Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Inhale By Justin Desmangles


Beer without alcohol, coffee without caffeine,
and now racism without racists.

What will they think of next,
a moment of silence for White Silence?

Don’t hold your breath.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020


by Justin Desmangles

“'Tis dangerous to take a cold, to sleep, to drink; but I tell you, my lord fool, out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety. The purpose you undertake is dangerous, the friends you have named uncertain, the time itself unsorted, and your whole plot too light for the counterpoise of so great an opposition.” – Hotspur, Henry IV, Act 2 Scene 3, William Shakespeare

“This is NOT a time for penny-pinching or horse trading on the Hill.” – White House economic advisor Peter Navarro, February 23, 2020, memo to the President warning of an impending 2 million deaths in the U.S. from corona virus.

I had been wondering what they dug out of Reinhard Heydrich’s grave last December; I guess this virus may have been it! Having just read The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick’s dystopian sci-fi masterpiece in which the Nazis emerge as victors of World War II, the name sounded familiar. In the novel, set in the Bay Area, Dick places Heydrich quite high in the order of things, as well he would have been had he not been assassinated by Czech Resistance fighters. The real Reinhard Heydrich was the principal designer of the proposed “final solution” as well as the organizer of Kristallnacht. A man whose infamous cruelty was so severe it was both feared and admired by his Nazi peers, he was also rumored to have Jewish ancestry. Contemporary admiration for his ideas led his followers to resort to grave robbing at the end of last year. Who is to say towards what ritual purpose these actions may have been put? Among certain secret societies, fraternal orders, even wealthy occultists, there would be a great demand for such a substance as previously contained in that grave. Haven’t heard a lot from Skull and Bones at Yale lately. Maybe some of the folks in the Federalist Society could find some Johnnie Walker for a round of congratulations? They can send the bill to A.L.E.C., Americans for Prosperity, or maybe Freedom Works. I am sure Dick Armey’s pension can handle it.

Nazi intellectuals and law makers had great admiration for American domestic policies concerning race and ideas of racial hygiene and were not shy about saying so prior to the U.S. entering the war (see Hitler's American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law, James Q. Whitman, Princeton University Press, 2017). They, too, looked out at the world and saw “shithole countries,” to quote Donald Trump, rather than places where people lived. Forced sterilization of undesirables was especially attractive to them, a policy which remained active in the United States well into the 1970s. The factory-like settings in which Germany would implement their version of these strategies resemble nothing so much as their American cousins in the prison system. Replete with often lethal, illegal medical experimentation on prisoners. Had Heydrich lived to ascend to Germany’s Chancellorship, as many believed he would, I am sure he would have approved of the Trump-Pence junta and its handling of the coronavirus thus far. Particularly the lines of class, race, ethnicity, education and income levels so clearly demarcated by its lethality. To put it country-simple, the right people are dying.

Dean Baquet would probably be the last to admit it, right after David Remnick, but a great many of their wealthiest readers scan headlines like “BLACK AMERICANS BEAR THE BRUNT AS VIRUS SPREADS” (lead story, front page, The New York Times, April 8, 2020) and breathe a quiet hallelujah. The impulse leading toward the genocide of non-white people in the Americas is not only alive and well, it is thriving and growing in strength. Though that impulse began many centuries ago, too many of its key features are with us today in stark and undeniable ways. The elaborate construction of concentration camps along the southern border, tens of thousands of children being held at subsistence level, barely alive, the violent breaking apart of their families as public spectacle. All of these details would show themselves as familiar to any serious student of the history of these continents north and south, going back to the earliest settlements by Spanish, French, Portuguese and English colonists. Their mirror images in the present become obscured only by the fact that collectively we put those events in a sentimental, seductive past, rather than accepting their hideous, grotesque reflection of now. Our greatest palliative in the process of this un-remembering, dismembering today has been access to the narcotizing excesses of so-called media. As the poet Bob Kaufman accurately reported in his now classic “Heavy Water Blues”, “Television, america’s ultimate relief, from the indian disturbance.” Can the Navajo draw such a distinction with its near past? Can any indigenous tribe that has survived unto the 21st century? Surely the rampantly rising infection rates among immigrant workers in Wisconsin’s meat processing plants reveal the centuries old motive for this violence.

