Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Good Times at Gotham City, 7/18/17


Sunday, July 16, 2017

RIP George Romero

     Rest in Peace, George Romero (1940-2017-2018)
     Don't worry, George is only dead for now.
     Heaven just gained a gifted filmmaker but only on loan.
     Go on, dust off all those George Romero zombie jokes you've been collecting over the years and spew them on social media.
     But to get serious, Romero's legacy in independent cinema is virtually etched in stone. Because a young 28 year-old film director with an idea, and not even an original one at that, revolutionized it with a little art house flick filmed just outside Pittsburgh called Night of the Living Dead. As a testament to its contemporary appeal, this modest little $114,000 project turned into a cult classic that would go on to gross $30,000,000, not a bad investment return for the 60's.
     And everyone since 1968 who makes a zombie film or a series about one (including AMC's The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead), owes at least a silent token of gratitude for the American-Canadian filmmaker who died today at 77 after a brief battle with lung cancer.
     Again, it ought to be stated that Universal Studios and others had been making zombie flicks since at least the 40's. They were somewhat popular in horror cinema at the time- Zombies were cheap and easy to make and, in the case of the late Darby Jones, special contact lenses weren't even needed.
     What made Romero's treatment of the zombie sub-genre of horror different was his emphasis not on the dead but the living. The zombies, while ostensibly being the subject of the Living Dead movies, were actually supposed to be just a plot device, a shuffling, ambulatory background to the human drama that continues to play out.
     Because the original Night of the Living Dead pioneered an important point that's become a staple of the social commentary of post-apocalyptic cinema: It's not the dead you have to worry about but the living.
     Not to take anything away from the living dead because the cornerstone of all zombie fiction and movies is the natural human dread of the deceased, especially that which reanimates and comes after your flesh and brains. But Romero's crude but effective effort in NOTLD drove home the point that humanity is at its worst, as well as its best, during a crisis.
     Essentially, the entirety of the movie takes place in an abandoned house. It's what FBI crisis negotiators call a "spontaneous barricade situation." Except in this one, everyone within is a hostage while the zombies, sensing fresh food, close in.
     The characters range from the heroic (Duane) to the useless (Barbara) to the outright vicious (Harry). Harry will do anything to survive, even if it means throwing some of the living outside to keep the undead busy. Duane is doing his damnedest to barricade and fortify the house and gets little help from anyone. It wasn't just a pessimistic, dim view of humanity in a crunch. Natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina showed us both villains and heroes such as the kid who hijacked a bus and drove it and dozens of survivors to Houston. But it was the villains who stole almost all the press.
     By now, nearly 50 years after its release, I think we've all seen it and know what happens in the end. No one survives, and you have the living and a self-styled vigilante sheriff to thank for that. Just four years ago, YouGov Omnibus did a survey and asked people whether or not they believed in the zombie apocalypse. A stunning 14% said yes. Lending credence to these ridiculous fears, it had come out a year later that the Pentagon actually has war game scenarios for the zombie uprising. This wasn't even unprecedented. The CDC also has protocols in place should the dead decide to rise from their resting places and get a little restless.
     Surviving the zombie apocalypse has become fodder for zombie fans on social media in comments and memes ranging from the lighthearted to the (pun unintended) dead serious. One can safely assume those who fear being attacked by North Korea and horny homosexual liberals are also the same exact ones who stockpile Waco-class amounts of guns 'n' ammo to battle the upcoming zombie infestation.
     But among those wouldbe Rick Grimes are people like Harry, a guy would throw his own wife and kid outside to the undead horde if it bought him an extra minute of life.
     In later installments of the series, Romero included deadpan satire, placing Dawn of the Dead a decade later at a shopping mall. It was another withering commentary on the human condition both dead and undead- Namely that even after death our postmortem instincts will continue with our consumerist behaviors and go to the mall just as we had in life. Again, there are heroes and villains and this is a trope that has been done with varying success in the nearly half century since NOTLD premiered on October 1, 1968.
     The Walking Dead and its spinoff Fear the Walking Dead, have proved very adept in not only exploiting this theme but in expanding upon and refining it. Because the one overarching point driven home in both shows is that the living will exploit a post-apocalyptic situation for their own ends and will kill any number of the living in order to keep a power and relevance that likely had eluded them when the world was still the world.
     And Romero can be credited with pioneering the idea that, as well as Duane and Rick and Travis, there will also be Harrys and Governors and Negans in the mix to keep the well-meaning on their toes.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Good Cop, Bad Cops, Pt II

