Gnarley on the MBTA

27 Jan
I’ve been riding the MBTA since before most of my friends were born, and it never used to suck so bad. My bus today into Boston took so long, at one point I almost forgot I was traveling and, instead, felt like I was living in an extremely crowded trailer home parked at the Dedham Mall. I could have read a book on that bus, if if been able to raise my arms to hold it.  It was overcrowded because they run infrequently.

Mind you, almost anywhere you look on the MBTA — the stations, the subway interiors, the inside and outside of buses and trains — there are ads. Aren’t these public spaces? Don’t that station and vehicle, really, belong to you? Maybe you don’t want them to look like that. Why are they so underfunded? Your tax money is going somewhere. All this advertising revenue is going somewhere too.

Public transportation should be free. It should be ubiquitous. It should be awesome.  Instead, the MBTA is a source of misery for its riders.  When my ride finally got to Forest Hills, I asked that bus full of people “Are we actually at the station? I feel like I’ve been on this bus for ten years. Anyone else?” Dirty looks were the only response offered by my fellow passengers.

 

 

Os Gemeos mural in Dewey Square to be replaced by $17,000 seascape

3 Aug
How do you feel about $17,000 in public resources being used for this?

How do you feel about $17,000 in public resources being used for this? (Photo by Jennifer Taylor for Boston Globe)

A brightly-colored mural by Os Gemeos (Brazilian twins Otavio and Gustavo Pandolfo) has looked down on Dewey Square since it’s instillation in July 2012.  Since the site attracted little attention before Occupy Boston set up camp in 2011, some associated the masked figure with a participant in the Occupy Wall Street movement.  More neutral parties simply described him as a kid in mismatched pajamas.  Either way, it’s soon to be painted over.

The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston has commissioned Matthew Ritchie to install a 5000′ square abstract seascape to take it’s place, the Boston Globe reports.  It’s scheduled for installation the week of September 16 and is expected to be replaced about a year and a half later, the same schedule as was set for its predecessor.

The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, an organization that has come under fire for financial matters, is funding the $17,000 installation. According to Geoff Edgers:

The collaboration, to be announced Monday at a Boston Arts Commission meeting, is part of a residency for Ritchie that will include a multimedia performance with members of the rock bands The Breeders and The National, concerts at the museum and elsewhere, and a video project to be produced with the ICA’s teen program. But the biggest splash for the public will come on the exterior of the Big Dig ventilation building in Dewey Square.

Edgers also notes that Os Gemeos mural now in place “made national news when the local Fox television affiliate posted an image of it to a Facebook page, inspiring comments accusing the brothers of creating an image that resembled a terrorist because of the way the face was partially shrouded in clothing.”

I love public art, but this $17,000 price tag makes me squeamish.  How do you feel about it?  Please comment below.

Tsarnaev photo leak embarrassment to Mass State Troopers

23 Jul
DzhokharTsarnaev

Sean Murphy released this image because he thought the magazine cover glamorized Tsarnaev. With the sculpted abs, nipple peek, and pose from the martyrdom of St. Sebastian, this photo does just as much.

The matter of the “Rolling Stone” with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover won’t go away. Just when things should have been cooling off, Sgt. Sean Murphy, a Massachusetts State Trooper and tactical photographer whose job it was to take photos of the stand-off with the younger Tsarnaev, acted without authorization and sent “Boston Magazine” his photos of the bloody Tsarnaev coming out of the boat.

Why?  Because Murphy decided his opinions on the divided issue of the magazine cover took precedence over his job description, the regulations of the law enforcement agency he belongs to, the trust that the public has placed in him, and the presumption that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Even if you hated that magazine cover, you should have a problem with the way Murphy acted.

Fill in the Blank

Murphy (who runs the site trooperphotography.com) got an immediate one day suspension. Rather than tactfully faking some remorse over this blatant breach of professional conduct, he’s puffing himself up as a hero. The Huffington Post quotes him saying:

As a professional law-enforcement officer of 25 years, I believe that the image that was portrayed by Rolling Stone magazine was an insult to any person who has every worn a uniform of any color or any police organization or military branch, and the family members who have ever lost a loved one serving in the line of duty.

Aside from the maudlin rhetoric and the fact that people accused or convicted of killing police are on the covers of newspapers and magazines all the time, it doesn’t matter if Murphy is right or wrong. It doesn’t matter if a magazine is an insult to “fill in the blank.” Everyone is insulted by something. It was Murphy’s job to keep those pictures in house, not send them to the press.  Releasing them wasn’t heroic.  It was a lousy thing to do.

US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz apparently agrees and told the “Boston Globe” through a spokesperson that Murphy’s release of these photos “was completely unacceptable.” Ortiz seems like a terrible person, and her overreach in the case of Aaron Swartz might have driven a good young man to his death.  I’d like to see her follow up on this with the same ruthless tenacity.

