Sunday, May 31, 2015
I was clicking around this morning watching the beautiful light in the forest and trying not to notice the gradual warming breeze coming through the kitchen window. The first thing I read was a linked piece on Digby defending Josh Duggar as being a victim of the "new racism." The right wing never sleeps. It's like rust that way. One of the pro-Josh points: none of his victims complained. Of course as Libby immediately remarked upon hearing that assertion, "who says?" But it is true that in an authoritarian world complaining from below is frequently viewed with prejudice. If you want to live for a couple of hours in the authoritarian world that the American religious right wants to bring all of us, take an gander at a remarkable film I just watched, Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon. That's the way it is when there is an authoritarian hierarchy. Oddly, there's some sexual child abuse here and there in that film. Possibly when you give someone total authority that someone tends to think, "well, why not take it." Total authority is a kind of moral invisibility. Who's going to tie a white ribbon onto the pastor's arm. Or the doctor's. Of course it's quite true that the doctor gets his arm broken in the first scene, and by an event of clearly human cause. Somebody broke his arm, and killed his horse. There is only one peak of the pyramid.
So I got eventually to this piece:
Here's a salient quote:
We have a trade deficit (negative “net exports”) because we import more than we export. A lot of this is imports of things that used to be made here by people who used to be paid here. Congress lets this go on because it makes a few plutocrats vastly wealthy – at the expense of the rest of us.
The trade deficit is eating our economy, closing factories, killing jobs, forcing wages down. But the White House isn’t allowed to say that because they want fast track trade authority to pass next week.
Before I got to this piece (do read it all), I had read a piece suggesting that the current fast track agreement is being pushed by the Administration even in the face of striking problems within it--such as the fact that it does not challenge Malaysia's entanglement with human slavery and in fact gives de facto approval to it--because there is an hidden military aspect to the agreement which may well be driving the whole deal. Who knew? Turns out that:
Malaysia’s membership in the circle of TPP nations is not vital because Malaysia — it’s vital because of the Malacca Straits, through which virtually all the shipping in that part of the world passes. It’s a bottleneck, a chokepoint, and if Malaysia is “driven into the arms of China” then China can close those Straits to shipping how, when, and as they please.
Which would neuter the US Navy in that part of the world, reducing them to observer status. When people at the Pentagon talk about America’s role as the world’s policeman, they are talking about the Navy’s ability to project overwhelming force wherever and whenever needed. The three little chokepoints world trade and shipping depend on are the Strait of Hormuz, the Straits of Malacca, and the Panama Canal. Taking one of those and giving control of it to China and Friends — or to anyone but the US Navy — puts the world’s policeman in a clown suit.
This strategic military explanation for Obama's strong support for the trade deal surely has a lot of truth to it. Sad that everything else is trumped.
There's also this historical context today, from Juan Cole. http://www.juancole.com/2015/05/called-patriot-terrorism.html
The so-called PATRIOT Act was pushed as an anti-terrorism measure after 9/11, but it was never about terrorism. The bureaucrats and the GOP had clearly had such an assault on civil liberties and the US Constitution prepared in the 1990s. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) once told me the story of how this 1100 page bill was dropped on all the congressmen and women late one afternoon and then they were expected to vote on it the next day. He doubted that anyone even read it. But the point is that the bill was off the shelf and ready to go. It was a preexisting conspiracy.
It's pretty weird that Rand Paul of all people is leading the effort to rein in the Patriot Act.
Saturday, May 30, 2015
Saturday morning, it's still cool (but not for long, summer's here in central NC), the mower awaits, then the weed eater. They already ran the truck race at Dover. After that we watched Chris Hayes on Hastert, then Rachel Maddow on Hastert. What a jerk. I kept wondering why he didn't just hire a lawyer to be his bag man. Was the alleged crime of his pre-Congress days so heinous that he couldn't get a lawyer--in Chicago?--to help him at least walk the line of the banking laws. This is so stupid. Best question I read so far: so how did Hastert amass such a fortune being a cloth-coat Republican that he could give away $3.5 mil? Maybe that'll come out. There's also this: yet again we have a sex scandal to divert the public from whatever more important and substantive issues are going down, such as this nasty trade bill, and the renewal of the Patriot Act.
