Saturday, August 2, 2008

As a footnote to the preceding,

The possible Blackwater involvement in a DEA raid of a legit medical marijuana dispensary in Culver City seemed to merit the attention of only one newspaper, and only in the op-eds at that. A clip:
Are members of a disputed mercenary killer group now working with the DEA? A photo from the LA Times shows proof of one of two things; either Blackwater members are now working for the Bush White House's Drug Enforcement Agency, or this semi-illegitimate band of rogue federal cops have worse discipline than any of us ever imagined.
A handful of bloggers have picked up on the story, including rtfa.net, boing boing, and Medical Cannabis: Voices From The Frontlines, Newshoggers, The Agitator, Wub's Ramblings, and Re/Creating Tampa.

Footnote to the footnote (Sunday Afternoon): see also Last Free Voice, Democratic Underground, LibertyForum, Free Democracy, Pandagon, HighBoldtage, and 420 Magazine. Keep spreading the word, far and wide!

So now the US has mercenaries doing drug raids?

Gotta wonder. Apparently DEA is doing some outsourcing. RickB of Ten Percent deserves props for the catch, and it's a damned good thing that he downloaded that photo before the LA Times scrubbed it from it site.

Anyhoo, the goon in the picture looks like he could be an extra from the TV series Jericho, which as I've mentioned earlier gives a taste of what life in a neoliberal "paradise" might look like:
The way the Allied States of America functions in this particular drama can be best described as more like a corporate monopoly. A Halliburton-style entity seems have been contracted to handle nearly all of the administrative functions, with security handled primarily by a Blackwater-style entity. The only government employees that Jericho's residents encounter are some military personnel. Otherwise, everything from treasury, revenue, supplies, and postal services runs right through a private corporation with what appear to be no real oversight from the government. My guess is that whatever government exists in the fictitious ASA exists as little more than a storefront.

[snip]

Imposing a new order that no-one's really consented to is likely to create some friction, and one way or another any form of dissent or resistance would have to be squashed by whatever means are available. That's where Ravenwood comes in. The mercenaries working for Ravenwood are there to act in much the same way as the death squads of El Salvador, Guatamala, and Brazil. They exist to sufficiently terrorize the local residents into submitting to the new order. As of yet in the series, we haven't seen Ravenwood's goons use torture (which would certainly be expected, given the last few decades of disaster capitalism), but they've certainly proven adept at "disappearing" whomever they want with impunity.
Like dystopias generally, Jericho, during its two season run, served to sound the warning sirens of a possible future, based on a present that already looks to be well down the road to a dystopian Hell. I figure the series hit too close to home, hence, aside from a rather dedicated core of viewers, it went largely unnoticed. Grab up the dvds (or view it at its website - see the link above - before CBS finally pulls the plug) and study the series, and do so while reading Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine, along with a few of my friends' blogs, past and present, and see what conclusions you draw. Of course there have been some real life harbingers as well, such as the deployment of Blackwater mercenaries in New Orleans in the Katrina aftermath, something an old friend of mine pointed out back 2005:

Heavily armed paramilitary mercenaries from the Blackwater private security firm, infamous for their work in Iraq, are openly patrolling the streets of New Orleans.
Some of the mercenaries say they have been "deputized" by the Louisiana governor; indeed some are wearing gold Louisiana state law enforcement badges on their chests and Blackwater photo identification cards on their arms.
They say they are on contract with the Department of Homeland Security and have been given the authority to use lethal force. Several mercenaries we spoke with said they had served in Iraq on the personal security details of the former head of the US occupation, L. Paul Bremer and the former US ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte.
"This is a totally new thing to have guys like us working CONUS (Continental United States)," a heavily armed Blackwater mercenary told us as we stood on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. "We're much better equipped to deal with the situation in Iraq."
Blackwater mercenaries are some of the most feared professional killers in the world and they are accustomed to operating without worry of legal consequences.
Their presence on the streets of New Orleans should be a cause for serious concern for the remaining residents of the city and raises alarming questions about why the government would allow men trained to kill with impunity in places like Iraq and Afghanistan to operate here. Some of the men now patrolling the streets of New Orleans returned from Iraq as recently as 2 weeks ago.
What is most disturbing is the claim of several Blackwater mercenaries we spoke with that they are here under contract from the federal and Louisiana state governments.
Blackwater is one of the leading private "security" firms servicing the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.... The company rose to international prominence after 4 of its men were killed in Fallujah and two of their charred bodies were hung from a bridge in March 2004. Those killings sparked the massive US retaliation against the civilian population of Fallujah that resulted in scores of deaths and tens of thousands of refugees.
....
Officially, Blackwater says it forces are in New Orleans to "join the Hurricane Relief Effort." A statement on the company's website, dated September 1, advertises airlift services, security services and crowd control. The company, according to news reports, has since begun taking private contracts to guard hotels, businesses and other properties. But what has not been publicly acknowledged is the claim, made to us by 2 Blackwater mercenaries, that they are actually engaged in general law enforcement activities including "securing neighborhoods" and "confronting criminals."
That raises a key question: under what authority are Blackwater's men operating? A spokesperson for the Homeland Security Department, Russ Knocke, told the Washington Post he knows of no federal plans to hire Blackwater or other private security. "We believe we've got the right mix of personnel in law enforcement for the federal government to meet the demands of public safety." he said.
But in an hour-long conversation with several Blackwater mercenaries, we heard a different story. The men we spoke with said they are indeed on contract with the Department of Homeland Security and the Louisiana governor's office and that some of them are sleeping in camps organized by Homeland Security in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
We encountered the Blackwater forces as we walked through the streets of the largely deserted French Quarter. We were talking with 2 New York Police officers when an unmarked car without license plates sped up next to us and stopped. Inside were 3 men, dressed in khaki uniforms, flak jackets and wielding automatic weapons. "Y'all know where the Blackwater guys are?" they asked. One of the police officers responded, "There are a bunch of them around here," and pointed down the road.
"Blackwater?" we asked. "The guys who are in Iraq?"
"Yeah," said the officer. "They're all over the place."
....
Two men we spoke with said they plan on returning to Iraq in October. But, as one mercenary said, they've been told they could be in New Orleans for up to 6 months. "This is a trend," he told us. "You're going to see a lot more guys like us in these situations."
I think I'll also reprise in its entirety another essay from around the same time authored by my old friend Ductape Fatwa, titled Katrina: A Glimpse of America's Future: When Will YOU Be Cleansed?
"Like a third world country." It's been quite a favorite phrase with the TV reporters. It's become a meme.

