Posts Tagged ‘New York’

coupleWe heard coverage of this story on the radio a little while ago, and it struck us as terribly sad then – it’s good to see people with some clout taking it up.

We are forever depressed and angered by the way the poorest and least able to defend themselves are chewed up by “the system”, when these are the very people we should be looking after most intensively.

Regular readers will know that we are especially concerned about the fate of “vets” in particular, most obviously in the US, where 100,000+ of them languish in jail, usually for drug abuse and minor theft issues, but also in many other countries around the world including Australia. This is just one more especially tragic and completely avoidable case of a hero falling through the cracks once he’s been discarded by the services.

Homelessness is very often the result of family break-up (especially for young people), substance abuse, mental illness, (especially affecting people who were tossed out on the streets under the trendy move towards de-institutionalisation, but without anything like adequate provision for the de-institutionalised being put in place), post-traumatic stress, and other matters that a genuinely civilised system would deal with effectively.

Instead, we see an increasing reliance on anti-homelessness laws that are a weak and vindictive response that ties up the time of police who should be doing much more important work, and which victimises victims.

We must do better.

The UN Human Rights Committee says the U.S. should stop criminalising homeless people for being homeless.

Jerome Murdough, 56, a mentally ill homeless veteran, was just trying to stay alive during a New York City cold snap when he thought he found his spot: a stairwell leading to a roof in a Harlem public housing project. But that desperate act set in motion a nightmare ride through New York’s criminal justice system that would end with Murdough dying of heat stroke in a Riker’s Island jail cell. New York officials now say the system failed Murdough every which way.

When he was discovered, he should have been offered shelter.

When he was arraigned, he should not have been slapped with $2,500 bail.

When, unable to make bail, he ended up in jail, Murdough, because he was on medication for a mental condition, should have been monitored every 15 minutes, not left unwatched for at least four hours.

It was during that untended time that Murdough, as an official told the Associated Press, “basically baked to death.”

Now, as New York officials discuss the “tragedy” of last month and scapegoat one Riker’s Island guard for Murdough’s death — suspending him for 20 days — the United Nations has taken notice. Murdough is just the latest statistic in a series of needless deaths of homeless people while under arrest for “crimes” related to being unhoused, such as loitering or trespassing.

The U.N. Human Rights Committee in Geneva on Thursday condemned the United States for criminalising homelessness, calling it “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” that violates international human rights treaty obligations. It also called upon the U.S. government to take corrective action, following a two-day review of U.S. government compliance with a human rights treaty ratified in 1992.

“I’m just simply baffled by the idea that people can be without shelter in a country, and then be treated as criminals for being without shelter,” said Sir Nigel Rodley, chairman of the committee in closing statements on the U.S. review. “The idea of criminalising people who don’t have shelter is something that I think many of my colleagues might find as difficult as I do to even begin to comprehend.”

The Committee called on the U.S. to abolish criminalisation of homelessness laws and policies at state and local levels, intensify efforts to find solutions for homeless people in accordance with human rights standards and offer incentives for decriminalisation, including giving local authorities funding for implementing alternatives and withholding funding for criminalizing the homeless.

Those recommendations run counter to the current trends in the nation. Laws targeting the homeless — loitering laws that ban sleeping or sitting too long in one public spot, or camping in parks overnight — have become increasingly common in communities throughout the country as homelessness has skyrocketed.

The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP), a D.C.-based advocacy organization which monitors laws that criminalise homeless people and litigates on behalf of poor people regularly conducts reviews of cities criminalising homelessness and finds more and more laws banning such activities as sitting or lying in public places with each new survey.

“We welcome the Committee’s Concluding Observations and call on our government to take swift action to solve homelessness with homes, not jails and prisons,” said Maria Foscarinis, the NLCHP executive director, in a statement. The NLCHP had submitted a report to the U.N. Committee for review.

Paul Boden, executive director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project, an umbrella organization of advocacy groups in the Western U.S. that is hoping states will sign onto a Bill of Rights for homeless people, said that more and more homeless people are being arrested, prosecuted and killed for actions relating to their poverty. (See below.)

Article reproduced from

Meanwhile, in a tragic irony given the UN report, video has emerged in the last few days of yet another tragedy.

We warn you, this video is very distressing.


The shooting in Albuquerque of a homeless man dead has drawn attention to the city’s officer-involved shootings, especially those involving the mentally ill.

