Posts tagged Massachusetts

You know what they call a black man with a Ph.D.?

Sergeant James Crowley (Cambridge, MA)
Stupid, belligerent, violent

One of the advantages of not being even remotely connected with electoral politics is the fact that, unlike, say, Barack Obama, I have no votes that I need to collect from timid white moderates, and also no sniffy self-important special interests or political respectability rackets that I need to appease. I don’t need to care what professional blowhards or doughfaces think of me, or whether or not a white police sergeant in Massachusetts, and all his buddies in the Brotherhood, are disappointed in me. So while Obama may feel compelled to re-calibrate, I have no reason to back off out of concern for sensitivities of conventional-delusional political thinking. So if he won’t stand by his own perfectly reasonable comments, I at least am free to say, without qualification or calibration, that when Sergeant James Crowley cuffed, arrested, and imprisoned Henry Louis Gates on his front porch, for daring to holler at a cop inside his own house, Sergeant James Crowley was damn well acting stupidly. As a matter of fact, he was being stupid, belligerent, and violent towards an innocent man who he had absolutely no right to arrest.

Of course he was. He putatively showed up to investigate a possible burglary (in the middle of the day?) when a neighbor called in a report that two black men were forcing open the door to the house. (Gates had just gotten back from a long trip to China and found that the door was jammed, so he asked the man who drove him home — who was also black — to help him shoulder it open.) The cop showed up, demanded that Gates step outside, entered the house without a warrant and without permission when Gates refused to step outside, demanded identification while refusing to give his badge number, and when it was conclusively demonstrated to him that Gates lived there and was, in fact, breaking in to his own damn house, he and his gang brothers ambushed Gates on his front porch and arrested him for being loud and tumultuous in his own house where he had a right to be. Quite in spite of the fact that, even if you grant for the sake of argument every single detail of the cop’s own version of events, once it was clear that Gates lived in the house he had supposedly been burglarizing, Sergeant James Crowley had absolutely no moral or legal basis whatsoever for remaining one second longer, or for arresting and imprisoning Henry Louis Gates, since raising your voice to a police officer is not a crime, and neither is calling him names (whether those names are fair or unfair), and neither is hollering loudly and tumultuously inside your own home. Shoving your way into a man’s house to hassle him, and then arresting him for these non-crimes when he gets upset, is a stupid way to handle a situation when you’re not sure what’s going on; the cuffing, arrest, and jailing were also an act of physical force carried out against an innocent man by an entitled bully who had no right to be there but who has no problem with using intimidation and violence to get his way.

And, as it happens, in this case, his stupidity, intimidation and violence took the specific form of stupid, belligerent, violent racism. As they so often do when government police (especially, but not only, white government police) interact with black men and women, even black scholars in their late 50s who rent their houses from Harvard University and walk with a cane.

And the opinions of the usual bellowing blowhard brigade to one side, it actually doesn’t matter one bit whether or not Henry Louis Gates could or should have been more calm or cool or collected under the circumstances; whether or not he actually should have been grateful for being hassled in his own house by a sworn officer of the law in the name of Service and Protection; whether or not the names that he called this stupid, belligerent, violent cop were in fact fair or unfair given the situation; or whether he ought to have changed his behavior or his attitude in the least. Henry Louis Gates’s behavior and attitude aren’t in question; whether or not he was acting as he ought, Sergeant James Crowley had no reason to be there and no justification and no excuse for arresting him or hauling him off to jail. Nothing that Gates could possibly have said, under the circumstances, would have made the arrest and imprisonment justifiable or even excusable; and when legally-privileged agents of the state go around attacking innocent men, I’m a hell of a lot more worried about that than I am about policing the conduct of the victims of their aggression and coercion.

All this should come as no surprise to anyone who has ever dealt with government police, or knows much of anything about the world around them. Of course, that rules out politicians, media commentators, and other professional blowhards, who rarely talk to anyone but each other and have very little experience of being on the business end of government policing, or much of anything other than their own self-important power games. But the rest of us know perfectly well that cops often act with tremendous arrogance and entitlement, especially when they feel uncertain or threatened by the situation that they are in (that they have, in fact, been trained very explicitly to stay in control of the situation by any means necessary); that they also tend to view men and women of color, regardless of class, and poor white men and women, too, as more disruptive or more threatening than affluent white men and women; and that either conscious or subconscious racial profiling is the order of the day in virtually all street-level urban policing. It is also both obvious and widely known that cops routinely use incredibly vague chickenshit charges like disorderly conduct, even when it is absolutely obvious that none of even those incredibly vague criteria actually apply, in order to shove people around, intimidate them into complying with arbitrary orders, or to humiliate and punish those who do not comply. Even when the charges are sure to be dismissed, you can beat the rap but you can’t beat the ride, and all that. Anyone whose understanding of policework is not basically mythological in nature, or is not constrained by non-rational political imperatives, knows these things, and should be outraged, but not even remotely surprised, that all this went down.

