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Sunday, November 30, 2014

He didn't become radical, the country did

by digby

If you read nothing else this evening, read this fascinating interview with James Risen at The Intercept. Those of you who've been reading blogs for a while will understand what I mean when I say he's very "shrill." (For those of you who haven't been reading blogs for years, that's a good thing.)

He says many interesting things in the course of the interview, and it will be worth going back to next week to discuss some of them in greater depth. But one observation amazed me. He's been quoted before saying that the Obama administration normalized the War on Terror with all that that implies. With the exception of John Yoo's version of legal torture, the radical GWOT tactics were continued.
Risen was reporting on this stuff for the NY Times right after 9/11 and this is what he remembers:
I think my real change came after 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq. I was covering the CIA as a beat then. And to me, it was fascinating talking to CIA people right after the invasion of Iraq and right before the invasion of Iraq, because it was kind of like privately talking to a bunch of Howard Deans. They were all radicalized against what Bush was doing.

To me it was wild to hear all of these people inside the intelligence community, especially in 2003, 2004, who were just going nuts. They couldn’t believe the radical change the United States was going through, and that nobody was opposed to it. And that led me to write my last book, State of War, because I was hearing things from within the intelligence community and the U.S. government that you weren’t hearing publicly from anybody. So that really led me to realize—and to step back and look at—the radical departure of U.S. policy that has happened since 9/11 and since the invasion of Iraq.

To me, it’s not like I’ve been radicalized, I feel like I stayed in the same place and the country changed. The country became more radicalized in a different direction.

I feel the same way. There are a lot of reasons for that, I think, not the least of which is that having two presidents of different parties operate under the same logic makes a whole lot of people assume it must be the right logic. When no house cleaning was done after a Democrat took charge the bipartisan National Security consensus was sealed once again.

Anyway, read the whole interview if you have time and get Risen's book. One of the main themes is how the economic incentives of the National Security State warp our policies. I couldn't agree more. In fact, I've been writing about the problem of "If you build it, they will use it" for a very long time. We just kept building it.


Where's Our Anti-War Propo? Lessons from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay
by Spocko

I'm guessing a lot of adults skipped, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1” I didn't. Maybe you thought, "Why watch a movie about a bunch of poor people fighting for the amusement of the rich when I can watch Black Friday videos of people fighting for free?" But I'm glad I watched it, because it reminded of some important lessons about persuasion.

(Side questions: Do rich people camp out overnight in front of the high-end retail stores for Black Friday sales?  Is there video of people fighting over the last $3, 395 beige lizard Clara convertible clutch?)

Mick LaSalle, my favorite writer of movie reviews didn't like it, but points out a key part of the movie, the focus on making propaganda and selling war.

Spoilers Below 

The rebel leaders know they need to rev people up for a fight, so they create a  propaganda video or "propo" staring Katniss, Jennifer Lawrence's character. The first attempt is forced and inauthentic. One character asks the assembled propo makers. "When did Katniss make us feel something?" The fashionista says, 'When she volunteered in place of her sister." Another says, "When she allied with Rue."

Woody Harrelson asks, "What do these have in common?" Someone in the group suggests it is when she is out in the field. Because of that, they then decide to get her out in the field to make propaganda films.

I turned to my movie companion and whispered. "The real connection is that they are both about Katniss being the protector for younger women." 

When they get her out in the field she visits the wounded and they see her as a symbol of their fight. She is asked to fight with them and she agrees.

Then the people she just pledged to fight for get blown up by the authorities from the Capital. They hit the hospital filled with unarmed, wounded men, women and children. Even the evil President Snow must know that killing innocent children is bad PR.  However, since he controls the media, he knows that video of defenseless kids being killed, which might evoke empathy or sympathy for the victims, will never get to the people in the capital.

However, the rebel propo makers know this destruction footage can be used to rev up their district viewers, who identify with Katniss and want active revenge. Katniss turns to the camera and shows her anger--and a desire for revenge. 

Phillip Seymour Hoffman's media savvy rebel character knows that there are multiple components to persuading people and creating a symbol that motivates people. So does President Snow, Donald Sutherland's character.  Snow uses people's fear of death and destruction as a lever and then their love for others as a trap.

