Sunday, November 22, 2015

Ah, the Po-Po, they sooooooo scared....


I listened to this the other day. It is a recording of the aftermath of a police assault on the residence and person of Fay Wells in Santa Monica, an assault that was detailed in a Washington Post piece that has gotten quite a lot of play thanks to Black Lives Matter and the whole "national conversation" about race and policing.

Yes well. What a goon show.

I listened to this the other day while I was doing other things, so I might have missed some aspects of the to and fro between Ms Wells and her police assaulters, but damn. The po-po, they are so damn scared of so damn everything. So scared of so damn everyone. They behave as if they are mindless automata chasing their fears.


I mean, seriously, W. T. F.?

A man, possibly drunk or high, calls up 911 and says, "Hay, I'm watching some people break into a neighbor's apartment. Send someone over." So they do. Sixteen, seventeen, eighteen or nineteen officers (counts vary) and a police dog descend on the apartment allegedly being broken into. Chaos ensues.

Ms. Wells, wondering what in the hell is going on after being let into her apartment by the locksmith she had called (because she'd left her keys inside), goes to the window, sees a dog barking its fool head off and someone who doesn't identify himself (so she can understand at any rate) demanding that she come out with her hands up. He's got a gun and he's pointing it at her. What is she to do? Well, she comes out, as demanded, but she demands to know what is going on. Nobody says. Nobody will respond to her questions at all; they just hold their guns on her and order her downstairs, away from her apartment where she has her ID and the locksmith receipt and all of her personal possessions which the police now want to ransack. Because somebody called 911.

Well, now at least she knows they are police. At first, she didn't even know that because they were too scared to tell her, and -- apparently -- "protocol" doesn't require them to tell her until after she, the "subject" or suspect and the scene are "secure."

Well, no. That's not quite the case. They are required to announce themselves, which one of the officers says he did. Only he acknowledges that Ms Wells may not have heard his announcement over the damn fool barking of the police dog they were sending up the stairs first. They are required to announce; they are not required to respond to the suspect/subject.

Or something.

She was trying to find out what was going on. They wouldn't tell her until after they were sure of their safety and the scene was secure to their satisfaction.

In other words, once Ms Wells was identified as a "suspect not in custody" (which I'll try to get to in a minute) she had no rights the police were obligated to respect or acknowledge. They could have beaten or killed her outright and gotten away with it simply by invoking the magic phrase: "Fearing for my life and the safety of others..." because they didn't know who she was or what form of violence she would perpetrate on them.

The count of the dead so far this year at the hands of police is edging ever closer to 1,100 and it will probably surpass it soon if it hasn't already. Many of those killed were unarmed and non threatening, but that doesn't matter when police are trained to be and expected to be scared of their own shadows. How hopped up on adrenaline and fear are they? Leaving steroid and other drug abuse out of the equation for the moment, from the discussion between Ms Wells and several of the officers in the recording, it's clear that Santa Monica PD officers live in constant holy terror every minute they are on duty. Every encounter is seen by them as a potentially deadly encounter -- for them; they really have no concern for civilian casualties -- and overwhelming force is their standard response to these ever-present threats they are in constant fear of.

The terror their actions impose on civilians is neither of interest nor concern to the police. The problem, as they see it, is entirely a matter of compliance -- immediate and complete compliance -- to the commands of police.

The civilian "suspect not in custody" has no rights -- at all. He or she may only obey or suffer the consequences, which can and too often does include summary execution.

Because the police are afraid, and their fright overrides every other consideration at all.

Time after time, her police interlocutors tell Ms Wells that since they didn't brutalize or kill her she should quit her bitchin'. Everything turned out "well," you see. Everyone's safe and no one got hurt.

Right? No.Not right at all. Her question is basically why were they approaching a clearly non-threatening situation as if it were an "active shooter" scenario, and why did they treat her with such disrespect?

Why, in other words, did they terrorize the shit out of her, and why did they not even bother to find out whether she lived there before they assaulted her?

Because what they did was an assault, in this case an armed assault, which, if civilians had done it would have led to serious jail time.

The answer she hears over and over but cannot accept is essentially, "We were scared."

Of what?

They didn't know what was going on, you see, so they had to arrive at the scene in force, because they didn't know anything about the situation except that the caller had said someone was breaking in to a neighboring apartment. There could be hostages! There could be gangs and drugs and who knows what all! They could be armed and ready to shoot it out! There could be anything!!!!!

Never once did it occur to the police (at least not so far as I could tell from the recording) that a resident might have locked herself out of her apartment and called a locksmith to let her back in. That scenario, the correct scenario, did not enter their fevered, fear-filled minds. Not once. Instead it was all about the gangs and their fears and imaginings of hostages and gunfights and all the rest of the action movie or video game they seem to be living in.

Oh, how many times have we seen just this sort of fear-fever lead to tragedy? How many times? And how many more times is it going to happen before someone in a position of authority says, "STOP!"

The police are so riven by fear they cannot even imagine let alone process the notion that someone or some situation is not a threat to them. It's not even conceivable.

This attitude is what leads to so many deaths at the hands of police, just as it led to so many deaths of innocents in our various battlefields overseas. Hundreds and hundreds of Iraqis were killed on the roads and at checkpoints by scared-out-of-their-wits soldiers who saw drivers not in compliance or obedience to orders/commands which the Iraqis in many cases didn't understand -- if they were issued at all -- as terrorists. This happened over and over and over again, and the response of one general was, "Well, maybe if we kill enough of them at checkpoints they'll learn to obey."

Disobedience="terrorist" in the minds of police and soldiers. Oh. Suspects not in custody are by definition mortal threats to police and soldiers, and they are to be neutralized by any means necessary including lethal force.

At one time in Iraq, soldiers were authorized to shoot and kill any Iraqi they saw -- or thought they saw -- with a gun, under any and all circumstances. An armed Iraqi was a mortal threat to be neutralized. The continuing drone killings are justified in every case by reference to the perception of the drone operators -- that those killed fit certain parameters that are judged to be those of suspected militants, regardless of reality.

So it is with police in their constant battle with criminals. Everything and everyone is potentially a mortal threat, and every call to 911 must be responded to with overwhelming force (unless it's not responded to at all, but that's another issue for another time.)

We are dealing with madness.

Ms Wells was terrorized but she was not physically injured or killed, so it's all good, right?

One of the police officers said he wished there were twice as many responding officers as there were -- he was that frightened.

It's insane.

It's all too real. Just watch what's been going on in response to the attacks in Paris. The same sort of insanity that leads police to fear everything and everyone and respond the way they did in the case of Ms Wells and her key problem is being demanded and implemented against any and all "threats" -- even where there are none. Police and security agencies can't afford to find out.

When everything is perceived as threatening and fear rules like it does, what can be done?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Pondering the Paris Thing

The attacks in Paris happened while Ms Ché and I were at a literary event which was part of the Fall Open House at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe where she is a student in the Creative Writing program. She was reading her poetry along with a number of other BFA and MFA student writers, and afterwards, we went out to dinner and yakked and had a great time and had no idea that anything untoward had happened in Paris until we got home some hours later and I saw something on the Intertubes about more than 100 dead due to terrorist attacks. I pulled up France24 English service, but the news reports weren't really helpful to understand what had happened, and the visuals showed literally nothing more than dozens of emergency personnel standing or milling around. Over and over again, the same shots of emergency personnel standing around.

Yet over 100 were dead due to explosions and gunfire at six locations throughout Paris. At first, I thought they meant there were attacks in 6 cities in France, but I realized they were all in Paris. One of the explosions happened at a McDonalds across the street from the Stade Francais where Franscois Hollande was attending a soccer game. Oh my. That seemed to be the feature story on the news, and truthfully, I was perplexed by the whole thing.

Most of the dead and injured were at a concert venue. The rest were scattered around in various neighborhoods. France was now "at war." What would France do to retaliate? All or almost all of the perpetrators of the attacks were said to have been killed, either at their own hand (suicide bombs?) or by police gunfire (cf: Charlie Hebdo summary executions), so who exactly was France "at war" with?

Ah, and then there was the matter of the borders and all those Syrian (and Iraqi and Afghani) refugees pouring into France and the rest of Europe as the Middle East descends into yet another level of Hell.

Yes, the answer would be, as it must be, "Keep them out!"

Yes, of course, that's what this was really about, wasn't it? Keeping the refugees (migrants as they are known) out of France, ultimately out of Europe. And of course out of the USofA. This is a clash of civilizations, isn't it? The Crusades redux. Or delayed revenge for the Crusades and centuries of colonial exploitation and oppression.

Or something.

So "we are at war." Again. Or Forever?

In revenge for the attacks in Paris, France launched aerial bombing sorties into Syria. Sounds like a plan, no? Tubthumpers throughout the Western World (once known as The Free World, right?) went through their tried and true xenophobic and vengeance routines, and the masses were induced to yet another level of fear of the Other, yet more outpourings of grief, yet more candles lit in honor of the dead, more lights in tricolor bathing buildings everywhere. "We are all Parisians!" "Vive la France!" "Paris Strong!"

