Sunday, July 26, 2015

Commentariat Central

I'm taking a bit of a blogging break, but meanwhile here are a few of my (fairly) recent New York Times comments, along with some other links of interest. Please feel free to leave your own comments, either on or off-topic.

Charles Blow, Questions About the Sandra Bland Case:
 The video and audio of the traffic stop of Sandra Bland sent a chill right up my spine. When police officers can stalk, threaten, harass, assault, arrest, injure and kill black people for the crime of merely existing, I think it's high time that the USA declares itself a state sponsor of terrorism.

As far as Sandra Bland and other victims are concerned, there's no difference between USA and the totalitarian systems which our elected officials regularly claim to "deplore." (all the while selling guns, bombs and tear gas to them, that is.)

I have to wonder if the charming Officer Encinia was influenced at all by the vile stuff Donald Trump and Rush Limbaugh have been spewing lately, or if he is just another victim of the Texas educational system.

One thing is clear. Police violence against black and brown people is no aberration. It's de facto policy. There is even a law, passed by Congress with the help of the profiteering prison lobby, requiring minimum residency quotas for America's private gulags.

Cops, therefore, become little more than weaponized travel agents for the ultimate incarceration destination. It's another way, besides cutting social programs,of culling the herd of disposable people. It's another way to bypass voting rights laws. Denying people suffrage while making them suffer -- it's the American police state M.O.

So more power to the Black Lives Matter movement, more power to resistant, bottom-up democracy.
This brutality has got to stop.
Peter Baker and Erica Goode, Critics of Solitary Confinement Are Buoyed As Obama Embraces Their Cause:
 It's great that Obama is speaking out against the inhumane conditions in prisons. But speaking out is only a small, first step in the right direction. His recent commutation of the sentences of a mere 46 crack cocaine convicts -- out of the tens of thousands that still languish in prison as a result of the still-ongoing, still stupid, still racist War on Drugs -- is a good public relations move that does little to nothing to solve the immediate humanitarian crisis.

In order for those tens of thousands of prisoners convicted under the draconian sentencing laws to qualify for clemency, they have to have been "model" convicts and never had even one violent incident on their records. Looking at a guard cross-eyed can be construed as "violent" in some prisons, particularly the privatized ones hiring $10-an-hour "corrections officers" off the street. Qualifications for clemency are draconian, too.

Obama also ordered a DOJ "study" on capital punishment last fall, but ultimately abandoned issuing a moratorium on the federal death penalty for the usual political reasons -- the White House feared it would "stoke" even more conservative support for the death penalty.

We're also waiting for his administration to comply with a court order to release videos of the force-feeding of Gitmo hunger strikers. The UN has declared it, along with solitary confinement, to be cruel and unusual punishment.

But at least Obama is talking about prison abuse. Now, we await more action from him.
Paul Krugman, Europe's Impossible Dream:
The EU is a bankers' paradise, with tiny Greece reduced from sovereignty to a failed branch office ripe for the Romneyesque picking. The predators are chomping at the bit to get on with the plunder.

Until quite recently, US officials were also cheerleading austerity in the EU - even as they pressured the NATO members within it (including Greece) to join their misguided war adventures in Libya and elsewhere. As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton actually used the metaphor "chemotherapy" to describe -- and approve of -- the hideous treatment the Troika were prescribing to the Greek people in order to save the banking system.

Democracy has gone down the toilet, and Greece has been tortured into submission. The global banking cartel, out to colonize the world, makes for one corrupt and incompetent government. It's the one that needs the shock therapy.

The Michigan cancer doctor who deliberately gave chemo to hundreds of healthy patients apologized for his criminal greed before being sentenced to a long prison term last week. But not only have the austerians never been punished for their own malpractice, they are continuing on their rampage of sickening and killing people.

This is not a "tragedy." It is a crime.

 And yes, it can happen here. Detroit cuts off water to people who can't pay their bills. Chicago closes its public schools and hands over pension plans to hedge funds. Sinclair Lewis had a point about the American flag, and fascism.
David Brooks, Listening to Ta-Nehisi Coates While White:
Brooks praises Ta-Nehisi Coates with such faint damns that your head ends up clanging with his cognitive dissonance.

"By dissolving the dream under the acid of an excessive realism", he chides with all the condescension a concern-trolling rich white guy can muster, "you trap generations in the past and destroy the guiding star that points to a better future."

