NEWS

Guest Post: The Thin Black Duke – The Rittenhouse Acquittal Normalizes Vigilantes

The Thin Black Duke published another smart, thoughtful piece on Medium this week.  Once again, I asked him if I could share it here, and he graciously agreed. ~WaterGirl

The Rittenhouse Acquittal Normalizes Vigilantes: An armed society is a society held hostage by sociopaths

by The Thin Black Duke, aka Darryl R. Scott

The moment Kyle Rittenhouse blubbered in court I knew right then there that he’d get away with murder because in White America only a white man’s tears matter.

CHICAGO (AP) — For many Black Americans, Kyle Rittenhouse’s acquittal on all charges by a Wisconsin jury on Friday confirmed their belief in two justice systems: one for white people and another for Black people.

Rittenhouse, the two men he killed and the man he wounded were all white, but the case has been linked from the start to issues of race and the criminal justice system.

Activists have previously pointed to differences in how police handled Rittenhouse’s case and that of Jacob Blake, the Black man who was shot by a white Kenosha police officer in August 2020, sparking protests in the city that became destructive and violent.

Of course it gets worse. Besides getting to goose-step out of the courthouse a free man, Rittenhouse was offered a job as an intern by U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL), and Tucker Carlston interviewed him as a guest on his TV show (“a sweet kid”). Trump says Rittenhouse visited him at Mar-a-Lago. It’s not just a slap on the wrist, it’s a collective pat on the back by his fellow white supremacists. Kyle, you’re doing a heck of a job!

Forget it, Jake. It’s America.

I guess the two men who died must have shot themselves, huh? By the way, their names were Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26. They’re not faceless statistics to their heartbroken families who have to live with this ugly miscarriage of justice:

Guest Post: The Thin Black Duke – The Rittenhouse Acquittal Normalizes Vigilantes
Parents of Rittenhouse victim react to not guilty verdict, photograph courtesy of nbc.com

“Today’s verdict means there is no accountability for the person who murdered our son. It sends the unacceptable message that armed civilians can show up in any town, incite violence, and then use the danger they have created to justify shooting people in the street.”

In Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, there’s a scene where Bruce Wayne and his butler, Alfred Pennyworth, are investigating the violent crime spree of the Joker and Bruce is trying to make sense of the Joker’s lunacy. This is what Alfred says to Bruce:

Alfred Pennyworth: Well, because he thought it was good sport. Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

Angry white men in this country have been burning things down for quite a while now, while the apolitical “non-racist” white people who work in the fire department pretend nothing is happening and decide to look the other way.

Pay no attention to the arsonists behind the curtain.

A democratic society only works when its citizens fully understands what their responsibilities and obligations are and make the commitment into looking out for each other and their communities. That’s what “We, the People” is supposed to mean.
But the Rittenhouses in this country, fueled by their fear and hatred of the Other, are taking away the checks and balances, fail-safes, and all the other legal guardrails that keep a civilized nation from degenerating into barbarism.

Make no mistake, what these angry white men are doing is barbaric. Some men just want to watch the world burn. And their relentless hammering away at the crumbling bedrock of America’s democratic institutions is accelerating.

Dollar Store Rambos carrying AR-15s are strolling down the supermarket aisles. Teachers are either being harassed or terminated for educating their students about “CRT”, the latest boogeyman that’s scaring the hell out of right-wing zealots. Planed Parenthood clinics are vandalized. In spite of three viable vaccines available to everyone, COVID-19 is still killing people every day because Anti-Vaxxers refuse to get vaccinated. The insurrection on 1/6. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

Freedom of Speech isn’t guaranteed by the Constitution anymore. It’s dictated by how many guns you have. Coincidentally, it’s a sacred privilege that only white men get to enjoy (Second Amendment, fuck yeah!) and as Kyle Rittenhouse proved, he and all the other vigilantes in White America have been given the permission to shoot at any problem that they can’t figure out after fifteen minutes of googling.

This isn’t substainable, of course. And bad things always happen when a democracy is taken by a bloodthirsty mob to the back of the woodshed and shot.I found an online documentary called After Prison in which ex-convicts talk about their experiences, and there was one interview in particular that got stuck in my head and won’t go away:

“Every day is something different, but the one thing that remains constant in prison is violence. Violence is always there. It’s always there, and that’s what controls everything.

