Category Archives: Rants & Commentary

LIONEL PODCAST: America Is the Good Guy No Longer

The purpose of torture is not getting information. It’s spreading fear. (Eduardo Galeano)

The syllabus. Today’s disquisition is broken down as follows.

  • The Sony Hack scandal. Amazingly fascinating for reasons I can’t fathom. It’s larcenous, to be sure. But you have to wonder what idiot in their right mind would ever put such scurrilous communications in emails, as in IN WRITING! Have we all lost any sense of the perils of open source emailing? And Sony’s retained the formidable barrister David Boies to scare the hell out of media, the Hollywood Reporter reports. It’s a mots fascinating concept and idea. Think of it as dealing in stolen property, in effect.

In [a] letter, first reported by The New York Times, Boies referred to leaked Sony documents as “stolen information” and demanded that the files be ignored, or destroyed if they had already been downloaded.

“We are writing to ensure that you are aware that SPE does not consent to your possession, review copying, dissemination, publication, uploading, downloading or making any use of the stolen information, and to request your cooperation in destroying the stolen information,” the letter reads.

  • 9/11 rudiments. As it’s mentioned in every other sentence as to torture justifications, wouldn’t it be nice if people had an idea of the facts? But be very careful because if you dare to delve too greatly or deeply into the truth of 9/11, well, you’ll be called a truther. Or worse. You must pledge fealty to the concept of the official story and never ever question the validity of the story.
  • Torture. Un-American beyond any possible appreciation. Critically and absolutely against American principles, tenets and the Geneva Conventions themselves. Plus, it doesn’t work to elicit information.
  • CRomnibus. Beyond the pay grade of most Americans. The idea of backing up derivatives transcends and traverses all and any semblance of rational thought.

THE LIONEL PLAN: Preventing and Dealing With the Next Eric Garner

As the country moves past its initial and collection reaction and shock to the Michael Brown and Eric Garner grand jury decisions, the issue is now what to do after. Specifically, what needs to be done to move forward and how to both prevent and deal with the next (inevitable) tragedy. Herein is my nine-point plan.

  • Mandatory special prosecutor assigned in police shootings. DA’s will be prohibited from handling prosecutions of police officer shootings and/or deaths within their jurisdiction regarding officers whom they must necessarily deal with on a daily basis.
  • Police union messaging. Police unions must not be viewed as adversarial to the public and must tailor their message and directives avoiding at all costs ostensible tone-deaf insensitivity.
  • Civilian ride-along programs. The public simply has no idea of what police do. Increased participation in ride-along programs and similar liaison programs will help dramatically especially when combined with media and social media outlets highlighting the efforts.
  • Media instruction and tutelage as to what police do. The public and media think that arrests are invitations to cooperate. They must understand the rather brusque process of surrender and the danger to police of “pretty please” seizure.
  • Education of public as to grand jury process. The ham sandwich myth must be forever corrected and eliminated altogether.
  • Reevaluation and ultimate reversal of 1033 programs. Programs providing for militarization of police agencies fuel subliminal antagonism and exacerbate the inherent problems.The historic firewall between civilian law enforcement and military operations as in Posse Comitatus must be enforced.
  • Mandatory camera programs. Cameras proved invaluable in establishing a level of transparency in the Eric Garner case. Without them, no facts would have been readily available. The ACLU has instituted programs allowing for citizens to download apps for smartphone use to document and record questionable and suspect police behavior.
  • Expansion of Citizen Complain Review Boards and CCRB-like programs. Civilian jurisdiction in reviewing police abuse claims creates the perception of cooperative involvement and community investment.
  • Police-civilian liaisons. Emphasis on community policing and symbiotic cooperation is encouraged versus antagonistic coexistence.

 

LIONEL PODCAST: Indict This!

One more time. Just listen to me. This is all you’ll need to know.

 

A Conversation With Robert Downey Sr. on the Genius of Nikola Tesla

A multiple exposure picture of Tesla nonchalantly reading a book sitting in his laboratory whilst his “Magnifying transmitter” is generating millions of volts.

