Archive for August, 2008|Monthly archive page

Grim Statistics – Taser Death Toll

This week brought yet another death after tasering of an unarmed person. On August 10th, Kiethedric Hines, 31, of Rockford Illinois died after being tasered by police. His death is the 2nd death after tasering in the City of Rockford in less that two months* and that has some people (finally) questioning the city’s use of tasers.

Interestingly even though the preliminary autopsy results did not establish that a heart attack killed Hines Winnebago County Coroner Sue Fiduccia raised the taser safety issue.

The two recent taser-related deaths have some wondering if tasers are the answer. “If it was only one this year, you might’ve thought it was just the person.” That’s why she thinks the department should really think twice about using the weapons to slow people down. “I think they need to reassess the thing as to the strength and what it’s doing to people.” Rockford Man Dies After Being Tased By Police, WREX

Given Taser International’s successful legal challenge to an Ohio coroners finding linking tasering to death one wonders whether the coroner’s opinion was affected in any way by the threat of litigation from giant Taser International.

The Death March

Since Ohioan Kevin Piskura’s tasering and death on April 25th, in North America alone, 6 9 10 11 14 20 27 (updated August 12th), more people have died after being tasered:

340. April 24, 2008: Kevin Piskura, 24, Cincinnati, Ohio
341. April 24, 2008: Dewayne Chatt, 39, Memphis, Tennessee
342. April 27, 2008: Paul Thompson, 24, Greensboro, North Carolina
343. April 28, 2008: Jermaine Ward, 28, Jackson, Tennessee
344. May 4, 2008: Joe Kubat, 21, St. Paul, Minnesota
345. May 6, 2008: James S. Wilson, 22, Alton, Missouri
346. May 28, 2008: Ricardo Manuel Abrahams, 44, Woodland, California
347. May 31, 2008: Robert Ingram, 27, Raceland, Louisiana
348. June 5, 2008: Willie Maye, 43, Birmingham, Alabama
349. June 6, 2008: Donovan Graham, 39, Meriden, Connecticut
350. June 8, 2008: Quintrell T. Brannon, 25, Vincennes, Indiana
351. June 9, 2008: Tony Curtis Bradway, 26, Brooklyn, New York
352. June 23, 2008: Jeffrey Marreel, 36, Norfolk, Ontario
353. June 24, 2008: Ernest Graves, 26, Rockford, Illinois
354. June 27, 2008: Nicholas Cody, 27, Dothan, Alabama
355. July 2, 2008: Isaac Bass, 34, Louisville, Kentucky
356. July 4, 2008: Othello Pierre, 23, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
357. July 8, 2008: Samuel DeBoise, 29, St. Louis, Missouri
358. July 8, 2008: Carlos Vargas, 42, San Bernardino, California
359. July 14, 2008: Marion Wilson Jr., 52, Houston, Texas
360. July 14, 2008: Deshoun Keyon Torrence, 18, Long Beach, California
361. July 22, 2008: Michael Langan, 17, Winnipeg, Manitoba
362. July 23, 2008: Richard Smith, 46, Dallas, Texas
363. July 26, 2008: Anthony Davidson, Statesville, 29, North Carolina
364. August 4, 2008: Jerry Jones, 45, Beaumont, Texas
365. August 4, 2008: Andre Thomas, 37, Swissvale, Pennsylvania
366. August 2, 2008: Lawrence Rosenthal, 54, Hemet, California
367. August 10, 2008: Kiethedric Hines, 31, Rockford, Illinois

via Truth Not Tasers

Why you should care

In the future, in lieu of a boarding pass you may be given, and required to wear, a “safety bracelet that would serve as a stun device...” Yes you read that correctly – you, your child, your elderly parent, your teenager may be required to wear a stun device to fly.

Have you, or someone you love, ever been agitated or upset or frustrated at the airport? Consider the newly released TSA guidelines on search of electronic devices without cause for suspicion and consider that some TSA person could, without cause, grab your laptop, phone or ipod, and NEVER give it back. You would be upset yes? Maybe you would start walking towards them in an angry upset manner.

Before you do think.

There is, on average, a death a week in North America related to the use of tasers/stun devices. Given the potential that you may have to wear one to fly – are you really comfortable that they are safe, excuse me, less lethal?

