Archive | June 20th, 2020

#SayHerName: On Breonna Taylor’s 27th Birthday, Advocates Demand Justice in Shooting Death by Louisville Police

“We won’t stop fighting until justice is served.”

by: Julia Conley,

A demonstrator holds a sign with the image of Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police Department officers, during a protest against racial injustice and the death George Floyd in Minneapolis, in Denver, Colorado on June 3, 2020. (Photo: Jason Connolly / AFP via Getty Images)

Racial justice advocates are demanding the three Louisville police officers who shot Breonna Taylor to death in March be fired immediately and criminally charged for her murder.

Friday would have been Taylor’s 27th birthday. Along with the killings of George Floyd by four Minneapolis police officers and Ahmaud Arbery by a former officer in Georgia, her death has been a catalyst for nationwide protests over racial injustice and police brutality over the past two weeks. 

Advocates urged the public not to forget Taylor, who was killed March 13—the same day President Donald Trump declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency. Taylor’s family has said media attention on the case has been scant, partially due to the pandemic and corresponding economic crisis. 

“Our hearts and minds are big enough to hold and fight for ALL of our slain sisters and brothers,” tweeted organizer Tamika D. Mallory. “Happy Birthday, Breonna Taylor. We have not forgotten you.”

Tamika D. Mallory@TamikaDMallory

Our hearts and minds are big enough to hold and fight for ALL of our slained sisters & brothers. Happy Birthday #BreonnaTaylor. We have not forgotten you. This is only the beginning. You WILL get JUSTICE.

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Taylor, who was an E.M.T., was shot at least eight times after Officers John Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove forcibly entered her apartment to execute a search warrant. The officers were reportedly looking for two men they believed were selling drugs in another home and had received a warrant for Taylor’s apartment because they believed one of the suspects had received packages there.

The family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the Louisville Metro Police Department, saying the police had no reason to enter Taylor’s apartment in the middle of the night and “spray gunfire into the residence with a total disregard for the value of human life.”

The FBI announced May 21 that it was opening an investigation into Taylor’s case, but the three officers involved have yet to be charged with a crime and are still on administrative leave.

More than three million people have signed a petition at to demand justice for Taylor, and advocates urged supporters to call for full accountability for her killing. Cate Young, a writer and cultural critic, set up a virtual memorial Friday featuring 10 actions supporters can take, including:

  • Donating directly to Taylor’s family;
  • Sending a birthday card for Breonna to Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, demanding charges for the three officers;
  • Posting about Taylor’s case on social media using the hashtags #SayHerName and #BirthdayForBreonna; and
  • Donating to the Louisville Community Bail Fund to support protesters who are demonstrating in Taylor’s name.

Influential social justice advocates joined the viral campaign and offered more ideas for those who want to help Taylor’s family.

Be A King@BerniceKing

Today is #BreonnaTaylor’s birthday.#SayHerName. Think of and pray for those closest to her. Dedicate time to work for #JusticeforBreonnaTaylor. Here’s how. RT. Share.

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Ben Crump@AttorneyCrump


Happy Birthday to this angel, Breonna Taylor!! She would have been 27 today. May she rest in peace and in power, knowing we are doing everything we can to get her justice!! #BreonnaTaylor #SayHerName #JusticeForBre #JusticeForBreonnaTaylor

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Kimberlé Crenshaw@sandylocks

Black women killed by police are no less grieved by their loved ones. Their lives are no less worthy of being celebrated and uplifted.

They are not afterthoughts.

Happy birthday, #BreonnaTaylor. #SayHERName …

African American Policy Forum@AAPolicyForum

Today, #BreonnaTaylor should be celebrating her 27th birthday. She would be celebrating if not for the Louisville police officers who stormed into her home and murdered her.

We lift up Breonna’s story and celebrate her life. #SayHerName

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Rep. Ilhan Omar@Ilhan

Breonna Taylor should have turned 27 today.

She was murdered in her home by police officers who continue to walk free.

We won’t stop fighting until justice is served. #SayHerName

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Be A King@BerniceKing

We want justice for #BreonnaTaylor. The continuum of justice includes charging the officers who shot her 8 times. Where is the action on this, @louisvillemayor @lmpd @GovAndyBeshear? #BirthdayForBreonna #BreonnaTaylorBirthday

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“We want justice for Breonna Taylor. The continuum of justice includes charging the officers who shot her eight times. Where is the action on this?” tweeted activist Bernice King, addressing the question to Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, and the Louisville police.

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Black Politics and Liberation: A CounterPunch Reading List


Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

What It Feels Like to be Black in America by Kevin Alexander Gray

What Does Black Lives Matter Want? by Robin D.G. Kelley

Black Subjugation in America by Kim Scipes

Until We Win: Black Labor and Liberation in the Disposable Era by Kali Akuno

With or Without White People, Black Lives Matter by George Payne

There is No Peace: an Incitement to Justice by Kevin Alexander Gray, Jeffrey St. Clair and JoAnn Wypijewski

Black Women Political Prisoners of the Police State by Linda G. Ford

Bad Apples in Ferguson by Ishmael Reed

Is Trump a White Supremacist? Yes, But So is America by Margaret Kimberley

Why Black Lives Matter Won’t Go Away: a Primer on Systemic Racism in America by Anthony Dimaggio

Remembering a Panther by Elena Carter

Badge of Impunity: the Killing of Stephon Clark by Jeffrey St. Clair

The Toxic Air in Black America by Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Black Lives Matter to Labor by Austin Mccoy

Why Black Lives Matter To Me by Adam Vogel

Did the Elites Have MLK, Jr. Killed? by Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn

The US v. Trayvon Martin by Robin D.G. Kelley

New York’s Black Panters, A Legacy by Ron Jacobs

From Cosby To Ferguson by Aaron Dixon

The Real Purpose of the Drug War by Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn

The Case of the Angola Three by Anita Roddick

Disarm the Police by Rob Urie

Let the People See: Emmett Till, and Why They Don’t See by Susan Babbitt

The Silencing of Black Women: the Relevance of Ella Baker by Lawrence Ware & Lavonya Bennett

Ignoring Angela Davis by Margaret Kimberley

A Short History of Black Voter Suppression by Nicholas Parker

Black Teachers’ Revolt of the 1960s by Bob Simpson

The Black Panthers Had the Right Idea by Thadisizwe Chimurenga

Movement for Black Lives Yields New Targets of the State by Lamont Lilly

Charlottesville and the Battles of History by Mumia Abu-Jamal

Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition by Eric Mann

Black Bodies, Broken Worlds by Vijay Prashad

The “Whack ‘Em and Stack ‘Em” Mentality of American Cops by Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn

Seize This Time: Rahm Emmanuel, Bobby Seale and Community Control of the Police by Ben Burgis

Huey Newton: a Revolutionary Hero by Danny Haiphong

Did the CIA Kill Paul Robeson? by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair

Race, Gender and Occupy by Jordan Flaherty & Sweta Vohra

Black in Blue: the Troubled Legacy of Chicago’s Black Cops by Glenn Reedus

The History of Black Cooperatives by Bernard Marszalek

Black Homes Matter: San Francisco’s Vanishing Black Population by Carl Finamore

My Mother, Stopped for Driving While Black by Milen Mehari

Black Power Through Low Power Radio by Bruce Dixon

How Poor Black Lives Matter to U.S. Capitalism Today by Paul Street

Tell the Negroes to Wait: Obama, Black Lives Matter, and Compromising with White Supremacy by Lawrence Ware & Lauren Whiteman

Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Mike Miller

Mean Streets by Jeffrey St. Clair

Yes, I’m a Black Nationalist by Lee R. Haven

Policing the Manufactured Ghettos by Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn

Ferguson in Context by Bryan Winston

The History of Hollywood: Propaganda for White Supremacy at Home and US Militarism Abroad by Garikai Chengu

An Interview with John Carlos by Dave Zirin

Race and the Drug War by Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn

This Would Not Happen If They Were White: Race, Class and Politics in Flint, Michigan by Lawrence Ware

Racism, Neo-Confederacy and the Raising of Historical Illiterates by Tim Wise

A Short History of Black Paranoia by Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn

Selma, Obama and Colonization of Black Resistance by Ajamu Baraka

The History We Leave Out of Our Public Spaces by Timothy B. Tyson

“The Army Ain’t No Place for a Black Man”: How the Wolf Got Caged by Jeffrey St. Clair

Racism and Eugenics, American-Style by Louis Proyect

On Queen’s Blvd, the Night Sean Bell’s Killers Got Off by JoAnn Wypijewski

The War on the Poor by Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn

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Nukes in Space: the Extinction Rebellion Yet to Be


Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

An article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences recently argued that more species are going extinct due to human activity than occurred 66 million years ago, when an asteroid or similar hit the Earth.

Much less discussed is US President Donald Trump’s (read: the military-industrial-complex’s) Space Force, which Trump again championed at a recent address to the Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Space domination is “America’s destiny,” he told the audience. Referring to the protests that broke out across the US and the world, triggered by the slow suffocation on camera by a white cop of the unarmed, handcuffed black man, George Floyd, Trump said: “I will not allow angry mobs to dominate”—unless they are angry mobs of police.

But what about calm mobs? The mob of military corporatists setting US weapons policy is calmly seeking to dominate space and thus the world. Trump went on to say: “we will ensure a future of American dominance in space.” This comes at a time when the US taxpayer is predicted to spend nearly half a trillion dollars over the next decade upgrading America’s aging nuclear weapons. The Space Force is integrating in various ways–tracking, surveillance, sensing–with the triad of nukes on land, in the air, and at sea.


In January 2017, the newly-unelected President Trump (he lost the popular vote by 2.9m), ordered the Department of Defense to conduct a Nuclear Posture Review. The document published a year later makes clear that the US possesses nuclear weapons, in part, so that “our diplomats continue to speak from a position of strength on matters of war and peace.” The Nuclear Posture Review cites Russia as the evil menace against which the US must defend by renewing its nuclear stockpiles.

But a Congressional Research Service report cites the view of US nuclear strategists who think that “Russia has adopted an ‘escalate to de-escalate’ strategy, where it might threaten to use nuclear weapons if it were losing a conflict with a NATO member, in an effort to convince the United States and its NATO allies to withdraw from the conflict.” It notes that Russia’s modernization program began in the early-2000s. We might add that this was a couple of years after the US committed itself Full Spectrum Dominance of land, sea, air, and space. It was also around the time that the Bush II administration (2001-2009, which also lost the popular vote by half a million) pulled out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty 1972.