And the fact that a bunch of cops get indignant about the offense to their honor by being called out, for once in their professional lives, on their stupid, belligerent, violent behavior doesn’t change the fact one bit. What happened is typical, damned typical; the only thing atypical is the political and media connections of the victim. And Sergeant James Crowley, as a sworn police officer, was just living up to the standards of stupidity, belligerence, violence and racism that his gang brothers have set. You might be tempted call stupidity, belligerence, violence, and racism the occupational disease of government police in America. If not for the fact that it is their occupation.

See also:

The Police Beat

  • Police torture in the U.K. Metropolitan Police Department. London, England. Narcs working for the London city government’s Metropolitan Police force are under investigation for allegedly waterboarding prisoners in order to coerce evidence in an interrogation for a marijuana case.

  • Botched SWAT raid. Officer Allen Hill. North Richland Hills, DFW, Texas. In 1999, a paramilitary SWAT squad stormed a house in North Richland Hills (a little city near Fort Worth) based on a search warrant based on a confidential informant’s uncorroborated claim that the house was full of marijuana. When a bunch of heavily armed strangers broke down his door and stormed into his house, Troy James Davis allegedly grabbed a gun and pointed it at the home invaders. (His mother believes that the gun was planted by police. I don’t care whether it was or not; a man’s got a right to defend his home when armed strangers bust their way through the door.) The cops gunned him down. Turns out there were no drugs anywhere in the house. Turns out that the warrant was based on a completely unvetted e-mailed tip from an anonymous snitch. Even the cop who gunned Troy Davis down now says it was a wrongful death and he never should have been there. Now, ten years later, after a long lawsuit, the city government has settled up with the victim’s parents for $100,000. They will, of course, send along the bill for this murder to a bunch of innocent North Richland Hills taxpayers, who had nothing to do with it.

  • Rapists on patrol, (cont’d.) Officer Thomas Tolstoy, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Officer Thomas Tolstoy, a narc in Officer Jeffrey Cujdik’s increasingly notorious shake-down squad, used the opportunity of his team’s repeated evidence-less hyperviolent paramilitary drug raids to repeatedly pull women in the houses being raided into side rooms in order to sexually assault them [possible trigger warning]. At least two women have come forward independently so far to testify against Tolstoy. Tolstoy has not yet been charged with any crime; the department’s response so far has been to reassign this accused serial rapist to an easy desk job for the past three weeks. (Via Radley Balko 2009-06-02; as Balko says, If these were normal citizens, and not cops, they’d have been indicted by now.)

  • Officer Anthony Abbate. Chicago, Illinois. Officer Anthony Abbate has finally been convicted of aggravated battery by a Chicago judge. Abbate was caught on video throwing, punching, and kicking a 26-year-old woman named Karolina Obrycka. She was tending bar when Abbate, who was drunk and off duty, tried to shove his way behind the bar to steal a drink after she refused to serve him anymore. After she told him to move and he refused, Obrycka tried to shove him back out from behind the bar. So Abbate beat the living hell out of her, and then called it self-defense when he came up for trial. Well, why not? After all, he hit his little head, and he only had, what, about 125 pounds on her? Abbate waived his right to a jury trial, knowing that out-of-control agents of the State have much better chances with a government judge; he was initially charged with 15 different counts, all of which but one were dropped in the course of the two-day trial. Had he been on the clock rather than drunk out of his mind when he did the battering, that one would almost surely have been dropped, too. We know this because of…

  • She fell. (Cont’d.) Officer Wayne Simoes. Yonkers, New York. See William Grigg, Pro Libertate (2009-05-30): Just a Child With A Temper [Trigger warning. Includes graphic images of and video of Irma Marquez’s injuries, suffered at the hands of a male police officer.] In which the male State once again once again assumes the role of a stereotypical abusive husband. A 44 year old woman named Irma Marquez tries to get a look to see if her niece, who was injured in a fight that had just been broken up, is O.K. The medical worker on the scene shoved her away; she stumbled back into the cops. At which point Officer Wayne Simoes tries to wrench her arm behind her back in order to arrest her (for what?); she tries to shake his hand off of her arm, and he responds by picking her up and body-slamming this drunken middle-aged woman face-first into the floor, then jamming his knee onto her back and cuffing her in order to arrest her for disorderly conduct and interfering. [Trigger warning.]