“When you look at Society, it’s the same way but people just don’t look at it like that. But you wouldn’t listen to a cop if he didn’t have a gun. You wouldn’t listen to the Army if they didn’t have tanks. You listen to them because they’re using violence and they’re using force and sometimes they don’t have to use it, but the threat is there. In prison you know violence is there so people respect that if they don’t respect you.

“You might not respect the guard but you do what he tells you to do because besides having the authority, he has that violence behind him. And when you’re in prison you have to deal with this every day.”

So when law and order goes away, all that’s left behind are killers like Kyle Rittenhouse, and they’re not afraid to use violence to get what they want. The day Rittenhouse didn’t go to prison was the day that everybody else in America who isn’t a crazy, gun-slinging white man got locked up in a cell instead. We’re in prison and the violence is everywhere.

And the bars are getting closer every day.

 

The post Guest Post: The Thin Black Duke – The Rittenhouse Acquittal Normalizes Vigilantes appeared first on Balloon Juice.

Debt Collectors Can Now Text, Email and DM You On Social Media

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: New rules approved by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that took effect on Tuesday dictate how collection agencies can email and text people as well as message them on social media to seek repayment for unpaid debts. Kathleen L. Kraninger, the former CFPB director who oversaw the rule changes, said last year that they were a necessary update to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which is more than four decades old. "We are finally leaving 1977 behind and developing a debt collection system that works for consumers and industry in the modern world," Kraninger said in a blog post. Under the new rules, debt collectors who contact you on social media have to identify themselves as debt collectors but can attempt to join your network by sending you a friend request. Collectors must give you the option to opt out of being contacted online, and any messages they send have to be private -- collectors can't post on your page if it can be seen by your contacts or the public. Collection agencies can also email and text message debtors, but must still offer the ability to opt out. Industry officials praised the move as a welcome change to the outdated methods currently used by the collections industry. The new rules were devised during the Trump administration, when the bureau became more business-friendly than it had been in the past. The new rules also set a limit for the first time on how often debt collectors can call you. Agencies will be restricted to seven calls per week per account in collection.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

January 6th was a very close call

Alleged January 6 rioter: I thought Trump was calling for help

Alleged January 6 rioter: “I thought Trump was calling for help” 

They were hunting for Democratic women:

Justice Department prosecutors say they have evidence that an alleged rioter who brought a gun to the US Capitol on January 6 was targeting both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. According to a filing Thursday, Guy Reffitt, a member of the Texas Three Percenter militia, “specifically targeted at least two lawmakers — the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and then-Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell — whom he sought to physically remove or displace from the Capitol building.”

Prosecutors aim to prove the allegation at Reffitt’s trial, which is tentatively scheduled for late February. He will be the first January 6 defendant to go to trial, and is facing five federal charges. He has pleaded not guilty, and has been in jail since his arrest in January.

According to court documents, Reffitt drove to Washington, DC, days before the riot, carrying an AR-15 rifle and pistol in his car. Prosecutors say Reffitt wore body armor and carried his pistol and plastic cuff restraints on the Capitol grounds on January 6.

The assertion by prosecutors may further undermine efforts by some Republicans to whitewash the deadly insurrection and claims by former President Donald Trump that rioters posed “zero threat” to those inside the building.

Other rioters have been accused of hurling threats against lawmakers before, during, and after January 6. In the week after the 2020 election, Michael Lopatic, of Pennsylvania, allegedly posted photos online of birds he had shot on a hunting trip which he had named after prominent Democratic lawmakers. Garret Miller, of Texas, is accused of tweeting “Assassinate AOC” and wrote on Facebook about hanging a Black police officer. Mark Mazza, who is also charged with carrying a loaded firearm to the Capitol, allegedly told investigators that if he had found Pelosi that day, “you’d be here for another reason.”

Do not think that it couldn’t have happened. If they had come across any of their enemies like Pelosi, AOC or Ilhan Omar I honestly think someone would have killed them. If you doubt it, watch this video from that day which contains language and threats so vile that Youtube will not allow it to be embedded.

