Old PARIAH magazine, the glossy we wish was on the newsstand, way ahead of its time.
This Labor Day marks the first in recent memory where many opinion writers could no longer overlook the dreadful state of American employment. As a result, today you can easily find recommendations to raise the minimum wage or a few anecdotes about a couple companies, usually Market Basket, where labor combined with a former owner to overcome the greed of corporate masters.
However, it’s really still not very hard to find the material I characterized yesterday.
Let’s see a few pieces. Roll it.
Personally, I’ve never been a fan of the Labor Day concept. It strikes me as a touch un-American. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to take the day off. But I don’t accept the notion of two fixed Americas, one comprised of laborers and one comprised of business owners. It’s antithetical to the America of job mobility I know and believe in — and the one we always should be striving to grow. Yet lots of Americans genuinely see the country divided today into permanent working and ruling classes. It’s no wonder, considering how many political leaders exploit that proposition to gain votes …
But with the underemployment rate stubbornly hovering at about 15 percent this Labor Day, maybe it’s time to give businesses a little credit and recognition for all they do for this country. I, for one, would be hosed without employers. Most of us would be.
The man’s recommendation? Have an Employer’s Day. Paradoxically, I agree. Labor Day is un-American in the sense of it reflecting how things are. We live in a corporate Culture of Lickspittle. So why not have a national Lick the Boots Day?
This from the current Secretary of Labor, runs the Americans-don-t-have-the-skills-employers-want meme (no link):
As the Secretary of Labor, I have a unique opportunity to meet with employers around the country of all sizes and from an array of industries. So many of them tell me the same thing: they’re ready to grow their businesses and to hire more people.
But here’s the rub: too often, they can’t find workers who have the skills they need.
Recently, the mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, has stated he wants to raise the city’s minimum wage to a little over 13 dollars an hour.
For this weekend, a local corporate flack, Stewart Waldman, opines for the LA Daily News:
It is crucial that our government begins gearing policy toward attracting and retaining business. Once businesses are comfortable, well-paying jobs will follow. No one should have to live on a minimum wage, but the mayor’s proposal isn’t even a short-term solution — it’s a disaster for Los Angeles. Happy Labor Day!
An older woman in the hinterlands is shocked, shocked, that corporate America is rude to young people and that the line about not being able find qualified workers is a con. It won’t even deign to answer their job applications:
Our business education people have coached people who apply for jobs to be careful to present themselves in the best light, to be courteous in their presentation, to become knowledgeable about the company to which they are applying, update their resume and improve their education if need be to find a job.
My friend did all of these and yet, still no job. And yet there are employers complaining that they cannot find good help …
If someone works that hard to work, seems to me they should at least be recognized for all the effort they put into their search by the courtesy of a call or a formal note or in today’s world, I guess an email would be better than nothing.
No wonder the young people today put no stock in the importance of a first impression or the need to have information in order and skills well noted and presented and to keep trying for a job.
Better late than never, I suppose.
Here’s some counter-balance, with venom. From the Reno newspaper. Amazon employs retiree slave labor:
U.S. workers get fewer holidays than those in the rest of the first world, so I’m totally in favor of heavy partying, dressed or undressed.
With prospects for American families looking increasingly dim, we might as well get drunk. Herewith, some reasons why.
AMAZONED OUT. Despite Reno City Hall’s glowing pronouncements about what a great employer Amazon is, many of the 4,000 workers the online octopus will retain during the holidays will be impoverished senior citizens living in aging motor homes who wander the country like farm workers. The only difference is that they have neither found their César Chávez nor are they likely to.
Amazon terms them “workampers” who will suffer elongated shifts on hard concrete for low pay with no benefits. As with Wal-Mart and casinos, most will qualify for food stamps and welfare. Their health plan will consist of aspirin or emergency rooms.
I’m with him. Party heavy, get drunk. I have you covered at Escape from WhiteManistan.
And in about an hour, I’m going to start just that.
Now go, go, go for the closest you’ll get to official Loud Folk Live Dick Destiny music for Labor Day, Rich Man’s Burden performed a couple weeks ago from deep in the heart of Pasadena, just off Rte. 66, where you get your kicks.
Who can be vilified over hot dogs, hamburgers and beer this weekend? Teachers? Shall we fondly reminisce over how Ronald Reagan dismissed PATCO? Maybe something on eliminating the minimum wage and how to stimulate the capital accumulation of the wealthy with right-to-work-for-less law? How ’bout we run the evergreen “Americans don’t have the skills to compete in the global workforce” up the flag pole a few times? Perhaps we can smile over the elimination of blue-collar manufacturing work? Those hard hats earned too much money so we broke them all down!
