Saturday, November 22, 2014

Molly Crabapple Illustrates the Situation in Ferguson Since Michael Brown's Death



[They say preparations are nearly complete for the Riots set to begin tomorrow with the announcement of the Grand Jury's Decision Not to Indict Brave Officer Wilson. If it comes tomorrow. Which it may not.]

Will there be Riots in your town, too?

Friday, November 21, 2014

This Is Why They Kill -- It's What They Live For



This is a training video featuring a person named Dave Grossman who will be offering a course for police officers in Albuquerque entitled: "The Bulletproof Mind: Prevailing in Violent Encounters, Before and After."

Yes. Well...

So according to Grossman in this video, just like a sheepdog (what an analogy) police must relish "the battle" and killing the foe -- the Big Bad Wolf, for that is the policeman's calling -- that is the policeman's nature, that is the policeman's greatest accomplishment and his glory.

Yikes.

This is why they kill, this is why they demand and get impunity to kill at will. Because they are just protecting the sheep, you see, as is their calling.

The man is out of his freaking mind.

And yet this is how your police are trained and indoctrinated.

[Note: my alert to this video came via a Radley Balko column in the WaPo. I know a lot of people think Balko is gods' gift, but I typically regard him with skepticism to say the least. Let's just say he has a tendency to shade the truth to fit his ideology and leave it at that for the time being... Nevertheless, the video, which he did not link to, speaks for itself.]

Thursday, November 20, 2014

What On Earth Is the FBI Thinking?

Today marks the another Alternate Release Date for the Darren Wilson Non-Indictment from the St. Louis County Grand Jury. Other sources put the Alternate Date on Sunday or maybe the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, or maybe not till Christmas week, or... well, you get the picture.

Meanwhile, elaborate preparations and displays of force are under way to put down all the "riots" that will ensue. Everyone has bought a gun, it seems, and they've stockpiled food and water and have materials on hand to build barricades, the Apocalypse being nigh and all.

All of this was kind of ludicrous until the FBI leaked their assessment of the pre-festivities the other day. We can assume the leak came directly from the FBI and was intentional incitement to police rioting if not public riot.

The wording that I've read inadvertently indicates the FBI knows there are agents provocateur seeded among the protesters and they know just how those agents will behave; their leaked advisory could be read as a descriptive of what the agents provocateur are likely to do once the GJ decision not to indict Darren Wilson comes down.

In other words, it has little or nothing to do with the protesters and everything to do with inciting LEOs to react to the protests violently.

Unbelievable, or it would be if there hadn't been constant rumors of provocateurs and infiltrators from the beginning of the Ferguson protests. That combined with the failure of police to produce any evidence at all that they had been "firebombed" with Molotov cocktails or shot at by protesters -- despite their constant claims -- and the litany of lies coming out of the mouths of ostensibly responsible police supervisors (Belmar's woppers just the other day about "only teargassing criminals," for example, or not using "rubber bullets" beggared belief -- "You gonna believe me or your lying eyes?")  really tells us pretty much all we need to know about the expectations of violence and where they're coming from.

It's not the protesters.

It's the police themselves and their allied adjuncts like the resurgent KKK.

Insane.

But more and more people are seeing through the lies and the fabrications and the falsehoods and the provocations.

More and more people seem to see the situation for what it is. The police have been enabled by their sponsors to act as an army of occupation, and their wargames involve whatever mayhem and deception required to produce the desired result.

In this case, it seems the desired result is the provocation of "riots" -- or whatever mayhem can be stirred up and sustained -- so that the "riots" can be put down with displays of overwhelming force (with as little bloodshed as possible, no doubt) in pursuit of a higher objective: keeping the Rabble in fear and dread of what will happen to them if they so much as think of rising against their oppressors.

This has been the Israeli tactic applied to the Palestinians for decades.

Works well, right?




Monday, November 17, 2014

Declaration of War?

"No indictment of Darren Wilson will be a declaration of war..."

From the video prepared by HandsUpUnited



The governor of Missouri declared a state of emergency today and called out the National Guard. There has as yet been no announcement from the St. Louis County Grand Jury. Perhaps all the preparations for Teh Riots are not yet in place.

Demonstrations are planned throughout the country and in St. Louis and Ferguson no matter what the GJ's ruling is. Demonstrations have been going on in St. Louis and Ferguson nearly constantly since the killing of Michael Brown. And the killing continues, the count kept by Killed by Police is now up to 1729 since May 1, 2013, at least 975 since January 1, 2014.

Every day there are more.

Every day.




Sunday, November 16, 2014

Just Incredible -- Two Men Shot and Killed by Deputies in East LA



No, it's not really incredible, it happens all the time. Practically every day. Sometimes several times a day, but in this case, the story out of the LA County Sheriff's Office and the CBS Local station is absurd.

"They did indeed shoot two suspects. Both of them died." As if the action is not directly connected with the result.

The story is weirder in that the men who were shot and killed by deputies are called "suspects" in a crime that is never mentioned.
EAST LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Detectives are investigating the circumstances Sunday surrounding a deputy involved shooting with two male suspects.
[Suspects in what crime exactly? Shooting? The suspects were shooting deputies?]

According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, deputies were sent around 2:40 a.m. to the 5300 block of Verona Street for report of an assault with a deadly weapon.
[Assault?]
Once on scene, a witness flagged down authorities and said two suspects in a vehicle pointed a weapon at him.
[Is this the crime in which the suspects were suspected?]

KCAL9′s Joy Benedict spoke with Lt. John Corina who said the witness did not know the suspects.
[Relevance?]
Around 2:20 a.m. the victim, a 32-year-old man, was walking through a business parking lot in the 1100 block of Atlantic Boulevard when he noticed a light-colored SUV driving through the same parking lot.
[Who is the victim here? The suspects? The deputies? The man claiming that a weapon was pointed at him? How would that make him a victim?]

The suspects drove alongside the victim while pointing a gun, but no words were exchanged. They then drove away heading North on Atlantic Boulevard.
[So how exactly is the "victim" a victim? Of what?]
“They were strangers to him,” Corina explained. “He was a little shaken up that they pointed a handgun at him. That’s why he called 911 to report it, and that’s when deputies picked up the vehicle.”
[Had he known them, would that make him less shaken up? What exactly is the crime for which the victim is a victim? Is he a victim because he claimed a weapon was pointed at him from a moving car, though the car drove off and no one was harmed? Or is he a victim because he called 911?]

The witnesses gave a description of the suspect vehicle, which led officials to locate the suspects.
[The vehicle was the suspect? Or the suspects were the suspects? Of what? Pointing a weapon? Being in a vehicle? Assault?]
Four deputies reportedly pulled over the suspect vehicle and ordered the two men to step out.
Police explained the car continued a short distance and proceeded to park in the driveway of an apartment complex located in the 5300 block of Verona Street.
[How exactly was the suspect vehicle pulled over and yet continued a short distance where the suspects parked in the driveway of an apartment complex? How exactly did that happen? How were the two suspects ordered to step out as the car was proceeding a short distance to the driveway of the apartment complex where the suspect vehicle parked?]
After parking, one suspect exited and pulled a handgun out of his pants, pointing it in the direction of the deputies. The second suspect exited the driver side of the vehicle and stood behind the suspect.
[Ah, the waistband gambit once again. Suspects, even unarmed ones, are always pulling handguns out of their waistbands and getting shot for it. It is routine. Necessary too. Cause you never know, do you?]
Deputies then discharged their weapons at the suspects.
[I see. The deputies -- four of them -- shot the suspects until they were dead, right?]
The two suspects — a 26-year-old passenger and a 57-year-old driver believed to be from the area — were shot and killed at the scene.
[Right.]
They were reportedly drinking at a nearby bar before the incident occurred.
[Well, there you are, then. Drinking Mexicans. Oh. My. God. Better shoot them before they shoot you! Bam!]
Family members told Benedict the younger victim — Eduardo Bermudez, 26, of Hesperia — was dropped off at his sister’s house in Verona for a child’s birthday on Saturday where he had been drinking all day.
[Drinking all day? Clearly the man needed killing. Regardless of whether he was "pointing a weapon" or "reaching for his waistband" or whatever. The drinking alone is reason enough to terminate him. Well, as long as he is a Mexican. It helps that the incident happened in East LA. Gangs you know!]
Bermudez’s family also claimed he had a BB gun with him, not a hand gun.
[Ah ha! So the Drunken Mexican was armed, the scum! Deserved to die! Lucky he lived as long as he did! BB-schmeebee. A gun is a gun.]
Officers have confirmed that the handgun recovered at the scene was found to be a replica of a .45-caliber handgun.
["Replica" or no, there was a gun, on a Drunken Mexican. That's all anybody needs to know.]
Deputies said a containment area was set up in the residential area of Verona Street and Amelia Avenue to further investigate the crime.
[Again, what crime? The Shooting by the deputies? Drunk driving? Pointing a handgun that was actually a replica? Or a BB gun? What crime?]
An initial report from witnesses indicated deputies were searching for a third suspect, however, the search was called off.
[There was no third suspect. Reports of witnesses to be discounted when the deputies have to justify what they did.]
Deputies reported they do not believe the driver was armed.
[Doesn't matter, does it? He was drunk, he was Mexican, and he is dead, dead, dead, killed by police because he was there and they were scared. Right? Right.]
At this time, it is unknown if the incident is gang related.
[What!? What "incident?" The Drunken Mexicans are dead. That is the ONLY "incident" that occurred. Two men were shot to death by LA County Deputies. No one else was harmed.]
No deputies were injured during the shooting.
[Thank. Gawd!!!]
The victim’s identities are being withheld pending family notification.
[Wait. Which victims? I'm all confused again. Are we talking about the dead men as victims now? I thought they were suspects. What happened to the supposed victim who called 911? His family needs to be notified? Or what?]

