As abroad, so too at home

As abroad, so too
AMERICA’S UNWHOLESOME RELATIONSHIP WITH ITS ‘CORE VALUES’
Part 1

 

As the text of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report was unfurling in yesterday’s media, a post from Senator Elizabeth Warren popped up on my Facebook newsfeed. While I am a Warren-for-President dreamer, and the post hit all the important talking points one would hope to hear at a minimum from national spokespersons regarding the report’s findings (“transparency”, “accountability”, “face our mistakes honestly”, “our nation’s core values to preserve our role as a moral leader in the world”, and so forth), the whole message seemed somehow pro-forma, boilerplate, platitudinous.

So I was moved to reply:


Dear U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren,

Here’s what you already know:

Under torture, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi told American interrogators lies about connections between Al Qaeda, Bin Laden, and Iraq. But why did he choose that particular lie?

You also know the answer to that too.

The torture program was not ineffective. Dick Cheney put pressure on the CIA to get the goods on Iraq. Al-Libi and others were tortured not to get information. They were tortured for the same reason North Korean military agents tortured American GIs–to force them to confess.

They wanted confessions they could use for propaganda.

[An additional few hundred words belaboring the point removed…]

Let’s not pretend we can’t connect the dots just because we don’t like the picture […]

Hollywood fictional scenarios aside, torture is never used to gain information. In actual practice, torture always works. It gets results. The North Koreans weren’t after information but they got what they wanted: confessions. Torquemada got confessions. Dick Cheney got confessions. And like Torquemada and the North Koreans, Cheney used the confessions for propaganda—to sell the American people on war with Iraq.

Call for prosecution. Support ICC indictments for war crimes. We must do so, or we will all be as complicit in this rancid rot as the Staten Island grand jury is in the cover up of police execution.

We already know the truth. We’ve known it all along.


On the surface, the point of this unhinged raving was about the need for the Senator to act, not simply sermonize.

On a more fundamental level, I was angry about her agreeing to play the game of referring to the torture program run out of Cheney’s office, legally sanitized by a bogus Justice Department memo, and implemented under the direction of head of the CIA and CIA officers[1] as a “mistake”. All of which is to suggest that this episode of American abuses of human rights and violations of international law is (1) historically anomalous, and (2) a dastardly, aberrational betrayal of our real selves, our core values—chief among them the ever insisted upon Rule of Law® Made in America and Endorsed by Every American Since Washington! [2]

The first proposition is just historically unsupportable.

The second raises some serious questions about who we “really” are and what actually are our core values. Do we in fact have any actual commitments to democracy and a system that upholds the rule of law?

I was in this returned-to-my-sophomore-year-as-a-government-and-politics-student frame of mind when this Facebook blog-link headline from The Concourse caught my attention: “The American Justice System Is Not Broken”[3] .

The article, which was about the pattern of police shootings of black Americans, included this resonant observation:

If the institutions of white American power taking black lives and then exonerating themselves for it is understood as a failure to live out some more authentic American idea, rather than as the expression of that American idea, then your and my and our lives and lifestyles are distinct from those failures. We can stand over here, and shake our heads at the failures over there, and then return to the familiar business, and everything is OK. Likewise, if the individual police officers who take black lives are just some bad cops doing policework badly, and not good cops doing precisely what America has hired and trained them to do, then white Americans may continue calling the police when black people frighten us, free from moral responsibility for the whole range of possible outcomes […] There is no virtuous innermost America, sullied or besmirched or shaded by these murders. This is America. It is not broken. It is doing what it does.

It’s hard to look at but when it’s stated that clearly, it’s equally hard to just ignore.

No question, this has been a bad year for America’s self-perception. And it’s about time, for sure.

The thing is though, there’s no assurance that honest confrontation with the real implications of what we can no longer deny will lead to some better America.

What is beyond doubt, however, is that getting right with history will necessarily involve scary upheaval.


SCARY UPHEAVAL will be the subject of Part 2, soon to follow…


Notes:

[1] And outsourced, just by the way, for literal execution to (you guessed it) Halliburton through its subsidiaries KBR and Blackwater. Name the next government “report” Torture for God and Profit: Dick Cheney’s Walk on the Darkside.