Cut to commercial. Real Uncle Tom scene, Ben Carson singing Water Boy on a small riser at the end of dark room under a single spotlight, a tiny scrim behind him on which is projected a waving confederate flag.

Voice over: Stop the war of northern aggression, give generously to the Strom Thurmond Foundation to End Miscegenation.


Camera zooms out to reveal a Heidi–type character, smiling, arms extended a la Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music, twirling atop green rolling hills.

Voice over: Yearning to return to her regular pogroming, Erica bought futures in pork bellies last week. She has faith in Tyson Foods and so can you.

Next we see the fat winking face of Mitch McConnell fill the screen like so much pink gelatin, “With so many channels to choose from, why have one point of view?”

And now back to our regular pogroming . . .

The American presidency has always existed in moral twilight. Presidents lie, it is important that they do so in order to keep their job. Even those who audition for the role often start by telling a lot of lies in public to see how much traction they can gain coming into the race. No president as far as we know has lied as much as Donald Trump. His bilious regurgitation of insults, exaggerations, half-truths and outright deceptions is unparalleled by any measure, save for his heroes in professional wrestling. Rowdy Roddy Piper, indeed. But I’ll tell one thing he is not lying about, the number of Federal judges he has appointed to the bench. Other than Ronald Reagan, no president has seated more of these immeasurably powerful lifetime appointments. This extraordinary ordinary fact is a vivid example of what can go wrong when a country stops paying attention. A lot of America’s self-appointed intelligentsia at the papers-of-record and the jibber-jabber-jaws of cable news have taken porn stars, errant penises, and illicit payoffs to be more worthy of their commentary than federal judges. Charismatic advertising, you know. Because as long the news-gathering model for reporting is based on advertising revenue, they will continue to do so. Beguiling and bewildering their audiences for the cheap thrill of pretending they are the monsters they so despise. The desire for power among those who don’t have it and the misconceptions that brings is more haunting than the Ghost of Christmas Past but with much less conscience.

We interrupt this pogrom with a special news bulletin. Disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, a presumed death by suicide, was discovered impersonating Elvis as a contestant in a south Florida karaoke bar. Claiming to be the winner of the contest when detained by local officials, Mr. Epstein reportedly said that he was without an agent and willing to work at scale.

Next on Fox, Kitten on a Hot Mic, Becky Misandric spews mutilated Marxism before uncorking wine bottles with her teeth, a trick she learned at Socialist summer camp in the hills of Berkeley, California.

The Confederacy was a declared enemy of the United States. Maybe that is the message from these crowds flying Stars and Bars, carrying big guns and screaming that the country be re-opened. They remind me of the religious flagellants from an earlier plague, some even have the same taste in headgear (see Francisco de Goya’s painting A Procession of Flagellants.) These masochistic zealots were famously portrayed by Ingmar Bergman in his icy tour-de-force The Seventh Seal, a meditation on God’s silence in the face of atrocities. Like the new breed of flagellants, they believed if they got the whipping over with, inflicting violence on themselves and others, their God might show them some mercy. Last I checked, God don’t let you pick your switch, but that’s them. People who laugh at the malapropisms and misspellings of these new flagellants do so at their own peril. It’s not funny. Fascist authoritarian governments have always had a tenuous relation with these kind of rabble-rousing provocateurs, they are as necessary to white supremacist terror as clean sheets are to the Klan. It can all go to Hell of course when these people mess-up, kill, or intimidate the wrong person. They’re largely bunglers who have been known to bite the hand that feeds off at the elbow, sometimes even turning their former leaders upside down with entrails hanging out. The trouble in dealing with these death cult ecstatics is tell-them-off too well and they may like you just too much. As has been seen at these demonstrations, they’re just getting riled up, spoiling for the fight and terrorism that comes later. But why would a country allow people carrying guns to fly the flag of its declared enemy in front of state houses and government buildings?

The only good __________ is a dead ___________. You’re an American, so you can fill in the blanks with live ammunition.

