Police state Archives

September 29, 2010

Obie unleashes the political police

Well, not "unleashes", of course. They were already unleashed a long time ago. But Mister Hope and Change has certainly dialed up police repression of political activity to a whole new level.

I suppose by now everybody has heard about last week's FBI raids on antiwar groups, with the usual combination of clownish low comedy and ogreish menace -- confiscating children's drawings being an example of the first category, and breaking down doors an example of the latter.

The Thought Police were looking, they said, for evidence of "material aid" to "terrorist organizations", which is against the law these days. Has been since Clinton signed the relevant law, in 1996, I believe.

Now the Prez can declare any group he pleases a "terrorist organization", and "material aid" includes things like responding to an e-mail. So really, this is a policeman's dream. They can pick you up for just about anything.

Not for the first time, I marvel at all my liberal friends, worried about the dire Fascist threat emanating from those poor teabagger loons, while their hero is busy busting down people's doors for engaging in political activity he doesn't like.

It's kind of interesting for me. I personally am clearly, undeniably guilty of providing "material aid" to "terrorist organizations", as Obie defines them -- and proud of it. I only wish the aid had been more substantial.

(Just thought I'd save the Fibbies some work here; I've met a few of them, and they are not the sharpest knives in the drawer.)

I've had materially supportive things to say about Hamas -- hell, I might as well admit it: I think they're wonderful, and I support 'em to the hilt, and you should too. And years ago, I was very chummy with a bunch of PFLP guys and bought them dinner, several times. And helped them publish a newsletter. I do believe I may have even paid the printer's bill once or twice. (I was in funds in those days.)

So send your goons for me, Obie. I've done it before, and I'll do it again, the minute I get the chance, unless you lock me up.


PS -- I just saw a very good fierce piece on this topic by Glen Ford over at Black Agenda Report. Says it all.

October 5, 2010

The Comic Genius Of Yggie Wiggles

Ethan found another gem.

According to my calculation, if we were to cut America’s $663.8 billion defense budget by 1%, that would free up enough funds to double the budget of the FBI. Doesn’t it seem like that would probably, on net, reduce the risk of Americans dying in a terrorist attack? And in the meantime we might catch some more bank robbers or other banal threats to public safety.

I think I can help with this.

First off, the FBI agents are hopelessly unqualified to do anything related to their putative remit. They're too stupid to cheat properly. They raid harmless activists—activists who are working to reduce terrorism. The FBI is famous for harassing and firing agents who take the putative remit seriously. So giving them more money is a bad idea. It's an incredibly stupid thing to do. If the point is to do something nutty, then the money would be better spent on steam-powered meatloaf slicers.

Second, cutting the war budget doesn't free up funds. The funding for anything, good and bad, is not a zero sum thing. The steam-powered meatloaf slicers could be ours, today, without foregoing a single Predator drone strike or kangaroo court trial for children that have been tortured into a false confession.

Third, the notional military budget is a fraction of the money spent pursuing militarism. Much of the funding for it is left out of the national accounting, on the principle that gaseous propriety is an excellent substitute for serious consideration of national priorities.

Fourth, and last, as Ethan observes, bank robbers are arguably doing God's work. We should be funding the expropriation of the banksters and retraining them in the honest skills of building and operating steam-powered meatloaf slicers. Money spent on their protection is a very bad idea, easily as counterproductive as giving it to the FBI.

October 6, 2010

Great minds, same channels, etc.

My palaeocon pals over at seem to share some of my own suspicions about Obie's recent Palmer Raids:

Four of the antiwar activists who were subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury will refuse to appear, according to their attorneys. The group includes a number of the antiwar activists whose homes were raided on September 24.

...The open-ended detention of the activists could ... strengthen the belief that the operation is designed primarily to intimidate the likely organizers of antiwar protests against President Obama at the 2012 DNC.

December 13, 2010

Mirror, mirror, on the wall

December 21, 2010

Pig tales

Pair fined in deer rescue

Two men who helped rescue a deer from a frozen river last week were fined for not wearing life jackets aboard their inflatable boat, authorities said.

At 5 p.m., Baltimore County fire and Natural Resources Police officers were called to the Patapsco River Bridge at the Baltimore-Anne Arundel County line because a deer had fallen through the ice and was trapped.

James Hart, of Jessup, and Khalilalim Abusakran Jr. were on the scene, but officers told them to get off of the waterway because they weren't wearing required life jackets, NRP Sgt. Brian Albert said. The men continued to advance, and managed to break the ice so that the deer could follow the path of shallow water that was about 50 feet to the shoreline.

