Thursday, January 28, 2016

It's Not Over Till It's Over

As the Bundy Bunch dwindles in Oregon (are there any still at the Wildlife Refuge? I haven't checked this morning....) their "cause" continues.

It would be bizarre if it weren't so commonplace.

Everyone has the right to their own interpretation of the Constitution, I suppose, but we don't have the authority to act on our special belief regarding what the Constitution says and means. The Bundy Bunch has been acting out a fantasy of their political and religious beliefs, and they have been claiming authority they don't have to force government to abide by their claims. The Bundy Bunch would engage in armed insurrection if government did not meet their demands, demands which they insisted were Constitutionally based.

The problem is fundamental. Individuals have no authority to assert the Constitution -- or the Bible or the Book of Mormon -- in opposition to the government and to compel the government to abide by their assertions.

Apparently the Bundy Bunch never got that message, or if they did, they never understood it.

I listened to their arguments about Federal ownership of land, and they were just silly. And yet they repeated a passage from the Constitution over and over again, regardless. This matter has been adjudicated and legislated quite thoroughly, and they have not a legal or Constitutional leg to stand on. There is no question whatsoever that the Federal government can own and control land outside the District of Columbia. There is no legal requirement that such land must be turned over to the states for disposition. It's absurd to claim otherwise.

These people believe in this absurdity in part because their God tells them to. Yes, it is tied in with their Mormon beliefs -- beliefs which have frequently been in direct conflict with the government of the states and the United States, and occasionally, this conflict has led to bloodshed. Some Mormons continue to insist on their authority over (secular) government. They are theocrats, as are many other religious believers in this country and around the world.

I wouldn't call them terrorists. That's going too far. They use some terrorist tactics, but they haven't actually engaged in violent actions -- not yet anyway. Their threats have so far proved hollow. But then, this appears to be a long-term project. They're not done yet.

Part of the problem is the Constitution itself. Because it seems to authorize its own overthrow. This apparent authorization was a big part of the rationale for the unpleasantness between 1861 and 1865.

The resolution to that conflict actually didn't resolve all that much, though. The conflict continued, and many thousands died, lynched and otherwise murdered in the ongoing pursuit of power.

What the Bundy Bunch did can become a trigger for armed revolt/revolution, and we shouldn't fool ourselves into believing otherwise. As I've long said, if there is another armed revolution in this country, it will come from the Right, and an attempt at that rightist (and religious) revolution has just been made in Oregon. It won't be the last one.

Nope. This sort of thing will keep happening.

It ain't over till

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Bundy Bunch Thing Continues Its Dreary Way...

What these entitled rich white fools are up to is anybody's guess, but they're certainly getting away with it. Wow.

There are elements and echoes of the Occupy movement in their tactics, and I'm sure the Bundy Bunch learned plenty from the failure of Occupy to hold territory they had seized. The lesson the Bundy Bunch learned -- we all did -- was that unarmed protesters cannot ultimately claim territory or hold positions against the state, whereas armed insurgents (sometimes) can.

The Bundy Bunch are being allowed to get away with an insurrection that borders on domestic terrorism, and they've been allowed to get away with it before. They have a lot of sympathy in the media. Much more than Occupy ever did, but then these privileged white fools are much more like the men and women of the media than the anarchists and rebellious youth of the Occupy movement.

The New York Times had an article the other day about the rural poverty that afflicts the West, Harney County in particular, and stated this poverty is the backdrop and implied it is somehow the reason for the Bundy Bunch's seizure of the wildlife refuge.

Utter nonsense.

The insurgents are not poor. Most are very well off, and some like the Bundys are objectively wealthy. Their prosperity and/or wealth is partly the result of federal subsidies  for their ranching operations. They have little or no concern for the rural poor who are suffering economic hardship. It's simply not how things are done in the West. The Bundy Bunch is not in Harney County to ameliorate the economic condition of the struggling masses. To suggest that the standoff at Malheur has anything to do with that is deeply dishonest and bizarre.

But it seems to be where the media is headed as they try to "make sense of" the situation.


There is most definitely rural poverty in the West. Ms Ché and I live in a rural county in New Mexico with a high poverty rate. But in addition there are also rich ranchers and farm operators in the county, running cattle and growing crops, making money, often with the assistance of federal and state subsidies. Los Ricos do not much fret over the poor. Most don't give a good gott-damn about "rural poverty." And the other side of that is that most of the rural poor in this area make do as best they can, helped out by relatives, neighbors, and one another and a tenaciousness that is quite remarkable given the harshness of so much of the reality here.

There is also a tendency to skirt -- or flout -- the law.

The idea that the poor of this or any other rural county of the West would be better off if the federal government did not control so much land is nonsense, something the people of Harney County seem to understand quite well. They want the Bundy Bunch gone.

