All posts by iamselma

Open Letter to Park Slope Food Coop Gazette

Dear Gazette:

This letter, originally submitted on June 23, 2015, was intended as a response to Barbara Mazor’s June 11 letter, which claimed that BDS allegations regarding Soda Stream were unsubstantiated. Mazor’s claim, however, runs contrary to the body of letters published in the Gazette, which were replete with factual references. Nevertheless, I’m again providing a list of reports documenting SodaStream’s violation of labor, environmental, and human rights laws.

I have served as Liaison Officer for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Washington, D.C, was a volunteer for 8 years with Human Rights First in New York, and a member of the National Lawyers Guild. The Guild issued “In The Name of Security” in 2002, following its fact-finding mission to the West Bank along with Amnesty International, which detailed the destruction of Palestinian culture and civil society by Israel:

First, there is “SodaStream: A Case Study for Corporate Activity in Illegal Israeli Settlements”.

Next, the Italian BDS website cites Kav LaOved’s report criticizing SodaStream for its labor and environmental violations.

A 2011 United Nations Conference on Trade and Development report linked the decline in Palestinian agricultural and industrial sectors and dire humanitarian conditions with Israeli government policies, in particular the confiscation of land and natural resources, restrictions on the populace’s mobility, and isolation from international markets.

The UN also issued a report regarding SodaStream’s relationship to the occupied territories.

The fact that the Palestinian territories are occupied, and not “disputed”, has been legally recognized by the International Court of Justice, the International Red Cross, and the Conference of High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, among others.

A 2009 B’Tselem report, “Foul Play: Neglect of wastewater treatment in the West Bank“
, noted that Israel fails to enforce environmental laws in the settlements or in industrial areas in the occupied West Bank. See, also, Corporate Watch- Tracking Corporate Complicity in the Occupation of Palestine.

As for “surprise inspections”, according to Bloomberg Businessweek and Corporate, the Sodastream Factory in Mishor Adumim is “the most heavily protected in the area, with multilevel electric fencing protecting its perimeters and cameras monitoring everything going on outside of them.”

Regarding the credibility of human rights lawyers, and international human rights workers, many anti-BDS letters have characterized these independent sources of information as being inaccurate and untruthful, without producing any evidence demonstrating their lack of integrity.

Yet, Stop BDS has received huge infusions of cash from billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson, a GOP kingmaker with ties to organized crime. Last May, Adelson convened a secret meeting in Las Vegas that reportedly raised $150 million for distribution to local Stop BDS chapters. Are we to believe that their information is unbiased, accurate, and credible?

Cooperatively yours,

Carol Lipton

“Mad Men”, the 60s, and the Triumph of Neoliberalism: Carol Lipton’s Review

Last Wednesday, I took a walk that I had not taken for many years: I went from 38th Street and Second Avenue to 59th and Lexington, revisiting much of the scenery and streets I used to pass by every day as a summer letter carrier in Grand Central Station in 1970. It was the height of the Vietnam War. Kent State and the war were raw, open sores on the nation’s psyche. I passed 57th Street, and was struck by something I hadn’t noticed in many years: the Juan Valdez coffee room, where I used to go at the end of my morning route for a free cup of Columbian coffee. I cringed, thinking how to my college self, getting a free cup of espresso in midtown Manhattan from a giant corporation that was exploiting workers in Latin America, was an incredibly exciting event.

I thought back to the endless sun-drenched afternoons walking up Park Avenue, a 20, sometimes 34-pound load of mail on my back, sporting my third change of work shirt, off to the afternoon Special Delivery runs that would terminate at UN Plaza, Beekman Place and Tudor City, and how a small treat like a free cup of coffee would make my day.

I thought of how embarrassingly neocolonialist its “El Exigente” ad campaign was, and the yawning chasm between the sanitized advertising image of the friendly coffee grower and the brutal realities of coffee plantations and assassination of labor leaders in South America.  I realized how the loss of any remaining illusions about the corporate machinations taking place in the canyons of midtown obliterated any traces of youthful excitement about being on those streets. What I felt was the opposite of the many tributes to the glories of Midtown, whether Sinatra’s or JZ’s. For me, there was neither hope nor charm.

Midtown in 2015 was vastly different terrain from midtown in the 70s. Gone were the low-level apartment buildings, the dozens of small cafes and restaurants, coffee houses, working class bars, and boutiques.  In their place were glass and concrete cenotaphs, interspersed with the monotonous neon frontage of chain stores and banks.

My walk served as the perfect prelude for the final episode of “Mad Men”. The “Mad Men” finale was, whether intentional or not, a stark commentary on the triumph of globalization and return to normalcy after the tumultuous and disorienting cultural upheaval that was the 1960s. The ending of “Mad Men” was a master stroke. With a modicum of imagery, Matthew Weiner brilliantly portrayed the co-optation of the counterculture.

The ending, a replay of the most iconic TV ad of the 70s, the 1971 Coke commercial, was in effect a bookend to a scene at the beginning of the series, when the War in Vietnam had begun to escalate.  Don Draper was at a coffeehouse in Greenwich Village, intently watching as a folk singer on acoustic guitar sang the mournful and elegiac “By The Waters of Babylon”.  The singer, a humble young man in nondescript clothing, is the opposite of Draper, the Brill Cream Adonis. The song is sung in round robin style reminiscent of a Greek chorus.  Its emotional refrain, “We lay down and wept, and wept, for these our young” stands in plaintive contrast to Draper’s polished, impervious facade.

The series returns to the War in Vietnam in its final episodes, as Sally’s childhood friend enlists in the army, and she angrily denounces him. She becomes the moral center of “Mad Men”. Don, who had been slowly losing the ability to manage his game of 12-dimensional profligacy, finally hits rock bottom. He’s forced to confront the flotsam and jetsam of his life: the fake identity, the betrayal of his children’s trust, his many secret affairs, the lingering shame of his upbringing in poverty.  In the final scenes, Don’s emotions surface, and he finally seems to allow himself to feel genuine feelings.