It's become a ritual. Whenever terror strikes candles are lit, masses of people gather to mourn, buildings are bathed in colored lights, vengeance attacks are launched on targets far away, politicians posture, and yet more of what passes for "liberty" is taken away from the masses.

Security becomes the watchword and the most important thing. But security how and for whom? To do what?

The Western government response to terror attacks seems highly ritualized since the aftermath of 9/11, and it seems to be always the same -- domestic political posturing, limitations on or eliminations of liberties and freedoms for ordinary people, police crackdowns at home and vengeance attacks ("war") abroad.  The result is always more terror attacks which kick start the cycle once more.

This ritual cycle seems to be universal. Almost like there's a manual of instructions issued to every Western government that says, "this is what must be done" when there is a terror attack by those swarthy foreigners of Muslim extraction.

But wait. There have been terror attacks in Western countries for as long as I've been alive, and until 9/11, they were not responded to this way. Far from it. Military response was almost unheard of. What a waste of resource, right? Governments did not make "war" against terrorists, the idea would be considered insane. Large scale rebellions -- such as that in Northern Ireland -- might have a quasi-military response. But even then, the idea of "total war" against Irish rebels (for example) would have been seen as madness.

Because it was madness.

And yet, since 9/11, such madness has ruled judgement in Western capitals. A terror attack (by Muslims) must be responded to in a certain ritual fashion and no other. Subsequent terror attacks are guaranteed. In fact, nothing is really done to prevent them. The response seems to always lead to the creation of more instability in Moslem countries, more civil war, and the creation of more terrorists.

The cycle continues in perpetuity.

It's madness.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Virginia -- A **Revised** History

Herself c. 1930
Virginia was born into an Indianapolis matriarchy on November 14, 1911. Her birth took place in her mother's room next to the dining room of a large, rickety 1870s farmhouse on North Sherman Drive, once the farthest eastern edge of Indianapolis. The house had no electricity and only the most rudimentary indoor plumbing; it would burn down in 1914 and would be replaced with a fire station which is still standing.

Virginia's grandmother Ida and Ida's sisters Nora and Lillian attended her birth. The boys -- Ida's 21 year old son Ralph, and Nora's 17 year old boy Harry -- were upstairs in the attic garret they shared. Ida, Nora, and Lillian were widows.

Edna, Virginia's mother, was not a widow, not yet. She was married. At least she said she was. According to her account, she and Larry (or "Riley" as he was known) were married by a Marion County judge in 1907 when Edna was 17. She and Larry (or Riley) never lived together, however, as his situation -- he said -- didn't permit of it, and it's doubtful that Ida, Edna's mother, would have approved in any case even if they were married.

In fact, Ida didn't know her daughter was a married woman until she started showing her pregnancy around April of 1911. Edna had never said.

Finding out who the father was was no easy task for Ida, though she had a suspicion it might be the nice-looking conductor on the streetcar line Edna took into town each day to get to work at the bank where she was a telephone operator.

As it happened, Larry (or Riley) was the conductor and he was Virginia's father. When Edna told him she was pregnant with his child one morning, Larry told her that if it was a boy, he wanted it named Virgil. If a girl, then Virginia, the feminine form of Virgil.

Larry (or Riley) was reading the Aeneid at the time, and he was quite enamored of the saga of the Trojan War and the founding of Rome the Eternal City. Virgil, he thought, was the acme of poets, for whom there was no rival.

Larry's brother George was an accountant and the manager of the bank branch downtown where Edna worked.

Despite his literary bent (or maybe because of it), Larry (or Riley) was the black sheep of the family. His father was a Civil War veteran of the Indiana Volunteers, and he held a minor veteran's pension clerk position with the federal government. In addition, he served as the publisher of the Lebanon (Indiana) Patriot newspaper, the Parliamentarian for the Indiana State House of Representatives and later on as the Indiana State Land Clerk. He was well known and well respected throughout the central Indiana region, and his sons were considered bright and good boys, all six of them.

As soon as the family moved from Lebanon into Indianapolis, however, in about 1890, Larry (or Riley) started getting into trouble, trouble which would dog him the rest of his rather short life. Larry's troubles would also affect Virginia for the rest of her much longer life.

Larry's (or Riley's) mother -- Virginia's grandmother on her father's side -- was a Lawrence descended from the Lawrences of New England, and she had a notorious tendency of putting on airs. Ida, Virginia's other grandmother was no slouch when it came to putting on airs herself for she liked to claim that she was a "direct descendant of Marie Antoinette." Her regal bearing and her widow's weeds should have been proof enough, but Ralph, her son, chose to mock his mother's pretensions to royalty -- until he found out about Princess Snowflower.

Snowflower lived in the 1700s in Cape May, New Jersey, where Ida's people were from. She was the daughter of -- or possibly the granddaughter of, or even maybe the sister of -- Nummi, the chief or "king" of the local Lenni-Lenape (Delaware) tribe. She was baptized Prudence Eldridge and married Benajah Thompson, something of a Cape May grandee and gadabout. They had children, one of whom, Manley, was the father of Rebecca who was Ida's grandmother.

Ralph found this out on his own through the Piersons who lived in town. Ida never mentioned it. She might not have known, truth to tell, for Snowflower was in the male line of her ancestry.

The male line is always problematical in a matriarchy.

Virginia was born into a matriarchy, and Virginia would keep the matriarchy going for generations after her. In fact, so far as I know, it's still going strong. Virginia's daughter had daughters, and Virginia's great granddaughters have daughters of their own who will no doubt have daughters far into the future.

Among the things Virginia didn't know about her father was what he looked like. She may never have seen him at all, but later in life she would say that she only had vague memories of him because he died when she was five years old and she had no photographs of him. She believed her father was killed in a streetcar accident in Indianapolis, but that isn't quite what happened. He left Indianapolis after the streetcar strike of 1913, before Virginia's second birthday. And she never saw him again -- presuming she ever saw him at all.

Larry (or Riley) moved to St. Louis where an older brother was living and working as a printer and Linotype operator for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. Larry took work as a switch man at the Chicago Northwestern railroad yards in North St. Louis. He married a 17 year old German girl and in 1914, she had a daughter Helen. He made a new life for himself, and so far as anyone knew, he never returned to Indianapolis.

He was killed in a switching accident at the yards, his body essentially cut in half when a refrigerator car rolled into the freight car he was standing by. He was killed on December 19, 1916, and was buried on December 23, 1916, at the Friedens Cemetery in Bellefontaine Neighbors. Virginia recalled his funeral (though she remembered it as being in Indianapolis), and she remembered meeting his other family at the funeral. She remembered most of all the scandal Larry's other family caused her mother when it was discovered that Larry (or Riley) had married and fathered a child by another woman in St. Louis.

By the following summer, Edna was packing up to move to California with her new beau, an old friend of Larry's (or Riley's) who proposed marriage and a complete change of scene and lifestyle.

Ida was not amused, not a bit, but Edna considered her other options and figured that moving to California with Leo and Virginia was the best available. It would finally make an honest woman of her, a thoroughly honest woman as Leo did not have another wife or family somewhere else, and he made noises about adopting 5 year old Virginia as his own daughter. He never actually adopted her, but he allowed her to use his last name and always referred to her as his daughter.

Virginia did not know about her half-brother Virgil who was also born in 1911, to a woman, or rather a girl of 17, named Julia. Virgil was born in March of 1911, just about the time Virginia was conceived it would seem. Larry (or Riley) made no pretense of marrying Julia as he had with Edna. He was, he said, "already married." Julia and Virgil would have to make the best of it.

Neither did Virginia know that her mother, Edna, had filed for divorce from Larry (or Riley) in August of 1912, a divorce that was not granted -- because it was determined that Edna had never legally been married to Larry (or Riley). The marriage certificate she presented in court was ruled invalid because at the time, Larry (or Riley) was still legally married to his first wife Maud, aka Mary and May, the mother of his first three children, George, Florence and David.

Nevertheless, after Virginia's birth, Edna with Ida's help blared the fact of her marriage to Larry (or Riley) throughout the city with the intent of bringing shame and disrepute on Larry's family. In the end, Edna gave up her crusade against her erstwhile (non)husband's family and left town for California with her soon-to-be new husband Leo and daughter Virginia.

The household on North Sherman Drive broke up soon after Edna's leaving,  perhaps due to the scandal mongering both Edna and Ida had been engaging in. Ida and Ralph moved to Chicago where they lived together, mother and son, until Ida's death in 1941. After Ida died, Ralph married but had no children. Nora moved into a little house on the outskirts of town, living with a family who had befriended her years before. Lillian took rooms in a converted mansion in town, three large rooms where she lived in semi if somewhat tattered splendor till she died in the late '40s.

