Sunday, December 28, 2014

If the NYPD "Turns Its Back On You" You're Doing Something Right

So the NYPD is "turning its back" on Mayor Bill de Blasio for having the audacity to tell his children what every minority parent in the New York City and probably all across the country ought to be telling their children--be very careful in your interactions with the police. And as to those many NYPD officers who literally turned their backs to the mayor when he was doing what a good mayor should--honoring one of their own killed while doing what police are SUPPOSED to be doing, namely protecting the public rather than choking the shit out of them--let me offer up a hearty, "fuck you." As the elected mayor of New York City, de Blasio has a responsibility to ALL the citizens of New York, not just your immature and insular asses. And yes, that also means calling out the thugs among you--and you all know damn well who they are even if each of you are too chickenshit to do the right thing yourselves.

If the NYPD was trying to send a message, this writer heard it loud and clear. The "Turn Our Backs" fiasco with de Blasio made me think of someone else so many of you sanctimonious fuckers in blue, past and present, turned your backs on. His name was Frank Serpico, and he's a true hero who has been living with the consequences of your lack of support for over 40 years now.

I'll admit I'd mostly forgotten about Serpico until just a few months ago when he wrote an essay for Politico entitled, "The Police Are Still Out of Control." In it, he included this chilling passage about the NYPD:
Forty-odd years on, my story probably seems like ancient history to most people, layered over with Hollywood legend. For me it’s not, since at the age of 78 I’m still deaf in one ear and I walk with a limp and I carry fragments of the bullet near my brain. I am also, all these years later, still persona non grata in the NYPD. Never mind that, thanks to Sidney Lumet’s direction and Al Pacino’s brilliant acting, “Serpico” ranks No. 40 on the American Film Institute’s list of all-time movie heroes, or that as I travel around the country and the world, police officers often tell me they were inspired to join the force after seeing the movie at an early age.

In the NYPD that means little next to my 40-year-old heresy, as they see it. I still get hate mail from active and retired police officers. A couple of years ago after the death of David Durk — the police officer who was one of my few allies inside the department in my efforts to expose graft — the Internet message board “NYPD Rant” featured some choice messages directed at me. “Join your mentor, Rat scum!” said one. An ex-con recently related to me that a precinct captain had once said to him, “If it wasn’t for that fuckin’ Serpico, I coulda been a millionaire today.” My informer went on to say, “Frank, you don’t seem to understand, they had a well-oiled money making machine going and you came along and threw a handful of sand in the gears.”

In 1971 I was awarded the Medal of Honor, the NYPD’s highest award for bravery in action, but it wasn’t for taking on an army of corrupt cops. It was most likely due to the insistence of Police Chief Sid Cooper, a rare good guy who was well aware of the murky side of the NYPD that I’d try to expose. But they handed the medal to me like an afterthought, like tossing me a pack of cigarettes. After all this time, I’ve never been given a proper certificate with my medal. And although living Medal of Honor winners are typically invited to yearly award ceremonies, I’ve only been invited once — and it was by Bernard Kerick, who ironically was the only NYPD commissioner to later serve time in prison. A few years ago, after the New York Police Museum refused my guns and other memorabilia, I loaned them to the Italian-American museum right down street from police headquarters, and they invited me to their annual dinner. I didn’t know it was planned, but the chief of police from Rome, Italy, was there, and he gave me a plaque. The New York City police officers who were there wouldn’t even look at me.
Four decades after Serpico took a bullet to the face because of some cops who were no better than the thugs they were supposedly out to arrest and many in the NYPD, even some I gather who weren't even born yet on the day he was shot, STILL consider what he did to be worse than what he tried to stop.

It's actually a shame that the recent spate of highly publicized police abuse cases have become wrapped up in poisonous racial politics, because ultimately such divides provide the type of backlash political cover that makes it easy for institutional inertia against police reform to continue. Towards the end of the article Frank Serpico, bless him, tries to remain optimistic that his ongoing efforts to combat police abuse will inevitably make a difference. But the sad fact is that until and unless older, well off white people in this country begin to routinely experience what happened to Eric Garner, police will continue carry an effective license to kill. And I say that as one of those who is so insulated--the worst thing any cop ever did to me was write me a speeding ticket.

