Posts tagged Iran

The Police Beat

  1. Common ground. Chicago, Illinois; London, England; Tehran, Iran; and Ramat Gan, Israel. It turns out there’s one thing the governments in Iran, Israel, the U.K., and the U.S.A. can all agree on: massive police brutality against political protesters.

  2. Lausanne, Switzerland. World Radio Switzerland (2009-06-09): Perjury claim reopens police brutality case. A cop in the Swiss city of Lausanne stopped a 16 year old Eritrean immigrant twice on New Year’s eve; the second time, they decided to douse him with pepper spray and leave him out in the woods. He tried to lodge a complaint, but the local police wouldn’t accept the complaint. When the case finally got investigated and went to trial, the cop was acquitted in court because his gang-brothers lied for him on the stand. The case is back in the news because it’s been re-opened after a former cop accused them of perjuring themselves in order to cover up police brutality.

  3. Sergeant Naofumi Nomura. Okayama, Japan. A 75 year old woman recently got Served and Protected by Police Sergeant Naofumi Nomura when he stole her purse and about 10,000 yen inside it. He was arrested after two high school boys chased him down on their bicycles. (Via Reason Daily Brickbats.)

  4. Northern Territory police. Darwin, Australia. Tara Ravens, Brisbane Times (2009-06-10): Coroner slams NT police over man’s death. Northern Territory police pulled a former journalist named Greg Plasto off the street and forced him into the hospital for a mental health assessment because they thought he was acting strangely, in their arbitrary judgment, which apparently is good enough to put you in a psychoprison these days; after he had been forced to wait nearly two hours in an ambulance, he got up and said he wanted to go outside. Rather than asking him why he wanted to go outside, or just letting him get up and walk around, a gang of up to six cops tackled Plasto, who, again, had not been accused of any crime at all, then wrestled him to the ground, smashed his head into the ground, and held him down on the ground for four minutes while he turned blue and smothered to death. The coroner who reviewed the case says that the problem is that police need better training.

  5. Officer Joseph J. Rios III. Passaic, New Jersey. (Cont’d.) I previously mentioned the case of Officer Joseph J. Rios III, who was videotaped beating the hell out of a defenseless black man, over and over again, for not having zipped up his jacket on command. (Rios, formerly a counter-insurgency soldier in occupied Iraq, remained on active patrol duty while the incident was being Internally Investigated, right up until after the video evidence was released to the public, at which point the city government’s police department let him keep his job, but put him on a desk job. Then, in response to public protest, Mayor Alex Blanco had the city government’s police department give Rios a [paid vacation](http://www.northjersey.com/breakingnews/Officeraccusedofexcessiveforce_suspended.html instead. Later, in response to ongoing protests, he had it changed to an unpaid vacation.

    Officer Joseph J. Rios III has since come out with a public statement for the press, insisting that he stands by his actions; saying (through his lawyer) that There were communications by Mr. Holloway and the officer as well as an earlier encounter during the day between the men that wasn’t on the tape (apparently thinking that verbal communications might somehow — how? — justify this relentless beat-down); he asserts that he did what was proper and (what he wrongly believes to be the same thing) he did what I was trained to do. Supposing that’s true, what does that tell you about the training?

  6. Well, if you say so …. Botched SWAT raid. Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Department. Prince George’s County, Maryland. Radley Balko, Hit & Run (2009-06-20): Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Department Declares Itself Blame-Free in Cheye Calvo Raid In which the Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Department issues a report in which it is reported that the Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Department did nothing wrong in the no-knock, no-evidence SWAT raid on Cheye Calvo’s family home. (This is more or less what passes for investigation when cops commit violence against mere civilians.) Sheriff Michael Jackson says the Internal Investigation’s results are consistent with what I’ve felt all along: My deputies did their job to the fullest extent of their abilities. No doubt.

  7. Oops. Our bad. (Cont’d.) Botched SWAT raid. Mustang, Oklahoma. Six heavily-armed strangers in black bullet-proof vests stormed Terry Speck’s house back in March and, without telling her who the hell they were or what they were doing in her house, told her they were looking for her 20-year-old nephew, Cory Davis. Terrified, she tried to tell them he was in prison. They didn’t believe her, so they ransacked her house for 20 minutes before they left, without ever identifying themselves. The Specks were later able to figure out that they were police by reviewing the tapes from their home security cameras. Cory Davis had in fact been in state prison since November, but apparently when an arrest warrant on new charges was issued, none of the narcs bothered to check where he was, instead of storming first and asking questions later. Of course, for being terrorized at the hands of six heavily-armed strangers for absolutely no reason, Terry Speck got an Oops, our bad from the state. (Via Reason Daily Brickbats 2009-06-14.)

  8. Murderers and batterers on patrol. Officer Jason Thomas Anderson. Big Lake, Minnesota. I’ve remarked before on the connections between paramilitary policing and violent hypermasculinity. So I’ll just mention, here, that it turns out that when Officer Jason Thomas Anderson is not busy shooting teenage Hmong bike-riders in the back (or shooting them five more times in the chest after they’re already bleeding on the ground), he also likes to get himself arrested on domestic violence charges.