It has punch, impact, it gets attention. What it doesn't get from the overwhelming majority of the US public who don't get it, is reflection, a light bulb over the head moment.

What do you think that means, a third world country?

First and foremost, it means poverty.

A poverty so pervasive that one cannot walk the streets without seeing it, despite the best efforts of "security personnel" armed with anything from sticks to automatic weapons, for the purpose of keeping the area relatively "clean" so that nice folks like you can shop without the plague of beggars, pickpockets and assorted riff-raff, or as they are called in the US, "cockroaches."

Being a third world country means having a very small and select affluent elite and a teeming mass of people who are so desperately poor they can't even scrape together the bucks for a used car or a hotel room. People who have never had a car, whose only experience with hotel rooms would involve cleaning them.

In a third world country, there's not much of a middle class. There may be some who are less wealthy than others, but the big divide is the wall. The wall around your house, the high wall, with the locked gate. And your position vis a vis the "security personnel." If you are affluent, they won't shoot you. You are, after all, paying them. If you are poor, they will shoot you. That is, after all, what they are paid to do.

If you're in a third world country, that means that if you have means, you are empowered to spend them on security guards for your own home. In addition to the wall. And a guard to accompany you to work. And return home to accompany your family as they go shopping.

Obviously, unless you are not only "discretionary income" class, but quite a bit beyond that, the security guard's salary is going to have to come from somewhere. Maybe the kids' college money. How about that health insurance premium? Maybe little Heather will just have to grow up with crooked teeth. And it will definitely nix those plans for the family vacation in Hawaii, or that time share in the Bahamas. Even that rustic little cottage on the lake will have to transform itself into wall, guards, gates, guns.

Many Katrina victims who did have the resources to evacuate before the storm are now realizing that they are poor. Credit card maxxed out, insurance won't pay, mortgage company says have a month or two grace, but then you HAVE to pay, so does the IRS. FEMA says you qualify for a few hundred dollars. Hopefully by the time that's gone, you'll have saved enough from your new job at Wal-Mart to buy some food and a plastic tarp for your house, if it's liveable at all. If not, it's camp out in the car, or live in a shelter.

Americans who live check to check are not just the low wage earners. Few car and homeowners with even a little discretionary income think Kissinger's reference to "useless eaters" meant THEM.

Phasing out the middle class, however, means exactly that. It means that unless you have a LOT of money, there is not a place for you in America's future. Once your resources are gone, once you simply cannot pay that mortgage, and that car note, and the health insurance, AND the credit cards, the difference between you and those terrified looking people from the housing projects consists of an expensive education that means nothing to the Wal-Mart manager, and for a couple of weeks, a better haircut. You, too are low cost expendable labor, and if you whine that six dollars an hour is not enough to purchase housing, there are plenty of folks lined up out there who know that housing is out of the question, but they will take the six dollars in hopes of buying food to hoard in their shopping cart under the overpass, or their sister-in-law's two bedroom apartment until she suggests that they really need to start looking for their own space.

Under that overpass can get a lot like a miniature version of the New Orleans convention center pretty quick, and if neither you nor your sister in law are used to living with 12 people in 1200 square feet of space, that option is not going to be much better after a while.

You may have noticed that it seems to take more and more money just to stay in the same place. Maybe you've already cut out extras, and can't really say you have discretionary income any more, unless you count discretion as trying to charge your VISA balance to your MasterCard in hopes of lowering your monthly minimum payment by $14. You may have already started to use those cards to pay for a new tire here, a hefty summer electric bill there, that prescription that your insurance doesn't cover, the deductible for your daughter's broken arm, the deductible you increased so you could afford the "co pay" at all. Yes, you're lucky, your employer pays for part of your coverage!

Maybe your homeowners' insurance went up just a little, and so did your property taxes, and that little just happened to be the diaper budget. Whip out the MasterCard and charge up a year's supply of Pampers at CostCo.

And soon, your minimum payment will double. If you can't handle that, and the rest of the bills, you're a useless eater. You're poor. And you know what America thinks of poor people.

When your town's name is called, you will not be on the high ground of the French Quarter.

And you would be well advised to stay out of your old neighborhood. The new owners of your house have armed guards.

Related link: Advice for the New Poor
The warning flares have been fired. Now, what will you do?