Advertising psychology plays its experienced role as dramaturge, the golden rule being that of tricking the customer about the product. Why not be Jekyll when you can play Hyde and seek on the weekend? Political theater? The governor of California, a thespian by choice, has communicated far more effectively for having partnered with a professional actress. Don Jr.’s main squeeze is the governor’s ex-wife, also trained in the theater arts. Her beaux has been performing much better on camera since she stepped in the picture, he even passes as an author on Amazon. Donald Trump for his part continues the traditions of Vaudeville. Still visible in the popular culture are the techniques of the traveling tent shows of the 19th century. There’s Skip Gates swabbing celebrity DNA and telling them they were Cleopatra. Trump’s rebarbative motifs are borrowed from the top-ten hits of European fascism. Vituperative, cruel, heartless, the words come easy. Venom lolls off the tongue, joining a river of bile. His imperious gaze reflecting fits of pique that his authority be questioned at all. Standing at the lectern with the world chomping at the bit, ready to restore ratings with the latest bilge. Having sewn chaos in the garden of democracy, he now reaps a harvest in the Electoral College. Women vote for him, their sons admire him, even grandpa’s got his blood up again. “Dad called a man he didn’t know a nigger at the grocery store in front of a security guard and the security guard laughed!”

Much in the style of Don Rickles, Trump performs the politics of the 19th century too, an era of obsession among his underwriters at the corporate level. “Those damn Civil War amendments, 13 and 14, you heard of them, well get rid of them!”

Mass incarceration of African-Americans is re-enslavement, a process beginning in the immediate wake of the emancipation provided by the 13th amendment (see Douglas Blackmon, Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II Anchor Books, 2008). As I have written elsewhere in this magazine (“Just Us and Jeff Sessions”, Konch, Spring Issue 2018) the elimination of the 14th amendment’s guarantees of citizenship and voting rights is the center piece of the agenda promoted by the Trump administration’s first Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his former aide, now presidential advisor, Stephen Miller. Lee Atwater would have been proud of these guys. American liberal and progressive political thinkers often begin with the premise that the state and its authority have a moral and ethical right to exist. The murder of innocent blacks at the hands of police is viewed with the ironic distance of a malfunction in an otherwise purring engine that works for everybody. Drive it long enough and it will take you where you want to go, local and express.  But the murder and destruction of non-white people by state authority is not an accident that calls for a tune-up, it is an essential constituent of American life. A set of religious rites and rituals that inform long standing traditions of Western domination. As Susan Sontag has famously written, “The truth is that Mozart, Pascal, Boolean algebra, Shakespeare, parliamentary government, baroque churches, Newton, the emancipation of women, Kant, Marx, Balanchine ballets, et al, don't redeem what this particular civilization has wrought upon the world. The white race is the cancer of human history; it is the white race and it alone—its ideologies and inventions—which eradicates autonomous civilizations wherever it spreads, which has upset the ecological balance of the planet, which now threatens the very existence of life itself.” (“What's Happening to America?” Partisan Review, 1967).

Front page, above the fold, a lead item, two of the four journalists who published the aforementioned New York Times piece followed up on May 11, 2020 with “Questions of Bias in Virus Care Haunt Mourning Black Families.” Above the headline is an image of the empty hall of a high school in northern Germany, its doors flung open to better circulate the air free of viruses. The article details the impact of anti-black racism on American public and private health care systems and their long history of abuse, neglect, illegal experimentation, and premature death contextualizing our moment of genocide. The acceleration of African American deaths due to coronavirus infection has been reported on in the European press as well, “African Americans have died at a rate of 50.3 per 100,000 people, compared with 20.7 for whites, 22.9 for Latinos and 22.7 for Asian Americans. More than 20,000 African Americans – about one in 2,000 of the entire black population in the U.S. have died of the disease,” (“Black Americans Dying of Covid-19 at Three Times the Rate of White People”, The Guardian, May 20, 2020).

Can we talk about those concentration camps now?

Of course collecting data is a problem, some would say the problem. As Althea Maybank, chief equity officer at the American Medical Association, has made clear, “We’re not collecting the stats on race and ethnicity we desperately need,” reminding us that “Fewer than a dozen states have published data on the race and ethnic patterns of the pandemic,”(“The Pandemic’s Missing Data”, New York Times, April 8, 2020). In other words the numbers reported above by The Guardian are likely much higher.

More on that missing data question. In January of this year the National Archives announced that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was free to destroy documents related to the sexual abuse and death of undocumented immigrants. Included also are detainee’s complaints detailing violations of their human rights. This maneuver on the part of the National Archives also extends itself to the destruction of records by the Department of the Interior, dealing with such subjects as endangered species, unsafe drinking water, even domestic oil exploration.

Heydrich and his admirers have done themselves proud. As Upton Sinclair would say, it’s a jungle out there.

