This piece appears in my book Welcome to Hell World: Dispatches from the American Dystopia.
One of the great things about being the chief of police of Biscayne Park is that they are truly a family there Raimundo Atesiano said at a community meeting in the village just north of Miami in 2013 according to the Miami Herald.
“A family who works together and is joined by one common cause which is the protection of life and property for the residents of the village of Biscayne Park” he said pointing his mustache at the crowd very policely and then he brought up detective Raul Fernandez and said that thanks to officers like him they had a 100% clearance rate of burglaries that year.
“This is the first time I’ve ever known that to happen in any department I’ve ever been in” Atesiano said and everyone clapped because that’s good police work you have to agree even for such a small and typically tranquil little village like this one. I don’t think anyone is going to look at those numbers and get too pissed off about it.
Shortly before he had gone up there to talk about how good they were at solving crimes Atesiano and the boys had collared a couple of perps which is how cops talk and pinned four burglaries on a local teen, two home burglaries on a man named Clarence Desrouleaux, and five car burglaries on a man named Erasmus Banmah who were not white if you were wondering what particular racial makeup they had. Desrouleaux got deported to Haiti on account of the burgling they had said he was up to.
The weirdest thing happened though because the chief of police went to jail himself due to it turns out he and Fernandez and a few others on the force made all that shit up.
“Atesiano admitted that on one occasion he instructed an officer to falsely arrest and charge an individual for several vehicle burglaries based upon what Atesiano knew were false confessions,” a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Southern Florida explained.
“According to the documents, Atesiano intentionally encouraged officers to arrest individuals without a legal basis in order to have arrests effectuated for all reported burglaries, which created a fictitious 100% clearance rate for that category of crime.”
One of the officers explained the marching orders as he understood them after an internal probe was launched in 2014:
“If they have burglaries that are open cases that are not solved yet, if you see anybody black walking through our streets and they have somewhat of a record, arrest them so we can pin them for all the burglaries. They were basically doing this to have a 100% clearance rate for the city.”
“When I took the job, I was not prepared,” Atesiano told the judge at his sentencing hearing. “I made some very, very bad decisions.”
He’ll go to prison now for three years although he was granted a couple weeks before surrendering to care for his mother who was dying from leukemia which is sad to think about even though he did that other shit.
When we still had dreams we used to live in a shitty little third floor walkup in Somerville that probably goes for $3,000 a month now and we’d stay up all night and one time my friend was so out of his mind he sat on the stove for a while and didn’t realize he had actually turned the burner on and he singed a hole right into his ass cheek and another time he put the cd player in the stove and turned it on and I’m not clear on what the thinking behind that was but I’m sure he had his reasons. One time I found a little bag of powder on the door step of the large rowdy Russian boys who lived downstairs and loved EDM although no one knew to call it EDM at that time as of yet and I took it and was worried about two things after that which were that I might die off of it and/or they would know it was me and come up and stomp my ass in and things of that nature although neither thing happened.
We’d stand around in the kitchen there smoking cigarettes inside like psychopaths and then the next day we’d crawl back into the light and order takeout and watch TV and since we didn’t have cable there was only two things ever on one of which was an infomercial for the Ronco Showtime Rotisserie & BBQ where they’d whip the audience into this uncanny mass hypnosis and have them chant the catch phrase that you probably remember.
Ronco filed for bankruptcy in 2018 but Ron Popeil the man behind the onetime proud marketing empire sold his stake in the company for around $55 million in 2005 so he’s fine you don’t have to worry about old Ron Popeil whose cousin is Ashley Tisdale. I’m not sure how that works since he’s 83 and she’s 33 but they do things a little differently out there in Beverly Hills.
The other thing that was always on was Law & Order and I watched so much of that. They wanted you to get really upset when the Internal Affairs guys came in and jammed the detectives up. The rat squad is what they called them but those guys were actually the heroes of the show I realized a few years later and I also realized that Elliot Stabler belongs in prison.
Another popular commercial you probably remember was one known as the "Willie Horton" ad which was produced by supporters of George H.W. Bush for his 1988 presidential campaign against Michael Dukakis. The ad detailed a series of crimes committed by Horton, a convicted murderer, who went on to rape a woman while on a weekend furlough from prison in Massachusetts where Dukakis was governor at the time. While Bush supported the death penalty for first degree murderers, the narrator in the ad said, “Dukakis not only opposed the death penalty, he allowed first degree murderers to have weekend passes from prison.”
One of those murderers was shown in a menacing looking black and white mug shot and it was Willie Horton “who murdered a boy in a robbery stabbing him 19 times.”
“Despite a life sentence Horton received ten weekend passes from prison. Horton fled, kidnapped a young couple, stabbing the man and repeatedly raping his girlfriend. Weekend prison passes: Dukakis on crime.”
"By the time we're finished, they're going to wonder whether Willie Horton is Dukakis' running mate,” Bush's campaign manager Lee Atwater said.
A second ad they showed during the campaign was called the “Revolving Door” ad that talked about how Dukakis vetoed mandatory sentences for drug dealers and vetoed the death penalty both of which seem like pretty good ideas to me but I never got elected president so I don’t know. I bought an apple at 7/11 for breakfast this morning and didn’t wash it before eating it so I don’t know anything.
In any case the subtext of the ads weren’t very subtle in that the liberal pansy Dukakis was going to let the scary black guys come rape your girlfriend while George Bush would not do that and thankfully we don’t hear that sort of thing in political ads any more today.
Weirdly even Roger Stone seemed to think the ad was a bit much he said years later but he lies about a lot of things so who’s to say what’s real or not.