[2] Recall, for example, W’s many red-faced, table –pounding, cowboy-speak fulminations about our duty to enforce the rule of law on Iraq and Sadam Hussein. For that matter, recall Barack Obama’s almost worshipful Rule of Law incantations even as he (not so) secretly carried out hostile “signature” drone executions within the borders of sovereign foreign nations.

[3] Okay, so it didn’t just catch my eye. It was pointed out to me by a family member who knows both the blog’s author and me. I don’t wish to be cryptic (well, yeah, actually I do), but my sense is that the author is not entirely comfortable with cross-commenting on each other’s stuff. So, I’ll half respect his unstated (and only surmised on my part) preference.

Important Tip From NYPD: When We Choke You, Don’t Say You Can’t Breathe

OR WE’LL HAVE TO KILL YOU.

Seriously.  That’s what an article in police journal, Law Officer says.

Also, Eric Garner was a fat, unhealthy nuisance.  Stop hurting policemen’s feelings.

And the comments from the “law enforcement” community and their fans are worse. Here’s one typical example from Law Officer Top Commenter,Janice Sonntag:

“…he would have died sooner than later with all of the medical problems he has,but how many times police hear, you are hurting me, the cuffs are to tight… if he would have comply with the police officers he would still be alive…and it can’t be racist because their was a black Sargent there over seeing the arrest.”

Brilliant, Ms. Sontag!

More comments here.

You Tube, Street Theater and the Suffering of the Real World

hemlockandashes:

Bringing this back for today’s travesty in New York

Originally posted on Back to the Root:

So by now you’ve probably seen this video on Facebook or You Tube or somewhere.

It’s pretty funny and quite naturally people are sharing and all over the place. The kid’s just an okay magician but the thing that makes the video work is the ballsy the concept: Street kid baits uptight police officer using a bag of pot and some nifty sleight of hand, cop gets gigged like a lake trout, the whole things is captured on video and gets posted on You Tube. Hits ensue. Not bad street theater turned into social media entertainment.

When I saw this posted on Facebook, like any normal person I laughed. Then I didn’t.

Look, I don’t want to be a humorless scold; I don’t want to peddle my childhood Catholic social justice guilt where it’s not appreciated—which is pretty much everywhere. But how much can you fight your basic nature?

In…

View original 71 more words

Message to Serious-Minded Liberals: Shut Yer Face About Ferguson

Really Sincere Liberal Guy wishes you would seriously consider both sides of everything the way he does.

Really Sincere Liberal Guy wishes you would seriously consider both sides of everything the way he does.

All over the social media “concerned citizens” are speculating about the “truth” of whether Michael Brown was actually properly shot by Officer Wilson. And even main stream media “journalists” are playing this dumb game, as shown in this predictable and irrelevant bit of newsy vomit by Paul Cassell in the Washington Post.

Seems to me like all of this post-sham-grand jury speculation is a complete smoke screen distracting us from dealing with one obvious fact: The people of Ferguson and the family of Michael Brown deserved a competent prosecution at a trial. To my mind, the Wilson grand jury proceedings have finished due process for the black majority in Ferguson and, more broadly, for all criminal defendants in St. Louis County, Missouri. This is the only story worthy of discussion regarding the aftermath of Robert McCulloch’s odious production of Justice Theater.

McCulloch turned the Grand Jury process on its head for this particular case (see HERE for details) and in so doing opened the door to this media nonsense game wherein the public is invited to speculate as to (1) Wilson’s culpability for the gunning down of unarmed Michael Brown, and (2) unarmed Brown’s culpability for being gunned down (i.e., was Michael Brown actually a thug?).[1]

Both questions should have been placed before a jury in open court, with all the evidence and an actual prosecutor vigorously working to prove #1 and a defense attorney working just as vigorously to disprove it–probably by raising the possibility of (thus reasonable doubt arising from #2); Each bit of testimony cross-examined by an advocate, physical evidence tested by adverse experts, with a judge presiding to make sure that the far more stringent rules of a trial (cf. a grand jury ) were adhered to.

