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Day 166: Chaos—Not Quite Pandemic

My sinuses are killing me. There’s smoke everywhere—tear gas, fear—everything but FOOD and HOPE. Sneeky shook like a kitten for hours last night, unless he was faking it so Anna would cuddle him. I’ll keep an eye on those two.

As I’d heard, it turns out there was a blackout three days ago in most of Brooklyn, where the mood quickly turned nasty. Hungry people faced with a depleted police force broke store windows and helped themselves. (That must have been when cell phone service was cut.) So far as I can tell, poor people acted first, but the middle class jumped in.

TORCHBEARER (Kieran McGonnell)The diversion of cops to Brooklyn left the other boroughs further understaffed, inviting all New Yorkers to fulfill their needs. Some neighborhoods burned; others experienced more civilized ‘disturbances.’ I wish I could have seen the khaki-clad mobs on the Upper East Side. (On second thought, they were probably the dullest-looking looters in history.) People in most places took what they needed without resort to injury or fire. Violence seems a generational thing, with kids of all ethnic groups more inclined to raise hell.

Has the proliferation of chain stores made it easier for people to pillage? Photos of old-time riots show proprietors guarding their stores with baseball bats or worse. Neighbors recognized their passion of ownership—the local roots. How can chains elicit empathy? They don’t pay guards enough to die protecting band-aids and oxycontin.

I stayed inside with what I can’t afford to lose. It’s easy to feel powerful if your reality is small enough. Sneeky thinks he controls the world by sprawling in a doorway.

But I needed to see if the city had fetched Ric’s corpse. There was so much noise on Avenue B that I called Bart’s newspaper landline to see if conditions had turned much more dangerous. He said it was just a big fire and added that he won’t talk to me in the future because I talk too much.

“You bloggers think they don’t read you like they read us,” said the professional newsman. “They scan everything. They know I’m talking to you now, and they will know I am not talking to you in the future. Good luck and goodbye.”

OOPS? ...WACOHad Bart not hung up, I’d have responded that I know what appalling things the state can do. I know far more about Randy Weaver, Fred Hampton, WACO, and Gitmo than he does. I know what habeas corpus, and the lack thereof, means. I’ve watched my rights shrink all my life. In the ‘70s, stoned Americans ran naked at public events. Now we get strip-searched for admission.

Under throbbing helicopters, amid whiffs of tear gas, I took a stroll. My immediate neighborhood has lost whatever was available for sale. A lot of honest people must be close to starving. The weak are ever more vulnerable to disease. Exhumations of corpses left by the Black Death show that most were badly malnourished by the time they fell ill. The LES DIY will face record demand when they reopen tomorrow: Ric’s Place was untouched in the violence!

Kidnapping the National Guard

It would be nice if New York’s National Guard were to truck in food and water for us. The governor sent soldiers to secure blacked-out towns and cities upstate, but the NYPD is said to have argued against stationing troops here. I’m not sure how much longer they’ll be available, anyway. They say the president is about to assert Federal military authority.

A little-noticed statute passed in 2006 gave the White House unprecedented power to federalize the National Guard. The legislation permits the president to send in the Army whether or not a state’s governor requests military help. And it broadened presidential authority to suspend habeas corpus—our right to know the charges against us, to confront our accusers, to claim a fair trial.

The Insurrection Act of 1807 (slightly amended a century ago) let a president deploy troops only to deal with “any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy.” The 2006 revision added “natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident.” It called for “coordination” between DHS and the Pentagon’s Northern Command, which oversees Defense Department activities inside the United States. Governors have never been convinced that giving domestic law enforcement missions to the military is a good idea.

A demonstration has been called to support New York’s governor against the president. That could include everyone from those who hate federal power to those who want to see the National Guard on the streets now. The governor says anyone who shows up will be arrested: Demonstrations are illegal now. I’ve never been much for marching, but I hate seeing time-honored Constitutional options blotted out.

Pass the Pepper (Spray), Please?

Still, I say the East Village can survive all this. It survived crack and yuppies. I didn’t even feel extremely afraid when I went out. The worst thing that happened was that I seem to have exacerbated my back injury climbing over debris on B. It hurts like heck. No, worse: It feels unprintable.

I should breathe easier, but my throat is heavy. I feel light-headed. I’m certain there’s something in the air. The cops are spraying all sorts of stuff. They’re always looking to test exotic crowd-control chemicals. I hope I can sleep.

Ric still lies on his bed. Sure, I called to remind the city. We both have landlines.

He waits in silence. Someone took his stereo.

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