Friday, July 31, 2015


This is a video of an encounter with someone who appears to be Officer Tensing of the University of Cincinnati police department a little over a year ago when he had been on the job for just about a month:

What the actual fuck?

Why is he doing this? What does he think he will accomplish? Where does an officer's need to feed his ego and authority come from?

Ray Tensing is the officer who killed Sam Dubose in an incident very similar to this one. Ray Tensing is charged with murder but is out on bail because his father, a Cincinnati fireman, came up with the $100,000 surety on his son's million dollar bail. Tensing was fired from the UC police department but demands his job back.

 WCPO would like you to believe he was always polite...

Monday, July 20, 2015

So What Have We Learned From The Greek Thing -- So Far?

[NOTE: This post has been simmering for a number of days now, and it may be somewhat out of date. Oh well! ;-)]

The Greek Riot Dog, Loukanikos -- or rather his doppelganger -- was said to be spotted out and about the other day as the Greek Parliament prepared to debate the latest version of the capitulation to the Troika that was required in order to get financing to reopen their banks and get the economy moving in some direction other than full-speed reverse. There were a handful of clashes in the streets -- eagerly gobbled up by the media -- between riot police and "anti-establishment" protesters in Athens. Molotov cocktails were thrown, which is a sign of course that everything is going up in flames. Except no. The Greek Parliament had a pro-forma debate and passed the austerity measures demanded by the Troika in order "to open talks on a third bailout." The flames in Syntagma Square died out quickly enough. The Greeks went back to brooding; the rest of Europe went back to wondering WTF; the US went back to fretting over sharks and missing white women.

Typical summer news cycle. Nothing really happens in the summertime, you  know. It's all prep for what's coming After Labor Day. That's when things really get going again.

The Greek Spectacle has been fascinating to be sure, but from appearances, nothing has really happened at all... except, maybe... the cracks in the Euro-facade have become so wide, the Euro-Projekt may be facing disintegration sooner rather than later. The euro itself may become a currency curiosity. Greece will no doubt go through a period of increasing difficulty, but in the end, the Greeks may be able to show Europe a way out of its dilemma.

I keep thinking of what's been going on in Europe through the lens of how the United States of America was created. There are serious unresolved issues in Europe, much as there were in the nascent United States, and crises like those of the Ukraine and Greece are necessities if Europe is to become a united continent. Europe has not managed to unite though today there are celebrations of "unity" as one parliament after another agrees to go along with another unworkable and unsustainable Greek "bailout" measure. This fiction of unity is also a necessity on the path to real unity, and perhaps Greece will be able to show the rest of Europe a path out of its increasingly ridiculous -- and dangerous -- nonsense. Much the same way the Greek "bailout" is entirely fictional. There is no Greek bailout, never has been, at least not for the Greek people. There is instead a smoothing of the means of looting those people. Ah, but it's all for unity's sake, so it's all good. Right?

The USA was not actually united at the outset. It formed quite roughly as a collection of essentially independent states that originated as British North American colonies, and these colonies formed a less than perfect coalition at the outset of Independence in order to expel their British overlords. Once that was accomplished, the Confederation of essentially independent states (formerly colonies) had a period of difficulty as they floundered, unable to adopt or implement national policies -- because the initial version of the USA was not a nation. Not in the sense it needed to be. It was a coalition that barely functioned. We can argue at another time whether the notion of a nation was actually all that much of a good thing in the end, but the difficulties of governing the non-national confederation are mirrored in many ways by the difficulties Europe is experiencing as exposed by the Greek Thing and the many other economic, social, and political fractures and failures that have widened and worsened during the recent sturm und drang over so-called "bailouts" of the Periphery and Greece in particular.

It's not just the economic strain, though that is the leading indicator in Europe. It's ethnic, political, social, historic and geographical strain as well. Some of those factors may be more important in the underlying dynamic of what's going on than the economics of it all.

Perhaps the most united Europe ever was was during the period of the Roman Empire starting a couple of thousand years ago. More or less "primitive" tribal peoples (primarily Celts) in Western Europe were conquered and ruled by foreign -- mostly Italian -- overlords, under the banner of Imperial Rome. The subject peoples paid tribute and became civilized through their assimilation of Roman culture and technology, the spread of the Latin language and its use as a lingua franca, the imposition of pax romana and the relatively free flow of trade.

All of this led to a several hundred year period of relative peace and prosperity for the conquered yet relatively lightly ruled Celts of Gaul and the rest of the Western European empire. The problem -- the existential threat, in fact -- were the Franks (ie: French) and Allemani (ie: Germans) across the Rhine who were kept at bay by Roman and auxiliary Celtic troops until the empire withdrew and the savage horde descended on prostrate Europe, initiating the Dark Ages, yadda yadda -- at least as the tale has been handed down from the days of yore (Gibbon's "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" dates to 1776-89, roughly the period of the dis-unity of American Independence from Britain interestingly enough.)

I think we have a tendency to make too little of the ethnic divisions in Europe today. The population of Roman Gaul and western Europe was largely -- not exclusively -- ethically and culturally Celtic, which the Romans were quite familiar with having been invaded by Celts repeatedly over the centuries. Their languages and cultures were different, but not so different that either considered the other "un-human." The ones to be feared as "un-human" were the peoples across the Rhine, the Franks and Allemani along with other Germanics, ethnically and culturally dissimilar from either the Romans or the Celts, and constantly threatening to the peace and prosperity which had been established and maintained in western Europe under Roman rule.

As cruel as the Romans and Celts could be (and there is little doubt that both played a very cruel game with their own people) the Franks and Allemani were considered far crueler, far less inclined to mercy, far more rapacious, greedy, and destructive. The Romans and their Celtic allies built up cities -- many of which are still vibrant -- and trading outposts all over western Europe; the Franks and Allemani destroyed them, destroyed the networks of trade, killed the people, fought one another, and made misery for all their principal reason for being. At least that was the general fear of what would happen if they weren't kept at bay, and that was the reality much of western Europe experienced when the framework of Roman rule crumbled and the savage hordes swept over the Rhine and into the west.

The Empire shuddered and crumbled. Rome itself was taken and sacked by Germanic savages several times after 410 until ultimately Odoacer I deposed the last Latin Roman emperor Romulus Augustulus in 476... oh, the story has been told so many times, why repeat it here. After all, in due time, the Gothic usurper Theodoric had Odoacer deposed and -- they say -- personally cut him in half. How rude, but that's what was feared would happen if the Germanic hordes descended on the essentially Celtic west, and so it did.

As the empire shuddered and collapsed in the West, petty Germanic states were formed among the smoking ruins of formerly vital cities and towns, great estates that the Romans had established were seized and became the kernels of baronies and duchies and marches and counties. The native Celts were dispossessed, enslaved and/or killed in their multitudes. What few Romans there were were driven out or hacked to pieces.

Greece itself had become part of the Roman Empire long before the collapse. As part of Rome it had a special place, however. Greece paid tribute to Rome and a layer of Roman aristocrats nominally ruled, but in fact, the Greeks were relatively autonomous within the Empire. In the late empire, however, Greece was repeatedly invaded by Germanic savages, and Athens and Corinth as well a numerous Peloponnesian cities were looted by the Visigoths under Alaric. This was by no means the first taste Greeks had had of Germanic brutality and greed, but it was a shock to the system nonetheless.

Subsequently,  Greece became a province of the Eastern Roman Empire based in Constantinople and Greeks apparently prospered, at least until the 7th or 8th Century.

The Visigoths went off to what's now Spain and established kingdoms of a sort there and in North Africa.

While that didn't end the Germanic and Slavic threats to Greece, their destructive sojourns in the  Hellenic provinces tended to be brief so long as the Roman Empire persisted in Constantinople. Once the Roman Empire was extinguished by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, Ottoman rule replaced ostensibly Roman rule in Greece, and that rule continued until Greece obtained its independence 1828-1832 (with French, Russian, and British aid.)

"Greek Independence" is something of a fiction, however, as the newly freed (from the Turks) rump state had a relatively small population (far fewer than under Turkish rule). The Great Powers (France, Britain and Russia -- Germany didn't exist at the time) installed a Bavarian king whose Bavarian ministers taxed the locals more heavily than the Turks had, taxed them in order to pay off British and Rothschild bank loans. Sounds remarkably similar to the current situation.

Rather than go into the weeds any farther than I already have, I'd just point out that the newly "independent Greece" was from the first a vassal state of the Powers and their banks, impoverished and oppressed, its people exploited for the purpose of enriching a handful of domestic magnates and foreign interests.

