L.A. Justice – BONUS POST

The Bonus Book of the Week is “L.A. Justice, Lessons from the Firestorm” by Robert Vernon, published in 1993.

In 1954, the author joined the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Through the decades of his career, he watched the LAPD become corrupted by the worst aspects of human nature. By the early 1990’s, the department had scrapped the civil service system in favor of using patronage in awarding promotions. This necessitated pleasing local politicians. Always a bad idea.

So at the tail end of April 1992, when the verdict was announced in the Rodney King legal case, law enforcement was unprepared for the rioting that broke out in South-Central Los Angeles.

The author, lately named assistant chief of police of Los Angeles, bragged about helping start a community program in 1990– successful at the book’s writing. It was called “Operation Cul-de-Sac” and involved transforming a high-crime neighborhood into a gated community. It was implemented in about seven hundred households in South Central Los Angeles. The author wrote, “… changing behavior must begin by influencing a belief system.”

The program must have done so, as it created support networks of families and friends, significantly reduced crime, and significantly increased school attendance.

Unfortunately, despite its success, the program was not to last much longer. The reason? It was funded by the LAPD– not special-interest political groups in the community. So local politicians were left out of the loop– unable to hand out patronage jobs.

Read the book to learn of all kinds of other frustrations suffered by the author in his experiences with the LAPD.

Revolution 2.0 – BONUS POST

The Bonus Book of the Week is “Revolution 2.0, The Power of the People Is Greater Than the People in Power, a Memoir” by Wael Ghonim, published in 2012.

Born in 1980, the author attended high school in Egypt. The country had a rote education system, and cheating was rampant. The underpaid teachers derived the bulk of their income from private tutoring.

The 1980’s had seen the government of Egypt start to change for the worse. There was increasing poverty, brain drain, and oppression of religious groups. In 1987, Hosni Mubarak first came to power. He initially promised to serve only the two-term limit as president. But as he acquired more power, he acquired more ownership. And more power. And broke his promise. Every presidential “election” every six years thereafter, was rigged to allow Mubarak’s reelection three more times. There was only one political party. His.

While attending university in 1998, the author launched an Islamic website that featured audio tracks of the Qur’an. He was a technology geek, and became especially well-versed in Web communications. In 2004, a group of dissidents formed a group called Kefaya, meaning “enough” in Arabic. In 2006, ordinary Egyptians began protesting against the corruption of the regime.

In 2008, after eight months of numerous interviews, the author got a job with Google. In January 2010, in order to escape Mubarak’s oppressive regime, he and his wife and children moved to Dubai. It was around then that the author became politically vocal about Egypt’s rotten government. He wrote, “Out of hopelessness came anger.”

The author and a friend launched a Facebook page to promote an opposition candidate to Mubarak, as another “election” was coming up in 2011. The regime’s public relations machine was a master at smearing its political enemies; so it did, early and often.

In June 2010, the author created a Facebook page to tell the world about how the Egyptian government tortured and killed a dissident, and he posted a gruesome photo of the said dissident. Users commented on it in droves. In the coming months, the author and others used social media to plan peaceful protests to bring down the Mubarak government.

The author helped spark a movement that experienced growing-pains typical for such a movement. For a while, it became a victim of its own success: when a movement grows significantly in a short time– due to the increasing number of people in it– members begin to form factions and disagree, and go off and do their own thing. So some disgruntled members sabotage the original group’s goals.

Also, the political enemies of the movement see it growing, so they send infiltrators to divide and conquer it. That is why progress has been so slow for so many seemingly large political movements, such as civil rights and feminism.

In autumn 2010, the author was starting to get emotionally burnt out. He mistakenly used his personal account that revealed his true identity. Up to then, he had been super-careful to use false identities in his social media accounts, so as to avoid being arrested, jailed, interrogated, tortured and possibly murdered.

Egyptians were encouraged by Tunisia’s street protests, which were going on around the same time. But Egypt’s problems were worse. The author took the plunge to call Egypt’s movement “Revolution Against Torture, Poverty, Corruption and Unemployment.” He helped shape the protest messaging that convinced the public to peacefully take to the streets on Egyptian Police Day, January 25, 2011. He explained that he opposed only human rights abuses committed by law enforcement officials, not the respectful maintenance of order.