This is how the stories so many of the police shootings in this country are garbled to the point of complete incoherence. No one can say with any certainty -- barring video -- just what happened, how and when, and to whom. No one can quite figure out who the victims are, or why. These deaths are just due to forces of nature or acts of God it would seem. There is nothing to be done.

What a world, what a world.
-----------------------------------------
I saw part of the Die In in University City, St. Louis, today on the Ustream. (Scroll to about 28:10) It was very effective and affecting, though the wags on the Twitter tried to make believe it weren't nothin'. It was actually one of the most effective Die-Ins I've seen in a while, as the street was slick and wet, snow was falling, and the misery quotient in front of the Tivoli Theatre (Oh, I know that theatre) was high.

Tomorrow, they say, the Grand Jury's non-indictment of Brave Officer Wilson who killed Mike Brown in Ferguson on August 9, because he was scared for his life by this big black bruiser, will be announced and the Riots will commence.

So Now Comes Word From the NYT

That there are all kinds of surveillance activities going on, not just the NSA, and Oh Gee, Isn't It A Shame?

Jeebus.

Gosh almighty. Ya think?

I seem to recall I was yapping quite some time back that the obsessive focus on NSA surveillance was a smokescreen covering up all the other surveillance activities going on, by both the public and private sectors, most of which was far-far closer to you'n'me than the NSA ever gets.

While everyone was keening and rending their garments over the NSA surveillance revealed in the Snowden docs, all the rest of it, from the FBI and the Post Office and Google -- and ALL the rest -- was utterly ignored, and anyone who pointed out these other more intrusive surveillance activities going on all the time was denounced or dismissed.

The only thing that mattered -- absolutely the ONLY thing -- was that the NSA was hoovering everyone's phone calls and internet searches and was storing them in some server farm in Utah.

But the surveillance is so much closer to ordinary folks than that, and it's so much more intrusive, and it is so much more likely to result in harm to ordinary people than almost anything the NSA does or has ever done.

To say so, though, is to risk being labeled a crank.

At least until now, when the New York Times announces its semi-official findings of, well, surveillance all the way down.

There was a recent story about surveillance by the Post Office that caused a bit of a ruckus, but that's only part of the surveillance they do. There is so much more. So very much more. But the media and public obsession with NSA surveillance overwhelmed any consideration of the surveillance conducted so widely by so many agencies and businesses.

It's as if it were by design.

Being the cynic I am, I think it was by design.

By focusing so much attention where nothing was ever likely to be done, and where very few individuals would be directly harmed by the surveillance, the other closer surveillance activities and agencies could consolidate and coordinate their effort far more closely and completely within a kind of protective cloak that would only be removed once the job was done.

That point seems to have been reached, now that the New York Times sees fit to print news of these Other Surveillance Activities.

"Oh and by the way..."

Sigh.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Flamenco In Seville



I'm quite a fan of flamenco, and this short film of a flamenco guitarist in Seville was posted at the New Yorker a little while ago. I think it's a good tonic for so much that ails us. Olé!

Governing Contrary

This is the post-modern fashion in Government these days -- has been for a way long time now, actually -- "governing contrary" to the people's will and the public interest. The governing class has learned that they can do this and get away with it pretty much any time and any way they want because the People will not rise to any level the governing class must pay attention to, and if they do, they are easy enough to put down with relatively light force.

Governing contrary has led us into this morass of corporatism, imperialism and war mongering that we can't seem to get out of, that only gets worse, that no happy face can mask any more. Governing contrary presumes that the People are stupid and apathetic by nature, can be exploited and disposed of at will, and they will do nothing substantive to oppose the Powers That Be.

Governing contrary has pushed millions upon millions of Americans into permanent poverty, with ever more millions following in train. An entire generation reduced to permanent poverty by the enormous burden of student debt, for example, is no legacy to be proud of, but it is an example of where contrary governance leads. As long as someone gets rich off of it, what's to worry?

Governing contrary was what Al From and the New Democrats were all about back in the day, and governing contrary is now the standard for governance, regardless of political party or ideology, not solely in the United States but throughout much of the world. Governing contrary is the operating system for global governance. Whatever the People want or need, the governing class seeks and does the opposite.

The resulting disease, destruction and despair is looked on with the kind of glee one hasn't seen among the ruling class and their servants since the Gilded Age.

They want the People to live in fear and suffering. And they proceed with policies that will ensure that outcome. Because someone -- important -- gets rich off the fear and suffering of others.

Whatever the People want or need, ruling class do the opposite.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Al From and the Way Things Are Now

Matt Stoller has done a rather remarkable exegesis of the changes in the Democratic Party resulting from Al From's party makeovers starting in the 1960s. His argument is basically that from the Civil Rights Movement, the Anti-Vietnam War Movement and some of the other liberationist movements of the 1960s and 70s was born today's neoliberalism, anti-New Deal-ism, and the modern Democratic Party apparatus which is deeply anti-Populist and pro-corporate as any political party -- particularly, let's say, the Republican Party -- in history.

I think Stoller is right about certain things. He was there -- or wanted to be there -- through much of it, saw with his own eyes, worked on some of the changes with his own hands and brain. Stoller knows a great deal about what happened, he knows how it happened and he knows something of why.

Yet Stoller seems wedded to ideals and concepts and terminology that is essentially constructed rather than organic, much of it from the Republican playbook, not Democrat, and not even From. (Throughout his essay, it's easy to confuse From's name and the word "from" and so it may take going over a sentence a few times to get things right.) And I think Stoller gets some things very much wrong or inverts cause and effect. Or even inverts whole concepts. It's disorienting.The Bubble seems to be something of a hazard throughout the political world, and it's never more obvious that when dealing with conceptualizers like Al From and the Clintons. The Bubble seems to profoundly afflict Matt Stoller as well.

Sometimes I think the confusion and conflation is deliberate. After a brief intro regarding the recent slaughter of Democratic candidates at the polls -- oh really, I hadn't noticed -- Stoller points out correctly that the subsequent recriminations avoid the question of policy.
Did the Democrats run the government well? Are the lives of voters better? Are you as a political party credible when you say you’ll do something?
Um. But there's a flaw right off the bat. The Democrats don't run the government. We have had divided government for quite some time. The Republicans have directly controlled the House and indirectly controlled the Senate through the pseudo-filibuster and other means for years. Asking whether Democrats have run the government well under these circumstances is absurd. But it's part of the Bubble to believe that because there is a nominal Democrat in the White House and the Dems have had nominal control of the Senate for a time that the "Democrats run government."

In a sense, the government runs on autopilot. There is a career bureaucracy that makes it go, and the dynamic parts of that career bureaucracy, particularly in the military, make it go hardest. Political influence is arguably less important to policy than we are led to believe by the likes of From and Stoller.

Stoller goes on to opine:
Democratic elites — ensconced in the law firms, foundations, banks, and media executive suites where the real decisions are made — basically agree with each other about organizing governance around the needs of high technology and high finance. 
A truism, to be sure, but it's just as true of Republican elites. In other words, one could just say "elites basically agree with one another about organizing governance around the needs of high technology and high finance" because they do. One could go farther and say that these elites control the government for their own benefit, and that the higher reaches of the bureaucracy -- which actually runs the government, not the political parties -- agrees with the elites, in fact often is made up of members of the elites, and that there is a revolving door between government elites and private sector elites. There's literally no division between government and the private sector at that level. They are the same people pursuing the same ends, regardless of political party. Political party labels don't mean much and don't much matter among them.

Stoller knows this, or he should, but saying so wouldn't further the arc of his review of From's book and his characterization of the changes in the Democratic Party brought about largely through From's efforts.

Saying so might indicate Stoller knows too much for his own good. Better to play dumb, no?

So Stoller puts the onus on Al From, whose book The New Democrats and the Return to Power, he reviews. The problem is, the Power of which he speaks is a fantasy. The New Democrats may have been the operators of Power -- these days more and more rarely -- but they are not the Power.