  9. Roughing up and arresting an innocent woman for filming the police. Richmond, Virginia. Richmond police were dealing with a lot of drunks down in Shockoe Bottom at 2:00am last September. Joanne Jefferson decided to observe and film how the cops were handling people in the crowd; so the cops responded by ordering her to leave, then grabbing her arm, slamming her into a wall, and then forcing her down onto the ground and arresting her for impeding traffic. The story is now in the news because the Richmond D.A. has decided to drop the charges against Ms. Jefferson. Even though filming the police on public property is not a crime, and even though the D.A. has determined that the police had absolutely no basis for arresting Ms. Jefferson, let alone grabbing her, slamming her into a wall, and forcing her down onto the ground in order to do so, he thinks that the officers did not act with excessive force. If the appropriate level of force is zero, how is this not excessive force? Nevertheless, the D.A. has stated that he sees no evidence that would support a criminal investigation of a police officer.

  10. Arresting an innocent priest for filming the police. Officer David Cari. East Haven, Connecticut. East Haven cop David Cari arrested a Roman Catholic priest, James Manship, for filming police treatment of Latino immigrants in East Haven. The police report claims that he had to be arrested for disorderly conduct and interfering with an officer because he was holding an unknown shiny silver object in his hand (with the obvious intent to suggest that the cop thought it might have been a gun) and struggled with a cop who tried to take it from him. Turns out that the video footage from the camera shows Officer David Cari asking the priest Is there a reason you have a camera on me? Manship replying I’m taking a video of what’s going on here, and Cari approaching Manship and saying, Well, I’ll tell you what I’m going to do with that camera. The police department’s lawyer says You’ve got to conclude that he was out there with a video camera in an attempt, in my view, to provoke the police to do something. (Well, whatever you want; but if cops just can’t help but do something like arrest an innocent man for a non-crime when provoked by the public they allegedly serve trying to record their behavior, then why should such dangerous thugs continue being cops?) (Via Reason Daily Brickbats 2009-06-01: Caught on Tape.)

  11. Roughing up and arresting an innocent woman for raising her voice at a police officer. Officer Bobby Wright and New Mexico State Police. Española, New Mexico. In New Mexico, a couple of State Police, responding to reports of shots fired in the area, rolled up on Dolores Jacquez, a 17 year old pregnant girl, and her boyfriend, who were sitting in a car minding their own business. They pointed automatic rifles at the two of them and ordered them to stand outside the car with their hands in the air. Her boyfriend has only one leg, which made it hard for him to do what they were ordering. Rather than acting like human beings, and in spite of the fact that neither of these kids had committed any crime, the State Police shoved the 17 year old pregnant girl and her one-legged boyfriend down to the ground. During this absolutely pointless manhandling, Jacquez spoke angrily to the officers, raising her voice while talking to them, using profanity at times; for which the State Police decided that she and her boyfriend ought to be arrested. So they shoved her into their patrol car and called up a city government cop, Officer Bobby Wright, to take her to jail. When she asked what would happen to her boyfriend, he replied Shut up, [expletive]. Then he handcuffed her to a bench at the State Police station, making the cuff so tight that it cut into the skin and left a mark on her wrist for days, refused to let her use the bathroom, and threatened to make the cuffs even tighter if she did not shut up. This complaint makes at least the fourth complaint for brutality or unlawful arrests against Officer Bobby Wright. The State Police never bothered to file any charges, because, of course, cussing at cops is not a crime. But while you can beat the rap, you can’t beat the ride, so they arrested the kids anyway, because they could. The State Public Safety Department has settled the separate lawsuit that Jacquez filed against the two State Police cops for terrorizing her, roughing her up and arresting her for speaking angrily; public servants that they are, the State Public Safety Department will be sending the bill for the settlement to a bunch of innocent taxpayers who had nothing to do with the assault or the false arrest.

  12. Four broken ribs for approaching a police officer. Modesto, California. Back in January 2007, Margaret Shepherd went out to a Modesto bar with her son to celebrate his 21st birthday. One of her son’s friends got thrown out of the bar and a scuffle appeared to break out between the bar’s security guards and some other people in the party. Ms. Shepherd, who had nothing to do with any of this, tried to approach some cops who were in the club to ask them what the hell was going on. So they broke four of her ribs, arrested her for resisting arrest, and then threw her in a paddy-wagon and refused to get her medical attention while she struggled to breathe in the back of the wagon. The story is in the news again because a jury just cleared the cops of any civil liability for this hyperviolent assault on an innocent woman who had done nothing other than try to ask the cops what was going on.

