Category Archives: Civil Liberties

Black Lives Matter & the War on Cops

The war on cops is about as legitimate as the war on Christmas. If there were such a war, there is no question whom is winning.

Oscar GrantRoughly one thousand people are killed by police every year in America (there’s currently no federal database). In contrast, about 100 cops (unfortunately) die on the job each year. Of those hundred unfortunate deaths, the majority are result of vehicle collisions – not targeted killings.

riotgearblackguyIt is far more dangerous to be a garbage man, or a roofer, a trucker, or basically anyone who deals with heavy machinery, than it is to be a cop in America. We live in literally the safest time to have a career in law enforcement in US history – yet 58% of us believe there is a war being waged against them.ferguson12

mlkarrestTo most of us: Cops killing scores of unarmed black people + black people protesting = war on cops.

Donald_Trump_by_Gage_Skidmore_4Ted_Cruz_(7004284762)

James Comey
James Comey

Self-described wacko bird Ted Cruz has accused Black Lives Matter of celebrating the murder of cops. Potential fascist-in-chief Donald Trump has condoned the beating of BLM protesters at his rallies (his campaign compared the first incident to Trump supporters interrupting a black church service).

FBI Director James Comey has blamed BLM protesters for frightening law enforcement so thoroughly that they are incapable of doing their jobs, resulting in a (non-existent) spike in inner-city violent crime – dubbed the Ferguson Effect. This is a thinly-veiled threat of violence against the populace. If cops aren’t allowed to violate the civil rights of citizens without criticism, let alone consequence – then they will do all they can to unleash anarchy. Nice little city you have there… Pasty bureaucrats & AM howlers have labeled BLM a domestic terrorist group.

We live in a country where the mere suggestion that perhaps black lives matter as well somehow requires not only a rebuttal, in all lives matter, but an outright counter-movement in blue lives matter.

George_WallaceKKKDuluth-lynching-postcardWe are a terribly racist people. It’s historically been our default. Sure, we don’t keep blacks as pets anymore, as they are equal citizens in theory. But all we’ve really done is introduce subtlety into our racist practices. We don’t lock our blacks in chains anymore. We keep them locked away in cages. We don’t have slave patrols or lynch mobs anymore; we have hung-juries, justifiable homicide-by-cop, and an ever-expanding interpretation of the castle doctrine. It is no longer in good taste to use the n-word in public. So we instead call them thugs and we speak of urban culture. We’ve replaced literacy tests & poll-taxes with Voter ID laws, felon disenfranchisement, and shuttering & shortening hours of voter precincts. (Forty percent of black males in Virginia, and 25% in FLA, cannot vote.)

Landscape Occupy_Chicago_protestors_(23)The city of Chicago has a multi-million dollar restitution fund for the years of physical torture levied against young black males in the city. Not during the 1960’s – this century. Chicago police still use a literal black site to disappear suspects, specifically (unofficially, of course) used to violate the civil rights of its citizens. The Homan Square site has been used for torture (including anal assault), and is generally used to keep suspects from having a lawyer present during questioning, or from making phone calls.

Rahm_Emanuel_news_conferencesAnita_Alvarez_2008Police reports show that Laquan  McDonald stabbed the tire of a police cruiser, and lunged at officers with a knife. He never stabbed the tire. He was shot twice while standing, and fourteen more times on the pavement. His murder by Chicago police was covered up by the entire corrupt system.  From the terrified & poorly trained Jason Van Dyke, who murdered Laquan in cold blood. To the other eight cops on the scene who not only remained silent, but went back and erased video  evidence from a nearby Burger King. To internal review, the police union, the chief of police – all the way up to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and State Attorney Anita Alvarez. Officer Van Dyke was allowed to keep his tax-payer-funded job (on desk duty) for 13 months. Alvarez finally filed charges, hours before dash cam evidence was released. Unwillingly of course, it took thirteen months, repeated judicial orders, and numerous FOIA requests.

ferguson21Mike Brown punched an officer seated in his cruiser, was shot, and ran. We were led to believe that he suddenly morphed into super negro, and decided to charge the officer after fleeing over 150 ft. The prosecutor blatantly threw the case, forcing the grand jury to let Darren Wilson walk.

justiceTwelve-year old Tamir Rice was murdered in cold blood by Cleveland police. He had a toy gun in an open-carry state. They claimed he refused repeated commands to drop the gun. Video evidence shows was shot within two seconds of officers arriving. His sister was handcuffed, and thrown into the back of the cruiser as he died. A year later, still no charges.