Blasts from the past

First from Lenin's Tomb a little reminder of the imperialist mindset (which remains well intact in our current neoliberal era):
"So far as the underlying spirit of Imperialism is a frank acceptance of national duty exercised beyond the nation's political frontiers, so far as it is a claim that a righteous nation is by its nature restless to embark upon crusades of righteousness wherever the world appeals for help, the spirit of Imperialism cannot be condemned. Morality is universal ... I want to make it clear that however successful designing men may be in prostituting the high purposes of the nations to their own ends, or however imperfectly the nations themselves interpret their ideals in their political policies, the compulsion to expand and to assume world responsibility is worthy at its origin." (J Ramsay MacDonald, 'The Propaganda of Civilization', 1901, quoted in Bernard Porter, Critics of Empire, 1968, pp 185-6)
Next from the comments to that particular post, someone by the handle oxus:
[I]n the case of American Indians we are used to think[ing] that their sad fate was linked with their technical backwardness, but in the case of India itself its backwardness was imposed by “British” colonisers. To quote Lord Macaulay’s historic speech in the British Parliament in 1832, commonly referred to as The Minutes: “I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation.
Anglo-European-American mythology tends to propagate a lot of ideas about the American Indian cultures, including the notion of alleged indigenous technological "backwardness" (don't get me started today), but the rest of the passage is revealing for what it says about the genocidal mindset of the empires. Again let's go back to Raphael Lemkin:
Generally speaking, genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. The objectives of such a plan would be disintegration of the political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groups. Genocide is directed against the national group as an entity, and the actions involved are directed against individuals, not in their individual capacity, but as members of the national group.
And that of course is precisely what Lord Macaulay’s 1832 speech was driving at doing. The objective was largely accomplished through the use of various forms of violence, from the very brutal interpersonal violence of the British military to the more structural forms of violence imposed in India in the form of economic and cultural disparity. In kind, this was no different from what the American and Canadian governments accomplished with their own colonized peoples, what Israel has been accomplishing with regard to indigenous Palestinian Arab Muslims and Christians, what the US is doing currently to the Iraqis, and the US government in conjunction with organizations such as IMF have been doing to peoples all over the planet in the name of "free market" orthodoxy.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Blogger finally notices

Houston, we've got a problem. What pray tell is the problem? I'm glad you asked. Apparently, there has been a rash of non-spam blogs getting flagged as spam lately, and the geniuses at Blogger have actually noticed!


While we wish that every post on this blog could be about cool features or other Blogger news, sometimes we have to step in and admit a mistake.

We've noticed that a number of users have had their blogs mistakenly marked as spam, and wanted to sound off real quick to let you know that, despite it being Friday afternoon, we are working hard to sort this out. So to those folks who have received an email saying that your blog has been classified as spam and can't post right now, we offer our sincere apologies for the trouble.

We hope to have this resolved shortly, and appreciate your patience as we work through the kinks.
Thank y'all for finally realizing that this shouldn't be happening. Since mine gets mistakenly marked about once per year, I am hoping that we might try something novel and actually skip a year. In the meantime, my sympathies to the good folks behind skippy the bush kangaroo who are currently holed up at their alternative digs, skippy junior. Any blogger or team of bloggers who would go out of their way to remove all capitalization from anything they quote, and who come up with brand new terms, such as blogtopia (which is a skippy original) could not possibly be even remotely construed as spam. Only humans could possible conjure up all the goodness going on at skippy's place. I feel y'all's pain, and hope your stay in blogging purgatory is very temporary. The same goes for anyone else who's going through it.

h/t Avedon Carol at The Sideshow - I might have taken the day off, but instead felt the need to make sure that mine hadn't been messed with.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A modest proposal

Garvey's Ghost suggests that O'Reilly, Savage, and Hannity, who incited David Adkisson to go on a shooting spree at a Knoxville Unitarian church should get the same treatment as the cleric whose words apparently incited the first attack on the WTC in the 1990s - if we were to follow the logic used to put that cleric in jail in the first place. After all, Adkisson was certainly reading a lot of their literature, which was discovered in his home. And:
Not only that but Adkisson thought that he would have been killed by police. That makes him no different than a suicide bomber. Therefore, by the logic used by the justice system, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly ought to be arrested and tried for incitement to terrorism. by the legal precedent provided by the cleric's conviction, this is a clear and easy case to convict.

For reasons I don't think I need to explain here, I don't expect any such actions to be taken against those men.
Not to worry, neither Garvey's Ghost nor myself would advocate criminalizing speech, no matter how unsavory. We just don't like the double-standards that will no doubt be applied.

Say Hello To

Lipan Apache Women Defense/Strength, which is all about:
Defending Lipan Apache and indigenous lifeways & economic livehihoods, lands, water resources, habitats, ecologies, sacred sites, and historical-cultural resources on the Mexico-U.S. international boundary, in the Lower Rio Grande valley.
You should read the latest: Genocide in South Texas: Fraud, Waste & Abuse-- FEMA and DHS Cause Further Harm in South Texas Against Indigenous Land Title Owners.

Oklahoma's politicians may be an embarrassment,

but maybe there's deeper problem - one in which Brent Reinhart is only a symptom. Leonard Pitts Jr. sez:
But here’s the main reason Rinehart’s work offends: It is astonishingly stupid.

Voters should support him because an angel does? His opponents are in league with Satan? Old Scratch is working to ”get kids to believe homosexuality is normal” and Rinehart is their only defense? And I haven’t even mentioned the creative punctuations and multiple misspellings.

I am not an Oklahoma County voter, so maybe you wonder why I care about Rinehart’s campaign. I don’t. What I do care about is what I will call the ongoing stupidification of America, of which this is but one glaring example among many. Think of the congressman who advocated bombing Mecca to teach Muslims a lesson. Think of the ”zero tolerance” policy that required a 10-year-old to be suspended for bringing to school the tiny toy gun from his GI Joe. Think of the ”Jay Walking” segment on The Tonight Show where average Americans cannot answer basic questions of civics and history. Think of those cable shows where we are theoretically entertained by coarse women vying for the affection of washed-up rock stars. Heck, read your junk e-mail.

