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THE INTERIOR WILL CONTINUE TO HEAT UP, and some localized triple digit readings will be possible by Tuesday. Sunshine will be muted in some areas by areas of smoke and haze, while coastal areas remain generally cool with areas of morning stratus. Rain will be possible for portions of our region next weekend. (NWS)
A LOCAL ASKS:
Who’s this asshole?
This Tesla passed me on a blind corner at the top of 253. Did the same thing to three other cars without giving any of us the chance to pull over to safely pass. The KZYX stickers implies they are local…
PS. The issue I had with this person wasn't that I was going too slow or the person's in front of me. This driver just shoots up behind you and before you can get to a place to pull over, they are flying around you, sometimes passing multiple cars. I'm not a fuddyduddy, love fast cars and have done my own stupid shit that nearly got me killed. I am old enough to know better and this person just seems to not GAF about anyone or anything. We live in the country folks. Bambi can jump out whenever. Plus, for whatever God forsaken reason, cyclists love this flipping stretch of hwy. Between those 2 factors and the occasional asshole that's in my lane going the opposite direction, 253 is a effing nightmare. I get home and need damn drink. Maybe if someone knows this person they can pass on a message from the rest of us.
VERBAL DE-ESCALATION TECHNIQUES CALM AZBILL
On Friday, September 3, 2021 at about 13:52 PM Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies were dispatched to a possible brandishing of a firearm incident in the 300 block of Biggar Lane in Covelo.
Deputies arrived and learned a 38 year-old female had been in an argument with her boyfriend, identified as being Reginald Azbill, 38, of Covelo.
Reportedly, Azbill had struck her in the head with an open hand a couple days prior not causing any injury. At that time the incident was not reported to the Sheriff's Office.
On September 3, 2021 in the early morning hours, the girlfriend was showering when she was startled by Azbill standing in her bathroom. Azbill was holding a handgun and pointed it at her body, while making a threatening statement. This caused the girlfriend to fear for her safety while Azbill left the location shortly thereafter.
Deputies attempted to located Azbill with negative results.
Deputies learned Azbill was on Post Release Community Supervision (PRCS) and was prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition.
Deputies issued a Be-On-The Look Out (BOLO) for Azbill to arrest him for Assault with a Firearm, Domestic Violence Battery, Burglary and violation of the terms of his PRCS. The Deputies further obtained an Emergency Protective Order for the girlfriend's protection.
On Sunday, September 5, 2021 Deputies were dispatched to the Sheriff's Office Willits Substation regarding another reported brandishing of a firearm incident.
Deputies contacted a 48 year-old male from New Jersey. Deputies learned the male had came to California to help the girlfriend deal with some recent family events.
The adult male had helped the girlfriend changed the locks on her residence due to the prior event on September 3, 2021 involving Azbill.
On September 5, 2021 the adult male was in the yard feeding dogs when he noticed Azbill. Azbill immediately pulled a firearm and pulled the slide mechanism backwards as if he was loading the weapon.
The adult male was scared and asked Azbill not to shoot him. Azbill mumbled something then left without incident. The adult male later received a threatening text message from Azbill.
Deputies responded to the 300 block of Biggar Lane in Covelo for further investigations.
Upon their arrival, they noticed Azbill standing next to a vehicle. Deputies used verbal deescalation commands and Azbill was peacefully taken into custody.
Azbill was pat searched and found to be in possession of two loaded semi-automatic 9mm handguns, about 3 grams of suspected methamphetamine and a used glass methamphetamine pipe.
Deputies were advised one of the firearms had been reported to be stolen from Medina County in the State of Texas.
Deputies added the charges of being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm and ammunition and, Possession of a controlled substance while armed with a loaded firearm, criminal threats, and violating the terms of his PRCS terms.
Azbill was transported to the Mendocino County Jail and during the booking process, he was found to have about 4 grams of a controlled substance. The added charge of bringing drugs into the jail was added to his booking charges.
Azbill was booked into the Mendocino County Jail where he was to be held on a No Bail status due to the violation of his PRCS terms.
THEN HE THREW THE ROTOR AT US....
On Saturday, September 4, 2021 at about 12:30 PM Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies were responding to a possible brandishing of a firearm incident on the corner of Barnes Lane and Highway 162 in Covelo.
Deputies heard via the radio that Round Valley Tribal Police advise they were in the area and had one person detained. When Deputies arrived they found there were two separate incidents that occurred in the same area.
Deputies learned as Tribal Police arrived in the area they noticed Luiz Gonzalez, 24, of Covelo, and a female, identified as Bridgette Frank, 31, of Covelo in an argument with a couple other individuals.
The other individuals were identified as being a 24 year-old male and a 50 year-old female both from Covelo. Tribal Police Officers advised they detained Gonzalez but Frank had left the area.
During the investigation, it was learned an eyewitness saw Frank break the 50 year-old female's vehicle window.
The witness called the 24 year-old male and 50 year-old female and told them what they witnessed and the pair responded to the location.
When the pair arrived they were confronted by Gonzalez and Frank.
During the argument Gonzalez picked up a metal brake rotor and threw it in an attempt to cause injury. The person(s) were able to move and the metal rotor did not hit anyone. Tribal Police Officers arrived shortly thereafter and detained Gonzalez.
Deputies located the metal rotor used in the assault and photographed the damage to the vehicle. Gonzalez was taken into custody pursuant to a private persons arrest.
Gonzalez was booked into the Mendocino County Jail where he was to be held in lieu of $30,000.00 bail.
The area was checked for Frank with negative results.
I TRIED to get my two cents in on this exchange about U.S. Grant, but am too technically maladroit to negotiate the Redheaded Blackbelt's comment line so I'll do it here. The discussion was prompted by an article about Grant's tour of duty at Fort Humboldt:
(1) Too bad the old buzzard didn’t drown when he fell into the slough. As president he launched an illegal war against the Lakota Sioux. He personally approved the mission to send Col. Custer into the Black Hills of what is now South Dakota. All this was over gold.
(2) Ernie Branscomb: Nowadays it would be all about cannabis. He sent Custer into the Black Hills and he lost the battle with the Lakota Sioux. What would have happened to history if he had sent someone that would have won the battle? Someone once said “Don’t mess with history.” If the “Old Buzzard” had drowned, the union may have lost the civil war and slavery would have been much harder to eliminate. Don’t mess with history, learn from it.
I AGREE with the reliably sensible and informed Mr. Branscomb. If Grant had succeeded Lincoln instead of the foul drunk and racist Johnson, Reconstruction policies would undoubtedly been strictly enforced by and the suffering of Black people at least lessened. Grant was a truly great man and, I might add, a fine writer. He managed to come back from dire poverty after Humboldt when he was reduced to selling firewood on the streets of DC to lead the victory over the traitors of the slave states.
FORMER PRESIDENT George W. Bush used his 9/11 anniversary speech in Shanksville, Pennsylvania to condemn “violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home,” calling them “children of the same foul spirit.” Which also fits Bush himself, Cheney, Rice, and the rest of his murderous crew who, in the wake of 911, proceeded to permanently destabilize the Middle East and cause millions of deaths and desperate migrations of millions more. Bush's remarks are almost a Mendo-quality re-write of recent history. Of course all the post-911 death and destruction was a bi-partisan effort all the way, with Obama in the basement of the White House personally authorizing drone strikes. How many innocent families and wedding parties did Obama annihilate? BTW, that's your basic invidious comparison of 911 terrorists and our homegrown camo buddies, the latter being a bunch of fantasizing romantics incapable of anything more than an occasional mob action. A plague on all of them. Oops. Check that. We've already got the plague.