But that’s unlikely as, according to Ortiz’s office, they “have spoken with the Massachusetts State Police, who have assured us that the release of the photos was unauthorized and that they are taking action internally in response.” Murphy’s hearing began today in Framingham behind closed doors. In the wake of this first session, a Massachusetts State Police spokesperson said:

State Police will conduct an internal investigation into Sgt. Murphy’s release of departmental photographs to a media outlet last week. The investigation, which is expected to take several weeks to complete at the minimum, will determine whether Sgt. Murphy violated State Police rules, regulations, policies or procedures. State Police took from Sgt. Murphy his use-of-force equipment, badge, and identification, and he will be assigned to administrative duties while on restricted duty. Additionally, he is being transferred from the Office of Media Relations to the Division of Field Services.”

The family of Sean Collier, the MIT police officer allegedly killed by the Tsarnaevs, supports Murphy’s actions.  If Desmond Tutu and Oprah supported Murphy too, it wouldn’t change the basics.  The release of the photos was a violation of the public trust. Society gave Sean Murphy not just a camera but a gun, and a badge, and tons of authority. In return, he gave us as an oath, literally, that he would follow the rules.

Of course, following orders can be a really bad thing. Nazi Germany showed us that. People who break the rules can be heroes. Aaron Swartz and Bradley Manning showed us that. But Murphy didn’t break the rules to save lives or call attention to hidden injustice. He did it because he felt insulted by a magazine cover. Nevertheless, in true #BostonDumb fashion, Murphy has received an outpouring of support. He will probably profit from his misconduct in numerous ways.

Can you trust law enforcement? 

This isn’t about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. It’s about you.  Can you trust law enforcement?  If you are assaulted, can you trust that cops won’t release evidence photos of your bloody face or naked body? If someone you love is arrested, do you want their case handled professionally or should the cops, lawyers and judges create their own rules as they go along?  When a police car is in front of your house, do you want to be terrified?

The release of photos is a relatively minor thing in this country where people are brutalized and killed by the police every day. But it’s still a thing. Health care professionals obey the dictates of HIPAA. Priests mustn’t violate the sanctity of confession. If police and troopers really want to be seen as “law enforcement professionals” rather than uniformed thugs, much needs to be changed.

This drama created by Sean Murphy hasn’t helped anybody except, possibly, himself.  As for the negative effects, he hasn’t hurt Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, or the editors of the “Rolling Stone,” or people that disagreed with him.  All that Murphy has injured is the reputation of the law enforcement community and the trust that good people place in it. 

Zimmerman verdict sends harsh message to youth, Harvard sends harsh message to its workers

22 Jul

 

Rebecca Jackson  of Trinity Boston Foundation

Rebecca Jackson of Trinity Boston Foundation

On “Banned in Boston” last week we welcomed Rebecca Jackson to talk about the Zimmerman verdict’s frightening implications for young men of color. In the second half of the program, Geoff Carens and Le Le Lechat joined us to discuss the ongoing struggle against shady labor practices at Harvard University.

Rebecca Jackson on the Zimmerman verdict

Rebecca Jackson is a social worker with Trinity Boston Foundation  and is involved with B-SAFE, a program in Boston designed to keep young people learning, growing, and out of harm’s way during the summer months. The program helps kids of different ages, but Rebecca’s role within it brings her in particular contact with young men of color who have been trouble with the law and, because of that, might be regarded with less sympathy from the general public than Travyon Martin has received. Speaking on this point, she said:

I felt like how can I go to work on Monday…and try to work with these young men, and tell them that their lives are valuable, and that they have meaning, and that they mean something not just to me but, sort of, to the greater society when a man has been let free for killing one of them? And my boys are in some ways much more actually threatening than Trayvon Martin was…He did not have any of those risk factors. So how much more painful is it? How much more of a clear message is it, that’s being sent, that they really don’t matter?

Geoff Carens and Le Le Lechat on unfair labor practices at Harvard

In the second half of the show, we talked to union organizers Geoff Carens and Genevieve alias Le Le Lechat as they described unfair firing and other shady labor practices taking place at Harvard University. There’s a shocking contrast between Harvard’s altruistic facade and the grim reality of how workers there are sometimes treated. The day after the interview, Geoff and Genevieve braved a heatwave to protest on behalf of mailroom coordinator Nassim Kerkache and other Harvard employees. For more details, see the articles posted by “The Harvard Crimson” and the Boston IWW.

Rebecca, Geoff and Genevieve were great guests with important things to say. The entire July 18, 2013 episode is available for streaming or downloading. Click here.