This essay was composed on May 24, 2020 and first published June 10, 2020 in Konch 

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Monday, April 23, 2018

C.D. Wright's Letter to Ishmael Reed Seeking Employment at Before Columbus Foundation, August 28, 1979

Dear Ishmael Reed,

I sold the printing equipment in July and moved myself and the Lost Roads inventory to SF this month. Since I have been here I’ve had the flu, the blues, the hives, and a stopped up head. Now that’s all clearing up and I am ready to go back on line, finish my manuscript, continue with Frank’s work, and with Lost Roads, as well as, with some kind of employment. The latter being why I am writing to you. While I am aware the job I aspire to probably doesn’t exist, I’m still applying. As the publisher/editor and sole staff member of Lost Roads I’ve acquired some skills I’d like to put to use: I’ve learned the fundamentals of offset printing, done the typesetting, layout, camera work, stripping, plate burning, design, type and paper selection and ordering, silkscreening; coordinated distribution, edited manuscripts, handled correspondence, written grants, filled out legal forms, tax forms, done the mailing and the billing, etc., etc. I’ve spent my free time perusing the California literary scene, and the only one that makes any damn sense to me is the activity around Before Columbus, Y’bird, and Reed, Cannon and Johnson. With all those irons in the fire – even if all the printing and design work is jobbed out – you still have to maintain some semblance of a staff. Don’t you? If not maybe you have a lead or two for me. After three years as a grad assistant, two years on a grant, and a year running LR I am spoiled – I just don’t want to work for a fool. I want to work for who I want to work for – else I just don’t care what happens. I go to pot.

I have a standard resume if you want to see it.

And I have time at your convenience if you could talk to me about this.

I move into an apt this weekend but won’t have a phone for a few weeks. A message can be left for me at 552-5464 or a card at the LR p.o. would do. Meanwhile I may keep trying to reach you at Before Columbus.

My thanks, appreciation, the best,

CD Wright


Thursday, March 29, 2018

Race and the Totalitarian Century: Geopolitics in the Black Literary Imagination (July 2, 2017)