Mutual admiration society. I recently sat down with a great man and friend of mine, the inimitable and ineffable Robert Downey Sr., anent a topic of our mutual fascination: Nikola Tesla, the world’s most famous unknown scientist and inventor. A giant who dwarfed Edison, in particular. How could someone of this man’s dimension and contribution be for all practical purposes shelved by modern history? Is he the Israel Bissell of his time? Who’s Israel Bissell?! See?

A mensch and a prince. Bob Downey is a most unique and accomplished filmmaker, whose résumé infra, speaks for itself. I provide it in toto as I love its style and cadence.

Underground filmmaker, midnight movie maven, existential cosmic joker and surrealist film freak extraordinary — Robert Downey, Sr. was the clown prince of the Beat Cinema scene in its golden age. Inspired equally by the Marx Brothers and Samuel Beckett, Downey’s absurdist wit and jazz film style made him a critics’ darling and audience favorite in the 1960s New York arthouse scene, and later a cult movie sensation in the 1970s with classics like Putney Swope and Greaser’s Palace. These early works are as barbed as Lenny Bruce, as absurd as Alfred Jarry, and as out-to-lunch as Eric Dolphy. Rough around the edges and all-around hilarious, Downey’s first films stand as landmark works in the history of American independent cinema.

The high summit and confab. But herein, we discuss this Brobdingnagian genius whose contributions include – just to name few – alternating current, light (fluorescent bulbs and the Tesla coil), radio, remote control, robotics, the electric motor, the laser, wireless communication and limitless free energy. Even in the field of ufology, Tesla is frequently mentioned in his connections to anti-gravitic propulsion and free energy. The scope and range of this man are nonpareil. We’re also pleased to note how younger generations have taken to his history and legacy. And it’s about time.

Please enjoy this discussion on Tesla (along with an encomium and paean to the great American playwright, screenwriter and novelist, Paddy Chayefsky). And make sure you pic up a copy of Bob’s referenced book Lightning in His Hand: The Life Story of Nikola Tesla by Inez Hunt.

What Ferguson Doesn’t and Didn’t Mean

WHAT FERGUSON DOESN’T MEAN

by

LIONEL

Let’s be very clear about something regarding the tragedy that was Ferguson. And clarity is something desperately needed. It’s critical to note what the case does not mean.

The grand jury’s refusal or reluctance or inability to indict Officer Darren Wilson, i.e. by returning a “no true bill” on a host of charges from murder to involuntary manslaughter, doesn’t mean that another grand jury cannot be reassembled to indict because double jeopardy does not apply. (Double jeopardy attaches when a petit jury is sworn.)

It doesn’t mean that Officer Wilson wasn’t a bad cop or negligent or racist or incompetent. It doesn’t mean that Ferguson is not a hotbed of intolerance. It merely means that a grand jury did not find probable cause (PC) to indict. And as burdens of proof go, PC is notoriously simple to overcome. I contend a more contemporary definition of PC is “He probably did it.” And, yes, it’s significant to note that not a single charge was found to satisfy PC. Nothing. Especially in view of the esteemed New York jurist Sol Wachtler’s now famous quip that a good prosecutor could indict a ham sandwich.

It doesn’t mean that Bob McCulloch was an inept prosecutor or held back evidence or that the evidence was in and of itself insufficient. It doesn’t mean that Wilson will not be found civilly liable in a host of potential lawsuits and it doesn’t mean that the failure to find criminal liability in any way precludes civil liability exposure. It doesn’t mean that witnesses were necessarily lying or perjurious. They can and often change their minds, forget and experience different perceptions of the same events.

