Tuesday, January 27, 2009
I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, the "bluest" metropolitan region in the United States of America. Do those of you living elsewhere think you're surrounded by Obamamania? Within the city limits, you cannot walk or drive more than half a block before you see the ubiquitous (yet brilliantly conceived) Obama campaign logo or some sort of poster, sign, or t-shirt lauding his existence or victory. People here are still in the moment that began last November, hanging on their own personal sweet love hangover.
For all of us who don't buy into the hype, it's difficult to express ourselves without sounding belligerent. This is not because we are itching for an argument about President Obama's abilities, but because that is the way every doubt about him sounds to his True Believers. Their admiration of him, devotion to him, and in some cases obsession with him usually is reserved solely for followers of religious leaders. I got sick of waiting for someone else to come up with a way to forcefully -- yet politely -- express resistance to something I have never experienced in my life: Americans treating a national leader as if he were a god.
Noting that people -- led by mainstream media figures and politicians on both sides -- are being encouraged not to question Obama's judgment (or at least, temporarily mute their concerns) on his appointees, his policies, his stated goals, and his methods of attaining them, it seemed to me the tables had turned since the '60s and '70s, when default wisdom was to distrust the government rather than rally around the President. Back then, it wasn't uncommon to see the bumper sticker reading "QUESTION AUTHORITY."
It has been a while since I've seen that sticker. The ones condemning the President have been a good deal more personally insulting the past eight years. It occurred to me that it was time for that sentiment -- which is a good idea regardless of the quality of the leader targeted -- to make a comeback.
And so, I give you..."QUESTION O-THORITY."
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
Sunday, January 04, 2009
The deadly January 1 incident began as a fight aboard a Fremont-bound train among passengers returning from New Year's Eve revelry. When the combatants were detained by BART police after the train was stopped at the Fruitvale station, Grant was among those who was initially told to sit against a wall on the above-ground platform. Amidst indistinct shouting, Grant was then flipped over onto the ground with his face to the concrete floor. Eventually, the situation devolved to a point at which Grant was being held down by an officer with a knee in Grant's back. Finally, with one officer on Grant's left seeming to be grabbing for his hands to place behind his back, that officer holding Grant down reached for his gun, unholstered his weapon, stood over Grant, held the gun at Grant's back, and cocked it. It discharged. The other BART cops were stunned into paralysis for a moment. The officer who fired the shot held his hands away from his body in seeming disbelief at what he had done.
Now, keep in mind everything I have just described is a result of viewing video of the killing not from BART surveillance cameras, which are all over the train stations; it's from a cell phone video of a BART passenger who shot it through the window of a different car in the train. BART has insisted it has no video of the incident that shows the actual shooting, stating that all of the cameras are not connected to recorders. That is ludicrous on its face, but we will not know until later if it's a ludicrous lie or a ludicrous policy.
Saturday, January 03, 2009
The first high-profile case of police brutality in 2009 is about to explode.
In Oakland, CA, in the early morning hours on January 1, a donnybrook broke out aboard a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train as it was approaching the Fruitvale station. BART police officers met the train as it arrived and detained several participants, most of whom were bound with plastic pull-tie handcuffs. Among those detained but not bound was 22-year-old Oscar Grant, who was killed when a BART cop's weapon discharged.
What happened? BART spokesmouths called it a "tragedy," but said it was most likely an accident. Well, what about the surveillance video from the cameras at the Fruitvale station? Uhhh, there isn't any videotape, BART said. There are some cameras hooked up to recorders, and the others are just monitored. Then, the next day, a BART rep said there was some video of the incident, but it didn't reveal anything about what happened with the shooting of Grant. Needless to say, BART's official stories don't pass the smell test.
Fortunately, there IS video of most of the incident. It was taken by Karina Vargas, a young woman returning to the East Bay on the same train from a San Francisco New Year's Day fireworks show. She had just gotten a new Fuji camera as a Christmas gift, and when things started happening, she put it on video mode and start recording. Here's a link to her video and raw footage of her interview on KPIX-TV, most of it unaired on the nightly newscast.
Vargas, 19, says that she saw with her own eyes that Grant was face down with his hands behind his back, calmly cooperating with police. She also said that she resisted attempts by the police to confiscate her camera. Vargas laughed at the idea that she could sell the video, saying "A boy lost his life. I'm not going to ask for money for that." John Burris, a high-profile attorney who is to the Bay Area what Johnnie Cochran and Mark Geragos are to Los Angeles, is representing the family of Oscar Grant.
It is always my first instinct to give police the benefit of the doubt when they are accused of brutality, and especially when there is video of a repeat offender resisting arrest (remember that the three passengers in Rodney King's car did not resist, and were not beaten). This, however is different -- at least that's the way it appears now.
Friday, January 02, 2009
I'll have to try one someday to find out. But I'm not optimistic. These are the same guys who have been putting out a decidedly inferior pizza for decades. Note that Domino's has never had ads talking about how much better tasting their pies are -- they probably know that if you live in an urban area or even a college town, you could stick your finger in the Yellow Pages under "Pizza" and almost always select purely by chance a mom-and-pop joint that makes a better pizza.
Thursday, January 01, 2009
Or, maybe I should say, me. I can't get a free hit counter to work (the one that I had a year ago disappeared into thin air along with my "Payola Free" sign), so I don't know for sure, but I suspect that I am the only regular reader of my little space on the Weird World Web.
Be that as it may, I still want to put more into the L.N. Smithee blog. I find that I am sharper when I am constantly thinking about how to properly put words in print. I don't think of myself as a great writer, but there are times when I am amazed at how well I have expressed myself when I re-read what I wrote some weeks, months, or years later. Even better is when someone writes to say that I am not a bad writer. Probably the highest praise I have received was from notable blogger Jim Treacher, who reacted to my smacking down of a Patterico.com troll by writing "I just wanted to say I am now an L.N. Smithee fan."
Among my new year's resolutions for 2009 is my aim to blog at least once a day every day of the year, even if the topic is inconsequential. Because this has been a busy day for me, and I anticipated that I would not have the opportunity to get heavy today or tomorrow, I decided last night that my first blog would be this announcement. I have several Seinfeldian observations in reserve for tomorrow.
Hey, They Might Be Giants have written songs for every day since March 2000. Not all of them were hits.