Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Public Works or Public Art?

Seen last week on a sidewalk near Civic Center in San Francisco:

It's strangely captivating, the short pieces of blue tape on the boarder of the plywood playing against the long strips of red tape around the chairs. The union of these two discreet chairs mirroring the union of the two pieces of wood below. Indeed one of the most intriguing things about this plywood/chair/tape piece is that it effectively distracts passer-bys from the expensive and ornate display in the store window behind. Is this a comment on the power of context in our consumer society? The assemblage of junk on the sidewalk, a strange and unusual occurrence that is free to appreciate, upstages the traditional consumer display of expensive nick-knacks.

The only clue as to the true intentions of this "piece" is the tag on one of the folding chairs:

Pardon the blurriness, it was a low-light situation. The sticker says, "Keep Upright. Do not topple." The rest is illegible from the picture, I don't recall the sticker mentioning either the origin or the purpose of this piece of public works and/or art installation.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Tasers are the new Twinkies.

When it comes to West Coast criminal defense tazers are the new twinkies.

(image from the brochure of the X26 Taser advertising "fewer lethal force escalations" for police departments using the product, click for clearer image or read the whole thing here.)

"[Dr.] Blinder testified that a junk food diet of Twinkies and Coca-Cola contributed to White’s erratic behavior, and White was convicted of manslaughter rather than murder, partly on the basis of Blinder’s testimony."

--ABC News report on Dr. Blinder who infamously testified as a witness for Dan White, Harvey Milk And George Moscones' assassin, claiming that White was not responsbile for his actions as demonstrated for his appetite for ding-dongs, twinkies, and other gay sounding junk food.

"Lehman's testimony deepened the central debate in the case, with defense attorney Michael Rains trying to use him to show that Mehserle had been afflicted by the "Taser confusion" discussed during his training."

--SF Gate on Mehserle's defense that he meant to shoot Oscar grant (an unarmed African American 22 year old rider on the BART) with a taser, but instead pulled out and fired his gun which killed Grant.

Meyer said it would have been appropriate for officers to punch, kick, use pepper spray, or wield a baton to subdue Grant, though he said using a Taser would be preferred over any of those alternatives because it would be less likely to “inflame the passions” of bystanders.

-- LAPD Captain, and defense witness Greg Meyer's testimony during the Mehserle trial as reported by Uwire

You know our criminal justice system has a problem when the expert way for the police to subdue a citizen who is wriggling on the ground during arrest is to hit him with 50,000 volts of electricity in order to cuff him. Also this is the least "inflaming" of methods available.

Just to back up on this for a second, the Taser in question, the Taser officer Mehserle says he was trying to use, the TASER® X26c delivers 50,000 volts of electricty via two "small probes" that can penetrate up to "2 inches of clothing". Just how much is 50,000 volts? Watch this clip below:

Also here is a picture of the BARBED METAL "small probes" that the X26 shoots out

This is how bad the Defendant's case is, he's arguing instead of shooting a man to death he only meant to shoot two barbed metal bullets into him in order to administer the kind of shock one might expect from LIVE POWER LINES.

And just to be clear, this is not some tragically designed Taser that looks like a gun.

Here's a picture of the taser officer Mehserle claims he meant to use:

And the gun that was used:

In 1979 Dan White was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, the twinkie defense, the argument that he was not in control of his actions as a result of depression and junk food sparing him a murder conviction. Mehserle managed to use his Taser defense to accomplish one better, involuntary manslaughter. Even for a state that has a history of ludicrous verdicts, this one takes the snack cake.

How anyone can watch the youtube video below and come away with anything other than murder is a testament to how far gone we are as a society when it comes to applying the law to those that enforce it.