“What need we fear who knows it when none can call our power to account?”
My mind keeps going back to the gloves on Rittenhouse’s hands, glowing blue in the streetlight, as this strange kid marched from block to block down Kenosha’s tear-gassed streets, with a goofy look on his face, like he was moving from one kill level to another in a video game for the damned. What do the gloves mean? Were they meant to keep his fingerprints off the AR-15 strapped so awkwardly across his chest? Were they a measure of self-defense? A thin layer of latex to protect him from the virus so many of his fellow patriots contented was a hoax. Or were they an essential part of the costume for the role he was playing that night of the helpful paramilitary, the vigilante medic with the first-aid kit dangling from his belt. He announced he was there to help. He told anyone who would listen he was an EMT. “If you’re injured,” he shouted. “Come to me.”
Rittenhouse was there to help. But to help whom? From what? Rittenhouse came to the civil rights protests in Kenosha that night expecting to be needed. Expecting to be wanted. Expecting to be welcome. He also came expecting violence. What kind of violence? Perpetrated by whom? Not by the police. Rittenhouse felt safe where many others fear to tread–jaywalking down a street carrying a rifle in front of police, police who kill an average of three people a day for lesser offenses, safe enough to joke with them. He was one of them. Sort of. A junior police cadet back in Grayslake, Illinois. He didn’t fear them, even though the police had fired thousands of rounds of plastic bullets into dense crowds of protesters. Rittenhouse didn’t fear the Kenosha Guard, a militia group also armed to the teeth that night, whose geared-up members pointed laser-sighted guns at the crowd, hoping to incite a panic.
Fear was in the air that night in Kenosha. And some found it intoxicating, including the pudgy kid in the Army green t-shirt, combat boots and ballcap, who came to Kenosha with an assault rifle and medical kit to help. He’d use one, but not the other. Did he also come to spread fear? To instigate the carnage, he planned to treat? “If there’s somebody’s hurt,” he said. “I’m running into harm’s way.” It turns out: He was going to hurt somebody. He was harm’s way running.
Three people were shot that night in Kenosha. All by the boy who said he was there to help. The boy with the gloves. Did he expect to get blood on his hands that night?
Was Rittenhouse afraid when he fired his first shot, the moment he stepped out of the virtual and into the real? Certainly. But not as scared as the man he shot. Four times. And then stood over, as Joseph Rosenbaum bled from wounds in his head, arm, groin and back. He didn’t reach for his medical kit or call 9/11. He ran off into the night and called a friend, “I’ve just shot someone.” He kept going, harm on the run, shooting two more people, one in the heart and nearly blowing another’s arm off, before he was allowed by Kenosha cops to just slip away, back across the state line, to the safety of home in Antioch, Illinois.
Fear pulled the trigger. Fear spread fear. Fear was the killer. Fear was his friend.
How is it that the most armed society the world has ever known is also the most afraid? With every gun sold, the fear index rises, and not only, or even mainly, among the unarmed.
Rittenhouse wanted to help. But he was afraid. So he took the gun he’d stashed with a friend in Kenosha and went out on the street. Did the gun make him feel safe? If it did, it was only to instill fear in others. And their fear became his excuse to kill.
Kyle Rittenhouse standing his ground on someone else’s street with three bodies writhing at his feet, two of whom would bleed out. He only came to help. Is there a more American image? Isn’t this a snapshot of the humanitarian interventionism that has dominated US foreign policy for the last forty years? In Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Niger. Piles of bodies, stacked up by the world’s most militarized nation, all killed in the name of security and freedom, in an escalating vortex of violence and fear.
Violence becomes the instrument of its own exoneration. We come to help, but you make us kill. Your fear of our presence threatens our safety and we have come to make it safe. Secure. Irrational fear and self-defense have become the rationale for global slaughter.
All the while we put on our own surgical gloves to prove the sincerity of our intentions, as we rush into harm’s way. Blood may be spilled, but only out of fear. Don’t be afraid of our weapons, look at our gloves. We are here to help. But don’t make us prove it.
So we celebrate death. Not the dead. But the making of them. The acts of killing. The killer becomes the celebrity. Like Achilles dragging Hector’s corpse around the walls of Troy, Rittenhouse the avenger makes the rounds, telling his story of righteous wrath to the likes of Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump. Republicans have dutifully introduced a resolution in the House calling for Shooter to be bestowed his victory laurels, the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor.