JOHN MCCOWEN WRITES: For anyone who buys the bullshit that 9/11 was an inside job, please read the following transcript of a call with flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer. And think about this: if the buildings fell as a result of controlled demolitions why bother with the planes? Which just happened to fly into the towers precisely above placement of the demo charges? Except in the real world explosives for controlled demos are placed at the bottom of the structure to be demoed. For this and other FACTUAL demolitions of 9/11 lunatic fringe conspiracy theories check out “Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can’t Stand Up to the Facts” by the Popular Mechanics Reporting Team.
Todd: Hello… Operator…listen to me…I can’t speak very loud. – This is an emergency. I’m a passenger on a United flight to San Francisco.. We have a situation here….Our plane has been hijacked…..can you understand me?
Lisa: (exhaling a deep breath to herself) I understand… Can the hijackers see you talking on the phone?
Lisa: Can you tell me how many hijackers are on the plane?
Todd: There are three that we know of.
Lisa: Can you see any weapons? What kind of weapons do they have?
Todd: Yes…. they don’t have guns….they have knives – they took over the plane with knives.
Lisa: Do you mean…like steak knives?
Todd: No, these are razor knives…like box cutters.
Lisa: Can you tell what country these people are from?
Todd: No…..I don’t know. They sound like they’re from the mid-east.
Lisa: Have they said what they want?
Todd: Someone announced from the cockpit that there was a bomb on board. He said he was the captain and to stay in our seats and stay quiet.
He said that they were meeting these men’s demands and returning to the airport… It was very broken English, and… I’m telling you…it sounded fake!
Lisa: Ok sir, please give me your name.
Todd: My name is Todd Beamer.
Lisa: Ok Todd….my name is Lisa…Do you know your flight number? If you can’t remember, it’s on your ticket.
Todd: It’s United Flight 93.
Lisa: Now Todd, can you try to tell me exactly what happened?
Todd: Two of the hijackers were sitting in first class near the cockpit. A third one was sitting near the back of the coach section. The two up front got into the cockpit somehow; there was shouting. The third hijacker said he had a bomb. It looks like a bomb. He’s got it tied to his waist with a red belt of some kind.
Lisa: So is the door to the cockpit open?
Todd: No, the hijackers shut it behind them.
Lisa: Has anyone been injured?
Todd: Yes, ..they…they killed one passenger sitting in first class. There’s been lots of shouting. We don’t know if the pilots are dead or alive. A flight attendant told me that the pilot and copilot had been forced from the cockpit and may have been wounded.
Lisa: Where is the 3rd hijacker now Todd?
Todd: He’s near the back of the plane. They forced most of the passengers into first class. There are fourteen of us here in the back. Five are flight attendants. He hasn’t noticed that I slipped into this pantry to get the phone. The guy with the bomb ordered us to sit on the floor in the rear of the plane……….oh Jesus.. Help!
Lisa: Todd….are you ok? Tell me what’s happening!
Todd: Hello…..We’re going down….I think we’re going to crash……Wait – wait a minute. No, we’re leveling off….we’re ok. I think we may be turning around…..That’s it – we changed directions. Do you hear me….we’re flying east again.
Lisa: Ok Todd…. What’s going on with the other passengers?
Todd: Everyone is… really scared. A few passengers with cell phones have made calls to relatives. A guy, Jeremy, was talking to his wife just before the hijacking started. She told him that hijackers had crashed two planes into the World Trade Center……Lisa is that true??
Lisa: Todd…..I have to tell you the truth…..it’s very bad. The World Trade Center is gone. Both of the towers have been destroyed.
Todd: Oh God —help us!
Lisa: A third plane was taken over by terrorists. It crashed into the Pentagon in Washington DC. Our country is under attack….and I’m afraid that your plane may be part of their plan.
Todd: Oh dear God. Dear God…….Lisa, will you do something for me?
Lisa: I’ll try….if I can….Yes.
Todd: I want you to call my wife and my kids for me and tell them what’s happened. Promise me you’ll call..
Lisa: I promise – I’ll call.
Todd: Our home number is 201 353-1073…….You have the same name as my wife…Lisa….We’ve been married for 10 years. She’s pregnant with our 3rd child. Tell her that I love her…….(choking up)..I’ll always love her..(clearing throat) We have two boys.. David, he’s 3 and Andrew, he’s 1…..Tell them……(choking) tell them that their daddy loves them and that he is so proud of them. (clearing throat again) Our baby is due January 12th…..I saw an ultra sound…..it was great….we still don’t know if it’s a girl or a boy………Lisa?
Lisa: (barely able to speak) I’ll tell them, I promise Todd.
Todd: I’m going back to the group—if I can get back I will…
Lisa: Todd, leave this line open…are you still there?……
Lisa: (dials the phone..) Hello, FBI, my name is Lisa Jefferson, I’m a telephone supervisor for GTE. I need to report a terrorist hijacking of a United Airlines Flight 93….Yes I’ll hold.
Goodwin: Hello, this is Agent Goodwin. I understand you have a hijacking situation?
Lisa: Yes sir, I’ve been talking with a passenger, a Todd Beamer, on Flight 93 who managed to get to an air phone unnoticed.
Goodwin: Where did this flight originate, and what was its destination?
Lisa: The flight left Newark New Jersey at 8 A.M. departing for San Francisco. The hijackers took over the plane shortly after takeoff, and several minutes later the plane changed course – it is now flying east.
Goodwin: Ms. Jefferson…I need to talk to someone aboard that plane. Can you get me thru to the planes phone?
Lisa: I still have that line open sir, I can patch you through on a conference call…hold a mo…..
Todd: Hello Lisa, Lisa are you there?
Lisa: Yes, I’m here. Todd, I made a call to the FBI, Agent Goodwin is on the line and will be talking to you as well.
Todd: The others all know that this isn’t your normal hijacking. Jeremy called his wife again on his cell phone. She told him more about the World Trade Center and all.
Goodwin: Hello Todd. This is Agent Goodwin with the FBI. We have been monitoring your flight. Your plane is on a course for Washington, DC. These terrorists sent two planes into the World Trade Center and one plane into the Pentagon. Our best guess is that they plan to fly your plane into either the White House or the United States Capital Building.
Todd: I understand…hold on……I’ll…….I’ll be back.
Lisa: Mr. Goodwin, how much time do they have before they get to Washington?
Goodwin: Not long ma’am. They changed course over Cleveland; they’re approaching Pittsburgh now. Washington may be twenty minutes away.
Todd: (breathing a little heavier) The plane seems to be changing directions just a little. It’s getting pretty rough up here. The plane is flying real erratic….We’re not going to make it out of here. Listen to me….I want you to hear this….I have talked with the others….we have decided we would not be pawns in these hijackers suicidal plot.
Lisa: Todd, what are you going to do?
Todd: We’ve hatched a plan. Four of us are going to rush the hijacker with the bomb. After we take him out, we’ll break into the cockpit. A stewardess is getting some boiling water to throw on the hijackers at the controls. We’ll get them….and we’ll take them out. Lisa, …..will you do one last thing for me?
Lisa: Yes…What is it?
Todd: Would you pray with me?
They pray: Our father which art in Heaven
Hallowed be thy name,
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive our trespassers,
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…
He makes me to lie down in green pastures
He leads me beside the still waters
He restores my soul
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for His name’s sake
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I will fear no evil, for thou art with me…..
Todd: (softer) God help me…Jesus help me….(clears throat and louder)
Are you guys ready?……..
CATCH OF THE DAY, September 11, 2021
JOVAN CAMPOS, Covelo. Controlled substance, paraphernalia, ammo possession by prohibited person.
MA GOMEZ, Ukiah. DUI.
JENNIFER HEVEY, Ukiah. DUI.
VICTORIA LOWE, Redwood Valley. concealed weapon, loaded firearm in public, smuggling controlled substance/liquor into jail, paraphernalia, controlled substance while armed with loaded firearm, narcotic/controlled substance for sale.