One character, who previously was driven by love and a desire to protect, has his mind manipulated using fear and anger. This character then attacks the person he previously loved. Can his twisted mind be put back to normal? One of the rebels says that fear is one of the most powerful emotions, and it will be hard to undo the programming. 

What Undoes A Long Propo War Campaign?

Walking home from the movie I pointed out to my movie companions that Bush/Cheney government used fear, lies and people's desire to protect loved ones, as tools to gear up the Iraq war machine. They used the emotional link to 9/11 to drive an attack on Iraq. They used fear of death and mushroom clouds to justify being pro-active.

Suggestions and protests to not attack were ignored, shouted down or dismissed as un-serious.

While this was happening, who was creating the propaganda against it? I use the word propaganda intentionally because many like to believe that the truth will be enough. My rational Vulcan side approves, but I also know that my emotional human side  needs to be addressed too. To ignore its power to influence is to ignore reality. Combining both emotional and rational reasons are a powerful combination.

I remember specifically a few emotionally charged videos by Cindy Sheehan, Code Pink, and a few actor celebrities like the Dixie Chicks and Janeane Garafolo speaking out against the Iraq war on TV. I also remember how viciously they were attacked for speaking out against it.

Which anti-war propo videos or people made you feel? Who did you identity with? Might you have identified with innocent men, women and children killed in Iraq if you saw more videos of them?

When the US media were in Iraq covering the war, they were embedded with the troops, not with the families of the people being bombed. Opportunities to identify with the innocents were curtailed. The media feared for their lives and bonded with their military protectors, that's a strong emotion, easily conveyed to people in the US.

What Happens When Emotion Fades?

In the movie, one character understands that the rebels were starting to lose momentum and needed a rallying point. They needed a reason and person to help them overcome their fear and act.

What if you want to keep an active war machine going with an audience that is bored and disengaged? You need emotion, people to identify with and a way to trigger action in people.

Enter the ISIS beheading videos. No, I don't think they were an "inside job" by anyone in the US government. But, as the Project for the New American Century showed us, groups prepare for the circumstances they hope will happen, and then act if/when they do.

The beheading videos put Americans in the position of feeling for the victims they could relate to. The group of people tasked with covering the story, journalists, are especially engaged. "That could have been me!"

If I'm a journalist and I want to see the attackers of an American journalist brought to justice, what do I do? I might not want to inject my opinion or emotion in the story, so I find people to talk to who reflect multiple options and opinions: military action, a police action, and non-violent actions. Next, I look for people I can get to talk about how to carry out these various actions,

The TV producers have lots of people to call to talk about military actions, some for police actions and maybe a few for non-violent actions. One way of rigging the game in favor of one course of action vs another is line up powerful spokespeople for one action vs. weak or no spokespeople for another.

Not all Spokespersons Are Created Equal

I've been asking people lately, who could go up against the well-honed media trained war propo machine? I get head scratching to that question. Then I ask, what would it take to get them on the Sunday talk shows or the nightly news?

I'm interested in talking to the journalists and producers who put on these shows. Who would be an anti-war "get" they could explain away to their military contractor advertisers?  Are there anti-war guests that they know are safe because they aren't taken seriously? What price do network news divisions pay if they have on someone who is anti-war? What benefit do they get?

The pro-war PR machine actively uses the weakness of the media to help them spread their pro-war propo. They understand the use of and need for symbolism and emotion to scare and engage people. There are ways to challenge that.

Code Pink recently sent out a note to their supporters suggesting that ABC's George Stephanopolos they have on two millenial women to talk about anti-war options. This kind action is a great start, and might be the beginning of undoing the one sided flood of pro-war propaganda we see today.

What could have gone wrong?

by digby


Mr. Andrews, a former Defense Department contractor who is now a weapons engineer in the St. Louis area, set to work. Under the auspices of a national group called the Oath Keepers, Mr. Andrews accelerated plans to recruit and organize private security details for businesses in Ferguson, which are receiving the services for free. The volunteers, who are sometimes described as a citizen militia — but do not call themselves that — have taken up armed positions on rooftops here on recent nights.

