Fight Em or Join Em by Jukin the Stats and Creatin Reality

The harsh reality of these two painful choices came crashing in on me harder than ever this week.

After Holder-Obama decided to release the Torture Memos, I watched most bloggers make one of two choices. On one side, are those empire doomsdayers who say you are forever screwed by the system and the powerful elite. On the other, those, like me, who want desperately to believe that I can work within the system, fend off those who have an outstanding opportunity to compromise me and succeed at real, not fake change.

While this drama played out on the blogs, I saw earlier this week with my own eyes, our sick system of justice that cleverly keeps the underclass under its cruel, torturing thumb by attending a Cook County hearing for convicted “murderer” and former street gang member Cortez Brown. I was buoyed by the sight of 27 Nation of Islam members sitting in the courts’ pews in their resplendent black, you won’t get me, suits sticking it to the man and praying that justice 19 years delayed could triumph. Justice perverted by white Jon Burge who used torture on Brown to juke his stats to become a star Chicago detective ruining life after life in the process.

As this was congealing in my mind’s reality, last night I watched Bill Moyers have a seminal discussion with David Simon, the brilliant genius behind HBO’s show “The Wire.” I was captivated from the moment Moyers said, “When television history is written,” one critic says, “Little else will rival ‘The Wire.’”And when historians come to tell the story of America in our time, I’ll wager they will not be able to ignore this remarkable and compelling portrayal of life in our cities.” “Through storytelling brutally honest and dramatic, Simon and crew created a tale of corruption, despair and betrayal as devastating as any Greek tragedy.

Simon sitting in his everyman clothes time after time succinctly explained the predicament of the underclass by those who game the system and juke the stats. “You see the equivocations. You see the stuff that doesn’t make it into the civics books. And also you see how interconnected things are. How connected the performance of the school system is to the culture of a corner. Or where parenting comes in. And where the lack of meaningful work in all these things, you know, the decline of industry suddenly interacts with the paucity and sort of fraud of public education in the inner city. Because THE WIRE is not a story about the America, it’s about the America that got left behind.

Just as Bill Black had nailed Wall Street and the money baron criminals on Journal last week, Simon shred the cords of darkness of people and systems that conspire to keep their game up and control over the masses intact, especially for the underclass by tying them into a system that won’t let go.

DAVID SIMON: You show me anything that depicts institutional progress in America, school test scores, crime stats, arrest reports, arrest stats, anything that a politician can run on, anything that somebody can get a promotion on. And as soon as you invent that statistical category, 50 people in that institution will be at work trying to figure out a way to make it look as if progress is actually occurring when actually no progress is. And this comes down to Wall Street. I mean, our entire economic structure fell behind the idea that these mortgage-based securities were actually valuable. And they had absolutely no value. They were toxic. And yet, they were being traded and being hurled about, because somebody could make some short-term profit. In the same way that a police commissioner or a deputy commissioner can get promoted, and a major can become a colonel, and an assistant school superintendent can become a school superintendent, if they make it look like the kids are learning, and that they’re solving crime. And that was a front row seat for me as a reporter. Getting to figure out how the crime stats actually didn’t represent anything, once they got done with them.

Simon saw the marginalization of journalism where he toiled for many years until the system rejected him and he realized the journalism he cherished and the newspapers he toiled for didn’t exist anymore. He recently told “The Guardian,” in London: “Oh, to be a state or local official in America…” without newspapers. “It’s got to be one of the great dreams in the history of American corruption.”

DAVID SIMON: I mean, the guys who are running newspapers, over the last 20 or 30 years, have to be singular in the manner in which they destroyed their own industry. It– it’s even more profound than Detroit making Chevy Vegas and Pacers and Gremlins and believing that no self-respecting American would buy a Japanese car in 1973. That– it’s analogous up to a point, except it’s not analogous in that a Nissan is a pretty good car, and a Toyota is a pretty good car. The Internet, while it’s great for commentary and froth doesn’t do very much first generation reporting at all. And it can’t sustain that. The economic model can’t sustain that kind of reporting. And to lose to that, because you didn’t– they had contempt for their own product, these people. I mean, how do you give it away for free? You know, but for 20 years, they looked upon the copy as being the stuff that went around the ads. The ads were the God. And then all of a sudden the ads were not there, and the copy, they had had contempt for. And they had– they had actually marginalized themselves.

