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August 28, 9:39 a.m.
Another piece of what Jack likes to call Security Theatre last night in Ybor City:
We were drinking and playing pool with my cousin and her boyfriend at a friendly bikers’ bar called the Dirty Shame around midnight, when suddenly we noticed that outside, one of the roaming herds of brown-shirted police had metamorphosed into a line that was retreating slowly up Seventh Avenue.
My first thought was that they had simply decided to try a new formation during their lonely ramblings—that out in the middle of the peaceful, humid Florida night they were making up cheerleader and marching-band moves to entertain themselves. But no, they were reacting to a real menace—the worst threat Tampa had seen since the March of the Nine Dehydrated Anarchists that afternoon.
One might have thought from their reaction on this, LBJ’s birthday, that the officers were retreating before some snarling, Chicago-style mass of enraged Yippies and Weathermen. Instead, it turned out to be fifty or sixty protesters. Jack thought they might be Ron Paul supporters, several of whom we had seen running around the streets near the security perimeter, holding up signs for their candidate. I thought they tended more to the left, mostly because they were carrying a small, golden, papier-mâché elephant with a chain around its trunk. It wasn’t possible to tell for sure—we could barely hear their halfhearted, uncoordinated chants.
Regardless, the marchers, like the anarchists, were quickly surrounded by a mass of brown-shirted security forces who clearly outnumbered them. Quickly and deftly, the police moved the demonstrators down a side street, away from the dozen or so scattered spectators watching quietly from the sidewalks. As they all marched off together, they struck me as something akin to a historical recreation, a Colonial Williamsburg–style pantomime of protest that referred vaguely back to a misplaced past.
More from Kevin Baker:
Appreciation — June 26, 2014, 8:00 am
From Johnny Cash to “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”
The new docudrama The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX) isn’t really about Orenthal James Simpson. It’s about the trials that ran alongside his — those informal, unboundaried, court-of-public-opinion trials in which evidence was heard for and against the murder victims, the defense and the prosecution, the judge, the jury, and the Los Angeles Police Department, to say nothing of white and black America. History has freed us from suspense about Simpson’s verdict, so that the man himself (played here by Cuba Gooding Jr.) is less the tragic hero he seemed in the mid-Nineties than a curiously minor character. He comes to the center of our attention only once, in Episode 2, at the end of the lengthy Ford Bronco chase scene — which in real life was followed by a surreal cavalcade of police cars and media helicopters, as well as an estimated 95 million live viewers — when Simpson repeatedly, and with apparent sincerity, apologizes for taking up so much of so many people’s time. It is an uncannily ordinary moment of social decorum, a sort of could-you-please-pass-the-salt gesture on a sinking Titanic, in which Simpson briefly becomes more than just an archetype.
Amount an auditor estimated last year that Oregon could save each year by feeding prisoners less food:
Kentucky is the saddest state.
An Italian economist was questioned on suspicion of terrorism after a fellow passenger on an American Airlines flight witnessed him writing differential equations on a pad of paper.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”