Eric Garner was choked to death on video. His crime was breaking up a fight, and being known for selling un-taxed loosies. Officers escalated and escalated, until he was choked him to death as he pleaded for air. The only person charged has been the guy who captured the video.

8230656_f1024John Crawford was killed for having a toy gun slung over his back while talking on his cell phone to his mother in an (again, open-carry) Ohio Walmart. Cops say he was pointing the gun at customers, and refused commands to drop the weapon. They interrogated his girlfriend, and attempted to get her to say that he brought the gun with them to the store. Video once again proved they were lying. Once again, no consequences.

Time after time we are assured in contemporaneous reports that officers were justified because of this or that. We are assured that they will investigate themselves, that we must simply be patient. Then it’s the silent treatment. Ongoing investigation.

ferguson13If people are upset, the media go about demonizing the deceased, who can no longer defend themselves. They must have smoked weed that one time. We found a picture where he looked scary. He was wearing a hoodie. She should have followed directions better. Or faster. Why did he do this? Why did he say that?

Why is he dead! Why is he dead?

SWATMounting video evidence supports the claim that we do not simply have a few bad-apples with a callous indifference to life. It is, in fact,the bunch.

It is true that a relatively small percentage of officers are responsible for the majority of complaints. However, those bad-apples are rarely, if ever, charged.  They rarely even lose their jobs! Even then, they usually are allowed to resign and find a job in another precinct (like the priests). Internal investigators are considered snitches. Good cops in bad neighborhoods are weeded out – harassed & left without backup until they (if their lucky) find work in a nice white neighborhood where they don’t have to worry about moral decisions on the job.

swatposingIt’s the culture. The thin blue line. It’s the system. The entire system. Thanks to the SCOTUS, cops are legally justified in using lethal force so long as they claim within reason that they got scared. When local judges who are elected are confronted with police brutality cases, they can’t afford to have police unions in opposition for holding their members accountable. Same goes for prosecutors, who have symbiotic relationships with the cops, who are often star-witnesses & evidence gatherers. When all of the stars align, and a particularly blatant case finally does make it to trial, overwhelmingly-white juries simply take the word of cops as bond and rarely find them guilty.
Landscape

Bill Bratton
Bill Bratton

Blacks are far more likely to be stopped & searched by the cops. Being comparatively random, searches of blacks are far less likely to turn up contraband. When drugs are found, blacks are far more likely to be charged than whites. Blacks are given stiffer charges for the same offenses. They are more likely to be found guilty at trial. They are given harsher sentences when found guilty of the same crimes. They serve longer time in prison, even when receiving the same sentences. They are more likely to receive a death sentence.

Many states won’t let felons vote, or let them qualify for a Pell Grant, or live with someone receiving food stamps (SNAP) or living in public housing. We make them check a box on applications so they can’t even get an interview. We assign exorbitant fees for post-release supervision. We make them feel like second class citizens, and make it as tough as possible to make money legally. We push them right back into jail.

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UNDATED: This undated photo provided by the U.S. Court of Appeals shows Judge John G. Roberts. President George W. Bush nominated Roberts on July 19, 2005 to fill the vacancy that will be created by Justice Sandra Day O'Conner when she retires from the U.S. Supreme Court. (Photo by R. Strauss/Smithsonian via Getty Images)
UNDATED: This undated photo provided by the U.S. Court of Appeals shows Judge John G. Roberts. President George W. Bush nominated Roberts on July 19, 2005 to fill the vacancy that will be created by Justice Sandra Day O’Conner when she retires from the U.S. Supreme Court. (Photo by R. Strauss/Smithsonian via Getty Images)

We have a supreme court which has said that racism is both a thing of the past, and has spread throughout the country. They’ve gutted the Voting Rights Act – crown jewel of Civil Rights Era legislation. In the process of eliminating race as a standard for Affirmative Action, Justice Scalia suggested that blacks don’t belong in good colleges because they learn slower.

