Posts from October 2007

Sauce for the goose

In the federal government’s ongoing efforts to salvage COINTELPRO from the dustbin of history, the House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 1955, a bill that would, if it also passes the Senate, create a new National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism and a Center of Excellence for the Study of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism in the United States (sic!), which would study the social, criminal, political, psychological, and economic roots of violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism in the United States and methods that can be utilized by Federal, State, local, and tribal homeland security officials to mitigate violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism.

Here are the definitions for the unwieldy jargon used in the bill:

(2) VIOLENT RADICALIZATION–The term violent radicalization means the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change.

(3) HOMEGROWN TERRORISM–The term homegrown terrorism means the use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual born, raised, or based and operating primarily within the United States or any possession of the United States to intimidate or coerce the United States government, the civilian population of the United States, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.

(4) IDEOLOGICALLY BASED VIOLENCE–The term ideologically based violence means the use, planned use, or threatened use of force or violence by a group or individual to promote the group or individual’s political, religious, or social beliefs.

Well, O.K., fine. If that is what the Center for Excellence &c. is going to study, then they may as well start with the worst offenders. May I suggest that they begin with studying the social, criminal, political, psychological, and economic roots of the extremist propaganda coming out of Office of National Drug Control Policy, which promotes the use of force or violence by armed narcs to promote the Drug Warriors’ political and social beliefs against the will of the civilian population? Or perhaps the Internal Revenue Service, which routinely engages in the use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence to intimidate or coerce the civilian population of the United States, in furtherance of the United States government’s political objectives with respect to the war on Iraq, Social Security, corporate welfare, government schooling, the drug war, etc.? Or perhaps the Department of Defense, which has used repeated, massive, and merciless ideologically-based violence in order to promote the federal government’s ideology with respect to parliamentary government, nuclear disarmament, etc., etc., etc., in countries all over the world?

I fully expect that they will get right on it. After all, you’d hardly expect a double-standard from the State when it comes to ideologically-based violence.

(Story thanks to Stephanie McMillan 2007-10-28.)

For her own good

Someone must have slandered Jean Gambell, for one morning in 1937, without having done anything truly wrong, she was arrested. Gambell, a poor working girl in England, was falsely convicted of stealing two and a half shillings from her boss. She didn’t steal the money, and in fact the money was later found, but by then it was too late. She had already been convicted, and, more to the point, she had already come under the eye of State psychiatry. Declared feeble-minded, this fifteen year old girl was locked up in English psychoprisons for seventy years over a trivial crime that she never committed. Her family desperately tried to get her released, but could not. Eventually she simply disappeared into the system, and her brothers no longer even knew whether she was alive or dead. Jean Gambell herself repeatedly told her prison guards in a care home that she had family she could go to, but they kept her locked up, because she had been officially declared crazy and stupid and could, therefore, be dismissed as a liar. All for her own good.

Jean Gambell finally escaped the talons of the therapeutic State last month–at the age of 85, with a lifetime stolen from her–when her brother finally learned that she was alive and confined in Macclesfield Mews Care Home.

Seventy years locked up in institutions hardly seems to be a punishment that befits the crime of stealing half-a-crown.

However, it is just such a fate that befell Jean Gambell when at the age of 15, in 1937, she was falsely accused of stealing 2s 6d (12.5p) from the doctor’s surgery where she worked as a cleaner.

She was sectioned under the 1890 Lunacy Act and even though the money was later found, she has been moved from mental institution to mental institution. More recently, she went into a care home and has been lost to her family, who thought she was dead.

But last month, by chance, her brother stumbled across correspondence which led to the discovery of her existence and the family was reunited.

Her brother David Gambell, 63, who still lives in his mother’s old home in Wirral, Merseyside, received a questionnaire addressed to his mother from Macclesfield Mews Care Home.

I thought it was just a survey for old people and I was about to throw it away when I saw Jean’s name pencilled in on one corner, he said yesterday.

I couldn’t believe it. I suddenly realised that my sister was still alive. I rang the care home straight away and they confirmed that our sister was there. He and his brother Alan, who had last seen their sister as small children when she was allowed to visit home with two wardens as guards, travelled to the Macclesfield home.