As the situation is described in the Wikipedia:
Britain and the Rothschild bank, who were underwriting the Greek loans, insisted on financial stringency from Armansperg [the Bavarian finance minister installed as one of King Otto's regents during his minority]. The Greeks were soon more heavily taxed than under Turkish rule;[2] as the people saw it, they had exchanged a hated Ottoman tyranny, which they understood, for government by a foreign bureaucracy, the "Bavarocracy" (Βαυαροκρατία), which they despised. (Ottoman rule had been called in Greek Tourkokratia – Τουρκοκρατία, "Turkish rule").
In addition, the regency showed little respect for local customs. Also, as a Roman Catholic, Otto himself was viewed as a heretic by many pious Greeks, however, his heirs would have to be Orthodox according to the terms of the 1843 Constitution.[3]
Popular heroes and leaders of the Greek Revolution, like the Generals Theodoros Kolokotronis and Yiannis Makriyiannis, who opposed the Bavarian-dominated regency, were charged with treason, put in jail and sentenced to death. However, they were pardoned later, under popular pressure, while the Greek judges, who resisted the Bavarian pressure and refused to sign the death penalties (like Anastasios Polyzoidis and Georgios Tertsetis), were saluted as heroes.
And so on and so forth, as Slavoj Zizek would say.

Greece was effectively in revolt against these harsh impositions from the outset, and in certain ways, that revolt has never ceased. Nor have the impositions, often specifically German impositions (cf: Nazi invasion/occupation 1941-44.)

The current situation shows us that the Greek people despise the impositions from abroad, particularly by Germany. Their current government, however, agrees to these harsh impositions claiming there is no alternative, but suggesting that resistance is called for. The history of Greece and Europe shows us that the type models for the current untenable situation were established long ago -- some portion of the model going back to Roman or pre-Roman times -- and that Greek resistance of one sort or another has been a constant whenever foreign interests have failed to respect the dignity of the Greek people.

While the Greek government struggles to reach an acceptable accommodation with its creditors, the people of Greece are exploited impoverished by order from Berlin and Brussels. While the government of Greece demands that their oppressors relent. Their oppressors respond with blank stares and even harsher impositions. So it goes. The pattern has repeated many times, the Greek people have suffered and endured many times, and ultimately Greece and its people survive.

Europe struggles with its conscience, but so far has done nothing to ameliorate the situation in Greece, claiming rather insistently that they cannot do what must be done on behalf of Greece due to alleged legal constraints that prevent it.  Therefore Greece must suffer, regardless of anything else. "Rules" -- they say -- "are rules."

Advisors -- so called -- advocate Greek separation from the euro and even from Europe and repudiation of its odious debt, but so far the Greeks refuse to follow that advice, preferring to stay within the Eurozone and fight through the current situation using truth and reason versus the fantasy and cruelty that European powers believe is their only alternative.

That fight will be long by any measure, but it's had an effect on the stability of the European project. That project appears to be in the process of self-destructing -- with ample assistance from inside and outside.  On the other hand, there are many interests trying to hold it together under modified "rules," including Greece and (apparently) the United States.

So we'll see. The road is long, and even after five years of failure, we still seem to be at the beginning of the journey. Whatever the case, neither Greece nor Europe will ever be the same again. The "ringfence" around the Greek Thing has failed.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Tempest, Prometheus Bound, and The Greek Thing

We broke off yesterday from following the drama in Brussels over the Greek Thing and went into town (Albuquerque in this instance) to attend a performance of Shakespeare's "The Tempest," far and away my favorite Shakespeare play.

It was fascinating, really, because the production was done as a summer youth project by middle and high school students, and I thought they carried it off well -- all things considered. In addition, most of the male roles were played by girls, some of them quite young. Prospero in fact was played by a female (which has become something of A Thing in the theater lately).

"The Tempest" was probably Shakespeare's last play, dating from about 1603, and it deals with issues and themes of wrongs done, forgiveness extended, reconciliation, love, freedom and... magic. To me the play is a surprise practically every step of the way because often what you might expect to happen is turned upside down through Prospero's magic, Ariel's intervention, Caliban's frustrations, and so on. The resolution seems rather, pat perhaps even formulaic, but it leaves one with something to ponder, too, that even in the worst of circumstances, one's ability to forgive wrongs done matters more than one's urge toward vengeance.

The characters stare into the abyss, in other words, and the abyss stares back. Rather than fall in, they change.

And that change leads to a new dawn and new reality.

Well, if that didn't have something to do with The Greek Thing and what needs to happen -- but hasn't yet -- I'd want to know the reason why.

On the other hand, in some of the consideration of what's been going on with regard to Greece and Europe, the ancient Greek drama of "Prometheus Bound" by Aeschylus has been mentioned as a type-model for the nearly impossible struggle Alexis Tsipras and the Greek people have been engaged in with the Euro-creeps and Euro-crats.

"Prometheus Bound" is a surprisingly short and quite stunning play, certainly one of the masterpieces of Ancient Greek drama. Breathtaking in its tragic implications for those who would do good in the world and good for mankind.

Prometheus is a Titan who steals fire from Olympus and gives it to humans for their use. This angers Zeus who has Prometheus chained to a rock and sets a harpie to eating out his liver -- which re-grows every night, so the harpie comes every day to eat Prometheus's liver again. Through this torture and sadism -- for that's all it is -- Prometheus defends his actions on behalf of humankind and condemns Zeus and the Olympian gods as usurpers (which they are), hypocrites and deceivers (which they also are).

Here's an interpretation of the drama done in Brussels (how appropriate) in 2010 (in French, a little over an hour long):

Prométhée enchaîné - José Besprosvany from focus live on Vimeo.

And here's another version, animated, only 12 minutes or so, in English:

PROMETHEUS BOUND from Manatee Idol on Vimeo.

"Prometheus Bound" was the first of a trilogy of short plays dealing with the myth of Prometheus, the other two being "Prometheus Unbound" and "Prometheus the Fire-Bringer." The other plays only survive as fragments, but according to scholarship, in the end, Prometheus is released from his chains by Herakles, and he eventually reconciles with Zeus after warning him of danger to his rule of Olympus.

The parallels with the current situation between Greece and the European powers is not exact, of course, but the echoes and necessities are surely there. The most recent iteration of  "negotiations" and an "agreement" between Greece and its creditors have led to a realization that the Euro-project, and potentially the European Union itself, are likely to be extinguished in the not too distant future due to the intransigence, greed, and pure venom of the Germans.

This won't end well, in other words.

But eventually, in both "The Tempest" and the Prometheus Trilogy, a way is found to reconcile.

Will it be found in Europe before a tragic conclusion?

In essence, it must be.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

SYRIZA'S Rise and Alexis Tsipras as a New Model European Hero

What's been happening in Greece since the election of a "radical leftist" SYRIZA coalition last January has truly been one of the most dramatic episodes in European history. Even more dramatic is what's been happening in the rest of Europe.

The old ways are being shattered, but their replacements aren't entirely clear from this distance. What is crystal clear is that the way things have operated in Europe and Greece for a generation or more -- at least since the fall of the Berlin Wall -- cannot and will not be sustained any longer. The damage done by the nearly universal adoption of neo-liberal economic models and their mindless imposition by governments and quasi-governments throughout Europe and beyond must, without exception, end.

Greece had been the laboratory for the cruelest impositions of the mindless Euro-crats -- cruelties which have not ended by any means, cruelties which may in fact get worse before there is any substantive change in Europe -- but with the strong rejection of the European demands on Greece in the recent referendum, the Greek people were able to reverse the roles and begin to take the reins of Fate from the hands of their tormenters.

All this has met with a barrage of criticism, from the left, right and center, in large measure because the critics don't understand what's going on from either the perspective of "Europe" or from the Greek point of view. The critics see things through their own lenses -- which may have nothing at all to do with how the players in this drama are seeing and experiencing things, and likely has nothing to do with the goals and objectives of those players.

Tsipras and SYRIZA have taken the worst beating from the critics. After all, they're the new kids on the block, they're inexperienced at governing, and they're the weakest players with hardly any leverage against the Titans who rule. Critics have claimed they have neither Plan A nor Plan B for getting through the turmoil and that the situation in Greece has deteriorated markedly since the installation of Tsipras and the SYRIZA government. A "responsible" and "adult" government would have surrendered abjectly and without reservation to the demands of the Troika from Day One, and by doing so, it would have (somehow) "saved" Greece from the dire straits it is now in.

Barring that, a truly "radical" and "revolutionary" Greek government, which SYRIZA claimed to be, runs the other side of the critical game, would have got into office and taken a measured, step-by-step approach to leaving the eurozone, repudiating its debts altogether, and marching to the rhythm of its own drummer -- from Day One. Doing so might have put Greece in dire straits, but those straits would be brief, and like Argentina or Iceland, Greece would emerge from the worst of it shortly and better off than before.

Tsipras and SYRIZA have done neither, and so critics have become almost hysterical in their denunciations and condemnations. They are doing it wrong!!! The claim further is that Tsipras and SYRIZA are just bungling their way from one level of crisis to another, literally throwing away opportunity after opportunity to change the dynamic and "save people's lives." Etc.

They don't know what they're doing, they don't have a plan, and what they are doing is making matters categorically worse, every day in every way.

 Except that every day the repercussions in Europe for the actions of the Euro-Titans have been profound and growing in intensity. As the inabilities of the Euro-Titans to come to a resolution of the crisis drag on, the cruelties of the impositions on Greece by a German-led cohort of Europe are manifest and are ever-less acceptable. Germany and its friends are more and more isolated, more and more under pressure, more and more irrational. Making this case clearly -- that Germany was the problem in Europe, not Greece -- was one of SYRIZA'S prime objectives, and it was made explicitly clear in a gathering of "subversives" in Croatia (or was it Slovenia) in May of 2013, video of which was posted online at the time.