Biology recapitulates phylogeny, Freud wrote (rephrasing Ernst Haeckel) in Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Is it any surprise that children reenact the proclivities of the culture that reared them? And there’s no question that Kyle Rittenhouse is America’s progeny. One of many sons, raised on the forever wars, eager to help, one shot at a time.
+ The Line, the gripping documentary on the Eddie “the Blade” Gallagher case, shares many elements of the Rittenhouse trial: bungled prosecution, rightwing media glorification of the accused and demonization of the victims, social media grifting, the merchandizing of murderers, and verdicts that will encourage the very acts the trials–vigilantism and war crimes–were meant to punish.
+ Meanwhile in Kenosha County, prosecutors are still fighting the court ruling that Chrystul Kizer, who, at age 17 killed her sex-trafficker, should be allowed to argue an affirmative defense….
+ Knowing that fed-bashing is one of America’s favorite bipartisan pastimes, Trump at least used to threaten to fire the head of the Federal Reserve every now and then, usually whenever the economy took a dip. He always backed down of course, never wanting to risk the wrath of Wall St. Not so with Biden, who doesn’t even pretend to castigate the Bank. The Fed chair is probably the most consequential appointment Biden could make, someone who could have real immediate power over the direction of the economy. Keeping Powell is a real sign of the continuity of government for and by Wall Street, from Trump to Biden and beyond…
.@POTUS: "Some will no doubt question why I'm renominating Jay [Powell] when he was the choice of a Republican predecessor. […] At this moment, of both enormous potential and enormous uncertainty for our economy, we need stability and independence at the Federal Reserve." pic.twitter.com/KKiDrUvXTo
— The Hill (@thehill) November 23, 2021
+ Democratic priorities…
Democrats’ military spending plan: $8.31 trillion over 10 years
COVID stimulus package: $1.9 trillion over 10 years
Infrastructure bill: $550 billion over 5 years
Reconciliation (Build Back Better) bill: $1.75 trillion over 10 years
+ Biden’s infrastructure package contains more than five times the climate spending Obama put into the 2009 Recovery Act. But that’s still 5 times less than what it will take to decarbonize the U.S. economy.
+ Nothing says “bipartisanship” like Biden staying in the vacation home of David Rubenstein, co-founder of the Carlyle Group, while in Nantucket this week.
+ Jennifer Psaki announced this week that Biden intends to seek reelection. This news was greeted by a Newsweek poll showing that Trump now leads Biden in a rematch, which almost certainly means that Alec Baldwin will soon be rehabilitating himself on SNL. The nation can only stand so much.
+ Citing inflation, Dollar Tree announced this week that it’s rising the price of almost everything it’s stores by 25%…No word yet on whether they’re also changing the name of the store to the Dollar Twenty-Five Tree. But is inflation really the reason? Last Dollar Tree made $1,230,000,000 in profits, awarded its CEO with a salary of $10,767,883 and compensated it workers with as little as $8.32 an hour. More than 7,400 Dollar Tree employees are forced to rely on food stamps and Medicaid.
+ According to a new study by Brown University’s Cost of War Project on the effectiveness of the Department of Homeland Security after 20 years of draconian incursions on US civil liberties in the name of fighting “terrorism,” “Of the 230 unsuccessful attacks or plots in the U.S. since 9/11 … 28 were directed by foreign terrorist organizations, 118 were committed by homegrown violent extremists inspired by such organizations, and 84 were committed by domestic terrorists.”
+ Over a period of 8 years, Rochester Police Officer Matthew Drake drove his cruiser into a crowd, savagely beat a Black man, and repeatedly clubbed a protester with his riot stick, drove an inebriated young woman around in his own car for nearly an hour in violation of department policy and then, in March, he shot and killed Tyshon Jones. According to a report by The Appeal, Drake has faced no serious consequences for any of these actions.
+ Kevin Strickland, a 62-year-old black man who spent more than 40 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit, was finally released from prison on Tuesday. Under Missouri law, Strickland is not entitled to housing, counseling, or one penny of compensation. In the absence of any compensation for this grievous miscarriage of justice, a GoFundMe page has been established to help Strickland begin his life again.
+ Brian Bukle is a 62 year-old black man, who was jailed in California by ICE for over a month despite repeated explanations he is a US citizen, who has lived in the US since he was two-years old. The arresting contractors repeatedly taunted him. ICE officers ignored his pleas, falsified a I-213 report, and sent him in deportation proceedings. A therapist at the immigration jail urged him to just sign deport papers, leave behind his son, and get it over with.
