Sunday, September 28, 2014


Indigenous peoples of Latin America -- and its former outposts now part of the United States of American (Goddamn) -- are understandably leery of the term "Santiago!" since it was what the Spanish Conquistadors shouted out as they commenced one of their periodic massacre/slaughters of the Indians. Santiago is St. James, the patron saint of Spain and the saint under whose blessing it was believed the conquest took place, took root, and succeeded.

So. Hundreds of years go by, a raza in the Americas is created of an amalgam of Indio and Spanish ancestors, and the name Santiago is distributed like honey candy throughout the Spanish speaking population. The name may or may not inspire dread any more, depending not so much on the collective past but on the individual present.

"Jimmy" Santiago Baca, born of Santa Fe, reared in Estancia, Albuquerque and the Arizona State Prison at Florence, is one of those Santiagos you can't be quite sure of. He must have been a holy terror in his mad, wild youth, but then something happened in jail forty years ago that changed him forever. He stole a book, he said, from the desk of an Anglo woman intake worker at the Albuquerque jail who was laughing at a poor drunken Indian getting beat up by guards. He said he wanted to hurt her, and the only thing he could do at that moment was take her book with the intention of burning it once he got back to his cell.

He was functionally illiterate, but he could read enough that he could puzzle out some of the words on the pages he was burning, and those words opened another world to him, as if by some magic, and they worked their way in, until he was able to work his own words out.

"Jimmy" Santiago Baca became a poet, a nationally renown poet while he was still in prison in Arizona. He was released eventually in part because he was nationally renown and a poet of great substance, a Chicano poet at a time when that was the new and coming thing. José Montoya, also from New Mexico, up in the hills above Estancia, had pioneered the Chicano literature movement a few years before, and Santiago was able to ride the wave. It's been a good run.

So. Daniel Glick, the movie's director from New York, told me last night that some years ago he visited a prisoner at Auburn State Prison in Upstate New York, and that he was quite horrified and moved by the experience, vowing one day to make a film about American prisons, and the fellow he went to visit, a guy named Tommy, told him that if he wanted to do that he should read "A Place to Stand," by Jimmy Santiago Baca, before he did anything else.

Daniel read it and said he was "blown away." Instead of a movie about prisons per se, he made a movie based on "A Place to Stand" -- and Jimmy Santiago Baca. The movie, titled "A Place to Stand", premiered in Santa Fe on Friday. We went to see it on Saturday afternoon, since the premiere was sold out by the time we found out about it, and they didn't even have room for standing in the back by the time I called up for tickets.

The film was remarkable. The picture is excellent, really one of the finest personal documentaries I've seen, and Jimmy (or Santiago) and Daniel are moving spokesmen for it. (Jimmy's son, Gabriel, the producer of the picture, was supposed to be there, but he didn't make it -- he was "working," doing what they didn't say, but he was too busy to sit and chat with the audience on Saturday).

Jimmy and Daniel spoke after the picture was shown on Saturday to a mostly elderly, mostly Anglo matinee crowd (yeah, well...), answering questions and making passionate statements about... language. For it was through language and its use that Jimmy found his way out of hell and he has committed his life to sharing with others, particularly those who are behind bars in this most incarcerated of nations, what he did and what they can do if they learn to use language -- as opposed, say, to violence -- to express their deepest being, their souls, their presence, and they learn to love themselves.

Jimmy Santiago Baca is a powerful poet, there is no mistaking that. As he and Daniel Glick went on at some length about language and its power, I was quite taken with the fact that Jimmy Santiago Baca writes almost entirely in English -- with some admixture of prison Spanglish for authenticity's sake -- though as far as I could tell, his first language was Spanish.

Well, no. His first language -- he said -- was silence.

So far as I know, he doesn't use Spanish in his work except as a kind of decoration, a finish or a fillip, though he knows the language and speaks it well enough. I could be wrong about that, but for a Chicano poet, the near-absence of the Spanish language in his work -- or at least in most of it -- is striking. But then given the nature of some of the stories he tells,  it is understandable and forgivable.

Language is indisputably key, but... what language?

During the "Shedding Skin" symposium at the Museum of Contemporary Native Art last weekend, one of the speakers brought up the problem of translation in the context of indigenous art, not the lack of work and brilliance and what have you, but the lack of translators and translations, which had the effect of limiting communications and interchange across national and cultural lines, especially for indigenous peoples who speak such a multiplicity of mutually unintelligible languages and who work in styles and with techniques not known beyond their immediate societies. True enough.

Unless you are in the right place at the right time -- with the right kind of translation -- you may well remain ignorant of something you might otherwise be moved by, something that could in fact be life-changing.

I think, too, of Virgil Ortiz and his Translator character in his themed work -- including video -- dealing with the 1680 Pueblo Revolt against the Spanish in New Mexico. Translator, says Virgil, is the commander of the Rebels in a 2180 version of the Pueblo Revolt. But why is he called "Translator?" I don't know, maybe I'm not meant to know.

Jimmy primarily uses English. Many others are dedicated to communicating in English when another language -- if translated properly -- might be more effective. But that's often the problem. Where are the translators, and how do you translate effectively? Originating the work in English is the simpler course, isn't it? Or originating it in Spanish -- or maybe Portuguese -- if you're in Latin America...

Except this is the definition of "colonialism". In order to communicate to the widest number -- or at all -- it is necessary for the colonized (not the colonizer) to abandon their native tongue or a different colonial-imposed tongue and use the language of the latest conqueror and colonizer in order to be heard and understood by the widest number or at all.

I'm struck, almost dumbfounded, by the implications. And I'm very conflicted about it.

I find Jimmy Santiago Baca's poetry remarkable and effective in ways that I'm coming now to appreciate fully. I've been aware of him, of Chicano literature, of the movement he's part of and many of the participants for many years. You don't live the kind of life I have and where I have and not be aware. But being aware can also mean "taking for granted." Like an acquaintance. You know them to say hello or share a few moments with, but not intimately, and your knowledge isn't the grounding of your own existence.

I can come to appreciate his work more fully because most of it is in English. If he were writing in Spanish, it would be more difficult for me. Much more difficult, but I know too, that were he writing in Spanish, I'd be able to muddle through it or most of it, and come to a different appreciation. This is how languages work for me. When I read or hear in Spanish or French, the two foreign languages I can get by in best (though not well enough in either), I hear or read a different deeper meaning than I would in translation. That's just the way language works -- at least for me.

So... in the end, much as I appreciate Jimmy Santiago Baca's work, and much as I am learning to appreciate it more, I might see it quite differently if he were writing in Spanish rather than English.

I will probably have more to say about this issue of language once we return from this afternoon's performance of "When the Stars Trembled in Rio Puerco" -- which is written and performed in both English and Spanish, New Mexico Spanish, though, which is not the same as most Spanish spoken in North America, but which is distinctive and sometimes difficult for me to comprehend because of its unique idioms and anachronisms, many of which I haven't learned yet.

Santiago!  Indeed.

Friday, September 26, 2014

"Active Shooter/Threat Training" and the Deaths of So Many by Police

Sean Williams preparing to kill John Crawford III
Statement by City of Beaver Creek following Special Grand Jury's decision not to hand down an indictment in the killing of John Crawford III:

The City of Beavercreek released the following statement about the jury’s decision:
“The events of August 5th were tragic and we wish the outcome of that evening had been different. However, based on the information the responding officers had and Mr. Crawford’s failure to comply with the responding officers orders, the officers did what they were trained to do to protect the public. The officers followed accepted law enforcement training protocol in their response to the report of an active threat in the Wal-Mart store. The grand jury review of the evidence and subsequent no bill decision indicates the officers’ actions were not of a criminal nature and justified under Ohio law.

The count kept over at Killed by Police has long since passed merely shocking levels. It's into a realm of sheer terror. Killed by Police tracks raw numbers of those killed by police based on mainstream media reports; the number was up to 1,560 since May 1, 2013 as of yesterday. They recognize that 1) it's probably an undercount, as mainstream media may not cover every police-involved death for a variety of reasons, and the site may not find the coverage if it is there; 2) it may somewhat overstate the tendency of police to administer street justice by including deaths in custody and accidental deaths caused by police; 3) it's not intended to be definitive. It's a starting point for further investigation and discussion.