    The story is in the news again because a jury just recently voted to acquit Officer Wayne Simoes on all charges.

  • Bashers on patrol. Brooklyn, New York. In Crown Heights last month, a gang of cops rolled out to investigate a call about unruly and intoxicated people outside a night-club. When J.G. (Jeanette Grey, a 31 year old black lesbian) and Tiffany Jimenez (a 19 year old Latina lesbian) heard the noise outside and ran out to see if their friends were O.K., the cops (who were busy ordering bystanders to disperse when the two left the club) then grabbed them (for interfering, or whatever), slammed them to the ground, beat the two women with nightsticks while they tried to surrender, shouting You fuckin’ bitch-ass dyke and We are having some dyke pussy in here tonight during the beating, and then arrested them for resisting arrest. The NYPD assures us that the complaint is being internally investigated.

  • Now they want a task force. Officer Andrew Dunton. New York, New York. Meanwhile, also in New York, David Patterson, arbitrary Governor over the state of New York, wants a high-profile special political task force to investigate the fatal shooting of an innocent black man by a couple of NYPD cops while the man was trying to use his handgun to protect himself from a criminal trying to break into his car. The cops had a history (1, 2 of repeated civilian complaints [sic] year after year. Wonder why Patterson would put his neck out to demand this high-profile independent task force instead of the usual internal investigation? Oh, yeah, because the victim was an off-duty cop.

  • Warminster Police Department. Warminster Heights, Pennsylvania. Rich Pietras, Bucks County Courier Times (2009-05-29): Moms complain of excessive force by police. Lydia Isaac’s car got clipped in a hit-and-run and she pulled into a laundromat parking lot to confront the man who did it. The argument got heated and the cops got called. While they were busy Investigating, Lydia’s son 13-year-old son Marc Isaac got on his cell phone to call his dad to let him know what happened. The cops ordered Marc to wait where he was; when he continued walking, trying to explain that he was on the phone with his dad, five of the cops grabbed him, slammed him down onto the hood of his mom’s car, and then, while this 13-year-old boy was being physically restrained by five grown-ass men, beat him on the side of the head with a flashlight or baton, and then maced him.

  • Officer Kristen Johnson, Officer Nicholas Webster, Officer Robert Buquo, Officer Glenn Pearson, an Lieutenant Lynn Young. Mesa, Arizona. Four Mesa police officers and a lieutenant are under separate internal investigations. In the one case which has grabbed all the headlines, a woman miscarried a 12-to-14-week pregnancy in a motel room; when the manager called 911 and three cops showed up, they reckoned the most appropriate thing to do with a woman grieving the loss of her baby was to arrest the father on some drug charges and then wrap up the miscarried fetus and flush it down the motel room toilet. Meanwhile, Officer Nichoas Webster is being Internally Investigated after he was caught on tape slamming a hand-cuffed man’s head against the trunk of his police car and then slamming him into a chain-link fence. This Dangerous Individual was being transported to jail on suspicion of urinating in public and jaywalkinng.

  • Sergeant Mark Crowe, et al. Bryan County, Georgia. Back in April, Tommy Lee Williams was working out in his grandmother’s yard when a white narc named Mark Crowe (then a deputy for the county government’s sheriff) rolled up and started hassling him, repeatedly calling him Leroy. (Crowe claims that he thought Mr. Williams was someone else, an old classmate of his. Crowe was in the neighborhood on other business, and apparently not in uniform at the time, so as far as Mr. Williams knew Crowe was just some random stranger yelling Hey Leroy at him while he was trying to get some yard work done.) Mr. Williams asked Crowe why he was messing with him, and then told him to go away. According to Mr. Williams and other witnesses, Crowe responded by going off on a tirade against Williams, calling him boy and nigger along the way.

    According to Crowe himself, Mr. Williams responded to the exchange of words by cussing Crowe out from the private property of his grandmother’s front yard, and then approached his car, at which point Crowe decided to arrest Mr. Williams for the non-crime of cussing at a police officer who hassles you. Then Crowe tied to grab Williams, and when Williams struggled, eventually called in two of his gang buddies to pull Williams down into a ditch, hold him down, handcuffed him, pepper-sprayed him, beat him in the head with fists and batons, and tasered him. When Williams’ family and neighbors tried to get the cops to stop this gang beat-down, five of them, including his 81-year-old grandmother, were arrested on charges from obstruction of police to terroristic threats. The cops also seized the cell phones they were using to take photos of what was happening. This rampaging police riot against an 81 year old woman and an unarmed man who was being held down by three heavily-armed cops is of course dignified as a melee by the local papers.