It doesn’t mean that McCulloch should have necessarily appointed or requested a special prosecutor, though in retrospect it might have been wise. It doesn’t mean that his familial relationships with police somehow disqualify him as a prosecutor. Try finding one who doesn’t have strong ties to cops. It doesn’t mean that Michael Brown asked to be killed or is a thug or a criminal. No, the lack of criminal charges, the deliver of no true bill doesn’t mean anything other than no criminal liability was found. A radiologist who scans an X-ray and announces no evidence of bone fracture doesn’t mean that a patient isn’t hurt or in pain or limping. A negative pregnancy test doesn’t mean that no one had sex or that a rape didn’t occur.

Many civilian observers have quickly realized that criminal law and real life prosecutions aren’t Law & Order. And I daresay they’re shocked. Shocked at what many of us who’ve served in the M*A*S*H units of the DA’s office and trial warrior trenches have known for years: the system exhibits many iterations from surgically precise to reckless and inept. The grand jury was theoretically designed to act as a buffer, a detached and separate tribunal to protect us from a marauding crown. And it’s fraught with problems.

Historically the grand jury is the prosecutor’s tool. And interestingly enough, now making the rounds is SCOTUS Justice Antonin Scalia’s 1992 opinion in Williams. It’s been quoted (interestingly enough) by the same folks who until recently most probably reviled him. He noted that historically “neither in this country nor in England has the suspect under investigation by the grand jury ever been thought to have a right to testify or to have exculpatory evidence presented.” Touché, Nino. The Williams court refused to dismiss an indictment where exculpatory evidence was not introduced. Here, in a most novel approach, it seems the juridical vigilantes want an indictment delivered because too much exculpatory evidence was presented. Go figure.

The grand jury’s decision anent the tragedy that is the death of Michael Brown doesn’t mean anything other than PC as to criminal liability was not found, seen, presented or allowed to be established. That’s it in a nutshell. It’s time to take a breath and continue to demand accountability from all police departments everywhere and always. And if you’re up to the challenge, Google “Kelly Thomas,” the case of a schizophrenic homeless man who was beaten to death by two Fullerton, California, cops who were ultimately acquitted. There were no riots in protest.

Now imagine the reaction to an acquittal in Wilson’s trial had it been permitted to go forward.

 

The Militarization of the Police Is the Problem

Prolegomenon. There is an old joke about a man looking for a watch on Broadway when it was lost in the Bowery; when asked why he was looking on Broadway instead of where the watch was lost he replied “the light is so much better here.” Similarly, activists don’t use the incident that best exemplifies their cause, they use the most highly publicized event that can be linked to their cause, even if that link is tenuous. Because the light is so much better.

A meme that’s long gone. Take a look, a gander at this image. Norman Rockwell painted this (“The Runaway”, shown here) for a Saturday Evening Post cover that was published September 20, 1958. The imagery is perfect. Understanding cop — with a lot of time on his hands — reasoning with a lad who ran away. What would today’s version be? A kid sedated by a psychotropic cocktail, under lock and key or recovering after having been Tasered or beaten (or worse) for mouthing off to a cop. This is the crux of the problem: the militarization of the police. The destruction of the idea and notion that they’re to help and assist and not necessarily kick ass and take down names.

Compare this theme with today’s.

Seeming disparity of coverage and concern. Kelly Thomas, Dillon Taylor, Gil Collar. White guys beaten and shot to death by cops: white, non-white and black. (I still don’t know what the hell non-white means.) It’s relevant, it’s pertinent and it needs to be explored. Not because that excuses any alleged police overreaction but because it adds perspective. It adds light. The problem is endemic, inherent and knows not race as a primary factor. Correlation versus cause are two distinctly different considerations. Critial thinking and precise issue analysis are needed desperately.

Let me be brutally frank. I hate, no! I loathe discussions that victim categorize by race. What is this? Are we keeping a tally? No, that’s not the basis of my indictment. If a behavior is wrong, if a reaction is unwarranted, it’s wrong simply because it’s wrong. Likewise you can’t excuse wrongdoing simply because it’s rare and infrequent. A black suspect mistreated by cops is as wrong as a white suspect mistreated by cops. Cops who are trained professionals, I might add.