Racism is like a liquid. It’s amorphic. It accumulates at the bottom. Worst of all, it makes up part of all of us. We are all bombarded with the same stereotypical portrayals of people of color (POC) by a melanin-deficient entertainment industry. We all see a similarly-pasty news media describe & depict black victims as drug/gang adjacent ne’er-do-wells; and white murders as troubled formerly –adorable adolescents, or head-cases who are in no way reflective at worst.

uncle samoccupy wake upWe all have implicit biases & in-group favoritism. In simulations where we shoot armed individuals, blacks are shot much quicker than whites, both when armed and unarmed. It takes longer for us to associate positive terms with black faces. Ebay auctions with items held by black hands receive lower bids. AirB&B requests by

black sounding names are more likely to be denied. Job applications with black sounding names get fewer responses. Beginning at the age of 11, black children are perceived as 4.5 years older, and assigned more culpability. occupy fuck apathy

Oprah_Winfrey_receives_2013_Presidential_Medal_of_FreedomBlack people are far more likely to be in unemployed or in jail. They are far less likely to be a politician, a CEO, a professor, or an engineer. They have far less wealth/lower incomes. They even live shorter lives.

Yet some of us look at all of this and say, What’s wrong with the blacks? We point to Oprah & Obama, and ask why they don’t all simply lift themselves by their bootstraps. We blame the culture. We blame the fathers. We blame the music. We blame them for drugs. We blame their work ethic (ever since they stopped working for free).

We blame black-on-black crime. Why isn’t Jessie Jackson in Chicago!?! As though every ethnic group (aside from Native Americans) aren’t victimized by their own. As though we have a problem with Tyrone getting the benefit of doubt all along the way, and eventually going free, after admittedly killing someone.

Andy_Griffith_Don_Knotts_1960In rich white neighborhoods, the police provide customer service. They’re a bunch of Andy Griffiths, and that is how rich white folks view the cops. Stands to reason. They aren’t likely to be harassed for trivial actions such as grilling meat or catching a bus. Their kids aren’t harassed for looking suspicious. When white kids in nice neighborhoods are caught doing something wrong – well, that could be a judge’s kid, or the mayor’s nephew. Roughing them up, or even holding them accountable for their actions, could be a big mistake. White kids in small towns – well their uncle could be the local pastor, or on the town council.

If rich white people know any blacks, they are likely to also be wealthy, and thus more likely to share their conservative views of those people. Poor, rural white people  want to hold onto the antiquated notion that everything right with America is sepia toned. We want to hold believe that we are superior to someone, anyone. We go to great lengths to deny racism, to deny white privilege. We take it as an attack- an attack on our personal accomplishments, an attack on our ability to sense the world around us. We see a zero-sum game. The ascendance of anyone else toward realized equality must inherently require a decline of whites. The decline of America. We can’t let it happen. We want our country back.  ferguson rioters

In recent polling, seventy-eight percent of voters chose all lives matter, to eleven prevent identifying with black lives matter.

Wigger_bling
What we fail to recognize, is that all lives do not face the same threats that black lives are forced to endure in America. Specifically, when dealing with interactions with the police, blacks are far more likely to die than whites.

Do we think black people have simply been lying all of this time? They’ve all been brain-washed by Al Sharpton?

Consider how we treat protest & civil rights movements the same manner in which we did in the 1960’s. We still monitor their communications. We still infiltrate them undercover agents (both for intel, and to incite riots during protests). We still rough-up & arrest peaceful protesters for inhabiting public spaces. We still call them agitators. We still blame anyone movement-adjacent for a handful of vandals, footage of whom is played on a loop in the media.

The current situation is untenable.

