Friday, November 28, 2014

Crazymaking Crazymaker

Yesterday's police kill-count got up to 1001  according to "Killed by Police". That means there's a ways to go in December to get to the kill-goal of 100 a month, so we'll see. Tensions always rise around the Holidays, and December may well have a bloody and spectacular outcome.

The sudden execution of Tamir Rice and the false stories the Cleveland police were putting out about it have caused more than a little tension in Cleveland and elsewhere. The video evidence shows that the police arrived at the park where he'd been playing (albeit with a toy gun, and Negroes and toy guns tend to give white folk the heebe-jeebes. EEEE!) Anyway, the police arrive and immediately shoot the boy. The video is compressed, only two frames a second, but it is clear that literally no time at all transpires between the moment the police cruiser arrives and the boy is lying on the ground, mortally wounded.

Split-second decision? No, Tamir Rice was marked for death when the call came in and the warrior cops were dispatched to take care of him. Negro with a gun, that's all they needed to know.

These are the rules:


  • White man with a gun, you talk him down, banter with him, and you let him go. Only in the most extreme circumstances is a white man subject to summary execution.



  • Negro with a gun, you shoot his ass, and you keep shooting his ass until he is good and dead. Even if the "gun" is his wallet, his cell phone, his air soft, or -- as so often happens -- his blackness.


  • Job well done. Carry on.

    Why is it that a Negro -- pretty much any person of color -- with a gun or said to be armed in any way is subject to instant execution, whereas white folk are not (though we should not come to think that white folk are immune. They are by no means immune -- as a cursory look at the stories documented at "Killed by Police" will demonstrate.)

    The point is that Negroes are the primary targets for summary execution in this country, and they are the ones who take the brunt of today's Killer Kop culture. It's devastating families and whole communities. If we can get a handle on why that is and what can be done about it, we might simultaneously be witness to a reduction in police killing and violence of all kinds.

    Police departments are aware that they are in some disrepute among a growing segment of the population, though they comfort themselves in the belief that a "majority" of the public still loves and appreciates them. The City Administrator who is in charge of the police in Albuquerque used that line in an interview before the release of the consent decree with the DoJ, and it was false. A "majority" of the public in ABQ indicated in a poll taken shortly before the interview that they did not have confidence in the police. Disconnect was stark. The public's confidence in the police had declined sharply from previous polls, in part because of the constant rat-tat-tat of police killings of innocent and/or mentally ill victims. They were killing too many people too often, too often over issues that could have been handled without violence or gunfire at all. And it was too obvious.

    That fact had not penetrated the police culture, however. It had not yet reached the protected enclaves within the city administration. The police were still of the opinion that they were beloved by the people when they were not. The city was still convinced that if the community were annoyed with all the bloodshed, it was merely a matter of public relations and perception management.

    In studying the issue, I came across a video-lecture by (Lt. Col.) Dave Grossman that seemed to me to encapsulate the philosophical, almost spiritual madness that has led to so many police killings and seemed to me to be a key to understanding -- and perhaps dealing with -- the police mindset that is primarily responsible. I posted the video last Friday, and have mentioned it in other posts.

    Today, I'll try to transcribe and annotate it.

    The video is titled "The Sheep, the Wolf, and the Sheepdog," and it comes from Grossman's book "On Combat." 

