Was Autism a Nazi Invention?

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Hans Asperger, left, working with a boy in the Curative Education Clinic in Vienna.CreditPictorial Press

ASPERGER’S CHILDREN
The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna
By Edith Sheffer
Illustrated. 320 pp. W.W. Norton & Company. $27.95.

In February 1981, a British psychiatrist named Lorna Wing published an academic paper highlighting a 1944 clinical account of “autistic psychopathy” by a recently deceased Austrian physician named Hans Asperger. It wasn’t an obvious piece of work to single out: As Wing acknowledged, Asperger’s study had received almost no attention from English-language researchers in the decades since publication.

That was about to change. Wing argued that the disorder that Asperger had described was a unique syndrome, distinct from autism, and should be considered as one of “a wider group of conditions which have, in common, impairment of development of social interaction, communication and imagination.” Wing, whose daughter had been diagnosed with autism in the 1950s, understood from her own experience that this was a disorder with multiple gradations, which affected people across the full spectrum of intellectual abilities. But this was a radical notion: At the time, one of the dominant paradigms for understanding autism was that the condition was caused by “refrigerator mothers” — emotionally frigid women who were not warm enough to nurture developing children.

It’s impossible to know why Wing chose to ground her report in Asperger’s rather flimsy research — his paper, after all, had referenced just four patients — rather than relying solely on her own, significantly more impressive work. (It is worth pointing out that then, as now, virtually all eponymous psychiatric conditions were named after men.) Whatever her motivation, Wing’s efforts were successful: “Asperger’s syndrome,” the term she proposed, soon entered the clinical vernacular. By the 1990s, it was recognized around the world as an accepted diagnosis — and autism was no longer viewed as a singular condition.

Wing, who died in 2014, spent the rest of her life as one of the world’s leading autism researchers and advocates. Asperger, on the other hand, after 1945 and until his death 35 years later, didn’t do any significant research on the condition that would bear his name. But it was Asperger, and not Wing, who came to be seen as the patron saint of the neurodiversity movement.

That could be about to change. In April, an Austrian historian named Herwig Czech published evidence of Asperger’s long-rumored collaboration with Third Reich murderers during World War II. Specifically, Czech uncovered proof that in 1942, Asperger was one of the members of a commission that screened and classified more than 200 Viennese children with mental disabilities. Thirty-five of the children in that pool were labeled “uneducable” and “unemployable”; as a result, they were sent to the notorious Am Spiegelgrund clinic, where they were ultimately slaughtered.

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The historian Edith Sheffer’s new book, “Asperger’s Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna,” builds and elaborates on these new revelations. (While Czech had not yet published his findings when Sheffer’s book went to press, he did give her access to his research.) But Sheffer has larger goals than highlighting Asperger’s complicity in wartime atrocities; she also wants to upend notions of autism as a legitimate diagnostic category by locating its source in Nazi notions of mental health and sickness.

Sheffer starts her narrative in the early 1940s, with Asperger examining one of the children he would highlight in his 1944 paper, before pulling back to describe the milieu in which Asperger operated. She is at her best when she unpacks how the Third Reich created what she calls a “diagnosis regime” by labeling anyone who disagreed in any way with Nazi aims, achievements, or ideology as being fundamentally ill. This was done primarily through the use of two catchall terms: Volk, which referred to the importance of the German national character and its people, and Gemüt, a word the Nazis used to indicate a person’s “fundamental capacity to form deep bonds with other people.” Viewing the world through these lenses led to the medicalization of any and all dissent: Anything less than full-throated chauvinism meant a person was deficient in Gemüt, which, in turn, was potentially damaging to the Volk. The most primal end to this line of thinking was that threats to the Volk had to be exterminated.

Sheffer’s account of the “program of systematic child killing” that grew out of this mind-set is chilling. Starting in the summer of 1939, a Nazi decree mandated that all physicians, nurses, and midwives report any child under 3 with mental or physical disabilities. Sheffer goes on to explain: “The children would enter one of the Reich’s 37 ‘special children’s wards’ for observation and, regularly, medical murder.” Her descriptions of children’s pleading letters home or parents’ confusion as to their children’s sudden deaths are devastating in their routine matter-of-factness.

Sheffer’s pivot from describing deadly Nazi conceptions of community to Asperger’s complicity with the Reich’s killing machine is less effective. Because Asperger did not have a direct hand in any of the more than 700 children who were murdered in the regime’s child euthanasia program, she is left relying on conditionals and suppositions: An educational society Asperger helped found “may have disseminated the child euthanasia directive behind the scenes”; surviving documents “suggest” Asperger “had a hand” in transferring dozens of children to a killing pavilion. On one page, Sheffer states that a transfer to Am Spiegelgrund was a “lethal prescription”; on another, she writes that seven out of nine children the “staff” on “Asperger’s ward” transferred there did not die, although “it is possible that Asperger’s clinic still marked some of them for death.”

