secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects
On the afternoon of Wednesday, Sep 23rd, not much more than an hour after the Kentucky AG announced that no officers would be charged for the killing of Breonna Taylor, the ACLU released its own statement to the press. Before you read it, remember that this is the statement of an old organization that depends on its relationships for its effectiveness as much as it does the courts. So when they release statements, they’re not normally likely to simultaneously set fire to their political relationships and impugn the credibility of the courts.
But read this fucker:
Well, the grand jury indictments are in and a single officer is being charged with three counts of “Wanton Endangerment” because his bullets penetrated through the dry wall of Breonna Taylor’s apartment, burst through the drywall on the other side, and trespassed in an apartment not belonging to Taylor.
Many years ago, Bob Packwood represented Oregon in the US Senate despite a veritable career of sexual assault, often carried out in the US Capitol Building. Although the Oregonian, the largest newspaper in the state and one which likes to bill itself as the paper of record for Oregon, had the story, they declined to take it to press. IIRC, one reason for that decision was that they didn’t want to influence Packwood’s reelection bid by printing the story too close to November.
The Oregonian’s slogan at the time was, “If it matters to Oregonians, it’s in the Oregonian.” Naturally enough then, when the Washington Post printed the story of Packwood’s serial predations one immediately began to see bumper stickers around Portland stating, “If it matters to Oregonians, it’s in the Washington Post.”
This phenomenon isn’t unique to the Oregonian, however. There’s an old expression, “Don’t shit where you eat.” The message of the metaphor is that you don’t want to make a mess of the place where you live, because you’ll hurt yourself in the process. Though journalism writ broadly does like to hold powerful figures to account, it doesn’t like to do so if that’s going to make a mess of the places where journalists have to make a living.
As a result, it can sometimes be easier to get good, honest analysis of how fucked up your local situation might be when reading a news source based far away. The problem here is that the honest assessment and willingness to tell the truth even if it makes a local mess is combined with a lack of access to local facts. It’s simply harder to get all the details necessary for the analysis, even if it’s easier to do the analysis honestly once the facts are in place.
But every once in a while you’ll get good writing about your local situation in a foreign source that also managed to get access to all the most important facts, and when that happens it’s often the best reporting you can read.
Today, courtesy of Wonkette.com, I found my way to reporting in The Guardian on police violence in Los Angeles. The whole piece is worth reading, but the conclusion takes one’s breath away:
Lopez knew she wanted to get in engaged in local activism after watching George Floyd’s death. In June, she wrote to the mayor of Ontario, the southern California city where she lives, and outlined her own experiences with police over the years and the ways officers mistreat Black families like hers. She called on city leaders to stand up to systemic racism: “I tell you about us so that you are convinced that we matter.”
On 10 June, a police official responded to her email, thanking her for her words, but suggesting the George Floyd tragedy was unique and did not represent officers’ behavior.
The following day, police killed her father.
California god damn.
For those who thought the residential schools nightmare was over, I present you Lakeside Academy in Kalamazoo. Don’t read any further without preparing yourself for the horror you know is coming.
16-year-old Cornelius Fredericks [sic – actually “Frederick”] died on May 1 after suffering a heart attack on April 29.
Why did his heart stop on April 29th? I will never GEORGE FLOYD guess, will I?
[S]taff sat on his chest as he lost consciousness. …Employees waited 12 minutes to call 911, even though Fredericks was limp and unresponsive.” …[V]ideo from Lakeside Academy shows a staff member placing his/her weight directly on Fredericks’ chest for nearly ten minutes as the victim lost consciousness.
Other people will say that I should be fucking heartened by this:
On May 7th, 2020, the GBI arrested Gregory McMichael, age 64, and Travis McMichael, age 34, for the death of Ahmaud Arbery. They were both charged with murder and aggravated assault. The McMichaels were taken into custody and will be booked into the Glynn County Jail.
But I’m not. Read further:
I am not heartened.
Yes, I read what it said. I understand what it said. But I also read further:
On May 5th, 2020, District Attorney Tom Durden formally requested the GBI investigate the death of Ahmaud Arbery. The Kingsland Office initiated an investigation on May 6th, 2020.
and I am not heartened.