The assumption, which is wrong, is that Democrats are running things. And they aren't. The recent election essentially eliminated the notion of "Democrat controlled" anything. There are a few outposts where Democrats hang on by a fraying thread, but once again, as they have been repeatedly during the recent past, Republicans are by far the dominant political party.

Stoller characterizes the central premise of From's memoir thus:
The theory in this book is simple. The current generation of Democratic policymakers were organized and put in power by people that don’t think that a renewed populist agenda centered on antagonism towards centralized economic power is a good idea.
True enough, but the same could be said for Republicans, no? In other words, the main political parties as we know them today share the same basic ideas, ideals and philosophy. Neither believe that a populist agenda centered on opposition to centralized economic power (ie: corporate dominance) is a good idea. They are so similar as to be indistinguishable -- except for the way they exercise Power, which more and more, is the exclusive purview of the Republican Party.

Dems may from time to time ascend to high office but they rarely exercise Power -- except as permitted to do so by Rs.

Stoller seems to believe that few people alive today have ever heard of Al From, and maybe it's true, but none of us who lived through the Clinton years, especially, can forget him. Al From and his theories about how government should be organized and should operate were on everyone's mind (especially Democrats') in those days, and his name was constantly mentioned,  his work routinely decried as a betrayal of Democratic Party principles. In order not to blame Clinton for his own anti-Populist, and often anti-Democratic policies, From was blamed instead. We see a similar situation now with regard to President Obama. In order not to blame him for his atrocious bank-favoring and war-mongering policies we are urged to blame phantoms and advisors like Rahm Emmanuel.

Well, no. Clinton, like Obama, can make up his own mind. Advisors can be rightly blamed for what they do and don't do, but the policies are those of the presidents they serve. Aren't they?

This would be an interesting question if Stoller were able to ask it, but the present day theories of political economy pretend that policies come out of the ether. They're just there. Leadership and advisors are there to bring forth and implement policies that pre-exist and are universal elements of the zeitgeist. Or something.

Stoller's approach to From is nearly reverent. His intro to the man is conceptually daunting:
To give you a sense of how sprawling From’s legacy actually is, consider the following. Bill Clinton chaired the From’s organization, the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) and used it as a platform to ascend to the Presidency in 1992. His wife Hillary is a DLC proponent. Al Gore and Joe Biden were DLCers. Barack Obama is quietly an adherent to the “New Democrat” philosophy crafted by From, so are most of the people in his cabinet, and the bulk of the Senate Democrats and House Democratic leaders. From 2007–2011, the New Democrats were the swing bloc in the U.S. House of Representatives, authoring legislation on bailouts and financial regulation of derivatives. And given how Democrats still revere Clinton, so are most Democratic voters, at this point. The DLC no longer exists, but has been folded into the Clinton’s mega-foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative, a convening point for the world’s global elite that wants to, or purports to want to, do good. In other words, it’s Al From’s Democratic Party, we just live here.
Well, I guess we've been told, then.

The key term which Stoller practically glosses over, is "the world's global elite" -- for they are the ones whose policies are being fostered and implemented.

From had a big hand in transforming the Democratic Party under various leaderships from the Carter administration onwards, delivering what amounted to a triumphant reconception under Clinton. The program he followed was to undermine the foundations of the Democratic Party and to replace one set of principles with another. What he set out to do was not so much anti-New Deal and anti-Populist as it was a version of moderate Republicanism, which was neither.

This was something that was recognized at the time and clearly understood for what it was during the Clintonian Era: Clinton's policies were designed to co-opt and enact moderate Republican policies. Republicans were furious at him for co-opting their policies and promoting/enacting them as his own. Democrats, on the other hand, barely had a seat at the table (ask Robert Reich), were barely heard at all, even though they still had nominal control of the government at the time.

What From was engaged in, with the collaboration and cooperation of so much of the Democratic Party leadership, was the transformation of the Democratic Party into a moderate/conservative Republican political party under the Democrat banner.

And it's largely been successful. The problem is that the success of the transformation doesn't translate into the exercise of Power. The exercise of Power is still the purview of the increasingly radicalized Republicans. Democrats -- no matter how much they model themselves on Republicans -- are at best allowed to watch.

So ultimately Stoller's story of the transformation of the Democratic Party under the guidance of Al From leaves out the key part: Democrats do not exercise Power and have not done so routinely for the past several decades. They are instead observers to the exercise of Power by others, and sometimes they moderate some of the exercise of Power, but they do not do so themselves by and large.

That's From's real legacy. A transformed and impotent Democratic Party which serves as a foil to the dynamic and increasingly radical Republicans.

During the Bush era, I pointed out that the Busheviks were essentially committing revolution -- while Democrats watched or sometimes enabled. The Busheviks were dynamic and determined, they set about on a campaign to transform government top to bottom, and they were largely successful. They had no public mandate. But they didn't care. They had the Power, and with that Power they did what they would, and literally no one dared stand in their way. No one who might have done so within the government at any rate.

Instead, they were constantly being enabled and further empowered.

On the other hand, Democrats have constantly undermined themselves and have repeatedly re-envigorated the Republicans after the People reject them. This was shockingly clear during the early period of the Obama administration, and it would be made manifest during the 2010 and 2014 midterms when Republican gains were startling -- not unexpected, though. But it was as if the Dems were programmed to throw elections.

This is From's legacy. It's the legacy of New Democrats. Furthermore, From's legacy is the legacy of "governing contrary" to the public interest and the public will. In rejecting "populism" From and his acolytes reject the People and dismiss their interests as less important -- or completely unimportant -- compared to the corporate and finance interests of the high and the mighty. Consequently, the Democratic Party has no interest in or room for the public. Republicans, interestingly, have maintained a Populist wing (yclept the Tea Party) which is handed much symbolic power, and is actually allowed to formulate and every now and again implement policies. This is something unheard of in the Democratic Party, which has no room for Populists or Populism at all.

The divorce of government from the People is one of the hallmarks of post-modern governance, and From led the way back in the day. Again, Stoller seems unable to recognized that dynamic. He seems to think that by emulating what From did, the People can somehow take back Power. "Organize, organize, organize." But From didn't organize the People, he rejected them, and he undermined their representation in government. When the People organized against their dismissal and got put further and further away from the centers of Power.

Stoller mischaracterizes the FDR - New Deal Democratic Party as "Populist." It never was. It utilized some populist rhetoric from time to time in order to further elitist goals, but the New Deal was not a Populist program, neither was the Great Society.

Neither one was fully implemented in any case.

From convinced the governing class to reject even the pretense of populism, to reject New Deal policies, to reject the Great Society, and basically to revert to pre-New Dealism, indeed pre-Progressivism -- together with all the cronyism and corruption that was endemic to the period -- and to call it "Progressive." It's the triumph of PR over substance.

From should be held to account for what he did. But what he did could not have happened without the eager and willing cooperation of the governing class and the global elites who saw extreme advantage to themselves by adhering to the principles From advanced.

It's worked out well for them.

So far...

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Election? There was an election?

Hmm.

I've been avoiding the topic of the recently concluded mid-term elections, in part because the outcome was pretty much foregone, and if it hadn't gone the way it was predicted, I don't doubt it would be made to. American elections have become farcical (old timers will say they've always been that way), and the results are almost always what the consultants and pollsters agree in advance they ought to be "for this cycle."

The Rs will take control of both houses of Congress in January, and apparently they picked up or held on to any number of Statehouses and governorships. There is a real question why.

Earlier, I speculated that the Dems were throwing this election just as they have so many of them in the recent past, and as things devolved over the last weeks of the campaign, it seemed pretty clear that was what was going on this time too. Dems can win when they want to, but they didn't seem to want to, and I read yesterday that the DSCC has pulled its ad buys on behalf of Mary Landrieu in Louisiana who faces a run off with her Republican rival. I guess they've written her off, too.

Oh well!

On the other hand, a Republican controlled congress seems to suit Mr. Obama just fine, at least as far as I could tell from his presser the other day. He was looking forward to "getting things done." Well, why not. Anyone who's been observing him over the years understands that his politics basically align with the Reagan Wing (now considered the "moderate wing") of the Republican Party, they are not traditional Democratic Party politics at all. He's a defender of Oligarchy, despite all their whining and complaining about how mean he is to them, and he's a glad hander for everyone else.

Internationally, he's nearly in lockstep with all the rest of the warmongers and imperialists.

Oh.

It's not just a matter of Dems choosing to lose particular elections. Rs are able to pick up a lot of seats in part because they are perceived as activists and doers, even when they aren't actually doing anything. It's because they can clearly and incessantly articulate a political point of view and a determination to follow through, something Dems seem incapable of. They will always try to yield to opposition. Rs never appear to, although they do. It's a contrast of style, but also a contrast of substance. When Dems are in control, they cannot and do not follow through on the public's expectations. Instead, they continue to find ways to yield to their opponents, their ostensible opponents, until it's obvious to observers that Dems are serving the same interests Rs are, only with a somewhat kinder/gentler face. They're on the same side, and it's not the side of the People.

Oh.