(By American Zen’s Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari)  
(Disclaimer: The proprietor of this blog and Mr. Wilson have an ongoing years-long friendship, in which the former has benefited on several occasions by the generosity of the latter. However, that in no way, shape or form has influenced the blog owner’s decision to post an article about his case nor the content of what is written below.)
Another sign that the fix was in was when Tpr. Wilson's legal representation was arbitrarily handed off to another lawyer. When he'd voiced his suspicions, he was essentially told to take it or pay his own legal fees. During the farce of a hearing, it had become obvious to Wilson that the witnesses were protected from giving the contradictory statements they were already on record as having made. Part of the interference was carried out by his own attorney.
     Yet, despite the protection racket buzzing between both counsel's tables, the Franklin cops were stupid enough to let their contradictions get into the transcript. At one point, the officer alleging assault was so incompetent during his testimony he was actually allowed to read from his own inaccurate report!
      As all this was taking place, Tpr. Wilson was on a bubble- It was at this time that Beacon Hill was ratifying a bill that would give troopers facing disciplinary hearings enhanced protections such as greater appeal rights in the event of a negative finding. Only then would a trooper get a "point-of-fact" appeal.
     The court neatly sidestepped what would've, could've and should've been an enhanced appellate process for Tpr. Wilson by simply hiding the judgment and not forwarding it . Instead, he was given an administrative general order informing of a guilty finding and a four month suspension. He was not given paperwork to sign nor was he offered any and his legal counsel offered him no advice re a court appeal.
     He applied for unemployment benefits simply to test whether the board's judgment was correct (in MA, a state employee actually accused of wrongdoing is denied unemployment benefits.), relying on the reports and hearing transcripts. When the State Police attorney tried to suppress the transcript from the record he was, in Tpr. Wilson's own words, "laughingly over-ruled." During the hearing the state police attorney produced the suppressed "finding and recommendation" document that should've been released immediately after the disciplinary hearing's finding, a case summation justifying a guilty finding,  that mandated suspension and anger management counseling. That was the first time Wilson realized this critical document existed.

The Other Franklin Coverup
Trooper Wilson returned to work in September 2002, four months later and, despite the $9000 in DET benefits, $25,000 poorer. To use his own phrase, the reception from his colleagues was "obsequious" and was told he was fully expected to just "put it all behind (him)." Instead, he filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers, the Commonwealth's legal watchdog agency. He did so to force his first attorney to admit, under penalty of perjury, that he was also simultaneously representing the accusing agency (the Franklin Police Union), which, of course, he eventually did. That, however, didn't stop him from lying to the Board that he'd informed Tpr. Wilson of this pesky conflict of interest (Remember, he was cagey and vague about that when directly asked).
     Furthermore, this shyster lied again by saying that he suspected Wilson was going to allege racial bias, which he never planned to do because it was not a racial-based incident (ironically, this is perhaps the very reason for the Franklin Police filing the charges against Wilson). Not only is he strident on this point, his allegations against the Franklin PD were always for defamation, assault and battery and false imprisonment.
     Even without my help via innuendoes, you,  Constant Reader, would at least deeply suspect that a conspiracy had long since been implemented. In case there had been any doubts in Trooper Wilson's mind, they essentially vanished when he got the official response from his first attorney (the one with conflict of interest problems) in January 2003, 25 months after the original incident. Seeking a professional, impartial opinion, he went to a lawyer friend for his input.
     This friend's opinion was that any subsequent legal complaint would originate from Wilson's agency's failure to provide the finding and ruling document as mandated by law. In fact, he'd called this a civil rights violation. The facts of the incident of assault and false imprisonment would become fair game and legally germane. Shame this lawyer couldn't represent Wilson because his expertise was in real estate.
     He would be virtually the only honest lawyer Wilson would ever consult on this matter, as future installments of this series will show.

Stepping on Jackbooted Toes
Now, this is where it really begins to get interesting, Faithful Reader. Because by now it had become obvious to Wilson, as it should have to you, that his case was beginning to get enough attention so that he was stepping on the toes of some powerful shoes, namely the Colonel Superintendent of the MA State Police (more on him later, as well), his assistant (the axe-wielder in these cases), the embattled Chief of the Franklin PD, two law firms and the MA State Trooper's Union, ironically enough, State Police Association of Massachusetts (SPAM).
     To summarize, all these individuals and entities would be complicit in covering up the abuse of an African American State Trooper by three white Franklin cops (even though, again, Tpr. Wilson never intended on pulling the race card. But one has to admit, from a purely political correctness standpoint the optics were horrible). His second attorney, personally hand-picked by his first sans his client's permission, was a partner in Finneran Byrne and Dreschler (Yes, that Finneran, the fabulously corrupt Speaker of the Massachusetts State House of Representatives who was also the lead partner in the firm).
     Finneran has long since been disbarred for multiple acts of corruption and legal misconduct (incredibly, none of it pertaining to Tpr Wilson).
     Without trying to scale Trooper Wilson to Dickensian dimensions, by this time it had become obvious that not only was he not guilty and not given his day in court, he had by this time already suffered $25,000 in financial losses and had been suspended for four months when, in reality, he was the only victim in this case.
     Mr. Wilson's victimization would only continue and escalate, as you will read about in the next installment.
(Back to Part One)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

So We Outsourced an Election. Boo Hoo!