Louis Farrakhan who suddenly appeared in court with his bodyguards and loyal followers along with courageous and dedicated Father Pfleger made the choice a long time ago to fight systems as eternal outsiders. That means Farrakhan becomes Repug election fodder and the good father has to keep fighting just to hold his job. They are the true heroes in America not some pilot who professionally lands safely on a river or a ship’s Captain who defended his crew which is the job he took on when he became Captain.

Farrakhan came to court to give moral support to the heavily shackled Brown and because he wants publicity on Burge. The main purpose of the hearing was to try and get Burge out of his lovely Florida home and come to Chicago to take the Fifth when the actual trial takes place, if it ever does. Farrakhan knows the Brown case could set the precedent for how all the Burge tainted cases are handled and since Brown converted to Islam, he is one of the Nation of Islam brothers. Unfortunately, despite all his efforts and those of Brown’s lawyers, the press coverage was minimal because hordes of media were all at the Federal Court building watching corrupt ex-gov Blagojevich be arraigned. Actually they only covered his attempt at a secret entrance and his exit where he spouted more nonsense in front of the cameras. The richest station could afford to send one crew to cover the Brown hearing, but aired none of it. Here is the coverage the hearing got from our two papers:

Lawyer wants Burge on stand in Cortez case,jon-burge-cortez-brown-041409.article

Jon Burge case: Attorneys for convicted killer seeking retrial want retired Police Cmdr. Jon Burge and former detective to testify,0,5887117.story

I’m left to ponder this morning how much if anything I can accomplish if I continue to Join Em and believe that I can make some small kind of difference for my grandchildren through local politics as I have vowed to do, or whether Fight Em is the way to go. One thing I know for sure as an incurable optimistic pessimist, I will never succumb to “screw it, I give up!”


  1. cocktailhag says:

    That’s some heavyweight journalism from your local papers, RMP. I’d like some more background on the case, although it sounds as though few useful links are available.

  2. Retzilian says:

    Sweets, I don’t get this sentence at all:

    “On the other, those, like me, who want desperately to believe that I can work within the system, fend of those who have an outstanding opportunity to compromise me and succeed at real, not fake change…”

    Feel free to delete this comment after you have edited.

  3. heru-ur says:

    I hope that someday you will come to realize that “working within the system” only validates and strengthens the system. Is the system working?

    I have written several essays on the “justice” that the common man gets in America on an everyday basis, and I had to research the pieces. What I found told me that “working within the system” was a fool,s errand.

    I hope someday you will see that our democracy has failed. I’ll just say, for now, that democracy as a system became a major force in the world after WWI. How has the world been since then? Better than before? Would the people of 3rd world countries agree that it has been better?

    It is not “giving up” to say that the system itself needs change.

    • rmp says:

      I don’t disagree with anything you have said. I see it as a continuing dilemma for me. You seem to have solved your dilemma.

      I do say that democracy as a system is broken and have repeatedly said on UT and elsewhere that we should put our attention on fixing systems not people.

      • cocktailhag says:

        I think that the systems argument, especially illustrated here with the way “metrics” are made to be manipulated, is so pervasive and the cause of so many disastrous outcomes that it deserves further examination. From MacNamara’s statistics in Vietnam, to No Child Left Behind” today, we try to measure things numerically that simply can’t be measured that way. This relentless keeping of scores cheapens political discourse, encourages business fraud, and worst of all, the superrich compete with each other for ever more outlandish… everything. But who’s counting? Everybody. What are they counting? Made up shit. It’s an enormous problem, as we see each day.
        On some level we’ve lost the part of our brains that does more than just numbers.