    The six victims of this racist police rampage filed suit in the county Superior Court, then withdrew and re-filed the suit in federal court after the local court refused to order the police accused of participating in the beating from patrolling the neighborhood where their victims live. In any case, all this is in the news again because, in the meantime, the city government of Pembroke decided to appoint Sergeant Mark Crowe as chief of their police force.

  • Tallman Street, New Bedford, Massachusetts. Speaking of racial slurs and melees, in New Bedford, Mass., a gang of over a dozen cops stormed a poor, mostly-Latino neighborhood on Tallman Street in pursuit of a single young man, Jonathan Natal, for allegedly riding a minibike with no helmet and without a license. When he didn’t stop on command, they chased him; when he ran off on foot and hopped into nearby backyards, they called in 12 more cops and shoving people to the ground, knocking down doors, storming houses, calling the residents spics and yelling at them to shut the fuck up along the way. When they found Jonathan Natal in a stairwell, they arrested him and beat him black and blue while he tried to surrender. (The cops say he raised his arms, which apparently they took as a sign that he wanted a fight. Of course, if you don’t raise your arms when the cops come at you, they’re liable to shoot you.) Evelyn Natal, Jonathan’s 38 year old mother, was arrested while she was standing on her porch trying to find out what was happening to her son. When people gathered on public streets to observe what the cops were doing, and had the temerity to verbally berate police on public property, the cops ordered them to disperse. When people in the neighborhood started filming the police rampage on cell phone cameras, the cops slammed them to the ground and snatched the cell phones. When Jolanda Rivera, an 18 year old young woman, walked towards the cops, they slammed her to the ground and arrested her for disturbing the peace. When Louis Natal, a 22 year old young man, ran away from the cops, a gang of the cops chased him down, slammed him to the ground, and started punching him over and over again. (I guess he’s lucky they didn’t kill him for running away.) When his father, Luis Natal, 49, tried to find out what was happening to his son, they arrested him, beat him up, and pepper-sprayed him. When John Hernandez refused to let cops into his house without a warrant, they forced their way in, beat him up, and arrested him for disorderly conduct and interfering with a police officer. In the end, the cops arrested 14 people in the course of this police rampage. Once again, this one-sided assault, in which a large group of people observed and verbally berated police officers who were storming through public and private property, and the police responded by yelling racial slurs, breaking down doors, breaking down doors, invading houses, handcuffing people, holding them down and beating the hell out of them, torturing them with pepper spray, forcibly arresting them whether they moved towards officers, away from officers, or just stayed put in their own homes, etc., etc., etc., is described as a melee and a near-riot (referring to the berating of the bystanders, not the massive violence of the heavily-armed police) by the local papers. City Councilor Steven Martins, alleged representative of the people living on Tallman Street on the arbitrary Council over the city of New Bedford, explains it all by saying They were back there, chasing that individual [sic], because he went to that neighborhood. And other people got involved when they shouldn’t. A police sergeant assigned to the North End station told the papers that folks in the neighborhood get upset when the police try to crack the whip a little or enforce the laws.

    Here’s a little history quiz for the day. Historically, in the U.S., what kind of social relationship is associated with cracking the whip in order to get people to fall in line with what you want them to be doing?

  • NOPD Tactical Unit. New Orleans, Louisiana. In New Orleans, cops working for a tactical unit of the city government’s police force kicked in the door of a house after midnight in order to serve a warrant on Leonard Dillon, who the police suspect of conspiring to murder a witness in an upcoming trial. After breaking down the door and shouting commands to come out, they grabbed Dillon’s 15 year old nephew, forced him down, and handcuffed him. When they got their hands on Leonard Dillon, they handcuffed him, knocked him down, and then, while he was handcuffed, began kicking him in the crotch while he was restrained. When his nephew tried to look over at what was happening, the cops kicked him in the jaw so hard that he had to be sent to the children’s hospital later with facial lacerations. After Dillon was arrested the cops he had to be hospitalized for broken bones in his face, a lacerated liver, and damage to his testicles so severe that he had to undergo surgery. The cops claim that they took him down while he was resisting and trying to get a gun to use against them; Dillon denies it; but in either case, whatever he was trying to do, how is this kind of savage beat-down once he has already been restrained, justified by anything resembling self-defense? The NOPD say that an internal investigation is underway; meanwhile, last week, the NOPD also took the time to hold a public press conference to praise the work of the warrant squad.

  • Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Department, Salt Lake County, Utah. Two years ago, a Salt Lake County couple had some coworkers over to their house for a work party to get a video presentation done. It ran late; they got to drinking while they worked; they got a bit loud; they started singing karaoke. The couple’s 16 year old kid complained over the phone to a friend that he couldn’t sleep. The friend then decided that the best thing to do would be to call the police. The county sheriff then sent out six deputies, to do some servin’ and protectin’ by investigating a noise complaint (about noise that only people inside the house were complaining about?). When Stephen M. Perry refused to let police inside his house without a warrant, the Gangsters in Blue forced their way in through the door, pepper-sprayed Perry and two of his guests, and repeatedly tortured the same two guests with a taser. Then these out-of-control hyperviolent thugs, who stormed a house without a warrant over a noise complaint, used repeated pain compliance to torture innocent people for asserting their right to be secure in their home from busybody police, and then proceeded to arrest their three victims on charges of disorderly conduct (in their own home?), resisting arrest (arrest for what?), and assault on police.

    A jury threw out all of the charges against Perry and his guests. They then filed suit against the six deputies for excessive force and violation of their civil rights in the warrantless search. The story is in the news because the Salt Lake County government has decided to cover the cost of a $60,000 settlement for these deputies’ out-of-control violence. Public servants that they are, they will, of course, send the bill to county taxpayers who had nothing to do with this rampage. Meanwhile, Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Lt. Don Hutson said an internal affairs investigation found no violation of policies by the officers.

    What do you think that says about the policies?

  • Internal investigations. New Jersey. The ACLU has filed a report documenting that the numerical majority of New Jersey’s local police departments violate New Jersey’s legal requirements for handling so-called civilian complaints. 63% of local police agencies demand, in violation of state law, that complaints be submitted in person (so that victims of police violence have to go down to the police station in order to lodge a complaint); 49% do not allow anonymous complaints. 79% of agencies refuse to accept complaints filed by a minor without back-up from an adult; in 50 cases over the past 10 years, the investigators never even bothered to interview the person who made the complaint. Morris County Prosecutor Robert Bianchi says that the guidelines exist because a complaint process can do either of two things: Is it a shield for police misconduct? … Or is it … doing what it’s supposed to be doing? I dunno; I’m inclined to say that, in most cases, the answer is that it’s both; the only reason you’d think there’s a distinction here is if you had some odd ideas about what, in the eyes of the State, this kind of process is supposed to be doing.

  • Yet Another Isolated Incident. Officer Joseph J. Rios III. Passaic, New Jersey. In Passaic, New Jersey, a 49 year old black man named Ronnie Holloway was walking down the street minding his own business. It was a warm night and he had his sweatshirt open, showing part of his chest and belly. A cop car rolled up to the street corner and the cops yelled at him from out the car, ordering him to zip it up his jacket.

    When he didn’t promptly respond to this arbitrary bellowed command, Officer Joseph J. Rios III got out of the car, grabbed ahold of Holloway, repeatedly slammed him into the ground and against the hood of the car, and punched him in the head over and over again, and then got out his baton and started beating his victim in the ribs with it, all while Holloway made no move of any kind to fight back or resist in any way at any point. A nearby restaurant’s surveillance camera recorded the beating; it also recorded his gang-sister, Officer Erica Rivera, standing around, doing nothing, then turning her back on the beating and walking away to call in some backup (!), rather than lifting one finger to stop this sustained assault on a defenseless man who had committed no crime. [Possible trigger warning. Raw footage shows extreme violence against an unarmed, non-resisting man.]

    Then, when the gang of other cops rolled up, they arrested the victim of this relentless beating for resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and wandering for the purpose of obtaining controlled dangerous substances. In an opinion piece on the beating by Jerry DeMarco wonders how they got resisting arrest from a man who can be seen never to have lifted one finger to physically resist anything; a fellow Passaic County officer writes in to clarify that, quote-unquote:

    For the record, ‘Resisting Arrest’ is not just when a subject is fighting an Officer. Refusing to obey verbal commands, stiffening your body, putting your hands in your pocket, lowering your center of gravity, assuming a fighting stance, possessing a menacing demeanor on your face, refusing to get/stay on the ground (Instead, he got back up), while saying [something threatening], in a totality of the circumstances, regardless if he was fighting the male Officer or not, more than constitutes Resisting Arrest!

    In other words, according to at least one active member of the Passaic County police force, you can be arrested for resisting arrest simply for refusing to obey an arbitrary order from any police officer, or indeed if the cop just doesn’t like your posture or your demeanor.

    Meanwhile, DeMarco himself, although disturbed by the beating, insists that Passaic police beating is an isolated incident, period [sic] and that A speeded-up video of a cop beating a seemingly defenseless man doesn’t prove law enforcement nationwide is unleashed and barbaric.

    True enough, but all the other fucking cases nation-wide, do.