Moral Mondays
Moral Mondays
Captain Johnson
Captain Johnson

Respect is something which our police forces require. Trustworthiness is something we must require of them. We give them a gun, and with it the ultimate authority to end a person’s life. Those responsibilities must be taken seriously. The police literally work for us. They must be trained to protect the lives of civilians at all cost, not protect their own hind-quarters at all cost. They need to be trained to deal with sometimes difficult mentally ill people. They need to jettison the view of disrespect as the ultimate crime.

They need to stop killing us. This is not normal. This is not acceptable.

Cops must no longer be used to wage a racially charged war on drugs, ensnaring black and brown people into a system which is difficult to escape.

Loretta_LynchbedsdnotjailsLaw enforcement must have proper civilian oversight, not simply internal investigators. We need to incorporate more cooperation with community watch programs – not simply more money for more cops – in urban communities. The majority of cops should be required to live where they work. They should see the same community they serve at the grocery  store, in church on Sunday, and at the football game on Friday night. They should have both dash & lapel cams, which they should not be allowed to simply & unilaterally disable  on a whim (same goes for the audio).

TAG_Garner_Protest_03Black_Lives_Matter_Black_Friday_(15305650544)

Troy Davisferguson7Officers are trained in deescalation roughly 5% of the time that they are trained on firearms & defensive maneuvers. They use simulators in which citizens jump from cars immediately shooting. They are trained that anyone within 21 feet is a danger.

They apparently need to be trained not to shoot people in the back, shoot people who are hand-cuffed, people who are in the fetal position, people with their hands in the air, people who are naked and obviously unarmed, people with butter knives, et cetera.

Unfortunately, poorly-trained cops are given military equipment & quotas and unleashed upon the community, who are seen as potential threats, as the enemy, and cops the occupying force.
There is no war on cops. There is a demand for better trained cops, and for accountability to the people. For justice.

Drones: National Security or Domestic Threat?




Meet your new neighbor – the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.

7/11/12          Follow @jelleesnacks
MQ9 Reaper
General John Meyer
 “They save lives!” General John Meyer said of drones in 1972.

“The only reason we need (UAVs) is that we don’t want to needlessly expend the man in the cockpit”, explained General George Brown – also in 1972 – the year before public admission of the existence of a drone program in the U.S. military.

In a practical sense, if an aerial vehicle is to be lost, that loss is very much preferable if not accompanied by the loss of an airman in the process.

Thus, drones save lives.

Click HERE for Obama White Papers

Anwar al-Awlaki
Unfortunately though, for a certain 16 year-old born in Denver, Colorado, the inverse turned out to be the case. Abdul-Rahman al-Awlaki – American-born citizen – was specifically targeted and killed via drone attack in Yemen apparently for his crime of having radical kinfolk.

White House Secretary Robert Gibbs explained that he should have had a “far more reasonable father“.

“Due process and judicial process are not one and the same,” according to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, “Citizenship alone does not make such individuals immune from being targeted.” Apparently not.

Attorney General Eric Holder

We learned recently of a so-called kill-list: photos and stats similar to baseball cards of the top 30 al-Qaeda members, and charts resembling year-book pages of the targets and their likely companions. “How old are these people?” Obama is said to have queried, adding “If they are starting to use children, we are moving into a whole different phase.” Indeed.

The POTUS himself reportedly identifies targets to be pursued, and hopefully eliminates any mistakes involved in delegating such responsibility. Added national security advisor Thomas Donilin, “He’s determined to keep the tether pretty short.”

CIA Director-Nominee John Brennan

According to the CIA, since May 2010, there have been exactly ZERO accidental civilian casualties resulting from drone strikes. This thanks, in no small part, to our policy of posthumously declaring all military-aged males as militants. Which of course, makes it very difficult to appeal those charges.Identity strikes, like those on al-Awlaki, target a specific individual. There may be a certain level of collateral damage, but the attack is focused in it’s intent. The signatures strike, however, is a tactic which identifies targets whom display suspicious behavior. Unfortunately though, traveling in a caravan might look a bit suspicious. Outdoor group activities, especially calisthenics and the occasional wedding party (sadly, it’s happened), might look a bit suspicious.

