Fighting Helplessness

I was so distressed before the 2018 midterm elections that I determined to go into a neighborhood where a Democratic candidate was in a real fight for Congress and speak to voters, try to influence even a few undecided voters in a tight race.   I found the race in nearby Staten Island.   The Democratic candidate was Max Rose.  Rose was running against — it was too perfect, you’ve got to check this out (and I have to do a little quick research for the details of this next paragraph):

The Republican he was running against was Dan Donovan, Jr., former law and order DA of Staten Island and an ardent Trump supporter.    Donovan won a special election to take over Republican Congressman Michael Grimm’s seat when Grimm left Congress after his indictment for a string of felonies (he eventually served an 8 month prison sentence after pleading guilty to a single felony count and acknowledging– without pleading, oddly– that he had committed several others) [1].    Grimm emerged from prison and challenged Donovan in the 2017 Republican primary to get his seat back.   Donovan ran hard to the right of Grimm, out-Trumping the Trump-loving Grimm, and won a hard fought primary battle against his Republican predecessor.   Now he was facing an unknown Democrat, thirty-one year old Afghan War veteran Max Rose, in the general election.

I remembered Dan Donovan from the Eric Garner murder on July 17, 2014, Donovan was the DA at the time.   OK, calling it “murder” may be a bit incendiary — the medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a “homicide” —  let’s go with that.   Donovan wrote the unreturnable indictment for Daniel Pantaleo — the officer accused of (and videotaped) applying a chokehold to the much larger Garner, who repeatedly pleaded “I can’t breathe” until he stopped breathing — and submitted it to a Staten Island grand jury that would never indict a policeman on the charges Donovan asked them to vote on.   No criminal indictment against the officer who killed Garner was returned.    Pantaleo has been on desk duty for the five years since the homicide, drawing his regular $100,000 plus salary as a New York City policeman.   

In recent NYPD departmental hearings there was a vigorous legal debate by regulation-parsing lawyers over the legality of the precise hold Pantaleo applied to bring down the much larger man, a black man with a history of arrests, even a few convictions.   The hold, without dispute applied by Pantaleo, that resulted in the homicide of Eric Garner.    Garner was a large black man known to illegally sell “loose” cigarettes from packs that did not have valid tax stamps on them, allegedly refusing to be arrested and dragged to a cell on a hot day, for a second time.   A known criminal who was also known by locals as a laid back gentle giant and a peacemaker.

If you want to get really worked up about the sickening injustice surrounding the killing of an unarmed man who was not at the time engaged in any illegal activity, or posing any other threat to anyone, read Matt Taibbi’s gripping long-form report I Can’t Breathe: A Killing on Bay Street.  The details will make your blood boil, unless you believe that a large black man with a criminal history deserves to be taken down, every time, with or without cause, even if the result is, tragically, a “homicide” by police.  Among a host of brutal specifics, the detail of the man who videotaped the homicide on his phone, Ramsey Orta, being the only person to face justice in relation to the homicide investigation, is mind-fucking.  Orta was facing up to sixty years in prison, at one time, for post July 17, 2014 drug charges and possession of a .25 caliber handgun.  [2] 

A state case was never brought against officer Pantaleo, but there was talk about the Department of Justice bringing federal charges against the aggressive officer whose actions had resulted in homicide, basically the choking death of a much larger man arguably “resisting arrest”.  That talk ended yesterday.   

Enter Bagpiper Bill Barr (on a break from gently bagpiping his master’s increasingly sweaty balls, one assumes) who ordered the U.S. Attorney from the Eastern District of New York, the office contemplating bringing federal charges against the death-causing policemen whose actions resulted in the homicide of Eric Garner, to stand down.   The U.S. attorney said:

“Let me say as clear and unequivocally as I can that Mr. Garner’s death was a tragedy,” Richard Donoghue, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said at a news conference. “But these unassailable facts are separate and distinct from whether federal crime has been committed. And the evidence here does not support charging police Officer Daniel Pantaleo with a federal criminal civil rights violation.”



All roads lead back to Mr. Trump, the undisputed non-racist, scrupulously honest leader of his lockstep Republican party.   Trump is, of course, not the cause for any of this — not directly.   He is the toxic chicken coming home to roost, the logical outcome of decades of unprincipled and very effective conniving by some very determined, very wealthy “job creators”.  He is a symptom, like projectile vomiting or explosive diarrhea, not the disease itself.   A herpes zoster on the genital politic, we might say.

A feeling of helplessness is a motherfucker, I’m here to say.   Time to get serious about impeaching this deserving, largely unqualified 78,000 vote (0.0006% mandate, yo)  Electoral College president.   He may be a symptom, but he is an especially ugly one and he will be hard for the unyielding extremists who support him, and have put all their faith in riding his stinking coattails, to replace on the 2020 ticket.   It is also past time to start making some fundamental, and long-overdue, changes in our recently faltering experiment in democracy.  Either that or we should all go back where we came from…


[1]  Wikipedia gives us the skinny on Grimm:

On April 28, 2014, Grimm was charged by federal authorities with 20 counts of fraud, federal tax evasion, and perjury.[2] On December 23, 2014, he pleaded guilty to a single count of felony tax fraud, and “acknowledged committing perjury, hiring illegal immigrants, and committing wire fraud”.[3]After initially vowing to retain his seat, Grimm announced on December 30, 2014, that he would resign from Congress effective January 5, 2015.[4] On May 5, 2015, Daniel M. Donovan, Jr. won the special election to replace Grimm. On July 17, 2015, Grimm was sentenced to eight months in prison for tax evasion.[5] He began his prison term on September 22, 2015 after a brief delay for medical treatments.[6]

On October 1, 2017, Grimm launched a campaign to attempt to win back his old House seat in New York’s 11th District.  On June 26, 2018, he lost in the Republican primary.[7][8]


[2]  written some time in 2015 (no attribution in original post)

In the last year, Orta’s life has been upended. He has been arrested three times since August 2014. The first, for criminal possession of a handgun he allegedly tried to give a 17-year-old, came a day after Garner’s death was ruled a homicide by the city’s medical examiner. In February [2015], he was arrested again on multiple charges of selling and possessing drugs. The third came on June 30 [2015] when he was accused of selling MDMA to an undercover cop. A lab test later showed that the alleged MDMA was fake and the charges were reduced.  All told, Orta is facing more than 60 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

(He eventually pled guilty and took a four year sentence)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s