“It’s really a broad group of citizens, and I’m sure their motivations are all different,” said Mr. Andrews, who is in his 50s. “In many of them, there’s probably a sense of patriotism. But I think in most of them, there’s probably something that they probably don’t even recognize: that we have a moral obligation to protect the weakest among us. When we see these violent people, these arsonists and anarchists, attacking, it just pokes at you in a deep place.”
On its website, Oath Keepers released a recruiting message to “all skilled veterans and patriots” and asked them to “grab your gear and start rolling toward Ferguson.” The post listed nine types of people the group was seeking, including paramedics, police officers, “private drone operators” and videographers who could “film any encounters with looters.”

Right. The only thing those poor people in Ferguson had to protect them were the city, county and state police and the National Guard. Thank goodness the cavalry came to town. And with loaded guns, ready to start shooting, This fellow does say he weeded out racists which is nice. I wonder if he weeded out trigger-happy yahoos?

The police didn't want them there and the Oath Keepers ended up protesting the police. Seriously. The good news is that none of them got violent or started looting. But then, they were the good guys. Right? Weren't they?

What a mess ...

Yo Nino, what say you now?

by digby

What's the deal here?

Antonin Scalia, explicitly laid out the role of grand juries in the 1992 Supreme Court case United States v. Williams, and it is in stark contrast with what McCulloch did. Scalia wrote:

"It is the grand jury’s function not ‘to enquire … upon what foundation [the charge may be] denied,’ or otherwise to try the suspect’s defenses, but only to examine ‘upon what foundation [the charge] is made’ by the prosecutor. Respublica v. Shaffer, 1 Dall. 236 (O. T. Phila. 1788); see also F. Wharton, Criminal Pleading and Practice § 360, pp. 248-249 (8th ed. 1880). As a consequence, neither in this country nor in England has the suspect under investigation by the grand jury ever been thought to have a right to testify or to have exculpatory evidence presented.

The passage was first highlighted by attorney Ian Samuel, a former clerk to Justice Scalia.

But perhaps those rules don't apply to police officers?
OMG Shower it on the Admiralty!

by digby

Who knew?

QOTD: Rich Lowry

by digby

Breaking: Rich Lowry was on a ride-along with Darren Wilson the day he shot Mike Brown and knows exactly what happened. And there's a lesson to be learned:

But what I really object to is you can discuss all of these problems, but let's not pretend that this particular incident was something it wasn't. It you look at the most credible evidence, the lessons are really basic. Don't rob a convenience store. Don't fight a policeman when he's stopped you and try to take his gun and when he yells at you to stop with is gun drawn, just stop and none of this would have happened.

These are the undisputed facts, according to Lowry. And these "facts" prove that the unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, deserved to be summarily executed.

That's the authoritarian mindset of a whole lot of Americans. And it's very, very creepy.


"We always worried this would happen" Part XXX

by digby

Forget the shooting of an unarmed man. Let's talk about the reaction to it instead. That seems to be the M.O. of the right when it comes to dealing with Ferguson and the hideous underbelly of American racism. Elias Isquith at Salon talked a bit about this last week:

From the very beginning, before St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch had uttered the first word of his defensive and dissembling speech, the fix was in. The conspiracy this time was not to protect Officer Darren Wilson from standing trial for the killing of Michael Brown, though that was certainly related. This time, the conspiracy was to organize the announcement of Wilson’s exoneration in as provocative a way as possible. The ultimate goal was to manipulate the public and the press into forgetting the real story of Ferguson — of police brutality and racial injustice — and bickering about the morality of rioting instead.

At the very least, that’s the impression I’ve had throughout the Ferguson controversy, especially as the wait for news from the grand jury dragged on, and as the county’s offices began leaking pro-Wilson factoids like a sieve. And after witnessing last night’s spectacle, which was preceded by multiple delays and conspicuous readying of the state’s police forces, I’m no less convinced that the powers that be in Missouri approached the Wilson verdict with little concern for accountability or justice. All they wanted was to improve the Ferguson power structure’s battered images — not by doing good, but by making the protesters look even worse. It’s a tried and tested strategy; as Rick Perlstein has documented, it helped make Richard Nixon president.