When every fucking week brings another story of a Few More Bad Apples causing Yet Another Isolated Incident, and the police themselves invariably do everything in their power to justify, ignore, cover up, excuse, or minimize the violence, even in defiance of the evidence of the senses and no matter how obviously harmless or helpless the victim may be — when cops routinely act on the understanding that they have an unchecked plenary right to issue arbitrary commands to civilians and to arrest, beat, and torture people for disobedience or just for shouting some unkind words at a cop — when the only possible recourse is to lodge a complaint with the cops own colleagues, who, every week, shrug off these relentless assaults and rapes committed by their officers using their government-issued arsenal of small weapons and the color of their legal authority to an internal investigation, — and when, even under the best possible circumstances, the main outcome of such an investigation is that the cop responsible will be given a vacation or possibly lose their job, while the city government steps in to shield them from any personal civil liability for their crimes by offering some money taken right out of the pockets of working folks who had nothing to do with the crime — it beggars belief to keep on claiming that there’s no systemic problem here, that cops ought to be given every benefit of the doubt, or blanket condemnations of policing in major American cities are somehow a sign of hastiness or unfair prejudice against good cops. The plain fact is that what we have here is one of two things: either a professionalized system of violent control which tacitly permits and encourages cops to exercise this kind of rampant, repeated, intense, unrepentant, and unaccountable abuse against powerless people—or else a system which has clearly demonstrated that it can do nothing effectual to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.

See also:

Friday Lazy Linking

  • Winter Soldier: Just Another Tuesday. From Ryan Endicott, formerly a United States government Marine stationed in Iraq.

    Via Clay Claibourne, L.A. I.M.C. (2009-05-13): Winter Soldier Southwest on YouTube #1

  • The regulatory State versus freed markets and the human future: A quote from Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, via B.K. Marcus at Mises Economics Blog:

    To expect the government to prevent such fraud from ever occurring would be like wanting it to provide cushions for all the children who might fall. To assume it to be possible to prevent successfully, by regulation, all possible malpractices of this kind, is to sacrifice to a chimerical perfection the whole progress of industry; it is to restrict the imagination of artificers to the narrow limits of the familiar; it is to forbid them all new experiments; it is to renounce even the hope of competing with the foreigners in the making of the new products which they invent daily, since, as they do not conform to our regulations, our workmen cannot imitate these articles without first having obtained permission from the government, that is to say, often after the foreign factories, having profited by the first eagerness of the consumer for this novelty, have already replaced it with something else. … Thus, with obvious injustice, commerce, and consequently the nation, are charged with a heavy burden to save a few idle people the trouble of instructing themselves or of making enquiries to avoid being cheated. To suppose all consumers to be dupes, and all merchants and manufacturers to be cheats, has the effect of authorizing them to be so, and of degrading all the working members of the community.

    — Turgot, Éloge de Gournay (1759), translated by P.D. Groenewegen

Outrage

Think.

Left-Libertarianism

  • On dialectical jujitsu: Roderick Long, Austro-Athenian Empire (2009-05-19): How to annoy a conservative

  • Ownership failures, not market failures Chris Dillow, Stumbling and Mumbling (2009-05-01): Markets, the poor & the left. Dillow makes two really important distinctions: one of them the familiar left-libertarian distinction between freed markets, on the one hand, and actually-existing corporate capitalism, on the other; the other a less familiar, but very important, distinction between market processes and patterns of ownership. Quote: In many ways, what look like ways in which markets fail the poor are in fact merely ways in which a lack of assets fail the poor. Exactly; and the many cases where there are not really market failures, but rather ownership failures, have everything to do with feudal, mercantile, neoliberal, and other politically-driven seizures and reallocations of poor people’s land, livelihoods, and possessions — and nothing to do with genuine market exchange.

Counter-Economics

Movement

Communications

Rank and file

The week before the election, I complained about an ad that DNC political hacks sent out, which (wrongly, and dangerously) suggested that political change amounted to nothing more than, and ended with the success of, an effot to get some millionaire professional politician installed in office. It turns out that MoveOn agrees with me, and they’re working on organizing Fired up and ready to go gatherings in every community the can, to keep their grassroots organizing moving forward. I know because they sent me an e-mail about it. <Well, bully for them. However, having read some of the comments that MoveOn specifically selected to represent the sentiments they were hearing from their members, when they asked about what to do after the election, I can’t say I’m terribly heartened by their idea of what kind of organizing you do after an electoral victory:

From: Nita Chaudhary, MoveOn.org Political Action
Date: 3:01 PM
To: Rad Geek
Subject: Fired up and ready to go

. . .

