Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Canadian Candidate.

Or is it the Cuban Candidate?

Birthers, or at least the ones I've heard from, like to disassociate their theory about Obama's African origins from racism and pretend instead a real concern for constitutional propriety, but the lack of enthusiasm for pursuing the same line of  'thinking' as it applies to Ted Cruz's eligibility for Canadian citizenship and perhaps even Cuban citizenship is a bit like a porthole in a septic tank.  All the shit is on display.

But a cynic has to be grateful for having the Tea Party to quote, its members being far, far too stupid to conceal the opinions they'd like to deny. I read with delight the Texas Tribune article that has one Tea Partootie insisting that there's no comparison between their lack of concern for Ted Cruz' conflict of interest or his eligibility for the presidency and the obvious problem of Obama since Obama - wait for this - was born in Kenya and has strong ties to that country. Facts be damned.

The fact that you can damn all you like but is here to stay, is that Cruz is a Canadian citizen. Constitutional or not, this is a conflict of interest, but since "Canada is not really foreign soil" according to one Tesas TP twit. we can ignore it.  And why pray tell is there no concern that a Canadian Candidate might have a hidden agenda including Health Care Reform and forced hockey game attendance?  Because Canadians are more likely to be white or whiteish? Ya think?

Look, Cruz can't just promise to deny his citizenship and make it so.  The government of Canada may have something to say about that. According to Reuters, Cruz has to prove to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service they are or will become a citizen of another country, do not live in Canada and are not a security threat. They must also explain in writing why they do not want to be a Canadian anymore. A Canadian judge must sign off on it and it can take 8 months, so until and unless that happens, Mr. Cruz is campaigning not only stupidly, but dishonestly -- in other words in true Tea Party style.

And then there's the matter of his father having been a Cuban citizen at the time and a Cuban citizen who fought with Fidel Castro before coming to the US. That makes him eligible for Cuban citizenship.  Is he going to deny that too?  The plot thickens, but not so thick as the skulls of his supporters.  Racist supporters I might add.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Al Sharpton is a lying son of a bitch

"So many unscrupulous people have got hold of the progressive cause of late and have so distorted in their own interests everything they touched, that the whole cause has been dragged in the mire"

-Fyodor Dostoyevsky-

So we have today, on MSNBC, the cable network we liberals prefer by default, the millionaire Al Sharpton smearing the memory of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by acknowledging that although the cause of justice and equality in America has made great strides we still need to overturn the Florida 'stand your ground' law that makes it illegal for someone like Trayvon Martin to walk home.

You'll notice that I didn't put Reverend in front of Sharpton's name.  He doesn't deserve it.  He's a liar and he knows he's a liar today as well as he knew he was a liar when he amplified the lies of Tawana Brawley and used them fraudulently to vilify innocent people in the name of  the Progressive cause, used the lies to ignite hatred, used the hatred to make himself rich and important.  He could have picked a better day to insult the preacher of non-violence than the 50th anniversary of his famous "I have a dream" speech  -- a better day to drag the cause of equality before the law and justice through the mire.

That law was not invoked and did not apply to the shooting. That law would have justified Martin's resistance to someone trying to chase him out of his neighborhood, had the gun been pointed in another direction.  That law does not make it illegal for any one to walk anywhere. It played no part in the acquittal.

The world is full of dishonest men and men who use sincere and well intentioned people wrongly. Sharpton recruited many influential African American figures back in 1987 and he's doing the same today and aren't we being duped when we raise our liberal voices against things that didn't happen, presuming prejudice and bigotry where it isn't?  There's a difference between righteous and right and self-righteous - a difference between acting from virtuous indignation and reacting to our own ingrained and unexamined prejudices, which makes us little different from vicious dogs loosed on the innocent by an unscrupulous master. 

Once again, Mr. Sharpton has put his wedge between people Dr. King dreamed about uniting and once again he rung the Pavlovian bell, but instead of the food we've been trained to expect, he's once again given us a full plate of shame.

Shorty Belton and the banality of evil

The battles for the Japanese islands toward the end of WWII were as horrific as they were necessary and in an age where we can be appalled at a few thousand casualties in a year, losing thousands in a hour seems unimaginable. In an age where we feel obligated to thank everyone who ever wore a uniform for his service in perpetuity and call him a hero; in an age where every dubious deployment is a fight for our "freedom," it might be worthwhile to remember the few remaining survivors of the assaults on Japan and Europe with a little extra respect.

I don't know whether Shorty Belton was considered a hero in 1945 or whether he considered himself one for having taken a bullet at Okinawa, but I do. What then can I think of  the two teenage boys who beat him to death for sport in Spokane Washington on Wednesday?  Certainly no less than I think of the teenagers who shot the Australian baseball player to death for no goddamned reason.  I take it personally. If it weren't for guys like Belton the world would be unrecognizable and a lot worse than it is.

In some way I take it personally that much of our nation has, despite all the lip service and jingoistic rhetoric, forgotten not so much the sacrifice of a generation but forgotten the horror they fought and died to end.  Not only has time seemed to erase the infamy, but generations of propaganda and decades of stage managed amnesia have transferred the infamy to us.  I'm betting these monsters never heard of Pearl Harbor much less the violent murder of millions perpetrated by the Empire of Japan -- as many as 16 million in China alone.  Like December 7th, 1941, September 22, 2013 is a date that should live in infamy.  It's the date Shorty died. Unfortunately infamy is as mortal as everything else. We forget.

