Ralph Nader on Middle East Turmoil, Ron/Rand Paul, Netanyahu, DNC Militarism, and More

MT: I think the major reason I was more appalled by the Democratic Convention was because at least with the Republicans, you know what you’re getting.

RN: Oh yeah — everything was scripted, censored. It was like the Commissars were in charge. All the speakers had to be — to use the terrible term — vetted. Which means they were forced to comply with a formula. And everyone got up — including Elizabeth Warren — and started with the same story: “My parents, my grandparents, I worked at 13,” and so on. Continue Reading →

In Time of Crisis, Movement Conservatism Exposes Itself

There are two general species of conservative who, astonishingly, defended Mitt Romney yesterday — notwithstanding the candidate’s manifestly depraved comments with respect to the attacks on U.S. Diplomatic Posts in Libya and Egypt. The first species: Movement Conservatives, long ideologically-committed to the election of Mitt Romney, and totally untethered to principle. Doubtless Romney himself has made friendly appearances before some of their editorial boards. The second species, naturally, are your classic neoconservative browbeaters like Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol. (Clearly there is overlap between these two sorry categories). But it’s not worth anyone’s time to analyze the deranged psychology of Bill Kristol, so let’s take a prime example from the former species: Continue Reading →

I Had To Wait Five Hours To Get My Media Credential At The DNC

An under-discussed chilling effect on freedom of journalistic expression is the petty tyranny of media credentialing. It took me approximately five hours yesterday to retrieve my duly-assigned credential for the Democratic National Convention. Partly this was my own fault; journalists were instructed to arrive between 10am and 1pm to get their pass, and I showed up at 1:30. But in fairness to me, I had to write yesterday morning, and with all the traffic and multiple layers of security and challenging parking situation, I don’t regard myself as particularly to blame. I’d assumed that naturally someone would be available to accommodate journalists whom, for whatever reason, were unable to make it during that narrow window. This assumption proved wrong-headed. Continue Reading →

Notes on Newt Gingrich in Staten Island

A few extraneous items that didn’t make it into my Salon piece on Gingrich’s campaign appearance in Staten Island this past weekend.

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What Happened at Occupy Newark Last Night?

Yesterday I stopped by @OccupyNewark for the start of its encampment in Military Park. Police had informed demonstrators that the park’s 9pm curfew was going to be enforced, and that they’d “do whatever they had to do.”

It should be noted that curfews are just about never enforced at this park, where homeless and mentally ill people sleep every night.

But regardless, a crew of officers showed up ahead of the deadline. One officer, Sgt. A. Martin of the Newark Emergency Service Unit, said he supported the Occupy Movement, though wasn’t very clear on all the details of it. “I’m a working man, you know?” he said. Continue Reading →

The NYPD’s Disdain for the Rule of Law

Longtime observers of NYPD tactics at events associated with Occupy Wall Street may recognize TARU officer Ray Rivera. Short for Technical Assistance Response Unit, TARU officers have been present at nearly every major Occupy event, wielding handheld camcorders to document all the action, and Rivera has always been at the fore.

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Joe Paterno and the Depravity of American Football Culture

If you had asked me to conjure up the most damning possible catastrophe for Penn State, and potentially for American sports culture writ large, I would have given you something much more tame than the monstrous child rape scandal that has already destroyed Coach Joe Paterno’s legacy. And this is only based on the Grand Jury’s initial findings — at least three additional investigations are now underway.

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Why is Media Coverage of Police Actions So Bad?

If you’ve followed any “mainstream” media coverage of the Occupy movement, especially related to incidents involving police, it should be overwhelmingly obvious to you that just about every story follows the same basic formula: First, some event involving police takes place. Second, and seemingly within moments, reporters rush to the nearest police employee handling “Communications” (or some other euphemistic variation of “PR”) and request officially-sanctioned comment on what occurred. Upon receiving this official comment, reporters often reprint it in the leads of their articles. All subsequent content is thereby framed in the context of a police narrative.

This poor reporting is manifestly a byproduct of the totally discredited “objectivity” brand of journalism, inculcated as it is in so many students who studied “journalism” or “communications” in college. Because they lack the ability or desire to really understand what’s going on with the Occupy movement, many mainline journalists prefer to stick with straightfoward, easily-digestible cops v. protesters storylines. Employing simple dichotomies makes reporting easy – you don’t even have to attend the event. Just make sure the police department’s resident PR specialist is on speed dial, and everything will be OK. Continue Reading →

Why Won’t the ASPCA Comment on the NYPD’s Cruel Treatment of Horses?

Over the course of reporting my story for The Nation on the NYPD’s Mounted Unit, I repeatedly attempted to contact the ASPCA — the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The APSCA has a “Humane Law Enforcement” division, which includes several members who were formerly part of the NYPD’s Mounted Unit.

As you might imagine, I thought these would be the perfect people to speak to about the events of October 15, in which officers on horseback intentionally rammed their animals into a crowd of demonstrators at Times Square. The famed bioethicist Peter Singer told me he regarded the use of horses in this manner to be “unethical,” and an equine behavior specialist told me one of the horses attempted to retreat rather than thrust into people. Continue Reading →

Can you help identify this NYPD official? Update: Identified!

UPDATE: This individual has been identified as Lt. Dan Albano, a top lawyer in the NYPD Legal Affairs Bureau.

I first encountered this NYPD official on October 8, near the perimeter of Washington Square Park. He was conferencing with a number of other plain-clothes officials, presumably in preparation for that day’s Occupy Wall Street march, which had left from Liberty Plaza and was headed towards the park. When I asked this man if he was with the NYPD, he replied — derisively, of course — “I’m the plumber.”

According to NYPD patrol guide procedure 203-09 (PDF), effective June 27, 2003, all “members of the service” are required to “Courteously and clearly state [their] rank, name, shield number and command, or otherwise provide them, to anyone who requests [they] do so. [They also must] allow the person ample time to note this information.” Continue Reading →