A House Divided Will Fall Right Over
Undercounted killer cops and unwelcomed diligent ones
Links are at the end.
Just a reminder: you can registerto rally online with rail workers and supporters, including socialists, along with whomever in the government is keeping track of workers who might go out on what would now be an illegal strike. The event begins at 4pm Pacific, 7pm Eastern.
One House Divided
Democratic Socialists of America are engaged in what you might call ‘redwashing’ the votes from DSA members in Congress forcing rail workers to abide by a settlement rejected by a majority of railroad union members.
This fall, the majority of railroad workers rejected a tentative agreement (TA) brokered by their bosses and union leadership that would not include sick leave, an end to Precision Scheduled Railroading, and other fundamental improvements to their working conditions.
Railroad work is notoriously brutal. On-call nearly around the clock, workers suffer regular, often fatal, accidents due to overwork and exhaustion. And yet the TA lacks any paid sick leave, let alone the 15 days demanded by rank-and-file workers.
Unions representing the majority of all rail workers rejected the deal. The eight other rail unions that did ratify the deal pledged to honor the picket line should other unions strike.
Biden and his administration sold out workers when they imposed this terrible contract on railroad workers through the antiquated Railway Labor Act (RLA).
Rashida Tlaib was the only member of the Squad to vote against enforcing the tentative agreement; all the others supported it, including Cori Bush and Ocasio-Cortez in the House and Bernie Sanders in the Senate. The latter group voted for a bill/amendment that would have added seven paid sick days to the agreement, but did so in the knowledge that it had no chance of passing.
DSA says they’re disappointed in those votes against the workers, but not to the point of excoriating them in the same terms as they do the president and his minions. They go on to call for solidarity with the workers.
Another House Divided, Sort Of
This isn’t really a house divided; more half a house keeping secrets from the other while the other doesn’t care. The Washington Post has a special report out today examining the disparity between the number of police killings reported by the FBI and the number recorded in the newspaper’s database.
The story is very thoroughly reported, and depressing or infuriating according to what manner of day you’re having.
Fatal shootings by officers in at least 2,250 police and sheriffs’ departments are missing from the past seven years of federal records, according to an analysis of the database maintained by The Post, which began tracking the killings in 2015. The excluded data has created a misleading government picture of police use of force, complicating efforts at accountability.
The incomplete data also obscures a racial discrepancy among those killed by police that is larger than the federal data suggests. Black people are fatally shot by police far more often than is evident in the FBI data, The Post has found — at more than double the rate for White people.
Among the missing data: shootings by officers in 440 departments whose local governments received nearly $90 million in federal grants to track and report crime data; and shootings from another 700 departments required by local laws to report the killings to state authorities, but no higher.
The undercount is a product of state and local government and law enforcement offices — in the jocular vernacular — to obscure or understate the amount of killing done. Not, in many cases, that they’re required to report the shootings to the feds, and sometimes not even to state authorities. With the justice department and likely congressional staff paying more attention to the FBI than to the Post database, whatever actions which might have been incited by the actual number and demographic proportions of the killings will have been left undone.
You’re Not One Of Us
Congress awarded a Congressional gold medal to members of the Capitol police and metropolitan police on duty during the assault on Congress. Mike Fanone, who is no longer with the Capitol police, has understandably been one of the most visible and outspoken critics of the attack—he was badly beaten and repeatedly tased by rioters. His former colleagues don’t like his current attitude.
Fanone, who was severely injured on Jan. 6 and is an outspoken and recognizable advocate for police who defended the Capitol, said members of his own force jeered and taunted him during the ceremony.
Fanone said that as he walked to a bathroom while guests were being seated before the ceremony started, a member of the department’s Special Operations Division held his hands in the shape of a plaque and told him in a sarcastic tone: “There he is, the great American hero. Thank you for gracing us with your presence.” Fanone said he turned and saw him mouth a profanity.
Fanone said he walked away but then returned to confront the officer, whom he said was among a group from the Civil Disturbance Unit. Fanone said he told the officer, “Not on this day, of all days, and if you want to talk about it, we can go outside.” He said other members of the unit chimed in with jeers, telling him he “was not a cop anymore” and calling him a “disgrace.”
Ejected from the hive.
Why Are The Police Like This?
Jacobin offers a history of policing, how police forces came to be as they are, in a story titled “Why Are The Police Like This?”
Excellent work has shown how the police preserve racial hierarchies, in part by using force disproportionately against minorities, especially black people. The police were central to W. E. B. Du Bois’s theory of how the ruling class used racial ideology to divide workers who shared economic interests. As recent protests have awakened the public to this “social control” function of the police, they have also opened up the space to ask a basic question: why are there police in the first place? What interests do they serve, and why have they become so militarized?
As it turns out, the institution emerged to police all people whose freedom the ruling class feared. In the United States, as in other countries, the police were created to manage the social problems of a capitalist society — poverty, crime, and class conflict — while suppressing radical challenges to that society. As those challenges became more serious, the police became more militarized. The institution that in the United States has been directed with special force and ferocity against black people is, today, the most visible and violent part of an all-purpose apparatus of discipline and control. Once we grasp the origins of the police and why they militarized, we can recognize why all workers share an interest in transforming the police.
If the rail workers who rejected the agreement forced on them by Biden and Congress do go out on strike, we’ll get a vivid reminder of where police came from and what they’re for.
Let ChatGPT Convert You To Socialism
Nathan Robinson at Current Affairs has written a long story about an AI chatbot, ChatGPT, recently released for public use.
Lately, there has been a great deal of press coverage of ChatGPT, a language model produced by OpenAI, which is capable of having natural language conversations on almost any subject and was recently released for public testing. The New York Times says it is “quite simply, the best artificial intelligence chatbot ever released to the general public,” and hundreds of pictures of conversations people have had with ChatGPT have been spreading across social media.
The moment you start interacting with ChatGPT, you realize that the Times is right: it’s a qualitatively different experience than previous chatbots. It doesn’t try to imitate a human (it frequently reminds you that it’s only as good as its data and has no thoughts of its own). But it speaks in clear and often complex English sentences and understands even very sophisticated questions well. If you ask it to explain what the core arguments against democracy are, it will give you very good explanations of those arguments.
Among other things — many, many other things, including a request to write a season of Curb Your Enthusiasm — Robinson asked AI to explain why socialism is a common good and not a drain on productivity. (He supplied the answers in screen shots rather than text, so perforce we must too. You’re best served by going to the story.)
On the subject of productivity, the bot produced a succinct, favorable response as well.
Of course one can ask it to provide responses critiquing socialism as well as ones praising it. We’re heading there now to see what sort of results we can get on which topics. You should be aware that the signup process is somewhat involved if you’re interested in creating an account.
Judge blocks Indiana abortion ban on religious freedom grounds
A second Indiana judge on Friday blocked the state from enforcing its law banning most abortions after Jewish, Muslim and other non-Christian women challenged it in a lawsuit.
Marion County Superior Court Judge Heather Welch issued a preliminary injunction against the Republican-backed law, which prohibits abortions with limited exceptions for rape, incest, lethal fetal abnormalities or a serious health risk to the mother. The plaintiffs have argued that the measure infringes on religious freedom protected by another state law.
Let us hope this becomes a model for similar suits elsewhere.
The Big Wu, “Folktales;” Vida Blue, “Vida Blue,” named in honor of the three-time world champion pitcher but not involving him except that one time; The Beatles playing us out with 14 tunes in 34 minutes on “Revolver.”
And that, comrades, is all we got. Be well, take care.