What is it with the Los Angeles Police Department and its barbarism? No sooner had the New York Times lavished a fawning feature on William Bratton, the L.A.P.D. chief it calls “a tough east coast cop in laid back Los Angeles,” no sooner had it highlighted “major crime down 25 percent on his watch and relations between police officers and black residents improving,” than a cell-phone video surfaces, showing two cops smothering and beating a man they’re trying to cuff. It’s not quite the Rodney King story: the video is much more brief, it’s without context, but let’s not fall into that “context” trap when it comes to an obvious beating: it doesn’t matter what the guy was doing up to that point: he is obviously pinned, he is obviously not going anywhere, he is obviously subdued; from here on it’s just a matter of how fast the cops will subdue him, and what methods they use to do so. The method, clear as that beautiful day on which the video was shot, turns out to be vintage Rodney King, minus the night, or the nightsticks. “ The incident in Hollywood occurred in August and was filmed by a local,” the BBC reports. “A report by the two officers said Mr Cardenas resisted arrest and they feared he would try to grab their guns. Los Angeles police chief William Bratton described the footage as disturbing but said an investigation had to be carried out to decide whether or not the use of force was appropriate.” So there’s that word already, that frame: whether the use of force was appropriate. In what manual, in what training method, in whose laid-back right mind is it ever “appropriate” to punch a suspect pinned to the ground and screaming about his inability to breathe? In American police manuals, apparently. Los Angeles gets the bad rap for its violent police force, but that’s most likely because of the supersize of the police department, and the super-obsession of Angelinos and their trigger-filming fingers. If anything, L.A. cops have it hammered in their skulls to be extra careful more than anywhere else. If anything, the beatings, the brutality, the “:appropriate” use of police force is a daily incidence on American streets, only it’s more carefully choreographed. Once again, thank Youtube.
Lebanon ’s Coming Coup
Michael Slackman writing for the Times: “ Lebanon was thrown into a political crisis Saturday when talks broke down over giving the militant faction Hezbollah and its political allies greater control of the government. Almost immediately, cabinet ministers from the group and the other main Shiite party resigned. Lebanon’s political leaders have held talks for four days, trying to defuse tensions among the various government factions after Hezbollah demanded a greater role in the cabinet and called for its alliance to have veto power over all government decisions. Hezbollah was politically emboldened after its 34-day war with Israel this summer, and it quickly pressed for more power. Though for days it appeared the talks were headed toward a compromise, the negotiations collapsed when Hezbollah refused to relinquish its demand for a veto, people in the talks said. When the governing coalition refused, the talks collapsed, and within three hours the political brinksmanship began with all of the Shiite ministers resigning.”
In other words, Hezbollah has adopted the George Bush style of leadership: “My way or the Suicide Way.” This was to be expected. Hezbollah isn’t interested in a unity government as long as it doesn’t get to define unity lock, stock and turban. The chicken are coming home to roost, and bomb: what Hezbollah sowed in its “resistance” war with Israel, it now wants to reap. And it very well may. We could be seeing the true end of Lebanon, the kind of end even the civil war didn’t manage to achieve—the end of the Taif agreement, which restored a semblance of sectarian equality and civility, in so far as sectarian equality and civility in Lebanon is possible; given its complete non-existence elsewhere in the Arab world, the Lebanon model is somewhere near the miraculous.
