Friday, June 17, 2016

Coverup! Why wet cement on the Rómulo Gallegos grave in Venezuela is important

See my article in The Daily Beast: The Bone Thieves of Caracas

AP wrote that Sonia, the daughter of Gallegos,  said no bones were stolen, while, as we point out, the granddaughter of Gallegos, whose name is Theotiste, said her grandfather and grandmother had been "taken away." It's now apparent Sonia, who was cited without quotation marks or context, did not know and does not know if bones were stolen. She has joined with the son of another president, whose grave also was desecrated—and covered up—to try to get the courts to find out what the hell happened. Their partner in this is Antonio Ecarri, who runs an education foundation and clearly has his own political ambitions. 

Theotiste, whose Facebook post started this whole flap, may not know for certain if bones were stolen, but that is her reasonable conclusion based on the pictures posted that show the hole going down to and through the coffin, and AP points out the extensive problems that exist with Santería grave robbers in Venezuela. 

What is unquestionable is that the damage done has been covered up and the Maduro government tried to deny that anything happened at all.

Ecarri posted a video of the cement on the Gallegos grave site.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Weed, Guns, "Stop and Frisk" and Sudden Death in South Carolina

If you're interested in marijuana laws, gun laws, "stop and frisk," and similar police issues, take a look:

This "very minor arrest" in Cayce, S.C., on the night of November 17 that ended in the fatal shooting of a black suspect by two white officers raises a lot of questions, but they are as much about the law the police were enforcing as about the performance of the police themselves. 

This is a training version of the police dashcam video published by Calibre Press, which conducts seminars for police on "street survival," and it notes quite rightly that the officers are very, very cool and polite and, indeed, were about to let the suspect go until he inadvertently pulled a bag of marijuana out of his pocket (about which more later). 

Then, as the suspect apparently realized that they would find the gun in his belt, he pulled it and fired off a round next to one officers, then got the other in the leg before he ran into an alley (off camera) where one of the officers shot at him, hitting him twice, and killed him.

The suspect, 21-year-old Demetrius Shelley Bryant, of Columbia, S.C., had been sitting in his car smoking dope and clearly was stoned when the police came up to him. One of the officers said the car reeked of weed when he opened the window. The car's registration was not in order either. But Bryant was just sitting there, doing no harm—at least at that moment—and the police sound like they were disposed to let him go.

In the controversial policy known to cops as "stop-question-and-frisk" and to its critics as "stop-and-frisk," the questioning is actually quite important, and you see here how it can play out.

The police have stopped to see what this guy is doing in this car in the middle of the night. He rolls down the window. It's obvious he's been smoking dope. They question him extensively, in the friendliest possible way, and they do not frisk him, which is why they don't know about the gun in his belt. (They have seen a knife on the floor of the car, but don't seem too concerned about that.) 

In the course of questioning him about weapons he might have, they ask him to empty his pockets and, bingo, he turns out the dope he said he didn't have. Then, quite calmly, they ask him to put his hands behind his back to be cuffed, he tenses up and resists, breaks free, pulls his gun and fires.

Bryant reportedly had been charged in the past with drug possession and with unlawful carrying of a pistol—which, perhaps surprisingly, actually is illegal for some people in South Carolina, even though buying one requires no background check and no license of any kind. For a second misdemeanor marijuana offense, Bryant could have faced a $2,000 fine and a year in jail.

Maybe Bryant was thinking about going straight. He told the officers he had just gotten a job at Amazon, and was waiting for his paycheck to register his car. Maybe not. But he was smoking dope, which probably shouldn't be a matter for the police, and he was carrying a gun, which he had bought quite legally (there is no way buying one in S.C. is illegal) even if he was breaking the law by carrying it on his person.

Because of these two bad laws about possession, one criminalizing a minor vice, the other legalizing easy access to a killing tool, he's dead.