Another site which tracks police involved shootings (as opposed to deaths per se) is Gun Violence Archive which posts periodic charts showing how many incidents of gun violence police have been involved in since January 1, 2014. It tracks overall deaths due to gun violence (8,972 at last report), but does not make a separate count of deaths by category of gun violence incident. Thus, while police officer involved shootings are reported to be 1,639 so far this year, Gun Violence Archive does not track how many of those incidents resulted in death.

And of course the public protests against police violence in Albuquerque and Ferguson and elsewhere have focused more attention on the growing problem of police violence in this country. Until relatively recently, even when there was extensive coverage of police involved shootings (as there often will be in local markets on the principle that "if it bleeds, it leads") there seemed to be only limited public reaction. In most cases of police-involved shootings and killings, even the most egregious, it was generally reported and accepted that the victim "needed killing" even if he or she had done little or nothing, often because the victim was determined after the fact to be "bad." He or she had a criminal record, sported tattoos, had been drinking or using drugs, was mentally ill, was black or brown and scary, was running, wasn't complying fast enough, "reached" for something, had a weapon -- or was said to have one by police, etc., etc. There was always something . Most people seemed to accept whatever it was as sufficient justification for police to summarily execute the individual -- even when whatever it was wasn't true. And the news cycle moved on.

But recently the police have been hammered by the public and the media for their ridiculous levels of overkill, their tendency to shoot first, ask questions later (but after the fact, "we have to wait till all the facts are in, dontchaknow"), their quaking fear of every encounter with black or brown individuals, and their utter cowardice in the face of The Great Unknown, ie: The Public -- which they once were obliged to Protect and Serve. 

People of conscience understand that policing in this country has gone way off the rails to the point where the way it is being done now represents a clear and present danger to the public at large. No one, truly, is safe from police violence, but the violence meted out to people of color and communities of color is still orders of magnitude greater than what white folk experience. Nevertheless, the often arbitrary nature of police violence and the stark fear and cowardice with which they approach so many encounters with individuals -- especially individuals in crisis -- means that anyone is potentially a victim of police violence.

Yesterday, the special grand jury in Green County, Ohio, convened to hear evidence in the shooting by cop of John Crawford III in the Beaver Creek Walmart, declined to indict the officer(s) who shot and killed him as he chatted on the phone with the mother of his children. He had an air rifle in his hand, and he'd been walking around the store with it while he talked on the phone. A man saw him and called 911 claiming that Crawford was not only armed but was pointing the weapon at customers and otherwise threatening them.

Video showed that this was not the case; the 911 caller was either misperceiving or lying. But it really didn't matter. Once police were dispatched, they were under the impression that they were to neutralize an "active shooter" -- or a potentially active shooter -- and once that determination was made, almost the only thing the police could do was to kill the suspect before he killed someone. They didn't make one of those famous "split second decisions" (though it will be claimed they did). The decision was made at dispatch, based on erroneous information in the 911 call and the protocols which the officers had trained in only the month before.

There was no active shooting. There was no shooting at all except by police immediately upon encountering John Crawford in the Beaver Creek WalMart. There were no threats to customers, Crawford did not raise the "weapon" -- ie: the unloaded BB gun -- toward anyone, and he did not seem to be aware in any way that his actions in the store with the gun might be interpreted as threatening. Why he was walking around the store with it will forever remain a mystery as John Crawford III is dead and can't tell us, but it's been pointed out many times that Ohio is an open carry state and it's perfectly legal for individuals to walk around pretty much anywhere carrying loaded real weapons. Crawford, therefore, was not doing anything illegal, though store security should have been tracking him -- because he picked up an unboxed BB gun from one department and carried it through several others, regardless of whether he was behaving in a "threatening" manner (he wasn't.) Store security interest would be primarily whether he tried to walk out of the store with the gun without paying. Sometimes they get silly about these things.

Police were told by 911 dispatch that there was a black man in the store, armed with an automatic weapon, who was waving it around, pointing it at customers and generally acting "threatening."

It was not true, but it was pretty much what Ronald Ritchie told the 911 operator. Was he merely misperceiving or was he being malicious? And why are 911 operators and dispatchers assuming the correctness of the information being reported? Why did Ritchie call 911 at all?

We've seen many, many deaths by police due to 911 calls by people asking for help with an obstreperous elder, a family dispute, a loved one in crisis. Over and over and over again, police respond to those calls and kill the trouble-maker. There are certain categories of people who the police are apparently trained to approach with deadly intent, and at any sign of non-compliance, they are expected or even required to use deadly force to control the threat.

But the "active shooter" response to John Crawford III seems somewhat different. He was not an active shooter, nor was he even a threat. Unfortunately for Crawford, it didn't matter because the 911 caller had expressed his feeling of being under threat by this black man with a gun (even if it was a BB gun from the store itself) and that, as they say, was that.

In "active shooter" situations, the police have been widely trained to "neutralize the threat" immediately. Ie: to kill first, no hesitation and no questions asked. That's what they did at the Beaver Creek Walmart, and to their way of looking at it, they did nothing wrong. They should get medals and parades. Right? It's the same mindset that soldiers had in Iraq: "neutralize the threat" -- even if there really isn't one, even if dozens of innocents are killed in the process. So long as there is the perception of a threat, the kill response is engaged until the "threat" is sufficiently neutralized, preferably dead.

It's crazy. It doesn't belong on the streets of the United States or in Walmarts. It's not really appropriate in foreign lands, either, where our troops and mercenaries have committed innumerable massacres of innocents due to a perception of a threat even when there isn't one.

In the case of John Crawford III, the "threat" was hearsay from one person. No one else was apparently aware of this supposed "threat" until after police arrived,  and then someone else died of a heart attack -- thanks to the panic in the store triggered by the police.

The police shot and killed John Crawford III immediately upon encountering him, as they are trained and expected to do when encountering an "active shooter" -- which John Crawford III wasn't, but that didn't matter. They thought he was or that he would potentially become one because of what they were told by dispatch based on erroneous information from a 911 caller.

That's all it took.

So many of the recent killings by police seem to follow a similar pattern: a call is made to 911, the caller reports something that triggers an "active shooter" (or potential) response by police, and they go out to the call and kill someone. They expect a medal and parade not the kind of outrage these incidents typically inspire.

Unfortunately in the United States, the "active shooter" situation is a real though relatively rare possibility. Guns proliferate and they are used or are accidentally fired far too often. Police tend to panic when they see a gun in proximity to a suspect, and too often respond to the perception of a gun with deadly force.

An incident in South Carolina is in the news because of that apparent perception. Levar Jones was shot (but not killed) by SCHP Lance Corporal Sean Groubert as he reached inside his vehicle to retrieve his wallet in order to produce the ID as Groubert had commanded him to do. According to Groubert's lawyer, Jones reached "aggressively" into the car, which was enough for Groubert to think (or imagine) that Jones was going for a gun, and therefor was justified in shooting him. Hell yes. "Reaching" is a prime offense according to police custom, a threat that must be neutralized with deadly force, and way too often is.

"Reaching" in police lore means that the subject is about to become an "active shooter." Reaching "aggressively" can only mean one thing: Gun!!! In the case of Levar Jones, he was reaching for his ID at the command of the officer, ID which he produced. It didn't matter. He was shot anyway. He was shot anyway when the officer became so frightened by the potential that this black man might become an "active shooter" that the only thing he could do was neutralize the threat by shooting Jones, even though there was no threat.

How many of the thousand or more who are killed every year by police in this country are killed because they trigger the "active shooter/active threat" response by police, a response that requires neutralizing the threat, whether or not there is a real threat?

The Guardian describes the kind of training that the officers involved in killing John Crawford III experienced a couple of weeks before the shooting:
A set of 11 slides from a presentation given to officers in the July session was made public by special prosecutor Mark Piepmeier, who presented the slides and other evidence to a grand jury in Greene County, which on Wednesday declined to indict Williams on criminal charges.
Piepmeier signalled that the slides may have been important to the decision. “A question I have, and I think a jury would have, is how are the officers trained to deal with a situation like that,” he told reporters.
He described the presentation as “almost like a pep talk for police officers,” which informed them: “You have to go after these things, you can’t ignore them”. They were told to rid themselves of the mindset that “it’s a bad day to be a cop” when confronting people who “have used, are using or are threatening to use a weapon to inflict deadly force on others”.
The implication is the police must kill. It is their prime directive in such situations, even when there is no real threat. Because there might be. The potential must be treated as if it were the actual, and the potential must be neutralized.

