What to Read, What to Listen to, What to Watch

There is something rather nice about this first person short article “Depressed and with my income gone, one simple question saved me,” in The Guardian. It may help us focus on what really matters, as the world, male-dominated and wealth-driven, keeps trying to assert itself and “right” the ‘wrongs’ done by Covid.

Not uplifting at all –yet urgent –is Amy Goodman’s recent live interview on Democracy Now with Julian Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson.  Assange is facing an extradition hearing which will last a month, and new charges under the Espionage Act, including providing assistance to whistle-blower Edward Snowden, plus totally false hacking allegations. These have been added to the spurious ones leveled before.  If he is extradited to the US, where he will likely be found guilty, he faces 175 years in prison.

Assange may be “kidnapped… judicially abducted to the US to spend 175 years in jail”

John Shipton, father of Julian Assange

Assange has now been in jail for more than eight years.  The first seven years he spent in the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he sought (and received) asylum. Then, in some kind of a sell-out deal, Ecuador forced him out of the embassy and, for the last 18 months, Assange has been incarcerated in the high security Belmarsh Prison in London.  For six months — due to Covid restrictions — he has not been allowed any social or legal visits. His health is in ruins.

Lawyer Robinson was interviewed in front of the London court while demonstrators carried signs which read “Journalism is not a crime” and  “Jail the War Criminals, Free Julian Assange.”  Robinson explained that if Assange loses his case, it’s really the “end of national security journalism.”  Assange’s father, John Shipton, in court to support him, said his son was “kidnapped … [and will be] judicially abducted to the US to spent 175 years in jail.” 

Nils Melzer, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Torture who examined Assange, said he had never seen a comparable case; Assange showed serious symptoms of psychological torture.

The world media (the bourgeois media or as some call it the ‘legacy’ media.  In Canada, aren’t these the same guys who got the millions of dollars in a bailout from Trudeau?) are in tepid support of Assange.  We’ll see how much longer that lasts, before the state bears down on the press, distorts and exorcises any remnant of the truth and spirit of justice in Assange’s actions. 

Courtesy cards from the police…

The US site, Vice, publicized the “Little Cards that tell Police ‘Let’s forget this ever happened.”  The PBA card (The Police Benevolent Association) is a union-issued card which allows some people to avoid minor fines, and charges. 

Courtesy: BBC.com

Virtually every cop in the US is a member of the PBA.  This fascinating story will prompt any reader to ask when will the “courtesy” card will come to Canadian police?  It’s worth reading about here. The TV series mobster Tony Soprano gets stopped for speeding, and uses a PBA card – watch what happens here.

“Usually when we think about discretion, we think about what cops can do. But on the street, it’s also who they won’t harass, who they won’t arrest, who they choose to let off.”

David Correia, activist and professor, University of New Mexico.

Chris Hedges – critic of neo-liberalism & the US

Something frightening, but useful was published a few days ago in Canada’s National ObserverIt’s an interview with Pulitzer prize winning writer and activist Chris Hedges. Investigative journalist Bruce Livesey interviewed Hedges.

America is a failed state, and it is what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin calls the “system of inverted totalitarianism.” 

from the interview published in National Observer

Hedges, who is well known for his books Death of the Liberal Class, Empire of Illusion, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt among others, has for a long time warned of neo-liberalism. He writes that the US is heading inexorably toward fascism.

“They Walk Among Us”

In terms of podcasts – there is a fascinating one I listen to. It tends to take my mind off everything political.  They Walk Among Us focuses on UK true crime.  

Courtesy: Theywalkamonguspodcast.com

This episode features a man who killed no one — yet was convicted of more than 155 crimes. Paul Bint started out impersonating doctors. He managed to pull it off in 10 hospitals in the northwest of England in the early 1980s.  He used to walk into the doctors’ lounge, picked up a coat and a stethoscope and wander through hospitals “helping” where he could.  He hooked up patients to intravenous drips, stitched someone’s wound, but was caught when he advised one patient’s parents she would make a full recovery – and she died several hours later.  

 “He’s incredibly wooden,”

remarked one former Tory Cabinet minister about Labour’s new leader Keir Starmer

He then moved on to impersonate the rich and famous – he took on the personas of wealthy and successful lawyers – notably high profile barristers.  He impersonated Keir Starmer, today the new and rather reactionary leader of the British Labour Party.  But before becoming party leader, Starmer had been the Director of the Public Prosecution Service. Bint stole legal robes, laptops, wallets and more from top lawyers in England including Starmer.  Here’s a 10 min. clip from ten years ago which tracks some of Bint’s dazzling escapades.

Essentially, Bint was homeless, and penniless.  Dubbed “King Con”, he used his abilities to land free hotel rooms, dinners, money, entry to posh clubs – and even women lovers.  In 2000, Bint – acting as Keir Starmer – he claimed he was part of the important Lockerbie bombing pre-trial. He was on his way by train to Edinburgh for it.  Bint maintained that on the train, his laptop and briefcase with important legal documents went missing. The railway police looked everywhere and could find nothing.  The rail company, deeply ashamed by the theft right on board, offered him several nights’ of star-accommodation, and money in compensation.   

The real Starmer, dressed for court

Bint was very convincing when he acted the role of Keir Starmer. The podcast is more or less law and order focused — but the charm and the cunning of Paul Bint — plus his unusual personal plea at trial are fascinating.

Leaving the Men’s Room…

I highlighted a lot of men in today’s blog.  But I have to note a very good Canadian podcast on politics called Sandy&Nora Talk Politics.

Every week Sandy Hudson (left: below) a political strategist and founder of Black Lives Matter-Toronto, and Nora Loreto (right: below), a writer, musician and community activist based in Quebec City, host a podcast about politics, the economy, and current affairs.  Their take is unvarnished, feminist, revolutionary and cool – meaning they bow to no one, and they have a  “take no prisoners” attitude. Refreshing.  In this episode from Sept. 1, they excoriate the NDP for promising to merely “review the funding of cops” thus skirting the issue of de-funding the police. 

As Sandy puts it,  the call to de-fund the police seems to be unacceptable in the NDP “…the most left- wing party in Canada has [only] just blinked.”

Nora urged listeners to read Ontario’s SIU (Special Investigations Unit) report on the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, the 29-year old Toronto woman who fell 24 storeys from her apartment balcony to her death in May.  Spoiler alert:  The police are not on the hook for it.   This despite the fact that 6 armed officers were standing together in the apartment when she “fell”—the police and the media tried to call it a suicide.  When I tried to upload the SIU report — access was blocked. As were all the SIU preliminary reports on her death. No doubt the report was blocked by the SIU and the police at this site. Have a look.

Nora publishes her great articles here

What to Watch…

Every weekend, Robert Devet the editor at the excellent NSAdvocate publicizes a video that zooms in to an important issue in this province.  

He highlighted PLANifax Production Co-operative Limited  which was founded six years ago by two planning students in Halifax.  PLANifax creates its own videos to explain planning issues in HRM.

This six minute video is about gentrification of the North end, and the removal of all but a handful of rooming houses is sobering.

This one, six and a half minutes in length, is about how to make Halifax Transit free – and also have transit pay for itself.  Did you know that there are more than 200 cities worldwide that boast free transit?  This video is a breath of fresh air. Watch them both.

Featured image: Julian Assange, courtesy of Dreamstime.com

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