Thursday, August 14, 2014

Public Enemy Number One: The American Public

Ferguson, Missouri sector, Homeland Security States of America:

(New York Times)
As so many others have observed, these are the photos of a war zone. The explosion of events in a predominately black midwestern community is the direct result of 1) endemic racism and the paranoid "us against them" mentality of many police departments; and 2) putting the surplus high tech weaponry of war into the hands of poorly trained (mostly) men, who then act out of macho fantasy, abject fear, and mindlessness nurtured by stunted lifetimes' worth of consumption of violence-as-entertainment.

One young black man tried to take a detour from the school to prison pipeline that our cruel society had so callously mapped out for him, and he paid for his goal with his life.

Ferguson, Missouri may be the epicenter of a national tipping point, when the people finally had enough and began reacting to state violence against their peaceful protests with some civic violence of their own. From Reuters:
Police in Ferguson, Missouri, fired tear gas, stun grenades and smoke bombs to disperse some 350 protesters late Wednesday, the fourth night of racially charged demonstrations after police shot to death an unarmed black teen.

Some demonstrators hurled rocks at police as others scattered, while smoke engulfed the area. A Reuters reporter saw two young men preparing what looked like petrol bombs in a bus-stop shelter, their faces covered by bandanas. Police said protesters had thrown petrol bombs at officers.
Protesters have gathered every night since Saturday when 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot to death in the mostly black suburb of St. Louis, during what authorities said was a struggle over a gun in a police car. Some witnesses say he was outside the car with his hands up.
Police have deployed camouflage-clad officers in body armor, including one manning a rifle on a tripod atop an armored car, to Ferguson.
"I've had enough of being pushed around because of the color of my skin. I'm sick of this police brutality," said one protester, who gave only his first name, Terrell, 18. "I'm going to keep coming back here night after night until we get justice."
Political bigwigs have called for calm, of course. President Obama, esconced on his island playground with other members of his social class, is "heartbroken." And do I have to tell you that they're already insisting that "this is not who 'we' (exceptional Americans) are?"
 “The worsening situation in Ferguson is deeply troubling, and does not represent who we are as Missourians or as Americans,” Mr. (Missouri governor) Nixon said in a statement. “While we all respect the solemn responsibility of our law enforcement officers to protect the public, we must also safeguard the rights of Missourians to peaceably assemble and the rights of the press to report on matters of public concern.”
 Yes, actually, Ferguson is who we are. The only surprise is that there is not even more of a national uproar. Like in Detroit, where they actually cut off life-sustaining water to poor people who couldn't pay their bills. Like in New York City, where another black man was choked to death by police for the crime of selling untaxed cigarettes on the street. The state violence against ordinary people may not be as flashy and camera-ready as it is in Ferguson, Missouri, but it goes on every single minute of every single day, in every neighborhood in every town in every state in this country.

It's the violence of committing ten times as many mentally ill people to prison as are being treated in psychiatric facilities. It's the violence of a bipartisan Congress cutting billions of dollars from the food stamp program while giving corporate welfare to the elite class that is sucking the life out of poor people. It's the violence of a Texas governor using game wardens to hunt down human beings at a national border.

Meanwhile, since it bleeds, it leads in the corporate media. Blood and gore in the Homeland are vying for attention with the blood and gore in Iraq and other far- flung locales that are not in our back yard. When even reporters from respected national news outlets get roughed up and arrested without charge by the cops in a hometown low-wage McDonalds, that is news. 

When police brutality starts happening to nice, white, middle-class people who vote -- maybe then the bigwigs will pause in their toasts to one other and worry that they'll be toast in November and beyond.

As Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times recounts in a truly chilling article on police militarization,
The Pentagon program does not push equipment onto local departments. The pace of transfers depends on how much unneeded equipment the military has, and how much the police request. Equipment that goes unclaimed typically is destroyed. So police chiefs say their choice is often easy: Ask for free equipment that would otherwise be scrapped, or look for money in their budgets to prepare for an unlikely scenario. Most people understand, police officers say.
"When you explain that you’re preparing for something that may never happen, they get it,” said Capt. Tiger Parsons of the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office in northwest Missouri, which recently received a mine-resistant truck.
Obama and his war-mongering cronies should have known that when you give toys to boys, they will play with them at every opportunity. Why go to a domestic argument in a squad car when you can roll through someone's living room in a tank? Why let all those surplus grenades go to waste when you can raid the wrong house and toss them into the crib of an innocent baby? Why let schools keep a trouble-maker after class to do homework when you can taser him and point a submachine gun at him before throwing him into a private prison? 

So, if Obama is as heartbroken as he claims to be by the events in Missouri, he should take his pen and his phone and issue one of those mandatory orders of his. All police departments must give up, forthwith, their billions of dollars' worth of  tanks, planes, attack helicopters, submachine guns, water cannon blasters, and grenade launchers.  A safe, unpopulated spot out in the desert somewhere can be found where the weapons of war can be neutralized.... perhaps by digging a hole a mile deep and a thousand miles wide and pouring a billion tons of concrete over the whole mess. Then the president can take his pen and cancel all the contracts with the Offense Industry. Let them make war with the weapons they already have. When those wear out, stop the wars and come home.

 The surplus money can go to schools, universal health care, forgiveness of college loans, a guaranteed national income or living wage, and enhanced Social Security for dignified old ages.   

I hate violence. But I applaud anyone who refuses to be dehumanized for one more outrageous minute.

Update: President Obama has evolved beyond the heartbreak phase, and has entered the next theatrical phase, where he urges calm from all involved, thus lumping the proles and the police into the convenient melting pot of free-floating violence. The cops should exercise more restraint, and at the same time it's on the victims to not react the way a normal human being is supposed to.

For the next suppressive phase, Obama pointedly moved from the previous outdoorsy backdrop of his vacation spread to a more officious indoor venue, complete with military flag backdrop. 

It was a tacit message that Security State America shall prevail.

 “Now’s the time for healing,” Mr. Obama said. “Now’s the time for peace and calm on the streets of Ferguson.”

This is called rushing the public to get over it already, and achieve that instant closure that he so desperately needs, even before the latest victim is decently buried.  He also made the obligatory and utterly meaningless call for "transparency."

 In Obaman newspeak, transparency is defined as opacity. Transparency is the way he absolved himself from revealing details about his drone killings, the way the NSA is absolved from perjury and criminal trespass charges, among other myriad felonies, and the way the CIA is absolved of torture and crimes against humanity of which we know naught, because Obama censored the Senate report.

Not one word from the president about disarming and demilitarizing the local police departments as a sensible way to effectuate the calm he pretends to crave.

 It does seem, however, that the Powers That Be will make an attempt to "tone it (police brutality) down" until the people get over it and until the mainstream media get around to moving on to the next bloody thing.


annenigma said...

I'm pasting my comment from a couple of posts ago since it is relevant to this discussion.

annenigma said...

Lest there be any doubts, the militarization of local police has come directly and deliberately from The Beast itself.

'In June, the ACLU published a crucial 96-page report on this problem, entitled “War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing.” Its central point: “the United States today has become excessively militarized, mainly through federal programs that create incentives for state and local police to use unnecessarily aggressive weapons and tactics designed for the battlefield.”

'The report documents how the Drug War and (Clinton/Biden) 1990s crime bills laid the groundwork for police militarization, but the virtually unlimited flow of “homeland security” money after 9/11 ALL BUT FORCED POLICE DEPARTMENTS TO PURCHASE BATTLEFIELD EQUIPMENT AND OTHER MILITARY PARAPHERNALIA WHETHER THEY WANTED THEM OR NOT.'

Thanks to The Beast, ISIS knew exactly where to find the heavy weapons they needed and the same will happen here. Actually, a sheriff in Arizona, Paul Babeau, accumulated and distributed his cache from the 1033 Program before the Pentagon even noticed. He's far from the only one to do that, I'm sure.

'Over the last 17 years, the "1033 Program" has sent millions of pieces of equipment designed for use on the battlefield to domestic police agencies across the country for use on the streets and in American neighborhoods. That program has provided local police with equipment such as machine guns, tanks, helicopters, grenade launchers, bazookas and armored personnel carriers.'

Get ready to rumble!

August 14, 2014 at 11:08 AM

annenigma said...

"I hate violence. But I applaud anyone who refuses to be dehumanized for one more outrageous minute." Thank you, Karen, for expressing my/our sentiments exactly.

As usual I jumped the gun, so to speak, and another comment I made 3 posts ago is apropo to this one. Hope you don't mind my moving it here.

annenigma said...

Protests have their place, not necessarily to effect actual change regarding a particular issue, but definitely to make forces and policies operating in darkness here in the Homeland more visible and understandable. It appears that civilian protesters are considered more of a threat by the Powers-That-Be and their Warrior Cop enforcers than an enemy in a foreign war. This is from the Washington Post's article titled 'Tear Gas is a Chemical Weapon Banned in War. But Ferguson Police Shoot it at Protesters':

"Despite its ubiquity across the globe and in United States, tear gas is a chemical agent banned in warfare per the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993, which set forth agreements signed by nearly every nation in the world — including the United States. The catch, however, is that while it’s illegal in war, it’s legal in domestic riot control. That means Turkey got to use it on its protesters last year. That meant Bahrain got to the do the same. And now, in Ferguson, cops are likewise blasting residents protesting the police for the killing of an unarmed teen named Michael Brown."

A picture is worth a thousand words, which is exactly why they close airspace, ban video, stop people from photographing police, and even arrest reporters. Tear gas can also be a very effective smoke screen. Washington Post has this subject covered very well since their reporter was arrested.

So as they try to smoke us out, we are smoking them out. Their tactics prove our point about The Homeland, the warm and fuzzy name for the ever more powerful and oppressive American Corporate Empire (ACE). Yes, that's the entity pushing TPP and other secret trade agreements as well as endless wars on us and the rest of the world.

Just naming it The ACE or anything else that describes its wholeness instead of simply its parts can be a form of protest. It beats calling it cozy Homeland or muscular Superpower. It's a cold and heartless Beast that deserves a special name.

Will said...


I just read your post before and thought what a shame nobody's gonna get to see it. Glad you bumped it up to today's thread!

OK, on to the links.

Gazans were tweeting advice on dealing with tear gas attacks to the residents of Ferguson last night. Let that one sink in for a second.

Great Deadspin article from Tuesday night with the most accurate & blunt title ever: America Is Not For Black People.

Kat said...

I see the NRA does not find these protesters as worthy of support as say, Cliven Bundy.

Zee said...

It is not only the Left who have noticed—and become concerned about—the increasing militarization of our (formerly) community police forces. Here are a couple of articles from right-wing news outlets whose authors express those same—or, at least, similar—concerns:

From the National Review article by John Fund,

“The proliferation of paramilitary federal SWAT teams inevitably brings abuses that have nothing to do with either drugs or terrorism. Many of the raids they conduct are against harmless, often innocent, Americans who typically are accused of non-violent civil or administrative violations.

Take the case of Kenneth Wright of Stockton, Calif., who was “visited” by a SWAT team from the U.S. Department of Education in June 2011. Agents battered down the door of his home at 6 a.m., dragged him outside in his boxer shorts, and handcuffed him as they put his three children (ages 3, 7, and 11) in a police car for two hours while they searched his home. The raid was allegedly intended to uncover information on Wright’s estranged wife, Michelle, who hadn’t been living with him and was suspected of college financial-aid fraud.

The year before the raid on Wright, a SWAT team from the Food and Drug Administration raided the farm of Dan Allgyer of Lancaster, Pa. His crime was shipping unpasteurized milk across state lines to a cooperative of young women with children in Washington, D.C., called Grass Fed on the Hill. Raw milk can be sold in Pennsylvania, but it is illegal to transport it across state lines. The raid forced Allgyer to close down his business.

Since 9/11, the feds have issued a plethora of homeland-security grants that encourage local police departments to buy surplus military hardware and form their own SWAT units. By 2005, at least 80 percent of towns with a population between 25,000 and 50,000 people had their own SWAT team. The number of raids conducted by local police SWAT teams has gone from 3,000 a year in the 1980s to over 50,000 a year today.
(My bold emphasis.)

In these instances, fortunately, no one was killed or seriously injured, unlike the occurrences cited by Karen, but they demonstrate that the Right is becoming aware of the dangers of police militarization, too.

From the Hotair article by Mary Katherine Ham,

“We ask more of police in a free society than creating militarized zones out of tough situations. This requires more bravery, more risk, more patience than being a cop in a society where cops can do what they like when they like with impunity. As a result, many Americans have great respect, sometimes reverence, for law enforcement. But when an official response, even to a tough situation, looks like martial law with federally issued no-fly zones, the state isn’t honoring its part of agreement in a free society. We should be willing to demand that they do, even in the face of immense danger. The deep respect many Americans hold for law enforcement should be a function of a free society asking more from those men and women and getting it, not a reason to excuse them when they give us far less.”

I have remarked before that I think there are important policy areas where the Left and the Right could find common ground if we could resolve—or at least declare a temporary truce over—at least some of our hot-button, “culture war” issues.

Not that I have any illusions that that will happen any time soon. I fear that things will have to get much worse before the Left and the Right can find reasons to work together in significant ways to make things better.

Zee said...


Has the NRA ever offered any official endorsement of Cliven Bundy or the armed nutcases who gathered to "defend" him?

I'm not aware of any such action on the part of the NRA, and would be curious to see the evidence.

annenigma said...

"White House and State Department officials who were leading U.S. efforts to rein in Israel's military campaign in the Gaza Strip were caught off guard last month when they learned that the Israeli military had been quietly securing supplies of ammunition from the Pentagon without their approval."

So our local police aren't the only ones the Beast is arming behind our backs. In this latest news, they've supposedly done it even behind the President's back. Talk about undermining Democracy! But notice the blame is on Israel not the Pentagon. Otherwise we'd have to assume they are running the show, lock, stock, and rifle barrel and as Commander-in-Chief, Obama would have to deal with this serious subversion of his administration is a forceful and immediate manner. Absent that, this looks more like political payback for Netanyahu and self-protection for Obama thrown in for good measure.

Wouldn't it make for a great fairy tale ending if Obama woke up while he's still President and reined in The Beast? I guess that Hope drug is still in my system.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

A fine post, Karen. And good comments from everyone.

It was good that the New York Times called attention to police militarization, but that was on June 8, 2014 --- a rather tardy article, I'd say, given that both progressives and right-wingers have been discussing the issue widely --- in many cases, for years.

More currently, note how the New York Times tries to soft-pedal the Ferguson, MO. police assaults on, and arrests of, reporters:

"Two reporters covering the protests also said they had been arrested inside a McDonald’s on accusations of trespassing and later released without charges or an explanation. The reporters, Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post and Ryan J. Reilly of The Huffington Post, both said they had been handled roughly by the police." [my emphasis]. The NYT description is more than a bit of an understatement of events, I'd say.

There's no dateline on the NYT story, it's what's I saw on their web site just after 1 PM eastern time today, so I don't know when it was posted. In any event, the Washington Post coverage of this has long been up, and other sites (i.e. Politico, as per Karen's link) have also long featured the story, so at the very least, the Times could have delivered a comprehensive update on this. There's no reason (such as the story just breaking) for the Times to abbreviate and soft-pedal as they have --- except perhaps that they don't really understand the press' role --- indeed, obligation --- in a democratic republic to vigorously call attention to abuse of power. Instead, they seem to have chosen servitude to the plutocracy and its police enforcers.

And my local paper (The Arizona Daily Star), which has gotten increasingly right wing this past year, has not even a mention today of the reporters' arrests. That may be fully excusable based on their print deadline. But when I called their newsroom to say that I expected coverage about it tomorrow, that if the press can't stand up for press rights, I can't trust them on coverage of anything, I basically got a song-and-dance reply, that by tomorrow there will be many other things to cover, that the reporters' arrests will be old news, yada yada... . Pathetic.

Denis Neville said...

"I mean, you call something a war and pretty soon everybody gonna be running around acting like warriors. They gonna be running around on a damn crusade, storming corners, slapping on cuffs, racking up body counts. And when you at war, you need a fucking enemy. And pretty soon, damn near everybody on every corner is your fucking enemy. And soon the neighborhood that you’re supposed to be policing, that’s just occupied territory." - Howard "Bunny" Colvin, District Commander (Major) Baltimore Police Department in HBO’s The Wire

The “War on Drugs” and the “War on Terror” and now the “War on the American Public.” Americans are in far greater danger from the police than they are from foreign terrorists. The only terrorists most Americans will ever encounter are the police with nightsticks, tasers, pepper spray, mace, assault rifles, etc. De-escalation is for black civilians. Police address blacks with aggression and their default setting is escalation.

As David Simon says, it is now a crude, brutal and shameful war on the underclass:

“The Corner is no polemic, I hope. But it is a dry, careful argument that the war on drugs is destructive, wasteful, crippling to both urban communities and to the police departments charged with enforcing an untenable prohibition in those communities. What drugs have not destroyed, the war against them has. And the drug war itself is now merely a crude, brutal and shameful war on the underclass. The Wire, though fiction, is, I hope, extremely political. It argues that at the millennium, the American empire is ending, and the rot is from within. Notably, the agents of our decline are our own calcified, self-preserving and increasingly authoritarian institutions, as well as our na├»ve belief that raw, unencumbered capitalism, absent a framework that protects our weakest and most vulnerable citizens, can somehow stand for social policy. I believe America is going to be a colder, more brutish place, and human beings – be they working cops, or corner boys, or unemployed longshoreman, or school children – are going to be worth less with every passing moment.” – David Simon, The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner City Neighborhood

How reprehensible and maddening and sad.

“Yes, they think we're dumb. They call us the "common people." But I've been sitting here listening and looking and trying to understand what's so common about us. I think they're guilty of a gross mis-statement of fact - we are the uncommon people.” - Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

The Israelification of American domestic security?

St. Louis County Police Chief Timothy Fitch to Study Counter-Terrorism in Israel

“Israel is the Harvard of antiterrorism.” “No experience in my life has had more of an impact on doing my job than going to Israel.” “We're in a global war.”

As “Bunny” Colvin said, "I mean, you call something a war and pretty soon everybody gonna be running around acting like warriors.”

Fred Drumlevitch said...

The other day, I linked to and commented about the FBI's "summer school" for high schoolers, just the latest attempt to propagandize, "Homeland"-ize, and militarize youth.

Today I see a report on yet a different example, this one involving the Indiana state police:

"At the gathering’s conclusion, 15 seniors for the football team assembled to take a picture on the back of an armored vehicle. One player held a sign reading 'CHAOS 2014,' while some of his teammates clutched non-lethal weapons such as tear gas and beanbag launchers."

Well, at least there were some objections from the community afterwards.

And a bigger, much more general objection this afternoon. Senator Rand Paul has written in Time Magazine an editorial saying that "We Must Demilitarize the Police".

As @Zee said above, "... I think there are important policy areas where the Left and the Right could find common ground if we could resolve—or at least declare a temporary truce over—at least some of our hot-button, “culture war” issues."

Jay - Ottawa said...

This post and the comments that follow make it clear that, just as ‘clothes make the man,’ so do uniforms shape the operation. Dress cops up in SWAT gear and soon a wannabe Delta Force will be crashing through your front door like a foreign occupier.

SEALS and Delta Force types don’t make the best first responders when there’s trouble in the neighborhood. Sure, we need warriors once in a while, but only as a last resort, not every day everywhere in Heimatland. Even less so when politicians spend their lives at closing the inequity gap, but that’s another post.

So let’s stop suiting up and arming local police with hand-me-downs from the Pentagon. Bury that junk in the pit Karen described. Time to appeal to our closest ally, the UK, for “Custodian Helmets,” those funny hats worn by London bobbies on the beat. True, the hats were modeled after helmets once worn by the British Army, which were in turn influenced by Prussian dress-up-for-war gear; but bobbies on the beat thought and acted differently under that headgear. You witnessed that yourself in a hundred fog-filled movies from Great Britain (yes, I’m channeling St Ronnie). The money saved just might be used with better effect to train frontline cops in how to ally with their people and to encourage solidarity in the community.

annenigma said...

Ok, I can't resist. Here's my word limited comment to the NYT Editorial 'In Ferguson, Focus on Police Action, Not Police Gear'.

'We SHOULD focus on police gear. That is the crux of the problem!

Did we vote for our police to become militarized? NO! The federal government decided to impose their 'military surplus' (defense contractor corporate welfare) on us. We CERTAINLY never asked for the free machine guns, tanks, helicopters, grenade launchers, bazookas, and armored personnel carriers be given to our local police and sheriffs departments, quietly and behind our backs, but that's what we got.

Did we vote to allow the Feds to build Fusion Centers in every state for the purpose of collecting and sharing Suspicious Activity (Snitch) Reports on fellow citizens to the Feds? NO!

Did we vote for the police to scan our license plates and submit those to the Feds for their files? NO!

Did we vote for the NSA to collect every scrap of digital info on every one of us? NO!

We now live in a burgeoning National Security Police State and there's a lot of money in it. Democracy only gets in the way, kind of like that pesky Bill of Rights and Constitution. Don't be fooled by the cozy 'Homeland' name they've given us. We didn't vote on that either, as if voting even mattered anymore.

Welcome to The Homeland, seat of the American Global Empire.'

Karen Garcia said...

I read the piece by, what an idiot. That was a GREAT comment, Anne.

I was watching CNN, like an idiot, and it is like they are panting with desire for blood and terror on the streets of The Heartland. If tonight is quiet, I am sure they will all pack up their gear in a flash and wait for the next "disaster."

Denis Neville said...

Irony is wasted on the stupid. The US is bombing ISIS US equipment abandoned by Iraqis, while Ferguson police use the same equipment to intimidate American citizens. But never underestimate the value of irony.

Stephen Klugewicz, “Barney Fife and the Rise of the American Police State,”

“One of Fife’s most famous lines is “nip it in the bud,” by which he means that even a nascent whiff of unlawfulness must be met with the most draconian police enforcement measures lest chaos ensue…

“As American society responds to its cultural, moral, and social meltdown by heavily arming its police forces and by training them to be aggressive in their enforcement tactics, it has abandoned the creed of the Sheriff of Mayberry and chosen what might be called “the Fife option.”

“The danger in America is that our modern Fifes are not comic characters with single bullets and hearts of gold but deadly serious, heavily armed agents of the state bent on enforcing the letter of the law without regard to common sense or a sense of justice and mercy. Mayberry, the American Shire, is a symbol of our vanished past. Today the dark shadow of authoritarianism has crept into every corner of the land. We have sent away the Sheriff Taylors and replaced them with police officers whose hearts are too often like those of Tolkien’s Black Riders—once good but now deformed by their slavish obedience to the all-seeing eye. In the unenviable choice between unlawful chaos and authoritarian order, Americans have chosen the latter, and we are suffering the consequences.”

David Couper, Arrested Development: A Veteran Police Chief Sounds Off About Protest, Racism, Corruption and the Seven Steps Necessary to Improve Our Nation’s Police, on what’s wrong with police today. Police continue to struggle with four recurring and major obstacles, which have literally ‘arrested’ their development: anti-intellectualism; violence; corruption; and discourtesy. “If these obstacles aren’t overcome, we are going to experience serious trouble controlling our police.”

As Sheriff Taylor tells Barney, “When you’re a lawman and you’re dealing with people, you do a whole lot better if you go not so much by the book, but by the heart.”

Cirze said...

Both siderism run amuck.

Always the prelude to ignoring the heart of any important discussion.

And the interlude before the next, in this case, bloody, event.

Thanks for your brilliant dissection, K.

Isaiah Earhart said...

Great Comment Anne!

Karen, thank you for watching CNN for us. That must have been quite painful. Whenever I get stuck in a place where CNN and CNN audio feed cannot be ignored, I can actually feel myself getting dumber.