So. I've said I expect Obama and Biden to be impeached next year and quite possibly be replaced by a different speaker of the House (not the orange crying man) and Paul Ryan. No one else seems to be predicting this, and it may not happen, but it wouldn't surprise me in the least.

As far as the public and policy is concerned, there would be little or no difference; it wouldn't actually matter. Our government is captured by the legendary malefactors, and we the rabble have no role in it.

An impeachment, if it happens, will be essentially entertainment for the masses.

So it goes.


Monday, November 3, 2014

The APD Consent Decree

In the midst of all the Hallowe'en festivities last Friday, the Department of Justice and the City of Albuquerque announced and released the long-awaited Consent Decree regarding reforms of the Albuquerque Police Department. Oh. That. Right.

The Decree itself is turgid and legalistic and extremely detailed with regard to some of the reforms that are to be instituted, vague as can be about others, and it is so filled with loopholes that literally nothing need change at all with regard to the bloody business that touched off the DoJ involvement in Albuquerque if APD doesn't want to change.

Though I've seen some positive responses to it from victims and survivors of APD's bloodlust, it's not entirely clear at all that this document will inspire much more than cosmetic reforms over the short or the long term.

What it does do, and what I've said all along the intent of DoJ Consent Decrees has been, is "professionalize" the police force and make manifest the right ways to go about killing and imprisoning and suppressing the Rabble rather than perpetuate the wrong ways. That's why there is so much focus on training and reporting, and so little focus on the problems that caused the uproar in the first place.

But there are potential positives, at least from the surface view that most of us have about these things. The Repeat Offender Project is to be disbanded. The APD killers associated with it will no doubt be reassigned. This is progress on one front, but quite possibly it will have the effect of spreading the infection throughout the force. It remains to be seen. As it was, many of the deaths caused by APD were the result of ROP actions. "Human Waste Disposal," right? They called it an ad hoc SWAT team, but their killer reputation was one of the chief complaints from the public. So, ROP will go.

A stronger mental health component and understanding will be instituted through training and the development and deployment of teams of Crisis Intervention experts. Or at least so-called experts. Community involvement in mental health oversight and responsibility will be encouraged through commissions, panels and workshops. Issues surrounding homelessness will be addressed more fully. All of which is good, but I hate to see them in the hands of police, in part because police don't have the mindset or the tools to effectively handle people in crisis -- mental health crisis or otherwise -- except with violence and too often the use of lethal force. That's why so many people in crisis get dead when the police are called. Their viewpoint regarding people in crisis is to meet it with as much violence and use of force as they deem necessary to control the situation and neutralize the threat they perceive to themselves or to others.

That means tasing and shooting people to death -- regardless of reforms.

So maybe the APD will come to understand the nature of mental illness and homelessness, they might even learn details about drug and alcohol conditions affecting behavior, but will that knowledge lessen the killing? Probably not.

What can be helpful is the deployment of Crisis Intervention teams any time a person-in-crisis situation is identified. The problem has been that the killer cops are also deployed at the same time. This has been one of the problems with calling 911 or suicide hotlines in cases of persons-in-crisis. Once the call is made, the dispatcher or counselor is required by policy and protocol to assign police not health care professionals to follow up. If there is any mention of death threats or arms of any kind, then the police assign killers to the case, sometimes whole teams of killers in SWAT gear. This is wrong and absurd, and it doesn't appear that these protocols are changed by the terms of the APD Consent Decree. So long as the police are assigned to be the first responders in such crisis situations, and indeed continue to prevent intervention until the threat is neutralized, we'll continue to see the killings of people in crisis.

Most of the 106 page Consent Decree consists of detailed training and reporting requirements, none of which is particularly onerous -- though it will probably be seen that way by some of the line force and supervisors who will have to comply. Or maybe not.

They may comply but not really. They report but lie. They may... we could go on and on.

The point is that the Consent Decree may or may not lead to a lessening of the Albuquerque Police Department's bloodletting. It doesn't really address that problem. It addresses other problems that were identified, mostly regarding the professionalization of the force to ensure that it operates according to "best practices" in the field.

That may or may not be what those who have given so much and worked so hard and long have sought.

The timelines are also problematical. A year is typical for instituting some of the reforms, but up to four years is mandated for others. This means there doesn't have to be any immediate change -- again unless APD wants to. Past practice can continue and not be punished. In fact, there is no provision or recommendation in the Consent Decree for addressing egregious behavior that occurred prior to the Consent Decree and only modest recommendations regarding future egregiousness. Internal matters stay internal, in other words, and while complaints might -- or might not -- be addressed more transparently and fully in the future, they won't necessarily result in any action against offending officers.

There is still the presumption that the officers are not the offenders. This presumption can have the effect of perpetuating the impunity that police have long arrogated to themselves.

On the other hand, Community Oriented Policing is to be instituted (according to reports, it was once the norm in Albuquerque but was abandoned by a previous administration). This doesn't necessarily reduce impunity, but it can have the effect of integrating police into the fabric of communities rather than them being seen as outside occupation forces.

In some cities, a key transformation has been Community Oriented Policing which has the effect of completely altering the relationship between police and residents to the point where "protection and service" is a fact, not merely a slogan. According to some of what I've read, there was a time when this approach to policing was the standard in Albuquerque. It may be again. We'll see.

I'd rather be positive than not. But it will be up to the police and the city administration to show good faith and actually implement the recommendations and requirements set forth. So far, they have been resistant and reluctant. Time will tell.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

All Saints Day, All Souls Day, Day of the Dead, Samhain 2014

Today is All Souls Day...

Yesterday marked this year's Day of the Dead, which we noted with some interest here in New Mexico. We don't actually celebrate  Dia de los Muertos, at least not in the way many of the locals do, in part because November 1 is our wedding anniversary. This year's anniversary is our 45th since we were married. We've been together for 47 (or is it 48?) years.

While I was getting our drinking water jug refilled yesterday, a couple of cowboys were at the other spigot waiting for their jug to fill, listening to A Prairie Home Companion on the radio in their truck, yocking and laughing up a storm. I nodded and smiled. Over in the park across the street, a wedding couple was having their pictures taken in the bandstand, children were running and playing, and I thought, "Oh how wonderful! This is where we live..."

So someone else chose Day of the Dead to get married, too. Our wedding anniversary is typically the main focus of our celebratory interest on November 1, as was the case this year. We don't let those who have passed be forgotten, however.

We have what amounts to a year-round ofrenda -- several of them come to think of it -- in the house. The Christmas tree is always up and always lit, for example, and that's for "Gramma," Ms. Ché's mother, who passed on in 2009. She loved Christmas; she loved the tree and the decorations. It just seemed right to put up a tree here and leave it up year round.

Above it on the left, actually above the doorway that leads to the section of the house where the library and the Jesus Room are, there's a shelf and on it are various objects that relate to Gramma and to the Honored Cat Mao. The two of them were, late in their lives, inseparable. They communed and communicated with one another on as deep and intimate a level as I think it's possible. They told one another stories, and they comforted one another as their lives were beginning to ebb away. The shelf -- along with the Christmas tree, which Mao loved, too -- is our version of a year-round ofrenda.

But we have what amounts to an altar on the other side of the room too, a bookstand on which various items, holy and profane, are placed for contemplation and honor. Father Roca figures prominently, and I think he'd smile, maybe he'd laugh out loud, if he saw it. There's a "Kitty Angel" that is the representative of all the feral  felines who've passed on since we've been here. There's an Indian Warrior statuette that represents the Indian warriors who've passed through and passed on. There's Holy Water and Holy Dirt from Chimayo near Father Roca's picture and the program from his celebration of 70 years in the priesthood. There's a tambourine for musical interludes and various items for holiday cheer, including -- for now -- a glitter covered pumpkin, a pair of skeleton gloves and a ghoulish luminaria can. Nor should we forget the ceramic chicken. There's even an anniversary clock spinning merrily away, a reminder that "time passes." Profound!

Above this mini-altar/shrine is a painting by Charles Curtis Blackwell of a Mississippi farmer plowing the red Mississippi dirt, a painting I call "Git on up, Mule" which is a line from the poetry-play by Blackwell called "Is, the Color of Mississippi Mud" that we produced years ago, and that Blackwell created the large painting for. Above that are a couple of landscape paintings, one of an indeterminate farming area near a mountain range (not unlike where we are, but the barns around here aren't red...) and another titled "Jack Tone Road" which is a scene in the San Joaquin Valley of California, an area which is as surely imprinted in us as is this part of New Mexico. That area of Jack Tone Road is mostly orchard country -- or at least it was, the orchards may have been torn out by now, thanks to the drought and economics -- but the painting appears to depict old eucalyptus trees along the road which were planted as windbreaks back in the teens or twenties, trees which have also probably been cut down and disposed of by now. The image in the painting, therefore, is a memory of something that once was but may not be any more. 


