Thursday, December 29, 2011

Traffic Camera Scam Continues, Landrieu Chooses Police State Crackdown Over Justice

The notorious scam that is traffic camera system in New Orleans, installed for "free" by a private company, which takes a large share of the fines generated and gives the remainder to the city (in what is commonly understood as a "kickback scheme"), continues to enrage local drivers and many are refusing to pay.

Rather than refusing to pay and exposing oneself to being caught in the sticky spider's web of the criminal injustice system, go out and do a public service by bagging up or otherwise disabling the cameras issuing the most tickets!
Instead of the city recognizing the perverse incentives that drove the implementation of the program in the first place, which by the way does not increase traffic safety, and looking to solutions that actually help increase road safety, the City of New Orleans is relying on it's trusted stand-by of increased policing and harassment to maintain and expand this scam.

Much like the flawed idea that the city can arrest it's way to a lower murder rate, the idea that issuing thousands of tickets will lead to better road safety is just not accurate. Better road safety comes from better urban design and other measures that create roads where drivers feel like they must share the space with other non-car entities, creating alert drivers, slower speeds, yet faster overall commutes for everyone.

The solution of cracking down, being tougher, being more brutal, in short, the default solution looked to since the days of plantation owner sadism during slavery, never works as well as being smarter, more fair, more equal, more humane, and more just in creating solutions that benefit everyone instead of only reinforcing the power and wealth of those already among the elite. It has been wrong-headed for the last 300 years, and it is how Louisiana has become the apartheid police state competing for last place with Mississippi in almost every indicator of a functional system we see in evidence today.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Apartheid Police State of New Orleans, Louisiana

Louisiana has had the distinction of being at, or close to, the #1 spot on all the wrong lists for a long time: lack of education, poverty rate, child poverty, inequality, corruption, nepotism, racism, incarceration rate, illiteracy, lack of health care, etc... It's why the t-shirts and bumpers stickers saying "Louisiana... Third World and Proud Of It" resonate with everyday people in our state.

Here are a few facts about the machinery of oppression that keep us at that infamous #1 position (many from this article):

-The Orleans Parish Public Defenders office used to be infamous before Katrina for things such as attorneys not showing up for trial, or doing puzzles during hearings. A man was convicted because his lawyer didn't bother to track down the video that would have confirmed his alibi. Another man jailed for stealing $50 waited more than 400 days to be interviewed by his court-appointed defender. The old OPD office employed about 45 private attorneys as part-time contractors, whereas post-Katrina they employ 69 full time public defenders, and those lawyers handling felony cases still face the daunting task of having about 150 open cases at any time each!
-Louisiana has the distinction of being the state with the highest rate of wrongful convictions.
-LA has one of the highest reversal rates of capital convictions in the country.
-In Louisiana, district attorneys have 60 days to indict detained suspects for a felony. (New York City DAs get six days.)
-Though the city's population has shrunk by 140,000 post-Katrina, the defenders say their caseload has doubled since the tough-on-crime DA, Leon Cannizzaro, started prosecuting cases at twice the rate of his predecessors.
-LA has more criminal legislation than any other state in the country.
-82% of the state's prisoners are in for nonviolent crimes.
-LA courts hand down life sentences at four times the national rate.
-Orleans Parish Prison (OPP) incarcerates more people per capita than any other city in the US (via OPPRC)
-OPP is increasing it's size from 3,100 beds to 3,400 beds in 2012 (via The Lens) even though experts say a jail with 1,483 is sufficient for New Orleans (via OPPRC)
-OPP Deputies working private, off-duty details pay $1/hour into fund used by mafia boss Sheriff Gusman for questionable discretionary spending (via The Lens)
-As a result of the racist police state in LA, the average life span of an African American in New Orleans is 69.3 years, nearly as low as life expectancy in North Korea, while the life expectancy for a white person is 79.6 years. (via A Great Racial Divide)
-30-41% of US youths will be arrested by the age of 23. (via Democracy Now!) (This percentage is certainly larger in Louisiana. If you know the exact figures for our state, PLEASE leave them in the comments section.)
-The proposed National Defense Authorization Act could usher in a radical expansion of "indefinite detention" by authorizing the military to jail anyone it considers a terrorism suspect anywhere in the world without charge or trial forever, including American citizens in the United States. (via Democracy Now!)

This apartheid police state keeps us terrified of being ensnared in its web, afraid of the desperation it creates in people all around us and within ourselves, and divided enough to keep us from rising up to demand an end to our state's infamous reputation that has existed since the days of plantations and runaway slaves once and for all.

Until we love our fellow Louisianans enough to demand that they be treated with dignity, be respected instead of hunted down like dogs by the police, and receive equal and just treatment -- until we love all the people of our state with the same fierceness with which we love our own brothers and sisters -- hatred and fear will continue to rule our state.

Such fear and hate are exactly what those whose wealth is protected by the apartheid police state, those who govern our state, and those who profit off our misery want to continue so they can maintain their opulent wealth, power, influence and control. It is why the idea that our city can arrest its way out of every social problem is constantly the first go-to idea.

It's why the murder rate never seems to fall, and why wealth and power disparities never seem to decrease. The two are intricately, intimately, and inextricably linked. It will take the extension of the fierce love we have for our families to our entire communities, a love that demands everyone in our state be treated the way we'd want our own family treated, a truly radical and expansive form of love, to overcome those who've used our own fear and hate and instincts to self-preservation as weapons against all of us to maintain their oligarchy. To love one another is to be willing to fight for one another.

Smash the apartheid police state!

Friday, December 23, 2011

New Orleans Free School January Class Calendar

The New Orleans Free School has released its January calendar of classes. Find one you might like to take!

See the January Class Calendar for dates, times, and locations.
See the Class Descriptions for more complete information about the classes and locations.