This morning I ran into this, a further aspect of the Hastert story, and how it dovetails with the criminal incompetence of the mainstream press:
Here's a good take on the Hastert story from Rude Pundit.
I liked the possible scenarios Mr. Pundit conjectures. It should be noted that they are not contradictory. That is, one could check "all the above" and be consistent.
Over at Crooked Timber, Corey Robin takes note of some real stuff behind the chaff:
Turns out that the people who worked for a number of years to get Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court were also founders of Citizens United. Twenty years later their work paid off. Amazing. And at the moment Mr. Thomas may well be understood as the deciding vote on Burwell, the spurious "Moops Invade Spain" suit now before the Court which aims to destroy the Affordable Care Act by turning essentially a typo into the "true meaning and intent" of the whole law.
4. Citizens United was formed by Floyd Brown in 1988 in the wake of the failed effort to get Robert Bork onto the Supreme Court. Brown helped make the Willie Horton ad. Getting Clarence Thomas confirmed by the Senate was one of the organization’s first missions. In 2010, Thomas was part of the slim majority that ruled in favor of Citizens United in Citizens United v. FEC. Though several arguments for his recusal in the case were brought up at the time, no one mentioned Citizens United’s contributions to his confirmation. (from the Corey Robin article above)
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Last week we watched Birdman. I certainly found it "worth watching," in the sense that I was captured by the events as they unfolded. The acting was excellent. I was particularly happy to enjoy Naomi Watts' work. She was the one flaw in the Bill Murray movie last year, St. Vincent. If you are drawn to stories about the drama and tragedy of the theatre, Gina Rowlands' Opening Night is similar and, qua "story," (to be downhome about it), better. So is All That Jazz, for that matter. There might have been ways for Birdman to go which didn't lead us to the grim back alley where the film in fact lands. And not all roads to that grim dumpster in the 3 AM dark are as objectionable as Birdman's. Hana-bi, Kitano's outstanding 1997 noir, is one of the best movies I've ever seen. It ends just like Birdman. But what bothers me--a lot--about Birdman's final solution is the shot of Keaton's daughter, looking skyward, a blissful expression on her face, as though her discombobulated father has actually taken wing as he keeps imagining he can throughout the film. I do realize that the director is actually God where his movie is concerned, and the laws of the planet and the universe do not necessarily apply. I also understand that if one takes the path of "realism," a film I'm going to praise in a moment will be pilloried in a certain sense. Still. Still. Critics have argued that the ending "makes sense" because it carries on the magical realism quality of the whole film, start to finish. That is, we remain, start to finish, in the universe of the film, where frequently "impossible" things happen. These include Riggan Thomson's ability to move objects at a distance, to levitate, and to actually fly. See, e.g.,
for this sort of "argument." Certainly the practitioner of magical realism, of which Alejandro González Iñárritu must be in the first rank, is free to claim that his form is his universe. In the solitary confinement of One Hundred Years of Solitude, whole galaxies may well burst forth, generate whole civilizations, and even burn out to dark cinders whilst the old man is merely sleeping under the banyan tree in the back yard, his chain rusting from the tropic squalls which daily pass across the forest from the Yucatan. All is "possible."
But you have to use those scare quotes. If you don't you are watching a summer blockbuster. Birdman, Mad Max, Iron Man III. It's all the same deal. When the show's over it'll be 90 outside, and your shirt will smell of stale theater butter, or the streets will still be wet from a storm that came and went, and you'll go home, or go have a beer or a pizza.