Edna, Virginia and Leo did well in California, where Leo quickly found work in an auto dealership in a little coastal town. He started as a mechanic in 1917 and became the garage and service manager in due time. They lived well, certainly better than anything they were likely to know had they stayed in Indiana.

Virginia grew up thinking she was Leo's daughter, but when she was a teenager, her mother told her that no, her real father was dead, and explained that Leo was her step-father. Edna explained the funeral that Virginia barely remembered, and she told her the story of her father's other family and the scandals that ensued. Edna didn't tell Virginia everything, but she told her enough to shatter her concept of who she was. From that time onward, Virginia was never entirely sure about her origins because she never knew her biological father, and her step-father, though a kind and generous man, was no substitute for her real father.

There was so much Virginia didn't know about her father. Even though in later life she would meet with one of Larry's sons by Maud named George, and they would talk about their father for hours, she would find out little. The stories were many, but the truth was hard to discover. Larry (or Riley, which is what his son called his father) had left the household when George was just a boy of four or five, and his memories of his father were dim. He wasn't sure of what had happened to his father -- except that he had left and then he died. Virginia's stories about her father's funeral and the other wife and daughter he had were new to him. He had no idea. Some of the things he told her were new to her as well.

Virginia grew up determined to be independent, but she married twice, first to a Texan who had grand dreams of a future in the oil business, dreams which he realized only after she divorced him. Then, after a sojourn in the Women's Army Air Corps, she married an Iowa lawyer for reasons that only she knew. After spending a couple of dismal years in Iowa, Virgina fled back to California where she lived the rest of her life as independently as she could possibly manage.

Virginia was my mother, of course. This **revised** history, written on her 104th birthday is partly creative non-fiction, since I had no way of knowing any of the main characters who were long dead by the time I was born. Until recently, I didn't know many of them existed, and I knew far less than Virginia did about her biological father -- and she knew practically nothing about him. Some of what I've since learned is astonishing -- and much of it isn't included here. But a good deal of what I've learned helps me to understand some of the aspects of my mother's life, beliefs and behavior that never made much sense to me.

I think I may even understand them better than she did.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

OT: Travel Trailer vs Tiny House

Back in the day, Ms Ché and I bought a travel trailer on the premise that since we were moving around so much for work in theater, it would make sense to take our housing with us rather than have to rent apartments or houses for a few months before moving on. It didn't quite work out the way we thought, though, because almost as soon as we got the trailer I started working at a place where I stayed for several years, so we weren't traveling like we had been at all any more. The trailer was parked next to the house where Ms Ché's mother lived, and we used it for guests and whatnot. Then I sold it for essentially what I'd paid for it. So all in all, it worked out fine.

The trailer was a Kit Road Ranger, 8' X 20' or 22' feet, surprisingly complete, with a kitchen and full bathroom (tub and shower), and sleeping room for 5 or 6, depending on how big or small they were. We slept in it and had guests who slept in it, and we thought it was remarkably comfortable, and so did our guests, but it always seemed cramped to me, I think because the ceilings were low and everything was fit in so tightly. Travel trailers tend to have a lot of stuff fit into them, and I'm not sure all of it is necessary.

When we moved to our place in New Mexico, there were two outbuildings on the property, a garage and a shed.

The shed was probably built when the house was, or soon after, around 1900, and it seems to be falling apart, but actually it's holding up pretty well. It's about 12' X 12' and we store random stuff in it "temporarily." It was used as a horse stall for a while and feral cats have had a few litters in it, I'm sure. I've been periodically cleaning out stuff we can do without, so it's becoming a pretty decent storage space or workshop. It had electricity and a wood stove at one time, years ago, but the electric line was cut and the stove taken out before we moved here. I'm assuming they can be replaced eventually.

The garage, probably built in the 1920s -- it looks to be from scrap lumber --  is about 10' X 20'. The main door is broken and doesn't raise or lower. The side door is working but not very well. There is no window. The exterior is covered with stucco that is falling off the scraps of lumber that serve as sheathing, and the interior is mostly filled with stuff we hold onto because "we might need it sometime." Lots of tools and things, lawn mower, garden chipper, tiller, yadda yadda, but there are also some book boxes and miscellaneous household stuff that I was going to move to the attic of the house -- but never did. Well, that's a whole other story.

When we moved here, we got two other outbuildings from Weather King, an 8' X12' studio, very cute, and an 8' X 16' metal storage building that was supposed to be temporary, but has turned into something more permanent. Both the studio and the storage building are filled with stuff we brought from California. Too much stuff...

So we now have four outbuildings, and I'm thinking of turning them into tiny houses and making a village of them. What fun. The house we live in, this rambling old pioneer adobe, is actually just about the largest house we've ever had, close to it anyway. It's not really a big house as those things go, but it feels like it. If there are rooms we can close off and not even heat in the winter because we don't use them or use them so rarely, then the house seems pretty large.

The tiny house movement (so the advocates and enthusiasts call it) is quite a phenomenon. Much more so than the RV/trailering movement I recall from when I was much younger than I am now. I think it is because they appeal to different sorts of people.

Tiny houses, let's be blunt, cost a veritable fortune, even if you build it yourself, whereas a travel trailer can be bought complete for relatively little. $5,000 vs $50,000 or more for the same or a similar sized structure is quite a difference. Ours cost less than $4,000 back when; a similar model might cost $10,000 now, but still, it's much, much less than a tiny house.

A tiny house can easily cost you $50,000 or more (Tumbleweed tiny houses cost $60,000 or more, well more). Travel trailers -- new or used -- can cost dramatically less, and because they are complete when delivered, they generally provide shelter with little fuss or muss. And they're legal. You just move in. There you are. You are usually without your stuff, too, which can be a liberating thing it seems to me. Well, you have just enough stuff for necessities and nothing more.

A tiny house on the other hand is meant to be a very small version of a site-built house or a cabin, both inside and out. It's heavy and solid, whereas a travel trailer is light and flexible. A travel trailer has a lightweight metal skin whereas a tiny house is generally clad with wood siding. Solid wood, too. One could go on describing the differences, but the point is that a tiny house is usually a miniature imitation of a permanent structure whereas a travel trailer is what it is, a portable (temporary) shelter.

So when I look around our place here and see four outbuildings, mostly full of random stuff, I'm thinking, "What would happen if we got rid of (most of) the stuff, and turned each of these buildings into a (sort of) tiny house?"

Each could be adapted in its own way... And actually all of them are more than ample size for a tiny house experiment... I'm intrigued with the possibilities.

The shed, the original shed that came with the property, would probably not be turned into a tiny house. Instead, I think it would do nicely for storage and for a workshop. The garage, on the other hand, could be quite a nice little abode, and at 10' X 20' (or 22', I'm not sure), it's likely to be quite luxe. I'll have to think about how to plan it...

The studio, interestingly, could become a teeny little guest suite, or even what it was intended to be, a garden retreat for Ms Ché to write in. It could have a bathroom (of sorts) and a tiny-little kitchen. It has two lofts as it happens, and either of them (or both, I suppose) could be used for sleeping.

The metal storage building is actually big enough to become a tight but adequate guest suite with a kitchenette and bath, but it's not tall enough for lofts, so sleeping arrangements would be tight and would have to be on the main and only floor.

Of course we have a guest room in the house as well, and I've thought of finishing the attic one day. If that ever happened, we'd have two or three more rooms upstairs and another bathroom. Possibly even a balcony from which to watch the mountains and the sparkling night sky.

One of our neighbors has two Airstreams beside their house, and their house is a large 5th wheel travel trailer that has been expanded with a site-built room or rooms.  It's actually very nice. They've taken one of the Airstreams on trips. The other, they said, was intended for guests, but they've never used it because of some problems with it. There's a broken window, and the interior is kind of rough. They say they'll fix it up one day, though.

So far as I know, no one around here has a tiny house, though quite a few have travel trailers. One neighbor recently acquired a vintage model, probably from the 1950s. It's in fairly rough shape now but they intend to restore it.

Ah but sometimes the best laid plans...


Friday, November 6, 2015

Betrayal -- the Gliniewicz Thing and So On and So Forth

So he killed himself for fear of being exposed as an embezzler and worse, and he staged it to blame the fictive "War on Cops" for his death. I see. Thousands poured out for his funeral wherein he was hailed a Hero, yadda yadda, and media police departments and media fell all over themselves to laud the man and his sacrifice to serve and protect the rest of us.

Only none of it was true. It was all false.

It was all false. The man was a veritable demon, an example of the kind of monstrosity police departments are infested with, often led by as was the case here, and the kind of things the police have been allowed to get away with for generations. Literally, they can do just about anything they want so long as what they do does not inconvenience or discommode the powerful.


Murder most foul, so far as we know now, was not one of Gliniewicz's specialties, but as more information comes out, we may learn of this or that murder at his hand.

We do know that a police officer who shot an unarmed man in the back twice, killing him, after tasing the shit out of him was acquitted of all charges the other day -- because, according to her lawyer, "she feared for her safety."