But what I cannot understand is the selective categorization of victim demographics. Yes, without a doubt, there are discrepancies between white and black treatment. True. The history of police treatment is marred and horrible to be sure. But issue analysis and critical thinking a required here. Let’s stick to the particular issue and framework that this disquisition attempts to address. Work with me in this one.

What the problem is and has been is an attitudinal militarization of police that has been exacerbated by the recent injection of 1033-like programs into police departments already burdened by historically entrenched and intrinsic racism. Without a doubt. let’s be clear: Racism has existed, the disparate treatment of criminal detainees and suspects still exists. Fine, let’s all stipulate to that and move on.

Here is the gravamen of my indictment.

  • Police training and institutional mindsets need immediate and drastic revision.
  • The celerity in the use of deadly force must be addressed. Alternatives to force and dispute resolution must be included in officers’ arsenal.
  • Racial arson, especially when fueled by those who seek to enjoy pecuniary gain, must be decried and attacked for what it is.
  • The mainstream media must seriously readdress the way in which it covers incendiary matters, especially in view of the 24/7 cable news wheel that feeds data and coverage without surcease with no recognizable sense of proportion, sobriety or responsibility.
  • The notion of the peace officer has gone the way of RoboCop. So long, Sheriff Andy. The message of the role of officer must be retooled and readdressed.
  • The principles of Posse Comitatus must be revisited to readdress the division between civilian law enforcement and military.

Good luck explicating this perspective. Ted Baxter and Ron Burgundy would be proud.

 

Lionel on RT: “Missouri Is To the Grand Jury What Florida Is to Elections”

On November 28, 2014, I appeared with RT‘s Ameera David discussing inter alia Ferguson, the grand jury process Missouri style, Bob McCulloch and the entire slew and lot of all those involved and concerned.

The Lionel Interview That Changed the Course of Human Civilization

Howard Beale: “We’ll tell you anything you want to hear, we lie like hell. “

There were wonderful days of radio per-Rush. In The Enduring Spirit of Howard Beale Professor James Tracy interviews yours truly for a lively and boisterous tête-à-tête. In it, such gems and bromides as the following infra were gleaned. Here, I quote myself. A fascinating proposition.

It was in the glory days of talk radio before everybody wanted to be Rush,  or the Wannabes came along–when it was interesting, when you had local. You had people who really did not belong on radio, people who did not have stentorian voices, as did and do I not. I’ve been described as Joe Pesci on helium. My favorite is Curly Howard on Benzedrine. People had personality [and] perspective. And then Rush came along and simultaneously revamped, rekindled, and reinstituted AM radio as a viable commercial property, and simultaneously destroyed it by inspiring all of these right wing Rush wannabes who were talentless, and still are in many respects.

 

 

LIONEL PODCAST: Why the Professional Left Is Clueless As to Ferguson, Darren Wilson and Grand Juries Inter Alia

The left left a long time ago. The prototypical leftie cannot fathom any possibility that Darren Wilson was not indicted, that no true bill was rendered, that he’s not cracking rocks upstate or in the Greybar Inn for any reason other than institutional corruption and/or judicial putrescence. They simply can’t. They’ve signed on to the trope that the fix is in, that McCulloch gamed the system and that any chance for justice has left the station. For it seems that these juridical autodidacts and overnight Internet Perry Mason wannabes have gotten it through their thickened Neanderthal crania that justice hasn’t been served here and it must be because this untethered and out of control prosecutor and/or this racist system have struck again. Where were they I ask when runaway grand juries were working overtime in indicting ham sandwiches à la Wachtler like the swing shift at the Carnegie? No, the refrain is that Mad Dog McCulloch gummed up the juridacture works and plied the jurors grand with mountains of data, reports, witnesses and labyrinthine testimony and they were plumb tuckered out and threw in the towel. That’s their story and there sticking to it, I reckon.

