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America the Great ... Police State

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Posted on Jul 28, 2009
police car
AP / Nick Ut

By Gore Vidal

For those of us who had hoped that the Obama administration would present us with a rebirth of the old republic that was so rudely erased a few years ago by that team of judicial wreckers, Bush and Gonzales, which led, in turn, to a recent incident in Cambridge, Mass. that inspired a degree of alarm in many Americans. But what was most alarming was the plain fact that neither the president nor a “stupid” local policeman seemed to understand the rules of behavior in a new America, where we find ourselves marooned as well as guarded (is that the verb?) by armed police who have been instructed that they are indeed, once armed, the law and may not be criticized verbally or in any other way and are certainly not subject to any restrictions as to whom they arrest or otherwise torment.

This is rather worse than anyone might have predicted, even though the signs have been clear for some years that ours is now a proto-fascist nation and there appears to be no turning back; nor, indeed, much awareness on the part of our ever-alert media. Forgive me if you find my irony heavy, but I too get tired of carrying it about in “the greatest nation in the country,” as Spiro Agnew liked to say.

I was first made aware of this development in 1946 when I was limping around in army uniform in New York City and noticed that the local police (admired by none) were beginning to run wild, possibly because so many of the able-bodied young had, like myself, been serving for some years overseas. I recall that some sort of parade was being held and what looked to be a thousand or two citizens were trying unsuccessfully to cross Fifth Avenue. I waited on a street corner for an hour in my uniform, limping from my disability earned by my service in the war. But after nearly an hour of waiting, I stopped a policeman who was wandering idly around and asked him politely when I’d be able to cross Fifth Avenue. He shrieked at me, “Go call da mayor!” And I said, “Oh I will, I will.” Actually, I did know the mayor at that time, but he was not available on that sacred day. I did make a protest as a veteran who had mustered out with a disability for life, but this seemed to be a cause of great merriment. In any case, that was my first experience of a Nazi-like police force in New York City, a city pretty much home to me from childhood on.

I was also aware as the years passed how often friends would be beaten up in front of what were called “faggot bars.” Meanwhile, the police never seemed to stop an incessant whining about the enormous dangers to which their work subjected them as they gallantly served our great city, even though they were insufficiently paid and admired. I thought then that the whole damn lot of them should be sent to Camp Lejeune to be put through a strong course of basic training by the Marine Corps.

I also propose this as a solution to the problem that they currently pose us, not only on Fifth Avenue but in Harvard Yard, where a young policeman recently distinguished himself by being rude to the president, complaining with the irresistible policeman’s whine that he and the president were just alike in their problems, only he was being particularly bugged by the press, in effect, said, “join the club.” Now that they were becoming buddies in embarrassment, the little corporal said, characteristically allowing his envy to show, “You’ve got a bigger lawn than mine”—thus, proving how serious daydreaming can place yourself into a position of parity.

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But the true meaning of the mess in Cambridge has been carefully avoided by a media incapable of getting the point to anything if they can excitingly change the subject to something else. So here we now have a cast of characters that includes the president himself, a distinguished scholar and a feckless young policeman who on the radio said, when asked why he had behaved so rudely to the “old” scholar, he said because the old guy had been rude about his mother. I haven’t heard this excuse since the playground of St. Alban’s in 1935.


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By Clark, July 29, 2009 at 1:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A great example recently occurred here in Las Vegas. A guy driving home after two beers hit a cop car and the cop died. He was roughed by the cops, his face was splashed over the news as a villain, and the cop honored as a hero. The DA bragged he was going for the death penalty because the guy was drunk.

Two days later, it turns out the guy wasn’t drunk, and the cop car computer showed that 20-year rookie was driving 91mph on a surface street without lights and was hit while running a red light. The cop was still buried as a hero, the innocent guy was kept in jail for a few more days, let go without an apology and still charged with reckless driving. The media didn’t apologize either.

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By garth, July 29, 2009 at 1:34 pm Link to this comment

If I may, let me interject some reality.  In the 1970s in Lynn, Mass, a cop named Barlow, if memory serves, threw a homeless guy into the harbor in the middle of the winter.  The problem arose when the Lynn Police tried to get rid if this guy.  He didn’t face charges of murder, but he was paid several thousand dollars (I believe it was about 30 thousand) to go away.
In Cambridge, at a bar I once went to, the Cambridge cops (white) complained about how the black cops were gaming the system with their sick leave.  The cops work three 12-hour shifts and have the rest of the week off.
If you look at the highest paid individuals in any community, especially the northeast, you’ll find that about five out of the top ten highest paid municipal employees are cops.
The problem, as I see it, has worsened since Nixon’s Law and Order campaign cry.  We support and love our police, we just don’t want to run into them in a dark alley.

They used to be just another gang in town, and not necessarily the toughest gang, but since the technology has improved, these cowboys from the suburbs, the martial arts studios and military training have surpassed their wildest dreams.

They work 3 days a week, they are legally untouchable and they carry guns.
Do we need more of this shit to just get along?

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By terrymac, July 29, 2009 at 1:34 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We need to worry about the class divide between “those who work for government” - let’s call them “lords” or “nobles” for short - and “those who are governed” - we might as well call ourselves “serfs” or “peasants.”

We serfs are supposed to shut up and make nice whenever the lords appear. This is so even if the lords break down our doors in the middle of the night, without so much as a by-your-leave, much less a lawful warrant. Even if they have the wrong address, we can expect no apology, no payment for damages done, under the doctrine of “sovereign immunity.”

This is what is meant by a “free country”? I believe “Police State” would be a more apt description, by far.

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By Mike3, July 29, 2009 at 1:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Gordy as one Brit to another, you’re making a tit of yourself. Read: “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn. America has so many skeletons in the closet they are now gibbering in the streets. But as we discuss the relative merits of “class” and “racism”, Vidal’s other big point goes unmentioned – the Empire. Although the country is broke this black president is hot for Empire. Military coups in South America are supported to put pressure on Hugo Chavez, thousands of American troops are to be sent to Columbia, Russia is being encircled by NATO, missiles are going to be placed in Poland, more troops have been sent to Afghanistan, military spending is higher than even under Bush, money is still being poured into Israel despite all of Obama’s brave words in Egypt. Well Gordy, as we say in Lancashire: “there’s now’t so quire as folk”.

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By Night-Gaunt, July 29, 2009 at 12:59 pm Link to this comment

He was also cleared of any charges and he was brought in for the express purpose of putting him in “his place.” Get over it and grow up!

If you are an ass hole the police is for you. Gates wasn’t breaching the peace or braking it. The police report is in black and white on that.

I would never do that because I don’t know what kind of trooper that is. What kind of person he or she is. Throw down guns just may be standard off the books equipment these days. Don’t tempt the tiger to eat you when you can’t do the same to the tiger.

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By BobZ, July 29, 2009 at 12:48 pm Link to this comment

JMR,

Give us all a break with your cops can do anything they want rhetoric. Gates broke no laws which is why his case was dropped. The officer overreated to an extreme by handcuffing an innocent person in his own home. Mouthing off to a cop is not a crime nor is it abusing domestic tranquility, which actually means for us citizens to be free from abuses by police officers of their authority. There is a much higher duty on a police officer to not abuse his authority by arresting innocent people just because he is angry.

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By MarthaA, July 29, 2009 at 12:40 pm Link to this comment

This post is worthy of a repost:

By ThomasG, July 28 at 8:48 pm #

We in the United States are well on our way to the creation of a POLICE STATE, where those in power are obligated to mollify improper and unjust action by the police to maintain their support and power, but we are not there YET.  The actions of Sergeant Crowley were inappropriate with regard to the treatment and arrest of Professor Gates in Professor Gates’ own home.

The police are out of control, but the police are not yet in total control of the United States, and while there is still time, it is important for them to know that they are public servants, and that as public servants, if they act in a willfully ignorant or stupid manner that they will be brought to heel by those who have authority over them.  Sergeant Crowley was brought to heel by the President of the United States for improper behavior.

President Barack Obama did nothing wrong and I support President Barack Obama 100%.  Those who would criticize the President of the United States for correcting the behavior of a public servant that got carried away acting like a storm trooper in Professor Gates’ own home are the ones who have committed a grave offense, that left unchecked could result in Crystal Night in the USA, the night of broken glass http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/ kristallnacht.html, in the United States and RIGHT-WING CONSERVATIVE EXTREMIST REPUBLICANS commanding 21st Century “Brown Shirts” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sturmabteilung that place the American people under the heel of storm troopers, if the police are not made to be responsible as public servants.

Rep. Thaddeus McCotter R-Michigan is apparently someone who thinks Ernst Rohm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernst_Röhm#SA_leader was a good policeman and wants to see that whole POLICE STATE revisited here in the United States, but if that is the way we go in the United States, the road will lead the United States of America to the same place it led NAZI Germany.

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By jmr, July 29, 2009 at 12:34 pm Link to this comment

‘Cops are supposedly trained to not react to citizens “mouthing off”.’

Depends on the mouthing off.  Screaming “You don’t know who you’re messing with!” (Gee, as a Harvard prof, shouldn’t he have said, “whom”?) and “Yo mama!” is crossing a line.

Anyway, I don’t care what the superior sensibilities of effete pundits dictate, mouthing off to a cop can get you busted.  Left-wingers seem to think that being an asshole is a civil right.  They love the slogan, “No justice, no peace,” but they conveniently forget that it works both ways:  No peace, no justice.  Vidal lies (or at least cherry picks), when he says the word the cop used was “arrogant”; the word he used was “tumultuous”.  The FIRST duty of government, according to the Constitution, is to secure “domestic tranquility.”  Thus, the first duty of the police is to keep the peace.  Gates didn’t just mouth off, he broke the peace, whether in his own house or not.  He got busted.  Grow up.

