Sunday, May 30, 2021

Why are we in Iraq?

By Douglas MacArthur
War Correspondent

Fans of endless wars, including those great moral beacons Billy Kristol and Liz Cheney, were disappointed to learn that after 20 years of futility, the Biden Administration decided to pull the plug on Afghanistan, the war that was supposed to make the world safe from al-Qaeda terrorism, after which we hung around another 18 years looking for some reason to justify the endless effusion of American blood and treasure.

And by the way, it's going great, according to The New York Times:

The Taliban have negotiated Afghan troop surrenders in the past, but never at the scale and pace of the base collapses this month in the four provinces extending east, north and west of Kabul. The tactic has removed hundreds of government forces from the battlefield, secured strategic territory and reaped weapons, ammunition and vehicles for the Taliban — often without firing a shot.  

It's almost like there was no country there to defend, despite the Pentagon's protestations to the contrary.

But cheer up neocons – there's yet another endless futile war that's percolating along in the Middle East which no one is paying any attention to. Remember Iraq?  The war that was supposed to make the Middle East safe for democracy?  At least that's what Condoleezza Rice kept telling us:

Conceding that it had been “a long five years,” Ms. Rice said that Iraq had made “significant progress, remarkable progress,” however fragile, and she quoted President Jalal Talabani, who had said that the country was experiencing “a political spring.”

As rockets and mortars crashed into the fortified Green Zone, Ms. Rice met with Mr. Maliki, Mr. Talabani and other government leaders, then spoke briefly at the United States Embassy and dedicated a plaque there to commemorate two embassy employees killed in rocket attacks on the zone.

 .... She played down recent violence in various parts of Iraq, saying that there would be days when “extremists manage, despite the fact they clearly are weakened,” to conduct suicide bombings and other attacks. . . .Two suicide bombings in three days last week killed at least 80 people in Diyala Province, north of Baghdad.

And that was 13 years ago.  By the way, we assume that after lying her way through the entire Iraq debacle, the disgraced and disgraceful Ms. Rice would be unable to gain employment other than as a cocktail-bar piano player.  Right?


Wtf?  We've been bs'ing our brains out for decades and no one has offered us a cushy faux-academic sinecure in pleasant Palo Alto.  

By the way, what is the Hoover Institution anyway?  According to it, it is "an independent institution within the frame of Stanford University."

What does that even mean?  What frame?  The html frame, as shown by the screenshot above? We think it means that the clownish ideologues who populate it get to pretend they are part of a prestigious academic institution while being able to spout nonsense without any of the oversight or responsibility normally associated with such an institution (not that there's much of that anywhere, see, e.g., child rapist Jeffrey Epstein and Harvard University).  It's like saying that after walking through the swamp, the leeches were “within the frame” of your shorts.

But we digress.  Let's get back to Ms. Rice's splendid little Iraqi War and how it's going 13 years after she beat feet out of Baghdad one step ahead of the mortars:

BAGHDAD — U.S. military officials in Iraq have grown increasingly alarmed over attacks by Iran-backed militias using drones to evade detection systems around military bases and diplomatic facilities.

 .... An official with the U.S.-led coalition described the evolving drone threat as the military mission’s biggest concern in Iraq.

In April, a drone strike targeted a CIA hangar inside the airport complex in the northern city of Irbil, according to officials familiar with the matter....The attack deeply concerned White House and Pentagon officials because of the covert nature of the facility and the sophistication of the strike.

Although no one was harmed in the strike, it prompted a long night of deliberations over how to respond, according to Western officials. Some U.S. officials advocated serious consideration of a military response, ... The Biden administration ultimately decided against taking military action.

“The damage wasn’t huge but the coalition were very upset. They told our commanders that it was a major escalation,” said one Iraqi soldier stationed at Ain al-Asad. . . .Ain al-Asad was previously targeted by Iran with ballistic missiles in January 2020 in response to the U.S. assassination of Iranian commander Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani earlier that month.

Rocket attacks by Iran-backed groups have at times killed American servicemen
and Iraqi security personnel and civilians, prompting retaliatory military action from the United States and pushing Washington and Tehran to the brink of outright conflict on Iraqi soil. 

So we have 2,500 splendid troops fighting in Iraq against Iran?  Why?  Were we always fighting Iran? After two decades, it's hard to remember just what we've been shooting at all these years.  First it was that vertex of the Axis of Evil, Saddam Hussein.  