Since 2010, the city’s police have shot 37 people, The New York Times reports. The New Mexico Public Defender Department estimates that 75% of those shot had a mental illness, even though nationally about half of those shot by police have mental health problems.

The Albuquerque Police Department (APD) has identified the man in the recently released video as 38-year-old James M. Boyd. The Albuquerque Journal reports dispatchers informed APD officers responding to the incident that Boyd was mentally incompetent and possibly had paranoid schizophrenia.

The disturbing video from March 16 shows officers aiming their weapons at Boyd, who was camping illegally. We later learn was holding knives, but he doesn’t appear to be threatening the officers.

At the beginning of the video, Boyd gathers his bags containing his belongings.


Police shooting James Boyd


One officer then says “do it” while another throws a flash grenade that explodes as officers and a police dog charge him.


Albuquerque police shooting James Boyd


The man drops his bags and scuffles briefly with the police dog before turning his back as if to retreat, but he is immediately shot in the back.


Albuquerque police shooting James Boyd


Officers then restrain the mortally wounded man and the video reveals he has a small knife in each hand, although it is unclear from the video when he pulled the knives out.


Albuquerque police shooting James Boyd


In a press conference held shortly after the March 15 shooting, APD Chief of Police Gorden Eden said he believed the shooting was justified. According to his version of events, the man threatened APD officers with knives after they approached while he was sleeping at his illegal campsite.

Eden said officers were attempting to use non-lethal means when they threw the flash grenade. But the man pulled out two knives and threatened an officer handling the police dog, according to the police. “The officers then perceived a directed threat immediately to the canine handler who was trying to redirect the dog towards the suspect, when the shots were fired,” Eden said.

While Boyd’s actions in the video appear non-aggressive, Eden said he had not obeyed officers’ demands. “The suspect did in fact make a decision not to follow the directions that were provided to him by the officers,” he said.

According to The Times, Boyd had a history of mental illness and may not have followed the officers’ directions because he believed he was a federal agent who shouldn’t be bossed around.

The APD has a history of allegedly using excessive force during confrontations with civilians, spurring the U.S. Department of Justice to launch an ongoing investigation into the matter in November 2012. Of the 37 people shot since 2010 more than 20 were killed, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

In 2013 a judge ruled that the 2010 fatal shooting of an Iraq War veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder was not justified.

This week, an attorney announced he intends to file a class-action lawsuit against the APD over repeated shootings of people with mental health problems. The lawsuit would seek to guarantee additional training for officers to peacefully end confrontations with mentally ill people.

The video recently sparked a large demonstration in Albuquerque streets against recent APD shooting deaths, according to the Albuquerque Journal. Some community members have criticised the APD for making arrests and resorting to riot gear and tear gas during that 12-hour demonstration sparked by the shooting. Another demonstration followed, and another is set for Friday.

However, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry and Eden said the police actions were an appropriate response to some protesters who behaved like a mob committing illegal acts.

APD Chief Eden started at his position February 27. He previously spent eight years serving as the U.S. marshal for New Mexico in the same Department of Justice still investigating the APD. As the new ADP chief, Eden has vowed to begin improving the department before the investigation reaches its conclusion. He said his major priorities are community outreach, bolstering APD’s leadership structure and police retention. Eden also hopes to increase the department’s manpower, which currently stands at 900 officers although he said there is funding for 1,100 officers.

From Business Insider and others

Well, having viewed the video, we believe this is an unlawful or morally reprehensible killing, at best, and barefaced murder at worst. This man was clearly no threat.

The “flash-bang” is launched as he is complying with the police commands. He is further assaulted when he is clearly no threat whatsoever.

Even if he was initially considered a threat, (even though we cannot see why), why was force not used to disable him (shooting at his legs, for example) rather than to kill?

The police concerned are on “administrative leave”. In our opinion, they should be in court. As for the police chief believing the shooting was justified, well, if that’s what he calls “community outreach”, then words fail us.

Davy Jones in 2011

The same chirpy grin, the same good-natured twinkle in the eye

How sad to hear that the Monkee’s Davy Jones has died of a heart attack at just 66 years young.