  13. Beating and pepper-spraying a man after he’s been handcuffed for arguing with a police officer. Lieutenant Chuck McBrayer and Officer Danny Williams. Valley, Alabama. Amy Weaver, Opelika-Auburn News (2009-06-09): Third claim filed against Valley, police. Valley cops Lieutenant Chuck McBrayer and Officer Danny Williams forced their way into 64 year old Joseph E. Coker’s home. Joseph E. Coker wasn’t accused of any crime; they were looking for his son, Brandon Coker. Joseph Coker and Lieutenant Chuck McBrayer got into a verbal argument, so McBrayer threatened to pepper spray him for arguing with a cop who was intruding into his own home. So McBrayer ordered Officer Danny Williams to handcuff this 64-year-old man; then, after he was already being handcuffed, Lieutenant Chuck McBrayer pepper-sprayed him in the face; then he pried open Coker’s right eye and pepper-sprayed him again, directly in the eye. Then they forced him down onto the ground and, while he was still cuffed and physically restrained, smashed his nose so hard he passed out and had to be hospitalized. After going on this unprovoked hyperviolent rampage against a 64-year-old man in his own home, McBrayer and Williams arrested Coker in the emergency room for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. This is the third claim of police brutality filed against the Valley police department in the last three months. The boss cops in Valley refuse to comment on any disciplinary actions because the incident is being Internally Investigated. (Via @InjusticeNews.)

  14. Bludgeoning a stabbing victim after he was already handcuffed to a wheelchair. Officer William Cozzi. Chicago, Illinois. In Chicago, Officer William Cozzi, a 15-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, was caught on video handcuffing a stabbing victim to a wheelchair, in the hospital emergency room, and beating him with a sap. He was called into the emergency room help the man out after he had been stabbed by a female companion. But his victim was drunk, and Cozzi was busy Investigating, so he got frustrated at the alleged beneficiary of this investigation, and decided to deal with his frustration by shackling the man to a wheelchair and beating him with a sap. Then he made up some complete lies for his police report about his victim having attacked him and hospital workers. After the video came out, Cozzi plead guilty to misdemeanor charges and got 18 months of probation.

    Later, a series of scandals over repeated and unchecked police brutality and corruption within the Chicago Police Department forced Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis to refer the case to the FBI for a federal civil rights investigation. Cozzi was just recently convicted and sentenced to three years in federal prison. In response, the Fraternal Order of Police in Chicago has made a public complaint about the fact that Cozzi will go to prison for beating the hell out of an innocent, wounded assault victim who was shackled to a wheelchair at the time, and who Cozzi was supposedly called in to Protect and Serve. Terence Gillespie, Cozzi’s defense lawyer, says that This is a message to all those officers in blue out there that after 15 years on the job you’ll get thrown under the bus.

    (See also the case of Hope Steffey for cops beating the hell out of an assault victim who gets too frustrating while the cop is doing his Investigating.)

  15. Gang-beating a man after he’s been handcuffed. Officer Brian Quilici, Officer Ronald Pilati, and Officer Jerome Volstad. Fox Lake, Illinois. Three off-duty cops — one on the Richmond city government’s police force, and two on the Spring Grove city government’s police force — went to a bar in Fox Lake to get drunk back in April 2005. Along the way they got into a verbal argument with a man named Ryan Hallett. When he tried to leave, the three cops followed him out of the bar, handcuffed him, and then beat him down to the ground while he was cuffed. Then, while Hallet was lying on the ground, one of the cops, Officer Brian Quilici, kicked him in the face so hard that he Hallett suffered a broken facial bone and later had to get multiple surgeries. Fox Lake police who responded to this mob beat-down by their gang brothers recommended that their victim, Ryan Hallet, be prosecuted, until a series of newspaper reports revealed that Officer Brian Quilici had already racked up multiple complaints for harassment, battery and disorderly conduct, somehow without charges ever having been filed against him or his job prospects having been hurt in the least. After the newspaper stories forced their hand, the State Police eventually started their own investigation, and Qulici was eventually charged and convicted of mob action, official misconduct, and obstructing justice, which got him a two-year prison sentence. His comrades-in-arms, Officer Ronald Pilati and Officer Jerome Volstad, plead guilty on misdemeanor charges. The story is in the news again for two reasons. First, because a federal jury recently imposed a $450,000 judgment against Quilici and the city government of Richmond for the beating. (The Richmond city government will, of course, force innocent taxpayers to pay for the government’s decision to keep an out-of-control hyperviolent cop on their police force after multiple complaints.) Secondly, because a state appeals court just threw out Officer Brian Quilici’s conviction, on the grounds that the judge in the original criminal trial should not have confused the jury by telling them that A police officer executing an arrest outside of his jurisdiction has no greater arrest powers than a private citizen executing a citizens’ arrest. Because arrest powers would have made it O.K. to pick a start fight, handcuff your victim, and then kick him in the face while he’s lying on the ground?

  16. Highway robbery. Officer Jonathan Lutman. Slidell, Louisiana. In Louisiana, Slidell Police Officer Jonathan Lutman repeatedly used his police car to pull over Latino drivers (whom he targeted because he thought they’d be less likely to report the stick-up) and then demanded that they hand over their wallets. When he had the wallet, he would rip out the cash and pocket it. Officer Jonathan Lutman stole about $3,000 on these highwayman traffic stops before two of his victims reported him. The story is in the news again because he plead guilty to 12 counts of malfeasance in office in May. If you or I or any other non-cop were convicted of practicing highway robbery (in the most literal sense) while armed with a dangerous weapon, we would be imprisoned at hard labor for not less than ten years and not more than ninety-nine years, without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. But since Officer Jonathan Lutman robbed people using a government-issued weapon and under color of government authority, he plead guilty to a crime that normally carries a 5 year prison sentence. And then the judge suspended the sentence, and gave Lutman probation instead, and ordered him to complete 200 hours of community service. (Via Reason Daily Brickbats: Copping a Plead.)