It's rather remarkable to listen to this presentation by Alexis Tsipras and Slavoj Zizek in 2013 and compare it to what the Greek government has been doing since taking office in January of 2015. Clearly Tsipras and SYRIZA had a plan in 2013, and to the extent it has been possible to do so, they have been implementing it step-by-step since coming into office.

Their goal, from the beginning, was to "change Europe" -- because they believe sincerely that the model of Europe as it has been implemented is simply wrong and destructive and must be changed for the well-being not only of Greece but of the people of Europe as a whole. Greece has been a neo-liberal laboratory which has failed to produce the results promised. People are therefore suffering for no rational reason. Germany is the problem, for most of the worst and cruelest of the impositions on the Periphery -- including Greece -- have been demanded and designed in Berlin. This situation simply must change, and it cannot change by continuing to take orders from Berlin, orders that are impossible to fulfill.

Nowadays, all this seems self-evident to everyone, but in those days it wasn't. There was tremendous faith in the neo-liberalization of Europe, and while Greece and the rest of the Periphery might be experiencing temporary "pain," it was for a good cause. In the end, whenever that end came, Greeks and the rest of the Peripherals would be better off and would be thankful for the reforms that had been instituted.

Even now, there are those who claim that what is being done to Greece and the Periphery is Necessary and Good.

But those voices are fewer and fewer. The obvious truth -- a truth which until the rise of SYRIZA must never be uttered -- is that the cruel impositions on Greece and the rest of the Periphery are Unnecessary and Bad. Downright evil in fact. Yes, the right word is Evil.

While there have always been critics of the neo-liberalization of Europe, there has not been, until now, a European government so intent on exposing the lies and the cruelties and the unnecessary evil of the neo-liberal deceivers in Berlin and Brussels, certainly nothing like Alexis Tsipras and the SYRIZA coalition going head to head with the Troika in any and every venue they can manage.

They are heroes in the classic sense, doing daily battle with much more powerful forces and exposing the fraud of the neo-liberal project in Europe in every single contest. The Titans are trembling.

And in Brussels both yesterday and so far today, they are paralyzed.

Their programmatic cruelties toward Greece are almost fully exposed as selfish and irrational and destructive. The "rules" of Europe simply make no sense. The entire Euro-Project lacks reason and humanity. None of it can be sustained.

Greece is going through a period of intensifying suffering it is true, but with the referendum last weekend, the Greeks took the initiative away from the Troika, took possession of their own fate, owning whatever would come their way, and bewilderingly to the critics, they put their faith and trust in the ability of Tsipras and SYRIZA to find a way to a better future. The standard narrative is that by making essentially the same proposal to Europe that the Greek people had overwhelmingly rejected in the referendum, SYRIZA and Tsipras had betrayed the People -- and they should resign forthwith.

Except that's not how the Greeks see it.

There have been protests, it's true, but there are no riots in the streets (unlike the situation during previous governments and their capitulations to the Troika when there were intense and sustained street battles). The Greek people seem to understand how this is playing out -- and what SYRIZA is doing -- something the critics can't fathom to save their lives.  The Greeks have presented a strategic surrender, the fourth or fifth "capitulation" since SYRIZA's rise to power. None of the previous capitulations have been accepted by the Euro-Titans, and it looks like this one will not be accepted either -- but we'll see about that.

The Euro-Titans are paralyzed. They cannot act, not for good and not for ill, as the stalemate in Brussels can't be broken. At least not yet.

A strategic surrender puts Europe on the spot. So far, Europe lacks the wisdom to accept -- something no doubt Tsipras and SYRIZA knew would happen. Germany is still the problem, and Germany has never demonstrated wisdom or compassion or basic human understanding in the situation. German bullying and bull-headedness has worsened the situation in Greece, and continuation on the German path will quite likely lead to the destruction of the Euro-Project. That outcome may be necessary to cause the kind of transformation of Europe that the Greeks are aiming for.

 This is the video of a two hour conversation between Alexis Tsipras and Slavoj Zizek in Zagreb, Croatia, May 15, 2013 at the 6th Annual Subversive Festival. Compare what they say with what Tsipras and SYRIZA have been doing since January of 2015.

An unintentional hero is one who does what's right, come what may.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Greek Thing

I haven't had much to say about the Greek Thing -- or that much of anything -- lately due to the fact that so much of the reporting about it has been based on rumor, insult, innuendo, and advice, not on whatever is actually happening at all.

Much of it is absolutely captivated with the sayings of various heavy-hitter-players in the drama with no particular interest in the consequences to ordinary Greek people -- who have been suffering mightily under the lash of a bunch of wilding Euro-Creeps, the men and women of the Institutions wielding the instruments of the financial torture of the Greek People on behalf of... whom? Who is profiting from all this suffering?

You know that somebody is.

Yesterday, however, was the referendum on the question of whether to accept the terms of the Euro-Creeps for more austerity which has been wrongly (deliberately wrongly) termed a "Greek Bailout." There's been no hint of a Greek bailout since the start of the crisis all those many years ago. The bailout, such as there's been one, has been of the banks that lent Greece money it couldn't pay back, and of the Titans of Europe, the Troika, the "Institutions" which made the banks whole and which are now demanding the Greeks make them whole on a bunch of loans that shouldn't have been made in the first place, most of them "odious" by any rational standard.

The referendum was considered to be running neck and neck right up to the point where the initial results came in showing a 60/40 No (OXI) to Yes (NAI) vote. It was not neck and neck, it was not even close. The pre-vote polling was wildly wrong, but that's been typical of the reporting too. The overwhelming sentiment among the Greek people is to reject -- in no uncertain terms -- the threats, ultimatums and harsh impositions from Brussels and Berlin and do what it takes to achieve a decent resolution to the crisis.

Brussels and Berlin are apparently not in the mood for a decent resolution, and they have never cared a whit about the dignity -- let alone the survival -- of the Greek People. The impasse remains. But the Greeks have finally taken matters far enough into their own hands that they have options they did not have when they were yoked tightly to the demands of their creditors putting the lives of ordinary Greeks in jeopardy, and the well-being of many Greeks in the toilet.

We'll see whether the Titans of Europe come to their senses. I doubt they will. Instead, they are likely to seek titanic levels of vengeance -- just as they have blustered and threatened all along. Defiance is to be punished. But the time comes when defiance, sustained defiance, is the right course, and all I can say for the moment is that the Greek defiance is a thrilling sight to see.

The Titans may not be tameable, but the Greeks have already gone far to undermining their authority and turning back the fear with which they rule. The gods will have to deal with their creatures in time, and that time is drawing nigh.

The Greeks just might save civilization one more time... or at least give it a boost.

Sunday, July 5, 2015


This will be a somewhat different post on my father's birthday than I've done before.

In the past year, I've done a lot of ancestral research and I've found out a lot of things I didn't know before while I've confirmed quite a bit of what I was told as well. By the time I was born, all my grandparents were dead, and I didn't grow up around uncles and aunts and cousins. I knew that they existed -- and had no idea how close they were -- but I never saw them, never knew them, with the exception of my father's sister Alice and her husband Max and their son Bob. I have long known there were quite a few others, but I didn't know they were living as close by as they were -- in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, San Francisco and other parts of the Bay Area, and in the Sacramento area. My father and his sisters Alice and Eleanor are the only ones who stayed in Iowa.

But the problem is I'm not sure now if he was my biological father. If he wasn't, as I suspect he might not have been, it would go far toward explaining some of what I thought were simply his quirks and later neglectfulness.

He was born on the banks of the Mississippi River on the 5th of July 1901. I'm sure it was hotter than holy hell that day. He was the second son of his parents, William Henry and Elizabeth Veronica. Elizabeth would go on to have ten children altogether, the last, a son, Eugene, born in 1916. Nine of her children would live to adulthood. A middle daughter, Marian, was killed when she was 12 or 13 due to a sledding accident. A boy came sledding down the hill at great speed. Marian didn't get out of the way fast enough, and the sled hit her in the head. She was dead on the scene.

William Henry was an attorney, farmer, real estate magnate, and a minor politician in Eastern Iowa, with clients in several counties along the Mississippi. He himself had been born to Irish parents, James and Alice, who had come from Ireland in the 1840s and 50s, just before and just after the Famine. I'd been told stories that the Irish side of the family had emigrated to America in the 1600s, to Maryland where they became prominent and were heavily involved in the Revolution and the establishment of the independent United States of America, which made my father's birth on the Fifth of July a kind of coda to the whole matter of American Independence.

This turned out to be melarky. Quite some time ago, I started researching that history, and found that no matter how I tried, I couldn't make a direct connection with the prominent Maryland family and my own. In other words, I couldn't find any of my supposed Maryland ancestors who'd gone West, through Virginia and Ohio and eventually settled in Iowa. The names were different as were their directions of travel. I let the issue sit for a while because I thought there might have been an ancestor whose name I didn't know, and who might not have been mentioned along with the others. I didn't know whether there was an unfound connection or not.