Boo Borat Boors
Leave it to the Wall Street Journal’s counter-intelligent editorial page to lavish garbage on Borat. I haven’t seen the movie, but I’ve seen every one of Borat’s incarnations on the Ali G show when it first aired on HBO: he is one of the funniest satirical creations since Candide. He is Candide, adapted to our sorry century. The Journal’s editorial page may have taken exception to Borat making fun of Kazakhstan, one of those corrupt oil regimes the Bush administration is in bed with (a literal rendition of the metaphorical pimping, whoring, hypocrisy and incest Borat upends). The page may have taken exception, through some pseudo-defense of Red-State rubes, to Borat’s ability to explode Americans’ casual bigotries and imbecilities. Whatever the case, the paper had to find a way into demolishing Borat, and it did: through his genitals, and by way of a free-lance writer with a fixation on the use of genitalia for means other than procreation. The writer is Melik Kaylan, an Istanbul-born writer who made his name at the Village Voice, helped start SPY, the magazine, and now serves as editor at ReganBooks, publishing house to all things faintly fascist, blinkered and xenophobic. “The French poet Paul Valéry once observed that intellectuals, when they run out of serious things to say, end up by flashing their genitals to get attention,” Kaylan wrote in 2003, a typically genital-flashing lead to a typically reactionary column bashing “our entertainer-activists” for their anti-Iraq-war rallies. “With the coming launch of her new antiwar music video, one could argue that Madonna has reversed the process. As Dennis Miller said about her in a recent interview with Phil Donahue, "After you've shown every orifice from every angle, you might have to make a political statement to get people reinterested in you."” He wrote that in February 2003, a few weeks before the launch of Operation Iraqi Fuck-up (I’m using the word advisedly, in league with Kaylan’s theme), going on to ridicule the activists’ role and goal, and proving himself, like so many conservatives did then and have since, to be himself “stuck in the same hackneyed pose” of Vietnam War enthusiasts forty-some years before. The point being: Kaylan is not one for astute critical judgments, making him a sure fit for the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page.
And so, his genitally oiled bile for Borat: “It now seems clear that, hitherto, television's codes curbed Mr. Cohen's taste, both as Ali G and as Borat, for outrage bordering on vileness. The laxer motion-picture code has freed him to reveal his own fatal flaw. In the movie, Borat is welcomed to dinner in a well-intentioned American home as a foreign visitor anxious to learn Western manners. He excuses himself in mid-meal and returns with a little mesh sack full of human ordure. "What I do with this?" he asks. (I know what I would say, but the dismayed hostess is too polite and takes him back to the bathroom.) At this juncture, the theater falls silent. Which side are we on here? Ingenious postmodern commentators argue that this is where Mr. Cohen gets real, Brechtian even, and transcends comedy, forcing the audience profoundly to question itself. Perhaps so. But this is also where his bullying nihilism herniates into full view and stays in our faces. Each scene thereafter unveils either embarrassment, humiliation or hairy genitalia, unredeemed by laughter, inviting us to savor, and then to applaud, our own discomfort. No doubt that is what the Kazakhs would be doing, if only they could be as ironic as we are.”
Prosecuting Rumsfeld et. Al.
Time Magazine is reporting that " legal documents, to be filed next week with Germany's top prosecutor, will seek a criminal investigation and prosecution of Rumsfeld, along with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former CIA director George Tenet and other senior U.S. civilian and military officers, for their alleged roles in abuses committed at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The plaintiffs in the case include 11 Iraqis who were prisoners at Abu Ghraib, as well as Mohammad al-Qahtani, a Saudi held at Guantanamo, whom the U.S. has identified as the so-called "20th hijacker" and a would-be participant in the 9/11 hijackings. As TIME first reported in June 2005, Qahtani underwent a "special interrogation plan," personally approved by Rumsfeld, which the U.S. says produced valuable intelligence. But to obtain it, according to the log of his interrogation and government reports, Qahtani was subjected to forced nudity, sexual humiliation, religious humiliation, prolonged stress positions, sleep deprivation and other controversial interrogation techniques..." the full case...
Eyeless in Gaza
From Blogging the Middle East: "As the whole world focuses its attention on the Roman empire of our times - and we all know the fate of that empire and all empires that have gone before and come after it - and the decision of its citizens, and how this will impact the fate of civilians thousands of miles away, a massacre has taken place in the Gaza Strip, with no condemnation from the “international community” - a moot point, really, given the complete bankruptcy of this community, if it exists at all - and an encouraging pat on the back by the puppet Arab states. The latters’ reactions have been increasingly becoming “more American than the Americans”, heck, more Israeli than the Israelis even. The loudest condemnation from an Arab quarter has been a reference to the “disproportionate” actions by Israel. So, killing children in their sleep is OK if it is proportionate? Well, it is OK even if it is disproportionate: isn’t that the message relayed by those who only fold their arms and try to shed the guilt of complicity off their shoulders by making such half-hearted statements?" Read the rest at BTME...