That’s what this holiday is, one of America’s phoniest, marking the end of Summer. For the last twenty years all I recall is politicians using the weekend to write anti-Labor opinion pieces, usually stuff praising America’s corporate masters or other miscellaneous social and economic predators.
See if you can spot any of it.
Every time you think you’ve seen the worst from WhiteManistan, someone shows up with a camera video of a 9-year old child accidentally shooting the gun instructor dead at a machine gun amusement part
firing range in Nevada.
Because machine gun tourism is an actual thing here.
And, boy, was I on the money with these. If you don’t understand, are driven to rage at the bleak nature and wish to add your thumb’s down, you need a psyche work up. Likable happy tunes about personal liberties can’t be used to describe WhiteManistan. Not by anyone decent.
“Suck on my machine gun!” Another evergreen Ted Nugent quote, one with the same appeal as the Ebola virus.
This week the fork-tongued collective at Facebook declared it would be instituting new measures to reduce the volume of clickbait shotgunned into its closed social culture of lickspittle.
As the coiner of Culture of Lickspittle, I found this hysterical. You would too.
It’s the equivalent of Facebook saying it’s going to cut off both its legs in a sham attempt to cure disease it couldn’t exist without.
Facebook has done this before, mostly in a move to punish clickbait farms that don’t tithe to it sufficiently. This means Upworthy.
While Buzzfeed, which pays protection money to the minions of Zuckerberg, remains immune.
Facebook users live on clickbait.
So saying you’re going to do something about it is like a town hooker being seen signing up for re-education through the Church Universal & Triumphant. Unbelievable, unless it’s a maneuver to extract pay to play blow jobs from the ranks of those as yet unreached by your blandishments.
Clickbait has taken over the life blood of American journalism. It is what millions respond to. Total worthlessness is worth in the CoL. And deception is its shiny gold paint.
We know Upworthy is the highest form of crap sincerity trolling, done by smiling automatons who all look and scan the same in biographical slogans having to do with how they believe they’re changing the world by sifting stuff to make you allegedly joyous or tearful on-line.
But what about everybody else? Rhetorical. It’s clickbait or die. And you know it when you see it.
Linguistically, something like an early anti-virus scanner could get rid of most clickbait in an afternoon. Flag the words “see,” “this,” and “these.” The only utility they have in web titling is as a command/enticement to bring up something of no value. Fundamentally, they’re only used in clickbait.
Having worked for a newspaper and still regularly seeing paper copies of the Los Angeles Times and NYT, one can safely say headline writers for physical copy virtually never employ stock clickbait usages. You’ll never see the words “awesome,” “cry,” “lol,” “must” or “[the numbers 5 to 20 or so]” in old school headlines. Their presence in web publishing is not evidence of innovation or a new model of journalism. It is the pushing of patent medicines.
There were and are good reasons for headline rigor in old school journalism, just as there is good reason to not buy the idea that loud and louder farting in public is a mark of quality and achievement in an individual.
Space limitations on type set still constrain physical news. Combined with a certain amount of intellectual pride and effort going into making a descriptive headline that addresses the substantive nut of the news to follow.
But virtually everyone has surrendered to clickbait in cyberspace.
Let’s take a few examples.
Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown. Here’s why he won’t go to jail.
This is from Vox. It’s part of the subset of clickbait known as the explainer. Explainers are 250-500 words of alleged explanation simultaneously explained by a dozen or more similarly done pieces at rivals, sometimes stuffed with a few graphs and charts. They’re usually done by people with no particular skill at explaining any matter, expecially science or anything else complicated.
Here’s another piece of Vox clickbait by someone named Alex Abad-Santos.
When Vox was started by Ezra Klein, the stock line was how it was going to provide better journalism, something more in line with what people actually want. Easy talk.
If this is what Klein thought, then the observation is correct. People respond to clickbait. But if that’s what you’re going to serve, and it’s what Vox does serve in many categories, it has much competition.
Ezra Klein’s talent was in politics and policy at the Washington Post. Klein’s excellence was obvious. He showed no facility in anything else.
Because you are really good at one thing doesn’t mean you should have the vanity to put your fingers into every pie, from science to comic books.
To explain, we can compare Klein to Brian Bosworth. At Oklahoma, Bosworth was a two time Butkus Award winner, the only one in college football history.
Bosworth was a dominating personality. He talked a great game and created a shell environment that led many to believe he would be a superstar in the NFL.