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By FRANCES LEE BRIGHT AGE 72, July 29, 2009 at 12:28 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

THANK GOD.. FOR PEOPLE LIKE GORE VIDAL.  THANK GOD FOR TRUTH BECAUSE IF NOT FOR THAT? NONE OF US WOULD BE SO CALLED “FREE” EVEN A LITTLE BIT.  AMERICA HAS BECOME A FASCIST NATION WHERE FEW CONTROL THE MANY AND THE MANY DO NOT HAVE A CLUE.  IT IS OUR TOTAL IGNORANCE WHICH HAS ENDED OUR “REPUBLIC”.  IT WAS PLANNED FROM ALL SIDES LONG AGO.
“LEAVE NO CHILD BEHIND”  IS THE COOKIE CUTTER IMAGE THEY WANT. PRIVATIZING THE DOLLARS FOR BUSINESS.
MARTIAL LAWS ORDERED IF CONGRESS DOES NOT GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT. USA MILITARY AGAINST OUR OWN CITIZENS. LOBBYISTS OWNING OUR POLITICIANS.. AND TAKING OUR HARD EARNED TAX DOLLARS FOR THE TOP 2 % 
IT ALMOST MAKES ME THROW UP.  BUT THEN WHEN I SEE THE YOUNG WITH HOPE IN THEIR EYES? AND NEW BORN BABIES? AND WEDDINGS LIKE THE ONE IN MINNESOTA WHERE THEY DANCED DOWN THE ISLE?.. MAYBE A LITTLE HOPE COMES THROUGH. KEEP IT UP.. GORE VIDAL.. “BLOOD FOR OIL” WAS RIGHT ON.. AND AS YOU WRITE? THINK OF PEOPLE LIKE ME.. LONG A MIDDLE CLASS PERSON WHO TRUSTED OUR BALLOT AND TRUSTED OUR MEDIA AND PRESS AND WHO TRUSTED OUR GOVERNMENT TO DO WHAT IS GOOD FOR THE PEOPLE.  AFTER SUCH MEN AS MR. BUSH? AND JUDGE SCALIA? AND GONZALES AND DR. RICE?.. .LYING TO HAVE WAR.. THAT KILLS HUMAN BEINGS?.. IT IS GOING TO TAKE ME A LONG LONG TIME… TO GET OVER IT IF EVER… IF EVER AND THERE ARE MILLIONS AND MILLIONS OF US OUR HERE… THANK YOU GORE VIDAL .... THANK YOU SO MUCH.

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By Shorey Chapman, July 29, 2009 at 12:27 pm Link to this comment

Vidal certainly has touched a raw nerve, wouldn’t you say?  A usual, he is spot on, as our British friends say.  One aspect of this situation hasn’t been given sufficient attention.  The common element in about 99% of the incidents of “police misbehavior” is that the offending officer felt “offended.”  He or she felt
“dis-respected,” or, as they say in street gang parlance, they felt “dissed.”  The reference to street gangs is appropriate, because most American police departments are running a protection racket, no less, no more.  In San Francisco, where I live we had a scandal involving a coverup to protect the (policemnan) son of a high ranking police lieutenant.  When a grand jury and the DA (a dangerous old-time “leftist” named Terrence Hallinan) indicted the chief and several of his staff, our then mayor Willie Brown (a very successful “bagman” who had peddled iinfluence as the Speaker of the State Legislature for many years before becoming our mayor) immediately announced to the media that we had better be careful, lest we risk seriously diluting the motivation of the police to protect us from crime.  No shame. No pretense, Straightfoward extortion. The fact that Brown and the indicted Chief were both black was, of course, incidental. A judge eventually got the message, and all charges were dropped.  The Chief, now retired, “survives” on a pension of more than a quarter million dollars a year,
About ten years ago, my wife and I were the victims of a potentially deadly crime.  An alcoholic, psychopathic “homeless” man set our cottage on fire in the middle of the night.  We were unharmed, but spent 14 weeks essentially “homeless” while our cottage was being rebuilt.  The miscreant was slapped on the hand (a poor “homeless person” was deemed unlikely to be convicted of worse by a sympathetic SF jury): he was remanded to a halfway house, which he walked out of two days later, and was served with a toothless “stay-away” order that he immediatly and repeatedly violated.  When I stopped a police cruiser and asked the two cops in it to enforce the “stay away” order, they blew me off contemptuously, asking me if I was “trying to tell them how to do their job.”  “You’re damned right I am,” I responded, “You are publlic servants. I pay your wages.  The younger officer became enraged, got out of the car, and was about to start assaulting me, when the older got out, restrained his partner and ordered him to get back in the cruiser.
If you check the circumstances of any incident of “Police brutality,” you’ll find that all can be traced, as Vidal correctly noted to someone who “dissed” the cop.  “Failure to obey and/or properly respect a policeman” has become a capital crime in this country, with the officer empowered as judge, jury and executioner.  And, as Vidal also correctly notes, the background context is class, and their precious property.  God forbid we should offend our great protectors.  Anarchy and wild disorder would undoubtedly ensue.

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By Gordy, July 29, 2009 at 12:23 pm Link to this comment

“Gordy, you should have said before that you were from Britain instead of posing as an American dingbat.  That may be the reason that you don’t have the salient facts straight; you don’t understand the racist background of America.  Still, if you like Vidal, you can’t be all bad.” 

Oh, thank-you Folktruther, you have healed my wounded self-esteem… 

What the hell are you gibbering about!?  Try making an actual point instead of just putting me down. 

Now the burden is on you to EXPLAIN why you think the racism of America must be the key to understanding this story.

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By omop, July 29, 2009 at 12:20 pm Link to this comment

IDF Vets Train U.S. Jews to Protect Their Communities

by Maayana Miskin


(IsraelNN.com) Starting in late July, a group of Israeli combat veterans will be holding a training camp in New York to teach advanced self-defense techniques to Jews in U.S. communities. An increasing number of American Jews have expressed interest in the program following a wave of anti-Semitic incidents worldwide over the past year, organizers report.

The group calls itself Kitat Konenut New York – a reference to the “rapid response teams” active throughout Judea and Samaria. Rapid response teams in Israel, comprised of local civilians who are IDF veterans, have often been the first on the scene of terrorist attacks and other emergencies, and have prevented casualties.

It was founded in 2006 in response to a shooting attack at a Jewish center in Seattle, Washington. One woman was murdered in the attack, and several others were wounded.


Kitat Konenut in action (Israel news photo: Kitat Konenut)

The group is apolitical, and does not take part in demonstrations. “Our agenda is to protect Jews,” says group member Yonatan Stern.

However, the group does have a firmly held political belief. “We believe in the constitutional right to bear arms,” Stern says. Kitat Konenut encourages all American Jews to learn how to use weapons, and to purchase their own firearms for self-defense.
Trainees learn the IDF’s unique martial arts style, known as Krav Maga, and learn to identify suspicious objects and dismantle improvised explosives. They are also trained to use a variety of both non-lethal and lethal weapons, including assault rifles and sniper rifles. Trainers review techniques to deal with situations ranging from knife fights to urban warfare.

Training this year will begin on July 31 and conclude on August 9.

Homeland Security’s new way of protecting americans.

Sign up to receive the Daily Israel Report by email (Free)

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By Night-Gaunt, July 29, 2009 at 11:55 am Link to this comment

‘One last thing:  If I were a cop, American or British, confronted with a smart-lip Gore Vidal in his prime, during a break-in call, I’d have cuffed him, too.”jmr

Well the man had proven his bonafides and his arrest was a punitive matter, not legal. He had done nothing wrong, just vented a little anger at the cop for wanting to arrest him for just being. Class is the big deal but racism is still there in the wings and just an added sting to some of our number. If you are black and male you have it worse. Mainly its the blue vs we the civilians, the lesser people. Us the common folk shouldn’t get uppity with our betters. JMR certainly thinks so.

Me? I would use all of my powers of language and persuasion to keep from being arrested for any reason. I have done so too. Bored cops late at night wanting some action stop me on a lonely country road swathed in white fog. Red eyed from lack of sleep one of them asks if I smoking MJ. I had not and tells them so. My sincerity and sticking to it while still being cordial worked. It is as much psychological manipulation of you on them as they on you and I.

Most cops I hear of get “no billed” all of the time for what is murder. So do most of our military overseas. The corporate mercenaries don’t even get bothered. None of them will dare to apologize because to them they are in the right all of the time and we have no cause to get them to acknowledge their failures as super beings. It makes them equal with us and therefor human.

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By stcfarms, July 29, 2009 at 11:54 am Link to this comment

Gore is right, it is about class, not race. I drive a 1973 Javelin race car (perfectly legal in all ways) but I get pulled over every time I drive it. Other drivers get to talk to police through their window but it seems that they can only talk to me if I am spread eagle on the hood with handcuffs on. They invariably search my car for drugs, guns, illegal aliens or Usama bin Laden (none of these things has ever been found). There is never an apology even though I have known these cretins for 25 years. The storm troopers know that they are the real criminals in America, that is why they support destroying the second amendment. The good news is that a revolution is inevitable and I cannot wait to see how they will deal with 300,000,000 armed rabble. I expect that they will not ask me for help…

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By Folktruther, July 29, 2009 at 11:52 am Link to this comment

Gordy, you should have said before that you were from Britain instead of posing as an American dingbat.  That may be the reason that you don’t have the salient facts straight; you don’t understand the racist background of America.  Still, if you like Vidal, you can’t be all bad.

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By BobZ, July 29, 2009 at 11:42 am Link to this comment

“One last thing:  If I were a cop, American or British, confronted with a smart-lip Gore Vidal in his prime, during a break-in call, I’d have cuffed him, too.”

Cops are supposedly trained to not react to citizens “mouthing off”.  That is the major issue with this Gates incident. Once the cop realized Gates was in his own house, the case was closed. The officer unecessarily escalated the issue - he should have known better and the Cambridge PD knew this which is why they dropped all charges. Obama was correct to call this incident “stupid”. It was.

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By jmr, July 29, 2009 at 11:32 am Link to this comment

Obviously Bob Sheer said, “Gore, you just go ahead and write what you want.”

I had to read this piece aloud to a friend.  Normally, I find garrulous old men on a rant rather tiresome.  But, Hey, this is Gore Vidal, who is nothing if not delicious, though at 80-something, a bit rank.

Though he’s full of beans about the “proto-fascist state” and the “end of the Republic,” Gore is right on about the media’s characteristically missing the point:  this is NOT about race.  And yes, all too often the police are used as society’s goon squad.

First, let me mention two howlers (amongst many):

“We are no longer governed by laws, only by armed men and force. This is just like the days of Billy the Kid.”

Um, Billy the Kid was over a hundred years ago.  So when, exactly, were we ever “governed by laws”?  When was the watershed?  Apparently when our young hero was trying to cross Fifth Avenue.  I guess there was the Wild West, then The Republic, then the death of The Republic, when Gore got dissed by a cop.