None of this is to say that Asperger’s actions during the war were blameless — or even that he was not guilty of crimes against humanity. But a more nuanced approach would have further examined the other, conflicting evidence that Asperger was able to save the lives of some disabled children who had been marked for death. It is this evidence, after all, that was pointed to when Asperger was hailed as a hero.

Even more disconcerting than Sheffer’s approach to Asperger’s wartime actions is her attempt to ground the notion of autism in Asperger’s World War II-era work. Because Asperger relied heavily on notions of Gemüt in his treatise on autistic psychopathy, Sheffer argues that he defined the condition “in terms of Reich rhetoric and values.” Fair enough — but she goes on to claim that today, almost three-quarters of a century later, “his final 1944 description has had a lasting impact. His words live on, shaping the lives and the self-images of millions of individuals.”

Even the most cursory comparison of Asperger’s work, which is peppered with descriptions of “sadistic traits” and children who “delight in malice,” with Wing’s groundbreaking paper reveals that it is her research that has helped shape our modern-day understanding of the autism spectrum. (Asperger’s paper wasn’t even translated into English until 10 years after Wing’s 1981 report — and it was done then only at her behest.) What’s more, “Asperger’s syndrome” is no longer even a recognized diagnosis in the United States: In 2013, it was one of three conditions that were folded into a more expansive diagnosis of “autism spectrum disorder.”

Sheffer is a careful and nuanced researcher, which made her clumsy effort to “destabilize” our notions of autism feel all the more out of place. Then, on the very last page of the book, at the bottom of her acknowledgments, she tells readers that her now-teenage son, to whom the book is dedicated, was diagnosed with autism when he was an infant. “Autism is not real,” she quotes him saying. “It is not a disability or a diagnosis, it is a stereotype for certain individuals…. It made me feel humiliated, and I wanted to put an end to the label of autism.” I was glad to hear his voice: Too often people diagnosed with autism are excluded from discussions about the condition. But I wish Sheffer had trusted her readers enough to let us know about her personal connection to this story at the outset of her book instead of inserting it as a concluding aside, where it became an unsettling coda to her ardent effort to undermine our notions of autism and its origins.

By Seth Mnookin/NYTimes

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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Fraudulence in Flint: How Suspect Science Helped Declare the Water Crisis Over

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Downtown Flint, Mich. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Nakiya Wakes sat across from me in a Flint, Mich., coffee shop on one of those cloudy, dreary days symbolic of the reeling Rust Belt city.
It was March 2017, nearly two years after Wakes had the first miscarriage. After losing her first baby, she learned there was still a heartbeat—she was actually pregnant with twins, and she hadn’t yet lost her other baby. But her spirits were crushed when she miscarried again, losing the second baby.
This wasn’t the last of the devastating news for Wakes. In September 2017, she learned she was again pregnant with twins. She was hopeful but cautious, feeling deep within her gut that the lead-ravaged water she’d consumed for over a year had made it difficult to carry a baby to full term. Unfortunately, her trepidation was well-founded. She went on to miscarry this set of twins. In total, Wakes lost four babies in two years.
“I was drinking, bathing, everything since I moved to Flint in 2013. I was drinking this contaminated water,” Wakes told me.

It was far too easy for doctors to dismiss her multiple miscarriages as a result of her age: She was 42 when she miscarried for the second time. But research indicates that the lead crisis in Flint may have played a role. The crisis unfolded in 2014 when the city changed its water source from Detroit’s system to the Flint River. Because corrosion control was not added to the water supply, lead leached from the pipes into Flint’s water, causing a variety of health problems for residents.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lead poisoning increases the chances for a miscarriage.

And in September 2017, health economists at West Virginia University and Kansas University released a working paper, finding a “horrifyingly large” increase in fetal deaths and miscarriages in Flint—stating that between “198 and 276 more children would have been born had Flint not enacted the switch in water.”

While mourning her lost babies, Wakes also was seeing dramatic behavioral and health changes in her two living children, then ages 18 and 8. For example, her 8-year-old received one school suspension before the water switch, but over 50 after it. Stories like this are abundant in Flint.

Melissa Mays, a leading Flint resident, activist and mother of three, has been faced with trauma in her own family. Two of her boys, Christian, 15, and Cole, 13, have had ongoing physical therapy because their growth plates hardened prematurely due to lead and other heavy metals. Her 19-year-old, Caleb, has irregular thyroid levels, blood pressure and pancreatic function, all attributable to high lead levels.

“My 14-year-old just hit 6 feet and he can’t walk. He’s hunched over, and he had to drop out of sports,” she told me last year.

I spoke with Wakes, Mays and many other residents and experts as part of a six-month investigation into the Flint water crisis. What I found was alarming.