Well, it's true that the ideologues of the GOP have always had a problem with excess (for the billionaires they honor and serve) and realism (denial of climate change, Keynesian economics, world peace, even denial of their own denialism). So when a brilliant writer like Coates comes out with some hard truths, the denialists and the history revisionists throw conniption fits. How dare that angry black man, Coates, expose imperialism, capitalism run amok and the endemic racism woven into the very fabric of our history? Why can't all the ingrates out there just celebrate the lowering of the Confederate flag and move on, looking for a better tomorrow, tomorrow?

Reading between the lines of this odious "colorblind" column, it dawns on you that Brooks is essentially accusing Coates of child abuse for not sugar-coating the truth for his son.

Brooks is right about one thing, though. His reaction to Coates, and to  humanism and progressivism in general, is irksome His silence would most assuredly be golden.
And now for some links to other stuff readers might find of interest.

More excellent commentary on the Sandra Bland case, from Henry Giroux and Roxane Gay. 

I'll also take the liberty of reposting the excellent, highly-rated response to Roxane Gay by Sardonicky contributor "annenigma":
"Sandra Bland must have realized as she sat alone in her cell for the third day that her new job and possibly even her career could soon be going down the drain. Not only that, but a conviction would ruin her credit and impair her ability to acquire a home, rental or otherwise, all for failing to signal her turn under pressure of having a racist cop bearing down on her.

She probably also realized that this cop would lie under oath in court with impunity. Sometimes you just can't win, especially if you're black.

My heart breaks."

New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan will have her work cut out for her this week. First, it was the much-revised and much-reviled story about the criminal investigation that was/wasn't/got quashed into Hillary Clinton's emails while she was Secretary of State. Were the reporters incompetent boobs? Were they nefarious hacks out to destroy Hillary Clinton? Were they set up by their highly placed, anonymous Administration sources? Did Hillary Clinton make her pal, newbie AG Loretta Lynch, an offer she couldn't refuse? Or is it all, in the end, just another bureaucratic snafu and much ado about the nothing of run-of-the-mill political stupidity and legalized corruption? Stay tuned.  

The second potential Times scandal is about the much-praised blockbuster series exposing the atrocious labor conditions of New York's nail salons. As a former Times reporter (who now just happens to own a few day spas) writes in the New York Review of Books, reporter Sarah Masland Nir relied on very limited sourcing and translators for her stories, which claim that immigrant nail salon workers receive zero to subminimum wage.  NYRB author Richard Bernstein did his own investigation, which largely debunks her reporting. If he is right, the Times articles will vie with Rolling Stone's campus rape hoax for first place in distinguished achievement in shoddy journalism.

On second thought, if the honors are for consistent, chronic, everyday journalistic malpractice, we cannot possibly leave Politico out. As FAIR's Adam Johnston writes, that Beltway gossip rag just wrote, without one iota of evidence and based on just two shootings at recruiting centers several years apart, that "Tennessee is the Capital of American Jihad."


Jay–Ottawa said...

On the Greek tragedy or comedy––it depends on where you live––a fine summing up of sorts at the Naked Capitalism site, posted by Yves Smith. Britannia may rule the waves, aber Deutschland regiert die Continent.

annenigma said...

I'm still haunted by Sandy Bland. As I watched this unfold I kept thinking that she could have been me years ago except for the color of our skin.

Back in the day, I had a similar incident of a cop speeding up and tailgating me in my little VW bug, trying to intimidate or frighten me into doing something that could justify his stopping me because he had no reason otherwise. It worked, and when he asked me why I sped up and pulled over, I told him point blank that it was to get out of his way because I thought he wanted to pass (drivers would do that all the time to each other). It's safe to say I was not deferential but rather was irritated at his tailgating me in the first place. It's obviously an old cop trick to see if they can get someone to cop an attitude while they get their foot in the door to sniff the air for pot or alcohol, eyeball who/what's inside, hoping to gin up a crime if they can.

Here's a comment I just sent in response to Charles Blow's column that elaborates a bit more on my previous comment to Roxanne Gay yesterday (thanks for posting it Karen):

28 year old Sandy Bland had a bright future ripped from her by some thug cop on a power trip. She was most certainly heading for a felony conviction that could have led to the loss of her new job and certainly would have crippled her future in a myriad of ways. That cop would have lied through his teeth in court, just like he's already lied about trying to deescalate the situation.

Judging by what a strong, proud, activist woman she was, I understand the doubts about Sandy's suicide, especially given the burgeoning police state we now live in, but I see another possibility.