But because the men didn't follow instructions, they were each fined $90, Albert said.

"We're coming under scrutiny," Albert said. "But it's easy to pay a fine. It's hard to tell these gentlemen's families that they didn't make it because they were trying to rescue a deer cross the ice."

Many familiar themes here. There's the cops moaning, as usual, about how hard their jobs are, and claiming some kind of smarmy moral high ground on that basis. There's the contempt, masquerading as concern, for the inept public, who would never make it home to their families -- always the "families"! -- without the oversight and guidance of the gendarmerie. There's the minefield of nanny-state regulations, which enable the cops to bust anybody, for something or other, any time they feel like it. And then of course there's the real reason, rather bare-facedly acknowledged: the two Samaritans "didn't follow instructions".

It must be admitted however that the Baltimore County cops are well behind their New York counterparts. Here in my fair city, rescuing a deer without police permission would have you behind bars, charged with a vague but potentially serious offense like obstruction of justice, or lèse-policier or some such catchall bullshit.

January 9, 2011

Neoliberal Junk Psychology

Boink was kind enough to direct to my attention to this panic stricken anti-leak memo (pdf hotlinked download) that's being sent to all federal agencies. I recommend reading a few pages. It's an exhaustive set of leak prevention guidelines and passive aggressive "questions" that are designed to be taken as guidelines. My favorite part is this:

Do you use psychiatrist and sociologist to measure:
• Relative happiness as a means to gauge trustworthiness?
• Despondence and grumpiness as a means to gauge waning trustworthiness?

Mood is of course never a measure of trustworthiness. The most dour people can be the most steadfast. The chirpy, chipper, hail fellow well met types can be readying the knife. That said, I'm confident the über-pwog managers can find psychiatrists and sociologists so lacking in integrity that they'd be willing to administer the desired tests.

The results, if they carry this out, would be completely worthless. They'd wind up firing loyal workers and entrenching skilled actors. They'd create a reign of grinning, glad-handing terror in the agencies. It's amusing to contemplate. Take it a step further and include infantilizing morale boosters; the hokey-pokey, perhaps.

The memo as I said is exhaustive. There are hundreds of bases to cover. The author, an ass-covering sycophant, went beyond obsessiveness. It's not humanly possible to follow more than a few of the guidelines. The agencies would shut down if they tried. They'd be doing nothing but policing and entrapping themselves, administering "nudges" and performing happiness witch hunts.

I have no animosity to the majority of civil servants. There's is a thankless job most of the time, and most of them do valuable work. They're in the cross hairs (an unfortunate metaphor, but there it is) for wage reductions, job loss and astroturfed populist hatred. It's psychopathic to add this crackpot regimen to their lot—which is why I believe the ass-covering sycophantic author will be rewarded. He's mastered the corporate dream of total personnel awareness.

I hope the program flops. There's no good can come of harassing the toilers in the bureaucratic salt mines.

February 21, 2011

Fizzle, or fusillade, or....

Conscript troops is Egypt didn't fire on Egyptians. Mercenary troops in Libya seem to have had no such qualms. What will mercenary cops in Wisconsin do to Wisconsin teachers, if the Wisconsin teachers keep up the pressure?

I'm not a big cop fan, but the outcome doesn't seem like a foregone conclusion, either way. Much reason to fear, some reason to hope.

I'm also not a big teacher fan. But this is a case where the teachers aren't claiming expertise, or authority. What they're demanding is quite simply what labor has always demanded -- in the steel mills or the stockyards or the car plant.

The more teachers think of themselves as mere labor, the more I'm with 'em. The Wisconsin teachers seem to have made the connection. As Dr Johnson observed, the prospect of being hanged tomorrow morning concentrates a man's mind wonderfully.

February 23, 2011

We need more of this

The Greeks, who seem to have a folk memory of what the word "democracy" means, are now setting cops on fire. Lively times, lively times.

March 18, 2011

I'm shocked, shocked

Alternet is deeply concerned:

The Shocking Way US Cops Are Trained to Hate Muslims

On a bright January morning in 2010, at Broward College in Davie, Florida, about sixty police officers and other frontline law enforcement officials gathered in a lecture hall for a course on combating terrorism in the Sunshine State.... The instructor, Sam Kharoba, an olive-skinned man wearing rimless glasses and an ill-fitting white dress shirt, stood apart at the front of the hall reviewing PowerPoint slides on his laptop.