  17. Corporal Jason King. South Bend, Indiana. After a high-speed chase, Corporal Jason King was filmed on his dash cam beating up the Suspect Individual he was arresting, even though his victim posed no threat and was not resisting arrest. The Chief of Police in South Bend punished Corporal King by giving him a 30-day unpaid vacation and dropping his rank to patrolman.. When even the Chief of Police concedes that he was needlessly assaulting and battering a man who posed no physical threat, why isn’t Corporal Jason King going to jail?

  18. Officer John Mailander and Officer Mersed Dautovic. Des Moines, Iowa. Two Des Moines city government cops were responding to an unrelated emergency call back in September; a car with a black couple in it failed to immediately yield, so instead of driving on to the emergency, the cops stopped the car, screamed orders and pulled the driver, Erin Evans, out of the car, and, when her boyfriend, Octavius Bonds, tried to get them to stop assaulting her, blinded him with pepper spray, and then beat him black and blue with batons, breaking his left hand and his right arm, and cracking his head open with a gash so big it took eight staples to close. Then they lied about it in their police report to try and cover up their brutality. The story is in the news again now because Des Moines Police Chief Judy Bradshaw just recently fired the two cops responsible for this out-of-control assault on helpless victims who had not committed any crime. So, great, they lost their jobs. Why aren’t these dangerous assailants in jail?

  19. Quid custodiet…? Officer Paul Abel. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh cop Paul Abel was an eight year veteran of the police force, and also a former counter-insurgency soldier in the U.S. government’s war on Iraq. He had already racked up three outstanding complaints against him for brutality and filing false police reports on the night he went out to celebrate his wife’s birthday. He decided to drive drunk — after four beers and two shots. Some dude came by and punched him in the face while he sat in his car at the stoplight. So Officer Paul Abel got out, grabbed his government-issued gun, and drove after the suspect. Then, with a blood alcohol level over 0.111, he rolled up on a young man from the neighborhood named Kaleb Miller. Miller says he wasn’t the man who punched Abel; two tow-truck drivers, who were in the area and saw the punching happen, say that Miller looks nothing like the man who did punch Abel. But Officer Paul Abel, drunk off his ass, decided that he had his man, so (out of uniform, at 2 in the morning) he charged up on Miller, waving his gun around, and bellowing arbitrary commands to get down on the ground. Miller didn’t get down quickly enough, so Officer Paul Abel grabbed Miller, pistol-whipped him five times, and then accidentally shot him in the hand. Even the Pittsburgh Police Chief had to publicly announce that The gentleman who was in the physical altercation [sic] is an innocent victim as far as we can tell. The story is in the news now because, when Abel was brought up on aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, and DUI charges, he opted for a trial before a government judge (because government cops know that they are much more likely to be acquitted by a government judge than by a jury), and Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning has just recently acquitted him on all charges, even the DUI. Manning himself called the beat-down, pistol-whipping, and shooting inappropriate, imprudent and ill-advised. But Manning chose to dismiss all the charges because Officer Paul Abel is a cop, and therefore (according to Manning) he cannot be held legally responsible for his admittedly inappropriate, imprudent, and ill-advised hyperviolent beat-down against an admittedly innocent man. Because, according to Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning, cops are a class apart, who cannot be held to account for their unrestrained violence in mere civilian courts; or, in his own words, It is not the obligation of this court to police the police department.

    So if the courts don’t police the police, who does?

    The answer is, of course, that most of the time, nobody does. Other arms of the government hardly ever hold government police accountable for abuse because they fob off responsibility to the discretion of their legally-privileged-and-immunized enforcers. The government police hardly ever hold other government police accountable for abuse because they have no incentive to restrain the conduct of their fellow government cops, and a distinct professional interest in giving their colleagues as much latitude as possible in the exercise of unchecked power over their chosen targets. And nobody outside of government can hold police accountable for abuse, because government refuses to recognize the right of any independent person or association to sit in judgment of its own actions, and so has legally declared the State and all its agents accountable to none save God alone. And if you want to know why, week after week, you see the same pattern of rampant, relentless, unchecked, unaccountable, unrepentant, overwhelming and intense violence, committed by government cops against people who are obviously harmless, helpless, or defenseless, in the defense of police prerogatives and inflicted against the very people who they are allegedly being privileged and paid to Serve and Protect — well, that’s pretty much why.

    Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

  20. Because the cops we have are already doing so much… Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Departments, North Las Vegas Police Department, and Henderson Police Department. Carson City, Nevada. Meanwhile, in the capital of Nevada, the bosses of several Nevada police departments — which currently pay the second-highest average police salaries of any state in the U.S. — rolled into the state legislature in the state of Nevada demanding the second half of a quote-unquote More Cops tax, a special tax increase to be inflicted on Nevada taxpayers, in the midst of the state’s worst economic crisis in three generations, solely for the purpose of hiring even more police to go on saturating Nevada city streets and doing all the things that cops do with their time, on our dime, and supposedly in our names.