And then tell me you don’t feel the nation’s collective IQ dropping like stocks.

I am not talking about ignorance. Ignorance is a lack of information; we’re all ignorant in one way or another. Nor am I talking about people prone to punctuation or spelling errors; we all make mistakes.

No, I’m talking about stupidity, which I define as an inability to analyze, draw conclusions from, or otherwise use information even when one has it. And stupidity is often characterized by smug indifference. When a CNN anchor drew Rinehart’s attention to his spelling errors, his reply was, ”I don’t necessarily care.” This is, I feel constrained to remind you, the elected representative of 220,000 people.

For as much as we obsess over black vs. white and red vs. blue, I suspect the defining division of this technology-driven era will be between those who have and can exploit information and those who do not and cannot. Between intelligence and its opposite. One wonders how long we can continue to equate stupidity with ”keeping it real,” being a regular Joe or Jane, and hope to continue leading the world.

There’s a movie, Idiocracy, which posits a post-intelligent future in which the stupid have inherited the Earth. It’s not a great film, but there is a truth to it. You watch the characters watching a reality show that consists entirely of some guy being kicked in the testicles and you realize you wouldn’t be surprised to see that show on VH-1 tomorrow.

Why not? In recent years, we have seen intelligence demonized as the sole province of the ”elite,” a term that once described accomplishment, but is now used to condemn anyone who looks like he might have accidentally cracked a book or had a thought.

Not long ago, I gave a commencement address in which I told young people I am less concerned with what they think than that they think. Because we are losing that skill. Me, I find that alarming.

When I have some moments to reflect, I go back to my teens in the late 1970s/early 1980s, and realize that one could see what Pitts describes coming. It was pretty obvious then that large swaths of the culture seemed to already revel in wallowing in their stupidity. As I understand it, there has historically been an anti-intellectual vibe in the US. In the academic world, we are at least in theory supposed to be fostering critical thinking - it's pretty clear that we're fighting a losing battle.

Say Hello To

The Orwell Diaries. That's right, you'll soon be able to read entries from the diaries of my favorite dystopian novelist, George Orwell, via the miracle that is blogtopia:

‘When one reads any strongly individual piece of writing, one has the impression of seeing a face somewhere behind the page’, wrote George Orwell, in his 1939 essay on Charles Dickens.

From 9th August 2008, you will be able to gather your own impression of Orwell’s face from reading his most strongly individual piece of writing: his diaries. The Orwell Prize is delighted to announce that, to mark the 70th anniversary of the diaries, each diary entry will be published on this blog exactly seventy years after it was written, allowing you to follow Orwell’s recuperation in Morocco, his return to the UK, and his opinions on the descent of Europe into war in real time. The diaries end in 1942, three years into the conflict.

What impression of Orwell will emerge? From his domestic diaries (which start on 9th August), it may be a largely unknown Orwell, whose great curiosity is focused on plants, animals, woodwork, and – above all – how many eggs his chickens have laid. From his political diaries (from 7th September), it may be the Orwell whose political observations and critical thinking have enthralled and inspired generations since his death in 1950. Whether writing about the Spanish Civil War or sloe gin, geraniums or Germany, Orwell’s perceptive eye and rebellion against the ‘gramophone mind’ he so despised are obvious.

Orwell wrote of what he saw in Dickens: ‘He is laughing, with a touch of anger in his laughter, but no triumph, no malignity. It is the face of a man who is always fighting against something, but who fights in the open and is not frightened, the face of a man who is generously angry — in other words, of a nineteenth-century liberal, a free intelligence, a type hated with equal hatred by all the smelly little orthodoxies which are now contending for our souls.’

What will you see in the Orwell diaries?

I'm looking forward to finding out.

H/t Ten Percent.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

There may not exactly be left in the US and UK

but I have to hand it to Poland, whose left wing seems to be re-emerging after far too many years of post-Soviet neoliberalism. H/t Lenin's Tomb, which has been chronicling the implosion of Britain's Nu Labour.

"To protect and serve," my ass

Fuck the police.



Some of the story about the video via Gothamist:
Another Critical Mass ride, another stunning display of police brutality. Watch as one of New York's finest violently shoves a cyclist off his bicycle, launching him through the air to the curb at 46th street and Seventh Avenue during Friday night's monthly Critical Mass ride.

Although a judge ruled in 2006 that the monthly Critical Mass bicycle rides could proceed without a permit, the NYPD's stance remains somewhat adversarial. Though the city has not been enforcing the controversial parade permit law when it comes to Critical Mass, police have been ticketing cyclists during the ride for such infractions as not having the required lights.

A representative for TIMES UP! tells us that the cyclist in this video was arrested, held for 26 hours, and charged with attempted assault and resisting arrest. One other cyclist was ticketed Friday night for riding outside the bike lane, which is not actually illegal and often necessary, considering how popular bike lanes are for double parking.

UPDATE: MyFoxNY has it that the police officer in the video – 22-year-old Patrick Pogan – has been stripped of his badge and gun and the NYPD has "placed the officer on desk duty pending the outcome of a department investigation." The cyclist, Christopher Long, has not commented, but his lawyer said, "The video speaks for itself."

UPDATE 7/29: More details here, including how Officer Pogan is apparently a third-generation cop and Long is described as an Army veteran who works as a grocer at the Union Square Green Market.