And that's one reason why there are so many police killings in this country, and why so rarely are police held to account or prosecuted for them. They are doing what they have been told and trained to do. The public largely has no awareness of this, they only see the consequences, and they rightly ask "why?"

Why did my loved one have to die?

The answer is disturbing. Your loved one had to die because of Sandy Hook, Aurora, Columbine, Virginia Tech, and on and on and on and on. All those many massacres by lone gunmen, the ones that just keep happening no matter what. Your loved one had to die because police are being trained to see your loved one as a potential mass murderer who must be stopped from killing (more) even if he or she has never killed at all. Even potential suicides are treated this way, they're killed by police, again and again and again, even though they are a threat to no one but themselves. That's enough to trigger the kill response by police. The "threat" represented by suicide is treated exactly the same as that of a mass killer in the Mall somewhere.

"Neutralize the threat."

With deadly force.
Green County special prosecutor news conference:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

So the Upshot of the Marches and Demonstrations is Divestment?



As surely everyone on earth knows by now, there has been a vast outpouring of climate change activism in recent days, hundreds of thousands taking to the streets in New York alone, perhaps millions all over the world, showing solidarity with one another and demonstrating the breadth and depth of interest in doing something about the imminent peril represented by the specter of Climate Change.

And Behold: Our Betters have heard our cries.

There will be some changes made, starting with the divestment of dozens of investment funds and foundations (150 of them? More?) from fossil fuels.
That's a pretty big deal.

It seems to have come suddenly after decades of disinterest and denial by the high and the mighty regarding the constantly worsening climate chaos that has engulfed the world and already wiped out any number of species and plenty of the Rabble. Why now?

Perhaps they've been told forcefully enough for them to listen that there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and they had better get right with their minds or it's all over for them too?


Could be.

We'll see.

Meanwhile, Free the Polar Bear! Now!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Mario Martinez -- Indian Art, Indian Artist

Mario Martinez has a current exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Native Art in Santa Fe. Some of the works in the video above are included in the exhibit.
Painting in an abstract style appeals to Mario Martinez (Pascua Yaqui, b. 1953) in part because it allows him to express Yaqui cultural traditions, knowledge, and spirituality without explicitly revealing them. In "Yaqui Flashback II" (1991), he incorporates decorative fabrics used in Yaqui ceremonial regalia. While he frequently depicts what he considers "essential" forms found in nature, more recent works such as "Brooklyn" (2004) also refer to the urban landscape of his current home.

Martinez's work is featured in "Vantage Point: The Contemporary Native Art Collection," on view through August 7, 2011 at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.
Indian through and through, eh?

Annual Green Day Post

Almost forgot in the frenzy of hoo-hah of this September:

New Zealand Regime Change Effort Ends In Abject Failure

Oh my.

As I was cycling through some of the "news" channels on the internet today, I found that John Key's party in New Zealand picked up seats in parliament and the Kim Dotcom/Snowden/Greenwald/Assange/[Omidyar] effort to overthrow the government (through elections, of course) was a complete and utter disaster.

In fact, it was such a wipe-out that there are now no Maoris in parliament, though the Dotcom/Snowden/Greenwald/Omidyar effort was apparently focused on increasing Maori participation in government through the now defunct Internet Mana Party.

I really don't know enough about Kiwi politics, but this result is simply an astonishing rejection of whatever the Internet Mana Party with the assistance and funding of Dotcom/Greenwald/Snowden/Assange/[Omidyar] was selling.

What a mess.

What Happens When The Market Moves On?

Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA) in Santa Fe.

I'm still processing some of the material from the exhausting day-long seminar at the Museum of Contemporary Native Art in Santa Fe that Ms Ché and I attended yesterday. Oh, and I rallied and went marching at lunchtime with the People's Climate rallyers and marchers. It was a full day.

The main issue alluded to but never entirely clarified was that The Market (for Art) has moved on and those who don't move with it and don't move quickly enough are shit out of luck.

There was only one working artist on the panel who I could be sure was making a living from his art, Tony Abeyta, all the rest were reliant on academic or institutional positions for their day to day wherewithal and succor.

Now that's sad. Or perhaps not.

There were a number of artists on exhibit at the Museum, none of which were acknowledged during the seminar, this despite the fact that the work of one, Ric Gendron, surrounded the symposites who were so deeply discussing the matter of Art and specifically "Indian Art" inside an institution dedicated to the notion that Contemporary Native Art is... a thing. That is to say, artists of the Native persuasion have a vital contemporary perception and voice and they use them in ways that don't necessarily fit the standards and expectations of The Market or the dominant-culture institutions such as the New Mexico Museum of Art on the other side of the Plaza.

The fact that none of the artists on exhibit at MoCNA was mentioned, nor were any of the exhibits acknowledged in any way by the panelists -- or even by the Museum's own curator-hostess -- was the first clue to me that the seminar lacked grounding. It was instead at best an abstract and academic exercise.That's what made it exhausting and ultimately empty in my view.

Without grounding in The Art and the Artists Themselves, everything else is suspect.

And so it went.

This was not unlike the series of lectures we attended at the New Mexico Museum of Art last year and into the spring, in which the history of Art in New Mexico was highlighted -- well, the Legend was -- but without really connecting with the huge quantity of Art possessed by the Museum, some of which surrounded the attendees but went unmentioned unless someone attending (me?) asked about it.

The problem, as I saw it, is that The Market has moved on, and although Santa Fe is still one of the chief art markets in the United States, it ain't what it used to be, the level of competition among artists for attention, let alone making a living is insane, and the Market for Southwest Art isn't sufficient to support so many artists on the one hand, and Santa Fe's galleries and other art market outlets are concentrating their efforts and interests on art and artists from elsewhere, whether Europe or Africa or wherever.

The New Mexico Museum of Art has -- or had -- a vast collection of Southwest Art dating from the era of the First New Mexico Artists Blumenschein and Phillips (ahem) to very recently. They've sold off a good deal of what they had in order to acquire more contemporary works, expand their collections into more diverse styles and to acquire works by artists from other eras, genres and locations.

The Museum of Contemporary Native Arts also has a vast collection, most of which stays unseen like that of the New Mexico Museum of Art and practically every other museum I know of. The museum Market demands it be so, unfortunately -- or perhaps fortunately depending on your point of view. If the entire collections were available to view by the public, after all, it would be overwhelming on the one hand, and it would prevent the Museums from fostering/highlighting/promoting certain artists and elements in their collections while diminishing or ignoring others. But that's how the Market works, and every museum that wishes to be taken seriously must play the game by the rules of the Museum Marketplace or be ignored and defunded by the People Who Matter.

It's a terrible game they must play, but play it they do, or eventually they perish.

As I mentioned, Tony Abeyta was the only artist on the panels I was sure was not dependent on the Institution or the Academy in order to make a living. He makes a handsome living from his art. Not many artists in any field of any ethnicity can do that anymore -- if they ever could. He is a business, an enterprise, a factory. In other words, he knows how to work The Market to his advantage.

Most artists, at least in my experience, don't have the temperament or skill to do what Tony does, and he mentioned during his talk that when he came up to Santa Fe in the '80s to do his time at IAIA, the place was jam-packed with some of the most highly regarded and financially successful Native artists ever, and he mentioned some of them: Allan Houser, Harry Fonseca, RC Gorman, and so on, and he said that all of these artists were mentors to him and to other Native artists, and they provided the kind of richness of experience that he feels obligated to share with the artists he mentors, but it's not the same anymore.

It's not the same any more because the ferment driven by financial success isn't there any more. Only a few are able to make ends meet and have a little extra from the sale of their art, everyone else has to do something else to get by. Art for them, essentially by definition, is a 'hobby' not a career. Because they can't possibly make a living at it.

It doesn't matter whether they are skilled and creative as all get out; the fact is, The Market rules, and The Market has no interest in them, no room for their work, and most of all, The Market doesn't care a whit whether they succeed or fail. At various times, in the '80s when Tony Abeyta was coming up for example, The Market in Santa Fe and elsewhere was in love with Indian Artists and some were financially successful in ways not seen since.

As I process what came through the seminar yesterday, I recall with some clarity what The Market was like back then, and how that era has passed. It isn't like that any more. Not only are the (Indian) artists who were so prominent back then mostly passed to the other side, the interests and demands of The Market are quite different now.