In one of the most touching scenes in the series, he bids farewell by phone to Betty, who is dying of lung cancer brought on by years of heavy smoking, made more tragic by the irony of his trade. For Don Draper is no ordinary man losing his ex-wife to cancer. He’s one of advertising’s reigning geniuses, whose daring, innovative ad copy plumbs the depths of the American psyche. His ads created indelible imagery designed to  manipulate the deepest desires of Americans, so they would crave his clients’ products. It was Don who, at a meeting with Lucky Strike, announced that after Reader’s Digest had made it impossible to discuss cigarettes and health in the same sentence, created a new brand identity as the “toasted” cigarette.

Has the tragic specter of the Grace Kelly-like Betty stoically facing an agonizing death resulted in Don finally acknowledging his role as America’s uber-pusher? Matthew Weiner, like Jules Pfeiffer’s Dancer, answers both “yes” and “no”, and seeks to perfect both answers.

Like a scorpion stung by its own stinger, none of the employees of Sterling Cooper will be immune to the potency of advertising’s subliminal payload. While Betty will be the first to die of cancer, we can easily imagine the rest of Sterling Cooper’s staff, who not only smoke but drink like there’s no tomorrow, following suit.

Weiner strongly hints at Roger’s inevitable death from smoking, as he continues his multi-pack habit following a near-fatal heart attack. In one of the last episodes, he visits Joan to tell her he’s left the bulk of his fortune to their out-of-wedlock son.

The escalation of our national penchant for addiction parallels the increasing desperation driving the global search for raw materials and resources that stokes the engine of capitalism. Forty-five years after Mad Men’s ending, multinationals have virtually cannibalized the earth, laying waste to its mountains, trees, and oceans. Like a mainlining junkie, cranes drill into its veins and arteries, extracting minerals, oil, and natural gas, looking for that angry fix.  From 1970 until the present, most of the Amazon rainforest has vanished. The men who rule America’s corporations have not only caused millions of death from lung disease, they’ve also destroyed the lungs of the planet.

In 1970, the year “Mad Men” ends, the paroxysms of outrage over the assassinations of MLK, RFK, Malcolm X, and Kent State were reaching a crescendo. The massive social protests that produced the hippie counterculture as an alternative model to mass consumption had become a force to be reckoned with.  Its values represented a threat to corporate culture simply by their refusal to participate in conventional dress or grooming.

Millions of American youth stopped consuming the products that Madison Avenue wanted to sell. Rock ‘n’ roll anthems like “Satisfaction” and dozens of other records derided advertising, and its “useless information supposed to fire our imagination”. The Who released “The Who Sell Out”, with fun-house style cover photos mocking deodorant ads and Roger Daltrey bathing in a tub full of Heinz beans. 1970 saw the first Women’s Liberation march, and women abandoning the use of grooming products, high heels, and perfume.

Don Draper finds himself in California at the end of a cross-country journey in search of his identity.  He’s surrounded by hippie women who wear no makeup, braid their hair and tie it with ribbons. He wants to abandon it all. He goes to find himself in Big Sur and Esalen. Peggy pleads with him to return to the office, reminding him that the Coke account is waiting, promising that he can always come back.

In the final scene, Don is at Esalen, his belongings already looted from his East Side penthouse by his French Canadian mother-in-law, his car abandoned.  Amazingly, he has given up smoking. We see him in the lotus position in an al fresco yoga class, deeply inhaling the California mountain air, smiling and seemingly at peace, the Bodhisattva of Madison Avenue.

This cuts, without explanation, to the show’s final scene, of the iconic 1971 Coke commercial. But Weiner provides us with an irrefutable clue to the meaning of this scene: one of the women wears her hair with the identical braids tied in red ribbons as the Big Sur receptionist. It’s clear that Don designed the ad campaign. The commercial  shows about 100 people from different countries singing the refrain “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony”, and finishes with “Coke. It’s the Real Thing”. It employs every hippie, peace and love trope and a catchy, sing-along song, to sell Coca Cola.

Here are gentle, fresh-faced, idealistic youth, seemingly from every nation on the planet, all joining together to have a Coke. Just as Coca Cola has cannibalized the land and culture of indigenous peoples, it now engulfs and merges with hippie iconography and language to create a potent image. It is an image designed to expand Coca Cola’s global market to include the counterculture and the Third World. It promises to deliver the world to peace, harmony, and greater understanding, just as Africa is poised to plunge into mass starvation, drought, and the AIDS pandemic. The 1971 Coke ad can now be seen for what it was: the watershed moment that signaled the reification of countercultural values and the sanitized culture of the 70s.

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, it’s obvious that Don mined his deepest experiences to create the ad, an apt metaphor for the remarkable tenacity and mutability of capital. This Coke campaign’s multiracial cast and veneer of peace and harmony would become the template for every non-profit emergency relief campaign thereafter, most notably “We Are The World”. At the center of the photo is the blonde hippie manqué, wearing the same braids in red ribbons as the Esalen receptionist. She’s wearing a red and white dress and stands resplendent against an expanse of blue sky, a living, breathing Star Spangled Banner.

Many people in the past week have discussed how May 4, 1970 and Kent State sounded the death knell for the 60s. I think that the final bell tolled on September 11, 1973, with the coup in Chile. It was the death of hope, the killing of a government that had dared to nationalize American corporate assets in a valiant attempt to wrest control over its own resources from the talons of global capital. Vance Packard, in his classic work on advertising, “The Hidden Persuaders”, warned Americans that we were being manipulated and tracked into consumption categories from cradle to grave, and that advertising was robbing us of the ability to think critically. The legacy of the 1971 Coke campaign is very much alive. It is the triumph of image over reality, of illusion over substance, of slogans over critical thought, that are the hallmarks of late-stage capitalism, where we pledge allegiance to our own destruction.