It's not exactly an ofrenda but it's not not one, either. Similarly, the bench/shelves in the entry hall hold a lot of items that elicit memories, too. There's a large Chinese vase full of (artificial) flowers that evokes memories of our California home(s) where often things that originated in China were collected and/or displayed. Some parts of California are tied to China much more closely than they are tied to Mexico and having something from China as it used to be is simply par for the course. Chinese things are considered somewhat exotic here in New Mexico, though, and some of the swells like to decorate their places with Chinese antiques and what have you rather than the far more typical Pueblo Indian pottery and Navajo rugs and so forth. The Chinese vase by the front door, however, is a nod to Things Chinese we recall from California rather than an emblem of rejection of Things Indian that are so common in New Mexico.

Next to the Chinese vase is a ceramic model of the Santa Clara Mission in California. I've never visited it -- one of the few California Missions I've not been to -- but Santa Clara (Saint Clare) was St. Francis's close spiritual companion in Assisi, and the mission model is a way of recalling and honoring her. Santa Clara, California, of course, is the heart of the Silicon Valley where such socially, economically and politically transformative things go on these days... and so in a backhanded way, the model of the Santa Clara Mission is a nod to that aspect of contemporary living as well.

There are photos which someone took on their European tour in a multi-picture frame behind the Mission model. I picked them up in a thrift store and thought they were interesting and charming. Every European tour seems to be the same, but here the pictures are somewhat different: A misty castle (or perhaps hotel) set on a crag viewed through an opening in the trees; a canal perhaps in Amsterdam though I can't be sure. There's a water-bird skimming the surface. It's quite elegant in its own way. The next picture appears to be a river-side scene, the river barely visible through the trees. There is a clearing in the foreground where one might picnic should one care to. The final picture is of a canal in Venice, tourists being squired about in gondolas. It's charming for its utter banality...

The colors in these photos are muted and somewhat faded. The pictures themselves are probably twenty five or thirty years old, maybe older, it's hard to say, for the images are timeless. These sights don't change, do they? Castles are always on their crags along the Rhine, the canals of Amsterdam are perpetual. Riversides in some parts of  Europe have been nature preserves for centuries. The canals of Venice are living museums. These pictures could have been taken yesterday, and nothing much would have changed. That's part of the social and cultural context of Euro-America. Once set, a thing or a place deemed Historic is "forever." It never changes. Or it's never supposed to change.

Next to those pictures is an old Seth Thomas mantel clock. The works were pretty well shot, so I replaced them with chiming battery powered works that revivified this beat up old clock such that it seems quite festive and cheery now. Of course it's not authentic, but so what? It works and keeps good time. Not so before.

On top of the clock are varied things: a wooden sculpture by Stephen Wall that vaguely evokes something Native American, a old map of New Mexico in a frame that probably dates to the 1920s, a couple of skulls -- one ivory, one turquoise -- for the season. There are a number of other seasonal things including a nice crow scattered about below.

On the other side of the clock is an Adrian Wall sculpture called 'The Beauty.' An Indian maiden, wouldn't you know, only in this case, I was told the model was Adrian's wife, and it's a charming piece in its somewhat quirky delineation. I like it. She has a Mona Lisa smile and wears a squash-blossom necklace. There are some old and battered Shakespeare books, some game sets in wooden cases, an alabaster lamp with a scenic shade that we turn on when we'll be away after dark. "We'll leave the light on."

The wall above is covered with paintings, photos and prints. The central picture is a black and white photograph of a room at Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon. The photographer is from San Ildefonso Pueblo, and I bought the picture at Indian Market in Santa Fe a couple of years ago, first because it appealed to me, and second because this particular room was where Ms Ché and I had a kind of epiphany regarding the place and what it had been when it was occupied. Ms. Ché has had many epiphanies when she's been at Chaco, but this was one we shared, right there in that room, and the photo captures a sense of the mood and the moment. When I told the photographer of our experience there, he was intrigued. His own experience has been different, he said. There are times when the place speaks to him, but other times, he said, it's been silent, and he's captured what he sees as images of that silence. We had a lot of photos from Chaco that I stored online; unfortunately they were all deleted when that photo storage service shut down a few years ago, so I have very few photos we took at Chaco. This one takes the place of many of those that were lost.

There are many other items of memory and interest in the entrance hall. It was quite crowded with furnishings and objects at one time, but much of it was moved out as part of a more general clean-up project getting ready for the "New (half) Year."

October 31-November 1, you see, is also Samhain, the traditional Irish half-year festival, when winter sets in. In our tradition, we carry over only certain things from one (half) year to the next, and there's a good deal of clean up and disposal of whatever isn't going to be carried over. We made a lot of adjustments in the house getting ready. Several rooms were rearranged. Some of the paintings were re-framed, and others were replaced. Rugs were taken out or replaced. Cobwebs that had been collecting all year were taken down. (We're not adverse to most spiders, but their webbage can get to be extreme!) The point was to make modest but necessary changes before the onset of winter.

A lot of things that I might have done this year were delayed or abandoned because of the sciatic attack I suffered in January. Here it is November, and I've only partially recovered. I still have quite a limp, but worse for me is the loss of endurance. There's only so much I can do before I have to stop and rest, and it bothers me a great deal. It seems much more difficult for me to get around any more. Though I don't have to use a cane regularly, if I'm going to be out and about for more than an hour or so, I'll have one with me and use it as necessary. Stairs have become a challenge. There are other ambulatory challenges as well, some of which I'm still adapting to and getting used to.

Age. Yes, getting older. Recognizing my own mortality. Slowing down.

In some ways it's frustrating; in many other ways, though, it's a relief.

So as we pass into the next half-year, we honor those who we admire, who have gone before us, whose memories we treasure, and we look to tomorrow as well.

All Saints Day, All Souls Day, Day of the Dead, Samhain... a time for reflection, a time for memory.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Taibbi Decamps First Look

I know. Old news, right? It happened last Tuesday after all, at least that's what we're led to believe.

Matt Taibbi, superstar media rabble rouser against the titans of finance (among other malevolence), blew that pop stand called First Look Media, Pierre Omidyar's shrinking, vanishing, evaporating Transformation of the Media Entire, though some of the reports seem to indicate that the Taibbi run operation (to have been called "The Racket," heh) ground to a standstill during the summer.

Of course many people noticed that when Taibbi left Rolling Stone in February, his voice against the malefactors of great wealth was all but silenced. He put a book out, true, but his regular postings and articles pretty much disappeared. It was as if he'd been sucked into a black hole, not unlike the case with many of those intrepid journalists acquired by Pierre Omidyar for the sole publication of his New Media start-up venture called The Intercept (what an interesting name.)

The excuse for their long silence was that they were doing something completely unprecedented, and "it's hard." Yes, well... that's no excuse at all. We knew it was "hard" long before Pierre was a gleam in his parents' eyes in Paris. Pierre knew it was "hard" long before the First Look venture was launched, since he'd been running a news outlet in Hawaii for years. The participants knew it was "hard" -- or should have -- since all of them had been part of media institutions and start up ventures for years. Nothing about what they were doing or planning was either mysterious or unprecedented in the least.

Matt Taibbi, among all of them, had had some of the most intimate experience with the genre of muckraking, polemics, and going toe to toe with the gub'mint, dating from his days at The eXile in Moscow.

These people knew what they were about, and they knew what this venture of Pierre's could be if he stayed out of the way. But apparently he didn't.

Back during the Days of Silence, Jeremy Scahill (remember him?) posted something that strongly suggested that Pierre Omidyar was a constant bugbear in the then non-existent "office" of First Look Media. He was, according to Jeremy, the most prolific and most persistent of the users of interoffice communications. This was dismissed at the time by apologists and interference runners like Glenn Greenwald as nothing more than the ordinary and expected interest by the chief (actually only) investor in this Startling and Revolutionary New Media Venture that was not publishing anything, but would be. Soon. Eventually. One day.

Critics nodded off and allowed as how First Look was finding its feet, yadda yadda, and we, the Rabble, should think nothing of the reports periodically filtering out of its shrouded confines that all was not happy or well within.

Marcy Wheeler left, not so much in a huff it seemed as she was in a state of utter ennui. She said she would write in more detail about the reasons why she left, but she never has. In fact, after the initial flurry of interest, she seems to have dropped the subject altogether, focusing on her blog which never stopped publishing during her brief fling as a -- something undefined -- within First Look. My impression was that she was kept on call but her skills were practically never utilized by an outfit that was having immense birthing pains due to conflicting egos among the power players.

Until they duked it out, there was no point...

And who were "they?" Greenwald and Pierre primarily. It was interesting to me that only in April did Pierre do the "visioning" thing that all start-ups in my experience do long before they actually Start. Up. Only in April did Pierre and his team get around to this "visioning" process, and apparently, none of those already working (sort of) at the New Media Venture (ie: the WordPress group blog known as The Intercept) were included.

Not even the invaluable exGawker hoo-hah known as John Cook whose contributions to The Intercept at that point were frankly bizarre. No one already involved with the Venture was involved with the "vision thing" apparently. Fascinating.