Noem: We’re making sure we’re going to have children read the Declaration of Independence. We’re going to have them read the history of Thanksgiving pic.twitter.com/tAlbb5CoTI
— Acyn (@Acyn) November 25, 2021
+ Go ahead and snicker about Thanksgiving and the Declaration being separated by 156 years. But the Governor’s got a point. American children would benefit from a close reading of the Declaration of Independence, as long as they read all of it not just the uplifting preamble, but the entire list of grievances about the Brits fomenting slave rebellions and forming seditious alliances with Native Tribes, which if held to a mirror read like a course in Critical Race Theory in reverse
+ Former IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot: “The fact that US withdrew in 2018 [from Iran nuclear deal] released Iran from all restrictions and inspections in the deal, even if there were holes, and brought Iran to most advanced position today with regard to its nuclear program.”
+ Even Israeli police can’t substantiate claims by the IDF that pro-Palestinian NGOs “attacked” Israeli soldiers…
+ World Cup host Qatar used ex-CIA officer named Kevin Chalker to spy on FIFA for four years, according to an investigation by the Associated Press: “It’s part of a trend of former U.S. intelligence officers going to work for foreign governments with questionable human rights records that is worrying officials in Washington.”
+ Alan Hewitt, founder and publisher of the Arkansas Times: “I was surprised when in 2018 I received an ultimatum from the University of Arkansas’s Pulaski Technical College, a longtime advertiser: To continue receiving its ad dollars, we would have to certify in writing that our company was not engaged in a boycott of Israel. It was puzzling. Our paper focuses on the virtues of Sims Bar-B-Que down on Broadway — why would we be required to sign a pledge regarding a country in the Middle East?”
+ The top general of the US (Milley) and Russia (Gerasimov) spoke on the phone this week, in what one hopes was an attempt to quell rising tensions in eastern Europe and Ukraine. Perhaps the conversation went something along these lines…
Dmitri? Why do you think I’m calling you? Just to say hello?
Of course I like to speak to you! Of course I like to say hello! Not now, but any time, Dmitri. I’m just calling up to tell you something terrible has happened.
It’s a friendly call. Of course, it’s a friendly call. Listen, if it wasn’t friendly, you probably wouldn’t have even got it.
+ The COVID death rate in rural America is now twice as high as in urban areas. Even so, rural residents are much more likely to report that life has gone “back to normal.”
+ What the six-foot social distancing rule should have been more like six meters…
+ Variant by variant, Americans learned Greek: “Omicron.”
+ What capitalism has done to China: China has more than 1,000 billionaires. At the same time, 40% of the population has a monthly income under $140.
+ The return of Domino Theory…
+ Text from the speech JFK was meant to deliver in Austin at the Texas State Democratic Committee on Nov. 22, 1963 doesn’t sound like he was about to pull US forces from Vietnam…
Here in Austin, I pledged in 1960 to restore world confidence in the vitality and energy of American society. That pledge has been fulfilled. We have won the respect of allies and adversaries alike through our determined stand on behalf of freedom around the world, from West Berlin to Southeast Asia–through our resistance to Communist intervention in the Congo and Communist missiles in Cuba–and through our initiative in obtaining the nuclear test ban treaty which can stop the pollution of our atmosphere and start us on the path to peace. In San José and Mexico City, in Bonn and West Berlin, in Rome and County Cork, I saw and heard and felt a new appreciation for an America on the move–an America which has shown that it cares about the needy of its own and other lands, an America which has shown that freedom is the way to the future, an America which is known to be first in the effort for peace as well as preparedness.
+ RIP: Dan Georgakas, co-writer of one of the great works of left history Detroit, I Do Mind Dying.
+ On the Freedom Wire: In Texas, a 5-year-old Native American kindergarten student was punished with in-school suspension for refusing to have his long hair cut, in violation of his civil rights and religious freedom…
+ The latest data published in Nature shows that a three-dose combo of Cuba’s Soberana vaccine has 92.4% efficacy in clinical trials. It’s really remarkable what Cuba’s done, given the stranglehold we’ve placed them under.
+ According to a new study published in Global Change Biology, climate change is accelerating the risk of bubonic plague in the American west: “Due to the changing climate, rodent communities at high elevations have become more conducive to the establishment of plague reservoirs—with suitability increasing up to 40% in some places—and that spillover risk at mid-elevations has increased as well, although more gradually.
