You might also like this interview I did with the founder of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library in Indianapolis:
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A century and a year ago today on November 2, 1920 Socialist Party candidate Eugene Debs won nearly a million votes for the presidency. Debs had run multiple times before and had had a similar showing in 1912 but this time was different as he was imprisoned inside of the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary on election day. Debs had been convicted two years earlier for speaking out against U.S. involvement in World War I which was a crime under the Sedition Act of 1918. His trial was by many accounts a farce and proved little aside from sometimes or often times rather that our nobel impartial judges are huge pieces of shit.
The specific speech that Debs was condemned to ten years in prison for (his sentence was commuted by Warren G. Harding in 1921) was given in Canton, Ohio in 1918. That day Debs spoke the truth which has always been a tricky thing to do in this country. It’s supposed to be the one main thing we’re entitled to do but entitled and allowed to do are very different things.
“The truth has always been dangerous to the rule of the rogue, the exploiter, the robber,” he said. “So the truth must be suppressed.”
He went on like so:
Wars have been waged for conquest, for plunder. In the middle ages the feudal lords, who inhabited the castles whose towers may still be seen along the Rhine—whenever one of those feudal lords wished to enrich himself, then he made war on another. Why? They wanted to enlarge their domains. They wanted to increase their power, their wealth, and so they declared war upon each other. But they did not go to war any more than the Wall Street junkers go to war. The feudal lords, the barons, the economic predecessors of the modern capitalist, they declared all the wars. Who fought their battles? Their miserable serfs. And the serfs had been taught to believe that when their masters declared and waged war upon one another, it was their patriotic duty to fall upon one another, and to cut one another's throats, to murder one another for the profit and the glory of the plutocrats, the barons, the lords who held them in contempt. And that is war in a nutshell.
Me, a guy who just watched Dune last night: This reminds me of Dune.
The master class has always declared the war; the subject class has always fought the battles; the master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, and the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose—including their lives. They have always taught you that it is your patriotic duty to go to war and to have yourselves slaughtered at a command. But in all of the history of the world you, the people, never had a voice in declaring war. You have never yet had. And here let me state a fact—and it cannot be repeated too often: the working class who fight the battles, the working class who make the sacrifices, the working class who shed the blood, the working class who furnish the corpses, the working class have never yet had a voice in declaring war. The working class have never yet had a voice in making peace. It is the ruling class that does both. They declare war; they make peace.
“Yours not to ask the question why; Yours but to do and die.”
That is their motto, and we object on the part of the awakened workers.
If war is right, let it be declared by the people—you, who have your lives to lose; you certainly ought to have the right to declare war, if you consider war a necessary.
I try not to lionize any politician too much but Debs is certainly up there at the top although to be honest that’s probably because while I try not to lionize any author too much Kurt Vonnegut was himself constantly lionizing Debs so we’re kind of dealing with an Inception scenario here.
“Arguably the greatest friend the working people in this country ever had, Eugene Debs, was from Terre Haute,” Vonnegut said. He said that a lot I’m sure but in this particular instance it was during a speech he gave at Butler University in Indianapolis, in 1996 in a little run he was doing about how many great people were from Indiana and the midwest in general.
“Debs said, ‘As long as there is a lower class I am in it, as long as there is a criminal class I am of it, as long as there is a soul in prison I am not free.’ It used to be admirable for Americans to talk that way.”
Last week environmental lawyer Steven Donziger reported to prison in New York where he began serving a trumped up and exceptionally demoralizing and cynical-making sentence and that’s true even considering that we already know how corrupt our shitty country is and how far the scales are tipped against justice for the less powerful. He is set to do six months for “criminal contempt” of court despite having already spent the previous two plus years on house arrest for the crime of winning a massive lawsuit on behalf of the indigenous people of Ecuador against Chevron who were polluting their forests and river thereby provoking the ire of the fossil fuel behemoth and their corrupt allies in the courts.