Soon enough -- sometime in the summer -- and announcement was found in Pierre's blog at First Look that His Vision had been pared back substantially, that basically he was pulling the plug and that multi-magazine format for news and whatnot was not going to happen. The start-up New Media Transformation Thing was essentially over with. It was too "hard." Yes, well...

At that time, The Intercept was still not publishing more than sporadically, and what it did publish was generally Old News, recycled from other publications that had the scoop well before anyone at The Intercept noticed. Jeremy Scahill had disappeared altogether. Greenwald and Devereaux were essentially the only ones bothering with The Intercept, but most of the others on the masthead weren't publishing anywhere, not The Intercept, not anywhere else. John Cook said that it would take as long as it took to get the thing up and running, and until it was up and running, The Intercept would be functioning essentially as Greenwald's blog, so everyone could just sit down and shut up.

OK then.

For many, that was the point at which The Intercept ceased having any interest. Regardless of what they would eventually publish, it didn't matter anymore, in part because of John Cook's hostility toward his ostensible audience, in part because The Intercept had become a running gag, a joke. It has not recovered.

Although it has now "launched" -- at least we assume that what is up and running now is the "launch." Hard to say. There was no announcement, no fanfare, no high-stepping marching bands. One day, a re-designed and much fuller "product" appeared. All kinds of other writers, some of whom had never been announced, bylined the almost daily posts, sometimes multiple posts a day, not unlike Gawker, in fact. Well, how about that.

OK. Now what? Specifically what of Taibbi's Thing? Nothing. No word, no product, not even an occasional update. Literally nothing. Fall -- the proposed launch season for Taibbi's Thing -- approached, and there continued to be nothing. Fall arrived. Nothing.

Oh dear. Here we go again. All that fanfare leading nowhere. Pierre was turning into quite the Pied Piper, eh?

And then word came, finally, at the end of October that Taibbi had walked. The End. Over With. Done.

Shortly, within a day or so, Taibbi was announced as back at Rolling Stone and he would have a piece in next week's issue.

What is so startling about this is that the endless silence and delays at First Look contrast sharply with Taibbi's instant re-emergence at Rolling Stone. This confirms what I've long suspected: delay and silence is the policy at First Look, the veritable point of it. This is the media "transformation" Pierre was nattering on about. In other words, rather than providing news and information, string your audience along and provide... silence. Say nothing, do nothing. Pretend that's the Future you envisioned all along.

Well, maybe it is. The No-News Transformation...

True enough, The Intercept has been churning out content regularly for several weeks now. Some of it is substantial. But they seem to have lost their audience along the way. I check it maybe once a week or so. Nothing much strikes me as all that important, but I'm sure there are those who think every word is golden. That's fine.

On the other hand, Taibbi's Aborted Thing might have been kick-ass if it had ever launched. But it didn't and from the sketchy and self-serving reports about what happened, I suspect it was never intended to launch. It was intended as a holding pen for Mr. Taibbi while other, more important things were attended to.

Such as the New Zealand Thing, the Ukraine Thing, and perhaps most importantly for Pierre's fortunes, the India Thing. I'm sure there are many more Things in Pierre's repertoire. First Look is among the least important of his many Things.

Regime changes favoring his business plans are far more important and immediate, and despite its long-term propaganda potential, First Look does not serve those interests and plans. Not yet anyway.

Taibbi's Thing never would in any case. Not if he were pursuing the Oligarchy. Of which, never ever forget, Pierre is a part and a player.

The self-serving "inside story" posted by The Intercept confirms a lot of the speculation regarding Pierre's interference in the First Look projects, while insistently denying that his constant interference was in any way directed at shaping the editorial content of the projects. It's self-evidently false on its face, as anyone who is determining who is hired/fired and what they can and can't spend money on is shaping editorial content thereby. He or she doesn't need to issue directives from the Corner Office to get what he or she wants. If one doesn't know that about the executive suites, one doesn't know much of anything, does one?

The "inside story" proposes to cast Pierre as a naif and incompetent -- which is absurd. He is neither. He knows exactly what he wants and he knows how to get it, long and short term, and he's doing it. He has the money to get pretty much anything, and he seems to have the will and intent that goes well beyond petty interests like Transformative Media.

What he's doing is utilizing his wealth and his power the way much of the Oligarchy does, to shape and control the forces of society and government to his liking. He's literally creating or recreating societies and governments; in that he's much like the rest of his class. Of course the God Complex only goes so far, but Pierre has barely begun his quest for divinity.

First Look is little more than a side show in that project. And Taibbi never would have fit into it.

Never.

The question I have now is whether he will defy Pierre and tell all. I suspect not, partly because of the implict threats in the "inside story" to go after him hammer and tong if he gets too uppity. The whole point of the "inside story" was to get the approved narrative out there before Taibbi can do anything, and to make sure that Taibbi understands who's the boss of him. Basically, it was a threat.

By juxtaposing The Intercept's (ie: Greenwald's) "successful" negotiations with Pierre versus Taibbi's "unsuccessful" ones, and by pointing out that it was Pierre who determined what and who would be successful and what/who not, and that a "case" can be brought against Taibbi if Pierre decides to (and it can be dropped, too) Taibbi is put on notice to play nice  -- or else. It wasn't even subtle.

These boys play dirty.

They play to win. And in this case, Pierre has won.

That may change, but I won't hold my breath.

Whatever else he is, Taibbi is no fool. Those who have gone up against Pierre, such as Matt's former colleagues over at Pando have found out they don't get very far, and it can be very much to their advantage to play ball... the smears are prepped for launch...

Taibbi, if he knows anything, knows this.

Nice to know that he's back at Rolling Stone. Will his voice be muted?

We'll know soon enough.

--------------------------------------------
UPDATE:
Haven't had a chance to read it yet, but the Omidyar exposé promised has now been published by New York Magazine. The title is evocative: "The Pierre Omidyar Insurgency." Given the apparently numerous examples of Omidyar's meddling in governments in many parts of the world, it seems a fitting title.

FURTHER UPDATE:
Have now read the Omidyar puff-or-hit piece in New York Magazine. Those who have been following the Omidyar saga (at least since the announcement last October that Greenwald would be moving on to his turf) know most of the stuff in the article -- and a probably a great deal more, as Andrew Rice says essentially nothing about Omidyar Network's involvement in regime change. In fact, the "insurgency" of the title is more of an abstraction than a concrete reality.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that Rice was bought off, but he seems to be treading on eggs. Nevertheless, partisans will call it a hit piece (everything that isn't perfectly aligned with the current party line is a hit piece) whereas those who don't fall at Omidyar's feet will likely call it a puff piece.

Those who have been following the saga all along, though, will learn next to nothing.



Sunday, October 26, 2014

So. Why The Difference?

A black man, unarmed, reportedly surrendering, is shot down and killed by police in the streets of Ferguson, MO; a black man, standing still, holding an air rifle from the store shelves and talking on the phone to the mother of his children is shot down and killed by police in the Walmart in Beavercreek, OH; a black man in custody and handcuffed, lying prone on the ground is shot and killed by police in Los Angeles, CA; a white man, surrendering to police after an hours-long stand off, "armed" with two pocket knives, is shot by police and mortally wounded in Albuquerque, NM; and on and on like this all around the country, day in and day out, to the number of a thousand or more year in and year out.

In Sacramento on Friday, a sheriff's deputy was shot and killed by a suspect who was in the driver's seat of a car which was (apparently) under suspicion by deputies. The deputy's partner fired back at the suspect and may have wounded him, but the suspect and his accomplice successfully fled, attempted one unsuccessful carjacking in which the driver of the other car was shot in the head and wounded, attempted another successful carjacking, then took the pickup truck of a gardener which they drove to Auburn, CA, where another deputy was shot and killed and a third was wounded.

Both suspects were eventually arrested and are now in custody. Apart from the initial returned fire in Sacramento, no other shots were reportedly fired by law enforcement during the massive hours-long manhunt and eventual capture of the suspect and his accomplice -- who turned out to be his wife.

Why the difference?

Since I learned about this incident in California yesterday, I've repeatedly asked myself that question, "why?" So many suspects are simply shot and killed by police execution-style, yet in this case, it didn't happen when it well might have, especially while the police in Auburn were in the process of capturing the suspect in a home they had entered.

A key may be in the statement of Placer County Sheriff Ed Bonner, 
“The suspect is in custody, as you know,” Bonner said quietly. “I think there’s those people who would say, ‘Well, you know what, I wish you’d killed him.’
“No, that’s not who we are, we are not him. We did our job..."
That's stunning really, given the widespread street justice dispensed by law enforcement all over the country, leaving so many dead, many of them innocent of wrong-doing, most of them no threat to police or others.

Yet here is a case in which two deputies were killed, another and a civilian wounded, and suspects are taken into custody without killing them. How... odd.