Yes, well, obviously the officer is out of her fricking mind as she repeatedly fires off her high voltage taser while screaming incomprehensibly at the man she kills -- who is writhing in pain on the ground. Whenever he does or doesn't do something, she screams some more, and then after firing off her taser again, inexplicably she shoots him with her firearm twice in the back and then she continues to scream at him.

This is insane behavior of a roided up madwoman who should never, ever be allowed near a firearm again and should not, under any circumstances be employed as police officer. By rights, she should be in custody and in rehab.

But no. Her statement is "I shall return to police work." Which is the utter last thing she should be doing. She is unfit in every imaginable way.

No doubt she justified her actions in her own mind, much as Gliniewicz must have justified his somewhat less lethal (so far as we know) but outrageous actions in his mind, because they are possessed of god-like powers that society (or the law at any rate) has granted police officers -- so long as they don't interfere with the High and the Mighty, the Powerful. After all, Mearkle only killed another druggie on the run. What's to worry? One more piece of human trash to dispose of, no?

Gliniewicz on the other hand was stealing from a program that was funded by some of those High and Mighty, and he was using the money for surprisingly selfish and apparently absurd ends. And in his god-like sense of self, he was commanding and threatening to protect himself. Ultimately, it came to an end when he killed himself, but even then, he produced a scenario to blame others -- the so called "anti-police warriors" -- a blame which was picked up and widely spread by FOX "news" and other media, and by police departments and even the FBI and DEA chiefs, as part of their ongoing wagon-circling and protective hunkering down in the face of mounting public criticism of police violence.

For criticizing violent policing is "War on Police."  That's how it's been characterized by many of those who should know better. There is no "War on Police." There is a police war on the public, however, and they're pulling out all the stops -- to ensure their invulnerability. Their tactics utilize the same sort of falsehoods and rationalizations that went into Mearkle's and Gliniewicz's self-justifications for outrageous conduct.

One of the tactics long used by our military in the seemingly endless overseas imperial adventures is to draw out the opposition, making them visible and thus making them vulnerable to extermination. At one time, this was done by troops jeopardizing their own safety, by showing apparent vulnerability, but no longer. Now it is generally a case of "Death from Above" based on "intelligence."

Drones or AC-130s or what have you are sent on extermination missions based on "intelligence" that says suspected militants are or will be visible at thus and so location and must be terminated with extreme prejudice.

That's how the MSF hospital in Kunduz was targeted. Of course the military knew what the target was. Let's not fool ourselves, please. The US military has repeatedly targeted hospitals, clinics, ambulances, etc, just like the Israeli military does, and it's no accident, no "mistake." It is deliberate. According to reports, medical personnel running from the bombed out hospital were also targeted individually, and some were killed as they ran.

If you've ever seen a video of an attack by an AC-130 you know it can be horrifying and immensely destructive. You also know that the attackers know what they are attacking -- whether it be a school, a community center, a mosque or a residential compound, they know.

So the idea that they somehow didn't know the MSF hospital was what it was is false on its face. Of course they knew. They knew that attacking it could be considered a war crime, too, and they didn't care.

Not a bit. Why should they? Nobody can hold them to account. Nobody.

MSF tries but they don't seem to be getting anywhere. The powers that unleashed the attack refuse to allow an independent investigation, and so that's where things will lie for the foreseeable future, in limbo, with everyone knowing what happened, but no one held culpable for it.

This attitude has been transferred to policing wholesale. It is almost impossible to hold officers legally liable for anything they do while on duty -- so long as what they do does not impinge on the prerogatives of the Important People.

Police have been granted almost complete legal impunity to kill at will, and to do just about any other kind of violence against the public so long as it doesn't interfere with the comfort and convenience of Their Betters, and the officer(s) can rationalize their actions as reaction to "fearing for their lives and the safety of others."

Gliniewicz apparently interfered with his Betters interests whereas Mearkle did not.

Such a long row to hoe...

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Numbers Game

The number of people killed by police in the United States this year has now surpassed 1000 according to the "Killed by Police" website, the most comprehensive and up to date listing of police kill statistics available.

Because there are two months left in the year and historically, police killings tend to average about 100 a month -- three or more a day -- the total dead due to police violence this year will no doubt be considerably higher than last year. The number reported by "Killed by Police" last year was 1108.The total will likely be above 1200 this year.


This should not be happening. Period. There is no necessity for the majority of police killings. The number of dead at the hands of police could be cut by 90% or more -- if there were policies in place to generally forbid the use of deadly force (or any force, for that matter) and which specified consequences for officers' use of force/deadly force no matter what the ostensible justification. Of course, policies only matter to the extent they are enforced. Unfortunately, where policies restricting the use of deadly force exist, they seem to be only haphazardly enforced.

And of course courts have long looked the other way in cases of police violence. Too often they've been encouraging ever greater levels of police violence -- in order that the officers involved may "go home to their families" each and every night. Force protection appears to be the prime directive therefore. Force protection means that hundreds of innocent people will die at the hands of police each and every year. Force protection is killing Americans who shouldn't die.

Because there are no official statistics on police killings and/or violent policing in general, and there are competing and conflicting numbers available in the press, those in charge of police and policing in this country get to play a numbers game wherein the current fashion is to claim that there has been a significant rise in violent crime in this country due to the fact that there is so much scrutiny of police and police behavior. Statistics are touted which show this or that city -- where protests against violent policing have had an effect -- has experienced a "spike" in murders or other violent crime. The protests and protesters are blamed. The "anti-police" public attitude is blamed. A "War on Police" is blamed. Albuquerque media, for example, has gone into full-meltdown mode over the mortal wounding of a police officer at a traffic stop. This is supposed to represent a front on the so-called "war" on police, even though statistically it's never been safer to be a police officer in this country. There is no "war on police". If anything, there is a war on the public by police.

In some respects, the police have been engaging in a relatively low-key civil war against segments of the public for decades; some would say it's gone on since the establishment of police forces as slave catching and Indian-killing militias, and policing was transformed into a permanent state of civil war against the public with the establishment of independent civic police forces in the 19th century.

Police for their part see it as their bounden duty to protect the High and Mighty whom they serve against the Lower Orders who run wild without the corrective measures imposed upon them by police violence.

It has ever been thus, no?


It has not ever been thus, and it need not be so in the future.

But changing the dynamic of policing toward something more just and less violent is proving much more difficult than I think many of us may have thought. I've been involved in the effort of transformation for decades, for example, and though I have seen and reported some success in changing the dynamic of policing under pressure, the tendency of police forces is to backslide, revert, to become again what they once were or to become even worse -- once the pressure is off.

It's frustrating as hell. It may be, as I've said from time to time, that it's impossible to reform police forces as they are currently constituted because of Original Sin -- the fact that they originated as slave-catching and Indian-killing militias, going right back to the twin original sins of the nation, Black chattel slavery and Indian genocide.

If that's the case, then what do you do? I'm an abolitionist, preferring to abolish the police -- and indeed the entire so-called (In)Justice System in this country and starting over. But that can't happen in isolation. It would mean a wholesale revolution -- something I don't see coming any time soon, if ever. Instead, we get piecemeal, occasional, partial "reforms." Reforms that often lead to greater injustice and violence which then trigger more studies, protests and reforms in an endless cycle.

World without end, amen, amirite?

We can look back on what happened to mental health care in this country for examples of how that process works, sadly.

But there are many more examples if we care to look.

The current system supports many millions of people who are invested in preserving it as it is or only changing it to be harsher, not to mitigate its abuses.

Police are terrified of abuse mitigation efforts -- because they're afraid they'll be held criminally liable for past abuses, and they might be subjected to revenge by those who have been most abused.

The thinking seems to be that reducing the level of police violence will result in massive increases in violence by the public. It's marketed as "Violent Policing is the Only Thing that Stands Between Us and Chaos."

Yes, well. It's not true.

Current models of policing have precipitated chaos more than preventing it.

The situation has to change.

It is changing, slowly, slowly, slowly. Much of the change seems to be based on theories of public relations, the Edward Bernays approach to problem solving, convincing the public they never had it so good -- and it will be so much better when this or that "something" is added to their lives.

On the other hand, the problem of violent policing and unnecessary death and destruction that results is widely recognized within the policing culture itself as a real thing that must be addressed. Part of addressing it means "finding ways" to "work collaboratively with the community" to "reduce the use of force" and violence within the communities "served" by police.

The point of many of the consent decrees which the DoJ has entered into with police departments around the country is not to directly reduce or stop the use of violence and killing by police but to make it meet "best practice" standards and to rationalize the use of force and violence -- make it be "constitutional."

Since the Supreme Court has essentially provided carte blanche legal protection of police for their use of violence and deadly force, the so-called "constitutional" standard for use of force is easy to meet from a legal standpoint. All they have to do is state that they "feared for their lives and the safety of others" to protect themselves legally from consequences of their violence. But there are numerous department policy issues that can restrict and in many cases eliminate the use of force and deadly force on a "constitutional" basis, and that, I think, is what the DoJ is looking for -- changes in policies which effectively bring the department's use of force into line with the constitution on the one hand and eventually reduce the use of force and deadly force on the other.