So. What are Indian artists to do? And it's an important question. One for which there was no answer yesterday, one for which there may be no answer in the end.

Part of the thrust of the discussion -- to the extent there was a thrust -- had to do with whether one was an artist or an Indian first. If there was a resolution, and I'm not sure there was, one is both -- if one is an Indian artist. It's self-evident, but the question must be asked, over and over again, in part because "Indian Art" isn't the same thing as standard and expected Western (ie: Market) Art, and Indians are thought to be always torn between their ancient traditions and their contemporary reality. An "Indian Artist" may work in "traditional" or "contemporary" styles, may combine them or utilize both of them in different contexts, the possibilities are endless. But ultimately, according to those who know and those who matter, the individual must decide whether to be an Artist (outside ethnicity and tradition?) or to be an Indian (outside of Art in the Western and Market sense?)

As Tony Abeyta put it (probably a bad paraphrase): "I'm an artist and I can't not be an Indian."

There isn't an either/or, there's a constant Both.

There was talk of the Boarding School Era and the suppression of Indian culture that went with it, and there's a constant background fear that something like that or worse could happen again. Indians are free-er now than they have ever been under the United States, but there is still the lingering fear that the dominant culture will perpetrate something awful simply because they can, and that Indians will suffer for it. Most white people never experience and can't imagine living under that kind of deeply seated fear, but I will say this: more and more are learning to.

Consequently, some Indian artists (how many, I don't know) would rather not be identified as "Indian" but would rather go to Market as Artists, devoid of ethnic baggage. Some can do that, I suppose, but why should they?

Some writers, too.

The issue isn't that they are Indians, though they are that. It is that they are Artists most of all.

If there is a Market niche for such people, good enough. But so far as I can tell, there really isn't. A freemartin Art Market is not a reality.

There was talk of Globalizing Indigenous Art and Artists, becoming a global movement somehow. And I thought, "Really?" There was fierce talk of collaborating with and coming to know and understand the breadth and depth of Indigenous Art world wide, and I thought, "For whom?" Talk of Bienniales filled the room, particularly the Venice Bienniale, where Indians and other Indigenous apparently have quite a presence among People Who Matter, and there was resistance.

Oh good, I thought. "Why should we go to these so-called 'Bienniales?' Why don't we have our own? Why don't they come here?"

Yes, well... can't do that. You see, that's not how The Market works. We don't tell it where to go or what to do, we follow it wherever it leads. If that means Venice or Rio or Sydney, that's where we go. It doesn't come here. Pshaw.

Except that's not entirely... true.

The Bienniale system is a way for People Who Matter to have some control and say over the Art Market, and to force artists to submit as supplicants to the demands and dictates of that segment of People Who Matter. It is perhaps the very definition of "colonization." One becomes the creature of the other, the servant, the handmaiden, the worshipful outsider seeking and perhaps by chance finding the smile and nod from one's Betters. If one is accepted at one of these Bienniales, one achieves a certain cachet and stature, but one is always subservient to Those Who Matter.

For one of the supplicants to declare independence and to suggest that the Bienniale system should hie itself hitherwards is near-heresy. That's not how it works. The supplicants do not declare a Bienniale, only the People Who Matter can do that, and they will declare a Bienniale where and when they want, without regard to the interests or wishes of Those Who Don't Matter. Got it? Good.

The issue of an Indian Artists Manifesto was briefly touched on. Not well or comprehensively, I must say. It was more of a gloss. "Is it time and should there be a manifesto?" Some of the panelists said yes, some said no. But what an artists' manifesto is and why they come about seemed too deep a consideration for the experts on the panel.

But in Santa Fe, you can't really sidestep or escape the question. Manifestos and art movements have been fundamental from the Beginning, whether you date that Beginning to Blumenschein and Phillips and their Broken Wagon Wheel above Taos in 1898 or to Carlos Vierra's purchase of a photo studio on the Santa Fe Plaza in 1904 or 05 or to the Cinco Pintores or what have you.

The point of these many manifestos and movements is the development and marketing of distinctive styles of art. In other words, the manifesto and movement in the art world is almost always a factor of being excluded from and forcing penetration of The Market.

Sometimes they work. Often they don't.

But without the unity provided by the manifesto and the movement, exclusion from The Market is almost guaranteed to be permanent.

Of course, Indian artists are not excluded from The Market, in fact, in Santa Fe, there are a number of specifically Indian Art Markets that are immense and highly regarded nationally and globally. The ones we have attended are literally overwhelming. Exclusion is not the issue. The problem is that The Market -- which determines "success" through sales -- is over-saturated, too many artists, too much stuff. The Market cannot support the numbers of artists involved.

A manifesto and movement (or their plurals) could separate out a certain segment of the now over-saturated Indian Art Market to make it distinctive. The SWAIA Indian Market in Santa Fe, for example, recently underwent a split, partly because it had grown too large and many of the artists involved felt they were being neglected and there was too little chance for new artists to emerge. The other factor, of course, is that the SWAIA Market could not support the number of artists involved.

The discussion yesterday almost completely avoided any of that consideration however, and the queston of a Manifesto was pretty much sidestepped.

At the end of the morning session, however, the issue of Native/Indigenous Art as it relates to social, economic and environmental conscience and justice was brought up, and for the first time, I felt that the symposium was actually connecting with reality and with the future.

Yesterday, there was a rally and march in Santa Fe in concert with the People's Climate Movement that is holding a series of demonstrations in New York in concert with the UN's climate conference to be held next week. There is also a Indigenous People's World Conference at the UN beginning this weekend.

It's a confluence of interests and activism, and some of those at the seminar recognized that the "movement" that some were advocating for Indian artists was already underway: it is the climate/environmental/indigenous peoples movement which for the moment is represented by events like the Peoples Climate events all over the country and the world.

At the Climate Rally in Santa Fe.
As the seminar broke for lunch, I went out to the Plaza to join the rally and march. There were speeches and exhortations and a New Orleans marching band and maybe a thousand people -- mostly white and a lot of them middle aged it seemed to me -- gathered together to share one another's presence and march to the Cathedral where someone was having a wedding the way they do on weekends in Santa Fe. Then they marched down San Francisco Street, and it was tremendously festive.

Hardly anyone on the street or at the seminar had any clue to what was going on.

Their focus has been so narrowed, they could barely imagine something of this sort taking place, nor could they imagine the linkages.

A man from out of town was trying to parallel park in front of the Cathedral; he smashed his car into another vehicle with New Jersey plates while the other driver watched from the sidewalk. Many witnesses including me saw what happened. The man who caused the wreck got out to check the damage. The other driver stood there in a kind of shock while she inspected the parking ticket she'd pulled off her windshield. The man checked the damage, mostly to his car, while the woman read her parking ticket. She looked at the man: "Would you mind moving your car so I can see what happened to my car?" The man looked at her: "Is this your car?" "Yes, I saw it all." "Oh." The man, who was from Missouri, moved his car a few inches forward, and the woman took a look at the damage to her car. It wasn't more than a couple of short scrapes. The man was standing beside her ready to give her his insurance and personal information, and she said: "Oh forget it. The car's a 2006 and those scrapes hardly show. There's more damage to your car. Just let it go." His car had a good-sized dimple in the rear bumper. "Just let it go," she said, "it isn't worth the bother." The man said thanks, got in his car and drove away.

Oddly enough, no one jockeyed to get into the parking place he left open. Parking places on the street are like gold during the height of tourist season, even if you get a ticket. The woman whose car had been hit went off toward the Palace of the Governors. I think she'd been at the seminar earlier.

Later, I spoke to the woman who'd presented the climate/environmental/social justice segment, and I told her how much I appreciated the fact that she brought it up, because I didn't think anyone that day was going to mention it. She nodded agreement. I told her that I thought it was important for people to make and understand the connections, but I doubted very many in attendance did. Nevertheless, it was important to make the point.

She sighed. "It's another step..."

There's much more I could say about what happened yesterday, but at the moment, today Amy Goodman is covering the march in New York, and lots of celebrities are turning up among the indigenous marchers.

As we know, nothing is more important than celebrity gets...