Now why would they want to provoke violence --- or rather, why would they want to create the impression that there was out of control violence?

As Isquith says, it has been a very useful political misdirection for a very long time. Stoking fear of a group which has many good reasons to be angry (and everyone knows it) has a long history in this country.

I wrote about this in the wake of Katrina:

Monday, September 05, 2005

We Always Worried This Would Happen

by digby
Spreading the poison of bigotry

BATON ROUGE, La. -- They locked down the entrance doors Thursday at the Baton Rouge hotel where I'm staying alongside hundreds of New Orleans residents driven from their homes by Hurricane Katrina.

"Because of the riots," the hotel managers explained. Armed Gunmen from New Orleans were headed this way, they had heard.

"It's the blacks," whispered one white woman in the elevator. "We always worried this would happen."

I had the misfortune to be around some bigots this week-end as I watched the footage from New Orleans. I hadn't heard some of this stuff so frankly admitted since I was a kid (when I heard it a lot.) The twisted, subterranean, politically incorrect world of racism has reared its ugly head. 

This is just the latest chapter in the oldest story in America. We should be aware of it and understand it. And we should also be glad that it isn't worse because in the past it certainly was. 

Ever since 1791, there have been white Americans who get very nervous when they see a large number of angry black people in one place. That was the year that Haiti's slaves rebelled and killed almost every Frenchman on the island. The fear of slave revolt --- black revolt --- entered the consciousness of the American lizard brain and has never left. From Gabriel Prosser to Nat Turner to Malcolm X to Stokely Carmichael and the long hot summers of 66 and 67, notions of barbaric vengeance being wreaked upon unsuspecting white people has lurked in our racist subconscious. During slavery it was the immoral institution itself combined with horrible inhumane treatment. After the civil war it was the knowledge of seething anger at Jim Crow. During the 60's the anger became explicit and words like "by any means necessary" reached deep into the American psyche and fueled the backlash against the civil rights movement --- and set the conditions for the Republican dominance of politics today. 

Race is America's deepest psychic wound that festers in different ways over and over again. It has lost much of its original blazing pain, but it is still there, buried and waiting to come to the surface. 

The memories of Nat Turner are still fresh to many for whom the Lost Cause is their defining cultural benchmark:

Starting with a trusted few fellow slaves, the insurgency ultimately numbered more than 40 slaves and free blacks, mostly on horseback. The rebels traveled from house to house, freeing slaves and killing all the whites they could find; men, women and children alike. In all 55 whites were killed in the revolt.

In total, 55 blacks suspected of having been involved in the uprising were killed. In the aftermath, hundreds of blacks, many of whom had nothing to do with the rebellion, were beaten, tortured and murdered by hysterical white mobs.

In the summer of 67, the cities of this country went up in flames. The rhetoric was the same as what we heard coming from the right this past week. Peggy Noonan suggested that looters be summarily shot. And, in that summer of fire, they were. In large numbers. Only, it turned out, they weren't necessarily looters or rioters --- they were just black. Ordinary people, housewives, kids were gunned down by renegade cops and national guard who were given orders to shoot to kill. Every african american killed by police that summer became a symbol of collective punishment. If you were black, you could be asked to pay with your life for the sins of other blacks. That's just the way it worked. 

In Rick Perlstein's (as yet unpublished) new book, Nixonland which I've had the privilege to read a bit of, this is the real crucible of the 1960's. Here is just a little bit of what happened in Newark that long hot summer after the cops took off the gloves and started doing what Peggy Noonan and Jonah Goldberg have been agitating for this past week in New Orleans: 

