has any doubt where Biden’s sympathies lie in this world this should really make that very clear:

I have little to add to that, except to note that I agree regarding Yeats.

The G7, tax and economics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/06/2021 - 4:20pm in

I was on the Alex Salmond show this week, discussing tax and economics with George Kerevan. The link is in this tweet.

https://twitter.com/AlexSalmondShow/status/1403030475191590925

A Nation that Runs on Bribes: Civics Lessons from our Vaccine Rollout

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/06/2021 - 7:55am in

If we start bribing citizens to get vaccinated, what else are we going to end up needing to bribe them to do?

Changing merit..

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/06/2021 - 6:36am in

I liked this article from James Bloodworth, who wrote the book about working for Amazon, Undercover in Low-Wage Britain, on meritocracy. As he points out, meritocracy is the idea is that the ‘best’ get to the top. (As if!) He says: But perhaps it’s time we gave more as a society to those who have... Read more

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