I’m not.

* Ernest Graves, 29, died on June 2 (less than 2 months ago) after he was tasered by police responding to a domestic disturbance.


Eroding Freedoms

“New DHS policies allow customs agents to analyze the contents of laptops without any suspicion of wrongdoing.” via MacWorld

Americans are willingly sacrificing their freedom in the service of an amorphous war on terrorism. Fueled by fear we blindly accept unthinkable and unwarranted intrusions into our privacy, thinking by doing so we are protecting ourselves from harm.

History tells us otherwise.

Once the precedent is set for the government’s seizure of our persons and property without cause we are vulnerable to that action forever. Today the target is ostensibly terrorists or pedophiles, but the DHS policies treat all of us as suspects. The travesty of internment of American citizens of Japanese decent during WWII raises it head as a specter of what can happen to innocent people when the government is given unbridled power.

In simple terns – it is not what you did but who you are that triggers suspicion.

MacWorld reports on the continuing insidious erosion of our Fourth Amendment Rights*:

Travelers beware: US agents now have the authority to seize and retain laptops indefinitely, according to a new policy detailed in documents issued by the US Department of Homeland Security.

As part of border search policy, government agents are now authorized to seize electronic devices and inspect documents in them, the document states. The electronic devices might include laptops, cell phones, portable music players or storage devices such as portable hard drives. US border agents can seize iPods, iPhones, laptops, Agam Shah, August 4, 2008.

Tip of the hat to @billfishkin for the link

*Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. LIT, Cornell Law Information Institute

Instructions from the Cook – Review

During the arms race that dominated the 70’s and 80’s a friend of mine remarked something to the effect that “to accomplish change requires the intellectual ability to both accept that the situation is hopeless at the same time you believe it can be changed.” This statement haunted me for years, because if I focused on the gravity of the world’s problems, I immediately became overwhelmed and doubtful of my ability to make a difference. I felt powerless, and, if the cynicism and apathy of my generation is any indicator, I was not alone.

We regarded making change a difficult and complex task. We ordered studies, studies that took years before they told us what we already knew, things needed to change. Oh, and they also told us that change takes years and lots of money.

But what if we were wrong? What if change is as simple as making soup?

Instructions from the Cook, says it is.

Instructions from the Cook

Instructions from the Cook

Beautiful it its simplicity, Instructions from the Cook, offers relief from over intellectualized studies that use double speak and diagrams to explain the depth of our problems before offering expensive solutions that seem out of reach. Inspired by the work of Peter Block, authors George Nemeth and Jack Ricchiuto offer a model for action based upon community building through “improbable collaborations” where people come together from diverse groups to join in new models of conversation. In their words:

When a community is vital, people know each other, look out for each other, connect each other, barter with each other, and engage each other. We don’t need to order complex studies to notice; they are obvious just living in the community.

When a community is vital, people don’t wait for institutional or political leaders to make this happen. They continuously take and share responsibility for being the kind of community they Dream to be.

A vital community – one that accepts that what appears to be reality, is only one view of it, that things happen in their time, that there is more than one possible solution, and that no matter what our reality is now, we can still achieve what is possible – is a community open to new conversations free from negativity and burdened expectations. These new conversations exploring our collective best future, small experiments on incremental change towards that best future utilizing the resources, talents and assets members bring to the table, as well as inviting new partners who share our goals, replace old conversations of victimization and problems.

The model is explained through recipes. Much like making the Stone Soup recounted in the book’s first page you start with the pot, your community, add your dream, then add a small experiment of that dream along with member resources and the contributions of others who are inspired to contribute to your creation. Recipes such as “Boarded Up Solar Houses” show how small steps build change, small change to be sure, but with each step more of the community is engaged, connected and cared for through open hearted sharing of resources.

Reflecting upon some of the community groups and nonprofits I have been involved with in the past, I have deep appreciation for anything that teaches possibility and, more importantly, respect for the diverse talents people bring to the table.

Nemeth and Ricchiuto are not naive; underlying the simplicity of their prose is a deep recognition of the magnitude of the problems we face. They show us how to start, where we are right now, and that makes this little book a gem.

Instructions from the Cook is available from Designing Life Books.