Friday, September 19, 2014

Big Do in Santa Fe and Albuquerque on Climate Change


We'll be in Santa Fe tomorrow for an all-day seminar on Indian arts and culture in the Modern World (ahem) which will no doubt integrate the issue of climate change and provide insight into Native American points of view and responses.

Also, too:

Disruption the Movie:

Clarity -- Why All the Police Killings?

Some of the recent incidents of police killings that really stand out as being out of line include the killing of James Boyd in Albuquerque in March, the killing of John Crawford in Ohio in August, the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO, also in August, the killing of Kajieme Powell in St. Louis a few days later, and the killing of Darrien Hunt in Saratoga Springs, Utah, only a week ago. There are dozens of other, similar case. In truth there are probably hundreds so far this year alone.

In each and every case, an imminent threat is perceived by officers were there is no real threat at all.

James Boyd was gathering his things and surrendering when flash-bang grenades, a dog and finally live ammunition were used to "bring him down." The excuse? He was "armed" with two pocket knives, he had mental problems and he had been in "negotiations" with police for hours. Thus he was, by definition, a threat to be neutralized. The decision to kill him had clearly been made well in advance of the actual shooting; this was no "split second decision," but because of the fact that he had knives, he was mentally disturbed, and he had kept the police at bay for hours, policies and protocols of the department made him into an imminent threat who needed killing.

It all started with a call to police reporting someone camping illegally.

John Crawford was the victim of a 911 call. The caller reported a "suspicious" man (read: black) waving an automatic weapon around in a WalMart. Police were depatched and essentially shot him on sight. As it happened, the "automatic weapon" was a BB gun from the store itself, Crawford was not waving it around or pointing it at anyone, and he was on the phone with the mother of his children when he was shot by police -- police who perceived an imminent threat where there was none. They were going by what they were told by the 911 dispatcher who was in turn repeating what the 911 caller had said leading to wild misperception all around and the death of an innocent man. Crawford may have had a "weapon," but he wasn't "armed." Even if he had been, Ohio is an open carry state where having a loaded weapon in plain sight is perfectly legal. So what was he shot for? Solely because he was perceived to be a threat based on the color of his skin and the fact that he had a "weapon".

Mike Brown was killed by Darren Wilson for reasons unknown. The only information is from eye witnesses who say that Brown was at first running away, then turned and with his hands up, was shot numerous times by Officer Wilson. The justification offered by the police was that Brown had assaulted the officer and "tried to take his gun," but we hear this all the time, it's often not true, and it is not a reason to kill him, even if it were true. We can certainly speculate that Officer Wilson perceived an imminent threat, however, regardless of the fact that Brown was not armed and was running away. That's why the police brought up the supposed assault on the officer and trying to take his gun. Under those circumstances, policy and protocol allow an officer to use deadly force. And the law protects the officer if he does.

Kajieme Powell was another victim of 911 calls. He was "acting strange" and was said to have two knives. He took a soda and a package of pastry from a convenience store (the manage called 911) and he was walking around outside a barber shop next door talking to himself and acting strange, scaring the proprietress. Within seconds of the police arriving, Powell was shot and mortally wounded. He was perceived to be a threat by police even before they got there. When he didn't instantly obey the police upon their arrival, he was shot to death -- because of their perception that he was an imminent threat, a perception driven by the 911 callers as relayed through 911 dispatch. The people on scene prior to police arrival did not see him as a threat -- except to the extent that the proprietress of the barber shop said she was frightened of him -- and he had two knives.

Darrien Hunt was yet another victim of a 911 caller who reported a "suspicious person" (yet again black-ish) acting strange and armed with something, perhaps a sword. Here we go again. Police were dispatched, made contact with Hunt, they appeared to witnesses to have a casual conversation with him, then they opened fire as he was running away, killing him. Police have apparently made false statements about Hunt "lunging" at them with his "sword" in an effort to justify the killing by characterizing the imminent threat they felt they were under, but witnesses do not corroborate the police version -- which has meant that the police story has had to "evolve" over the past few days. The sword morphed into two by fours (multiple?) and the police asserted that the sword was real, not a toy at all. Hunt refused to drop the sword or the two-by-fours, or whatever, and thus he needed killing. Witnesses maintain he turned and tried to flee, and that's when he was shot multiple times, but there is no corroboration that Hunt threatened the officers in any way. As for whether he "refused commands," who knows? But even if he did, is that an appropriate reason to use deadly force? The law will likely protect the police for using deadly force under the circumstances, as long as they say the right words in the right sequence, but was the killing of Hunt truly necessary?

A common pattern in these killings and many others is a call to 911 reporting someone suspicious or acting strange or doing something illegal. Depending on what callers tell the 911 dispatcher, the police sent to the scene will be on high or higher alert, prepared for... well, prepared for killing. It happens over and over and over again. It happens because certain kinds of reports trigger certain responses including use of lethal force where none is really necessary.

In some of these cases, the 911 caller has misperceived and misreported, and in some cases police misconstrue reports as far more threatening than they are.

This alone leads to hundreds of police homicides a year, simply by virtue of not understanding -- and not making a viable attempt to understand -- the situation in its entirety. In so many of these cases, the victim of police homicide is perceived to be a threat but realistically is not a threat, something that may only be realized after the victim is dead.

The perception of a threat is driven by rules, polices and protocols, not necessarily by reality at all. There is a media and police department legend about making "split second decisions" of life and death, but it's rarely the case. Instead the decision of how to engage the suspect is made well before the encounter based on reports that may or may not be accurate. Generally speaking, if certain threats are perceived *whether real or not* then lethal force is almost guaranteed. It's not "split-second" decision making, the decision is built in to the policies and the perception of the situation.

Certain kinds of incidents -- such as domestic abuse calls, child endangerment and/or suspicious person calls, suspected gunfire calls, and so on -- can trigger inappropriate lethal force responses. Service of no-knock warrants and drug raids can lead to lethal force responses to perceived threats, even when there aren't any real threats or threats are minor. Lack of obedience to commands -- which can be incomprehensible, contradictory, or impossible for the subject to follow -- can lead to use of lethal force. "Reaching" -- especially toward the waist -- is almost an automatic death sentence.

These uses of lethal force are all driven by policy and protocol which presume the officer is under imminent threat to life or limb and force protection overrides every other consideration. The police have no obligation to protect and serve the public, but they are specifically authorized by their own departments to protect themselves from perceived threats.

The police are trained and conditioned to perceive threats where often none exist. And that's the biggest reason for all the police homicides.

Even when there are real threats, use of lethal force is often the least appropriate response, and yet policies and conditioning lead nowhere else.

That's the problem, and that's what has to change. There are many ways to do it, including disbanding and re-forming whole police departments. But the problem is primarily a matter of rules, policies and protocols along with training and conditioning which provide the officers with no recourse other than use of lethal force, and laws which protect police when they use lethal force.

Unfortunately, part of the problem is due to the "professionalization" of police policies which have standardized a use of force continuum nationally. DoJ involvement in police department review and reform is no guarantee that police homicides will be reduced. What tends to happen instead is that rules become more comprehensive, and the use of force more rationalized -- though it may still not be appropriate.

The people have to take it upon themselves to change the dynamic of police interaction with the public. It's a long-term endeavor, but it can and if sustained will make a difference.

The killing must stop.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Darren Wilson Goes Before the Grand Jury -- and Police in Jennings, MO, Kill Another Man


Darren Wilson spent four hours talking to the St. Louis County Grand Jury on Tuesday as reported in the St. Louis Post Dispatch yesterday. It's an interesting development for a number of reasons:

1) The prosecutor has extended the term of the GJ until January, truly an unconscionable delay if their sole focus is Michael Brown's killing by Darren Wilson. Though previously they were only meeting once a week, the investigation and presentation of evidence sufficient to indict shouldn't take so long, provided, of course, an indictment is likely. The only reason to extend a grand jury in a case like this is to defuse the potential for anger and reaction by the public -- which is often standard procedure in cases of officer involved shootings.

2) It is highly unusual for a likely defendant to appear before a grand jury for the simple reason that the witness has no legal representation in grand jury proceedings, and unless well-versed in the law (and even then...) may well self-incriminate, testimony which can then be used by the prosecutor to impeach testimony at trial. In other words, it is very risky for the potential defendant, and observers are aghast that Wilson testified.