(By Cyril Blubberpuss)

     "You know things are going to Hell in a hand basket without the lotion," I said to one of my associates while making a five year-old Wall Street bootblack shine my wingtips with his tongue, "when liberal snowflakes are bawling about the last election."
     And it's a fair enough point to make. I mean, we've been outsourcing elections since both parties began letting foreign corporate cash tunnel their way into the electoral process through "ghost corporations" and "straw donors", American branches of foreign companies, 527's and money laundering schemes. Hell, some of the biggest money launderers are my pals at JP Morgan Chase and other white shoe banks. But I'm not here to dwell on that.
     What the Trump administration did was a stroke of genius: They outsourced the hacking of the election to the Russians... while making them pay for it! OK, it can't be said Trump isn't making any pelf from the Russians through Bayrock with this sweet President gig. But I'm not going to dwell on that, either.
     All I'm saying is Trump got the Russkies to do on their dime what the Democrat National Committee would've been stupid enough to pay beaucoup bucks for (and did) to skew the election. You read that right- While Camp Clintonista was paying a million bucks for professional basement dwellers to become relevant for the only time in their Cheetos-smeared lives, Trump got Putin to hack our election and pay for every penny of it!
     Now, folks, if that isn't fiscal responsibility, I dunno what is!
     And where would we be without this wonderful partnership with the Russians? We'd be saddled with vagina voters and crypto feminists overlooking anything and everything done by Queen Hillary just because she would've been the first female President. Think of the nightmare of the job glut and $230 billion surplus left behind by her husband and you'll see what I mean.
     Nyet, you won't hear me saying anything negative about our Russian brothers and sisters, comrades, because they've always been good to our family. You may recall an anecdote I'd told some time early this year about my kid brother Cecil and his business partners in Eastern Europe. Well, to illustrate my broader point, I have another:

     Partly out of, uh, humility, I guess you'd call it, I never related this tale about Cecil's startup enterprise which was the first video sex chat room (www.cecilsprays.com) on the internet. Much of the talent he'd obtained was from Eastern European hostels. They were college-aged boys who thought they were just going on a boring trip through Eastern Europe and the newly-liberated Russia until Cecil's, uh, recruiters, I guess you'd call them, gave them the opportunity of a lifetime.
     I'll gloss over the details because you don't need to hear of the recruitment methods by his Russian friends and the abandoned sex doll factory in what used to be Yugoslavia from which these sex performers would work their erotic magic.
     What I will say is that, largely through the efforts of his Russian business partners (who would later go to work for rich powerful Russians uncharitably named "oligarchs"), Cecil for a short time was rolling in the dough. Back then, $50 would get you a 20 minute private session with some Eastern European Adonis, 80% of which would wind up in CeeCee's bank account.
     It all came crashing down when a Croatian college sophomore had the effrontery and ingratitude to escape from his employer when he got sick and tired of being fed only the best roadkill from Yugoslavia's highways and paid fifty cents for every dollar he generated for the company. He fled, buck naked, during a private session and alerted the law enforcement authorities, who then contacted the FBI.
     Poor Cecil was in mid-ejaculation when the Bureau and ICE came barreling through his SoHo apartment door (You try stopping during that blessed moment) to serve my baby brother with a search warrant. I had mentioned my team of attorneys valiantly tried to keep Cecil from getting sent to Riker's Island (He was strangely enthusiastic about going there once other prisoners told him about the nightly prison shower rapes).
     Well, many of those attorneys came from the former USSR and were allowed to practice law here in the US after taking some brush-up courses at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University and passing the Puerto Rican bar exam. These highly skilled attorneys were extremely adept at getting their clients off by persuading witnesses not to testify in some trivial capital crimes cases. (Some of them even took a permanent vacation.)
     The point I'm making is that the Russians are hard-working, selfless individuals who will do anything to accomplish living the American Dream (albeit on their terms). And what Donald Trump did for the Russians was nothing short of Messianic: He allowed them to live the American Dream by taking part in an honest-to-God American presidential election, without any fanfare and even getting them to subsidize the entire operation.
     And if that isn't a testament to a master deal maker, I don't know what is, folks.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