    I talk about the sheep, the wolf and the sheep dog, and I can't tell you how many people have come up to me over the years and said, "You know I always thought there was somethin' wrong with me. All my life people told me I was a 'wolf.' I'm not a wolf. I would never harm the flock. But I yearn for a righteous battle. I yearn for an opportunity to use my skills."
    The sheep are all those kind, decent, gentle creatures who can only hurt ya by accident or extreme provocation, and the wolf will feed on the sheep without mercy.
    Then there's the sheep dog. The sheep dog is a predator too. The sheep dog's a meat-eater, too.  It takes a predator to hunt a predator. But that sheep dog, if if if you have no propensity for violence, then you're a nonviolent citizen. If you have a propensity for violence and an absence of empathy, violence without any emotion for others, pretty good definition of aggressive sociopath, or a wolf. But what if you had a propensity for violence and a love for the lambs? What if you spent a lifetime nurturing the capacity for violence and a desire to use it in a righteous battle?
    You know the sheep heard about the 9/11 highjack and said, "Thank god I wasn't on that plane." The sheepdog heard about the 9/11 highjackings and said, "I wish I was on that plane. Maybe I coulda made a difference."
    And that's that mindset. The amazing thing is that the sheep dog, they're not destroyed by combat. They thrive in it. We have got to go into combat with what I call a 'positive self-fulfilling prophecy.' People have scripts in their minds, and if you get in a gunfight and say "Oh my God, my life is gonna go to hell, I had to kill this guy, everything's gonna be shit," then that's a mental program you just gave yourself. "My life is gonna go to hell, everything's gonna go to shit."
    Most people will tell you -- in private, one on one -- "that when I had to shoot that bad guy, it was the culminating achievement of a lifetime of preparation. I used my skills in a life and death event  to stop a deadly threat and to stop a bad man. It was the ultimate achievement of my lifetime. The pinnacle of a lifetime of preparation. It was a moment of great adrenaline, achievement. All my training came together and and and it was one of the greatest moments of my life!" 
    If if if you think about going into combat that way -- and the sheepdog does, the sheepdog yearns for that opportunity -- then then when combat comes, you're not destroyed, you got a positive self-fulfilling prophecy. And and and it's so important that we don't sink into what I call the "pity party." That we have this positive self-fulfilling prophecy as we go into combat.
    The sheepdog. They yearn for that righteous battle, and when the moment comes they thrive on it, they take pride in it, and and and they get on with their lives and are able to sustain themselves and be triumphant and stronger for their experience."

    Well, there you have it.

    I only saw some of the interview with Brave Officer Wilson the other day, and I don't see much reason to watch it all. It was clear enough from what I saw that Brave Officer Wilson believes himself to be a sheepdog and for him, killing Michael Brown was a high, if not the highest, achievement of his lifetime. He had to shoot that bad guy, a weaponized NegroDemonHulk, and it gave him a rush. He's still high from it.

    How many police officers have adopted this cultic belief -- propagated by this man, (Lt Col) Dave Grossman -- that killing is their highest achievement, what they live for, and how many carry a positive view of killing? A positive self-fulfilling prophecy about their coming opportunities to kill?

    I've pointed out that many police departments maintain and deploy kill-squads, snipers. Many deaths caused by police are due to the deployment of these kill-squads, but not all. Quite a few are the result of trigger-happy patrolmen confronted with what they think is a Bad Guy who needs killing, and here is their opportunity to fulfill that "positive prophecy." They then reach their highest achievement. They've killed the Bad Guy/Gal for the good of the flock...

    Imagine how this madness infects rookie policemen especially, and then imagine how the killer of Tamir Rice must have seen himself as the cruiser pulled up to the boy and he got out and shot little Tamir (he was a small boy) bam, bam, and he knew it was a Good Kill, for Tamir was a Negro With A Gun, and that is absolutely all he needed to know to designate him as a Wolf from whom the rest of the flock of Sheep had to be protected. Bam-bam.

    A little boy.

    And so it goes. In Albuquerque and many other places, the primary victims of police killings are mentally ill individuals having some kind of episode or breakdown. Police are always dispatched first on these calls, and they almost always approach them with weapons at the ready. Far too often, the result is a dead mentally ill individual. In the police mind, "the Bulletproof Mind" (another of the training videos and seminars Grossman offers), the mentally ill are nearly as dangerous to the flock of sheep as the Negro With A Gun, and they are treated with almost as much deadly contempt and force.

    Supposedly, police aren't trained to deal with the mentally ill, but they ARE trained. They're trained to kill them if they feel there is a sufficient threat from the individual. They are trained to kill suicidal individuals who threaten no one but themselves. They are trained to kill Negro males in their multitudes ("thugs" don'tcha know). They are trained to kill Hispanic males ("thugs" and drugs, don'tcha know), and they are trained to kill poor whites ("meth monsters" don'tcha know) of whatever gender.

    And they do. They kill them day in and day out, and they see every one of these killings as a high achievement, perhaps the highest achievement of their lives.

