Got that Obama!

Who among us is surprised by this?

Sheriff’s deputies and investigators have broken a heroin distribution ring that dished out narcotics across more than half of Sullivan County.

<…>

The alleged dealers were pushing a variety of heroin that they called “Obama.” Chaboty said dealers are known to stamp the glassine wax paper that carries the heroin with brand names — like “Black Death” or “Blue Sunshine” — so that users can identify their preferred brands. This drug ring’s stamp happened to carry the new president’s surname.

“It’s an absolute disgrace,” Chaboty said.

Life imitates The Wire, episode 11,876

Rachel Maddow had Princeton’s Melissa Harris-Lacewell on last night to discuss the drama surrounding seats in the US Senate opened by Obama’s appointments. Naturally, the discussion focused primarily on the Blagojevich scandal.  Watch the entire segment to hear Dr. Harris-Lacewell’s parting admonition:

View “Rachel Maddow video: Senate scramble

Drawing conclusions

To say I hold strongly negative opinions of the forces behind the Iraq invasion is an understatement.  Immersing into the world of Generation Kill, it’s been a struggle trying to shoehorn that analysis into this story.

Maass:

…those types of shortcomings, as well as the ineptitude of some members of the unit—a vital supply truck is hastily abandoned in battle, commanders are obsessed with facial hair, a captain orders his men to go the wrong way on a road—are rooted in systemic faults that predate the election of George Bush in 2000. The Bush team was incompetent and naive—the critics are right about that—but the military had more than enough built-in deficiencies to undermine even a well-planned conquest of Iraq. Snafu, which is a military acronym that stands for “Situation Normal: All Fucked Up,” did not come out of Iraq; its origins are generally traced to World War II.

Of course, it is their fault that First Recon was in Iraq to begin with.  Watching Episode 3 unfold, watching that hamlet burn, I was overwhelmed with the thought that one narrative about one battalion and the damage and death they dealt represented a fraction of the total devastation.

More Maass:

Yet the highest achievement of the miniseries is the way it unveils the disordered workings of the American military and the inevitable destruction of all objects in its path, including civilians whose only offense is to tend their sheep or drive down a road. With its $550 billion budget and 1.5 million troops, the military might seem a mechanized colossus of precision-guided violence, give or take a few bad apples and errant artillery shells. But if you have served in the military or written about it from the inside, you know that on the unit level it is filled with men and women of vastly different motivations and skills. The Marines in Generation Kill are intelligent and dimwitted, panicked, sensitive, racist, comic, homicidal, brave. It is a wonder when things go according to plan. “You know what happens when you get out of the Marine Corps?” says one of the characters. “You get your brains back.”

Generation Kill is the opposite of a lecture—the paragraph you just read contains more politics than you’ll get in the entire series. Generation Kill doesn’t insist that the military—George Bush’s, Bill Clinton’s, Barack Obama’s, or John McCain’s—can only get things half-right on its good days. Instead, it presents the untouched messiness and ambiguity of killing in modern warfare. You can draw your own conclusions.

Be sure and read the rest.

A good man, and thorough

TWOP is going to be recapping Generation Kill, which I find surprising — given the mini-series-ness of the production.

Athenae hooked me up with this news a week or so ago. So why has it taken me so long to post it? Is it because some folks have grown kind of “meh, TWOP sux” lately, especially since the Bravo buyout?

Nope. Because even if those folks are right, and I’m not sure they are, because things change and evolve and time moves on, anyway even if they are, TWOP is still great at the cross-pollinating thing and that will bring the show, and Simon, more viewers. And if that gets 10 more more people talking about this war, and war in general, and politics, and the election, and our country, I’m down with it.  It sucks they aren’t already doing that, it sucks that they haven’t caught on yet, it sucks some will forget it again, but I’ll take what I can get. Different people change and evolve in response to different stimuli.

Which, oh yeah, that reminds me:  Someone who shall remain nameless, a beloved (justly so) commenter, on that elitist politico-economico-cultirati place where a couple of us spend too much time, this someone took a crack at me the other night.  The topic was television, and how we should all kill ours now, and the majority of crackheads commenting agreed that it offered little, toss the fucker out.  Disagreeing with that (plus pointing out that throwing our teebees out the window with one revolutionary fist whilst still hanging on with the other to our computers, ipods, appliances, cars, etc., well it just seems a tetch too symbolic to make our corporate overlords shit themselves) plus seeing a chance to work in a Nupac plug, I said I’d have a hard time letting go of HBO, for one thing.

So this beloved community sage serves up some condescension to me about hanging on to my calming blue screen to keep myself numbed out, sedated, and calm.  Or something like that. I’m not obsessive enough (shut up) to go find the comment but I’m pretty sure the words “numb,” “blue,” “sedated” and “calm” were all in it.