In a case that can’t seem to get appropriate coverage inside the USA, Canada and the UK are publishing important stories detailing the lynching of a Black jogger by a white ex-cop and his son just as fast as any published by the national press inside the USA. The best review of the footage of the actual killing is probably in this story, by a local news station in Jaxonville.
So what happened here, why are prosecutors declaring this behavior acceptable, and why do I call it a lynching?
PZ has brought attention to congressional corruption (in the form of insider trading) and corporate corruption (in the form of stock buy-backs) earlier today. But hark! Fear not that they have lost out on opportunities to engage in mutual corruption. 119 members of congress, including Dems and Reps both, are now calling to use anti-coronavirus legislation to boost purchases of F-35 fighters.
Now one or both of you may actually be confused. While there’s legitimate concern for the economy and stimulus is warranted, the concern isn’t that defense contractors don’t have enough work, but rather that people who are unable to work for fear of transmitting the virus will stop spending money, either because they completely run out or because of fear their savings might not last. Economic stimulus always functions best when given to the poorest, and this case is no exception. Indeed, production speed wouldn’t be increased, so calling for more fighters simply means that production activities due to end a decade from now will instead come to a close 3 or 5 years later than that. While defense contractors like the legislation I’m sure, it does fuck all to help the economy now.
But if neither the virus is vulnerable to air-to-air missiles nor its economic effects offset by distant future delays in closing fighter jet assembly lines, we can at least take heart that the military-industrial-congressional complex have been brought together in hard times to work in unison for mutually beneficial corruption.
I’m a pacifist who has never figured out how to apply her principles to others. I worked too many years in anti-Domestic Violence & Sexual assault shelters to scold people for self-defense merely because it, too, is a form of violence. Yet I’m extreme enough in my personal pacifism that during times when I was targeted for violence, including many, many times during a violent relationship in my 20s, that I never, not once, hit back against my attacker.
Part of that might be cowardice: violent relationships can be incredibly scary, and even if you are accomplished in a martial art (I’m not), you can always be stabbed or shot in your sleep. My own abuser frequently told me that she would stab me straight through the kidney while I slept if I ever hurt her.
Part of that might also be a devaluation of myself: I’ve always been convinced on a deep level resistant to reason that I am simply worth less than other people, and that assaults against me aren’t worthy of punishment in the way that the same violence targeting a different person might be.
But for whatever reason, my aversion to violence even in defense of myself exists and is extreme enough that I still sometimes denigrate myself for once bear hugging my abuser to stop her from hurting me one night.*1
And yet, I’ve never yet taken a stand in favor of unilateral nuclear disarmament. Many of my friends have, and I don’t criticize them for it. And I’ve read a little about the state of so-called “nuclear strategy”, which to my lay-mind comes across as dangerously incoherent at times. Yet I concede that even if the nuclear weapons of the USA don’t actually deter nuclear attack (and they probably do, at least to some extent – the argument is more over how much and in what situations), the possibility of disarming could be a greatly powerful lever magnifying the force of US efforts to get other countries to disarm. So I’ve always thought that it would be better to delay disarmament just long enough to get other countries to disarm with us.
It is also true, of course, that the US rocket and warhead stockpiles have been aging. And this brings us to my current dilemma: while the details are secret, we know that efforts to “modernize” missiles and warheads can only do so much and that eventually new rockets must be built from scratch, and new warheads made after melting the fissile material contained in the old and removing the impurities resulting from radioactive decay. The Trump administration is claiming that we have reached this point and is asking for a 20% increase in the modernization budget, but spending more of that money on fundamentally renewing the arsenal. A right winger at the American Enterprise Institute, Mackenzie Eaglen, told Axios that nuclear weapons systems have reached the “end of their service lives” and added, “We keep putting bandaids over bandaids and now new systems are required.”
I don’t want more nuclear weapons, and I don’t see Trump negotiating a global nuclear disarmament. Given that simply keeping these weapons systems around carries its own risks as components age and become liable to malfunctions upon which I’m not qualified to speculate and am afraid to imagine, should the responsible pacifist be calling for immediate and unilateral disassembly of dangerously aged weapons systems or supporting the new infrastructure the Trump regime is calling for?
Part of my dilemma is that much of the information I would use to make my decision is classified. How many systems would need to be immediately dismantled for reasons of safety? If it was only 70-80%, I’d be all in favor of that option. If it was 99.9%, I could probably be convinced that the right of other US citizens to self-defense against the nuclear threats of other nations outweighed my own desire to disarm. In between those numbers, I find significant wiggle room to come to different conclusions.
