It Astounds and Depresses Me: Ahmaud Arbery

I have spent two weeks watching every minute of the trial of the men who hunted down Ahmaud Arbery and killed him in the street.

I am reminded of something my mother said about the O.J. Simpson trial.  After watching for a week or so, she phoned me and said: “I think they should put them all in jail.”  “Who?” I asked.  “Everybody,” she replied.  “The judge, the lawyers, the police, O.J. Simpson, the media, everybody.”

As usual, she made me laugh.  But, I’m not doing much laughing at the moment.  I’m glad she’s not alive to have gone through four years of Trump, the rise of the fascist Republican party, and the flourishing of the worship of guns and violence.  And, I’m glad she’s not seeing the trial in the Ahmaud Arbery case, or the Rittenhouse fiasco. 

The trial of the men who murdered Ahmaud Arbery and the Rittenhouse case reveal such a disturbing, depressing side of this country, I can hardly breathe.

The defense in the Ahmaud Arbery trial has been pure racist fear mongering.  Ahmaud Arbery was described over and over again as “creeping” and threatening.  Travis McMichael testified that there was something not right about him.  One defense attorney pointed out that Larry English’s 15-year-old daughter had been on his property.  What if, the lawyer exclaimed, she had run across Arbery?  “Who knows what would have happened.”  One of the defense attorneys actually asked the medical examiner (for no reason other than racist smear mongering) whether Ahmaud Arbery’s toenails were “long and dirty.’

An essential part of the case of the defense has been that the Satilla Shores neighborhood was in fear, under siege, under attack.  But, not even the prosecution pointed out in any systematic way that this “neighborhood on edge” was a classic case of what sociologists call a “moral panic.”

Through Facebook and neighborhood watch social media (and probably Fox News) the members of this little subdivision worked themselves up into a frenzy in which mothers were texting other mothers to “get the boys inside” there’s an intruder in the neighborhood and other alarmist messages.  One of the neighbors was spending all her time watching surveillance monitors and running armed into the front yard when she suspected something was happening.

You must understand that these people loved what they were doing.  They were playing a part in a self-created drama.  No matter how much they whine and complain about the danger they were in, they actively participated in ginning up that fear and exaggerating that danger.  They shared stories about “intruders” even when those intruders turned out to be relatives of their neighbors whose cars weren’t recognized.

A couple of witnesses even admitted that they never passed information along or heard information which indicated that these alarm notifications were groundless.  The initial “crime” that was talked about all over the neighborhood was the stealing of expensive equipment out of Larry English’s boat.  At least two witnesses claimed not to have ever known that English himself admitted that he had driven the boat back and forth to several locations and wasn’t sure himself where the equipment was stolen.

But, the neighbors all participated in and got pleasure from sounding the alarm, running armed into situations, telling themselves they were heroes protecting their children. One of the female neighbors testified in talking about one of these incidents something like: My children (elevated voice, MY CHILDREN) were feet away.  But, this same woman when she saw police cars with lights on in the neighborhood, drove with all her children in the car to the site of the murder.  This woman, so terrified of “intruders” that she freaked out when a man was walking around the neighborhood taking pictures, drove her own children to a murder scene and then complained about how shocking it was.

(Note: She also later went on a boat ride with one of the men who committed this murder).

This woman, who carried a gun herself, was at one point so afraid of what might happen that she thought the McMichaels were going to shoot her husband who was in a vacant house at night searching for an “intruder.” 

And we all know how the neighbors whittled down the available suspects who were in the neighborhood (a white couple, white children, a white homeless person, a white man who was arrested in the neighborhood by the federal police) to focus in on the one young black man seen inside the vacant house building site.  Well, they actually didn’t “whittle.”  They jumped with all the feet they had on this one person, sure that he had committed a crime.

The belief that neighborhood gossip and postings on Facebook are reality, the willingness of people to pass around this speculation as fact, the willingness of these people to run into the streets armed with guns willing to shoot somebody (as long as they are black), and the belief to this day that they did nothing wrong just astounds and depresses me.

You Need To Look at Ahmaud Arbery’s Body

Ahmaud Arbery Notes Saturday

Blog 6 November 2021

Body Cam Video, Officer Duggan

Ahmaud Arbery Case

I have still not seen the full body cam footage from Glynn County Officer Duggan in the Ahmaud Arbery case.  The defense objected to even showing the video.  So, just as the defense tried to keep the public from hearing the questioning of the potential jurors in this case, they tried to keep the pubic from seeing the body of Ahmaud Arbery laying in the street after three white men hunted him down mercilessly with trucks and murdered him in the street.