+ Nebraska has experienced two “500-year floods” in the last decade. More are coming.
+ A new study from researchers at the University of Wisconsin shows a causal link between heat and violence. Using weather data from Mississippi, the researchers found that when the average temperature is hotter than 80F the number of acts of violence in jails and prisons in the state were about 20 percent higher than on other days.
+ The OECD now estimates that $6.9 trillion a year is required to help poorer nations fight climate change by 2030. The rich nations of the world have only pledged $100 billion. And, predictably, they’ve failed to deliver on that promise.
+ A mere week after COP26, Biden is releasing 50 million barrels of crude oil from the Strategic Reserve, in a purely performative action that will have no measurable effect on gas prices, but will prompt the US to drill more to refill the “reserves.”
+ As fires burn near Rocky Mountain National Park, no measurable snow has fallen in Denver since April 21.
+ The melting of the Antarctic Ice Sheet may have already passed a point of no return, and could contribute to sea level rise over coming centuries and possibly millennia.
+ 500 gigatons: the amount of ice lost in Greenland last year, the most in 35 years of satellite records.
+ Even Barron’s has been forced to admit that the cost of producing fossil fuels combined with paying for carbon capture and storage will make fossil fuels more expensive than renewables. Plus, carbon capture simply doesn’t work…
+ Norway is the world’s leading market for Electric Vehicles. But those sales have barely made a dent in the nation’s oil consumption.
+ Washington state killed yet another wolf last week, an adult male member of the state’s newest wolf pack, which includes four pups. Washington has killed 34 wolves over the last eight years to placate ranchers.
+ Ahab: “The ship! The hearse!–the second hearse! Its wood could only be American.”
+ Scotland’s forest cover is nearly back to where it was 1000 years ago. Centuries of deforestation meant only 4-5% of its land was forested by 1750. But it’s coming back, and closing in on 20%.
+ Global environmental inequalities are as deadly as the economic inequalities. For example, fossil fuel burning by the world’s richest nations and their citizens’ consumption habits cause half the global deaths from fine-particle pollution, most of these deaths take place in developing countries.
+ Globally, air pollution reduces human life expectancy by an average of 2 years. In India, it’s much worse, cutting the the life expectancy of the average resident of Delhi by 9.7 years.
+ Canadian PM Justin Trudeau gave pretty speeches in Glasgow. Back home, tar Sand mines continue to expand, gouging out 500 Olympic swimming pools-worth of earth every day.
+ Over the past five years, more than 65,000 animals have been killed on California’s roads, with the most lethal stretch being the 32 miles of Interstate 280, between Cupertino and San Bruno. According to a Road Ecology report from UC David, between 2015 and 2020, 302 mountain lions and 557 black bears were killed trying to cross California’s roads.
+ The latest victim of California’s lethal network of highways and roads is OR-93, the Odysseus of wolves, whose three-year long odyssey had taken him from White River Canyon in northern Oregon across the Cascades and Siskiyou Mountains, along the spine of the Sierras to the California coast and to the San Gabriel Range, north of LA, where it came to an end in early November, when he was hit by a car while trying to cross I-5 near Fort Tejon. In all, OR-93 traveled more than 935 miles south.
+ Octopuses, crabs and lobsters will now recognized as sentient beings under UK law…we’re still awaiting a ruling on homo sapiens.
+ Joe Manchin wants everyone to have a very happy XLmas….
+ I’d watch this movie…
End Times preacher Sharon Gilbert says that an alien imitated her husband, and then it tried to have sex with her, and then it claimed to be Xerxes, and then Jesus got involved, and then the alien turned out to be a reptile with a posse of gargoyles. pic.twitter.com/aBqC2IMSqn
— Hemant Mehta (@hemantmehta) November 23, 2021
+ Speaking of sermons. I’ve been reading some of Frederick Douglass’s early speeches, when he was fine-tuning his oratorical skills on William Lloyd Garrison’s Anti-Slavery Society circuit. At the time, one of Douglass’s favorite targets was the hypocrisy of the godly people, churchgoers who viewed themselves as the friends of the “colored” race. As fiery as Douglass’ speeches could get, when he really wanted to go in for the kill he deployed his acidic sense of humor, punchlines so sharp that they’d make half the audience laugh, half gasp, and most do both. Douglass liked to tell the story of an enlightened preacher in New Bedford, who allowed blacks to attend his sermons, as long as they sat in the back pews. He also held segregated communions, one cup of wine for the whites in the congregation, one for the blacks. Then one Sunday disaster struck. The cups got mixed up and a white woman drank the Holy fluid after a black man, her lips tasting the residue of his, an experience so traumatizing that she fell into a trance. When the stricken woman revived, she explained to the congregation that she had been transported to Heaven. “Did you see any black people there?” someone asked. Douglass paused, then delivered the coup de grace. “Oh, I didn’t go in the kitchen.”