        • heru-ur says:

          I study eastern philosophy, and I can tell you that the ancients struggled with the same problems that we have today except on a smaller scale perhaps. (ain’t technology wonderful?)

          A revolution in the way people view themselves and others is our only hope. I’ll not live to see even a start at it — perhaps you will.

          • rmp says:

            From what I have learned about the ancient Greeks, it seems to me that mankind has gone downhill since then and all our marvelous technical marvels and religions have only made things worse. I agree about the revolution on the way people view themselves is the only real answer regardless of what we do with systems. Helping people to learn to love and be comfortable with themselves would be a good first step.

        • rmp says:

          As Simon points out, jukin the stats allows self-centered people to create a reality where they can succeed. Politicians like Mayor Daley and the CEOs of Chicago Public Schools have to prove they are doing the right thing so they make sure the stats prove them right and when the stats or a report doens’t prove them right, the report is buried. The next year the CPS might not even do a report.

          Arne Duncan cares a lot about students and improving schools, but as long as he falls for accountability as the number one goal, real education will suffer. Our school system is designed to discourage love of learning and teaching students that they are responsible for their own learning. I know that sounds crazy but l learned this through the experience of teaching in CPS elementary schools a special curriculum that I developed in classes grades 1-8. Students believe that it is the teacher’s job to make them learn, not their job. So instead of developing a system where students learn to love learning, they learn to hate learning. And these students don’t learn how to think for themselves and decide whether they agree or disagree with what is being taught.

          NCLB and teaching to the test have made things much worse. There are a lot of reasons why teens are not finishing high school. Our broken system is the major reason along with the fact that many of these teens are trapped in a social culture that allows violence to dominate and self-esteem to plummet.

          With the Internet, any facts or information is immediately available to students. If they don’t learn how to research, think logically, recognize false logic and evaluate what they are learning, they will become ignorant voters subject to manipulation by self-serving adults. Objective tests that track memorization are ridiculous in this day and age, yet it is still being done on a wide scale so that tests will prove learning is taking place. And don’t get me started on how much damage grades do.

          Not all schools are bad and we do have young people who in spite of the system or because they were lucky to be in an effective system, do have these skills.

          • cocktailhag says:

            Before my parents’ divorce, my older siblings started out in Catholic school, which went out the door for financial reasons before I was sent. But at CCD, (Catholic-speak for Sunday School) I always noticed how shabby and lame the parish school was compared to my public one, and felt glad I didn’t go there, because I’d heard about monstrous nuns, too.
            My mother enrolled me and my brother in the twilight of a Great Society program, wherein we were bused to a school a few miles away which in the late 60′s was considered a ghetto. It had all day kindergarten, snacks, three teachers per classroom, gym, and all kinds of art programs. Despite the social difficulties of being a pasty, unathletic white kid, one of one or two per classroom, I was reading at the fifth grade level by second grade, and had learned painting, calligraphy, and music, and had been to museums, ballets, and the Bonneville Fish Hatchery by the time I switched, due to funding cuts, back to my neighborhood school, where I was stuck back in boring, grade-level crap.
            I don’t think there’s any level of funding that would be too much for early childhood education; the battle is probably lost after that.
            I was lucky to have such an excellent, free education through high school; it was all we had, and it worked, partly because people believed in it. That has changed. Now the Catholic School is the fancy one. Who’d want to send their little Lord Fauntleroys to a free school? That accepts everybody? Sheesh.

      • heru-ur says:

        I have solved my dilemma to the extent that I am positive that humans can be led to do horrendous, heinousness acts when they form large powerful groups. Governments for example.

        Can you name a time in history when individuals were able to kill 200 million people in a century like we did in the 20th? If you add up the victims of the individuals who became mass murderers in all of history it would not add up to our military’s work in Faludja.

        I could write for days on how and why I came to see government itself as humanity’s greatest enemy. But, since it will not happen any time soon that people awaken from their delusion I’ll just try to spread the word that the great “democracy” we have is not a system that is working.