As I said, I have still not found the complete video footage.  This is because most of the media outlets who are live streaming this case, made a decision that “in good taste” they would not show the footage.  So, even though the defense motion to keep the video out of evidence was denied, most of the media made a decision for the rest of us that we couldn’t be allowed to see the video.

In most of the live stream, the camera flips back to the face of officer Duggan or Travis McMichael when the most graphic parts of the body cam video are on. 

So, a public that watches the most graphic films and plays the most horrendously graphic video games, has to be protected from looking at the real violence that men can inflict when fueled by racism, hatred, toxic masculinity, and glorification of militarism and violence.

Just think for a minute about that situation.  The consumption of violence, graphic violence in this culture is endemic, especially among males.  But, when a real violent act occurs, the media just decides for the rest of us that we must be shielded from it, protected from it.

As I said, I have not seen the complete video, but the two glimpses of Mr. Arbery laying on the ground after Officer Duggan rolled him over which are in one censored video are enough to turn your stomach.

This young man laying on his back, arms flung out over his head, one arm nearly severed, his chest covered in blood that is still running out onto the pavement is reminiscent of a 1930s mutilation lynching.  This is why they are fighting so hard to keep people from seeing it.  It looks for all the world like a photograph of a mutilation lynching in the South.

It made my stomach churn and it made me want to cry and it made me angry, really really angry. 

This is not a video game.  This is not an accidental shooting.  This is the result of the intentional behavior of three men.

The defense argued on Friday that these men were doing their “duty.”  Bob Reuben argued that they weren’t out there because it was “fun.”  No, that’s precisely why they were out there.  These are men who enjoyed working themselves into a lather over the theft of some property.  They enjoyed pinpointing a black man and blaming all the thefts and problems on him.  They enjoyed the excitement of hunting down another human being and killing him in the street.

Men keep guns at the ready for a reason, they like hunting down and killing things that are alive.  They enjoy the experience of killing.  There is no other reason for a man to go hunting in this day and age.  Again, just think about that.  These are men who go out of their way to seek a killing experience, whether it’s animals on one day or black people on another.

And men keep guns at the ready because they love the image of themselves as killers.  They love the implied power of a gun, especially a big gun.  Guns take the place of self esteem.  Guns make men feel as if they can exert power over another being any time they wish.

Every person who votes Republican, who votes for a party that uses racism as a way to whip up hatred and votes, who helps prop up this gun culture, who votes to expand gun rights is complicit in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. 

All of you need to look at Ahmaud Arbery’s body. 

haiti: some of what we know

NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 25: President of the Republic of Haiti H.E. Jovenel Moise speaks onstage during the 2018 Concordia Annual Summit – Day 2 at Grand Hyatt New York on September 25, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Concordia Summit)

The corporate media no longer finds it necessary to cover international stories.  We are treated to video after video of Biden boarding a plane to go somewhere, but the assassination of the President of Haiti is barely mentioned.

The assassination of Haiti’s president, Jovenel Moise, was barely covered last week. 

From what I have read, this is some of what we know.

During an attack early in the morning of July 7, President Jovenel Moise, was killed and his wife wounded in their private residence on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince.  The wife was flown to Miami.

The attack has been described by the NYT as “well-planned.”  And there were reports that many of the attackers were foreigners who spoke Spanish. 

A great many questions are left unanswered about how Moise, President of the country, who usually traveled with more than a dozen armored cars and police guards could be so easily targeted.

The NYT reports that Moise had over 100 officers from the presidential guard around his home.  Nevertheless, Moise was found lying on the floor at the foot of his bed “bathed in blood.”

There were 12 bullet holes visible in the body according to a Haitian Justice of the Peace, Carl Henry Destin, who was on the scene.

The house had been ransacked.  The servants had been tied up.

There are two Americans among the 20 people who have been detained so far.  They were described as Florida residents of Haitian descent.  Other members of the hit squad were described as Colombians.  Mr. Edmond described the men as “well-trained professionals, killers, commandos.”

The Americans told authorities that they were merely translators and had not been in the room where Moise was killed. 

Clement Noel, a judge involved in the investigation said that the two Americans had met with other members of the hit squad at a suburban hotel to plan the attack.  They said that the attack had been planned over the course of a month.  The two American men maintained that the goal was not to kill Moise (the body had 12 gunshot wounds), but to bring him to the national palace.

It has not been reported when the American men entered Haiti, or what connection they had with the other hit men before the assassination. 