Another digression: Remember who said that Saddam's Iraq was one corner of a triangular Axis of Evil, along with Iran, which was in fact Saddam's mortal enemy, and North Korea, which had nothing to do with any of this?  We'd bet that if we said anything as stupid as that, we'd be sent packing back to Toronto, forced to survive by selling poutine from a cart on Toronto Avenue.

So where is that guy?

He started out with a blog filled with white supremacist garbage like advocating the repeal of birthright citizenship.  That sounds about right, but as with Lyin' Condie Rice, David Frum has had a renascence of sorts:

With apologies to Barry Levinson, did you ever get the idea that there's something going on that we don't know about?

Back to our Iraq War.  We started the war to get rid of Saddam Hussein.  Then – funny story here – after Saddam was indeed gotten rid of, the war went on, this time against the pieces of Iraq that Saddam had kept from killing each other: Sunni and Shia militas, the latter backed by their coreligionists over at the second vertex of the triangular Axis, Iran.  Here's a typical day's war dispatch, from The New York Times:

Early Thursday, the American military launched another airstrike in a residential neighborhood of southwestern Falluja, military officials said. The strike killed at least 4 people and wounded at least 10, . . .

Falluja has become a haven for anti-American fighters who follow hard-line Sunni clerics who have imposed Islamic law. Foreign jihadists, loyalists to Mr. Hussein and disaffected young men also roam the streets, armed with rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47's. Insurgents groups regularly kidnap and occasionally kill foreign civilians passing through the area.

In the southern holy city of Najaf, militiamen loyal to the firebrand cleric Moktada al-Sadr agreed on Wednesday to trade 16 police officers they had captured this week for two insurgents imprisoned by the government,. . . said. Nine police officers still remain in the hands of the militia, the [Shiite] Mahdi Army. 

While liberator George W. Bush practiced
good toe hygiene, the Iraq War went on

Mr. Sadr's forces clearly remain defiant of both the Iraqi government and the American military, despite recent gestures made by Mr. Sadr that he wants to get involved in mainstream politics. 

American commanders have dropped the promise they made in April to kill or capture the cleric. Mr. Sadr is more popular than ever, having emerged as a folk hero during the revolt he led against the occupation. 

Fighting against everyone worked out about as well as you might expect, until in 2008 United States forces decided they would ally with the Sunni militias they had previously fought, while the Iraqi Government fell under the sway of Iran, who in turn controlled the Shia militias.

After great war hero George W. Bush left Washington to pursue his lifelong interest in toe paintings, the war smouldered until President Obama fulfilled his predecessor's commitment to end American combat operations in 2011.

Then the war started right back up again between the Shiite-dominated Iraqi Government and their Iranian handlers on the one side and increasingly extreme Sunni militias (including, wait for it, al-Qaeda), on the other:

Violence and political instability have escalated across Iraq since the withdrawal of American forces, as political and sectarian factions have fought for power and influence in a struggle that, within weeks, has threatened to undo the stability that allowed the pullout in the first place.

Enter, you guessed it, the United States again:

WASHINGTON — President Obama has authorized the deployment of an additional 1,500 American troops to Iraq in the coming months, doubling the number of Americans meant to train and advise Iraqi and Kurdish forces. The trainers and advisers are to help Iraqis and Kurds as they plan a major offensive expected next spring against Islamic State fighters who have poured into Iraq from Syria.

That's the dreaded ISIS. Remember them? Eventually they were pushed into a narrow corner of wasteland, but – our troops stayed on. 

And there's still there today, now apparently fighting Iranian forces again, thanks to the Former Loser Grifter's pointless strike on an Iranian general in Iraq.

Which leads to the question: why the f*** are we still there, 20 years after destroying the only stability the cobbled-together non-country of Iraq ever had?  Whom else can we fight?  When will we know when we win?  And what would winning look like?

The same Washington Post story quoted above included this rather obscure statement:

The future of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq is the focus of ongoing discussions between U.S. and Iraqi officials.

If they come up with something, let's hope they let us know.

Happy Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

From the Archives: Democracy is recovering, 1931

By John Jones
Spy Foreign Correspondent

It was a near thing, but in the end democracy won out and seemed certain to prevail.  

America, 2021?  Hard to say, but we were referring to our coverage of Germany, 1931.

In that era, we depended on our colleagues at The New York Times for on the spot coverage of developments in Weimar Germany, and here's what our readers learned from August 11:

A musical program featuring unemployed musicians?  Sounds damned jolly to us!

The Times dispatch went on to note (in the Spy's tersely edited account):

Finance Minister Dr. Hermann Dietrich said that his hopes for dealing with the economic and political crises facing Germany have “been strengthened for Germany by the proof which the last weeks have furnished of the stability of the republic when endangered, the Germans proved better citizens than had been imagined.”