But hey, no biggie.

Friday Evening Open Thread: TGIF, Truly

President Biden has a cold, so you can safely ignore all the frantic/gleeful health rumors over the weekend:

Hope he’ll feel well enough to show up for the Kennedy Honors on Sunday:

The post Friday Evening Open Thread: TGIF, Truly appeared first on Balloon Juice.

Zoom Will Soon Make It Obvious If You’re Late To Your Next Big Meeting

Zoom is rolling out a number of new updates for its video conferencing software and one of them might finally encourage users to ensure they're on time for their next big meeting. TechRadar reports: According to a new blog post from the company, Attendance Status makes it easier for organizations to streamline the start of their Zoom Meetings by allowing meeting hosts and co-hosts using its Google Calendar or Outlook Calendar integrations to view who has accepted or declined a meeting invite. However, this new feature also gives them the ability to see whether everyone invited to a meeting has joined. If you're used to arriving earlier for video calls, you should be fine but for those that try to slink in unnoticed later on in a meeting, your boss or manager will now be aware of your absence, so tread carefully. You'll also no longer be able to use the excuse that you had to update your Zoom client as Zoom recently added a new automatic update feature for Windows and macOS that ensures everyone in a meeting is running the latest version of the company's software. Zoom is also rolling out other new features, such as the ability for users to select multiple people to control the movements of slides in a presentation. They've also "added more options for creating polls including ranked responses, matching, short and long answers and even fill in the blank," adds TechRadar. "Finally, Zoom is adding additional watermark settings to its software to help organizations and individuals get the most out of their recorded content and avoid distracting watermarks."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Magnus Carlsen Wins Longest World Chess Championship Game of All Time

The first victory of the 2021 FIDE World Championship happened in game 6 after GM Magnus Carlsen defeated GM Ian Nepomniachtchi in a record 136 moves. Chess.com reports: Carlsen's victory came after the world champion exchanged a queen for two rooks, provoking a long, tense endgame -- a strategy that eventually proved effective. With both players working on increment after move 80, Magnus converted the position into a rook, knight, and two pawns for a queen, which ended up enough to take the match lead. It was the first decisive game in the classical rounds of a world championship in over five years.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Pandemic Politics

Those two words should never be in the same phrase, but here we are. And soon, we may find out if the Omicron variant scrambles current pandemic politics. It’s too soon to tell, but new evidence coming out of South Africa seems to suggest that the latest variant is better at evading immunity acquired from previous infections, and that may have political implications. Via CNN:

Researchers in South Africa reported Thursday they have found some evidence that people who had been infected once with coronavirus were more likely to be reinfected with the Omicron variant than with the Beta or Delta variants.

Josh Marshall discusses the potential implications in a subscriber-only article at TPM, but my takeaway is that things could get interesting fast in the U.S. if it turns out that vaccination provides substantially better immunity against Omicron that natural immunity from prior infections. That seems to be a distinct possibility since there’s evidence vaccines provide better protection against prior variants than previous infection alone, which is why people who’ve recovered from COVID should still get vaccinated.

Wingnuts who have used opposition to Biden admin vaccination mandates to appeal to the Trump cult pretend the antibodies produced by an infection are the equivalent of a vaccine. It’s a point Florida Governor Ron DeSantis brings up repeatedly. (He is also asking the legislature for money to assemble as state militia that reports to him, and his administration just got busted again for manipulating CDC data and lying to the public about transmission rates in the state, but I digress…)

The point is, we may be at an inflection point where people who are unvaccinated are exposed to an even more highly transmissible strain than the previous waves with even less protection if they’ve recovered. It’s too early to tell. But at some point, please dog before the Omega variant, the cynical fuckers like DeSantis and Abbott who brought us to this dangerous place need to be held accountable for their recklessness. They’re the Crumbley parents of governors.

The post Pandemic Politics appeared first on Balloon Juice.

