Better than salt money

Work like you were living in the early days of a better nation


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A thousand words

That’s what we say a picture tells. This one does more than that.  It reveals the ugly stain of racism, which like the blood on Macbeth’s hands, cannot come off.  That’s a grim outlook, and one I’d like to think is wrong.  One that, twenty years ago I did think was wrong.  But then I see this picture.

Cop on Stone Mountain

That dude has two weapons.  Some sort of AR-15, and some sort of 9mm pistol.  It’s the pistol I’m looking at, because it’s the weapon he’s threatening people with.

Yes, threatening.  He’s not drawn it, but he’s ready to.  His thumb looks to have cleared the restraint. The guy behind the cop is scared, the cop’s body language is that of someone agitated.  I can’t read the body language of the other cop, but I’d be surprised if he didn’t have a pretty strong focus on this guy.

This guy has put his feet flat, his fingers are around the butt and his index finger is extended; his head is up.  That’s a tell.  He’s braced it which helps draw, and indexed it, so that it will slip to the trigger accurately and he’s put his eyes on target.  He is just short of committing assault with a deadly weapon.  In Florida what he’s doing would justify a “stand your ground” shooting.

The cops “talked him down”.  They had every right to arrest him.  He was posing a menace to public safety (even when one has the right to carry, it doesn’t grant the privilege of using that weapon to threaten: that’s a prerogative we do grant police, and why they need to be held to scrutiny.  Engaging that level of threat leads to escalation, so it needs strong justification).

Then I look back at the past year.  Eric Garner, dead for selling cigarettes. John Crawford, dead for picking up a toy gun in a store.  Mike Brown, dead for… I don’t know, so far as I can tell it’s for mouthing off, and then managing to tear himself away from an abusive cop.  Sam Dubose dead for… driving while black.

The list… is long.  Too long.  It’s more than just the people the cops kill, it’s the way they don’t kill some people, and the ways they abuse others.  The deaths are easy (and the gun deaths easier to list, but the chokeholds, the tasers, the strange frequency people like Sandra Bland end up dead in custody… all of them need to be accounted for), but there are all the other things; the beatings (Rodney King was one of many, the LA Sheriff’s Dept. pays a lot of money for abuse settlements), the framings (Rampart Division of the LAPD ain’t unique).  The petty harassment of Stop and Frisk; well, petty if it only happens once in a while, but when it’s repeated, day after day, month after month, year after; for lifetimes…

I like to think I’m more attuned to it than most.  My second step-father was black, and that caused me to be treated differently on occasion.  But that doesn’t change the fact that I was only ever not-white when in his company (and not always then).  I don’t trust cops, but I don’t expect them to treat me with more than casual disrespect.  I know I am not seen by them as a perp; by default.

I know that, push come to shove, they will treat me more like the asshole on Stone Mountain than they will treat me like Walter Scott.

And that is shameful.


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An Open Letter to the Democratic National Committee

Stop sending me e-mails.

The substance of your emails is such that they insult me. On any given day I get desperate pleas for 2, or 3, or 5, or 10 dollars. Often more than one, sometimes as many as a dozen.

If I were to respond to one in ten (for three dollars each), I’d be looking at not less than $21 a week, or $1,092 a year. If I were to respond to all of them, it would be $210 a week, or 10,920 a year.

That’s about half my annual income.

I get it. Believe me, as a vet: as a disabled vet who has to have a part-time job to have more than $18,000 a year after a career in the Army, I get it. As someone who sees the people he works with who are working harder than that to have as much as that, I get it.

As someone who cares about women’s rights, and civil rights, and economic equality, I get it.

As someone who cares about the environment, I get it.

As someone who cares about the effects of our foreign policy, I get it.

And I see that you don’t get it.  You have caved in on things like reforming Wall Street. You’ve caved in on things like holding the people who committed torture accountable (as a career interrogator that pisses me off more than you can imagine).

You’ve caved in on women’s rights (both economic, and reproductive).

And still you come to me asking for a substantial piece of my income, so you can continue caving in.