(July 2, 2017)
This afternoon in the 5 o'clock hour, I am joined by Vaughn Rasberry for a discussion of his book, Race and the Totalitarian Century: Geopolitics in the Black Literary Imagination
Vaughn Rasberry studies African American and twenteth-century American literature, literature of the African Diaspora, postcolonial theory, and philosophical theories of modernity. In 2016, Harvard University Press published his first book, Race and the Totalitarian Century: Geopolitics in the Black Literary Imagination, recipient of the American Political Science Association's 2017 Ralph Bunche Award ("awarded annually for the best scholarly work in political science published in the previous calendar year on ethnic and cultural pluralism.") His book questions the notion that desegregation prompted African American writers and activists to acquiesce in the normative claims of postwar liberalism. Challenging accounts that portray black cultural workers in various postures of reaction to larger forces--namely U.S. liberalism or Soviet communism--his project argues instead that many writers were involved in a complex national and global dialogue with totalitarianism, a defining discourse of the twentieth century.
During World War II and the Cold War, his book shows, the United States government conscripted African Americans into the fight against Nazism and Stalinism. An array of black writers, however, deflected the appeals of liberalism and its anti-totalitarian propaganda in the service of decolonization. Richard Wright, W. E. B. Du Bois, Shirley Graham, C. L. R. James, John A. Williams, and others remained skeptical that totalitarian servitude and democratic liberty stood in stark opposition. Their skepticism, Race and the Totalitarian Centurycontends, allowed them to formulate an independent perspective that reimagined the anti-fascist, anti-communist narrative through the lens of racial injustice, with the United States as a tyrannical force in the Third World but also as an ironic agent of Asian and African independence.
His article, "'Now Describing You': James Baldwin and Cold War Liberalism," appears in an edited volume titled James Baldwin: America and Beyond (University of Michigan Press, 2011). A review essay, "Black Cultural Politics at the End of History," appears in the winter 2012 issue of American Literary History. An article, "Invoking Totalitarianism: Liberal Democracy versus the Global Jihad in Boualem Sansal's The German Mujahid," appears in the spring 2014 special issue of Novel: a Forum on Fiction. In 2015, he published a book chapter, "JFK and the Global Anticolonial Movement," in The Cambridge Companion to John F. Kennedy. He has another book chapter, "The 'Lost' Years or a 'Decade of Progress'? African American Writers and the Second World War," published in A Companion to the Harlem Renaissance (Wiley-Blackwell, 2015).  
For Black History Month, he published an op-ed essay, "The Shape of African American Geopolitics," in Al Jazeera English. 
An Annenberg Faculty Fellow at Stanford (2012-14), he has also received fellowships from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and the Humanities Center at the University of Pittsburgh.
Vaughn also teaches in collaboration with the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity (CCSRE) and the programs in Modern Thought and Literature, African and African American Studies, and American Studies. 
Sunday 7/02/2017 @ 3:00PM - 6:00PM
Sonny StittThe StringOnly the BluesVerveOctober 11, 1957
Ben WebsterJive at SixKing of the TenorsVerveDecember 8, 1953
Bud PowellBud's BubbleBud Powell TrioRoyal RoostJanuary 10, 1947
Bud PowellOff MinorBud Powell TrioRoyal RoostJanuary 10, 1947
Gigi GryceNica's TempoGigi Gryce Quartet And OrchestraSavoyOctober 15, 1955
Miles DavisSwing SpringMiles Davis and the Modern Jazz GiantsPrestigeDecember 24, 1954
Thelonious MonkSkippy (alternate take)More Genius Of Thelonious MonkBlue Note - JapanMay 30, 1952
Thelonious MonkHornin' In (alternate take)More Genius Of Thelonious MonkBlue Note - JapanMay 30, 1952
Sarah VaughanI'm Glad There Is YouSarah VaughanEmArcyDecember 16, 1954
Sarah VaughanYou're Not the KindSarah VaughanEmArcyDecember 16, 1954
Sonny ClarkI Didn't Know What Time It WasSonny Clark TrioBlue NoteOctober 13, 1957
Sonny ClarkLittle SonnySonny Clark QuintetsBlue Note - JapanDecember 8, 1957
Betty CarterI Don't Want to Set the World on FireThe Modern Sound of Betty CarterABC-ParamountAugust 1960
Betty CarterRememberThe Modern Sound of Betty CarterABC-ParamountAugust 1960
Barry HarrisI Didn't Know What Time It WasNewer Than NewRiversideSeptember 28, 1961
Barry HarrisMake HasteNewer Than NewRiversideSeptember 28, 1961
Kenny DorhamBeautiful LoveMatadorUnited ArtistsApril 15, 1962
Kenny DorhamPreludeMatadorUnited ArtistsApril 15, 1962
Carmen McRaeIf You Could See Me NowBittersweetFocusc. 1964
Carmen McRaeHere's That Rainy DayBittersweetFocusc. 1964
Ted CursonAntibesPlenty of HornOld TownApril 11, 1961
Vaughn Rasberry in Conversation with Justin DesmanglesVaughn Rasberry in Conversation with Justin DesmanglesVaughn Rasberry in Conversation with Justin DesmanglesVaughn Rasberry in Conversation with Justin DesmanglesVaughn Rasberry in Conversation with Justin Desmangles
Pierre Dørge and Walt DickersonTai-GongLandscape With Open DoorSteepleChasec. 1979

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Just Us and Jeff Sessions: Evidence

Just Us and Jeff Sessions: Evidence
by Justin Desmangles

"Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress." ~ Frederick Douglass, If There Is No Struggle, There Is No Progress (1857)

In February of 2007 I was arrested for crimes that I did not commit. Despite my innocence, I was held for seven weeks at San Francisco County Jail - San Bruno, waiting for a bail hearing. The District Attorney’s office made an offer. They would dismiss the felony charges against me in exchange for a guilty plea to a misdemeanor, sending me back to jail for the year. There was one problem, I wasn’t guilty of anything. Despite the fact that a felony conviction would lead to a lengthy prison sentence, I refused the D.A.’s offer and spent the next ten months fighting my case. It destroyed my life, but I had my freedom in the end.

Despite what one sees on television and in the movies, juried criminal trials are rare in America. Typically, a person arrested will be charged with the maximum penalties available to the arresting officer. A simple jay-walking could be blown-up to obstructing traffic, adjusting your arms while handcuffed could become resisting arrest. Police always exaggerate far beyond the reality of the circumstances they encounter when detaining someone. Making a case for the D.A. to easily win is part of their job, they believe, and D.A.’s rarely if ever lose.