"The press was interested in making the carnage make sense. A turkey shoot of grandparents and 10-year-olds did not make sense. The New York Daily News ran an "investigation" of the death of the Newark fire captain [killed by police] and called it "The Murder of Mike Moran." The Washington Post left his cause of death as more or less a blank. The alternative--that when law enforcement spent days spraying ... rounds of ammunition, more or less at random, even white people can get killed--seemed too horrifying for mainstream ideology to contemplate. Twelve-year-old Joey Bass, in dirty jeans and scuffed sneakers, his own blood trickling down the street, lay splayed across the cover of the July 28 Life. The feature inside constituted a sort of visual and verbal legal brief for why such accidents might have been excusable. The opening spread showed a man with a turban wrapped around his head loading a Mauser by a window with the caption, "The targets were Negro snipers, like the one above." In actual fact the photo had been staged by a blustering black nationalist by the name of Colonel Hassan, what the copy claimed was an upper-floor vantage onto the streets actually a first-floor room overlooking a trash-strewn back yard. "The whole time we were in Newark we never saw what you would call a violent black man," Life photographer Bud Lee later recalled. "The only people I saw who were violent were the police."

Here is a link to Bud Lee's famous photograph of Joey Bass.

Today the NY Times reports this about snipers:
In a city racked by violence for a week, there was yet another shootout on Sunday. Contractors for the Army Corps of Engineers came under fire as they crossed a bridge to work on a levee and police escorts shot back, killing three assailants and a fourth in a later gunfight. A fifth suspect was wounded and captured. There was no explanation for it, only the numbing facts.
Perlstein reports on this incident from Newark:
And around 4 pm a group of citizens were milling around outside front of the Scudder Homes housing project off Springfield when three police cars turned the corner. The crowd assumed the police must be firing blanks at them,until a .38 caliber bullet ripped through Virgil Harrison's right forearm.

Men took off their undershirts to wave them as white flags. The cops just kept on shooting. They said they were looking for a sniper on the upper floors of the building. But they sprayed their shots at ground level. That was how Rufus Council, 35, Oscar Hill, 50, and Virgil's father Isaac "UncleDaddy" Harrison, 72, and perhaps Robert Lee Martin, 22, and Cornelius Murray, 28, lost their lives. Oscar Hill was wearing his American Legion jacket. Robert Lee Martin's family reported that money was taken from his body. Murray's body was missing $126 and a ring.

There indeed were three snipers in Scudder Homes. But they began their shooting in response to these fusillades. They killed a police detective, Fred Toto, 33, a father of three, about on hour later, though in later testimony police claimed the order of the shootings was reversed.
I'm not saying that's what happened in New Orleans in the incident I reference above --- or any others. I don't know the facts. I am saying that's the kind of thing that tends to happen when rumor and paranoia get out of hand. 

Here's the Council of Conservative Citizen's web site:
Updates! Eyewitness accounts report that at least six people have been murdered inside the superdome. One dozen or more have been raped. Most of the rape victims are very young. A seven year old girl, an eight year old boy, and numerous teenage girls. The US media is extremely reluctant to report any of this because of political correctness!
Yet this doctor who was ministering to the sick in the Superdome reports nothing like this: 
Perhaps it's the stench that Dr. Kevin Stephens will remember the most.
It was a stench that was a gumbo of human waste, sweat, and despair.
For four days, Stephens, the Health Department director in New Orleans, administered to the sick in the Superdome, his primary patients being those in wheelchairs and nonambulatory. He watched conditions deteriorate from one of calmness on the eve of Hurricane Katrina crippling the city, to one of frustration by the time he was evacuated to the adjacent New Orleans Arena on Wednesday. He was taken to Baton Rouge on Thursday.


"I never felt threatened and I walked around the entire place," Stephens said. "I was talking to people, administering first aid. But people were ready to get out of there. The conditions were horrid and horrible. The stench was unbearable. If we had electricity, it would have been so much better."
Here's a report from last Friday:
“This place is going to look like Little Somalia,” Brig. Gen. Gary Jones, commander of the Louisiana National Guard’s Joint Task Force told Army Times Friday as hundreds of armed troops under his charge prepared to launch a massive citywide security mission from a staging area outside the Louisiana Superdome.
In Detroit during the riots there in 1967, Perlstein reports:
"I'm gonna shoot at anything that moves and that is black" an arriving National Guardsman declared.