Arms Control Today reports that Trump’s withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty 1987 “leaves just the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) in place to limit U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons deployments.” It notes that START 2010 “is due to expire in February 2021.” Moscow professed to want to negotiate instead of having the US simply withdraw. It then reiterated Russia’s commitments to match any US modernization and expansion of nuclear weapons. This is great for the US and Russian arms industries, but not so good for the prospects of human survival.

Part of the reason for withdrawing from the INF, according to US Defense Secretary Mark Esper, is to develop weapons to threaten China; though, of course, Esper puts it in different words, speaking instead of how great the development of “an intermediate-range conventional weapon would be to the [Pacific Command] theater.”


On February 4th-5th, the Air Force Global Strike Command and 30th Space Wing test-launched the nuclear-capable Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile. The Space Force describes the ICBM as “a unique portion of the Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) nuclear enterprise.”

First deployed in 1979, the W78 nuclear warhead is being renewed at a cost to US taxpayers of $8.6 billion. The renewal program began under Obama in 2010. It is scheduled for deployment in 2030 and will be renamed W78-1. The W78-1 is designed to be carried by the Minuteman III ICBM, recently tested by the AFGSC in collaboration with the Space Force and 30th Space Wing. Meanwhile, there are other ominous developments afoot.

In 2019, the Missile Defense Review advocated for placing “interceptors,” which can equally mean first-strike missiles, in space: “Space-basing may increase the overall likelihood of successfully intercepting offensive missiles,” the document claims. It can “reduce the number of U.S. defensive interceptors required to do so, and potentially destroy offensive missiles over the attacker’s territory rather than the targeted state.”

At the end of May 2020, Raytheon’s Missiles and Defense branch offered a job with secret clearance to engineers with expertise in radiation effects. The job calls for “radiation hardening designs for missile defense interceptors.” Interceptors are well-known by strategists to be, dual-use, potential first-strike weapons. “We are executing programs and investing in systems designed to work in nuclear weapons and space environments,” the document says. The job description mentions interceptors, which, if the authors of the Missile Defense Review have their way, could end up being based in space.


Under the Stockpile Stewardship Program, Los Alamos no longer detonates nuclear weapons to test them, relying instead on non-nuclear tests and computer simulations. The Lab maintains old nukes via the Life Extension Program: ironic, given that the weapons do little other than threaten death. The LEP involves the analysis, replacement, and refurbishment of components.

The B61-3, -4, -7, and 11 nuclear gravity bombs are deployed to US and NATO bases. The B61 has been in “service” for 50 years, “making it the oldest and most versatile weapon in the enduring U.S. stockpile.” Designed and engineered at Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories, the Life Extension Program will keep the device in service for an additional 20 years. The B61-12 “is being certified for delivery by current strategic and dual-capable aircraft, as well as future aircraft platforms.” If we are interested in survival as a species, the dual-use element is problematic because Russian, Chinese, or other adversaries can never be sure whether the given bomber plane in or near their airspace is carrying nuclear weapons. This puts their militaries on high-alert and increases the likelihood of escalation through misunderstanding.

The W88 nuclear warhead’s Life Extension Program (LEP) started in 2012, again under Obama. The W88 came into “service” in 1988 with the Trident II D5 submarine-launched ballistic missile. The LEP will replace the arming, firing, and fusion system, and “refreshes the weapon’s conventional high explosives,” for safety reasons, of course. The LEP is compartmentalized across several labs. Los Alamos is in charge of W76-2 mod, a LEP for another Trident II D5 submarine-launched ballistic missile.

The W76-1 produces a high-yield and is, counterintuitively, safer for the world in some ways because enemies know that they will be obliterated and are therefore less likely to engage in the kind of warfighting that can lead to escalation. First produced in 2019 at the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, the W76-2 on the other hand produces a lower-yield explosion, blurring the lines between nuclear and non-nuclear war. Lower-yield weapons are more tempting for commanders and world leaders to use, but they risk retaliation from states with high-yield weapons and thus uncontrollable nuclear escalation. Los Alamos describes the W76-2 mod as a “milestone in support of a national security initiative requested by the president in the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review.”

The W80-1 is being extended at Lawrence Livermore via the W80-4, which will be ready by 2031. The scientists explain that the insensitive high explosive, triaminotrinitrobenzene (TATB), “will be used for the warhead’s main charge.” Engineers and chemists at Lawrence Livermore “are helping to restart the TATB production process after 30 years of dormancy.”

In April 2020, Raytheon won the contract to develop the Long Range Standoff Weapon (LRSO) for the US Air Force, on which the W80-4 will be placed. The LRSO will be “capable of both nuclear and conventional strikes,” says Defense News, which means that Russia and China will be on high-alert and prone to escalation in error, as the article later admits.


As Extinction Rebellion largely obeys COVID lockdown, Black Lives Matter and other solidarity groups take to the streets nationally and internationally. Militarized police push young, unarmed women to the ground, use their shields to knock over old men, and even fire their paint guns at people standing in their doorways filming. We have an out-of-control, predatory neoliberal economic system, a powder keg of 40 million unemployed Americans, a climate heating up by the day, causing wildfires in the Arctic, and a grim swing towards a new kind of buffoonish authoritarianism, with Bolsonaro in Brazil, BoJo the Clown in the UK, and the manic Narcissist-in-Chief in the White House running the most powerful nation on Earth.

As if all of this wasn’t bad enough, world-threatening nukes are being modernized and incrementally based in space. We need a broad left coalition of Extinction Rebellion, Black Lives Matter, and a revived anti-nuclear campaign to team up with anti-space-weapons networks to, if not end this madness, at least mitigate it. Unless we succeed, we might not be here to rebel against our extinction.

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Paradigms Take Years to Shift


Defund Police. Invest in Black Lives. What just weeks ago was a slogan is fast becoming law.

In just the last week, the Minneapolis school board resolved to cut their contract with city police in the schools. The mayor of Los Angeles announced that his city was considering cutting the city’s police budget by some $150 million. Now, Minneapolis City Council has voted with a veto-proof majority to replace law enforcement with a “transformative new model of public safety.”

Change is coming fast, and much of the media would have you believe it’s as if by magic. But if it is magic, it’s movement magic. Peek beneath the pull-quotes and you’ll find work that has often felt long and slow.

Take one example. This week, The Laura Flanders Show reported on Newark, New Jersey, one of the big US cities that saw tremendous demonstrations against police racism in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.

In 1967, Newark erupted in flames after the police beating of a black man in detention and the shooting death of a woman, Rebecca Brown, in her own home after troopers and members of the national guard opened fire.

This time around, thousands turned out to protest in Newark, but no one was arrested and there was minimal property damage. Why? It’s a fifty-year story we begin to tell in this week’s episode, but fast-forward to now, and you see a city that’s embracing a new approach to public safety led by its leaders, funded by its council and implemented and informed by the city’s residents themselves.

Change has been long in coming. Even before the rebellions of the 60s, people like Newark poet and activist Amiri Baraka were demanding a civilian review board, but they were blocked by the force and the police union. Numerous inquiries, reports and black appointments later, it took the election of Baraka’s son Ras to get one approved.

Baraka convened a community council and brought in Aqeela Sherrills, a peace maker from Watts, to head up the Newark Community Street Team. Today, the Street Team doesn’t just demand change from the police, it helps train them, and alongside the mayor’s office, the department of health and the office of public safety, they look at violence as a public health issue with roots in redlining, deindustrialization, environmental racism, austerity, misogyny and centuries of white impunity and black trauma.

When Covid-19 hit, Sherrills and his team were declared essential workers. Some fifty-strong, the members were out with their neighbors, not just at the demonstrations, but day after day, all year. “This is an inflection point,” Aqeela Sherrills told me this week.

A long overdue paradigm shift is happening. But paradigms take years of pushing. Extraordinary and all-important as these days are, don’t let anyone tell you the work is done.

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Direct Action and the Rejection of Monumental History


Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

As people have gathered across the country to oppose police violence, including the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, they have targeted statues, monuments, and buildings commemorating white supremacy. In Philadelphia, protestors defaced a statue of Frank Rizzo, the city’s segregationist mayor and police commissioner. In Birmingham, they toppled a likeness of Confederate veteran and Alabama banker Charles Linn and set fire to another of slaveowning president Thomas Jefferson.

In Richmond, they graffitied monuments of Confederate leaders Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and J.E.B. Stuart with slogans like “No More White Supremacy,” “End Police Brutality,” and “ACAB.”  Down the street from Richmond’s Monument Avenue, flames burned inside the national headquarters of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the group responsible for erecting dozens of Confederate public shrines. In Nashville, a crowd pulled down a statue of newspaper editor Edward Carmack, a vocal critic of anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells.

Across the United States, protestors are explicitly linking the nation’s history of white supremacy with contemporary police brutality. While some commentators condemn these acts as destructive, protestors understand that it is impossible to create a more equitable society as long as Confederates, segregationists, and other white supremacists are valorized in public spaces. Other opponents decry vandalism as an effort to “erase” history. Yet iconoclasm is as much an act of creation as destruction. With paint, rope, and fire as well as signs, chants, and memorials, anti-racist protestors are enacting a more participatory and more democratic historical commemoration.

Historical memory matters because it is both a gauge and modifier of power. Public monuments have always been sharply politicized and fiercely contested by common people because they grasp the stakes. Commemoration might derive primarily from social and material conditions, rather than the other way around, but memories are not mere perceptions. Rather, collective remembrance is bound to productive relations and political outcomes. Likewise, popular representations of the past are critical to consciousness-raising, organizing, and the capacity for solidarity. As we confront oppressive structures, our historical memory must aspire to be truly democratic.

In contrast, victory obelisks, allegorical martial figures, and statues to generals, politicians, and business elites do not measure up. Inspiring reverence and eliciting emotional, often uncritical reaction, so-called heroic figures cast in stone and bronze reinforce a monumental democracy that assumes great individuals should lead and the rest should follow. Vertical, towering, and celebratory, monuments reflect and reinforce prevailing arrangements of power. They fetishize hierarchy and individualism at the expense of the collective and assume that history is made by “great” men and, far more rarely, women.