That never happened. Brian Bosworth was a great linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks but he was not durable. He was not an NFL bust but still lasted barely three seasons before his career was over, worn out by injury.
This is the Vox trajectory, I bet. Already, few care. Ezra Klein was a force at the Post. But outside the Post, he’s neither particularly durable or quite as special.
Here’s another piece of bald-faced clickbait, at the Washington Post, in a blog called Everything Post.
The outrage driving the Ferguson debate ignores these three key facts.
Stock troll title, commissioned from someone specifically for the purpose of creating a law and order troll piece saying, wow, that Ferguson isn’t that bad. Armored cars, menacing snipers and your small community being soaked in tear gas are only that which your require in America.
And from the Huffington Post, where the most popular pieces are those that are the best clickbait:
This Genius Project Would Create Tiny Homes For People Making Less Than $15,000 A Year
Clickbait usage, genius, which it is not the work of if you’re sucked in. Did you think Macarthur Grant genius? Or maybe the work of a Nobel laureate?
Nothing like that.
And the “tiny homes” are not even made, they exist only as a business’s drawings. The drawings make them look like nice studio apartments. Which tells you, even if they are made (in Portland), which one doubts, they will not be reserved for formerly homeless people who can now still only pay 200-300 dollars a month in rent. (What it is is most probably a scheme to get public money to underwrite a private developer’s building project, then jiggered to be handed-off to high value but small apartments gentrifying a slum.)
In clickbait, you never really have to follow up anyway. One of its strengths is in the creation of trivial but grandiose-sounding fictions.
From last week, on BuzzFeed acquiring a big infusion of venture cash money:
And if that isn’t enough, they’ll be hard at work using the cash … to better optimize content specifically for the Culture of Lickspittle:
“We spend a ton of time thinking about why people share things and what kinds of things will they share. The same stories are very widely shared on Facebook and Twitter and email.” .
When we share shit why do we share it on the places made out of sharing? It’s a boon to journalism.
Top stuff on Buzzfeed, a passing glance…
11 Things You Learn When You Watch All 5 “Step Up” Movies In A Row
1. You never knew a day could be so great.
The 17 Funniest “Jeopardy!” Fails Of All Time
What Kind of Shark Are You?
The Seeker, by the Dick Destiny Band, performed live in scenic downtown Pasadena, a block from Rte. 66, where you
got get your kicks. Two old men and a big jangle in an old song by the Who.
In case you haven’t been following the narrative, or just dropped in, this is what I do with my life. Once you’ve been cut off from the US economy, you have nothing left to do and no one to do it with if they haven’t had the same pleasure.
So might as well do what you can, in this case twice a week, in the corporate Bund. It’s then your prerogative to regularly show how you’ve been judged/rendered/whatever not useful to even very small numbers of people.
And since this is about the Culture of Lickspittle, from the Sunday New York Times, on how it’s now
allegedly uncool to promote yourself on-line. (Or shit that obsesses upper middle class white explainers who had no presence in cyberspace before the Facebook and Twitter scripting platforms were invented for them.)
It annoys people:
[Much] self-promotion on social media seems less about utility and effective advertising and more about ego sustenance. One of the earliest psychological studies of narcissism and Facebook, a 2008 paper by Laura E. Buffardi and W. Keith Campbell, a psychology professor at the University of Georgia, found that “narcissistic personality scores were related to … the quantity of information listed about self, self-promoting pictures, and provocative pictures.”
In other words, those who are narcissistic offline also narcissistically overshare online, a conclusion few would dispute …
But, Professor Campbell conceded, online narcissism is a logical outgrowth of DIY capitalism …
Rampant self-flackery, however, comes at a cost. While narcissism is generally “really good at the initial stage of relationship — for being hired or getting promoted, for getting a boyfriend or girlfriend — it damages you over time,” Professor Campbell said. In addition, the more one self-promotes, the more “you’ll become a polarizing figure” …
Self-flackery. Quaintly insulting coinage by someone named Teddy Wayne, just manufactured for publication in the Times.
Many might also think flacking is the oxygen bound to the hemoglobin in the Culture of Lickspittle’s very blood.
And how can it be DIY capitalism when there’s been no money for anything in the last year or more? How can it be DIY capitalism when the agencies that have enabled the trivial posting of your stuff are the only bodies making money from the sale of masses of “yous” and our digital trailings?
I am so dense when it comes to these matters and beg forgiveness.
Being polarizing, it is reasoned, is bad in the Culture of Lickspittle. You need a license for it.
I’ll explain. For free.
Polarizing works for Ted Nugent. It works for agencies and corporations too. The Ferguson police presence could be said to have been polarizing.