We All Know

     One of the greatest failings of the American public is in not allowing us to make a major talking point of the national dialogue the painfully simple fact that politicians of all parties are furtive scumbags. That's the long and the short of it. They prefer to operate in the shadows and on the rare occasions when reporters actually try to do their jobs they're called "obstructionists" practicing "ambush" or "gotcha" journalism. Deniability remains plausible even when plausibility's not even an option. Democrats have been known to use these talking points. They're just not as antagonistic toward the press as Republicans, especially in the Age of Tangerine Nightmare.
     But enough pieces are dropping, helpfully deposited by the crime family of dunces known as the Trumps, for us to begin assembling a timeline. No doubt, the Mueller investigation being carried out by well over a dozen lawyers will fill in a great many gaps but the public at large is in possession of enough non-classified material so that we can assemble our own timeline, to connect enough dots inexorably leading all the way back to Moscow.
     Let's go back to, oh, June 9th last year. The news broke on the 9th of this month that Donald Trump, Jr. met with a Russian attorney with links to the Kremlin. The next day, just before the New York Times more widely broke the story open, Junior was stupid enough to release his emails regarding that undisclosed meeting without redacting the names of Jared Kushner and Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.
     The meeting took place at Trump Tower that day. Trump Sr. was also holed up in Trump Tower that same day. And we're supposed to believe Trump Sr never sat in on that meeting or was even listening in.
     Trump Jr was lured in to the meeting when he was told (emphasis mine), “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” When Junior read of this promise of dirt on Clinton, he said, "I love it."
     After 20-30 minutes, Trump Jr realizes the Kremlin-affiliated lawyer is full of shit and doesn't have the dirt on Hillary Clinton that she'd promised.
     Daddy apparently disagreed and before five o'clock that afternoon tweeted about Hillary's "deleted 33,000 emails" for the first time ever in those words.
     Next month, several Trump campaign officials and future Cabinet members such as Jeff Sessions met with Sergey Kislyak and other Russian officials in Cleveland during the Republican National Convention. As with the meeting between Trump Jr, Manafort and Kushner, this was also not disclosed to federal officials, including members of Congress.
     July 26th, Trump openly invites the Russians to hack into Secretary Clinton's email server, which they happily do. By September, the Podesta emails also come spilling out of Wikileaks like sewage through a busted septic pipe.
     Nov. 8th, in defiance of virtually every poll in the land, Trump wins the presidency by prevailing in the Electoral College while falling nearly 3,000,000 votes short of Hillary Clinton's total.
     Three weeks later on December 1 or 2, Trump's son in law Jared Kushner meets with, again, Sergey Kislyak to ask Moscow for a secure back channel connection leading straight to the Kremlin (one that would be invisible to all 17 US intelligence agencies). And again, Kushner refuses to disclose this on his SF86 security clearance application as he's mandated to do by law.
      January this year, Trump demands a loyalty oath from then FBI Director James Comey during a private dinner. Comey refuses it and refuses to confirm or deny when asked if Trump is being investigated for his collusion with the Russians. By May 9th, Comey is fired.
      Junior then lies 13 months after meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya, claiming the meeting was all about Americans adopting Russian children, which I'm sure is guaranteed to tug at the heartstrings of every Republican in the land. Then the emails refuted that. Trump, Jr changes his story at least four or five times.
     Junior then, finally, lawyers up, hiring mob attorney Alan Futerfas.
     Right wing media, starting with Fox, engage in the usual and predictable litany of propaganda and ridiculing snowflake liberals, yada yada.
     Perhaps we can be forgiven for our impatience with the Comey investigation that had been taken over by Robert Mueller when he was appointed Special Counsel. But while they're quietly cobbling together this information and putting their own timeline together, the Trump administration is doing more and more damage to this nation and the world in general.
     Work faster, guys.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Trumps Need to Keep Talking

     Just about the only good thing we can say about the verbal diarrhea of the Trumps is that, like a nugget of gold in a pile of ore, once in a while they'll reward us by shooting themselves in the foot. They do this for two reasons: They think they're above the law and, as with their father, the unholy trio of spawn that's currently running wild on Capitol Hill when they're not jet-setting to China to Trump-brand massage parlors and prostitution services is just plain stupid. At the very least, the four elder Trumps are bereft of the common sense that Mother Nature invested in the common recluse spider.
     Because as it turns out, on June 9th last year, Donald Trump, Jr, Jared Kushner and soon to be anointed Trump campaign chairman Paul "Show me the rubles!" Manafort sat in with a meeting of a Kremlin-affiliated lawyer named Natalia Veselnitskaya. Trump Jr had been contacted by this Russian agent and lured in with the promise of some dirt on Hillary Clinton. Then when he got there, he found out they didn't have shit on her. Nothing worth mentioning, anyway.
     It was the classic Russian Trap. Just as every chess player knows about the variations of the Sicilian traps and are trained to spot them before placing themselves into one, so those versed in geopolitics know enough not to fall into this classic bait and switch game.

     Long after the fact and right after the revelation this meeting had occurred, Junior sarcastically sneered on Twitter that he was "the first person on a campaign to ever take a meeting about an opponent." No, he wasn't. But it was the first documented case of a presidential campaign official (in this case, three) to take such a meeting about an opponent from an agent of a hostile nation.
     It betrays desperation on both sides- The Trumpers were desperate for any dirt on Hillary Clinton as she was rolling to a Democratic nomination and the Russians were nervously sniffing around for the latest on the lifting of the Obama-era sanctions on their country.
     It was bad enough when the news broke last spring of Kushner's undisclosed meeting with Sergey Kislyak and an official of an Obama-sanctioned bank, which Kushner had deliberately omitted from his SF86 form (the form administration officials need to fill out to obtain security clearances). Lying or failing to disclose meetings with foreign officials over the last seven years is a federal felony that should result in arrest and jail time for those breaching that law. Now, with this meeting with Veselnitskaya that Kushner also attended (and also elected to hide on the SF86), the case to arrest him gets stronger.
     And as Olbermann's people at GQ discovered, that very same day that Junior had the meeting with the Kremlin-linked lawyer, Trump started tweeting about Hillary's missing 33,000 emails (followed up by, the month after, an open call for the Russians to hack Camp Clinton (this, coming from the guy who's flat-out refused to release 20 years of tax returns).
     Just another log for Robert Mueller to grimly but efficiently throw on the pile of others. It's a smoldering mess that will eventually erupt and consume this entire corrupt palimpsest of an administration.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Penn-ing in the Democratic Party