Monuments are instruments intended to reflect a particular vision of the past in order to influence the present and shape the future. The dominant chronicle of the U.S. state—as a “march of progress” spurred by democracy and free market capitalism—is encoded into the nation’s monumental landscape. Although generations of critics have assailed public monuments as incompatible with democracy, the nation’s civic landscape remains inundated with representations of military and political leaders. Despite rare examples of countervailing monuments representing members of Black, immigrant, and other marginalized communities, the “statue mania” of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries led to a profusion of “Great White Men” on pedestals. These self-aggrandizing works were physical representations of the ideology of an imperialistic and increasingly militarized nation-state and often linked citizenship to whiteness and war-making.

Leftists must reject this monumental history and the politics that come with it. But we cannot and should not dismiss historical commemoration. Instead, we should follow the lead of activists who are engaging in more democratic forms of remembering the past.

In recent days, protestors across the country have presented an alternative approach to collective memory. Their versions of the past highlight social justice movements and remember the victims of state and white supremacist violence. At rallies, speakers have reminded gathered crowds that the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are only the most recent examples of racist violence that stretches back to the eras of the Civil Rights Movement, Jim Crow, slavery, and beyond. Elsewhere activists have reclaimed public spaces with memorials. For example, at the base of a monument to white supremacist politician John C. Calhoun in Charleston, South Carolina, protestors placed candles commemorating Michael Brown, Alexia Christian, Botham Jean, Atatiana Jefferson, and more than two dozen others killed by police in recent years. Social media hashtags like #SayHerName and #SayHisName are explicit calls to remember the victims of police and white vigilantes. Protestors are, in effect, rejecting monuments centered on power, order, and oppression and creating memorials centered on victims, grief, and justice.

These historical narratives are democratic renegotiations of, and direct challenges to, the monumental history embodied in statues of generals and presidents. Unlike those public tributes which tend to celebrate people who hold political office and perpetrate state violence, recent protests have reminded attendees of those who have resisted it. Additionally, rather than emphasize “great” individuals, parades, demonstrations, marches, and other inclusive political acts underscore the power of collective action by communities. As scholar Jodi Dean has written, “Inseparable from the rise of mass democracy, the crowd looms with the threat of the collective power of the masses, the force of the many against those who would exploit, control, and disperse them.” Gatherings in public spaces, as well as commons set aside for artistic creation and re-creation, offer commemorative forms premised on widening the scope of popular participation.

We should follow the lead of antiracist protestors and embrace more democratic and dynamic expressions of public memory. As shown in Philadelphia, Birmingham, Richmond, and beyond, demonstrators are connecting physical structures on courthouse lawns, town squares, universities, and prominent thoroughfares to historical oppression and present-day injustice. By occupying and re-politicizing these spaces through replacement symbols and inscriptions, protestors are widening the scope of public participation and calling into question the suitability, politics, and morality of monuments. These emancipatory histories are still being recovered, and through continued activism against police brutality and against monumental history, new narratives will continue to emerge. Whatever form they take, they must be constructed by collective action, not political and economic elites pretending to speak for “the people.”

In his book Freedom Dreams, Robin D. G. Kelley trenchantly asks, “What shall we build on the ashes of a nightmare?” As protestors topple statues and local governments remove others, we have an opportunity to consider not only which histories we should celebrate but how we should celebrate them. As we fight to build a better world, how should we remember our ancestors and predecessors? Activists in nearly every city in the nation are already showing us the answer.

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Roaming Charges: Mad Bull, Lost Its Way


“Attack and take of the Crête-à-Pierrot (Haiti)” by Auguste Raffet. (Circa, 1850)

“Most police are not from and do not live in the communities they are policing. Paid, outside agitators.”

– Boots Riley

+ Trump the Brigand ranting about “law & order” in the Rose Garden, as tear gas deployed against nonviolent protesters swirls across the capital of a country that is mourning 105,000 dead and yet is still locking up kids in cages, pretty much capsulizes where the Republic stands at this fraught moment.

+ If this isn’t America, then what is?

+ Trump: “If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”

+ What MAGA America doesn’t seem to understand is that when fascism comes, it will come for them, too. Black, red and brown America have been living a version of this repressive condition their entire lives.

+ Ali Abunimah: “The president of the United States is threatening to invade the United States.”

+ As Trump threatens to send US troops to smash civilian protests in American cities, it’s cold comfort to recall that the US military hasn’t won a war since the Soviets beat the Nazis for us and we dropped nuclear bombs on two defenseless cities in Japan.

+ A couple of weeks ago, Trump orchestrated Blue Angel flybys as militaristic salutes to medical personnel. Then on Monday night, Trump’s Luftwaffe used medical helicopters to terrorize protesters in the nation’s capital. The next day, Asheville police raided medical stations, smashing medical supplies, destroying food, slashing water bottles and harassing medics and doctors treating civilians who’d been brutalized by the police. These are war crimes.

Angie Wilhelm@AngelaMWilhelm

Asheville Police surround a medic station created by protesters as they stab water bottles with knives and tip over tables of medical supplies and food June 2, 2020. The medic team, made of EMTs and doctors, said the medical station was approved by the city. #avlnews

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130K6:48 AM – Jun 3, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy85.6K people are talking about this

+ How many police officers are now in custody for the hundreds of acts of unprovoked violence against US citizens captured on camera over the last 10 days and nights (asking for an Iraqi friend).

+ Trump tells govs: “You don’t have to be too careful. Someone throwing a rock is like shooting a gun. You have to do retribution.” This is, of course, already standard procedure for US police. It’s the exact kind of ultraviolent tactic deployed to kill Michael Brown, Eric Garner, George Floyd and hundreds of others for nonviolent petty offenses.

+ In 2015 the ACLU put out a report showing that black people in Minneapolis are 8.7 times more likely than white people to be arrested for low-level offenses. Racist and violent policing has been a problem in Minnesota for decades.

+ Minneapolis police, for example, rendered 44 people unconscious with neck restraints in five years…

+ Over the last 20 years, Minneapolis police have killed black people at a rate 13 times higher than white people – a larger racial disparity than almost anywhere else in the nation….

+ There were only 27 days in 2019 when police in the USA didn’t kill anyone (that we know of).

+ Shortly after WTO, police in American cities began to develop more aggressive tactics to suppress mass protests. They already had the paramilitary equipment, now they were going to put it to use. JoAnn Wypijewski reported for us the DC police issuing “shoot to kill” orders for the World Bank protests held a few months later. Her piece is in our book Five Days That Shook the World: Seattle and Beyond.

+ If the long, rancid history of American policing is any judge, the people who are being viciously assaulted are much more likely to be charged with a crime than the ones committing the assault…

ABC7 Eyewitness News@ABC7

SHOCKING VIDEO: LAPD officers seen striking protesters with batons in Fairfax district confrontation 65.6K11:37 PM – Jun 4, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy51.9K people are talking about this

+ Arash Kolahi: “This country was infinitely more prepared to go to war against its own people than defend its people from a pandemic.”

+ Does the War Powers Act apply when the President declares war against his own country? Or has Congress given up that authority, too?

+ How are the Democrats who voted to give Trump expanded domestic spying powers and record military budgets sleeping tonight?

+ “Soul of America”, Joe? You just finished a speech where you urged police to shoot unarmed protesters in the knee. You made those remarks in a CHURCH!

+ This is our choice. Trump: shoot unarmed protesters in the heart. Biden: shoot unarmed protesters in the knee (and make ’em pay their own medical bills.) Leadership!

+ It’s enough to make one nostalgic for the accidental president himself, LBJ, who, despite his many other grotesque failings, could at least understand the incendiary rage that ignited the riots of ’68: “What did you expect? I don’t know why we’re surprised. When you put your foot on a man’s neck and hold him down for 300 years, and then you let him up, what’s he going to do? He’s going to knock your block off.”

+ So the “rules of engagement” here are basically what they were in Vietnam or Anbar Province: anything goes, beat, shoot, gas or maim anything that moves, then try to suppress, violently if possible, any reporting about it.

+ The last time New York City was placed under a curfew was in 1943 in response to an uprising in Harlem sparked by a white police officer shooting a black soldier.

+ In New York City, a reporter for the Associated Press is heard on video explaining the press are considered “essential workers” under New York’s curfew orders and are allowed to be on the streets. An officer responds “I don’t give a shit.” Another cop tells the journalist to “get the fuck out of here you piece of shit.”

+ “We are horrified by the continued use of harsh and sometimes violent actions of police against journalists doing their jobs. These are direct violations of press freedom, a fundamental Constitutional value of the United States,” said Carlos Martinez de la Serna, Program Director  for the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York. “We call on local and state officials to explicitly exempt the news media from curfew regulations so that journalists are able to report freely.”

+ Just 10 days ago, the Trump administration was describing the American people as “human capitalstock “, now we’re “the battlespace” to be “dominated.” Either way, we’re expendable.

+ Remember when almost everyone in the US political establishment, conservative and liberal, got very irate about Saddam gassing his own people (even though he did it with Rummy’s knowledge)? Now, the US president is gassing his own people in the nation’s capital to demonstrate he wasn’t a coward for hiding in his bunker over the weekend.

+ It was only two weeks ago when Trump scolded the Governor of Michigan for not having a face-to-face meeting with the armed goons who took over the Michigan statehouse. Same man who scrambled to his Trumpbunker when unarmed protesters gathered outside the White House wanting to chat.

+ The last time the Insurrection Act was invoked by a US president, it was George HW Bush, who sent US Marines into Los Angeles to crush the Rodney King protests. His AG at the time was Bill Barr. Bush was praised this week as model presidential “healer in chief” by…a Bible-wielding Nancy Pelosi.

+ When Pat Robertson makes more sense than Nancy Pelosi or Joe Biden, you know the Democrats have reached a dead end as any kind of political force…

+ Of course, Trump was never one of them. He was merely a sign, a welcome one to evangelicals, that finally the world was coming to an end, something they’d long been predicting with every comet, eclipse, locust outbreak and flash flood…

+ The Bible is something very special…

Sarah Cooper@sarahcpr · Jun 3, 2020

How to bible

Sarah Cooper@sarahcpr

How to bible 283.1K2:21 PM – Jun 3, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy15.3K people are talking about this

+ On Trump’s visit to St John Paul II National Shrine, DC Archbishop Wilton Gregory said: “I find it baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles, which call us to defend the rights of all people even those with whom we might disagree. Saint Pope John Paul II was an ardent defender of the rights and dignity of human beings. His legacy bears vivid witness to that truth. He certainly would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace.”