I rarely feel any sympathy for any politician, but I don't envy de Blasio going forward after having stirred up this hornet's nest. If he gets strung up politically or retreats back into his shell, he'll be the negative example that no other mayor, governor or even president will want to emulate. For every Frank Serpico there are a dozen Daniel Pantaleos, and plenty of others who instinctively turn their backs on the former while covering up for and supporting the latter.

Bonus: "You fire without a warning...without a fucking brain in your head?"

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

You Might Be An OPWAL If...

Back in the 1990s, mediocre Georgia-born stand up comedian Jeff Foxworthy became a big star thanks to his inane "You Might Be a Redneck If..." routines. Though the routines themselves seemed fairly harmless at the time (Foxworthy was adverse to using profanity on stage), in retrospect it seems that plenty of Americans--and not JUST from the south--were taking perverse pride at being exactly the kind of people he was allegedly poking fun at.

I hadn't thought about Foxworthy for a long time, until the recent news reports about the idiot Greenpeace protestors who damaged a national historical monument in Peru while filming an anti-global warming video to coincide with the recent carbon emissions conference being held in Lima. Somehow, none of the twelve morons who reportedly participated in the protest nor anyone else in Greenpeace who was aware of this pending protest before it happened recognized how culturally tone deaf and idiotic it was for a pack of liberal gringos to go traipsing around on some sensitive 1,500-year-old Native American geolyphs. Not only did this stupid stunt open Greenpeace up to charges of insensitivity to native cultures, it also basically handed its conservative opposition plenty of (ahem) ammunition with which to totally discredit the very message it was trying to get across.

But, sometimes such things happen when you're an OPWAL (Over-Privileged, White, American Liberal). And no, we don't know if ALL the Greenpeace protestors were in fact white, but they all easily demonstrated what I would call an OPWAL mindset.

Exactly what is an OPWAL mindset? And how do you know for sure whether or not you in fact are one? Well, in the spirit of Jeff Foxworthy I've developed a series of tests so that you, too, may determine whether or not you are actually an OPWAL. Let's begin, shall we?

If you believe driving a hybrid or even an electric car is good for the might be an OPWAL.

If you believe having a black followed by a female president is more important that what those presidents actually do while in might be an OPWAL.

If you believe Obama deserved his Nobel Peace might be an OPWAL.

If you agree with Obama that the country should "look forward and not dwell on the past" when it comes to the Iraq War, torture and the Wall Street crimes that led to the economic crash of might be an OPWAL.

If you blame the Republican minority in congress circa 2009-2011 for blocking the many great things Obama promised to do while in might be an OPWAL.

If you're a registered Democrat but cannot name a single famous labor leader other than Jimmy might be an OPWAL.

If you believe Bill Clinton was a good president because he presided over a strong might be an OPWAL.

If you still blame Ralph Nader for costing Al Gore the presidency in might be an OPWAL.

If you believed that the 2010 Rally to Restore Sanity wasn't a complete waste of fucking time and might be an OPWAL.

If you hate congress as most Americans do, but voted to reelect your Democratic congressperson might be an OPWAL.

If you have a "support the troops" sticker on your vehicle but don't personally know anyone in the might be an OPWAL.

If you have a Stop Global Warming bumper sticker on your Minivan or might be an OPWAL.

If you call yourself an environmentalist but live in the exurbs because your precious snowflakes "need" to have a yard to play might be an OPWAL.

If you saw no reason for antiwar protests to continue once Obama was might be an OPWAL.

If you think Obamacare has solved America's health care might be an OPWAL.

If you ever read a book based upon a recommendation by Oprah might be an OPWAL.

If you think MSNBC is a true liberal alternative to Fox might be an OPWAL.

If you think NPR and PBS are unbiased news might be an OPWAL.

If you still have a subscription to the New York Times or Washington might be an OPWAL.

If you consider yourself progressive on racial issues but the only minorities you interact with on a regular basis are your maid and your coffee might be an OPWAL.

If you actually think it really matters that the Democrats just lost control of the might be an OPWAL.

Anyway, that's enough for now. I'm sure you all could probably come up with plenty of your own. After all, OPWALs are easy targets--almost too easy.