I've thought about why, and I've wondered, "Did they think the suspects were white?" Yes, so often, race enters into the equation, with black and brown men subjected to "street justice" by police far more often than white men are (though it's wrong to assume white men are immune. They are not.) "Were the suspects white?" The man involved has been identified as a Mexican national, but no pictures have been released (apart from a distant one as he is being transported to the hospital for assessment and treatment of his wound(s). It's impossible to say from that picture whether the suspect appears to be white. But being a Mexican national does not automatically mean he is brown. It's not clear what race his wife is, but it's likely she is white (the Salt Lake City origin of the couple indicates as much, but again, there is no certainty as yet.)

Would perceived whiteness have been a reason not to kill them? Perhaps, though I doubt it.

The man was reportedly armed with an AR-15 which he was not particularly hesitant to use, and the woman was reported to have a pistol in her purse. Whether she ever brandished or used it, I don't know, but she is charged with carjacking and attempted murder, so possibly she did use her gun, if only to show it.

Were police hesitant to use lethal force against them because they knew that at least one of them was armed with an automatic rifle and would use it? I doubt it, but it's possible. The fact that a suspect can and will shoot offensively and shoot back, as had already been demonstrated by this suspect, is sometimes enough to cause a bit of hesitation and trepidation by law enforcement. But just as often or more often, they will kill armed suspects, or suspects they think are armed, using concealed snipers if necessary, without a sign of hesitation or trepidation. This seems to have been an instance in which officers in Auburn knew where the suspect was hiding and tightened the cordon around that house while a team prepared to enter it, which apparently they did and and when they did the suspect (apparently) promptly surrendered.

How often have police entered a house -- on a no-knock warrant, say -- and shot dogs and people without a moment's hesitation? It happens all the time. Not this time, though. Why?

"That's not who we are."

Maybe that really is the key to understanding the difference between what happened in Sacramento and Auburn on Friday and what seems to be happening every day of the week somewhere else in the country.

Maybe the officers of the Sacramento and Placer County Sheriff's Departments are not Killer Kops -- unlike so many of their colleagues around the country.

If they're not, why aren't they?

Still more to ponder.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Two Deputies Shot And Killed in California. Suspect Apprehended and In Custody After Multi-County Chase.

Two deputy sheriffs were killed in California yesterday, one in Sacramento, one in Auburn. I was alerted to this news by a friend's email, otherwise I might not have known about it.

The suspect allegedly shot and killed a Sacramento County sheriff's deputy outside a Motel 6 in suburban Sacramento yesterday morning when the deputy approached the suspect's car. The deputy was shot and killed before he could reach the car to ask the occupants what they were doing. The car, containing the shooter and a female passenger sped off. Before they did, the officer's partner opened fire on the car and its occupants, apparently without effect.

According to the Sacramento County sheriff's office, the shooter and his passenger, who may be his wife, then tried to carjack a driver's vehicle a couple of blocks away, but the driver apparently resisted and was shot in the head. They then drove a short distance where they carjacked another vehicle which they drove some distance away to another residential area where they took a gardener's truck at gunpoint -- after detaching the gardener's equipment trailer.

The couple were spotted some distance away at a county park; police were dispatched but the couple had already driven quite a distance farther on, to I-80, which they drove to Auburn, another twenty five miles or so from the scene.

In Auburn, Placer County deputies spotted the truck and pulled it over. As they approached the vehicle, the driver opened fire, killing one deputy and wounding the other. From that point, the story is somewhat confused. Apparently other deputies arrived on the scene and arrested the female passenger while the driver/shooter escaped the scene on foot to a house nearby where he hid for several hours while heavily armed officers patrolled the area searching for him.

They entered the house where he was hiding and arrested him. Apparently he surrendered without incident. He was apparently wounded in Sacramento when the car he was driving at the Motel 6 was initially fired on, but he was not badly injured.

My account is taken from the Sacramento Bee's report of the day's actions. The report is fairly coherent, though it is not at all clear why deputies were approaching a car in the parking lot at the Motel 6 in the first place. The fact that the driver, Marcelo Marquez, was apparently able to kill two deputies, wound another, as well as wounding a civilian, elude capture for hours and yet was apprehended and taken into custody alive and apparently relatively unharmed is... little short of astonishing given the litany of individuals who are killed by police day in and day out all over the country, too often for little or no reason.

Placer County Sheriff Ed Bonner had this to say yesterday:

“The suspect is in custody, as you know,” Bonner said quietly. “I think there’s those people who would say, ‘Well, you know what, I wish you’d killed him.’
“No, that’s not who we are, we are not him. We did our job. I’m incredibly proud of the men and women who go out there every day and put their life on the line, and today this organization, this family, has suffered a horrific loss.”

What he's saying goes against so much routine police dogma and doctrine, however. By contemporary policing standards, every civilian is a potential enemy illegal combatant -- especially if they are brown or black male -- a threat to be neutralized, neutralized with as much force as the officer deems necessary.

But that isn't quite what happened in either Sacramento or Placer County yesterday. A man who was clearly a threat -- who had allegedly killed and wounded officers and a civilian, was pursued and apprehended without killing him or even (apparently) severely wounding him. Civilians in Auburn especially were put through a very difficult situation when schools were locked down and checkpoints established, manned by heavily armed police who seemed to have no problem implicitly threatening them, putting much of downtown Auburn under a hostile occupation.

The questions I would ask about yesterday's events in Sacramento and Auburn start with "Why the difference" between that and, say, almost any of the more than 1,600 police killings since May 1, 2013 -- some of them in Sacramento and Placer Counties. What was it that allowed or required police and sheriff's deputies from city and county agencies throughout the area (one I'm very familiar with having once lived in that general area of Sacramento and Placer Counties for decades) to apprehend the suspects without killing them whereas in so many, many, many instances documented over and over and over again, police use lethal force all but instantly in confrontations with civilians.

What made the difference this time?

I don't know. I have some ideas, but I'll have to think about it a bit more and ask other questions along the way.

There's a followup story in the Bee that's also interesting, pointing out that Marquez and his wife were apparently from the Salt Lake City area, and that there was "nothing unusual" about them.

I would also point out that the killing of law enforcement officers is EXTREMELY RARE in this country, vastly fewer than the number of police killings of civilians. That two were killed and one was wounded yesterday in Sacramento and Auburn is remarkable, especially given that the alleged shooter is still alive, and according to reports is willing to speak with the media -- though he is not being allowed to while the investigation continues.

I grieve for all those killed and wounded yesterday in Sacramento and Auburn. It shouldn't have happened, ideally it wouldn't have. It's remarkable that law enforcement officers were able to apprehend the suspect and his wife/accomplice without using lethal force.

It's a story that needs to be told more fully. There are many lessons to be learned...

Standard Model Police Shooting Story -- Example #1

Boy, these stories are so standardized, you could write them in your sleep.

[#1643 "Killed by Police" since May 1, 2013]

A New Bedford, MA, man named Luis Roman was shot and killed by Dartmouth police Thursday night after they claimed he armed himself with two guns and opened fire at them when they approached his car.

Could be, who knows?

The issue here is not so much the incident itself -- because we don't know what really happened -- but the reporting of it in the Boston Globe. To wit:

The Globe characterizes Roman right off the bat by claiming in the first sentence that Roman (allegedly) swore he was not going back to jail.

Then in paragraph after paragraph, Roman is further characterized as a violent repeat offender, even though the charges against him were either dismissed or were "continued without a finding" -- all of them. Nevertheless, the Globe's story of this incident presents Roman as a desperado, intent on killing his girlfriend and the police who were called to her apartment when she reported Roman had broken into it.

As happens in almost all mainstream media reports of police involved killings, police statements about the incident are reported as fact, undeniable and undisputable, unless and until significant public push-back occurs, at which time, "there is a debate."  Or even better, "a conversation." The victim is routinely maligned -- typically as a habitual criminal, a drug user, a child sex offender, or some such -- to make clear that, whether or not the victim was armed and/or dangerous, the victim deserved to die.

In this particular case, the victim's long criminal record (despite the fact that there were no convictions) is presented first. His arrogant mug-shot is displayed. The outstanding FTA warrant from 2012 is mentioned.

He is presented as a burglar on the night of his death. He is alleged to have broken into his former girlfriend's apartment and damaged her television and computer. She was the mother of his child and she had taken out a restraining order on him in 2010 alleging that he had attacked and threatened her.

He left the apartment before police arrived to investigate. Whether anyone was in the apartment when Roman allegedly broke in is unclear. He allegedly called the father of his former girlfriend to find out if the police were there, and told that they were, he said (according to police statements) that “he was coming back to the apartment and that he had his gun out, ammunition, and said he wasn’t going back to jail.”

He arrived, the police told him to get out of his car, he started to, then got back in, "brandished" one of two guns and fired two shots at police as they approached the car. An officer fired back. The man was transported to the hospital where, after CPR, the man was pronounced dead. Officer is now on routine paid leave, investigation is continuing. The end.