The Spy's ace Telegraph Editor incorporated a second Times report into its piece:

German Counsel General O.C. Kiep declared in a radio address yesterday that Germany “will overcome the present crisis by the discipline and energy of her own efforts and the cooperation of those who friendship and confidence shall not have been misplaced.”

And they lived happily ever after!

A careful reader of the Spy's report could hear a few discouraging notes.  First,

The entire Berlin police force was on riot duty throughout the day, in view of the Communist threats to disturb the celebration of Constitution Day and to kill several police officers whom they had named in handbills.

But good news – the Antifa [Surely, Communist? – Ed.] effort to attack the police didn't amount to much.  Now the civil authorities in Germany could relax, having nothing else to worry about!

But what was that bit in the Times about ruling by decree because the legislative branch of the German Government had been paralyzed, forcing the German Government to rule by executive order, uh, decree?   That sounds like a threat to democracy.

Earlier that year, certain parties had declared a policy of 100% opposition to the Government's program and had even tried to bring the legislative branch to a halt with performative obstruction:

That perpetual whining victim routine never works.  They'll probably next try to cut aid to unemployed workers!
Just to show how the well-informed German public reacted to these desperate shenanigans, less than two months later, one of the offending parties was kicked out of the government of the State of Thuringia:

As a result, in April 1931 the state's National Socialist party base fractured when confronted by the anti-government antics of the party's leaders:

It could happen here too!  Just ask Liz Cheney.

And of course some might say it's a bad sign when a major political party has fallen completely under the control of a single individual, but as long as that party says it's committed to lawful conduct and not to extra-legal nonsense like claiming that the fair and lawful election it lost was rigged, there's nothing to worry about:

Fortunately, there's no way to engage in “unauthorized speculations” as to what the Republican Party will do if it gets back into power, because it did not even adopt a policy platform in 2020.  Instead it pledged obedience to the Former Loser Grifter, thereby cleverly saddling him with responsibility for “all that the party as such does or omits to do.” 
To be fair, some white men with columns in the New York Times have speculated about the parallels if any between Weimar Germany 1931 and America 2021.  Here's Roger Cohen back in 2015, before the reign of the Former Loser Grifter:

“We’re going to be so tough and so mean and so nasty,” Donald Trump says in response to the San Bernardino massacre. People roar. He calls for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” People roar. “People want strength,” he says. People roar. His poll numbers go up. Pundits, even the longtime guru of Republican political branding, Karl Rove, shake their heads.

Trump is a clown. No, he is not. He is in earnest. And he’s onto something. It is foolish not to take him seriously. 

....The Weimar Republic ended with a clown’s ascent to power, a high-energy buffoon who shouted loudest, a bully from the beer halls, a racist and a bigot. He was an outsider given to theatrics and pageantry. He seduced the nation of Beethoven. He took the world down with him.

We're not always fans of Mr. Cohen's pensées but when he's right he's right.

For a completely different but not unexpected take on the same topic, albeit one that's totally wrong, who better to turn to than the boy no one would have lunch with in Winthrop House, Ross Douthat, who approaches the comparison of Weimar 1931 to Washington 2021 after watching a German telenovela:

Let's get one thing out of the way first: “Babylon Berlin” was pretty riveting viewing as long as you overlook its modest implausibilities, like whether a German hooker could really become a police officer in 1931, or any other year.

But let's see what lessons Ross draws from his TV and whatever history his research assistant pulls down from Wikipedia:

Then the final thing that’s striking about Weimar’s world compared to ours is the sweeping institutional and cultural strength of the nationalist right. Indeed if anything the show underplays this power: It portrays a right-wing German military eager for a coup and conservative industrialists eager to support it, but the potency of right-wing ideas in the intelligentsia and the German university hasn’t really been depicted; the lone student character so far is an idealistic Communist.

Yeah, the nationalist right doesn't have any power here, unless you consider that one of the two major political parties is in thrall to, and willing to excuse any violent anti-democratic excesses of, the Former Loser Grifter. Or you consider the anti-democratic (and anti-Democratic) domination of powerful states like Prussia [Surely, Texas? – Ed.], Florida, and Georgia by hard-right Republicans.  Or the web of plutocrats secretly financing it all.  Or the captive non-news media supplying bigoted incitements to violence 24/7.