Unanswered Questions in the NYPD Killings

A guest post by Carol Lipton: As of November 2014, national and international protests over the police killings of unarmed black men, particularly Eric Garner and Michael Brown, were reaching critical mass, as thousands of people across the United States, following in the footsteps of Ferguson residents, engaged in spectacular mass demonstrations, civil disobedience and street theater actions in over 175 cities, replicating the wildfire spread of the Occupy Wall Street encampments during the fall of 2011.

The #blacklivesmatter movement gained tremendous momentum on November 25, following the decision by a Staten Island grand jury not to indict Office Daniel Pantaleo for the murder of Eric Garner, who died as the result of an illegal chokehold by Pantaleo.

The chokehold killing of Garner, a tall man who weighed over 300 pounds and suffered from diabetes and heart disease, was potent in its impact because of the utter pathos of it, captured entirely on video. It showed Pantaleo approaching Garner, and with no provocation from Garner and no apparent grounds, attempting to arrest him. After Garner verbally asked Pantaleo to leave him alone and to stop harassing him, Pantaleo crooked his arm tightly around Garner’s neck, holding him with all his strength.

The officers then brutally knocked Garner to the ground, pinning him down as he cried out 11 times, “I can’t breathe”. Then there was silence, as he lost consciousness and then died. The medical examiner ruled his death a homicide, yet no charges were brought against Pantaleo.

Garner’s death was amplified by the deaths of other unarmed black men and women shot by police and racist vigilantes, notably John Crawford, shot in a WalMart while talking on his cell phone and holding a gun for sale in the store; Akai Gurley, shot in the stairwell of the Brooklyn housing project where he lived; and 12 year old Tamir Rice, shot by Ohio police while carrying a toy gun.

Emboldened by politically astute young black leadership that forged the #blacklivesmatter movement, the demonstrations were creative in ways that equaled or even exceeded those of the 1960s Civil Rights movement, and seemed to be benefitting from what I’ve named “the Occupy Effect”. There were actions never before seen in the history of modern protest, such as the New York City Council members who walked off their jobs, and held a die-in stopping traffic on lower Broadway, or members of the Congressional Black Caucus and staffers walking out en masse onto the steps of the nation’s capital. Medical schools, law schools, and colleges held huge die-ins. Even junior high school students in Denver took to the street. Athletes protested at games, wearing “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts.

With Christmas approaching, demonstrations increased in frequency and intensity, with even more tactics added: marches into Saks Fifth Avenue, Toys ‘R’ Us and the 5th Avenue Apple store; the reading of the names ceremonies in Grand Central Station; marches onto the FDR Drive, West Side Highway; and almost daily shutdowns of the Holland and Lincoln tunnels. A sea of protesters took to the streets on December 5 and 6, shutting down most of midtown Manhattan, disrupting the tree lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center, and marching into Macy’s, striking at the very heart of Thanksgiving in America. There were also massive demonstrations throughout Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Staten Island. This culminated in the December 13, 2014 march down Broadway, in which an estimated 60,000 people assembled in front of Macy’s, marched to Foley Square, and held an enormous rally. Protestors then crossed the Brooklyn Bridge, marching almost 10 miles into Crown Heights to the housing project where Akai Gurley was killed, while others shut down the Manhattan Bridge.

On December 19, a bitterly cold night, at least 2,000 demonstrators marched in lower Manhattan, confronting a pro-police rally.

NYPD and Mayor DiBlasio seemed powerless to stanch the tide of protest. In response to the initially hands-off and conciliatory approach taken by Mayor DiBlasio, who in a press conference had shared his concerns about his biracial son, Dante, NYPD escalated its hostility, eager to return to the brutality against demonstrators that was endemic during the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations.

The next day, December 20, before several large protests planned for Christmas, an event occurred that could not have been more advantageous to the NYPD’s desire to turn the tide of public opinion against the protesters and stop the movement dead in its tracks, had they designed it themselves.

At approximately 2:47 p.m., in broad daylight, a Brooklyn-born Baltimore man, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, 28, ambushed and killed two NYPD officers, 40-year-old Rafael Ramos and 32-year-old Wenjian Liu, as they sat in their patrol car while stationed outside a housing project in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.

Brinsley’s background: Brinsely’s background is obscure. He had reportedly been dating Shaneka Thompson for under a year. He was reportedly not from Maryland, and his current address was unknown [CBS News]. However, other sources report that he had fathered two children in Brooklyn, and that his last known address was on Eastern Parkway [N.Y. Daily News].

He had lived with various relatives as a child, but dropped out of high school in the 10th grade. His family reported a history of mental illness. At an August 2011 court hearing, when asked if he’d ever been a patient in a mental institution, he reportedly said “yes”.

According to his mother, he tried to hang himself a year ago and was estranged from his family, who were afraid of him. Nawaal Brinsley, a sister who lives in Atlanta, said she hadn’t seen him in two years. [N.Y. Times].

Brinsley reportedly had 15 prior arrests in Georgia for various offenses, including assault, shoplifting, grand larceny and gun possession, and 4 arrrests in Ohio for robbery and misdemeanor threat. He served two years in prison in Georgia for criminal possession of a weapon [CBS News]. He also had an arrest record in Brooklyn [CBS News].

However, the Baltimore Sun, citing online records from Georgia’s Fulton County sheriff’s office, reported that Brinsley had been arrested only 9 times since 2004. [Baltimore Sun, December 20, 2014, 11:39 p.m.]