We need to continue the same level of involvement and commitment to whatever this Presidency needs of us to accomplish all that we believe can be done. Yes we can, Yes we did, and Yes we will!—Judith C., Salem, MA

. . .

We have to be prepared to go through with whatever we need to—even if that means some sacrifice. Obama will lead the way!—Sarah A., Greer. SC

. . .

Let Barack know that we stand ready to go to work. Take advantage of our energy and enthusiasm for the common good, put us to work.—Jeff R., Boulder, CO

. . .

Be willing to work with him and make personal sacrifice for the good of our country and our children’s future.—Stephanie L., Laguna Niguel, CA

I don’t know whether these sentiments are actually representative of the MoveOn membership, or whether MoveOn selected a few unusual comments that seemed most useful to their purposes. But in either case, this sort of sentiment — that grassroots, street-level organizations should stand ready, not as a countervailing social force to direct recently-elected politicians and to keep them on track for the grassroots’ own agenda, but rather as shock troops for some messianic leader to issue marching orders to and put … to work, even at great personal sacrifice, for whatever the leader may require — is the sort of thing that ought to disgust anyone who genuinely believes in people-powered community organizing, and ought to terrify anyone who believes in the principles of a free and open society.

I’ve seen that movie before, and I know how it ends.

I guess it really is time to Move On.

See also:

Ending State violence against women in prostitution in San Francisco

Last year, a dangerous California street gang rolled up on 1,583 women and abducted them off the streets of San Francisco, tied them up, and held them against their will for days or weeks at a time. Some were robbed of money and then let go. Others were held in specially-constructed dungeons for as long as half a year before they were allowed to see the light of day again.

There has been little notice of this massive wave of violence against women in the malestream media, and little outcry, even though this same gang is still active, and is on track to abduct a similar number of women this year. Part of the reason for the neglect of this story is the fact that the 1,583 women were women in prostitution, or suspected of being in prostitution and all too many people (by which I mainly mean men, and by which I mainly mean pols, lawyers and cops) figure that assaults and disappearances are just business as usual for women in the sex trade, something that can be stamped N.H.I. and shrugged off with a blink.

The other part of the reason is that the street gang’s colors are blue, and they all carry badges, and they call these abductions arrests, the imprisonment pretrial detention or a sentence, and, even though the women they target and grab off the street through force or intimidation are just doing a job for willing customers, and threatening or attacking exactly no-one, these gangsters can count on the biggest racket of all — the protection racket known as the State — to get their back, to claim their violence is justified because it is carried out under color of The Law (as if that were somehow immune to question or challenge), and to put out well-paid mouthpieces who will insist, with a completely straight face, that when women in prostitution are being forcibly hauled off, arrested, cited, fined, jailed, and generally subjected to an attempt to forcibly destroy their livelihood, the people (mostly men) who are doing all this are actually doing it for the women’s own good.

In fact these rationalizations are no better than — really, no different from — the rationalizations that every abusive man in the world uses to pass off their controlling behavior and violence against their women as if they were expressions of love. The male-dominated State is nothing more than an abusive sociopath writ large — one that can attack women by the thousands or by the millions, and one with armies and dungeons and trillions of dollars at its disposal.

As I said last December 17th:

Any serious commitment to freedom for, and an end to violence against, women, means a serious commitment to ending violence against women who work in the sex industry. All of it. Immediately. Now and forever.

And that means any kind of violence, whether rape, or assault, or robbery, or abduction, or confinement against her will, or murder. No matter who does it. Even if it is done by a john who imagines that paying for sex means he owns a woman’s body. Even it is done by a cop or a prosecutor who calls the violence of an assault, restraint, and involuntary confinement an arrest or a sentence under the color of The Law. The Law has no more right to hurt or shove around a woman than anyone else does.

— GT 2007-12-17: December 17th is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

This November, eligible voters in San Francisco have an opportunity to call for peace on this front of the city government’s war against women:

San Francisco would become the first major U.S. city to decriminalize prostitution if voters next month approve Proposition K, a measure that forbids local authorities from investigating, arresting or prosecuting anyone for selling sex.

The ballot question technically would not legalize prostitution, since state law still prohibits it, but the measure would eliminate the power of local law enforcement officials to go after prostitutes.

Proponents say the measure will free up $11 million the police spend each year arresting prostitutes and allow them to form collectives.

It will allow workers to organize for our rights and for our safety, said Patricia West, 22, who said she has been selling sex for about a year by placing ads on the Internet. She moved to San Francisco in May from Texas to work on Proposition K.

Even in tolerant San Francisco, where the sadomasochism fair draws thousands of tourists and a pornographic video company is housed in a former armory, the measure faces an uphill battle, with much of the political establishment opposing it.

