Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Daily Links: Ferguson, a Boring Startup, and Print Newspapers

Posted By on Tue, Aug 19, 2014 at 6:00 PM

Every day we read a lot of stuff. If it's interesting, thought provoking, funny or being shared by everyone we know on the Internet, we share some of it with you. Happy reading.

From The Atlantic: Reparations for Ferguson

From The Intercept: A Night in Ferguson: Rubber Bullets, Tear Gas, and a Jail Cell

From Pacific Standard: DIY Diagnosis: How an Extreme Athlete Uncovered Her Genetic Flaw

From Code Switch: In Ferguson, Mo., A City Meets The Spotlight

Continue reading »

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Mayor of Nashville Called Out in ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Posted By on Tue, Aug 19, 2014 at 2:42 PM

You can hear it wafting across the Internet today, the backlash to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

But whatever. If people fighting a disease raise a ton of money and awareness, I'm all for it. Plus, the failure videos are fantastic. Are you not entertained? It's not like we're asking you to put a Twibbon on.

We wondered how long it would take for the mayor to get challenged, and sure enough, the folks over at DVL did just that today in a well-done clip:

No, no. Not that mayor. The real mayor.

Your move, Mr. Mayor.

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Ferguson Has Happened Here

Posted By on Tue, Aug 19, 2014 at 7:00 AM

With all due respect to Bruce, Nashville isn't protected from having something similar to what's happening in Ferguson happen here, even if how Metro Nashville is set up is much different than how the greater St. Louis area is set up.

We're not that much different. Our police force is better about being well-integrated with the community, but it'd be naive to think that we're immune to the same kinds of long-term institutional racism we see on display in Ferguson. Of course people here in Nashville are tired of being treated all the time like they are, just by virtue of their race or ethnicity, some kind of criminal. There are plenty of people here in Nashville who are terrified that their kids don't have the same leeway to be terrible as teenagers and then pull their shit together the way white kids do and that that lack of leeway might cost their kids their lives.

Nashville has erupted into racial violence already a number of times. Descriptions of the '67 North Nashville riot and the resulting police presence are not completely different than what we're hearing now. Much like Michael Brown's parents are afraid his death will never be properly investigated, we've had black kids killed in broad daylight—like in December of 1924, when Samuel Smith was killed by the K.K.K.—and the paper read "No arrests will be made." Really, the main difference between Nashville and Ferguson is that if we pretended like all our racial strife was caused by unruly black people, we'd be laughed off the face of the planet.

Our worst racial violence has been perpetrated by white people — from the person or people who planted a bomb in Z. Alexander Looby's house to try to thwart integration to the people who rioted against the streetcar strikers in 1905 to the people who rioted when free black Nashvillians tried to open a school for their children in 1856, not to mention the Klan or the whole institution of slavery.

I am not the first person to say this — check out Ida Wells-Barnett or James Baldwin — nor will I be the last, but the reason white people around the country are sitting around fretting about whether Ferguson could happen here is that, somewhere in the back of our minds, we are confused about why we have never been met with the same level of violence we have historically meted out on our fellow Americans. We keep expecting and suspecting minorities of being on the verge of seeking catastrophic revenge on us.

We ask "can Ferguson happen here?" but we don't mean "Could our dumbass sons out being dumbasses one sunny day before their grown-up lives start be gunned down in the streets of Nashville by a cop?" Because, for most of us, the answer is "Not even if he were armed." What we mean is "How angry could black people really get and could I be hurt by it?"

I think the second question is silly, but, really, white people, if you want the answer to the second question to be "no," work toward making this a city in which the answer to the first question for everyone in this city is "probably not."

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Monday, August 18, 2014

The Daily Links: #Ferguson, 'Black on Black' Crime, and Vacation Time

Posted By on Mon, Aug 18, 2014 at 5:00 PM

Every day we read a lot of stuff. If it's interesting, thought provoking, funny or being shared by everyone we know on the Internet, we share some of it with you. Happy reading.