More from Jordan Chariton/truthdig

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Black Caucus Sells Out Its Constituents Again – to the Cops

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This bill will be received as yet another attack on these communities and threatens to exacerbate what is already a discriminatory system of mass incarceration in this country.”

The bigger the Congressional Black Caucus gets, the more it betrays its constituents. Last Wednesday, three out of every four members of the Black Caucus in the U.S. House voted to make assaults on police officers a federal hate crime. The Protect and Serve Act of 2018 is totally superfluous, since cops are already the most protected “class” in the nation. Nearly a million sworn officers inhabit a legal dominion of their own, where immunity from prosecution for even the most heinous crimes is the norm. As People for the American Way point out : “All fifty states have laws that enhance penalties for people who commit offenses against law enforcement officers, including for homicide and assault,” and federal laws already “impose a life sentence or death penalty on persons convicted of first-degree murder of federal employees or officers, killing state and local law enforcement officers or other employees assisting with federal investigations, and killing officers of the U.S. courts.” However, like the Israel lobby, the cop lobby demands abject, groveling obeisance from the people’s representatives — lest there be any doubt as to who rules in either of the world’s white settler states.

Nearly a million sworn officers inhabit a legal dominion of their own, where immunity from prosecution for even the most heinous crimes is the norm.”

The Protect and Serve Act, which sailed through the U.S. House on a vote of 382 to 35 , is a “Blue Lives Matter” bill that serves no other purpose than to give a giant middle finger to the Black Lives Matter movement. When the cops demanded to know, Which side are you on? three-quarters of the Congressional Black Caucus kissed the feet of the Blue Beast: “Your side, Boss!”

The Ugly

Twenty-nine CBC members paid homage to the world’s largest police state.

Alma Adams (NC); Joyce Beatty (OH); Sanford Bishop (GA); Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE); G.K. Butterfield (NC); Andre Carson (IN); Emanuel Cleaver (MO); James Clyburn (SC); Elijah Cummings (MD); Danny Davis (IL); Val Butler Demings (FL); Keith Ellison (MN); Dwight Evans (PA); Marcia Fudge (OH); Al Green (TX); Sheila Jackson Lee (TX); Hakeem Jeffries (NY); Hank Johnson (GA); Robin Kelly (IL); Brenda Lawrence (FL); Al Lawson (FL); John Lewis (GA); Donald McEachin (VA); Gregory Meeks (NY); Bobby Rush (IL); David Scott (GA); Terri Sewell (AL); Bennie Thompson (MS); Marc Veasey (TX)

The Worthless

Three Black Caucus members did not bother to vote, which was the same as casting a “Yea” for the Act.

Anthony Brown (MD); Cedric Richmond (LA); Frederica Wilson (FL)

The Few That Did Not “Comply”

Below are the 11 members that stood up the police lobby, voting “Nay.”

Karen Bass (CA); Yvette Clarke (NY); Wm. Lacy Clay (MO); Alcee Hastings (FL); Johnson, E. B.(TX); Barbara Lee (CA); Gwen Moore (WI); Donald Payne (NJ); Bobby Scott (VA); Maxine Waters (CA); Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ)

A Slap in the Face

Donald Trump and three-quarters* of the Black Caucus are on the same side, despite all the Democratic rhetoric seeking to distinguish between the two parties. When it comes to the Mass Black Incarceration State, Black Democrats are First Responders, ever ready to buttress the power, prestige and immunities of the cops and jailers.

As People for the American Way, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the ACLU and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights put it : “Rather than focusing on policies that address issues of police excessive force, biased policing, and other police practices that have failed these communities, the Protect and Serve Act’s aim is to further criminalize. This bill will be received as yet another attack on these communities and threatens to exacerbate what is already a discriminatory system of mass incarceration in this country.”

Worse than Misleaders, the CBC is the Enemy

The advent of the Black Lives Matter movement has wrought virtually no change at all in the political behavior of the Congressional Black Caucus; collectively, they are just as treacherous as in the pre-Ferguson days. Back in June of 2014, two months before Mike Brown’s murder sparked a national movement, four-fifths of the Black Caucus voted down an amendment to halt the Pentagon’s infamous 1033 program that has funneled billions of dollars in military weapons and gear to local police departments. Twenty-seven members voted to continue the militarization of local police forces, five abstained from voting, which amounted to an endorsement of the status quo, and only eight members – one out of five — supported the Grayson Amendment. We at BAR called the Black Caucus super-majority “The Treasonous 32.” Below is the breakdown of the vote from that day of shame:

The Ugly

Karen Bass (CA); Joyce Beatty (OH); Sanford Bishop (GA); Corrine Brown (FL); G.K. Butterfield (NC); Andre Carson (IN); Yvette Clarke (NY); Wm Lacy Clay (MO); Emanuel Cleaver (MO); James Clyburn (SC); Elijah Cummings (MD); Danny Davis (IL); Chaka Fattah (PA); Al Green (TX); Alcee Hastings (FL); Steven Horsford (NV); Sheila Jackson Lee (TX); Hakeem Jeffries (NY); E. B. Johnson (TX); Robin Kelly (IL); Gregory Meeks (NY); Gwen Moore (WI); Donald Payne (NJ); David Scott (GA); Terri Sewell (AL); Marc Veasey (TX); Frederica Wilson (FL)

The Worthless

The abstainers of 2014, as four years later, effectively endorsed the status quo: militarization of the police.