No, I'm not one of those people who will attempt to profit or make some point by raging about an increase in violent crime in a year when murder is at a hundred year low. I'm not proposing some program, some legislation, some stronger or more lenient laws. The significance of this to me is that there is no significance. It's about the banality of heroism as well as the banality of evil. It's about human nature.  Some people murder for money, some for hate, some for revenge, but they killed Shorty Belton out of boredom - for amusement, because they could. The most vicious and fanatical military on Earth couldn't get Shorty, but some bored bastards without a conscience and without respect did. There is no explanation.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

George who?

Here's a history quiz for you.  Which President of the United States do we see on the left, telling the incompetent Mr. Brown he's doing a "heckuva" job responding to hurricane Katrina?  

29% of Louisiana Republicans said in response to a TPM poll that it was Barack Obama - still only an obscure freshman senator from Illinois who bears most of the blame.  44% weren't sure just who was responsible for the poor response to the devastating hurricane. George who?

These people vote.  These people say Liberals are retarded. These people are happy to lecture you about history and science and laugh at your education. George who?

I credit Libby at The Impolitic for bringing this to my attention, but I wish she hadn't.  Of course, being a Floridian, I'm glad for evidence for the argument that Florida isn't the Stupidest State as long as we have Louisiana, but none the less; how can I not feel despair at reading a poll showing, as she says, that "73% of Louisiana Republicans don't remember who was president when Katrina hit NOLA."

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Breaking up is hard to do

Ted Cruz, AKA Rafael Edward Cruz, the Tea Partootie who would be president in 2016, has finally contradicted his official position that he is not a Canadian citizen and declared his intention to renounce it so as to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.  Knowing how difficult it is to renounce US citizenship, I have to wonder if a simple renunciation will suffice for Canada.  The IRS, you see, assumes that the only reason to do so is to avoid paying US taxes and it's my understanding that they will consider you liable for same for ten years after you flee to some tax haven, vehement renunciation notwithstanding. You're a US citizen until they allow you not to be and in the eyes of European financial institutions you're an American for life.

But there's the Communist elephant in the room -- Cuban communist that is. At first face it seems that having been born to a Cuban father resident in Canada, "Ted" would be eligible for Cuban citizenship  under Cuban law as well and indeed under the Cuban Adjustment Act he could be considered to be  a Cuban national. It's certainly a more valid hypothesis  than the idiocy about Obama's divided loyalties we've listened to from Republican idiots, crooks and liars (if you'll pardon the tautology) for years.

So if the requirement to be a "natural born" American is to avoid such conflicts of office that would ensue if a US president could also be the Prime Minister of Canada and hold simultaneous office in Cuba wouldn't that argue against the interpretation that being foreign born to one American parent is sufficiently "natural" to fulfill the requirement?  I think the interpretation needs to be that a candidate be like Bruce Springsteen,  Born in the USA.

Not, of course that Rafael Edward Cruz meets many other minimum standards. But if turnabout be fair play, can't we -- just for fun -- start our own Birther madness and require him to prove that he's not a Communist agent as well as the Canadian Candidate?  Seems fair to me.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A creature of their own

Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers (#68) that:

“the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in [American] councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?”

 I would think such sentiment  informed the Constitutional requirement for a US president to be "natural born."  Of late however, the definition of natural born has been kneaded into whatever shape is needed to make our current president, born on American Soil to a natural born and Caucasian mother, seem illegitimate while his first opponent, Panamanian born John McCain , never had his suitability challenged, nor indeed did Mitt Romney who although born in the US may have descended from illegal aliens. Odd indeed as so many Republicans would like to change the constitution to deny citizenship to those born here, but to parents who are not citizens.  Situational ethics and silly arguments all and perhaps colored by racism as the only one challenged was the only one with an African father.  Romney's Mexican immigrants were white and thus all right as the saying goes.

If in fact the Constitutional requirement was to serve to keep foreign "creatures" out of office and if in fact, such a circumstance motivated the "birther" madness, there is a disturbing dissonance when one considers the eagerness of Republicans to allow unlimited campaign funding from offshore corporations to finance a creature of their own.  A cynic might be tempted to propose that when such domestic creatures claim that the objection is about the law, that it's really about Obama. It's really about racism.

The cynicism might be affirmed when one considers the proposed 2016 ascendant, Canadian born Senator  Ted Cruz (R-T.)    Now Cruz may have had a US born mother, just as Mr. Obama had, but Obama does not hold a foreign passport as Cruz does.  Does dual citizenship mean divided loyalty?  Is that more or less of a concern when one has a foreign loyalty to a country where most people are Caucasian and Christian?  Res ipsa loquitur, I should think, or freakin' obvious for those with undivided loyalty to English.

Cruz's father, Cuban born Rafael Cruz was a Cuban citizen and a legal resident in Canada when Ted was born and thus Ted is automatically a Canadian citizen at birth under Canadian law as well as a legal US citizen at birth -- because his mother was a US citizen.  He has never renounced Canadian citizenship and yet his spokeswoman claims with a kind of logic suspiciously alien that he has no Canadian citizenship to renounce.  He does. 