Here’s how it works. The police ramp-up accusations of wrong-doing that are so egregious, carrying such intimidating punishments, that the D.A. will offer a plea bargain somewhere in the middle. Most defendants, not all but most, take the plea bargain as commonsense, being instructed to do so as they often are by legal counsel. My decision to fight for my freedom is almost unheard of in the contemporary criminal-justice system, with success falling below single digit percentiles.

Whether you are for or against mass incarceration of Blacks and Latinos, the factors leading to it are invariably the same, racial profiling, prosecutorial misconduct, and disproportionate sentencing. There is also a profit motive to keeping millions of Blacks and Latinos locked up, which I will get into a bit later in this essay.

Racial profiling has all but been legalized by directives emerging from the Justice Department under Jeff Sessions, endorsed heartily by Donald Trump, aided and abetted by a market-driven U.S. culture industry. The flames of irrational fear are continuously being fanned high by official statements coming from federal, state, and local law enforcement around the country. Mainstream film and television broadcasting throw gasoline on that same fire by surreptitiously presenting images of Blacks, Latinos, and increasingly Muslims, as those of virulent criminals. It is important here to remember that Jeff Sessions was one the earliest and most powerful supporters of Trump’s bid for the presidency, with one of Trump’s earliest institutional endorsements coming from the Fraternal Order of Police.

Sessions and the F.O.P. had a long wish list beginning January 20, 2017, and they expected results. The F.O.P. went so far as to issue a set of policy directives to the incoming administration the previous month in the form of a press release titled The First 100 Days. Despite whatever nonsense corporate news has drummed-up about dissention between Trump and Sessions, they’ve been getting those wishes fulfilled.

Trump has enjoyed playing the role of political Santa Claus with many of the most backward and criminal money-men in the Republican Party, rolling back and rescinding every Obama era rule and regulation possible.

Here are a few examples. In late February, 2017, Sessions directed the Justice Department to end Federal oversight of America’s police departments proven to have internal cultures of racial prejudice and abuse. The strategy had been implemented by the Obama administration to fight racial profiling and hold violent officers accountable. This in the wake of innumerable examples of brutality and murder that had gone unpunished. That same week, Sessions dropped any objections on the part of the Justice Department to a Texas voter-identification law that had been understood by the Obama administration as an unconstitutional violation of voting rights. That Texas law had been crafted in 2011 by the Republican Party to further negate the potential votes of Blacks and Latinos, as well as left-leaning young people, in their state. The Obama administration had been pursuing the case against Texas since 2013. As the New York Times correctly observed that month, “Under the Trump administration, the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is expected to undergo the most severe shift in philosophy of any other section under the Trump administration, and Mr. Sessions appears to be quickly meeting those expectations.”

By the second week of March in 2017, Sessions had asked forty-six Obama-appointed U.S. attorneys in the Justice Department to resign. At the end of that same month, Sessions released a memo directing all those in the Department to immediately review activities and investigations “including collaborative investigations and prosecutions, grant making, technical assistance and training, compliance reviews, existing or contemplated consent decrees, and task force participation” to verify that they were in compliance with the Trump administration. The review of consent decrees was specifically meant to derail Federal investigations of existing police corruption, specifically in Chicago and Baltimore.

Returning to the aforementioned question of minimum sentencing and the radical expansion of the prison population as a result, it should be remembered that it was Bill Clinton who championed such measures well over a decade previously. In his administration’s capitulation to the so-called Gingrich Revolution, Clinton sponsored the Crime Omnibus Bill, subsequently incarcerating more Blacks and Latinos than the previous two presidents, Reagan and Bush, combined. During his wife’s second failed bid for the White House, the former president would apologize for the insistence on minimum sentencing, underlining it as a mistake and the root cause of racially biased mass incarceration. The Obama administration had worked to end the rules that bound judges to impose such draconian measures, as they had indeed proved to be invariably racist.

By May of 2017, Sessions was directing Federal prosecutors to seek the maximum sentence possible in all cases, charging defendants with the most severe crimes available to their circumstances, overturning the Obama administration’s previous directives. That July, Sessions reversed yet another Obama era rule, dramatically reinstating property seizures, such as cars and money, of those accused or suspected of a crime, even if the charges did not necessarily end in a conviction. Later that month, Trump told police gathered in Long Island for a speech on illegal immigration not to worry about injuring suspects during an arrest.

