Pussy

With a title like that, you know it could go anywhere—but today we’ll start in Texas. There’s a Portuguese saying that sums up the Sandra Bland video.

Se queres ver um vilão, põe-lhe um cajado na mão.

In this case the villain is in plain sight, and the stick in his hand is the taser, but metaphorically it is the authority vested in him by the Lone Star State.

The lack of common sense displayed by the state trooper is astounding, and the young black woman’s death is a completely avoidable tragedy.

The nonsense begins with the offense itself. Ms. Bland is pulled over for not signalling a lane change—arguably she only changed lanes to let a speeding vehicle by, and that vehicle was er… the police car that pulled her over.

Not signaling is a traffic violation, but one of the hallmarks of driving in the US  is that almost nobody signals when changing lanes. When I drive stateside, blink, blink, blink, everyone else on the highway is wondering where the hell I’m from.

Don’t take my word on this, have a look at the live feeds from CHART and count the turn signals. The irony in the Bland video is that after the tow truck completes all its preparations it… pulls out without signalling—far more dangerous that changing lanes without blinking on an empty road (apart from the cop behind you). Oh, and even richer, when the tow truck arrives mid-way though the video it does a full U-turn across the highway without a hint of turn signal.

But the core issue is abuse of power. I’ll rephrase the Portuguese aphorism.

Want to see an evil man? Put a taser in his hand.

Brian Encinia represents the worst of petty power, and in the days before dashcams and the internet he would have got away with it.

The best of America? How it exposes itself to the world, from Abu Ghraib to Prairie View. And the swift and universal condemnation of a man who smiles and chats to a driver who has no insurance documents minutes before turning into a raging monster.

Prairie View, Texas, population 4,110.

Sounds like the quintessential trap for out-of-state plates. Stories and songs in America lampoon the bigoted and mean ‘dreaded southern sheriff,’ and he clearly still walks among us.

The little town is (was) only known because of Prairie View A&M University, which is described as a ‘preferentially black school.’ The history of this particular campus explains why: it started life in 1876 as an ‘Agricultural and Mechanical College for the Benefit of Colored Youth.’

In the fullness of time (which is britspeak for just shy of a century), Prairie View Normal and Industrial College, a segregated establishment for black men and women, became part of the Texas A&M system.

A&M stands for Agricultural and Mechanical, which speaks to the motivation of the state legislators when they set the framework for development, and resulted in graduates of TAMU being called Aggies or Farmers.

I’m sure those black students of PVAMU are intimately familiar with the dreaded southern sheriff.

The internet can lead to great ills, including a whole new paradigm in warfare, and the fact that cars can now be hacked. Wired magazine explains how two guys hacked a late model Chrysler Jeep by interfering with instructions it received through a cellphone network.

I've heard of cat fails, but this is ridiculous. A car fail when a laptop makes its brakes fail from ten miles away.

I’ve heard of cat fails, but this is ridiculous. A car fail when a laptop makes its brakes fail from ten miles away.

The aptly named Sprint network was used to make the Jeep’s brakes fail, using a wireless laptop connection from a house some distance away. I have a long-standing love affair with cars, and am increasingly worried about how distributed computing is impinging on my personal space.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles believes this vulnerability may affect  late model MY Dodge Viper specialty vehicles, Ram 1500, 2500 and 3500 pickups, Ram 3500, 4500, 5500 Chassis Cabs, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Cherokee SUVs, Dodge Durango SUVs, MY Chrysler 200, Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger sedans, and Dodge Challenger sports coupes.

Wow. Sounds like the perfect crime. The cure? 1.4 million USB sticks to insert into your dashboard port. I’m immensely pleased my car has neither a net connection nor a pen port.

But the good things about internet connectivity? They let me speak with you, they let me show you a webcam on I5 or Route 1, and they let the world see non-linearity in action.

That’s when a little bigot turns a drive through a one-horse town into the suicide of a twenty-eight year old woman. For shame.

Atmos Fear and The India Road. Quick links for smartphones and tablets.

Atmos Fear and The India Road. Quick links for smartphones and tablets.

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