Cable companies are polarizing. Everyone hates them. Corporate America is polarizing.
This is how Lickspittle works.
If you don’t use Twitter and have maybe only 30 or so “friends,” of which two are actual flesh and blood people you’ve met, and you post — say — your unemployment tunes, you’re polarizing.
In fact, if you post anything on the net, this includes blogging, if it doesn’t make money or have a large audience, you mutate into polarization. Because you’re engaged in self-flackery.
If you send your song in an e-mail link to a handful of others, if it annoys even one, it is spam.
But if people receive advertisements from the popular, political agencies and big companies, it is getting newsletters and information about stuff you ought to buy. In the Culture of Lickspittle.
This, from a comment rescue, on the American way of establishing order.
For as long as the blog has been around, as long as you have, for the last 20 years the national security strategy has been about only one thing: Using overwhelming technology in weaponry and money to beat the poverty stricken, around the globe, into place.
The Department of Defense and our military theorists came up for a laughable justification, a buzz term, really, to describe it 20 or so years back.
The asymmetric threat. The asymmetric threat is a nation, or a trans-national group, a handful of “bad guys,” or even a single person who could theoretically come up with a way to take down the country, or at least create great disasters, by attacking the national security structure at any number of imaging, easily smashed, weak points.
The asymmetric threat was one where its operators knew they couldn’t rival the US military in direct spending or equipment, nobody can. So something needed to be invented to explain how those much poorer, read everyone else in the world we’re after, could strike at the security of everyone in this country.
So with that explanation done with, let’s call it what it is: Bombing Paupers. And everything comes out of that from the development of weird torturing non-lethal weapons to opening the development of mine resistant ambush protected vehicles to the western global private sector for the accumulation of a mix armored force bigger than any other nation’s which is then passed off, in part, to the interior. It’s Keith Alexander’s National Security Agency explaining, without even a hint of self-consciousness or shame, about its technological skill in intercepting the telephone calls of piss poor Somali pirates, in the name of protecting us.
You’ll have noticed another common feature. Bombing Paupers is only used on people who aren’t white. The last time the American military actually did carry out an action against a white-skinned group was way back in the Clinton administration, in the bombing campaign against Serbia.
Which is why you won’t see any direct confrontation with Russia over the Ukraine. The national security megaplex won’t bomb the property of a country armed with thermonuclear weapons, one with a military that could cause some pain in retaliation.
That’s the way it has worked in all the time I’ve been here. You could write a book on it.
Take a look at the MRAP program. Thousands were orders, from multiple vendors. It was free money for gargantuan vehicles with names like the Navstar MaxxPro, the BAE Caiman and the Cougar. (Look them up at images.google.com and add the word “police.” You see the amazing result.)
The Pentagon brought many of them home at great expense. It doesn’t want to leave any to the Afghan military, making the excuse they wouldn’t be able to operate and maintain them. The real reason is the Pentagon expects Afghanistan to disintegrate and doesn’t want them in the hands of various warlords and the Taliban. Maybe Pakistan could be persuaded to buy a few, but that’s not certain.
What has been proved certain is that a plan to lease them for free to American police departments of any size, as long as those police departments picked up the tab for maintenance and upkeep, works.
The MRAP, depending on what was bought, cost anywhere between $350 – 650,000 dollars, taxpayer money. That was money that were never spent on any kind of economic stimulus or building of opportunity in this country. And now it’s a really bad deal because police department use more taxpayers to keep them going, for no apparent social benefit.
There’s a clear villain here. It’s whatever group, or individual, that came up with the plan for it. And was rewarded with success.
Some people come to their senses eventually. From Saginaw County, Michigan, I read this week:
I made the decision about a month ago to decommission that [MRAP] vehicle,” [the sheriff of Saginaw County] said, noting he did it based on financial concerns due to unforeseen maintenance costs.
While the military was to provide any needed parts, Federspiel said he still had to pay for a specialized mechanic to install the parts, along with insurance and fuel for the vehicle.
When Saginaw County Commissioners asked him to look for cost-saving measures before setting the budget in July, the MRAP was the first thing to go …
Go out to the link. The rationale on how to support the vehicle, as it has been explained by other police departments, was to use money from drug forfeiture cases.
But with something like MRAP vehicles and a bad economy, that money just isn’t enough.
The ACLU, throughout the crisis in Ferguson, pointed out that military tactics used in drug cases have fallen predominantly on the black and brown poor, despite the fact that my tribe uses drugs at equivalent rates of incidence.