But then when I did the research on my father's ancestors I came across the records that showed that my father's grandfather, James, had emigrated from Ireland with his father Alexander (and perhaps a brother Edward and other relatives, I'm not sure) in either 1842 or 1850. The stories I found in county histories used one or the other date, and census records used 1850 when the question was asked. Nowhere near the 1688 date I'd been told. The confusion of dates (1842 or 1850?) may be because there were two waves of immigration by members of the family and who came when wasn't necessarily clear to later historians, scholars, students -- and family members. Be that as it may, I found there was no direct connection between my ancestors and the Maryland family of the same name, although there may have been an ancestral connection between them in Ireland prior to 1688 (that's still a matter of much murk, as the history in Ireland is a tangled mess...)

Regardless of the fact that the family origin in Maryland was wrong, the story of the journey from Maryland to Ohio and thence to Iowa was pretty much right. Soon after landing in Baltimore in 1842 -- or 1850 -- they commenced to travel west -- doubtless on the B & O Railroad if they could afford it or on the parallel National Road if they couldn't pay the train fare -- to the area around Springfield, Ohio, where they took up farming for several years before moving on to the then-Frontier of Scott County, Iowa, where they settled in 1856-7 on several farms between Princeton and LeClaire.

As far as I could tell, the whole family as well as others who weren't blood relations but who were somehow connected with the family moved en masse from Ohio to Iowa.  The story was that they moved because the "opportunities" were better in Iowa.

This is a fairly typical story of western migration at the time. I found in my studies of the Gold Rush to California that people in established communities in the east, particularly in upstate New York, Indiana, and Ohio, would pull up stakes and head west to the gold fields of California -- despite the fact that they were doing relatively well where they were. In fact, they had to be doing relatively well where they were because heading west was so expensive, rather startlingly expensive it seems to me. They had to have money to begin with, or they couldn't have made the trip, whether to California or simply to the other side of the Mississippi River.

These were not, in other words, hardy, hardscrabble Pioneers. They were for the most part well-established, successful and well-off members of noted families in well-settled communities.

So it would seem to have been with my father's ancestors who moved from Ohio to Iowa in the mid-1850s. The farms they took up in Scott County provided them with a handsome enough income that their offspring could go to college and in many cases become lawyers and/or growers (the next generation kept the farms) and become political players in their communities -- which stretched from Davenport to Clinton and beyond.

This was the family my father was born into.

His mother, Elizabeth, was the daughter of German immigrants -- Reinhold and Veronica -- who arrived in this country from different parts of Germany in 1855. Actually, there wasn't a Germany at the time, only German kingdoms, states and principalities, all nominally independent. Reinhold left his home town of Waibstadt (he spelled it "Weibstadt" which made it very difficult for me to find it as I was doing research) -- between Heidelberg and Heilbronn in the province (then-Kingdom) of Baden -- now Baden-Wurttemberg -- in 1854 when he was 14. He made it to Le Havre, France, and arrived in New York in 1855. He lived in New York, in Brooklyn, until 1863 when he took out citizenship papers and moved to Iowa as a carpenter on the Chicago and North Western Railroad, where he lived and worked the rest of his life.

His wife, Veronica, came from Koblenz, (then spelled Coblenz) on the Rhine, in what was then a Prussian province. So far as I can tell, her family were Jewish conversos to Catholicism. The story was that Reinhold's family were also originally Jewish, but I've found no convincing evidence that is so. However, almost all the families in the Koblenz area of Germany that shared Veronica's maiden last name were Jewish, so I think it is likely she was descended from conversos even if he wasn't.

According to the story I was told, Veronica never learned English, and so she was never able to easily communicate with her offspring.

Reinhold died in 1901, two weeks after my father was born, so my father never knew his German grandfather, and he could barely communicate with his German grandmother. Veronica died in 1918, possibly a victim of the Spanish flu.

By 1918, my father was a 2nd Lieutenant in the recently organized Iowa Expeditionary Force training for deployment in Europe. He and his troops would never go to Europe, as the Armistice would be signed before their training was done, but the experience of drilling with his troops on the town's central square was always a thrill to him, something he looked back on fondly, even though he was barely 17 years old at the time.

He went to the University of Iowa starting in 1920 to study law. His older brother Vincent was already there in the Dentistry School, but somehow, Vincent got a law degree, too. My father graduated from the University of Iowa in 1924. This I knew. There was no secret about it. But I found something else, something startling as heck to me. Whether it was a secret, I can't be sure, but it is something I knew nothing of before last year.

My father got married on his 21st birthday in Davenport at St. Mary's Rectory to a woman named Bernice (called by her middle name Evelyn) who was from Iowa City, and they remained married for at least 10 years. I had no idea. None.

This first marriage was never mentioned to me at all, and I would have known nothing about it if I hadn't stumbled on the records -- including marriage certificate and 1925 Iowa census and 1930 federal census -- that my father was married to Bernice/Evelyn. They had no children, and by 1935 were no longer wed. My father was actually married to someone else in 1935, a woman named Thelma from Waterloo, Iowa. I knew about her because she was the mother of my half-brother Terry. She died shortly after Terry was born, probably from an infection, but the cause of her death was never entirely clear to me. Her death was devastating to my father. He kept her close in his heart and memory for the rest of his life.

Terry, it would later be discovered, suffered from what is now called autism, but then he was categorized as an "idiot savant" when it was recognized that there was something wrong with him. Shortly after his birth and the death of his mother, he was given to my father's older brother Vincent and Vincent's wife Garla.They raised him as their own son.

My father and his wife Bernice/Evelyn and Vincent and his wife Garla had been very close during the 20s and 30s. They had lived and worked together as a kind of team in Iowa and Illinois (I had known nothing about the Illinois venture, either) doing primarily real estate title work. At some point, Vincent shifted from a dentistry to law major at U of I, and he became a lawyer. I don't know when that happened. Later, after Bernice/Evelyn was out of the picture, my father and Vincent and Garla shared the same house in Iowa (c. 1940) and continued working together at the family law firm. Terry was listed in that census as Vincent and Garla's son.

Later, Vincent and Garla would move out of town, apparently to one of the farms owned by the family. William Henry, my father's father, died in 1940, and I suspect the farm that Vincent and Garla moved to was part of their inheritance, just as the house in town where my father lived was part of his inheritance.

In 1946, Garla... died.

Exactly what happened was never entirely clear. Vincent said he came home one morning from spending the night with his mistress Pauline in town, and he found Garla dead at the foot of the stairs.

According to the medical examiner, her body was covered with bruises, and it was in his opinion highly unlikely that she had died by accident. Vincent was arrested and charged with her murder.

I had been told of his arrest and trial and acquittal, but I hadn't known that there were two trials, as the first ended with a hung jury. Terry was a witness to whatever happened, but he was not allowed to testify as he was ruled incompetent. In the second trial, however, he was interviewed in chambers, and subsequently the judge directed a verdict of acquittal -- it was reported in the newspapers as a unanimous not-guilty verdict, but my father's detailed version of what happened said the verdict was directed from the bench. This indicates to me that Terry's testimony -- which wasn't described by my father, as he was not in chambers when Terry was interviewed -- essentially verified that Vincent hadn't done it. Who did, or if anyone did, is unclear. My suspicion is that Terry may have been the one who caused Garla's death, assuming it wasn't an accident.

I learned, too, that soon after his acquittal, Vincent moved to Santa Barbara where he married Pauline. He practiced law in Santa Barbara until his death in 1961. I had no idea he was there. From 1949 to 1953, I lived in Santa Maria, just up the road from Santa Barbara, but I had no idea Vincent was so nearby.

Vincent was mentioned but my understanding was that he stayed in Iowa. Not so according to the records.

My parents met in 1944 at McClellan Field in Sacramento, and they were married in 1947 in San Francisco (or possibly in Reno. They honeymooned in San Francisco at any rate.) Both my mother and father were serving in the Army Air Corps when they met, my mother as a medical technician, my father as a training officer.

In 1945, my mother sent a letter to my father saying she had just given birth to stillborn twin daughters fathered by himself. He kept the letter for the rest of his life, and I found it among his papers after his death. I had no idea, of course, that any such birth -- stillborn or not -- had taken place as it was never mentioned by my mother or father.

My suspicion is that she actually had an abortion, but I have no way of knowing for sure. Her subsequent story was that she contracted polio and had to leave the armed forces before the end of the war, but according to the letter, she was forced to leave the WAACs in 1945 because she was pregnant. The story that she told about having polio was -- I believe -- false. In fact, I never believed it was true, though I didn't know about her pregnancy until after my father died in 1969.

My mother and older sister moved to Iowa after my parents were married in 1947. I was conceived shortly after they arrived in December of 1947. I was born in August of 1948, and my parents were divorced in May of 1949. My mother then drove back to California in my father's 1942 Packard Clipper (with infant me in the backseat) which she received as part of the divorce settlement. She got the car, $1000 in cash, and $50 a month child support for me until I was 18 (or possibly 21). My sister took the train back to California.

