Saturday, November 28, 2015

Interesting Juxtaposition

There was yet another mass-shooting incident in Colorado yesterday -- what a strange place, so full of mass murderers, it seems -- in which a police officer and two civilians were killed and a dozen or so injured by a man firing his weapons at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.

Note, the perp was taken alive, alive and well, in fact, when he followed the commands of the SWAT team assembled to deal with the situation.

Black folk, understandably, are scratching their heads. Oh. So the police don't have to kill? Wait. Not even when they have a legitimate fear for their lives and the safety of others? Who knew?

A black youth in Chicago walking down the middle of the street is subject to summary execution, and the excuse is that he was a threat of some kind who could only be dealt with by use of lethal force. This happens hundreds of times a year. All over the country. Day in and day out. Someone is summarily executed somewhere in America every single day by police who claim they are scared for their lives and the safety of others, scared by men and women and children, armed or unarmed, complying or not, black, white, other, mentally ill or quite sane, perhaps suicidal, men, women and children who may or may not pose some kind of threat to themselves or to others. Every single day.

And yet, here we have another case of a mass shooter-killer taken into custody alive, not even roughed up, despite the fact that he had just killed a police officer and wounded other officers. In other words he was unquestionably a man who was an active threat to the lives and safety of the police and others, and yet... he lives.

Whereas hundreds of others, many of whom are not objectively threats at all, lie among the dead, killed by police. 

How very interesting.

I've long said that upwards of 90% of police killings are unwarranted and unnecessary, perhaps more, perhaps nearly all of them when you really examine the situation objectively. The latest incident in Colorado Springs (a hotbed of radical christianist fundamentalism) is an example of why that is true. The shooter -- the alleged shooter at any rate -- was taken into custody alive and apparently well; he wasn't even roughed up. Not a bit. The incident was resolved without resorting to lethal force -- or indeed any physical force at all (that we know of) -- against the shooter.

He was -- of course -- white.

Does that make all the difference? No, it doesn't, it's not all that matters, but it does matter enormously. White mass killers are frequently taken into custody without killing or brutalizing them. On the other hand, white domestic abusers and/or drug users are routinely shot dead by police whether or not they pose an objective threat at the time they are killed.

"They deserve it." Typically the rap sheet is trotted out to prove the necessity of killing these people (usually men). On the other hand, a (white) mass killer like Dylann Roof or James Holmes, and now Robert Dear (among others; this is not an exhaustive list) is taken into custody to stand trial the way murderers are supposed to. The way accused criminals in general are supposed to be treated in this country.

But what's supposed to happen is only applied to certain people under certain circumstances (if they're white males accused of mass murder, for example) whereas others never, ever have that benefit. They -- like Tamir Rice, John Crawford III, and so many others -- are shot and killed on sight.

There is not even a hint of doubt in the minds of the officers who kill them, either.

These dead have no rights at all. They are killed wantonly, with utter disregard for their lives and often disregard for the supposed safety of others. And almost always, the killers get away with it.

Yet an accused mass killer, who just killed an officer, is treated with all due courtesy and respect, his rights protected, his trial in a court of law assured.

The way it's supposed to be.

So the question is, why can't police treat every one of the accused they kill with the same courtesy and respect -- without killing them?

Why is a (white) mass murderer given every legal/social right due him whereas a Negro shopper or child playing in a park or walking down the street is executed on sight? What gives police the right to do this and the expectation that they will?

Racism is part of it. The "violence inherent in the system" is part of it. But so is training, so is command authority. So is policy.

Taking a white mass murderer into custody to stand trial, whereas a black shopper who has done nothing wrong and broken no law is shot on sight is a matter of policy, not law. The law protects the officer who does this, but killing is not required by the law. It is the policy of the department that sets up the conditions which lead directly to both the killing of the Negro who has broken no law and the protection of the white mass killer.

The officers who kill so wantonly and get away with it are "just doing their job."

It's what they believe they are expected to do.

Apparently some police chiefs are coming to the realization that it is their instructions and expectations that lead to such carnage. It is their policies driving the death toll. And they can -- and must -- change them.