Investigators say Brinsley was at a protest in Union Square on December 1, before a grand jury decided against charging Officer Pantaleo, and recorded part of the protest on his phone. [ABC Eyewitness News December 23].

Brinsley’s First Shooting Victim, Shaneka Thompson: Shaneka Thompson grew up in Winnsboro, SC, and attended Francis Marion University in Florence, SC. [Post Wires].

She had been a health service manager at Pope Army Airfield in Fayetteville, NC before transferring to the Veterans Administration in Baltimore, where she worked as a health insurance specialist [The Daily Mail]. However, the NY Times reported that she was currently employed by the Maryland Department of Welfare.

AP reported that Thompson’s grandfather, James Delly, told AP that Thompson had worked in banking and moved to Maryland from Fayetteville, NC six months ago for work, and had been seeing Brinsley for less than a year [Wall Street Journal] [NY Times]

Time line of the events of December 20, 2014:

5:30 a.m. Brinsley arrives at the upscale apartment of Shaneka Thompson, 28, in the Greenwich Place Development located at 10090 Mill Run Circle in Owings Mills, Maryland, just northwest of Baltimore [Daily Mail UK Dec. 21, 2014].

The apartment complex overlooks the Owings Mill AMC Cinema Parking lot in the Owings Mills Mall [Daily Mail]. Here’s a map of the Owings Mills Mall and Greenwich Place:,-76.785291,15z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0x3cedca76bc41f049

Contrary to unofficial reports, Brinsley, who did not have a key to Thompson’s apartment, gains entry to the lobby of the secured building and knocks on her door, which she opens [ABC Eyewitness News December 23].

5:35 a.m. Thompson calls her mother, complaining about Brinsley being there. Her mother overhears the two arguing, and stays on the line with Thompson, until her phone goes dead. According to Thompson, Brinsley had not mentioned any plans to commit violence against police during their argument or even mentioned police [CBS News, WBALTV].

Brinsley then puts the gun to his own head, but Thompson talks him out of pulling the trigger {ABC Eyewitness News, New York Daily News].

The dispute continues, ending in gunshots, and her phone goes dead [ABC Eyewitness News, December 23] [NY Times]

5:45 a.m. A neighbor reportedly hears a woman scream ‘You shot me, you shot me!”, and hears him run out the door. [NY Times] Thompson bangs on neighbor Yvette Seay’s door yelling, “I can’t die like this! Please help me!”. Seay sees the bloodied victim through her peephole and calls 911. [Post Wires] Thompson, an Air Force reservist, is rushed to the University of Maryland Medical Center where she is listed in critical condition. She had served in the 440th Medical Squadron, based at Pope Field in Ft. Bragg, N.C. [The Baltimore Sun]

5:48 a.m. Baltimore County police are dispatched to Thompson’s apartment [ABC] 5:50 a.m.

Yvette Seay’s sister leaves the apartment at approximately 5:50 a.m. to go to work and sees a man running across the parking lot. After watching news reports about the New York shooting and seeing the suspect’s photo, she realized that this was the man who had shot her next door neighbor [Maryland Associated Press, December 22, 2014].

Google maps give us a clear picture of the route that Brinsley would have had to take to get to the Owings Mills stop. The parking lot of the Greenwich Place Houses is located behind the apartment complex, towards Messina Way.,76.786013,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x89c817983c5ece01:0x311dd5e580d5161e

Google maps show that in order to get from the Greenwich Place apartments to the Baltimore Bolt Bus, the closest Metro station is Owings Mills. But if Brinsley was headed to the Owings Mills station, he would have had to run in the opposite direction from the parking lot, towards Grand Central Avenue, then go left on Grand Junction Lane, a 7-minute walk. If Brinsley was running across the parking lot, it seems that he was running towards his car, not to the Metro station.

5:51 a.m. Baltimore police arrive and find Thompson on the third floor of the apartment building, with a gunshot wound to the abdomen. She is conscious, and tells them her boyfriend shot her and fled with her cellphone, leaving his behind [Rachel Maddow, WBALTV]. Thompson gives Baltimore County police his name and description, and they immediately broadcast information about Brinsley to local law enforcement. [WBALTV]. It would have been routine protocol for police to ascertain who was Thompson’s next of kin, and contacted her mother.

6:05 a.m. According to the N.Y. Daily News, one of the first newspapers to break the story, “After shooting his ex-girlfriend in Maryland, NYPD said Brinsley drove to Brooklyn, where he ambushed Officers Ramos and Liu” [N.Y. Daily News, December 21, 2014, 12:01 p.m.].

The Daily News maintains its narrative that Brinsley drove to NYC in his own car, as shown in its updated story on the evening news [N.Y. Daily News, December 21, 2014, 7:49 p.m.]

The Daily News also reported, citing NYPD sources, that Brinsley’s car, with Maryland plates, was later discovered at the corner of Myrtle and Nostrand Avenues [N.Y. Daily News, December 21, 2014].

The only way that NYPD could have concluded that the car belonged to Brinsley would be if they ran the plates through Maryland DMV and confirmed the vehicle was registered to Brinsley. According to NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce, Brinsley calls Thompson’s mother, saying that he shot her daughter by accident, and hopes she will survive [NY Times, Rachel Maddow].

Brinsley discloses enough information to Thompson’s mother that she knows where he is headed.

After receiving Brinsley’s 6:05 a.m. call, Thompson’s mother calls Baltimore police [NBC, Owings Mills-Reisterstown Patch]. However, according to the New York Times, at 6:05 a.m., Brinsley was “making his way” to the bus station, which one news source identifies as the Bolt Bus station [Rachel Maddow].