In an ultimate act of raw courage, Sandy might have chosen to end her life with a noose around her neck in order to bring attention to the injustice and serve a greater good rather than let an unjust system wrap the chains of a felony conviction around her young neck, insidiously choking her future and rendering her powerless.

I am Sandy Bland.

Meredith NYC said...

Good points re Krugman's 'europe's impossible dream' column .... As you say.....'yes,it can happen here. Detroit cuts off water to people who can't pay their bills. Chicago closes its public schools and hands over pension plans to hedge funds.'

Let's compare the scapegoats the Gop uses for these, and the array of scapegoats in the Greek situations. Public unions, retirement ages, pensions? But how about the super rich AVOIDING TAXES???

But Krugman ignores the USA shame,and only obsesses over Greece so he can scold EU, mainly Germany. Not entirely wrong, but very one sided and misleading.

My comment to the column:
This column for economists has enough generalizations to almost sound like a Hillary Clinton campaign speech. Please tell us how EU’s 'fantasy' economics specifically affects the middle and working class in the various advanced EU nations. Compare to US specifics.

In your blog you actually equated budget cutting in Germany with the US right wing. Quite a statement. Please compare/contrast.

Has Germany’s parliament been non operational like our Repub congress? Starved their own govt and citizens of funding for public services, health care and education? Destroyed employee unions? Do they have a Fox News media monopoly to spread the party line?

Do the successful democracies sacrifice their own citizens’ living standards for the profit of the big banks? Aim to destroy their version of the New Deal and return to a Gilded Age? Say, pre Bismarck’s social security reforms?

Does their highest court bless corporations paying for their elections for the best return on investment? Or do they at least keep their bribery illegal, not legal?

How about Goldman Sachs, etc, extracting from both Greece and the US?. But that’s one of Hillary Clinton’s biggest sponsors, of course. Does Angela Merkel also hug bankers for the cameras?

See Robert Reich: “How Goldman Sachs Profited From the Greek Debt Crisis” July 16.
“The investment bank made millions by helping to hide the true extent of Greek debt, and in the process almost doubled it.”

Meredith NYC said...

Krugman has 2 posts that cite people’s tattoos. He free associates.

One is --Tattoos, Incompetence, and the Heritage Foundation
The other is ---Thorstein Veblen in Brooklyn (Trivial). He labels his post trivial', (as opposed to wonkish---it displays his wide range!)

He tells us of his visit to a music event in Brooklyn's Prospect Park, watching the crowd, and describes some ‘conspicuous self styling’ with tattoos, etc, to show you’re not part of the bourgeois 9 to 5 work world. As opposed, he says, to economist Veblen’s ‘conspicuous consumption’, to show one’s wealth.
K says he’s a ‘wannabee hipster’ and speculates on the jobs these tattoo’d hipsters hold down.

I commented:
No, not a 'trivial' topic at all, in fact the most revealing--that Prof Krugman is a 'wannabee hipster.' He said it. Not a bourgeois? To be with the In Crowd? But in what context? Which In Crowd? Which trend?

What does that mean for where he places himself politically---mainstream or progressive? With the high fund raisers or the lower ones?
There are noticeable differences between K and other strong, prominent liberals, such as Warren, Stiglitz, Sanders, Reich, etc. So I'd put K more on the side of the mainstream. But in today's politics, is this good or bad for the majority of citizens? Is it really rather conservative in our warped politics? What does liberal mean, and what does a beard mean vs tattoos? Which culture does K belong in?

I could add....why does a Nobel economist for the Times bother posting all this stuff several times/day? He’s compulsive. Like us commenters, maybe, let’s admit it? But doesn’t he have any scholarly research to do?

Meredith NYC said... say---I have to wonder if the charming Officer Encinia was influenced at all by the vile stuff Donald Trump and Rush...

Sure, I’ve been thinking that attitudes of the right wing Gop have been role models, conscious or not, and have pushed police to act out. They know they can get away with it. They are the rw gop, given a uniform and gun.

In dictatorships they powers that be don’t have to answer to public outrage or the media. In our constitutional democracy, the officials must show or pretend they take the bill of rights seriously in public statements. But there are still ways of running a mini police state within the USA, and calling it something else.

US apartheid, legislated away, is still being acted out now with separate n. hoods/ schools, income gaps, unpunished police brutality, mass incarceration, and treasonous flags on govt buildings.
Our Constitution gives this a cover, instead of preventing it. Strange.

Karen Garcia said...