    You can see it in Brave Officer Wilson's apparently passionless description of what he did to Michael Brown. He's still jazzed. Thrilled. He killed. He killed a Negro Demon Hulk, a weaponized black man, a jibbering savage, an animal to be put down. He killed! There is no higher purpose or calling than that. He did his job.

    Insane freaks like (Lt. Col.) Dave Grossman are the reason why.

    They are the ones who inculcate the theories, theology, "killology," and philosophy that leads police to kill so many and so inappropriately.

    I'm convinced that 90% or more of lethal force incidents do not require lethal force at all. The blanket use of lethal force in so many of the incidents that do take place leads to contempt for police and worse. The abject failure of the injustice system to hold police accountable, indeed its celebration and rewarding of police killing, leads to contempt for law.

    This is a self-fulfilling prophecy, however. The police do not have to kill, certainly not as often as they do, but they do it because of insane beliefs that are inculcated by people like (Lt. Col.) Grossman, by use of lethal force policies which propose that "force protection" -- that is protection of the officer -- is the highest value, and by laws which protect police when they kill.

    But they are on the wrong side of history. Their cult of killing is self-fulfilling the demise of the killer cop. It won't come quickly, not quickly enough to save the lives of the thousand or more killed this year and probably next, but it will come.

    Too many police forces have faced too much public outrage at their cult of killing to sustain the practice much longer. They've gone too far for too long.

    A reckoning is on the way.




    Thursday, November 27, 2014

    Genocide, Massacres, Police Violence, and The Cult

    We've made it to Thanksgiving Day, 2014.

    Thanksgiving celebrates genocide. I don't know when I first came to the realization that that's what this holiday represents, but it was most likely during the Civil Rights era when so much of the American mythos was put to the test.

    We had been lied to all our lives in other words, lies and damned lies about the past that made it out to have been a struggle won by the righteous. Well, no. Not so. The righteous continued to struggle, nothing had been won but a sham, it was all false -- and how many millions had been slaughtered and enslaved in the process?

    How many millions? The mythos didn't know. The mythos didn't care.

    We were to believe that's done is done, and we can't go back and we can't fix it. White folks are good and true and righteous, everyone else is a savage or suspect or unworthy.

    That's the story we were told, but I didn't believe it from a very early age because I spent a good portion of my early childhood among people of color. They weren't called this at the time, however. They were called Greasers, Beaners and Niggers, but when you're a kid, those words don't necessarily carry the sting they do when you get older. They're just words, and they don't really have anything to do with people. It takes a while to learn that words like that can hurt badly.

    I lived the first ten years of my life among people of color and I didn't become socialized to the fear of the Other that seems to influence so much of world view of white folks to this day.

    It didn't occur to me that there anything at all to fear from brown folk and black folk, but I knew from a very early age that there was plenty to fear from white folk. The ones in charge, you know? Some of them were purely evil in so many ways that you had to be on the alert all the time -- or you might not survive.

    We, the children, black, brown, and white, all seemed to be aware of who we had to watch out for and be afraid of, and it was always white kids and white adults in positions of power. Always. They could hurt you, and they did.

    But the mythos says no, white folks were kindly and generous and righteous, and I knew that some of them were, but when they were kindly and generous and righteous, so often they wound up almost as persecuted and disparaged as black and brown folk were.

    This was, after all, the era of Red Baiting and worse. Oh, much worse.

    Thanksgiving celebrates the genocide of the Indians by these righteous, kind and generous white folks. They did their duty. They cleansed first the eastern seaboard, then the rest of the country of the taint of the Savages. They brought their slaves over from Africa to serve their needs and demands. They fought one another and they killed whatever they designated as the Other with impunity.

    The Other scares the holy shit out of them. Murderous rampages are the result. It has ever been thus, but if you're not socialized to fear the Other, as I wasn't, you run the risk of being designated the Other and being rampaged against yourself.

    How well I know. How well so many Americans know.

    Police violence is a direct descendant of the genocidal, massacring, murderous rampages that made this land what it is, that we celebrate at Thanksgiving.