The media has a hard time with that concept, however, thinking the Bundy Bunch are romantic heroes of some Western novelist's dream.

It's sad.

But here we are. The government continues to allow the rich white fools at Malheur to get away with it. The rest of us have to put up with it for the duration.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Flint Water Thing...

What a mess. It's also a primary example of what's wrong with Neo-Liberalism and why the People must take matters into their own hands and reject the outrageous and dangerous ideologies of both Neo-Liberalism and Neo-Conservatism.

They both kill people and lead to immense levels of suffering for the masses while enriching a handful of warmongers, exploiters and plutocrats.

It's insanity. Governing insanity. And it must be brought to an end.

The Flint Water Catastrophe is typical, and it's a marker, one of an increasing number of "chickens coming home to roost" things.

(I don't think I've said previously, but we recently received notice that our tap water here in Central New Mexico is officially contaminated -- you got it, with lead, copper and some chemical related to PCB. Of course we stopped drinking it a long time ago, but this is the first time the tests have said what we've long suspected...)

Several factors enter into what happened in Flint (and I wonder how many other cities are or will be affected in the same or similar ways). One, of course, is the replacement of elected governance with the appointed, dictatorial "emergency managers" whose misrule in Michigan has become one of the lesser-known scandals of the 21st century. I've noticed that most of the mainstream coverage of the Flint water crisis makes no mention the emergency managers that were assigned to Flint and their unilateral decisions in the matter. What the mainstream says instead is that "the city decided" -- but that implies public knowledge/consent to change the source of water, and there was none.  The public had no role and no authority and very little knowledge of and in that decision at all. The "city of Flint" did not make a decision regarding the water source, the emergency manager(s) assigned to the city did. And then, because of ideology, they denied there was a problem as the crisis grew worse and worse.

Saying that "the city of Flint" made the decisions that led to the current crisis is a way of blaming the victims, and it needs to stop.

The water crisis is entirely a matter of certain individuals rigid ideology that inevitably produces crisis and death and destruction -- and victims by the millions for the profit of a few.

The Flint Water Thing is one of a myriad monstrous consequences of these death-dealing ideologies, and though I doubt it will cause a necessary ideological shift in our governing classes, it will add to the pressure on them to fix what's wrong and do the right thing for once in their sorry lives.

This -- and so much else that's gone wrong over the last several decades -- must stop.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Oregon Standoff... Thing.

Good god in heaven, must we descend to this again?

Apparently so.

Some armed white male yahoos have taken over a wildlife refuge in Oregon and declared it "liberated" from Federal control -- which they claim is their right and duty as "patriots" and so on, because they do. The Federales are approaching this situation with considerable restraint, treating with the white male yahoos as if they were merely mediating a dispute between factions of governance. t

Yes, well...

The yahoos are being led by the Bundy-Bunch who engaged in an armed standoff in Nevada last year over grazing fees and rights, fees that millionaire rancher Cliven Bundy refused to pay for year upon year because he could. And because, according to these millionaires, the Feds have no right to tell them anything or to collect fees and rents. The Feds have unconstitutionally usurped private property and local control. The Bundy-Bunch will get it back or know the reason why.

This is really quite silly, but here we are. Again. As in so many things, part of the problem is the Constitution itself which is so flawed and has become so anachronistic -- and has been interpreted in so many inconsistent ways -- that governance itself is devolving into chaos.

The Bundy-Bunch believe they have a right to interpret constitutional provisions to suit themselves and to enforce their will by force of arms if need be or they choose to, and the Federal government has no authority over them. Period. End of discussion.

Thus their take over and armed occupation of an Oregon wildlife refuge, which itself is on land seized from the Paiutes in the 1870s, which was apparently initially given to white settlers and then taken away -- by the Federal government which did the seizure from the Paiutes by force of arms to begin with.

The Paiutes rightly say, "This is OUR land, not yours, and not the Government's except to the extent we allow it (or cannot fight it)."

Meanwhile the Bundy-Bunch insists that all Federal land in the West must be privatized, and they no doubt believe that they should own most of it as spoils of war or something.

"Constitutional Crisis" indeed, or it would be if it weren't for the fact that a bunch of rich white yahoos are demanding that they be given more and more and ever more by the Federal government, or they'll commit revolution, just you watch.

So far, truth is, they've gotten away with it. When rich white men say they want a thing in this country, they usually get it. It's been that way since well before there was a United States of America (Inc) and there's no sign of change.

Observers look on in astonishment the government literally bends and yields to their demands in contrast to the suppression that's taken place over and over again when people of color or non-rich white people make demands or demonstrate against some aspect of government policy that is harming them.

The official violence unleashed against Occupy, Black Lives Matter and so many other people's movements is in stark contrast to the mediation and negotiation that appears to be the official policy in treating with the yahoos occupying a wildlife refuge in Oregon. The message is obvious:
These armed white and mostly rich insurrectionists have power. You on the other hand do not. 
There are many lessons to be learned, aren't there?