Perhaps that's a simple misunderstanding or perhaps it's the kind of duplicity and denialism that has come to define the faux-conservative, morally impoverished and greedy for power creatures of  the Republican ascendency. No matter where Mr. Cruz was born and no matter where his loyalties may lie, Cuba, Canada, the United States of America, he's a creature of their own.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Organic vegetables and free range terrorism

Last month I described one example of police insanity and constitutional travesty that still seems to have stayed in Vegas for all the the uproar it failed to produce.  Perhaps it's a valid example about how America no longer cares about the core issues of our war of Independence. Perhaps it's an indication of how we always emulate our enemies, but there are so many examples that get little notice while we assiduously obsess about  what we're directed to obsess about.

I'm talking about quasi-military invasions of private homes with battering rams, obscenity shrieking SWAT team members abusing citizens at gun point and often for no cause and with no warrant.  It's a rare week that I don't hear of such a thing and I'm convinced that most go unremarked upon at the national level. Sometimes people die. One never hears of consequences or even apologies.

I'm talking about the recent commando raid on a small organic farm near Arlington Texas, ostensibly for the purpose of our disastrous War on Drugs, but which turned out to be a war on organic tomatoes.  Is the threat of a couple of hippies growing vegetables on a seedy little farm sufficient to warrant holding them at gunpoint  and not showing a warrant until hours after the 10 hour ransacking by police WITH THEIR BADGE NUMBERS CONCEALED of their property began?  Apparently all they had was a complaint from a neighbor who thought the upkeep on the farm was lax.  Of course nothing illegal was found and the victims, for such they are, didn't suffer any more than humiliation and half a day of terror in which police seized "17 blackberry bushes, 15 okra plants, 14 tomatillo plants ... native grasses and sunflowers,"

The use of SWAT teams using machine guns, armored vehicles, battering rams and dogs to serve warrants is growing and one might argue that the largest perpetrators of domestic terrorism are in uniform. Can anyone explain to me why regulating oil drilling, explosive fertilizer storage and food sanitation are an unwarranted abridgement of liberty, in the minds of Conservatives, but armed assaults on peaceful unarmed citizens by unidentified men in black with real assault weapons is permissible in the name of safety?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Fanboys crowdfund Babel - or how not to write

As with many and perhaps all phenomena, now and in the past, one does not have to postulate a deity to explain it.  Take the Tower of Babel story, for instance. Divergence in language is the product of the same laws of evolution that govern all self propagating systems and the internal divergence in the English, or should I say American, idiom can be shockingly fast since we model ourselves on the linguistic and economic babbling of the young and ignorant: those born yesterday and dependent upon marketing executives  and other criminals for language lessons.  It ain't God.  We did it ourselves and we think it's cool. Our pursuit of a cheap way to sound special has made us into babbling twits.

Take one headline I just read:  "Apple fanboys crowdfund a giant statue of Steve Jobs".  What?   "If a couple Apple fanboys have their way, a giant Steve Jobs statue may be headed stateside. The duo have launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to raise money for a Jobsian sculpture to be built and erected somewhere in the Bay Area," it continues. 

Is a 'couple fanboys' an actual couple or does the hipster mean a couple of?  There's a huge difference, but hipness comes first and hipness means automatic rejection of prior norms even when it renders the statement ambiguous at best and meaningless at worst. Especially when.

Obviously the intent is not to inform, else half the words would not be needed and in fact words, if they are words, like  "Crowdfund" instead of public funding serve only to attach the writer to an exclusive group created for the purpose of synthetic exclusiveness  since the appearance of belonging to elusive and exclusive groups of trendy young people is the real goal of American speech - and of course spending like an idiot as well as talking like one. Then too, it's so much easier to speak 'crowdsourced' indiebabble  than to master a language.  Backward hat and baggy pants notwithstanding, everybody knows you're over the hill and bald  - dude.

Fanboy?     "Apple fans raise money for a Bay area statue of Steve Jobs" wouldn't express the poncy and desperately sought hipness of the paid by the word writer sufficiently and so we diverge into two species: English and Hipster and the tower crumbles.  Not only can't I talk to them, I don't want to.

But if being hip and trendy and edgy, if those words have a discernible meaning, means rejecting last Thursday's Cliches, then why is it still so cute to say 'shrooms after 40 years? That never was funny in the first place, even back when you were a sales clerk trying to insinuate some high-life experience with psilocybin  in the 70's.  Why is it still so cute to tell us you were talking about something that just happened when what you mean is that you approve and you weren't talking at all?  Remember, old jokes, old fish and geriatric hip talk have much in common and even the fact that we've become so desperate to sound unique in our conformist culture that we cling to antiquated mimicry of what the "kids"were saying last year or last decade or last century defeats the attempt to sound new and unique that our mediocre, uninteresting lives are all about.  New and unique, but just like everyone else.  How long will we try to work "not so much" into our speech?  I hope it's not as long as we've been wearing our hats backward or display our ass cracks at shopping malls like strutting geese.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

My dinner with Raskolnikov

     "Russky Pu-leeze!" I said to Rodya, already wishing he hadn't poured that 4th Vodka. It wasn't going to help me in putting together a cogent denunciation much less assist me in remembering what the hell he'd been saying that was so naive long enough to refute it. "You're starting to sound like Ayn Rand"

     "You mean she's going to sound like me.  Remember she hasn't been born yet."