But there are other parts to this dilemma as well. The United States might be the most militarily active nation on the planet, certainly it is in terms of fighting outside its own borders. While there are reasons to mistrust, say, Israel and India with nuclear weapons, there simply isn’t a nuclear armed nation that roams the world in search of people to kill as freely as the United States. While some would like to see the US as one of the countries least likely to use its nuclear arms, I’m not at all sure we aren’t the most likely. If that pessimistic view is true, then getting rid of 100% of American nuclear weapons is the best possible action, even if no other nation disarms. Then there is the possibility that the US is more able to convince nations to disarm if the US had disarmed first. If this is true, then holding on to weapons as diplomatic bargaining chips is off the table as a rationale for retaining some portion of our warheads. Once again, unilateral disarmament, even 100% unilateral disarmament, would likely be the proper position to take.
And yet my consent-focussed, anti-authoritarian self deeply wants us to come to a mutual decision as a society to disarm. I’m wary of advocating unilateral disarmament over the objections of people who argue for their own right to self-defense. This doesn’t stop me from doing so where the data is clear that people are mistaken (for instance in the case of handgun ownership which is consistently correlated with higher mortality rates than disarming even while the rest of one’s neighbors have not disarmed). But data here seem so thin, that I find it difficult to make an irrefutable case that unilateral disarmament will definitely improve safety. And in the absence of that, I find myself wondering if I should be more concerned about accidental deaths from again weapons than the future threat of a renewed nuclear stockpile. Given that I can’t say for sure which path is safer, and given that the weapons already exist (I would have no trouble advocating never building nuclear weapons in a country that had none), I find myself second-guessing my own instinct to oppose Trump’s budget request.
and… that’s it. There’s no grand rhetoric in service to a definitive aim in this post. I want all the nukes gone, but I’m just not sure which step is the right next step, while the aging stockpile increases the pressure to have an answer right now even though I have yet to acquire, and quite likely will never acquire, the information I would need to make what i feel are good judgments on a topic of this importance and complexity.
I’d welcome any thoughts anyone else might have about how to respond to this current dilemma. Will those of you who hold US citizenship be contacting your representatives and senators to advocate against this suggested appropriation? Do you have more educated thoughts on whether it’s time to disarm whether or not we can get other countries to disarm with us? I’m simply at a loss.
*1 It’s hard to explain to anyone else how that night was different from others, but my partner’s violence that night was frenzied. Normally she preferred to attack unpredictably, but not wildly. That night she was screaming more in anguish than anger, and I simply intuited that holding her would allow her to calm rather than escalating the situation as it would have on other nights. I chose correctly, and she calmed after a couple minutes and I let her go, but there are times when I’m so deep in my depression that I can’t remember that the combination of self-defense and the help I provided to her that did shorten her distress more than justified an action that physically restrained her freedom.
I probably don’t write nearly as many stories about fascist cops as I should, but today’s news is far, far too important to ignore. After a NYC cop was killed, Mayor Bill de Blasio posted a supportive message to twitter:
This was a premeditated assassination attempt against New York’s Finest. It was also an attack on ALL New Yorkers and everything we believe in. This MUST be a city where everyone can live in peace and respect. This individual attempted to destroy that. We will not let him win.
In response to this message, calling the killing an assassination and an attack on all New Yorkers, the Sergeant’s Benevolent Association’s official twitter account responded with this:
Mayor DeBlasio, the members of the NYPD are declaring war on you! We do not respect you, DO NOT visit us in hospitals. You sold the NYPD to the vile creatures, the 1% who hate cops but vote for you. NYPD cops have been assassinated because of you. This isn’t over, Game on!
It is stunning that a group of armed public servants would “declare war” against their own elected government. It’s hard even to think of appropriate commentary to respond at this point. While it’s probably only one or a very few NYPD sergeants were involved in the wording of this tweet, the head of the NYPD SBA has been reelected in the past after saying things nearly as horrible (or, hell, perhaps more horrible, I don’t follow the SBA carefully). At this point it’s clear that the SBA is dangerously biased toward conflict and violence. It’s hard to imagine any reform being successful short of firing them all.