Stop. Stop caving in. Listen to Sen. Warren. Listen to Sen. Sanders. Listen to the people who are out working to get unions in Wal-mart and MacDonald’s.  Listen to Warren Buffet when he says we need to fix the tax code so secretaries aren’t paying a bigger share than CEOs. Listen to The People.

Stop listening to Big Business.

Stand for something other than being not the Republicans. Do that, and I might be willing to let you beg for my money again.


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The ACLU has let us down on The Rule of Law

I’m angry.

This isn’t new. I’ve been angry for about 11 years now. It ebbs and flows, depending on the news, but it’s always there. I wish I had some handy object to be angry about, instead of an ever present sense that the thing which pissed me off wasn’t miasmic.

The proximate cause of this round of more present anger isn’t, actually, the report which the senate released about the torture the US engages in. Nah. There isn’t anything new in that; not to me, nor to anyone who has been paying attention for the past 10 years. No, what angers (and saddens) me is larger than that. It’s about the rot at the soul of the country.

I am not a naif. I know (and knew long before Khandahar and Abu Ghraib) that the US allowed people to get away with torture, and that some branches of the gov’t were sanctioning it; even if they weren’t doing it themselves.

Pinochet, and Pahlavi, and Samoza, and Marcos, weren’t just people we put up with being bastards. They weren’t just bastards we supported and encouraged: they were all bastards we put into power (which wasn’t true of Hussein and Noriega; not that I think that would have helped either of them when the Bush family decided it was no longer useful to pretend they were of service as bogeymen, after they stopped being sufficiently subservient to “our” ends).

Nope. Governments are large and scandal is worse than failure. Who cares that someone broke the law (and some skulls), so long as it can be covered up, and plausibly denied?

It’s not that I am surprised to learn that torture became an essential part of the proccess, nor that it corrupted the stream of information. I’m not surprised to learn that thigns which didn’t have torture to, “verify” them weren’t believed, nor that people were tortured to confirm things which then had to be reconfirmed by the expedient of simple follow up up in the field (which could have been done first, and so would have obviated the rationale for torture. It’s what I said would happen, because it’s what always happens when torture becomes a run of the mill tool.

So that’s par for the course. What shouldn’t be is that when such a thing breaks out of it’s box of plausible deniablity that we decide to sanction it.

I’m not much of one for the, “broken windows” school of policiing (esp. because the policies which walk abroad under that rubric are 1: fundamentally racist, and 2: anti-thetical to a nation ruled by laws*). I do, however, think that when a flagrant violation of the law takes place, then something needs to be done.
Sadly, not everyone agrees. Some of this is base hypocrisy. When someone tells you they have no problem with “stop and frisk” (or some other “broken windows” based idea) ask them if Bush, Cheney, et. alia, ought to be charged.

Not convicted, but haled into court and made to stand trial for crimes they admit to having committed (sometimes you can put their hypocrisy into plainer light if you get them to say, “yes, it’s illegal, but sometimes you have to; then you admit it and face the music, at which point they tap dance to explain why it’s different this time. If you have a yen for making people look like complete fools ask those same people how they feel about Clinton’s impeachment; then ask why that situation (a non-criminal fib, is so much more important than breaking laws against torture).

It’s better if this person is one of the “St. Ronnie” crowd. Becuse it’s not just the Geneva Conventions which were violated, but a law against torture which Reagan sponsored; which he touted as being a bedrock of our moral values. It’s not that we’ve always ignored them (nor that we’ve never had fools and idiots who didn’t care whom we tortured, so long as it was never someone who looked like them; and they are usually white). We even sent cops to jail for waterboarding people (in Texas of all places).

But none of this is new to me. I’ve been saying some form of this, in print, and at conferences, for ten years.
What saddens me is how deep the rot has gone. We’ve come to the point where no one thinks we really have a nation of laws, despite Obama saying, “First and foremost, we are a nation built on the rule of law, and so we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make,” when Darren Wilson being legally exculpated for murder. As a result the cops in Berkeley are shooting tear gas and rubber bullets at people when they choose to “peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

But a nation of laws is only a nation of laws if they are applied. If we truly are a nation of laws, we need to put the architects of this systematic violation of several of our laws on trial. We could, I suppose, just accept that we have a class of criminal which is above the law, polticians.