From The Atlantic: Black People Are Not Ignoring 'Black on Black' Crime

From Poynter: How St. Louis’ alt-weekly is covering the chaos in Ferguson

From Vox: Americans are taking fewer vacations than they used to

From The New Yorker: A Movement Grows in Ferguson

Continue reading »

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Evans Pauses Effort to Shrink Metro Council

Posted By on Mon, Aug 18, 2014 at 11:00 AM

For the current issue of the Scene, we spoke with the Metro Council's Minority Caucus about Councilwoman Emily Evans' effort to extend term limits while at the same time reducing the size of the council to 27 members.

The caucus was strongly opposed to the idea, warning that a smaller council would mean less representation for minorities that are already underrepresented in city politics. They promised that a counter-movement against Evans' petition drive was on the way.

But now, The Tennessean reports that Evans has hit pause on the effort for now:

Evans said her campaign organization, CouncilNext50, gathered 7,197 signatures, about 5.5 percent more than the 6,817 that were needed, based on voter turnout for the Aug. 7 election. She said that wasn't enough of a cushion to ensure the petition would include enough registered voters to put the issue on the Nov. 4 ballot.

However, Evans tells the daily that will try to get the proposal on the ballot next August, to go along with council and mayoral elections. If voters approved, she says the new arrangement would go into effect in 2019. While that halts the effort temporarily, it means the debate continues for another year at least.

One interesting point to note: Opponents of Evans' proposal, and members of the Minority Caucus, have wondered where financial support for the effort is coming from. But it's a question that can't be definitively answered yet. The organization formed to push for the referendum, CouncilNext50, isn't required to filed financial disclosures with the election commission until the question officially makes it on a ballot.

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Can Ferguson Happen Here?

Posted By on Mon, Aug 18, 2014 at 10:31 AM

Ferguson can theoretically happen anywhere, obviously. But there are some structural differences between metro St. Louis and metro Nashville in the way local and satellite governments are configured that are important to understand. An insightful New York Times op-ed today by political scientist Jeff Smith (previously a Missouri state senator from St. Louis) explains some of the history behind the geographic and demographic configuration of inner suburbs in St. Louis — history that is quite different from ours here in middle Tennessee:

Back in 1876, the city of St. Louis made a fateful decision. Tired of providing services to the outlying areas, the city cordoned itself off, separating from St. Louis County. It’s a decision the city came to regret. Most Rust Belt cities have bled population since the 1960s, but few have been as badly damaged as St. Louis City, which since 1970 has lost almost as much of its population as Detroit.

This exodus has left a ring of mostly middle-class suburbs around an urban core plagued by entrenched poverty. White flight from the city mostly ended in the 1980s; since then, blacks have left the inner city for suburbs such as Ferguson in the area of St. Louis County known as North County.

This governmental fragmentation, Smith notes, translates into large numbers of small towns with independent police forces and too much reliance on traffic stops for revenue:

St. Louis County contains 90 municipalities, most with their own city hall and police force. Many rely on revenue generated from traffic tickets and related fines....Ferguson receives nearly one-quarter of its revenue from court fees; for some surrounding towns it approaches 50 percent. Municipal reliance on revenue generated from traffic stops adds pressure to make more of them.

Ninety! And that's in a county whose population outside of the city of St. Louis is roughly the same as Davidson County. As Smith explains, because the white-to-black shift in racial demographics in many of these suburbs has occurred only fairly recently, "fewer suburban black communities have deeply ingrained civic organizations," which is part of how it comes to be that places like Ferguson have majority white power structures (city council, school board, police force) in majority black communities.

Smith sees a remedy, one that should sound vaguely familiar to Nashvillians: consolidation.

Consolidation would help strapped North County communities avoid using such a high percentage of their resources for expensive public safety overhead, such as fire trucks. It could also empower the black citizens of Ferguson. Blacks incrementally gained power in St. Louis City in part because its size facilitates broader coalitions and alliances. Another benefit of consolidation is the increased political talent pool. Many leaders just aren’t interested in running a tiny municipality....Consolidation could create economies of scale, increase borrowing capacity to expand economic opportunity, reduce economic pressures that inflame racial tension, and smash up the old boys’ network that has long ruled much of North County.