Judge Noel said that it was one of the Americas Solages who can be heard on audio of the attack, yelling out that the attackers were DEA agents.  Solages had previously worked as a security guard at the Canadian Embassy in Haiti and there had been no evidence reported that indicates there was any DEA connection.  Why this particular claim was made aloud at the beginning of the attack is not known.

Haiti’s interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, put the country under martial law after the assassination.  It is not clear whether he has the legal authority to do so.  In fact, most of what is going on in Haiti at the moment is of dubious legal basis. 

Days before his death, Moise, had appointed a new prime minister, Ariel Henry.  Henry says he should be in charge of the government.

There is no clear designation of authority in the executive branch and there is no functioning Parliament in Haiti.  There are only 10 sitting senators out of 30.  The terms of the other 20 have expired.  The entire lower house is no longer sitting because their terms expired last year.  The head of the Supreme Court died of Covid.

Haitian government officials told the NYT that they had asked the U.S. to provide troops to protect infrastructure. 

According to a BBC podcast (7/7/21), Moise had become increasingly autocratic during his tenure as president.  He was pushing through a referendum which would have changed the constitution so he would stay in power longer. 

Notes:

  • The former Prime Minister is Laurent Lamothe.
  • Haiti’s ambassador to the U.S. Bocchit Edmond.
  • Claude Joseph is Haiti’s interim prime minister.
  • The two American men were identified as Joseph Vincent and James J. Solages.
  • Former President, Michael Martelly, left office in an electoral crisis in 2016.  He was able to use his political power, however, to see his supporter, Moise, elevated to the presidency.  Protestors were in the streets demanding Martelly’s ouster in 2016.  He left office formally giving presidential power to the leader of the National Assembly.
  • Martelly (like Moise) was criticized for not holding elections during his years.  Martelly was accused of surrounding himself with “cronies, some of them criminals.” NYT (2016)
  • When Martelly was elected, the process was said by critics to be riddled with fraud.
  • Former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier was ousted in 1986.

Sources:

Global News Podcast.  BBC. (7/7/21)

New York Times (7/8/21)

Reading:

New York Times (2016)

The Barr Hearings: That’s Why my Stomach hurts

barr

     Bill Barr, after being threatened with a subpoena by Jerry Nadler’s Judiciary Committee, appeared before the House on July 28, 2020.  There was no reason for anybody who has watched Barr with increasing outrage and fury, as he has politicized the administration of justice in this country, to hold out much hope that these hearings would reveal much. 

Democrats are hopeless at taking on people with even moderate intelligence in a hearing setting.  They refuse to adopt an aggressive approach to Republican authoritarians.  They are so concerned with being “nice” or “polite” or “well mannered,” they never anticipate the depths of obfuscation and bad behavior to which the Republicans are willing to sink.

     When I switched channels over to MSNBC from TCM where I had been contemplating hiding in escapism for the duration, there was nothing but noise, loud, irritating, obnoxious noise.  Then, the camera switched to a screen inside the committee hearing.  On this screen was a video, displaying images of protesters, tear gas, confrontation, people pounding at fences.  What?  Isn’t this the Barr hearing?

     It was the Barr hearing.  What was going on was that bad-boy Jim Jordan, the crazed ex-wrestler who refused to report his colleague for sexual abuse, had introduced as an “opening statement” a long, selectively edited campaign video purporting to give an accurate representation of the protests occurring in various cities in the United States.  The video employed one of the right’s main strategies, fear, creating fear and therefore anger in their base.  That’s what Fox News does 24/7. 

If you watched the video divorced from any other news, you would think the country was descending into total chaos and violent anarchy.  That is exactly what the Republicans wanted to portray.  They spent the rest of the hearing, pounding home the point and punching the key words over and over – protest, chaos, anarchists, violence, crime, hate…”my constituents are afraid.” As usual, the Republicans had all been briefed on the key words to use during the hearing to drive home the point.  Like faithful soldiers, they complied.  

     This is a strategy they have used for decades.  Even years ago, ten or fifteen Republicans would be interviewed independently on television.  All of them would use the same words and phrases to describe a situation, to get their point across, to insert their frame on the news.  They are good little soldiers, obedient and loyal and willing to do and say anything.  That’s one of the many reasons we need to fear them and fight them.

     But, even though, Jerry Nadler scolded Jordan for violating Committee rules by not notifying committee of the intent to show the video, the damage was done.   

Why are Democrats always like Charlie Brown with the football?  Every time, they stand around and watch Lucy put the ball on the ground, suspecting nothing.  Then, they watch Lucy yank the ball out from under them.  Then, they issue a scolding after the fact, or ignore the behavior with dignified silence.