Which isn’t true. It could also be argued, from recent history that we’ve still got the category of institutional fraudster/thief whom we absent from prosecution: viz Wall Street and the serial collapse of the economy by means of playing fast and loose with the law. It’s actually a larger category than that, given the disproportionate treatment of Enron’s Lay and Skillig [and the utter non-punishment of their lackeys] compared to the death of Eric Garner, or Michael Brown, or Tamir Rice or Amadou Diallo lest we forget this isn’t some recent problem. None of the dead people on that list were ever charged with anything; so far none of their killers has been either

Of course all the killers were cops. The cop who killed Garner was exculpated by a grand jury, they seemed to feel the homicide was justified; even though the cop was using a chokehold which was outlawed 30 years ago because (wait for it), it’s often fatal.

But the rest of us… we face the risk of ungodly sentences if we go to trial, because prosecutors pad the charge sheet to extort a plea bargain. We run the risk of years in jail even if we aren’t guilty.

All of which destroys the Rule of Law. It’s from such petty injustices that revolution spreads. It’s from the over-reaction to peaceable assembly that more serious injustice becomes festering grievance.

All of which has been on my mind in the past couple of months.

Brought to a head when I saw that the Anthony Romero,head of the ACLU, said the idea of the Rule of Law demands that we pardon Bush, Cheney, and all the people who committed the tortures they not only sanctioned, not only admitted to sanctioning, but boast of having overseen.

I am croggled at the double-think.

with the impending release of the report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I have come to think that President Obama should issue pardons, after all — because it may be the only way to establish, once and for all, that torture is illegal.

Got that… to show that torture is illegal… we need to pardon the people who did it. Those laws… they don’t mean anything, but saying, “hey, you committed a crime, and we forgive you, and all the guys who helped you…”
Yeah, I can see how helpful that is. I’ll bet that if we did the same for all the mobsters everyone would admit the Mafia was full of hoodlums. (/sarcasm) I get that Romero is frustrated that no one seems to have the stomach to punish the people who shredded the laws. I’m pretty chapped about it to. But there is no way in hell I am going to say that if we aren’t going to charge them we need to pardon them.

We tried that once before, with Nixon. What we got for our pains was the Cheney/Bush Administration, peopled with all the hacks who were still around from that mess. What they learned was two-fold, 1: hide everything, 2: if you commit big enough crimes no one will dare to hold you to account. To offer them a pardon (not that I think they’d take it, as that would mean admitting legal culpability and morally deficiency) would be to cement that idea. Married to the other ills we have from a lack of prosecutions the idea terrifies me, because he’s deluding himself if he thinks, Prosecutions would be preferable, but pardons may be the only viable and lasting way to close the Pandora’s box of torture once and for all.

They acted in the full knowledge that what they were doing was against the law. They didn’t care. Bush, more than once, casually admitted he was (and had been) breaking laws, and had no intent of stopping.

Which is is what makes me angry. We have become so jaded that we accept the idea that there is something reasonable about saying, “oh yeah, you broke US laws, violated treaties, killed innocent people; by torturing them to death (when they weren’t “merely” driven mad. Read the released summary, if you have the stomach, and remember that it’s only a summary. The entire thing is worse). But hey, because torture is SO FUCKING HORRIBLE, we aren’t going to put your ass in jail for the rest of your life, we’re going to forgive you, without going through the effort of having a trial and saying you are guilty, and ought to be punished, so we are going to pre-emptively pardon you; so everyone will know how serious we are about hating torture.

Fuck that noise. At this point I wish there was some sort of tribunal with the moral rectitude, and money/power to enforce the Noriega Doctrine, and haul them to the ICC by force.