Missouri is to the grand jury process what Florida is to the electoral. First, just what is the grand jury anyway? Well, Jethro, I’m glad you asked. To put it succinctly, no one knows. No, seriously. It’s a funky kinda outboard tribunal of whacky star chamber outliers that can serve as an investigative as well as accusatory body but is basically the indentured bitch of the prostituter, er, prosecutor. (I’m not kidding.)

Somebody wake Nino. In United States v. Williams 504 U.S. 36 (1992), Mr. Justice Scalia delivered the majority opinion and in part noted thusly as to the tenuous and rather fascinating role of the tendentious little brother to Torquemada. Read this beaut, the highlighted in particular. After all, that’s why they’re highlighted.

“[R]ooted in long centuries of Anglo American history,” Hannah v. Larche, 363 U.S. 420, 490 (1960) (Frankfurter, J., concurring in result), the grand jury is mentioned in the Bill of Rights, but not in the body of the Constitution. It has not been textually assigned, therefore, to any of the branches described in the first three Articles. It ” `is a constitutional fixture in its own right.’ ” United States v. Chanen, 549 F. 2d 1306, 1312 (CA9) (quoting Nixon v. Sirica, 159 U.S. App. D.C. 58, 70, n. 54, 487 F. 2d 700, 712, n. 54 (1973)), cert. denied, 434 U.S. 825 (1977). In fact the whole theory of its function is that it belongs to no branch of the institutional government, serving as a kind of buffer or referee between the Government and the people. See Stirone v. United States, 361 U.S. 212, 218 (1960); Hale v. Henkel, 201 U.S. 43, 61 (1906); G. Edwards, The Grand Jury 28-32 (1906). Although the grand jury normally operates, of course, in the courthouse and under judicial auspices, its institutional relationship with the judicial branch has traditionally been, so to speak, at arm’s length. Judges’ direct involvement in the functioning of the grand jury has generally been confined to the constitutive one of calling the grand jurors together and administering their oaths of office. See United States v. Calandra, 414 U.S. 338, 343 (1974); Fed. Rule Crim. Proc. 6(a). [e.s.]

Huh? Did you dig that? (1) It belongs to no branch of the “institutional government” and (2) its relationship to the courts is “at arm’s length.” WTF, indeed. Translation: They be on their own. So let me return to the initial point that was made, how can the archetypal left rant and rail anent and against the grand jury in the case sub judice when even Nino has nary a clue of what they do and are? Because it’s nothing to do with fact but feeling and fad.

Bless their hearts. Think Progress in the subject of inspiring a hugely cited social media Twitter meme sequence likewise cites Scalia in Williams:” [N]either in this country nor in England has the suspect under investigation by the grand jury ever been thought to have a right to testify or to have exculpatory evidence presented.” And from this they took this to indict the Ferguson grand jury and Wild Man McCulloch. What a stretch. But that’s the essence and politics of the left-right paradigm. Not to mention, they simply have no idea of what the feck they’re talking about.

LIONEL PODCAST: Ferguson Protestors: Clowns in a Pathetic Media Circus. The Real Victims of Police Abuse Are Being Overlooked. Michael Brown Is the Worst Choice for Victim. Let’s Talk About Kelly Thomas, a Schizophrenic Who Was Executed by the Cops.

“Now, you see my fists? … They’re getting ready to f— you up … If you don’t start f—— listening.” Fullerton Police Department Officer Manuel Ramos told Kelly Thomas, a schizophrenic, as he was beaten to death.

Remember Kelly Thomas. Remember how a jury acquitted two Fullerton police officers charged in the savage beating and death of Kelly Thomas, a homeless man who suffered from schizophrenia. Remember how that jury reached a not guilty verdict notwithstanding and despite their viewing video, audio, and images of the sickening incident that shocked many courtroom and media observers and sparked protests in the streets of Fullerton. This is a man who died at the hands of his badged executioners, a man who didn’t deserve to die. A man who seemed to have slipped through the media’s attention span of a gnat.