He does point to one modest difference:

Ross still remembers how lonely it felt
to be a conservative at Harvard

Yes, conservatives have Fox News and talk radio, the Republican Party has its business-class support and Trump had Michael Flynn and the MyPillow C.E.O. and Jerry Falwell Jr. But our generals are mostly allergic to politics and the military’s most recent political intervention was a counterstrike against a critique from Tucker Carlson.  

His counterexample of the military Tweeting snark back at hatemonger Tucker Carlson is ridiculous, but there does seem to be some nonpolitical professional ethic at work at senior levels of the military that we hope makes it a less active participant in the destruction of democracy than was the case in Germany. On the other hand, we still don't know why the military refused to protect and then defend the Capitol against invasion and insurrection.  If you're confident it would do so in a future Republican Administration, you're naive enough to want to know what Ross Douthat thinks about f***in' anything.  

There are of course also great differences in economic conditions between Germany of 1931, already poor and soon to suffer in the Great Depression brought about by stupid rich white Republican men, and the current boom, caused by a Democratic President and Congress willing to spend what it takes to revive a pandemic-stricken economy.

But we've seen that “economic anxiety” isn't what drives anti-democratic white supremacists in the United States.  It's good old-fashioned bigotry and fear of loss of unearned white privilege.  If the better economy leads swing voters to stay home because they don't feel any personal need to protect the American political system, the economic good times could bring on very bad democratic ones.

The most telling and frightening parallel between the two cultures is the choice that rich white men made when confronted by a democracy that demands they pay some taxes and surrender a crumb of their privilege, and a dictatorship that lets them hold on tight to their pelf and their sense of entitlement.  In both 1930's Germany and 21st century America, they voted their billion-dollar economic anxieties, and we saw the results over the last four years.

Could it happen here?

It already did. 

Sunday, May 16, 2021

News from the Middle East: Both Sides Use Tons of Their Favorite Weapon


By Isaac N. Ishmael
Middle East Correspondent

As violence flares in the strife-torn Middle East, informed observers rate the chances for a quick peaceful settlement as slim to none, citing the huge weapons stockpiles both sides have accumulated and deploy against the other day and night.

The stockpiled weapon of choice?  It's that staple of Middle East warfare: bullshit.

In the latest exchange of bullshit, Israel announced today that its destruction of a building in Gaza it knew housed credible news outlets like the Associated Price was not part of a program either to neutralize credible, i.e. hostile, coverage from Gaza or to exact a bloody toll to improve crooked Bibi's chances of holding on to power.  Instead, it was because somewhere else in the building, in addition to innocent families, there were supposed “Hamas intelligence sources:”

You have to hand to the Israelis (or not; they'll take it away from you anyhow): no one can deliver a precision guided load of bullshit better.  What tf is a Hamas intelligence source?  That description probably covers most of the 2,000,000 helpless exposed Gazans other than Hamas's sworn enemies.  One of the leading suppliers of Middle East bullshit, the @IDF Twitter account, admitted that pretty much any high-rise building in Gaza was to them fair game:

Maybe the Israelis could provide a list of buildings in Gaza they believe to be free of any Hamas agent or sympathizer they regard as a legitimate military target, regardless of how many babies sleep in the apartments above and below.

Because the building housed American journalists, the Israeli forces provided advance notice of the attack, a courtesy not apparently provided to the over 80 Gazan civilians, many of them children, buried alive by Israeli attacks.

But before we get too far along, we repeat that both sides are amply supplied with bullshit and neither side is reluctant to shoot off thousands of rounds of it.  On social media, a mouthpiece for Netanyahu sent out supposed pictures of a Hamas rocket attack that was actually taken in 2018 in Syria, while pro-Palestinian groups circulate false pictures of Israelis supposedly faking casualties.

The Hamas terror organization, which should be recalled holds a death grip on Gaza and considers itself at war with Israel, and its millions of sympathizers deploy bullshit as promiscuously as Hamas sends missiles into Israel. These missiles, being essentially unguided, have no conceivable legitimate military purpose.  They are fired solely to terrorize and kill Israeli civilians, again including children.

But let's see how Hamas and their cheerleaders bury this simple truth under kilotons of bullshit:

To many Palestinians, the rockets symbolize their rightful resistance to Israeli dominance and occupation. 

Although justifying terror attacks on civilians going about their daily lives (which is the accurate description of Hamas missile launches) on the grounds that you're rightfully resisting denial of political rights is heavy bullshit ordnance, it does allow us to widen out our focus and see how bullshit is used by all parties on all fronts of the current conflict.