(He also reports that the federal government and state blame game almost perfectly mirrors the current crisis. When things are hurtling out of control, politicians will dither until they figure out what the play is, I guess. Too bad about the dead bodies.) 

The story to which I linked at the beginning of this post concludes with this: 
By Thursday, local TV and radio stations in Baton Rouge—the only ones in the metro area still able to broadcast—were breezily passing along reports of cars being hijacked at gunpoint by New Orleans refugees, riots breaking out in the shelters set up in Baton Rouge to house the displaced, and guns and knives being seized.

Scarcely any of it was true—the police, for example, confiscated a single knife from a refugee in one Baton Rouge shelter. There were no riots in Baton Rouge. There were no armed hordes.

But all of it played directly into the darkest prejudices long held against the hundreds of thousands of impoverished blacks who live "down there," in New Orleans, that other world regarded by many white suburbanites—indeed, many people across the rest of the state—as a dangerous urban no-go area.

Now the floods were pushing tens of thousands of those inner-city residents deep into Baton Rouge and beyond. The TV pictures showed vast throngs of black people who had been trapped in downtown New Orleans disgorging out of rescue trucks and helicopters to be ushered onto buses headed west on Interstate Highway 10. The nervousness among many of the white evacuees in my hotel was palpable.

It's that last that we need to look for now. The evacuees are a diaspora all over the country. They are "infiltrating" a bunch of cities and towns in large numbers. Many whites fear blacks in large numbers, especially those from the big city, those who are desperate. Most especially, they fear those who are angry. (Why if they get it in their heads to be mad about how they were left behind to die like animals, who knows what will happen? Lock the doors!) 

I don't honestly think there is any racist conspiracy at work. There doesn't need to be. All it takes is a reactivation of long held racist beliefs and attitudes --- attitudes that led the president to say that they had "secured" the convention center on Friday night --- which we all saw in that amazing FoxNews footage actually meant that the desperate survivors had been locked inside the sweltering hellhole. It was the attitude that had tourists staying at the Hyatt hotel being given special dispensation to go to the head of the lines at the Superdome. It was the attitude that made my racist companions disgusted by the "animals" at the convention center because they were living in filth fail to grasp that these people had been expecting to be rescued at any moment for more than four days. 

It's that attitude that led these people to talk endlessly about rape with lurid imagery and breathless, barely contained excitement. This too is part of the American lizard brain. 

I have no doubt that there was criminality on the streets of New Orleans. When the law disappears, that's what happens. But when you looks closely at our history you see that whenever large numbers of african americans are featured, this is the kind of thing that is said and thought and done. It doesn't mean that we shouldn't believe it or that criminals shouldn't be brought to justice. But our history suggests that when we hear reports of cops gunning down looters, snipers and rapists in the street, we should at least maintain a normal skepticism. Far too often in our history it has been shown later that things were not as they seemed at the time. 

*Note: As we all know now, the incident at the bridge was definitely not what it seemed at the time:

The Danziger Bridge shootings were police shootings that took place on September 4, 2005, at the Danziger Bridge in New Orleans, Louisiana. Six days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, members of the city's police department killed two people: 17-year-old James Brissette and 40-year-old Ronald Madison. Four other people were wounded. All victims were unarmed. Madison, a mentally disabled man, was shot in the back. New Orleans police fabricated a cover-up story for their crime, falsely reporting that seven police officers responded to a police dispatch reporting an officer down, and that at least four people were firing weapons at the officers upon their arrival.

On August 5, 2011, a federal jury in New Orleans convicted five police officers of myriad charges related to the cover-up and deprivation of civil rights.

On September 17, 2013, following a yearlong probe into the defendants' claims, Englehardt vacated Bowen, Faulcon, Gisevius, Villavaso and Kaufman's convictions and ordered a new trial. In his order, Englehardt cited what he called "highly unusual, extensive and truly bizarre actions" by prosecutors—specifically, leaks to certain media outlets and comments that were posted by members of the U.S. Attorney's Office in online forums.[4] The probe revealed that Perricone had made numerous posts attacking the NOPD as early as 2008, and had also made posts urging witnesses to join Lohman in pleading guilty. It also revealed that Perricone and Justice Department official Karla Dobinski had made posts regarding trial testimony while the trial was underway. Dobinski was the head of a Justice Department "taint team" that was to help ensure testimony Bowen gave to the state grand jury wasn't used improperly.