But the necessary changes are not happening fast enough or fully enough to seriously impact or limit the destruction wrought on the social fabric by violent policing. The lesson of violent policing is that violence is worthy and the appropriate way to rule. That lesson starts in schools where the presence of police officers (called "resource officers" for some arcane reason) leads to authoritarian violence and worse, resulting in generations of children indoctrinated into a culture of violence and retribution that continues on no matter what.

The numbers suggest that violent policing cannot be ended any time soon. Even if it is reformed, the culture of fear and violence that is fundamentally a part of the police framework will go on.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Incidents in Albuquerque

Not sure where this is going to lead, but I have a feeling it's not going to end well.

There was a road rage incident a little while ago. A four year old girl was killed by a gun-wielding driver who believed he was disrespected by another driver on the interstate. They got into it, apparently, and the girl was shot. This incident made national news -- yet another example of the Wild-West, Albuquerque style.

 Not long afterwards, I think it was the next day, an APD officer who was engaged in a "routine traffic stop" was shot by the suspect and a week later he died of his wounds.

In both incidents suspects were quickly apprehended and now await trial for murder most foul.

Both the media and the police department have gone into full-meltdown mode over these incidents, the media practically demanding that "the gloves come off" and a return to the practices of the past be authorized. You know, shoot first and never face consequences. Those practices that got APD into a consent decree with the DoJ.

Shoot and shoot again and keep on shooting.

The local media has been in hysterics over the deaths of the little girl and the police officer. They've been whipping up hysteria among the public, too. It's shameful. Disgusting. And apparently out of control.

The police department and the police union, for the most part, has been relatively sane about it all -- at least compared to the media. And they seem to be doing their part to engage in public diplomacy. It's interesting to see the contrast. Yet the end point seems to be to get back to the way things used to be.

Kill, kill and kill some more.

The police department claims that violent crime in Albuquerque went up 14% in 2014, but whether it's true or not, who knows? Police have a tendency to lie in pursuit of their objectives, and statistics used by police are constantly being massaged to "prove" whatever police believe needs proving. The public has few resources with which to compare and contrast police perspectives on crime or anything else.

We have witnessed a steep decline in police killing of civilians in Albuquerque, a decline that really hasn't been highlighted by media or anyone else (partly because it is masked by killings by other law enforcement agencies) but I can easily imagine that it will be cited as a primary cause of the supposed increase in violent crime since (say) the consent decree was agreed to last fall.

There is some sign of a community peace movement, however, one that may be able to counter the violence by police and some members of the public.

I'm always an optimist, but sometimes I wonder if my optimism is really justified.


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Blame Game

It's become a trope within the policing industry and community: that public questioning and challenging of violent policing has led to an increase in violent crime -- because the police are less aggressive against criminals -- for fear of being held up to scrutiny and ridicule.

In other words, video-ing the police has made them cower in fear. It's the "Ferguson Effect".

They are afraid of their violence being seen and criticized.

They are cowards.

Of course we've known that for I don't know how long, and videos help to confirm that assessment.

But is it true that there is an overall increase in violent crime? And if so, is there a correlation between said increase and "less aggressive" behavior by police?

The trope is a truism being marketed by police and their media confederates nation-wide, including by the FBI director -- I'm sure with the approval of the Attorney General and the White House. On the other hand, police chiefs and law enforcement honchos, as well as the Attorney General and the White House have gone to some lengths to examine and self-criticize the current deplorable state of criminal justice -- and by extension violent policing that feeds the system.

In some cities, there seems to be an increase (media would call it an "uptick") in violent crime, but there is no lack of violent and "aggressive" policing, as statistics on police kills and other police violence and aggression shows.

On the other hand, in some cities, like Albuquerque, where police violence has been reduced, it appears in the absence of complete statistics that crime rates are about the same -- despite growing media hysteria in the local market over an apparent "explosion" in violent crime, a "wave" as it were, as police back off their use of force, particularly lethal force. Reforms required by the DoJ consent decree actually don't affect the overall use of force or use of lethal force, they simply require that any such use of force be recorded and reported -- and that it fall within particular constitutional guidelines. Consent decrees are never about reducing or eliminating the use of force/use of lethal force; they are about rationalizing and standardizing it according to "best practice" guidelines.

That police violence has been reduced in Albuquerque is a result of decisions made at the top of the command chain, not because of the DoJ, but because the killing spree the police had been on for years was costing the city a huge amount of money in payouts to victims and their loved ones, and in lost business because the city's reputation for violence by the police (as well as by the alleged criminal classes) was in the toilet. Something had to be done and fast.

The order went out to stop the killings.

So let it be written, so let it be done.

Now police and media are trying to whip up public hysteria over particularly egregious or bloody incidents -- including the recent shooting of a police officer (who survived...)

Well, no. My advice to them is: "Stop it."

Basically what they want is to return to their Wild West days when they were killing at will with no consequences, something that some other police departments in New Mexico (and elsewhere) still do and feel is their right. They designate themselves to be judge, jury and executioner -- some are specifically executioners (ie: snipers) -- without hindrance of any kind.

They see the challenges they face from the public and politicians as interference and they want it to stop.

It's become a widespread ploy used by police departments and their media champions more and more frequently, and I see less and less potential for a genuine end to violent policing because of it.

The police do not want it to end, and they are terribly fearful that they might be in some kind of danger if it does end and pretty much the worst thing they can imagine is danger to themselves.

Statistics show that it has hardly ever been safer to be a police officer, however. What danger there is is less than that of many other professions, and they know it. But they want you and me to think that there is an ongoing "war" against police which they are valiantly fighting in order to make "us" safe. No such thing is the case. It's false.

And that basic falsehood must be pointed out as often as necessary by as many as can do so.

Otherwise the return to and reinforcement of the status quo of violent policing will be solidified, and there may be no way to undo it for generations to come.

DeRay's mantra of "We Will Win" will become a hope never realized. Or -- just as likely -- the definition of "win" will be massaged and refined to such a point that it's meaningless.

The nationwide effort to overcome police violence has been going on for well over a year (of course it's been ongoing for decades on a local level) and there is really very, very little concrete to show for it. The demonstrations highlight the problem, but solutions are absent. There's a considerable amount of talk but a paucity of action. Nothing changes. The number of those killed by police continues to rise. The rates of incarceration are stable. The System continues grinding on with no let up.

In some few cities like Albuquerque -- and until recently Oakland -- there has been a significant reduction in police violence. But that is being greeted with dismay by the PTB on the presumption that only violent policing against the lower orders keeps them in line enough to maintain the safety and security of the Overclass. They sincerely believe that only violence will do it.

It's a false belief.

But convincing the Overclass of that seems as far out of reach as ever.

So there.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Random Notes

A lot of the commentary over the remarkable statements by Israeli PM Netanyahu that suggested that Hitler got the idea for the Final Solution from "a Palestinian" -- ie: the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem -- focused on the idea that "he's delusional," and/or "he's insane."

To the contrary, I think he knows exactly what he is doing, and it's not delusional or insane at all. He's making a spectacle of himself in order to draw attention away from the disaster of his rule on the one hand -- the rash of stabbings by Palestinians in Israel has apparently deeply unnerved the population, and the response by Israeli civilians and security forces is way over the to as demonstrated by numerous viral videos of Israelis committing acts of summary execution in the streets, sometimes of "their own people."

It's yet another domestic catastrophe  brought on by a man who apparently lacks any conscience whatever. This is not insanity. This is not delusion. It is pathological in my view, but it isn't an "illness." It is character. Or lack thereof.

It's pathological because a lack of conscience is destructive in the character of anyone who is in a position to wield power over others or to utilize the power of a nation state to accomplish political objectives.

We see this in the political class all the time, this utter lack of conscience, empathy, or even interest in the well-being of anyone outside their own circle, or even beyond themselves. It's not limited to politics, either. We see it in business and finance (especially finance), in the administrative realm generally, in policing theory and practice, and on and on, and I wonder...

Do people in these and so many other fields learn these traits or are they born that way? Is there some kind of eugenic experiment under way that is breeding out the genes for compassion, conscience, and empathy? Truly, I wouldn't be surprised.

In Netanyahu's case, it's been clear for decades that the man sees himself as a Warrior-King on a mission. That mission will not be thwarted by lowly Palestinians (I doubt he considers them to be human) or by anyone else -- who he also seems to doubt are truly human. His mission appears to be the reconstitution of Eretz Israel or its modern equivalent for his own Power and Glory.

If anyone gets crushed in his pursuit of this project, it's their own fault.

And Israelis love him for it.

It's not insanity or delusion. It's purpose and will -- ultimately antithetical to humanity.