“This is a great, great red herring like some giant whale gliding across the pages of police dockets.”

I think the New Yorker would call it, “Catch that metaphor!”

Please, Gore, name me some of those “municipalites” complaining that the police have run amok.  Oakland, where three cops were recently killed on duty?

So, let me get this right, this isn’t about race (I agree) but about class.  What class?  The rich versus poor or the cops against everybody else?  Or poor cops against rich Harvard professors?

America is only a proto-fascist state in the fevered mind of Gore Vidal.  Methinks what Gore is pining for is not so much a return to the mythic Republic he claims we’ve lost (and which he never defines) but, simply, to his lost youth, about which he has been writing ever since he was one.

One last thing:  If I were a cop, American or British, confronted with a smart-lip Gore Vidal in his prime, during a break-in call, I’d have cuffed him, too.

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By BobZ, July 29, 2009 at 11:21 am Link to this comment

It’s always a pleasure to ready anything written by Gore Vidal. He was on Bill Maher awhile back and seemed as sharp as ever when commenting about the state of affairs in our country. Yes, the police has become more militaristic, some of it in response to gangs, and a decades long tilt to conservative viewpoints. Conservatives love order more than anything, since order protects property rights. The original conservatives were offended by the excesses of the French Revolution and backed the rights of the monarchy over the rights of the people. So it is no surprise that conservatives have a knee jerk reaction to police excess - there is no such thing. If someone is arrested, they must have deserved it. If Gates was angry about being challenged in his own home, it must have been his fault - it couldn’t have possibly been the officers fault - they are without fault since they carry a badge and a gun which gives them fault immunity. There is no doubt that we live in a more dangerous country than in decades past, so the police should be cut some slack when interacting with civilians, but in this case Gates showed his ID, two forms of it actually, and that should have been end of story. Not so though since the officer became offended by Gate’s remarks and proceeded to call for backup and arrest him. Officers are trained to difuse situations not escalate them, but again, a militant reaction can take over and the officer ignores all of his training and makes a routine incident into a national event. Yes, this is a teachable moment, on how we view police activities in this country, versus the rights of private citizens not to be arrested for trivial offenses.

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By Kay Johnson, July 29, 2009 at 11:17 am Link to this comment

I have so much respect for Gore Vidal, and his ability, as both a thinker and a writer, to connect dots that I sometimes miss. In this case, the issue of class over the issue of race. However, I am well aware of how “we the people” are treated by police, those who are supposedly trained to serve and protect us. 

A few months ago, after having read her book, THE END OF AMERICA, about Fascism coming to the United States, I went to hear Naomi Wolf speak. During her discourse, she spoke, openly, about flying from city to city, and how often she is searched, and how the constant searches were effecting her psyche. At the same time, she told us, she’s more committed than ever to educating people about what’s happening in this country. She asked the audience to think, seriously, about how often they are searched, and how those subsequent searches effect the way we carry out our lives. Inside, do we feel angry? Do we feel violated? Are we fearful? Do we shut down? Do we alter the way we dress, or what we put in our bags? Etc.

I have to admit to feeling annoyed on a daily basis. Previously, I had locked my feelings and experiences away, shrugging them aside, telling myself, “They are just doing their jobs.” Or, I ignored the situations, and mindlessly complied in order to get it over with, so to speak.

As a researcher, everywhere I go in NYC, I am searched—on my way out of the Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center—two times, for good measure; at the 42nd Street Library—on the way in and on the way out; at the Municipal Archives on Chambers Street—they also take our picture and print out a sticky paper badge for us to wear and then we have to go through metal detectors and have our bags checked; at the National Archives—it’s more of the same except there are more men with guns, and the armed guards have a wand they run over our clothed bodies, after we go through the metal detectors, etc.

In one day, I might have to be checked/searched four or five times, and the experiences mount up to a very disquieting frame of mind. I am, though, a nonviolent person. In addition, I am a fact finder. I search databases, scan microfilm reels, read books and make copies of pages (if they let me), and ultimately, I print paper out for my clients on the subject of their research. Yet, to the authorities, I seem to be a big threat.

A few days ago, I had to go to two different Barnes & Noble stores, and inside each store (66th & Columbus Circle and 86th & Lexington) armed NYC policemen were walking around. Thinking I had mistaken security guards for cops, I looked again at their arm badges, but no, the men were real cops. When did this begin?

I couldn’t help but think about Ray Bradbury’s 1953 book, FAHRENHEIT 451, “the temperature at which book paper catches fire, and burns…” In the book, firemen are the ones who start the fires. Mr. Bradbury’s metaphors, as well as his vision of the future, are quite profound.

Recently, I, again, watched Terry Gilliam’s 1985 film, BRAZIL, and I found it to be eerily relevant in today’s super-surveillance state, where we citizens now seem to reside.

As I recall—it wasn’t NYC librarians who challenged the Patriot Act. In addition, the last time I checked, the public libraries belong to us, “we the people,” not only to the authorities in positions of power.

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By garth, July 29, 2009 at 11:08 am Link to this comment

Aw, c’mon, Gore.  This has always been the story of the relationship between the working class and the police since I can remember.  I guess now, however,  it has climbed to the intelligentsia of Harvard. 
My grandparents also had their stories of police brutality and ignorance.
As my friend, Marcello Petrucci, used to say, “There are no good cops.  They might be nice guys, but there are no good cops.”

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By Gordy, July 29, 2009 at 10:59 am Link to this comment

Great piece of writing. 

Of all the mistakes and excesses of police forces everywhere, I fail to see any good reason why this incident should receive such special attention or be the incident to trigger a special wave of reflection on our enforcer class. 

Obama should not have come out and called the actions of the policeman ‘stupid’.  Maybe it is because I am from the UK and not up on the latest but the facts as far as I know are that it looked like the guy was breaking in, his neighbour apparently didn’t even recognise him so called the cops, and the cops responded.  Presumably the guy showed ID but the cop took him downtown anyway.  Maybe he was being a dick and throwing his weight around, maybe he was a racist - I don’t feel that I know enough to say. 

I agree that enforcers tend to be more in love with power than with order, but this is hardly a watershed incident from what I can see - Obama got involved so suddenly it’s big news.

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By everynobody, July 29, 2009 at 10:58 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Too little, too late Ya’ll. You should have acted instead of talking it to death.

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By cootieville, July 29, 2009 at 10:35 am Link to this comment

The light side of the police state: Around Portland, Oregon, the respect shown to police extends to police dogs. When a police dog is killed in the “line of duty,” it is given the standard cop funeral, shutting down at least 3 freeways as the procession goes to the pet cemetary, with hundreds of cops taking paid time off to attend.

The dark side: I just heard of a former client who was busted for possession of a bag of MJ while he was walking down the street. Because he was walking with his two young children, he has been charged with child endangerment and may get 3+ years in prison. Furthermore, because the prosecutors added cash value of his children’s food stamps to his Social Security disability payments, they successfully argued that his income exceeded the maximum for a court appointed defense lawyer. This is happening in Polk County, Oregon. I practice in Washington, not Oregon. Anyone want Henry’s case?

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By Folktruther, July 29, 2009 at 10:32 am Link to this comment

The US has never had a feudal class so it has not had aristocratic truthers, like de Toyqueville, to tell the simple poltiical and social truth that professionals are restricted from saying by the threat of the loss of their jobs and careers.  The closest we’ve had is truthers like Mencken and Vidal, both whom were fortunately uneducated.  They did not attend college so were free of the usual Educated indoctrination.

Vidal’s mother, who was a beligerant alchaholic whom he refused to talk to the last decades of her life, had a second husband who later married someone who bore Jackie Kennedy.  So although there was no blood relation, she was in a complicated way for which there is no word, a kind of sister.  A feud with Bobbie Kennedy essentially ended their relationship. 

So he was from the ruling class, but with no money.  But he published his first book before he was twenty, and was a very facile writer and quick thinker, and made a lot of money by an enourmous amount of writing, lots of it hack writing which was often the most lucrative.

Also, surprisingly, he was political honest to an astonishing degree, and disliked oppression. Probably because he was gay. That is why Zionists like Sepharad and Inherit don’t like him, and he is attacked by Aipac, etc.  He has argued hsi whole life against a militarized police state that the US has become.  He is an historical figure in that respect, and in addition to being an artist, is an honerable man.  The US does not have that many celebs that you can say that about.

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By felicity, July 29, 2009 at 10:27 am Link to this comment

skulz fontaine’s “Gestapo Amerika” - and Gore’s post and I was off to Google Hitler’s SS Men mainly to see if I or anyone I know might be future fodder for the new Gestapo Amerika. 

Other than the fact that the SS Men rose to power in a democracy - they targeted Jews, Gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, Social Democrats, Communists, partisans, trade unionists, Polish intelligensia, and ‘other’ undesirables - oh, and they offed 250,000 mentally and physically disabled persons just for good measure.

‘Other’ undesirables answers my question.

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By Blackspeare, July 29, 2009 at 10:14 am Link to this comment

In a police state it’s best not to provoke a cop, especially one who is looking for some action.  A few years ago I mis-dialed and entered 911.  I quickly realized my mistake and hit the switch hook.  But that didn’t matter because the call went through and with caller ID the cop was on my door step in about 2 minutes.  I explained what happened and even though I lived there for close to 20 years this new cop didn’t know that and so I was questioned further.  I could see that the cop was suspicious that some nefarious deed had occurred.  So I said to him, “I see by your face that you’re suspicious” and so I invited him in to look around which he readily did.  And like a vampire you should never invite a cop into your house, this guy was looking for something, anything to make his day.  Fortunately, anything of an illegal nature was well hidden.

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By SamSnedegar, July 29, 2009 at 9:15 am Link to this comment

I have yet to see what charge was listed on the cop’s complaint against Gates, but I suggest it was for “insulting a police officer while having a black skin?”

Of course it was “stupid.” That is the only smart thing I’ve heard said about it, including whatever Vidal said, if he really said anything at all about that issue.

Of COURSE it was about race. The cop treated Gates just like he’d treat any other uppity black man who gave him a ration of shit. In fairness to all concerned, it might be that the cop would treat WHITE professors the same way he did Gates, but THAT wouldn’t be for the same reason, would it?

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By omop, July 29, 2009 at 9:14 am Link to this comment

The police state is geting some needed help from Israeli veterans, at least in New York.