    I've been studying police violence for decades and have written extensively about it. It has become the central social issue of the American people this year thanks to an appalling spate of police killings, so many of them driven by nothing but stark terror of the Other, that has led to the deaths of hundreds, nay more than a thousand, many of them innocent of wrongdoing, this year and every year. People are killed by police because the police in so many cases are terrified of their own shadows, specters they've created in their own minds.

    It's insane -- just as the genocidal, massacring, murderous rampages that created this country were.

    Recently I came across a video at the Police One site that actually explains how policing has become such a perverted killer culture, and why so many get killed by police year in and year out, and nothing is done about it.

    I posted the video here as an example of how police are trained and brainwashed to regard certain designated Others as existential threats fit for nothing but killing. And how the police are trained and brainwashed to believe that killing the Other is their highest accomplishment.

    This is psychological abuse of the highest order and this is what leads to scenes like the killing of Tamir Rice in a park, the killing of Michael Brown in the street, the killing of James Boyd on a hillside, and the killing of so many others, at least 1001 since January 1, 2014, according to the tracking site, "Killed by Police."

    An analysis of this insane training video is, I believe, long overdue, for this trainer, (Lt Col) Dave Grossman, had been spreading his theories and philosophy of "Killology" among police and military recruits unchallenged for a very long time.

    From his perspective, a perspective shared by police and military alike, the highest accomplishment of a police officer is to kill -- to kill the designated Other, with neither remorse nor regret. According to Grossman, police are sheepdogs, the Other is the Wolf -- a veritable demon -- whose death at the hands of police is the purpose of the sheepdog's life.

    When Brave Officer Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown on Canfield Drive that hot August noon, he was fulfilling the purpose of his life, just as Brave Officer Lowman Loehmann fulfilled the purpose of his life when he shot and killed 12 year old Tamir Rice in a Cleveland park a few days ago.

    That is what they are trained to believe their purpose in life is: to kill, without conscience or remorse, whatever is deemed a threat to the lives of the Good People, the Sheep as it were, that sheepdogs -- the Police and the military -- are assigned to "protect."

    But what happens to these theories when the sheepdogs become the threat?

    Who do the sheepdogs work for, anyway? It's not the sheep, that's for sure. Who or what are they protecting?

    I resisted the cult and the theories that this insane freak (Lt Col) Dave Grossman propounds, but when I realized that his theories are largely responsible for the huge number of killings and other abuse by police in this country, and they probably form the psychological basis of so much of the killing by Our Valiant Forces abroad, and that it all amounts to a secular cult of killing, I realized I'd better take a closer look.

    But the fact is, I don't want to look closer. It's vile. What Grossman propounds is clearly an effective means to warp and perverting the minds of police and military, too.

    How to corral and overcome it becomes a fundamental question for the survival of the people who face this deadly police culture every day.

    That's what the protests against police violence and murder all over the country and spreading around the  world are all about.

    Overcoming the madness.

    I give thanks that so many people are waking up to the necessity to overcome this madness, to end the slaughter, to curb the police.

    But the struggle isn't done, but more and more police seem to be waking up, too.

    Let's hope so.

    Wednesday, November 26, 2014

    I Saw The News Today, Oh Boy

    Well, yesterday. I haven't looked at the news today, so I'm not at all caught up with overnight events, but what I saw yesterday helped illuminate just how far from reality much of our news media typically is.

    I was, for example, watching the CBS Evening News and the NewsHour, that PBS stalwart, and CBS and Gwen and Company were quite taken up with events in Ferguson and elsewhere as well they should be, but a good deal of the "news" was wrong, false, lies, and what have you. That's a problem. That has been a problem for many a long year, but came into stark focus during the reports of "rioting" in Ferguson in response to the Grand Jury failure to indict the Warrior Sheepdog and Demon Destroyer Darren Wilson.

    First of all, the "rioting" was a construct of Authority and the media working in concert, as my ground-eye  view via Bassem Masri's and Rebelutionary_Z's livestreams amply demonstrated. There was no rioting, not by the demonstrators. And the police, typically, were lying about what was going on.

    I also watched Amy Goodman's report from the ground in Ferguson, and she basically confirmed with her own eyes what I was seeing on the livestreams and twitter pictures. There were no police and no National Guard on the streets of Ferguson beyond the police headquarters area on South Florissant which is basically in the White Area of Florissant. The 20-some-odd businesses that burned were on West Florissant, in the Negro District. All of the police (and apparently later, the National Guard, though that's not certain) in Ferguson were deployed to protect "The Fort" as I call it; none were assigned to guard or protect businesses along West Florissant. So businesses burned, and it's sad.

    The crowd of protesters was assembled at "The Fort" and they were gassed  and largely driven away by a pincer-action of heavily armed and militarized police. Two police cars were burned. How that happened is still a mystery, but both cars were behind police lines when they caught fire. Those were, so far as I could tell, the only incidents of "violence" in that area of Ferguson, apart, of course, from the extensive use of teargas and flash-bangs by the police.

    The crowd initially was several thousand strong protesting in front of "The Fort," but it dwindled to a few hundred, perhaps only a few dozen, after repeated the application of teargas.  The crowd was not violent, they were not rioting. A few individuals were vandalizing one of the police cars, a car someone said was left in the street for just that purpose. Could be. But others pointed out that the vandals were unknown, and at least some were white.

    By the time Bassem's phone was stolen -- he said by a "police agitator" -- the crowd was small and relatively dispersed in the area of "The Fort." There were very few people on the streets elsewhere in Ferguson. I saw a few pictures taken at the memorial to Mike Brown on Canfield Drive, for example, and it looked very quiet. Amy Goodman stopped by there too, and there was no sign of riot or crowds.

    The fires on West Florissant need to be investigated and explained. I'm sure there is some security camera and other video that would show how they started and who was responsible. It's really quite amazing that so much police presence could be deployed to suppress nonviolent protest at the police station but none at all was available to protect people and property along West Florissant, where vandalism and arson had occurred in August.

    That was one thing. According to the narrative pushed by Authority and the media, however, rampaging rioters were battling with police all over. And it simply wasn't true. Police were attacking nonviolent protesters at the police headquarters in Ferguson and they were letting businesses be looted and burned along West Florissant without any police or the fire department. When this fact was noted, it was "copsplained" by saying "it wasn't safe" for police or fire responders to go to West Florissant. Rampaging Negroes and all... Bullshit bullshit bullshit.

    Meanwhile, a huge contingent of police, I discovered through Rebelutionary_Z's archived videos from the previous night, had been deployed at the intersection of Grand and Shaw in the South County. They fired teargas at the relatively small crowd that gathered there, and apparently they twice fired teargas at the MoKabe coffee house, a designated "Safe Space" Police were out in force in this area of Shaw/Tower Grove, unlike the case along West Florissant in Ferguson,  and were issuing contradictory and absurd commands, arresting people pretty much at random, and having a fine old time with their crowd suppression toys.

    Rebelutionary_Z had traveled to this are from the safe house where he'd rested after the freeway shut down. Reports were coming in that that safe house (a church) had been raided by police and tear gas had been used. In the area of MoKabe's, along Grand Avenue, Z documented several broken windows and one pawn shop merchant clearing the broken glass from his place was pissed. He confronted Z for "profiting off his pain" -- I thought that was odd, because it's hard to say that Z is "profiting," but Z did not respond. And he didn't mention the incident again.

    Meanwhile, the police were behaving in an arbitrary manner, sometimes appearing in force and riot gear to confront the chanting crowd, other times withdrawing, only to return, firing flash-bangs and tear gas and ordering dispersal -- which for some was not possible because they were trapped.

    "Negotiations" were conducted to allow people to leave MoKabe's, but the "negotiations" seemed odd, forced, and largely false. People were told they could leave -- with their hands up -- and head toward the church that had been raided and gassed. That didn't seem like much of a resolution to the dilemma of how to disperse when they were not allowed to, and by this point, few people had any trust in the word of the police, word which had already been repeatedly broken.

    Nevertheless, people did leave with their hands up and headed toward the other safe place -- that wasn't safe at all.

    There was a "clergy" woman (I don't know who she was, I'd never seen her before) mediating between the crowd and police and she often stood and walked between them, almost always with her hands up as a kind of sacrificial lamb, and I'm convinced that her presence defused some of the potential for police violence.  But she couldn't do anything but shrug about the arbitrary nature of police commands. It's their culture, you know?

    I spent all morning yesterday watching that and other archived videos of the previous night's events, and I was quite moved by the dedication and determination of the protesters and their almost completely non-violent militance.

    It's clear that these demonstrations, which have now spread all over the country and seem to be focusing actions on shutting down freeways (a time honored way to discommode the apathetic and comfortable), are well-coordinated and planned as opposed to some of the Occupy actions which they sometimes resemble.

    The issues being raised in these actions -- police abuse and killing with complete impunity -- are much closer to the reality the victims face in this country than the somewhat abstract though no less destructive issues Occupy grappled and grapples with. The chord that has been touched in so many places with regard to police abuse and murder is one that can't be untouched, as practically everywhere, and every day, people -- often children or completely innocent people -- are being shot down by police, many of whom are terrified of their own shadows.

    This has got to stop. The only way for people without power to force this or any other issue is to discommode those with power, and make their voices heard, whatever it takes. That means persistent protest (the Mike Brown protests have been going on daily for three months, after all) and creative discommoding. Shutting down bridges and freeways is a good tactic, but causing financial pain to those in power can be even better.

    It's a long haul process. Occupy burrowed in to communities and is now a leading volunteer service outlet in communities all over the country. It's as radical as ever, but not so much a public spectacle. Participants do good works and help enable oppressed communities to take control of their own fate.

    In the case of these police accountability demonstrations, it's more difficult to achieve objectives because the police don't work for the people, and there is often no easy way for the people to force change on the institution -- or to withdraw from interaction with it.

    The police serve their masters, and that means they behave like an army of occupation because that's what their masters want. The occupation can be lifted, but only when their masters say so. Sometimes the occupation can be subverted or crippled, but that's a long-haul and highly risky endeavor. The actions taking place have a cumulative effect, especially the ongoing national demonstrations, but the result may not be quite what anybody hopes for.


    Nevertheless, Onward! and Solidarity!

    Tuesday, November 25, 2014

    No Indictment -- Ferguson Burns

    I wasn't able to stay with the story of the announcement of the Non-Indictment of Brave Officer Wilson all day yesterday, but I did check in at night and saw some of McCulloch's droning presentation of the Non-Indictment to the assembled media -- of course Wilson wasn't indicted, he got married, how could they indict the man, good heavens -- and watched quite a bit of Bassem Masri's downright superb live video from Ferguson, mostly at the police station or very nearby.

    What I saw was disappointing but not unexpected. In fact, I don't think anybody who's followed the story expected there to be an indictment of a police officer for killing some Negro in Missouri. It was never likely. I thought it was interesting that McCulloch's summary of the GJ findings tracked so closely, sometimes word for word, with things that had been in the media almost from the day Mike Brown was killed, things that could be considered exculpatory for the Brave Officer Wilson, whereas practically everything that could be considered indication of a crime by the Brave Officer was impugned in just the way it had been by various "experts" on the teevee. In other words, the failure to indict, the "no true bill" result of the GJ process could have been written by the FOX News crew -- or CNN for that matter -- to exonerate the Brave Officer, who just got married, so he couldn't be indicted anyway.

    Oh, and don't forget all the celebrity news readers who already had private audience with the Brave Officer. I'll have to leave that to the side for the time being since I haven't been able to process it fully in the midst of everything else. Just remember that numerous celebrity news readers -- including Anderson ("Anderson!") Cooper -- have had private interviews with Darren Wilson well before the Grand Announcement yesterday. Almost as if they were in cahoots... Or something else has been going on...

    When word reached the street outside the Ferguson PD, Bassem Masri's camera was on Leslie McSpadden, Mike Brown's mother, but my sound was down, so I did not hear what she said, but I saw her break down in heaving sobs after she said a few words to the crowd, and it was an incredibly moving moment. Her heart was broken the day her son was killed almost before her very eyes, and her sobs last night were the sobs of a mother wronged. She was devastated, and the sight of her tears was a powerful image I don't think I will soon forget.

    Not that she or anyone in the crowd, let alone the police, expected an indictment. Of course they didn't. Police are so rarely held to trial for anything -- except sexual peccadilloes -- in this country that an indictment of Brave Officer Wilson would have signaled something profound, almost a sea-change in the way Americans of the darker and poorer persuasion are policed. The Powers That Be are clearly not ready for that.

    Bassem continued to record and move among the crowd. From indications, he is really well-regarded by those who know him and know his work documenting the turmoil in Ferguson. He also seemed to be very concerned with the people of Ferguson. His interactions with those he was among -- whether he knew them or not -- were remarkable for their openness, kindness, consideration, and what appeared to be a deep love for their humanity. This is not the way he has been characterized by the mainstream media and the radical reactionaries who have cast him in the role of Demon. He is after all very outspoken, unafraid, and profane. He uses street language, and his whole persona is that of a gangsta or gangsta affiliate. But what he's tried to show, I think pretty effectively, is that the persona which is so strongly demonized by Authority in this country, is in fact representative a wide variety of people, most of whom are no different in essence than you or me.

    This was the insight that happened to so many in Albuquerque when they came together to protest the constant police killings. As Dinah Vargas put it, the media demonized every one of the dead in a kind of ritual of victim blaming, and she went along with it -- until she got to know some of the survivors and heard the stories of those who had been killed. She found out that they were "just people." They weren't demons at all, and in many -- too many -- cases, they'd done nothing wrong or they'd done nothing to warrant a sentence of Death in the Streets. The media depiction and ritual demonizing of victims of police violence was simply wrong. It was in fact outrageous.

    Bassem has been showing that those who are protesting police violence in Ferguson are "folks" and he's one of them. They're not demons, Mike Brown wasn't a demon, and the script that demonizes them is wrong.

    As he traveled through the crowds, greeting and encouraging and sharing grief with them, he came upon the scene of a police car being vandalized. I still didn't have the sound on, so I didn't hear what he said about it, but what I could tell from what I saw was that a large-ish crowd had gathered around this police car which had been parked in the street and a few -- let's call them "hot heads" -- throwing bricks at it and kicking it while the crowd maintained a distance from the action and watched, some yelling, some silent. In other words, the vandalism was being done by no more than five or six people who were distinct from the crowd.

    In the background, a formation of militarized police led by MRAPs could be seen advancing on the crowd, and many started to leave. Bassem stayed for a bit, then he, too left the scene. Soon clouds of teargas could be seen rising from the vicinity of the police car. Most people in crowd dispersed from that location and moved toward the police station a few blocks away.

    Bassem was covering the tear gas barrage, and he and numerous others were caught in it. He was coughing and wretching along with everyone else, and when I turned the sound up, I heard him condemning the police for gassing people this way. People tried to get away from the tear gas but were trapped. Another formation of militarized police were coming down the opposite end of the street. Those who could get away somehow got away, but most seemed to stay put, and eventually the tear gas cleared. The formations of police paused.

    Teargas was being shot into the residential areas beside the street on which the protests were taking place. Bassem was shocked. How could they do this? WHY? Barrage after barrage of teargas grenades were shot into residential areas for reasons no one could fathom. It made no sense at all. "No one is there!" Well, protesters weren't there, though maybe residents were.

    Then a column of smoke could be seen rising behind the police lines, and people started back toward the police and the smoke to see what was burning. It was the police car that had been vandalized earlier. How it got on fire is a mystery because no one had used incendiaries in the vandalizing, and the car was inside the police perimeter when it caught on fire. My immediate thought was that the police set it on fire, either deliberately or accidentally when they fired tear gas at the people around the car.

    At any rate, while the car burned there were numerous sounds like gunfire, often rapid-fire, and I thought that perhaps the police were firing at the crowd. There were reports of rubber bullets being fired. Bassem said that no, the apparent gunshots were ammunition going off inside the car from the heat of the fire, and he encouraged people to get away.

    The police formations moved together, and as they did, more teargas was fired. Another police car, again behind the police lines, was on fire, so there were now two burning police cars, both of which contained ammunition which was exploding from the heat.

    The militarized police formations assembled in front of what I call their "fort" -- the PD headquarters and the fire department. There was no sign whatsoever of any attempt to put out the fires burning just down the street.