RAFAEL MALDONADO-MATA JR., Willits. Parole violation.
MIGUEL MARIN, Ukiah. Domestic battery, probation revocation.
JONATHAN MIRAVALLE, Ukiah. Battery with serious injury, assault with deadly weapon with great bodily injury.
DAVID QUEEN, Fort Bragg. DUI.
BRYAN SANCHEZ, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
GUNNAR SMITH, Santa Rosa/Ukiah. DUI-alcohol&drugs, pot for sale, controlled substance, suspended license for DUI.
VALENTIN SORIANO, Lucerne/Ukiah. DUI w/Blood-alcohol over 0.15% no license, probation revocation.
DONALD SPENCER, Ukiah. Elder abuse with resulting resulting in great bodily harm or death, criminal threat, resisting.
GEORGE JACKSON: HIS LIBERATING READING LIST & HIS LEGACY
by Jonah Raskin
Are books dangerous? You bet they are. That’s why there are book burners and why there is censorship of books. In the hands of readers hungry for ideas, books are weapons and tools for social change. In the hands of George Jackson, books were a lifeline to the world outside prison where he lived much of his life. Books educated him and made a role model to other prisoners. If we all read and understand the same books that Jackson read we might call ourselves intellectuals and intelligent.
“It put a smile on my face when I saw June Jordan’s name there,” Angela Davis said on a Zoom event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of the celebrated, notorious author of Soledad Brother and Blood in My Eye and co-founder of the Black Guerrilla Family who had been behind bars in California every since 1961 when he was 20 years old.
Davis was talking about the list of books that the authorities at San Quentin typed 13 days after George Jackson was shot and killed August 21, 1971. Not surprisingly, Davis took a keen political and personal interest in the list of 99 books that were removed from the cell of prisoner A-63837.
After all, she was/is a Black intellectual, a former Communist Party member, student of Herbert Marcuse, a fugitive from the FBI, a college teacher, an author, a comrade of Jackson’s and more. While it had limited circulation in the 1970s, the list didn’t go public, modestly, until August 2009, and then again with a wide reach twelve years later, in August 2021 in the nick of time for the 50th anniversary of George’s bloody death.
In the interview with Davis, which was conducted by The Freedom Archives for its “99 Books” Project, Angela noted that June Jordan’s name and the title of her book of poems, Some Changes, were the “only surprises” (for her) on Jackson’s list. She added that “all the books have a memory attached to them.” In my mind they are also linked to images, recollections, libraries and reading lists.
The 99 books would likely have sticky association for anyone who was literate and on the Left in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They suggest that George’s library was an essential part of his environment and shaped his thinking irrevocably.
If I were to go down the list today, item by item and not have any information about the person who owned or at least possessed the books I would conclude that he (or she) was both a Marxist and a communist. In fact, Jackson was both, though orthodox communists and Marxists might not see him in that light.
His revolutionary fervor and intellectual fire made him appealing to Angela Davis, and to many radicals who took a keen interest in prisons, prisoners and the prison movement which was then growing rapidly. It culminated in the insurrection by prisoners at Attica, the New York State prison, that began on September 9, 1971, nineteen days after Jackson’s murder. Something was clearly in the air.
While The Freedom Archive gathered the interviews and materials for the anniversary, the event itself was hosted by the Los Angeles-based Labor Community Strategy Center, its director and co-founder, Eric Mann, and Channing Martinez. Mann, the author of Comrade George: An Investigation into the Life, Political Thought and Assassination of George Jackson was an SDS member and a Weatherman who served eighteen months behind bars for his role during a demonstration in 1969 at the Harvard School for International Affairs. Like Angela Davis, he’s reinvented himself again and again and retained core values.
June Jordan is the one woman author on the list; the one black woman author. Also, only about a dozen or so of the books on George’s list are by Black writers, including a novel by Ralph Ellison (Invisible Man) and a novel by John Oliver Killens (Black Man’s Burden.) The authors of many of the volumes were members of the Communist Party of the U.S.A., such as Herbert Aptheker and Philip Foner. No author appears on the list more often than Foner. Jackson had Foner’s biography of Frederick Douglass and volumes 1, 2 and 3 of his History of the Labor Movement in the United States.
Many of the books are from International Publishers and Monthly Review, though there are some mass market paperbacks by commercial publishing companies.
Not surprisingly, there are a lot of books by Marx and Engels, a smattering of Lenin and some Stalin, along with Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci and Ho Chi Minh’s prison poems. Jackson knew by heart Ho’s most famous line (and image): “When the prison doors are open, the real dragon will fly out.”
The French existentialists, Sartre, Malraux and Camus show up, plus many books that were topical in the 1960s, such as H. Rap Brown’s Die Nigger Die!, G. William Domhoff’s Who Rules America, Grier and Cobb’s Black Rage, and Felix Greene’s Vietnam! Vietnam! Jackson had copies of his own books, Soledad Brother and Blood in My Eye.
What’s really surprising, at least to me, is that he had two books by Euell Gibbons: Stalking the Blue-Eyed Scallop and Stalking the Healthful Herbs. Surprising to me because Jackson didn’t have the opportunity to do any stalking in the wild. But perhaps the books allowed him to travel in his imagination beyond the walls of his prison cell and into the world of nature and plants.
Books do tend to expand the world of the reader, especially prisoners. Someone more familiar with Jackson’s life than I, explained that he emphasized physical health and would have been interested in a diet of clean, uncontaminated food of the sort that was largely unavailable in prison.
A San Quentin employee named N. R. Snellgrove removed the books from Jackson’s cell after what he called the “Adjustment Center incident.” Jackson, who may or may not have had a gun smuggled into the prison, was shot and killed during the incident. So were three guards and two inmates.
Half a dozen inmates, known as the San Quentin Six — Fleeta Drumgo, David Johnson, Hugo Pinell, Johnny Spain, Luis Talamantez and Willie Tate — went on trial in Marin County a short distance from the prison. The trial lasted 17 months in 1975 and 1976, cost the State of California millions of dollars and focused the attention of radicals for years.
Angela Davis also went on trial. In August 1970, George’s younger brother, Jonathan, used a gun registered to Davis to try to free three inmates at San Quentin. On August 7, 1970, he burst into a Marin County courtroom, took Judge Harold Haley hostage and demanded freedom for three prisoners. Jonathan didn’t get very far. He, Haley, William Christmas, and James McClain were killed when they tried to drive away from the courthouse.
Ruchell Magee tried to help Jonathan free the prisoners. More than half a century later he is still behind bars; a political prisoner held longer than anyone else in the U.S.
Angela Davis’s trial in San Jose in 1972 lasted 13 weeks. She gave the opening argument herself, not her lawyers. The trial ended with a verdict of not guilty on all three charges: kidnapping, conspiracy and murder.
Jonathan Jackson’s armed action, the bloody violence at the Adjustment Center, the trial of the San Quentin Six and the trial of Davis, gave many on the Left the impression that George Jackson lived and died by the gun.
In an essay in The Paris Review, Max Nelson, who writes about prison literature, explained that George Jackson “pulled a pistol on his wardens at San Quentin… freed several of his fellow inmates, presided over the slashing of eight prison officials’ throats (six guards and two trustees), and then died under heavy gunfire while sprinting to freedom.”
That’s one narrative. Whether it’s accurate, the full story or a frame-up of Jackson isn’t clear. Was George a bloodthirsty criminal as Max Nelson suggests or is Nelson’s description sensationalism?
The list of the books in Jackson’s cell invites both friends and foes to reimagine him as a voracious reader and thinker who lived and died, not by the gun and the bullet, but by the books he possessed.