3) While we still don't know where Wilson is staying while being protected, nor by whom he is being protected, the indications are that he is still in the St. Louis area. He is reported to have been interviewed by St. Louis County police twice so far and the Federal investigators once. Supposedly, he is "cooperating." But there has been no public statement from him, only hearsay from third parties.

Meanwhile, in Jennings, MO, the adjacent community to Ferguson, MO, where Darren Wilson first served as a police officer prior to the disbanding of the force in 2011-12, a man was shot and killed by police -- the new police force -- last night, allegedly while carrying a rifle and fleeing from officers, or while pointing a rifle at officers. As is so often the case, accounts vary.

This shooting occurred as a consequence of a 911 call. As in so many cases, calling 911 got someone killed by police. This happens most often on domestic violence calls, child endangerment calls, and armed suspect calls (such as the recent killing in Utah of a "suspicious person" with a Samurai sword.) In this case, it was apparently an "armed suspect" call, or rather calls, as the "armed suspect" was reported and police were dispatched twice to the same location last night.

Police claim that the suspect was spotted when they went to investigate on the second call.  The suspect got into a vehicle and rammed police vehicles -- a frequently alleged incident in police involved shootings -- and then fled from the scene with a weapon in hand (said to be a shotgun or perhaps a rifle).

Police allege that the suspect fired the weapon at them, but there is no corroborating evidence that he did so. Police often allege "pointing a weapon" or "firing a weapon" to justify killing someone, but there is almost as often no evidence apart from officer statements and testimony. As we know, officers don't always tell the truth.

Police fired at the suspect who was pronounced dead at the scene.

Make of it what you will.

The question I will ask in every case like this -- and they are so similar by now -- is whether the killing by police was necessary or were there reasonable alternatives to the use of deadly force available.

If there weren't, why not?

Too many killings. Too many.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

And Now For Regime Change In New Zealand...??


It appears that the Snowden, LLC, outfit has decided to attempt regime change in New Zealand, one of the governments involved in the Five Eyes Anglo-American intelligence sharing operation.

The active agents are Snowden himself from his exile in Moscow, Glenn Greenwald from his jungle lair in Rio, and Kim Dotcom from... well, wherever (is he still in New Zealand?) Behind the scenes lurks Pierre Omidyar from his redoubt in Hawaii, whose previous efforts at changing regimes seems to have paid off -- at least temporarily.

The issue seems to be the bulk surveillance of the Kiwi people by the government -- in line with the general Anglo-American surveillance we're seeing of practically everyone everywhere almost all the time. And the fact that the PM has apparently lied about it -- and therefore he must be made to resign forthwith. Or fail to be re-elected. Or something. Whatever the goal is, and I don't think we can tell from the propaganda campaign launched the other day through the Intercept and other outlets, the rage among the people of New Zealand is being whipped to a fever pitch.

And the slug-fest between PM John Key on the one side, Greenwald, Dotcom, and Snowden (with Omidyar in the shadows) got interesting yesterday when Key released documents refuting the claims of the insurgents (why are they insurging in New Zealand again?) and asserting authoritatively that the so-called "smoking gun" email was fake.

If this be true, then there is something up of which we, the Rabble, know -- and can know -- nothing. What we see has nothing to do with what is really going on. It's a pageant for our amusement while the real work behind the scenes continues.

Whatever the case, the government of New Zealand will be roiled until and unless something not spoken is satisfied.

And if it works in New Zealand, the least of the Five Eyes, expect the process to be applied to the rest of them.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Killer Kop Protest

From the Journal:
“We have 27 killings since 2010, and I believe they should have another venue, another state, with all due respect,” demonstrator Nora Anaya said.
Other activists at the protest called it “ironic” and tone deaf for the competition to be held in Albuquerque. In April, the U.S. Department of Justice concluded its investigation into the police department and found that a majority of shootings it examined were not constitutional and that the department had gaps in training, accountability and organization.
Protesters also said they would have preferred a competition that instead rewards officers for successfully de-escalating situations that could otherwise end in an officer-involved shooting.
“It’s not about who can get the better shot and kill the most people,” protester Renee Garcia said as gunfire rang out from competitors at the shooting range.
The apologists for the Killer Kop Kompetition beg to disagree. For them, it is very much about that "better shot" and killing more people more efficiently, doing the best job possible by eliminating all those many threats and keeping us safe.

I think I posted a link to the story of the shooting of John Rogers in Bloomfield, and it's really quite shocking how cavalier and almost casual the department and the media has been about killing this man who was just going about his business according to his family when he was accosted by armed men, one of whom shot him in the upper body, killing him. According to his family members who were there, Rogers was not armed and he was not threatening police. It didn't matter. He "reached" for what they said was a gun in the glove compartment of his truck. Bam! There is no way to prove whether he "reached for a gun" or not, however. Why, in any case, should "reaching" be a death sentence?

The Bloomfield police department describes the internal investigation of the shooting:
“It's more of an internal check to see what we can do to make our department the best it can be.”
How much better can they get at killing people? Oh. Well. I'm sure they can get much better at it if they really put their minds to it. What nonsense.

And they use the incident as a means to recruit officers, as their current numbers are somewhat down:
The two officers called to the scene of the shooting were placed on paid administrative leave, pending the outcome of the investigation. Three more officers have recently left the department or retired, reducing the number of active officers from 20 to 15.
Foster said his department is currently accepting applications for two open positions. He said he hopes to have the positions filled in the next few weeks.
OK then. Priorities, I guess. And routines. And procedures.

Rogers is dead, so he can't complain about it, and his family, well... too bad for them. You know if they didn't want this to happen, they shouldn't have called the police... it's their fault, right? If a neighbor called, it's still the Rogers family's fault. It was, after all, the second time police had been out there that day. They don't have time to deal with trouble making Indians in the middle of the day. It's their own fault, right?

Rogers "reached into the glove box of his vehicle and pulled out a .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol". Given the annoyance he'd already caused, who wouldn't shoot him, right?  Police start yelling, "gun! gun! gun!" and bam! bam! bam! they drop the guy like a deer.

Except New Mexico is an open carry state, isn't it? Well, so what? Dude was Navajo, never mind he owned a trucking business and was well regarded, yadda yadda, open carry doesn't ever really apply to non-anglos, does it? Indian with a gun! Kill! Kill! Kill! Bam!

This is what the training and conditioning at the Killer Kop Kompetition is all about. The Kops are being conditioned to see threats everywhere, especially guns and weapons of all kinds in the hands of myriad "types" -- Outlaws one and all -- which include just about everyone who isn't white, and who isn't at least upper middle class, and who isn't instantly obedient. Are you deaf? Too bad for you. Bam!

Those who threaten suicide, the mentally ill, the homeless, Indians, Blacks, Mexicans and other sorts of brown people,  the poor, the marginal, the outspoken, the disobedient and the defiant, all are designated Outlaws by the authorities, and all are subject to summary execution. The Killer Kop Kompetition going on now in Albuquerque is one of the many means by which the police condition their minds and hone their skills to eliminate threats from these Outlaws -- by shooting and killing them. Bam!

The thing of it is, most are ordinary people trying to go about their lives as best they can. Some of them have difficulty doing so for all kinds of reasons, but that shouldn't mean they are eligible for summary execution. Some get into squabbles with family or neighbors. That shouldn't make them eligible for summary execution. Some use drugs or alcohol. Yes? Does that automatically make them eligible for summary execution? A few become suicidal -- again, for all kinds of reasons. Why do the police so often feel it is their job to help these suicidal people along by shooting and killing them? Why are police so frightened of the public -- ordinary people -- that when they perceive someone "reaching" they believe their lives are endangered and they must shoot to kill? Why? It's insane. Crazy. Mindless.

Why does the sight of a gun -- which is probably perfectly legal to possess and show -- make them so fearful they believe they must shoot to kill (assuming of course the gun is in the hands of one of the categories of designated Outlaw)?

And why, ultimately, are the police protected when they kill? Yes, I know the law protects them, but departments can have policies that curb the killing. Why don't they? Why do they encourage officers to react to the kinds of scenarios that are part of the Killer Kop Kompetition?

These Killer Kop policies can and must change.

The killing must stop.

At least 1519 dead since May 1, 2013.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Kitty Heaven



We called him "Lucky." He was just a tiny thing that a friend rescued from a trash bin at the back of her place. He wasn't weaned, but he was very assertive and dominant. We thought he might be part bobcat. Once he was at our place, he made himself right at home. Our housecat "Girl" was not amused, but she's been mostly tolerant if not accepting of the little visitor.

