Dirty 6th Gets a Little Less Dirty

So, I’m not quite sure how I became the last person on the fucking planet to hear about this, but…Austin now has a real, speakeasy-style bar. And it’s owned by Tim League (of Alamo Drafthouse fame).

Whaat?!? And that’s not all, the establishment in question is being run out of the former home of the Midnight Cowboy Modeling Agency and Oriental Massage Parlor, aka, How the Fuck Did Cops Not Bust This Place Already? The brothel-in-plain-sight was shut down in March of last year. League purchased the space and a month or so ago, opened his latest business venture, keeping the same name, but removing the signage. All that remains is a red light.

In the style of other bars like Milk & Honey in Manhattan (an amazing place that I would recommend if you’ve got cash to blow), Midnight Cowboy requires reservations in advance, and only takes parties of up to six people. Instructions for entry follow a reservation. There are house rules prohibiting cell phone use, loud conversation, and unwanted advances towards members of other parties. The bar has a max capacity of 48, and features table-side drink preparation.

Sign me up for all of that. I have a feeling that the existence of this place will do wonders for me going downtown more often, knowing that there’s a place I can actually have a place to sit and enjoy a well-made cocktail at, without having to deal with a bunch of idiots vomiting in time to LMFAO.

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6th Street Raid Re-Cap: Shit Gets Deeper

New developments in the Yassine brothers case:

Hussein Ali, aka “Mike” Yassine has been named as a “person of interest” in a cold-case file by the APD, according to prosecutors. Details about the case were sketchy at first, but as the day progresses, it’s become clear that Yassine is being implicated in the case of Paresh Patel, a former business partner who went missing in the fall of 2000. The investigation reveals that Patel had been arguing with the Yassine’s prior to his disappearance.

Then, a new piece of information which sheds a little light as to the federal nature of the raid and ensuing investigation. Those who have been following this story might be surprised at the timeline: authorities began investigating Yassine enterprises way back in 2007. Five years seems like an awfully long time to build a drug case, even for a small city police department. Furthermore, we’ve all seen The Wire , right (if not, shame on you). Doesn’t the FBI have bigger fish to fry these days than some relatively small-time drug dealers?

Yeah, about that…turns out that the Yassines have been funneling money to a family member in Lebanon, who has ties with Hezbollah. It seems like a logical leap to think the reason for federal involvement stems from this angle. I’d bet dollars to donuts that the feds are way more interested in why the Yassines were sending cash to this guy than some distribution and weapons charges. Seems even more likely when you consider that the authorities sat on the case for five years before last week’s raids.

Curiouser and curiouser, friends. More on this case as it develops…

Geraldo on Hoodies

Remember Geraldo? The idiot who got kicked out of Iraq for drawing a map, on-air, that detailed the approximate location of the troops he was embedded with? He’s gone and done it again, this time insisting on Fox and Friends that  Trayvon Martin, who was shot and killed for the crime of walking down the street, shouldn’t have had his hoodie up.

You can watch the video here.

To be fair, I don’t think Geraldo was saying Martin deserved to die because he had his hoodie up. Rather, he was saying that in this day and age, when we’re still so scared to death of young, dark-skinned men, that people may react poorly to the sight of a dark-skinned figure wearing a hooded sweatshirt at night. Fair. His wording, though, that the hoodie was “just as responsible” as George Zimmerman, is idiotic.

This type of rhetoric is often employed by the ultra-right when they try to shift blame onto victims of rape and sexual assault. Saying Trayvon should have “known better” than to have his hood drawn (at night, while it was raining, who would DO such a thing?) is tantamount to telling a woman who was brutally raped that she shouldn’t show so much cleavage. The problem has nothing to do with Trayvon Martin’s fashion choices, the problem is that being black and wearing a hoodie is considered by some to be “probable cause”.

Dirty 6th Gets a Little More Dirty

So, earlier today the FBI raided Treasure Island, Kiss ‘n’ Fly, Pure, and Fuel, as part of an ongoing investigation that reportedly dates back to 2007. This resulted in the arrest of 10 people on a variety of charges, including money laundering and drug trafficking.

It’s been a while since I’ve been to Treasure Island (the only of the four bars in question I’ve ever visited), but a glance at my twitter and Facebook feeds seems to indicate that this comes as a shock to just about nobody. I remember the place being pretty trashy, but hey, they call it “Dirty 6th” for a reason, right?

Hussein Ali, Mohammed Ali, and Hadi Ali Yassine were all arrested, along with their sister, Marissa Marthe Ruales, who acted as their executive assistant. Other persons involved with Yassine Enterprises (the parent company that owns several other downtown bars in addition to those raided)  were also arrested: Alejandro Melendrez, Amar Thabet Araf, Sami Derder, Karim Faiq, and Edgar Orsini were charged with distribution of cocaine, and Nizar Hakiki was charged with distribution of cocaine and transferring a firearm to be used in a drug trafficking crime.

It’s not the first time Yassine has been in hot water. Employees brought a class action lawsuit against the company in January, claiming that several bars neglected to pay the minimum wage of $2.13 tip in addition to a share of pooled tips. Additionally, a patron of the Yassine-owned Qua filed a suit in February, claiming that bouncers had carried her out the back of the club and sexually assaulted her.