Marcia Fudge (OH); Charles Rangel (NY); Cedric Richmond (LA); Bobby Rush (IL); Bennie Thompson (MS)

The Few for Demilitarization

John Conyers (MI); Donna Edwards (MD); Keith Ellison (MN); Hank Johnson (GA); Barbara Lee (CA); John Lewis (GA); Bobby Scott (VA); Maxine Waters (CA)

Are Black People Represented in the Congress?

When 80 percent of Black Democrats in the U.S. House vote for continued militarization of local police forces, and then four years later 75 percent of these same Black Democrats give “protected class” status to cops, then we must conclude that the intervening period of “Black Lives Matter” agitation had no effect on Black Democratic Party politics — and further, that the Caucus is wholly and brazenly unaccountable to its constituents.

As Malcolm X said: “You’ve been hoodwinked, bamboozled, led astray, run amok.”

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

* Of the Congressional Black Caucus’ 48 members , two are U.S. Senators (Cory Booker and Kamala Harris), and two are delegates from Washington DC and the U.S. Virgin Islands, who cannot vote on the House floor. BAR does not count Mia Love, the Black Republican CBC member from Utah, in its tabulations on Black Caucus behavior. (She voted “Yea” on the Protect and Serve Act.) That leaves 43 Black Democrats with full voting privileges in the U.S. House.

By Glenn Ford/BAR

Posted by The NON-Conformist

An Alarming Tip About a Neo-Nazi Marine, Then An Uncertain Response

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It was Oct. 29, 2017, when Ed Beck decided he had to contact the military police.

For weeks, Beck had been tracking the online life of a 21-year-old lance corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps. He said he had concluded the young man, a North Carolina native named Vasillios Pistolis, was deeply involved in neo-Nazi and white supremacist activities.

Beck said he had compiled an exhaustive dossier on the young Marine, tracing the evolution of Pistolis’ racist worldview over recent years and linking him to violent altercations at the bloody white power rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last August. The most recent piece of evidence, Beck said, was a fresh video that appeared to show Pistolis standing alongside a leader of the Traditionalist Worker Party, a fascist group, during a confrontation with an interracial couple at a restaurant in a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee.

Beck was well positioned both to be offended by Pistolis’ alleged conduct and to report it: Beck had served in the Marines from 2002 through 2006, including a tour in Iraq. In fact, he’d been assigned to the 2nd Marine Logistics Unit, the same unit in which Pistolis was serving.

Beck said he contacted the authorities at the unit’s headquarters, Camp Lejeune, a large Marine Installation on the North Carolina coast, and spoke briefly with an investigator for the post’s military police.

“I told them what I had seen him do, the evidence I had,” recalled Beck.

Beck said he offered to share his dossier with Marine detectives, but they didn’t take him up on the offer.

After the phone conversation, he said, “I never heard a thing.”

Beck’s phone bill, which he provided to ProPublica and FRONTLINE, shows that he spoke multiple times with personnel at Camp Lejeune on Oct. 29. The records indicate that he received a brief six-minute call from military police at 9:24 that night.

More than six months later, Pistolis is still serving in the Marines.

At this juncture, it’s unclear precisely what steps if any the Marines took after Beck alerted them to Pistolis. What is certain is that in May, after ProPublica and FRONTLINE featured Pistolis in a joint report about his violent involvement in the white power movement, the Marines said they were investigating Pistolis.

Contacted last week about Beck’s claim of having alerted the military authorities about Pistolis last fall, officials offered varying accounts.

One military official indicated that police at Camp Lejeune and detectives with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the unit that handles felony-level offenses in the Navy and Marines, had been diligently investigating Pistolis since receiving the information about him from Beck. Another person with knowledge of the matter, an officer with the Marine Corps, indicated that Pistolis had been questioned by NCIS, but that detectives found no connection to any organized groups or evidence that he posed a threat.

In the end, NCIS acknowledged that Pistolis is today the subject of a criminal probe, but added little detail.

“We do not discuss ongoing investigations,” said Adam Stump, an NCIS spokesman. “Regarding the service member you have asked about, the investigation is still ongoing. We cannot discuss further.”

A spokesman for Pistolis’ unit, Samir Glenn-Roundtree, said, “Marines accused of activity counter to our standards and core values are entitled to a thorough and impartial review. We have no further information to provide as the investigation is still ongoing.”