You can’t get blood from stones. One doubts taking the valuables of the poor swept up in drug busts in an area and boiling it down to cash furnishes even close to enough to maintain vehicles that originally cost from something over a quarter million to 650,000 dollars a piece.
Bombing Paupers, if not lethally, is a domestic strategy to curb unrest.
The Department of Homeland Security did not make block grants of over a million dollars to communities during the war on terror under the rationale that an economically successful region with opportunity is one that is safer and more secure.
What if it had? Rhetorical. A silly suggestion. Socialism, no rewarding of takers and leeches!
It’s a commonly seen antic in our Culture of Lickspittle: Zillionaires who grab headlines or design new public images around a feigned concern for the middle class and inequality that’s the toast of Davos and Aspen.
From TIME magazine, an essay on how said zillionaires are allegedly expressing concern for the environment they’ve greased. In this case it’s Goldman Sachs CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, his quote simultaneously hilarious and intelligence-insulting:
“In defining the problem of inequality … Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein told CBS This Morning that inequality is ‘destabilizing’ and ‘responsible for the divisions in the country. The divisions could get wider. If you can’t legislate, you can’t deal with problems. If you can’t deal with problems, you can’t drive growth and you can’t drive the success of the country. It’s a very big issue and something that has to be dealt with.’ ”
From one of the architects of the crash and Great Recession.
Is Lloyd Blankfein suggesting he might open his nice pool for free community swims and stop the “burgling of pubic treasure” (Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone, 2013) his firm is known for?
Of course, when reading the advice from swells, one always finds a suggested solution. In America, you must always have an allegedly constructive suggestion, even if it’s nothing of the sort. In this instance, it is something that could, according to a pearl-clutching expert, reverse inequality.
For TIME, the writer, a professor from Rutgers, Joseph Blasi, explains:
Moreover, in 2011 almost 90% of all capital gains and all capital income, such as dividends and interest, went to the top 20% of the population. One possible avenue is to apply to the middle class at large the approaches that the rich and powerful apply to themselves. Most of their income is from having a share of ownership and profits in businesses. In order to give middle class workers access to these types of capital income, we must dramatically expand the tax incentives for businesses of every size to offer shares of ownership to all of their employees. This ownership can come in the form of grants of restricted stock, stock options, ESOPS (Employee Stock Ownership Plans) and profit sharing …
Of course, the jargon, ESOP, means nothing to Americans. Just like the name Lloyd Blankfein.
The billionaire corporate predator toad known as Sam Zell used an ESOP to buy Tribune, the company that owned the Los Angeles Times newspaper. It was a maneuver in which Zell was able to use an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) to divert Tribune’s non-union employee 401(k) matching funds to workers into the buy, leaving him without holding much of the bag. Tribune and the Times were saddled with a substantial debt load, 13 billion.
And that’s the wisdom of our betters. More flim-flam.
You’ll want to immediately go to SoundCloud and listen to another teaser, Let’s Lynch Lloyd Blankfein, from Loud Folk Live, the soon to be released no-hit of electrical digital socialist commie beat music, by the Dick Destiny Band. Performed in Dyna-Rock-Action ™ as you’ve never heard it before, live from the First Church of American Greed and Mammon in beautiful downtown Pasadena just off Rte. 66, where you get your kicks.
It is here. Run run run.
And while you’re there, feel free to give a listen to the other fun ditties.
Consider, you must keep your mind busy and strong with something after you’ve been tossed away. Not having had a single opportunity or offer to do anything in over a year (except work for Mechanical Turk — tried that), these are the kinds of things one gets involved in.
In such circumstances one finds you no longer care about a lot of things.
Like corporate America being pillaged by Chinese hackers. As you are severed from the economy, you lose your acquaintances, any small network you may have had, and any illusion that you might have once been good for something.
So, like, rock and roll! And occasionally house-sitting for cats.
From the NYT, yesterday (no link):
All these programs began or were expanded in response to the Sept. 11 attacks, when the authorities in Washington declared that local police departments were on the front lines of a global war on terrorism. Terrorism is exceedingly rare, however, and the equipment and money far outpaced the threat.
“You couldn’t say that back then with as much certainty as you can say that now, though,” said Frank J. Cilluffo, director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University. After Sept. 11, few people asked whether the police would use the equipment against protesters, Mr. Cilluffo said. “By and large, I don’t recall an outcry of any sort historically along these lines.”
For years, much of the equipment has gone unnoticed. But as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have drawn down, police departments have been receiving 30-ton, mine-resistant trucks from the military.
An MRAP in Salinas, CA. Note armored machine gun cupola, an absolute must on America’s streets.