Last night I watched Mrs. Miniver again. It's saved on the dish box, and I scroll down through the list and see it, and almost every time I do that I think of watching it again. As usual it made me cry in a few spots. It evokes several lost worlds, Mrs. Miniver. The first lost world is the world of the late 1930s, just before I was born. My dad lived in that world, teaching at NC State in Raleigh, with his first wife. Just about the time the Germans started World War II by invading Poland, his first wife came down with pneumonia and died from it. Then he met my mother, they married, and I was born in early 1943. My mother talked a good deal about the drama of Dunkirk, which Mrs. Miniver depicts without any particular realism beyond the basic facts, that hundreds of little boats from England went across the channel and helped rescue the British Army before it was entirely overrun and destroyed by the Blitzkrieg at its most powerful. My parents both spoke little to me, a child, of the truth Mrs. Miniver presents front and center, that brave young men such as the Minivers' son, when they achieve the success of becoming Spitfire pilots in those days of the German air war on Britain, are achieving almost a certain death sentence. Everyone in the film knows this truth--Vin Miniver is most likely going to be burned to death in a Spitfire crash. All of them, including Vin, face this and deal with life on these dreadful terms. And of course one irony is that Carol, Vin's new wife, dies from wounds delivered probably by a British fighter pursuing a German bomber, an accidental casualty. And yes, a nice plot reversal if you must know but that technical fact is so much not the point that I doubt it's ever much remarked on. I might also mention the interesting doubling Wyler exhibits--the most vivid scene in the film is probably Mrs. Miniver's discovery of the German flier in her garden, and her subsequent interaction with him. He might be her son's older brother, even if he is the opposite in temperment, refusing succor, snarling about the coming German "masters" until she finally slaps him once in rebuke. But what viewer savors the technical artifice? We are too engaged with the unfolding events.
Oh I do think, like surely everyone who watches Mrs Miniver today, that the final scene, with the squadrons of British fighter planes passing overhead through the bombed out church's roof, is a bit rah-rah for today's real world. We see this same scene every weekend at the opening of a NASCAR race. We are bludgeoned by this scene. If Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch have their way we will all eventually march forward each blessed day with the chant on our lips, "We Are. Fox Sports."
But dammit, when Vin walks up the stairs to see his wife's corpse, and the door discretely shuts, and Mr. and Mrs. Miniver stand at the bottom of the stairs and watch the closing of the door as a shadow on the wall, there is no cute mystery about what's going on. William Wyler doesn't assert his godly powers as Director. He's telling the truth. And so, for that matter, is Kitano, in Hana-bi. Iñárritu's victory is ultimately technical. I'm glad he won the Oscar, and the cast was great. But silly Mr. Riggan Tompson's muddled life is what it is, and evokes only the mystery of Tony Scott's last moments. The Japanese detectives who hear the final shots in Hana-bi have a more profound reaction than does Riggan's daughter. "How can he live like that?" one asks the other. Granted, she's already said exactly that some time earlier, in the middle of the movie.
Sunday, May 24, 2015
I have to go back to work tomorrow, because my job is at a place of business which being open will probably delight many of our customers, of whom we exist to serve so as to ourselves survive. In a few minutes the Greatest Spectacle in Motor Racing will begin in Indianapolis, Indiana, and my web person tells me her favorite driver, Jeff Gordon, is driving the pace car before zipping back to Charlotte, NC for the CocaCola 600 later today. Last year Kurt Busch, brother of my favorite driver Kyle, aside from everyone's actual favorite, Junior (Junior Nation!), drove both the 500 and the 600. Then as the racing year unfolded his relationship to one Pam Driscoll unraveled, and she accused him of domestic abuse in a slick lawyerly way, taking the weird case to a Deleware domestic court and demanding he be enjoined from contacting her when the whole deal started allegedly because he didn't want to contact her any more. Today, the very day of the Indianapolis 500, the Greatest Spectacle in Motor Racing, I've learned that Ms Driscoll has been accused of misusing significant amounts of monies from a charity she operates for disabled military vets. Do tell. Gentlemen, start your engines.