And the details from the 7/29 update at Gothamist:
The cyclist who was videotaped being body slammed off his bike in an apparently unprovoked attack by an NYPD officer during Friday night’s Critical Mass ride has been identified as Christopher Long, a 29-year-old resident of Bloomfield, New Jersey who works at the Union Square Greenmarket. His boss tells the Daily News that Long is an Army veteran and "mild-mannered environmental activist." Craig Radhuber, 54, was riding behind Long Friday night and describes incident: “All of a sudden the cop picked this kid out and bodychecked him. I couldn't believe what was going on. [The officer] body-slammed this kid off the bicycle so hard that he went from the lane to the curb.”

The officer seen in the video, rookie Patrick Pogan – a third-generation cop and the son of a retired New York City detective who worked on the Joint Terrorism Task Force – wrote in his police report that Long was observed “forcing multiple vehicles to stop abruptly or change their direction to avoid a collision.” Radhuber, the witness, tells the Times that “there was no traffic behind us – there was no traffic to weave in and out of. The police officer looked to see who he was going to pick off.”

According to Officer Pogan
, Long rode his bike straight into him, knocking them both down and causing a “laceration” on his arm. This account would seem to contradict the incendiary video, shot by a tourist. Long was arrested for attempted assault, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, and, apparently Officer Pogan wrote in his report that Long told him: “You are pawns in the game. I’m going to have your job.”

Bill DiPaola, a director of Time’s Up, told the Times he arrived just after Long went down. “He got up and was dazed. They put their knees on top of his head and were smashing him into a phone booth.” Long, who was not wearing a helmet, was bruised but not hospitalized, and spent 26 hours in jail. After the video surfaced yesterday, Pogan was stripped of his gun and badge pending an investigation. But his father defended him to the Daily News, saying, “You gotta do what you gotta do to make an arrest.” And in discussing the video with the News, an unidentified NYPD source says, "The video is bad - what can you say?"

It's been almost four years since Critical Mass bicyclists and the NYPD clashed during the 2004 Republican National Convention (cops arrested over 200 people). Since then, the city and bicyclists have argued over whether the "unorganized" rides can take place--culminating in a judge's 2006 decision that prohibits the city from barring the ride and the NYPD creating "parade rules" for groups of 50 or more. Last year, a cop explained how they gear up for Critical Mass and in May, the Reverend Al Sharpton rode with Critical Mass, reminding bicyclists that people of "all ages and all backgrounds and all races" need to stand together, or else the plice will try to "play one community against each other [and] they get through the middle."
Oh, and the ever so classy police union naturally stands behind the perp:
That video depicting a rookie cop bodyslamming a cyclist to the curb in Times Square? Just routine policework, according to the president of the police union.

Apparently 22-year-old rookie Patrick Pogan was simply acting "under direct orders” when he spotted cyclist Christopher Long “creating a hazardous condition for the public and took action," union head Patrick Lynch told reporters yesterday. See, the video actually proves Pogan was just doing his job:

Instead of slowing down or stopping as any reasonable person would when an officer approached, this rider dropped his shoulder in an attempt to avoid arrest by plowing into the officer's chest, which resulted in the officer pushing him away.
Sort of like that time Amadou Diallo wouldn't stop taking out his wallet and got in the way of all those bullets? Pogan’s been stripped of his badge and gun pending an investigation, but he’s got nothing to worry about – not only is he the son of a respected retired detective, but just look at this photo of the High School football star the Post dug up! Boys will be boys.

Still, Pogan pere better be calling in all his favors, because Mayor Bloomberg does not see eye-to-eye with the police union on this one. Yesterday he described the video as "totally over the top. Inappropriate is a nice way to phrase it. Let's let the police commissioner conduct his investigation." Commissioner Ray Kelly is baffled by the incident. "I have no explanation. I can't explain why it happened." Sources in the NYPD tell the Daily News that the charges against Long will likely be dropped and Pogan will “almost surely be fired.” And for the cop-bike-bodyslam completeist, Smoking Gun has the police report.

That's not the only videotape of police brutality to surface this week. It goes without saying that police brutality is endemic. Just pick up a few books and check out the history - Political Policing by Martha Huggins, A Peoples History by Howard Zinn, Murdered by Capitalism by John Ross, should get you started.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Your tax dollars at work

There's a reason I like the term "disaster capitalism." The disaster zones can be found in Iraq and Afghanistan; the capitalism has been of the crony variety, thus demonstrating once again Gen. Smedley Butler's dictum that war is a racket, benefiting no one but the racketeers. Not too surprisingly, the crooks occasionally get exposed. Blackwater is in the news again, for example:
Private security contractor Blackwater Worldwide and its affiliates may have misrepresented their size to win more than $100 million in government contracts set aside for small businesses, federal auditors said Monday.
The Small Business Administration's Office of Inspector General questioned the agency's decision to approve Blackwater as a small business even though there were signs the company could be much larger than executives claimed.
In fiscal 2005 through 2007, Blackwater and affiliates won 32 small business contracts worth more than $2.1 million even though the work was restricted to companies with revenue of $6.5 million or less. One contract had a revenue ceiling of $750,000. Meanwhile, Blackwater's airline affiliate won more than $107 million in contracts set aside for companies with revenues of less than $25.5 million or fewer than 1,500 employees.
The audit questioned whether Blackwater could meet any of those limits. Blackwater executives said last week they are on track to reach annual revenues of $1 billion per year by 2010.
Blackwater declined immediate comment on the revenue issue. Auditors urged the SBA to review whether Blackwater's 29 affiliated entities should have any contracts.
Then there's Parsons Corp:
Parsons Corp., one of the largest construction contractors in Iraq, and the Pentagon wasted millions of U.S. tax dollars because of poor oversight and building practices, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction said in a new report.