     "And you haven't been born at all, you're just a figment of  Dostoevsky' dyspepsia or the 'Russian soul' which means too damned much vodka -- and speaking of too much Vodka, can't we get something to eat - other than borscht?"

      "Da, sure Captain,  but you're not going to argue that there are not two kinds of people in the world - those who like rules and like to be ruled, and the great men, or even men a little out of the common, that is to say, capable of giving some new word -- and those men, must from their very nature be criminals -- more or less, of course.  And from my mind they ought not, indeed, submit to remaining in the common rut."

     "which means, what:  be prevented from ruining or at least unfairly exploiting the misery of others or even creating it in order to have a flock to fleece?  Russky please!"  You just don't want to pay taxes and think you can handle a society without them.  Trust me you wouldn't rise to the top if the top were the bottom and who the hell would buy you dinner if it weren't for me?

     " Well, I maintain that if the discoveries of Kepler and Newton could not have been made known without sacrificing the lives of one, a hundred, or more men, Newton would have had the right, would indeed have been in duty bound. . . to eliminate the dozen or the hundred. . ."

     " Yes, yes, so I claim I have have a solution for Fermat's enigma or cold fusion  so I get to lie, cheat, steal and murder and everyone who does evil can complain that he's Newton or Feynman or even Ayn freakin' Rand and pretend to be  some sort of  supergalt who must not be restrained by the peasants even while he's eating their children.  It's like some mirror image of Communism."

     I was getting hot under my high collar and that 4th glass of  cheap vodka was starting to look more attractive.

     "What you're saying is that you feel guilty about murdering an old woman and you're inventing an ethical system that absolves you by putting her into a 'class.'  Next thing you know, you'll write some crappy fiction about a super savior,  job creator who gets crucified by taxes and OSHA regulations by the mob of greedy "takers." 

     "Look Foggy, as I said in my article, if you've bothered to read it, is that all legislators and leaders of men, such as Lycergus, Solon, Mohammad, Napoleon, and so on were all without exception criminals, from the very fact that, making a new law, they transgressed the ancient one -- and they did not stop at bloodshed."

     "Neither did Chairman Mao and you know, his new word might have been a bit more credible if 20 million didn't starve to death, even if they're now Galty capitalist ass kickers pretending their self-interest is enlightened, but perhaps with a little less of the potato juice you might ask yourself  how you know in advance between Moses and Mussolini so that you can decide whether to follow him or hang him?   Or Mickey Mouse for that matter, in which case we just smile while we're getting fleeced.  Should there be some sort of test, some academic degree -- or should it be hereditary, the way it was back before the Revolution that will someday take  away Alisa Zinovyevna's wealth and make her bitter and self righteous and a bit horny?  At least we had only one Tzar at a time.  You'd give us a mob of every jerk who wants to blame others for his failures.  Like 'I'd be a rich man instead of working in this shoe store if it weren't for the Liberals.'"

     "Look, Fogg, I acknowledge that it's somewhat arbitrary -- I only believe in my leading idea that men are in general divided by a law of nature into two categories, inferior, ordinary, that is to say material that serves only to reproduce its kind -- and men who have the gift or the talent to utter a new word.  the first category are men conservative in temperament -- it's their vocation.  the second transgress the law; they are destroyers.  The crimes of these men are of course relative and varied. They seek the destruction of the present for the sake of the better.  However the masses will scarcely ever admit this right, they punish them or hang them. The first category is always the man of the present, the second the man of the future.  Each class has an equal right to exist. In fact all have equal rights with me and vive la guerre eternelle -- til the New Jerusalem of course.  More Vodka?"

     "The old Jerusalem is enough of a headache, thanks and no, but damn it, you're missing the point.  If those classes are only discernible after the deaths of millions and the destruction of nations and peoples, all you're doing is saying  'do what thou wilt shall be the law' and let God or the Devil or Dostoevsky sort it out later.

     Two classes my ass Rodya, that's the assumption behind every horror mankind has done and call it what you like that eternal war of all against all is the road to the new deluge - at best. If you could 'remember'   150 years into the future like I do, you'd be surprised to hear that 'creator class' calling itself conservative and the others Liberals, but you don't remember, now do you? At least acknowledge the title of your silly life -- it's crime and Punishment, dude.  Punishment, not apotheosis.  But again, how do we tell the builder of railroads who has to bend the rules a bit even if people are killed or ruined in the effort to build an empire, tell him from the embezzler, the cheat, the negligent, the greedy and unscrupulous?  What's the difference between a Galt and a Goering?

 As Razumihin asked you -- "couldn't they adopt a special  uniform, for instance, couldn't they be branded in some way?  For you know if confusion arises and a member of one category imagines that he belongs to another, begins to 'eliminate obstacles' as you so happily expressed it, then. . ."