They were told by staff that their 85-year-old sister was deaf, could only communicate in writing and was very unlikely to remember them.

A little old lady on walking sticks came in, said Alan. She looked at us and cried out: Alan…David. Then she put her arms around us. It was very emotional.

I am sure that what has kept her going all these years was the challenge of proving to the authorities that she had a family. The trouble was, nobody would listen to her.

The brothers spent much of their childhood in orphanages because their parents were so poor. They said that they had later discovered that their father had tried for years to get Jean freed after she was put in Cranage Hall mental hospital in Macclesfield for being of feeble mind, but was unsuccessful because her records had been mislaid.

She spent years, lost in a maze of instutitons and care homes, trying to convince people in authority that she had a family. But nobody would believe her.

— David Sapsted, The Telegraph (2007-09-29): Falsely accused woman freed after 70 years

There is one thing that is even more terrifying than the savage cruelty of the hangman State, and that is the dispassionate sadism of psychiatric State–the therapist armed with the law, the straight-jacket, the lobotomy, and a near-absolute entitlement to take your freedom and destroy your life, and call that care for your professionally-reckoned best interests.

(Link thanks to Austro-Athenian Empire 2007-10-21: The Coldest of All Cold Monsters and Anthony Gregory @ LewRockwell.com Blog 2007-10-21: Innocent Woman Freed After 70 Years.)

Corrections officers

In Florida, a white prison gang brutally beat a Black 14-year-old named Martin Lee Anderson to death last year. Anderson had been sentenced to a juvenile boot camp prison in rural Florida as punishment for taking his grandmother’s car for a joyride and then violating the terms of his probation. Within hours of his arrival, gang members surrounded him, held him down, punched him, kicked him, and, while restraining him, held hands over his mouth for up to five minutes at a stretch. They went on beating him for half an hour. They kept on beating him even as he lay limp and unable to move. The attack was captured on tape in a surveillance video, and the autopsy report concluded that Anderson died of suffocation. But just a couple weeks ago, in spite of the video, in spite of the report, the thugs who murdered Martin Lee Anderson were acquitted by an all-white jury in Panama City, Florida. Why? Because when they battered Martin Lee Anderson to death, the gang colors they were wearing looked like this:

Here is a photo of five uniformed prison guards holding down a young black man.

An uneasy sense of dèjá vu swept over Florida last week after an all-white jury acquitted seven juvenile boot camp guards and a nurse charged with aggravated manslaughter in the death of a black teen last year.

The shocking verdict came down despite a half hour of videotape that showed the guards hitting and kicking the 14-year-old, Martin Lee Anderson, and holding their hands over his mouth for as long as five minutes at a time, while the nurse stood by and watched. The jury seemed persuaded by the first and widely discredited autopsy report that blamed the boy’s death on a sickle-cell condition, even though a second autopsy ordered by the state had ruled Anderson died from suffocation (the Justice Department has since announced it will investigate whether federal civil rights violations charges should be brought in the case). It’s wrong! Anderson’s mother, Gina Jones, shouted as she stormed out of the Panama City courtroom after the verdict was read.

— Tim Padgett, TIME 2007-10-17: What’s Wrong With Florida’s Prisons?

(Story thanks to Alas, A Blog 2007-10-25 and The Bias Committee 2007-10-18.)

There’s more. Because there is always fucking more. For example, there are the repeated efforts by state and local officials to cover up the murder. Or there are the other cases.

The Anderson decision was reminiscent of another bewildering verdict five years ago, when three Florida state prison guards charged with stomping 36-year-old inmate Frank Valdes to death in his cell in 1999 were acquitted — even though the guards’ boot prints were found all over his back.

… The state is facing lawsuits alleging that its prisons subject too many inmates, including the mentally ill, to a prisoner “warehousing” culture of unlawfully extreme isolation and deprivation, usually with little or no rehabilitation efforts to prevent recidivism. Other suits decry what one calls excessive as well as malicious and sadistic use of pepper spray and other chemicals to keep mentally ill prisoners under control. In many cases the sprays have burned off inmates’ skin, according to the suit. Florida prisons still need to end this kind of outrageous conduct, says Randall Berg, executive director of the Florida Justice Institute in Miami, which is participating in a suit filed against the state’s current Corrections head, James McDonough, along with other department officials.