I was a kid in the 60s and 70s, and the Monkees were simply part of my life. Discussions about whether they were a “real” pop group or merely a manufactured confection are surely irrelevant.  They were enormous fun and took to their roles with huge enthusiasm – in an era when much “popular” music was created by hard headed folks with an eye for what the public wanted. I have heard it argued they were the first “boy band”. Whatever.

What mattered is the lads themselves oozed talent – you can’t fake that – and none less than irrepressible young Brit Davy Jones, who instantly won a huge following in the US and elsewhere with his Beatles-style haircut, natural good looks and elfin charm.

Here’s a great clip of the lads performing in New York just last year, and obviously having a great time. The reaction of the crowd reveals their genuine appeal.

They copped a lot of flak – included being called the “Prefab Four” as opposed to the Beatles, but the criticism seemed carping and mean-spirited then and still does.

That they went on to create a genuine following and deliver some of the best pop tunes of the era was their sweet revenge.

If you want to enjoy the original, too, here it is. The bit at the end where the boys vie to be in the front was kicked off by prankster Mickey Dolenz, (it starts at about two minutes in), and whilst it might have been scripted it looks spontaneous, and as this particular video became very well known it obviously explains why he and Davy and larking around in the same way in the 2011 show. And you know what? It’s still funny, all these years later. I defy you to watch it and not smile.

The success of the band should not be under-rated. As David Bianculli noted in his Dictionary of Teleliteracy, “The show’s self-contained music videos, clear forerunners of MTV, propelled the group’s first seven singles to enviable positions of the pop charts: three number ones, two number twos, two number threes.” Quite some record.

Well someone thought they were good. This is the Monkees in 1967. From left: Mike Nesmith, Davy Jones, Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz pose with their Emmy award at the 19th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards in California. It's not as well-known that Jones had previously been a child star in England and been nominated for a Tony for his role as the Artful Dodger in Oliver, on Broadway. Pic: AAP Source: AP

And though initially the Monkees weren’t allowed to play their own instruments, they were supported by enviable talent: Carole King and Gerry Goffin wrote Pleasant Valley Sunday, and Neil Diamond penned I’m a Believer. Musicians who played on their records included Billy Preston (who only later played with the Beatles), Glen Campbell, Leon Russell, Ry Cooder and Neil Young. That they had their own musical talent is undoubted – Peter Tork wrote the piano arrangement of Daydream Believer himself.

The outpouring of grief at the death of this much-loved 60s icon seems entirely genuine, and of a more proportioned and thoughtful – and gentle – nature than that which greeted the news of Whitney Houston’s equally untimely demise a couple of weeks back.

Rather than a wailing and a gnashing of teeth, the world simply seems to have paused for a moment and breathed a collective sigh, and to my mind that sigh reflects a wistful sadness at a symbol of the passing of a simpler and somehow less fraught era when not every media appearance was attended by a cavalcade of “fucks”, messy unwanted pregnancies, world-weary cynicism, and endless stories of foolish drug-taking and idiot drunken-ness.

That this feeling is also the product of the rose-tinted spectacles that accompany any retrospective view makes it no less true. The world has become a harsher place, and the death of Davy Jones and what he stood for just makes it more so, by a tiny but perceptible increment.

A lot of us are still Daydream Believers as we waddle grumpily through and past our middle age, and if the song comes on at a party or in a club are suddenly transformed into carefree teenagers again, belting out the lyrics with delighted abandon. What bigger compliment could a band want? Thanks for the memories, Davy.

Keen students of Australian politics will recall that just prior to the Kevin07 election that saw him triumphantly elected as Australia’s Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd was “outed” for having been taken along to a New York club frequented by scantily (ahem) clad ladies,  some four years previously, after a late night dining and drinking too much.


Sources close to Mr Rudd told wellthisiswhatithink that the delivery of "Stop Work Choices Now, Protect My Penalty Rates" t-shirts were just running a little late*. To the best of our knowledge, no one in this photograph is Kevin Rudd.

Some reports claimed Rudd was asked to leave by the management after inappropriate touching of the dancers … although Rudd strenuously denied that component of the story, whilst admitting he’d been there, which he regretted. Presumably that was after he’d seen how much they all spent on champagne.

And as this report reveals, other Aussie pollies took the opportunity to fall over themselves to confess that they, too, had seen naked young ladies cavorting around on a stage at one time or another. Usually when they were young, callow yoofs who should have known better. And as nipping into a lap dancing club when sloshed is, frankly, a virtually universal Australian experience, at some time or other, this was hardly a great shock to anyone.