He loved to snuggle against my beard, and when he wasn't doing that, he liked to curl up on or beside the keyboard of my laptop making it difficult to type any of my brilliant prose. It's probably just as well.

Lucky seemed to be doing fine. He was growing and rambunctious and very independent minded. Yesterday he climbed up my leg and settled in for a while, purring. Then later he went to sleep beside one of the feral cat buddies he's made.

Ms. Ché said he appeared to be a bit lethargic last night, and around 11pm she noticed he didn't seem to be doing well. He was sleeping, though, and as he slept, she said he looked like he was cold.

This morning, he was sleeping when I got up and didn't wake while I did my morning routines. He woke and became active when Ms Ché got up an hour or so later, though, and at first I thought he was fine. She said he wasn't. She said he could barely walk. She gave him some food, and he ate most of it, but then he tried to walk away and became disoriented. She had to rescue him from under the chest of drawers where he'd gone by mistake.

She wrapped him in a dry washcloth and took him to the cat box where she said he had a bowel movement and urinated more or less normally, but he couldn't get out of it by himself. She cleaned him up and carried him back into the living room. She thought she should call the vet. She did and left a message. The vet called back and made an appointment for later in the morning.

Lucky held on, but he was clearly in distress. He quickly became paralyzed, unable to stand or walk on his own, his eyes bright but frightened. He cried out. Ms Ché held him and comforted him and whispered in his ear.

"Kitty Heaven, sweetheart. Just let go. Kitty Heaven, sweetheart."

Just let go.

As she got ready to take him to the vet, she said "We'll have him put down, I don't want to keep him from the other side." I watched him while she got on her jacket and scarf. He wasn't conscious any more, and so far as I could tell, he wasn't breathing, just reflex movements now and then.

We went out to the car and she got in. Lucky was wrapped in the wash cloth. "We're almost there, sweetheart. Almost there." I started the car and drove away toward the vet's. I looked at Lucky in Ms Ché's arms. He was gone.

I said, "I don't think we'll have to have him put down. He's gone."

She stroked his face. "He's passed over."

"Yes," I said. And I lost it completely. My eyes welled with tears and I bawled like a baby, something I haven't done for years and years.

"Cats can make you feel that way?" she asked in a kind of wonder.

Oh yeah. This one did. That's for sure.

We don't know why he left us like he did. But for the few weeks he was with us, he was a joy and delight. We are grateful.

'Bye Lucky!

(No, we didn't make it to Los Alamos today... not this time.)

Killer Kop Kompetition Komes to ABQ

The International Killer Kop Kompetition is just about to begin out at Shooting Range Park on the West Mesa, and the festivities will continue through the weekend and into next week. We're told that it's a wonderful thing and we should be grateful that Killer Kops from all over Kreation come to Albuquerque each and every year to riddle paper targets with bullet holes, just like they riddle real people with bullet holes here and everywhere. Yay!

The frequently absent and always tone-deaf mayor of Albuquerque Richard Berry will no doubt greet the arrivals with gushing praise for all the hard work they do to Keep Us Safe (except for those they kill, heh heh) while they eagerly protect and serve their lords -- the masters of the universe.

There will be protests, as there have been all along. Protesters will gather soon at the Shooting Range Park to let the Killer Kops know that they are not celebrated by everyone in town, not by a long shot (so to speak), and to let them know that their ideal world of body counts is not the ideal world most of us hold dear. Far from it.

Before Ferguson, there was Albuquerque, sayeth USA Today. True enough. And there have been so many other places for such a long time now, people are sick to death of it (in a manner of speaking). People like Richard Berry, lacking empathy or even sensibility, celebrate the killing and are celebrated in turn by those higher up the pecking order, for the absence of empathy and the celebration of the suppression of those below them is a hallmark of the times. Our rulers must kill, it seems, or something inside them perishes.

The ABQ Journal, always in tune with its community, infamously claimed that the Killer Kop Kompetition was good for us, and those were opposed should sit down and shut up, because it's good and right that Killer Kops hone their skills. What if they didn't. Think! Just think of the mayhem then! You people! Think!

Yah, right.

We've long been scheduled to take a trip up to Los Alamos this chilly suddenly fall-ish day, and so we shall, but to those who are out there at Shooting Range Park shivering and protesting and announcing "No More!", solidarity. The challenge is met.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Where is Darren Wilson? Why Did He Kill Michael Brown?

There is no question that Darren Wilson, officer of the law in Ferguson, Missouri, shot and killed a young man named Michael Brown on Canfield Drive in Ferguson shortly after noon on August 9, 2014, in front of numerous witnesses.

Not long afterwards, Wilson disappeared. He has not been seen publicly since the day he killed Michael Brown in front of numerous witnesses. He was placed on paid administrative leave following the shooting as is standard practice in such cases. He is said to have left his home in Crestwood, Missouri, within days of the shooting, but exactly when he left and where he went has not been reported. He is said to have lived with another Ferguson police officer named Barbara Spradling whose whereabouts is also not reported. Is she still on the job, or has she been given paid leave as well? Is she with Wilson? Why?

Where are Wilson and Spradling and who is protecting them? If there were any valid reason to believe that Wilson's life was in jeopardy because of his shooting and killing Michael Brown shortly after noon on August 9, then Wilson should be in the protective custody of a competent public agency -- given the nature of the killing, that would most likely be the Missouri State Highway Patrol or the FBI. He should not be free to wander at will, nor should his general whereabouts remain undisclosed. His precise location need not be stated, but the public should know whether he is in Missouri, in the St. Louis area, or somewhere else, and the public should know whether or not he is in protective custody. That nothing has been disclosed about his location indicates to me that it's possible the authorities don't know where he is. Perhaps only his lawyer does, or perhaps no one does.

We should also ask why Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown shortly after noon on August 9, 2014, in the middle of Canfield Drive in Ferguson, Missouri. That question is easier to answer than Darren Wilson's whereabouts. We have numerous eyewitness reports that pretty much say the same thing about the shooting of Michael Brown and which partially corroborate the incomplete police story of the shooting.

Michael Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson were walking in the middle of Canfield Drive. They were approached by Officer Wilson who ordered them to get on the sidewalk. They continued walking in the middle of the street. Officer Wilson approached them again at speed, nearly hitting them with his vehicle. Words were exchanged. Wilson opened his vehicle door, slamming it into Brown who did not move out of the way. The door rebounded onto Wilson who was unable to get out of the car. He grabbed Brown and there was a struggle through the window of the car. Wilson apparently said to Brown, "I'll shoot you."  A shot was fired from Darren Wilson's gun inside the vehicle. Brown broke free and started running away with Johnson. Wilson got out of the car and fired several shots toward Brown. One may have hit him, though that's not entirely clear. The bullet fired inside Wilson's vehicle may also have hit Brown, but it is not certain. Brown stopped fleeing and Johnson sought shelter by a parked car. Brown turned around, reportedly with his hands up, and said, "Stop shooting. I don't have a gun" or something similar. Wilson shot him several more times. Brown fell forward, and Wilson shot him twice in the head. Brown collapsed on the street where his body and blood remained for the next several hours as more and more people gathered in sorrow and outrage.

Another black youth killed by police in the USofA.


Even on that day, it was suggested by TheePharaoh on Twitter that Brown had taken some rellos shortly before he was killed, but even in America, the theft of cigars does not generally warrant death in the streets. Something else must have happened to cause Officer Wilson to shoot Brown to death -- unless we are to believe he's simply a psychotic murderer waiting for the opportunity to kill a black youth.

I think there are a couple of keys to understanding why Officer Wilson felt he had to kill Michael Brown that day.

One is his order that Brown and Johnson get out of the street and onto the sidewalk. Over the course of several weeks of protest, most Americans have had the opportunity to see the site where Michael Brown was shot down. There is a memorial of flowers and messages on the spot in the middle of the street where Michael Brown fell and his blood ran. It's a very moving memorial. The street is narrow and runs through a residential neighborhood of pleasant single family homes and garden apartments. It is not a busy street at all but a normal, curving residential street where a driver might ordinarily expect to find young people either playing or walking in the street, even in the middle of the street, as a matter of course.