Because we are fast forfieting any right to deny the international community the right to extradite them. Rumsfeld will probably never go to France again, and it wouldn’t disturb my sleep to know that Bush and Cheney, Rice and Wolfowitz, Woo and Bybee, were looking nervously over their shoulders, wondering when the tipstaff is going to show up behind them

But, for the sake of the nation as a whole, we dare not pardon them, even if that means they die without being prosecuted: because it’s possible a later age will take it up (as some of them are still young enough that there are decades in which this consummation [devoutly to be wished] may come to pass).

Moreover, the why won’t matter. What will be seen is that torture is an offense for which one can be given carte blanche ex post facto.

Bullshit. And we can’t extend the idea that of, “for the good of the state the bearer has been pardoned for what has been done”. It’s not so. It’s specious. There are dogs which ought not be let lie.

*“There are individuals whose propensity to crime is so high that no set of incentives that it is feasible to offer to the whole population would influence their behavior,” Banfield wrote. The most effective way to prevent violent crime in cities, Banfield theorized, would therefore be to pre-emptively abridge the freedom of the “mostly young, lower-class males” who were likely to commit crimes in the future. What’s that? You say that “abridging the freedom of persons who have not committed crimes is incompatible with the principles of free society”? Well, said Banfield, “so, also, is the presence in free society of persons who, if their freedom is not abridged, would use it to inflict serious injuries on others.”

If you read the original think piece about Broken Windows you see the authors praising cops who use, step outside the law to enforce, “order”: Sometimes what “Kelly” did could be described as “enforcing the law,” but just as often it involved taking informal or extralegal steps to help protect what the neighborhood had decided was the appropriate level of public order. Some of the things he did probably would not withstand a legal challenge…the police in this earlier period assisted in that reassertion of authority by acting, sometimes violently, on behalf of the community. Young toughs were roughed up, people were arrested “on suspicion” or for vagrancy, and prostitutes and petty thieves were routed. “Rights” were something enjoyed by decent folk, and perhaps also by the serious professional criminal, who avoided violence and could afford a lawyer… That’s the message of “broken windows”: Rich people have rights, the rest of us, not so much.


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When the shit hits the fan

I am a prepper’s wet dream.

I’m male. I’m a vet (and a combat vet). I was in Intelligence (and better yet Interrogation, with time spent instructing). I know how to make gunpowder, and turn that into grenades, bombs and rockets.

I’ve studied martial arts. I know how to use bladed weapons. I can ride a horse, and a motorcycle. I know how to make minor mechanical repairs. I’ve studied fortification. I can use swords, pikes, axes, knives, bows, crossbows and firearms. I’ve made cannon.

All of which makes their eyes glaze over as their breath gets short. They see me as some massive asset in the bloodbath they expect to come when The Shit Hits The Fan.

And they are wrong. Not only is that not the likely scenario, even if it were I’m not on their side. I’ve studied history. All those times of death and destruction from one end of, “the world” to the other… were not because society fell apart. Nope, the death and destruction were why society fell apart. The plague comes, people hunker down and try to ride it out (or they move to cities. France didn’t recover the population she had in 1300 until 1900, but the distribution of population changed, a lot).

Preppers don’t get that. Even the ones I’ve interacted with who seemed to get it (that more than just gun and guts are required), still fail to see how things work. I was on a couple of panels with John Ringo a few years ago. Now John seems a tolerably decent fellow, but in the course of a couple of hours of discussion I realised he’d picked up some of the same blinkered ideas that so many End of the World sorts have; mainly that the end will be sudden, and then it’s warlord city.

So when the conversation got to farming, he was dismissive of pretty much everyone; until I told him I’d run a small farm (and I do mean small about ½ an acre). That said, with a bit of work, and some knowledge of what was required, that’s enough to add a fair bit of food to the table for a family of six (which is what I was doing with it).

Some chickens, some attention to the compost and putting in a balance set of crops (such as with the milpa systems in Meso-America) can get a lot of food out of a moderate amount of land. It’s not that tricky to set up, and a small investment in practice (a working vegetable garden is often enough to see what’s needed), and some books are all one needs (that, and seeds).