And on and on and on ...



Let's talk

by Tom Sullivan

Nicholas Kristof this morning calls for an American Truth and Reconciliation Commission in "When Whites Just Don’t Get It, Part 5." He cites most of the articles I had collected to write about race anyway, so as he says, let's talk.

We had an experience recently that showed us just how much we don't get it. Commenting on Ta-Nehisi Coates' stunning "The Case for Reparations," I wrote:

On a long drive in the last year or so, we were trading notes with a friend about where we were born, how long we had lived in North Carolina, and something about our family history. It was all pretty light conversation until our friend remarked that her knowledge of family history went back only as far as her great-grandparents in the Caribbean. She didn’t have to explain why. Because before that was Africa.

In white America many take pride or at least an interest in family history. We mostly take it for granted. I certainly did. What jerked us up short was realizing that our friend didn’t have one and why.

Three-quarters of whites have only white friends, Kristof begins, one big reason "we are often clueless." Then there is the everyday racial profiling we never see. Like being followed around by security in a department store, as our friend experiences, or the professor falsely accused of shoplifting in a chain store here last year. Kristof writes:

“In the jewelry store, they lock the case when I walk in,” a 23-year-old black man wrote in May 1992. “In the shoe store, they help the white man who walks in after me. In the shopping mall, they follow me.”

He described an incident when he was stopped by six police officers who detained him, with guns at the ready, and treated him for 30 minutes as a dangerous suspect.

That young man was future Senator Cory Booker, who had been a senior class president at Stanford University and was a newly selected Rhodes Scholar. Yet our law enforcement system reduced him to a stereotype — so young Booker sat trembling and praying that he wouldn’t be shot by the police.

This kind of underground railroading is invisible to a white America where "racism is over" is the new "I have a black friend." This is the era of racism without racists.

Yet ProPublica reports that young black men are 21 times more likely to be killed by police than young whites. And we can watch as police seconds after arriving gun down 12 year-old Tamir Rice, but merely chase down a large, white adult who fights with two officers even after being tased.

Kristof continues:

White Americans may protest that our racial problems are not like South Africa’s. No, but the United States incarcerates a higher proportion of blacks than apartheid South Africa did. In America, the black-white wealth gap today is greater than it was in South Africa in 1970 at the peak of apartheid.

Most troubling, America’s racial wealth gap, pay gap and college education gap have all widened in the last few decades.

This country needs to address the problem with something more than categorical claims of color blindness, and more self-aware and coherent than Chief Justice John Roberts', "the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race." Somebody is in denial and that somebody is us.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Saturday Night at the Movies

Popsicle toes: Antarctica-a Year on Ice

By Dennis Hartley

For decades now, my long-time Alaskan friends and I have speculated as to why no one has ever thought to produce a documentary about the unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience shared by the thousands of men and women who worked on the massive Trans-Alaska Pipeline construction project back in the 1970s. From 1975-1977, I worked as a laborer on the project (that's right...Fairbanks Local #942, baby!), doing 6-to-10 week stints in far-flung locales with exotic handles like Coldfoot, Old Man, Happy Valley, and the ever-popular Pump Station #3 (now that was one cold motherfucker). These remote work camps, frequently the only bastions of "civilization" for hundreds of square miles in all directions, developed their own unique culture...part moon base, part Dodge City. It's a vibe that is tough to explain to anyone who wasn't actually there. Traditionally, I usually cite the sci-fi "western" Outland as the closest approximation. However, going forward I think I'll defer to Anthony Powell's Antarctica: a Year on Ice.