Obviously the kind of consolidation that might bring surburban communities together in 21st century St. Louis County doesn't mimic the experience or the experiment Nashville and Davidson County launched 50 years ago. And certainly there are other factors that make St. Louis and Nashville very different places. But it is instructive during a period of searing civic tension in a metro area that in many ways qualifies as a peer city to think about structural similarities and differences when pondering the inevitable question: can it happen here?

A version of this post also appears at BruceBarry.net.

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We Try Again to Fix Our Domestic Violence Problem

Posted By on Mon, Aug 18, 2014 at 7:09 AM

Brian Haas over at the Tennessean has a brief story about the pending arrival of a new domestic violence court here in Davidson County.

For the first time, all domestic violence cases will begin in this courtroom, with judges, prosecutors and security staff specialized to handle those issues. The large majority of cases will stay there, while more serious felony cases would likely end up being sent to Criminal Court.

“We’re going to see a major change in how the cases are handled,” said General Sessions Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton, who will be the first in a three-judge rotation to run the new court. “The justice system is taking it seriously.”

This is good news. Don't get me wrong. But here we are, in 2014, and just now we're taking domestic violence seriously. It's hard to be very enthusiastic about that.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

The Daily Links: Ferguson, Editors, and the EPL

Posted By on Fri, Aug 15, 2014 at 5:00 PM

Every day we read a lot of stuff. If it's interesting, thought provoking, funny or being shared by everyone we know on the Internet, we share some of it with you. Happy reading.

From Grantland: The Front Lines of Ferguson

From Grantland: Let’s Be Real

From SB Nation: Premier League Preview

From the Baltimore Sun: Everyone their own editor

Continue reading »

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Thanks, Uncle Sam! Surveying Middle Tennessee's Military Toys

Posted By on Fri, Aug 15, 2014 at 3:40 PM

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Recent events in Ferguson, Mo., have been, and continue to be, mystifying and shameful.

This awful episode began last weekend, when Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen who was allegedly jaywalking. That gave way to several nights of demonstrations. On one night, that included some looting by some individuals, but the protests, or at least the protesters, were and have continued to be almost entirely peaceful. The police, on the other hand, escalated the situation from the beginning, appearing at prayer vigils with German Shepherds — sound familiar? — rolling out the armored vehicles with snipers perched on top, and military-style uniforms.

Although law enforcement has since abandoned that approach, leading to a completely predictable calming of the situation on the streets, they have continued to appear simultaneously inept and corrupt. At a press conference this morning authorities released the name of the police officer who shot and killed Brown along with surveillance footage that allegedly showed Brown steeling a box of Swisher Sweet cigars at a convenient store. The strong, albeit insidious, suggestion was that Brown was a suspect in a robbery and that his alleged crime was somehow connected to his later confrontation with police during which he was shot and killed. But this afternoon, at another press conference, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson confirmed that, actually, the officer who shot Michael Brown was not aware of the alleged robbery when he confronted Brown in the street. So, nope. Just the jaywalking.

Continue reading »

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Al v. Jazeera

Posted By on Fri, Aug 15, 2014 at 2:08 PM

Al Gore, the former vice president and inconvenient truther, is suing Al Jazeera for fraud and for breaking the terms of the Middle Eastern news giant's acquisition of Current Media last year.

Politico reports:

Gore and Hyatt, the co-founders of Current Media, say that Al Jazeera has unlawfully refused to turn over tens of millions of dollars currently located in an escrow account. That money is owed to Current Media shareholders per the terms of the $500-million merger agreement made in January 2013, the plaintiffs say.

The lawsuit was filed Friday morning by David Boies, attorney for Gore and Hyatt, in the Delaware Court of Chancery. (Boies also represented Gore in the 2000 Florida election recount battle against George W. Bush.)

"Al Jazeera America wants to give itself a discount on the purchase price that was agreed to nearly two years ago," Boies said in a statement. "We are asking the Court to order Al Jazeera America to stop wrongfully withholding the escrow funds that belong to Current's former shareholders."

Al Jazeera America launched a year ago, with a bureau in Nashville.

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