… In June of 2003, Omar Paisley, 17, an inmate at a juvenile detention center in Miami that was filled 135% beyond capacity, died when nurses ignored his pleas for help after his appendix burst. The nurses were later charged with manslaughter and third-degree murder, to which they have pleaded not guilty, and their trials are pending. Prosecutors at the trial of Valdes — who was awaiting execution for murdering a Palm Beach County corrections officer in 1987 — contended that one of the reasons he was beaten was the letters he’d begun writing to the media about abuses at Florida State Prison under its then warden, James Crosby. That made it all the more surprising when Bush appointed Crosby secretary of the state’s Corrections Department in 2003. Then last year Crosby was convicted after a sweeping federal probe of corruption inside the state’s prisons — and he’s now serving eight years in prison himself.

Whenever these kind of atrocities happen, mainstream media sources routinely decry and marginalize them in the same breath, by describing the sadism and the violence as abuses within the prison system, rot within the corrections culture, etc. This admits the problem while not really taking it seriously. In fact, intimidation and violence are the currency of control in prisons as we know them, and these practices bear no meaningful relationship whatsoever to any defense against imminent threats: convicts are imprisoned and coerced whether or not their crimes were violent, whether or not their crimes were even particularly serious, and whether or not there is any realistic chance that they will pose an ongoing threat to anybody in the future, because the hangman State exercises its power in the name of after-the-fact deterrence of unrelated parties, in the name of rehabilitation, and sometimes in the name of punishment and vengeance. This is not a matter of some fundamentally humane institution being perverted, under the influence of corrupt individuals or a corrupt internal culture, into an abuse of power. The thing itself is the abuse.

Related:

White liberals

Here is something very true from an excellent post by Kai at Zuky:

As I’ve often noted, many white liberals remain oblivious to the depth and breadth of anti-racist work, opting to hide behind the delusion that anyone who votes for Democrats and doesn’t have a pointy hood in the closet is a good guy in the movement toward greater social justice — as though the Democratic Party is some bastion of progressivism and not one of two hands strangling US polity on behalf of the ruling class and the corporate-political establishment which sponsors its power. Some might be surprised to learn that when people of color talk about racism amongst ourselves, white liberals often receive a far harsher skewering than white conservatives or overt racists. Many of my POC friends would actually prefer to hang out with an Archie Bunker-type who spits flagrantly offensive opinions, rather than a colorblind liberal whose insidious paternalism, dehumanizing tokenism, and cognitive indoctrination ooze out between superficially progressive words. At least the former gives you something to work with, something above-board to engage and argue against; the latter tacitly insists on imposing and maintaining an illusion of non-racist moral purity which provides little to no room for genuine self-examination or racial dialogue.

Countless blogospheric discussions on racism amply demonstrate the manner in which many white liberals start acting victimized and angry if anyone attempts to burst their racism-free bubble, oftentimes inexplicably bringing up non-white friends, lovers, adopted children, relatives, ancestors; dismissing, belittling, or obtusely misreading substantive historically-informed analysis of white supremacism as either divisive rhetoric or flaming; downplaying racism as an interpersonal social stigma and bad PR, rather than an overarching system of power under which we all live and which has socialized us all; and threatening to walk away from discussion if persons of color do not comform to a narrow white-centered comfort zone. Such people aren’t necessarily racists in the hate-crime sense of the word, but they are usually acting out social dynamics created by racism and replicating the racist social relationships they were conditioned since birth to replicate.

Of course not all white liberals are like this. I’d say that a significant minority of white liberals are actually interested in learning about anti-racism once properly exposed to it. This requires enough humility to admit that people of color have something to teach white folks, a concept that many whites struggle with because racism teaches us that whiteness is the seat of authoritative knowledge, while brownness is the repository of murky musical mysticism which whiteness may dip into at will for spiritual support and servile entertainment. Nevertheless, some white folks manage to claw and bootstrap their way out of their own conditioning, opening their hearts and minds to previously unseen worlds from which the voices and stories of people of color emerge; studying and observing the profound effects of racist society on their own perceptual prisms and on the shape of the world; and consciously, steadily working to counteract those effects. Such people become allies to people of color.