See also:

On traditionalism: how homoeroticism flourished in medieval Persia, and how political homophobia came to be imported from the West

One of the difficulties in having serious conversations about cultural conservatism — both here and abroad — is how often it turns out that what the so-called conservative wishes to preserve or to restore the conditions of a past that never existed. When this kind of mythistory is used to pass off modern authoritarian’s political desiderata as if they were accurate representations of history, both the pseudotraditionalists, and their self-styled progressive opponents, tend to take for granted that history must have been whatever modern political conservatives want it to have been; they just argue over whether that history is a good thing or a bad thing, and so whether to join in the march of Progress or to stand athwart history yelling Stop! In reality, though, antiquity is always a much more complicated affair than simple-minded political progress narratives would make it. And often it is exactly the opposite. Take, for instance, the story of queer eroticism in Iran, where — setting aside the propaganda of the Ayatollahs and the colonialist liberals both — it becomes clear that medieval Iran was full of passionate expressions of same-sex eroticism and same-sex romantic love, and that political homophobia, far from being an ingrown feature of traditional culture or religion, is in fact a colonial import, which came into Iranian political culture mainly through the modernizing ideologies of Marxism and Westernizing progressive nationalism.

When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made his infamous claim at a September 2007 Columbia University appearance that In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country, the world laughed at the absurdity of this pretense.

Now, a forthcoming book by a leading Iranian scholar in exile, which details both the long history of homosexuality in that nation and the origins of the campaign to erase its traces, not only provides a superlative reply to Ahmadinejad, but demonstrates forcefully that political homophobia was a Western import to a culture in which same-sex relations were widely tolerated and frequently celebrated for well over a thousand years. Sexual Politics in Modern Iran, [by Janet Afary,] to be published at the end of next month by Cambridge University Press, is a stunningly researched history and analysis of the evolution of gender and sexuality that will provide a transcendent tool both to the vibrant Iranian women’s movement today fighting the repression of the ayatollahs and to Iranian same-sexers hoping for liberation from a theocracy that condemns them to torture and death.

In her new book, Afary’s extensive section on pre-modern Iran, documented by a close reading of ancient texts, portrays the dominant form of same-sex relations as a highly-codified status-defined homosexuality, in which an older man — presumably the active partner in sex — acquired a younger partner, or amrad. . . . Afary dissects how classical Persian literature (twelfth to fifteenth centuries)…overflowed with same-sex themes (such as passionate homoerotic allusions, symbolism, and even explicit references to beautiful young boys.) This was true not only of the Sufi masters of this classical period but of the poems of the great twentieth-century poet Iraj Mirza (1874-1926)… Classical poets also celebrated homosexual relationships between kings and their pages.

Afary also writes that homosexuality and homoerotic expressions were embraced in numerous other public spaces beyond the royal court, from monasteries and seminaries to taverns, military camps, gymnasiums, bathhouses, and coffeehouses… Until the mid-seventeenth century, male houses of prostitution (amrad khaneh) were recognized, tax-paying establishments.

. . . Unmistakably lesbian sigeh courtship rituals, which continued from the classical period into the twentieth century, were also codified: Tradition dictated that one [woman] who sought another as sister approached a love broker to negotiate the matter. The broker took a tray of sweets to the prospective beloved. In the middle of the tray was a carefully placed dildo or doll made of wax or leather. If the beloved agreed to the proposal, she threw a sequined white scarf (akin to a wedding veil) over the tray… If she was not interested, she threw a black scarf on the tray before sending it back. As late as the last half of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th, Iranian society remained accepting of many male and female homoerotic practices… Consensual and semi-open pederastic relations between adult men and amrads were common within various sectors of society. What Afary terms a romantic bisexuality born in the classical period remained prevalent at court and among elite men and women, and a form of serial love (‘eshq-e mosalsal) was commonly practiced [in which] their love could shift back and forth from girl to boy and back to girl.

In a lengthy section of her book entitled Toward a Westernized Modernity, Afary demonstrates how the trend toward modernization which emerged during the Constitutional Revolution of 1906 and which gave the Persian monarchy its first parliament was heavily influenced by concepts harvested from the West.

One of her most stunning revelations is how an Azeri-language newspaper edited and published in the Russian Caucuses, Molla Nasreddin (or MN, which appeared from 1906 to 1931) influenced this Iranian Revolution with a significant new discourse on gender and sexuality, sharing Marx’s well-documented contempt for homosexuals. With an editorial board that embraced Russian social democratic concepts, including women’s rights, MN was also the first paper in the Shi’i Muslim world to endorse normative heterosexuality, echoing Marx’s well-documented contempt for homosexuality. Afary writes that this illustrated satirical paper, which circulated among Iranian intellectuals and ordinary people alike, was enormously popular in the region because of its graphic cartoons.