Rules and policies regarding use of lethal force were changed in New York City for example, and the death toll from police killings was reduced 90%. In other words, it can be done, and relatively quickly, too.

But will it?


I stopped holding my breath a while back when it was clear that the activism and protests were producing sloooooowwww, incremental change from an institutional standpoint. Police killings have actually increased in the nearly two years now since James Boyd was killed in Albuquerque -- executed in the foothills by police snipers as he was surrendering -- which touched off a protest movement that spread nationally. The death rate from police homicide has been radically reduced in Albuquerque, even though officers have been shot and killed. Police are not out in the streets killing at the rate they once did. Same thing happened in Oakland (though there has recently been a change in policy that has led to more deaths by police there). New York reduced its rate of police homicide by a huge percentage, and seems to have stuck to the policies that keep the rate relatively low.

So it can be done. It's a matter of how and when. Maybe or maybe not in my lifetime.

The sooner the better, but the resistance is strong and vocal. Some people -- and some police -- feel it is their right and obligation to kill at will with impunity, otherwise the whole structure of society will collapse. And they are frightened that if policies change to forbid killing suspects, they might be held criminally liable for killings in the past. That's their real fear.

It remains fascinating that a white mass murder suspect can be taken into custody whereas a black shopper who has broken no law and threatened no one can be shot on sight.

As DeRay says, "America."

Friday, November 27, 2015

Godwin-going Apres Thanksgiving -- The Trumpen Proletariat Arise

Apparently the meme -- or is it now a trope ?-- about The Donald is that he is as thorough-going a fascist as there has ever been in American politics. Well, in recent memory, anyway. They're calling him a fascist straight out, no filters, among the Republican chatterati, at least from what I've seen on the intertubes. This is said to be unprecedented, and I suppose it is. The media is always reluctant to call out any Republican candidate, and Republican politicians and commentators generally hold their fire in public, but The Donald has caused something of a dilemma for the Big Boys.

At first, they didn't know what to do when he went off on one of his rightist-populist jags. It couldn't be for real, right? But then it got more and more real, especially as polling showed Trump leading the Republican field, despite the fact that Carson was catching him here and there and now and then (that's interesting) and Rubio was clearly the choice of the cognoscenti. After all, a nice clean Hispanic character should be good for the demographics, right? Especially after That Negro in the White House (eeek!)

The problem being that pesky populist billionaire who keeps surging in the polls, keeps drawing large crowds of rabid fanatics, and keeps getting his ugly mug on the teevee because of something outrageous he's said or one of his goons or one of his fans has done.

A "populist billionaire?" Whut? That's a key to understanding what's going on here as I see it. Trump is a famous personality first and foremost. He's been a character on the teevee for years, and he was in the news constantly before he became a television celebrity. He's known for the character he plays on teevee, and it's a character he's honed and perfected on the stump as a self-funded presidential candidate. The character is obnoxious and outrageous, but it touches a certain segment of the population that feels left out of the economic and social changes that have been going on in the nation for many years now. These people identify with Trump and his own outrageousness and so he's doing very well as he stalks the country for votes.

His populism, however, is more likely a mask for his real intent -- to impose Billionaires' Rule directly by capturing the levers of government power. Well, now. It wouldn't be the first time that billionaires or their equivalent have had control of the government, but it might be the first time a genuine billionaire was put in office or rather bought the office of the Presidency, as if it were a hostile take over.

Other billionaires don't seem to be cottoning to Trump's rising, and that seems to be at the root of the current memes (or is it tropes?) about Trump's fascism...

Is he a fascist? Genuinely? I don't know. He uses a lot of fascist-style rhetoric to appeal to the public, and that has given rise to the charge that he is a fascist along the lines of a Mussolini or a Hitler, which means he's no "conservative" (not that anybody seeking high office ever is these days), but he's been tapping something soul-satisfying to his constituency while he tub-thumps away on his racist and exclusionary policy prescriptions.

His approach is so deep-seated American. What he rants about are the things that so many (largely white) Americans have long held dear and want to see preserved for their progeny. They see the racist, sexist and exclusionary pillars of Real Americanism under attack from within and without, and Trump's rhetoric is a means of fighting back, as is his -- apparent -- fascism. In their lights, no one else is showing the fortitude and balls to do it.