  IDF veterans are training Jews on how to protect themselves and their communities against…..Al Queda….non Jewish Americans…the police….etc,,. etc,.

  http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/132551

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By hippie4ever, July 29, 2009 at 9:13 am Link to this comment

“That cop knew I wasn’t Mexican. He knew I hadn’t robbed a store. He knew I didn’t have a knife. He didn’t even pull his gun.”—Kesey Seven

Exactly right, Kesey: when my friend and I were stopped and beaten by police, it was several hours after a cop had been killed in a nearby bar. It was irrational to assume the killers remained on the scene several hours before “brazenly” walking back into the crime scene. But that didn’t matter to the police.

They had lost one of their own, and wanted revenge so badly they could taste it, and then my buddy and I strolled onto the scene. It was a Saturday afternoon, broad daylight, and we hadn’t a clue a crime had been committed. Out of the shadows of buildings three cops jumped out at us, guns drawn, ordering us down on the ground. Then two police cars with another four cops suddenly appeared. We complied with their orders, but it didn’t stop a cop from gouging his knee into my lower back, repeatedly, while I noticed a loaded 45 a few inches from my head. It took months of yoga to recover, and now I’ve arthritis; I was 28 years old when this happened.

Fortunately two eyewitnesses ran to our defense. I’ll never forget the butcher (his trade) who was a man in his fifties; he was screaming “It’s not them! You’ve got the wrong guys! They didn’t look anything like them!” He knew this 50 feet away.

He saved our lives: one rookie cop was so scared his gun was shaking in his hands and I feared he would shoot me “accidently.” Another cop I already knew: he was one of the biggest drug dealers at my high school, and was once a connection. A little ironic, and afterwards I recalled the character “Dim” in “A Clockwork Orange.” Anthony Burgess called a police state a police state long before Gore Vidal or anyone else. 

And to the poster who “fears” we are becoming a fascist state in police lockdown, I am sorry, but we are already there.

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By Mike3, July 29, 2009 at 9:06 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I don’t know what scares me most, Gore Vidal’s brilliant article or the sick comments on this page. America is a sick country with sick people. Do the rest of the world a favor; when you destroy yourselves, confine your destruction to yourselves.

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By Night-Gaunt, July 29, 2009 at 8:49 am Link to this comment

Now the ICE too now have a policing function.

The massive oversized bridge in the middle of the woods is a sign of things to come. Innocuous on the face it is for moving heavy equipment over including M1A1* tanks and MRAPs and APV’s to move fast, get it? some people just aren’t use to subtly. Skimming it will hurt your comprehension of it.

For those who think it meanders it doesn’t, Vidal is a superlative writer and this is very good writing. The point isn’t made in a sound bite of TV but in evocative passages whose theme is one-in-the-same, beware the police state is going to come and soon. We have had elements of it for years but now it will be coming into its own. Every dictatorship known had their police/military forces to keep law and order within. The GeStaPo, SAVAK, KGB, etc of the past and probable future too.

Most of those old REX84 era places look like transition points, to hold people till the next round of moving them to their final work destination. For KBR or some other corporate slave master. Halliberton has rebuilt them and constructed more on our taxpayer dollar. It is only a matter of when the monster will come out of the bag.

I am also seeing too many questioning everything about Mr. Vidal‘s essay but the heart of what he was talking about. Petty nonsense and those who want to play the “mine is better than yours writer” garbage instead of being on topic. The encroachment of para-military policing who will target anyone not of the upper class and following their ethos of domination. That is the subject. (The Nordic over colored dynamic is still in play though.)

If I was grading those who missed the reader’s comprehension of this article, they would get a charitable “-D” from me with a warning of an “F” in their futures. Please check your egos at the door.

*I haven’t seen the bridge so I am unsure of that.

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By December5, July 29, 2009 at 8:03 am Link to this comment
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Doesn’t anyone realize that the militarization of the police in this country is a direct result of the War on Drugs? “We need bigger and better guns if we’re ever to defeat the drug gangs,” whine the pigs. I cannot wait until the tax coffers run dry you f’in thugs.
I personally have been a victim of a police raid in which my property was destroyed by the local “peace officers.” It was done in the name of “protecting the public.” My “crime”? My “crime” involved harming neither the person nor the property of a non-consenting other. There was no crime in the pure sense of the word!
The pigs have removed themselves from the role of peace officers and have now shielded themselves in squad cars, armed themselves to the teeth, adorned themselves with bullet-proof vests and cruise thier beats sneering at the “suspects” whom reside in the neighborhoods from which the pigs have removed themselves. And look out: the thugs are coming to a neighborhood near you, soon.
We need to take the “War” out of “Drugs” and maybe we can put the “Peace” back in “Peace Officer.”

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By AFriend, July 29, 2009 at 7:24 am Link to this comment

Vidal—“a proto-fascist nation”

—-

Mr. Vidal sounds too much like a petulant whining child.

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By John Hanks, July 29, 2009 at 7:14 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Plutocracy leads to endless corporate racketeering and other conflicts.  Our water will be filth.  Our food will be empty.  Our media and government will be even more propagandistic.  WE WILL PROBABLY WELCOME AN OVERT POLICE STATE WITH FLAGS WAVING.  ALL THE CROOKS WILL BE RESOLVED INTO ONE.

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By tommy, July 29, 2009 at 7:09 am Link to this comment
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The rule of law is long dead, as are the rights of citizens. In Tallahassee, Florida, the local SS and DEA are allowed to extort and murder a young coed without reprisal. Oh, sorry I forgot, one of them got fired. Poor baby….

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By Sam, July 29, 2009 at 7:01 am Link to this comment
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Gore Vidal is an elitist, a person who has written about common people as having “slave” mentalities. While I agree with most articles on TruthDig, he destroys his own credibility almost right away with his vitriol. I too have been harassed by police (I am white) but it was in the distant past, just as it was for Vidal, and I believe that police are more professional than they used to be. Let’s put Vidal in a police uniform and make him work on Chicago’s south side for a month. I’d like to read the article he’d write after that. But when someone comes out right at the beginning with so much hate for the USA like Vidal does, they lose me immediately.

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By csavage, July 29, 2009 at 6:53 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Yes, we are police state. We have the highest rates of incarceration of any nation on this earth, including China. We have more prisons than any other nation on this earth. As for class war, the Repubs have tricked thousands of lower income, as in less than $300,000 yearly, into thinking that they are part of the “haves” in this country when, clearly, they are not, so the desparity grows every year, with the approval of the voters. The telling poll that truly stunned me was the recent Rasmussen poll that showed that only 1 in 5 whites thought what happened to Prof. Gates was wrong. One in Five!

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By mmadden, July 29, 2009 at 6:08 am Link to this comment

This incident is not the result of policemen running wild. The professor assumed this was another race incident and made it into one. Tomorrow the professor and the cop will be meeting over a beer. Hopefully they can resolve their hurt feelings and get this behind them.

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By Big B, July 29, 2009 at 5:59 am Link to this comment

There was a time in america when the police were respected. All that has obviously changed. We have now been made to fear the police, especially if you are a member of any minority group (you know, blacks, hispanics, gays, poor people, muslims, and especially liberals!) But then again, that is the plan. Keep the populace afraid to question authority. It’s how all great facist states begin.

Except that the authorities forget, the populace of the US is ARMED TO THE TEETH! And many fringe groups out there in their uni-bomber shacks are just waiting for the upheaval to begin. It’ll give em an excuse to finally use that ammo that’s getting dusty in the root cellar.

It may be coming up on the time to start storing canned goods, get some new batteries for my flashlight, and re-read Cormac McCarthy’s “the Road”. The next 20 or 30 years in the new US police state are going to be very interesting.

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By NYCartist, July 29, 2009 at 5:56 am Link to this comment

Don’t confuse being a wheelchair user and physically
“frail” with “going down hill” and losing one’s cutting edge, so to speak.
see http://www.adapt.org  Have been having sit ins at DNC for
  days to get Community Choice Act passed in Congress.
  ADAPT has been using civil disobedience (many are
    wheelchair users) for decades, beginning with
    fight to get lifts in public buses (and were succe
    ssful)
I am a wheelchair user since middle age, now a senior
  and have enough of my “edge”...if you read
my comments.  And certainly if you know my art.

  To the point of the article:
See http://www.october22.org
and
http://www.nyclu.org
Also there is a group: Stop the militarization of the police.

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By James M. Martin, July 29, 2009 at 5:34 am Link to this comment

I saw Gore on the Bill Maher Show.  He was in a wheelchair and seemed somewhat frail.  I think he is going downhill.  I still agree with him, but the very first line of this piece is an incomplete sentence (or at least seems to be).  Poor syntax is something we never had opportunity to complain about in Vidal’s brilliant career as a political essayist.  Sad, sad, sad….

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By Jon, July 29, 2009 at 5:31 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It is ironic that it is ‘only in america’ can a white racist cop have a beer in the white house with a black president after abusing a black man. It’s not “change we can believe in”. It is part of the symptom of a failed nation.

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By thebeerdoctor, July 29, 2009 at 4:48 am Link to this comment

Mr. Vidal’s disdain for police and other enforcers of authority from the ownership class, is based upon his intelligence and surprising decency, as someone who has spent a lifetime orbiting the ranks of elite privilege. As someone who has been poor all of my life, and have been actually beaten by the police for doing nothing more than trying to catch a bus, I must inform those better off in this society, that the “tragic” incident in Cambridge, was next to nothing, despite all the bloated talk from the characters in this over wrought, all-media drama, or should that be dramaedy?
The reaction among many of my other insignificant brethren was basically: The professor should be glad he does not live around here. They (the police) would have used a Taser on him.
During my beating six years ago, the Bellevue police kept wailing away at me with their PR-24’s, so I closed my eyes and acted as if I was knocked out or worse… playing possum as it were. One of the younger recruits, a chubby faced 20-something leaned down and looked at me and said with a laugh: “maybe he’s dead”.
You got to understand the sadistic satisfaction of so many cops. I mean if he was not beating up me, he could have been in Iraq, pushing around some towel heads. And cops don’t like anyone questioning their authority, but as it has often been said, it is not wise to question the authority of someone who carries a loaded gun and has the legal right to kill you.
Another famous thinker of the elite, Henry Adams, once said that a sure sign of a civilisation in decline is when “morality becomes the police”. This is of course, the present predicament.
I am also reminded of dialogue in the movie adapted from Charles Bukowski’s writings, Barfly. Faye Dunaway asks Mickey Rourke: “Cops… don’t you hate them?”
“No, but I seem to feel better when they’re not around.”