Not quite, however, because the story goes on to detail the assertions made by his former girlfriend in her restraining order application. Then there is a long section of the report on other allegations against him, as well as the statement that "Roman was well-known to the police." But interestingly:
A long list of charges dating back to 2007 and including assault, assault and battery, breaking and entering, and more drug charges, were all brought against Roman and ultimately dismissed, according to court documents.
All of this detail serves the purpose of impugning Roman and making the case that he deserved to die, as -- according to the standards of the media -- all perps who are killed by police must. Whether Roman actually fired at police officers approaching his car is -- I would say -- an open question. He may have. He may not have, but we should (by now) be skeptical of police statements. Firing, brandishing, reaching... all of these actions and more are routinely used to justify police killings, but without solid corroboration, we can't be sure that any such thing actually happened.

But what we can always be sure of is that the reports appearing in the media regarding the incident will always feature and focus on the victim's alleged "badness."

Always.

This story is one of the purest of its kind.
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NOTE: I'll have some things to say about the killing of two deputies in California yesterday when I get a chance later. For now, though, I'll just say that I wouldn't have known about it unless a friend emailed me with a sideways reference... had to look it up.

Are The Dems Throwing This Election -- Too?

It wouldn't be the first time.

Every indication is that the Dems will lose the Senate and make no substantive gains in the House. A few governorships may switch parties. This will not benefit the People in any way, but even if the Dems were to take control of the House and Senate, it wouldn't much change things.

Politics in this country is a function of a rigid two party system that is essentially a single-party system with two collaborative branches. Years ago, the Dems had a lock on the political apparatus and the government, unbroken for more than 40 years. Now we're getting close to a similar lock for the Rs. The Dems cooperate in allowing R control, just as the Rs cooperated during the era of Dem control. After all, the policies that come out of these parties will be essentially the same.

That's a big problem for the People, because neither party represents the People. Both parties are functions of the will of the Rich. Both serve the Rich. Neither considers the Will of the People to be anything they must attend to.

Consequently, we have a lot of sideshows and nonsense, no progress in the public interest, and massive levels of corruption and increasing incompetence in government. I laugh whenever I hear Rs accusing Dems of "corruption," or vice versa. Both parties are ridiculously corrupt, and there seems to be nothing whatever the People can do about it.

I began to pay attention to this year's election when I read that Colorado's Mark Udall was likely to lose his Senate seat. Now this struck me as important somehow. The Udall family is an institution in the Rocky Mountain states, and there seemed no reason to me that Udall would lose his seat while his cousin Tom is doing very well against a Radical Republican in bordering New Mexico. Why the difference?

Is it because there are so many more Radicals in Colorado? I don't think so. I suspect the difference has to do with the nature of the election itself, and -- perhaps -- the unwillingness of the Dem Party machine to support incumbents or opponents on a broad scale.

In other words, "throwing the election." Dems are quite capable of winning any election they choose to. I've seen how they operate, however, and the party's Big Wigs make their choices of who to support -- and who not to -- based on what they want in the end. Often enough, especially for the last 30 years or so, they don't want political victory or dominance. They seem to prefer being foil to powerful Rs. Thus, election failures where there logically shouldn't be. It happens over and over again.

Since the 50 State Strategy was abandoned after the 2008 election, we've seen repeated failures to elect Democrats, and we've seen a greater policy fusion between Dems and Rs. They're practically indistinguishable these days, and as Harry Truman famously said, "Given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for the real Republican all the time." (Whether he actually said it or not is beside the point.)

So. Here we go again.

(Since neither party represents the People, this post is a point of interest only. Regardless of which party is in charge of the House and Senate, our system assures that policies will be practically identical.)

Friday, October 24, 2014

This IS "Justice" -- as the High and Mighty See It

There's been a great deal of angst and handwringing over the selective leaking of information favorable to Mike Brown's killer Darren Wilson apparently from information only available to the prosecutor's office and the Grand Jury so leisurely "considering" whether to indict the Brave Officer Wilson over the incident.

The leakage is seen as corrupting and specifically intended to influence the grand jury proceedings and public opinion with the upshot being no indictment of the Brave Officer just trying to protect himself and others from the big-scary black man. Or something.

So when the riots come, there will be justification for shooting into the Angry Mobs of Agitated Negroes. And so forth.

This is all being bruited about as the likely outcome of the leisurely proceedings in St. Louis by all and sundry. It has become the Standard Narrative.

The thing of it is, the people of Ferguson and St. Louis have not been playing to script. They have their own ideas, no matter how the Powers That Be try to shape the narrative to present a defense of the System As It Is, Things As They Are, and the justified suppression of the Natives.

It's amazing to witness. Now we're coming close to the dénouement, and people in the news -- apparently -- are getting themselves all worked up over the "impeding riots," when Young Officer Wilson isn't indicted.

Jebus. If I recall correctly, the killers of John Crawford in Ohio weren't indicted by the Grand Jury, either. They declined to indict, so the story went, because the Officers, Brave and True to Their Calling, genuinely thought the Negro With A Gun was an Active Threat To Themselves and/or Others, and when that is the Genuine Belief of Law Enforcement, there is no legal basis for indictment. Or so we are to believe. Grand Juries generally don't have the option of indicting on "no legal basis." The purpose of turning these cases over to a Grand Jury is to give the appearance of public accountability to a process that is basically a rubber stamp of internal decisions already arrived at.

So. John Crawford's killers were not indicted. Police officers who use deadly force on innocent and guilty alike are almost never indicted so long as they use the magic phrase: "I feared for my life and/or that of others."

That's all they have to do to get away with murder.

It happens all the time, and there are no riots, rarely is there more than a demonstration and march or two. There were no riots in Ohio, despite the egregiousness of the killing of John Crawford III. There were no riots in New York, despite the egregiousness of the killing of Eric Garner. There were no riots in Los Angeles, despite the egregiousness of the killing of Ezell Ford.  The idea that there will be riots in Ferguson when Officer Wilson is not indicted for the egregious killing of Mike Brown is an expectation based on a fantasy of what Ferguson residents see as justice.

The Ferguson police and other authorities in the area have been trying for months to incite riots in Ferguson without success. They've consistently accused the crowd of violence against police and property, but the crowds of protesters have not been violent. A handful of individuals -- widely regarded as provocateurs -- have engaged in arson, looting and vandalism periodically, but these people have been denounced by most of the crowd, a crowd which on the whole has consistently been determined and nonviolent. The contrast between police statements about the crowds and the protesters and the reality could not be more acute.

The police have repeatedly claimed -- without evidence -- that members of the crowd have thrown rocks and fired weapons at police lines. The only thrown objects that witnesses have testified to are bottles, plastic bottles, often empty plastic bottles, water bottles in other words. Even they are widely thought to be the result of provocateurs within the crowd trying to incite violence.

From the day of Mike Brown's execution on Canfield Drive, the police have behaved as if they are at the scene of a riot when there has been no riot. The burning of the QuikTrip two days after the killing is seen by Ferguson residents as an aberration, something not in character with the community, and likely not done by anyone in the community. The burning of the QuikTrip was the sole act that might be called 'rioting', but who did it? The answer to that question is still unclear.

There are many other questions left unanswered or muddled by events, including questions about a number of shooting incidents that did not involve members of the crowd of protesters but which were elided into the protests by police in a rather pathetic effort to smear the protesters and justify the highly inappropriate deployment of military-style force against the demonstrators.

The police were in effect the rioters, not the crowd. And this was clear to anyone who was witness to events in Ferguson. It was so clear, in fact, that the police were forced to step back and stand down. They simply looked absurd.

But it's clear they are determined to suppress a riot no matter what.

A riot they incite once the Grand Jury refuses to indict, an indictment that has been demanded but never expected by the protesters. Huh.

The refusal to indict is seen as genuine Justice by the Powers That Be. As long as they feel they are being protected by the police, they're satisfied with whatever the police do to those scary people in the streets, including shooting them down in cold blood. It's part of the job police are expected to do to maintain a sufficient level of fear among the Rabble. That's how Justice is supposed to work in the eyes of the High and the Mighty, no matter what we're taught in school or what the foolish Rabble believes about it.

Justice serves the Mighty.

Everyone else gets what they deserve.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Not Probable Cause

Message: we don't care, and you can't make us. Nyah!


Dateline: Trenton, New Jersey

As part of a larger art project, Voc:al Up:holstery arranged to have the rollup door of a vacant business painted with a mural honoring Mike Brown (with permission). Beside his larger-than-life portrait were the words:

Sagging pants... is not probable cause

The Trenton police were not amused and sent the city's "graffiti blasters" to remove the offending art from the streets of their fair city. They said it "sent the wrong message about police and community relations."

Mkay. Shooting an unarmed teen dead in the streets sends the right message? Gotcha.

Observe:



At least some of the "graffiti blasters" wanted to document the mural before it was covered over.

They really do want an uprising, don't they? Angling for riots, aren't they? Before the election, right? Or maybe just after.