ProPublica and FRONTLINE’s reporting on Pistolis made clear the Marine has spent years in the white power movement, including a stint as a cell leader for the Atomwaffen Division, an armed white supremacist group that espouses political terrorism and the overthrow of the U.S. government. In confidential chats, Pistolis, who received expert rifleman certification during his basic training in 2016 and currently works as a water support technician, claimed to have assaulted four people at last summer’s rally in Charlottesville.

“Today cracked 3 skulls open with virtually no damage to myself,” Pistolis wrote on Aug. 12, 2017.

The young man’s double life came as a shock to U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat, who shortly after the ProPublica and FRONTLINE report asked the Pentagon to explain what it was doing to keep neo-Nazis out of the armed forces.

Marine Corps regulations forbid the “participation in supremacist or extremist organizations or activities” and violations can lead to a court martial or an ouster from the service. The Department of Defense has also issued rules barring all service members from joining white supremacist rallies or demonstrations.

In interviews last month with ProPublica and FRONTLINE, Pistolis asked the news organizations not to publicize his involvement in the neo-Nazi movement. He denied being in Charlottesville, and said he had not been a member of Atomwaffen, but instead had infiltrated on behalf of another neo-Nazi group. He said he had come under suspicion by NCIS months ago, but believed that investigators had backed off.

As for Beck, his interest in Pistolis started last August when a friend pointed him to a comment Pistolis had made on Facebook. In it, Pistolis seemed to glorify one of the men who had attended the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, the biggest white power event in a generation.

Beck said he began scrolling through Pistolis’ social media channels and quickly realized that Pistolis was an active-duty Marine — and that he was fairly open about his love of Nazism. Beck, who now works at a New York nonprofit organization, became alarmed. He said he feared that Pistolis “could be radicalizing people around him” in the Marine Corps, or that he might be part of a larger network of white supremacists within the service. Through his research he said he began to worry that Pistolis “might get more violent” unless someone intervened.

In one Facebook post identified by Beck, Pistolis encouraged people to watch a revisionist documentary called “The Greatest Story Never Told,” which praises Hitler. “This should be watched by all,” he enthused. In other posts, Beck says he uncovered Pistolis praised the Golden Dawn, a Greek fascist organization, derided gays and lesbians, and uploaded a snapshot of his AK-47-style assault rifle.

Pistolis used the handle Vasillios88 on Instagram and was known as billythegreek88 on Snapchat; 88 is a widely-used white supremacist code meaning “Heil Hitler.”

Beck was shocked that the young Marine would be so public with his views. “It was stunning. It was absolutely astonishing,” he recalled.

Beck had no contact with ProPublica or FRONTLINE prior to our report in May. He later reached out to the news organizations to alert them to the action he said he’d taken last fall.

For Beck, Pistolis seemed both an embarrassment and a threat. Pistolis had been a member of Junior ROTC throughout high school before enlisting in the service. As Beck put it in his dossier, Pistolis’ online self-revelations showed him to be “a hateful and well-armed boy, then man, reveling in white supremacy, white nationalism, and outright Nazism for years.”

Combing through photos and shaky phone-camera video of the Charlottesville melees, Beck found Pistolis popping up over and over. There were shots of Pistolis carrying a custom-made flag featuring the Sonnenrad, a circular Nazi emblem, blended together with the Confederate battle banner. There were images of him swinging the wooden flagpole at people, and others of him holding a torch during a nighttime melee with counter-protesters at the University of Virginia.

Beck’s findings support some of the reporting by ProPublica and FRONTLINE, which placed Pistolis in the center of several altercations in Charlottesville. Through interviews, photos, and confidential chat logs, the news organizations concluded that Pistolis had been a leader in the Atomwaffen Division at the time of the rally and had traveled to Virginia intent on violence. In private online discussions, he boasted repeatedly about attacking Emily Gorcenski, a Charlottesville local who came out to demonstrate against the white supremacists.

Pistolis is at least the third Marine to face discipline in recent months for involvement with racial extremist groups.

Last year, two Marines were arrested by local police after they climbed a building in Graham, North Carolina, and unfurled a banner with a white power slogan and a symbol associated with European extremist movements. The banner drop came during a demonstration in support of Confederate monuments. Both Marines have since been “administratively separated” from the service. One of the men, Staff Sgt. Joseph Manning, was also stationed at Camp Lejeune, while the other, Sgt. Michael Chesny, was based nearby at Cherry Point Air Station.

At the Southern Poverty Law Center, Heidi Beirich has been monitoring the overlap between the military and the white power movement for more than a decade. Beirich said she is concerned by the recent reports on Pistolis and his fellow Marines — and noted that Camp Lejeune has had problems with racial extremists in the past, including a lance corporal who was sentenced to 100 months in federal prison in 2010 for threatening the life of then-President Barack Obama and for committing an armed robbery.