        On another note; please notice the tread at UT today. People are having a gay time trashing other humans and calling them all sorts of names. Jebbie is as bad as anyone. Why? It is ‘teamwork’. Everyone is bonding by showing that if only we could rid ourselves of this or that total asshole then things would be so much better.

        Unfortunately, things would not be better. And people at UT almost never argue that systems need improving. They argue for better Democrats. (or reporters)

        • cocktailhag says:

          Well, Heru, I agree with you, in part. Our government has grown bloated and irresponsible, acquiring along the way voracious parasites that compound the problem, but that doesn’t make me blame government as a construct. The US is, sadly too big both geographically and in population to make citizenship seem real to many of us, and not for nothing.
          I hadn’t noticed too much rancor at UT, anything out of the ordinary, I mean. But I do think that the failure of democracy is intertwined with the failure of the press, so such discussions are useful. Further, on several occasions Glenn’s callouts of media whores have produced good effects. The media is changing rapidly, and I think ignoring it is a mistake. (And as a blogger, the M$M is always a rich source of “teh funny,” I admit)

          • heru-ur says:

            The “rancor” I wrote of was not one commenter having at another commenter. Today, everyone was damn happy to be jointly calling “the other” an asshat or whatever. I mentioned it because you or rmp mentioned that at UT people mostly talked systems rather than people. I see the opposite, of course.

            On to government. We can agree that the government of the USA is too big, powerful, and laden down with horrible baggage to be a workable system any more.

            Where we will disagree is that I am convinced that government by its very nature it evil. Some are more evil than others of course, but all are evil. Can an evil entity occasional do good things? Yes, it is a truely evil wind that does not blow someone good. (a pun is in there somewhere)

            The problem with governments is that they are based on force and coercion. Voluntary cooperation is not part of the fabric of government — government is force, while society is cooperation.

          • cocktailhag says:

            I see people like Mike Allen at Politico as “system,” rather than “people.” I know nothing of him except his dubious product. For all I know, he could be a great guy, a gentleman and a scholar, and perhaps an artist, too.
            So what? As a journalist, he’s worse than nothing. And he probably can’t hang drywall, either. Therefore, he’s occupying space someone else ought to. He deserves to be pilloried for it, and I don’t consider that personal. It’s actually quite objective.

          • rmp says:

            Mike Allen should not be blamed for the demise of US journalism. Actually, he is a big success as far as succeeding in the system he is forced to use. Our government doesn’t exist to serve the people, the people exist to serve and pay for government. The media is the same way. They see the government as a means to make money and feel powerful. If you were in Allen’s shoes at this perilous economic time, would you give up 300K a year and try to exist on starvation wages?

            That’s what would happen if he put serving the nation ahead of his personal goals. And if he chose to do that, would he have any chance to be a real journalist?

            When I comment on UT I try as much as possible to remind people that the systems need to be fixed not the people who are just symptoms like Allen.

          • cocktailhag says:

            Well, unfortunately the dismal economics of journalism as a profession preceded the current unpleasantness and will persist. But Allen seems far too willing a tool for a lot of sympathy. Burson-Marsteller is always hiring, and at least is an honest propaganda outlet.
            Allen’s “response” to criticism by Glenn and others is completely self-discrediting, and I hope it succeeds, at least a little. Yes, he needs a paycheck, but not unconnected to performance. Were I to such do a shitty job at work, I wouldn’t get paid, much less recommended to others, so I don’t. Even though it would perhaps be easier, pride is involved, too. I guess for the right amount of money, Allen and a lot of others are able to set aside their pride.

          • rmp says:

            Your judging his performance by your standards and not his bosses. They probably love what he does. If he wasn’t meeting or exceeding their standards he wouldn’t be the top paid employee. He has to put bloggers down to help his rationalization of how he has sold his soul for money and power.

            In regard to off the record, I always told the commanders I worked for that you should never say anything that you can’t stand to have in print. With the different form of “journalism” that exists today, I probably wouldn’t be providing tht advice.