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By Inherit The Wind, July 29, 2009 at 4:38 am Link to this comment

That’s OK, Seph.  I haven’t read much Updike because I didn’t care for him either.

Vidal reminds me of the smart-ass kid who always has a comment and an insult for anyone who doesn’t worship him and cheer him on.  His analysis is glib and erudite but only occasionally does he truly have real insight.  If I compare his long-winded commentary to Frank Rich’s (another long-winded commentator) Vidal’s pales in comparison.  Rich, who was a terrible and nasty theater critic, has the knack for getting to the heart of the issue, and giving a new and striking take on it.

Frankly, I think Rich is a better writer as well.

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By Howie Bledsoe, July 29, 2009 at 3:04 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Glider, We STILL live in the greatest country in the nation!
(sorry couldnt resist)

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By abdo, July 29, 2009 at 2:30 am Link to this comment

USA is a society with vast class differences and class is a dirty word in the greatest nation in the country.  a society out of equilibrium would collapse without massive police force that always display its muscle at any small incident. The low enforcement is a secondary problem the primary one is the unjust lows. when people are denied work home and health you only have prisons, mental-hospitals or graves to contain them.

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By marcus medler, July 29, 2009 at 1:37 am Link to this comment
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The police in America have become addicted to process not content. It is the station not the relation. It is the court not the porch.  Most American institutions have made the process the center of performance and performance evaluation, to the misfortune of us all. As an old school principal was said;“the rule book-oh that- sometimes you throw it at the kid and sometimes you throw it away”. I remember a great police chief who defused the riots in Madison, Wisconsin in the late sixties by his words; “we are the police, we don’t riot we serve the people of this place, all the people”. Within a week of his arrival he was escorting the protesters while wearing comfortable shirt and shorts, blue of course.(no gun) You can imagine the type that was pissed!

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By martin weiss, July 29, 2009 at 12:38 am Link to this comment

Our government… teaches the whole people by its example. If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.
Louis D. Brandeis

Our two-tiered system, in which access to justice is denied or supplied on the basis of wealth, and in which law, itself becomes secondary to a feudal governance by wealth and raw, naked power, is not viable in the long term.
The only legitimate basis of government is by the consent of the governed.
To the degree government attempts to control inalienable rights, it becomes futile and destructive, arbitrary and tyrannical.
Humans’ rights are inalienable. They may be managed to smooth social friction, but they will never be controlled. For every law there is an evasion; for every prohibition, a closed door; for every wall, a ladder; for every border, a tunnel.
Sensible government recognizes its limits.
However, when production costs are dumped into our life-support system, it makes no sense.
When monopolies attempt to control markets by means of war, it makes no sense.
When police are compelled to enforce inequality and injustice, it makes no sense.
As Voltaire said: “...Let not those with sense be led by those without it…”

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By Sepharad, July 29, 2009 at 12:01 am Link to this comment

Inherit, I’m a longtime fan of Gore Vidal (with the exception of his novel “Myra Breckinridge”). He’s at his best with historical novels and essays and, a few times, going head-to-head with the late William F. Buckley Jr., of whose articulate, witty way with words I remain in awe though I rarely agreed with anything he said.

Gore Vidal has so much class (that is, elite by birth and connection, over-abundance of money, incredible sense of entitlement which as far as I know was never denied by anyone except that cop who told him to “call da mayor”) that he’s more qualified than most to declare the Crowley-Gates affair was a matter of class, not race.

As a teenager I used to read whatever of Vidal’s writing I could get my hands on and was both in despair and stunned by how far his writing was from anything I’d ever do. A single sentence of his was enough to make you feel completely, hopelessly middlebrow. John Updike, whom I ignored in my teenage ignorance, was a much better writer and thinker than Vidal and just as engaged with history (though not so much politics). Updike is far more intimate with reality and, in his own way, equally stunning. Since his death my husband and I have been rereading through his huge body of work—husband starting with the Rabbit series while I am going through the short story collections, which are much better than I remember, probably because I understand more now.

Hemingway wrote “Death in the Afternoon” and some good short stories (“Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”), but as for the rest the story was always better than the writing. 

Comparing Vidal and Updike, I prefer the latter because, at his best, he soars and makes every person alive, every object icy-clear, every development as natural as breathing. His literary criticism is no less sharp for all its generosity. Vidal is also elegant and sharp of wit but it’s clear his perspective is Olympian and incontestable by mere mortals, especially us plebes, and other writers are there to be skewered.

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By Sepharad, July 28, 2009 at 11:56 pm Link to this comment

Inherit, I’m a longtime fan of Gore Vidal (with the exception of his novel “Myra Breckinridge”). He’s at his best with historical novels and essays and, a few times, going head-to-head with the late William F. Buckley Jr., of whose articulate, witty way with words I remain in awe though I rarely agreed with anything he said.

Gore Vidal has so much class (that is, elite by birth and connection, over-abundance of money, incredible sense of entitlement which as far as I know was never denied by anyone except that cop who told him to “call da mayor”) that he’s more qualified than most to declare the Crowley-Gates affair was a matter of class, not race.

As a teenager I used to read whatever of Vidal’s writing I could get my hands on and was both in despair and stunned by how far his writing was from anything I’d ever do. A single sentence of his was enough to make you feel completely, hopelessly middlebrow. John Updike, whom I ignored in my teenage ignorance, was a much better writer and thinker than Vidal and just as engaged with history (though not so much politics). Updike is far more intimate with reality and, in his own way, equally stunning. Since his death my husband and I have been rereading through his huge body of work—husband starting with the Rabbit series while I am going through the short story collections, which are much better than I remember, probably because I understand more now.

Hemingway wrote “Death in the Afternoon” and some good short stories (“Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”), but as for the rest the story was always better than the writing. 

Comparing Vidal and Updike, I prefer the latter because, at his best, he soars and makes every person alive, every object icy-clear, every development as natural as breathing. His literary criticism is no less sharp for its generosity. Vidal is also elegant and sharp of wit but it’s clear his perspective is Olympian and incontestable by mere mortals, certainly not plebes, and other writers are there to be skewered.

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By craigkelly, July 28, 2009 at 11:15 pm Link to this comment

I served as Military Police Lieutenant during the Vietnam War.  I agree with Zinn based on my experiences..Friendly Fascism: The New Face of Power in America (1980) by Bertram Gross is a must read. The former Police Chief of Seattle is warning about a police state.  An article appeared today about Mobile policemen

MOBILE, Alabama (AP) — Police in Mobile, Ala., used pepper spray and a Taser on a deaf, mentally disabled man who they said wouldn’t leave a store’s bathroom.

The family of 37-year-old Antonio Love has filed a formal complaint over the incident on Friday.

Police tell the Press-Register of Mobile that officers shot pepper spray under the bathroom door after knocking several times. After forcing the door open, they used the stun gun on Love.

Police spokesman Christopher Levy says police didn’t realize Love had a hearing impairment until after he was out of the bathroom. The officers’ conduct is under investigation.

The newspaper says the officers attempted to book Love on charges including disorderly conduct, but a magistrate on duty wouldn’t accept the charges.

When I was about to leave the miitary, civilian police forces recruited me.  I wanted to do something else.  The militarization of the police forces and the “war on drugs” have helped create the “us against them” “the thin blue line” defending civilization from its citizens.  Just Yestereday Wm Crystal in Jon Stewart posed the idea that the military should have good health care but not the citizens of the nation.

Welcome to Fascistville.

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By G.Anderson, July 28, 2009 at 9:12 pm Link to this comment

Soon we will be asked to make bricks without straw, and the police will be there to make sure that we comply, with a smile.

Many of us have been in the grip of the coniving police state for years, their cunning in the way they can pit groups against each other, by first devaluing them, then building outrage with some daily hate, until by legal order you find yourself on the wrong side of the law, wondering how you got there.

Mr. Vidal is right, class distinctions no longer matter to the 1%‘ers, they want it all.

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By Outraged, July 28, 2009 at 9:08 pm Link to this comment

Re: Acadamnica

Your comment:  “There is increased capacity to stop criminals, but it has also brought a greater institutionalization of authority and the demand that it should remain unchallenged. Mr. Vidal’s discovery of a needless bridge upgrade shows little other merit than expanding the scope of police technique. Ellul writes that “when we are hostile to the police, we are, by a strange contradiction, partisans of order.” In effect, Professor Gates and also Mr. Vidal standing on a corner confronting the police were both opposing the social order. It’s clear that linking social order with the instrument of police is relevant to protecting against crime, but it also unbalances relations for those outside its indiscriminate technique.”

This is the biggest bunch of BS I have EVER heard, outside of that BS post at the Heritage Foundation regarding why THE PEOPLE supposedly abhor unions.  Get real.  Let’s break this specific paragraph down (even though I could easily shoot your whole mantra “all to hell”, I’ll make it easy for myself and the rest…. I’m confident all your preceding mantra will be easily put in this same category).

Your first premise: “There is increased capacity to stop criminals, but it has also brought a greater institutionalization of authority and the demand that it should remain unchallenged.”

Can you QUALIFY this garbage comment…?  Where and when have you found a “increased capacity to stop criminals”.  If this were IN FACT TRUE then crimes would be thwarted and all of Wall Street would be JAILED.  You spew neoconservative mantra and conspicuously avoid facts, data and relevant PROOF.  According to your summation or conjecture rather, women are no longer raped, businesses are no longer robbed and little ol’ ladies are safe to walk the streets at night.  Additionally, WHERE’S THE DEMAND that it should remain unchallenged?  There is NO DEMAND in this regard, none.  Are you attempting to convince us….. or yourself?

Your next statement: “Mr. Vidal’s discovery of a needless bridge upgrade shows little other merit than expanding the scope of police technique.”

It does….?  According to you this shows “little other merit than expanding the scope of police technique.”  Explain the “scope” you are referring to here and the “little other merit” to which you so ignorantly refer.

I’m going to simply ignore your third statement and in this I claim utter SANITY, at risk that addressing it would outrightly label me INSANE.  However, regarding your fourth statement:

“It’s clear that linking social order with the instrument of police is relevant to protecting against crime, but it also unbalances relations for those outside its indiscriminate technique.”