Chinese Rideshare App Didi To Delist From NYSE

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hill: The Chinese rideshare app Didi announced Friday that it will delist from the New York Stock Exchange just months after its initial public offering. The company's brief announcement on the microblog Weibo noted plans to relist on Hong Kong's exchange, but gave few other details. Didi had been valued at nearly $70 billion after its first day of trading in June, but has since seen its shares collapse amid a crackdown from Beijing. [China says the company broke data privacy laws and posed cybersecurity risks.] Chinese authorities announced a probe of the company's data security practices shortly after its listing, but that investigation has not yet been closed. The company, which successfully held Uber out of its domestic market, owns a vast trove of data on Chinese users. The company's market capitalization now sits at roughly $38 billion. Its shares tumbled even further Friday following the news of the delisting. "Didi's repatriation to [Hong Kong] is a significantly worrying indicator for the larger US-Sino economic relationship," Brock Silvers, chief investment officer at Kaiyuan Capital in Hong Kong, told CNN. "Beijing essentially forced Didi's hand. [...] Didi's repatriation looks likely to be the start of a trend, and the market should expect that others will follow. Equity investors may not wait for the other shoe to drop." "Chinese founders previously looked to [New York] for a number of reasons, including looser listing standards, often higher multiples and a domicile beyond Beijing's financial [and] regulatory grasp," Silvers added. "That calculus has rapidly changed, and today's companies -- especially established market leaders or those in certain tech sectors -- will likely face increasing pressure to list on China-controlled exchanges."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

How Much Has Quantum Computing Actually Advanced?

For a measured perspective on how much quantum computing is actually advancing as a field, IEEE Spectrum spoke with John Martinis, a professor of physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the former chief architect of Google's Sycamore. From a report: IEEE Spectrum: So it's been about two years since you unveiled results from Sycamore. In the last few weeks, we've seen announcements of a 127-qubit chip from IBM and a 256-qubit neutral atom quantum computer from QuEra. What kind of progress would you say has actually been made? John Martinis: Well, clearly, everyone's working hard to build a quantum computer. And it's great that there are all these systems people are working on. There's real progress. But if you go back to one of the points of the quantum supremacy experiment -- and something I've been talking about for a few years now -- one of the key requirements is gate errors. I think gate errors are way more important than the number of qubits at this time. It's nice to show that you can make a lot of qubits, but if you don't make them well enough, it's less clear what the advance is. In the long run, if you want to do a complex quantum computation, say with error correction, you need way below 1% gate errors. So it's great that people are building larger systems, but it would be even more important to see data on how well the qubits are working. In this regard, I am impressed with the group in China who reproduced the quantum supremacy results, where they show that they can operate their system well with low errors.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

The shooter’s parents made him into what he is

The Michigan prosecutor charged this week’s school shooter’s parents with involuntary manslaughter and rightly so:

Four days before 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley allegedly opened fire at his Michigan high school, his parents bought him an unusually early Christmas gift: a 9mm Sig Sauer handgun.

The teen accompanied his father, James Crumbley, to buy the gun at Acme Shooting Goods in the small town of Oxford. Ethan referred it to that night on Instagram as his “new beauty.”

The next day, his mom, Jennifer Crumbley, who once posted an open letter thanking President-elect Donald Trump for protecting “my right to bear arms,” penned her own Instagram post. “Mom & son day testing out his new Xmas present,” she wrote, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said on Friday.

By Monday, however, Ethan’s new present, which was kept in an unsecured drawer in his parents’ bedroom, was already causing concern at Oxford High School.

A teacher found Ethan searching for ammunition on his cell phone during class and reported it to higher-ups. Administrators left a voicemail for Jennifer Crumbley and followed up with an email, but received no response.

“Lol, I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught,” Jennifer texted her son.

Conduct by James and Jennifer Crumbley before and after the shooting was “so egregious” that it warranted charging them with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, McDonald announced Friday in an extraordinary move that is a rarity in the U.S. legal system, which seldom holds parents of school shooters accountable for their child’s actions.

Charges were filed, in part, to “send a message that gun owners have a responsibility,” she said. “Four kids were murdered and seven more injured. So yes, I think we should all be very angry and we should take a very hard look at what is in place in terms of criminal responsibility and what gun owners are required to do.”