Beirich said she was disturbed that the Marine Corps hadn’t acted more swiftly to expel Pistolis and wondered how aggressively the military was dealing with the broader issue of white supremacist infiltration.

“I wish I could get a clear take on the enforcement,” said Beirich, director of the center’s Intelligence Project. “It’s one thing to have a regulation on the books, it’s another thing to actually enforce it.”

By A.C. Thompson • Ali Winston/Frontline

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Plainclothes Police Officers are Terrorizing, Robbing and Killing Black People

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Plainclothes or undercover police officers are engaged in an inordinate amount of killings, suggesting there is a fundamental problem with the practice of placing law enforcement out of uniform.
In the New York Police Department, plainclothes officers are involved in fatal shootings far in excess of their numbers on the force, as The Intercept reported. An analysis of 174 fatal shootings by NYPD on-duty officers since 2000 found that plainclothes or undercover officers, who are approximately 6 percent of the force, were involved in nearly one third — 31 percent — or 54 of those killings.
According to a 2016 report from the NYPD, plainclothes cops accounted for nearly half of officers involved in “adversarial conflicts” in which police are in confrontation with a suspect and intentionally discharge a weapon. Specialty units such as anti-crime units, which proactively pursue people on the street, claim one-third of these gun discharges. These elite units of plainclothes officers, unlike their uniformed counterparts, do not respond to 911 calls but instead pursue violent criminal activity while or before it takes place. Typically, undercover officers patrol without body cameras, use unmarked vehicles, and operate without accountability. Further, unlike beat NYPD cops who may form relations with the community, plainclothes police are known to instigate, harass and engage in aggressive and dangerous behavior.

Plainclothes officers have long been associated with death in the Black community, failing to protect and placing Black lives in harm’s way. In the 1960s, the NYPD used Black undercover officers to infiltrate Black radical organizations through the department’s clandestine operations, the Bureau of Special Services, or BOSS. The NYPD was monitoring Malcolm X up until his assassination. Undercover agent Gene Roberts was a member of Malcolm X’s OAAU and the minister’s chief of security. Known as “Brother Gene,” he unsuccessfully administered CPR to the fallen leader at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem. This man who betrayed Malcolm went on to infiltrate the Black Panthers. FBI agents worked undercover in the Nation of Islam, including John Ali, the NOI national secretary. Another undercover NYPD agent, Ray Wood, who infiltrated the Bronx chapter of CORE, was reportedly seen running out of the Audubon at the time of the assassination.

Over the past few decades, plainclothes officers have been involved in the slayings of a number of Black men. For example, in 1999, members of the infamous NYPD street crimes unit killed Amadou Diallo in a hail of 41 bullets because they reportedly thought he was a suspect and mistook his wallet for a gun. Although the NYPD disbanded the unit, the brutality against Black people continued unabated.

Another casualty of undercover police was Sean Bell, who was shot to death in 2006 at his bachelor party, hours before his wedding. Undercover officers opened fire on Bell’s car with 50 shots, killing Bell, 23 and injuring two others. In 2013, Kimani Gray, 16, was fatally shot by members of an anti-crime unit in Crown Heights. The officer who choked Eric Garner to death in 2014 on Staten Island on suspicion of selling untaxed “loosie” cigarettes was working in plainclothes as well.
The Baltimore Police Department abolished plainclothes policing because of a “cutting corners mindset” among crime fighting units, as the Baltimore Sun reported, and as a result of federal indictments against seven officers who were engaging in robbery and extortion of Baltimore residents, filing false police reports and fraudulently collecting overtime pay. Members of the Gun Trace Task Force acted as both cops and robbers, stealing large amounts of money from Black men with no recourse. Such units charged with fighting and reducing crime have violated the rights of the public.
Undercover police are also a common fixture of antifascist protests, infiltrating crowds and student activist groups that oppose the presence of white supremacist hate groups on college campuses. As white extremist groups continue their demonstrations, police arrest anti-racist protesters, sometimes at home or their place of work, in an effort to intimidate left-wing and racial justice activists. This as campus, state and local police face accusations they protect and collaborate with white supremacists. For example, when white supremacist Richard Spencer was scheduled for a speaking engagement at Michigan State University in March, 200 officers from eight different departments were present that day, including nine undercover officers, of whom two were campus police.

As plainclothes officers violate the civil rights of Black people, sometimes they are taken to court and made to answer for their crimes. In 2014, a federal jury awarded art student Jordan Miles, 22, $119,000 for a 2010 false arrest and beating from three white Pittsburgh police officers. Because of his race and dreadlocks, the police, who reportedly assumed Miles was a drug dealer, rolled up in an unmarked car, without identifying themselves, asking for drugs, money and a gun. Jacqueline Little, a Philadelphia resident and IRS employee, sued the city and three plainclothes officers who pulled her over, claimed she had drugs in her possession, and falsely arrested her. She admitted herself to a hospital after sustaining injuries from the tight handcuffs while in police custody. Meanwhile, Glen Grays, a New York postal worker, was nearly struck while making a delivery by an unmarked NYPD police vehicle, then arrested in his uniform. The officers involved had a history of various civil rights complaints filed against them.
It is clear that plainclothes police are a problem, particularly where Black people are concerned.