From the Daily Mail, last year
A California police department has received a 37,000 armored truck that was once used in military training exercises.
The Salinas Police Department took ownership of the hulking tank-like vehicle on December 17 and parked it in front of the town’s Rotunda for public viewing.
The $650,000 truck has caused quite a stir in the town, with many residents questioning why a military armored vehicle would be needed in civilian situations.
“In a press release, Police chief Kelly McMillin said the department was in desperate need of a replacement for the 1986 Ford money carrier officers used as a rescue vehicle,” it continues.
Look at this picture, and all the pictures of MRAP armored fighting vehicles in small town America, here at Google, and you begin to see the nature of the problem. Everyone likes showing off their panzer.
Look closer at the collections of armored fighting vehicle photos and where they are archived. You’ll also notice a character trait: People get hard over the pictures of heavy military gear.
While the stocking of American police departments with MRAP AFVs is now big news (it’s also worth noting one was not in Ferguson), there has never been any well-publicized outcry in the mainstream on the matter.
Anything for fighting the bad guys and keeping us safe from terrorism. Search and destroy.
On the small town of Dundee, MI, population 4000:
Participating in the exercise was the Dundee Police Department’s armored vehicle called MRAP, or Mines Resistance Ambush Protected. Operated by Chief David Uhl and Sgt. David Kottke, the vehicle became part of Dundee’s force about nine months ago.
The 22-ton former military vehicle, which has a value of about $850,000, came to the department at no cost. Chief Uhl said it provides security for police officers in dangerous situations and is available to any police agency in Monroe County.
“It was an opportunity of a lifetime to get a vehicle like this for Monroe County,” the chief said.
And this link shows a rough collection of counties which were given MRAP AFVs by the Dept. of Defense, situations where it was thought they would better serve a collection of small towns.
While viewing, always keep in mind that no terrorist groups actually had armored fighting forces. Until Iraq, where we have now bombed an MRAP seized from the American-trained Iraqi military by ISIS:
U.S. warplanes on combat patrols over northern Iraq increasingly are hitting U.S.-made armored vehicles captured by Islamic militants from the fleeing Iraqi army.
In the latest airstrikes Thursday, the U.S. Central Command said that a mix of fighters and armed drones destroyed one of the heavily-armored Mine Resistant-Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles that were a mainstay of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The MRAP was targeted after the warplanes destroyed two other armored vehicles northeast of the Kurdish capital of Irbil that were being used by fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant to fire on positions held by the Kurdish peshmerga forces, the Central Command said in a statement.
The MRAP had a use. Now it doesn’t. It would be fair to describe the Dept. of Defense’s giveaways of them in the continental US as a program that’s a potentially menacing nuisance, but more commonly of little or no social benefit to anyone.
It would be an interesting exercise to find out who, at DoD, thought that providing these things to small and medium-sized town police forces was a capital idea. Did they write a white paper on it?
There should be no optimism, despite all the current press, that there will be changes.
Racism and over-militarized police forces have combined in Ferguson to produce another uniquely American disaster. The result: A domestic unrest that could easily be duplicated in other cities around the country.
A black American civilian community, justifiably outraged and angry over the killing of one of its own by police was set upon by a thug military-style pacification operation that escalated into a social calamity, literally a crisis of democracy, over a populace’s right to assemble and protest.
In this blog I’ve occasionally touched upon the militarization of America’s police. The war on terror accelerated it, with the Dept. of Homeland Security giveaways of free money (called grants) combining with the Pentagon’s 1033 program to recycle military gear into local police forces so even the smallest town police forces could have access to heavy armaments and armored fighting vehicles.
Locally, I wrote about it in 2012 when the South Pasadena police force got a used Peacekeeper, made by arms manufacturer, Textron, from the Burbank police force which was upgrading to a Lenco BearCat, courtesy of DHS. In the war on terror years, the latter vehicle has been the buy of choice for police departments receiving DHS money. The taxpayer has been very very good to Lenco.
From the blog:
Wha? Even local shires with no significant history of violent crime or threat try to get into the act. The Los Angeles Times informs today that South Pasadena, generally known for its population of swells, tree-lined streets and swank/genteel bungalow homes has acquired an urban combat vehicle for one dollar, sold off by Burbank, which is trading up on homeland security bucks …
[The LA Times]: “Last week the city took delivery of a vehicle known as a Peacekeeper, paying Burbank $1 for the privilege. Burbank originally received the Peacekeeper as surplus from the U.S. Air Force …”The Peacekeeper saw no action during its Burbank years …
“Burbank decided to sell the armored vehicle after it obtained a new BearCat SWAT vehicle in February 2009 through a $275,000 Homeland Security Department grant.”