“It seems that only the proverbial two-by-four between the eyes will instill in him any respect for the law,” Judge Loretta Preska an “advisor to the conservative Federalist Society, to which Chevron is a major donor,” said during sentencing. The ScheerPost explains the sheer insanity of this sentence here:
Donziger, his lawyers have pointed out, is the first person under U.S. law charged with a “B” misdemeanor to be placed on home confinement, prior to trial, with an ankle monitor. He is the first person charged with any misdemeanor to be held under home confinement for over two years. He is the first attorney ever to be charged with criminal contempt over a discovery dispute in a civil case where the attorney went into voluntary contempt to pursue an appeal. He is the first person to be prosecuted under Rule 42 (criminal contempt) by a private prosecutor with financial ties to the entity and industry that was a litigant in the underlying civil dispute that gave rise to the orders. He is the first person tried by a private prosecutor who had ex parte communications with the charging judge while that judge remained (and remains) unrecused on the criminal case.
The six-month sentence was the maximum the judge was allowed to impose; she ruled that his house arrest cannot be counted as part of his detention. From start to finish, this has been a burlesque. It is emblematic of a court system that has been turned over to lackies of corporate power, who use the veneer of jurisprudence, decorum, and civility to make a mockery of the rule of law.
“Mr. Donziger has spent the last seven years thumbing his nose at the U.S. judicial system,” Preska said at sentencing. “Now it’s time to pay the piper.”
Jacobin has more on the absurd conflicts of interests held by Preska — “the 1%’s favorite judge” — here.
“Chevron and these two judges, really allies of the fossil fuel industry, are trying to use me as a weapon to intimidate activists and lawyers who do this work,” Donziger told Democracy Now shortly before turning himself in.
Donziger and the many groups around the world who have been calling his punishment beyond the pale — including Amnesty International and United Nations human rights advocates — find it outrageous and rightfully so that he was prosecuted not by the government but instead by a private company with a direct financial interest in the case at hand to boot.
“I was prosecuted by a private law firm, Seward & Kissel, appointed by a federal judge after the U.S. government declined to prosecute me. And the judge never disclosed that the law firm had Chevron as a client. So, essentially, I’m being prosecuted by a Chevron law firm, a partner in a Chevron law firm, a private law firm, who deprived me of my liberty,” Donziger said recently.
Texas Observer detailed the death in prison of a man named Danny Carrillo in a piece out this week. Carrillo who has struggled with mental health and substance use issues was being held on a parole violation and he had become increasingly erratic and convinced he was going to die inside and then one day in an altercation with prison guards he did.
His mother, who recently had brain surgery, had joined [his father] Armando to visit Danny that day but was detained by officers who uncovered an old theft charge when they screened her to enter. Guards said Danny became “belligerent” when she was taken away, then later swung at them when they stormed his cell to move him, striking one officer in the temple and another in the nose. Three guards then tackled Danny and pinned him to the floor, while a fourth stuck his knee into Danny’s back and a fifth shocked him with a stun gun. Nurses who arrived to check on him about 10 minutes later found him bloodied, without a pulse.
Hours later, officials released his mom. Danny, they said, was dead.
Danny was among the 1,100 people who have died in prison in Texas in the past ten years. There were 124 deaths last year alone the highest since they began counting in 2009.
Last week in here we covered the plan by the city of Boston to remove the concentrated unhoused population from the streets on which they have congregated and the cruelty of the acting mayor’s so-called “dignified incarceration” plan for those who refuse to accept being given beds in shelters at force. As the deadline for vacating the area came yesterday city workers — who had been placing eviction notices on the flaps of tents on the sidewalk — began ushering the population away some into treatment some into jail but most importantly anywhere else but there anywhere where we didn’t have to look at them.
What makes this all “especially nauseating in Boston is the way it’s dressed up in the language of liberal compassion,” Miles Howard wrote for Hell World and indeed the processing of a number of the displaced people yesterday in a makeshift prison courtroom put the lie to the entire affair.
“Three defendants were held in individual cells at the Suffolk County Jail after being detained Monday morning,” Tori Bedford reported for WGBH. “Out of three defendants — all of whom were described in court proceedings as experiencing substance use disorder — one, Phillip Curtis Houston, 41, from Boston, was allowed treatment in a medical facility in Quincy. The two others, Patrick Michael Kennefick of West Roxbury, 37, and Maxwell Kolodka of Gardner, 33, were denied access to a formal detox facility and were ordered to spend the night in a jail cell.”
At the time of his trial, Kolodka had been held in a jail cell without medical treatment for six hours. Josh Raisler Cohn, a public defender representing Kolodka, asked Judge Paul Treseler if his client could be admitted to a treatment facility instead of spending the night in a jail cell before being taken to Fitchburg District Court.