On the morning of the shooting on Tuesday, a teacher was “alarmed” at a drawing made by Ethan. It included a handgun with the text, “the thoughts won’t stop. Help me,” and a bullet with the words, “blood everywhere.” There were also some laughing emojis, a person who’d been shot, and the words, “my life is useless,” and “the world is dead,” McDonald said.

The drawing prompted staff to remove Ethan from class, and his parents were called into the school. James and Jennifer were shown the drawing and told they had to “get their son into counseling within 48 hours.”

“Both James and Jennifer Crumbley failed to ask their son if he had his gun with him or where his gun was located and failed to inspect his backpack,” McDonald said.

They resisted taking Ethan home with them and left the school soon after, she said. Ethan returned to class with the handgun in his backpack.

“The notion that a parent could read those words [in the drawing] and also know that their son had access to a deadly weapon that they gave him is unconscionable. And I think it’s criminal,” McDonald said.

Just after lunchtime that day, the sophomore student went into a bathroom with his backpack, then came out into a hallway and started shooting students at random, sending terrified teens ducking for cover and into hiding, police said. Sixteen-year-old Tate Myre, 14-year-old Hana St. Juliana, 17-year-old Madisyn Baldwin, and 17-year-old Justin Shilling died. Seven more, including a teacher, were injured.

As news alerts went out about an active shooter at the school, James Crumbley “went straight to his home to look for his gun,” McDonald said. Jennifer Crumbley texted her son, “Ethan, don’t do it.”

James then called 911 to report that his gun was missing and that “his son could be the shooter,” McDonald said.

Acme Shooting Goods declined The Daily Beast’s request for comment on Friday. Multiple attempts to contact the Crumbleys were unsuccessful.

Involuntary manslaughter was “the strongest possible charge that we could prove and that there’s probable cause to charge,” said McDonald.

Ethan has been charged as an adult with one count of terrorism, four counts of first-degree murder, seven counts of assault with intent to murder, and 12 counts of possession of a firearm.

At Crumbley’s arraignment on Wednesday, Oakland County Sheriff’s Lt. Tim Willis said police seized “two separate videos recovered from Ethan’s cellphone made by him the night before the incident, wherein he talked about shooting and killing students the next day at Oxford High School.”

Willis also told the judge that investigators discovered a journal in Ethan’s backpack, “detailing his desire to shoot up the school, to include murdering students.” Social media accounts showed Ethan practicing with a Sig Sauer handgun identical to the one used in the shooting, Willis told District Court Judge Nancy Carniak.

His new Christmas present. They bought it for him. And then he killed four people and injured seven more all casualties of a grotesque gun culture that inspires people like this. They encouraged their sick kid to become a gun nut and he became a murderer. The same thing happened with the Newtown killer Adam Lanza. What kind of people would think that handing a gun to a disturbed 15 year old kid is a good idea?

This kind of person. Here’s an open letter from the shooter’s mom to Donald Trump back in 2016:

“Mr. Trump, I actually love that you are a bad public speaker because that showed sincerity, and humility,” she wrote. “You changed your mind, and you said ‘so what.’ You made the famous ‘grab them in the pussy’ comment, did it offend me? No. I say things all the time that people take the wrong way, do I mean them, not always. Do I agree that you should of [sic] shown your tax returns? No. I don’t care what you do or maybe don’t pay in taxes, I think those are personal and if the Gov’t can lock someone up over $10,000 of unpaid taxes and you slipped on by, then that shows the corruption.”

Crumbley went on to tell Trump that she hoped he would “really uncover the politicians for what I believe they really are,” and that he might “shut down Big Pharma, make health care affordable for me and my MIDDLE CLASS family again.” She was in favor of Trump’s long-promised border wall, and noted that she was “not racist” because her grandfather “came straight off the boat in Italy.”

“As a female and a Realtor, thank you for allowing my right to bear arms,” the letter continued. “Allowing me to be protected if I show a home to someone with bad intentions. Thank you for respecting that Amendment.”

She complained about parents at other schools where the “kids come from illegal immigrant parents” and “don’t care about learning.”

It was signed, “A hard working Middle Class Law Abiding Citizen who is sick of getting fucked in the ass and would rather be grabbed by the pussy.”

She seems nice. So does her husband who responded to that letter with this: