Sunday, May 03, 2015

America's most beloved lawyer

Dersh is at it again...
Alan Dershowitz really went after Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby today for charging the six cops involved in the death of Freddie Gray, saying it was entirely based on politics and “crowd control.”
He concluded that it’s “unlikely they’ll get any convictions in this case” and if they do they’ll likely “be reversed on appeal.”
He said this on Newsmax TV. Yet Dershowitz is still widely characterized as a "liberal."

Let's look at the record...

Dersh thought so highly of Jeff "kidfucker" Epstein that he gave Epstein the very rare privilege of reading his book manuscripts.

Dersh believes that he has the right to call Virginia Roberts a prostitute even though there is no evidence to back that claim.

Dersh thinks that Israel had few Palestinians in it until after the Jews showed up.

Dersh thinks that the IDF has treated the Palestinians fairly.

Dersh believes that he has the right to categorize Norman Finkelstein as a "Holocaust denier" even though Finkelstein lost most of his family to the Nazis.

Dersh (falsely) accused John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt of using pro-Nazi sources in their famous piece on the Israel lobby.

Dersh defended O.J. Simpson's innocence.

Dersh believes Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, to be a bigot.

Dersh believes that MEK should not be listed as a terrorist organization.

Dersh once wrote that child pornography is enjoyed by "thousands of people who would never dream of molesting a child."

Dersh says that convicted child molester Baruch Lebovits (whose early release has proven to be extremely controversial) was the victim of an extortion plot.

And now we learn that Dersh thinks that the justice system should not pursue charges against any of the six cops in Baltimore who arrested a completely innocent man. Dersh says that we should not hold them accountable for the fact that Freddie Gray's spine was shattered while he was in their custody. In Dersh-o-vision, the great malefactor is Marilyn Mosby.

I've always thought that Claus von Bülow was innocent of the charge that he tried to murder his wife. Now I'm not so sure.

Saturday, May 02, 2015


Although this essay may seem madly discursive, everything revolves around one central point: American society is bullied into bad decisions by right-wingers who insult the masculinity of left-wingers. Liberals do stupid things out of fear that someone will call them pussies.

Let us begin by taking a look at the faces of the six officers indicted in the case of Freddie Gray. Three are black; one is a woman. They're all pretty young. They don't look like devils or maniacs. These are six people, probably otherwise decent, who got caught up in a bad system.

So the question becomes: How did the system get this way? Why did cop culture brainwash these six people into acting the way they did? What psycho-social disease caused six normal individuals to conspire against a man who had committed no crime?

Many of you have already read this interview with David Simon, the former Baltimore Sun journalist turned television writer. Asked to diagnose the problems of the Baltimore police force, Simon points first to the drug wars, and then to the tradition of "the humble" -- an arrest on a trivial charge, intended to humiliate someone the cops simply don't like the looks of.

Simon also points to Martin O'Malley, the former Baltimore mayor who attained that position at a time when the crime stats were truly horrific.

Everyone knows that O'Malley is politically ambitious. He probably wrote the first draft of his presidential inauguration speech in sixth grade. He and Simon have been at loggerheads in the past, even though both men consider themselves to be liberals.

And, hey, if he's the Democratic nominee, I’m going to end up voting for him. It’s not personal and I admire some of his other stances on the death penalty and gay rights. But to be honest, what happened under his watch as Baltimore’s mayor was that he wanted to be governor. And at a certain point, with the crime rate high and with his promises of a reduced crime rate on the line, he put no faith in real policing.

Originally, early in his tenure, O’Malley brought Ed Norris in as commissioner and Ed knew his business. He’d been a criminal investigator and commander in New York and he knew police work. And so, for a time, real crime suppression and good retroactive investigation was emphasized, and for the Baltimore department, it was kind of like a fat man going on a diet. Just leave the French fries on the plate and you lose the first ten pounds. The initial crime reductions in Baltimore under O’Malley were legit and O’Malley deserved some credit.

But that wasn’t enough. O’Malley needed to show crime reduction stats that were not only improbable, but unsustainable without manipulation.
That's when "the humble" became truly ubiquitous and unavoidable.
Now, the mass arrests made clear, we can lock up anybody, we don't have to figure out who's committing crimes, we don't have to investigate anything.
Charges were non-existent, or were dismissed en masse. Martin O’Malley’s logic was pretty basic: If we clear the streets, they’ll stop shooting at each other. We’ll lower the murder rate because there will be no one on the corners.
It didn't occur to O'Malley that humiliated people eventually become rebels. Those who lose faith in the system turn to insurrection.
In these drug-saturated neighborhoods, they weren’t policing their post anymore, they weren’t policing real estate that they were protecting from crime. They weren’t nurturing informants, or learning how to properly investigate anything. There’s a real skill set to good police work. But no, they were just dragging the sidewalks, hunting stats, and these inner-city neighborhoods — which were indeed drug-saturated because that's the only industry left — become just hunting grounds. They weren’t protecting anything. They weren’t serving anyone. They were collecting bodies, treating corner folk and citizens alike as an Israeli patrol would treat the West Bank, or as the Afrikaners would have treated Soweto back in the day. They’re an army of occupation. And once it’s that, then everybody’s the enemy.
The bottom line: A politician with liberal instincts instituted a police state because he didn't want conservatives to label him soft on crime.

Something similar can be said of Hillary Clinton, who is much likelier than Martin O'Malley is to become the Democratic nominee for president.

I'm hardly the only person to criticize her hard-right turn toward neoconservatism during her tenure as Secretary of State. Although her most fervent fans will blame her policies on the man for whom she worked, there is some evidence that she is the one who pushed Obama to the right. Hell, she even stepped to the right of Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

So why did she become what she has become? She didn't start out as Hard Case Hillary. What changed?

And why did John Kerry -- a man who once tossed away his medals out of disgust with American bellicosity -- become, late in his career, an acolyte of Ares?

Why has Obama pursued such a disastrously neoconservative foreign policy in Syria, in Yemen, in Ukraine?

I honestly do not think that ideology has driven those three individuals toward the right. Is money the motive? I doubt it: They're set for life, especially Kerry. Power? Obama already has power, as much as any one person is ever going to get, and Kerry is doing what may be the last job he will ever do.

I will suggest that all three are driven by fear -- fear of the umbrella.

Allow me to explain what I mean by that term.

This amusing piece chronicles neocon Bill Kristol's incessant references to Hitler and Winston Churchill. Actually, there's a third party in the Kristol mythos: Neville Chamberlain. Hitler, Churchill, Chamberlain: These three men are the key figures in the great foundational myth of American foreign policy. Whenever far-rightists seek to bully politicians into some disastrous military adventure, they cite this myth.

If the neocons decide that they don't like some foreign leader, that leader instantly becomes Hitler. We are always told that the wrong way to defeat Hitler is appeasement -- the Chamberlain approach. The right way is the Churchill way. (Although, unlike Churchill, neocons always prefer war-war to jaw-jaw.)

Right-wingers use this Hitler/Churchill/Chamberlain myth as a hyper-macho bullying tactic. In essence, the message comes to this: Do as I tell you to do, libby, or I'll call you a fag.

Winston Churchill may seem, at first glance, to be an odd choice to play the tough guy role, because he was physically soft. (When told that he looked just like a big baby, Churchill replied: "No, all babies look like me.") Worse, he read a lot of books and he liked to paint pictures. But he had been a war hero, and he was a man of cigars, hard liquor and harsh talk. These things make him an acceptable role model for modern American conservatives.

Most Americans know only one thing about Chamberlain: That he carried an umbrella, even when rain did not threaten. To the American mind, this affectation identifies him as a dandy. A pansy.

Modern American reactionaries won't tell you that, in the 1930s, it was the Cliveden Set -- a powerful conclave of British Establishment-types -- who wanted Chamberlain to make a deal with Hitler.

Despite that uncomfortable fact of history, the post-war conservative movement in America quickly fastened on the Hitler-Churchill-Chamberlain mythos as a way of insuring that the United States maintained a fiercely anti-Soviet stance. Khruschev was Hitler, and so were his successors. Anyone who proposed peaceful coexistence was Chamberlain -- the guy holding the umbrella.

The umbrella became a frequently-seen symbol in William F. Buckley's National Review.

Some of you may recall the strange case of the Umbrella Man, who was photographed in Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963. Standing beneath the Texas School Book Depository building, under a clear blue sky, this man quickly opened up an umbrella just as JFK's car passed by. He seemed to be signalling the commencement of fire.

Despite widespread publicity, the search for this mysterious individual lasted more than a decade.

During the House Select Committee on Assassinations hearings of the 1970s, a man named Louie Witt claimed to be the infamous umbrella man. He even brought what was supposedly the actual brolly into congressional hearings. (It was no such thing: The number of spokes differed.) He said that he opened his umbrella as a way to mount a symbolic protest against a president he considered soft on communism. Here are his words to the committee:
It had something to do with the--when the senior Mr. Kennedy was Ambassador or England, and the Prime Minister, some activity they had had in appeasing Hitler. The umbrella that the Prime Minister of England came back with got to be a symbol in some manner with the British people. By association, it got transferred to the Kennedy family, and, as I understood, it was a sore spot with the Kennedy family, like I said, in coffee break conversations someone had mentioned, I think it is one of the towns in Arizona, it is Tucson or Phoenix, that someone had been out at the airport or some place where some members of the Kennedy family came through and they were rather irritated by the fact that they were brandishing the umbrellas. This is how the idea sort of got stuck in my mind.
Witt seemed to disappear off the face of the earth after he gave this odd testimony. Many people doubt that he was the real Umbrella Man. In fact, it has even been suggested that the umbrella became a symbol of appeasement only after WWII:
According to John Simkin, a retired British history teacher and textbook author who runs the historical website Spartacus Educational, the umbrella was never the symbol of Chamberlain that the “umbrella man” claimed it was.

“In Britain, there was never any association with an umbrella at all,” Simkin told me. “Everyone had umbrellas and bowlers in those days.”
Each reader will have to decide for himself or herself whether Witt told the truth. What cannot be denied is the fact that, in right-wing rhetoric, Chamberlain-the-pansy-appeaser has become an inescapable trope. To this day, most liberals live in fear of the umbrella.

Most -- but not all.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, when President Kennedy decided to mount a blockade rather than stage an invasion, General Curtis Lemay -- a truly maniacal far-rightist -- reflexively compared the President to Chamberlain. The White House taping system recorded Lemay saying “This is almost as bad as the appeasement at Munich.”

Of course, if JFK had invaded, the result would have been nuclear war. Lemay knew (as most Americans did not) that the Russians had already placed tactical nuclear weapons on the island. Field commanders were permitted to use these weapons at their own discretion.

Kennedy could not be bullied by a guy like Lemay. After all, he was John F. Kennedy, war hero, and the F stood for Fucking. Every attractive woman in the world wanted to sleep with JFK. If you insult the masculinity of a guy like that, he'll just smirk at you. Kennedy knew who he was, and he didn't have to prove anything.

But the great secret of being a male in this society -- a secret which all men know but few admit -- is that most of us do not radiate JFK-esque self-assurance. We pretend to have that kind of confidence, but the bullshit goes only so far. It's all too easy for testosterone-fueled thugs like Lemay to browbeat us into doing things we don't want to do. Every grade school playground has a couple of Lemays in it, and they teach us lessons that we carry around for the rest of our lives.

How do females deal with the Lemays who seem to dominate our culture? Do guys like that get to them? Do politically ambitious women get bullied into pretending to be Tough Guys, even when doing so is counter-productive?

Such questions are best answered by a female writer.

I will simply offer the following suggestion: Just as the liberal Martin O'Malley turned Baltimore into a police state for fear of being called a softie, Hillary became a foreign policy monster because she doesn't want to be left holding that goddamned umbrella.
On the women's side are different fears. Women are "monsters" and if they cry it's either attributed to her menstrual cycle, or in Hillary's case they double down on the monster: "It cries."

I feel for some of the police officers caught up in their horrific system. I once approached 3 officers outside Lexington Market, which was closed, to ask where else I might find a chili dog. The white officer started laughing derisively and said, you eat in there?

The black and female officers said nothing as the white, male officer continued with his derisive diatribe about the market....and the predominately black population there.

Of course come '45 Churchill was so unpopular that he was insulted in the street and stoned during a stump speech. And, of course, immediately voted out as PM before the war was even over.

The real winner was that quiet, bald socialist Clement Attlee, who replaced him as Prime Minister. A modest man, as Churchill once said, with much to be modest about.

In fact Hitler seems to have been the only thing Churchill ever got right. He was a fan of Mussolini, he hated trade unions, he was hated during the first world war for his callous disregard for loss of human life, before the first world war for overspending on super-dreadnoughts, between the wars for returning the country to the gold standard, deflating the currency and causing a massive spike in unemployment and a balance of payments crisis. HE was hated by the Tories for leaving them for the Liberals. He was hated by the Liberals for leaving them for the Tories. He was hated by the Labour party for his actions repressing the Great Strike.

But you make a few witty remarks, a few good speeches and accurately predict the evil of Hitler and suddenly all is forgiven.
Great essay.

I wish you would get on Twitter and post links to your writings, so I didn't have to.
That might be the best thing you've ever written.
I thought in the beginning about this but then again it's almost the same thing. I'm tired of cycle-0-paths running for office that try and out do the others by meanness. Will it end any time soon?
lol, sorry, Joseph! I didn't use "monster" as a rebuke to you.....I was harkening back to 2008. Just wanted to clear that up because I know the rules!!
Democrats seeking national office continually fear the McGovern pacifist label and the 49 state waxing he received.

Women seeking national office around the world go hawkish, fearing that their gender will indicate they will be too soft.

So, Democratic women seriously seeking the Oval Office labor under both latent fears, perhaps subconsciously.

Mr. Morgan left out that Winnie also openly thirsted for the blood of any "lesser breeds without the Law" who dared defy the civilizing hand of the Empire. To name just ONE example, he wanted Gandhi killed.

Yep, Winnie is lucky he had an even more monstrous son of a bitch available to stand against, and so redeem his reputation.
As often is the case, I am misunderstood. The thesis of my piece is not (NOT NOT NOT) "Was Winston Churchill a good guy?" That's an argument for another time.

What I was talking about was the way the Hitler/Churchill/Chamberlain myth became a tool used by the post-war American right as they bludgeoned the left into submission.
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Friday, May 01, 2015

May 1, 2015: The day we said NO MORE COVER-UPS

Six Baltimore officers have been indicted in the murder of Freddie Gray.

We now know that the ostensible charge for the arrest was bogus. Gray was not carrying a switchblade, despite the false report we originally heard. He had a perfectly legal folding knife -- a "pen knife," under Maryland law -- similar to my own "every day carry."

The cops probably thought that if they just killed the guy, nobody would notice that the bust was bad. The fix was in.

It took nothing less than an insurrection to un-fix the fix. Right now, this minute, you can feel the relief in the air. Even the cops, I suspect, are glad to have the truth out.

Yes, what those six officers did to Freddie Gray was infuriating -- but at least there will be no transparently phony cover-up, as there was in New York and Ferguson.

God knows they tried to peddle lies. A couple of days ago, the WP published an absurd piece which attempted to convince us that Freddie Gray had somehow broken his own spine, much as the Joker did in The Dark Knight Returns. That report derived from the testimony of a young man who shared that fateful paddy wagon ride with Gray. This "earwitness" could not actually see Gray, due to a wall between the two, but he heard banging sounds.

We now have a more accurate account from the man in the van, Donta Allen:
“The second prisoner who was picked up said that he didn’t see any harm done to Freddie at all,” Commissioner Anthony Batts said. “What he has said is that he heard Freddie thrashing about.”

But Allen wants to set something straight.

“All I did was go straight to the station, but I heard a little banging like he was banging his head,” he said.

He tells WJZ he’s angry about an internal police report published in The Washington Post.

“And they trying to make it seem like I told them that, I made it like Freddie Gray did that to hisself (sic),” Allen said. “Why the [expletive] would he do that to hisself (sic)?”

Allen was in the van because he allegedly stole a cigarette from a store on North Avenue.

He was never charged. Instead he was brought straight to the station.

“I talked to homicide. I told homicide the same story.” Allen said.

A story he says is being distorted and now he fears being killed.