The trigger for the latest exchange of deadly high explosive missiles and bullshit was a dispute over displacing Palestinian families from a district of Jerusalem.  The precision pinpoint bullshit delivered by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs told us it was just an obscure property dispute that dated back for a century so nothing to see here people, move along.

In fact, it is just the latest front in the 30 year effort to replace Palestinians with Israelis across a large swath of Occupied Territory that Israel likes to call “Jerusalem,” although the borders of the district extend kilometers beyond the Old City: 


That little tiny dark blue shape is the Old City of Jerusalem.  Anything not in light green shows what Israel decided it would take after 1967.

It's all part of a larger Israeli effort to pave the Occupied Territory of the West Bank with Israeli settlements to deny Palestinians any meaningful possibility of a state of their own there.  The Israelis are offering Palestinians in “Jerusalem,” and rest of the West Bank a choice between permanent second-class status under Israeli rule or leaving altogether.

Powering this choice is the 100-megaton Israeli bullshit bomb that there are no such people as “Palestinians.”  They are supposedly only Arabs, who would would feel equally at home anywhere from Casablanca to Kuwait.

Fortunately, under the doctrine of mutually assured truth destruction, the Palestinians have an equally monstrous bullshit pile: their claim that Israelis have no right to a state of their own, despite having had one since 1948 (and according to a popular book, before that too). 

The immediate results of the bullshit crossfire is violence unleashed by Israelis on their Palestinian fellow citizens.  And vice versa. 

Yet the equally impressive arsenals of bullshit, although brilliantly successful in turning neighbor against neighbor from Lod to Haifa to Jerusalem, can't seem to wipe out the essential fact: that neither the Israelis and nor the Palestinians are leaving, and both claim the place.  In a Middle East in which bullshit had been beaten into fertilizer, each would have a state.

So why not start talks under the auspices of the United States aiming toward a general reduction of bullshit in the Middle East, which could give rise over some period of time to something that looks like peace, freedom, human dignity, and security?

The answer is the Bullshit-Industrial Complex, a joint Israeli-Palestinian institution by which incompetent corrupt wannabe dictators produce and then set off great masses of bullshit, not to protect or serve their populations, but to preserve their hold on power.  

The normally staid New York Times put it just a tad more elegantly:

In a massive bullshit barrage, the corrupt indicted Israeli Prime Minister for Life declared today that the continued civilian carnage in Gaza would continue, not until his re-election is secured (which would be the truth) but 

or, in other words, never, as the only way to ensure that no more rockets are fired from Gaza would be to eliminate all 2 million of its inhabitants.

As long as producing and using weapons of mass bullshit remains a reliable path to power for both Hamas and the Likud, look for continued violence and misery.

Now we all know that the greatest defense against bullshit is truth, or at least we like to think so in spite of the Trumpublican Party.  Maybe that's why the forces of bullshit in the region targeted The Associated Press.  It's not just democracy that dies in darkness.  

The children of Gaza and Israel do too.

Sunday, May 9, 2021


By Nellie Bly
Spy Washington Bureau

We'll skip the usual 100-day thumbsuckers and get right to how things are going.

We'll admit things are looking up from January 20, 2021, when we feared an imminent coup sponsored by the many friends of the Former Loser Grifter.

On the other hand,

According to Johns Hopkins's count, the United States is rapidly closing in on 600,000 COVID-19 deaths, almost all of which could have been prevented had not the United States Government been paralyzed by the FLG and his state-level taint polishers.  That's equivalent to killing off the entire population of Baltimore, Maryland.

And how's the economy doing?  Well, there are an astounding 13,600,000 unemployed, again principally as a result of the Republican failure to address the pandemic and its economic fallout.

Then of course the nation has still failed to address the crises of police violence directed at persons of color, mass gun violence at rates many times higher than the rest of the world, grotesque voter suppression laws targeting, um, persons of color, and the catastrophic rate of global warming which threatens to inundate large portions of our coastline, including Miami [Is this is a plus or a minus? – Ed.].

With all these problems to focus on, which of them most concerns the Republican party and their media toadies?

If you guessed “none of the above,” you win!  Your prize: a democracy on the brink of collapse.

What Republicans are worrying about is something they choose to call “wokeness,” by which they mean the act and mindset of anyone who criticizes their warped values and priorities. As Erin Gloria Ryan explains in The Daily Beast:

Miami 2100: the Venice of America

The definition of “woke” that relates it to social consciousness wasn’t added to the Oxford English Dictionary until 2017, but, since then, it’s gotten about as much use on Fox News as Tucker Carlson’s neck bronzer. Like a lot of buzzwords the MAGA set colonizes, their use of the phrase is unconstrained by the inconvenience of a consistent definition; it can mean whatever the speaker needs it to mean at that moment, and a different thing the next day. Like “feminist” or “tyranny.” Or, more recently, “triggered.”