Want to have fun with a prepper… ask them where they intend to get socks. Most clothes are pretty durable, so it will be a couple of years before the supply of pants, shirts, coats and hats run out. But socks, socks get a lot of wear, and (as one who spent a lot of time in the Army) if they don’t get washed frequently your feet rot. Also, if they don’t get changed/washed regularly, they wear out. I have a lot of socks, and I change them. A four day weekend means I pack six pair (yeah, I might obsess a bit about socks).

That’s where my predilection for books, and futzing, comes in. I’ve done a lot of crafty stuff. I was a machinist for several years. I can run a lathe, or a mill. I understand the basics of using brakes. I’ve done a bit of forging. I make yarn. In theory I can weave.

This is where the preppers fall apart. They think of marauders. They contemplate a world of scavengers, living off the plunder of those fools who didn’t prepare. They imagine Mad Max, and envision the wasteland of the 30 Years War. They forget it was marauding soldiers who made that wasteland.

They don’t know how to make things, and they don’t know how to run things. I’ve been fortunate. The choices I made in my life mean I’ve never been rich. I have (through good fortune, and the help of my friend and my partners) been able to live a life which allowed me to indulge in hobbies which are modern luxuries, but used to be essential skills.

Take my spinning. I have a wheel at home. It cost, all in, about a grand. I paid for about half of it, and my partners kicked in the rest (as an early holiday present). I spin when we watch television or when I need to take a break and compose my thoughts for some piece of writing. I use it as therapy when I see something ungodly stupid on the internet, and as a way to unwind at the end of the day (the moreso when the winter comes and I can’t garden). It is, for me, an interstitial pleasure.

For much of “civilisation” it was an interstitial need. Women did (and do, if you look at the Andes today, as well as the highlands of Afghanistan, parts of India, etc.) spin when they had, “nothing else to do” (women, largely, did the spinning, while men did the weaving). I’ve got a project on spindles right now. I have about an oz. of Merino/silk spun up. I think I might be able to get to an oz. and a half before the total weight is too much to keep working.

That oz. is about 450 yards of fine yarn. To make sock-yarn (you thought I’d forgotten the socks), needs three plies. It happens I intend to spin three singles (ea. of which becomes one ply), and then make some sockweight yarn. For the other singles I have alpaca/silk (80/20) and pure merino. Socks last longer when you have cellulose, like tencel, or bamboo, or silk in them, which is part of why I’m adding to this yarn; but mostly because the fibers I had were blended, and I thought they would be pretty together.

I do most of my spindle spinning (up to about .9 oz. before the spindle start to be too heavy to manage when the train slews) while I’m on the subway, so it really is interstitial. I’m making yarn when I don’t really have a task at hand. I could, read (or play games on my phone, but I do this (and it ties me into the work of women going back some 10,000 years, maybe more). I will probably sell this yarn, so I can afford to buy more fiber to make more yarn (it’s sort of Ourborosian).

So, to get 450 yards of sock yarn, I need to spin about 1,500 yds. of singles (because twisting them up to get the final three-ply will reduce some of the total yardage, which varies based on how tightly the yarn is spun). I’ve spun about ½ oz. of the second spindle in the past five days of commuting, but it’s the sort of thing preppers don’t account for.

They see cans, not chickens (to quote @civilwarbore), and don’t think about the nature of the lifestyle they imagine. Yes, one can be a marauder, if there is a stable society to pillage, but as with any predator, the prey can’t be depleted if they want to survive. Since the actual prey of Vikings, Mongols, Huns, etc. was the fruits of urban cultures, it behooved them to not destroy those cultures (which is why they tended to settle down, and set up shop… thus becoming potential targets for the next wave of marauders).

And they somehow think it’s impossible for people to co-operate. They ignore the aftermath of disaster. New York has a blackout… people come together. Post Sandy, when Lower Manhattan was dark… restaurants were running on cash, or tab. There wasn’t any light, but the gas worked. They didn’t have refrigeration, but they could get deliveries. I stopped into a liquor store, and they offered me lunch. The vast majority of people are, at root decent. Not saints, maybe not even nice, but decent.