          • cocktailhag says:

            I suppose I am. I’m given to judging things by their quality, which is more measurable in my business. Still, I was reading just recently about the LATimes fiasco, which I’d written about, and the writer pointed out that Newspapers, or any press organ, have two different “customers,” with two different needs. Advertisers are buying readers. Readers are buying content. Without the latter, whither the former? Further, the quality of the media outlet is directly linked to the quality of its readers, who do leave in droves when the product is crap.
            In Seattle, for instance, both the PI and the Times were locked in a stupid competition over cover price, and the papers got thinner and thinner, while they “competed” to see who would charge more than a quarter. You could still buy two newspapers that barely added up to one for fifty cents until about two years ago. None ever thought that by being a better paper it could vanquish its rival. Do you think that the Times will suddenly become good? Nope. Too late for that.
            I think what Politico is missing out on is that it could become something great by being something good. Instead Allen and friends are choosing to be as bad or worse than their competition. Nice new media model, but there’s an awful lot of competition using the same model straight down the toilet.

          • rmp says:

            Simon put it this way:
            “…but one of the problems with journalism was, they really– even the highest ambition of the people at my newspaper, was to bite off a small morsel of the actual problem. Surround one little thing. You know, lead paint poisoning. We’re going to do a series of articles about lead paint poisoning and show you how bad lead paint poisoning is. And maybe we’ll get a law passed. And we’ll write the react to our stories. And then we’ll submit it for a prize. And that was the highest ambition of people who were regarded as very good journalists.”

            I agree that the large papers have lost sight of the goal of serving their readership. I was an editor and supervisor of several base newspapers and learned the power of putting the readers first. Readers want to know that you care about them and their lives. IF you are doing a corruption story, it should not be written to win a Pulitzer Prize but because people are being screwed and their tax dollars wasted. It’s often the little things that count for example if you are writing a story about some new amusement park and then don’t provide very clear map instructions and all the details a family wants to know before deciding to go or not, you have just frustrated them. Finding places is no longer a problem, but that doesn’t mean the paper shouldn’t provide all the details a family would need. Or like I did in Japan, putting together a publication that had all the details needed to Enjoy Japan which is what the weekly column was called.

            The pedestrian can be very important for your readers and they could care less about winning some journalism prize. Big papers should be the same as dynamic small town papers.

          • cocktailhag says:

            Exactly. Lead paint poisoning is part of a bigger story of how a powerful industry kept its poisonous product on the market so long, and how. (With money, of course) In the book I read about Knight-Ridder, now McClatchy, the author told a story about how due to unfavorable editorial content, one of their papers was boycotted by the car dealers, and suffered huge drops in revenue for a year or so because of it, but they held firm. Eventually they came back, because of intramural competition.
            Even worse, here the Oregonian went nuts trying to stop the Snake River dams from being removed, so nuts that they spent a ton of money showing how Idaho spuds, through the magic of the Columbia/Snake River barge canal, made us an important part of Tom Friedman’s “flat” world, as though selling french fries to Asia were the key to our future.
            The series, “The French Fry Connection,” won a Pulitzer Prize. Would that they cared about something worthwhile.

        • Bill says:

          “On another note; please notice the tread at UT today. People are having a gay time trashing other humans and calling them all sorts of names. Jebbie is as bad as anyone. Why? It is ‘teamwork’. Everyone is bonding by showing that if only we could rid ourselves of this or that total asshole then things would be so much better.”

          You sanctimonious little prick. No one is better at trashing both other posters and threads in general than you and your 911 nutcase friend who claims he’s from London.

          You can kiss my ass, Heru-ur. Teamwork? Hell, all one has to do is take a look at the spit swapping going on between you and LondonAss today and the spitswapping between you, LondonAss, and Sinnard (before he left) to see “teamwork” to the extreme.

          None of you can let one single thread go without trying to bring either a 911 conspiracy into play or to denounce all persons who disagree with you regarding anything on topic or not. Neither of you have offered anything constructive to a thread at UT in ages…just your tired old complaining, bitching and moaning about how unfair life is. At least adnoto occasionally gives people something to think about but you guys never, ever do that. All you do is bitch and disrupt threads with your petty personal squabbles. Now you’re on my case. Before that, it was ommexx. Next week it will be someone else.