Bonus: "Honey let me introduce you to my redneck friend"

Monday, December 15, 2014

Ian Welsh: America’s Depraved Leadership Has Created a Depraved Population

Fellow blogger Ian Welsh, one of the few opinion writers I have a tremendous respect for, today offered an very grim assessment of the fact that a majority of American citizens consumers idiots now approve of torture:
Before Bush, most Americans were against torture. The endless drumbeat of propaganda and the need to justify what America does (America is good, therefore America does not do evil), has had its effect.

I will make an ethical judgment: people think torture is justified are bad people. Depraved people. A society where a majority thinks it is justified is a depraved culture. (And remember, 51% think it was justified, but 20% don’t have an opinion. Only about a third of Americans are opposed.)
While I totally agree with Ian that America has become a depraved culture, I'm going to offer a slightly different assessment of at least some of the people who approve of torture. After all, the title of his post is contradictory to his conclusion.

It is one thing to offer an answer to a drily worded public opinion survey from the comfort and safety of your own home. It would be another to still favor torture after say, being forced to watch a video of the tactics the CIA was using in action. My bet is that after watching such a video, the number who approve of torture would drop sharply and the dumbass "no opinion" responses would also break overwhelmingly negative.

My point is that the ones who would still approve of torture after seeing it practiced are the truly "bad people" as Ian described them. The remainder are the easily led sheep (I really HATE the term "sheeple") who easily submit to authority and allow themselves to be propagandized. In much the same way that the Nazis were unable to win majority support in Germany until after they were handed power by a cabal of cynical nationalist politicians and could effectively drown out any competing voices from the public sphere, not until America's conservative media organs relentlessly flogged the Jack Nicholson, "You can't HANDLE the truth!" message did torture become an "acceptable" American practice. America's depraved leadership did not really "create" a depraved population, it merely led that population where it wanted it to go.

So does that mean I'm letting those Americans off the hook who are so shallow that they don't really even grasp the evil they are supporting? Fuck no. The only "Good Germans" circa 1933-1945 are those "political undesirables" who ended up in the concentration camps alongside the Jews, gays and Gypsies, or the rare ones who risked the very same fate by trying to hide would-be Nazi victims.

A truly sickening aspect of these public opinion findings for me is that nearly six years after war criminals George W. Bush and Dick Cheney left office I find myself more ashamed and disgusted by my own country than ever. And not that chickenshit Obama was going to use the release of this report to launch an inquiry to hold those responsible for the torture accountable anyway, but now he has even more incentive to stick his thumb up his ass and do nothing.

One last point: if you look at the actual poll results, you'll notice that even a plurality of black Americans now support torture. Which means there had to be quite a few torture supporters out protesting police violence this weekend. That such protestors are unable to make the connection between American war crimes committed overseas and the crimes being perpetrated by the police against their own kind back here at home is yet another dismal example of how there is no hope for America anymore.

Bonus: "You don't like the sound of the truth...coming from my mouth"

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Cynical Politics Behind the Release of the CIA Torture Report

I want to begin this post by assuring my readers (both of you, hi!) that I am glad the CIA torture report, even in its heavily redacted form, was allowed to be released before the new Senate Republican majority hit town and sank the the whole thing to the deepest recesses of the Mariana Trench. ANY report being released that speaks at least some of the truth about what the CIA was up to doing during the Bush years is at least better than no report at all.

That said, the only really surprising thing about the report is that anyone was surprised by what it contained--namely details about what we already knew. The CIA tortured prisoners at so called "black" sites around the world? Check, we already knew that. Numerous other countries participated in torture and rendition? Check, we already knew that. Torture is ineffective as an intelligence gathering device and actually destroys a so-called democracy's credibility when it claims to be a bastion of human rights? Check, we already knew that. Obama isn't going to do jack shit to hold any of the torturers or those who gave the orders accountable? Check, check and fucking check already.

But rather than express my outrage over what the report says, as is being done in many other quarters, I'd like to instead focus on the individual who is most responsible for getting it out the door before it slammed shut: namely the senior U.S. Senator from California, and lame duck chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, Dianne Feinstein. Who is Dianne Feinstein anyway? Well, she is currently the oldest and one of the wealthiest members of the Senate with a net worth by some reports nearly in the nine figures. She is a Democrat and supposed "liberal" who voted for the Iraq War and the Patriot Act and also for the hideous FISA law removing judicial oversight of the executive programs that spy on U.S. citizens. Not only that, her husband is an investment banker who has made countless millions from defense war contracts.