(By American Zen’s Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari)
Mark Penn and his cronies represent everything that is wrong with the Democratic Party, or what's left of it. There. It's out. I said it, because somebody had to.
     Because today, money launderer Penn wrote and published in the NY Times today a typically clueless op-ed that one can expect from anyone as well-snuggled in bed with the Clintons as is Penn. In "Back to the Center, Democrats", Penn ineptly pushed the Bernie Bro narrative that never gained any serious traction and essentially blames not only Clinton's humiliating loss to a buffoon last November but blamed the downfall of the entire Democratic Party on... leftists. This is the first paragraph:
The path back to power for the Democratic Party today, as it was in the 1990s, is unquestionably to move to the center and reject the siren calls of the left, whose policies and ideas have weakened the party.
     It's exactly this corporate, out of touch cocktail party elitism that breezily makes factually baseless pronouncements such as this. Liberals and Socialists, which Penn had also called out, are to blame for the Clintons not returning to power (and lugging Penn back in with them) and that only their crypto right wing neoliberal policies can save us. With the Swiss cheese selective memory of which only people like Penn are capable, he then gives us this remarkable piece of historical revisionism:
After years of leftward drift by the Democrats culminated in Republican control of the House under Speaker Newt Gingrich, President Bill Clinton moved the party back to the center in 1995 by supporting a balanced budget, welfare reform, a crime bill that called for providing 100,000 new police officers and a step-by-step approach to broadening health care. Mr. Clinton won a resounding re-election victory in 1996 and Democrats were back.
     It's hard to see where and when this "leftward drift" took place, especially in the early 90's. But it wasn't leftists or Bernie Bros that cost Democrats the House in the Republican Revolution of 1994 (nearly two years into Clinton's first term) but the sheer weight of history: Historically, a new President's party loses control of at least one chamber of Congress in the first two years of his term.
     And the centrist achievements touted by Penn are some of the most ruinous policies ever to come out of that administration, such as "welfare reform", that targeted low income Americans, or the 1994 crime bill that targeted and victimized in vast numbers literally tens of millions of African Americans, especially males (called by Hillary Clinton in 1996 "super-predators").
     And as for "broadening health care", all the Clinton health care bill would've done is what the Obama administration would do 17 years later: Create a giant gateway to the free market that, in the Clinton bill, would've been co-opted by the six largest HMO's in the nation.
     At one point, Penn actually called for Democrats to abandon their fight against transgender bathroom bills signed into law by many right wing governors such as Pat McCrory. Essentially, what Penn is saying is, "Let the Republicans have their petty victories and fight the battles we can win."
     Unfortunately, because of the neoliberal policies publicly and privately expressed by an aging and out of touch Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party isn't winning many battles, lately, and it certainly isn't the fault of Bernie Bros who were rudely pushed, sometimes literally, to the sidelines by hired thugs and party apparatchiks.

I'm Thinking of George Santayana These Days
We refused to learn our lessons from the Clintons in the 90's and we almost doomed ourselves to repeat them, even handing Hillary a Pyrrhic victory in the popular vote totals (so much for the narrative of the Bernie Bros costing her a White House she thought we owed her by fiat).
     There's a reason why the turnout for the last midterm election was only 36.7% and last year's general election was hardly any better because both parties, as usual, fielded candidates who were loathsome, only moreso than usual. It wasn't leftist policies that were given the stiff arm at the Democratic convention committees that had drafted out its neoliberal platform. It wasn't whacked-out, Socialist fringe ideas such as a $15 an hour minimum wage or single-payer, universal health care that drove away tens of millions of white, working class voters.
     Bernie Sanders was absolutely correct last month when he wrote in that same newspaper that we should take some notes from the recent snap election in Great Britain. Theresa May's vanity election that cost UK taxpayers roughly £140,000,000 also cost the Tories a total of 45 seats (32 going to Corbyn's Labor Party) in the 650 member Parliament. While Sanders was also correct in saying that no one reason can be cited for winning or losing an election, one fact is clear: By arrogantly releasing a cruel and out of touch manifesto, conservatives alienated many of their own working class (perhaps inspiring Senate Republicans to carefully guard their own cruelties while crafting their health care bill).
     Penn is flailing about at imaginary gnats and perceived enemies in a manner that would do Kris Kobach proud. The Democratic Party, which is quickly becoming indistinguishable from the legendarily corrupt Tammany Hall Democrats of the 19th century, is losing voters by the millions because of its embrace of, until 30 or so years ago, right wing, corporate-friendly policies.
     Bernie Bros and Socialists didn't turn off working class voters by knee-capping themselves and Bernie Sanders through collusion with party insiders and officials, Super Delegates who were in the tank for Clinton months before the first caucus or incessant canoodling with Wall Street. It wasn't wild-eyed radical leftist anarchists at the top of the DNC echelon that cost the Democrats the White House and all four Republican-held seats that were up for grabs in special elections.
     And it certainly wasn't true progressive voters who kept 1000 state legislature seats and nearly two thirds of all governorships out of the hands of machine Democrats who only promise a slightly less cruel platform and agenda than the Republicans that currently hold them.
     People like Mark Penn and Hillary Clinton and her deluded, quasi right wing voters have only themselves to blame. Trump won largely by appealing to white, middle class working people who were equally deluded enough to vote for him and to swallow his lies that he would not touch their Social Security and Medicare and that building a wall and keeping out the Mexicans would make us great again.
     And the very act of Penn writing this op-ed proves conclusively that the Democratic Party, or what's left of it, never learned their lesson. That is why it is doomed to lose election after election by the hundreds every other year. Because they have turned their backs on their core constituency as well as the liberalism that had served them so well in FDR's, JFK's and LBJ's day.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Independence Day, 1854