Meanwhile, in other news, I just learned via the blog Crooked Timber of one of the greatest rejoinders ever rejoined on the great Internet by one Sady Doyle. It was published back in 2010, when times were young and there was less cynicism and despair. Even the Republican Clown Car of 2012 had not been cranked up (Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!!!). Here is the link to what should really be required Memorial Day Reading. Braveaux, and to the Lady Ragin' Cajuns, better luck next year! (This is a genuine remark to the Lafayette, LA Women's Softball Team, not some sort of obscure snark aimed at Ms Doyle--Ms Doyle is 110% on the mark.)
I must say that for the full wonder of this marvelous intellectual maelstrom to be appreciated one must--MUST--read all the comments. Really. The comments are absolutely positively fantastic, and not to be missed. And most particularly, Freddie's. All of them.
Let's hope all the Indy drivers survive this race without injury. The practices appeared to take the whole thing back to the very edge, and to verify Jimmie Johnson's remark, back when the last open wheel fatality occurred (at Las Vegas) that perhaps the Indy cars were now just too fast for oval racing. A lot of people objected to that remark. Most of them felt they'd lose money if his views were actualized. That's how a lot of stuff really is, if you've not noticed, and why my top "label" is now "black is the color of my true love's hair."
When I started watching Indy (actually listening--it wasn't on national tv in 1954), Billy Vukovich was the top driver. The race was on Monday (actual Memorial Day). A lot of those Mondays involved mowing the grass. It was also the very end of school.
Vukovich went over the wall while leading the race. He was killed. It's something of a wonder to me that the whole generation of Indy drivers headed by Vukovich was not wiped out on the tracks of that era. Look at the exposed character of the drivers! Just this last week James Hinchcliffe survived being skewered by a piece of his front suspension when he hit the wall doing 220, and compared to Vuky, he was in a space capsule. Jimmie Johnson is surely right. And of course Jimmie Johnson may one day die whilst riding his bicycle. As we can see from the Deboer example, there are plenty of ways to go over the wall.
Two quotes from the Crooked Timber piece which led me to Sady Doyle's deathless prose:
First, in the comments:
The Dark Avenger 05.23.15 at 5:30 pm
Sorry I’m being so negative. I’m a bummer, I don’t know I shouldn’t be I’m a very lucky guy. I got a lot going from me. I’m a healthy, I’m relatively young. I’m white; which thank God for that sh** boy. That is a huge leg up, are you kidding me? I love being white I really do. Seriously, if you’re not white you’re missing out because this sh** is thoroughly good. Let me be clear by the way, I’m not saying that white people are better. I’m saying that being white is clearly better, who could even argue? If it was an option I would reup ever year. Oh yeah I’ll take white again absolutely, I’ve been enjoying that, I’ll stick with white thank you. Here’s how great it is to be white, I could get in a time machine and go to any time and it would be fuckin’ awesome when I get there. That is exclusively a white privilege. Black people can’t fuck with time machines. A black guy in a time machine is like hey anything before 1980 no thank you, I don’t want to go. But I can go to any time. The year 2, I don’t even know what was happening then but I know when I get there, welcome we have a table right here for you sir. … thank you, it’s lovely here in the year 2. I can go to any time in the past, I don’t want to go to the future and find out what happens to white people because we’re going to pay hard for this shit, you gotta know that … we’re not just gonna fall from number 1 to 2. They’re going to hold us down and fuck us in the ass forever and we totally deserve it but for now wheeeee. If you’re white and you don’t admit that it’s great, you’re an asshole. It is great and I’m a man. How many advantages can one person have? I’m a white man, you can’t even hurt my feelings. What can you really call a white man that really digs deep? Hey cracker … oh ruined my day. Boy shouldn’t have called me a cracker, bringing me back to owning land and people what a drag.