For a police officer to order Brown and Johnson out of the street as he passed by them would not be particularly unusual, though following up might be. Brown and Johnson did not get out of the street, and Johnson said he told the officer they were nearly at their destination and they would move out of the street when they got there. Johnson said the officer drove on a few feet, then he suddenly stopped and backed up, nearly hitting Johnson and Brown. Johnson said that Wilson was belligerent and hostile at this point, and attempted to get out of his vehicle, but he had stopped too close to Brown and Johnson and was unable to open his door sufficiently to get out. Words were exchanged that apparently included some cursing. Wilson apparently claimed that Brown pushed him back into the vehicle and began to assault him through the window. Johnson said that the officer fell back into the vehicle when the door rebounded, and Wilson then tried to pull Brown into the vehicle through the window, drew his gun and threatened to shoot Brown. Wilson apparently claimed that Brown tried to grab his gun and a struggle for it ensued during which a shot went off. Johnson said that the shot hit Brown in the shoulder (he said he saw the blood), and at that point Brown and Johnson ran away.

Officer Wilson could then get out of the vehicle and he kept firing at Brown. But why?

According to Missouri state law (as I understand it) officers are empowered to use lethal force on a "fleeing felon" if the officer has a reasonable belief that the fugitive represents a physical threat to the officer or to others. It's been pointed out that Officer Wilson claimed that Brown assaulted him and tried to take his gun, both of which are felonies. Thus, when Brown ran away, he became a "fleeing felon."

But was he a threat?

Officer Wilson apparently believed he was -- for no other reason because he believed Brown had assaulted him and tried to take his gun.  These are not provable facts, but they are apparently Wilson's statements to St. Louis County police who took over the investigation. And they are statements tailored to substantiating justification for Wilson's shooting and killing Michael Brown.

The assault Wilson claimed he suffered from Brown cannot be proved, nor can it be proved that Brown tried to grab Wilson's gun. But these are key claims by Wilson and are the primary clues to why he killed Brown.

Non-compliance to Wilson's order to Brown and Johnson to get out of the street was the initial cause of Wilson's displeasure with the young men. No statement has been made to verify it, but it is possible that Wilson heard a report on his radio that there had been a robbery at the Ferguson Market a few minutes before his encounter with Brown and Johnson. This may have been the reason Wilson stopped and reversed his vehicle to confront Brown and Johnson again, but we don't know that. It may also have been because they didn't comply with his previous order and it is suspected one or the other may have mouthed off on top of defying the officer.

When Wilson was unable to get out of his vehicle upon the second confrontation, he apparently tried to grab hold of Brown to control him in some manner, and he also apparently drew his gun and threatened to shoot Brown. Why?

The likelihood is that Wilson's inability to get out of the vehicle and the subsequent struggle frightened Wilson sufficiently that he felt his life was in danger. His threat to shoot Brown was probably intended to overpower and intimidate the much larger Brown, but the gun went off apparently unexpectedly. A bullet may or may not have struck Brown at that point (autopsy is inconclusive), but the shock of the gunfire broke the struggle inside the vehicle,  Brown and Johnson were able to run away, and Wilson was able to get out of the car. Wilson kept firing. Why?

So far as he knew, neither Brown nor Johnson were armed, as neither had threatened him with a firearm.

After Wilson shot at the fleeing Brown, witnesses nearly unanimously state that Brown turned around with his hands up and stated, "Stop shooting. I don't have a gun" or something similar. Wilson, however, kept shooting until Brown was down and most likely dead.


The answer is not the law. The law protects the officer who uses lethal force, but it does not require that he do so. The answer is the department policies and protocols for use of force which in this case -- as in many thousands of others around the country, especially since the 1980s -- essentially require that under circumstances in which the officer believes his life is in danger, he must use lethal force to "neutralize the threat." In other words, he must attempt to kill the subject, and if at all possible, he must succeed.

The law will protect him, but the policy and protocols of the department demand that he must use lethal force under the circumstances.

This is true in case after case after case of police killings. It's not the law that makes them do it. It's the policies and protocols of the department. Police have vast discretion -- except when they believe or say that their lives or the lives of others are in danger in which case, in almost every department they are not only authorized to use lethal force, they are required to. It's not a matter of a "split second decision." Far from it. The protocols are mostly very clear and straightforward. Any perception of a life-threatening danger posed by a subject is enough to cause the use of lethal force, even if -- as is so often the case -- the danger is illusory. Often the perception comes long before the use of lethal force. Once the decision is made to kill the subject, that's it. Generally, there is no going back, nor is there anything the subject can do to save his or her own life. It's not the law that makes it so, it is the policy of the department that does.

There have been so many examples recently of how these protocols work to extinguish the lives of hundreds so far this year alone, but somehow the lesson never quite connects with the public. It's as if the public and the police are operating on entirely different planes, and in a sense, that's the case.

I've mentioned a New Mexico State Police sniper who has been sent to various incidents with the intent to kill. That's his job, after all. And he has killed -- twice since last December, while severely wounding another man last May.

A few days ago, Seattle police snipers were sent to an incident in Queen Anne. They shot and killed a man who police claimed was shooting at officers -- but how many times have we heard this claim only to find out later it wasn't true? The suspect didn't fire at all or he didn't fire at officers but fired in the air or away from officers.

In another incident in Bloomfield, New Mexico a few days ago, police went on a domestic disturbance call and an officer shot and killed a man who family and witnesses said was unarmed and not causing a disturbance of any kind. After the family of the dead man demanded accountability from the police for what they considered to be a murder, the investigators issued a statement that the man had been shot and killed because they believed he was reaching for a gun in the glove compartment of his vehicle.

There is no way to prove he was doing any such thing, however. There is only the statement of the officer who shot him. In this case, it is possible that the officer saw him "reach" -- whether for a gun or not, it doesn't matter -- and that's enough, according to protocol, to trigger use of lethal force. Police were alerted to the "danger" by their dispatch on a domestic disturbance call.

Something similar happened in St. Louis to Kajieme Powell. He was shot and killed by police within seconds of their arrival on a disturbance/shoplifting call on August 19. He'd taken sodas and pastries from a convenience store on the corner and he had been "acting strange" on the sidewalk outside. One of the callers to 911 -- a St. Louis alderwoman -- stated he had two knives and she was afraid of him so she was going to lock her door to keep him outside.

Powell did not threaten anyone according to video of his behavior prior to being shot. He was acting strange to be sure, and according to those who were there, he did have a knife in his hand, but he was not threatening anyone with it, he didn't raise it to threaten police when they arrived, but he didn't follow their command to drop it until after they shot him. Twelve times. It's clear they had determined to kill Powell before they got there -- if he didn't obey.

This incident was very similar to the killing of James Boyd in Albuquerque in March. The difference is that apparently the decision to kill Boyd was made long before police opened fire, not as they were approaching the scene. Boyd was also armed with knives, and like Powell, he did not threaten anyone. Police made clear that being armed in a confrontation with police is sufficient justification for police killing. Especially being armed and noncompliant with police orders.

In fact, in the vast majority of the thousands and thousands of police killings in the United States over the last few decades, the chief justification for killing individuals is noncompliance with orders, whether or not the subject is armed.

Noncompliance is itself regarded as a threat, life threatening in too many circumstances.

"Reaching for..." something (be it a cell-phone, wallet, pad of paper, or -- just maybe -- a gun or a knife) is considered life threatening and sufficient justification for opening fire on a subject.

The "waistband" gambit is tried and true. There's always a gun in there, right?

Holding a weapon of any kind while in an encounter with police is generally considered life threatening and sufficient justification for opening fire, unless you're a drunken elderly white man, in which case, no harm no foul and you will be allowed to negotiate in good faith.

Being black or brown and noncompliant -- whether armed or not -- is an almost certain death sentence, however.

I'm convinced from what I've seen that Darren Wilson decided on Michael Brown's eligibility to be killed  on the basis of his noncompliance with orders to get out of the street, and his decision to act on that eligibility came when Brown and Wilson struggled in the window of Wilson's vehicle. It didn't matter at all whether Brown posed an actual threat to Wilson. What mattered was that Wilson's authority had been defied and he felt he had been assaulted by an uppity nigra.


But even if Brown had been white, the situation may well have devolved the same way. The point is that noncompliance itself can be a death sentence in the eyes of the police, regardless of anything else, and they know they will be held harmless if they carry it out.

This situation has been metastasizing for many years, and it is time to change things.