Which brings me back to my n=10 damaged souls ripe for change reacting to the seed of an idea.  Which brings me way back to Friday nights and Homicide, back when it felt like maybe there were only 10 people watching. Then The Corner,  then the first two seasons of The Wire, the uncertainty there would be another after that, but there was, then one more season, and then one more.

Tell me there wasn’t some change happening as more viewers found that show, some things taking hold in people’s skulls, some ideas.

Like, for example:

“America’s broken. No, really. Shot in the head broken.”

Because, see, I’d rather that 10 people really get it, really have that bowel-freezing middle-of-the-night choking up out of sleep panic over how fucked we are than five hundred people snoring like well-fed dogs after the 8,814th ep of Law and Order.

Anyway, the procrastination about the TWOP news was because they put their best dude on the job and it psyched me flat out.  That’s right, Jacob.  TEH Jacob. Athenae’s favorite writer Jacob.

And I couldn’t figure out how to write about how good he is. How he brings it even when the show in question is pure crap.  Or not.

And then, there’s the BSG recaps.

In the stillness and light, with the wind in her hair, a holy smile upon her face, lit from within by the fire of a thousand wrong turns suddenly and violently wrenched straight: all those mistakes weren’t mistakes, they were just the way things had to go. They were just the unfolding, from a funny angle. Whether this has all happened before and will happen again is beside the point, that’s just rhetoric: seen from above, this is all happening. She closes her eyes in the unfolding. The Kore child dances in the light of the abyss, her face clean and joyful, almost too bright to see, free of the constraints of time and what we see. She smiles in absolute peace: how can you look at her, this beautiful, calm girl, this gorgeous peace, this holy calm, this rightness, and think this is a mistake? I believe that Kara Thrace will lead the Fleet to Earth, just as I believe Three will stand and walk and love again, and Caprica will know God’s love, and Gaius will know peace, and Gaeta will bone a dude. Just as I believe that until the bugs stop jumping, the war will never end, because fear and violence create more bugs and more fear and more violence, and the more frightened you are, the more likely you are to both act like assholes and forget that it’s just a game, fail to recognize they’re only toys. I believe these things just as I believe there’s a day all pawns will become queens, and the Chips stop talking, and the angel rejoins what was broken, on a holy anvil that only looks like war, from this joke of an angle.

I don’t know how to write about writing about television that’s that gymnastic and funny and mean and glorious, except to just point at it. Except to tell you these recaps will show up over there, and they will be more than worth our while.  Except to tell you I know they put the best shot they have on it, which is only fitting.

Interestingly enough, he’s never watched The Wire.  Rather than just pretend that of course he has, or cram all five seasons in before watching seven episodes of a completely different show, he asked for some conversation about it here, so go knock yourselves out.

Not Quite Fiction: Headlines Ripped from The Wire

In New Orleans, and in urban areas all over the country, there’s a creepy conflation of the Wireverse and reality. There is surely some local version of Avon Barksdale or Marlo running the Iberville project, or a Bodie holding down the tower on Simon Bolivar Ave. Ray Nagin is just as craven and disconnected as Royce, and among all the developers out there hounding for recovery tax credits, there is maybe a Stringer Bell among them, using laundered money. Obviously, in Louisiana, we have far too many Clay Davises, and lord knows the Times-Picayune misses the real story most of the time. Plus, we have Republicans, and they’re not just in the statehouse..

The connections happen so often that I’m going to try and chronicle some of them here. I’d love for these posts to be a place where we can do some critical thinking about solutions: institutional reform, witness protection, civic activism. Heck, we can even bring in Bunny Colvin’s favorite, academic research. The series is such a gold mine of sociological research that it would be a shame to avoid putting it into praxis. So let’s get busy in the comments section, yes?

First up, a story out of Los Angeles from last week. A 16 year-old girl from Sun Valley, CA, named Martha Puebla, witnesses a violent gang shootout that ends with her friend’s body laying bullet-riddled on the sidewalk. Suspect Jose Ledesma, notorious gangster, flees to Tijuana. Mexican police respond to a separate incident and find out that Ledesma and his buddy Catalan are wanted in Los Angeles for murder.

By nightfall, the suspects had been hauled back to LAPD’s North Hollywood station for booking. Pinner and Rodriguez brought Ledesma, 19, into an interview room and flipped on a tape recorder. Rodriguez read Ledesma his Miranda rights, and Pinner started grilling him. Ledesma, who didn’t call a lawyer, showed no signs of cracking. He mocked and swore at Pinner, repeatedly denying any role in the killings.

“You got the wrong person, buddy,” Ledesma said.

“OK. I don’t agree with you, and I have the evidence to prove it,” Pinner said. “I have multiple witnesses who are going to testify that you were the shooter.”

Pinner told Ledesma he knew the gang member had been on his way to Martha Puebla’s house to visit her the night Vargas was killed outside her house.