“I had two options today right, either come and talk to y’all and get my credibility straight with ya’ll and not get killed by these [expletive] or not tell a true story,” Allen added. “The only reason I’m doing this is because they put my name in a bad state.”
We know that the van did not go straight to the police station, which was located not far from the site of the arrest, but instead made a bizarre, circuitous journey through the city. The van made several inexplicable stops. I suspect that, during one of those stops, one of the cops got into the compartment with Freddie Gray. Either that, or the cops picked up someone who would "explain" things to Gray in a particularly brutal fashion. Or maybe the ride itself sufficed.

I'm trying to come up with a word to describe what these officers did. The first word that comes to mind is "thugs."

The only thing more horrible than what happened to Gray is what the authorities tried to do to the truth -- to the very concept of truth.

Although I personally despise violence, although I believe that violence must always be the last resort, do not count me among those who say violence never solved anything. In this case, mob violence -- and the threat of worse violence to come -- forced the authorities to stop lying. Had there been no insurrection, the Big Lie would have prevailed.

This entire country is being lied to every day -- by all levels of government, by politicians from both parties, by academics and historians, by our mainstream media, and even by much of the alternative media. We live in a culture built on falsehood. Perhaps the only way to dismantle that culture is for all Americans to emulate the brave young fighters of Baltimore.

Speaking of hidden truths: I hope you've all seen this important story in Mother Jones. I said from the first that there was no reason for a small army of cops in riot gear to be in that neighborhood. We now know that the police overreacted to a false story which some unknown party decided to spread around via Faceboook. So a cohort of centurions showed up where they could do absolutely no good -- and then they stupidly made it impossible for kids coming out of high school to disperse and go home. What a goatfuck!

If I were a conspiracy theorist, I'd say that someone wanted to stir up trouble.
Great post, great story. Our neighborhood has unfortunately been plunged into mourning as within this last hour a robbery/murder just happened.

Still, the indictments, which should be the norm instead of coming at such cost, have electrified everyone. Most importantly, the officers were charged with false arrest/imprisonment. That is key to acknowledge, as these bs charges happen all the time in order to populate these for-profit prisons.

Also, the charge of "depraved heart" murder was dead on. I think the term "depraved heart" applies to the population at large, as well as to the "thugs" in blue.

Allen's cigarette story sounded flimsy; cops wanted a pretext to put Allen in wagon with Gray to tell his story that Gray did it to himself. Allen's probably an informant.
Marilyn J. Mosby is the daughter of police officers, this is very brave of her and the right thing to do.
No more coverups? OK now can we get the 28 redacted pages from the Congressional joint inquiry into 9/11 released please? Pretty please?
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Thursday, April 30, 2015

A telling juxtaposition

Memeorandum -- no doubt unintentionally -- has offered readers an intriguing juxtaposition of headlines.

May I suggest that the ludicrous fear-fantasies of the right would have much less credibility (even among tater-brained Red Staters) if real life did not continually offer up headlines like this one in the NYT?

If our government -- particularly those agencies of government most concerned with national security -- behaved better, then the Illuminati-spotting ninnies among us would be far fewer in number.

Mind you, I have no sympathy for the fools who believe in this kind of nonsense...
So in response to the fact that some of Texas's dumbest citizens emerged from their doomsday prepper shelters long enough to harangue a colonel about their belief that martial law is coming to their state, Governor Abbott issued an order to the National Guard to monitor the movements of the U.S. military just to make sure they aren't herding citizens into re-education camps or dropping Islamic State infiltrators into Galveston. I guess we're safe from that, for the moment anyway.
For more than four decades, right-wing freakazoids have been screeching the same message: "The Great Gun Round-Up is scheduled to take place any day now! The law is already on the books! It's a done deal!" I wish that the people who sound these alarms would read that famous story about the boy and the wolf. It was written by a guy named Aesop. Greek fella.

That said....

Far fewer people would buy into nonsense if real-world politics weren't so damned outlandish. There's a reason why Lily Tomlin once said "No matter how paranoid you get, you can't keep up."

Everyone with any sense who has made a serious study of the matter knows that a faction of the CIA assassinated President Kennedy and then stymied any attempt to investigate what really happened. Everyone with any sense knows that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was bullshit. Everyone with any sense knows that there was a lot more to Watergate than the official investigation revealed. Everyone with any sense knows that a whole lot of freaky shit has gone down in the years since.

Are those conspiratards in Texas risible? Sure. As Robert Anton Wilson once pointed out, the problem with most conspiracy theorists is that they have no standards of evidence. They've become so addicted to the rush they get from their paranoid fantasias that they have transcended such mundane concerns as the acquisition of proof. That's the reason why they sound so crazy.

And yet: Suppose that, fifteen years ago, I had told you that the CIA and the APA would soon conspire to come up the best way to torture captives. You would have called me crazy.
The CIA and APA started cooperating in torturing people a lot earlier than 15 years ago. Donald Ewen Cameron was APA President almost half a century before that. (I know you know that, Joe; this is just for some of your readers who might not.)

That said, I like the idea in your last sentence a lot.

If we'd told people in 1995 that within 10 years, most people in advanced countries would voluntarily carry microwave tracker devices allowing communications intelligence agencies such as the NSA to pinpoint their whereabouts 24 hours a day...

If we'd told people in 2000 that within 10 years, the majority of people in advanced countries, too lazy to make their own websites, would post loads of private information online to the website of a company set up by the CIA, just to 'keep in touch with their friends'...

...that the US military would become the biggest developer of computer role-playing games...

...that snuff videos 'qualified' by Israeli Rita Katz's SITE would become mainstream...

...that 'shit on other people' culture such as Blurred Lines, Game of Thrones, Fifty Shades and 'lulz' would become mainstream with very little left-wing or feminist objection...

...that a web 'advertising' company set up by the CIA would send camera vans along most streets in the advanced world, taking photographs of everyone's house, as well as spying on practically all phones and computers...

...we'd have been called crazy.

So what else is part of the landscape now that isn't talked about?

And how are things likely to be in 10 years time?

It's precisely those very down-to-earth and sensible questions that right-wing shit about gun round-ups, and vile spook-initiated lies about Sandy Hook being a hoax, for example, serve to prevent the widespread asking of.
Here's a statistic that surprises even me: the number of mobile phones in use is 6.8 billion. That's 97% the size of the world's population.

(Of course, some people own more than one, so the proportion of people who own at least one would, on this figure, be lower than 97%, but still. And some people are babies, so the ratio of mobile phones to people who aren't babies must be a lot higher than 1:1)

I am reminded of a New Labour politician's parable of the pistachios. Adopting the Thatcherite line that unemployment was the fault of the unemployed, and that the biggest social problem connected with unemployment was getting hold of the small percentage of individuals who were successfully workshy and forcing them to work, she compared the government's task with cracking open those last few pistachios in the pack - the ones without obvious cracks and which can't be opened using a thumbnail.
Oh man, b.....Your last comment made me think, what if in 10 years "work" were mandatory? The hourly wages even now are a joke, and prison slave work includes some pretty sophisticated labor, which drives those industries not using prison labor out of business. (Not that prisoners are being trained for work, since next to no one hires ex-cons.) Prison labor will probably lead to "mandatory" work "programs" for ex-cons, which everyone will approve of, and that will be the start.

I don't know what kind of feminists and lefties *you* hang out with, but complaining and shaming people for "appropriating" other cultures is nonstop. They're (we're!) going to ruin Halloween.
I had lunch with a Texan yesterday. When I asked him about Jade Helm 2015 he said "come back Rick Perry, all is forgiven". Iced tea shot from my nose.
Interesting prognosis, pzee. A few years ago a wise man told me that before too long everything that is not expressly forbidden will be expressly required.
Just like you say the riots might have made the difference in the evidence coming out, the right wing freak-a-zoid warnings might make the difference in postponing the gun confiscation.
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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

On violence

Journalist Michael Fletcher knows Baltimore well:
Baltimore is not Ferguson and its primary problems are not racial. The mayor, city council president, police chief, top prosecutor, and many other city leaders are black, as is half of Baltimore’s 3,000-person police force. The city has many prominent black churches and a line of black civic leadership extending back to Frederick Douglass.

Yet, the gaping disparities separating the haves and the have nots in Baltimore are as large as they are anywhere. And, as the boys on the street will tell you, black cops can be hell on them, too.
Precisely. Ninnies on the right, like Rand Paul, insist on framing the issue in racial -- racist -- terms. Paul dared to pin the blame on "lack of fathers." That's a pretty funny remark, coming as it does from the father of a drunk who seems to be perpetually in trouble with the law.

The problem has less to do with skin pigmentation than with the mentality of our police. Black people are, of course, the chief victims of police misconduct, but none of the working-class white people I've met in Baltimore has expressed any great admiration for the local constabulary. Not long after I showed up in this town, I heard a white working-class father instruct his young son: "Don't ever call the cops. We don't need them. They only cause trouble."

As the Baltimore Sun has ably documented, this city's law enforcement officers have committed a series of abuses over the years. The legal system provides no remedy: The department keeps getting sued, yet the large payouts never seem to change police behavior.

Then there is the nationwide problem of cops being used as shakedown operators, as mafia enforcers, in a scheme to generate cash for various cities. Under the new system, poor people found guilty of minor infractions end up paying huge chunks of their income for years and years -- and if they miss a payment, they end up in debtors' prison.

So what is to be done?

The teevee news commentators keep holding up the ideal of non-violent protest. But this piece in Truthout makes a few worthwhile observations:
So anyone who calls for protestors to remain "peaceful," like the Civil Rights activists of old, must answer this question: what actions should be taken when America refuses to be ashamed? Images of black death are proliferating beyond our capacity to tell each story, yet there remains no tipping point in sight—no moment when white people in America will say, "Enough." And no amount of international outrage diminishes the US's reputation to the point of challenging its status as a hegemonic superpower.

What change will a "peaceful" protest spark if a "peaceful" protest is so easy to ignore?
We've heard many variants of that theme in recent years. Antiwar protests may have had enormous impact in the 1960s, but now they are regarded as background music. War is a business, and protest is just the price of doing business. Today's Overclass lives far removed from the larger community. The one-percenters have made their attitude very clear: "Go ahead and march. Hold signs. Sing songs. Chant slogans. Write angry comments on the internet. We encourage you to vent. Just don't actually do anything that might inconvenience us. Be non-violent, or we'll kill you."

As a wise man pointed out: Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable.

There is a paradox here. The right keeps telling us to work within this corrupt system -- yet at the same time, the right holds within its own ranks many militia maniacs, secessionists, and conspiracy-addled twits who advocate their own brand of violence. Conservatives can't have it both ways. They can't say: "It's all right for disaffected white people in Arizona to form paramilitary units -- but urban blacks should just sing hymns and recite lines from Dr. King's speech."

It is laughable for representatives of this bloodthirsty government to sing the praises of peaceful protest.

It is laughable for our mass-murdering president to pretend to have the moral standing to talk about non-violence.

It is laughable to tell the victims of a hopelessly corrupt system to work for change within that system.

It is laughable for our Fox News neocons, a group devoted to the worship of Ares, to tell the American underclass to give peace a chance.

"Imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever," said Orwell's villain, O'Brien -- but even he wasn't audacious enough to tell his victim: "Have you considered non-violent forms of protest?" Even he did not have the gall to stare into the bloodied face of a would-be rebel and say: "You know what your problem is? You had an absentee father."

In a way, our current rulers are worse than Big Brother. They have a crueler sense of humor.

I cite, once again, this important piece by Ta-Nehisi Coates:
When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is "correct" or "wise," any more than a forest fire can be "correct" or "wise." Wisdom isn't the point tonight. Disrespect is.
Try to get the name right.

Ta-Nehisi Coates
I did try.

Doesn't mean I succeeded!

Joseph, thank you for your ongoing commentary about the events in your city and how they fit in the broader current and historical contexts. Right on.

Thought you and your readers might be interested in this account by MJ with eyewitness reports detailing how the rioting started, which reinforces your assessment of the dysfunction (corruption) of the Baltimore police dept.:

Did the police intentionally stage it to provoke a reaction? Or are they that out of touch, institutionally incompetent? Seems to be the former...
Joe, really. Do you really believe Limbaugh and Hannity and Scott Walker and Rubio are promoting white secessionists?
How are separate entities going to fight the nation seceded from's wars, whose wars they favor? I include Rand (but not Ron) Paul who now favors war with ISIS, has not opposed Obama's extension of Afghan occupation, has not opposed the US aiding Saudi Arabia's havoc in Yemen, and has made clear Israeli alliance is non-negotiable.
moving, poetic post, thank you. love your lines about the paradox and how laughable is the hypocrisy!
I thought I posted yesterday, but maybe it didn't take. Basically, I thanked you, Joseph, for your post, and Jon for his link to Mother Jones. Gawker and other outlets have also posted stories on how the kids were left stranded at the mall and not allowed to take their buses home. And indeed the entire city was shut down so even the adults stranded had to "uber" (ugh) their way home. Stranded and surrounded by riot police. That's how the kids were sparked into riot-mode. As for the "call on social media" for the purge...the authorities knew of this and were so concerned they sent out the riot police....and made sure the kids were trapped at the mall? This is indeed worse than Orwellian. They needed this to happen so they could discredit the daily protests. We need someone to track down the source of the call for the purge. If it had truly originated with the kids, I doubt the officials would've noticed in time.
Just because the politicians and people in charge are African american does not mean they are not complicit in the mafia and debtors prison crap that is going on.

I recall a story about an adult woman taking care of her ill father, fell behind on her water bill, had her 10,000 dollar home sold out from under her because her 240 dollar water bill turned into a thousand dollars after all the penalties were added in.

Would be helpful if the protestors organized their own political party and had their own political candidates.
They do here, Alessandro. Doesn't mean they get elected. We also have community activists running for office.
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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Insanity and reality

Insanity. People are slamming the Mayor of Baltimore over an erroneous report which appeared on teevee. According to this newsflash (which I saw on CNN), there would be no curfew in Baltimore until tonight -- the night of the 28th.

Well, I can assure you that there was indeed a curfew in place last night, starting at 10 pm on the 27th. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either hallucinating or misinformed.

There's no shortage of bizarre, overheated rhetoric today. Check out the comments at the other end of that link...
It has already been reported that George Soros funded groups have been involved in stirring up Ferguson riots. I hope someone is investigating where the outsiders are coming from and who is funding them. This isn’t all grassroots; this is being orchestrated by outsiders who are using the usual local suspects. When are the $$ people going to be held responsible for inciting riots? I’d love to see old George in cuffs. And check SEIU for involvement; they are usually in charge of providing buses to transport the rent-a-mob.
Funny thing: The transcendentally paranoid fruitcakes who reflexively blame "outside agitators" never feel any need to provide evidence.

I still recall the immediate aftermath of the Dark Knight massacre in Colorado: The right-wingers went into high dudgeon because Brian Ross of ABC temporarily confused the shooter, James Holmes, with a gun nut bearing the same name. Yet the same rightists endlessly repeated the ludicrous claim that Holmes belonged to Occupy Wall Street. Conservatives still make that assertion with total jackass self-confidence.

It's happening again. Radiating their usual aura of fact-free certitude, bombastic rightwingers have fixated on the myth of the "outside agitator" as their go-to explanation for the Baltimore insurrection. The meme is not relegated to online commentary:
Christie Lleto, a reporter with CBS Baltimore, reported breathlessly, “This seems to be the work of a few outside agitators.” Another anchor on Baltimore’s Fox affiliate actually remarked, “The police have said that outside agitators are responsible for this, so it must be true.”
This nonsense has a long history. The myth of the Illuminati originated with displaced aristocrats seeking to explain the French revolution as the work of scheming foreigners.

Allow me to repeat a prediction which I made in a previous post: A month from now, nobody will be able to name a single one of these ghostly manipulators. (No, Malik Shabazz doesn't count: He never advocated violence.) Those "SEIU buses" will remain as spectral as ever.

We literally have better evidence for the existence of Black-Eyed Kids than for these mythical puppeteers. There are a handful of named witnesses who claim to have seen BEKs. The number of witnesses who can testify to the existence of outside agitators stands at zero.

Connoisseurs of silliness will appreciate this offering from a savant calling herself LoveOurSoldiers:
I know the CO’s plan is to take our country down from within. I do believe they are grooming violent protestors to be recruited by ISIS... and by taking power away from local police to respond.... they will get away with their evil deeds.
Oh. My. GOD. ISIS recruiters are roaming the streets of Baltimore! They're as common as orange and purple lawn flamingos. Why, you can't go out for a bag of Utz without running into a few jihadis...

I could cite many more examples, but the point is made. Conservatives are psycho.

Totally freakin' psycho.

They inhabit a reality of their own construction -- an alternate dimension filled with phantom birth certificates, phantom "crisis actors," phantom ISIS recruiters, phantom buses and phantom outside agitators. In their world, the Ferguson reaction had nothing to do with a gross miscarriage of justice and everything to do with Evil Soros, whom they envision as a kind of James Bond supervillain.

How difficult would it be to convince right-wingers that the Hulk is real? Roger Ailes should conduct the experiment, as a test of his powers.

Reality. If you are interested in the truth, here it is, courtesy of a writer who grew up in the area at the epicenter of yesterday's troubles:
Everyone I knew who lived in that world regarded the police not with admiration and respect but with fear and caution. People write these feelings off as wholly irrational at their own peril, or their own leisure. The case against the Baltimore police, and the society that superintends them, is easily made:
Over the past four years, more than 100 people have won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil rights violations. Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson ....

And in almost every case, prosecutors or judges dismissed the charges against the victims—if charges were filed at all. In an incident that drew headlines recently, charges against a South Baltimore man were dropped after a video showed an officer repeatedly punching him—a beating that led the police commissioner to say he was “shocked.”
The money paid out by the city to cover for the brutal acts of its police department would be enough to build "a state-of-the-art rec center or renovations at more than 30 playgrounds." Instead, the money was used to cover for the brutal acts of the city's police department and ensure they remained well beyond any semblance of justice.
The right-wingers who insist on framing everything in simplistic racial terms don't live in this city. I'll say it again: Yesterday, I spent hours in a fast-food restaurant, watching events unfold on teevee. The audience was a 50-50 mixture of black and white, and there was not the slightest hint of racial tension in that atmosphere. In fact, everyone in that building seemed united in their mistrust of the "POH-leez." (That's how everyone pronounced the word.)

Wake up and smell the reality, folks. This isn't about white-vs-black. It's centurion-vs-civilian.

As then, so today. I may have told this story before, but it bears repeating. Circa 1969, while watching television news footage of the Vietnam war protestors, my highly conservative grandmother became convinced that she could see Nikita Khruschev himself in the crowd, egging on the students: "There? Did you see him? That bald guy? He was holding a shoe!"

Nowadays, she would be spotting George Soros.
From David Simon, creator of The Wire:
By pointing to outside agitators--Commies, Soros, ISIS--then one is not required to ask the hard questions or even look at the overwhelming evidence of police abuse, particularly in and on impoverished communities.

The report from Ferguson was withering, a power structure involved in a shake-down system of its citizens. But before I read the report from Ferguson, I'd been reading similar reports from poor communities all over the country--the shake-down, the abuse meted out by a militarized, occupying force that is better equipped than a lot of our soldiers were in the Middle East. For instance, a reinstitution of the Poor House has been put in place in numerous regions, people imprisoned for unpaid bills, sanctioned by municipal courts though the practice is clearly illegal.

You beat the hope out of people, they will eventually strike back. With a vengeance. When you beat the hope of out people then there's nothing left to lose and anything, even the burning of neighborhoods, is possible, inevitable.

I caught a few minutes of the FOX coverage while waiting for my tuna sandwich. Apparently there are data mining experts who recorded spikes in data streams evidencing the coordination of violence between Ferguson and Baltimore. Dissent equals terrorism.
Btw, the link that Howard A. posted above by David Simon [creator of The Wire] is spot on. Highly recommended. The sort of thing we never hear from our 'pundit' class, who by and large are part of the problem, who are willing to flirt with the libertarian mindset without courting/entertaining or critically thinking about its bankrupt and destructive underpinnings.

Anon..."data streams"? What nonsense. If there were proof, then we would have the exact words cited everywhere. We would all know about it by this point.

Still, the only likely data mining experts Fox could have talked to are the folks in Fort Meade...

I heard a lot of the trope that "this is not excuse for looting", or that it is "foolish to destroy businesses", yadda, yadda.

Of course there is and excuse, and of course it is not foolish, except in some sort of immediately expedient terms.

Do you really think we would have civil rights legislation if it wasn't for the urban riots of the 1960s?

The current riots are simply a reminder that things have not changed nearly as much as the "but please be civil and patient" NPR propagandist crowd believes.

Businesses are absolutely a fair target - the primary purpose of police is to protect property and the propertied, and it is property owners who fund the goddamned machine of violence.

Yes, this is extremely bad PR, and will cause negative reaction. It is just not foolish or uncalled for.
Rebels always have to play it smart. I don't think that it is ever wise for rebels to attack businesses in one's own community, especially small businesses. That said, it is utterly galling to hear the virtues of non-violence extolled by representatives of our INSANELY violent, drone-happy government.
"George Soros funded groups have been involved in stirring up Ferguson riots" -- Obviously this person was confusing Ferguson with Kiev.
I remember in December and January when the cops had their rulebook slowdown here in NYC and stopped writing summonses, and the Times editorial board thundered in indignation that the cops were depriving the city of much needed revenue.

In January, de Blasio announced that the city would no longer be automaically settling nuisance suits against cops based on the bean counters' cost-benefit analysis. I'm curious to see what's going to happen.
I am not sure what I am missing here, but I watched the Mayor on a live feed from local Baltimore TV last night (the 27th) where she said, in her own words, that a curfew would be "...instituted tomorrow..."

Here, at 1:45:

Although it is quite possible she misspoke, and meant to say 'tonight', to anyone that watched that press conference and heard her say 'instituted tomorrow' - it is quite understandable why they would be confused and question the timing. I know I certainly did.

Thus, it is probably not accurate to say that 'Anyone who tells you otherwise is either hallucinating or misinformed', because thats precisely what the lady said. :)
OK, Anon, maybe there was a small mistake. But everyone understood, and the whole city DID shut down. Businesses shut down early to let people get home before curfew.

If there was any problem in communication, we should blame George Soros.
George Soros IS an agitator attempting to ovethrow the Russian government.
"I don't think that it is ever wise for rebels to attack businesses in one's own community, especially small businesses"

That depends on the meaning of "in" and "own community". In some places, many or most small shopkeepers are notoriously racist and trigger-happy, get along fine with cops who share exactly those two characteristics, and have got it coming to them. Some small business premises also function as important centres for the exertion of power over local populations by hated criminal gangs. Aren't local loansharks engaged in 'small' business?

I don't mean to generalise. It can certainly be stupid to attack some small businesses during riots, and in many areas many small shopkeepers are very critical of the police for the right reasons (even if they are unlikely to welcome or take part in riots), in which case attacking them would at best be a distraction - and at worst, anti-social or just thuggish. But it's often wise to attack other small businesses that may have been asking for it for years. Most rebels attacking what attacks them in the areas they live in are capable of making the distinction. The same goes, most of the time, when cars get burnt. As for larger businesses, which often employ people on shit wages and in dreadful conditions, what urban riot is worth anything when rebels don't try to settle scores?


(who during the 1992 LA riots is said to have spraypainted on walls in a certain Scottish city slogans which included "LA Poor Show the Way Forward")
Even if I were a young man of fighting age (which I am not; I turn 52 next month), why should I risk my relative freedom, my health, even my earthly life for any revolution?

Even if the revolutionaries win and I survive, the revolution will merely replace the existing gang of criminals with a different gang of criminals.

When has any "successful" revolution not merely exchanged one gang of bandits for another?

Make no mistake, as long as we are ruled by other members of the species Homo sapiens, we will be ruled by bandits.

"Meet the new boss/Same as the old boss"
@Ivory Bill - Is someone telling you what you should do? :-) Revolutions by the lower orders, as opposed to coups d'etat, only happen when people have no other choice. Practically all of them start over issues of bread or bodies in the street. And all such revolutions all been defeated. But when you got no other choice, you got not other choice.

And, taking a bird's eye view now, we haven't got any other choice. A huge population cull, a massive deterioration in living conditions - these are what are on the cards if capitalism isn't overthrown.

But there's no point in me or anyone saying that "revolution" is needed regardless of what's actually meant by that word. To avoid replacing the old boss with a new boss who's just the same, more is required than large numbers of people in the lower orders of society saying they've had enough of the shit and rising up in the street. I think that's part of what you're saying - and you are quite right about that, even if you think the "more" can't happen. Gullibility is a very very big issue. Or, to use a clearer word - clearer because it says who does what to whom - mind control. Psychological warfare against the population. If there's not a growing understanding of that, then we are absolutely fucked.
I overlooked the Soros reference.

In my slight dipping into the right-wing pool of insanity, I have noticed it is an article of faith on the US political Right that certain rich people--Soros being, to the nuts, one of the current examples--want socialism.

The absurdity of that idea never percolates into their skulls.
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Monday, April 27, 2015

The reasons why

Why did young people in Baltimore lose their shit? Here's something our media won't tell you...
Police used tear gas on a group of high schoolers outside my building today. Unarmed high schoolers. Carrying textbooks & wearing backpacks.
But if you want the deeper reasons why, check out what Orioles COO John Angelos had to say...
Brett, speaking only for myself, I agree with your point that the principle of peaceful, non-violent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society. MLK, Gandhi, Mandela and all great opposition leaders throughout history have always preached this precept. Further, it is critical that in any democracy, investigation must be completed and due process must be honored before any government or police members are judged responsible.

That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.

The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importances of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.
I hope that people are still quoting this message decades from now.

Let me add this. I watched the action on teevee in a fast food restaurant in a working class neighborhood. The audience in that place was evenly split between black and white. I spent a lot of time listening carefully to what they had to say.

Nobody discussed these events in racial terms. That fact separates this event from the Rodney King riots.

Nobody took the side of the cops. A lot of people thought that the rioters were acting stupidly, but nobody defended the cops.

Nobody in this city places much trust in the cops. The general opinion -- of white people and black people -- is that the Baltimore police are assholes. Most Los Angelenos did not have similar feelings about the LAPD, even at the height of the Ramparts scandal.

This is about class, not race. And everyone here knows it, although they may not use that terminology.

(Thanks to Corrente.)
(I hope you'll post this version of my comments instead. Last one had some bad typos.)

Thank you for posting this. I hadn't been paying attention to the Freddie Gray case, or should I say murder, until tonight. Now I know. And I'm reading about the terrible abuses by Baltimore cops - just a laundry list of them! I'm white, so I've been insulated from it, obviously - "it" being the police state that runs the ghettos. The stadium lights have been turned on and now I see the reality of that police state.

You mention the LAPD. I've been reading City of Quartz and I'm struck by how bad the LAPD violence was in the 1980s and how similar to today - chokehold deaths figure prominently - but also a little more blatant and systematic, with a police chief who talked of blacks having different physiologies that make them more vulnerable to injuries during restraint. I think there was a case where LAPD cops stormed an apartment block and ransacked it while screaming racial epithets. That were a dozen or so cops. I suggest picking up City of Quartz and zeroing in on the chapter about LAPD violence for a mind-blower.

Zooming out from the events in Baltimore, I'm worried that the United States is coming apart, slowly, surely. I fear that these riots are a symptom of a kind of decay that, as you said, goes beyond race, and is irreversible - doesn't parallel the national emergencies and massive riots of the '60s or early '90s because we live in a uniquely nihilistic age. In the '60s, there was hope and a counter-culture. There was the Great Society and there were ideologies. The LA riots were terrifying, but the '90s overall were peaceful. There was also hope.

Now our political system is bankrupt, our economy is stagnant, and nothing seems to be fixed anymore. The American identity is over. There's an overwhelming sense of a slow-moving apocalypse and catastrophe. And it's not just the rioters who want to burn it all down. Secretly, most Americans are yearning for a disastrous rupture, anything to force us off course.
Those were amazingly perspicacious remarks by John Angelos! Why can't someone like him be our President? He gets it. Can't imagine he would be pushing through that Pan Asian trade treaty. Watching the riots at the gym my thought was, "good, burn Baltimore, burn. Show the Man kids, this Police State will not stand." When they killed Bobby Kennedy & Dr. MLK, Jr., the ideologies were buried with them. We didn't get to finish it in the '60's. I hope we didn't lose our chance, because I fear martial law is on the horizon.
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Fighting back (Updated)

Just now, I watched the heroic youth of Baltimore -- both black and white -- force the Baltimore cops into retreat, tossing garbage and rocks.


The police are fighting back with tear gas. It's hopeless. No matter what kind of weaponry they may possess, cops cannot win if they are hated by THE PEOPLE.

You say that the cops are just doing their jobs? Killing the innocent is not their job...and if it is, then they must pay the consequences of choosing to do a job that should not be done.

This all started with that goatfuck in Ferguson. Nobody with any sense was ever going to buy into the ludicrous idea that an unarmed man could somehow pose a threat to the life of a cop in a car. The DA thought he was being very clever when he used a rigged grand jury to protect that officer. If there had been a proper trial, and a trial for the murderers of Eric Garner, then the unrest happening now probably would not be occurring.

Cops must choose: Are they going to be the guardians of the oppressed or are they going to be the shock troops for the ruling class? If they choose the latter -- well, what's happening now is nothing compared to what will come.

Update: The coverage has been hilarious. Not long ago, CNN said that the cops were there to "protect the peaceful protesters."

The presence of the police is precisely what caused the riot. If the centurions had dispersed, there would have been no uprising, and things would not have escalated.

For a long time, only the police were targeted. Now the looting has started -- which is very foolish, since the looting can be used to justify the increased police presence. Yet I suppose it was inevitable, given the hot tempers involved.

Make no mistake: This is a police riot. They caused it. Every media whore will try to convince you otherwise, but the people here know better.

Ferguson and the other outrages taught people that the justice system cannot be trusted. This is what happens when trust evaporates.

Update 2: Ah, the myth of the "outside agitator"! We've been hearing it a lot, and we'll hear it a lot more. The news liars are out in full force today.

There are no outside agitators. Trust me: A month from now, nobody will be able to name a single "outside agitator."

The truth is simple. If you kick a dog often enough, the dog will bite back.

Don't fuck with Baltimore.

I may not like Baltimore, but I respect it. The uprising did not start in St. Louis. The uprising did not happen in New York. It began in Baltimore -- the very place where the British (who had successfully taken the Capitol) saw their fortunes go into complete reversal, back in 1814. That battle took place within walking distance of where I'm sitting right now.

Don't fuck with Baltimore.

Yes, I'm sorry that the insurgents are now going after stores. Mistake. Nothing can be gained by attacking downscale stores in one's own community. It was better when the rebels confronted the cops head on.

Alas, rebellions are beyond management. The authorities should have understood that simple fact months ago, years ago.
How many riots are caused by something other than the police? I'd say not very many. Black and brown skinned people are just not safe when they garner the attention of the police. Just read about a pizza delivery driver that was shot in the head by police in Philadelphia. Apparently, he thought they were trying to rob him since they weren't in uniform. Just insane.
Thanks for this post.
This was a riot waiting to happen. How many bad shootings have we read about in the past year? How many young black men [in addition to several women] have been beaten, abused, tasered and/or shot under dubious conditions/reasons? And they're the ones we know about!

Freddy Gray's death is just the most recent offense that has hit the papers. The city officials mishandled this case from day 1 and the cops were frigging unbelievable--a takedown for being on the street while black. A severed spine was the ultimate sentence. The cops are becoming judge, jury and executioner.

Baltimore was bound to explode following this latest police action. And now it is.

It's getting closer
I will also say thanks for this post - as I made my way through my list of standard-reading blogs for the day I was surprised to see the 'BRAVO' comment you made, because of all the other articles I had also read with the standard 'nonviolence is the only way' bromides.

I know what people *say* I am supposed to think at times like these: "...Oh, destruction and violence, thats all bad, it has to be nonviolent or nothing will happen"

But, I don't think that.

Frankly, when I saw the video (I was watching a live feed from a Baltimore broadcast TV station while it all went down) ...of a mass number of high school students chucking rocks, bricks, etc. at the cops, and saw the cops retreating in disarray from the hailstorm of anger...I said to myself: GOOD JOB! FOR ONCE - Show *them* what its like to be powerless and constantly in retreat.

Give 'em a taste of what its like when _The People_ are mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore.

I guess I come from the 'if you kick a man long enough, sooner or later he starts kicking back' school of thought.
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Allow me to suggest a better ending

Obama's comedy skit at the Correspondents' Dinner had him giving a boilerplate speech while his "anger avatar" -- a.k.a. Luther the Anger Translator -- let us know what the man really thinks. For example:
Obama began a boring and anodyne speech. "Despite our differences, we count on the press to shed light on the most important issues of the day... " he said.

"And we can count on Fox News to terrify old white people with some nonsense!" interjected Luther. "Sharia law is coming to Cleveland! Run for the damn hills! Y'all, it's ridiculous."
And so on. The bit ended when the the subject turned to man-made climate change. At this point, Obama -- speaking for himself -- became so furious that Luther had to calm down the president.
"Okay, Mr. President," Luther said. "Okay, I think they've got it, bro."

"It is crazy!" continued Obama. "What about our kids? What kind of stupid, shortsighted, irresponsible bull -- "

"Wow! Hey!" said Luther, putting the brakes on Obama. "All due respect, sir. You don't need an anger translator. You need counseling. So I'm out of here, man. I ain't trying to get into all this."
After that, the skit just kind of petered out. Too bad: It really needed a socko finish. Here's how I think the routine should have ended.
Fine, Luther. Get the hell out of here. Don't need you. From now on, I speak for myself! I'm gonna tell it like it is! Nobody's going to hold me back. It's the end of my presidency, and for once, I'm going to take charge. I'm going to have my say. I'm not going to be told what to do. I'm Number One baby, and I don't give a crap what anyone...

A phone rings.

Sir, it's Bibi Netanyahu. He says there's another country he wants you to mark down for regime change.

Obama picks up the phone.

Yes, Massa?


Sunday, April 26, 2015

On forgiving writers

Today's question: Why are some authorial sins considered forgivable and some not?

We are talking, once again, about Peter Schweizer, the writer of Clinton Cash and the new darling of the NYT. George Stephanopolis had the man on his show and asked some effective questions.

But look at Schweizer's record. This is the same guy who wrote a homophobic book attacking the Disney corporation's alleged promotion of the gay lifestyle
"Disney's gay culture" also extends to the films and TV shows the company produces, according to the couple. "Animated features now include 'gay characters,'" for instance. (Schweizer doesn't specify which characters he's referring to here; in another section of the book, however, he quotes the voice actors for The Lion King's Timon and Pumba who described the duo as "the first homosexual Disney characters.")

The Schweizers also attack Disney for being "aggressive about pushing the gay theme" on Ellen, the '90s sitcom in which Ellen DeGeneres' character came out as a lesbian, and which aired on the Disney-owned ABC Network. They note that Disney produced a number of made-for-TV films, which "championed some controversial gay themes." The merits of the shows were unimpressive to the Schweizers: "Why Disney is producing this programming is anybody's guess. The made-for-TV films on gay subjects have performed poorly."
In a previous post, I mentioned that Schweizer also wrote a book titled Makers and Takers: Why conservatives work harder, feel happier, have closer families, take fewer drugs, give more generously, value honesty more, are less materialistic and envious, whine less … and even hug their children more than liberals. I leave it to the reader to count the number of questionable assertions in the title alone.

("Less materialistic"? Really? The same people who are most likely to judge you by how much you earn? And they "whine less"? Jeez, has Schweizer ever listened to conservative radio or read the comments at Breitbart? It's nothing but whining!)

He also wrote a book called Architects of Ruin: How Big Government Liberals Wrecked the Global Economy--and How They Will Do It Again If No One Stops Them, which actually tries to blame the 2008 meltdown on liberalism, not on unregulated banks selling and reselling phony-baloney financial instruments backed by crap and marked AAA by corrupt ratings agencies.

How can a guy like this be accorded such great respect -- and not just by those toiling within the alternative universe of the conservative media, but by the mainstreamers?

Here's a thought experiment.

Let's say you wrote a book about -- oh hell, I dunno. Sasquatch. Or the Loch Ness monster. Or a reported sighting of Sasquatch riding atop the Loch Ness Monster. Something like that. Would you ever be taken seriously again?

Let us stipulate that, after your book about monsters, you went on to write a more level-headed work about (say) Jeb Bush -- a work filled with important, never-published-before information. Let us further stipulate that you did your research perfectly. Lots of footnotes. Impeccable sources. You have your ducks in a row as straight as Peter Schweizer would like the Disney company to be.

How would people react to your new book?

I'll tell you how. No matter how elegant your writing, no matter how carefully constructed your argument, no matter how solid your sources -- everyone would judge your new book by your old one. For the rest of your life, you would be Mr. Monster. You would have no credibility.

You certainly would not have your words appear in the New York Times.

So why are some authorial sins considered forgivable while others are not? If Peter Schweizer may be forgiven for his lifetime of hackery on behalf of the one percenters, could I be forgiven if I wrote about something goofy but innocuous -- like, fer instance, the alleged denizen of a certain body of water in Scotland? (Not that I have any interest in doing so, but for the sake or argument, let's presume that I felt more open-minded on the topic of heteroclite plesiosauria.)

Now let's look at the issue another way: In 1992, before the presidential election, a respected journalist named Pete Brewton wrote a book about "Poppy" Bush and the Savings and Loan scandal: The Mafia, CIA and George Bush. The book is excellent. The footnotes are plentiful (in fact, they're seemingly endless), and they all go to excellent sources. Brewton did the necessary legwork and talked to a lot of important witnesses.

No, he had not previously committed any authorial sins similar to those discussed above. Brewton was not Mr. Monster. In fact, as this interview indicates, he was a very, very serious writer.

In 1992, George H.W. Bush was running for reelection. You would think that a book with that title, a book written to a high standard, might have attracted some attention in an election year.


The book went unmentioned in the New York Times and in nearly all other mainstream publications. Hardly anyone reviewed the thing. Hell, it was barely even distributed.

By what metric is Schweizer's book considered worthy of discussion while Brewton's book was not?
The Clinton factor. It's magical never fails
Joseph, events seem to be moving on the Ukraine front. The Atlantic Council has published a manifesto calling for the US Congress to provide up to $1 billion a year in military assistance to Ukraine and lethal weapons.

General Wes Clark and a former strategy adviser to Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger named Dr. Phillip Karber have come back from Ukraine on a fact-finding mission. They have determined that Russian soldiers are everywhere and that arming the Kiev government with offensive weapons such as TOW missiles and Abrams tanks is the only solution.

Karber says (in his video) that in a six week period alone (Oct 30 - Dec 9) Russia sent over 890 heavy weapons into Ukraine: 402 armored fighting vehicles, 138 tanks, 42 stand alone artillery pieces, 5 self-propelled artillery pieces and multiple rocket launchers. This is all BS afaics, but he is quoted by The Atlantic Council so he represents the new policy thinking.

Blogger Finian Cunningham says that the 300 US paratroopers set to train Ukrainian forces are being stationed in the Eastern Donetsk region close to the conflict area and are not in the western regions as previously announced. I have been unable to confirm that.

I put up more here. Hope it helps.

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

A word on the Freddie Gray protests

I decided not to go downtown today, if only because I wasn't sure that I'd be able to get back home (I don't drive). But my sympathies are with the protestors. If a young man can end up with a broken spine simply because he looked at a cop wrong, then this city must be taught a lesson. When shit like that goes down, the city can't expect to run a damned baseball game as normal.

Los Angeles is still the city I consider home, and I can well recall the Rodney King riots. It was the only time I heard the emergency broadcast system attention signal for real -- not a test. Horrifying. But I'll tell you this: After that uprising, the cops thought twice.   

Of course, those protestors were unorganized and thus acted stupidly. On the day of the worst rioting, a friend in the UK -- someone whose name a few of you may know -- called me up and asked what I consider a very good question. "Why don't they just go marching into Bel Air? That's where the good stuff is."