+ Bishop Mariann Budde, the Episcopal bishop of DC – who oversees the St. John’s Church where Trump flashed Ivanka’s Bible  – told the Washington Post that she is “outraged” and that neither she

“nor the rector was asked or told that they would be clearing with tear gas so they could use one of our churches as a prop, holding a Bible, one that declares that God is love and when everything he has said and done is to enflame violence. I am beyond.We need moral leadership and he’s done everything to divide us and has just used one of the most sacred symbols of the Judeo-Christian tradition. We so disassociate ourselves from the messages of this president. We hold the teachings of our sacred texts to be so so grounding to our lives and everything we do and it is about love of neighbor and sacrificial love and justice.”

+ The Trump campaign’s homophobic attorney Jenna Ellis (who once said gays deserved to be infected with HIV) denounced the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, alleging he’d become “a pawn of the leftwist media that thrives on destruction of all that is moral and just.”

+ The DC mayor’s office says federal officials, including at the White House, inquired about their powers to take control of the city’s police department. City officials objected and threatened a legal challenge…

+ Biden emerged from his own basement bunker this week to deliver this platitude: Amid the violence and fear, Dr. King persevered. He was driven by his dream of a nation where justice runs down like water, righteousness like a mighty stream.”

+ King didn’t “persevere”. He got more and more radical until finally they shot him, much to the delight of some of the same segregationists in the Senate you later befriended and co-authored racist legislation with…

+ For the lesser evil file…

+ Take cover Baghdad!

+ Biden just got all the Bushies on board his campaign and now you expect him to renounce regime change wars, sanctions against North Korea, Iran, Russia, and Venezuela, CIA torture and drone strikes? Tsk, tsk…

+ This is the week that Mad Dog Mattis finally went off the leash, after the autocratic force he aided and abetted is cresting toward its concussive denouement…

+ The one truly salutary consequence of Mattis’ defense of the protests is that it will leave Meghan McCain even more perplexed than normal…

+ Meghan should have seen Hanoi after one of her father’s bombing runs…

+ If what Robert Draper says is true, and I have no reason to doubt it and lots of reasons to believe it, then Mattis is just as complicit as Bill Barr or Stephen Miller or any of the other Trump Ultras in the ransacking of the Constitution over the last four years …

+ Is it any surprise that the pages, virtual though they may be, of Jeffrey Goldberg’s Atlantic magazine have become a safe space for the generals who destroyed Iraq to belatedly broadcast their grievances about Trump?

+ Remember when Gen. John Kelly, now desperately trying to rehab his reputation and distance himself from the despotism emanating from the White House he once ran, told Trump he should use a sword against the press? Or the lies and bigoted insults he spewed at black congresswoman? Or the kids he locked in cages?

+ It must come as a rude awakening to these retired generals, some of the most self-regarding people on the planet, that after giving orders for 30 or 40 years, now no one really cares what they have to say. Removed from the chain of command, they are impotent to change anything, even the autocrats they protected and monstrous policies they helped set in motion. (Fortunately for them, they can still get rich selling US-made weapons and spy-ware to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Australia and Singapore.)

+ Air Force chief of staff Gen. David Goldfein said that “every American should be outraged at the police conduct which led to George Floyd’s death.” Nice to know. But what about your attack helicopters terrorizing US citizens expressing their outrage at police misconduct last night, General? How should we feel about that?

+ Though I don’t have the EKG to prove it, I’m sure Tammy’s heart is in the right place. But let’s be honest. It’s not as if the US military hadn’t already lost its honor somewhere on the road from Nagasaki to My Lai, from the shores of Grenada to Abu Ghraib and Fallujah…

+ Class, instead of a pop quiz this morning on the assigned readings from Kierkegaard’s “Either/Or”, please write a 500 word essay on the semantic difference between between these statements from Attorney General Bill Barr on the violent clearing of Lafayette Park so that Trump could lumber across it to St. John’s Church : “I said, Get it done.” and “I didn’t say, Go do it.”

+ Law enforcement agencies deployed on the streets of DC:

US Secret Service
US Park Police
Arlington PD (gone)
DC National Guard + other states
Bureau of Prisons
US Marshals
Pentagon Force Protection
Ft Bragg/Fort Drum active duty troops
Metropolitan Police Dept (DC)

+ National Guard: 32,400 troops now mobilized in 32 states and Washington D.C. to respond to protests.

+ White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley on use of the military to suppress nationwide unrest: “All options are on the table.” Even nukes?

+ Kafka: “It’s only because of their stupidity that they’re able to be so sure of themselves.”

+ George Floyd was executed by cop in the street based on an initial accusation that he’d tried to buy a pack of smokes with a counterfeit twenty dollar bill. How many of Trump’s checks have bounced?

+ After Twitter slapped a couple of warning label on his Tweets, Trump announced that he want to get rid of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, giving internet platforms like Twitter and Google immunity. It’s generated a lot of online rage from civil libertarians. But, typically, Biden had already called for doing the same: “Section 230 should be revoked, immediately should be revoked, number one.” Why? “It should be revoked because it is not merely an internet company,” he said of Facebook.

+ There was an all-out revolt among NYT staffers on Wednesday night against the decision to run a disgusting column (Send in the Troops) by Sen. Tom Cotton on its Op-Ed pages. Yet, the NYT’s own editorials in the past have been just as blood-curdling, such as its repeated calls for coups in Venezuela…

+ By James Bennet’s logic (he’s the editorial page editor of the NYT), the NYT would have run “a painful, even dangerous” op-ed from Joseph Goebbels, but in the 30s, of course, many of their own editorial writers were expressing pro-Nazi sentiments, so I guess they just didn’t feel the need…

+ Meanwhile, more than 30 black staffers at the Philadelphia Inquirer walked out or called in sick to work after the paper ran a story titled: “Buildings Matter Too.”

+ 200+ attacks on the press last week, plus one that’s been going on for years. How many of the battered journalists spoke up for Assange, whose years of confinement have ravaged his health and placed his life at risk.

+ The number of journalists arrested in just one night (Tues) this week…

LA (1)
Oakland (1)
Atlanta (1)
Asbury Park, NJ (1)
NYC (1)
Cincinnati (1)
Philly (3)
Omaha, NE (1)

+ Jack Mirkinson: “I see a lot of people being like “where are the Democrats right now???” The answer is that they’re in power all over the country sending their police out to attack protesters.”

+ Perhaps Rumsfeld will write an amicus brief on behalf of the more than 10,000 protesters arrested for rioting, looting and just pissing off cops…

+ The latest proof the war on drugs was not about drugs…the DEA has been given the authority to spy on and infiltrate the anti-police brutality protesters.

+ Gives new meaning to “blue states”…

+ Cornel West: “It looks like the system can’t reform itself. We’ve tried black faces in high places…BLM emerged under a black president, a black attorney general and a black homeland security and they could not deliver”

+ When it comes to teaching how to torture and murder while wearing a uniform, it appears that American police academies have taken over where the School of the Americas left off…

“SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California governor orders immediate end of training for police on “carotid hold” that stops blood flow to brain.”

+ Protect and serve (who?) in Buffalo…


Just about an hour ago, police officers shove man in Niagara Square to the ground (WARNING: Graphic). Video from: @MikeDesmondWBFO90.1K2:13 AM – Jun 5, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy75.7K people are talking about this

+ How many of the police injuries–stubbed toes, torn rotator cuffs, dislocated pinkies, strained lower backs, pink eye, repetitive motion disorders, heat exhaustion, bruised knees–are the result of their own violent swinging, punching, shoving, clubbing, and stomping?

+ National Guard troops from Florida and other states are being lodged at the Marriott in DC, where they are ordering pizza and McDonalds before being transported in tour buses to practice their counter-insurgency tactics against unarmed protesters.

+ Trump’s MAGAda Goebbels (Kayleigh McEnany) compared Trump’s visit to St John’s church to Winston Churchill inspecting bomb damage during WW 2. Now, I’m not a huge fan of Churchill, but I don’t recall him gassing, shooting, and shoving Londoners out of the way to visit buildings shattered during the Blitz…unless they were Irish, of course.

+ Trump’s so frightened that he’s actually walling himself in. There were 500,000 anti-war near the White House and Nixon spent Sunday watching the Washington football team play and later went out to try to talk to some of them, as recounted in one of the best scenes from Oliver Stone’s greatly underrated film, Nixon.

+ When most of the anti-police brutality movement is uniting around a call to “defund the police,” Bernie Sanders, who voted for Biden’s 94 crime bill, has just introduced an 8-point “reform” plan that would…increase wages for police.

+ Here’s the highest paid cop in Atlanta telling all the other cops that charges against killer cops are “political.” Do you think that’s going to make them swing their clubs a little harder tonight? (I don’t think paying cops more is going to solve the problem, Bernie.)

+ Portion of CDC budget dedicated to protecting Americans from Infectious Diseases: $2.25 billion

NYPD budget: $6 billion

+ The standing armies the Founders (flawed as many of them were) warned us about are the American police forces. Defund and disband the police. It’s the constitutional thing to do…

+ I’m getting the sense that Andrew Cuomo is Trump with about 300 more words in his vocabulary…When questioned by reporters about emerging video evidence of police using batons to beat peaceful protesters in New York, Governor Coumo denies its happening and calls the journalist’s question “a little offensive;” “incendiary rhetoric,” and a “hyper-partisan rhetorical attack.”

+ Then there’s DeBlasio, uttering what should be his own political epitaph: “I have been in the mansion hearing the protests.”

+ Biden lies compulsively about lots of things great and small, but god bless him he wasn’t lying about this…

+ Between 1993 and 2012, the combined costs of policing, courts, and corrections accounted for about half of all direct local government spending

+ The King County Labor Council has given the Seattle Police Officers Guild an ultimatum: admit to and address racism in the ranks of the police department or members will vote to remove them.