My mother lived as a single mother from then on.

My father came to visit once, in 1951. I thought he came specifically to visit me/us... but now I think not. He had relatives all up and down California at the time, in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, San Francisco and elsewhere in the Bay Area. Now I think he merely stopped by to visit me and my mother, but he was actually in California to visit his many other relatives. His child support payments subsequently became erratic, and he would only pay if my mother called and pestered him. Ultimately, he stopped paying child support altogether, and no amount of cajoling could get him to pay any more.

I was sent to stay with him in Iowa during the summers of 1961 and 62. During that time, he told me many things, and one of them -- that I paid little attention to at the time -- was that no one in his family had red hair. My mother did, however, and obviously, I must have inherited my red hair from her... except it takes two red-head genes to have a red-headed offspring, and he was telling me that he didn't know of any other red-headed family members... ohhhh, it finally dawned on me, he was obliquely pointing out that he might not actually be my father at all.

He never questioned my paternity outright, but after 1951 I had very little contact with him (phone calls at Christmas and/or my birthday some years, other years, nothing), and those two summers in 1961 and 62 that I spent in Iowa were followed by very little contact. After 1966, there was none at all. He wouldn't answer his phone and he wouldn't respond to letters. I contacted his sister Alice who lived down the street from him, and she said even she rarely saw or spoke to him. He had become a hermit.

Now I think it is possible that he discovered or decided that he was not my biological father when he came to visit in 1951 which was the reason for his subsequent erratic contact and support.

If I was not his son -- except legally -- then he would have little reason to be particularly interested or supportive...

His quip about no one else in his family having red hair was the tip-off -- which of course I didn't understand at the time. I was not familiar with the genetic requirements of red-headedness, and it didn't occur to me until quite a bit later that he might have been suggesting that he wasn't my father, not biologically.

If he wasn't my biological father, who might have been?

There are a couple of potential candidates, friends of my father's, one of whom at least I know was a red-head -- as he represented my father's estate and I worked with him for months after my father's death to settle his affairs.

My mother had often mentioned him -- that friend and fellow attorney -- fondly as one of the only people in Iowa she got along with when -- briefly -- she lived there.

I know his name, but I won't mention it here, as he had a large family of his own, and it wouldn't really be fair to them to suggest that he might have been my biological father -- without any evidence other than a "possibility."

The reason for my parents' divorce was stated as mental cruelty, but according to my mother, the precipitating cause was that one night my father got drunk and got into bed with my 14 year old sister which terrified her. My mother filed for divorce within a week. My father didn't contest it.

Forever afterwards, my sister held a grudge against my father -- if he was my father -- and she considered him beneath contempt. My mother, on the other hand, was more or less ambivalent about him, and after he had a heart attack in 1955, they seriously considered reconciling and re-marrying. But it didn't happen.

The sticking point may have been her refusal to return to Iowa under any circumstances and his reluctance to live in California -- despite having so many relatives in the state.

Or it may have been something else, I'm not sure. All I recall is that the two of them were considering getting back together, and I thought it was pretty exciting. I was annoyed that it didn't happen.

It was considered highly unusual for a single mother to live independently in suburban Southern California at the time, in fact, it was almost unheard of. While I had no urge to live in Iowa, I was eager for my father to re-join his family in California. I don't know for sure why it didn't happen, but I do know that at the time, my father was looking after another sister, Eleanor, who was crippled with scoliosis. She was his secretary at his law office and lived upstairs in his house. His son, Terry, didn't stay with Vincent after the death of his wife Garla but was placed with another family who were friends of my father's in town. They looked after him until they could no longer do so due to their own age and infirmity. Terry was then placed in a state hospital (I'm not sure which one -- there was one near Dubuque and one near Davenport) where I assume he spent the rest of his life. I'm not certain, but I think he died in 1972 at the state hospital, but I have so far been unable to confirm it. My memory is hazy, but I believe I got a letter from the attorney who had handled my father's estate -- the attorney who might be my biological father -- saying that my half-brother had passed away.

At any rate, in 1955, my father was taking care of his sister Eleanor and was responsible for the care of his older son, so I suspect that he felt he couldn't leave Iowa to re-marry my mother and live in California.

There are still many unknowns in this story, unknowns I may never learn the truth of, but over the last year I've learned a great deal about my father and his life that I knew little or nothing of prior to plunging into ancestral research last year. I will no doubt continue to refer to him as "my father" even if, as may be, he was not my biological father. It hardly makes a difference since the man I suspect may have been my biological father never suggested he was nor did my mother ever suggest to me that the man I thought was my father might not have been.

My father died in January of 1969; my mother died in 1987; and my sister died in 1993. I'm not certain when my brother died, but I suspect it was in 1972.  I discovered in my research that I had cousins living in Sloughhouse near Sacramento until 2009 when the last one died; I had no idea. I knew about two aunts living in the San Francisco area, but I never knew exactly where, and I didn't know until recently that there was a third aunt in the Bay Area as well.

I discovered that one aunt had lived within half-a-block of my own apartment in San Francisco, though not at the same time that I lived there, and that her husband had been the manager of the Geary Theatre where I was employed when I lived in San Francisco, though I was unable to determine if he was there when I was working there (I think not, though his name was vaguely familiar when I first learned it.)

I made many other discoveries and found many other connections and linkages that I'd known nothing of previously, some of which I may detail here.

It's all been an extraordinary journey for me that I'm still attempting to fathom. So many Americans know so little about their own heritage and ancestry. Many of the stories we may have been told -- if we've been told anything -- are likely false. On the other hand, many other stories may simply be incomplete, either because the story-tellers don't know the details or because they purposely leave out details.

I relied on the Google and, along with for primary resources. Ancestry and Newspaper Archive are both paid services, neither of which are complete -- or cheap for that matter -- but from them I have gained a great deal of information, including my father's previously unknown first marriage.

About that marriage: Bernice/Evelyn went back to Iowa City at some point after 1932, and she lived there until whenever she died, sometime after 1969. I wasn't able to find a death date for her, but she was apparently a valued employee at the University Hospital until she passed away. She had been a University Hospital employee when my father met her in 1921. They married in 1922. My mother met my father at the base hospital at McClellan Field in 1944. They married in 1947. I wonder if my father's other wife, Thelma, had also been a hospital worker before they were married...

So many questions... sometimes so easy, other times so difficult, to find answers...

Saturday, June 20, 2015

They Made Him Do It


There are problems with this summer's story of Dylann Roof (apparently pronounced "Rauff") and his killing spree at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, and yet there's a tremendous amount of symbolism involved in it, too.

Of course it's yet another incidence of mass murder by a white male American, one of hundreds over the years. Another day, another massacre. It's American as apple-pie, and according to opinion leaders, there is nothing that can be done about it. Too bad, so sad. Next?

"This is a violent country" -- supposedly -- and "this is a violent culture." Well, yes, true enough. But to then claim that "nothing can be done" about it is just silly. To claim that because elected leaders won't do anything about it, and courts essentially make things worse that therefore nothing can be done is crazy.

I pointed out in another venue that some of the commentary surrounding this mass murder in Charleston recognized that Dylann Storm Roof had for all intents and purposes been granted permission to kill Negroes by systems of impunity for murder of black folks, operating ever single day in this country, and generally involving police committing acts of summary execution -- such as the killing of Walter Scott in North Charleston only a few weeks ago.

Officer Slager is accused of murder in the case of Mr. Scott, and he is apparently being held in the cell next to Roof. 

I must qualify a lot of my comments in this post with the term "apparently" because -- apparently -- a lot of the "information" being spread by the media is false. The spreading of false information by media would ordinarily be considered propaganda, but this is a summer news cycle, and during the summer news cycle, false narratives are routinely produced and spread regarding pretty much any topic, false fears are generated (sharks, missing white women), false tales are spun. It's the way the "news" business is organized and operated. Just as the major mass media tends to take the weekends off and produce little or no "news" on Saturdays and Sundays, so the media uses the summer for a vacation from seriousness... It's been this way for generations, and there is little sign of breaking with this tradition.

Thus we need to maintain skepticism in the face of whatever is being said or shown about this mass murder or any other story that is featured in the major mass media over the summer (or really at any other time, but that's another issue.) False information and false narratives are all but guaranteed.

What we can point to with some degree of certainty is that while Negroes continue to be gunned down by police with almost complete impunity, every now and then someone is caught and/or held to answer for doing so, and two of them are being held right now in the North Charleston, SC, jail.

We can also point to the fact that white men who kill Negroes are treated with respect, courtesy and dignity. They are protected by the System. Negroes, on the other hand, are mostly treated like disposable or surplus... animals. They are not simply shot on sight -- though that happens with some regularity -- they are warehoused in vast numbers in America's astonishingly cruel, brutal and exploitative prison-industrial system. They are the meat which feeds the system of injustice in this country. White men who kill Negroes simply don't face the kinds of consequences Negroes face for being alive in this country.