In other words, she seems like just the kind of fake liberal sellout Democrat who might have chosen delay the report's issuance until Mitch McConnell's new Intelligence Chairman could bury it forever. So why did she do it? Was it the remorseful act by an aging old woman who as mortality approaches is feeling a pang of conscience after selling out every young Californian idealist who ever believed in her? Excuse me if I say, not bloody likely. Feinstein strikes me as another Madeline "half a million dead Iraqi children was worth it" Albright type of crusty old stain upon the human race--in other words not the kind who has any conscience at all.

Nope, my personal belief, having no direct knowledge of the situation, is that this was a way for a Democrat whose party just took a major electoral shellacking and is fast on its way to political irrelevancy to try once again to demonstrate to the idiots voters who support her party that there really is a difference between her tribe and the red one. We Democrats may be "Republican lite" on most issues, Feinstein is saying, but at least we are willing to issue a damning report that states what everybody already knew. And for that it's working beautifully. Right on cue, conservative "news" outlets like Fox and the Wall Street Journal immediately fell in line, blasting the report on a strictly partisan basis. Meanwhile, some of the right's more unhinged troglodytes started spewing the kind of fascist rhetoric guaranteed to get (male and female) liberals' panties into a bunch and frothing at the mouth to--make sure they vote Hillary in 2016. That'll learn 'em.

This whole spectacle is, of course, sound and fury signifying nothing, as here in America at least the report will be largely forgotten about by the general public before the new year even rings in. And if overseas outrage should generate another international terrorist attack or two, all the better to keep that War on Terror gravy train a-flowing for war profiteers like Ms. Feinsein's hubby.

As for the CIA itself, the report will change nothing. Obama had already curtailed the agency's worst GWOT abuses (well after the Inside-the-Beltway consensus had already decided torture was counterproductive), so the agency will claim that there is nothing that needs changing. The whole debacle will certainly be another major public relations black eye for Langley, but really, after decades of abuses and spectacular failures and fuck ups, could the image of America's top spy agency really get any worse?

Bonus: "I don't really give a good fuck what you know or don't know--but I'm gonna torture you anyway"

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Bill Cosby: A Fitting "Hero" for 21st Century America

It's been a tough time recently for asshole moralizers of any race who like nothing more than to shake their collective finger at the black community and blame it for its own perceived failures rather than the institutionalized racism that, while it is not quite as omnipresent as in generations past, still remains very much a reality. A half-century after the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, shithead cops are gunning down 12-year-olds holding toy guns and choking to death street vendors while asshole prosecutors steer grand juries away from even indicting them. And if you're the kind of person who believes that Tamir Rice, Eric Garner or Michael Brown would have been killed had they been white, or that Garner and Brown's killers would have gotten away with killing them had they been white, then you are at best completely blinded to the kinds of injustice black Americans face on a routine basis.

Unless, of course, they manage to become rich celebrities. That's one thing that HAS changed for black Americans in the past 50 years. O.J. Simpson was the first black man to really benefit from the "celebritard effect," literally getting away with murder thanks to his trial turning into an out of control media circus and, not incidentally, the fact that the detective who found the key piece of evidence against him used the word "nigger" on the job like he was starring in a Tarrantino movie. At the time of O.J.'s acquittal, many white Americans were dismayed that so many blacks celebrated the verdict--much the same way I imagine the tables were turned here recently after the decision not to indict Darren Wilson. Personally, both results sickened me, but I'll admit to being pretty weird in that I happen to find the killing of innocent people repulsive no matter the race of the victim(s) and/or the perpetrator.

The recent events in Ferguson, Cleveland and New York City have unfolded coincident with appalling public spectacle and spectacular downfall of comedian, racial scold and apparent serial rapist Bill Cosby. Because a vast majority of Americans are apparently stupid enough to believe that the personality they see on teevee hawking Jello pops reflects the real character and personality of the individual doing the hawking, Bill Cosby's career was until very recently able to survive and prosper despite it being open secret for many years that he was in the habit of drugging and raping any young actress or model unlucky enough to come within 100 feet of him.