+ Ralph Nader: “Those who are urging peaceful protest instead of tumultuous protest should ask why the media never covered over a year of peaceful protest through city after city led by Rev Dr Barber called the Poor People’s Campaign. When the media ignores peaceful protest led by prominent people, it is signaling that it is waiting for something more bombastic to warrant coverage…”

+ Bill de Blasio showed up at a big George Floyd rally in Cadman Park, Brooklyn on Thursday—his first face-to-face encounter with the protesters—and hundreds booed him, chanting “Resign!” and “Fuck your curfew!”

+ I never had much use for Christopher Hitchens, but at least he had the guts to allow himself to be waterboarded, for about 3.5 seconds. Will De Blasio be willing to demonstrate “the light touch” of NYPD batons, rubber bullets, pepper spray, chokeholds and vehicles?

+ Court officials say that NYPD filing paperwork “glacially” in order to keep people arrested in the George Floyd protests locked up for more than 24 hours….Is NYPD intentionally trying to spread COVID-19 among police brutality protesters? Biological warfare by proxy?

+ Justice James Burke ruled on Thursday that people arrested by NYPD can be held for more than 24 hours before being arraigned, contrary to state law, because we are “experiencing a crisis within a crisis.”

+ Paris calling…

Joyce Karam@Joyce_Karam

Wow. Huge rally in Paris #France today paying homage to #GeorgeFloyd & Adama Traore who died in French police custody in 2016.

Rally itself defied a police ban:
46K10:56 PM – Jun 2, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy15.4K people are talking about this

+ Here’s a map of the US uprisings against white supremacy, police violence and fascist tyranny. More than 1200 towns and cities held Black Lives Matter protests since May 25, 2020.

+ Are you now or have you ever been in possession of any anti-fascist sentiments…?

+ For weeks people have been fretting about Murder Hornets and it was the Murder Cops who swarmed…

+ How the cops celebrated the beginning of Pride Month in Raleigh, North Carolina: by shooting up a gay bar because they were sheltering protesters and giving them water.

+ Bob Kroll, the Minneapolis police union chief who hasn’t responded to calls and messages seeking comment, called the cops on a reporter who knocked on his door…

+ Manuel Ellis, a 33-year-old black man, called out the words “I can’t breathe” before dying in Tacoma police custody in March. According to the medical examiner’s report released Wednesday, the police used a physical restraint to deprive him of oxygen, killing him.

+ Steven Pohorence, the Fort Lauderdale cop who forcefully shoved a kneeling woman at a protest on Sunday, has been reviewed by internal affairs for using force 79 times in just three and a half years. Officer Pohorence has drawn his firearm more than once a month on average since he was hired in October 2016.

+ Tiananmen Square, Walnut Creek version…

Joshua Potash@JoshuaPotash

“If you do not move, you will be dead!”

– Police in a military vehicle in Walnut Creek, California.

3,7739:20 AM – Jun 3, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy3,303 people are talking about this

+ What’ll it be, gas or bullets? Portland (Oregon) Police Deputy Chief Chris Davis on tear gas: ‘As far as a ban on CS gas, what that would do for us would have us having to figure out a different way to accomplish our objective….The alternative would be higher levels of force that we’d like to be able to avoid.’ (Tear gas is considered a chemical weapon under the terms of the Geneva Conventions and is banned in war zones.)

+ U.S. cities where law enforcement deployed tear gas on protestors (an incomplete list):

Minneapolis/St. Paul
Los Angeles
New York City
Washington DC
Kansas City
San Diego
Grand Rapids
Fort Wayne

+ Tara Houska, Ojibwe, lawyer: “I was point-blank maced in the face walking down a street with friends here in Minneapolis. As we were cuffed, cops shot rubber bullets at passing cars. One of the vehicles they hit went off the street & ran into a porch. They laughed, “that’s gonna leave a mark.” Who’s peaceful?”

+ This is the same moral imbecile who staged a made-for-FoxNews walkout at a NFL game in Indianapolis (at a cost to taxpayers of more than $250,000) when a few players knelt solemnly to protest rampaging police violence against American citizens…

+ A whistleblower cop in Mt Vernon, New York makes recordings of his superiors and fellow cops framing innocent people. The DA was informed, but continued prosecuting the cases. In the end, the only person punished was the whistleblower himself…

+ Very Fine People Alert, US Military Edition…(aka, antiantifa or, I suppose, just fa) A group of Army reservists, along with Navy and Air Force veterans, were arrested this week, after plotting to terrorize protesters in Las Vegas.

+ I’ve heard more convincing strongman diatribes in dubbed versions of cheap Italian giallo films…the bit about “ratings” gives him away as the gelatinous coward that he is…

+ Torii Hunter, former All-Star centerfielder for the Minnesota Twins:

“I keep asking why this is happening. I’m thinking of my sons, my seven brothers, my dad, thinking of all of the black males who are treated like this. This made me cry. And I don’t cry! A cop pulled a gun on me at my own house in California. Held the gun on me until I pulled my license and proved I lived there. I could have gotten shot. I could have been killed, for going home. That wouldn’t have happened to anybody else who lived in that neighborhood.”

+ Nazis Walk Among Us….A Mississippi prosecutor named Pamela Hancock had this to say about the George Floyd protests: “We can only hope the deadly [coronavirus] strain spreads in riots!”

+ This LAPD cop is leaning out the window, shooting at kids in the back as they run away…



#LAPD chase teenagers while shooting rubber bullets from inside a police cruiser 92K4:37 AM – Jun 3, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy43.4K people are talking about this

+ According to the LA Times, no LAPD officers have been suspended or disciplined since the beginning of the protests. Department spokesman Joshua Rubenstein said they are currently investigating complaints and “that takes some time to do.”

+ Perhaps protesters should start dressing up as coronavirus, then Trump maybe will stop trying to suppress them…

+ Muhammad Ali, at Louisville protests 50 years ago: “I came to Louisville because I could not remain silent while my own people, many I grew up with… were being beaten, stomped and kicked in the streets simply because they want freedom, and justice and equality.” (h/t Dave Zirin)

+ In one of the silliest new age protests I’ve seen, a few hundred people in Austin sat down, raised their arms in the air and “renounced their white privilege.” We can renounce our white privilege all we want. But on the drive home we’ll still have it. The question is: what the hell will we do with it?

+ Apparently, people are finally beginning to believe what they see with their own eyes: New poll says 57 percent of Americans believe police are more likely to use excessive force against black people. That’s 20 points higher than polls from 2014 and 2016.

+ Jeff Bercovici: “You’d think that a country that could outfit every cop like a soldier could outfit every doctor like a doctor.”

+ A letter from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports more than 60,000 cases of coronavirus illness among nursing home residents. The toll among nursing home staffers was sobering, with more than 34,400 getting sick and nearly 450 dying from the coronavirus.

+ So-called “mild” cases of COVID-19 are meant to be over within two weeks, but it turns out that thousands of people continue to struggling with debilitating symptoms for months…

+ A survey of 155 countries has found that the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted services for 53% of hypertension treatments, 49% of diabetes treatment, 42% of cancer treatments, and 31% of cardiovascular emergencies.

+ From ER nurse Kellen Squire: “According to the CDC, so far this year, Florida has had 1,762 deaths from COVID and 5,185 from pneumonia. Average pneumonia deaths in Florida from 2013-2018 for the same time period are 918.”

+ Tim Eyman, one the men running in the GOP primary to replace Jay Inslee in Washington State, says the state’s COVID-19 restrictions are a ‘knee on the neck’ of workers just like George Floyd.

+ Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, appears to have violated conflict of interest laws by holding on to stock in companies affected by the pandemic response and then meeting with those companies.

+ Trump suggests the spirit of George Floyd is awestruck by Friday’s employment numbers: “Hopefully, George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing that’s happening for our country. This is a great day for him, it’s a great day for everybody.”

Adam Cancryn@adamcancryn

Trump imagining George Floyd’s reaction to the jobs numbers: “Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing that’s happening for our country. This is a great day for him, it’s a great day for everybody.”4,6164:00 PM – Jun 5, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy5,970 people are talking about this

Yamiche Alcindor: “Overall, U.S. unemployment rate fell by 1 %. Black unemployment rate went up .1%. Asian American rate went up by .5%. How is that a victory?”

Trump: “You are something.”

+ Frankly, I don’t know what’s more nauseating, Trump saying it was “a great day for George Floyd” because black unemployment rose by only .1 percent or Klobocop’s faux-mournful photo-op at the casket of a man killed by a police department whose routine violence she embraced as a prosecutor.

+ A few hours after Trump’s triumphal press conference on the economy, the Bureau of Labor Statistic admitted that it had made a “major” sampling error in the May jobs report that made the unemployment rate look substantially better than it really is, 13.3 percent versus more than 16 percent. So was it still a “great day” for George Floyd?

+ Bill Barr warned ominously this week about the prospect of foreign governments stuffing mail-in ballots in US elections. Barr, a resident of Fairfax County, in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, voted by mail in 2019 and 2012.

+ Meanwhile, his boss, Donald Trump, originally tried to register to vote in Florida while claiming his “legal residence” was in another part of the country: Washington, D.C. Trump’s committed almost every other kind of fraud, so why not vote fraud?

+ In Trump’s case, at least, he appears to have committed “felony voter fraud,” a crime punishable by five years in prison. Black voters have been jailed for far less

+ Iowa, with a completely bonkers GOP governor and a majority GOP legislature, backed mail-in voting for Tuesday’s primary and saw record-breaking turnout as a result. 487,000 ballots were cast (previous high was 450,000 in 1994) and 410,000 voted absentee (mail-in), compared to 38,000 in 2016.

+ Can the Black Power Pope excommunicate Bill Barr?

+ Good riddance to “resource officers” (ie., cops) in Portland’s public schools.

+ You couldn’t get a clearer, less ambiguous statement of Rep. Eliot Engel’s primary mission in Congress than this attack on his primary opponent, Jamaal Bowman: “I would certainly regard him as anti-Israel. Conditioning aid for Israel is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard. Foreign aid doesn’t only benefit the countries that we are giving it to — it benefits the United States.”

+ This political ad Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene really has to be seen to be believed and even then I remain halfway convinced it’s actually a sly recruiting ad for Antifa…

Marjorie Taylor Greene For Congress@mtgreenee

ANTIFA has declared war on our country.@realDonaldTrump responded by declaring them a domestic terrorist organization.

Here’s my message to ANTIFA terrorists:

Stay the HELL out of NW Georgia.