“Woke” is now a word that means anything that expresses more cultural sensitivity than a red state Facebook dad whose grown children won’t talk to him anymore due to his aggressive political obnoxiousness. It’s used as a shorthand for the cultural left Going Too Far. It’s a klaxon for other conservatives who blindly want things to stay the way they used to be, when it appears that things may change. . . . 

Declaring everything that makes conservatives uncomfortable “woke” is tedious when it applies to things like updating workplace dress codes to stop classifying hairstyles like afros and box braids as “unprofessional.” But the conservative apoplexy over “wokeness” isn’t primarily focused on the conduct of American adults; it’s much creepier than that. The anti-“woke” movement is disproportionately focused on cartoons, theme parks, picture books, movies that feature talking snowmen and magic mirrors . . . .Modern conservatism is an entire identity built around grown adults not being able to mind their own business. 

So the problem facing this country according to Republicans is not the death and economic toll of the pandemic, racial justice, or saving the planet from climate catastrophe.  It's Dr. Seuss and, wait for it, big corporations.   What makes these plutocratic colossi such revolting exemplars of wokeosity?  According to the corrupt Russian stooge plotting his comeback from his Fortress of Solitude and Fried Chicken in Florida:

Now we're getting somewhere.  Ms. Ryan believes that the conservative fixation on wokeitude is another example of the immaturity and stupidity of threatened white supremacists.  She's right, but the crusade against wokeification has more than one cause.

We think it, like every other Republican culture-war smear since 1972, is designed to change the debate.  Instead of talking about the Republican plan to suppress Black turnout, Republicans and their media fluffers can whine about corporations who have dared to suggest that limiting democracy may not be such a great idea, and may not be so good for business either, i.e. a “woke corporation.”

See how easy it is to shift debate from an uncomfortable ground for Republicans (voter suppression: what is it good for) to much nicer terrain (mocking those supposed liberal elites at Coca-Cola).

There's many things to be said about this rhetorical jujitsu trick, but new isn't one of them. Let's turn the Wayback machine to 1972, when Republicans were desperate to change the subject from their abysmal and pointless prolongation of the Vietnam War for four long years.

Democrats who correctly pointed out the futility and brutality of this cynical Nixon scheme were met not by a claim that four years of pointless suffering and death were a good idea but rather that by demanding an immediate end to the sanguinary dumpster fires raging in three Indochinese countries, Democrats were the party of acid, amnesty, and abortion.

Spoiler alert: it worked:

Since two of those terms aren't familiar to modern readers, we'll tick them off.  “Acid” was the catchall term for illegal drugs, which Republicans fought with a cruel racist incarceration strategy since then.  We know that doesn't work, which is why state after state is decriminalizing marijuana and diverting drug users into treatment programs, not prison. 

So the Democrats were right about that one.

“Amnesty” was the plan to allow draft resisters who had fled to Canada to return to their families and lives in the United States, which Republicans condemned as more treasonous than invading the Capitol to overturn an election.  Despite the noise, President Jimmy Carter implemented the plan.  The draft resisters came home.  Nothing bad happened.

So the Democrats were right about that one too.

Abortion you know. The Democratic effort to make it legally available in the initial stages of pregnancy was attacked then as now as baby murder, but 1,400,000 women a year don't think they are baby murderers, and are probably glad that they didn't have to resort to coathangers to control their bodies.

And the Democrats were right about that.   That's three for three if you're scoring at home.

Now we're getting somewhere.  Republicans wanted to shift the debate from the pros and cons of drug treatment and reproductive freedom to a hate-filled cry that would appeal to their perpetually angry voting base.

So whenever you hear Republicans babbling about wokeomania, ask yourself: what's the real debate that they are trying to obscure?  Find it, and you'll see why they would rather screech about the peril of wokeism in lieu of explaining whey they oppose child care to let parents re-enter the workforce, rebuilding our collapsing infrastructure, or transitioning to a safer green-energy future.

Here's a recent example, from the guy that no one would have lunch with in Leverett House twenty years ago, Ross Douthat:


His argument, to use the word generously, seems to be that Elizabeth Warren unlike Joe Biden is too “woke” to be electable:

Wokeness is “faculty lounge” rhetoric, the language of elite hyper-educated progressivism, entering into mass politics in a way that turns a lot of normal people off. . . .