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The To-Do Over "Making a Murderer"

Well this was interesting.

I'm not usually in to murder shows on the television like "Dateline" and the others. I find them vapid, manipulative, and ultimately all the same. But apparently audiences lap them up because they love their murder mysteries, oh yes they do. I'm told that Nancy Grace still has a following, too. Now there's a believable character...

But over the weekend, I read about a series that was being presented on Netflix called "Making a Murderer," which was described as something one "had to see!" It was "OMG! What the actual fuck!"  And on and on. Oh my. A man in Wisconsin was wrongly convicted of a crime he didn't commit, spent 18 years in prison for it, was exonerated on DNA evidence, was released and campaigned for justice reform, sued the principals and the county which had pursued injustice against him, and just as he was about to settle the lawsuit, he was arrested for murder most foul: the assault, murder, dismemberment and burning of a woman who had come to his property to photograph a van he wanted listed in Auto Trader Magazine.

We don't have cable (yay!) but we do have Netflix, so... Sunday I started watching the ten-part series, and I have to say it was mesmerizing and memorable, truly a "must watch" E-ticket ride for anyone interested in the issue of justice reform in this country.

It was a textbook case of police and prosecutorial misconduct from the get-go, and how they were able to get away with it was shocking. Judge and jury both went along with the prosecutors even in the face of extraordinary doubt raised by the defense. That didn't matter for some reason. All that seemed to matter to the police, prosecutor, judge(s) and juries was putting away these two people (a man, Steven Avery, and his nephew, Brandon Dassey) for.ever.

In other words, even though Steven Avery was wrongly convicted of sexual assault the first time and spent 18 years in prison for it, he was never truly exonerated in the eyes of the police and prosecutors -- indeed not in the eyes of much of his community as well -- and his subsequent prosecution and conviction for the murder of Teresa Halbach was considered something of a trophy by the police, prosecutors, and judges... whether or not he did it.

This gets right to the heart of how the so-called "justice system" works, it seems to me. Truth does not matter, winning does. Police and prosecutors want numbers of victories, and courts are often happy to oblige -- regardless of fact or truth.

It's called "justice" because it's a process, it's the way things have been done for many a long year, and it's just too damn bad that sometimes the innocent are swept up in it... too.dam.bad.

In this case, Steven Avery and his nephew Brandon Dassey both went to trial for the murder of Teresa Halbach. Both were convicted, but the evidence against them was scant and/or bizarre to say the least. A conviction in both cases required an enormous amount of police and prosecutorial misconduct on the one hand, repeated instances of judicial "discretion" let's call it favoring the prosecution, and juries willing -- eager? -- to suspend their disbelief and set aside any reasonable doubt about the guilt of these two fellows to convict them.

There were strong indications that the police planted evidence; just a little bit to be sure -- a key, blood stains, and bits and pieces of other evidence -- but there were also strong indications that the accused had nothing to do with Teresa Halbach's murder, that someone else had done it and had essentially framed Avery for the crime -- and got away with it.

If so, that means a murderer is loose in that part of Wisconsin, just as a serial rapist was loose in that part of Wisconsin while Steven Avery was in prison for a crime he didn't commit. That rapist, by the way, committed two more rapes during the time Steven was in prison wrongly convicted.

Steven Avery's nephew Brandon Dassey made a series of obviously false confessions, sometimes coerced by the police, but in one case -- shockingly -- coerced by his own defense attorney's investigator, implicating himself and his uncle in the murder. He was obviously making shit up to satisfy his interrogators, and yet, somehow the "system" bought these confessions whole and treated them as if they were true and factual, when in fact they were anything but. Nevertheless, the prosecution relied on these false confessions for a good deal of their cases against Avery and Dassey. It didn't matter that the confessions were patently false. What mattered was the fact that there were confessions at all, on the premise that "innocent people don't confess to crimes they didn't commit," one of the most egregiously wrong notions in this whole sorry affair.

The truth is, I don't know who murdered Teresa Halbach but I'm pretty sure -- from what was presented in the documentary anyway -- that Steven Avery and Brandon Dassey didn't do it. They couldn't have. They certainly couldn't have done it the way Dassey described the murder in his repeated false confessions (that she was tied to the bed, sexually assaulted, she was strangled, her throat was cut and she was repeatedly shot -- for investigators found none of Teresa's blood anywhere on the premises of the Avery compound where both Avery and Dassey lived. Her DNA was only found on a bullet fragment discovered in a garage months after it had been repeatedly swept for evidence, strongly suggesting the bullet or the DNA had been planted. Or, even more likely, that Teresa's DNA was a test contaminant -- like that of the tester's -- and was not actually on the bullet fragment at all.

