Faith in Government

After my spouse of over twenty years swore out a restraining order on me, claiming she was in fear of her life, and went even further, testifying before a hearing of civil commitment to the effect that I was not sane, and after the political party on whose behalf I was agitating, sufficiently impolitely to get arrested for disturbing the peace repeatedly, repudiated me and my efforts, I pled guilty to a couple of misdemeanors (one of which was ignoring the restraining order), and came back to my own house resolved to lay low for a good long while.

That has included not posting my political opinions on this blog.  But there have been few to no readers in quite a while now, and I figure it’s more or less ignored, this blog, so my expressions of opinion — it does do the soul good to express oneself, I think — won’t be followed by anyone who would take them seriously, and I can talk to myself in public, so to speak, without considering myself or anyone else considering me, actively engaged in politics.

Today the veteran peace activist David Swanson examined one of the features of this political season, the full-bore Anti-Russia Propaganda, in the instance of this week’s cover story of Time magazine.  The full piece is here, but a sample is enough:

Come on! Nobody has faith in U.S. democracy. That’s undermined every day by the U.S. government, as Time’s own pollsters are perfectly aware. Most U.S. residents believe their government is broken, and they’re perfectly right. Russia’s government could use a lot of improvements too. But only one of the two is building missile bases and engaging in military “exercises” on the other one’s border.

Now as I believe readers of this blog have concluded by now, I am prone to question every generalization, including the generalization that I am prone to question every generalization.  My elder son accuses me of extending far too much credibility to conspiracy theories, although my view is that history is full of successful conspiracies.

In the quotation I would immediately be moved to protest that everyone living in my city believes that the local government is operating okay, and they pay their taxes and clean their yards as ordered by the zoning authorities (something else that has gotten Your Intrepid Reporter into more trouble than it is worth).  Even if we believe that Congress and the President both lie and cheat constantly, we’re willing to support the police and fire departments in their effort to catch crooks and stop our houses from burning.  That is, we support our local government, by and large.

However, look at what the local government has been doing in the question of police accountability.  In today’s Portland Tribune, we find a report (to be fair, the report, otherwise unpublicized, appeared in an opinion piece) concerning a City Council hearing on the new police contract:

Perhaps the most damning testimony came from Tom Steenson of the Community Oversight Advisory Board (COAB), which recently voted to recommend the Department of Justice find the city in non-compliance in the city’s settlement agreement (the result of United States v. City of Portland). Steenson cited among their reasons for the recommendation the city’s refusal to fill the seven vacancies on the 15-member COAB board (which often leaves the board without a quorum at meetings) and its cancellation of its twice-annual meetings with the COAB.

After the COAB recommended the Department of Justice find the city in noncompliance, Steenson alleges the DOJ forced the board into a minimum 60-day recess. Due to the recess, the 44 recommendations on accountability measures the COAB gave the city, after conducting six to eight months of community forums and nationwide research of best policies, cannot now be considered.

Too late to make it into the Thursday edition’s hard copy is a report on protesters being arrested when the City Council deliberated further on the police yesterday.  That is what you would expect, surely, when the citizens have lost confidence in the government: they will proceed to disrupt hearings, demonstrate in the street, and make trouble generally, since the workings of government are manifestly broken.  Here’s the report by Portland Copwatch.

In fact, if he had just agreed to take testimony on the amendment today, the meeting would have been over before the decision was made (about 1:20 PM) to move the meeting to tomorrow. Council went into recess at about 11:15 AM. During those two hours, multiple police officers including a swarm of Homeland Security cops flooded the building. The front doors were chained shut. People were allowed to leave through the back entrance but not allowed to re-enter. I stayed in the Council Chambers as Don’t Shoot PDX people surrounded Teressa Raiford to protect her from being arrested for failing to leave when the Mayor told her she was excluded. (Kif Davis and Laura Vanderlynn were arrested, and Joe Walsh was excluded but not arrested.)

Members of the government apparatus, as well, have their doubts about the rush to put in place the new police contract.

City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero and Independent Police Review Director Constantin Severe have echoed that call, saying the tentative contract needs changes.

All of the citizen groups are opposed; the apparatus of the city government which was put in place in answer to a lawsuit by the federal Department of Justice is opposed; the independent City Auditor, acting as overseer on police accountability, as well as her deputy with authority for the department charged with conducting reviews, are opposed.  Yet the mayor, who ran for election on the basis of a platform of sweeping reform of the police, is proceeding to ram the new contract through the Council.

So, in summary, no, David Swanson is not exaggerating when he says that every day the citizens of this country are confirmed in their lack of confidence in their purportedly democratic government.  As Gandhi once said about Western Civilization, so we might today say about democratic government,

“It would be a good idea.”

Update 18 October 2016:  In Michael Munk’s blog today he demonstrated the mass media dismissal of the recently-revealed hypocrisy of the Clinton campaign, thusly:

This is what we’ve called the Snowden Cycle (, 7/24/16)—a PR trick employed by those attempting to downplay the NSA revelations in 2013. Obviously, this situation is different, but the spin is the same: Claims of illegal surveillance were either ignored or dismissed as conspiracy theories, then, when the NSA leaks documented widespread domestic spying and unconstitutional overreach, the response from the same pundits was, “Yawn, we already knew that.”
But we didn’t really know that, we simply assumed that, and there’s a world of difference between the two. The fact that Clinton is cozy with much of the press, told climate change activists to “get a life,” and touted TPP in front of Goldman Sachs despite going on to oppose it in public may have been assumed, but now it’s something we know to be true. This, on its face, is significant.

This is our next President, and the press coverage once she is inaugurated (or should I say, coronated) will doubtless be similar to the coverage now: that is to say, we will continue to have every reason not to believe what our government says.

About M. Meo

Worked as translator, museum technician, truck lumper, lecture demonstrator, teacher (of English as a Second Language, science, math). Married for 25 years, 2 boys aged 18 & 16 (both on the Grant cross-country team). A couple of scholarly publications in the history of science. Two years in federal penitentiary, 1970/71, for refusing the draft.
This entry was posted in Afghanistan, Cameron Whitten, Dan Handelman, Empire, Fascism, Free Speech, John Schweibert, Local government, Pacific Green Party, Police, War. Bookmark the permalink.

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