Parsons completed only about one-third of the construction contracts required to build border forts, prisons, correctional facilities and courthouses under a contract worth as much as $900 million, the report said. Parsons received $333 million for individual construction jobs, or task orders, including $142 million for contracts that were eventually canceled.

The Parsons contract ``entailed the most waste of tax dollars'' of the reviews of Iraq reconstruction contracts conducted so far, Inspector General Stuart Bowen said in a statement e-mailed in response to questions about his report.
Of course stories of corruption abound, although thus far there appears little reason to hope that the perps will actually receive anything even remotely resembling suitable punishment. If anything, I expect the tales to continue to be buried beneath the usual McNews chatter.

Today's News of the Deliberately Obtuse

If Nancy Pelosi actually believes some of the things she says, I'd have to come to the conclusion that she is simply incapable of finding her butt with both hands, and may be so mentally impaired that she should not be without constant supervision and one of those nifty protective helmets for her own safety. That of course is being charitable. Here's the latest from After Downing Street:
We'll gladly pay you $1,000 to ask Nancy Pelosi a question.
Pelosi told "The View" today that she'd impeach Bush if anybody knew of a crime he'd committed, just as she told Ed Schultz a year ago. Here's a list of crimes (PDF) drawn up by Conyers 2.5 years ago. And here's a list of crimes (PDF) from Kucinich's articles of impeachment drawn up by Elizabeth de la Vega.
Could a few thousand people fax these to her please?
Fax: 202-225-8259, Phone: 202-225-0100, Email: AmericanVoices@mail.house.gov or sf.nancy@mail.house.gov
Could someone also deliver them to her at her appearance with Politics and Prose bookstore of Washington, D.C., on Saturday, August 2 at 3 p.m. at Friendship Heights Village Center, 4433 S. Park Avenue, Chevy Chase, Maryland. (There is no cost for this event. Please sign up in advance by calling the Village Center at 301-656-2797.)
Bush has repeatedly instructed current and former staffers to refuse to comply with subpoenas and contempt citations.
Bush has violated numerous laws and claimed the right to do so in signing statements, as documented by the Government Accountability Office.
To watch a video of Bush admitting to violating FISA (thereby committing numerous felonies) go to the White House website here, and watch the December 19, 2005, press conference. You'll notice that Bush claims he began these crimes after September 11, 2001, which is not true; he began them earlier. You'll notice that Bush claims to have legal justification for violating the law, but those claims have completely collapsed. He also claims the spying is limited in ways that it is not. And when asked why he didn't try to change the law rather than violating it, he said he just doesn't have to because he's the president.
Does Pelosi subscribe to the belief that torture was ever legal?
Here's someone who does not: http://cindyforcongress.org
WHERE'S NANCY? SHE'S ON A BOOK TOUR NEAR YOU!
From Random House:
7/29/2008 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10128, 212-415-5654, Noon, For Tix Call 212.415.5500
7/30/2008 Synagogue at 6th and I, 600 I Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20001, 202-364-1919, 7 pm
8/2/2008 Friendship Heights Village Center, 4433 South Park Avenue, Chevy Chase, MD 20815, 202-364-1919, 3 p.m.
8/4/2008 John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum Columbia Point, Columbia Point, Boston, MA 02125, 617-514-1645, 5:30 pm
8/5/2008 Free Library of Philadelphia (Central Library), Montgomery Auditorium 1901 Vine St., Philadelphia, PA 19103, 215-567-4341, 7 pm
8/6/2008 Temple Judea, 5500 Granada Blvd., Miami, FL 33146, 305-442-4408, 7:30 pm
8/7/2008 Borders Books, 612 East Liberty St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104, 734-668-7652, 7 pm
8/11/2008 American Jewish University, Gindi Auditorium 15600 Mulholland Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90077, 310-659-3110, 7 pm
8/12/2008 Dominican University, Angelico Hall 50 Acacia Avenue, San Rafael, CA 94901, 415-927-0960, 7 pm
8/13/2008 Forum for Women Entrepreneurs, Oracle Corporation 500 Oracle Pkwy., Redwood City, CA 94065, 415-382-6022, 7 pm
8/14/2008 Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center, Pier 2, San Francisco, CA 94123, 415-643-3400x11, 7 pm
8/20/2008 Tattered Cover Bookstore, 1628 16th Street, Denver, CO 80202, 303-436-1070, 5:30 pm
Certainly there have been plenty of people who have made perfectly clear that the goons in the White House are nothing more than criminals. So what's the hold-up Nancy? Why do you refuse to look at what has already been presented to you countless times? You'd rather History impeach the prez instead? Word to the wise: History isn't going to be too kind to you either.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Just like another dinner party,

except the "guests" are raging perverted psychopaths amped up on meth who broke in and now hold the residents at gunpoint, periodically torturing them, and maybe killing a few while they're at it. Of course they're going to stay and ride the moment for as long as they can get away with it. The ending will be ugly and violent, likely culminating in a shootout in which the presence of survivors is questionable. The best scenario for the perps would be if their "hosts" managed to turn the tables, and they somehow manage to escape before the local SWAT unit arrived.

(In other words, for those needing clarification, I'm saying that IOZ is far closer to the truth regarding the on-going US presence in Iraq than what passes for "progressive" analysis these days).