Snellgrove typed up the list for L. S. Nelson, the warden at San Quentin and dated his document, “September 3, 1971.” At the end of the list he typed: “Total number of books taken from cell of George Jackson and listed, ninety-nine (99).”
Nelson’s typescript made its way to the trial for the San Quentin 6, and then into the archives for the trial where it was discovered and recovered by Greg Thomas, then a Black professor of English at Syracuse University and now at Tufts in Medford, MA. Not surprisingly, Thomas teaches prison literature.
Liberation News, the newspaper of “The Party for Socialism and Liberation,” published the list without comment under the headline “Exclusive, official inventory.” The editors knew they had something important. So did Claude Marks at the Freedom Archives, and also Eric Mann, who noted that Jackson’s “greatest guerrilla warfare was in the realm of ideas” and that his focus was on ”ideological and cultural struggles.”
At the Zoom event, Jackson talked on a tape recording about fascism and about the necessity of creating “revolutionary culture” and “reestablishing a sense of community.” Jackson’s ideas about fascism are thought-provoking. For example, he noted that ex-communists like Mussolini make the best fascists. Mussolini was briefly a member of the Italian Saocialist Party.
Angela Davis described Jackson as an intellectual and “extremely learned” and “totally aware of what was happening in the so-called free world.” Because of her intellectual connections with George and their correspondence, Davis said that she began to think of “the prison as an apparatus of racism and oppression” and “the relationship of the prison to women.”
In some of his letters, Jackson expresses views that might be described as sexist. “Women like to be dominated, love being strong-armed, need an overseer to supplement their weakness,” he wrote in 1967. He changed his tune after he got to know Angela Davis and Fay Stender, a Berkeley civil rights lawyer who helped to guide Jackson’s Soledad Brother to the book’s editor Greg Armstrong at Bantam. Stender was shot and paralyzed by a gunman who invaded her house. He assumed that Stender had betrayed Jackson.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Jackson was largely, though not exclusively known in the left wing circles I frequented as an advocate of guerrilla warfare, not primarily as an intellectual. In that light, it seems significant that Davis noted that “intellectuals are marginalized from the struggle.” That’s how I remember that time, and that’s what I said at the Zoom event.
Not surprisingly, Mann seemed to disagree. After all he’s an author and an intellectual. Mann belonged to CORE, SDS and Weatherman, but he heard a “different drummer” to borrow Thoreau’s image. He followed his own revolutionary road. Mann has straddled Black and working class movements. An internationalist, he has focused on local issues most recently in Los Angeles. “It’s a continual struggle to find the countervailing idea,” he noted.
The Zoom event reached a crescendo with an interview conducted with Eddie Conway, 75 years old, and a former member of the Baltimore chapter of the Black Panther Party who had spent most of his life behind bars. In 1971 he was convicted of the murder of a Baltimore police officer. In 2014 he was released on parole, after an appellate court ruled that his jury had been given improper instructions in his case.
“George was the most well-read prisoner among prisoners,” Conway said. “He was the intellectual among prisoners.” Conway added, “The ruling class is afraid of ideas, especially the idea that the wealth of the world belongs to the people of the world.”
After the Strategy Center event I went back to Jackson’s letters and reread them. I first read them when they were initially published and was blown away, in the parlance of that time, by George’s mastery of metaphor, his distinctive voice and his unique way of expressing himself.
It might be useful to say here that Jackson was a creative writer and that he added immensely in his own work to the extensive body of prison literature in the U.S. that includes writers like O. Henry, Alexander Berkman, Nelson Algren, Chester Himes, Eldridge Cleaver, Bobby Seale, Piri Thomas and H. Rap Brown. Some on the left have known and written about this subject for a long time. One of them is H. Bruce Franklin the author of Prison Literature in America: the Victim as Criminal and Artist (1982). Franklin has been and still is a radical intellectual and a prolific author.
By all means let’s honor George Jackson, but let’s not stereotype him. He wasn’t one thing, but many: a reader, a Black revolutionary, a political prisoner, a writer, an intellectual, a victim and an artist. He was a survivor who transcended the brutality of the prison system and in some ways he was also messed up by it. Prison has a way of doing that even to the most defiant. George’s ideas about fascism seem to be prescribed and limited by his experience behind bars. If you’re in solitary the world seems to be fascistic.
Still, Jackson’s letters are magnificent, and a monument to candor, honesty and beauty. Read this brief excerpt from a letter written in June 1970, see if you don’t agree and want to read more:
“All my life I pretended with my folks, it was the thing in the street that was real. I was certainly just pretending with the nuns and priests, I served mass so that I could be in a position to steal altar wine, sang in the choir because they made me. When we went on tour of the rich white catholic schools we were always treated very well — fed — rewarded with gifts. Old Father Brown hated me but always put me down front when we were on display. I can’t say exactly why, I was the ugliest, skinniest little misfit in the group.”
As a commentator on the 99 Books project, Robyn Spencer observed that “George is American history.” The author of The Revolution Has Come: Black Power, Gender, and the Black Panther Party in Oakland, Spencer is the co-founder of the Intersectional Black Panther Party History Project. “George’s friends were Marx, Lenin and Mao,” she observed. She added, “Make your own book list. Add the women, the LGBTQ and non-binary people his list lacked.”
(Jonah Raskin is the author of For The Hell of It: The Life and Times of Abbie Hoffman and American Scream: Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ and the Making of the Beat Generation.)
THE ANNIVERSARY OF 9/11 IS A GREAT DAY TO REFLECT ON REPUBLICAN HYPOCRISY
GOP pols in the Bush years set the constitution afire and cheered America’s march toward authoritarianism, but now want you to know Joe Biden has them Petrified For Democracy. Are you laughing yet?
by Matt Taibbi
Well, that didn’t take long. Within a day after Joe Biden announced his vaccine mandate plan, a conga line of exultant blue-friendly pundits rushed to offer their hottest hot takes on the many exciting authoritarian possibilities that might now be open, with government unshackled at last.
CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen had a busy end of the week, proposing the equivalent of a no-fly list for the unvaccinated, explaining, “It’s not a constitutional right as far as I know to board a plane.” She also compared walking outside unvaccinated to driving drunk, suggested the penalties should be similar, and praised Biden’s plan by saying, “if you endanger other people, there is an obligation by society to do something about that.”
USA Today said the mandate was a great start, but now we need “data-driven mask mandates, too.” FBI agent-turned-“journalist” Asha Rangappa playfully retweeted one poster’s all-in-one solution, in which the government would simply conscript all unvaccinated people into the service, vaccinate them as required for active duty personnel, then discharge them.
The Biden speech inspiring all this was pure catnip to those yearning to punish all the obstinate ignoramuses said to be causing America’s problems. It was announced that the TSA would double fines for people on planes not wearing masks, with Biden snapping, “If you break the rules, be prepared to pay.” President DodderGramps then took a hard stance on the “nearly 80 million Americans” who still aren’t vaccinated, saying through gritted teeth, “We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin,” and “your refusal has cost all of us.” It was the most pointed presidential warning since 2001, when George W. Bush all but rolled out Ennio Morricone’s The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly theme as he promised to “smoke [terrorists] out of their holes.”
The Republican Party’s collective response to Biden’s mandate plan reminded me of the Zucker brothers take on how to deal with adversity in “a mature and adult fashion”:
Republican Senator John Thune decried an “extreme government overreach,” Arizona governor Doug Ducey called the vaccine mandate a “dictatorial approach,” while a Kentucky congressman denounced Biden’s move as “absolutely unconstitutional.” Mark Meadows said Biden was a “lawless President” who will “trample over the constitution” to achieve partisan goals. Utah’s Mike Lee, who clerked for Samuel Alito in the early War on Terror years, said Biden was a “would-be autocrat” who’d exhibited a “wanton disregard for the U.S. Constitution.” Hillbilly Elegy author and likely presidential hopeful J.D. Vance denounced Biden as a “geriatric tyrant” and outlined a plan of “mass civil disobedience” against what he called the “illegal and unconstitutional” vaccine mandate:
It’s not easy to pick which of the above actors deserves the biggest belly laugh — there were enough authoritarian inanities emanating just from CNN Friday to power ten years of scientific research on the International Space Station — but my early vote goes with the Republicans, whose self-righteous wig-out will surely end up in the Unintentional Comedy Hall of Fame. Is the 20-year anniversary of 9/11 really the moment when Republican politicians want to hold a mass cry-in about “extreme government overreach,” a “dictatorial approach” to governance, and ignoring the constitution?