     My newest novel, GODS OF OUR FATHERS, concludes with an epilogue on the 4th of July. Narrated by my protagonist Vesey Van Zant, what follows is an edited version of his thoughts on Independence Day. As you may surmise, little has changed since 1854:

What Independence Day means to a body devolves on the color of the skin wrapping it.
      The black bunting on the day of Burns’s ejection from Boston have long since been replaced with the red, white and blue variety in observance of our independence. Keeping my head down and ears open as I often do, I have yet to hear anyone remark on the irony of us celebrating our independence from a tyranny after having had our sovereignty stolen by President Pierce’s in the act of re-enslaving a black man who merely insisted on his dignity and liberty.
      Cornets, trumpets, drums, tubas and all manner of instruments gaily fill the streets with a horrible and hardly self-conscious cacophony in celebration of a day that, to me, seems more hollow and meaningless than usual.
      Little boys set off firecrackers in the streets to the irritation of stodgy adults. Firecrackers make for a harmless reprise of the bomb in the same way the burning of Guy Fawkes effigies is to the Gunpowder Plot.
      Boston is a city of 150,000 souls. And among that number are perhaps millions of trials and tribulations, of which mine, Mama’s and Maizee’s were but drops in a vast ocean of love, tragedy, grief and ecstasy.
      As I am but a policeman of some perspicacity and not a clairvoyant, I know not what will become of this “city on a hill.” It was optimistically dubbed as such in 1630 by our first Governor, John Winthrop, when it was but a quaint fishing village. In the last two centuries, it has expanded to become in all ways one of America’s three great cities. But each time greatness is achieved, it comes at a cost.
      Naturally, I would prefer to believe my city will, in the decades and centuries to come, fulfill the promise of its destiny, to continue advancing toward that blessed day when we will no longer enslave one another or judge others by the hue of their skin. I hope our constabulary will continue to be a force for good and charity as well as an apparatus to enforce the law.
      But as I said, I am a policeman and I would be silly to be so naïve as to think mere wishful thinking alone will keep evil at bay. My colleagues in other cities round up Negros and sell them into slavery as a matter of law enforcement. My brothers in arms in our own department had arrested Anthony Burns. And some are less tolerant of black people than others. We pass down these dubious values and our gods like odious heirlooms and it is up to the strong and independent-minded to break these destructive cycles.
      Because if a city ever needed a merciful God it is Boston, Massachusetts, a fragmented, fractious mess of a metropolis where black and white people, Protestants and Catholics and Democrats and Republicans tear at each other’s flesh. That goes for brother against brother and if anyone can testify to that, it is I."

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Durability of Crime Fiction and Why It's Bigger Than Ever