     "Look, Captain,  take not that the mistake can only arise in the first category, that is among the ordinary people.  In spite of their disposition to obedience many of them like to imagine themselves advanced people, 'destroyers,' and to push themselves into the 'new movement' and meanwhile the really new people are very often unobserved by them, or even despised as reactionaries.  You really need not be uneasy for they never go very far."

    "WTF?  Что за черт? Are you serious"?  If you can't tell man from superman how can you say you're not saying anything goes and winning is the only justification; success or profit  the only judge of morals and only after the carnage is finished?   Are you sure you're not here from the future selling Ayn Rand books to a yet untapped reservoir of wanabees -- or 'followers' as you call them?  Hitler created jobs and since that Godwin git hasn't been born yet any more than Galt has, I can ask how this конское дерьмо, this horseshit is useful in any way.  There is another judge of worthiness, another way to tell what's just and what's just criminal and that's what you're afraid of - that voice quietly saying 'murderer'  Just wait, I've read the book after all."

     Why don't we reserve our reverence, our excuses for the excesses of  others, our discrimination between avarice and altruism for historians looking back and having seen the results and being able to ask if  millions of dead and a world of misery were a just price for jet planes and video games and on-line porn.  Talk nonsense, but talk your own nonsense, Rodya and if you're quoting that randy Ayn verbatim and before you've even read her --  why then, it's a poor sort of memory that works only backwards.  This 'philosophy of yours can justify things as disparate as Fascism and Communism and organized crime as well as the Spanish Inquisition, I expect -- and if  no price is too great for progress, and progress only defined by the people who committed crimes to make it happen, you've sold us a world no different from the world of jackals and hyenas and for that matter, you'll please forgive me for sticking you with the check, me being above that sort of obligation, being an 'advanced' person who needs the  money to destroy the old and bring in the new and create jobs and all. Right?"

Dasvidanya, dude.

The reader will please excuse me for having excerpted big chunks from  Crime and Punishment. It's a cheap way of filling a page and of course it's all in the public domain too, but I can't help seeing in that tale the author's contempt both for Socialism in it's infancy and naivete and what would have been equal contempt I imagine, for the labored arguments for that equally jejune and opposite in name only to Communism:  Objectivism, with it's fictional and contrived classes of people and the warfare between them.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Liberals in the shower?

Are ya uncomfortable showering at the gym?  Asked Rick Santorum of students at a "Students for Life" rally last month.  Apparently he thought they should be, because there might be 'Liberals' in the shower and you know they can't stop talking about abortion rights and saying uncomfortable things. Of course Students for Life aren't lifetime students nor are they particularly interested in preserving life in general - only that of unbaptized embryos.  But hey, Students for Imaginary Biblical Commandments is too long for people whose lips move when they read.

And those are Rick's people. People who somehow see a point in his idiotic jabberwocky. But even those people can't be expected to focus very long, and so the pretense that liberals will follow you into the shower down at the YMCA to discuss reproductive rights until you're uncomfortable is more likely  than that Rick's little village people will likely follow you anywhere and everywhere to blather about not showering with Liberals.

It's all about youth and beauty says Rick, incomprehensibly, but it's also all about a culture of death that needs sparks and someone to rebel.  If that makes any kind of sense to you, I don't want you or Rick in my shower.  Particularly if you love people the way Rick and his chosen claim to.  Rick thinks his flock is very much like the liberals who broke away from England, even though he's a Conservative and he thinks conservatives did away with slavery and that's why we had to rebel.  Sorry If I'm making your stomach rebel.

Oh hell, it's impossible to make sense of any of that passionately meaningless garbage about -- about whatever it is he's blathering about, about what 'the left' has done to America in recent times.  Those are basically meaningless things he says, even when he says they aren't, but don't look for anything more than the barking of dogs at a Santorum giggle gallery, because people who think it's OK to kill children and people who are so retarded and mentally ill they don't know right from wrong, are people who don't get to gurgle and gobble and gargle about anyone's right to remain alive even when that "someone" isn't a someone.  I doubt his audience needs a coherent or factual argument anyway. They're mostly looking for a comfortable venue to express their righteous contempt and those things only get in the way of the self-esteem they think they acquire from being a "conservative" at best.

 You need to hear it, because it's none too early, with the Republicans beginning their campaign of  meaningless babble and emotional idiocy and self-righteous lies.  This idiot intends to run for president again and  he will have followers again and  this expression of the worst, most retrograde manifestation of human meanness and stupidity will always be with us.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Your money or your freedom!

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.


Ever since we've had, and every time we do have a Democratic president, we hear about how we're losing our freedom and because the trope usually constitutes little more than Republican propaganda, those allegedly moribund freedoms aren't well  described and all the jejune yet fulsome polemics appear to relate to little more than the usual dispepsia about safety standards for oil rigs, restraints on proselytizing in schools and toxic waste dumping in our water supplies, about protecting our kids against preventable diseases -- and of course about rising taxes, whether they are in fact, rising or not.