As a footnote to the previous

The guy who killed two people at a Unitarian church in Knoxville, whom I mentioned earlier, had quite a reading list:
Inside the house, officers found "Liberalism is a Mental Health Disorder" by radio talk show host Michael Savage, "Let Freedom Ring" by talk show host Sean Hannity, and "The O'Reilly Factor," by television talk show host Bill O'Reilly.
Just to give you a taste of what these particular authors are about, let's look at a selection of their statements courtesy of David Neiwert (for O'Reilly & Savage). The quotes of Hannity's come from Media Matters.

First, Bill O'Reilly:
Hey, you know, if you want to ban military recruiting, fine, but I'm not going to give you another nickel of federal money. You know, if I'm the president of the United States, I walk right into Union Square, I set up my little presidential podium, and I say, "Listen, citizens of San Francisco, if you vote against military recruiting, you're not going to get another nickel in federal funds. Fine. You want to be your own country? Go right ahead."

And if Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. We're going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you, except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead.

Everybody got it? Dissent, fine; undermining, you're a traitor. Got it? So, all those clowns over at the liberal radio network, we could incarcerate them immediately. Will you have that done, please? Send over the FBI and just put them in chains, because they, you know, they're undermining everything and they don't care, couldn't care less.
Michael Savage:
And I say also, No. 2, to the politicians, I warn you personally. You will not be re-elected. If you take to the streets with the vermin who are trying to dictate to us how we should run America, even though they're not even entitled to vote or be here, you're going to be thrown out of office. The people will throw you out of office. There are not enough of them to re-elect you. You will be out of a job. You will not have a living. You will be hunting for a job. Maybe, you'll be picking the vegetables.

Savage advocating genocide: Right now, even people sitting on the fence would like George Bush to drop a nuclear weapon on an Arab country. They don't even care which one it would be. I can guarantee you -- I don't need to go to Mr. Schmuck [pollster John] Zogby and ask him his opinion. I don't need anyone's opinion. I'll give you my opinion, because I got a better stethoscope than those fools. It's one man's opinion based upon my own analysis. The most -- I tell you right now -- the largest percentage of Americans would like to see a nuclear weapon dropped on a major Arab capital. They don't even care which one. They'd like an indiscriminate use of a nuclear weapon.

In fact, Christianity has been one of the great salvations on planet Earth. It's what's necessary in the Middle East. Others have written about it, I think these people need to be forcibly converted to Christianity but I'll get here a little later, I'll move up to that. It's the only thing that can probably turn them into human beings. ... Because these primitives can only be treated in one way, and I don't think smallpox and a blanket is good enough incidentally. Just before -- I'm going to give you a little precursor to where I'm going. Smallpox in a blanket, which the U.S. Army gave to the Cherokee Indians on their long march to the West, was nothing compared to what I'd like to see done to these people, just so you understand that I'm not going to be too intellectual about my analysis here in terms of what I would recommend, what Doc Savage recommends as an antidote to this kind of poison coming out of the Middle East from these non-humans.
Sean Hannity Deliver Us From Evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism and Liberalism):
On the 2004 Dem convention: "That's why we call it the Reinvention Convention, 'cause they want to convince you that he is something that he is not. John Kerry is out of the mainstream."

On Halloween: By the way, Halloween is a liberal holiday, because we're teaching our children -- to beg for something for free...But I'll tell you why. Because we're teaching kids to knock on other people's doors and ask for a handout. That's how we turn --

On the D.R.E.A.M. Act: Hey, your pal Nancy Pelosi, by the way, is -- wants to give in-state tuition breaks to people that are here illegally. Did you know that? ... So you enter the country. You don't respect our laws of sovereignty. But you get the in-state tuition price. That's brilliant... That is -- only liberals could think of this.


On the 2006 Midterm Elections
: "I don't think abandoning our troops on the battlefield, or closing your eyes to enemy communications or listening to enemy communications in our country, or killing the economy, or supporting illegal immigration, I don't think that's something to run on."

More from 2006 wherein Hannity invokes the "Dolchstoßlegende": There you have it. Just 77 days left until the American people take to the polls to elect a new Congress. There are two new Gallup polls out today, and they reveal that the arrest of terror suspects in London earlier this month may have given the GOP a boost. Forty-five percent of Americans now say they would vote for a Republican candidate if the midterm elections were held today. That's a 4-percent increase from earlier this month. And the prospects for Democrats are at their lowest point in a year. Forty-two percent of Americans said they approve of the job of George W. Bush that he's doing as president. That's up five points from earlier this month and, by the way, his highest rating in six months. Now, approval on the president and how he handles terrorism is at 55 percent, and that's his highest rating in more than a year. So, will the majority of voters agree with Joe Lieberman, who said that Democratic challenger Ned Lamont's support for a gradual withdrawal from Iraq would be taken as a victory by terrorists?

[...]

... You know something, Mary Anne, when I look at your party, and I think of cut-run-surrender, wave the white flag -- when I think of not having the wiretap program, the data mining program, the [USA] Patriot Act as strong as it is -- when I think of [House Democratic Leader] Nancy Pelosi [D-CA] third in line for the presidency, it scares the daylights out of me. I think when the public hears where the Democrats stand, I think you guys are very likely to lose. Why am I wrong?

... No, no, no. Hang on, Kate. This is a good point 'cause Mary Anne is saying -- but this is what I say. Mary Anne's party, Bob Beckel's party, are weak, consistently wrong on homeland security and national security issues. They are weak. They'll cut, run, and surrender. They won't allow us to combat the terrorists. Let's take that issue to them. I think it's a winning issue for Republicans.
Now assuming the shooter was reading others from a similar mindset, we could imagine that Ann Coulter was also on the reading list, and if he had any internet savvy any of a host of blogs and forums such as Free Republic would have been bookmarked. Just a wild guess. Hate is a poison.