MN conflated homosexuality and pedophilia, and attacked clerical teachers and leaders for molesting young boys, played upon feelings of contempt for passive homosexuals, suggested that elite men who kept amrad concubines had a vested interested in maintaining the (male) homosocial public spaces where semi-covert pederasty was tolerated, and mocked the rites of exchanging brotherhood vows before a mollah and compared it to a wedding ceremony. It was in this way that a discourse of political homophobia developed in Europe, which insisted that only heterosexuality could be the norm, was introduced into Iran.

MN’s attacks on homosexuality would shape Iranian debates on sexuality for the next century, and it became a model for several Iranian newspapers of the era, which echoed its attacks on the conservative clergy and leadership for homosexual practices. In the years that followed, Iranian revolutionaries commonly berated major political figures for their sexual transgressions, and revolutionary leaflets accused adult men of having homosexual sex with other adult men, of thirty-year-olds propositioning fifty-year-olds and twenty-year-olds propositioning forty-year-olds, right in front of the Shah. Some leaflets repeated the old allegation that major political figures had been amrads in their youth.

. . . The expansion of radio, television, and print media in the 1940s — including a widely read daily, Parcham, published from 1941 by Kasravi’s Pak Dini movement — resulted in a nationwide discussion about the evils of pederasty and, ultimately, in significant official censorship of literature. References to same-sex love and the love of boys were eliminated in textbooks and even in new editions of classical poetry. Classical poems were now illustrated by miniature paintings celebrating heterosexual, rather than homosexual, love and students were led to believe that the love object was always a woman, even when the text directly contradicted that assumption, Arafy writes.

In the context of a triumphant censorship that erased from the popular collective memory the enormous literary and cultural heritage of what Afary terms the ethics of male love in the classical Persian period, it is hardly surprising as Afary earlier noted in Foucault and the Iranian Revolution that the virulence of the current Iranian regime’s anti-homosexual repression stems in part from the role homosexuality played in the 1979 revolution that brought the Ayatollah Khomeini and his followers to power.

In that earlier work, she and her co-author, Kevin B. Anderson, wrote: There is… a long tradition in nationalist movements of consolidating power through narratives that affirm patriarchy and compulsory heterosexuality, attributing sexual abnormality and immorality to a corrupt ruling elite that is about to be overthrown and/or is complicit with foreign imperialism ….

— Doug Ireland, Direland (2009-02-27): Iran’s Hidden Homosexual History

Read the whole thing.

(Via Jesse Walker 2009-03-09.)

Over My Shoulder #41: Paul Buhle on establishmentarian unionism, the decline of labor organizing, and the rise of Labor PAC. From Taking Care of Business: Samuel Gompers, George Meany, Lane Kirkland, and the Tragedy of American Labor.

Here’s the rules:

  1. Pick a quote of one or more paragraphs from something you’ve read, in print, over the course of the past week. (It should be something you’ve actually read, and not something that you’ve read a page of just in order to be able to post your favorite quote.)

  2. Avoid commentary above and beyond a couple sentences, more as context-setting or a sort of caption for the text than as a discussion.

  3. Quoting a passage doesn’t entail endorsement of what’s said in it. You may agree or you may not. Whether you do isn’t really the point of the exercise anyway.

Here’s the quote. These are a couple of passages from the final chapters of Paul Buhle’s book, Taking Care of Business: Sam Gompers, George Meany, Lane Kirkland, and the Tragedy of American Labor. They have a lot to say on the logical end-point of establishmentarian unionism and how, within the tripartite planning system of Big Government, Big Business, and Big Labor—particularly after the corporate merger and consolidation known as the AFL-CIO—the top union bosses tacked further and further away from industrial organization towards political organization — in effect, ceasing to be workers’ unions, and instead operating as an enormously wealthy but crumbling and increasingly irrelevant sort of Labor PAC.

The departure of Reuther and the UAW from the AFL-CIO in 1964 not only meant no charismatic personality was left combat meaning but also no block of aggressive unionists to offer significant, concerted resistance to rightward-drifting union leadership and social policies. The executive committee functioned as a glorified rubberstamping agency rather than a representative body. Seen in retrospect, centralization of power was the inner logic of the subsequent institutional consolidation. Neither William Green nor Walter Reuther nor even Samuel Gompers, an expert autocratic manipulator in his day, wielded as much personal control is to Meany and his entourage. One traditional labor historian, admiring the advance of the bureaucracy, put it most politely: labor evidently no longer had any great need for services beyond negotiation and enforcement of existing contracts. Everything else could more safely and efficiently be handled better from above. In December 1977 at the last national convention where Meany played an active role, the only names offered in nomination for president and secretary were Meany and Lane Kirkland. Neither was resistance offered to any of the nominees for the thirty-three vice presidencies. A lone dissident of sorts who did manage to get onto the council, the socialistic machinists’ president, William Winpisinger, was widely regarded as window-dressing for the steady rightward drift. Carefully directing his political views toward the public sphere, Winpisinger restrained his personal criticisms of Meany, much as some socialist craft unionists of the 1910s insisted that Gompers was a symptom and not the cause of labor conservatism, better endured than combated. Meany responded by savaging Winpisinger’s favorite views without mentioning Winpisinger himself.