It's not that our rights aren't being infringed upon, our protections under the law aren't being twisted out of shape and used against us.  That we are bombarded incessantly with carefully orchestrated and dramatically publicized scandals and outrages and endless preaching of crusade is part of the problem. The recent Florida case in which a young mother was given 20 years in prison because she fired a warning shot to chase off her violent and estranged husband got practically no attention and why? Because with the lucrative Zimmerman case filling the showcase windows, nobody wanted to suggest that someone under violent attack might ever have the right to warn off an attacker much less a right to self defense.
The American stage is occupied with cheap and endless burlesque and because of it, all sorts of  invisible horrors await in the wings and in the green room and out in the parking lots and we don't know and we don't find it entertaining enough to pay much attention even when we hear or smell it.  I've been bitching and whining and agitating to an unconcerned, short attention span audience jaded on its diet of  stage managed, sugar coated outrage for far too long and I've been wasting my time while our constitutional protections erode away in the name of security.

The fourth and fifth amendments have been abridged almost to the point of uselessness and justified by our war on "terror" but that our property can be seized without due process, that we can be searched without legitimate reason, without knowledge or permission or court supervision, that we can be blackmailed into paying police departments to avoid prosecution for things we didn't do or weren't illegal is commonplace, that we can involuntarily forfeit property without due process and without evidence is outrageous in the extreme and and yet no one seems to give a damn as long as it can be, as it is, justified by fighting drugs and/or terrorism.  There's always a justification, a war, a danger, an enemy to excuse it.

The August 12th edition of The New Yorker has a scary investigative piece by Sarah Stillman describing a case in which an interracial couple who set out for the dealer in a nearby town to buy a used car with $6000 cash in hand.    Followed and then stopped, ostensibly for spending too much time in the left lane, they were accused of being drug transporters even though there were no drugs and were threatened with felony charges for child endangerment and money laundering They were  told by the County DA that their children would be sent to foster homes unless they forfeited their cash. So much for the fourth and fifth amendments. So much for this being a free country. Your money or your freedom.

If you have cash you're fair game. If you have cash, you're legally presumed to be breaking the law.  If one is within 100 miles of a US border, the government is no longer required to pretend there is probable cause.  Thus half of our population lives in a constitution-free zone.  If one owns a boat, one accepts the risk of random Coast Guard searches, often at gun point and often it's only a training exercise. The guns are real, of course, and if they rip up your boat, it's your problem. 

In the America we sometimes still sing about, that's called extortion, that's called unconstitutional abuse of our right to due process, but that's the America we live in.  No, I'm not cherry picking isolated examples and dressing it all up as typical.  It is typical and forced forfeitures to avoid false charges are commonplace.  One truck driver who disliked banks had his life savings extorted from him  by New Mexico police at a weigh station and all because of  the unconstitutional presumption of guilt we now live with.  If you're caught with more than $10,000 in cash, and sometimes much less, you go to jail as a drug dealer and money launderer or you lose it all immediately to buy your freedom. Why burden the taxpayer after all if we can provide letters of marque to law enforcement and allow them to be pirates, corsairs and freebooters?  According to the New Yorker article:

"In general, you needn’t be found guilty to have your assets claimed by law enforcement; in some states, suspicion on a par with “probable cause” is sufficient. Nor must you be charged with a crime, or even be accused of one. Unlike criminal forfeiture, which requires that a person be convicted of an offense before his or her property is confiscated, civil forfeiture amounts to a lawsuit filed directly against a possession, regardless of its owner’s guilt or innocence.
There’s no right to an attorney and, in most states, no presumption of innocence. Owners who wish to contest often find that the cost of hiring a lawyer far exceeds the value of their seized goods. "

Cars, cash, firearms, real estate, children and even domain names can be and are regularly seized upon suspicion or accusation by entities as widespread as  small town police officers confiscating cars and money, to the DEA and ATF, funding their war, to private corporations -- even private contractors posing as police officers.
Lawless greed by police and government law enforcement personnel and the helplessness of the public to do anything about it is what I associate with third world countries and not the sort of thing I can be proud of as an American. 

Public passion and The Great Lottery of Justice.

Whether or not there's nothing new under the sun, I don't think you'll find anything under the rock that hasn't been tried before and won't be tried again.  With all the sensationalism, the emotionalism, the frenzy of  a  mob steered by familiar hands -- with the same readiness to believe the same old things and call for the same old retribution with the same old accusations we hear today by some of the same people, Tawana Brawly was all too readily believed to have been a victim of racism and rape nearly 30 years ago and some will still insist she was even when all the evidence gathered with such painstaking evidence, all the eye witness testimony and Grand Jury deliberation and all the science and all the logic failed to back up her accusations against six white men.

When the 'Reverend' Al Sharpton made the case his ticket to wealth and stardom, the accusations became an unshakable matter of faith as righteously indignant crowds assembled in the streets, lead by polemicists of dubious honesty like Louis Farrakhan, and noteworthy Liberals manned the barricades. It was so obviously a case of white racism and a cover up by racist police and racist courts that no evidence other than the story she told the cops was needed -- only it wasn't true. At the height of the controversy in June 1988, a poll showed a gap of 34 percentage points between blacks (51%) and whites (85%) on the question of whether she was lying.*  That in itself was used as further evidence of racism, of male bias.

Although Reverend Sharpton has long since and quietly paid  heavy  monetary damages to Steven Pagones, one of the people whose lives he and Brawly inter alia wantonly ruined, Brawly has only now begun to pay, on installment,  the $410,000 defamation judgement against her.