          Grow up.

          Sorry, Hag.

          I’ll take it down the road now.

          • heru-ur says:

            My my, the intelligent ones are in short supply here today, eh?

            One wonders why the deluded “Bill” decided to deny that the group spends most every thread attacking some person. It could be someone that Glenn has written about or a troll. I could be a lady who does not type well. It could be anyone, so long as the bonding occurs.

            Then Bill gets mad when people notice.

            Too bad, so sad.

  4. OSR says:

    I declared democracy dead shortly after 9/11. While capitulation is no real option for the intelligent, I doubt any change can come via a voting booth. Think about the unprecedented wealth transfer that is occurring today. Do you think that McCain wouldn’t have gone down the same path? As I’ve said before, the government has digressed to being the PR and collections division of corporate America.

    As Simon pointed out, the interconnections are visible to those who look. Most can’t or don’t, which explains absurdities like teabaggers being manipulated by Freedomworks, which is the very evil that the ‘bags think that they are denouncing. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe in some grand Bilderburg-type conspiracy, since the plutocracy isn’t that competent. It’s more of an interconnected theme which is simply profit extraction.

    • cocktailhag says:

      Your date of declaration sounds about right to me. Certainly a lot of vestigial trappings got tossed away around then. I haven’t yet given up all hope, though. Systems can change, and a nudge in the right direction is better than a headlong leap in the other. The Overton window can move in both directions, but it does become more difficult without a functioning press, or worse, the one we have, which constantly pushes in the other direction. I’d like a chyron under every gasbag with his salary on it, for starters…..

  5. OSR says:

    I imagine that it started well before 9/11, but crisis seems to make these things more apparent. Honestly, I’d written Obama off, as a potential change agent, when he selected Bankruptcy Reform Biden. The current perversion of the representative republic ensures that the electorate only gets corporate stooges as choices. Go to or for an afternoon of pure depression and angst.

    While I’ve kissed off the system, I’m still on the fence about the people. For years, I eagerly awaited this crisis, thinking that it would be the catalyst that forced the public to wake up and demand reform. What the hell was I smoking? Even after their jobs, retirements, and houses are sacrificed to appease the Profit Gods, teabagging is the best that we’ve seen. Apparently, our appetite for assraping is insatiable.

  6. heru-ur says:

    There is a problem in replying to a comment once the level nests too far down; so, I will post here. This is to the lovely Hag mostly, but also to rmp.

    We were talking about our “system” and reached some agreement that it is broken in many ways. The full nature or degree of the breakage seems to still be a matter of contention. Our problem was summed up, in a way, by the German sociologist Franz Oppenheimer.

    Oppenheimer wrote that there were fundamentally two, and only two, paths to the acquisition of wealth. One route is the production of a good or service and its voluntary exchange for the goods or services produced by others. This method – the method of the free market – Oppenheimer termed “the economic means” to wealth.

    The other path, which avoids the necessity for production and exchange, is for one or more persons to seize other people’s products by the use of physical force. This method of robbing the fruits of another man’s production was shrewdly named by Oppenheimer the “political means.”

    Throughout history, men have been tempted to employ the “political means” of seizing wealth rather than expend effort in production and exchange. It should be clear that while the market process multiplies production, the political, exploitative means is parasitic and, as with all parasitic action, discourages and drains off production and output in society.

    To regularize and order a permanent system of predatory exploitation, men have created the state, which Oppenheimer brilliantly defined as “the organization of the political means.”

    Our “democracy” has plundered weaker peoples for the entire life of the State, starting with the natives and continuing today as we plunder the planet. We are a nation of groups; all of which seek to obtain from others the goods, services, laws, perks, and anything else we desire.

    We are “the other” writ large.

  7. Adam says:

    hey buddy… I just wanted to say that my C64 is freezing when I click on the text… are you using some js or something?