By David Love/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Love him or hate him, Malcolm X deserves respect for courage, honesty

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Mural of Malcolm X and MLK Jr. “African Amalgamation of Ubiquity,” by Curtis Lewis, on the side wall of Operation Get Down, a drug rehabilitation center, 9980 Gratiot  Avenue, Detroit, 2008. (Camilo José Vergara)

Everyone should have models. W.E.B. DuBois is my model intellectual. James Baldwin is my model writer. Malcolm X is my model MAN!

Brother Malcolm’s birthday is here again. Quick, do you know the date? Probably not. Unfortunately, many people don’t. The day often passes in most spaces without much fanfare. No parades, no holiday, no television specials, no proclamations from the mayor … nothing. Yet, the wonderful and beautiful Malcolm remains! He continues to occupy a simultaneously calming and disquieting place in our nation’s psyche and conscience (at least on what’s left of this country’s continuously failing moral compass). He comforts us with his disarming, warm smile. He pricks us with his masterful rhetoric. He motivates us with his unconditional love of the people. He shames us with his critiques of black self-loathing. He emboldens us with his courage in the face of white racism and hate. As Ossie Davis proclaimed in his eulogy of Malcolm, even in death he remains “our shining black prince.”

In a country that claims to believe in exceptionalism, but actually rewards mendacity and mediocrity, Malcolm was truly stellar. Though not formally educated, he masterfully contextualized black struggle and articulated it in a way that resonated with everyday people like no one else could. He was incredibly intelligent, analytical, strategic, selfless, brave and dedicated. To this day, these are rarely encountered combinations.

Among many other things, Malcolm taught black people that “revolution” is not a dirty word — it simply means change. He made it clear that it is often twisted so that many immediately have visions of insane, bloodthirsty black men and women running through the streets with guns when it is mentioned. But Malcolm reminded us that revolutionaries are not necessarily, or even predominantly, violent and they are essential for the oppressed. In fact, if you are among the downtrodden or an ally of good conscience and do not want change in this mad society largely constructed by the greedy and mean-spirited, then it is you, not the revolutionary, who is insane.

Malcolm wasn’t afraid of change. God knows he went through many. He was myriad people — dislocated child, psychologically abused student, street-hustler, pimp, dope-dealer, addict, numbers-runner, self-hater, thief, convict, Nation of Islam minister, husband, father, orthodox Muslim, Malcolm Little, Detroit Red, Satan, Malcolm X, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. He grew with every iteration. What a blessing he was.

Love him or hate him, people must respect Malcolm because he moved, lived and breathed in this world with courage, conviction and pride. He fearlessly spoke his mind. He unfailingly told the truth. He coolly confronted callous whites and complacent blacks — especially those in power. He never ran. He seemed to occasionally look over his shoulder at hesitant brothers and sisters cowering behind him, flash that mesmerizing smile and say, “See, you can stand up with dignity and win. Look at me, I’m still alive. You can do it, too.”

Malcolm is gone now. Like many of our best — gone and safe. Now everybody loves him. Many selfish, fearful, individualistic free-riders who have benefited from his struggle without any risk to themselves now speak of Malcolm in glowing terms. Some well-behaved black folk even have pictures of him in their offices and homes. To be sure, he would not have graced their walls back in the day. They quote him even though very few would have stood with him. “By any means necessary” they say … until trouble comes. Then they disappear or switch sides. As the “Last Poets” said, they “love to talk like Malcolm (when there is no threat), but they didn’t love Malcolm.” Thankfully, even in the Age of Trump, these are safer times.

So, yes — it’s all right to love Malcolm now. You’d better love him! He deserves it, because he loved and labored us for so long when we hated and condemned him. He loved us when we didn’t even know how to love ourselves. So, love our shining black prince now and forever. Never forget him. Never dishonor him. Never allow the undeserving to adopt him and abuse his words or memory.

Happy Birthday, Brother Malcolm! Like Marcus Garvey, we will look for you in the whirlwind.