So, when I said, in one of those panels, that while I didn’t have experience in lots of things (e.g. I’ve never tanned leather), but you should see my library, John Ringo laughed, and said that wasn’t going to be good for much. Perhaps, for him, it wouldn’t, perhaps he’s not good at research (one of his books says black powder has more energy than smokeless), but for me, they would be.

In part because I trust that other people will pitch in, that we can divide the labor, and find materials to let us make mistakes. Some things (like brewing, and pickling, and salting), I’ve already practiced. But when the “Next Dark Age” comes, it will, as with Rome (both of them) probably be more a gradual loss of the trappings of easier living than some cataclysmic catastrophe.  I know how to do more than I can do (run a herd of cattle, tend sheep, grow grapes, grow cereals, thresh grain, harvest corn, make pots, build ovens, dry lumber, felt wool, make a yurt; or a tipi, build a weir, build a dam, make a catapult (or a trebuchet), fashion bows, entrench a town, set an ambush, cook, knit, plough, sharpen, play pennywhistle, play baseball, football, soccer, skittles, turn wood, make glue, make wine, beer, and vinegar, press olive oil, prune fruit trees, &c. &c. &c.), and I can teach.

And for that, I am as prepared as I can be. Preppers aren’t. Because people who can do violence (and well) are easy to come by (e.g. me). People who can do the rest of it are more common than people think. People who can do both aren’t thin on the ground. And people who value comity will band together, where those who are good at violence will (in all probability) leave the plough as needed, to put paid to those who plan to live off the sweat of other’s labors.


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More police problems

I was doing some reading on Ferguson, and came upon a video from the Washington Post with some detail shots of cops in Ferguson, and some labels (inadequate, for what they don’t say about it, and what they don’t ID).  At the 16 second mark I did a double take.

Kbar

 
That guy is wearing a K-Bar.  A fucking K-Bar*. Don’t get me wrong, I like K-Bars. I’ve owned one since 1993.  I had two versions of it when I deployed to Iraq.  They are really good at what they are for. What they are for is hand to hand combat; up close and personal.  What they aren’t is any sort of defensive tool.   Knife fighting is ugly work.  It’s brutal, and dangerous.  One of the situations which gets handled badly in the press (and one in which I give cops a bit more leeway when I hear there was a shooting) is one with a knife, because the minimum safe distance from someone who has a knife is a lot longer than you think it is, and the amount of damage someone can do with them is often more likely to be fatal than a similarly placed gunshot.

So what is he doing with that knife?

He’s armored (the bulky sleeves on his vest… those are deltoid armor.  Military Issue body armor doesn’t have them).  Also, if the situation is that volatile, why are his arms exposed?   He’s almost certainly packing a sidearm. He isn’t alone.  You could tell that (even if you didn’t have any other evidence than this photo) from his weaponry.  He’s got a grenade launcher** (probably loaded with CS/Tear Gas).  That’s a support weapon. It’s not the sort of thing a cop on their own is going to be carrying at high ready.  The people using it are going to be (in any well managed deployment) from the second, or third rank.

But this yahoo has a close in weapon only good for killing people.  He’s wearing it in a quick draw rig.  What the fuck?  Does he think he’s going to be going toe-to-toe with someone in a dark alley?  Has he been reading too many pieces about trench warfare because it’s the centenary of WW1?  I’m agog.

I also want to know who let him hang that from his rig?  When they did their inspections before they headed out (in the Army it’s called a PCI, for “pre-combat inspection”.  It’s when your first line supervisor looks you over to see you have everything you need, and that it’s in the right place.  Ammo, water, bandages, helmet, dry socks, lip-balm, etc.) how did this not get called out?