Second, from Belle Waring's initial post on the subject of DeBoer's blind spots (also the Dark Avenger's point):
DeBoer is making a larger point which, if it were not so hideously sexist, would have some merit. Recursive LOLspeak and self-critical whiteness can be an idle diversion for minds that would be more profitably engaged in political activism. Frothing oneself to a lather about the latest outrage is counterproductive if it only redirects energy away from real issues. OK! These are, in principle, valid criticisms of the internet progressive milieu. HOWEVER: a) this goes awry when the complaint is a sexist one that codes the lamentable unseriousness as female b) the criticism itself can and has become an irritable gesture, quite entirely another matryoshka doll inside the online feminist one! The pose of the Orwell-like contrarian who calls people to action with high-minded seriousness is…also a pose! If you are mcmanus-sensei, you call for burning shit down at every opportunity and lament the trifling concerns of others. Then you accuse people of harbouring a desire for fascist conformity because they like monumental architecture. You didn’t see that coming, did you? No? That’s because mcmanus-sensei is a better troll than deBoer, who has a limited range. Every day Freddie deBoer turns his face to serious issues, and every day the paltry concerns of feminists online blast him like an ill-wind of dick-jokes, a Boreas enjoining him to drink a tall, cold glass of STFU, which batters his doughty vessel but cannot prevent him from steering on, tacking back and forth in the direction of personal liberation, which project he needs no woman’s approval to undertake [swelling strings and snapping pennants].
What I guess I’m saying is, if your complaints about online unseriousness have lead you to criticize Sady Doyle and Mallory Ortberg in particular, something has gone wrong. The most accomplished, hilarious feminists don’t need condescension on how they are Doing It Wrong from their purported allies. (Needless to say it’s perfectly fine to criticize either writer, but not in a sexist way.) I had been inclined to let the [BONERS] episode go on the grounds that it was five years ago, and Freddie deBoer is a genuinely smart guy who sometimes writes interesting things, but this concern-trollery about how Ortberg’s not getting challenged enough has raised my ire....
If you want to go read the whole conversation, here's the link:
Meanwhile, I did watch both Indy and the Charlotte 600. Indy was so fast it made Charlotte look like watching I-40. Juan Pablo Montoya won Indy, which was a great thing for him. He'd toiled in vain in NASCAR since winning the Indy in 2000. That's a damn long time. The final 26 Indy laps were as good as it gets in current racing, Castroneves' petulance notwithstanding.
Saturday, May 23, 2015
Last night I watched a few minutes of Fox News salivating over Mrs. Clinton's emails. One of the panel even used the term "crime" with regard to the emails, and there was general snickering about the classified parts of the emails, and insinuations that whatever the White House or Mrs. Clinton said about the classifications being made now versus at the time, that was just "their" side of the story. We're going to watch this for the whole duration of the current Presidential campaign. As an antidote, I give you this, from Youtube:
Bookmark this page. When you're fatigued, go back and watch this again. It's the truth. This country has allowed an ongoing disinformation campaign to be established as an alleged news network, "fair and balanced," the "most trusted," etc etc etc. This network has consciously entangled itself with most of the major sports events in the country: last weekend, when a baseball game on Fox ran long and into the time slot for the upcoming NASCAR event, NASCAR borrowed the channel normally used by Fox News. This is how a shrewd right wing oligarch buys credibility.
Millions of voters watch Fox News almost exclusively.
Whatever you might think of Mr. Clinton, he's dead on in the clip.
Meanwhile, in the interest of fairness:
Saturday, May 16, 2015
Reminds me of a poem by Gary Snyder. The flip side of this 45, playing on the jukebox in the Tempo Room, under Franklin Street, a week before Jack Kerouac made his brief appearance, would be "Everybody Knows." Of course at the time Blonde on Blonde had just come out, and we were puzzling over all that blizzard of images. I had a pack of Home Runs in my shirt pocket, as I recall.
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Read the whole piece. Here's a bit of the conclusion:
Jeb Bush and many other politicians routinely speak in this frankly fascist manner. What does it mean when they say they want to attack Iran or keep “all options on the table”? They mean that one of the options they want to keep on the table is a hitlerian invasion of some other hapless country, the equivalent of Poland in 1939. Iran also has not attacked the United States; and there is no UNSC authorization for the use of military force against Iran for any reason, including genocide.