In this case, Dylann Roof was apprehended while armed in North Carolina some 14 hours after he shot and killed nine parishoners at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston. He was reported to have been apprehended "peacefully," though he was reported to be armed. He was taken into custody and provided with a bulletproof vest for his perp-walk on his way to being flown back to Charleston, some 220 miles from his apprehension point.

This sequence was staged for the cameras, and what was so striking about it to me was that Roof was being protected throughout. There was no violence in his treatment at all. A black man in similar circumstances would have been treated roughly -- if, that is, he wasn't shot on sight. That's simply the way "justice" works in the USA. And hardly anyone would consider it unusual.

The message is clear: law enforcement exists to protect the white folks and to suppress the Other.

That's its primary function. When we see such stark examples of it, many people don't even notice.

One aspect of the mass murder that has been extensively reported (though who knows whether it's true?) is that Roof apparently told his victims: "I have to do this. You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country, and you have to go.”

In other words, "You Negroes are making me do this..."

This is a historical claim that has been used for centuries to justify oppression and lynching and all sorts of depredations of Africans and African Americans, the quinessence of victim blaming. The Negro doesn't have to actually do anything to be accused of forcing the white man to act against Negroes who rape white women and would take over the country if they could -- if they weren't being killed and suppressed by heroic police and white vigilance.

They made him do it...

Isn't that always the case though? Whether the excuse is "reaching for his waistband" or being reported to be armed or any number of other supposed "threats," the Negro is always to blame for making the white man kill...Always. Of course it isn't just Negroes who are subjected to summary execution by police and white vigilantes, but they are the most likely to be subjected to it. The fear they inspire in some segment of the armed and vigilant white population is fundamental to very their existence. Without their fear of what the Negro would do if they weren't being summarily killed and routinely suppressed, some of these white folks would have no reason for living...

Police are the primary actors in this drama, but when policing fails (as it did in Charleston when Michael Slager was arrested for the on-camera killing of Walter Scott) it's incumbent on white vigilantes to step in and take care of what needs to be done, right?

One of the stories being circulated is that Roof researched the history of Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston (a founder, for example, was Denmark Vesey who planned a huge slave revolt in 1822; the pastor was Clementa Pickney, a state senator who was responsible for a number of laws restricting police action and making them accountable for their actions...) and he targeted the church on the anniversary of the intended slave revolt and just before Juneteenth, a celebration of the end of slavery. Supposedly, Roof knew quite well what he was doing, where he was acting and why, and he likely intended to induce... panic at the least. According to some reports, he wanted to trigger a civil war or a race war.

Was it because Michael Slager had failed?

I have no way of knowing, but the coincidences are there.

I sensed there was "something in the air" that would make this summer a serious and quite possibly tragic one. I didn't know exactly what it would be, but this mass murder seems to me to be an opening salvo, not the climax, far from it. The summer has only just begun.

Despair is hard to vanquish under the circumstances.

And the killing goes on and on...

[Adding: A history of Charleston's 1822 slave uprising worth pondering in light of current events: ]

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Warrior vs the Guardian Cop Mentality

The summer has just begun, but I have little doubt that there will be more incidents like the Mess in McKinney, Texas, that led to the surprisingly swift resignation of officer Eric Casebolt -- who I took to calling "Officer Pissant" -- after release of a video of his absurd and violent behavior toward African American residents and visitors to a community swimming pool at the Craig Ranch North subdivision.

His violence, though shocking to witness, wasn't unusual. Cops tend to be frightened and violent around certain categories of people, particularly if those people are black or brown and/or young. They are considered "offenders" by definition.

Then there is the problem of drug abuse, particularly anabolic steroids, cocaine, and meth, that is said to be rampant among police forces and not unknown in the military. 

In this context, Casebolt was acting like a "warrior" where none was called for. Apparently he believed that all the African American youth on the scene were definitionally "offenders" simply because they were there and someone had complained about it.

He manhandled and abused some of them on video, most shockingly a 14-15 year old girl clad only in a bikini who he violently threw to the ground and then tossed around by her hair and her arm as if she were a piece of meat or a sexual object or toy. In fact, many observers commented on the psycho-sexual nature of what he was doing to her, especially once he had her prone and subdued and he was putting his full weight on her back. It was a scene of virtual rape. Unfortunately, that too is part of a "warrior" mentality.

Radley Balko wrote a book called The Rise of the Warrior Cop in which he dramatically details how the militarization of the police in this country has taken place and graphically describes the unconscionable destruction of lives, families and communities that has ensued. I may be ideologically opposed to his prescription (in effect, privatizing police forces -- and letting them do pretty much what they do now, but under corporate rather than government authority) but he has been the one who has made a career out of opposition to the infection of warriorism that has spread throughout American policing, and he has been among the ones who has most frequently pointed out what a problem it is.

I have long pointed to one individual, (Lt Col) Dave Grossman, who has been primarily responsible for promoting and sustaining the warrior-cop mentality based on his crackpot "Killology" theories promoted in his books, seminars and consultancies. And yet, as responsible as he is for so much of the mentality of today's police forces, he's not the only one, not by a long shot. And he only got into the fray with regard to domestic policing (he was a West Point psychologist and military instructor) in response to the spate of school shootings in the late 1990s.

This infection of Warriorism in domestic policing has been raging many a long year, well before the advent of the "active shooter scenario" which has been at the core of police violence in recent years. In some ways, police warriorism goes back to the urban riots of the 1960s and the reaction of police and status quo defenders to the youth rebellion that gave rise to hippies and communitarian solutions to social problems.

Fighting these social change agents in the field, particularly the Negroes who demanded rights and respect and the youth who demanded freedom and liberty, became the primary mission of police forces throughout the land. Whenever they couldn't manage to impose their authority completely, a police riot (such as that outside the Chicago Democratic National Convention in 1968) would occur, or if that failed, the National Guard would be called in -- sometimes with tragic results.

The War on Drugs was the key element that led directly to the kind of violent and destructive warrior-policing we see reported practically every day, often with graphic and bloody video accompaniment.

That failed drug war still serves as the basis for violent policing and police warriorism throughout the land. Ending it would be the first step to true reform, but the whole system policing, courts and incarceration has been so corrupted by the various elements of the drug war that there is little likelihood that reform can be accomplished within the same system. The system itself has to be abolished.

In opposition to the warrior mentality of police in the field, more and more thinkers and consultants on the problem of violent policing in this country are adopting the theories of Guardian Policing.

These ideas have begun to take the place of Community Policing theories that were once hailed as a positive solution to the problem of police violence, but which were so quickly corrupted that some observers saw Community Policing (basically flooding designated areas with police who were supposed to "get to know" the community) as causing more problems than it solved.

I would suggest that Guardian Policing has the same -- or even a greater -- risk of corruption, for the ideological basis of it, that a community needs and wants guardians because the community and the people in it are essentially children who cannot take care of themselves, is bogus.

What is needed -- rather than police as warriors or guardians -- is a corps of public servants  (which the police were once touted as being) there to assist and aid and enable the public to take care of themselves.

Warrior cops see their proper role as that of an army of occupation set over a resistant population to enforce whatever control they are ordered to with whatever level of force they deem necessary. It leads to mayhem, murder, death and destruction on a daily basis all over this land. The control and enforcement of the warrior-occupation police forces is very often a matter of imposing chaos, not order at all. The violence of the warrior-occupation police forces induces chaos by its nature, and that social chaos becomes the primary feature of warrior-occupied communities. Victims are always blamed, but the recurrence of the basic problem of chaos brought on by the warriors themselves is manifested over and over, very much like the graphic demonstration of the chaotic behavior of (former) Officer Casebolt in McKinney, Texas. He was the chaotic element, he an no one else. His actions induced chaos in what was an otherwise relatively simple situation.

Thankfully no one died. The one young man who was arrested -- seen at the end of the principal video of the incident -- said that the officers who arrested him behaved professionally and that he bit his tongue accidentally as he was submitting to them. He was not, he said, injured by the police who arrested him. I found his praise for the officers who arrested him to be remarkable, but remarkable things have to happen if there is to be fundamental change in the way the US is policed. Charges were dropped against the young man who was arrested, by the way.

The Guardian Cop mentality in contrast to the Warrior Cop would not necessarily apply to this situation, however. What we saw in McKinney was two distinctly different approaches to policing and problem solving, one involving officers in communication with the public -- not as guardians over them but as interested community members interacting with them. The other was simply chaos, violent, and clearly out of control, with which no communication was possible. It may have been an attempt at warriorism but it went very awry.

Seth Stroughtan has written a number of pieces on the problem of Warrior Policing. While his position is that reform is possible and desirable, he is reticent about getting there. On the other hand, a number of alternatives to the seemingly unreformable police departments so prevalent today have been proposed, among them "Peacekeeper" a simple app that links community based mutual aid providers and citizens.

Decoupling from the dangerous and destructive policing that has led to so much outcry is necessary. How to do it is still being worked out, but alternatives are being tested, and more and more communities are taking steps to protect themselves from police.

The time will come when there will be no alternative...