That’s all the family of Michael Brown sought. Had that happened, none of these silly other silly arguments would make any difference because we would have had a verdict that competed the due process of law.[2]

But that didn’t happen so all the “concerned citizen” contemplation of what “really” happened is idle armchair lawyering when the real question of justice lies elsewhere:

Why did McCulloch so blatantly contradict his own office’s practice in dealing with a crime suspect? (Important reminder: Wilson is the crime suspect, not Brown)

And if McCulloch’s approach in Wilson’s case (pointing out inconsistencies of his own witnesses, allowing the accused to testify in his own behalf, etc.) is correct prosecutorial practice (and attorneys throughout the Missouri Bar and indeed the nation wish it were so), why has McCulloch done just the opposite with all his other non-police suspect cases and can we expect that this will be his practice in criminal cases going forward?

Let’s all place our bets on this right now…

The due process guarantees of the Constitution require equal treatment. So, does due process exist any longer in St. Louis County? I say no.

I submit that after what has gone down in Ferguson, and with the case of Tamir Rice poised to become the next flash point over police use of force, the questions regarding how such cases are handled are the ones that deserve actual attention.[3]

I single out liberals as the target of my very real anger at how the post-sham St. Louis Co. grand jury finding has been treated because so many good friends in fact agree with what I am writing here “in principle” but say that “speaking the truth” requires dispassionate analysis of “the evidence” (which they, as good liberals, claim they know how to do). This has put me in a “scolding” frame of mind.[4]

I mean, I expected hideous crowing about “exoneration” by the political, crypto- (and not-so-crypto-) racist right, but I am far more troubled by the distanced, analytic approach my touchingly liberal friends who seem to forget that the reason Brown’s shooting touched off such energy an urgency is precisely because there is and has been a long context of dead young black men shot by police (or self-styled police-substitute vigilantes) under questionable circumstances without any appreciable accountability or consequence. The time, it seems, has finally come when that status quo will no longer stand.

Maybe Michael Brown was not a “flawless victim”, maybe it would have been wise, for PR purposes to await a perfect martyr to call national attention to the palpable devaluing of black lives, but the fact of h the clearly unequal treatment Michael Brown’s shooter received still speaks to the real issue: The ongoing spate of unjustly killed young black men. Meanwhile, the pseudo issue of what “really happened” in the Wilson-Brown shooting speaks to…what? That “The Blacks” and the media are biased and are just “blowing everything out of proportion” ?[5] Or that a portion of the public is reacting to the grand jury finding “emotionally” rather then with the properly dispassionate commitment to “the truth”?

From my perspective the most important truths—the only socially relevant truths—are those spoken to power.

Thus my hope is that when people of goodwill and intelligence take the time to speak truth it will be of the sort that will, in the immortal formula spoken by Finley Peter Dunne and echoed by Mother Mary Jones, comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.


[1] While the only question of real significance is: Was Darren Wilson actually a uniformed thug?

[2] It’s certainly possible that people may have been angry, even enraged by a jury verdict of not guilty, but the fact that some, many, or even all people may not accept the outcome of a verdict reached through real due process has never been an excuse to short-circuit or ignore the process.

[3] As to Tamir Rice, the table is already being set for public “ambiguity” to arise in yet another instance of the irresponsible use of force by uniformed thugs. See HERE.

[4] Suck it up, liberals. I and other real left progressives have taking a stomach-full of sanctimonious scolding for the last seven or so decades.

[5] Thus ignoring the fact that the media feels it is more important to write and publish articles like the one in the Washington Post hyperlinked above–articles clearly geared more toward “restoring calm” (and incidentally reassuring a worried public that everything is okay with the official outcome so any further civil unrest is thereby rendered unnecessary and illegitimate).

There’s Due Process; Then There’s “Justice” St. Louis County-Style

The grand jury process is set up to allow the prosecuting attorney to present a case for indictment in secrecy and without defense. Almost never does the accused attend (let alone testify) and no lawyer from the defense is allowed to attend. Regular trial (petit jury)rules of evidence and testimony, including the defendant’s right to present exculpatory evidence, are not observed and the process is not adversarial (since only the prosecution’s case for indictment is presented), so no judge is needed to referee and no judge presides over grand jury hearings. It is entirely the prosecution’s grand jury in which the prosecutor is free to act as the advocate for the people of the state and the victim. Very often the accused are not even aware that they’re the target of a grand jury proceeding until they are indicted.