It particularly galls me to be writing such things about Cosby, who was a true childhood hero of mine. As a kid I had several of his old comedy albums, and listened to legendary routines like "The Chicken Heart" so many times that I was able to entertain other kids in the neighborhood (back in the bad old days before VHS or even Betamax players) by reciting them literally word for word. But given that my favorite athlete back then was Pete Rose, I guess I really shouldn't be at all surprised by this particular belated loss of childhood innocence.

Of course, like so many prominent Americans, Cosby wasn't immune from engaging in monumental hypocrisy and wagging his finger at the supposed failings of others of his own race. In his case, his target was black parents who were supposedly failing to teach their children proper standards of moral behavior. Until the rape scandal finally blew up in his face Cosby was still lecturing to black communities "about his frustrations with certain problems prevalent in underprivileged urban communities, such as illegal drugs; teenage pregnancy; Black Entertainment Television; high-school dropouts; anti-intellectualism; gangsta rap; vulgarity; thievery; offensive clothing; vanity; parental alienation; single-parenting; and failing to live up to the ideals of Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, Jr., and African-Americans who preceded Generation X."

Which if you think about it makes Cosby almost the perfect embodiment of 21st century America, believing itself to be an exceptional "shining city on a hill" spreading "freedom" and "democracy" around the world when the reality has been one long unbroken string of war crimes, torture and massive human rights abuses. Just as American police officers routinely abuse and murder black Americans with impunity, our soldiers, bombers, drone pilots and intelligence operatives have been doing the same thing to brown people living in North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia who desire nothing more unreasonable than to live their lives completely free of American interference and exploitation. Collectively, Americans think of themselves as Cliff Huxtable, when in fact they are really Charlie Manson.

The good news in Bill Cosby's case is that even though he is unlikely to be sent to prison where he belongs at least he has lived long enough to finally have his many crimes exposed and to see his legacy as one of America's most beloved entertainers utterly destroyed before his very eyes. It will take quite a while longer, I'm afraid, for America as a nation to receive a similar comeuppance--when its economy finally crashes for good and drags its hideous, bloated military-industrial complex down with it. And like Bill Cosby, when it does finally happen, rather than facing up to their country's many crimes most Americans will instead be wearing a befuddled look of utter incomprehension as it all comes crashing down around them.

Bonus: In retrospect this may well be the most offensive joke any major comedian ever told

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Soon it Might Not Just Be "Open Season" on Black Teenagers

The reaction in many quarters to the Michael Brown shooting and verdict have been quite interesting. It was disappointing for example to see that James Howard Kunstler, whose 2005 book The Long Emergency served as my wake up call for the issues of Peak Oil and resource depletion, has used his recent blog posts to expose himself as a typical old white latent racist of the "get those kids off my lawn" variety. Being Jewish, Kunstler is no doubt familiar with the old Holocaust anecdote that begins with "First they came for the Jews, but not being Jewish I did not speak up," and ends with the narrator himself being hauled away by the Gestapo with no one left to speak up for him. But Jim seems completely oblivious of the fact that by failing to speak up for the young black men being executed on the streets of America by unaccountable cops there may well come a day when it will be "open season" on radical authors who repeatedly agitate against the government and Wall Street--even if they happen to be grumpy old white men.

Surprisingly, one writer who has been pretty sensible about all this is Market Ticker's Karl Denninger, who pointed out how Darren Wilson was allowed to lie to the Grand Jury even as the local prosecutor deliberately steered that same jury to a no bill:
Nobody, with the exception of this site and, believe it or not, one particular thread on Daily Kos, have examined the actual issue -- the fact that the physical evidence did not support the police officer's narrative -- not originally, not as the case developed and not in the Grand Jury testimony.

Further, there is plenty of hard, documentary evidence of intentionally false instructions being given to the Grand Jury -- specifically, the standard for the use of deadly force by officers was presented to them as the pre-Supreme Court decision in 1985 (Tennessee .v. Garner) on shooting fleeing felons. The Grand Jury was instructed that this was permissible when in fact this has not been for 30 years. That's not an accident, it is intentional and willful misconduct on the part of the authorities. Were you or I to give an intentionally false presentation to a Grand Jury we'd find ourselves in prison and with good cause. The Prosecutor will not face that same punishment, yet it was a direct and proximate cause of the no-bill decision.

