Monday, January 12, 2015

Should David Petraeus Get Away With It Because "He's Suffered Enough?"


Elites rarely think other elites need to face the same kind of justice non-elites have to face when they break the law. Whether banksters on Wall Street or legislators on Capitol Hill, the worst criminals in our society-- those given the greatest amount of public trust-- are rarely held to account for their transgressions. And the lack of accountability is systemic and has become almost a tenet of our entire society. Sunday, Dianne Feinstein was a guest on CNN's State of the Union. She echoed comments by 2 other Military Industrial Complex shills from across the aisle, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, that David Petraeus should not be prosecuted and that the Justice Department had erred in recommending charges against him.

"This man has suffered enough in my view," said Feinstein, whose own husband has been bbagman for her entire political career and who, as a military contractor, has made millions of dollars in obscene profits off Feinstein's positions. Both should be rotting in prison now instead of going on CNN to excoriate the Justice Department for trying to bring justice to the high and mighty. Calling Petraeus "the four-star general of our generation" and "a very brilliant man," Feinstein used the common refrain elites always use when telling us to just get over it when one of their own gets into legal trouble: "It's done, it's over. He's retired. He's lost his job. I mean, how much does government want?"

This week, Michael Foley, an author and academic from the University of Groeningen, interviewed me for his next book which is on the politics of the San Francisco punk music scene of the late 1970s/early 80s. Among his recent books are Front Porch Politics: The Forgotten Heyday of American Activism in the 1970s and 1980s and Dead Kennedys' Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables (33 1/3). A few days ago we had finished up and I was exhausted from talking non-stop for almost 3 hours. Foley asked me if I wanted to add anything but I was too tired to think. The next morning I remembered that he hadn't asked me about the White Night riots of May 21, 1979, sparked by the wrist slap to right-wing politician Dan White after he murdered Harvey Milk. Foley came back to my house a few days later for another segment of interview.

Although history paints the riots as part of a conflict between the gay community and the police, it was no such thing. The gay community organized a peaceful candlelight vigil and a march to City Hall. The gay community did not want violence, trouble or any kind of confrontation with the police. Individual gays, of course, had a different perspective.

Harvey was a close friend and mentor. If you watch the credits roll on the first PBS documentary of his life, you will see that I was credited with still photography. Harvey had staked me with a darkroom when I was flat broke and in return, I did his campaign photos. My partner Chris' punk rock record store, Aquarius, was right next door to Harvey's camera shop. I spent my days going back and forth between the two. Harvey has always distrusted and disliked Dianne Feinstein, a member, like himself and Dan White, of the Board of Supervisors (City Council). I had never heard of her until he told me what a pompous asshole she was. The assassinations of Harvey and liberal Mayor George Moscone launched the long, tedious career of the horribly conservative Feinstein.

May 21 found me distraught that White was given the most lenient possible sentence (7 years). I was beside myself and very much ready to do something about it. There may have been one or two other gay people with me and my friends but we were all from the punk rock community. Some cared about Harvey Milk or Dan White; some just wanted trouble. I wanted both. We were the first ones to turn over and burn the first (of a couple dozen) police cars. A picture of it wound up on the cover of the Dead Kennedys' debut album, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables.

Dan White served 5 years of his 7 year term. Two years later, the story goes, he committed suicide by using a garden hose hooked up to his car engine. He did die of carbon monoxide poisoning in his garage... but he didn't commit suicide. By this time the gays didn't need the punk rockers to teach them about peoples' justice.

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