The threshold for indictment is the low bar of probability rather than proof beyond a reasonable doubt because the grand jury does not determine guilt or innocence; they just get a yay or nay to charge the accused with a crime or crimes which are almost always clearly specified by the prosecutor[1]. The tradeoff in our system is that the accused (there is no “defendant” in a grand jury proceeding) is not at peril of conviction by a grand jury and that, once an indictment is handed down, the fullness of facts (including conflicting witness accounts and exculpatory evidence) must be presented and tried by a jury in an open, public, adversarial proceeding (trial) where a judge presides to enforce rules of evidence and testimony. It is worth noting that the prosecution is only legally compelled to present all records of conflicting testimony and exculpatory evidence gathered during investigation IF and AFTER a grand jury has handed down a “true bill” of indictment; such countervailing evidence is provided to the defense to use as they think will best benefit the defendant at trial.

The reason the grand jury process is secret and generally sealed is precisely because it is intentionally a one-sided in favor of indictment (in federal cases, for example, according to Justice Department figures, U.S. attorneys prosecuted 162,000 cases in 2010 and grand juries declined to indict in 11 of them– ELEVEN out of 162, 000) and the “facts” have not yet been properly determined.[2]

All these institutional norms and rules are more than “technicalities” or legal “niceties”; they are the substance of due process–as is EQUAL PROTECTION. McCulloch’s treatment of the Wilson case will cause defense lawyers in Missouri to insist on equal treatment for THEIR defendants. Defense attorneys and civil liberties advocates have for years been fighting tooth and nail to reform the grand jury process to allow all grand jury targets all the stuff McCulloch provided on his own for Wilson. And DAs have fought just as hard AGAINST bringing more balance and more rights of the accused into the grand jury process. McCulloch’s behavior in such a nationally high profile case has put a HUGE dent in the DAs’ side in the battle for reform. (Note: Quietly, while few are paying attention, DAs have always provided unequal protection of law when police are accused of crimes.)

Missouri’s law is not substantially different from federal law of the laws of most states that use a grand jury for preliminary hearings. Prosecutors are always “allowed” to bring in evidence or testimony that would tend to exculpate the accused. But they don’t actually ever do that; let’s see if we can guess why…

THEY’RE PROSECUTORS. They are supposed to show the grand jury that there is enough evidence for an actual trial, not that there isn’t. Bob McCulloch’s standard practice with the normal targets of grand jury proceedings (people some would call “thugs” and the Constitution calls “the accused”–as in “rights of the accused”) is no different from any other DA: empanel the grand jury, show the witness testimony and other bits of evidence tying the accused to the crime, ignore witness discrepancies (leave that for the defense attorney to cover at trial) name the specific crime for which the prosecution is seeking indictment. That’s how and why grand juries do indict in well over 95% of cases they hear.

In the long run, while civil libertarians, like the people Ferguson, will always feel rage about it, they may end up very happy about the unintended consequences of McCulloch’s corrupt manipulation of the Grand Jury process, The people now high-fiving each other over Wilson not getting indicted will not.

McCulloch’s handling of the case is critically important because “due process” for whoever is accused of a crime in Ferguson this coming week or the next, or ever after, should get the same process that Wilson got. Else, no equal protection thus no due process. (Those terms might sound familiar since they come from the Constitution, which—last time I heard—American conservatives claim they take very seriously.)

More than a few social media posts and comment threads on mainstream blogs indicate that a lot of folks don’t care to engage the issues of “due process” and “equal protection” as they relate to the grand jury decision in St. Louis County.

Many seem to have some chip on their shoulder about who got shot somewhere else and didn’t get media coverage—purportedly because America doesn’t care about white people enough. Such folks strenuously ignore the very real issue that—whatever one thinks s/he knows about what happened in Ferguson the day that Michael Brown was killed—McCulloch’s handling of the Grand Jury was outrageously inconsistent with how he and his office handle criminal allegations every day.

The CRUCIAL question remains, WHY? WHY did Derren Wilson get special, privileged, unequal protection? If his treatment was just, then why are not all accused in St. Louis County afforded the same process. If the procedures were tipped because the prosecutor has to work with police officers and depends on their good will and cannot afford to piss off the FOP (or because he decided–without a trial–that Wilson only shot a thug who dared to take a punch at a cop and call him a pussy and was therefore justified in killing him) or for any other reason, then the standard of equal protection is violated and all other defendants in McCulloch’s jurisdiction have been denied due process.