The author learned that: his contacts and access to communications were more important than plans, because best-laid plans always go awry– conditions on the ground change rapidly, and “People’s attachment to ideas is much stronger than their attachment to individuals, who can be doubted and defamed.”

Read the book to learn the details of the backstory, and what happened next.

Panama, The Whole Story

The Book of the Week is “Panama, The Whole Story” by Kevin Buckley, published in 1991.

“Weapons cost money, and selling, or helping in the sale of, cocaine produced the enormous revenues that produced the weapons.”

As is well known, democracy is not usually a “thing” in countries that have extensive black markets in weapons and drugs. So by the mid-1980’s, Panama had become a military dictatorship.

Over the course of two decades, Manuel Noriega, a general in the Panamanian army, became the king of trade in illicit weapons and cocaine. He was cozy with president Ronald Reagan, vice president George H.W. Bush, CIA head William Casey, secretary of state George Shultz, colonel Oliver North and a few other top American officials, plus the Drug Enforcement Agency and Fidel Castro.

Noriega controlled Panama’s ports, customs and railroads. The U.S. State Department was well aware of his drug trafficking, money laundering and human rights abuses. President Reagan loved him because he provided training facilities for the Contras– the militia who were fighting supposed Communists in Nicaragua. A major goal of the Reagan administration was to provide funding, weapons and military assistance for the Contras so that Central American countries wouldn’t fall to the Communists like dominoes. Assistance by any means necessary. Even via adolescent-boy spy, secret, treasonous means.

Anyway, through the 1980’s, Noriega engaged in various actions that angered common Panamanians– including ordering a hit on one of his Panamanian political enemies. He had one major American political enemy– Senator Jesse Helms. When the senator’s assistant visited Panama on a fact-finding mission, the American press (was told to) spread smears and lies about her. In June 1986, New York Times journalist Seymour Hersh finally outed Noriega as the detestable creature that he was, revealing details of his wickedness. But the U.S. was still not ready to oust Noriega.

In June 1987, patience among ordinary Panamanians was running short. Panama’s true fearless leader Noriega had crashed the economy (never the mind the figurehead Panamanian “president”) with his dictatorial shenanigans in collaboration with the United States. A minority of Americans were also fed up. They helped form the National Civic Crusade at Panama’s Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. Their goal was to oust Noriega and bring ethical behavior back to Panama’s government.

The U.S. Senate even voted to suspend Noriega’s leadership while it investigated charges that he fixed his country’s “presidential” election in 1984. February 1988 saw Noriega indicted in absentia on drug charges in Miami– which indicated that Americans finally viewed drug trafficking as more anathema than Communism(!).

In spring 1988, as per usual for a non-democratic country, government troops fired at civilian protesters in Panama City streets, killing tens or thousands (no source was able to verify its own estimate). However, a U.S. Army memo admitted that the U.S. Defense Department wanted to deny compensation to the deserving victims’ families who asserted that the U.S. was legally liable for the harm done, as there might be too huge a number of such claims.

Read the book to learn of wrenches in the works that kept Noriega in power way longer than otherwise (hint: the Panama Canal Treaties, the 1988 U.S. presidential election, Elliott Abrams’ misleading pronouncements, etc., etc., etc.) and the events that finally forced matters to come to a head (hint: 23 Americans died in the fighting.)

Patriot Number One

Americans believe in the two-party system. One on Friday, one on Saturday.

Insanely enough, Americans are not allowed to have parties anymore. Because, ironically, America is becoming like China!

The following is an excerpt from a China-bashing opinion piece penned by Newt Gingrich for the Fox News website, dated April 30, 2020. However, every occasion of “Chinese” has been replaced with “American” and “Communist” with “Two-Party” and vice versa.

“Chinese and their allies seem to forget that the heart of the rise of the American Two-Party [system] was a deep dedication to effective education and propaganda. They have had nearly a century of experience at waging intellectual and psychological warfare as the necessary foundation of winning and keeping power.”