That party has centuries of amends to make before it should ever get a whiff of being taken seriously again on questions of “overreach” and extraconstitutional mischief. Even the current meandering, messageless version of the GOP would have a powerful weapon against Democrats if it could just admit, “We spent much of the early 2000s building some of the most heinously extrajudicial and anti-democratic governmental infrastructure the world has ever seen, and we designed those mechanisms to be secret and exempt from oversight. So it’s somewhere between totally and mostly on us that a Democratic administration is now deploying these ideas in all directions, including against our voters. That’s our bad, and we’re sorry.”
Of course, this Republican party — whose modus operandi for decades has been gobbling defense and oil and gas donations in exchange for tax and regulatory giveaways while winning votes of actual people by waving the flag and pretending to know scripture — is incapable of that kind of epiphany. It just wants to have its cake and eat it too, wailing at maximum volume about Democratic Party authoritarianism while keeping schtum about the fact that almost every policy they’re now complaining about was a Bush-era invention they once applauded. Bush even founded the TSA, the original prying federal pain in the ass! Forget about doubled fines for mask violators — during the War on Terror years, they doled out $1,500 tickets to randos who showed the wrong “attitude” when passing through TSA checkpoints.
On the anniversary of 9/11, it’s worth remembering exactly how many freedoms were lost in pursuit of Dick Cheney’s Middle East science project, and how lustily Republicans cheered each one of those changes.
Congressional passage of the first Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) after 9/11 symbolized the breadth of the coming power grab. It gave Bush unilateral authority to deploy the military against “nations, organizations, or persons” who “planned, committed, or aided” the 9/11 attacks. This should have been broad enough, but White House lawyer John Yoo more or less immediately added a memo interpreting the AUMF to also give the president the “pre-emptive” authority to wage war against any target deemed necessary, “whether or not they can be linked to the specific terrorist incidents of September 11.” The absurdity of this legal construct was such that it has since been invoked on countless occasions to launch military strikes and assassinations against groups and members of groups that didn’t even exist on 9/11.
It’s been suggested by some of Biden’s critics that he should have sought congressional approval for something so significant as a vaccine mandate. I’d agree, but I’m not interested in hearing that criticism from any Republican who cheered the “I’m the decider!” years, when Bush used executive orders so often and for so many things — including warrantless surveillance — that a whole generation grew up unaware that things like sending troops into combat once required congressional approval.
A short list of the more obscene authoritarian practices Republicans rammed into being since 9/11/2001, most of which have stuck with us in stubborn fashion ever since, like venereal disease:
— They created a new term of war, “unlawful combatant,” which allowed them to unilaterally opt out of both the Geneva convention and the due process protections of American criminal law, when it came to the growing population of persons around the world not charged with anything, but in our custody;
— They asserted the right to kidnap and remove to this indefinite secret detention any person anywhere in the world, with or without formal charge, even an American citizen;
— With the aid of then-NSA director Michael Hayden, who’s since become a star in #Resistance circles, they unilaterally put into service a surveillance program that mass-violated the rights and privacy of every person on earth, including every American, and bluntly violated our own existing foreign surveillance law;
— They created a secret master list of undesirables via the establishment of a program called the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB), which had as a sub-project the infamous “No-Fly List.” This program affected the lives of as many as a million people without any due process or transparency, not just impacting the ability of the listed to fly but permitting the state to intervene to affect the chances of those listed at getting jobs, admission to schools, access to loans, and so on;
— They ostensibly made assassination legal again and secretly gave themselves the right to employ their new “targeted killing” policy anywhere in the world. A Democrat, Barack Obama, would be the first to assert the legal right to drone without trial two Americans, al-Qaeda member Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16 year-old son;
— They entered into agreements with telecom companies and other institutions that gave them ongoing, warrantless access to the medical, educational, and communications records of millions of Americans and foreigners alike. In most of these arrangements, whether formalized via a “National Security Letter” or not, the companies warehousing data were barred by law from informing their customer they’d been coerced by the government into sharing private data;
And so on, and so on. Republicans scarcely protested any of this until Obama got elected, and even then it wasn’t Obama’s acceleration of the worst excesses like drone murder that was the problem. Instead, the Democrats’ public flirtation with deploying a few of these tools in unpredictable directions finally triggered the Republican outrage center. An early preview of what that looked like came in May, 2015, when congressional Democrats in the wake of a series of mass shootings tried to deny purchases of certain kinds of firearms to people on the no-fly list.
Republicans were aghast. Who ever said anything about using these insane and clearly unconstitutional programs against our constituents? One Republican politician after the next now stood up and made speeches that sounded culled from old ACLU circulars:
“Look at the number of errors on the no fly list,” mortified South Carolina Republican Tim Scott complained. “One estimate was that there were up to 50 percent errors!”
“If the president believes that people on no-fly lists are a threat to the public, then how come his Department of Justice doesn’t indict them, try them and convict them and put them behind bars?” asked Texas Senator John Cornyn. In other words, whatever happened to goldarned due process? The voices of pols like Cornyn choked with emotion. They really sounded sad!
Things got even sadder over the next five years as two things happened. One, the rich white suburban districts with median incomes above $250,000 that had been Republican strongholds — places even Mitt Romney once won by 20-point margins — became completely lost to the GOP during the Trump years, as even the most rapacious capitalists abandoned them for competence reasons. In 2016, Hillary won those same districts by an average of 37 points.
The skew was even more pronounced in the 2020 race, when Biden won a fifth of the counties Trump did, but those 509 counties accounted for 71% of National GDP, compared to 29% for Trump. The Democrats by 2020 in other words were officially the party of the rich, even winning all ten of the ten richest congressional seats, while the GOP was not just beaten in these places, but now completely non-viable there.
In the second, related phenomenon, the Democratic Party in the Trump years became the new intellectual home of the Bush-Cheney authoritarian revolution, with famed War on Terror architects like Bill Kristol and David Frum crossing over and Democrats like Adam Schiff suddenly capable of out-monstering even the worst Republicans on civil liberties issues. Blue-friendly pundits regularly hammered the theme that concern over civil liberties was just a stalking horse for right-wing treachery (Salon’s“For Trump and his man-baby fans, ‘free speech’ means they get to act out with no consequences” was a typical Trump-era headline), while they also lionized War on Terror scum-lords like Hayden and John Brennan and James Clapper, who all got paid TV gigs. Special worship was reserved for Bob Mueller, however.
Pundits cheered as one when Mueller raided the office of the president’s lawyer (who cared about the long-term concerns over attorney-client privilege, this was Trump!) or when he employed the increasingly common practice of using secret counterintelligence evidence in a domestic criminal case (as in the Maria Butina episode), or when Mueller tried to refuse basic discovery to the defense on the grounds that his evidence might end up “discrediting ongoing investigations” by his team, or when he wiped his graying hind-parts with the presumption of innocence, via absurd constructions like the idea that Trump would not be charged but was still “not exonerated.” This much-cheered conclusion asserted the power to confer innocence resided solely with the state.
I know, because I talked to some of them, that there were Republican politicians in the Trump years who had genuine come-to-Jesus moments about War on Terror spy programs they now saw deployed either against themselves or the Trump administration, or were genuinely freaked out to see people they considered liberals,as opposed to their own kind, popping wood over Mueller’s years-long egging of the Bill of Rights. A small contingent of Republicans in congress was suddenly worried in a new way about the misuse of surveillance programs like FISA, about the systematic deployment of illegal classified leaks to drive news cycles against Trump, or the manufacture of bogus spookworld narratives about Russians using bot armies to help this or that politician, supposedly in their desperation to undermine Democrats. There were some real converts — but alas, not enough to come out and call for an actual mea culpa over their own party’s decades of rights abuse in the War on Terror.
After January 6th, the TSA was suddenly investigating what names among America’s “DVEs” (i.e. Domestic Violent Extremists) might need to be added to the No-Fly List, and Meghan McCain, of all people, said she was “not against sending these people to Gitmo.” When Elizabeth Neumann, former assistant secretary for counterterrorism and threat prevention at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, compared Trump to Osama bin Laden, the cycle was complete. Republicans had essentially become the new version of “unlawful combatants,” and many of their supporters found themselves staring directly at the business end of the War on Terror machine their party created.
The same Democratic Party that once elected a constitutional lawyer in the (vain, as it turned out) hope that he would unmake Bush’s War on Terror machine has now fully embraced Bush’s logic, and vice versa. Bush today gave a speech at Shanksville, Pennsylvania in which he compared the terrorists he hunted then with the domestic evildoers of today. “We have seen growing evidence that the dangers to our country can come not only across borders but from violence that gathers within,” he said, adding, “they are children of the same foul spirit and it is our continuing duty to confront them.” A supercomputer 20 years ago fed the information that DNC organ-grinder Aaron Rupar would someday be approvingly re-tweeting the Republican architect of the first War on Terror might have shorted out, but that combo makes unfortunately perfect sense now.
The Biden vaccine mandate will probably presage a host of new hardcore measures that will be our next versions of policy herpes — get ready for vaccine passports and facial recognition and permanent online surveillance of the “vaccine hesitant,” among countless other things — and though I’m not sure how worked up I’m prepared to get about the mandate itself, it’d be nice if there was at least one serious political organization watching out for rights issues.
Unfortunately, Republican complaints about such problems will be impossible to take seriously until the party repudiates its role in building the first War on Terror. We didn’t hear many horrified Republican objections when a CIA official boasted to the Washington Post years ago about its drone program, “We are killing these sons of bitches faster than they can grow them now.” In fact, Republicans cheered when Donald Trump promised to “bomb the shit out of ISIS” and lower the standard for who could be droned, from high-level militants to foot-soldier jihadists with no special skills or roles. And in fact, drone murders massively increased under Trump, and Republican lawmakers sure didn’t seem to care much.
We also didn’t hear Republicans demanding hearings when a Guantanamo prisoner had to appear for hearings seated sideways on a special pillow, his insides wrecked from years of “rectal re-feeding,” since it was apparently okay with the bulk of the party’s leaders that being in American custody now means having to submit to ritual sodomy in addition to having no right to trial. The closest thing to a critic of Guantanamo Bay on the Republican side, Rand Paul, restricted his empathy to American citizens. “You do not get the Bill of Rights if you are fighting in a battlefield against America,” was his take.
The legacy of 9/11 was a complete assault on individual rights, the rule of law, transparency, oversight, due process, and the democratic process, with Bush and Cheney building a whole extralegal justice system, complete with secret budgets and prisons, whose entire purpose was to deny rights to America’s “enemies.” This period was so devastating to the principles of fairness and transparency that even the ACLU eventually gave up caring, eventually becoming just another undisguised partisan collection plate that recently reversed course from previous vaccine mandate policy just in time for Biden’s vaccine plan.
These John Thunes and Mike Meadowses and Mike Lees whining about Biden’s “dictatorial” vaccine mandate this week would have a lot more credibility if they could bring themselves to denounce things like no-fly lists or “targeted killing” or rendition or indefinite detention or a dozen other horrors committed in their party’s name in the last twenty years on general principle, not just for partisan reasons. If you only care now that some of these tools are being aimed at your voters, that makes you more of an asshole, not less.
What’s happening to Republicans now also should, but won’t be, an object lesson to all the triumphalist armchair Stalins watching MSNBC this weekend who can’t wait to unleash the hounds of state on vaccine holdouts, insurrectionists and other pests. When it comes to authoritarian politics, if you make the bed, you’d better be prepared to lie in it yourself. Because sooner or later, you will, and unless you had principled objections throughout, no one will shed a tear when it happens.
A CONGLOMERATION OF DISASTERS
by John Arteaga
Wow! How on earth do I, in a short monthly column, do any kind of justice to the mind-boggling concatenation of overlapping, overwhelming disasters on every platform of human organization; civil infrastructure, politics, culture?
Just when we thought that here in California we were the kings of pain with the existential drought, which is (hopefully temporarily) displaced by the raging forest fires, the first one of which has ever progressed up one side of the Sierras and down the other, it is impossible to ignore the even greater catastrophe befalling our fellow citizens on the East Coast. After the epic trail of ruin wrought by hurricane Ida, the storm came to a merciful end in my old stomping grounds of NYC. The footage of the flooding of the subways was truly shocking to someone who once made daily use of the essential service that they provide.
Little was made of the fact that around 50 New Yorkers drowned in their largely illegally developed underground apartments. It’s always the poor who pay the highest price, while those who bask by their 90th story swimming pools probably complain about the tardiness of the help.
As the reality of ‘over the tipping point’ human-caused climate change becomes an inescapable reality to so many millions of suffering people the world over, what is still, for the nonce, the world’s most powerful nation, has a demographic that is frighteningly close to 50% who prefer to believe in magical thinking; that there is no problem that free-market capitalism can’t solve, that any government intervention in the mythical ‘free-market’ is, ipso facto, bad and harmful, even so many years after we learned about, for instance, the secret conspiracy of oil, auto and tire companies that bought up and trashed the entire streetcar infrastructure that once served any city of any importance in the United States with carless transportation for a pittance. Rah, rah the ‘free’ market!
As important as all these issues are, I’ve got to believe that at least a solid American majority was appalled this last week when the three soulless Trumpoid androids recently appointed to the Supreme Court have gone beyond any and all rational thought, selling their souls to the devil, in passively overturning Roe V Wade, the bedrock of female personal autonomy in this country. In the bizarre Christian Taliban state of Texas, they have stripped away women’s right to any kind of privacy or freedom, passing a law that not only imposes severe criminal penalties on anyone who avails themselves of their constitutional right (ever since Roe V Wade) to the procedure, but provides a $10,000 ‘rat bounty’ for anyone to poke their nose into their neighbor’s business and narc off their neighbor or ‘friend’, or even the local Uber driver who may have given someone a ride to a local clinic.
No exceptions for rape or incest! Are you kidding?! As culturally retrograde as Texas seems to be, I really find it hard to believe that a majority of Texans would really tell a 14-year-old girl who has been violently raped and impregnated by her father that Jesus says that she really has no choice but to bring that (probably defective) child to term. It must just be that after decades of right wing propaganda, assisted by scurrilously antidemocratic voter suppression (of those groups most likely to vote Democratic), that the political game has now come down to a scramble for votes amongst a religious lunatic fringe; a group so bereft of those qualities promoted by Jesus himself; humility, compassion, understanding, that if Jesus were to come back to Texas today, he would want to whack those fools upside their idiotic heads, and would probably end up being thrown in prison there for his efforts.
This thing with Afghanistan is another subject on which I could write an entire column (or several). For 20 years now we have squandered our Nation’s wealth, the lives of our young people, and the infinitely greater number of the apparently disposable people of Afghanistan, not to mention all their real capital; buildings, civic infrastructure etc.
Going into Afghanistan in the first place was a colossal folly; having well earned its tagline as ’the graveyard of empires’, one can go back as far as written history to see one arrogant colonial empire after another come to an ignominious end there in ‘God’s gift to guerrilla fighters’.
As much as I have hated Donald Rumsfeld from the get go, my enmity for him was given a boost when I read about the fact that WAY back in his day as W’s post 911 war chief, the Taliban made an offer that was almost a surrender; turning over Bin Laden etc. All they asked was that their revered Mullah Omar be allowed to live out the rest of his life in peace. Of course Rumsfeld, idiotic macho man of the W derangement, said hell no, and proceeded with the decades of death and destruction, all of it unnecessary and counterproductive, for all these years. May he burn in hell.
The ‘cost of war’ study at some prestigious university has estimated that by the time we pay for all the care needed for all the soldiers injured there, we will have spent $7 trillion! And all we will have accomplished has been the creation of a whole new generation sworn to vengeance against us!
Contrast this with the $27 trillion that China has spent in recent years on its ‘Belt and Road Initiative’, building high-speed rail, roads, tunnels, bridges and other infrastructure in surrounding countries. I wonder which of us will win the hearts and minds of all those people?
(John Arteaga is a Ukiah resident.)
For those who still think we will be able to continue living our lives like we do, think again. Climate change is the biggest threat to all living things. Mega fires, hurricanes and severe drought conditions are here now. Why didn’t we do something 100 years ago to save Earth as warming of the planet was predicted even back then?
Instead, we keep pretending all is well. I believe our politicians and leaders, past and present, should be accountable for putting all life in grave danger. They knew, scientists knew, about climate conditions and the impact they would have on life. Instead, the leaders chose to turn their heads and give in to the greed of big oil and fossil fuels.
I do not think we will have time to repair the damage because humans will not change. I think God is trying to tell us something: Either get it together and use the brains I gave you or good bye.
While I am aware Gayle Kozlowski (“Out of time?”) is correct in believing the world faces dire consequences of global warming, I see no future in running down human nature (“…humans will not change.”) Or attacking previous generations for lack of foresight.
Back in the early 90s, I was fortunate enough to teach science at Piner High School. The main theme of my teaching was that, as educated Americans and thoughtful members of the world community, we needed to limit our impact on the environment, since CO-2 and Nitrous Oxide emissions already were causing global warming.
If we are to survive as a species on Planet Earth, we must adjust our lifestyles to use less fossil fuels and cut back a little. Berating human nature isn’t any help.
BETTER BROADBAND THANKS TO GOV NEWSOM
As one more reason to Vote to retain Governor Newsom, the State of California is investing upward of $6 billion toward open-access middle and last-mile broadband networks.
The County of Mendocino is launching a crowd-sourced speed-test to collect the accurate, granular data needed for smart planning and to challenge legacy carriers' overestimates.
Would you please follow the link above to add your current internet speed to our growing shared databank?
Direct questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Morality starts before conception. Call it ‘reincarnation’ if you like, or call it divine grace by an indifferent cosmic consciousness, it doesn’t really matter for the purposes of this discussion. It’s starkly apparent to the mother, either by overt kicks or deep intuition, that each child is different during those mysterious nine months.
Then right after birth! Doris Lessing wrote a frightening short novel, “The Fifth Child”, about an evil kid, also right after conception but also into his (I believe) eighth year if I recall, from the terrified mother’s perspective. One of the reasons the novel was so chilling was that it offered no solace as to what she might have done wrong. Lessing took great pains to show that the mother and father and the other four kids were normal, and to a degree, even boring.
Then there’s the more mundane, but extremely important factor of raising kids the right way. This is where young people’s morality is often going to be shaped, during the first six years of life. If inferior blood lines don’t doom the kid, an absent father or hectoring mother can finish them off. The opposite, of course, is true. Children brought up in a house where the parents value Art, show love to all other members of the family, and give them a spiritual direction (mostly by example), means the kid will have a much better chance of being that “different kind of Man”.
All this is to say that by the time an 18 year-old reaches university, he or she already has their morality largely in place. Students who’ve already passed these prior tests shouldn’t be overprotected as if they were fragile and weak and incapable of resisting (e.g) pornography and mind fucks. They’re going to meet those challenges in ‘the real world’ sooner than later, anyway.
Students, however, DO need excellent pedagogical direction, which, automatically right there, invalidates almost all university classes.
LADY OF SPAIN
(Sung by Eddie Fisher)
Lady of Spain, I adore you
Right from the night I first saw you
My heart has been yearning for you
What else could any heart do?
Lady of Spain, I'm appealing
Why should my lips be concealing
All that my eyes are revealing?
Lady of Spain, I love you
Night in Madrid, blue and tender
Spanish moon makes silver splendor
Music throbbing, plaintive sobbing notes of a guitar
While ardent caballeros serenade:
Lady of Spain, I adore you
Right from the night I first saw you
My heart has been yearning for you
What else could any heart do?
Lady of Spain, I'm appealing
Why should my lips be concealing
All that my eyes are revealing?
Lady of Spain, I love you
Songwriters: Tolchard Evans, Stanley J. Damerell, Robert Hargreaves, Henry Tilsley
“To raise these uncomfortable questions about U.S. foreign policy was difficult for many Americans, particularly in the aftermath of the attacks. Indeed, many were afraid to ask the right questions because they feared the answers. Still, I was convinced that it could not have been more important or timely. Raising such questions was not popular, however. Detectives investigating a crime trying to establish a motive are generally not accused of defending the criminals. Fire inspectors inspecting the ruins of a building for the cause of the blaze are not accused of defending its destruction. Yet I found myself, along with scores of other Middle Eastern scholars, being attacked for supposedly defending terrorism.”
— Stephen Zunes
by Niela Orr
The death of the actor Michael K. Williams, at the age of 54, was reported on September 6. He had been found unresponsive in his Brooklyn penthouse. Williams was a major player in The Wire, one of American culture’s sharpest analyses of what happened to the country in the wake of 9/11. There are references throughout the series to “when the towers fell,” a sly yet obvious allusion both to the collapse of the World Trade Center and to the demolition of high-rise housing projects in Baltimore. The show pointed to the manifold ways the funding of America’s ill-conceived and ill-fated War on Drugs was diverted to the War on Terror.
Williams portrayed Omar Little, a “stick-up man” who robs drug dealers, a moving target with a staunch moral code. Innocents and thugs alike announce “Omar comin’!” when Little appears swaggering through the alleyways and dead-end streets of West Baltimore. He spends most of the rest of the time hiding out, watching and waiting. There isn’t much that escapes his notice. Peeping from the windows of blighted buildings, Omar was like a fusion of Malcolm X as seen in Don Hogan Charles’s photo of the leader peering out the blinds of his Queens home and Detroit Red, the street hustler Malcolm was before he joined the Nation of Islam.
Like a lot of actors committed to their craft, Michael K. Williams led many lives. Born and raised in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, he got into trouble in his youth but then gravitated to the National Black Theater in Harlem. “I was once the kid that nobody thought would make it,” he said in an interview with Nessa Diab a few years ago, “‘so I decided to use my platform to be a beacon of light for kids who are a little lost, like I was.”
Before his starring roles, in The Wire, Boardwalk Empire, Hap and Leonard and, most recently, Lovecraft Country, he had bit parts on The Sopranos and Law and Order. And before that he was a backup dancer for Madonna, George Michael and CeCe Peniston. He said more than once that the video for Janet Jackson’s funky, austere ‘Rhythm Nation’ (1989) changed his life. “I saw myself,” he told Diab. “There was Tyrin Turner in this dark factory, lost, couldn’t find the way out, and here’s Janet in there telling him it’s all right … be who you are and be strong.’
He went to thrumming industrial buildings where house music blared out of speakers as tall as pro basketball players. In 1994, he appeared in and choreographed the video for Crystal Waters’s ‘100% Pure Love’. The look of it is 1990s retro-spy chic, and Williams is dressed in a generic dark grey business suit and tie. It’s the costume of a person you’re supposed to think is inflexible – an actuary, a federal agent, a corporate drone. And yet, he swings. He’s housing, mixing the phrases of African dance, vogue, balletic gestures and the pumping steps of an aerobic class. That was his style, briefly stated: he could give you traditionally masculine hardbody bravado – he later appeared as a tough guy in hip-hop videos in the early 2000s – but he wasn’t afraid to relay softness either. He consistently brought to even the smallest parts an unmatched combination of ferocity and vulnerability.
In all his roles – whether as Omar, or Bessie Smith’s husband Jack Gee, or Robert in Twelve Years a Slave – he brought that swing with him, swaying in the dance of an intimate scene. He narrowed his eyes, or smiled, puckered his mouth like so, or put some bass in his voice. His raspy tone sounded like it came from the throat of a bossa nova maestro coated with cigarette smoke, his changes of expression as subtle as the tap on a soft pack of Newport 100s.
In every performance, just as in the Waters video, he metaphorically loosened his tie and untucked his shirt, showing the tenderness beneath the macho drag, and making the costume comfortable enough to move in.
One of my favorite sequences in The Wire comes from season one, episode five, ‘The Pager’. Omar is drawing a map in a patch of dirt for his two accomplices. The stick-up crew is preparing to ensnare a couple of low-level dealers. “That be the trap right there, homes,” Omar says, and takes a pull from his cigarette. “Rats always run to holes in times of danger.” Omar’s boyfriend asks him if he’s “danger”. “Nah man,” he says, “I’m just a nigga wit a plan, that all.” We cut to a wide shot showing Omar’s van, and then to a judge walking into a dimly lit room, apologising for getting lost down the wrong hallway.
The scene is set in a different kind of dark factory – an abandoned utility building the Baltimore Police are using as an operations hub. The cops are hoping to get the judge to sign a wiretap affidavit so they can surveil a drug lieutenant’s pager. The juxtaposition of Omar planning his attack and the police manoeuvring to ‘get up on the wire’ is no accident. The way the scene is edited almost suggests the judge has been turned around by Omar’s rudimentary map.
The Wire is clearly a show about surveillance, but it’s also about sousveillance. The term was coined by the Canadian inventor and tech theorist Steve Mann in 2002 to describe “watchful vigilance from underneath,” such as “citizens keeping a watch on their government and police forces”. Mann explained that sousveillance was originally carried out “by the body-borne camera formed by the eye, and the body-borne recording device comprised of the mind and brain”.
In the first season of The Wire, a young dealer breaks a CCTV camera by throwing a stone at it (shades of David and Goliath?); an abbreviated version of the scene appears in the show’s opening credits. Ever watchful of both the police and the dealers’ henchmen, Omar is an avatar of sousveillance.
In Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness, Simone Browne extends Mann’s idea into a concept she calls “dark sousveillance” which “‘plots imaginaries that are ... hopeful for another way of being”, and can be seen as a “way to situate the tactics employed to render one’s self out of sight, and strategies used in the flight to freedom from slavery as necessarily ones of undersight”. She counts spirituals and forms of Black dancing under the umbrella of dark sousveillance, along with other ‘black performative practices and creative acts’. I think acting might be one, too. Whether as Omar, or Robert, the enslaved man plotting an escape from the ship in Twelve Years a Slave, Michael K. Williams picked roles that took seriously the power of looking back and dreaming otherwise. If Omar was an emblem of a kind of sousveillance, Williams was the camera, looking not only at his character’s combatants but also beyond the screen; he returned the gaze of the viewers who watched him every Sunday night.
In a short for HBO and the Atlantic released in 2018, the actor sips a smoothie and asks: ‘You think I’m being typecast?’ A differently dressed version of himself, sitting at the other end of the couch and stroking a furball, replies: “I don’t know, you think this cat is typecast?” Soon, multiple other versions of himself crop up around the room. One, in a black du-rag, holding a sawn-off shotgun, interrupts the philosophical meandering: “Man, this whole metaphor is bullshit, yo. You hear me? You think everybody don’t got a role to play? Huh? You think a white boy could have played Omar?”
“I picked these roles. Me! I made this path for myself,” the first Williams says. “If I were typecast, I’d be in jail or dead. But I’m here. I got out, got myself out.” When he jammed in a New York City park last year he was taking part in the ongoing work of dark sousveillance, radiating joy as an everyday practice of attaining and enjoying freedom.
(London Review of Books)
NEWSOM PUT HIMSELF IN RECALL DANGER
by Dan Walters
A week from now we’ll know — maybe — whether Gavin Newsom, the Democratic governor of a state utterly dominated by the Democratic Party, will lose his job.
If the recall election is as close as polls indicated just a few weeks ago, it might be weeks before the final verdict on Newsom and his governorship is delivered. However, as the month-long voting period nears an end, more recent polls, including one from the Public Policy Institute of California, and initial voter turnout data imply that Newsom is likely to prevail.
The earlier indications in polling of a too-close-to-call outcome were based on what appeared to be a yawning voter turnout gap. Republicans were motivated to turn out and Democrats appeared to be turned off, which gave the anti-Newsom faction a fighting chance of winning.
The polling clearly startled Newsom and his campaign advisors, so they turned from defending his record as governor for the past 30 months, particularly his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, to offense, branding the recall as a power grab by disgruntled fans of ex-President Donald Trump, a political pariah in California.
Talk show host Larry Elder’s emergence as the leading Republican successor candidate gave the Newsom camp a specific target and it unloaded on Elder as right-wing radical who would wreak havoc on the state.
Belatedly, Newsom’s aggressive assault has appeared to jolt apathetic Democrats, or at least enough of them, to narrow and perhaps close the turnout gap.
Given what’s happened in the final weeks of the campaign, Newsom is now favored to survive. However, win or lose, he should understand that he wouldn’t have been in danger of being dethroned had he conducted himself more judiciously.
His infamous unmasked birthday party with lobbyists in Napa’s uber-expensive French Laundry restaurant, while urging Californians to wear masks and avoid gatherings, turbocharged what had been a lackadaisical recall effort because it embodied the doubts about his character.
To many, Newsom came across as elitist, egomaniacal and hypocritical — and his lengthy internet monologues about the pandemic, his eagerness to suspend usual procedures and laws, his boasts about how well the state was managing the disease, and the evident unfairness of some of his decrees grated on many Californians.
The recall would probably not have made the ballot had Newsom heeded the examples of two predecessors, rather than insisting on doing things his way, whether we like it or not.
Republican Pete Wilson didn’t face pandemic, but his governorship was riddled with crises, including riots, drought, earthquakes and what was then the worst recession since the Great Depression. He just rolled up his sleeves, accepted that fate decreed him to be a crisis manager and did what was needed as each emergency erupted. Wilson didn’t try to be lovable, but his gritty attitude helped him win a landslide re-election in 1994.
Newsom also would have been well-served to have emulated the second governorship of Jerry Brown, his immediate predecessor and his quasi-uncle due to generations of interfamily relationships.
Brown’s first governorship was not unlike Newsom’s — talking too much about grandiose schemes and delivering too little. Brown 2.0 exhibited a much maturer attitude. He made few promises, largely kept those he made and concentrated on the basics of governance. When he faced a crisis, such as the near-collapse of the Oroville Dam, he let the professionals do their jobs and stayed out of the limelight.
If he survives the recall, which seems likely, Newsom should be honest with himself about why it happened. It’s time to grow up.