For once, someone has made a documentary about Earth's southernmost polar region that contains barely a penguin in sight...or any sign of Morgan Freeman, for that matter. OK, there's a wee bit of penguin footage, but no more than maybe 2 minutes total out of a 90-minute film, tops. And please know that I have nothing but the utmost respect for Mr. Freeman, one of America's finest actors, and his undeniably mellifluous pipes...but enough with the voiceovers, already (leave some scraps for Martin Sheen, for god's sake). The narration is from the filmmaker himself, who toiled 15 years on this labor of love.

While there are breathtaking time-lapse sequences (reminiscent of Koyaanisqatsi) capturing the otherworldly beauty of the continent, this is not so much standard-issue nature documentary as it is a kitchen sink social study of Antarctica’s (for wont of a better descriptive) “working class”. These are people with the decidedly less glamorous gigs than the scientists, biologists and geophysicists who usually get to hog the spotlight on the National Geographic Channel. These are the administrators, general store clerks, culinary staff, warehouse workers, electricians, mechanics, drivers, heavy equipment operators, etc. who help keep the infrastructure viable. Powell’s film not only serves to remind us of the universality of human psychology in extreme survival situations, but is imbued with a hopeful utopian undercurrent, best summarized by the very first line of Article 1 of the Antarctic Treaty: “Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only.”

Amen…and please pass the bunny boots.

Previous posts with related themes:

Saturday Night at the Movies review archives

He was afraid for his life

by digby

... so he shot her:
An off-duty cop got upset at a woman for cutting him off and allegedly fired his gun into her window, hitting her in the head.

Now Houston Police Officer Kenneth Caplan is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, according to Click2Houston.

The woman, whose name was not released by the station, said the bullet grazed the left side of her head, allowing her to avoid a major injury.

"I feel like I got a taste of death, honestly," she told the station. "My heart was slowing down and I couldn't really breathe."

The incident took place on Nov. 11. The woman said Caplan cut her off so she did the same to him. That got him so upset, she said, that he pulled out his gun and fired into her vehicle.
Hey, she cut him off. She could have killed him. After all, she was armed with a 2,000 pound weapon --- her car. He was just trying to defend himself and the public.

What, that doesn't make any sense? Why not?

Boxcar crowd

by digby

I don't think even hardcore lefties use language this evocative to describe the xenophobes:

Mr. Boehner urged patience, saying there was a “narrow path” to get something done, despite opposition in his party from what Republican aides call the “boxcars crowd,” a reference to conservative members who favor deportation for most of the 11 million.

Wow. That's harsh ...

I knew Laura Ingraham and her pals all would like to see us build a Berlin Wall at the border but I didn't know they wanted to round up undocumented workers and load them into boxcars. Although now that I think about it, it makes perfect sense what with all the talk of them "destroying our way of life" and "ruining the culture" etc, etc.

"A weak man with his strong weapons" who "feels himself in danger"

by digby

This piece by Colbert King about Ferguson and the history of "justice" in black communities is a must read. I won't ruin it for you except to take this one piece and just put it out there for posterity:

Of course, the story of blacks not getting justice didn’t start with Michael Brown or Trayvon Martin. That history is long, thus the outrage. Sociologist Gunnar Myrdal, writing in the 1940s, described what communities such as Ferguson encounter: a “weak man with his strong weapons — backed by all the authority of white society — [who] is now sent to be the white law in the Negro neighborhood. There he is away from home.”

“The white policeman in the Negro community . . . feels himself in danger.”

He then excerpts some of Darren Wilson's testimony about Ferguson. Very interesting, very insightful.

A twitter convo about torture

by digby

So, Chuck Todd had a "tweet the press" with Katherine Hawkins of @openthegov about the Torture Report. Since very few people will see it, I thought I'd just copy some of the highlights here.

Todd should have her on the show rather than the usual pundit gasbags babbling boring talking points for the hundredth timeB but this is better than nothing and I'll take what I can get.

Todd assumes that nobody will give a damn about this. And he's probably right --- but it's because the press is going to treat this as business as usual, something only "foreigners" care about apparently, so they won't give this the treatment it requires. And we will end up taking one more step toward normalizing torture. Again.

Seriously, if nobody is punished and the elites act like this is no big deal, what do you suppose will happen the next time the government determines we need to "take the gloves off?"