But at the same time I think the problem he’s[Jim Carville] describing could be manageable for Democrats, because their primary voters already figured out a way to manage it: Don’t nominate Elizabeth Warren, nominate Joe Biden instead. Or to depersonalize the strategy: Don’t nominate a candidate who talks like a member of the Harvard faculty, nominate the candidate who can talk like an old-line Democrat and, once elected, shovels money out the door.

Does Elizabeth Warren sound like a pompous Harvard faculty member when she recalls how she was able to go to college for $50 a semester? Or when she advocates for affordable child care so women can re-enter the workforce without risking their children?  Or proposes single-payer health care, used successfully in well-known Socialist hellholes like the UK and Canada?  

Frankly, although Elizabeth Warren, unlike the scourge of the Leverett Dining Hall, was a real member of the Harvard faculty, we don't think she sounds nearly as pompous and out of touch as Ross.

But that's not really the point.  The point is that Ross and his ilk deploy the dreaded wokeyman to obscure the real crises of American life, which we outlined right at the beginning.

And that's the whole point of terrifying the electorate about Wokezilla.  It gives elected Republicans who spend their days rigging America to serve the interests of rich entitled white man something to talk about when Democrats try to address real problems, like the pandemic, economic decline, crushing inequality, worker's rights, systemic racism, or the Republican assault on what's left of our democratic institutions.

And the deflection has worked for decades, whether it was called “acid, amnesty, and abortion” or “political correctness” or “wokeness.”

It will continue to work until one of three things happen:

(1) American democracy is successfully dismantled and replaced by one-party Republican rule, 

(2) angry white supremacists value their economic interests over indulging their fear and racism (unlikely) or  

(3) the majority of Americans realize that until they mobilize to protect themselves from predatory Republican plutocracy and fight every single election at every level every year, they will lose control of their future and their country.

We're hoping for door number 3.  But that would require a lot of folks, especially white ones, to get and stay – woke.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Police Beat: Why does the barrel still reek?


By Scott V. Sandford, Justice Correspondent with
Police Reporter Francis X. Dreben and Larry Lowell in Boston

Now that cold-blooded killer and proud Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been convicted and fitted for his orange jumpsuit, we can all rejoice.  The bad apple has been removed from the barrel and all those good cops we see every night on every crapcan prime-time police drama (not to mention the endless repeats broadcast by the dregs of basic cable) can get back to work serving and protecting, right?

We asked a cross-section of your fellow Americans whether they felt the system had worked and if they now felt safe from police violence.

Here's what they had to say:

Ma'Khia Bryant:  No comment, having been shot to death by police at the age of 16 on the streets of Columbus, Ohio.

Daunte Wright: No comment, having been shot to death by police in Minnesota at the age of 21 while unarmed.

Andrew Brown, Jr.: No comment, having been shot in the back of the head by police in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

Proud Yale Law School grad and professional man of the people J.D. Vance: “whatever you think of the Derek Chauvin verdict, the outcome, like you said, cast a pall over the entire justice system. ”

Well, that settles it.  

But most still living white people seem to have settled on a narrative along the lines of having purged the barrel of a bad apple like Chauvin, the rest of the barrel remains sweet and delicious.

To which we say: applesauce, as the following clip from that well-known outlet of Antifa disinformation, KTRK-TV Channel 13 in Houston, suggests:


In fact the crises of police violence against people of color and general impunity remains no closer to a lasting solution. 

There are a number of systemic factors (white racism chief among them), but the most powerful constraint on effective police reform remains – the police.

So let's look at the rest of the barrel.

Recently in Boston, a plump old white man was arrested on serious child sex abuse charges.  But there was more to the story, as The Boston Globe told us:

A father and his teenage daughter walked into the Hyde Park police station last August and reported a heinous crime.

The girl said she had been repeatedly molested from age 7 through 12 by former Boston police union president Patrick M. Rose Sr. Five more people soon came forward, accusing Rose of molesting them as children over the span of three decades, including the girl’s own father.

Rose being tagged as a child sexual abuser was news to the city when he was arrested and charged last summer. But it wasn’t news to the Boston Police Department where Rose served for two decades as a patrolman.

A Globe investigation has found that the Boston Police Department in 1995 filed a criminal complaint against him for sexual assault on a 12-year-old, and, even after the complaint was dropped, proceeded with an internal investigation that concluded that he likely committed a crime. Despite that finding, Rose kept his badge, remained on patrol for another 21 years, and rose to power in the union that represents patrol officers.