“Banned in Boston,” a weekly radio show that delivers radicalism with a local accent, is broadcast live every Thursday night, 8 pm on UNregular Radio and as repeats on Metacomet Radio. John Stephen Dwyer, author of this blog, is one of the hosts.

Barack Obama could have been Abdulrahman al-Awlaki

20 Jul
This image comparing the response Trayvon Martin's death with response to Abdulrahman al-Awlaki's death has gotten a lot of circulation through social media.

This image comparing the response to Trayvon Martin’s death with the response to Abdulrahman al-Awlaki’s death has gotten a lot of circulation through social media.

In a moving speech this week, Obama said “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”  If he extended this empathy to teenagers like Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, a 16-year old US citizen killed by a drone strike, this world would be a better place. 

Obama making statements that are ironic in context is an established theme of his second term. Last December, speaking about the massacre at Sandy Hook, Barack Obama wiped a tear as photographers snapped away and peace activists asked “what about the hundreds of innocent children massacred by your foreign policy?”

In Northern Ireland for the G8 summit last month, Obama told a group of children “to those who choose the path of peace, I promise you the United States of America will support you every step of the way.”  In Dublin soon after, parliament member Clare Daly asked “Is this person going for the hypocrite of the century award?” and pointed out “that by any serious examination, this man is a war criminal.”

Now it’s this matter of Trayvon Martin. Friday, Obama made an unscheduled appearance at a White House briefing.  He seemed to enjoy having surprised reporters, then launched into somber reflections on last weekend’s verdict which declared George Zimmerman not guilty of murder, or even of manslaughter, in the death of 17-year old Trayvon.  As usual, the president’s speech hit all the right notes.

Obama started with a few words about Trayvon’s family and remarked on “the incredible grace and dignity with which they’ve dealt with the entire situation. I can only imagine what they’re going through…it’s remarkable how they’ve handled it.”  That’s certainly true, and it’s good to hear it said. The way Trayvon’s family has handled this is inspiring.

Then Obama talked about the “professional manner” in which the trial was conducted.  He said “reasonable doubt was relevant, and they rendered a verdict. And once the jury’s spoken, that’s how our system works.”  Okay, it’s the president’s job to tell us the system works.  We should forgive him for that if he wasn’t doing so much to actually make the system worse.  But here’s the words that made the most headlines:

You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. And when you think about why, in the African- American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.

Obama then explained some stuff that a lot of white people don’t want to hear.  He said there are “very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me.”  He gave more examples and said, “I don’t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida. And it’s inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear.”

He said a lot more, and it’s poignant. You can read the transcript.  But that’s what makes Obama so dangerous. He’s an amazing speaker, even his opponents admit to that.  What he said about Sandy Hook was moving.  His speech to the children of Northern Ireland was expertly crafted.  Every time he opens his mouth, it’s awesome and inspirational if you ignore the reality of what Barack Obama’s administration actually does.  For example, murdering Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki.

Abdulrahman was a 16-year old American citizen born in Denver, Colorado.  He was killed by a US drone strike in Yemen on October 14, 2011 along with his 17-year old cousin and eight other people said to be on their way to a barbecue.  His father, an “alleged terrorist” had been killed two weeks prior.  Some people wondered why the US is dropping bombs on a country it isn’t at war with.  Robert Gibbs, former White House press secretary, defended the teenager’s murder and said he should have had “a more responsible father.”

Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki had a brown complexion, just like Obama’s hypothetical son.  And like that 16-yeat old killed by a drone, Obama was born in the United States (well, we think) but he moved to a Muslim majority country while still a minor.  One might hope that parallel would engender as much empathy for Abdulrahman as Obama seems to have for Trayvon.  Some say Obama cries crocodile tears.  No one can see inside his heart, but there are good arguments for that.

The fact is, through the policies of his administration, Barack Obama has murdered thousands of innocent people.  Hundreds of children are among that number.  A study released last year by Stanford Law School and New York University’s School of Law looked at drone strikes in Pakistan and said “from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562 – 3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474 – 881 were civilians, including 176 children.”

That’s 176 human children who are dead because Barack Obama plays the role expected of him by the financial-military complex that paid for both his campaigns.  That’s just the number on the books, in one country, in one period of time, killed by drones.  It doesn’t enumerate this administration’s death toll in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia or anywhere.  It doesn’t look at the people shot in the head with bullets or even killed by bombs dropped by planes that have pilots.

George Zimmerman killed one boy and he’s one of the most hated men in the America.  So is Dzohar Tsarnaev, suspected of killing three people and injuring many more in a terrorist attack at the 2013  Boston Marathon.  But what do people hate Obama for?  Conservatives hate him for his healthcare plan, their worry about increased gun laws and, in too many cases, the color of his skin.  But every week there’s evidence that Democrats still love Barack Obama.