As long as we have a major news network which is in fact operating an on-going propaganda campaign (Lord Haw Haw in Kansas, as I've said here), no matter what the Republican candidates fumble into saying, they'll be rescued and allowed to change their story until it aligns with whatever the idea of the moment might be. Jeb made his slip in an interview on Fox, with Megyn Kelly, fer gawd's sake! Now he's "explaining" what he meant. By the weekend he'll be back on the wall, swinging his shoes, all the cracks mended.
(And apparently the same will be true of the trade agreement just rejected.)
Saturday, May 9, 2015
I have no idea if the author of this book is a crank or a legitimate investigator/historian. The facts he cites seem, um, "factual," that is, can be more or less easily confirmed. Sirhan Sirhan's asserted amnesia seems to be something he was saying from the start (I just read about it for the first time yesterday, which is itself a symptom). It is also factual that the LAPD under Gates proved over later time to be corrupt. But let's start somewhere else.
In February of 1968 the North Vietnamese launched a major offensive. It was aimed at among other things illustrating to the world that the Americans were not making much progress. It succeeded in that effort.
President Johnson had been telling America that "we" were winning. America was growing very tired of seeing its soldiers bloodied and arriving home in body bags. America held a hope that at least things were going to end, and soon. There was a presidential election in 1968. Senator Eugene McCarthy had already taken on our war policy, against his own political party, and had shown clear strength in the early New Hampshire primary. There were rumors that Bobby Kennedy might enter the race as an anti-war candidate as well. Dr. Martin Luther King was also taking strong anti-war positions, as well as expanding his movement to include classic labor issues. After the Tet Offensive (which on a purely military view was not "successful"--an analytical framework which also judges Gettysburg as being "in fact" a draw), Lyndon Johnson essentially resigned.
I was a graduate student at UNC in 1968. I was reading a lot of heavy stuff--Kant, Wittgenstein, Peter Strawson, Paul Feyerabend. I'd watch the news in the evenings. I felt that the Vietnam War had betrayed all the ideals America had just embarked upon with the great legislative victories at the end of the Civil Rights era, and that the principles that grounded our broadened civil rights perspective were being exactly betrayed by our also embarking on a war in a 3rd world country. I thought Mohammed Ali had a good point, to put my point of view succinctly. But I was not looking at American politics as critically as I was looking at Kant. I had a dissertation to write.
Martin Luther King was assassinated. Bobby Kennedy had already entered the primaries, and made a remarkable public appearance which quelled a riot of utter frustration in Indiana. He was explicitly offering some hope that all the good will of the conclusion of the civil rights struggles would not be entirely lost in Vietnam and, now, King's murder. Nonetheless, cities did burn. In the recent Baltimore events frequent mention was in fact made of the literal scars still visible from the King riots of 1968. Kennedy began to win primaries. He represented democracy that spring of 1968--the voters were disgusted with our current policies. Bobby Kennedy had a good chance of winning the Presidency, and of subsequently changing the course of American foreign policy, even if to do such a thing would be to contradict the great American warrior principle, that once American blood is shed, victory will be achieved. See, e.g., Okinawa, Iwo Jima, Hiroshima.
In early June, after winning the California primary (which nearly guaranteed his nomination since Lyndon Johnson was not running), Bobby Kennedy was gunned down.
I happened to be in Nova Scotia when that happened. I was at a little bed and breakfast with my then wife. The Canadians were very upset, and expressed their personal condolences to us at breakfast. It was so disconcerting to be out of the United States that we drove back to North Carolina and spent the last few days of vacation time at the beach. It never occurred to either of us that the murders of King and/or Bobby Kennedy might be more than just random expressions of psycho violence. Nor, for that matter, had we ever thought that possibly JFK's murder in Dallas was something different from what had been determined by the Warren Commission.
Richard Nixon was elected as the "peace candidate." This is really true. He ran as the peace candidate, and I believe even used such a phrase while campaigning. There was a lot of general distaste in the electorate to think of voting for Hubert Humphrey, simply because Humphrey had been Johnson's vice-president, and notwithstanding that he also promised to look for an end to the Vietnam adventure. The war policies which were underway at the start of 1968 were continued by the Nixon Administration even into his second term, where his election included many extra-legal "dirty tricks" which managed to drive the most likely successful Democratic contender, Edmund Muskie, out of the race. And then, of course, there was Watergate, which was a detailed investigation which proved that Nixon and his associates were willing to do pretty much anything to win an election against an actual World War II hero who, like most "heros," didn't believe in trading on his accomplishments in war in any way, shape or form. Nixon won a landslide against George McGovern. The war in Vietnam continued.
