Archive for September, 2007

Fascist America: Student tazered as Kerry looks on

If there are still those among my American friends who believe that they live in a free and democratic society, I strongly suggest that they watch the following video.

Filmed by students at a John Kerry speech on September 17, Constitution Day, it shows 21-year old journalism student Andrew Meyer being denied his rights to free speech and constitutional protection at the hands of police stormtroopers, while a United States Senator looks on.

Be afraid, be very afraid.

Read article by Paul Craig Roberts

You must have heard of the rotten apple fairy tale. You know how it goes. It’s the standard establishment explanation for corruption or incompetence: He/she’s a rotten apple in an otherwise clean barrel. According to this theory, rotten apples are either weak assholes in the guise of human beings who have slipped through organisational screening processes and succumbed to the temptations inherent in positions of power, or deviant individuals who continue their deviance in an environment that gives them ample opportunity so to do.

Police departments, governments and the military tend to use the rotten apple theory, or some variation of it, to minimize public backlash after every exposed atrocity or act of corruption or incompetence.

Another approach is the occupational socialization explanation, the polar opposite of rotten apple theory — rotten barrel theory, if you will. According to this view, the very structure of front-line agencies of the state provides ample opportunity to learn the entrenched patterns of deviant power-based conduct that have been passed down through generations.

A functional explanation may be closer to the truth: corruption and institutionalised barbarism may be inherent in society’s attempts to enforce unenforceable laws and undesirable hegemonies.

The footage below pertains to the current US adventure in Iraq but it could, mutatis mutandis, be about Vietnam, Somalia, or the war against the American people at home.

Click here to watch it.

I must apologise for my lack of input recently. This is mostly because I’ve been spending most of my time and energy on my novel. I’ve posted the first three short chapters here and will add chapters from time to time. Check it out.

In the meantime I’ve decided to feature some posts that strike me as worthy from friends’ blogs. The first is this great piece, written by my good friend Mike E at the Open Container Speedway.


“I’m sorry sir,” I respectfully informed the bus driver. “but I don’t have a dollar.”

My next line was well rehearsed. I’d gone over it time & again in my mind. Not so much to memorize it as to talk myself through a crisis of confidence. How would I get on the bus with no dollar? I panicked. Then reassured myself thus:

When I see one I know it – I’m a connoisseur of these things – and I happened to have handy a smashingly good excuse.

“I’m homeless,” I explained, “and literally on my way to church.

How ’bout it? I ask you, Is that a good reason to ride the bus for free?”

“No,” said the bus driver.

Maybe he thought I was lying. I admittedly didn’t look like I was on my way to church. I looked homeless, I smelled, and probably came off a bit crazily.

But Quakers – the self-anointed Religious Society of Friends — are exceptionally good people. I trusted them to accept me, as I came, as a friend in need.

I had a pitch, also well rehearsed, that I wanted to make them. Quakers have an admirably deep sense of service; they are a people devoted to peace. They’ve worked tirelessly to end the Iraq War. That is tireless work I admire. Alas, for all their tireless work the war rages on unabated.

I know how it feels when one’s benevolently tireless efforts fail. I’ve had no success in my own quest to stop another, equally frightful, injustice: homelessness. Specifically, my own.

Now, maybe it was a long shot but I thought the Northampton Quakers – do- gooders that they are – would want to do a bit about the homeless problem in their own community. I genuinely believed they’d appreciate the unforeseen chance to help me.

And thus gain a boost in confidence, from one problem well solved, that may help them bring more peace.

If not – no matter. The hour of communal silence that is a Quaker Meeting for Worship would be reward enough for my journey, providing me with the strength of spirit required to contend with my plight. Because in the midst of their silence, at least, I am not homeless. Not hungry. I am among friends.

And friends don’t let friends go homeless & hungry.

I asked the bus driver: “Please?”

I aimed admirably to better myself. Was mine not a compelling case of need?

The bus driver said no. Fair enough. This is America after all. Where nobody rides for free.

“I know,” I tenaciously proposed, “I’ll ask someone at church for $2 bucks and pay you for the round trip when I ride back to Amherst.”

Maybe the Northampton Quakers couldn’t help me not be homeless that particular Sunday, but pay my bus fare? I personally guarantee it!

Again the bus driver said no.

I grew flustered. But quickly regained my composure. I am after all a professional journalist. And if this jerk wouldn’t let me ride a near-empty municipal bus to church – I suppose that’s the Story.

I tapped the lap top computer – my one worldly possession since I lost track of my clothes – that was slung in a bag over my shoulder. And informed him that I was writing an article about homelessness for the Valley Advocate (local free/leftist weekly).

“Look,” I proffered smartly, “we can do this the easy way or the other way.”

The other way, I promised, would be hard for us both, because I’d have to hitch hike to church, and he’d have to deal with what I say about him in the article I suspect he did not believe would be written.

I pointed my thumb to Northampton. I thought I should seriously thank my new bus driver friend, because writers need dumb-snot-butt-wipes like him, To excentuate our point, prove us right, and help us sell stories.

No one picked me up hitch hiking.

I struggled beneath the awkwardly gravitated weight of my lap top computer. Slung in a one-strap bag. First across a painfully slumped shoulder. Then across my other. All the way to Northampton on foot.

It hurt.

I’d not slept. Nor could I remember the last time I’d eaten. The no food thing worried me. I grew aware that I lacked the recent caloric intake required to comfortably fuel the demands I placed on my body. I’m very skinny. And not as young as I used to be.

About the same age, I realized, as Neil Cassidy – when he died in mid-step on a long walk after some nights of no sleep and who knew how long since he’d eaten.

But there was no turning back. No time to rest. Not even a sip of water to drink. There was only me & the Story. And to sell the story I’d need proof, a witness, one who would verify my unavoidably late arrival at Quaker Meeting that day.

I had to show up before the last Quaker straggler closed & locked their Meetinghouse door.

To professionally cover the story.

The last straggler was friendly. Gave me apple juice & a snack & patiently heard my tale of woe. I’m certain she would have gladly tossed me a buck for bus fare, as well, but I forgot to ask.

Somewhere along that 10 mile walk back to Amherst I decided not to thank the bus driver after all. Because every homeless person who can’t ride the bus will not write an article about it. And the article may not sell.

But every homeless person has somewhere better to go.

The Northampton Quakers may have helped me. Who knows? But for my lack of one stinking dollar I might be already home.

I’ve been damned by some as an unbeliever, an anti-christ. It pleases me, therefore, and reinforces my self esteem, to know that to others I’m the cool atheist across the street.

My youngest daughter calls me daddy and my mother insists that I was brought up a good catholic kid and on the right track.

So I drink a lot of whisky. So did my grandfather. Who doesn’t? It’s a family thing. At the age of fifteen I was a good father to three kids, and I always went to confession.

Now, suddenly, I’m an apostate Jew. I wake up one morning and that’s it.

Corner shop proprietor Anita Devi — I knew her father, he was like a Rabbi to me, although he was an apostate Sikh — told local reporters: ‘I’m sorting the papers for the delivery wallahs, you know, like it’s 5am, and in walks Dustin Hoffman. “It’s not safe,” he says, “but I’m a very good driver, Mrs Robinson.” I ask you, do I look like a Nazi dentist?’

No comment, no jazz.

However, Kafka told me this sort of thing was a possibility and, hey, Anita, he gave me a couple of other clues too: like, until this beard grew overnight I was Al Pacino a la Godfather 2, like an old dead uncle always insisted I should be. And Bukowski told me once that when I realised I’d failed as a writer I could maybe scratch a living as an Ernesto Guevara lookalike. Now I’m a 55 year old Ratso Rizzo.

Life’s a bitch. Forget about it. Just learn the lesson: never judge a close relative by his cover.

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