By the end of summer, Sessions, with Trump’s support, was redirecting the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department to investigate race-based preferences in college admissions. Preferences he viewed as possibly criminal. That September, Sessions defended far-right activists, including Neo-Nazis, as exercising free-speech as protected by the constitution. Before the year was out, Sessions would revoke 25 legal guidance documents used by the Department of Justice since 1975, saying they provoked “confusion.” Just before New Year’s Day, Sessions would reopen the legal doors to potentially enfranchise debtor’s prisons nationally for the poor and indigent.

All of which brings us to today. At the end of February this year, the Supreme Court reversed an earlier 9th Circuit Court ruling, Jennings v. Rodriguez, thus making it legal to detain immigrants indefinitely. This decision followed hot-on-the-heels of Sessions abolishment of an Obama administration rule barring Federal contracting with the private prison industry. It is no secret that this these for-profit private prisons are the main artery through which ICE channels those it detains. Many thousands of those detained are children, all are kept in deplorable conditions with little of the oversight one finds in government-run facilities. The private-prison industries are also a major source of funding for Republican candidates throughout the country.

As if to open the doors further for this money-making venture disguised as law-and-order, in early March, Sessions made a rare visit to California’s capitol, Sacramento, to announce litigation against the state’s “sanctuary cities.” Sessions delivered his remarks at the 26th annual Law Enforcement Legislative Day hosted by the California Peace Officers' Association, saying “California, we have a problem. A series of actions and events has occurred that directly and adversely impact the work of our federal officers. For example, the mayor of Oakland (Libby Schaaf) has been actively seeking to help illegal aliens avoid apprehension by ICE. Her actions support those who flout our laws and boldly validate the illegality. There's no other way to interpret her remarks. To make matters worse, the elected Lieutenant Governor (Gavin Newsome) of this state praised her for doing so. Bragging about and encouraging the obstruction of our law enforcement and the law is an embarrassment to this proud and important state. . . . In recent years, California has enacted a number of laws designed to intentionally obstruct the work of our sworn immigration enforcement officers--to intentionally use every power it has to undermine duly-established immigration law in America. . . . California has also claimed the authority to inspect facilities where ICE holds people in custody.”

Trump followed up soon after, using his weekly address to all but declare war on California, imploring congress to cut-off Federal dollars funding any municipality that supports “sanctuary” policies for immigrants. Trump stated unequivocally, “The State of California is sheltering dangerous criminals in a brazen and lawless attack on our Constitutional system of government.  Every state in our Union is subject to the laws and Constitution of the United States – including California.  Yet California’s leaders are in open defiance of federal law. They don’t care about crime. They don’t care about death and killings. They don’t care about robberies. They don’t care about the kind of things that you and I care about.”

Soon after, an official spokesman for ICE in California, James Schwab, resigned in protest, citing both Sessions and Trump’s exaggerations of the threats posed by immigrants in California. Speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle, Schwab said, “I quit because I didn’t want to perpetuate misleading facts. I asked them to change the information. I told them that the information was wrong, they asked me to deflect, and I didn’t agree with that. Then I took some time, and I quit.”

While the threat of so-called illegal immigration to the United States has most certainly been exaggerated by both Sessions and Trump, their very real threats to California cannot be overstated.  Unlike the Eastern states, or even those of the Mid-West and South, California was never entirely settled. These new threats are attempts to do just that in classic circle-the-wagons settler fashion. In point of fact, the 19th century was all but half-way over before California even joined the Union. Its status within the Republic has always occupied both the center and the absolute margins, socially, politically, economically, culturally. The Trump-Sessions junta in American politics should not only be supremely resisted, it should be destroyed. California is the only state with the power to do so with a democratic super-majority, leading the nation as it has in the past.

As it stands, another Obama policy upended by Trump at the behest of the F.O.P. and enthusiastically embraced by Sessions, is the continued arming of local police forces with military-grade arms and equipment. Gifts from Homeland Security and the Department of Defense. As all of the above changes continue unabated, it will not be long before we see more and more of this type of equipment being deployed by local police forces, as we did in Ferguson, MO. and Baltimore, MD.

ICE and the Justice Department are spoiling for a fight, particularly in Oakland, California and the greater Bay Area, as they made excruciatingly clear in the early weeks of March, 2018.