The Baltimore Bolt Bus depot is located at 1610 St. Paul Street. The only other Bolt depot is farther away, in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The distance from Thompson’s apartment to 1610 St. Paul Street is approximately 19 miles. Traveling on I-95, it would have taken Brinsley 23 minutes in light traffic to get there by car. But it does not make sense that he would have driven to the bus depot and abandoned his car to take the bus, when he could have driven all the way to New York City.

If Brinsley had taken public transportation, he would have arrived at the Bolt Bus station at 8:00 a.m.

6:32 a.m. – Baltimore police begin tracking the activity on Thompson’s cell phone [Maddow, ABC Eyewitness News. WBALTV]

6:35 a.m.– Brinsley boards a Bolt Bus in Baltimore that is bound for NYC [N.Y. Times via AP, December 21, 2014 1:40 p.m.] While Baltimore Police could have readily ascertained the destination of the 6:35 a.m. Bolt Bus that Brinsley boarded by contacting the dispatcher, news reports all give the source of information regarding Brinsley’s movements as the “pinging” on Thompson’s cell phone.

7:46 a.m. –Baltimore police get a signal from Brinsley’s phone showing he’s left Baltimore, and is headed north on I-95. [Maddow] Signals from the phone show a general location along Interstate 95, near the Susquehanna River. Baltimore County police notify the JFK barracks of the Maryland State Police [iWatch, Official Baltimore County Police & Fire’s Facebook Wall] The bus, like all NYC bound vehicles on I-95, has to go through a number of major tollbooths and bridges on I-95, all of which have cameras. Additionally, it is customary for buses traveling on the I-95 corridor to pull over at a rest stop on the NJ Turnpike.

8:30 – 10:30 a.m. – Brinsley is tracked on Thompson’s cell phone north through New Jersey. [Maddow,] He is constantly on his cell phone during this time period, and calls Thompson’s mother several times to find out her condition [NY Times] During this time, police in Baltimore notice Brinsley posting to Thompson’s Instagram account about a threat to New York officers as they track his movements [CBS New York, December 21, 11:56 p.m.]. This would signify that police did not need to obtain this information from another source, i.e., Brinsley’s family members.

10:24 a.m. – Brinsley enters the Lincoln Tunnel [Maddow] 10:49 a.m. Brinsley disembarks from the bus, as shown by his phone signal near 43rd Street and 8th Avenue. A video camera captures him getting on a Brooklyn-bound N train [NY Times, ABC, NBC, CBS]

11:00 a.m. – Baltimore police reportedly track Brinsley’s movements on a Brooklyn-bound subway from the Times Square subway stop, which is connected to the Port Authority 8th Avenue subway line via a long underground passage, where the 2, 3, N, and R trains run [Maddow] Police next track him as he emerges in the Barclay Center in Brooklyn.

11:00 – 12:00 a.m. – Once in Brooklyn, Brinsley uses Thompson’s phone to make posts to Instagram. One shows a leg of his camouflage pants and his bluish shoe, spattered in blood. The other showed his pistol. “I’m Putting Wings on Pigs Today They take 1 of Ours …Let’s Take 2 of Theirs #ShootThePolice,” he wrote [NY Times]

According to the Washington Post, and several blogs, Brinsley was tracking NYPD using the Police Alert App, WAZE, a navigation app that allows millions of users to help each other track traffic, road hazards, construction zones, and the whereabouts of police officers in speed traps, among other things. It’s enormously popular with people who spend a lot of time on interstates.

Brinsley posted a screen shot from WAZE, and a conversation he had about police in the Staten Island area with a friend “Nita Boo”.

11:47 a.m. Brinsley starts posting threats to kill NY police officers on Instagram [NY Post]

“I’m Putting Wings on Pigs Today:” “They Take 1 Of Ours . . . Let’s Take 2 of Theirs,” the post continued, ending with, “This May Be My Final Post.” [Associated Press, NY Post, NY1].

He posts several photos as well, of him alone and with male friends, and videos of him playing music, at a club, and discussing his dreams of having a line of clothing.

The Instagram pages include the photo of a silver automatic handgun with a wooden handle, which according to NYPD, matched the Taurus 9 mm semi-automatic recovered from Brinsley [NY Post].According to Special Agent in Charge Aladino Ortiz of the Atlanta BATF, Brinsley’s gun was purchased in 1996 at a local pawnshop by a man who worked at a local auto dealership.

That man sold the weapon to a co-worker at the dealership in 1998 — when Brinsley was about 12 years old. “At this point, the individual doesn’t remember who he sold the gun to,” Ortiz said. “We are continuing to follow the leads, but the trail is a little cold at this point. … We may never know how Mr. Brinsley got it into his hands.” [Baltimore Sun, December 23, 2014].

According to Rachel Maddow, Thompson’s family starts contacting the Baltimore news media, informing them about Brinsley’s posts [Rachel Maddow, MSNBC, December 22, 2014]

12:07 p.m. – Brinsley arrives at the Atlantic Mall and disappears after being captured on several security cameras carrying a large Styrofoam food container, which police now believe contained his gun. The phone keeps pinging, and the Baltimore County police contact NYPD in Brooklyn [NY Times].

Surveillance videos from the Atlantic Terminal Mall show Brinsley chatting on a cellphone while casually walking around while carrying a white plastic bag, which appears to be covering a container, that he is attempting to hold upright and steady [Daily Mail UK].

Brinsley reportedly discards Thompson’s cell phone, hiding it behind a radiator in a small shopping mall across from the Barclays Center, where NYPD later find it [CBS News, December 22, 2014 5:35 p.m.].

For the next 2 hours, Brinsley’s whereabouts are unknown. Although the NYPD’s top detective has asked the public to help them trace what Brinsley was doing for those two hours between his last Instagram picture and the shooting, no further information has emerged.