Trump is the one. Some have said he's a stalking horse or not a "serious candidate," and they could be right, but I go back to Reagan, both his two terms as governor of California (he first took office in 1967 -- generations ago). He was thought to be a joke or a stalking horse or not a serious candidate too, and he swept into office over and over again, not so much because anybody cared for his policies, but because he was a personality, famous, and he touched the souls and spirit of so many (largely white) Americans who felt left out of the social and political milieus of the times. Reagan brought back their sense of importance, and he gave them much raw meat to chew on as his policies -- which favored the rich and ruined the lives of millions, throwing many into the streets and nearly destroying public education and tattering the social fabric -- were implemented.

Those policies were recognized as socially destructive and economically unsound from the outset, but there was no political will to oppose them sufficiently to prevent their implementation. What Reagan wanted was what the public wanted, so it was thought, therefore strenuous or active opposition was not considered viable.

And so it didn't happen. Democrats went along with Reagan, even praising him from time to time, because they didn't feel institutionally opposed. Or something.

There was much about his policies that were fascistic or precursors. Certainly authoritarian. His determination to use police power to crush the rising of students and blacks and other minorities was well-known and well-documented. To a surprising degree it was successful, too. His determination to dismantle the Progressive social and political system that had become nearly universal was not as well known, but he proceeded with little opposition, and again he was largely successful.

Trump is tapping into all of that and more, and if he were to be elected, I think it would be seen as the Will of the People and strenuous political opposition would evaporate.

So if he's a fascist, what does that make the System itself? What is the fundamental belief that underlies the American Way? Is it by nature fascist as well?

Has this nation's government and social arrangement always been a fascist construct? It's always been authoritarian and imperial. It becomes more so, not less so, as time goes by. If Trump succeeds, will he actually be doing something not in the nation's character, or will he simply be using the racist and exclusionary underpinnings of the national character to advance his personal and class interests at the expense of everyone else?

And if he is so popular, what is to be done about it?

One thing to recall about the interwar years in Europe and the political/economic situation just prior to the outbreak of WWII is that almost all of Europe had gone fascist or fascist-lite; German war-making and domination didn't necessarily interfere with the deep-rooted fascism of much of Europe at the time. The German goal was to unite Europe under its suzerainty to oppose, fight and ultimately conquer ('godless, communist') Russia. Many powerful Americans believe that the US and its allies were on the wrong side in WWII, and it's taken all this time to start correcting the errors made generations ago by well-meaning (some of them) but misguided (all of them) politicians who threw their lot with the commies and the socialists when they should have been supporting the Nazis and fascists...

So here we are.

The Trumpen proletariat are those who fear they don't have a future in the America that's becoming. They can only secure a future for themselves and their progeny through force of will and will to power. Trump appeals to their deepest fears. But then, despite the torrent of insults that have been flying, so do all the rest of the Republican field, and so... when you examine closely... do the Democratic candidates. Sanders is appealing to the fears of a different constituency, to be sure, but it's the same strategy.

Not to go all doom and gloom, but I don't see any easy way out of this mess. We've been down this path before; there seems to be little or no way to change direction...

Sunday, November 22, 2015

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


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

Yes well. What a goon show.

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


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

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

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

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

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

Or something.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are dealing with madness.

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

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

It's insane.

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

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Pondering the Paris Thing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or something.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because it was madness.

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

The cycle continues in perpetuity.

It's madness.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Virginia -- A **Revised** History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The male line is always problematical in a matriarchy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

OT: Travel Trailer vs Tiny House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah but sometimes the best laid plans...


Friday, November 6, 2015

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Such a long row to hoe...

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Numbers Game

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

It has ever been thus, no?


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

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

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

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

World without end, amen, amirite?

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, well. It's not true.

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

The situation has to change.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 2, 2015

Incidents in Albuquerque

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

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

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

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

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

Shoot and shoot again and keep on shooting.

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

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

Kill, kill and kill some more.

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

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

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

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