To drive home his point, Pinner laid down a “six-pack” — an array of mug shots that detectives often show to witnesses or victims of crimes. On it, Ledesma’s photo was circled, and the initials “M.P.” were written below it. “Those is the guy that shot my friends boyfriend” was scrawled along the margin, followed by Puebla’s signature.

What will happen next? It’s so hard to predict.

OK, actually, the comparison isn’t perfect. Instead of putting the word out that Martha Puebla was a snitch, Ledesma just cuts to the chase and orders the hit.

The next night, Ledesma reached for a pay phone outside his cell. “Cokester,” he said into the receiver, calling his friend Javier Covarrubias by one of his gang monikers, “do you know the slut that lives there by . . . my house? Her name starts with an M . . . I need her to disappear. She is dropping dimes.”

To the gang, Puebla was a snitch and needed to be dealt with.

“Uh huh, like that,” Ledesma told Covarrubias, using a mix of Spanish and English. “But [keep a] low-pro[file]. . . . Stay on your toes, homie. And don’t get caught.”

Puebla was apparently aware that she had been labeled a snitch. She told a friend that she knew the Vineland Boyz were blaming her for helping police with the Vargas murder investigation.

And just like Herc, these fine LAPD officers had no idea what was going on, because Martha Puebla was killed five months after the original shooting. While investigating her murder, it took the detectives nearly two years to get a correct translation of the jail-cell phone call.

The real kicker here, though, is that Martha didn’t tell the cops anything. There wasn’t even a photo array. The cops made it all up.

Far from helping the police, the reality was that Puebla had actually tried to protect Ledesma in the hours after the shooting. She allegedly threatened her girlfriend, telling her that if she cooperated with authorities Puebla would tell the Vineland Boyz where the girl’s family lived.

Puebla’s girlfriend had told detectives that as the gunshots went off, Puebla had yelled, “It’s Peps!” But Puebla denied it, telling Pinner, Rodriguez and two other detectives that she had only speculated that Ledesma may have been the shooter.

When Pinner and Rodriguez stepped into the interrogation room with Ledesma, they had little real information to work with.

So they made up what they needed.

The photo six-pack was a complete fake. Rodriguez had doctored it, circling Ledesma’s photo and forging Puebla’s statement and signature.

Good thing the Feds stepped in to clean up the mess.

In 2004, federal investigators got involved in the investigation into Puebla’s killing as part of a larger case against the Vineland Boyz. Last year, in a federal plea deal to avoid the death penalty, Ledesma, Covarrubias and the gang member thought to be the gunman admitted to taking part in killing Puebla. A fourth Vineland Boyz member who participated is thought to have fled to Mexico and is being sought, a federal prosecutor said.

With the arrival of federal authorities, Pinner and Rodriguez were phased out as the lead investigators. They soon were separated as partners. Rodriguez was transferred to an auto theft detail and is currently assigned to a vice unit. Pinner remains a homicide detective in North Hollywood.

That’s right; this joker Pinner is still a homicide detective. Maybe if he’d lost some sort of camera…

Half awake in a fake empire

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Snot Boogie died because he couldn’t change things up, even a little. Omar tried changing but it didn’t take. Dukie didn’t even know how to change unless someone else did it for him.

The tree that doesn’t bend breaks.

Bubbles and McNulty both tried and failed more than once, and they lived through it but others paid the price.

Stringer Bell, Burrell, Bunny Colvin. They changed too much, or the wrong way at the wrong time.

Bend too much and you’re already broken.

Continue reading

Excuse me…

I’ve been wrestling with an sloppy and overlong post on the overall theme of paradox and contradiction in Ep 56 and right now, the post is winning.  Partly in the interest of tightening that behemoth up, and partly in the interest of posting something, anything, before the week gets any older, I’ve excised this:

Carcetti’s not the first Baltimore mayor involved in a battle for the port, and despite his claim about where it all began, neither was Tommy D’Alesandro. It was another Baltimore mayor, in another century, that first laid claim to the Patapsco, and by extension, Baltimore. Though in actuality he would not be mayor for some years, Major General Samuel Smith, also a US Senator at the time, commanded the American forces defending the city against the British at the Battle of Baltimore, one of the major seiges in the War of 1812. Also known as the Battle of Fort McHenry, the victory was a surprise — few had believed that the Americans could hold the city against the British. So unlikely was the victory that a young lawyer caught in the middle of events was moved to write a poem, “Defence of Ft. McHenry,” which we know now as The Star Spangled Banner. The Francis Scott Key bridge in the background of Carcetti’s beautiful dream harbor was also, you will recall, central to an earlier ethical skirmish for one Jimmy McNulty. All of which may or may not have anything to do with why, later in this ep, we see McNulty hashing things out with General Smith:

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