Asked if she was satisfied with the Chauvin verdict
Sandra Bland was unavailable for comment

Today Boston police are fighting to keep secret how the department handled the allegations against Rose, and what, if any, penalty he faced. Over the years, this horrific case has come full circle: The father who brought his daughter in last summer to report abuse by Rose was the boy allegedly abused at age 12 in the 1995 case. The department’s lack of administrative action back then may have left Rose free to offend again and again, from one generation to the next.

Prosecutors now say the boy recanted his story under pressure from Rose, a common phenomenon for young survivors of abuse when faced with demands from their abuser. Though the criminal case against Rose was dropped as a result, a separate police internal affairs investigation went forward and concluded Rose broke the law. 

Gee, and you thought that witness tampering was a separate and independent crime.

By the way you'll never guess what happened to that internal investigation.  We'll let The Globe's Editorial Board shock and surprise you:

In the small tranche of documents released this week from the Boston Police Department internal affairs investigation file on Rose, one stands out as particularly horrifying, but also telling about the mindset and priorities of union leaders. It’s from a letter sent by a lawyer representing the BPPA to then-Police Commissioner Paul Evans in October 1997, threatening to file a grievance on behalf of Rose if he is not reassigned to full active duty.

Keep in mind that Rose was accused of the sexual assault of a 12-year-old boy in 1995, and . . . by 1996 internal affairs investigators had sustained the allegations. All that time, Rose remained on administrative duty — collecting his usual paycheck. But that wasn’t good enough for the union and its then-president, Thomas Nee.

“For approximately two years, Officer Rose has been . . .not permitted to work paid details or street duty (thereby depriving him of court overtime) and received only limited station overtime,” wrote union lawyer Alan H. Shapiro, setting a deadline for the commissioner’s response to the “financial hardship visited upon Officer Rose.”

So the BPPA was more concerned with getting one of its members back on the department’s notorious overtime/paid detail gravy train than with unleashing on an unsuspecting public a possible pedophile dressed in blue.

Rose, who eventually became head of the BPPA, today stands accused of 33 counts of molesting six children ranging in age from 7 to 16. 

Why was the police union so eager to file a grievance? Because it knew that a grievance would be decided under the police union contract not by the representatives of the democratically-elected Mayor and City Council of Boston but in secret by some jamoke whose paycheck was contingent on pleasing police unions.  It also knew that these arbitrators have a reputation for knocking down punishments to the satisfaction of badge-wearing child molesters, racists, or cops who claimed that they thought their heavy metal handgun was a plastic Taser.  Oops!

In practice, again according to The Globe:

We left several messages for Breanna Taylor
asking for comment on the Chauvin verdict
and will let you know if we hear back

But even when the department does sustain allegations of law-breaking against officers, punishments internally are often mild. Offending officers are almost never fired. In the few instances when the department takes action and fires an officer, it can get overruled by arbiters and the state Civil Service Commission. Records show this happened in three of the six firings in the last decade.

That's a pretty good percentage.

Now the right to escape condign punishment through the secret corrupt private arbitration system is not engraved in stone tablets.  It's a right that cops fight for and get in their contracts:

When pressure builds for change, public safety unions have long used collective bargaining and state arbitration to delay, water down, or leverage new policies to gain pay hikes and other benefits. In the parlance of collective bargaining, it can seem like almost anything can be quid — something of value traded in a quid pro quo.

At least in Massachusetts, the right to arbitrate discipline for sexually abusing a child or murdering a person of color is embedded in contracts between the relevant police union and the city or town.  So why can't cities and towns just wait for the contract to expire?

Funny story: under Massachusetts law, if a city and its unions can't agree on a new contract, normally the provisions of the old contract continue until a new one is reached.  Mass. G.L. c. 150E sec. 7(a).  So once cover-up arbitration is embedded in a contract, it can't be removed without the consent of the police.  Which thus far has happened exactly never.  Of course, in case of impasse the city and the cop union can agree to, wait for it, binding arbitration!

The legal structure that insulates bad apples like convicted murderer Derek Chauvin is therefore made possible only with the active support of – all those good apples in the barrel who whine whenever they are lumped in with the killers of Floyd, Bland, Braynt, Wright, Brown, and the thousands of others, mostly powerless and people of color, victimized by police violence.

So if the police really want to persuade us that they are truly concerned about violence and racism in their ranks, they will agree to end binding arbitration of discipline related to violence and racism.  

A word of advice: don't hold your breath.  

It didn't work for George Floyd.