+ Pumpkin pie became a popular Thanksgiving desert during the 1860s, in part because pumpkins were grown on small farms–not slave plantations–making the pie a symbol of abolitionist sentiments.
+ There may be a better symbol of the real meaning of Thanksgiving than the fact that the Wampanoag guide Squanto’s body apparently lies beneath a golf course on Cape Cod, but I haven’t seen it…
+ Last week I wrote about Henry David Thoreau’s “Galway Whiskers,” the feral thicket of hair on is throat, that had been prescribed by a Concord doctor as a warming layer against the New England winters that aggravated his consumption. CounterPuncher Seiji Yamada, a physician in Hawai’i, writes to say that high collars and throat beards were also worn in the Victoria era “to hide enlarged cervical lymph nodes of tuberculosis (scrofula). So, perhaps Thoreau had some lumps to hide as well.”
+ NYT: “With Jules Verne and the publisher Hugo Gernsback, he invented the genre of science fiction….” Nonsense. Try Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward (1888), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) or Voltaire’s Micromégus (1752)…
+ Locksley “Slide” Hampton grew up in my hometown of Indy, as part of a family band, where he performed, starting at age six, as a singer and dancer, relentlessly touring across the Midwest. At the age of 12, he began playing trombone in the same band, learning at the feet of the greatest trombone player of the bebop era J.J. Johnson, who also lived in Indianapolis. In his 20s, Hampton led his own octet and played many of the with young guns who were reshaping the sound of improvised music, like Wayne Shorter, Eric Dolphy and fellow Hoosier stalwart Wes Montgomery. By the mid-60s, Hampton was working as the music director at Motown, crafting the horn-driven soul of the Four Tops and Stevie Wonder. Exasperated by the racism in the states and the lack of appreciation for jazz, he moved to Europe for most of the 70s, until he returned to work with Dexter Gordon, which is where I met him, in DC, after one of Dexter’s gigs. Hampton graciously spent 20 minutes being peppered with questions from an unkempt and largely ignorant 18-year-old about the jazz scene in Indy in the 50s and 60s. Amazingly I was able to dig up my notes from 40 years ago, where I wrote this: “Slide said Indianapolis didn’t know what it had and still doesn’t. What the city considered blight, all those clubs along Indiana avenue, was a university of sorts. It was our Julliard. All that music went somewhere else and most of the city didn’t even know it left. Hard to go back.” Hampton died this week at 89, leaving behind a sonic legacy that your ears know even if your head can’t name.
+ Slide Hampton: “Playing a trombone makes you realize that you’re going to have to depend on other people. If you’re going to need help, you can’t abuse other people. That’s why there’s a real sense of fellowship among trombonists.”
+ Coleman Hawkins: “If they think they are doing something new, they ought to do what I do every day – spend at least two hours every day listening to Johann Sebastian Bach and, man, it’s all there.”
+ Preliminary thought on Peter Jackson’s “Get Back, Part 1”: Watching George Harrison nearly get electrocuted from a crappy microphone EMI sent to record the biggest cash machine in the history of music tells you everything you need to know about just how cutthroat the music business really is.
When I’m on the Prowl You’d Better Run like Hell
What I’m reading this week…
Space Forces: a Critical History of Life in Outer Space
The 1619 Project: a New Origin Story
Nikole Hannah-Jones (Creator)
Maladies of Empire: How Colonialism, Slavery and War Transformed Medicine
What I’m listening to this week…
But Only After You Have Suffered
Supreme Love: a Journey Through Coltrane
The Legendary 1979 No Nukes Concerts
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
We Thought the Opposite
“You don’t understand. We never thought that we were being used to conquer people. Not at all: we thought the opposite. We were told that we were freeing those people. That is what they said—that we were going to set those people free from their bad kings or their evil customs or some such thing. We believed it because they believed it too. It took us a long time to understand that in their eyes freedom exists wherever they rule.”