In the late 1940’s, the jazz standard, Just You, Just Me, was transformed by Thelonious Monk, becoming the original composition Just Us, later titled Justice, and finally known as Evidence. I think he had a point. Without evidence there will be no justice, and without either, it will stay just us, and if we’re not careful, each one of us will be left saying “just me.”

(this essay was originally published March 22, 2018 in Konch)

Monday, December 4, 2017

RIOT.STRIKE.RIOT Joshua Clover in Conversation with Justin Desmangles

New Day Jazz

Joshua Clover joins me this afternoon in the 5 o'clock hour to discuss his most recent book, Riot.Strike.Riot: The New Era of Uprisings
Conversation begins at 1:58:00 (see play list below) 
Joshua Clover is author of six books including Riot.Strike.Riot: The New Era of Uprisings (Verso 2016), a political economy of insurrection and renarration of capital’s history; and 1989: Bob Dylan Didn’t Have This To Sing About. He is a Professor of English and Comparative Literature at UC Davis and edits Studies in Revolution and Literature for Palgrave Macmillan.

Sunday 5/28/2017 @ 3:00PM - 6:00PM
Miles Davis / Gil EvansPrayer (Oh, Doctor Jesus)Porgy and BessColumbiaAugust 4, 1958
Miles Davis / Gil EvansFisherman, Strawberry and Devil CrabPorgy and BessColumbiaJuly 29, 1958
Miles Davis / Gil EvansMy Man's Gone NowPorgy and BessColumbiaJuly 22, 1958
Miles DavisDiner au motelAscenseur pour l'échafaudFontanaDecember 4 & 5, 1957
Miles DavisEvasion de JulianAscenseur pour l'échafaudFontanaDecember 4 & 5, 1957
Miles DavisVisite du vigileAscenseur pour l'échafaudFontanaDecember 4 & 5, 1957
Miles DavisAu bar du Petit BacAscenseur pour l'échafaudFontanaDecember 4 & 5, 1957
Miles DavisBoplicityBirth of the CoolCapitolApril 22, 1949
Miles DavisVenus de MiloBirth of the CoolCapitolApril 22, 1949
Miles DavisIsraelBirth of the CoolCapitolApril 22, 1949
Miles DavisRougeBirth of the CoolCapitolApril 22, 1949
Sun Ra and His ArkestraThe Blue SetSun Ra Singles Vol. 2Strut / ArtyardJune 14 1960
Sun Ra and His ArkestraBig City BluesSun Ra Singles Vol. 2Strut / ArtyardJune 14 1960
Sun Ra and His Astro Solar Infinity ArkestraBlues on Planet MarsSun Ra Singles Vol. 2Strut / ArtyardSeptember 22, 1968
Sun Ra and His Astro Solar Infinity ArkestraSaturn MoonSun Ra Singles Vol. 2Strut / ArtyardSeptember 22, 1968
Sun Ra and His Arkestra featuring Pat PatrickA Blue OneSun Ra Singles Vol. 2Strut / Artyardc. 1962
Sun Ra and His Arkestra featuring Pat PatrickOrbitration in BlueSun Ra Singles Vol. 2Strut / Artyardc. 1962
Sun Ra and His Astro Solar Infinity ArkestraI'm Gonna Unmask the BatmanSun Ra Singles Vol. 2Strut / ArtyardJuly 4, 1974
Sun Ra and His Astro Solar Infinity ArkestraThe Perfect ManSun Ra Singles Vol. 2Strut / ArtyardMay 24, 1973
Sun RaDisco 2021Sun Ra Singles Vol. 2Strut / ArtyardJanuary 23, 1978
Sun RaRough House BluesSun Ra Singles Vol. 2Strut / ArtyardMay 1979
Sun Ra and His Astro Solar Infinity ArkestraDiscipline 8Discipline 27-IIStrut / Artyardc. 1973
Sun Ra and His ArkestraCalling Planet Earth / We'll Wait For YouThunder of the GodsModern Harmonicc. 1973
Justin Desmangles in Conversation with Joshua CloverJustin Desmangles in Conversation with Joshua CloverJustin Desmangles in Conversation with Joshua CloverJustin Desmangles in Conversation with Joshua CloverJustin Desmangles in Conversation with Joshua Clover