Why….. I vehemently disagree. (Imagine that)  Where… my ideological friend is it CLEAR that “linking social order with the instrument of police is relevant to protecting against crime”?  AGAIN, no facts, no proof, no nothing other than YOUR BS.  Prove it.  Please link to this specific data (discounting “Fox News”) wherein you PROVE your claims.  But the second portion of your sentence I truly find blasphemous, “it also unbalances relations for those outside its indiscriminate technique.”
Come again…..?!  What the hell are you saying here?  Let’s be clear.  Define “indiscriminate techique”, could you please?  I’m certain the audience would find your definition of “indiscriminate technique” enlightening, I know I would.  Oh… and just for kicks, could you also define YOUR interpretation of “social order”?

THE MOST INTRICATE PART OF LAW ENFORCEMENT IS BEING DISCRIMINATE!  It is moronic to claim otherwise.

Discriminate:
1. To make a clear distinction; distinguish: discriminate among the options available.
2. To make sensible decisions; judge wisely.

My head hurts…..

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By John Hanks, July 28, 2009 at 9:02 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Fascists are most important.  They handle the media lies and deception.  Nazis take care of the rough stuff.  They handle the force.

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By Folktruther, July 28, 2009 at 8:02 pm Link to this comment

Ardee, your comment abuut Marshall was divinely inspired and richly deserved.  He is a racist fascist in outlook.  His being stopped by the Santa Monica police was in no way a typical hassling.  I lived in Santa Monica for many years and used to play tennis with the chief of police.  It was a liberal police department with a lot of homeless and a realitvely gentle touch.  And a lot of car thefts, let me say, including mine.

Vidal focusing on class rather than race, even though it was an obviously racist incident, centered on the most important point.  As Academanica emphasized.  Arresting someone in their own home for disorderly conduct trumps the racial aspect.  That is the crucial element here, minorities being the first to feel the police state and the lawlessness of the powerful.

What is new about it historically is that it is an electoral police state.  the ruling power structure has so coopted the truth media system, the electoral system, and the schools, universities and other learned bureaucracies, destroyed the unions and depowerized the population, that the actual elections are totally meaningless insofar as real policy change is concerned.

Obama is a change of style from Bush, that is all.  He is continuing the same police state that the Bushites initiated, and the professional-mangerial class that supported him appears to desire one in the same way that the professional class who supported Bush did.  Since the US excludes the lower half of the economic population from voting, the values of the professional class are catered to by both parties, assuming they’re consistent with ruling class interests.

And a significant fraction of them, perhaps a dominant fraction, appear to want a police state.  Or are willing to accept one as long as their taxes aren’t raised.  It is a demobilizing police state rather than a mobilizing police state of the classical fascist regimes.  That is the crucial element of the Gates incident, the racism being merely where it strikes first.

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By Inherit The Wind, July 28, 2009 at 7:54 pm Link to this comment

Vidal’s gotten lazy. He might as well have just phoned this in.  Took 1000 words to say what he could have said in 50.

To me, Vidal is like Hemingway—I just don’t get what the big deal about either of these guys is.

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By Kesey Seven, July 28, 2009 at 7:32 pm Link to this comment

I dunno, Marshall.  I’m white, too.  I just tan well.

Mr. Vidal’s article specifically points out that he doesn’t think the problem is a racial one; he indicates the problem is societal, an abuse of power incited by a vast disparity of wealth. He might be on to something. Maybe. Just maybe. 

Which is to say: That cop knew I wasn’t Mexican. He knew I hadn’t robbed a store. He knew I didn’t have a knife. He didn’t even pull his gun. 

Everyone who lived in the apartments we had just exited went to the University of Texas at Austin. He was taking a dump on some college kids just for the helluvit, because he was bored, because it was 5 o’clock in the morning on a Saturday night, because he might have busted us if we had been so stupid as to walk out the door with more than we could carry in our bloodstreams.

My reading of Mr. Vidal is it’s not about race, my friend. It’s about abuse of power and hatred based on class. I’ll read it again just to be sure. Maybe you should take another gander yourself. 

Kesey Seven

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By Acadamnica, July 28, 2009 at 7:12 pm Link to this comment

A book by Jacques Ellul was nearby, and he made example of the nature of police technique. The cases where citizens oppose the police, as Professor Gates is said to have done, contradicts that nature.

From his book ‘The Technological Society’:
“The further we advance, the more will the police be considered responsible for the re-education of social misfits, a goal that is a part of the very order which they are charged with protecting.” p.102

At first glance, protecting social order is a genuine effort that police ought to be one of the responsible parties for. Only Professor Gates is by no means a social misfit. He performs a clear functional and productive role for others and was not counteracting the law when he was apprehended. However, as Mr. Vidal implies, the true issue at stake concerned the role of the police as an instrument of authority.

Back to Ellul, he critiques how technical systems are highly automated, self-augmented activities and operate largely irrespective of any subjective qualities.  So too are police interventions and their methods he writes. As the police are viewed as necessary by society at large for providing protection against crime, this then validates the police to constantly advance their techniques to achieve yet better protection. But the obvious question becomes raised - will ever evolving enforcement remain targeted solely against criminals? Professor Gates and many other cases show that not to be so, even when it is tremendously clear that no crime has been committed. It is by the very technique used by police to promote common security that can also lead towards such non-criminal interventions.

According to Ellul, the instrument of police force “tends to be applied everywhere it can be applied” and does not in fact discriminate “because it exists without discrimination.” This correlates Mr. Vidal’s view that discrimination by race is not a primary issue when police overstep their role but rather an inherent tendency of the police instrument itself. There are of course instances where mistakes and judgment errors are made, which do account for some illegitimate police actions. Ellul also recognizes that subjective issues can be involved in abuse of police authority, as when a need for “control satisfies the desire for power and certain sadistic tendencies.”

But subjective issues are not dominant, as Ellul writes that it is “the objective aspect of control” which is at the center of a technical instrument like the police. “The pure technique which creates a milieu, an atmosphere, an environment, and even a model of behavior in social relations,” is apparent when application of police force institutionalizes its own authority over others. “The police cannot achieve technical perfection unless they have total control.”

The pervasive technique of police authority, assured by a monopoly on firearms for example, will of course clash most explicitly in the relations between police and civilians. As in the event with Professor Gates, his challenge to the police may not have necessarily been in contradiction to racial discrimination or an unfair judgment by the officer involved, but it most certainly was in opposition to the nature of total police control. 

There is increased capacity to stop criminals, but it has also brought a greater institutionalization of authority and the demand that it should remain unchallenged. Mr. Vidal’s discovery of a needless bridge upgrade shows little other merit than expanding the scope of police technique. Ellul writes that “when we are hostile to the police, we are, by a strange contradiction, partisans of order.” In effect, Professor Gates and also Mr. Vidal standing on a corner confronting the police were both opposing the social order. It’s clear that linking social order with the instrument of police is relevant to protecting against crime, but it also unbalances relations for those outside its indiscriminate technique.

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By frank1569, July 28, 2009 at 7:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Few weeks back, I was walking home from the grocery store when 2 Dallas patrol cars suddenly flipped on the bells and whistles, floored the gas, jumped the medium strip, and power-drifted to a stop, nearly killing me. Hands on guns, they demanded I “halt,” then yelled: “What the hell are you doing?” Being arrogant, I said: “Looking for Osama. What the hell are you doing?” That didn’t go over to well. They demanded ID; I explained that I had none, just walked to the grocery store. They threatened to arrest me for failure to provide ID. I reminded them that in America we do not have to carry z papers; they threatened to arrest me for my bad attitude. I asked - 5x - why all the hoopla; I fit the description, they said. 20 minutes later, I was finally ‘free to go.’

I’m as white as they come; so were they.

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By ardee, July 28, 2009 at 6:59 pm Link to this comment

Gore Vidal is an irreplaceable asset, and when he has passed who will take up the torch?

I am heartened by the solitary dissent of Marshall, a single voice thinking the end of our democracy is a fine idea. That he is a solitary voice , perhaps pretending, perhaps not, that he sees nothing whatever wrong with our culture, our economy, our governance, the breakdown of our system of education, the growth of the police state made so much easier by John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales and Dick Cheney, seems an apt image. Keep your lonely vigil Marshall, keep insisting there is nothing to see here, right up until the end. Its alright, really, play your role to the hilt, Ive no doubt that others will take up the cause in your stead , even for you.

I trust that more and more folks are noticing the almost insane rants of those we elected to govern us. The quotes regarding the reasons for not voting for the nomination of future Justice Sotomayor, the reasons for not voting for a public option to health care, or even for safe and sane health care reform.

The gap between the governed and the governing grows wider each passing day. The Republican Party seems bent on self destruction and the Democrats on futility and incompetence, and there appears nothing on the horizon to fill the leadership void. Today I heard Bernie Sanders express the opinion that our elected officials are far out of touch with the populace, what an understatement.

I do believe there is hope, I think that slowly, ever so slowly, the ennui ,the estrangement of our electorate from the process will diminish, whether through hardship increasing or love of country or whatever the reason. I do not see this as an ending of democracy, but the beginning of something better, something newer, something more positive.

When the King of England thought to push our colonies around he found that he’d made a mistake of great proportion. Similarly, the creeping fascism that now seems to overwhelm us , well, not Marshall of course, but the rest of us certainly, will come against the same spirit and be defeated.

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By Marshall, July 28, 2009 at 6:52 pm Link to this comment

By Kesey Seven, July 28 at 8:41 pm #

I live in a mostly white santa monica neighborhood and was stopped about five years ago by the police as i drove down a main street one evening.  They pulled me over and cautiously sidled up to my Honda to get a good look at me.  They talked briefly to each other, then told me that my car fit the description of a robbery suspect they were looking for in the neighborhood.  They informed me i’d clipped a yellow light and sent me on my way.

The thing is… I’M WHITE!!!  Now should I call racial profiling on this or what!!!??

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By M Currey, July 28, 2009 at 6:45 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I know that the police profile I was dating a light skinned black person who happened to be a musician, low and behold after leaving the bar in which he played at we were pulled over.

The reason since we left the bar at closing time the man must be drunk.  After explaining that a musician does not allways drink while working the police said he was drunk.  I told the police he was not drunk and I gave the police a talk about how a musician plying a horn instrument does not usually drink while playing in the band.