One out of every three books sold in the UK is a crime novel.
     I just discovered that today and, as a crime novelist myself, that fact both heartened and startled me. And while I'm sure the ratio of crime novels bought by the US reading public is somewhat more modest, it's undeniable that crime/detective fiction is big in virtually in every nation on earth. This is especially true in post Stieg Larsson Scandinavia (particularly Iceland). And as our brothers and sisters across the pond have historically loved to get up to the elbows in a good gory murder, the trend of mystery novels being the biggest-selling genre isn't going to reverse anytime soon.
     But why do humans love mystery novels while other genres, once big (such as westerns), fade away? Purists would say the answer begins in 1868 when Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone was first published in Charles Dickens' magazine. It predates Arthur Conan-Doyle's A Study in Scarlet, the first Sherlock Holmes story, by nearly two decades as the first detective novel. And from that point on, it seems, we just can't get enough of quality mystery fiction.
     It's a popular enough genre so that it comfortably supports much diversity. There are two basic categories in detective fiction: Cozies, which are typically appealing to female authors and readers, and hard-boiled, which is primarily written and read by men. There's the reliable narrator such as Dr. Watson and the unreliable narrator, which has made a huge comeback with UK author Paula Hawkins' The Girl on the Train.
     And there are several conventions governing the genre that cannot be broken or altered for its own sake. In mystery fiction, this has provided a great challenge for its latter-day practitioners because however wide the framework may be at the beginning, time narrows that framework. Yet mystery novelists succeed and even thrive while working within that framework. Among the conventions that endure from the time of Collins and Doyle:
     As with all fiction, the protagonist or detective must have a significant flaw: Sherlock Holmes was addicted to cocaine, for instance, while Agatha Christie's Poirot was saddled with overweening pride and egotism not to mention being obsessive compulsive about trivial things (such as his hard boiled eggs needing to be of identical height).
     The novel must begin with a seemingly simple or straightforward crime that leads to a larger one or a conspiracy. A red herring or several deliberately misleads the reader as a pitcher tries to foil the batter with all sorts of deception. And, of course, there's the craving for a satisfactory denouement we're all conditioned from early childhood on to expect. And what better genre to satisfy that craving than a good mystery novel? As Bob Gunton told Ryan Gosling in Fracture, "(E)very now and then you get to put a fucking stake in a bad guy's heart."
     As with all genres, the protagonist must be risking something, whether it be their life, job, PI license, credibility or what have you. The villain must appear to be invincible in the interests of conflict while not being so. But the bad guy's Achilles Heel just isn't revealed until later while the protagonist's vulnerability must be established from the start.
     Yet despite several immovable conventions, mystery fiction also has to change with the times. For over a century, virtually every fictional detective was a white male created by a white male while women were always portrayed as victims or femme fatales. Now, it seems as if two out of every three bestselling mystery novelists are females featuring female detectives. Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot and Inspector Maigret have made way for Kinsey Milhone, Kay Scarpetta and V.I. Warshawski.
     With the reversal in gender roles comes the jettisoning of several other conventions, such as the reliable narrator, the sidekick who chronicles the exploits of the detective and even the point of view (many today are written in first person). The only significant way in which crime fiction has not kept pace with the times is in how it represents minorities, which is virtually never. An African American crime novelist and I were discussing this on Facebook months ago and she suggested that the reason why more African Americans and other people of color don't write or read the genre is because these very same people feel they're underrepresented. Then again, so were they in romance fiction until Terry McMillian wrote, Waiting to Exhale. So I confidently hope this, too, shall change.
     Mystery fiction appeals to virtually every class of people in the industrialized world for different reasons. As with all genres, it tells time and again the oft-told tale of the human condition and, perhaps more effectively than any other genre, it is that we are gravely flawed as a species. It often calms our anxiety that the bad guys get away with it by showing, no matter the odds, there will always be someone who will care enough to right the often unbalanced scales of justice and put that stake through the bad guy's heart.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

New Book Trailer

 
     This is the new book trailer for my historical thriller, Gods of Our Fathers. My goal this year is to relaunch as many of my backlisted titles as possible and I'd appreciate it if you would pay more attention than you have to them in the past. So far this year, I've unofficially relaunched Tatterdemalion through two interviews focused on it. I'm also working with another Facebook friend who's reworking The Toy Cop, which, after we're finished, I'll pitch to several major indie publishers.
     Again, Gods of Our Fathers can be found on Kindle here and the paperback is here.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Good Cop, Bad Cops


(By American Zen’s Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari)

(Disclaimer: The proprietor of this blog and Mr. Wilson have an ongoing years-long friendship, in which the former has benefited on several occasions by the generosity of the latter. However, that in no way, shape or form has influenced the blog owner’s decision to post an article about his case nor the content of what is written below.)

Introduction
We need police. That’s the long and the short of it.
     Whatever your view of the very real problems our society faces in bad cops who shoot unarmed African Americans or the mentally disabled when sent to the scene of a medical emergency, the simple fact is that those cops take a lot of oxygen from the honest, dedicated law enforcement professionals whose good to society far outweighs the bad we incessantly hear about on the news and social media.
     The need for some law enforcement was understood in the days of the Roman Empire and in AD 6 answered in the form of the vigiles urbani. And 1823 years later, Sit Robert Peel well understood the need for a professional police force and that’s how Scotland Yard was created, with the passage of the Metropolitan Police Act, in 1829.
     So obviously, there will always be the need for “the thin blue line” because where there are laws, there will always be criminals. And latter day human society is always in desperate need of good cops to make up part of that vital buffer between civilians and lawlessness and disorder. But what happens when cops forget whatever high-minded ideals that led them to apply to the Academy when they turn on their own, when pensions and reputations are at stake?
     We all remember what had happened to Serpico. And Serpico was an exception that gradually became more of a norm than an exception. And today, I will write at length about the bizarre case of Antone Raneo Wilson, a good cop who got railroaded by his own. Not only his own, but lazy, collusive, avaricious attorneys (including three who were suspended), a famously corrupt Boston political power structure and virtually every principal involved. It’s a case that is so intensely radioactive that no mainstream media journalist or attorney will touch it with the proverbial 10 foot pole. (Most recently a reporter with the Boston Globe looked into it then, like Homer Simpson or Sean Spicer, slowly melted into the bushes). That was when I was contacted by former Mass State Trooper Antone Wilson.