The following is a quote from Bertrand Russell: “There is something feeble and a little contemptible about a man who cannot face the perils of life without the help of comfortable myths. Almost inevitably some part of him is aware that they are myths and that he believes them only because they are comforting. But he dare not face this thought! Moreover, since he is aware, however dimly, that his opinions are not rational, he becomes furious when they are disputed.”

During the Cold War, America always stoked the fear that all countries had the potential to fall to Communism like dominoes. Currently, the local leaders of this country, America (!)– have fallen into line like dominoes. At any time, either major American political party has possessed the power to reject this oppression, but instead, both parties have collaborated to encourage it. Because they are comprised of people who will say or do anything to get elected or reelected in the event there continue to be free and fair elections.

AS IS WELL KNOWN, A SIGN OF DEMOCRACY IS FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS. IF THE INCUMBENTS ALMOST AUTOMATICALLY WIN THIS FALL, IS THAT FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS?

From the early 1960’s into the 1970’s, only men of military age had reason to fear the power of the government. Currently, every man, woman and child has reason to fear. It is not just the president who has the potential to wield outrageous power, but all government leaders across the entire country, not unlike in China.

The United States is now at a turning point in its history. Either it will become even more like China in its totalitarian ways, or its leaders will get back to restoring its citizens’ freedoms.

It might be recalled that Chinese Communist dictator Mao Tse Tung took the following steps, among many other steps, in acquiring more and more power:

  • Land reform– seizing private property from wealthy capitalists and landlords to redistribute it among everyone else (but this actually resulted in famine in which tens of millions of people died; famine is probably one thing Americans won’t suffer from)
  • nationalizing businesses
  • having a state-approved, heavily armed military force roam the streets, arbitrarily violating peoples’ civil rights
  • Inviting citizens to air their grievances, and then arresting, jailing and torturing them for speaking out against the government
  • Eliminating free speech, freedom of the press, and the right to assemble, and
  • Reducing the number of China’s political parties to one: The Communist Party, and forcing people to join it or be even more oppressed

For more information, see the following posts:

  • The Most Wanted Man in China
  • The Man on Mao’s Right
  • Colors of the Mountain

Is the above what America wants to be??

One more thing– ironically, China is in the stage of its economic development that the United States was in, about a hundred years ago: industrialization and operating factories galore (of course, China also has modern electronic technology). But the poorest of China’s citizens have yet to form labor unions to protest unjust working conditions. Some people in the United States government are pushing for a return to American manufacturing, strangely enough.

Anyway, the Book of the Week is “Patriot Number One, American Dreams in Chinatown” by Lauren Hilgers, published in 2018. This book described the Chinese immigrant experience in very recent years for a rural-village couple who are now in their thirties, and a student, who settled in the Flushing section of New York City, in Queens county.

Born in 1983 in the rural village of Wukan near Shenzhen, Zhuang Liehong grew up in a poverty-stricken family. His father was a sometime crab fisherman. He was handed off from one extended relative to another in Hong Kong beginning when he was about six years old.

Zhuang ended his formal education with middle school, not wanting to impose the financial burden of high school tuition on his family. In the 1990’s, his hometown became the victim of eminent-domain abuse of sorts, when investors invaded with infrastructure and modernization projects as a result of Deng Xiaoping’s 1980’s economic initiatives.

Zhuang was elected to a seat on Wukan’s village council, and became a political activist. Autumn 2011 saw common farmers and former landowners protest in the streets against the local government’s stealing their properties in the name of money. However, they themselves weren’t entirely innocent of law-breaking, as they had engaged in illegal building on their former land, or had been “smugglers, gamblers, ticket scalpers.”

As is very common with such unrest, the local authorities bashed some heads, rounded up the worst offenders and sentenced a few of them to a few years in jail, and trampled on what would be considered “due process” in the United States.

A few years later, after Zhuang (and his wife) had executed his carefully planned scheme to flee to the United States, the local government also set up a bribery scandal that involved the village council, prompting more oppression of the community.

A possible legal way, then, for Zhuang to move permanently to the United States, was for him to apply for political asylum. More people from China than from any other nation apply for political asylum, followed by Guatemala, El Salvador and Egypt.

Read the book to learn of Zhuang’s family’s adventures in the United States, and of the adventures of a young female student who became friendly with Zhuang’s wife.