South Pasadena’s AFV.
Pasadena, like Burbank, has a Lenco BearCat. And, if you live in a city or even if not, you can probably find an armored fighting vehicle in a local police force near you merely by searching Google images. One feature of the militarization of American policing is the wealth of pictures showing it. In modern America, everyone loves to show off their new AFVs.
The net national affect has been intimidation. Intimidation inevitably leads to fear, anger and resistance, sometimes violent. It is a relationship, a vicious cycle, the country, from the top to the bottom, has never learned from.
From Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq, military intimidation, overwhelming force and pacification always failed. And in Ferguson (or potentially other cities) it again blew up in our faces. Everyone in local government, from St. Louis, to the governor, made the wrong decisions, repeatedly, and greatly afflicted the black people of Ferguson.
And now it’s another, in a long and repeating history, of national disgraces.
Articles noting this have been published for some time. But like everything else, they have never changed the trajectory of events. More armaments are always better. It’s a dangerous world, “the bad guys” are everywhere, including people you believe to be normal citizens. And the most convenient way to deal with them is to use an armored force, courtesy of US military or DHS giving.
From the Detroit News in 2011:
Warren, Southfield and Washtenaw County each received an armored vehicle after Lt. Darcy Leutzinger, commander of the Warren Police Department’s special response team, got approval for a $1.6 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security to buy the vehicles.
Each four-wheel-drive vehicle holds up to 25 people and protects its occupants from artillery and gas attacks, Leutzinger said. All three are used frequently in Macomb, Oakland and Washtenaw counties, for situations such as hostage standoffs and drug house raids, he said.
A police armored personnel carrier in Ann Arbor.
From NBC News, a couple years ago:
America’s most in-demand police vehicle is a 10-officer 16,000-pound armored tank that takes bullets like Superman and drives 80 mph. The federal government buys dozens each year for local police departments. Do America’s local police need tanks?
Every day, America produces a fresh batch of barricaded gunmen, some of whom want to lure police into a shootout. Roughly 50 police officers are killed every year, most in shootings, and many during arrests or ambushes.
Which is where the Lenco BearCat G3 rolls in.
Other criminal justice experts have questioned whether police need minitanks, saying they’re often used for mundane tasks such as serving warrants, and create a sense of police as military soldiers rather than neighbors. They also contend that BearCats and other SWAT machinery do little to prevent violent crimes, which have fallen steadily for a decade.
“It’s all an illusion,” said Jim Fisher, a former professor of criminal justice at Edinboro University and author of a book on SWAT teams. “The fact your police department just bought an armored vehicle does not make you safer. It’s going to make you poorer, because your taxes will go up to pay for training and maintenance.” In light of today’s budget-strapped environments, we, too, wonder whether the federal government should be paying for small counties and towns to have tanks to use against their citizens.
Ferguson has made everyone rush to publish pieces on police militarization, framed by the awful pictures from Missouri.
Has it gone too far? Obviously. But the New York Times, for instance, must assemble a panel of six experts to argue the “Yeses” and “Nos” in a couple paragraphs for its blogs.
“Should law enforcement agencies receive surplus military property for everyday policing in cities and neighborhoods?” asks the newspaper.
The person with the most sense is from the ACLU, Kara Dansky, who has written an extensive report on the matter.
She notes another obvious feature of what has transpired:
We also found — perhaps not surprisingly, given the appalling way in which the war on drugs has targeted communities of color — that people of color were more likely than whites to be impacted by paramilitary raids. More often than not, these violent raids are conducted to serve warrants in search of drugs, disproportionately affecting people of color, despite the fact that whites and people of color use drugs at roughly the same rates.
Near the end of the selection, a former policeman, Eugene O’Donnell, makes a truly appalling suggestion, one as a result of the belief that more military technology in the hands of the police actually cuts risk:
The one truly indispensable military technology the police should hurry into service is reliable nonlethal weaponry – like the Pentagon’s so-called pain ray.
This picture, one of the US military’s “pain rays,” known as the Active Denial System, says everything you need to know.
Yes, this would be just the thing to deploy into American cities to let the community know its safety comes first.
For this blog and other places I used to write about the pain ray, originally called “The Sheriff.”
It took over a decade to develop and was a magnet for a large assortment of ninny tech journalists and cheerleaders who would, in turn, write breathless comment on its greatness after being shot by it in a US military staged dog-and-pony show.