Well he was taken off to jail for being so called drunk.  I asked the police to take me home and they told me to call a friend.

I walked 2 miles to a bus station with the musicial instrument in my hand because they would not let him lock up his instrument.

The next day he was released from jail the charges dropped.  But since he proper paperwork was not turned in his auto insurance went up.

If they can’t get you one way they will get you another.

BTW I think Prof. Gates had to pay a fine, this I do not know is true but he did have to get a lawyer.

My case did not involve a lawyer.

The police did not lock me up or take me to jail because I am white.

Don’t tell me that police don’t profile.  They profile blacks, browns, woman and young white men.

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By bEHOLD_tHE_mATRIX, July 28, 2009 at 6:30 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Oh, yes, let’s not forget two more very powerful authorities:

CDC (Center for Disease Control)
Game Wardens

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By Paolo, July 28, 2009 at 6:28 pm Link to this comment

As a libertarian, I admire Gore Vidal’s willingness to criticize the US for its police state trappings.

The whole point of the Gates affair was not racism or racial profiling, but the fact of police thinking they are above criticism about their stupid and brutal methods.

Take a moment and google “police brutality” and watch an hour or so of videos showing our heroic men in blue tazing people who simply want clarification of why they are being detained. Or, our heroes beating handcuffed women. Or kicking a suspect who has surrendered and is lying face down on the ground. The examples are way too numerous for anyone to claim they are mere aberrations.

Regarding the Gates affair, it is hard to see how a sane, calm, professional police officer could not have simply offered an apology and left the scene, once it was obvious Gates was not a burglar.

Yes, an apology—even if the guy is being a jerk. I know a lot of $7 per hour retail clerks who have enough sense to apologize to a jerk customer, in order to defuse a bad situation. Why can’t a cop have at least that amount of common sense?

Our cops are trained to believe they are some sort of blue-ribbon security force that ordinary citizens should worship. When they don’t get worshipful deference, they often react violently and—yes—stupidly.

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By bEHOLD_tHE_mATRIX, July 28, 2009 at 6:21 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Re:  By richard roe, July 28 at 7:05 pm #

I doubt anyone could name all authoritarian policing organizations.  However, I would add to your list:

Constables
Citizen Patrols
ATF
U.S. Marshals
Homeland Security (or was that your DHL?)
DEA
Customs
DOT
ICC
Treasury Officers
Secret Service
Depts. of Correction
Parole Officers
Various Code Enforcement Officers
Animal Control Officers
Bureaus of Weights and Measurements
Bounty Hunters
Nosy Citizens With Cell Phones

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By ThomasG, July 28, 2009 at 5:48 pm Link to this comment

We in the United States are well on our way to the creation of a POLICE STATE, where those in power are obligated to mollify improper and unjust action by the police to maintain their support and power, but we are not there YET.  The actions of Sergeant Crowley were inappropriate with regard to the treatment and arrest of Professor Gates in Professor Gates’ own home.

The police are out of control, but the police are not yet in total control of the United States, and while there is still time, it is important for them to know that they are public servants, and that as public servants, if they act in a willfully ignorant or stupid manner that they will be brought to heel by those who have authority over them.  Sergeant Crowley was brought to heel by the President of the United States for improper behavior.

President Barack Obama did nothing wrong and I support President Barack Obama 100%.  Those who would criticize the President of the United States for correcting the behavior of a public servant that got carried away acting like a storm trooper in Professor Gates’ own home are the ones who have committed a grave offense, that left unchecked could result in Crystal Night in the USA, the night of broken glass http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/kristallnacht.html, in the United States and RIGHT-WING CONSERVATIVE EXTREMIST REPUBLICANS commanding 21st Century “Brown Shirts” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sturmabteilung that place the American people under the heel of storm troopers, if the police are not made to be responsible as public servants.

Rep. Thaddeus McCotter R-Michigan is apparently someone who thinks Ernst Rohm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernst_Röhm#SA_leader was a good policeman and wants to see that whole POLICE STATE revisited here in the United States, but if that is the way we go in the United States, the road will lead the United States of America to the same place it led NAZI Germany.

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By Kesey Seven, July 28, 2009 at 5:41 pm Link to this comment

In college in Austin on Lakeshore Blvd., we had pulled a not-so-innocent all-nighter when, about five in the morning, we decided to walk to the corner store for cigarettes.

A cop car passed real slow like then turned around.

We looked at each other: How could he possibly know? He couldn’t. We kept walking calmly resolutely ignoring the bats and the shadow mice flitting and scurrying in the brilliant star light. 

The cop turned around once more, drove straight at us, stopped, his magnificent headlights blinding us. We played our parts calm, cool, terrified, pupils the size of dimes as the officer opened his door and shouted: “Get up against the car! Now!” 

Hands on the hood, feet spread wide, feeling his hands rummaging our pockets, his baton tapping our thighs, we glanced at each other sideways speaking the silent question repeatedly: How could he possibly know! 

He checked our IDs, said to me: “Now I’m not saying you look Mexican but we just got a report that a Mexican with a knife robbed the store round the corner so we’re just checking everybody out.”

He let us go. We continued our little trek. My wry friend, with only a hint of a chuckle, said: “Think the Mexican was trippin?” We convulsed with laughter the rest of the way to the store, which, to our utter surprise, did not appear to have been robbed and was in fact quite secure. 

Kesey Seven

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By Marshall, July 28, 2009 at 5:21 pm Link to this comment

Honestly, I don’t know what Vidal is talking about.  This only confirms to me that he injects the same type of fiction and random spew into most of his contemporary pieces whether they be opinion or entertainment.  I don’t know which category this one fall in to but it provided neither for me.

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By phreedom, July 28, 2009 at 5:09 pm Link to this comment

Some civilized suggestions, to re-civilize the police culture;

1. disarm the police(of course, a orderly & phased withdrawal of arms)

2. local & regional,(civilian) police supervisory boards with some teeth (boards with term limits, paid, trained in police tactics and the consequences of a police culture, taught at Harvard perhaps, members picked by a random lottery system, from a pool of those desiring to serve)

3. local & regional(civilian) crime watch supervisory boards

4. local & regional,(civilian) private security company supervisory boards

5. limitations on police unions(they are not your typical company workers, and they got guns)

6. police academies run and supervised by a regional board(civilian) made up of members of the already established, specialized boards previous listed

7. police should be selected through regional drafts(the idea is, if we had a military draft we would probably not go to war very often, and if we had “police drafts” we might have more members
of police forces speaking up appropriately, having differences of perception, having some diversity in mental and psychological states within any particular police body)

8. system of term limits for police, good short term incentives for limited employment as good police, and very few career positions in the police business, mainly good administrative people with Phd’s in other than police tactics.

But, you know, if we disarmed the police, well, the only answer will be to work like the Dickens to create a peaceful & secure culture.

Suggestions 2-8 would only work after we have disarmed the police.

Suggestion 1’s primary goal would be to immediately take the citizenry’s fear of police off the table.

Suggestions 2-8 would then begin a decades long process of unwinding the support system that keeps us afraid of the police.

As the military is always hedging with statements like, “we are going to see more casualties before our new strategy reduces casualties”, well, implementing suggestions 1-8, may initially cause incidents of crime to rise, mainly due to disgruntle police, not motivated to police for the same old reasons, and since they are on their way out, but eventually there will be less crime and more importantly, far fewer American citizens in prison.(it is a truly a perversion the way these two things relate today)

It may also be the case, that this overhaul, with the effect of eliminating the fear of police, from a civilized citizenry, well, may create such cost savings that the process may even break even as far as its monetary investments. The profit, possibly taking the form of a long lasting retooling of a police culture run amok.

It may be that our police forces double or even triple because of policies of 1-8, but as far as I am concerned, 10 unarmed cops, with varying attitudes and personalities, (from a system like the one I suggest above) will be far more effective than one cop armed to the teeth with a persecution complex.

Heck, we need police, heck we got human nature to contend with, but not one of us need be afraid of police. Only an uncivilized culture might hold that; “if only 49% of citizenry are afraid of the police, well, things are working fine the way they are.”

That was some bait, someone now tell me that a 10% fear rate is reasonable or furthermore, means the current system works?

Thanks for your piece Gore.

Rhuen Phreed
11 Marlborough Street
Boston, MA

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By Kesey Seven, July 28, 2009 at 4:15 pm Link to this comment

Reminds me of that great quote:

Ask not what your country can do for you, but how YOU can get the hell out of it.

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By hippie4ever, July 28, 2009 at 4:14 pm Link to this comment

And then there’s those enormous concentration camps sitting empty in various parts of the country. I can imagine what purpose those facilities are for. I agree also with the poster who said the ruling class was preparing to thin out the herd. From our despicable past, I imagine they’re planning to let poverty, alcohol, crystal meth, unemployment and poor nutrition take their inevitable toll. Maybe Big Pharm can help with a little pill that you only take once.

Gore Vidal in decline is still brilliant, clear and insightful. Thank you Mr. Vidal for exposing the ugliness of fascism that has transformed an intolerant republic into an evil empire. I salute all you’ve done in your life’s work to bring an intelligent perspective to our incredibly mediocre lives in these United States of Amnesia.

I’ve also been wondering about what to do when they knock down my door and come for me. Will I be polite, or impolite, or will I shoot them before they shoot me? I’ve always believed in nonviolence but I’ve also recognized that sometimes an equalizer isn’t a bad thing, unless it is misused. Yet I hate guns and gun violence; but I hate the police more. Clearly I have some hard choices to make, as do we all.

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By richard roe, July 28, 2009 at 4:05 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

All the signs point to the United States as a police state.  Just tally up all the organizations out there who are toting guns & badges and supposedly, enforcing laws;
local police
sheriff
highway patrol
state park rangers
national park rangers
forest rangers
BLM
NSA
DHL
FBI
CIA
DOD
DOH
IRS
National Guard
Coast Guard
Army
Navy
Marines
Air Force
Rent-a-cops
Merceneries for hire

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By It's A Shame, July 28, 2009 at 4:05 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Post 2/2

We have some major problems with law enforcement in this country.  One is I think the complete lack of accountability.  No one is willing to speak the truth when the cop is wrong.  When was the last time you heard of a police department voluntarily disciplining an officer without a public outcry?  Maybe I’m wrong, but it sure seems like the departments try their damnedest to cover for officers who ‘fall astray’.