“I went into the headquarters to see Atwater, at his request,” he said in a PBS documentary on Atwater’s life. “He locked the office door, and he popped the famous Willie Horton spot onto a television. He said, '‘I got a couple boys going to put a couple million dollars up for this independent.’ And I said, ‘That's a huge mistake. You and George Bush will wear that to your grave. It's a racist ad. You're already wining this issue. It's working for you. You're stepping over a line. You're going to regret it.’ And he said, ‘Y'all a pussy.’”
Stone was right though because while the people you might expect all praised Bush as a temperate patriotic man who wanted the best for the country when he died in November of 2018 the rest of the people I know were talking about all the other shameful shit he did.
A couple years after the election when he was dying from brain cancer Atwater apologized for producing the most famous racist ad in history.
"In 1988, fighting Dukakis, I said that I 'would strip the bark off the little bastard' and ‘make Willie Horton his running mate.' I am sorry for both statements: the first for its naked cruelty, the second because it makes me sound racist, which I am not."
February "marks my 40th birthday, that deadline I set for achieving my life's goals," Atwater told the New York Times in 1991. "I lie here in my bedroom, my face swollen from steroids, my body useless and in pain. I will probably never play the guitar or run again; I can only hope to walk.”
I feel bad for him for dying like that just like I feel bad for that corrupt cop taking care of his dying mother but you know not as bad as I feel about other people.
Atwater was nominated for a Grammy that year for a record he made with B.B. King which I think we can all agree to say wait what? when we read that sentence.
"The doctors still won't answer that nagging question of mine: How long do I have?” Atwater went on. “Three weeks. Three months. Three years?”
"I try to live as if I have at least three years, but some nights I can't go to sleep, so fearful am I that I will never wake up again."
Another thing Bush did when he was president was to engineer a drug bust in Lafayette Park across from the White House to illustrate a politically expedient point about the war on drugs. He held up a bag of crack and said it had been seized just outside the White House can you believe this shit? but it had actually been purchased in a sting.
William McMullan, one of the special agents on the job told the Washington Post that it “was not easy to get the dealer [Keith Jackson] to come to Lafayette Park because he did not even know where the White House was.”
“I don't think any neighborhood is free from selling drugs,” Bush said in a testy exchange with reporters on a tree farm near his home in Kennebunkport, Maine after the stunt. ''I mean, the man was caught selling drugs in front of the White House. I think it can happen in any neighborhood, and I think that's what it dramatized.''
“I don't understand. I mean, has somebody got some advocates here for this drug guy?” he snapped at the reporters. “I cannot feel sorry for him. I'm sorry, they ought not to be peddling these insidious drugs that ruin the children of this country,” he said.
When he was given a sentence of ten years without parole the judge in the case told Jackson that he should ask the president for a commutation.
"He used you, in the sense of making a big drug speech," judge Stanley Sporkin, former CIA general counsel appointed to court by President Reagan in 1986. "But he's a decent man, a man of great compassion. Maybe he can find a way to reduce at least some of that sentence."
He didn’t do that though.
“This is a major part of Bush’s legacy,” Joshua Clark Davis, a University of Baltimore assistant professor in history tweeted in a thread laying out much of the details here in December.
“It’s what his War on Drugs did to just one person. But it shows the human costs of that war in miniature detail. A high schooler was lured to the WH to sell crack and spent 7+ years in prison, so that the President could make a point on TV.”
In 2016 his son Jeb struck a different tone on drugs when he was running for president. His daughter had been caught up in the spiral of addiction to opiates and crack and gotten into trouble with the law so he had developed empathy for the issue which is the only way you can get a Republican to experience empathy by having something bad happen to someone they care about.
Some of the things Jeb’s campaign said they wanted to do were increase federal support for prevention programs and enact tougher sentences on cartels but also to lower mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offenders and expand access to drug courts so offenders could have monitored treatment which sounds like some wimpy Dukakis shit to me.
Michelle and I go to Kennebunkport every summer now to visit old college friends of mine one of whose parents have a house there near the beach and they all rent a cottage for the week but we don’t do that we just go for a night or two because we can’t really afford it. They all have kids and are doctors and lawyers and things like that and I say how’s the legal practice or hospital or university you’re a professor at and all your lovely children and nice house you own and they say it’s great how is it doing viral posts sometimes.
It’s one of my favorite times of the year because I genuinely care about my old friends even though we don’t talk all that much and it’s been a long time since college but they are good people and they seem to care about me even though I’m not a particularly good person.
The beach there is called Goose Rocks and it is one of my favorite places in the world even though I don’t particularly like a lot of the people who go there since it’s a pretty Republican town vis a vis the Bush connection. Often times when you go there people will suggest going to have a look at the Bush compound as a thing that you can go ahead and do while on vacation but what I usually say to that is no thank you. Last year I screamed at some guys I thought were Republicans while we were sitting around a fire at a fancy restaurant they have there and I said you’re fucking racists and things like that and they got up and left and then Michelle told me they were actually agreeing with me but I didn’t hear them which sounds like it’s a metaphor about bridging the political divide or something but it’s not it’s just a lesson about not talking about politics while you’re drinking.
One thing I do instead of going to look at where the president’s nice house is is I walk out into the water at the beach there and keep walking until I can’t walk anymore and then I have to start swimming. The water is warmer there than you would expect and I float out as far as I can and let the waves push me around and Michelle gets nervous and asks me not to go out so far where she can’t see me and I try to do that but it’s one of the only times I am ever really happy floating out there looking back to the shore where some people who love me are standing and talking and laughing and there they are hello everyone I’m here you can’t see me so well but I’m here and we’re here together and we’re still here floating along near where the famous dead president used to live.