And then there was the infamous "central park jogger" case where 5 minority juveniles (4 African American and one Hispanic) were convicted of a massively brutal rape and beating of a white woman only three years later, in 1989.  The crime received massive coverage and generated massive outrage.

 "This is the ultimate shriek of alarm." 

said New York Governor Mario Cuomo, and of course the "wake up call"  the "turning point" had the result of forced confessions, extracted from 5 scared minority kids sending them to prison. It was hardly enough to satisfy the public blood lust, but of course this time those who smelled racism smelled correctly.  The convictions were based on the need to be "tough on crime" what with 3,254 rapes reported in New York City that year, and not on evidence. One 16 year old defendant shouted After the verdict, Wise shouted at the prosecutor: "You’re going to pay for this. Jesus is going to get you. You made this ... up." at the prosecutor.**

It didn't have to wait for Jesus, but the young man was right. The true rapist eventually confessed and his DNA, unlike that of the convicted youths matched that found on the victim.  the judgements were vacated ,  but once more, prejudice, the certainty of the public, the manufactured hysteria of rabble-rousers, the twisted view of facts had ruined more lives.


Robert Charles Smith, Richard Seltzer. Contemporary Controversies and the American Racial Divide. Rowman & Littlefield, 2000

**"2 guilty in jog case". New York Daily News. December 12, 1990.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Florida Burning

Like Elián González, the 6 year old Cuban boy found floating off the Florida coast in 2000, Jesus of Nazereth, Obiwan Kenobe and certain Roman emperors, Trayvon Martin  undergoing a sort of  post traumatic apotheosis.  So far however, and unlike the bogus pieces of the González raft , eBay isn't filled with fake Trayvon relics like pieces of the true hoodie or sacred skittles and I'm not aware of shrines being built to worship the young man killed in a dubious nighttime struggle with a Neighborhood watch volunteer who had seen too many movies, but  the Smithsonian Institution is planning exhibits about his life and untimely end - maybe right up there with the 1963 March on Washington, the Woolworth lunch counter and the bus Rosa Parks made famous.  The recent beating and brutal murders of homeless black men by white teens in Missippi?  Sorry, no guns involved and this is about guns, not about  justice.

Although reports that his "hoodie" will be acquired for display may be inaccurate, that item of clothing popular with baggypants, backwardhat adolescent mall rats of all sorts trying to look mysterious and dangerous, was at least briefly celebrated as a symbol of solidarity with something that frankly escapes me and perhaps also escapes anyone who is not convinced that the kids in the street are really really cool these days in everything they do, face tattoos and all.

Certainly everything that happens is history, but the importance of events and the level of the emotion surrounding them, the importance given them at the time -- the semiotic significance, the sensationalist potential of things, depends heavily on political needs, the need of rightly pissed-off people to blow off steam and the needs of professional manipulators of  public sentiment.   Was a deeply sad and really unnecessary event truly the most egregious example of  racial violence in America?  Does it really mean that violent racism is a serious and growing threat, that anyone suspiciously dark complexioned can now be shot on sight with impunity and immunity from prosecution?  It's being said. Are we right back to Mississippi in the 50's and 60's?  It's being written. I'm hearing exactly that and that's exactly the kind of bullshit that made "reverend" Sharpton a millionaire many times over and causes a muffled rumbling in MLK's tomb.

I have a hard time thinking that  deliberate racist murders, with no suggestion of legitimate self defense haven't occurred in recent memory and  with far, far less sturm und drang.  Indeed real outrages seem to overwhelm the ability of the media to list, much less to expatiate on, but they don't all lend themselves to illustrating the talking points of professional zealots.

It's no strain to remember black men, young and old being gunned down while reaching for a wallet, a pack of cigarettes, whistling at a white girl or for nothing at all --  a black professor accosted by police while trying to open his own front door.  Driving a nice car while having African ancestors seems still to be reason enough for a traffic stop and my old home town near Chicago admitted after many years that they had long harassed black people who had the effrontery to shop in the business district and make the white store owners nervous.

It's not hard to understand the hunger for outrage in people rightly frustrated by the way we are in America.  Easier perhaps to understand the desperate need for a constant supply of outrages in people and organizations in need of funding, in need of  apparent relevance while the things they get paid to fight fade slowly away or just don't happen enough. I'm just cynical enough to think that this sad story was grabbed as it passed by because CNN and Fox need scandals like a vampire needs blood and because someone needed a case to make against a right to self defense and was sure he could make a fraudulent and ignorant argument that that right was the reason Zimmerman wasn't convicted of murder - and our knees would jerk in unison.

My growing cynicism isn't ameliorated when I read that an organization of angry black men are offering a $10,000 reward for the "capture" of George Zimmerman, or that his mother and father are in hiding because of the death threats.  I'm no more sympathetic with these subhuman bastards than I am with the Aryan Nation or the Klan or Al Qaeda. I'm as disgusted when any of these disgusting people are used as a stereotype for all people of color ( and they are) as I am when I have to read that white people can't be trusted and will always be suspect whether they deserve it or not, because mixed-race Zimmerman is now the stereotype for Whites. Turnabout is not fair play, it's just more of the same.