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

So, He Resigned Did He?

The news yesterday was that the violent little pissant McKinney cop whose actions caused a national uproar thanks to video shot by Brandon Brooks has resigned. Eric Casebolt, former McKinney Cop of the Year (2008) sent word through his attorneys that he was resigning effective whenever.

This action defused the situation in McKinney for the moment, but word has it that Casebolt was a police trainer, and my sense of his departure is that his trainings will continue and perhaps flourish. Who knows, he might even join up with (Lt Col) Dave Grossman's "Killology" Road Show.

Word has it that the one young man who was arrested at the Incident in McKinney -- he's the one the pissant cop draws his gun on and is seen at the end of the Brooks video being escorted back by the other two uniformed cops while apparently spitting blood from his mouth -- has been released with no charges. He had initially been arrested for "interference".

The pissant cop's unprofessional behavior in McKinney unfortunately is not unusual. In this case, observers wondered if his chaotic and violent behavior was enhanced by, if not directly caused by, substance abuse, particularly steroids or perhaps cocaine or meth. Who can say? Cops are typically not drug tested, though steroid abuse is said to be rampant among them, while other drug abuse is by no means unusual. Drug abuse is widely encountered in any high-stress occupation. The fact that the other cops on scene behaved themselves indicates that whatever was going on with Casebolt was his own private fantasy world alone.

This is an important point in my view. It only takes one cop going wild to cause a whole scene to degenerate into mayhem -- or in too many cases, to cause the death of innocents.

The other cops on a scene may or may not participate in the mayhem, but they are for the most part powerless -- and perhaps too fearful -- to intervene to stop it.

Entire departments can be infected this way, and I would say from observation over many years that far too many departments are infected. Removing the "bad apples" may have a salutary effect, at least temporarily, but the infection goes to the heart of the department and can easily break out again, despite the removal of "bad apples." But most infected departments don't remove their "bad apples." Many departments promote them instead.

So it's a good thing in the short term that Officer Pissant Casebolt is leaving the McKinney police department. But I'll bet you anything he'll show up somewhere else, either as a consultant/trainer or a supervising officer.

It's just the way these things seem to go.

Not that I'm cynical or anything.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

What the Actual F*ck??!!

This video has been making the rounds today. White cops in suburban Dallas going ape-shit on black pool-partiers, a particular example being that of the sergeant on duty, hurling a bikini-clad partier onto the ground, hauling her around by her arm, and kneeing her on the back until another cop comes along with handcuffs to truss her up.

Apparently the big-bellied fat fucks are plainclothes officers, though it's hard to say.

The story I've read is that a white female resident of the housing development objected to black pool partiers in her community pool. She got into a fight with a black girl -- who is apparently also a resident of the development -- when the white woman said the others should go back to the "projects". The white woman, according to what I've read, initiated the physical struggle. Another white woman intervened to break it up. Others called 911 claiming that there were all kinds of black people using the community's pool uninvited. Still others called saying there was a fight. A dozen police responded, the little pissant sergeant (now referred to as piss ant Police Supervisor Cpl Eric Casebolt).

Supposedly the pool party was advertised as "open to the public" on social media, and from what I've been able to glean, those who objected to the presence of black people in the pool were adult white people. From the video, it's not apparent that white kids have a problem with the presence of black people at the pool party.

The little pissant corporal, the one who savages the girl in the bikini, is out of control and he has to be restrained by his buddies when he pulls out his gun to threaten youngsters who come to help the girl he's thrown to the ground.

"Failure to obey" quickly and completely enough is the trigger for his actions -- at least so far as I can tell.

It's been pointed out that the police are only interested in the black kids. But the other issue -- which I think is a key -- is that they are responding to repeated 911 calls.

In too many situations, callers to 911 are a menace, as are dispatchers and responding officers. Something is dreadfully wrong with the flow charts that are used and the protocols of dispatch. Too many people are killed and injured and wrongly arrested/harassed by police sent in response to ambiguous or hostile calls to 911. Something has to be done. Further, police in this instance chose to escalate where there was no need. They did it because... they knew nothing else? I don't know. But what they did was wrong.

And too typical...

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Flipping the National Conversation

Well, with the overkill (so to speak) local coverage of the death of Rio Rancho police officer Gregg Benner on May 25, it's pretty clear to my rheumy eyes that the phase of the "national conversation" about violent policing has changed once again. It went from the appalling facts of the shooting of James Boyd, a homeless mentally ill camper, in the hills above Albuquerque, to the multiplicity of police killings of black men (and women, who were initially forgotten about in the "conversation") both armed and unarmed, to a consideration of "best practices" by the panel of experts appointed by the President (though its recommendations, both interim and final, were largely ignored -- such is the way of the world -- to now coming almost full circle to consider the pure evil of the criminals out there who shoot and kill police officers with such a disregard for human life, yadda yadda.

But a couple of other things have happened, too.

After it became clear that the only near real-time tracking of police killings in the whole country was being done by a crowd-sourced website called "Killed by Police" and repeated calls on the government to track these killings were being ignored -- or rather, they weren't being followed through on, despite the fact that there has been tracking and reporting legislation in place for decades -- a couple of other intrepid media outfits, the Washington Post and the Guardian, took it upon themselves to do (some of) the tracking that "Killed by Police" has long been doing (since May 1, 2013) and to publish findings relatively quickly (ie: not wait for annual or quarterly reports, but actually publish results in a timely fashion.)

The Guardian's coverage is very similar to the tracking of media reports done by "Killed by Police," and I think they do acknowledge KbP as one of their inspirations for doing their own coverage. The data they have assembled about police killings since January 1 of this year is impressive and they analysis of that data by the Guardian is equally impressive.

Washington Post's coverage is not nearly as extensive, as one of their objectives is to only cover police shootings. While that accounts for the majority of police involved killings in this country, it is not the totality of the carnage, not by a long shot (so to speak) and the way the WaPo's coverage is caveated and slanted is clearly intended to minimize the appearance of carnage at the hands of police and to make it seem as if those who die deserve it.

That's pretty much been the police and local media position on violent policing for as long as I've been following the stories, for decades now, so the WaPo's perspective fits in with the status quo that has long been a feature of local reports of police killings. The typical reports include the police perspective first and foremost, starting with the stenography of police press releases on the incident. They might or might not include contrary witness and/or family reports of what happened (frequently they do not). They almost always take the police reports as truthful and accurate, even though they are often filled with lies and fabrications. Local reports will cover demonstrations, should there be any, but often the coverage of demonstrations "Otherizes" the demonstrators or outright criminalizes them. The victim of the police killing is always, always smeared. The fact that he or she has had "numerous run-ins with the law" is featured and played up -- even if they were only traffic stops or minor issues -- as a means of making the victim out to be the bad guy. Almost always, the officer(s) who kill are protected from any criminal liability for their actions because of a little thing called "fear." So long as the officer(s) says "Fearing for my life and the safety of others ..." at the right time and to the right people (the police officer's union will provide gratis legal advice so as to make this statement useful and meaningful) the officer is almost certain to be exonerated from criminal culpability. By and large, civilians cannot use that legal sleight of hand, however.

Until the killing of James Boyd in Albuquerque in 2014, the pattern of coverage and the "conversation" was almost always the same: local only, but sometimes extensive in the locality wherein the killing took place; nearly complete victim-blaming by the media, with little or no questioning of whatever the police department chose to say about the incident and the victim; implicit hero-ization of the killing officer; contempt for the victim, dismissal or "Otherization" of survivors, family, and protesters.

The Boyd killing changed and began to nationalize the coverage and conversation. When the APD chief released the video of the shooting, he said that the actions of the officers were "justified." He said that what they did was justified because Boyd had two knives and thus was an armed and dangerous threat to be neutralized.

Except that isn't what the video really showed. It showed Boyd surrendering to the police, the pocket knives nowhere to be seen (they were in his pockets). The video showed Boyd gathering up some of his things and beginning to walk down the hill toward police. The video showed one of the officers (whose helmet cam was recording the scene) say "Do it!" and immediately a flash-bang grenade was launched and a dog was released. The video showed Boyd dropping his things and pulling out his knives while officers (still thirty to forty feet away) shout at him to get on the ground. The video showed Boyd turning to face uphill and away from the police as six shots are fired at him, three from each of two officers. All six shots strike him, and the video showed Boyd collapsing on the ground mortally wounded. The video then showed subsequent actions by the police that I won't describe.

The video was quite clear about what really happened, and the narrative the police were spinning out to the media and the public about "justification" --- because of some mortal threat Boyd represented to the lives of the officers and the safety of others -- was simply false.

It was the last straw. There had been so many killings by APD so frequently, and often so outrageously, that even the local media had started questioning what was going on. The mayor and police chief always, always defended the actions of police, and the DA never, ever found that any of their killings were unjustified. This had been going on for years, and finally, enough of the survivors and victims had gotten together to press the Justice Department to do an investigation of the pattern and practice of the APD. That investigation was underway, though slowed, when Boyd was shot and killed.