Word to the wise. Where Freddie Gray died isn't that far from Roland Heights.
I well remember the King riots. I was working in Hollywood, not far from Paramount Studios. We went out onto an office balcony and could see smoke rising from the LACC/Vermont area. But we stupidly didn't shut things down until around 2 pm, which was way too late. I was driving a 1964 Nova SS with a 350 at the time,which was a sweet ride but it had a tendency to overheat if it had to idle too long. So my overarching goal always was to keep moving---not a small feat in Southern California. As you know from that section of Hollywood you have to drive quite a ways to reach the freeway system and the streets, including main thoroughfares and side streets were completely gridlocked in every direction. And there were pickup trucks filled with angry looking young men inching by and staring you right in the eyes. But I was so concerned with trying to figure out how I was going to get over the mountain to the 134/210 freeways without burning my engine up that I didn't really take much notice. By maneuvering through every known Hollywood side street and alleyway I somehow made it to Los Feliz and Griffith Park. When I got to the observatory, I was able to see a sweeping view of all of South-Central. It looked as if the entire city was on fire. Three hours later by a very circuitous route, I made it home. But Colorado Blvd. was completely boarded up and the smoke from the fires had of course blown inland. It was a bad day.
An interesting conundrum of insurrectionist geography, anon. I'd have taken Gower to that cute little diner beneath the Hollywood sign. Presuming they stayed open, I would have hung out there while planning my next move.

Mulholland might have been a good route. You would have had a commanding overview. The Havenhurst slide (on which an old friend of mine once lived) takes you back down to the Valley.

Still, it must have been awesome to see it all from the observatory.
I wouldn't be surprised if we hear that the initial injury was in the take-down. The film shows Gray being dragged to the paddy-wagon and his head is kinked to the side. The police officials have already admitted that he was not properly secured inside the vehicle. The severity of the break was originally described as something akin to a decapitation, complete severing of the spinal cord.

And for what? Walking while black? Looking at a cop the wrong way? If he had a knife, I haven't heard any statement that he brandished it. So why was he stopped? What the hell are the cops doing anymore?

I had to leave town for the weekend, but I drove thru downtown yesterday and again today. Saw nothing...but there was an impromptu rally around the corner from me Friday during rush hour. Everyone was honking in sympathy. I ran out and started making more signs for everyone. The police arrived and outnumbered the protesters, so they moved on.

WETA aired Gone with the Wind last jaw dropped.
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Do you remember Danny Casolaro?

Boy, this takes me back...!

Do you know who Danny Casolaro was? Some of you will recognise the name; younger readers probably won't.

Back in the 1990s, around the time The X-Files first hit the air, Casolaro's mysterious death was the hot topic among parapolitical researchers. Casolaro was found dead -- almost certainly murdered -- in a hotel room in Martinsburg, West Virginia, in 1991. He had been working on a sprawling book about Spookworld, tentatively titled The Octopus.

Casolaro may be best known for uncovering the Spookworld takeover of the Cabazon Indian reservation in the California desert. (Previously, that reservation was made locally famous by its giant roadside dinosaur statues, as seen in the film Pee-Wee's Big Adventure.) There were only a handful of actual Cabazon Indians left, and most of 'em were pretty easy to buy off. This opened up the res for weapons manufacture and God-knows-what else. As many noted at the time, setting up shop on an Indian reservation is a good way to avoid EPA inspectors and other pesky outsiders.

The Cabazon episode gave rise to several lingering murder mysteries.

"The Casolaro papers" (as some called them) were an agglomeration of documents which circulated samizdat-style after the writer's death. I still remember reading that file at an all-night diner, starting at 2 a.m. and lasting until nearly sunrise. Those pages introduced many researchers to the Cabazon arms deals, to Wackenhut, to the PROMIS mystery -- and to the claims made by the outrageous Michael Riconosciuto.

Michael (who had a familial connection to a spooky corporation called Hercules) was a tinkerer, a con-man, an alleged "genius," and a Spookworld hanger-on. He was also -- as Penny from The Big Bang Theory might have have put it -- "a kind of chemist." Casolaro used him as a source, although I'm not sure if Danny believed all that he heard. Riconsciuto certainly loved to talk, and some of what he said was actually true, although he also unloaded some outrageous whoppers. I tend to visualize him as being akin to Jack Black's character in The Jackal.

Around the time Casolaro's body was found, Riconosciuto was busted on a serious drug rap. In prison, he told hair-raising yarns to anyone willing to pay for the phone call, wildly inflating his importance in the scheme of things.

(Whatever happened to Mikey? I seem to recall that he was received a very long sentence -- still, he ought to be out by now.)

Many would-be sleuths, most of them gullible and inexperienced, tried to follow Casolaro's leads. The trail began in the realm of the possible (Iran-Contra, BCCI, drug smuggling, October Surprise) and led straight into the swamplands of Wackyland (UFOs, Satanism, weird science). Naturally, and as always happens, the wacky stuff brought discredit to the entire "Octopus" investigation. After a while, only the doofiest conspiratards were still following the breadcrumbs.

That said, Casolaro must have stumbled onto something. I have never believed that his "suicide" was just a suicide.

If you're a nostalgic oldster like me -- or if you're a younger fan of spy-stories who would like to learn more about the smack that all of the hippest paranoia-junkies pumped into their veins, back in the day -- you're in luck. A cache of Danny Casolaro's private papers has just been placed on the internet, courtesy of the good folks at Cryptocomb.

Go here for fear!

I haven't yet gone through it all, but I've flipped through part of it. Though decades have passed, some of that stuff is still meaty and juicy.
Ah, the man with the purple prose. That takes me back to my roots as a teenage armchair conspiracy theorist. Tomorrow is my 30th birthday, perhaps I will spend some of it on these old files.
Wow I remember this some was covered in Spy Mag. I do also remember that this was also some how tied to INSLAW or was it. There was the murder of a HS teacher in Bakersfield then a real strange murder in SF were the dead person was skinned alive according detectives. I'll come by tomorrow a read up on what you have.
Whatever happened to Mikey? I seem to recall that he was received a very long sentence -- still, he ought to be out by now

30 year sentence - earliest release date is 2017, so he's still in the slammer.
That's not much time off for good behaviour. And 30 years just for cooking a bit of meth seems horribly excessive. You'd get less than that for murdering someone in most civilised countries.
It is indeed true that Mikey was given an extraordinary sentence. Also, I believe that he did a lot of favors for the feds while incarcerated.

Basically, he did everything he could to mislead anyone trying to investigate everything having to do with the CIA or national security. I know for a fact that he claimed to know people he never met and that he sent reporters scurrying down blind alleys. I would bet my left testicle that he did all of this in exchange for an early release.

The fact that we have heard NOTHING since roughly 2002 is...suspicious. I would not be surprised to learn that he was quietly bounced out of the joint ten years ago, although he may technically still be incarcerated.

But of course, that's just a hunch and I could be wrong.
Everything I could find indicates he's still in FCI Terminal Island. What that says about the circumstances of his incarceration are of course anybody's guess.
Then Promis. Now Google and Facebook.
I thought you were older than that, Stephen. Hope you had a nice birthday, and many happy returns! :-)
That's odd, b, I thought I was younger. Anyway, a birthday is just another day closer to death.
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Drugs for sex, and all that

Normally, I wouldn't take much interest in the case of the delightfully-named Fred Pagan (also here), the chief personal aide to Mississippi Senator Thad Chochran -- but a rumbling in my gut tells me that this incident may turn into something of wider interest. My gut instinct has, of course, been wrong before.

Authorities intercepted a package from China containing a drug called GBL, which I did not previously know about. It's an industrial solvent which apparently has properties similar to GHB, the date rape drug (of which I had heard). Some aficionados use this substance as a general-purpose intoxicant, like alcohol. I wouldn't know much about such things, since the only things that make me high are Jesus and the flag and my right to bear arms.

At any rate, the package was addressed to Fred Pagan (who earns $80,000 a year as Cochran's aide). So the feds showed up at his pad and found a nice quantity of meth. Some news accounts give the impression that the meth came from China, which would have been very weird, but the actual origin point was California, which makes a lot more sense. (Meth is to the Mohave as oil is to Kuwait.)

According to the all-too-brief Statement of Facts from Homeland Security officer Mark Waugh, Pagan planned to distribute the GBL and the meth in DC "in exchange for sexual favors."

That's the phrase which arouses my interest. It seems to hint at something rather large. But, as noted above, my instinct may be wrong.

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