By the 1970s, Meany grew more candid—or perhaps merely more arrogant. He held his ground proudly against his internal enemies and gleefully watched the mass social movements of the 1960s fade away. Admittedly, he also saw power within the Democratic Party slipped further from his potential grasp and the AFL-CIO fall precipitously by any measurement of size and influence. Asked in 1972 why AFL-CIO membership was thinking as a percentage of the workforce, he responded, I don’t know, I don’t care. When a reporter pressed the issue, Would you prefer to have a larger proportion? Meany snapped, not necessarily. We’ve done quite well without it. Why should we worry about organizing groups of people who do not appear to want to be organized? If they prefer to have others speak for them and make the decisions which affect their lives… that is their right. Asked whether he expected labor’s influence to be reduced, he responded, I used to worry about the… size of the membership…. I stopped worrying because to me it doesn’t make any difference… The organized fellow is the fellow that counts. This is just human nature. Unorganized and lower-paid workers were less-than-irrelevant to Meany; they were unwanted.

Never particularly supportive of strikes except those protecting jurisdictions, Meany became steadily more hostile to walkouts as time went on. (He made one key exception urging political strikes by merit time workers against, of all things, we being loaded onto Russian ships.) In 1970, he observed, where you have a well-established industry and a well-established union, you are getting more and more to the point where strike doesn’t make sense. Rather than strikes and organizing, Meany put his eggs into the basket of electoral campaigns, legislative activity, and involvement in a panoply of government-management-labor commissions and agencies in the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations. In some circles these activities actually reinforce the myth of the powerful Meany, labor statesmen and public figure. They did demonstrably little for labor. And no amount of them could quite dispel the image of the narrow-minded unabashedly feminist-baiting and gay-baiting labor boss eating at four-star restaurants and puffing a high-priced class of cigars once restricted to capitalists and mobsters.

The AFL-CIO politicked actively for Jimmy Carter in 1976, after its leaders have expressed their real preference for Scoop Jackson. Ironically, the Georgia Democrat’s narrow margin of victory actually made the support of labor, the African-American community, and feminists, among others, the crucial margin between defeat in victory. Once more, given a different approach, it might have been a moment for the labor movement to flex very real muscles and work for legislative assistance and breaking down barriers to organizing the unorganized, just as the women’s movement reached in early apex and as assorted movements among people of color looked to advances within the mainstream. For that kind of enterprise, however, Meany had no stomach whatever.

Once in office, Carter offered symbols instead of substance: a modest assortment of anti-poverty pilot programs amid a generalized retreat from the Great Society promises. Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall would be remembered not for his speeches saluting labor but because he was the last labor secretary who apparently believed the unions were necessary for working people. As so often, labor had rewarded its friends, gaining little in return. Meany soon let it be known that he was giving Carter a C- as president. Did he wish to see anyone else in the race for 1980? Yes, he shot back, Harry Truman. I wish he were here. To be fair, the old strike-breaking Give ‘Em Hell Harry could not likely have accelerated the growth of American weaponry any faster than Carter did after the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. He might have bombed Iran into oblivion, and he surely would have sounded tougher. That kind of rhetoric, joined perhaps with robust new liberal-led red-scare against peaceniks, feminists, and radicals at large, would surely have had more appeal to the frustrated, aging bully that Meany had become.

The AFL-CIO issued dire warnings before and after the crucial 1980 election. Union activists worked although with less enthusiasm than anxiety for Carter’s re-election. The aftermath of Reagan’s triumph (by a relatively small margin, it should be remembered, and due to the Iran crisis and the economy rather than any great public fondness for the former California Governor) quickly justified the forebodings. As the new president broke the air controllers’ strike and sent a message to the labor movement both Reagan’s rhetoric and policies proved brutal. The Republican administrations appointees to the National Labor Relations Board notoriously slanted against unions, moved quickly to remove restraints upon opposition to unionization and to all but encourage fresh efforts at decertification. Especially for people of color, disproportionately poor and barely-working class, the prospect of factory shutdowns and worsening health care with few resources was aggravated by their being depicted as the ungrateful recipients of various undue privileges and taxpayer largesse. Union membership fell for an assortment of other reasons as well, but heightened employer resistance stood near the head of the pack. And yet, if labor leaders distrusted or even despise Reagan’s allies, many experienced an unanticipated degree of self realization and hating Reagan’s enemies, those feminists, peaceniks, and assorted left-liberals to assistant to become radio host Rush Limbaugh’s favorite targets.

Besides, labor did have an elusive, thoroughly institutional fallback on the national political stage. In 1981, in the wake of Reagan’s victory, a hard-pressed Democratic National Committee granted the AFL-CIO 25 at-large seats and four out of 35 seats on its executive body. Within a diminished party suffering an early bout of Reaganism (and whose congressional delegation would indeed vote for so many of Reagan’s programs), the AFL-CIO became in return the largest single Democratic financial donor, supplying the DNC with more than a third of its annual budget. The defeat of a modest labor reform bill in Congress in 1978 showed that the conservative counteroffensive had begun in earnest with simultaneous Democratic president and Congress for the last time in at least a generation. Wall Street analysts warned that a new era of militant labor leadership might emerge a political defeat.