12:00 -2:00 p.m. Friends and family of Thompson come forward and tell Baltimore police that Brinsley was posting “all over the internet, all day”, including photos on Instagram, that he had shot his girlfriend.

1:30 p.m. – In contradiction to coverage by the NY Post and NY1, ABC News and Rachel Maddow claim that this is the time that police in Baltimore discover Brinsley has made posts from his Instagram account that threaten to kill officers, and determine the posts are being made from Brooklyn [ABC News, Maddow]

1:45 p.m. –Baltimore police finish composing a Wanted flyer, stating that Brinsley plans to kill police officers in NYC that day [Maddow]. According to Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, Baltimore authorities had send a Wanted flier between 1:30 and 2 p.m. to NYPD and other agencies warning them of Brinsley. [CBS News]

Bratton states that flier is sent out by NYPD to local police precincts at essentially the same time the officers were being ambushed by the suspect, a 2:48 [CBS News].

2:10 p.m.  – In the version reported on MSNBC, Baltimore County police call the 70th precinct, near where the signal on the discarded cell phone had been detected, advising NYPD that the phone of a suspect in the Owings Mills shooting is pinging in Brooklyn, [Maddow].

According to ABC News, at 2:10 p.m., a detective from the Baltimore Violent Crimes Unit telephones NYPD’s 60th Precinct in Brooklyn to advise that a suspect wanted for a shooting that morning might be in New York and has posted threats against police.

The Baltimore detective is directed to another Brooklyn precinct, the 70th Precinct, because the phone most recently had been tracked to that precinct. [ABC Eyewitness News].

According to some stories, the Baltimore detective speaks with an NYPD officer for about 30 minutes, providing all known details about the situation. During the phone call, the NYPD officer views the Instagram posts, which include photos of Brinsley [ABC Eyewitness News].

In this version of events, the two police departments first discuss the Instagram posts, and Baltimore police fax a wanted poster of Brinsley to NYPD, along with information about Brinsley [ABC News, NY Times].

At this time, NYPD knows everything that it needs to know to send out an All Points Bulletin to officers on the street in Brooklyn, warning them that an armed, dangerous fugitive is in Brooklyn, planning to kill police officers. Yet, NYPD does not do any of this. According to the NY Times, “It was not clear if the fax was received. Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said on Saturday that it did not show up until about 2:45 pm.” [NY Times]

2:45 p.m. – Brinsley walks up to two people on the street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, and asked them what gang they belonged to. He urges them to follow him on Instagram, and tells them, “Watch what I’m going to do.” [NY Times, ABC, Maddow]

2:46 p.m. At the conclusion of their 30-minute conversation with NYPD, Baltimore police fax the Wanted poster they had prepared an hour earlier, at 1:45 pm., but it is too late [Maddow, ABC Eyewitness News].

2:47 p.m. – Brinsley walks past the patrol car where Officers Wenjian Liu, 32, and Rafael Ramos, 40 are sitting, near the corner of Myrtle and Thompkins Avenue, a busy intersection in Brooklyn near the Tompkins Houses. [NY Times, NY1, Maddow]. Officer Ramos is sitting in the driver’s seat, and officer Liu was sitting in the passenger seat [CNN Wire, December 20, 2014, 4:57 p.m., CBS TV News].

According to some reports, they were stationed there because they were working overtime as part of an anti-terrorism drill [NBC]. However, the Boston Globe quoted Police Commissioner Bratton as saying that the two officers were stationed in front of the Thompkins housing project “in response to an uptick in violence there this year”, which is reported by some NYC papers as well [Boston Globe December 20, 2014].

According to Brooklyn Council member Robert Cornegy, both officers are eating lunch at the time they are shot [WPIX December 20].

However, Commissioner Bratton’s press statement on January 12, 2015, urges that police officers to be “more vigilant” than ever, staying alert during their patrols, and not “texting away”. “So if both of them are sitting in the car and they’re busy texting away or not paying attention of the surrounding area, they’re much more vulnerable to attack” [CBS-TV, January 12, 2015].

2:48 p.m. According to Bratton, Brinsley emerges from the Thompkins housing projects, crosses the street and approaches the officers’ car from behind, walks to the passenger window, assumes a shooting stance, and fires four shots through the front passenger window, killing both men [NY Times, NY Post].

Commissioner Bratton states that Brinsley shot “multiple rounds” into the head and upper bodies of the officers, who never drew their weapons [NY Times].

The only known eyewitness to the shootings, Charlie Hu, the manager of a liquor store at the corner, claims to have seen the two police officers slouched over in the front of their patrol car. Both appeared to have been shot in the head, and one had blood spilling out of his face [NY Times].

However, a witness named Courtney Felix, 23, who was at a friend’s apartment nearby, hearing the shots from a window, sees the cop on the drivers’ side [Officer Ramos] who “was clutching his neck, catching himself and fading out” as he fell to the ground. He states that both officers opened the doors to the police car. “They were trying to get cognizance of where they were hit”. The other cop was clutching his collarbone as he stumbled, Felix added.” [New York Daily News, December 20, 2014, 3:26 p.m., WPIX December 21, 2014, New York Newsday, December 20, 2014 11:59 p.m.].

This story, which contained interviews with witnesses at the scene, has since been removed. However, the story was picked up by WPIX-11 and the Pan-African Newswire, which printed it in its entirety. It is the only story that contains statements by eyewitnesses.

A witness who asked to remain anonymous said, “I saw it. One was shot in the face. There was blood coming out of his face.” [WPIX December 21, 2014].

Despite the statement by Charlie Hu, none of the crime scene photos or videos taken immediately after show any blood on the exterior of the door or on the sidewalk where the officers had lain in their final seconds alive. The NY Post online was the only major news source to publish a video of the immediate aftermath of the shootings.

2:49 p.m. – Brinsley takes off running to the nearest subway stop, the Myrtle-Willoughby subway station, an avenue block away, to the westbound subway platform [, 7:20 a.m., December 21, 2014]

According to the N.Y. Post, Con Ed workers see Brinsley fleeing and follow him in their truck as he ambles away from the carnage, still holding his silver Taurus semi-automatic. When they confront Brinsley on the street, attempting to stop him, he levels the gun at the them, asking them, ‘You want some of this?’ The two back off, and Brinsley ducks into the nearby G-train station. The Con Ed workers then call police to say he went into the station [Rachel Maddow, MSBC, December 22, Gothamist, December 21, 2014].

However, there is another version of what happened, that a worker in a deli store on the street sees Brinsley running and alerts police on the scene, who chase him into the subway. [NY Times, ABC].

Brinsley heads to the westbound platform of the Myrtle Avenue G station. Carmen Jimenez, 32, a social worker from Bed-Stuy, is on the subway platform when Brinsley runs in. “It looked like two cops came in. There was lots of yelling and they said, ‘Everybody get down.’ People were screaming. People were trying to run. I threw myself on the floor. I was afraid for my life and afraid for my baby.” [New York Post, December 20, 2014, 4:07 p.m.].

The video was filmed from an apartment several stories over the scene, and gives an unobstructed view of the driver’s side of the car. Both officers are visible on the ground, with policemen surrounding them, administering CPR and then loading them onto stretchers. In viewing the video several times without any enhancement, there does not appear to be any blood stains or trail of blood that one would expect from a person who was bleeding profusely from two gunshot wounds to the head. Looking at the passenger side of the car, you can see Officer Liu lying on the ground with three policemen hovering over him, administering CPR. After Liu is loaded onto a stretcher, there is no sign of blood on the ground. With the cops pursuing him, Brinsley then turns the gun on himself [Gothamist, December 21, 2014]. Brinsley and the two police officers are taken to Woodhull Hospital, and all are pronounced dead on arrival.

Unanswered questions:

The highly inconsistent narrative of the killing of Officer Ramos and Officer Liu raise serious questions as to NYPD’s competence. There is no doubt that NYPD, with its vast technological and communications resources, had the ability to capture Brinsley and prevent this tragedy from occurring. There is also the more disturbing possibility, that NYPD allowed these killings to happen, in order to advance their political agenda, which was unabashedly to stop the protests, and change the focus of public and media attention.

NYPD had every possible advantage in this case. Brinsley, unlike killers such as the infamous Zodiac, gave police all of the information they needed: dozens of photos posted to the internet, a cell phone pinging that allowed police to track his movements, and a shooting victim who was still conscious and alive, and able along with her mother, to give police information on his background and criminal record.

A case riddled with contradictions and inconsistencies:

• BPD knew, at the time they arrived on the scene, that Brinsley had a gun and had fled the scene. Why didn’t BPD, who were informed by Thompson that Brinsley had taken her cell phone, not have put up immediate roadblocks at all points of departure from Baltimore?

• A major unanswered question is did Brinsley drive his car to NYC or take the Bolt Bus? The evidence seems to strongly point to him driving to New York. That would make his arrival time in Manhattan at least an hour earlier than the Bolt Bus, putting him in NYC by 10:00 a.m.

• If Brinsley did indeed take the 6:35 a.m. Bolt Bus, why didn’t BPD or NYPD, which sent an entire team of detectives down to Baltimore, interview the dispatcher or the driver, which would have known its destination? Wouldn’t they have been concerned for the safety of the public that an armed fugitive was aboard the bus?

• How was it possible for Brinsley to travel by public transportation from Thompson’s apartment to the Baltimore Bolt bus stop in under 45 minutes, when the trip takes close to 2 hours?

• Why didn’t the BPD, who were tracking Brinsley for 4 ½ hours, alerted all tollbooth operators on the Maryland and Delaware bridges, as well as the New Jersey Turnpike, and set up roadblocks on I-95 North

• Once the bus entered the Lincoln Tunnel, why didn’t BPD alert NYPD to be waiting for him on the platform?

• According to CBS, BPD knew that Brinsley was posting threats to Thompson’s Instagram account, because they were tracking her cell phone, by 10:30 a.m. According to the New York Post, Brinsley began posting threats to kill NYPD officers at 11:47 a.m. BPD and NYPD had 3 hours to act to stop Brinsley.

• While the New York Post and NY1 reported that BPD were aware of Brinsley’s photos and threats on Instagram at 11:47 a.m., Rachel Maddow and ABC News put the time of NYPD’s awareness at 1:30 pm.

• Even if this is true, NYPD would have had all the relevant information it needed by 1:30 p.m., in order to issue an APB that Brinsley was coming to Brooklyn armed with a semiautomatic weapon, and planning to kill police officers. That was approximately 1 hour 18 minutes before the shootings, sufficient time for NYPD to email a notice to all of the precincts, as well as to radio officers stationed on the street.

• ABC Eyewitness News reported that a BPD detective discussed Brinsley with an NYPD officer in Brooklyn for 30 minutes, providing all known details about the situation, and the NYPD officer viewed all of the Instagram posts. Yet, rather than take immediate action between 2:10 p.m. and 2:40 p.m., NYPD allegedly requests that BPD fax them a Wanted poster.

• Why would BPD and NYPD have required 30 minutes, starting at 2:10 p.m., to have a conversation about Brinsley? I can’t imagine how the basic facts and Instagram links could have been sent in a matter of minutes, with NYPD taking immediate action. NYPD claimed in December 2014 that it was conducting a full investigation into the matter, and sent a team of detectives down to Baltimore. So far, there has been no word, and the story has gone cold.