The coup de grâce of McCulloch’s sham Justice Theater is McCulloch letting loose to prosecute the victim, Michael Brown, on national TV and spew unsubstantiated “evidence” against him in a vile press conference where Brown’s corpse could not face it’s accusers and no attorney could defend him from that cowardly attack by a thug prosecutor gone feral.

So, where does due process and equal protection of the law now stand in St. Louis County?


[1] Not, as in the case of Wilson, left up to the grand jury to figure out for themselves.

[2] Therefore, braying rightwing talking points notwithstanding, we do not know if there were a “slew of lying witnesses”, nor does the grand jury or the slimy DA, McCulloch, because the testimony of witnesses HAS NOT BEEN TRIED. Nor is the Derren Wilson case “over”: A “no true bill” finding by the GJ is NOT an acquittal and double jeopardy DOES NOT attach to a GJ proceeding since the accused was never in peril of conviction, has never been TRIED. Thus the non-indictment holds no legal meaning with regard to trying the case. Though it will never happen in the corrupt criminal justice regime in place in Ferguson and Missouri, the state is free to empanel a new GJ or go to a judge and seek a direct indictment without a GJ. So, in terms of law and justice, it is not over at all.

Michael Brown Is Dead, His Killer Exonerated…Now Let’s All Hate on Tamir Rice

Tamir RiceI have two sons who are adult men now, but I remember them at twelve.  My sweet little 12-year-old boys–smelly, audacious, shy, difficult at times but without a clue as to why. Silly, confused, confusing little boys.

I have a granddaughter Tamir Rice’s age, tall for her age, very grown up, very aware, entirely unaware that, for me. she is still a little girl. Just like her mother, my daughter, was at 12.  Except her mother was never tall for her age. A self-possessed young woman on the half-hour, a shy little girl when met by strangers or not-fully-familiar relatives.

Unlike Tamir, my once-twelve children and my granddaughter are alive, never having been shot dead, you see, by cops while playing in the park.  So people who do not know them don’t talk frothing shit about them.

I guess that’s the key if you’re a child and you don’t want complete strangers to talk horrible, hateful, flaming hot or coldly dismissive words about you.  That’s the key: Not to be shot dead by cops. Especially not to be shot dead by cops while being Black.

How did we get to a place where the most horrendous, tragic, heartbreaking events in our nation now occasion the most toxic outpouring of filthy-minded, dog-whistling, carefully coded hate- or I -don’t-actually-care-speech?

But Tamir Rice was shot and killed. This child is dead.  His family now–right now–is dealing with the terrifying, nightmarish reality that 12-year-old Tamir is just gone. Just dead.   And they cannot wake up from it.

And that strangers are speaking hateful things about him.  About Tamir. Who is dead. Dead?

Yeah.  Really. Dead.  Shot.  Killed.  Dead.

And strange people hate him now.  Because he was shot by a cop.  So now these strangers are speaking either cold or hateful words about him.  About his family. About his community.

Somehow these strangers feel like they have to speak about him and can say what they want.  As if in death, they have taken ownership of him.

He was shot playing with a thing he shouldn’t have been playing with in a place where he should have known better by cops who have dangerous jobs and protect dangerous neighborhoods where there are gangs and his parents should have taught him and a white cop shot him and he’s a black kid and that means things and he got himself shot and that put him on our TVs so he’s ours now that he got himself shot in a world where he’s not just a child but a BLACK child shot by a cop and on TV that means things so Tamir is ours now and we have things to say about him getting himself all shot and dead by cops and that means things that we want to say things about and we can and so we will. 

Their little boy didn’t become an entertainer, didn’t become a celebrity, run for office, or court public notoriety.  He was just their boy, and their boy just got shot.  By a cop.  So for some reason that means that now strangers talk shit about him and treat his name like they own it.  Without a trace of shame or self-doubt, these strangers judge him and use their little boy’s dead body


I get that  a lot of people think awful shit all the time and want to say it, but how does the killing of children–whether in a park in Cleveland or an elementary school in Connecticut–how does a killed child provide a context that somehow authorizes such vile shitspeak?

It has become a routine now. Why?

Because this:  There is an element on the right that is now defined entirely by free-floating hate.