But now we have the NYC case in which there was a refusal to indict as well -- and this is even more outrageous as the conduct in question, a police choke-hold that was found by the medical examiner to be the cause of death as he ruled it a homicide is a banned practice in most police departments -- including in NYC.
What has been most revealing and particularly disheartening about these cases going all the way back to the Trayvon Martin travesty is the reflexive rallying of support for the shooters. It has been reported that over $500,000 has been raised for cold blooded killer Wilson (and yes, given that Wilson said in an interview he'd do it all over again the exact same way, I have no hesitation in labeling him a sociopath), and a similar online fundraising effort was undertaken on behalf of Zimmerman. Worse yet was the rash of police officers around the country publicly posting or proclaiming "I am Darren Wilson," which ought to make any conscientious citizen of any race, creed or color's blood run cold.

What you see here is an America that is rapidly regressing in area where true progress had ever so recently been made. After repeated public disclosures of police corruption and abuse that were published and broadcast starting in the late 1960s and early 1970s there was a nationwide effort to clean up and improve the profession. College degrees became far more common for officers as Criminal Justice became a sought after university major. "Civilian oversight" became a common catch phrase that was begrudgingly welcomed by the leadership of departments that knew they needed to get rid of at least the worst of their bad apples and shore up their public image.

Unfortunately, the aftermath of 9/11 had the same kind of corrosive effect on law enforcement that is has had in so many other aspects of American life. The images of NYPD officers rushing into to the towers and losing their lives to save their fellow citizens turned them into heroes--in much the same way as were the soldiers and Marines going off to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq to "avenge" those who died in the towers. Unfortunately, the hero worship of police officers has persisted, making them virtually immune from criticism in many circles, particularly among those who believe "law and order" is far more important than numerous Constitutional amendments--save, of course, the 2nd.

Dovetailing the 9/11 hero halos placed upon the police, was the militarization of police forces as federal homeland security money was generously heaped upon departments so they could purchase the excess military grade hardware being churned out by American defense war contractors. Historically, one thing that has separated America from being like the tin pot dictatorships and banana republics around the world is that we don't send tanks and regular army units into the streets to restore order. But with our police now driving APVs, outfitted like the stormtroopers on the Death Star and carrying high power weaponry, the distinction is rapidly fading.

Though petty police corruption such as taking small bribes to ignore misdemeanors may not be as prevalent today as it was a couple of generations ago, with their repeated displays of wanton violence against citizens police departments are more out control today than they ever have been. Worse yet is when the asshole prosecutors, whose fucking JOB it is to protect the public from criminals, even and ESPECIALLY those criminals who wear the badge, through their actions sanction and condone executions of unarmed citizens, America steps that much closer to becoming a police state. Chickenshit Obama has the option of ordering the Department of Justice to conduct federal civil rights investigations in these cases, as Daddy Bush did after the initial Rodney King verdicts. His failure to do so is inexcusable, though at this point I am beginning to wonder if the U.S. has become so polarized that it might be impossible to get even a federal jury to convict a cop of murder these days.

I'd like to close this particularly grim post by saying that these events, and the public's reaction to them, should finally dispel any notion by liberals or progressives that the election of Barak Obama showed that America had finally moved past its long history of racism. The disgraceful overt cheering on of sociopathic murdering assholes George Zimmerman and Darren Wilson and the repellent attempts to smear the character of their innocent victims demonstrates that racial hatred is not only alive and well among a substantial portion of the population, but is deepening and hardening is ways that portend some potentially very scary future scenarios as America continues to slowly sink into the economic abyss.

Next time it might not be a black teenager impudently walking in the street instead of on the sidewalk who gets gunned down for defying authority, it might be a grouchy old Peak Oil writer who dares to tell the frothing supporters of Zimmerman and Wilson that soon they will no longer be able to exercise their "God given right" to hog the roadways in the Hummers and F-250s with the "Global Whining" stickers plastered prominently on the back bumper. No one will likely speak for you then, Jim, because by when your white skin is no longer sufficient to shield you it really will be too late.

Bonus: "Fucking with me, 'cause I'm a teenager, with a little bit of gold and a pager"