You won’t burn our churches, loot our businesses, or destroy our homes.40.1K1:38 PM – Jun 2, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy22.8K people are talking about this

58% of US counties now have higher unemployment than at any time during the Great Recession.

+ US exports declined last month by 20.5%, the biggest drop since 1992, to $151.3 billion. Imports fell by 13.7% to $200.7 billion, also the most since 1992.

+ US housing starts in April dropped 30.2% from the previous month to a annual rate of 891,000 new homes, the lowest level since 2015…

+ Only 38% of cannabis companies have a female board member, while only 8% of the 437 Named Executive Officers are women, according to an analysis by the Bedford Consulting Group.

+ I lived in and around Bethesda while in college. This kind of macho racist thuggery toward kids doesn’t surprise me one bit. (Though none of the bastards would have been caught dead wearing lycra…in public at least.)

Victor Stoddard@VicStoddard

They were putting up signs to commemorate the death of George Floyd. He wasn’t having it.256K8:08 PM – Jun 4, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy137K people are talking about this

+ After the uprisings (assuming they end, though I hope they don’t), Biden will still be more likely to support Single Payer Property Insurance than Single Payer Health Care.

+ Enemy of the People (and all other living creatures): Tyson Foods Inc., the biggest U.S. meat processor, will return to its pre-Covid-19 absentee policy, which includes punishing workers for missing work due to illness…

+ One farm in Tennessee distributed Covid-19 tests to all of its workers after an employee came down with the virus, only to discover that every one of its roughly 200 employees had been infected.

+ The Arctic is so fucked, with most of it in the grip of three of the greediest bastards on the planet (Trump, Putin and Trudeau) who look at it for nothing but oil and ice-free shipping lanes…

+ A catastrophic diesel spill has dumped 20,000 metric tons of fuel into the area surrounding the Russian Arctic city of Norilsk, causing rivers to run red. The spill dwarfs the size of the Exxon Valdez wreck and threatens to inflict damage across upper Siberia. Melting permafrost may have been the cause. Temps have topped 40F above normal.

+ Any crisis, real, manufactured or imagined, becomes just another excuse for Trump to gut or waive environmental regulations

+ In 2019, U.S. annual energy consumption from renewable sources exceeded coal consumption for the first time since before 1885, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Monthly Energy Review.

+ According to a new report, the future of old-growth forests in British Columbia is bleak. “Only about 35,000 hectares of old-growth forests with very big old trees remain across the province, and only a portion have effective protection. We are losing a legacy and all the environmental services that these forests provide for community and human health,” said Jens Wieting, a forest campaigner with the Sierra Club in BC. “It is unconscionable that the last remaining big old trees are still being logged as a result of what the report authors call ‘loopholes, gaming, arithmetic errors and simple lack of monitoring.’” Moreover, the researchers  found that many old-growth management areas, created to protect old-growth forests, do not actually contain old forest.

+ Trump’s Interior Department approved a new rule to allow trophy hunters in Alaska’s national preserves and wildlife refuges to kill bears and wolves, their cubs and pups, while in their dens. New rule also allows baiting, snaring, and aerial gunning.

+ Is nothing, I mean nothing, sacred? Not even Chaco Canyon, where with the Navajo Nation trying to fend off the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the country, the Trump Interior Department is rapidly pushing to open one of the planet’s most treasured cultural sites to oil drilling…

+ The coronavirus is believed to have arrived on the Big Rez when an infected person attended a Christian revival on the reservation in early March, and it then spread through basketball games, church services and community events. More than 40 percent of those living on the reservation lack running water.

+ In case you’ve never read (or more likely need to re-read), Thomas Pynchon’s scorching essay on the Watts uprisings…

+ Colin Fleming, writing in Jazz Times, on a live performance of “Alabama” by John Coltrane’s Quartet:

Coltrane begins “Alabama” alone on his horn, with a sorrow that cannot solely be the sorrow of loss—it’s the pain of the life cut short, removed from the bounds of a natural order. Pianist McCoy Tyner enters with notes suggestive of small hammers on large church bells. A single fill by drummer Elvin Jones—a wash of percussive waves—induces the piece’s canticle-like segment, a worldly communion of a church beyond denomination. A church of being out and about on this often cruel, iniquitous planet.

+ Keyboardist Gary Versace on how he got started: “I asked my dad if we could get a piano. He brought home an accordion and said, ‘Here, this is even better; you can take it with you.’ I don’t think my parents had the money for a piano.”

+ I watched Pasolini’s Oedipus Rex again last weekend. It was one of Cockburn’s favorite films and he often remarked that the greatest shot in cinema was the close up of Jocasta’s face (played by the wonderful Silvana Mangano) the moment she realizes she’s being having lusty sex with her son. I’d forgotten there was a plague in Thebes during Oepidus’ reign. The scenes of the parade of bodies to a funeral pyre in the film is very powerful. In Sophocles, the plague is the result, according to the Pythian Priestess at Delphi, of a miasma, a kind religious corruption. Instead of opening the temples, Oedipus demands that people stop their acts of worship until the cause can be found…The plague, as this intriguing study from the CDC, was almost certainly a zoonotic pathogen…

+ Now for something entirely different…”Spanish porn star Nacho Vidal, who likes to advertise his aromatic candles shaped like male genitalia on Twitter, has been arrested on manslaughter charges following a man’s death during a mystic ritual in which he inhaled psychedelic toad venom…”

Ever Since the World Ended, There’s No More Bible Belt…

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About #MeToo
JoAnn Wypijewski

Charged: the New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration
Emily Bazelton
(Random House)

Fair Warning
Michael Connelly
(Little Brown)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Ocean Bridges
Damu the Fudgemunk / Raw Poetic / Archie Shepp
(Redefinition Records)

Doc Watson and Gaither Carlton: Live in Greenwich Village, 1963
Doc Watson and Gaither Carlton
(Smithsonian Folkways)

Nearly Blue
Jerry Bergonzi

Nothing is Sacred

“I find that here in the States, audiences are generally less knowledgeable, from the cognitive point of view, though they are emotionally more receptive. And when I met Cecil Taylor it was a complete transformation of musical identities. All the tenets that I had grown up with were thrown out the window. Rap actually took root in the Negro community, and then in the Hispanic community, long before it impacted on the larger American community as a whole. A whole generation of young whites have involved themselves with traditional Negro music. Negro music and culture are intrinsically improvisational, existential. Nothing is sacred. After a decade, a musical idea, no matter how innovative, is threatened.” (Archie Shepp)

Posted in USAComments Off on Roaming Charges: Mad Bull, Lost Its Way

Showdown on 16th Street


Photograph Source: Frypie – CC BY-SA 4.0

The zone of incomprehension was about a foot wide. That was the distance separating a boisterous but peaceful crowd of several hundred protesters and a silent line of several dozen uniformed Airborne Rangers in downtown Washington DC on Wednesday night. A young black woman in long braids patrolled the zone with a bullhorn, alternately telling the protesters to stand back and addressing the soldiers herself. “We are trying to humanize you,” she said. “You can humanize us.”

The distance between the two groups was about a foot but it could have been a thousand miles. On one side, a multicultural throng of men and women of carrying signs like “Racism is a pandemic” and “End the carceral state” and “We’re not trying to start a race war. We’re trying to end one.”

On the other side, stood a mute, monocultural band of males acting on the orders of President Trump and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, whom Trump put in charge of responding to the nationwide (and worldwide) protest against U.S. police violence. Only few soldiers engaged with the protesters, sharing names and a smile, and then lapsing into silence.

“Why do you protect a racist?” shouted burly blonde white guy. A rotund black man held up his phone to show another soldier a video. “Look, they shot the dude as he got out of the car. Is that really what you want to do?” No answer.

One moon-faced solder tried hard to avoid eye contact, his face bright with sweat. A grim thirtysomething soldier squinted up and down the line from behind his plexiglass visor. I think I saw a trace of tears in the nervous eyes of the red-headed guy next to him. With the exception of one Latino and one black soldier, they were all white. Most of them looked to be in their mid-twenties. None of them wore name tags They stood two deep, behind plexiglass shields, all the way across 16th Street. Behind them you could see older men in blue uniforms—no name tags, no identifying insignias–speaking into earpieces. They were the ones who would give the orders when curfew came.

A block and half away stood the White House, now boxed in by a black chain link fence. Looming overhead was the steeple of St. John’s Church, where Trump appeared Monday after Attorney General Bill Barr ordered soldiers to use teargas and rubber bullets to rout a peaceful crowd from Lafayette Square.

“Just doing my job,” said one of the few soldiers who spoke. “You don’t have to do your job, dude,” replied a black man with dreads. “You can put that gun down and lead us on a peaceful march right now to where he [Trump] lives.”

Some of the soldiers looked hostile, other confused. Mostly, they were stolid but uncertain, as well they should have been. Military discipline was under pressure, and not just from the crowd. The notion that the president’s actions violated the Constitution had just boiled up from within the armed forces themselves.

Earlier in the day, former Defense Secretary James Mattis denounced Trump’s deployment of the military against the protesters. Current Defense Secretary Mark Esper broke with the president and said calling in the U.S. military was not necessary. Before nightfall, former Four Star Army General John Allen published a piece saying “Monday was awful for the United States and its democracy.”

I doubt the soldiers on 16th Street knew or cared what the former generals thought but other commanding officers were rushing to assure their troops that their mission was to defend freedom of speech and assembly, not crush it. Such alarms must have seeped down into the ranks. Or so I hoped.

What’s a soldier supposed to do when other soldiers say the commander in chief is not worthy of command responsibilities? Obey orders, of course. In their minds, these men felt they had no choice but to stand their ground, but that ground was trembling with tectonic change as profound as anything in America since 1968. A national uprising against systemic racism had come face to face with the status quo protected by young white men with automatic rifles. The murder of George Floyd had brought them face to face but no closer to understanding. Orders were orders, the ethic of many a massacre.

“Look over here,” shouted a black woman at the moon-faced boy. “Look at me. We have been brutalized for four hundred years! Four hundred years! Do you feel our pain yet?” No answer.