I'm disgusted that I can't stand up for a trial by jury and a trial based on law and rules of evidence with a presumption of innocence without being labelled as a racist; that I can't quote the letter of the law itself  without being branded  by people who should damned well know better than to try someone in the streets, to overturn a court decision because in their prejudiced minds they just know Zimmerman was a racist and therefore must have committed murder.

Trey Martin was wrongly shot in my opinion, wrongly accosted, but Zimmerman didn't get off because the court thought it was ok to commit murder. Martin wasn't Martin Luther King, nor Medgar Evers. He wasn't even Rodney King. He isn't a Civil Rights Martyr.  He wasn't shot simply because he was black or because he was a fighter for freedom and  the murder of black people isn't becoming legal or even more common or tolerated.  It wasn't a turning point or wake up call and the whole world wasn't watching or even giving a damn.  A lynch mob is a lynch mob, white sheets or not and the kind of idiot anger and extremist rhetoric and calls for violence are an insult to the many people who did so much without resorting to it, without becoming the monsters they fought against. 

Thursday, August 01, 2013

A shot in the dark

15 of them actually.

Well isn't that special -- or maybe not.  We will have to wait and see if  this shooting of an unarmed black man at night in his mother's driveway, (and in Florida no less,) will have Al Sharpton inter alia out in the streets demanding justice and the media yelling about wake up calls and demanding that we revoke the right of the police to carry guns or defend themselves with them.

Roy Middleton took two or three steps out to his car, parked in a carport set way back from the street  to get some cigarettes at two O'clock of a Florida morning.  Fumbling around in the dark, he heard invisible voices screaming, as police are wont to do, to put his hands up.  Thinking at first that it was a neighbor pulling his leg, he hesitated, but then complied, but police, thinking that anyone black and out at night  entering a car must be a thief, opened fire and shot him 15 times, according to a CNN report.  Oops.

Of course the official explanation is that he didn't comply with the shrieks, often obscene, often unintelligible that we so often hear during attempted arrests, that often confuse and stun people into momentary inaction particularly when they're in their homes or just outside their door or in their car or at 2 in the morning. There's nothing worse and little more deadly than a nanosecond's hesitation.

15 times, although police claim it was only 7.  Actually 2 hits out of  15 or even 7 at about ten yards is pretty damned poor, which indicates that either the officers were panicked or could hardly see well enough to tell a pack of cigarettes from a weapon.  Either way. . .

Mr. Middleton, says his mother, had been on pain pills for a back injury and perhaps that added to the normal 2:00 AM sluggishness -- perhaps not.  A next door neighbor says he thought Middleton was complying although he couldn't see clearly, but woe betide anyone, and anyone black in particular if he fails to instantaneously and abjectly prostrate himself  at the first shouted syllable from invisible voices in the dark of night - and even then.  15  times. There are bullet holes everywhere, but fortunately no bystanders were hit and fortunately for Mr. Middleton, none of the fusillade of bullets hit a vital area although he'll have to have reconstructive surgery on his leg as the bone was shattered. His car will need a few thousand in bodywork as well.

Perhaps as his elderly mother says, God saved him. Perhaps he has insurance. I hope so, so that his mother doesn't have to sell her house to pay for it because 'Obamacare" is still a long way off and Florida's Medicare Fraud governor is hell bent on ignoring it.

The sad thing is the frequency at which such things happen and a sadder thing is how often we never hear, or hearing once, we never hear again, like the case a few miles from my house where a cop shot a black man who after being deemed a suspicious character for being in a restaurant parking lot after closing time attempted to drive away and instead of perhaps shooting out a tire, the cop decided to kill the driver with a shot to the head.  In the last few months, I haven't seen or heard anything more about it and nobody seems to care because the media didn't see the chance to make a buck as they did with the Treyvon Martin case.

It remains to be seen what happens in Pensacola, but my money is on nothing. I'm betting that the self defense claim will be upheld, even though the Stand Your Ground legislation is as irrelevant here as it was in Sanford and perhaps because it's just as irrelevant and the media and the race baiters have already overplayed their hand.  If a local Florida newspaper poll has any relevance over 80% think that the Zimmerman verdict was justified because the prosecution could not prove, beyond a reasonable doubt that it was murder.

Reasonable doubt. Perhaps that alone is enough to make zealots angry, because after all, we all know who's guilty and who isn't because we've seen so many TV shows over the years.  You get a sixth sense, you know and isn't it better that every evil be punished even if some innocents happen to go to jail or to the execution chamber and even if minorities are over represented that way.  Contradiction?  Cognitive dissonance?  You bet, but passion and justice and caution and many other abstract terms don't play well together even if they make CNN fat and people like Pat Robertson, Rush Limbaugh and yes, Al Sharpton millionaires.

So will this be another "wake up call" which the "whole world is (but isn't) watching" despite riots, revolutions earthquakes and royal babies?  Will there be crowds accusing the Pensacola Police of  hunting black people for sport?  Will the parents and wives of these cops be getting death threats like the parents and family of George Zimmerman are getting?   I think not, although this should be worth more than the slight mention it's getting in the press, but then I've heard countless cases as bad and worse and I've seen them fade away.  History has made me a cynic. What about you?