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Nation Topics - Police and Law Enforcement

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September 11 is being used as a reason to build up police intelligence
units.

Two books on modern policing and the racial dynamics that go with it.

The brother of the Sultan of Brunei
Set out to see how much a guy could buy,
And fifteen billion's what he finally spent
Before the sultan voiced some discontent.
The guilt of many shoppers was assuaged.
The most committed shopaholic gauged,
"I'd really have to spend a lot more dough
To be a spendthrift like the sultan's bro."

The leftists organizing in Vermont since the 1970s prepared the ground for James Jeffords's jump, and he never would have done it without them. In the 1970s and 1980s Democrats howled with fury when Vermont's Progressive Party said that no matter what the short-term consequences, the important political task was to build a radical, third-force movement in the state.

In 1988 this progressive coalition backed Bernard Sanders, then the mayor of Burlington, in a run for Vermont's single Congressional seat. Democratic liberals raised the "wrecker" charge, saying the Sanders intervention would cost the Democrats votes and put in a Republican. It did. Then, two years later, Sanders ran again against the incumbent Republican and won. Creative destruction worked.

Without decades of work by radicals, nourishing the propriety of independent politics in Vermont, would Jeffords ever have jumped the Republican ship and handed control of the Senate back to the Democrats? I don't think so.

A couple of weeks ago someone sent me an article by Todd Gitlin and Sean Wilentz, published in an obscure journal called Dissent. Since Gitlin's prime political function for years has been to fortify respectable opinion about the impropriety of independent thinking, I knew what to expect, particularly since he was in harness with Wilentz, a truly hysterical proprietarian.

Sure enough, it was an attack on those who voted for Ralph Nader, tumid with a full-inventory parade of every cliché from the past forty years about the folly of radical hopes. Want a taste?

Numbers aside, there is a deeper force at work, behind the delusion that the masses hanker for radical change that Gore would not give them--a purist approach to politics. This all-or-nothing approach, allergic to democratic contest and compromise, is rooted equally in American self-righteousness and traditional left-wing utopianism. It is as if by venting one's anger, one were free to remake the world by willing it so...

Yup, this pompous cant translates into the single, finger-wagging admonition, "You should have voted for Al Gore," the latest variant on Gitlin's one-note career sermon about voting for Hubert Humphrey in 1968. (What is it about these Humphrey lovers? Vermonter Marty Jezer, another sermonizer about main-chance political propriety, recently lashed out at CBS in his column in the Brattleboro Reformer for what he denounced as excessively hostile and prejudicial interviewing of baby-killer Bob Kerrey! The lust to be respectably "fair," whether to HHH or Kerrey, leads to some astonishingly ridiculous postures.)

In Vermont the Republican Party is pretty much dead. Jeffords should sign up right now as a member of the Progressive Party, with whose political positions he has some things in common. Of course Jeffords, at least in his latest incarnation, is truly an independent, whereas Sanders is effectively a Democrat.

Now let's see how much fortitude the Democrats on the Hill have in contesting Bush and Cheney. They no longer have the alibi of the Republicans' controlling the White House and both chambers. Footnote: The Nation's editor, Katrina vanden Heuvel, wishes it to be on record that she takes exception to the description of Dissent as "obscure." I suggest a poll of the American people.

More on the Gandoo Man

In a recent column I described how the Chicago police have declined the request of a gay Pakistani poet to hit his supposed assailant, Salman Aftab, with a hate-crimes charge. Ifti Nasim claims Aftab called him a faggot bottom and lunged at him with a knife. For some of Chicago's gays it's become a very big issue. The Chicago Anti-Bashing Network prompted the ACLU's Pamela Sumner to write a three-page letter to State's Attorney Dick Devine detailing why she felt he should pursue hate-crimes charges in Nasim's case. Devine has refused to do so.

The cops and Devine are quite right. It turns out that the initial quarrel between Nasim and Aftab wasn't about the former's sexual orientation but about an article he'd written. Aftab never attacked Nasim with a knife (though Nasim insists he'd gone to the kitchen to get one). And Nasim put up Aftab's bail money, though he still wants him hit with a hate-crimes charge for calling him an insulting sexual term. The Chicago Anti-Bashing Network supports this position, which only goes to show how dementedly wrongheaded progressives are on the hate-crimes issue.

The Bush Menu

Poor Jenna Bush's travails with the absurd liquor laws of Texas take me back to my gilded youth at Oxford, when even the appearance of sobriety, at least at Keble, was an object of scandal and reproof from the better element. As it admits elsewhere in this issue, The Nation was a tad unfair relaying the claim that the Bush White House has ordered its chef to prepare genetically modified foods on some state occasions. The source of this claim was a piece by Jennifer Berkshire posted on Alternet. The Nation earnestly commented that "the demonstration smells like a paid political announcement for the agribusiness lobby."

I remember reading Berkshire's Alternet piece as an excellent little satire, and Jennifer confirms that this was indeed the case. Satire is always an uncertain weapon. My father once wrote an update of Swift's "A Modest Proposal," this time about inoculating people with the same sort of lethal strain that wiped out rabbits with myxomatosis. When it appeared in Punch furious letters poured in, denouncing him as an advocate of mass murder. Back in my days at the Village Voice I wrote a parody of conspiracy mongering and awoke to hear it being read out as serious news on WBAI by the late Samori Marksman. Since then I've stayed with the unvarnished truth, which is usually far more incredible than anything a satirist could dream up. For evidence see Marty Jezer's onslaught on CBS, noted above.

Police are up to old tricks: disrupting and spying on legal political activities.

Can you top this? seems to be the theme of the escalating police scandal in Los Angeles.

In California, as in most states, any election aftermath involves a wan hunt for silver linings. As always, it's hard to find them.

Remember the bizarre daycare center "ritual abuse" trials of the
eighties--the McMartin case in Los Angeles, the Little Rascals case in
Edenton, North Carolina, the Kelly Michaels case in New J

As New York City braces itself for the trials of two sets of police officers accused in the injury of Abner Louima and the death of Amadou Diallo, perhaps it's time to cull a list of things we ha

Blogs

Albuquerque police who use excessive force rarely face any form of accountability.

April 10, 2014

De Blasio distinguished himself from his electoral opponents by advocating an independent overseer of the NYPD—now he’s fulfilled that promise.

March 28, 2014

The death of James Boyd adds to a long list of questionable use-of-force incidents involving APD officers.

March 24, 2014

A campaign to criminalize sex workers has put the City of Phoenix under the scrutiny of UN human rights authorities.

March 17, 2014

The numbers look good. Someday they won’t. Let’s not talk about them so much.

March 12, 2014

Overall stops and arrests are down, but arrests of panhandlers and peddlers are way up.

March 6, 2014

An internal review of the US Border Patrol raises serious questions about the agency’s use-of-force policy.

February 28, 2014

Even before the whipping, the professionalism of the Cossack hosts springing up around Russia was unclear.

February 20, 2014

One plaintiff also alleges that an officer charged her with drug possession on planted heroin.

January 31, 2014

Kang Wong’s case highlights the need for language access services in police departments.

January 21, 2014