By the time the Vietnam war was over I was living in Manhattan as a cast member of Diamond Studs, a musical based on the life of Jesse James, who was in fact an unreconstructed traitor to the United States who survived fifteen years after the end of the Civil War by murder and bank robbery. Assassinated in Missouri in 1881, he was transformed into a romantic myth, an almost Christ figure. Our play portrayed him as such, although with a certain amount of tongue in cheek. As general awareness of the truth of Mr. James expanded, Diamond Studs became somewhat embarrassing in its naivete, and I would think that today it would be unlikely to be remounted in venues to the north of Mississippi. We were young is my meaculpa. The New York Times theatre reviewer of the moment said "Yes, yes, a thousand times yes." You can look it up. http://www.earlyblurs.com/barnes.htm
That's the cast in a pre-opening publicity shot. Jesse is played by Jim Wann, native of Chattanooga, who co-wrote the play. He's in the middle in the white shirt, probably singing "Cakewalk into Kansas City," a rousing number of uncommon quality which always brought the house to cheers and applause.
Who was thinking, in 1975, that Robert F. Kennedy was murdered in order that American foreign policy with regards to Vietnam could continue uninterrupted, or that Martin Luther King was murdered to further that same end. And of course only a very tiny handful knew that peace negotiations in the fall of 1968 had been broken by the manipulations of Henry Kissinger, to further Nixon's electoral success. We tried our best, in 1975, to ignore Vietnam. I do recall seeing the headlines as I walked along some Manhattan street that Saigon had fallen. I do recall thinking, "thank God it's over." This vivid memory is probably why I love Frank O'Hara's poem, "Lana Turner Has Collapsed."
Later, in the '80s, Martin Luther King was also elevated to romantic myth, with a National Holiday established for him, and a huge marble statue in Washington. Many in the Republican Party objected for a time. Others realized right away that romantic myths are exactly where courageous martyrs need to be shelved. My 35-year-old daughter, born in 1979, probably has no idea at all about Robert Kennedy's assassination. If her schooling was like mine, she never got to history in the 1960s. We never got to World War II when I was in public school. There was just too much to cover before those times, although my elementary school principal, who had been among those liberating Germany, did bring a trophy of that moment to school one day, to pass around our 5th Grade Class: a real German Luger pistol. He said people threw weapons out their windows as American soldiers marched past, and this one landed at his feet. This might, too, have been something of a myth, although the pistol was real and I held it in my hand.
It's a mystery that the death of Robert F. Kennedy, an event which likely changed history, floats unmoored, its own myth an aspic protecting it from all scrutiny. Sirhan Sirhan asks for a retrial. Authorities smile and turn away. Most of the principals are dead. We embark on a new election season. The United States Army invades Texas, where it already lives. Even on PBS reporters intone that possibly Ms. Mosby's indictments are hasty, yet no one at all remarks that her judgment took far more time than the indictment of Mr. Gray by the street cops who tossed him into the wagon and to his death. These are anyways not happy thoughts for a Mother's Day.
I guess all this reverie was sparked in some measure by an odd incident. Yesterday at the scrap yard where I work, the county metal collector delivered an old Anvil case amongst his several thousand pounds of steel scrap, built back in the '80s for transporting musical instruments and other fragile objects on aircraft. It was stamped "The Red Clay Ramblers." One of the crane operators noticed it and brought it up to the office. "Weren't you in that band?" he asked. "Yep." Small world.
It made me think of the Yardbirds' guitar neck. One of the guys said it would make a good gun case. "Get that melted foam out, clean it up." The boss said it'd look good floating down the Haw and over the dam at 15-501.