See also David Neiwert's In Tennessee, eliminationism is no longer 'just a joke':
In Tennessee this weekend, the chickens came home to roost when a gunman named James David Adkisson walked into a Unitarian Universalist Church and began shooting. So far, two people are dead, and seven more were wounded. He was saying "hateful things," according to all the news reports.

Naturally, right-wingers like the Ole Perfesser tried to fob it off on "Christian haters" -- Adkisson was the son of a church deacon and evidently hated going to church. But that also ignores the fact that he identified himself as a "Confederate."

Now, MSNBC is reporting this morning that Adkisson targeted the church because of its liberal politics. A four-page letter police recovered, according to Knoxville police officials, referred constantly to his "stated hatred for the liberal movement."

Right-wingers love to "joke" about mowing down, rounding up, and otherwise "wiping out" all things liberal. It's become a standard feature of conservative-movement rhetoric. And whenever anyone calls them on it, they have a standard response: "Aw, c'mon -- it's just a joke!"

In reality, of course, rhetoric like this has historically played a critical role in some of the ugliest episodes in American history, as well as thousands of little acts of xenophobic brutality: functionally speaking, it gives violent -- and frequently unstable -- actors permission to act on these impulses. People like this always believe they're standing up for what "real Americans" think -- and the jokes tell them that this is so.

This was a violent attack on liberals. It was inspired by years of wingnuts talking about how much they hate liberals and wish they could do something about them. This man did. But watch the people who have been telling these "jokes" run away from any culpability for it.

Remember what I was saying about reaping what you sow?

The basic upshot is that eliminationist rhetoric can and does translate into action, often of a violent nature. The perpetrator of a recent deadly shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church apparently had consumed quite a bit of such rhetoric, and it's reflected in evidence uncovered since his arrest:
The shotgun-wielding suspect in Sunday’s mass shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church was motivated by a hatred of “the liberal movement,” and he planned to shoot until police shot him, Knoxville Police Chief Sterling P. Owen IV said this morning.
Jim D. Adkisson, 58, of Powell wrote a four-page letter in which he stated his “hatred of the liberal movement,” Owen said. “Liberals in general, as well as gays.”
Adkisson said he also was frustrated about not being able to obtain a job, Owen said.
The letter, recovered from Adkisson’s black 2004 Ford Escape, which was parked in the church’s parking lot at 2931 Kingston Pike, indicates he had been planning the shooting for about a week.
“He fully expected to be killed by the responding police,” the police chief said.
Owen said Adkisson specifically targeted the church for its beliefs, rather than a particular member of the congregation.
“It appears that church had received some publicity regarding its liberal stance,” the chief said. The church has a “gays welcome” sign and regularly runs announcements in the News Sentinel about meetings of the Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays meetings at the church.
The church’s Web site states that it has worked for “desegregation, racial harmony, fair wages, women’s rights and gay rights” since the 1950s. Current ministries involve emergency aid for the needy, school tutoring and support for the homeless, as well as a cafe that provides a gathering place for gay and lesbian high-schoolers.
The hate spewed over the airwaves, on the web, and in print has consequences.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Before you get yourselves too excited

Today's electoral prediction map looks pretty similar to 2004's. We all know how 2004 turned out.

I feel like my state won a silver medal

Once again, we're one of the top states in a category where we really don't want to be anywhere near the top. Sinister has the lowdown:
More than 5,000 bridges in the state are considered deficient. Pennsylvania's more than 8,000 deficient bridges earned it the top spot on the list. The status of deficient means the bridges are not unsafe but are so deteriorated that they must be closely monitored and inspected or repaired.

The report said it will take billions to fix the 12 percent of the nation's 600,000 bridges that are rated structurally deficient by the Federal Highway Administration.
Like I keep saying, we need a big Federal program to fix our crumbling national infrastructure. Our highways, bridges, and levees are all deteriorating at an alarming rate. Such a program will also create jobs during a difficult economic period - which can't be a bad thing.
Repairing the infrastructure would be one of the more useful things the government could do. As I've probably said repeatedly, if you're going to go bankrupt any way (which is where the US is heading), you might as well have something to show for it. Safer bridges, a revitalized rail system, refurbished and improved levees and sewer systems would all be more valuable to us than continuing to chase good money after bad maintaining the trappings of empire.

Police torture boy with broken back, Taser him 19 times

The story (h/t Madman in the Marketplace):
In Ozark, Missouri, a family is wondering why their 16-year-old son Mace Hutchinson was hit by tasers up to 19 times after he fell (or jumped) from an overpass and broke his back.

Witnesses said that the boy did not seen out of control. Doug Messersmith said that “He looked a little agitated but, other than that, he didn’t look to be falling down drunk or anything like that.”

He was lying on the shoulder when the police arrived. There were no drugs or alcohol in his system and the family believes that he fell from the overpass.

The extensive use of the tasers forced doctors to delay the operation on the teenager for two days.

Ozark Police Capt. Thomas Rousset says that they hit him with the tasers up to 19 times “to keep him from getting hurt” by running into traffic. He added that “He refused to comply with the officers and so the officers had to deploy their Tasers in order to subdue him. He is making incoherent statements; he’s also making statements such as, ‘Shoot cops, kill cops,’ things like that. So there was cause for concern to the officers.”

We still have a boy who just fell from an overpass with a broken back and no apparent weapon.

For the full story, click here.

The kid had a broken back - he was not going to go "running into traffic"! This is nothing more than the actions of bullies, and organizational and societal cultures that enables bullying.