It is commonplace in the his realm. While it seems to make no sense to those on the outside,  most of those on the inside share his perspective more or less fully. It's dangerous and destructive and deeply immoral,

One of the aspects of its immorality in the Israeli case is that their argument regarding the Nazis seems to accept everything they did -- up to the Final Solution itself. Israelis can therefore justify what they have long been doing to the Palestinians -- which is very closely patterned on Nazi practice toward Jews and other minorities in Germany. That means that the camps were OK, the roundups, deportations, the ghettoization, the prohibitions on actions, employment, travel, etc., the restrictions and/or elimination of civil rights, the confiscations and demolitions, the summary executions, the lynchings, the lootings, the general destruction levied against Jews and other minorities were all perhaps unpleasant, but they were not the Final Solution and therefore were "OK."

Well, no. They weren't "OK." Or justified. Nor has Israel any right to impose similar conditions on Palestinians. But they do it just the same.

They criticize the Nazis for the mass executions, the gas chambers, and the ovens. Not really for anything else. All the rest of it up to that point was... OK.


Netanyahu is flailing for attention, and he's getting it.


The Clinton Drama continues, and if Hillary is elected, we'll have no end of drama in the nation's capital. What did I see the other day? The radicals will be offering articles of impeachment the day she's sworn in to the presidency? Well, yes. Of course they will. It's what they do. And she'll happily do battle against them. And the attempts to impeach her will be a spectacle to feed the ravenous maw of the media -- which will love it -- for (probably) her entire term in office.

Meanwhile, of course, the nefarious and conscience-free policies of Our Betters will have free rein.

Isn't that the point, after all? Positioning Paul Ryan in the #3 slot -- ie: Speaker of the House -- is a kind of preparatory master-stroke, on the thought that however the drama plays out (she could be assassinated, after all...) there will be a dynamic conscience-free back up at the ready.

Jeebus, no matter how cynical you become, it's really impossible to keep up these days.

Sanders has yet to impress me. He seems to be a sacrificial shepherd leading his devoted flock into a cul-de-sac. No, he will not be allowed to become the president, not on a bet, and if somehow he manages to become the Democratic Party nominee (he won't) he will be left to flounder and fade away. With him go the remnants of a "progressive" Democratic Party. That seems to be the point in any case.

The Democratic Party isn't the same as the Tories of Anglo politics, but it is in many respects the rightful conservative party of the United States. It has always been conservative whereas the Republicans are rightist radicals.

There is no political left in this country with any pretense to power -- perhaps there never has been one.  (FDR was not an exception). Without a functioning "left" in this country, it's impossible to move the governing apparatus away from or beyond its nearly exclusive devotion to the interests and demands of the Oligarchy.

The answer is withdrawal of presence and attention and consent. It happens organically, but it takes a long-long time to come to fruition. It doesn't happen in the political realm, it happens in the social realm, and eventually, the established political elements become irrelevant. "All of that" happens almost in another universe, affecting "real life" less and less, until nobody cares.

It's been happening in this country, this withdrawal, for several decades, but it's been fairly marginal in most respects. "Hippies" and such have been doing it since the 1960s, but there are many-many more elements than merely the unreconstructed hippies in the current withdrawals. "Alternatives" are everywhere, and those who pursue them find it's quite possible -- and sometimes a great deal more rewarding -- to simply let go of the necessity to serve the system as it is.

Thus I can't get too excited about the current political hoo-hah.

Police whining has reached a crescendo. The recent incident of road rage in Albuquerque leading to the death of a 4 year old girl seems to have triggered a reaction in the media. That reaction is apparently focused on a restoration of the status quo ante -- prior to the consent decree and all the police reforms that went with it, including a steep reduction in police killings of civilians. The local media seems to want to restore previous police practices -- and the death rates that went with them -- as a means of curbing the "current crime wave."

Well, I call bullshit. There is no "current crime wave." Crime in general, and violent crime in particular, is at or below previous levels, prior to the consent decree and police "reforms." Restoration merely means adding more violence to the mix, not curbing it at all. But Warrior Cops can't help themselves, can they? They want to mix it up, they have to, it's an identity thing. If they aren't out there killing and brutalizing with impunity, what it the point of having police, right?

So they whine and whine and whine, like dogs chained up in the back yard, wanting to kill, kill, and kill some more, to be who they are.

And the media in Albuquerque is clamoring to unchain them. To root out all those criminals running wild.




Tuesday, October 20, 2015

OT: Domestic Affairs

Well, the charger came from Los Angeles -- still waiting on the one from China, and figure it's best to have two anyway since the one that died was destroyed by my heavy foot getting caught in the cord over and over again... so I have my computer back and can start to get caught up, but at the same time, I have so many more domestic chores to take care of since Ms Ché started back to school, and there are routine fall things to do -- bulb planting, garden clearing, etc -- and (or maybe that's AND) I'm still doing a lot of sketching, etc. Days are more than full. Nearly forgot, the skunk man is coming tomorrow. Have to get ready for him, too. Ah, the skunks. So beautiful they are, but so stinky!

Domestically, well.

It's 2-2 1/2 miles to the post office; we don't get mail delivery out here, have to pick it up at the PO. Some of our neighbors walk, which is fine if you're up for it or into it, but I can't -- still struggling with aftermath of sciatic lameness from a couple of years ago, and now the onset of arthritis (boo!) has given me additional joint issues to deal with. Actually, when I joined the march against the Killer Kop Kompetition in Albuquerque last month, it was the first time I'd attempted that kind of extended hike since before my left side gave out and laid me up a couple of Januaries ago. Didn't quite make it -- many thanks to the kind soul who picked me up and drove the last few hundred yards -- but almost did. That was about 2 1/2 - 3 miles round trip. Good gauge of what I can/can't do.

It's about the same distance to the nearest grocery store. Maybe a little farther. It's a nice little independent store, though selection is somewhat limited. It's not fancy or high-end-foodie, not at all, but they have a real butcher, decent prices -- though much higher than we were used to in California -- friendly staff, and are open early and late. Since I have to get the groceries these days, it's nice to know there's someplace that close.

There's a Smith's and a WalMart the next town over, and I sometimes go to one or the other if there's something the local market doesn't have. I boycotted the WalMart for years until the local Pick-n-Choose closed (it was called Alco). Then, certain gardening, household items, clothing, and such like were simply not available locally. Actually, quite a lot of things weren't available locally any more. Some we could do without, but others....

So, it was off to WalMart now and then. Gaa. Not only is the store far larger than is necessary in this area (fewer than 5,000 people live in the store's shopping area -- say within 15 miles or so) but it's got some really... interesting... ways of doing business. For example, items are frequently (routinely?) shelved in the wrong slots so that it appears from the shelf price that such-and-such will cost X-amount, but no. Get to the check out and it's -- whoops! Oh, but it's worse than mere mis-shelving. In too many cases to count now, the items are shelved correctly, but the item rings up at a different -- sometimes much higher -- price than the shelf price, and unless you're eagle-eyed you're probably not going to know. In fact, it's pretty much impossible to keep track of the prices being scanned and rung up because you're still unloading your cart as the checker does his/her job. So the only way to know whether you've been overcharged is to scrutinize your receipt after the fact. And have a sharp memory for the shelf-price.

Alco used to do it too, but they closed. Smith's has taken to doing the same thing. They take it a step further, not pricing certain items on the shelf at all. One doesn't know until one gets to the checkout what the price is. Sometimes the surprise is a shock.

WalMart also has these bagging carousels, and by golly, how often is one (or more) of the customer's bags conveniently left behind? Oh, if my own experience is any guide, fairly often. One is not likely to notice one is missing a bag or two until one is home and unpacking one's things and notices that something one thought one bought is not there. Hm. Wha? In my dottage, it's not unusual for me to forget this or that, so I'm likely to be puzzled about missing items rather than certain that I left them behind. Maybe I didn't pick them up to begin with? But one time, I was sure, and I went back (another 10 miles from home, 20 round trip) and found the items had been re-shelved already. They gave them to me without objection, but still...

I figure these fairly common merchant practices can easily add 15%-20% to a customer's charges every time they shop. Quite lucrative, so lucrative merchants can happily refund overcharges brought to their attention and replace missing items the customer complains about because so often overcharges aren't noticed and missing items are "just forgotten" especially by the elderly... clever.

I wonder just how common this practice really is? I hadn't noticed it before, but it seems to be widespread in these parts nowadays. Initially, I thought I was imagining things but not any more. Now I think it really is a commonplace merchant policy.

I would have had no idea were it not for the fact that I have to take care of a lot more domestic chores now that Ms Ché has gone back to school. Oh, by the way, she got her midterm grades the other day. All "A" -- except for the two "A+". My my!