The ADS was deployed to Afghanistan and never used. Some intelligent military leaders recognized it would have been a relations nightmare, playing into the hands of the Taliban.
It’s use would do nothing but horrify and incense the population that was its target. It’s a good example of expensive, impractical technology for torturing, remember, non-lethally.
One can only imagine how much worse it would make things.
What is the answer to increasing militarization? In this country, there isn’t one.
We learn nothing. The country is virtually incapable of change. Sure, today there is the promised Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act, something to “end the free transfers of certain aggressive military equipment to local law enforcement …”
In a month, it will be gone.
Rosary peas — the source of abrin. Number of fatalities from abrin poisoning in the last decade: zero.
Jesse Korff, a nineteen-year old from LaBelle, Florida, today pleaded guilty to a murder conspiracy involving abrin and ricin and the smuggling of those poisons. He stands to be sentenced to life in prison.
From this blog, in February:
A 19-year-old boy in south Florida is set to be imprisoned, possibly for life, as the result of a federal investigation of the Black Market Reloaded website, a replacement for the infamous Silk Road, where there were “numerous offerings for the sale of illegal and harmful goods, including but not limited to biological agents, toxins, firearms, ammunition, explosives, controlled substances, counterfeit goods and fraudulent documents,” according to an FBI document …
Jesse Korff of Labelle, Florida, was arrested by agents of the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations when he delivered two vials of liquid containing a small but detectable amount of the poison abrin to them. It was the final part of a transaction started on the Black Market Reloaded site when one of the undercover men contacted Korff, inquired about buying the poison and advanced him 1.608 Bitcoin for it.
Like the Silk Road, Black Market Reloaded was hosted on the encrypted Tor network where many people seem to still believe federal agents cannot get at them. Black Market Reloaded was subsequently taken down and the sting shows that Homeland Security and the FBI are well into operations aimed at keeping similar websites and Bitcoin markets for crime under heavy surveillance.
In an FBI press release on the matter today, Korff was also linked to a British case noted in this blog around the same time:
A banker accused of trying to kill her magistrate mother at their Stratford home by lacing her Diet Coke with a poison more deadly than ricin is to stand trial in July after appearing at Southwark Crown Court today where she was further remanded in custody.
Kuntal Patel,36, is alledged to have plotted to kill Meena Patel,54, using abrin – a rare poison extracted from the seeds of a Peruvian plant.
She was arrested by counter terrrorism officers at the £450,000 home they share in Park Road earlier this month after US homeland security is believed to have tipped off Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Command about a website based in the US which specialised in selling lethal toxins.
She is not facing terrorist charges, but is accused of attempted murder between December 10 2013 and January 26.
Today’s FBI release does not mention Kuntal Patel by name but it is quite obviously the same case, an arrest stemming from Homeland Security and the FBI’s investigation of the Black Market Reloaded website:
In December 2013 Korff provided a quantity of abrin to a purchaser in London who claimed she intended to kill her mother. After the purchaser’s receipt and administration of the initial dose, which she claimed was ineffective, Korff agreed to provide a second quantity of the toxin in order to assist the purchaser in the implementation of the murder plot.
Before Korff had an opportunity to smuggle the second dose of abrin to the London purchaser, a federal undercover agent contacted Korff through BMR and negotiated the sale of two liquid doses of abrin. Korff told the buyer about his delivery methods—concealing vials in a carved-out and re-melted candle—and discussed how much abrin was needed to kill a person of a particular weight and how best to administer the toxin. Korff also assured the buyer that a victim’s death would appear to be similar to a bad case of the flu.
Following Korff’s arrest, FBI agents searched Korff’s property over three days and recovered several computers, castor beans, rosary peas, capsules, vials, jars, syringes, filters, respirators and other items commonly utilized in the manufacture, production, sale, packaging, and shipping of toxins and chemical substances. Among the items recovered was a liquid dose of abrin that Korff had intended to ship to the London purchaser.
Nineteen year olds can’t make weapons of mass destruction. They can, however, use old literature published by the American neo-Nazi and survivalist violent right in the Eighties to make powders and liquids containing some small amount, to be identified by federal laboratories, of the poisons ricin and abrin.
These recipes now exist in digital form. And through technological progress the products from them can be marketed on black internet sites. In much the same way the original poison recipes were distributed world-wide on underground hacker bulletin board systems in the Nineties.
Another summary of that world, along with original notice of the arrest, is included here at Jesse Korff and the legacy of The Poisoner’s Handbook.
Images for castor plants and crab’s eye — the latter being the source of abrin, are here and here, respectively.
Both can be found in Florida.
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