    No, instead, the militarized police formed a cordon around the police and fire department buildings -- their "fort" -- and gave hard and threatening looks at the crowd (a crowd that was still loud but quite small and completely non-violent, unless you consider trash-talk to be violence) and they displayed their armaments in threatening fashion. Network media did standup after standup in the midst of all this, which clued me that it was all a display staged for the media. The police did nothing except look threatening and protect their fort while the police cars burned, ammunition exploded and reports of other fires were coming in.

    For some reason, Anderson ("Anderson!") Cooper was not there doing a standup, he was relatively far away in an undisclosed location doing a standup, no one else, certainly no police, in view.

    Bassem started to call bullshit -- because the police were doing nothing about the fires. The fire department was right there, after all, and there wasn't a single fireman on scene, no fire trucks, nothing, and the police in their gear and MRAPs were doing nothing but threatening the crowd, a crowd that relatively small, had just been teargassed, and which was not threatening them. It was absurd. Given all the media celebrities doing standups in the vicinity, the absurdity was quite touching. Aww.

    Bassem continued to cover this more and more surreal and absurd situation in front of the police department when suddenly it seemed he started running. This was startling to say the least, and it wasn't at all clear what was happening or why. The title of the UStream page Bassem used changed from his name to "I.I.OK." Very strange. He ran and ran and ran, and I heard someone say, "Are you OK," and the only part of the response I heard was "Some nigger..." and it didn't sound like Bassem. I thought maybe it was because he'd been running. After a few moments, it looked like he fell down and the livestream went down.

    I was very concerned. What happened? I reported what I'd witnessed on a thread at FDL, and soon came word that Bassem was on Twitter now; his iPhone had been swiped out of his hand by someone he thought was a "police agitator" and he couldn't livestream any more. He would live Tweet from his backup phone, but that was all he could do. He was OK. He wasn't harmed and he wasn't arrested.

    I shifted over to Rebelutionary_Z's livestream which was coming from the freeway in Shaw, a freeway which had been shut down in both directions by a large crowd. The police were ordering dispersal, and as I watched, they did disperse, more or less, and the freeway re-opened. Z said that it had been shut down successfully for between a half hour and an hour, and he was pretty jazzed by it. He went with the crowd to a safe house in a church and had something to drink before he went back outside and sat for a bit resting and catching his viewers up with what had been happening. Apparently he'd been asked to livestream something from Shaw but wasn't told what and was not supposed to tell where he was going exactly.

    He was asked to livestream the freeway shutdown -- which he did. He said he was going to stay in Shaw to cover any other action there.

    Meanwhile Bassem was tweeting pictures from W. Florissant Ave. in Ferguson where fires were burning. One after another, the chain and corporate merchants were being torched as Bassem watched, but it was not at all clear who was doing the torching. There appeared to be no one on the streets, not protesters and certainly not police -- they were all guarding their fort. All the blather from the governor about "protecting property" was bullshit. There was no one there. No one was protecting property in Ferguson, and there was no one on the streets, either, as one after another Ferguson's chain businesses went up in flames.

    At this point, I decided that things were following a script, and I'd seen enough of this play.

    I don't know how much of the vandalism and arson I saw was due to provocateurs, but Bassem is convinced that a "police agitator" stole his iPhone so he could not continue to livestream whatever was going on. I tend to agree. I suspect the police set the two police cars on fire themselves, whether deliberately or accidentally when they were firing teargas. They did nothing at all to put the fires out. Bassem reported that he thought he saw other fires near where teargas had been fired into the neighborhood, but he couldn't get to those places.

    The pictures on his Twitter show businesses burning, but no crowds of protesters or any police or fire department personnel attempting to manage the situation, and Bassem's commentary excoriates the police and government for causing all of this. His fury is palpable.

    I couldn't sleep, so I started this post about 3:30 this morning. It's now about 5:15. I haven't looked at "news" so I don't know how what happened is being reported by the Big Media. I'm sure it's filled with lies, however. I don't know whether there was a response to the arson and vandalism, or whether there was looting and "riot," but what I saw indicated that the crowds of protesters were not engaged in arson, vandalism or looting. They had another objective altogether which they stuck with through it all.

    Now to check the "news." Pfft.

    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.