Now, though, when we are reliably forecast to be within somewhere between 1-3 weeks of Rudd challenging the woman who deposed him as Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, to get the top job back again, he is again in the news for the “wrong” reasons. This time for dropping the “F Bomb” (and some other choice phrases) a few times during the recording of a message in Chinese.

The video – unbleeped – is here, and I think it’s truly hilarious. Go on, click it, you know you want to.

Of course, people have immediately leapt on to the internet and airwaves to accuse someone on Gillard’s side of leaking the out-takes to damage Rudd. But Prime Minister Julia Gillard denies her office leaked the video, which also shows a frustrated Mr Rudd slamming the table.

It was anonymously posted on YouTube over the weekend.

“There have been some assertions today that somehow this is connected with my office. That is completely untrue,” Ms Gillard told reporters in Darwin on Sunday.

“My office did not have access to the material people have seen on YouTube.”

Mr Rudd said the video was embarrassing, before he flew to Mexico for a meeting of foreign affairs ministers from the Group of 20 nations. His careful remarks included:

“Anyone who’s got a touch of suspicion about them would say that if this was done, somewhat embarrassingly, a couple of years ago and it suddenly emerges now, then obviously it’s a little bit on the unusual side,” he told Sky News.

But I wonder at the motives of whoever posted it, to be honest.

Those with long memories will recall that the almost universal reaction from the citizenry of Australia to news that Rudd had been to a strip club after chugging back a few too many tubes of the amber throat charmer** was “Bugger me, he’s not a desiccated calculating machine who talks in pointy head gobbledygook after all, he’s actually just an ordinary bloke like me. You know what? I’m even more inclined to vote for him now.”

And yes, he duly went up in the opinion polls, and on to win a huge victory against incumbent John Howard, who even lost his own seat in Parliament, the only sitting Prime Minister ever to do so.

So I suspect the embattled current PM or her staffers might have had nothing to do with the latest leak at all. In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she is right now heading back to her hotel room in Darwin (where she has been commemorating the 70th anniversary of the bombing of that city by the Japanese in 1942) to have a lie down with a nice cup of tea and an aspirin, cursing and swearing to herself and anyone who would care to listen, somewhere along the lines of “Fuck me drunk, the fucking Milky Bar Kid has gone and fucking done it to me again.”

Sadly for her, though, none of her advisers would be smart enough to release footage of her incoherent rage.

(*This is not true. I made it up. I know that’s hard to believe.)

(**I do not know for sure that Kevin Rudd was drinking Fosters. I just hope, that in his role as a dinky-di Aussie, that he was.)

A digitally altered photo of a river worth more than $4 million

A digitally altered photo of a river worth more than $4 million?

Yahoo and the Daily Mail reports

A photo of an “accurate image of a modern river” has been sold for $4.38 million, earning the highest ever price for a photograph at an auction.

The photo, which depicts a bland scene of a river, was digitally altered by artist Andreas Gursky to remove pesky distractions such as dog walkers, cyclists and factory building to focus on the river itself, the Daily Mail reported.

The picture, called “Rhine It”, fetched the mammoth auction price at Christie’s in New York.

It was described by the auction house as “a dramatic and profound reflection on human existence and our relationship to nature on the cusp of the 21st century”.

The purchaser of the expensive print is not currently known. The previous record for a photo at an auction was Cindy Sherman’s 1981 print ‘Untitled’, which earned $3.7 million.

To which I say: this is a nonsense. The photo is little more than a happy snap, with some simple photoshopping. Millions of people do the same every day on their home PCs.

What’s more, it’s not merely bland, it’s utterly meaningless, tedious and boring. And secondly, and much more importantly, did the investor (he/she could hardly be called an art lover) consider what that $4.38 million might have done feeding children in the Horn of Africa? Or, indeed, how it might have impacted upon any other worthy cause?

Did they pause for one moment, in their rush to acquire something which they hope will increase in value, to consider how many lives they could have changed for the better, perhaps utterly and profoundly, before buying a print to sit, presumably, in a  temperature-controlled vault, somewhere?

Well may the occupy movement cry “Tax the 1%, we are the 99%”. No wonder the purchaser is unknown. His house would be the next place with a tent city springing up on the front lawn.