Saturday, May 2, 2015
Ms Mosby's courage is conspicuous. Pierce gives us all a summary:
There's obviously a long way to go. We watched Fox News' reaction last night. I was particularly curious about Megyn Kelly's reaction, since only the night before she'd attempted unsuccessfully to browbeat the attorney for the Gray family, demanding that he accept in advance whatever results the office of Ms Mosby was going to announce, in part because she was black, unlike the DA who investigated the Michael Brown killing in Ferguson. When the Gray attorney stuck to his guns, simply repeating the truth, that the facts at that point were "not in," she finally cut him off with a muttered "he's leaving himself some wiggle room," and that was that.
I don't think Fox expected charges to be brought against six Baltimore policemen, and not Friday. Last night they were in full blame the victims mode, unless by victims you should surprisingly mean those indicted. A number of times during the evening the specter of the New York police semi-insurrection against Mayor DeBlasio was invoked. Would it be the same in Baltimore? A great deal of attention was focused on the deceased Mr. Gray, with Kelly devoting most of her hour to an interview with a voice altered alleged Baltimore policeman who had, he said, talked to the charged officers and, as well, knew Mr. Gray well enough to suggest that he was selling drugs when he made eye contact with the street cops, and ran to give himself time to toss the goods.
The implication would be that Mr. Gray, being a drug dealer, just got what he deserved. The anonymous cop also continued to raise the possibility that Gray murdered himself in the police van, and maintained over and over again that Baltimore police were being "sold out" for politics by the political power structure in Baltimore, which was of the same race as Mr. Gray and his supporters.
Overall, the strategy of Fox News was to flip the plain facts Ms Mosby based her charges on 180 degrees. Gray was a perp, the protesters were a lawless mob, the mayor should resign in disgrace, Mosby had already revealed various conflicts of interest and should be removed for some unknown special prosecutor. One hopes Ms Mosby was at least thinking a number of moves ahead before she mounted the scaffold to the mics yesterday. She won the day, but it will be a very long, very ugly road ahead.
Meanwhile, the Republicans continue in various ways to reveal their "solutions" to the problems the country faces with regard to a police force that thinks itself pretty much beyond the law. Jeb Bush this week cited Charles Murray's pseudo racist science in a speech to a friendly audience: "they ain't as smart as us, it's no wonder...." As Ederoso has termed it, the great ooga-booga fear campaign is always just a shot away. Kevin Williamson, who I believe was sacked by National Review for some blatant racist comment or other, tweeted that his "lefty" friends in the DC burbs may be reconsidering their second amendment rights.
Because of the success of the "southern strategy," the Republican party is now the party of racism. It's always us and them. I noticed that Koch Industries was the major sponsor of the night on the Fox News channel. Convenient. Here's what Mr. Pierce concludes, and he hadn't even watched Kelly's show when he wrote it:
Naturally, there will be a lot of yammering about how the accused are being "scapegoated," which they are, but they are being scapegoated for a city government and a police force that allowed its officers to run amok on a specific group of citizens. If they get convicted, these officers will pay for their crimes, and for neglect and abuse going back generations. That's a shame, but it is not a mitigating factor at all.
How else can the reform of the police be accomplished, but with steps like the ones Ms Mosby took yesterday.
Sunday Update: I came across this remarkable interview:
If you want to understand what Fox News is trying to accomplish, it is basically denying everything that Mr. Simon is saying, and attempting to justify the appalling police policies that America is asserting over the inner city populations--policies that are patently unconstitutional, but justified by fear and the "war on" rhetoric begun with the advent of Ronald Reagan. Mr. Simon even says that he'd still vote for O'Malley. Thus doth the Clintons, always essentially Rockefeller Republicans, become the alternatives to something even worse. Fox is toiling mightily to poison the very jury pool before which the indicted Baltimore officers must now stand. Don't let the lawyer lawyer talkee confuse you, Fox is saying. The police are saving you from Freddie Gray, heroin dealer. He ran. He was guilty, and anyway, running gets you a "rough ride."