Instead, defeat bred timidity and an eagerness to shift foreign of rightward to recuperate the Reagan Democrats. As along with an increasingly unrealistic hope for a major change of labor laws, the specter of protectionism—which labor’s top leaders did not themselves particularly desire—offer the only popular fight-back issue imaginable. In the absence of a real internationalist program of protecting working people across borders, the new protectionism mainly added us mean-spiritedness to organized labor’s perennial self-concern. The downward spiral of labor’s claim to special protection within the liberal coalition thereby lead further and further to its isolation.

— Paul Buhle (1999), Taking Care of Business: Sam Gompers, George Meany, Lane Kirkland, and the Tragedy of American Labor, pp. 195–198, 219–220.

A Higher Law than the Constitution

Ron Paul is perfectly capable of making sharp and incisive moral arguments against the foolishness, and the destructiveness, of U.S. imperialism, whether in the form of the ongoing catastrophe in Iraq or in the form of proposed new slaughters in Iran or North Korea. He has done so many times in the past, both in writing and in speeches, and he deserves praise where he is in the right, as he usually is. But he has also spent quite a bit of time explaining his position in terms of the separation of powers between the President and the Congress, as established in the U.S. Constitution. In response to questions about foreign policy, he has repeatedly argued, first, that current U.S. foreign policy is both foolish and evil, but also, second, that if he became President, he would go to war when, and only when, Congress duly passed a formal declaration of war. See for example the exchange in GT 2007-09-06: Marching orders, and his remarks on attacking North Korea or Iran in his recent interview with Tim Russert.

So here is my open question for Ron Paul, and for the anti-war libertarians who support his candidacy. Suppose that Ron Paul were elected President and publicly declared his intent to put his fundamentalist reading of the Constitution into practice. Suppose also that Congress continues to be what it currently is — a bunch of mad dog world bombers, on the one hand, and a gang of opportunistic doughfaces who go along to get along, on the other. It’s perfectly likely that at some point in the upcoming years, Congress might pass a declaration of war in the name of bogus national interests in order to spread the slaughter into Iran or North Korea. At this point, President Ron Paul has two options:

  1. He can fulfill his Constitutionally-enumerated role as commander-in-chief of the military, and prosecute the imperial war that Congress has ordered him to prosecute; or

  2. He can refuse to fulfill his Constitutionally-enumerated role, by sitting on his hands and refusing to prosecute the war in any way even though Congress has declared it, on the grounds that there is a higher law than the Constitution, and that under the circumstances, following government law would require him to do something that no honest and decent man can do.

In case (1), Ron Paul would willingly make himself the instrument of death and slaughter in the name of a paper rag whose virtues, if it ever had any, must depend entirely on whatever capacity it has for safeguarding, rather than destroying, the life and liberty of innocent people. In case (2), Ron Paul would be taking a powerful moral stand against aggressive war; but in so doing he would have to give up entirely on his palaver about declared wars and strict construction of the Constitution. Which would he be willing to do? I am genuinely unsure myself, based on his statements and actions thus far, and I wonder what others think.

(Interview link courtesy of Austro-Athenian Empire 2007-12-24.)

Cry havoc! and let slip the pronouns of war…

Here’s the New York Times’s report on Hordak’s latest battle-cry:

BRUSSELS, May 11 — Vice President Dick Cheney used the deck of an American aircraft carrier just 150 miles off Iran’s coast as the backdrop today to warn the country that the United States was prepared to use its naval power to keep Tehran from disrupting off oil routes or gaining nuclear weapons and dominating this region.

… Mr. Cheney’s sharp warnings appeared to be part of a two-track administration campaign to push back at Iran, while leaving the door open to negotiations. It was almost exactly a year ago that the United States offered to negotiate with Iran as long as it first agreed to halt enriching uranium, a decision in which Mr. Cheney, participants said, was not a major player. Similarly, the speech today was not circulated broadly in the government before it was delivered, a senior American diplomat said. He kind of runs by his own rules, the official said.

With two carrier strike groups in the Gulf, we’re sending clear messages to friends and adversaries alike, he said. We’ll keep the sea lanes open. We’ll stand with our friends in opposing extremism and strategic threats. We’ll disrupt attacks on our own forces. We’ll continue bringing relief to those who suffer, and delivering justice to the enemies of freedom. And we’ll stand with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating this region.

I want you to know that the American people will not support a policy of retreat, Mr. Cheney said. We want to complete the mission, we want to get it done right, and then we want to return home with honor.

— David E. Sanger, New York Times (2006-05-11): On Carrier in Gulf, Cheney Warns Iran

According to the story, after Dick Cheney completes his Middle East mission of sending clear messages, he will return home, sometime next week. No word yet on when American soldiers will complete their mission of opposing, disrupting, relieving, delivering military justice, occupying, keeping the sea lanes open, etc., or when he and his buddies will allow them to return home. Nor is there any word yet on when he and his buddies will stop forcing the American people, i.e. the rest of us, to foot the bill for his plans against our will.

Further reading: