Where have all the memes gone? Short time passin’

It has just occurred to me I’ve forgotten what a “meme” is. And the reason I’ve forgotten? How long has it been since you saw the word “meme” or an example of one of ’em used on social or anti-social media? Not even the word “meme” is popping up nowadays.

I’m defining “nowadays” as, oh, starting maybe last month or so. Because before then, memes were proliferating without control, growing like bamboo or creepily hi-speed creepers. Emerging from the ground like cicadas.

The Wikipedia entry reports, “Proponents theorize that memes are a viral phenomenon that may evolve by natural selection in a manner analogous to that of biological evolution.”

Could COVID-19 have squished the evolution of the meme? You know, one virus overwhelms another virus. If my observation is correct, maybe the fast-evolving meme is going the way of dinosaurs. But, I mean, fast.


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Scene from my life: The Blue Wall of Silence

In yesterday’s Times, Timothy Egan published an opinion piece, “The Blue Wall of Silence Is Starting To Crack.”

Although he’s correct to describe the number of policemen who testified for the prosecution against Derek Chauvin as a crack in the Blue Wall, this trial was not the first substantial crack.

In 1998, Abner Louima sued both the City of New York and the powerful police union, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, for compensation after he’d been brutally assaulted by a number of policemen in a Brooklyn police precinct. (The link above is to the third supplemental summons and complaint. There seem to be a number of missing pages; don’t get paranoid, it’s just a transfer glitch.)

At that time, I was working for Cochran, Neufeld & Scheck, Abner’s lead lawyers; thus, I followed (and assisted, where I could) the case from beginning to end, and went to court to watch the federal criminal trial of the police officers.

The key thing to understand about the Blue Wall of Silence was the infamous “48-hour rule,” part of the NYPD contract with the City, “which requires the New York City Police Department (NYPD) to delay interrogations of ‘subject’ police officers (those who are the subjects of investigations) for 48 hours after police-related events or occurrences.”

In practice, it meant that the Louima cops evaded official NYPD interviews/interrogations for two full days and nights, during which time they called each other and their reps, often from pay phones, numerous times as they cobbled together a story which cloaked their individual participation in the assault.

It didn’t entirely work, largely because of extraordinary investigative work done by the federal prosecutor’s team in the Eastern District of New York.

Then the Abner Louima complaint named the PBA as a defendant in the civil lawsuit.

As Alan Feuer wrote in the New York Times [my bolding]:

While his suit seeks monetary compensation from the city, it reaches for considerably more from another defendant, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, which is being asked not only for money but also to change some of its policies.

Mr. Louima’s lawyers have said that the suit breaks legal ground in naming the P.B.A. They say that a police union has never before been held responsible when its members are accused of using excessive force, and that the lawsuit will expose what they say is the union’s encouragement of a blue wall of silence.

While there have been other high-profile police brutality cases in the city’s history, the lawyers have said that they decided to make their claims against the union in the Louima case for one reason: it provides the most egregious recent example of abuse by the P.B.A.

‘It was just pretty clear that the union helps cover up acts of brutality so that the most brazen acts committed by the worst cops would never see the light of day.” said Peter Neufeld who, along with Barry C. Scheck and Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., filed the suit on Mr. Louima’s behalf. ”Our position is that the union is a major player in the problem.”

The PBA objected, of course, to being sued and filed a motion to dismiss the case against them.

I hold dear the memory of the Cochran, Neufeld and Scheck Motion in Objection to the PBA’s Motion to Dismiss — so dear, in fact, I have a copy of the final draft on a CD. It was utterly brilliant, written by appellate lawyer David Goldberg for CNS (us).

It killed. In July 2001, the City and the PBA settled the lawsuit.

The quote I used to define the “48 hour rule” came from a September, 2003, announcement a few years after the Louima case, from New York State’s Supreme Court, which “upholds deletion of 48-hour rule from PBA contract. Court upholds the State Labor Board’s decision that the 48-hour rule — which forbids interrogations for 48 hours of police officers who are subjects of investigations after police-related occurrences — and other disciplinary causes cannot be bargained.”

The 48-hour rule was dead and New York City’s Blue Wall had cracked right down the middle, at least on paper.

But as we’ve all seen and shuddered over in the years since, there is not one single Blue Wall; there are around 18,000 of them. Municipal police departments, sheriff’s offices, state police and highway patrols, and federal law enforcement agencies all have a Blue Wall.

As of 2016, around 12,000 of these Blue Walls were municipal, i.e., local police departments.

Blue Wall cracks may be notable, but should not be noted with great hope, or complacency. I see these walls as medieval castle keeps. I think the only force which will demolish them is overarching federal legislation which would replace the bond of personal loyalty and omertà with a superceding human ethic.







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“Hey, I’m trying to run a giant Ponzi scheme here! Don’t screw it up.”

I paid very little attention to Bernie Madoff’s death, just as I paid no attention to Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. I’m not wealthy and I have never trusted “financial advisors'” advice.

But, as always, Kevin Underhill (LoweringTheBar) comes up, uh, trumps with his sort of encomium to Madoff. It’s full of information, wonderment and plenty of laughs.

P.S. My fave sentence is the very last one, about another Ponzier, Scott Rothstein.

A Farewell to Madoff

Apr 15, 2021 05:45 am | Kevin

If a flag near you is at half-staff today, it’s not because of the death of Bernard L. Madoff, who croaked on Wednesday at the age of 82. By dying, Madoff managed to avoid serving the remaining 139 years of his sentence, which, as you may recall, he received for running the largest Ponzi scheme in history. That scheme cost his victims at least $17 billion, not counting the profits they might have made if they’d actually been investing their money and not just giving it to Bernie Madoff.

The New York Times article linked above gives a fairly complete overview of the saga, although it leaves out a few details I think are important. Madoff—who the Times says once spent “an uninspired year in law school,” something I didn’t know—ran his scheme for decades, paying existing investors not with earnings but with money he was taking in from new investors (the definition of a Ponzi scheme). Pretty much every Ponzi scheme falls apart eventually, because the number of potential victims is less than infinite and so sooner or later, the schemer runs out of income. Madoff’s scheme fell apart as a result of the financial crisis in 2007–2008, and $64.8 billion in what were supposed to be assets instantly vanished. Thousands of victims lost their savings, some lost their homes, three people committed suicide (including one of Madoff’s sons), and one died of a heart attack attributed to the stress.

Madoff later expressed remorse for what he had done to his victims. Specifically, he did that twice: once just before he was sentenced, and again in February 2020 when he was seeking early release due to illness. (It didn’t help either time.) But at other times, he seemed somewhat less remorseful. See ‘F— My Victims,’ Says Bernie Madoff, Enjoying Prison” (June 8, 2010). Yes, “f— my victims,” Madoff reportedly said shortly after beginning his sentence, when another inmate “badgered” him on that subject, according to an article in New York magazine. “I carried them for 20 years, and now I’m doing 150 years.” 150 is more than 20, you see, so that’s completely unfair. “People just kept throwing money at me,” Madoff told his prison consultant (he had a prison consultant), and he couldn’t very well not take it, could he?

What he did with that money was the topic of another article here, which I wrote after learning that the U.S. Marshals Service was auctioning off a bunch of his possessions to try to recover at least some of the money for his victims. See Buy Some of Bernie Madoff’s Stupid Crap This Weekend” (Nov. 12, 2010). Just to touch on what some of that stupid crap was, Madoff owned a stuffed alligator, dozens of watches, 67 belts, over 200 pairs of shoes—including 88 identical pairs of a brand called “Mr. Casual Belgium”—and one presumably non-functional crystal ball.

Still alive for now (in an undisclosed location within the federal prison system) is fellow Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein, who stole less money than Madoff (less than $2 billion, in fact), but whose story I think is more amusing. You may recall, for example, his gold-plated toilet, his decision to flee to Morocco, his decision to come back from Morocco, and his statement that he asked his partners not to deal drugs from their law office for the very good reason that, as he put it later, he was trying to run a “giant Ponzi scheme” out of that office and didn’t want them screwing it up.

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