The Beginning
It began on a miserable, wet rainy day in December of 2000 in Franklin, MA. It wasn’t even a routine traffic stop. Franklin, in Norfolk County in southern Massachusetts, is generally a friendly city, one of just 14 granted a charter to run a city government. It’s the kind of place where, when you hear a car backfire, you assume it’s a car back-firing and Honor Roll high school graduates bound for college make the front page of the local paper.
     However on this day, off duty State Trooper Antone Wilson was driving through Franklin and ran into a detail manned by three officers from the Franklin Police Department. He stopped long enough to ask for directions and one of the young officers, perhaps resenting his posting on a foul day, was immediately surly. The situation quickly escalated and when Trooper Wilson was asked for ID, he produced his State Police creds.
     Rather than de-escalating what was already a needless confrontation, the Franklin Police essentially detained Trooper Wilson as they wouldn’t hand him back his badge and ID for upwards of 20 minutes. At one point, one of the young officers even deliberately nudged Trooper Wilson’s shoulder with his own in order to manufacture an escalation. Trooper Wilson was by this time already 39 years-old and didn’t bite on the bait.
     It ought to be mentioned that despite Franklin’s lowkey reputation and outward gentility, at this exact same time the Franklin Police Department was already under federal investigation from the Chief on down for corruption. Even 16½ years ago, the allegations went back three decades.
     Ironically, even though Trooper Wilson was the one being wronged, it was the Franklin Police Department who’d fired the first salvo in the form of a complaint against Trooper Wilson for assault and verbal abuse. They almost surely did this to cover their own asses as a pre-emptive counter suit to protect itself from what they expected to be Trooper Wilson’s own complaint. However, Trooper Wilson never filed that complaint.

Can We Spell Conflict of Interest, Boys and Girls?

     As if tempting the Fates into bringing about a self-fulfilling prophecy, the Franklin PD had filed a complaint that had brought about an investigation into Trooper Wilson for misconduct, specifically regarding physical assault and verbal abuse. As if that wasn’t enough, the Massachusetts State Police had saddled him with an attorney who was jurisprudence’s answer to a canvasback club fighter on the take.
     Without immediately making full disclosure to his client, this attorney represented not only the MA State Police union but also the Franklin PD’s union. Almost immediately, as if trying to sweep it under the rug, Mr. Wilson’s representation was, in his own words, “increasingly strident” about getting his client to admit to some guilt in the interests of speedy resolution. Attorney/client privilege is intended to protect the client from prying outside parties, not the attorney from his own client.
     Deeply suspicious of his own lawyer’s intentions and motivations, Mr. Wilson then asked him, repeatedly, if he also represented the Franklin PD’s union and his concerns about collusion were dismissed. Eventually, as the investigation gained traction, Trooper Wilson was in the absurd and very unenviable position of watching growing evidence proving his innocence rebuffed by his own attorney. Yes, Antone Wilson’s own attorney was working in concert with investigators to ensure some responsibility for misconduct would be proved or admitted to. Finally, after confronting his lawyer by asking him if he was indeed working for the Franklin PD’s union, he answered in the affirmative, albeit vaguely. As much as honest individuals hate to use the word, Trooper Wilson realized his concerns about a conspiracy were well-founded. Putting a cherry to this revelation was Wilson’s ominous caveat: “(Y)ou’d better not be telling state secrets.”
    Several days before Trooper Wilson’s disciplinary hearing, two senior officers who’d been assigned to the board were replaced. This was particularly suspicious because Wilson had expressed to his original attorney his satisfaction with the two officers that were subsequently removed. This action was unnerving because it implied that Wilson's attorney had shared confidential information with the State Police (remember the quaint notion of attorney/client privilege?). The move, Wilson suspected, was a final attempt to force a negotiated settlement in an attempt to forestall a disciplinary hearing. It was clear that the "prosecution" didn't want a hearing that would compel the sworn testimony of the Franklin PD "witnesses" and generate a permanent, transcribed record. Trooper Wilson was convinced his own attorney was abusing his trust by sharing confidential, privileged information with the same party (the Mass State Police) that was attempting to get nonexistent dirt to stick on him. He was, nevertheless, determined to force the hearing.
     As the rescheduled hearing approached Trooper Wilson's plainly useless attorney had recused himself from the case and the replacement attorney-appointed without Wilson's prior consent- would be presenting the case. "I understood," Wilson later stated, " that there were only two real scenarios: The hearing would be 'on-the level' or it wouldn't" What Wilson didn't understand was that this was the beginning of an ordeal that would endure for over 17 years...
(Part 2)

KindleindaWind, my writing blog.

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