CAROL LIPTON was born and raised in the Pelham Parkway housing projects, where she learned how to sleep pressed up against the wall in the summer. She was admitted to Music and Art High School on Art and Bronx H.S. of Science, and went to Science, a decision she had no control over. Largely self-taught in art, she began exhibiting and selling her watercolor paintings at age 14. Her favorite sports were punch ball, dodge ball, stickball, kickball, cycling, and Ringaleevio. She invented the first aerodynamic skully cap. Carol began playing piano at age 4 ½, and studied piano and music theory for 11 years. She was a professional musician and composer, playing the restaurant, bar and college circuit in D.C. She went to NYU on an IBEW and Regents scholarship, where she graduated with Honors in philosophy and Political Science. She was co-editor of the poetry journal, and was a student strike coordinator in the aftermath of Kent State. After graduation, she led a cross-country 450-mile cycling trip through Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.  She graduated from the Catholic University School of Law. She was a grants administrator for the Expansion Arts program at NEA, responsible for making decisions to community arts programs. As a legal services fellow in Kentucky, Carol became an anti-nuclear activist, and co-produced a special for NBC on the Maxey Flats nuclear waste site. She has co-produced specials for ABC’s 20/20 on the militia/tax protest movement, and for NBC, on a Guatemalan political asylum claimant she represented through Human Rights First, where she trained under the late Arthur Helton. She consulted to the Haitian Refugee Center, where she handled an immigration appeal. She has worked in public interest law, for Legal Services, and in private practice, specializing in consumer fraud, employment discrimination, bankruptcy, housing, and appellate litigation. She has been a member of the Appellate Division’s Assigned Counsel panel for 23 years, and is a member of the National Lawyers Guild.

On Phil Ochs, Malcolm X, and Je Suis Charlie

A guest post by Carol Lipton:

Phil Ochs penned the famous lyrics to “Love Me I’m a Liberal” about Malcolm X:

I cried when they shot Medgar Evers

Tears ran down my spine

I cried when they shot Mr. Kennedy

As though I’d lost a father of mine

But Malcolm X got what was coming

He got what he asked for this time

So love me, love me Love me, I’m a liberal

He wrote those lyrics to contrast the assassinations of Medgar Evers and Malcolm X. Medgar Evers, in the eyes of white journalists, was the “good Negro” who died a martyr, having marched for civil rights, while Malcolm X was the dangerous black man, the heretic who dared to expose the nature of American capitalism, and the collective delusion that we were a democracy for anyone other than white people.

The comment which most inspired the tidal wave of wrath in the media was his statement after JFK’s assassination that “the chickens have come home to roost”. Those words referred to what happened in Vietnam just three weeks before before President Kennedy’s assassination, which the world has now largely forgotten.

That was the November 3, 1963 assassination of No Dinh Nu, younger brother and chief political advisor of South Vietnam’s first president, Ngô Đình Diệm, and Diem himself, who were installed largely as the result of support by the US.

The coup was the culmination of nine years of autocratic and nepotistic family rule in South Vietnam. There was even a meme I recall seeing in newspapers: “no Nus is good news”. Numerous coup plans had been explored by the army before, but the plotters intensified their activities with increased confidence after the Kennedy administration authorized the U.S. embassy to explore the possibility of a leadership change.

The generals initially attempted to cover up the execution by suggesting that the brothers had committed suicide, but this was contradicted when photos of the Ngôs’ corpses surfaced in the media.

When Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963 , Malcolm X quickly made the connection between US foreign policy and the potential inherent in that policy for a coup d’etat in our own country. It was a perspective that took into account the long and bloody history of CIA coups, from Greece in 1948, to the mass assassinations and coup that deposed Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, to the assassination of Patrice Lumumba in the Congo in 1961.

His statement that “the chickens have come home to roost” was no less in bad taste, or any more incendiary, than the hundreds of political cartoons penned by Charlie Hebdo. But as we approach the 50th anniversary of Malcolm X’s own assassination in February, 1965, nowhere do liberal pundits celebrate Malcolm X’s right to free speech, or his value to our society.

There was never was a je suis Malcolm, and there never will be. Phil Ochs was right.

CAROL LIPTON was born and raised in the Pelham Parkway housing projects, where she learned how to sleep pressed up against the wall in the summer. She was admitted to Music and Art High School on Art and Bronx H.S. of Science, and went to Science, a decision she had no control over. Largely self-taught in art, she began exhibiting and selling her watercolor paintings at age 14. Her favorite sports were punch ball, dodge ball, stickball, kickball, cycling, and Ringaleevio. She invented the first aerodynamic skully cap. Carol began playing piano at age 4 ½, and studied piano and music theory for 11 years. She was a professional musician and composer, playing the restaurant, bar and college circuit in D.C.

She went to NYU on an IBEW and Regents scholarship, where she graduated with Honors in philosophy and Political Science. She was co-editor of the poetry journal, and was a student strike coordinator in the aftermath of Kent State. After graduation, she led a cross-country 450-mile cycling trip through Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.  She graduated from the Catholic University School of Law. She was a grants administrator for the Expansion Arts program at NEA, responsible for making decisions that gave money to community arts programs.

As a legal services fellow in Kentucky, Carol became an anti-nuclear activist, and co-produced a special for NBC on the Maxey Flats nuclear waste site. She has co-produced specials for ABC’s 20/20 on the militia/tax protest movement, and for NBC, on a Guatemalan political asylum claimant she represented through Human Rights First, where she trained under the late Arthur Helton. She consulted to the Haitian Refugee Center, where she handled an immigration appeal.

She has worked in public interest law, for Legal Services, and in private practice, specializing in consumer fraud, employment discrimination, bankruptcy, housing, and appellate litigation in family law. She has been a member of the Appellate Division’s Assigned Counsel panel for 23 years, and is a member of the National Lawyers Guild.