Small-scale protests against police killing had been going on for years, and civil awards to victim families had reached tens of millions of dollars, but the killing of James Boyd unleashed a torrent of condemnation from the public. Demonstrations grew to include thousands of protesters, and in one unfortunate night of protest, the APD used horses and ordnance against the protesters. Thanks to the wind, the police actually wound up gassing themselves and the residents of the dorms at UNM. Oh well. There was some vandalism by protesters as well and as usual, thought the vandalism was quite minor (mainly spraypainting several police substations) it was blown completely out of proportion by the media and used as justification for the police crackdown on protest.

Only the protest didn't stop. It continued through the spring and into the summer. Early protests apparently got the DoJ to release it's long-stalled pattern and practice report, leading to the media referring to its "scathing indictment" of APD's pattern and practice of unconstitutional policing. In fact, the report was an indictment, quite remarkable in its way for the blunt honesty of its findings that the APD used force and lethal force too frequently, too often unconstitutionally, and that reforms were necessary.

Until then, the APD had been lauded by city officials for their excellence. Suddenly, that was no longer the case.

Numerous police departments around the country had previously been found to have a pattern and practice of unconstitutional policing. It was so common as to be expected, and there had already been extensive media coverage of the slaughter APD was engaging in long before the Boyd killing. When the son of the Deputy County Manager was killed by police, for example, it was clear to anyone paying attention that police killing was not at all confined to the Otherized poor and dispossessed. Anyone could be a victim, no matter their prominence and position, or worse, anyone's son or daughter could be killed by police.

However, findings of pattern and practice violations and recommendations and even orders for reform were frequently fought tooth and claw by police departments, and in many cases they were openly defied. Police simply would not adhere to reforms nor would they listen to the public. Defiance was too frequently the rule and the killing and violent policing went on without let up.

I laid the blame for this on people like David Grossman whose "killology" trainings and seminars made killing out to be the highest accomplishment a police officer could achieve. It was the officer's raison d'etre. To kill -- righteously -- was the whole purpose of Warrior-Police. It was sickening to read or watch his presentations and justifications for police violence, for it was clear (to me at least) that the man was quite mad and was going around the country infecting police departments with his madness and leaving police officers convinced that their killing spree was not only justified, it was required by their oaths and their natures.

Others, like Bill Bratton, had used their positions as police chiefs to institute a version of policing that formalized falsity and didn't curb the killing. It merely made justification for overpolicing and killing by police much easier. Through false narratives about broken windows and other minor offenses and defenses of intrusive policing methods, and through acknowledgement of "tragedy whenever someone loses their life" -- while fiercely defending officers who take those lives -- Bratton and others like him managed to make over-policing of poor and minority communities and routine death at the hands of police seem normal, and furthermore -- most dangerously -- Bratton and others managed to make this kind of policing and falsity into American "best practice" policing.

As the deaths piled up and the brutality of police was revealed more and more frequently by cell phone and body-cam videos, however, more and more people saw for themselves what was going on, and more and more of them were revolted  by what they saw.

It was noted that FBI statistics of police killings were grossly understated to the point of ludicrousness. The police kill-rate was two to three times greater than the FBI's "official" statistics suggested, and those who used FBI statistics were subjected to ridicule, as was the agency itself, as it made no attempt to gather and present accurate information or statistics on police killings.

When James Boyd was killed in March of 2014, people recognized that mentally ill and homeless people, whether armed or unarmed, are frequent victims of police aggression and death, and they have little or no recourse as there is so little mental health and/or homeless service available -- and accessible -- to the public. Treatment and services are very hard to come by and sustain thanks to the way mental health and homeless service have been cut back especially since the Reaganite dismantlement of the state mental hospitals and mental health service system as it once was.

When Mike Brown was shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in August of 2014, the conversation about violent policing changed to focus on the fact that black men, often unarmed black men like Mike Brown, are subjected to violent policing and killing by police at a rate far out of proportion to their numbers in society. There were hours of "negotiations" with James Boyd before he was executed in the Sandia foothills. Many black men were simply shot on sight on a belief that they were armed and dangerous. The mere sight of a black man was too often considered an a priori threat to be neutralized. Mike Brown was unarmed. He was shot at as he ran away from the officer. He was killed as he turned to surrender.

And as is almost always the case, the officer was considered "justified" -- because he was frightened of a Big Black Man who had "demon eyes."

Ever since, the national conversation has focused on the prevalence of police abuse and killing of black men, almost to the exclusion of any other victims of police violence. This focus has caused more than a little tension due to the fact that blacks are by no means the only victims of police violence and killing. There are many others; the problem is the violence the police bring to situations not calling for it.

Blacks too often are victims, and blacks too often are considered existential threats to police simply by their existence. This is derived in part from military beliefs and training that propose that the mere presence of an armed -- or thought to be armed -- Iraqi or Afghani or other native of some foreign land under American attack or occupation is sufficient justification for killing said native, regardless of any other fact at all.

But it also comes from America's long history of black and brown oppression and murder. It simply doesn't occur to police that an "Otherized" racial/cultural minority is actually "human." They have become objectified to such an extent in the minds of many police officers that their killing is seen essentially as nothing more than pulling out a weed.

This is demonstrated by the many killings themselves and by the fact that so often, police officers who use force or lethal force provide no first aid to their victims and all too frequently prevent EMS from attending to them.

This happened in the South Valley of Albuquerque not too long ago when a sheriff's deputy shot and wounded Billy Grimm, claiming that he saw Grimm with a gun, and then the officers refused any medical aid to Grimm for hours after he was shot, though EMS was available within minutes. They claimed that Grimm refused their orders to exit the truck he was in, and it was only after he did so and a dog was unleashed on him that officers felt the scene was "secure" enough to allow EMS to enter and tend to their victim. By then, of course, it was too late, and Grimm died in the hospital shortly thereafter.

Shaun King at dKos has documented numerous similar incidents in which a victim has been shot and mortally wounded by police -- who then refuse to provide any aid whatsoever to their victim and often prevent others from rendering aid.

This callous indifference to human life displayed over and over again by police officers, every one of whom is trained in first aid, is one of the hallmarks of American policing, obviously a matter of department policy that is nearly universal.

It's criminal negligence, though some court decisions have stated that officers have no affirmative obligation to render aid to those they have injured. Some of the consent decrees that have been entered into with police departments require police officers to render or summon aid to their victims immediately ("Provided it is safe to do so" -- always the caveat). But this is policy, not law. Court decisions can protect officers if they don't render or summon aid, but the policy of the department can easily change the dynamic, just as policies can stop the killing.

In Albuquerque and Oakland, among a few other places, the killings by police have all but stopped.

It can be done.

The national conversation is now shifting to the risks police officers encounter on the job, including the fact that they might get shot or injured. Well, yes.

It's one of the hazards they supposedly signed up for. The problem is that too often, facing any risk at all is considered to be an unacceptable hazard for a police officer. Killing a subject that might pose a risk is the far better alternative, no? Large numbers of the public have been saying "NO!" quite clearly and loudly, but with the wounding or death of several officers recently, the conversation about that risk is now under way.

What sort of risks should officers expect to face and handle? Police unions and many departments say "None at all." A risk is by definition a threat, and threats are not to be faced, they are to be neutralized with whatever force the officer deems necessary, including lethal force, in every case.

That has long been the position of police and their departments. But the questions that have been raised about violent policing have shone a light on police behavior that was often ignored or thought acceptable in the past. No longer is unquestioning acceptance of grotesque behavior by police considered necessary. The questions that have been raised -- about the constant killing, the "Otherization" of Americans subjected to violent policing, the racial elements in violent policing and police killings, the distance of police culture from that of the communities police are supposed to serve and protect, and the risks and hazards police are expected to take -- have reached a kind of crescendo.

My view has long been that police are way too violent, they kill and maim far too often and unnecessarily, and they are enabled by a corrupt system of injustice that protects them from accountability let alone criminal liability. That has to change.

There are signs it is changing.

Until recently, police departments as a rule had no idea they were doing anything wrong or that the louder and louder objections from the public were something they needed to listen to rather than simply suppress. The hundreds of millions of dollars -- indeed, billions -- paid out to victims of violent policing meant nothing to them. The money didn't come out of their budgets, and because police as a rule are not held criminally liable for any use of force they deem necessary -- regardless of other facts -- they saw no reason to change their behavior under pressure from the public. The public was often seen as enemies, and those who actively protested police violence were often seen as "enemy combatants."

This was wrong from every direction, but police were -- and to a great extent are -- incapable of seeing the truth of the matter, presuming that they can enforce their will through greater levels of violence.

That conversation may be next. Should police become even more violent than they are? Is 3 a day too few to kill? Should every police encounter include a bit of ultraviolence -- just because?

Or should policing become more or less a substitute for absent social services? Should violent policing be consigned to the ash heap with so many other theories of policing that have come and gone?

Should the police be abolished?

That's where this conversation needs to be directed sooner rather than later.

We need to find a better way of ensuring something close to dignity, peace and justice in our society, because what's been happening is going entirely the wrong direction.

[I'll try to add links later, as I am pressed for time today... ]