There is still much fall planting and year-end outside clean up to do. I managed to clear out the gutters and get those on the front of the house to work for the first time (they were installed wrong to begin with but I hadn't been able to tackle the project to fix...) I'm trying to clear out one of the sheds so I can bring the stuff we still have in storage in California. BUT as I was doing that chore, I saw the news about the mudslides closing highways in Southern CA. Thought little of it until I saw that one of the highways was Highway 58 that I take from Bakersfield to  I15-I40 in Barstow. 6 feet of mud for a mile or more outside of Tehachapi(e). Oh. Brother. I would have taken the plane in November, then rented a truck to bring the stuff in California back to New Mexico, but Highway 58 is my route to get from there to there (the alternatives are much longer) so... maybe not. Better wait till spring.

They say this El Nino is shaping up to be the most intense since 1988. There have been certain signs of course. Our local drought is broken (thankfully. It went on way too long...) We've had plenty of rain and they say there will be pretty heavy snow this winter, but so far temps have been mild, balmy, even warm. No frost at all. May not be any till mid-November... wow.

Of course the situation in California becomes more and more Apocalyptic, seemingly by the day. Our friends who still live there insist things are not really as bad as the news is making it out to be, but I'm somewhat less Panglossian about it. The fires were terrible and raged through areas we're pretty familiar with around Clear Lake and in the Gold Country. No one we know was directly harmed, but still... Floods and mudslides of course will be more widespread than ever. The persistence of drought in the midst of these catastrophes compounds the misery. After a while, it becomes too much to bear...

Though I will probably always be a Californian deep-down, I realized I had become a "real" New Mexican the other day when it occurred to me that I routinely get offended by the most unlikely or innocent things that people say or do. This is a very New Mexican trait I've discovered, taking offense being something of a core value it would seem. It doesn't usually last more than a little while, but it's pretty frequent, and sometimes it makes me laugh at the pettiness and silliness of it.

Now to get back to getting stuff done...

Monday, October 19, 2015

Hiatus Due to Hardware Issues

It's not that there aren't matters for me to comment on. Oh, there are so many.

The problem is that the other day my laptop's battery charger bit the dust. In fact, it came apart and is no longer functional. There were about two or three hours of charge left on the battery, and once that was used up, that laptop was kaput. I ordered another charger before the battery died, but found out afterwards it would be shipped from China and would take who-knew-how-long to get here. So I ordered a backup from Los Angeles.

The one from China has been shipped. By air. The one from Los Angeles? No word. Not a peep. So, who knows when or whether either of them will arrive? Mysteries abound.

Meanwhile, Ms. Ché has let me borrow her little notebook for a few minutes or an hour before she has to go to class.

I've even taken to pencil and paper now and again lately. It's quite a feat. Remembering how to write; my penmanship sucks, too (used to be pretty good, but that was years and years ago...) Thinking of unpacking one of the typewriters...;-D

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Legally Right -- Mortally Wrong and Morally Bankrupt. The Injustice Endures

After what seem like endless and quite deliberate delays regarding "investigating" the death of Tamir Rice, Tim McGinty has released two reports which justify the shooting and death of young Tamir on the basis of law and court decisions which essentially protect police officers from criminal liability when they kill ("use deadly force") in performance of their duties.

As long as officers declare themselves to have perceived a threat -- even if there isn't one -- and that perception can be considered "reasonable", they're essentially immune from criminal liability for almost any death or injury they cause in the course of performing their duties.

In the case of Tamir Rice, the reports claim that the officers involved reasonably perceived a mortal threat to themselves when young Rice approached Officer Loemann and reached for his waistband thus justifying the immediate use of lethal force.

The perception of a mortal threat -- even though objectively there wasn't one -- had to do with the dispatch reports of "a black male with a gun" in a park outside a community center.

Here's what's wrong with that analysis:

The perception is based on faulty metrics. The fear the officers felt was due not to any objective threat to themselves or anyone else but due -- entirely in my estimation -- to the fact they were told by dispatch that there was a black male with a gun. A black male with a gun. A BLACK MALE WITH A GUN.

That, all by itself, is considered an existential threat to police and civilians in open carry Ohio.

Not only was Tamir Rice shot and killed -- on sight -- by Ohio police because he was said by a 911 caller to be armed and "brandishing," so was John Crawford III, even though neither of them were actually armed (in the sense of having a weapon with which they could do lethal harm to another) and neither, at the time he was shot and killed, was "brandishing".

All it takes is for someone to say the right words for the executioners to act.

The problem here [8 pg pdf] is police training and Supreme Court rulings that protect the officers who use deadly force even though there may be no objective threat to be neutralized.
Because officers cannot be expected to read the minds of individuals and determine intent, they are instead trained to scrutinized individuals’ behavior for telltale signs. An individual’s actions are often the only signals of their intent. Obviously, if the individual being confronted is reasonably believed to be armed, the officer’s attention to those actions will be intensified. In such a situation, officers are taught to focus on the hands of the individual.3 If the hands move in the direction of a “high-risk area” – an area where a weapon may be concealed, such as inside a jacket, towards the waistband of pants, or under the seat of a car, well trained officers will immediately identify this as a serious threat.
When threat identification is combined with the concept of action versus reaction, an officer’s need to make split-second judgments with respect to the use of force becomes evident. Action versus reaction is simply the recognition that there is a certain amount of time required for every person to recognize a stimulus, formulate a response to that stimulus, and then carry out that response. When applied to deadly force situations, action versus reaction refers to the time it takes for an officer to observe the actions of an individual, such as the movement of an individual’s hands, perceive those actions as threatening, calculate possible responses to the treat, determine what level of force is necessary, and then complete the reaction. The reactions of a well-trained officer may be quick, but they are not instantaneous. The time differential between a threatening action occurring and the ability to respond to that threat always puts law enforcement officers in the position of having to catch-up. The practical effect of action versus reaction in deadly force situations is that officers cannot wait to react until they are absolutely certain of an individual’s malicious intent. If an officer waits to be certain that the individual reaching into a high-risk area is retrieving a weapon, action versus reaction dictates that the weapon could easily be used against the officer before he or she has an opportunity to respond.
This is the root of the problem right here. The passage was written by a former FBI trainer now retired, someone whose wisdom, if you want to call it that, has formed the basis for police training with regard to 'threats' and their 'neutralization' for decades. The principle is that perception rules all, and instant action in the face of a perceived 'threat' -- whether there is really a threat to the officer or someone else -- is drilled into the officer over and over, without regard to either the necessity of using lethal force in the first place or to the consequences of the use of lethal force on the victim.

Naturally, under the circumstances, many, many innocent people and people in one kind of crisis or another and many people who are only tangentially 'threats' will be injured and killed. And their injuries and killings will be justified by the likes of this person, for the simple reason that the law allows and protects it and the officer's perceptions of a threat -- perceptions which have been drilled in over and over again -- are all that is necessary to justify a killing or injury by police.

I've long held that 90% or more of police homicides are unnecessary. If there were a different standard of police conduct and a different way of seeing situations (ie: not all hands to waistbands are reaching for a gun; indeed very few are. And even if they were, why should that be a death sentence to be performed by summary execution on the spot? Whatever happened to "due process?") there would be little or no necessity to use lethal force in the first place. If police were trained to see each situation independently (ie: a hand to waistband doesn't necessarily mean a gun will be pulled from said waistband) and not react to each situation as if a deadly threat were present, the number of police homicides could be cut immediately and substantially. If police were trained to be skeptical of dispatch reports based on 911 calls, the number of police homicides could be cut substantially and very quickly. If police were trained to actually assess a situation before going into it guns blazing, the number of police homicides could be cut substantially. If police commanders and chiefs said to their officers that inappropriate use of firearms will result in discipline up to and including termination, the number of police homicides could be cut substantially.

I could go on. The issue is that police are not expected to value any lives but their own, and even then, their self-valuation may be very low. They need to learn to value human life in general, and specifically to value the lives of those who have previously been determined to be disposable.

That day seems always to be far off, but somehow I know it is coming.

These reports that are being cited to justify the police murder of Tamir Rice are shameful, but they represent the state of police belief and practice as it is.

We must change it.

OT: Houses

Looks like quite an interesting place:

Las Milpas -- "The [Corn]Fields". I've passed by it any number of times without realizing it was there. It's set back quite a ways from the street, and I'm not at all sure you can even see it when passing by. For sale. $12.5 million. A sure thing. This is not the most expensive property I've ever seen listed in Santa Fe, but it's close to it. Some of the swells have that kind of money to be sure, but whether any of them would be willing to part with their lucre for an "authentic-historic" adobe (supposedly the only one on the Eastside) is an open question.

The listing says the house was built in 1886, well into the Territorial period, so I have a difficult time believing it was built the way it appears now -- a rather early colonial casa (c. 1700) that's been added to but only slightly modified over the years by people with plenty of money. Yes, this is a big place, and even in the 1880s a place like this would have cost a good deal to build and even more to maintain.

No, I suspect it was built as a fairly ordinary Victorian house -- modified for adobe construction and local weather conditions -- and then later (probably in the1920s) it was remodeled into the formative Spanish-Pueblo "Santa Fe Style" that nowadays makes Santa Fe into what's been called "Adobe Disneyland."