By Ricky L. Jones/CourierJournal

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Liars Club: Ollie North and General Kelly

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Oliver North is a liar. He was also part of a conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine. Furthermore, he was part of another conspiracy to build, arm and train mercenaries to fight a public/private enterprise known as the Contra war in Nicaragua. He is a shameless egocentric maniac loved by several million US television viewers who watch his nonsensical FOX series War Stories. When he was forced to testify about his activities in the aforementioned crimes, he did what most dishonorable crooks do. He snitched, spreading the blame around, implicating then Vice President George HW Bush and hinting that President Reagan was also aware of what he was doing. In other words, he wasn’t the kind of Marine who would fall on a grenade to save his brother-in-arms. Despite his non-heroism, North ultimately took the fall and was convicted of a few counts of lying. As it turned out, the conviction was overturned on a technicality after then president GW Bush pardoned several of North’s co-conspirators. Draw your own conclusions.
I was surprised when I read that Oliver North was to become the president of the National Rifle Association (NRA.) Not because that doesn’t make perfect sense, but because I figured he would have a job in the Trump White House by now. After all, he is an arrogant self-centered protofascist who thinks his military career qualifies him as an expert on all policy matters, foreign and domestic. Kind of like that Marine in the Trump White House, John Kelly.
Kelly’s most recent comments regarding the separation of children from their parents when a family is caught illegally crossing the border are a perfect example. According to Kelly, it is “not cruel” to separate children from their parents. After all, the parents are breaking a law and the law, of course, is the law, no matter how discriminatory it is or how arbitrarily it is applied. Kelly followed these remarks by telling an interviewer that immigrants did not have the necessary skills to live in the United States. Either Kelly is ignorant of the demographics of immigration or he is intentionally using xenophobic and racist rhetoric in his campaign against migration. Either way, both remarks reveal a deeper fear and hatred that abounds in current regime in Washington.
Something else Kelly said last week was that he was not rich. As far as I can tell, he is worth around 4.5 million dollars. While that may not be rich to billionaires, let me tell you it is rich to most of the rest of us. The question I have though is how does a career military officer become a multimillionaire? This question leads me to wonder as to what types of graft and inside dealing did he participate in to accumulate that wealth? I have friends and relatives who retired from the military as officers and have nothing close to that amount of assets unless they went into the private sector after their military retirement. Kelly did no such thing. In fact, his career took him from the Marines to Homeland Security. From there, he was appointed to his current position in the Trump White House. Like most of the individuals in Congress, it appears that General Kelly took advantage of his position to fatten up his bank account. While Forbes magazine claimed in a December 22, 2016 article that most of Kelly’s worth came from his military pension, they did not break this number down or state where the rest of it came from. An article on military pensions dated January 9, 2014 reported that a four-star general with forty years in the military would receive $237, 144 a year, with cost of living increases raising that amount each year. If one counts Kelly’s original enlistment from 1970-1972, he was in the Marines for forty-two years. Now I don’t understand high finance like a stockbroker on Wall Street, but I can do addition and multiplication. I just can’t figure out how anyone collecting about a quarter million dollars a year for two years can have made that into 4.5 million . In other words, if Forbes magazine is correct when it writes that Kelly made almost all of his 4.5 million dollars from his military pension and he had only been collecting that pension for less than a year when the Forbes article was written, how did he get to be worth 4.5 million dollars? Even when one adds the income Kelly reported on hispublic disclosure form he submitted before he was appointed by Trump to head DHS, the numbers do not seem to add up. Maybe Kelly had friends who helped him invest some of that money? If so, I would like to meet those kind of people because they got some serious mojo going on. More likely, however, is something a little less magical.
Milo Minderbinder is a character in Joseph Heller’s classic satire of modern war, Catch-22. Minderbinder is a sergeant who buys and sells everything and anything he can get his hands on, from prostitutes to military weaponry. Furthermore, he sells to anyone, no matter what side they might be on. Journalist John Sack had a similar personality in his new journalism work on the Vietnam war, the book titled M. The difference between Minderbinder and Sack’s profiteering cynic was that Sack’s character was a colonel, not an NCO. I bring these characters up primarily in relation to a potential, yet unverified source of General Kelly’s financial fortunes. It is a fairly well known fact, after all, that millions of US dollars went missing during the heyday of the US military occupation of Iraq. Most of that money has not been officially recovered. Other generals, like Kelly’s fellow Marine, Mad Dog Mattis, end up on the payroll of defense contractors (Mattis sits on the board of General Dynamics)–a much safer and legal way to engage in profiteering of war makingand preparing for war. As for Kelly, he was on the board of DynCorp—a security outfit known for its mercenaries in Iraq and its coziness with Homeland Security—for a while before he became head of DHS.
Like Oliver North, General Kelly is an embarrassment to some of his fellow marines. The arrogance and self-importance of Kelly and North leaves a sour taste in the mouths of those who believe they served all those in the US, not just those whose politics they agreed with or whose bank accounts they could benefit from. Those Marines (and their fellows in the other military branches) did what they did without expectations of reward during or after the time in. Many of them have only their consciences to consider when their deeds in uniform are remembered. From where I sit, the longer Kelly and Mattis serve the current regime in DC, the more I can see just the kind of consciences they have.

By Ron Jacobs/CounterPunch

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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