As he got under way, Kharoba described how, over the next three days, he would teach his audience the fundamentals of Islam. “We constantly hear statements,” Kharoba began, “that Islam is a religion of peace, and we constantly hear of jihadists who are trying to kill as many non-Muslims as they can.”

.... Kharoba strode forward to the front of the room, his voice slower now, more measured. “Islam is a highly violent radical religion that mandates that all of the earth must be Muslim."

And so on and so on, for a staggering 6600 words. A few excerpts:
People at the highest level of law enforcement and intelligence—to say nothing of civil liberties groups—have concerns about the strategy.... one danger is that the system will be flooded with bad leads. An increase in [such] incidents ... would only degrade police work, obscure real threats, and spoil relations between America’s cops and America’s Muslims—who have thus far volunteered some of the most fruitful leads in preventing domestic terror attacks.

It might be theoretically possible to ward off such an outcome if police could be provided with impeccable training. But one of the central problems is that the demand for training far exceeds the supply of qualified instructors. Even the CIA and FBI have had trouble finding people with the key skills to fill their ranks. For state and local law enforcement departments, the scarcity is even more acute. Into the void, self-styled experts have rushed in [sic].

I have a hard time understanding what the problem is here. "Flooding the system with bad leads" sounds like a swell idea to me -- I just got off the phone, dropping an anonymous dime on my landlord and a couple of obnoxious colleagues. See something? Say something. Or, hell, say something anyway.

Apparently Alternet wants impeccably-trained, effective cops, possessed of excellent and accurate "intelligence". Alternet, it seems, wants nothing more than to help the cops do their jobs better.

Not for the first time, I marvel at the liberal mentality. I don't understand how anybody couldn't want to subvert the cops as much as possible; to keep them as stupid and ridiculous as possible; to send them off, as much as possible, chasing their own tails and as many ignes-fatui as we can gin up.

Is it not obvious that under present circumstances, cops are a much bigger menace to the ordinary citizen that "terrorists"?

Is there even any difference between the two?

October 18, 2011

Retention Specialists

I find that job description hilariously appropriate, in its sphincter-snapping way. I was diverted to a "retention specialist", a few years ago, when I closed a credit card account. I don't argue with retentives. There's no point. When asked why I was closing my account, I thanked the specialist fulsomely, extravagantly, and said I was closing my account because I was closing my account. I gave the same answer to every subsequent retention sally. It took very little time to make things clear: the account was closed, because it was closed. I followed it up with certified mail anyway, return receipt requested, as an acknowledgment of the sphincter's insatiable appetite.

Can you imagine the self-loathing that must go into life as a retention specialist? It's got to take a serious toll. It also takes desensitization; a practiced routine or, more aptly, operant conditioning.

Elite-think is boxed in, as noted by MJS, between Giuliani head-bashing and Bloomberg's rational-instrumental sensibility. The latest management fashion craze tips towards Bloomberg. I put Obama-Romney in the same camp. The dichotomy seems as limiting as any retention specialist's scripted nagging. Such is the price of a good education. The entire point of which seems to be a race to the bottom, with each scripted reaction intended to foreclose on competing reaction options faster than they foreclose on themselves. I'll give the last word to Steven Pinker, a retention specialist of the first water:

Evolutionary psychologists are not ignorant of this hypothesis. They have considered it and found it to be unhelpful.

A general h/t to Corrente

June 27, 2012

Cultural Marxism

The Sandwichman has done the heavy lifting on the topic. Me, I find accusations of "Cultural Marxism" to be bad for my moral character. If I can undermine capitalism simply by being who I am, there's no need to do anything else. Wouldn't that be fun? It would be hipster heaven, which is enough reason to feel slightly nauseous.

I have a theory about the origins of the Cultural Marxism bogeyman. The New Right was infamous for its excesses of self-indulgence and inability to handle them. They played around with sybaritic anti-authoritarianism before settling down to a life of resentful propriety. Big deal, eh? But they needed scapegoats. A "Cultural Marxist" could have told them their experiences were nothing new and nothing to get so upset about. Privileged youngsters have cut loose, many with later regrets, for all of recorded history. Those that get over themselves settle down and maybe enjoy a few moments of nostalgia. Those that don't get over a trivial little thing go on to stuff themselves silly with paranoid, exculpatory polemics. It's tawdry. It's sad. And sometimes dangerous lunatics run with it.

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