Let’s hope the era of liberal Obamadolotry is ending.  Some realized our president is a villain when Bradley Manning went to jail or when Edward Snowden joined him.  Some got the message as cops beat unarmed protestors affiliated with the Occupy movement and Obama said nothing.  Some saw the truth when they lost their jobs and homes to banksters awarded billions by Obama’s bailouts.  And for certain people in the military who once supported Obama, participating in the carnage of US government sponsored terrorism has changed their minds.

Barack Obama is a confidence man.  He’s just like a handsome cad who bilks an old widow out of her fortune.  He knows the words and gestures to make people feel good, and hopeful, and alive again.  But well-chosen words doesn’t erase a death toll.  Sympathy for Trayvon Martin doesn’t bring  Abdulrahman al-Awlaki or anyone else back to life.  Here’s a video from Abdulrahman’s grandfather: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQlbnulmnEw

Hey Jimmy Carter, let’s do some anarchist shit together

19 Jul
Jimmy Carter speaks at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in 2011 photo by John Stephen Dwyer.

Jimmy Carter speaks at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. 2011 photo by John Stephen Dwyer.

The United States is an evil empire and presidents are bad people that do really terrible things.  Mass murdering war criminals Bush and Obama should be sharing a jail cell. We might throw Bill Clinton and Reagan’s corpse in there too.  But I got to be honest.  I like Jimmy Carter.

No, 88-year old Carter isn’t a radical. Don’t expect to see him chilling at the Lucy Parsons Center or talking theory at the Center for Marxist Education.  But it’s obvious this dude is ten miles left of the the average politicized Democrat on Facebook with their war apologetics and Obamadolotry.

“America has no functioning democracy at this moment.” Jimmy Carter said that three days ago, according to Der Spiegel, and it’s certainly spot on.  And a while back, he told CNN that Edward Snowden’s NSA leak “has probably been, in the long term, beneficial” to the United States.

And check this.  Last summer, Carter wrote an article called “A Cruel and Unusual Record” that was published in the New York Times.  Other media outlets remarked about it, and people shared the links, then it was forgotten.  But it says a lot.  Here’s how it starts:

The United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights.  Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended. This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public.

Carter goes on to criticize “the president’s right to detain a person indefinitely…a broad, vague power that can be abused without meaningful oversight from the courts or Congress.”  He describes how recent laws “allow unprecedented violations of our rights to privacy through warrantless wiretapping and government mining of our electronic communications.”  And here’s Carter’s take on Obama’s foreign policy:

Despite an arbitrary rule that any man killed by drones is declared an enemy terrorist, the death of nearby innocent women and children is accepted as inevitable. After more than 30 airstrikes on civilian homes this year in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has demanded that such attacks end, but the practice continues in areas of Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen that are not in any war zone. We don’t know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in these attacks, each one approved by the highest authorities in Washington. This would have been unthinkable in previous times.

He’s said that unchecked campaign contributions are “legal bribery.”  He’s called for the close of Guantánamo Bay and says US policy is violating the “basic rules of law and principles of justice enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”  Even looking at it strategically, he says “instead of making the world safer, America’s violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friends.” 

Good.  Jimmy Carter knows what’s up.  Maybe he’s our Great White Hero.  Maybe he has some plan to give power to the people and take it away from the plutarchs and sociopaths in Washington and Wall Street.  So what should we do, Jimmy Carter?

As concerned citizens, we must persuade Washington to mentions course and regain moral leadership according to international human rights norms that we had officially adopted as our own and cherished throughout the years. 

Persuade?  How, by sending perfumed valentines to our senators?  Damn it, Jimmy Carter.  I guess you got a lot of criticisms and zero plan to change anything.  But we can still chill together.  I got zero plan too.  And maybe we can work on your delusions that this country was ever moral.

Can a card-carrying socialist get elected to Boston City Council?

18 Jul
Terra Friedrichs and Seamus Whelan in the studio on July 11, 2013.

Terra Friedrichs and Seamus Whelan in the studio on July 11, 2013.

Seamus Whelan, our first guest on “Banned in Boston” last week, is running for a seat on Boston City Council.  He’s also a member of Socialist Alternative who often mentions the Occupy movement and its ideals.  Seamus, a native of Ireland, had some good things to say and his accent was a nice change from what we usually hear in the studio.

Terra Friedrichs, our second guest, was every bit as interesting.  She wants to amend the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts so that it clearly states corporations are not people and money should not equal political power.  What’s better, she’s identified a specific process that can force such a proposal to come before legislature.  It’s an exciting idea.

To listen, click here.

“Banned in Boston,” a weekly radio show that delivers radicalism with a local accent, is broadcast live every Thursday night, 8 pm on UNregular Radio and as repeats on Metacomet Radio.  John Stephen Dwyer, author of this blog, is one of the hosts.

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