Why didn’t Jerry Nadler know the Republicans were going to play this video?  Why didn’t he review it?  There had to be people in the hearing room, setting this up.  If I had been burned as many times as the Democrats in hearings, I would have informants everywhere and somebody watching that room from the minute the doors were unlocked.

And, if you want to argue that Nadler couldn’t have known about the video, why didn’t he stop it?  If showing the video violated the rules, why didn’t Nadler stop the video?  Why didn’t he demand it be stopped when he saw that it was – a propaganda campaign ad that grossly misrepresented the situation?  Nadler can’t walk but somebody could have been told to go and stop that video if it violated Committee rules.  But, Jerry Nadler (and other corporate Democrats) refuse to enforce the rules?   

     I watch a lot of politics.  I have spent most of my adult life reading about, watching, writing about, studying politics, specifically politics and crime.  But, now, when one of these big hearings is scheduled, I start feeling queasy in the morning.  I feel obligated to watch, to witness this descent into authoritarianism.  But I don’t want to watch.  As someone said yesterday on Twitter, how can these hearings always end up being a loss for both sides?

I know corporate Democrats are largely cowards, feckless cowards who will not fight, or enforce the rules even when enforcing the rules would be to their advantage.  But, how did we end up with such a sorry lot?  And, what are they afraid of?

I think part of the answer lies in the fact that Democrats are living in a culture in Washington that no longer exists.  They can’t seem to accept, acknowledge, understand, that they are facing ruthless authoritarians who will resort to anything, anything to win. They act like if they just stand erect, stare directly ahead of them and behave in a dignified manner (watch Adam Schiff), this ruthless, gutter fight for power on the part of the Republicans will disappear.

In fact, Joe Biden has said just that.  He has stated that when we get rid of Trump, all his Republican friends are just going to go back to “normal” and we can return to a bipartisan Kumbaya that hasn’t existed for decades.  Republicans haven’t been “normal,” haven’t participated in this gentleman’s club of bipartisanship for decades.  And, they aren’t going to do so now.  People keep saying we need somebody who can “unite us.”  No, that’s not what we need.  We need somebody who can marginalize and neuter these rabid authoritarians, see them for what they are, and push them as far away from power as we can get them. 

     An interesting “tell” here is the ability of the “squad” and some of the other recently elected Democrats to run circles around these career corporate Democrats in hearings.  They are not still living in a culture that doesn’t exist.       

  First, they aren’t afraid.  They aren’t afraid to use their common sense and ask questions that make Republicans squirm.  They ask the sort of questions that these career corporate Democrats would rather die than ask.   Secondly, these women come prepared.  They generally don’t just read a prepared statement like they’ve never seen it before, stumbling over what are supposed to be their own words.  Third, they usually actually show up and listen to the hearings.  They don’t just appear and read a series of questions like bad third-grade actors.  They know what has gone on in the hearing and are capable of adapting to the situation.  Fourth, these women were by-and-large elected in an upset.  They have not been groomed by the DNC.  They were elected with a skill set that was larger than just being able to raise money and kiss butt.  When I watch people who have been on capitol hill for decades perform at a committee hearing, stumbling through the text of canned questions written by their staff, I always think: They are there because they can raise money, lots of money.  That’s the only reason they are there.  The DNC supports these types of candidates over other candidates that are more qualified because they can raise money and will behave. 

The DNC has worked tirelessly to keep new candidates from emerging in the Democratic party and has created a blacklist for consulting businesses who work for candidates challenging incumbents.  The Congressional Black Caucus actually supported an incumbent, Elliott Engels, over a progressive black challenger.  This tells you how institutionalized these Democrats have become.  The DNC is actively working to keep people in Congress who will play ball, who will not enforce the rules, who will not fight, and who will not ask the tough questions.

Recently, I read an interview of somebody in the music industry.  She said: “Oh, they don’t look for talent anymore.  They look for somebody with the right look and a compliant personality.”  That’s what the DNC looks for and they are selling us down the drain by doing so.  That’s why an important hearing makes my stomach hurt.

GEORGIA KILLING: Aubrey

video

This is a video of the cars parked along HWY 17 in Brunswick , Georgia.  These brave people gathered to protest the government inaction in the case of the killing of Ahmaud Aubrey.  These people gathered in front of the house of Gregory McMichael who along with his son armed himself and pursued Aubrey through their neighborhood, finally shooting and killing him.

When a team from CNN was later filming at the same location, automatic weapon fire was heard in the background.

The two men were finally arrested after two months of inaction and shifting the responsibility for the case around rural Georgia.