Hopefully unfounded for the repulsiveness of content, there are now reports (by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism) of strategic double-tap tactics being carried out by UAVs. This double-tap is the second attack, which occurs once the responders arrive on the scene of the initial attack. Also, follow-up attacks of mourners and funeral processions. Hopefully these incidences have been coincidental and not strategic.

In 2009, President Obama’s initial UAV endeavor wound up accidentally killing 19 people with all of five missiles, and all of whom turned out to be civilians. By July 2012 – nearly 300 drone strikes later (after 52 under Bush) – upward of 3000 people, including around 800 civilians, had been killed (BIJ).

The USAF 100th Strategic Reconnaissance wing flew nearly 3500 drone missions in Vietnam. Today, at least 50 countries worldwide are advancing drone warfare. We enlist Reapers, Predators, Ravens, Shadows, Hawks, and their brethren; which are deployed in Yemen, Iran, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan & Afghanistan. The Pentagon currently counts some 7000 UAVs among it’s fleet.

RQ-1A Predator

Collateral Damage & Toxic boots

The use of combat drones allow opportunistic circumvention of the political toxicity surrounding boots-on-the-ground conflict, while further disconnecting the majority of the populace from the 1% representing us overseas in combat. Rather than dealing with the hassle of being open with the public; rather than dealing with the political calculus of gaining Congressional for approval of war; rather than uprooting troops from their families and shipping them off into harm’s way on foreign lands… Instead we can simply deploy an army of flying robots. And the best part? The drone pilot can carry out ordered assassinations, and then go home and play with the kids in the yard. What’s not to love?

RQ-7 Shadow
 Let’s not forget about the money. We can never forget about the money. An RQ-1 Raven has a unit cost of $35,000, with a program cost of $250,000 (GlobalSecurity.org). The MQ9 Reaper has a $36.8 million unit cost and $11.8 billion program cost (Department of Defense). The MQ1Predator is $4million and S2.38 billion (DofD), and the RQ-7 Shadow is $750,000 and $15.5 billion (Aeroweb).

Drones are relatively inexpensive compared to the B-2 Spirit, with a $1.07 billion unit cost and a whopping $44.75 billion program cost (or $2.1 billion apiece) through 2004 (US General Accounting Office). Or the F-22 Raptor with a $150 million unit cost and $66.7 billion program cost (USAF). In other words, the price tag on a single B-2 bomber equals the cost of 65 of even the most expensive drone unit.

A160 Hummingbird

Eastern Gateway Community College?

As the war in Afghanistan inevitably winds to a close, domestic drone use is on the verge of an explosion. The Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act (2012) welcomes commercial drones onto the scene, as the FAA projects 30,000 domestic drones and has reportedly approved 82 drone models (including nano/hummingbird drones) and issued 285 licenses while streamlining the process. Mostly utilized as Patriot Act surveillance apparatus, Seattle PD, WSDOT, & Eastern Gateway Community College (?) are all “permitted drone operators.” A Reaper MQ-9 drone recently assisted North Dakota sheriffs in apprehending suspected cattle-rustlers.

MQ-1C Warrior

Imagine, if you will, a future in which patrolling UAVs are so commonplace as to become unnoticed. Or quiet enough to go largely unheard, and small enough to remain largely unseen. Thirty-thousand approved drones potentially patrolling the country-side. What happens when Wal-Mart’s seemingly inevitable drone fleet (I’m kidding) falls prey to cyber-terrorists? What about a single drone armed with chemical weapons?

Curtiss N2C-2

An airliner was not generally seen as a potential form of munitions until 9/11.

So yes, it’s a nuanced issue – what determines the palatability are not the drones themselves, but the manner in which drones are used. Are drones programmed with Geneva Convention rules acceptable? Would we rather have tens of thousands of boots on the ground in Yemen and Pakistan? I get that. But the drone program further separates the public from sacrifice of battle. And by incessantly reigning down death from the sky upon civilians, we just create more and more backlash in the form of terrorism.

OQ-2A

There is a compromise to be made here, by much more intelligent folks than myself, and it lies somewhere between the need of surveillance for public safety, and the privacy concerns of individual citizens.

Two BQM-34 Firebees

Can we have this conversation please?

RQ1 Predator sensor operator’s chair