Trayvon Martin

The death of Trayvon Martin, and even more so, the aftermath and public reaction, push many questions towards the spotlight, and currently, it doesn’t seem as though anyone has any answers.

Here are the facts: Trayvon, 17 years old, black, and wearing a hooded sweatshirt, was walking back to the house of his father’s girlfriend from a convenience store, where he had purchased a bottle of iced tea and a bag of skittles. It was dark. George Zimmerman, 28, Hispanic, and driving his neighborhood watch circuit, spotted Trayvon walking around the Retreat at Twin Lakes gated community. He called the Sanford police department to report a “suspicious person”. From the 9-1-1 call, it’s apparent that Zimmerman thought Trayvon might be related to a number of recent burglaries that had been reported in the neighborhood. Zimmerman follows Trayvon, against the advice of the dispatcher, and the call ends. Other 9-1-1 calls from neighborhood residents describe a physical altercation, and the sounds of someone screaming for help. When the police arrived, Trayvon Martin had been fatally shot by George Zimmerman.

Here’s where the facts become muddled: Zimmerman claims that he was acting in self-defense, but by his own admission, and as is evident from the 9-1-1 call and testimony from Martin’s girlfriend (who was on the phone with him at the time), the older man chased Martin down before a scuffle ensued. The exact details of Zimmerman’s story, and how he claims an unarmed, 17-year-old boy made him fear for his life have not been made public (judging from photographs, it would appear that Zimmerman outweighs Martin by nearly 100 pounds). Residents who witnessed the physical altercation almost uniformly stated that it was too dark to tell who was who, but in one recorded 9-1-1 call, the screaming that is heard in the background sounds like a younger male. According to police reports, the first officer arriving at the scene found Martin facedown on the ground, and observed that Zimmerman was bleeding from the head, and covered in grass.

Complicating the case is a multi-faceted racial component. First, we need to acknowledge that race absolutely matters in this incident. How many Caucasian teenagers have ever been shot to death because they looked “suspicious”? In this case, the observed suspicious activity included walking down the sidewalk while holding candy. Less cut and dried is the response by the Sanford, FLA police department, who did not test Zimmerman for drugs or alcohol at the scene, and who released him on the grounds that they had “no evidence to contradict his story”. Outraged citizens across the nation have raised a very fair question: had Trayvon been white, and Zimmerman black (or Asian, or remained Hispanic), would the case have folded so quickly and neatly?

The answer: absolutely not. However, this case is further clouded by yet another issue, the already controversial “Stand Your Ground” law, which affords any Florida resident the right to use lethal force if they feel their life is being threatened. The language of this law, and several like it in other states, is vague at best. Following the Martin killing, critics of the law have newfound ammunition, and have argued that the it serves as a de facto endorsement of vigilantism.

Speaking of unhinged individuals, Zimmerman’s character seems…questionable, at best. Little is known about him at the time of this writing, but a few key facts paint a portrait of someone who, perhaps, shouldn’t have the authority to carry a concealed handgun and use it if he feels “provoked”. He was arrested in 2005 on a charge of assaulting a law enforcement officer (it was later revealed that this was a bit overblown) and was remanded to a pretrial diversion program. That same year, a woman filed an injunction against him for domestic violence. This didn’t stop Zimmerman from pursuing a career in law enforcement: he took criminal justice classes at a local community college and even enrolled in the Sheriff’s Department academy program (there is no word on how successful he was in either of these endeavors). In isolation, this might point to somebody with aspirations to be a police officer, or at least to be involved in public safety, but Zimmerman’s aspirations seemed more intense than a normal citizen concerned with protecting their community.

Exactly how Zimmerman wound up as the supposed captain of his neighborhood watch is still under debate. USAonWatch, the national neighborhood watch group, says Zimmerman was never registered with the group, although newsletters distributed around the Retreat at Twin Lakes suggest that members of the homeowner’s association were comfortable with Zimmerman’s role as “captain”. Since 2004, he had placed nearly 50 calls to police over mundane things like open garage doors and cars driving around the neighborhood. Most chillingly, he once reported—you guessed it—two black males who were behaving in a “suspicious” manner. If not overt paranoia, this behavior can be at least considered “overzealous”, as one neighbor put it. When you take all this information as a whole, we’re forced to ask ourselves: should a man with seemingly unrealized aspirations of becoming a police officer, with a tendency to overreact, and most of all, with a criminal record, be allowed to maintain a position of authority within a neighborhood watch program? More pressing: should this person be allowed to use his own discretion when it comes to extinguishing the life of an unarmed teenager?

Whether or not race played a role in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin may never be known for certain, but the fact remains that an innocent boy is dead, and the man who killed him has not been arrested. Law enforcement has been curiously tight-lipped about Zimmerman’s interview with officers, only saying that he was released because there was no evidence to contradict his account of events. Conveniently, the only other witness had been shot dead a few hours prior. The careful, political moves by the Sanford Police department are somewhat understandable, if not downright sad, given the sensitive nature of the case, but can we all admit that something is dreadfully wrong when cops (who, it should be noted, widely opposed the “Stand Your Ground” law in Florida) shrug their shoulders and say they can do nothing to rectify a situation that left a 17-year-old deceased?