The following comments were posted over the last 20 minutes from Cleveland.com’s story, “Cleveland police officer shot Tamir Rice immediately after leaving moving patrol car”, featuring video of the shooting of 12-year old Tamir Rice.

AGuyFromCleveland
Hey African Americans, how come black Carribean and African immigrants are able to make it in society, and don’t get into as much trouble with the law as your ethnic group does, if the system is so stacked against people of color?

Kristen Szabo LePrevost
The kid was walking towards them…that’s aggressive behavior

badger937
Gang members start out young. Not surprised the police would be leery.

Don jenkins
Here’s an idea….Don’t go around waving a gun around and not expect to get shot…  Called common sense morons.

MDHamilton63
Many posters talk like the “community” at issue is full of law-abiding citizens minding their own business, when the cops roll in and start killing indiscriminently.  The reality is that these are dangerous places with many people who have no regard for their life or the lives of others.  Then the “citizens” of these “communities” wonder why mistakes are made by the police.  Clean up your community and the problems with the police will plummet. Oh, sorry, that would actually mean you would have to do something and admit that

Don jenkins
Here comes another reason to loot, Rob and burn down innocent peoples business….becoming a joke and the media only fuels the fire.

AGuyFromCleveland
Let’s not keep making this about race.  The issue is how this kid, and many kids in that neighborhood are raised, by parents who don’t care, and don’t teach their kids right from wrong, or pay attention to what their kids are up to.

collinwood62
No matter what anyone sees or doesn’t see here, this could have all been prevented if someone was properly parenting this kid.  All of this, including the shooting is reactive to a larger problem and that is who is raising or producing these kids, and should they be? We wouldn’t be having these discussions on most of the current situations, if parents took responsibility for what they are raising and quit being reactive at society because of a situation that most times they could have circumvented.  It all starts there folks.

I decided to leave the live links to these commenters in here because fuck them.

Letter to Senator Warren: Enough is NOT Enough

We need more from you, Senator


Recently, Senator Warren publicly criticized President Obama’s  appointment for Treasury Department Position. In a HuffPost Blog titled “Enough is Enough: The President’s Latest Wall Street Nominee,” Warren blasted the appointee, Antonio Weiss, for what she characterized as inadequately experienced for the specific role played by the position he will fill, and his own history of work on corporate inversions while in his current position as the head of global investment banking for the supersize international financial advisory and asset management firm, Lazard.

Some “centrist” liberals (ahem), and Democratic Party establishmentarians have criticized Warren for taking gratuitous shots at a “qualified” candidate at a time when she should be supporting the President, not engaging in an open and unnecessary feud with him.  Those criticisms of Warren are foolishly naïve about what’s involved here.

However, real progressives have some reason to also be critical of the otherwise wonderful Senator.  Here, I address Senator Warren with my concerns and a few questions:


Dear Senator Elizabeth Warren,

Respectfully, because I and many others strongly agree with your specific objection to this appointment (Antonio Weiss to serve as Under Secretary for Domestic Finance at the Treasury Department) and, more importantly, with your more general frustration at the influence of Wall Street in the Democratic Party (” …the larger, more general issue of Wall Street executives dominating the Obama administration, as well as the Democratic Party’s, overall economic policymaking apparatus”) I feel it is important to ask you directly about your support for Hillary Clinton as our party’s nominee for 2016:

Based on Secretary Clinton’s well-known and documented close political and fundraising ties to Wall Street and her notable lack of significant work on or support for regulation of the financial sector or consumer credit protections, what assures you that a Clinton administration would be any better than the current administration on these sorts of appointments or championing these issues?

We know Ms. Clinton will be a strong advocate on issues of health care, medicare, minimum wage, etc., but on those issues that have to do with your own stance against a system that is, in your words, “rigged” against ordinary, working class people, how would a Clinton candidacy–or Ms Clinton’s leadership of the Democratic Party–address your stated concern that too often of our party has played its own supporting role by failing to “unrig” the system?

Many of us feel that a Clinton candidacy would fail to place these sorts of issues squarely at the center of the campaign or the policy agenda debate of 2016. Are we wrong to be concerned, Senator Warren? If so, how so?

Progressives respect and admire your work and commitment and would appreciate a direct response to our concerns about a Hillary Clinton campaign and presidency.

Thank You,

Mr. Andashes

PS: Keep up your great work!