“The kind of care that he needs is available to him, our understanding is that the purpose of this session partly is to clear warrants and partly is to get people into care,” Cohn told the judge. “We’ve been working hard all day at getting him that care, and I would ask that he be allowed to go to that care.”
Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Mariah O’Rourke, representing the Commonwealth, reiterated that seeking care was also the state’s understanding of the purpose of these proceedings.
“Okay,” Treseler responded, denying both requests. “He’s going to Fitchburg.”
Even the fucking DA didn’t want to send the guy to jail and the judge said too bad. Pretty sure I know where Judge Tresler is going and it’s only a slightly worse place than Fitchburg.
What else what else. Oh by the way the FEC ruled that it’s ok for foreign governments to pour money into ballot measures in the U.S. as Axios reported and that includes congressional redistricting matters. Ballot initiatives are not the same thing as “elections” the FEC said in their ruling — which is such a perfect example of terminal lawyer brain — so the laws against foreign interest influencing our literal elections don’t apply there. Ok!
Here’s this too:
Good luck everyone! Good luck and fuck us all.
Are we sure they were tossing a coin for good luck and not just illustrating how much each country plans to spend on mitigating climate disaster?
Live look at me right now:
Not really much levity going on in this newsletter today but this is kind of funny:
The absolute state of these pissing cry babies.
This story is funny too but in a different kind of way:
“Wisconsin's Senate approved a bill on Wednesday that would allow 14 and 15-year-olds to work until 11 p.m. on some days — much later than current laws allow,,” Business Insider reported. “Supporters of the bill say it could help plug the state's labor shortage.”
A woman who was about to give birth went to the hospital in Colorado last year and was instructed to enter the building through the emergency room since that was the only door that was open at the time NPR reported. The birth went well and the woman assumed it wouldn’t cost much more than her previous delivery but after the $16,221.26 bill came in $10,940.91 of which was paid by her insurance she still owed $3,609.09. Doesn’t sound like that much (for America) but the reason for it was some seriously metaphysical shit. Because she had walked into the hospital through the specific door she walked through all the prices on the menu went into extra bonus penalty mode. Had she come in a different door none of those prices would have kicked in.
I was pretty sure that was going to be the worst emergency room related price gouging I read about today but then I saw this story from FOX 5 Atlanta about a woman who was billed almost $700 for her own ER visit.
“Taylor Davis said she went to the Emory Decatur Hospital ER in July for a head injury,” they reported. “She sat in the waiting room for hours, but with no end in sight, she decided to leave.”
A couple weeks later she got a bill anyway for $688.35. She was never seen and never had her name called and was never looked at in any way she said.
“So I called them and she said it's hospital protocol even if you're just walking in and you're not seen. When you type in your social, that's it. You're going to get charged regardless,” she said.
She said she was told it was an emergency room visit fee or a facility fee as it is called in some cases.
It's often added to a person's total hospital bill, so it might not be as noticeable as it is in this case.
An email sent to Davis by an Emory Healthcare patient financial services employee states “You get charged before you are seen. Not for being seen.”
What are we doing here? The entire American healthcare system is some Calvinball shit.
John Grant was executed by the state of Oklahoma on Thursday and all the other horrors of capital punishment aside the idea of taking a Xanax — a thing we all do to go on a plane or whatever — on the way to go get killed strikes me as so pointedly horrific.
Prior to his death I was thinking as I watched the story unfold that under this horrible system we have set up that being drugged before being executed is a type of relative kindness but then the man suffered greatly anyway.
The Associated Press reported on the killing:
John Marion Grant, 60, who was strapped to a gurney inside the execution chamber, began convulsing and vomiting after the first drug, the sedative midazolam, was administered. Several minutes later, two members of the execution team wiped the vomit from his face and neck.
Before the curtain was raised to allow witnesses to see into the execution chamber, Grant could be heard yelling, “Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go!” He delivered a stream of profanities before the lethal injection started. He was declared unconscious about 15 minutes after the first of three drugs was administered and declared dead about six minutes after that, at 4:21 p.m.
Someone vomiting while being executed is rare, according to observers.
The Oklahoma Department of Corrections said that the execution took place “without complication” before the accounts of witnesses on hand were reported.
Grant was convicted of some terribly violent crimes but on the other hand you know how that sometimes goes.
Ok that’s all for today. See you again soon. Thanks for being here.