From what I can see, though, a solid majority of white liberals maintain a fairly hostile posture toward anti-racist discourse and critique, while of course adamantly denying this hostility. Many white liberals consider themselves rather enlightened for their ability to retroactively support the Civil Rights movement and to quote safely dead anti-racist icons, even though their present-day physical, intellectual, and political orbits remain mostly segregated. They somehow take pride in being more down with the brown than their conservative brethren; indeed they exhibit a certain strange glee in highlighting and exploiting the macaca and call me moments of their political opponents. Armed with diversity soundbites and melanin-inclusive photo-ops, they seek electoral, financial, and public relations support from people of color. Yet the consistent outcome of their institution-building agendas is to deprioritize and marginalize our voices, perspectives, experiences, concerns, cultures, and initiatives. When you get right down to it, the unrecognized political reality is that most white liberals have more in common with white conservatives — social cues, family ties, cognitive biases, cultural backdrops, etc. — than they do with people of color. I’m calling this tangle of contradictions the white liberal conundrum.

— Zuky 2007-10-11: The White Liberal Conundrum

You really should read the whole thing.

(Link thanks to Jack Stephens at Alas, A Blog 2007-10-25.)

Related:

Part IV (Socialism) of Instead of a Book is now available online

As I’ve mentioned before, I have been working on an online edition of Benjamin Tucker’s Instead of a Book, by a Man Too Busy to Write One for the Fair Use Repository. Work is ongoing, and I’m pleased to announce that Part IV: Socialism is now available in full online. The articles in this section defend Tucker’s conception of socialism against critics both from the state socialist and from the anti-socialist camps; he argues that the most consistent and logical form of socialism, i.e. anarchistic socialism, in fact means radical laissez-faire in economics–voluntary socialism, based on the eradication of monopolistic legal privileges for capitalists, and the practice of bottom-up mutual aid between workers. The details are discussed more in Part II and Part III than here; his main target in Part IV are those critics who treat Socialism as if it were synonymous with State Socialism, thus making it seem as though the only options were the nationalization of all industry (passed off as if this were synonymous with Socialism), or else the perpetuation of legal privileges to the capitalist class (passed off as if this were synonymous with Free Markets). Here’s something from the first essay, Socialism: What It Is.

Do you like the word Socialism? said a lady to me the other day; I fear I do not; somehow I shrink when I hear it. It is associated with so much that is bad! Ought we to keep it?

The lady who asked this question is an earnest Anarchist, a firm friend of Liberty, and—it is almost superfluous to add—highly intelligent. Her words voice the feeling of many. But after all it is only a feeling, and will not stand the test of thought. Yes, I answered, it is a glorious word, much abused, violently distorted, stupidly misunderstood, but expressing better than any other the purpose of political and economic progress, the aim of the Revolution in this century, the recognition of the great truth that Liberty and Equality, through the law of Solidarity, will cause the welfare of each to contribute to the welfare of all. So good a word cannot be spared, must not be sacrificed, shall not be stolen.

. . .

Why, then, does my lady questioner shrink when she hears the word Socialism? I will tell her. Because a large number of people, who see the evils of usury and are desirous of destroying them, foolishly imagine they can do so by authority, and accordingly are trying to abolish privilege by centring all production and activity in the State to the destruction of competition and its blessings, to the degradation of the individual, and to the putrefaction of Society. They are well-meaning but misguided people, and their efforts are bound to prove abortive. Their influence is mischievous principally in this: that a large number of other people, who have not yet seen the evils of usury and do not know that Liberty will destroy them, but nevertheless earnestly believe in Liberty for Liberty’s sake, are led to mistake this effort to make the State the be-all and end-all of society for the whole of Socialism and the only Socialism, and, rightly horrified at it, to hold it up as such to the deserved scorn of mankind. But the very reasonable and just criticisms of the individualists of this stripe upon State Socialism, when analyzed, are found to be directed, not against the Socialism, but against the State. So far Liberty is with them. But Liberty insists on Socialism, nevertheless,—on true Socialism, Anarchistic Socialism: the prevalence on earth of Liberty, Equality, and Solidarity. From that my lady questioner will never shrink.

You can find a break-down of the essays from Fair Use Blog 2007-10-26. Read, cite, and enjoy!