Another problem is the advent and continual expansion of the War on Drugs.  This disastrous, institutionally racist/classist (look at demographics of drug arrests), 4th amendment thrashing, policy needs to come to an end.  It has provided law enforcement with insane powers to basically harass and intimidate any citizen under the guise of ‘reasonable suspicion’.  It encourages profiling.  All over some stupid substances that aside from marijuana (which is virtually harmless to begin with) only a small part of the population even uses (and an even smaller part abuses).

I recently returned from a trip to the Netherlands.  It was absolutely striking how different law enforcement acted there.  They were polite and civil.  They kept order without repressive harassment.  I doubt we’ll ever have that here in the US.  Not as long as you can’t EVER speak a harsh would about those supposed noble men in uniform.

Sorry for the long posts.

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By It's A Shame, July 28, 2009 at 4:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Post 1/2

Good to hear from Mr. Vidal.  I agree with Folktruther that Vidal is one of the best essayists we have.  “Lincoln” remains one of my favorite novels.

I often wonder, as I’m only 25 years old, if the police have always been the weapon yielding thugs they seem to be now.  I do not wish to refer to police in this fashion, but I have unfortunately had far too many negative interactions with the men in uniform to really think about it any other way.

I’ve conversed with and known plenty of cops from the places I’ve lived, from affluent suburbs to Baltimore city.  I have a defense attorney family member who used to be on contract to help defend police officers who ‘went astray’ with their actions.  He used to mention how divided the department he worked with was on the basis of race.  How the Latino cops would threaten not to back up the African American cops and vice versa.  Or how surprised he’d be sometimes that some of these cops were able to carry weapons.  This was a city department, not some little rural one.

My good friend, and the only decent cop I’ve ever interacted with, is a former Capital Police officer.  He’s plainly told me that the majority of cops are assholes drunk on their own power.

Several years ago my wife was beaten so badly by the police that she had to have her ankle reconstructed.  She has a nasty 4 or 5 inch scar to this day.  Her crime?  Protesting the Iraq War in DC.  She’s 5’2 113 pounds and was 16 years old at the time.  She doesn’t have a violent bone in her body and I can tell you for a fact she did not provoke or touch any police officer.  Her friend, also beaten, attempted to sue the department but I’m not sure what came of that as they’ve lost touch.  My wife, a minor at the time, was unable to sue.  Her father, a former Commanding Officer at a Navy base, would not let her as she “shouldn’t have been protesting the war to begin with.”  Looking back now, my wife says the one rewarding part that came from that experience was the look on the face of the officers as she was being loaded into the ambulance and she demanded “take me to Walter Reed, I’m a military daughter and I refuse to go a civilian hospital.”  She’s barely able to be in the presence of a cop today without being on the verge of a panic attack.

We have acquaintances who were just victims of a botched police raid.  They’re just a nice old hippie looking couple.  Their dog, terrified, ran upstairs and was followed by the police and executed.  They also ripped a 40 year old mantle right out of the wall.  The police said they were looking for guns and drugs, they didn’t find any.

My in laws, who live in lavish neighborhood, have a neighbor who was victim of a botched raid a few months back.  It was another ‘no knock’ warrant, the police demolished the front door and unloaded tear gas.  It was at 8am, their elementary age kids were getting ready for school.  I can only imagine they are traumatized.  They were the only family on the block of middle eastern descent.  Oops, bad info I guess.  I noticed last time I was there that they have their house up for sale.

One of our old friends when we lived in Baltimore was beaten badly by her boyfriend who then left their apartment.  The cops took the info about him and an arrest warrant was supposedly issued.  She notified them of the liquor store he worked at.  Two weeks passed and he was still showing up to work and hadn’t been arrested, I saw him there myself (rather awkward since we knew both of them).  Guess the cops were too busy getting drunk at the ‘cop bar’ down the street from us.  She was given the run around when she called the department about it.

I was pulled over in New Jersey once for, get this, going 55mph in a 60mph zone.  The the cop told me I was driving too slow, I kid you not.  My real crime?  Out of state tags, which I was of course grilled about and then sent on my way.

Sadly enough, that’s only some of the stories I have.

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By sophrosyne, July 28, 2009 at 3:52 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Gore is right.  Class is the issue most pressing today.  Not race.  Gates is a bit of a has-been scholar whose best work occurred in the 1980’s.  He created much of this incidence and even is said to have screamed “You are in a narrative i created for you about your being white and me being black…”  Nice post-modern drama.  Obama’s remarks were outrageous and he knew it.  He backed off of his ridicule of low-income whites “mistreating” affluent blacks.  What a mess.

Truth is, Obama, a wealthy man who attended an elite prep-school, has more in common with wealthy whites thna he does low-income whites or blacks.  Class, not race, is the elphant in the room.  We get to talk about race…but rarely about class.

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By doublestandards/glasshoues, July 28, 2009 at 3:18 pm Link to this comment

Unemployment is 25% in some states.  If people like Richard Reich, Paul Craig Roberts, and Peggy Noonan are correct and there is no recovery in sight for a decade or more, then there are going to be tens of millions of unemployed who are going to get restless when their benefits run out.

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By Leefeller, July 28, 2009 at 3:18 pm Link to this comment

Searching for connotations in this article proves to be quite a chore.  It is as if Gore Vadal is catching up on this weeks events, almost as one of regular posters.  Not sure if their is a touch of sarcasm or reality in his intentions. Of course the ending seemed abrupt reminded me of chopping off an ending of a movie.  Of course, I always appreciate what Gore Vadal has to say, even if I am not sure what that may be.

Is it possible Gore Vidal’s abrupt ending of the bridge is an analogy for lemmings over the cliff or society as a whole, for real answers do seem in short supply.

As for police patrolling the local library, I am glad they do in our town, with the increased numbers of homeless people running around, they seem to spend much time camping out or squatting at our local library, possibly contaminating the lounge chairs, plus they are treating the Library restrooms as their own personal showers. Maybe we can add special places for them to sit and sleep, wash and smoke for I may be soon joining them?

Suggestions of this article as meandering by FT,  brings to mind, a most proficient expert in meandering, I am referring to finger nails scratching on a black board Palin.  Even though as suggested, Gore Vadal may have done a bit of meandering in this article,  he did it most coherently and with articulation and taste.

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By don knutsen, July 28, 2009 at 3:14 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I don’t pretend to be one of the first to say it, but we are definately in the middle of what can only be described as a Class War. The ruling wealthy few at war with all the rest. They want the police state to grow. It keeps the poor , with their pitchforks in jail or atleast helps them stay insulated from seeing the reality they have brought us. The game of politics is nothing more then the entertainment branch of our goverment. Deceiving us into believing we still have a democracy that represents the people. If that were tru would we be in this mess we are in, on all fronts? Would the republicans have gotten away all on their own shifting the tax burden disproportionally oon the middle calss without the willing cooperation of many of the democrats ? The more recent change restricting the rights to fail bankrupsy was written by the banks and helped along by our current VP from the credit card capital of america, Delaware. Nafta was created under Clinton. Its not about which party you belong too. Thats just the distraction thrown up by our media while we are fleeced more each day by those that are calling the shots. The CEO’s that help themselves to obscene profits while their company tanks. Our current administration is still full of these same people, from Wall St. to Gov. and back again. Most of our politicians are just lawyers who found a better scam skimming off the public trough. We, the people, aren’t even close to being represented.

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By coloradokarl, July 28, 2009 at 3:00 pm Link to this comment

50% of our poor broke city’s funds goes to “emergency services” . Clinton started it with the 100,000 no Cop left behind program to follow George Senior’s One World order fascist Hype. They are preparing for something, But what? I think they want to cull the heard a little. Make sure and take the vaccine, “It is just a little pin prick” then AAHHHH….......

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By NYCartist, July 28, 2009 at 2:26 pm Link to this comment

Predicted by William Kunstler Esq. for years before his death.  Good review of movie about him by his
daughter on http://www.indypendent.org.

Gore Vidal is always entertaining.
For serious: http://www.october22.org
and
http://www.nyclu.org

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By Folktruther, July 28, 2009 at 2:13 pm Link to this comment

This piece by Vidal only appears to meander randomly.  He is saying something that he cannot say explicitly in the mainstream truth. 

Vidal is one of the great essayists in the English language of the 20th century, and a few of his novels are pretty good too.  This is not one of his great pieces but it is hard to say that the US is a militarized police state on the verge of the usual horrors of police states, and still maintain the standards of English literature.

At least he implies it, which is more than the medeocre hacks of the Progresive media do.

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By doublestandards/glasshoues, July 28, 2009 at 2:00 pm Link to this comment

In the little city where I live the police are now patrolling the public library, believe it or not.  They walk throughout the place all day long armed with gun and taser making sure none of the bookworms steps out of line.  And those students doing homework - you never know what they might be up to.  It is ludicrous and I suppose meant to be intimidating.

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By Margaret Preble, July 28, 2009 at 1:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Enjoyable from the viewpoint of admiring a brilliant wordmeister. Amazing for its brilliant analysis. Speaking of myself, I have not been caught up in any violence. Yet I am fearful. Tension fills the air. Waiting rooms are filled with Fox TV. Politicians speak nonsense. Talkers spout anger and hatred. So I stay to myself except for necessary outings. I am also sad because when I was younger there was a feeling of safeness and comfort and being a part of the community. The world as I knew it was good. Perhaps I wore rose colored glasses, but I do believe something big and ugly has come over us.

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By glider, July 28, 2009 at 1:42 pm Link to this comment

The other day I was thinking about how really young this nation is.  As a boy in the 70s I to used to think how lucky I was to live in the greatest nation in the country.  Then as I became more educated I too slowly came to the realization that we are far from that and that indeed we have become quite despicable and that the experiment is irretrievably failing at this point.  It is interesting and prescient that Vidal felt this back in the 40s as a youngster.  Maybe it is part of the same continuum or maybe it is the wisdom of aging that allows one to see through the fog.  But I guess this is not anything new.  Nations have arisen and fallen throughout history.  Why should we be any different?

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skulz fontaine's avatar

By skulz fontaine, July 28, 2009 at 1:38 pm Link to this comment

‘To Serve and Protect’ whether you like it or not. Gestapo Amerika. We knew it was coming.

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