I've had more run-ins with the police over the course of my lifetime than I can count, although most were centered around the bad press they thought I gave them when I was a reporter. And one article had to do with a mentally ill prisoner found dead in a cell.

Besides that, I had two pretty bad personal experiences. Once I was driving home in an ice storm when I saw the flashing lights. Since there was no shoulder and I was almost home anyway I just kept going and didn't stop until I was safe in my driveway. The town cop immediately informed me I had failed to comply, yada yada yada, and then ran my plates, etc. The only thing that saved me was the fact that I owned my house. He made sure to find that out right away. If I had been a renter, I would have been toast.

The other time was when one of my son's friends snuck in his bedroom window one night. The boy told me his stepfather was abusing him and was afraid to go home. So I decided (stupidly, as it turned out) to call the police and let them handle it. When the cop came over, he informed me the kid's parents had called too, then looked around suspiciously and made instant note of the fact that we had a pet hairless rat in a cage... in the living room! He also asked if I owned the home. So, after he takes the kid home he comes back and informs me that his five-minute investigation revealed the stepfather was not abusive. And not only that, the parents were thinking of pressing charges for kidnapping or unlawful imprisonment. The next day, the doorbell rings and it's the county social worker come to investigate the "conditions in my home." The cop had seen the pet rat and figured that I, as a single mom, was neglectful and slatternly as well as a kidnapper. The social worker knew it was bullshit, but had to go through with the whole investigation, interviewing the kids anyway. There was no legal recourse on my part, of course. Incidentally, several months later, the cops were called (by another neighbor) to the "non-abusive" dad's house and then the kid himself was later sent to juvey for pulling a knife on the mom. But, since they were an "intact" family with expensive furniture, they could no wrong in Officer Doofus's eyes.

Pearl said...

My comment to Oliver Sachs'Periodic Table article:

The world needs dedicated brilliant people like Oliver Sack's to open doors to understanding our universe and healing mankind's physical ailments. But those of us who have dedicated our lives to caring for loved ones, supporting their dreams and fighting for improving mankind's destructive behavior also deserve accolades. And there are so many of us who wonder whether our comparatively limited lives were meaningful. It is a balancing act adding up to what the total results are and should become.
I admire anyone and everyone facing harsh limitations they experience in life and surviving.
They, and we all deserve recognition equal to that of the highly accomplished among us.

Meredith NYC said...

Re your comment to Krugman column---that’s the heart of the matter, dividing Americans up into groups, and setting them against each other to compete for underfinanced portions of the pie—based on age, race, job status, income. It’s how the rw define deserving vs non deserving.

LBJ could finally get Medicare passed b/c the elderly couldn’t work, so let’s help them out. But to extend this to the rest was big govt. People needed ‘deprivation and stress’ to motivate them to work, and ‘build character’. Working age people had to scramble to get hired by an employer large enough to offer health insurance. Then if their job was 1 of the millions later sent to Asia, too bad.

Same principal with States Rights? States are allowed to differ to attract business ---with lower taxes, anti union laws, low wages. They can make decisions on life/death matters like health care, criminal justice and the death penalty---thus free of big central govt. The states are like mini countries. Live in the wrong location and you’ve got 2nd class citizenship and living standards.

So our founding ideal of equality is the last thing the rw Gop wants. Equality is equated with big govt dictatorship in a warped way.

Ironic that in the formerly class ridden countries of old Europe their health care and other social protections apply to all. They’ve better realized American ideals, as the US contradict them, and is shown up as hypocritical by contrast.

annenigma said...

I wonder if cops and judges check people's social media sites like Facebook before they decide how to handle certain cases. Everyone else, including employers, seems to be doing that.

Of course the cops can dig even deeper by accessing their state's Fusion Center. I started wondering about cops and judges after reading that the Feds have been monitoring Black Lives Matters activists.

Meredith NYC said...

Times public editor Sullivan has a critical column re the Clinton email story with headline using words "criminal and Clinton", which they corrected--but not well enough, she says. Many reader comments.

My concern is....does the Times go too far to avoid looking too liberal/left wing or too anti Gop? Just like they paint Sanders as a radical out in left field. So they use Gop sources and rush a headline re criminal Clinton. Their sources were bad they say. Many comments to public editor bring up Judith Miller and her bad sources on WMD.
This does not look good for Baquet.

This is how the right wing influences US media in news and commentary. Like Krugman just argues back to rw on their moronic statements, not proposing positive ideas. Don't push the Dems. As some comments are saying, it's defense not offense.