So I did a little  research and discovered that actually, Las Milpas was in fact remodeled in the 1920s and the current compound is a relatively recent renovation, remodel and expansion done by one of Santa Fe's show business elite in authentic early colonial style. Well, well, well. It's more like a setting for a movie that's now passing for a museum.

There are several house museums in the region (Casa San Ysidro, Las Golondrinas) that preserve something of the Spanish colonial era lifestyle for the edification of contemporary schoolchildren, scholars and visitors. I used to be fascinated with these sorts of places in California (where there are quite a few of them) and I enjoy the ones I've found in New Mexico.

We live in something of an Old House ourselves.

As I've mentioned previously, our house is a pioneer adobe, started about 1900 when this area was (finally) opened for settlement by the courts (including the Supreme Court) which extinguished competing land grant claims. Its style is not that of Santa Fe. It's pretty standard late Victorian, and the only way you'd know this is an adobe house is by the thick walls and deep window recesses. The adobe and stucco were covered with aluminum siding in the 1950s when the house was last remodeled. So friends who've come to visit sometimes have a hard time picturing its adobe-ness and antiquity.

Most people don't want to live in places like this because they're really pretty rough and can be hard to heat, cool and maintain. They're drafty, not well insulated (despite the legendary insulation properties of adobe), the floors creak, they're dusty and a home for spiders and other fauna, and in our case, there is no finished floor over most of the house. The subfloor (ancient and refinished) is the finished floor, and it's been that way from the get go.

Our pipes freeze regularly in the winter because of the lack of insulation on the one hand and our tendency to forget to run a stream of water through the pipes during particularly cold weather. Thankfully, the previous owner replaced the galvanized iron pipes with plastic that doesn't burst when the pipes freeze. Good move.

During particularly cold and windy weather, drafts come up through the floor and it can get very chilly at floor level. On the other hand, the heaters can generally defeat the drafts if they're on long enough -- which means that our utility bills can be pretty high, certainly much higher than they were in California. But then the tradeoff is that our basic housing expense is half or less of what it was in California.

We haven't tried to retro-remodel the place into something like it might have appeared when it was first constructed, though we have a lot of old stuff inside the house. I've thought about doing a major remodel retro-remodel, though.

If we did, our place would probably look something like this:

But when I checked on costs to do this kind of remodel some time ago, I found it was well beyond our budget. More than likely, it still is. The cost to do it is probably two or three times the value of the house in any case.

Some people have wondered why we live in this house when there ought to be others which would suit our needs -- possibly better than this house does  -- and not cost so much to maintain, heat and cool?

I was attracted to this house from the moment I saw its picture in the listing ten years ago, and when I visited and learned some of its history, I said, "This is the one." From the time I was little, I wanted to live in an adobe house. The idea of living in a house built from the earth itself appealed to me. The fact was that people had been making and living in such houses for thousands of years, and it seemed to me to be a thoroughly natural way to use available resources for shelter.

Indians in New Mexico had long used a form of adobe to build their pueblo communities, but they didn't -- generally -- use adobe bricks. Instead they built with hand-shaped "turtles" -- roundish masses surrounded with adobe mud. They also used puddled adobe and forms of construction which resembled pottery making.

When the Spanish came, brick making was introduced. It was revolutionary in the sense that it was much faster than the Indian way of building with adobe, but it didn't really change the nature of the structures that were built. Spanish colonial structures were generally separated rather than coalesced as was the case with many of the Indian pueblos that functioned as apartment buildings, but the nature of the structures built by the Spanish and those built by the Indians -- multiple rooms for housing and storage typically built around a plaza or courtyard -- were almost identical.

The main difference was the number of people (and animals) housed in any given compound and the finish and decoration of the resulting structures.

Las Milpas is intended to resemble a Spanish colonial compound that would have been built over a couple of centuries (say 1700-1900) by generations of a particular Spanish family. While it claims to be "authentic," it's actually an "authentic re-creation." It's not original, in other words.

However, as a re-creation, it's quite appealing. When I first saw the photos of the place, I was captivated. If only our place looked like that! Well, no. On second thought, no.

I think Las Milpas would be a very difficult place to live in.

It seems to ramble somewhat randomly -- which is (and isn't) "authentic." It doesn't appear to have modern heating (which might be a problem in the cold-cold Santa Fe winters.) I don't see a kitchen among the pictures at all (although there must be one, no? One is mentioned in the story. but maybe the cooking is fired by wood, and water is carried in jars from the acequia out back?) and only one bathroom is pictured. For some reason, I feel something of a shiver when I see it. Brr.

In other words, it seems like the effort to make it authentically historic has made it difficult or impossible to include modern conveniences. That's OK up to a point, but there comes a point where the discomfort level rises so much that almost nothing else matters...

No, let's not be quite so deliberately uncomfortable.

And yet Las Milpas has a very strong appeal -- to me. I think I would really like to imagine myself living there at some point in the long-ago. It reminds me in some ways of Mabel Dodge Luhan's Los Gallos house in Taos. That house was expanded from a core of four rooms to quite a large place in the 1920s, and it has a great deal of appeal to visitors and caretakers alike. It is "authentic" in the sense that it was built by Indian labor according to Indian designs (Tony Luhan was the builder-creator). But there are modern conveniences, and so the discomfort level is lessened.

If we ever do retro-remodel our own house, I suspect the result will be a sort of hybrid between high -- or low -- Victorian and Arts and Crafts. Box beams instead of vigas, for example, touches of stained glass, wood floors instead of ceramic tile, and probably fireplaces with mantles instead of the kiva style so popular in the Santa Fe tradition.

But that may be years away if it ever comes...

(I've been working on another post about houses I've lived in over the years that have been influential in the way I see things... one day I may find time to complete it and post it!)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Kunduz Hospital Atrocity

The number of killed and wounded at the Kunduz, Afghanistan hospital run by MSF is somewhat uncertain. Dozens are dead or injured, at any rate.

They were killed and wounded during a nighttime attack from above. At least one US AC-130 and possibly one or more helicopter gunships fired on the hospital's main building around 2am, largely destroying the hospital and causing significant death and injury to patients (some of whom are reported to have "burned in their beds") and to staff.

MSF has called the attack a war crime.

The Defense Department has characterized it as an "accident," or perhaps a "tragic" incident justified by reports of Taliban fighters using the site to fire on American and/or Afghan forces operating in the area to retake Kunduz from Taliban insurgents, yadda yadda.

MSF insists that there were no Taliban fighters on the grounds or in the hospital, and there was no firing from the compound before or during the attack.

Of course under the shadowy Rules of Engagement in Afghanistan and other theaters of our many overseas wars, it doesn't matter whether the reports of Taliban fighters using the grounds and hospital as positions from which to fire on American and Afghan forces are true or false. It only matters that there are reports of suspected enemy presence or action from such and such a location to unleash Death From Above. Confirmation is never required as actual confirmation might jeopardize a troop on the ground. Can't have that. Good heavens no.

Force protection is All Important. The deaths of untold numbers of civilians, and the destruction of protected infrastructure such as hospitals, power plants, water treatment and pumping plants, etc, matters far less (actually not at all) compared to the necessity to protect the force.

Such death and destruction is patently a war crime under various treaties, but it's routine in the US pursuit of Empire, and there is no plausible prosecutorial means to hold the Imperial forces liable. Much the same is true of Israel's actions in its attacks on Gaza. Israel routinely attacks and destroys protected sites and infrastructure, killing untold numbers of civilians and other protected individuals, and Israel justifies it through reference to reports of enemy action at or near these sites -- or doesn't bother justifying it at all, it just does it.

"Investigations" by the United States or Israel into these frequently repeated actions are typically farces which exist solely to exonerate those who conducted the operations. In any rational world they would be considered war crimes.

But we are not in a rational world.

We are in a world of illusion and deception, in which literally any presence or action -- or lack of action -- can be interpreted as a "threat" to Imperial forces, and such "threats" can be/will be suppressed with lethal force. There's nothing rational about it. It's all "gut" and "perception," illusion and deception. And above all, it's force protection. From phantoms.

I've compared these incidents with domestic police actions which result in death and destruction. It literally does not matter whether there is an actual threat involved in police use of lethal force. All that matters at law is that there is a perception of a threat -- or simply reports that there is a threat -- for domestic police forces to justify use of lethal force.

False or inaccurate reports are sufficient.

Thus, for example, John Crawford III and Tamir Rice were killed by police on the basis of false/inaccurate reports of 911 callers and dispatchers. It didn't matter what Crawford and Rice were really doing, nor did it matter that they weren't threats of any kind. All that mattered was that they were suspected and reported as potentially threatening.

That is sufficient justification for police use of lethal force in this country, and it is sufficient justification for military action overseas -- such as the constant drone attacks on "suspected militants," the frequent attacks on wedding parties by US forces and their allies, and the recent deadly attack on the Kunduz hospital.

In a rational world, they would be crimes against humanity.

But we are not in a rational world.

[Maybe some links later; busy day today.]