There was no uncompromised evidence that tied either Avery or Dassey to Halbach's murder. That alone should have raised a "reasonable doubt" in the minds of the jurors, but for some reason it didn't-- at least not enough of a doubt to acquit either one.

Why not?

That gets us to how the system really works. Avery was targeted as the culprit almost from the outset, when Teresa was reported missing. She had last been seen on Avery's property where she went to photograph a van he wanted to list for sale in Auto Trader magazine. Her car and what was left of her burned corpse were found on his property, her ashes mostly in a burn pit not twenty feet from his mobile home.

But her ashes also turned up in a quarry at the other end of a 400 acre property, and in a barrel found elsewhere on the property. This indicated that her body was burned in the quarry (a quarter mile or more from the mobile home where she was allegedly murdered) and her ashes were then transported in the barrel to the burn pit beside Avery's mobile home where they were later discovered.

None of her blood at all was found anywhere on the property, but her blood was found in the cargo section of her car. It appeared that she was transported while bleeding from a head wound, but where or why? Her car was found in a corner of the Avery compound, inexpertly covered with branches and debris. It was found almost immediately by a civilian searcher who was given permission to explore the property (on which the Averys had hundreds if not thousands of derelict vehicles -- they worked as auto dismantlers) by one of Avery's brothers.

The prosecution ultimately theorized that Teresa was sexually assaulted in Steven Avery's bedroom, then she was taken to the garage where she was shot and killed, and then her body was put in the back of her SUV for transport the couple of hundred feet to the burn pit beside Avery's mobile home where her body was burned in a bonfire that night.

Except there was no blood evidence anywhere except in her car.

She could not have been killed in the garage without her blood being essentially everywhere inside, and there was none, not a drop.

As many observers have said, the actual and objective evidence does not lead to either Avery or Dassey as her murderer. But she was clearly murdered. So who did it?

That's a question the police and prosecutors never examined.

That alone should be seen as malfeasance.

 But it wasn't and isn't. Wisconsinites seem to believe that both Dassey and Avery "got what was coming to them" -- pretty much regardless of their actual guilt. It literally doesn't seem to matter in the minds of many of their neighbors whether they did it or not. They have convicted these two in their own minds because "nobody liked the Averys" and their extended family, and they were nothing but trouble anyway, so it's just as well that these two are in prison for the rest of their lives. Because they were no good. Neither of them.

They may be punished for a crime they didn't commit, but so what? There were other things they did that made it appropriate to put them away. Justice may be served sideways, but it's served just the same. These people were and are scum. They can rot in prison forever as far as their neighbors are concerned.

Some of those who investigated the case called them "evil incarnate" -- not because they did the crime, but because of their reputation and their lifestyle, which was not approved of by the community apparently. And if you go against community norms, it would seem, you are literally taking your life in your hands. Tolerance, apparently, did not extend to the Averys and their large number of relatives.

They were dirty. They were not necessarily honest. They were slow-witted, sub-par IQ. They drank and smoked cigarettes. They were accused of inappropriate sexual behavior (ie: masturbating in public). They didn't raise their children right, and they were always getting into minor trouble with the law. Nobody liked them.

Nobody liked them.

That was apparently the key right there. "Nobody liked them."

Thus they could be accused, tried and convicted with nary a nod to justice. It was nothing more than taking out the trash. White trash in this case, but trash nonetheless. Getting rid of "trouble."

This is actually what happens in courts all across the land, day in and day out. Law enforcement is focused on certain elements in the population which are considered 'undesirable' by the community or the powers that be. There is often a racial bias in this focus, to the extent that practically all the law enforcement focus is on people of color, particularly poor people of color, whose communities are under constant and unrelenting siege by the police. Accusations, arrests, trials and conviction go on all the time, many for the most minor offenses, and very often, perhaps most often, the victims are induced to confess or plead out to crimes they have not committed, on the premise that if they plead or confess, they will receive a lighter sentence than if they contest the accusation at trial.

90% or more of convictions (they say) are actually due to plea bargains or false confessions. It's really quite remarkable. And millions are in prison due to these factors.

Every day in every way, this is how the court system works. It's based on lies, falsehood, and bargains, not on truth, justice, and the American way.

For police and prosecutors, it's about numbers of convictions. The judges go along. They know and don't care that what is presented in court is frequently false and that millions are sentenced based on these false claims. It doesn't matter to them.

When people protest, they rarely get anywhere in part because the people in power like things this way, believing as they do that even if the "innocent" are shot or convicted, it serves as a means of suppressing the inherent criminality of the lower orders, so what's to worry?

That's why "Making a Murderer" is to me an important document in the struggle for dignity, justice, community and peace, because it shows just how far into realms of bizarre fantasy the "system" goes to get convictions, regardless of the guilt or innocence of the victims.

It's amazing, aggravating, and true.

What do we have to do to fix it?