Some form of prostitution is legal in two states. Brothels are allowed in rural counties in Nevada. And Rhode Island permits the sale of sex behind closed doors between consenting adults, but it prohibits street prostitution and brothels.

. . .

Police made 1,583 prostitution arrests in 2007 and expect to make a similar number this year. But the district attorney’s office says most defendants are fined, placed in diversion programs or both. Fewer than 5 percent get prosecuted for solicitation, which is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail.

Proposition K has been endorsed by the local Democratic Party. But the mayor, the district attorney, the police department and much of the business community oppose the idea. They contend that it would increase street prostitution, allow pimps the run of neighborhoods and hamper the fight against sex trafficking, which would remain illegal because it involves forcing people into the sex trade.

. . .

If the proposal passes, we wouldn’t be able to investigate prostitution, and it’s going to be pretty difficult for us to locate these folks who are victims of trafficking otherwise, said Capt. Al Pardini, head of the police department’s vice unit. It’s pretty rare that we get a call that says, I’m a victim of human trafficking or I suspect human trafficking in my neighborhood.

— Associated Press, CNN (2008-10-21): San Francisco may become safe for prostitutes

While I certainly agree that coerced sex trafficking is an evil that needs to be seriously addressed, government officials and government cops like Captain Al Pardini, who claim to be concerned about the welfare of women forced into prostitution, refuse to talk about ways to address the systemic issues that stop trafficked women from being able to come forward and speak out or seek help about what’s been done to them (like, the State’s violence against undocumented immigrants and the threat of deportation; like, the police’s refusal to take women in prostitution seriously or treat them like human beings), and instead they apparently feel perfectly comfortable insisting that their difficulties in investigating sexual slavery somehow justify laws that grant police the power to force any woman suspected of being in prostitution off the street and into police detention, under police scrutiny, to imprison her, to force her to pay punitive fines, to conduct arbitrary police raids to go on fishing expeditions for trafficked women (e.g., at Asian massage parlors) based on nothing other than racial profiling, and so forth, and so on, all in the name of facilitating the police’s attempts to investigate a different crime that affects some subset of the women being rousted up, shoved around, arrested, questioned, fined, imprisoned, and so on, and all in order to be able to force trafficked women into the protection of the criminal law, with or without their consent. This amounts to nothing more than an argument for ensuring that the State maintains and exercises plenary police state powers over all women suspected of being sex workers, for no reason other than the alleged necessity of protecting some women in the sex industry from violence, while ignoring the many crimes that women in prostitution are never able to report to the police for fear of being arrested, and while ignoring the immense violence against all women in the sex industry that is committed by cops themselves, as part and parcel of this policy of arrest and detention. Nobody would ever accept this argument if it were directed against a class of people whose basic human rights malestream society is more accustomed to granting. (E.g., We need to be able to investigate the enslavement of migrant farmworkers; let’s outlaw farming! We need to be able to investigate medical malpractice; let’s give the cops the power to arrest any doctor and charge them with a misdemeanor!) It is only when it comes to people who powerful men regard as official non-persons that these kind of arguments get made — whether they are made against the safety and freedom of women in prostitution, or against the safety and freedom of immigrants without government papers or unauthorized drug dealers, in parallel arguments for government border laws and drug prohibition. That’s despicable, and it’s baffling to reason. If you have the chance, I’d strongly encourage you to vote Yes on Prop. K, and No on police state tactics and government violence against women.

I should say that, while I’ve given up completely on electoral politics as a primary vehicle for political change, measures like Prop. K — or Question 1 and Question 2 in Massachusetts, or State Question 2 in Nevada — are a good demonstration of why, if you’re going to put in for electoral politics, voter initiatives and direct votes on referendum questions offer a much better vehicle for doing it than throwing in for the personal political prospects of some favored (or least-worst) candidate for the elective oligarchy that is so fatuously described as our democracy. Proposition K will have a hard time passing — a similar initiative was defeated in Berkeley recently by a 2-to-1 margin — but the mere fact that completely decriminalizing prostitution in a major U.S. city has entered into the political debate, that it is being considered for passage (or. mutatis mutandis, repealing the income tax in one of the highest-tax states in the U.S., or decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, or banning all eminent domain seizures for transfer to private developers in a state with one of the most intensely state-capitalist economies in the U.S.) is an achievement in itself, compared to the way in which representative politics completely smothers all serious politics, by choking off any and all political issues outside of the established bipartisan government consensus on the acceptable range of debate. Voting libertarians take note: if you’re going to spend your time on this stuff, there’s not much hope for making a difference this way, but there’s some, and that’s better than I can say for personality politics and representative elective oligarchy.

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