So it went for a couple of hours. “Hands up!/Don’t Shoot,” chanted the crowd with fingers high in the air. A guy dressed as Batman showed up and gave a speech. Someone projected the slogan “Demilitarize the Police” on the side of the Hay Adams Luxury Hotel. When the 11 pm curfew passed, I assumed the soldiers would soon charge and clear the street. They didn’t budge. As the night wore on, the crowd started to melt away. Someone in a position of authority had finally showed restraint. I came expecting the worse and was glad to be wrong. But when I looked at that one-foot wide zone of incomprehension, I saw an abyss.

Posted in USA, Human Rights, PoliticsComments Off on Showdown on 16th Street

Say Their Names!


Albion Rose by William Blake.

Benjamin Bowsey, John Glover, and the Delivery of Newgate, 6 June 1780

We might say that there were two ways of understanding broad, social phenomena including whole social systems. We can understand them by their structure or we can understand them by their origin. This goes for capitalism and the class struggle inherent to it. When we speak of ‘systemic racism,’ for example, we might examine its brutal or subtle complexities across social life – patriarchy, family, schools, housing, work, shopping, play, art, science, what-have-you – and then determine how such structures are functional, or not, to the accumulation of capital. Or, we might investigate historical origins, how various social institutions (say, the prison) or economic behaviors (say, the labor market) are created and might form patterns across time. The durability of structures, if not their form, can be a function of time. Temporality always, necessarily implies an end. This latter mode of investigation provides depth to the freedom struggle. These thoughts come to mind with the police murder of George Floyd and the demonstrations and riots protesting it in particular and the racist criminal justice system in general.

This Saturday, 6 June, will be the 240th anniversary of the “delivery of Newgate” when a London crowd, led by two Afro-Americans named Ben Bowsey and John Glover, opened the doors of England’s largest and most feared prison, Newgate, and released its prisoners, more than a hundred of them.

It was a legal term, “the delivery of Newgate,” referring to the royal commission of appointed judges to bring to trial those who were detained in prison on felony charges (such as stealing a handkerchief). In that era of popular sovereignty (“all men are created equal”) the people acted as though they possessed this commission among themselves and accordingly took direct action, not in the name of the King or Law, but in their own name, the people. Hence, the slogan “say his name” and the response, “George Floyd,” is an iteration against anonymity and against forgetting. The slogan “say his name” and the response, “George Floyd,” is an affirmation of dignity and an assertion by huge assemblies of people, across hundreds of cities, all over the world of the possibility of a new dispensation.

The Gordon Riots of 1780 were only the largest of many, many forms of 18th century rioting, over food, over turnpikes, over machines, over excise taxes, over the press gang, over poaching, over enclosures, &c. Evidence of these tumults or insurrections lay quiet under the dust and cob-webs of history’s basement, until a generation of social historians in the 1960s, inspired by the municipal rebellions in the USA, descended to bring them back into the clear light of day.  Unlike the haughty attitudes of class superiors who called the protestors, “criminals,” “thugs,” or in the Marxist lingo of the day “lumpenproletarians,” these social historians practicing history from below showed the rioters to have been wage-earners, young apprentices, mothers hungry to feed their children. Moreover, they learned that these common people were motivated by age-old concerns of social justice which had also laid buried in the basement of time.

It is often noted that only seven prisoners were released from the Bastille when it was stormed on 14 July 1789 in contrast to the hundreds, perhaps a thousand, released from Newgate and other London prisons nine years earlier. Yet the Gordon Rots are forgotten while the Bastille became a national holiday.  What is the difference?  One led to revolution, the other to counter-revolution.  Yet even this reply is not quite sufficient to explain the importance of Ben Bowsey and John Glover in unlocking those gates of hell.

The workers in England had been all about pleasing their “betters” with deference, forelock tugging, bowing and scraping. Most were repressed, compliant, silent, servile, and slavish. In The Souls of Black Folk (1903) W.E.B. DuBois described the condition as follows: “To-day the young Negro of the South who would succeed cannot be frank and outspoken, honest and self-assertive, but rather he is daily tempted to be silent and wary, politic, and sly; he must flatter and be pleasant, endure petty insults with a smile, shut his eyes to wrong; in too many cases he sees positive personal advantage in deception and lying. His real thoughts, his real aspirations, must be guarded in whispers; he must not criticize, he must not complain. Patience, humility, and adroitness must, in these growing black youth, replace impulse, manliness, and courage. With this sacrifice there is an economic opening, and perhaps peace and some prosperity. Without this there is riot, migration, or crime. Nor is this situation peculiar to the Southern United States, — is it not rather the only method by which undeveloped races have gained the right to share modern culture? The price of culture is a Lie.”

In England migration, riot, and crime were the options for the peasants, plebeians, and poor people. The human impulses of creativity and the aspirations to knowledge and betterment, were, like the souls of the black folk described by DuBois, repressed or perverted. Capital punishment and the prison kept the English commoners below stairs or in the gutter. The delivery of Newgate threatened the entire social structure, including the so-called labor market which depended on installing in the factory and in the plantation division between white folk and black folk and between paid and unpaid labor.

Two things stand out.  First, the freedom struggle against slavery produced Atlantic, or world-wide, heroes against incarceration, or avatars of liberty.  Second, they acted in solidarity with poor and oppressed people regardless of race or ethnicity. They belonged to communities whose backs were against the wall.

Benjamin Bowsey and John Glover were former American slaves. Bowsey was probably from Virginia arriving in London in 1774. Glover was probably from Massachusetts and may have played a part in Washington’s crossing of the Delaware. They were two African American men who got the keys, led the crowd, and opened the gates of hell.  I mean Newgate and the other London prisons on 6 June 1780.  Hundreds, perhaps as many as a thousand, were freed. The bourgeoisie was terrified (you see it as late as 1859 in Charles Dicken’s lurid whitewash, A Tale of Two Cities).  The bourgeoisie rebuilt prisons making them more secure and they changed the whole theory and technology of lock-smithery. Twenty-five were hanged for their participation in the riots, including Benjamin Bowsey and John Glover. Two women were hanged: Laetitia Holland for having two petticoats in her possession that used to belong to the wife of the Lord Chief Justice and Charlotte Gardiner, “a negro,” who led a march against a dockside public house taking two brass candlesticks from it. She was sentenced on July fourth.

These men and women challenged the Lie that the poor, the working class, had to perform in order to live. One lie was property and the other lie was prison. One of the youngsters opening up Newgate on 6 June 1780 was an engraver who’d completed his apprenticeship that day, William Blake. He expressed his vision of the deed with this image alluding to John Milton’s poetics – “Albion rose from where he labour’d at the Mill with Slaves.”

The property regime and its disciplinary scheme of the prison are two sides of the same coin of capitalism, a coin which was minted, so to speak, at the end of the 18th century. These were two structures whose interlocking functionality is obvious. They are also temporal structures which commenced in the 18th century and whose disfunctionality must terminate in this century. “Shut Shit Down” is one slogan of our day, another must become “Abolish Prison.”

Say their names! Ben Bowsey, John Glover!

Posted in USA, Human RightsComments Off on Say Their Names!

Killing Workers (and Customers) – With No Liability


Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

Republicans want to help businesses kill workers. They want to force employees to return to Covid-19 hotspots, like slaughterhouses, by depriving them of unemployment checks if they don’t clock in. In addition, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell wants to give these businesses and others, like nursing homes, legal immunity for deliberately exposing workers to a deadly plague. On May 26, he announced such legislation. Make no mistake: McConnell’s liability protection is a license to kill. He’s gone from being the gravedigger of democracy to just being a gravedigger.

This problem has also arisen with hospitals. From the pandemic’s start, many nurses and support staff lacked proper Covid-19 protective gear. When they brought their own, some were fired. This opened the hospitals to lawsuits – for instance, wrongful death suits from the families of medical workers inadequately protected and consequently killed by the disease. Indeed some medical workers, fired for protesting the lack of gear, are suing their hospitals. As National Nurses United executive director Bonnie Castillo explained. “Nurses signed on to take care of their patients. They did not sign up to sacrifice their lives on the front lines of the Covid-19 pandemic.” But that’s exactly what inadequate gear has made them do.

As the New York Times observed in a mid-May editorial on McConnell’s liability protection push, for McConnell the biggest obstacle to re-opening the economy “is not a deadly disease but rapacious trial lawyers” and a tsunami of wrongful death cases, which the Times observes has not and probably will not materialize. But that doesn’t matter for McConnell. He has doubtless heard from corporate donors and supporters chary of their legal exposure and who therefore may hesitate to really put the screws to their employees. McConnell’s bill will make them feel comfortable doing that. Risk-free killing on the job – that’s the senate majority leader’s goal.

This liability bill – which may encounter constitutional problems – would also protect businesses from injured customers. But what do business and its congressional shills think those customers will do when they learn that their baristas, say, work in Covid-19 hotspots? They’ll stay away, and business’ insistence that it be protected from their lawsuits is just the kind of lousy advertising that will continue to keep customers away.

Currently employers have an incentive to notify workers if someone on the job tests positive for Covid-19. That motivation will disappear entirely if McConnell guts liability. In fact, anecdotal evidence shows that employers are not even doing such a good job now, even with this incentive. News reports abound of hospitals that failed to notify staff when a co-worker had the virus. Meanwhile, for those employers who do take their responsibility seriously, McConnell’s bill undercuts them. Its message is: don’t be a chump and worry about Covid-19; you’re in the clear. It can rampage through your business, but there’s nothing your employees or customers can do about it. They can’t touch you.

But, some say, adopt new standards and regulations which, if a business complies, could serve to eliminate its liability. A win/win – no? No. Business hates regulations. How long after enactment until a right-wing president eviscerates the regs? Then corporations will have the liability shield and none of the pesky regulations that justified it. If you think this outcome unlikely – you haven’t been paying attention to what business has done to regulatory oversight, consistently, since the Reagan regime.

Texas, Alabama, Wisconsin, South Dakota and other states all registered jumps in Covid-19 cases after they reopened. Will some of these people sue the businesses they patronized? Maybe. Will some of those suits be justified? Could be. But so far, this tidal wave of suits has not surged; instead a second wave of infections has begun to swell. The vast majority of those who sicken and die will never sue anybody, which is why these feckless governors felt so comfortable re-opening their states without even reducing the numbers of new cases first. Incidentally and unfortunately, infections from crowded protests will enlarge this second wave, but that doesn’t affect business, so you won’t see McConnell currying anybody’s favor regarding it.

When McConnell first announced his liability ban, House leader Nancy Peolsi came out against it. Since then, the house completed a new $3 trillion stimulus package, which now lingers in the senate and regarding which Pelosi said she has no red lines, possibly meaning that she is willing to negotiate on liability. Let’s hope not. Her argument that the best protection for business is to follow OSHA regs may not be welcome to senate Republicans, many of whom doubtless regard that agency as a font of unwanted regulation, but this argument should not be horse-traded away. Liability protection rewards bad, irresponsible behavior and will increase Covid-19 deaths. A day in court is one of the few ways ordinary citizens – workers and customers – can exercise their right not to be harmed. Hopefully the House will not forget that.

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Reflections on My COVID-19 Immunity


Photograph Source: NIAID – CC BY 2.0

The last couple of months leading up to a Quest serology test that yielded “positive” antibodies for COVID-19 have been a roller coaster ride. Take a seat in the car behind me, strap yourself in, and let me recount a story that Agatha Christie might have written.

The tale began last October when I suffered through bronchitis for most of the month. This viral infection of the bronchial tubes is just another illness to which geezers like me are susceptible. It is usually not fatal but can lead to hospitalization. After recovering, I began taking measures to avoid getting sick again. They included using Purell, avoiding touching my face, and all the other defenses that should prevent exposure to any virus, including COVID-19. Being ahead of the curve, how the hell did I end up with antibodies?

Chapter two in this mystery begins in early April, when a persistent dry cough began to bother me, unlike the characteristically wet cough of bronchitis. I doubted that COVID-19 was responsible because I had no fever. Yet, being tired all the time worried me as well. I knew that this wasn’t a typical COVID-19 symptom, but this was a disease that kept surprising researchers with its twists and turns. For the past few months, I had often begun to take two naps a day, once in late morning and once in the early evening. My 9 hours of sleep at night was not enough to keep me from feeling beat. Was I getting old? Hell no, I was old. But when you combine the weariness with the dry cough, I wondered if I had a mild case of COVID-19. I didn’t mention this to my wife since I didn’t want to make her worry.

Around April tenth, I hit the panic button after taking a sip of the red wine from the previous evening’s dinner. All its taste had disappeared. It was literally like drinking water. Uh-oh, first it was the dry cough. Next was feeling tired all the time. Now it was losing my sense of taste. I was fucked. I pictured myself about to die in an I.C.U. with my wife not being allowed to be by my side.

A minute later, my wife took her first sip and asked me, “Why doesn’t the wine have a taste?” Unless she had COVID-19 as well, the problem was with the wine and not us. (To this day, I have not been able to find out what went wrong with the wine. The New Testament says that Jesus turned water into wine, but what happened in the Proyect household? A miracle that turned wine into water? That might make some sense, given my devilish ways.) To reassure ourselves, we tried smelling things as well. A lemon and some coffee beans had their old familiar scents, so we breathed a sigh of relief.

Having not confided to her about my COVID-19 worries before, I finally decided to fill her in. She admitted that she had been a bit worried about the dry cough, but just as much about my frequent naps. Her brother-in-law Haydar, who was our houseguest, joined in the discussion. He had no idea why the wine now tasted like water but did have a suspicion that my fatigue was related to the melatonin that I take on a nightly basis.

Roughly two years ago, I had been taking one milligram a night not so much to help me get to sleep but to help me get back to sleep. Three in the morning and dark thoughts about the Sixth Extinction will keep people like me awake. When the pandemic started, I switched to a five milligram dose after reading that melatonin could help stave off COVID019. This recommendation for melatonin was something I read in a legitimate medical journal rather than heard from a Stanford professor on FOX news. I had read an article in a legitimate journal titled “Can Melatonin Reduce the Severity of COVID-19 Pandemic?” (answered positively by the authors) and decided to increase the dosage.

Haydar referred me to an article titled “I tried using melatonin for a week and felt exhausted, even during the day.” Like me, the author had started taking five milligram doses and reported the same symptoms. “The daytime sleepiness I was experiencing started to completely overshadow the positive effects of gaining a regular sleep schedule. I had to take another midday nap and struggled to be as productive as I needed to be throughout the day.” She finally decided to go cold turkey even if it meant tossing and turning all through the night.

A few weeks ago, after bailing on melatonin, I have gotten back to an 8-hour sleep and far fewer naps. On top of that, I have gotten back to my old high-energy self. For a geezer like me, that meant walking a couple of miles every day, not gearing up for the N.Y. Marathon that will likely be called off anyway.

A couple of weeks after things had returned to normal (the dry cough had disappeared along with the torpor), my wife began to insist that we get an antibody test. Our health provider had just decided our insurance could pay for a serology test, thus saving us a couple of hundred dollars. I grumbled that I didn’t want to bother with the test since the results were wrong fifty percent of the time, plus I didn’t want someone jabbing me with a needle. Since my wife is even more hard-nosed than me, I finally relented and trailed behind her to Quest diagnostics on May 19th.

Three days later, we got the results. She tested negative, and I tested positive. Since neither one of us had been ill and since we had both passed the wine into water test, she was a bit surprised that I had now entered the charmed circle of the immune. I thought about it for a few minutes and told her might account for my positive antibodies. Ever since I was a teen, I averaged a cold a year and twice that every so often. Since 20 percent of colds come from the coronavirus rather than the rhinovirus, that might explain my antibodies.

The consensus of researchers is that the antibodies grant immunity for only a year. So, who knows when I got the antibodies and how long they will last? It was also possible that Quest labs generated a false positive. CNN ran a story about fifty percent of these tests being inaccurate, after all. It was not clear whether this percentage was a result of the test itself being subject to our own body’s complex reaction to a virus or the outcome of a fly-by-night laboratory’s third-rate standards. I didn’t even have enough confidence in my immunity to join the George Floyd protests in New York.

Living in New York, which had the most fatalities during the pandemic so far, is enough to reduce you to a blubbering mass of protoplasm hiding in the bedroom behind closed doors. For someone in my age bracket, it might even come to hiding under the bed. At least, I don’t have any underlying conditions except “get off my lawn” crankiness that I take out on social democrats. That crankiness doesn’t help my high blood pressure. On the other hand, it doesn’t open the door to a coronavirus.

Now, my wife and I are waiting for word on whether she will have to return to Lehman College in September, where she is an associate professor in the Business and Economics department. Lehman has awarded three posthumous degrees to its Class of 2020, including one student who died just last month.

There’s an article by Corey Robin in The New Yorker titled “The Pandemic Is the Time to Resurrect the Public University” that offers a leftish perspective on how CUNY (City University of New York) can survive the pandemic and even flourish. Robin is a Brooklyn College professor, Jacobin contributor, and a Professional Staff Congress activist.

He alludes to sixteen deaths in CUNY campuses, making it the most afflicted university system in the U.S.A., just as New York is the most afflicted city. He is troubled by the N.Y. Times op-ed that Brown University president Christina Paxson wrote. She argued that college campuses should reopen in September because lower-income students “may not have reliable internet access or private spaces in which to study.” Since only about five percent of Brown’s students come from the bottom twenty percent income percentile, her concern for the disadvantaged seems duplicitous. It is CUNY that is serving the poor. It can’t begin to match Brown, whose endowment funds are flush from well-off alumni. Robin describes CUNY realities:

Paxson insists that campuses can reopen this fall if there is “rapid” and “regular” testing of all students throughout the year. At CUNY, even in the best of times, we often don’t have soap in our bathrooms. We also still have push faucets. To wash one hand, I must use the other to twist and hold one of the sink’s two handles, hard and continuously. This produces water of a single temperature—cold—leaving me, always, with one hand that’s touched a surface and must remain unwashed. It’s hard to imagine coronavirus tests when washing both hands is nearly impossible.

For the CUNY system, the big issue facing the left is whether adjuncts will be the sacrificial lambs of Governor Cuomo. He is hamstrung by a loss of tax revenue and, even worse, someone with little interest in CUNY’s well-being. Despite his inflated reputation and ego, he might be more of a neoliberal than Joe Biden.

Conditions are ideal for tenured professors and adjuncts to unite around a militant trade union program. With most tenured professors entering virus-vulnerable middle ages, they have reason to help adjuncts keep their jobs since the cuts will force them to make up for their losses. For reporting on the adjuncts’ plight, I recommend Left Voice upon whose editorial board Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) English professor James Hoff sits. An interview with a recently laid-off John Jay College adjunct named Sami Disu will bring you up to speed. Like Corey Robin, Disu favors the survival of CUNY as well as an even better future. Asked how he thought the Covid-19 pandemic would affect higher education, he answered:

I am hopeful that the course for public higher education in New York City will change for the better due to increased awareness of what CUNY means to the City’s health and economy during the pandemic. CUNY’s faculty really meet the description of essential workers because they have performed superbly in facilitating an abrupt transition to online-based distance learning, even though we haven’t been paid for the numerous unpaid hours of extra work that came with it. I’m sure there have been hundreds of illnesses and deaths of CUNY’s workers and students and it is very commendable that faculty and staff have successfully facilitated the uninterrupted studies of hundreds of thousands of students. When you look at how some CUNY college workers have launched their own campaign to save adjunct jobs like RAFA’s grade pledge, I am hopeful that some are clearly ready to fight.

But, the threats to public higher education that CUNY provides are significant and I think we should all continue to pay close attention to Gov. Cuomo’s ideas to reimagine education in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. As a delegate at Professional Staff Congress, I can tell you the union is paying close attention to this development as we know that fiscal crises are a perfect time to speed up privatization of public education in general. We can’t afford to be caught off guard anymore during the pandemic because very important decisions on how the university system will adopt increased roles of technology in reopening the campuses are being made right now.

If my wife has to return to work in these fraught times, she will have to take the subway—a prime incubator of COVID-19. Social distancing goes down the drain when you are talking about a husband and wife. I am okay with social distancing since there’s not much to see in New York nowadays. Museums and restaurants are closed. Also, most of the local color has disappeared, just like the taste of my transubstantiated red wine—victims of the city’s CVS-ization.

My bottom line is that I want to stay alive. I want to continue writing for CounterPunch, watching and reviewing offbeat films, and taking long strolls with my wife. My hope is for a vaccine that will take remove this yoke from our collective necks. It is tough enough to gather together the meager forces of the revolutionary left without having to deal with a virus that can kill you just as effectively as a puff adder.

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