If one of my guys had been getting ready to go on a patrol and was packing a machete, I’d tell him to leave it behind, unless we were expecting to be busting some brush.  The guy is a cop, for fuck’s sake.  He’s not in the jungles of Guadalcanal. He’s staring down a bunch of people angry because one of their kids was gunned down and left to lie in the street, and the authorities are saying, “he had it coming”.  He’s not going to be ambushed and knocked down, his only available weapon a big honking knife; in a kill, or be killed situation.

The only way that happens is if his command is so fucked up they instigate an all out assault on the cops by the citizens.  So he’s got a screwed up view of his role. Either his command doesn’t see it, or doesn’t care.

Which is a big part of how we got where we are.
 

 

 

 

*It’s actually a K-Bar style knife.  Note the hexagonal shape of the pommel.  K-Bars are round, also forget the “Gerber” in his pocket, that’s a tool knife, handy for cutting rope, slicing seat belts, sectioning an apple.  What that knife most decidedly isn’t is a weapon.  It’s built all wrong.

**All the detail they give, just tells you what some of the types of grenades it can launch.


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Ferguson

 

I’d rather be doing a lot of things than this. I could be wrapping up my thoughts on Sidmouth, and the Folk Tradition. I could be in Greenwich, or at LonCon, or spinning, or practicing pennywhistle, or pretty much anything but writing about Ferguson. I wish my thoughts were conflicted. I wish that because it would mean there was some level of question about what’s going on.

What’s going on is the police are over-reacting to a reasonable response on the part of the community. That’s the takeaway. There is a lot more: there always is, but that’s the nub of it. It’s tied into the way the US looks at Race, the way the US looks at cops, the way the US looks at protest, but the nub is the cops over-reacted to a reasonable response.

And, even if the (less than plausible) story the police tell (that a smart kid decided to reach into a car to try and get a cop’s gun) is true, the response is reasonable.

Because cops kill people, esp. black people with impunity. In 2011 cops shot almost more than 1,100 people in the US. 607 of them died. In 95 percent of those shootings, it was determined the cops were “justified”. Out of 1,146 shootings, 1,088 were deemed to be, “good shoots”.

The remaining 58… just sort of disappeared. It’s almost impossible to prosecute cops for misconduct. From about 8,000 credible reports of police misconduct (against about 11,000 officers, in a 21 month period) there were only 3, 200 prosecutions, and 2/3rds of them were acquitted. For run of the mill criminal cases the conviction rate (at trial) is about 70 percent.

Even when they are convicted, they tend to be charged with lesser crimes, and get lighter sentences (Look at how Oscar Grant was shot and what happened to the cop convicted of killing him). So cops get away with murder. That, sad to say, is the general background of life in the US. It’s worse if one isn’t white. In the past couple of weeks I know of at least four such shootings of black men. Last month a pizza guy was shot by a pair of plainclothes cops. What is the police response? “At this time it just appears to be unfortunate for both the officers and this person,” said Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Ross”.

Yeah… “unfortunate”. I used to deliver pizza, I worried about getting robbed (we had a couple of stick-ups while I was there: pies were ordered, the driver gets out of the car and there is a gun in his ribs. They know where you are going. It’s an easy ambush. So this guy has a couple of people, not in uniform, block his car, with guns out. He tries to get away, and they shoot him, in the head. That, the cops say, is, “unfortunate for both the officers and this person.” I’d say it was a lot more than unfortunate for him.

To make it worse, the cops are being over-equipped. I was a soldier. I was in an invading army. The cops are often more heavily armed than I was. Yeah, I had access to a lot more in the way of support. We had some belt-fed light machine guns, a .50 Cal, and a Mark 19 Automatic Grenade Launcher, as well as being able to call for Artillery, Cavalry, helicopter gunships, and “fast movers” from the Air Force, but on my person I had 7 magazines, for a total of 270 rds of ammunition.

Some of the cops in the pictures in the #Ferguson photostream they seem to have at least that many mags, as well as a second weapon. Think about that; every one of those cops seems to have at least 270 rounds of ammunition. If you have only the twelve cops in this photo that’s 3,240 rds of ammunition. How many people do they think they will need to shoot?

That’s not a rhetorical question. We had that much firepower because we expected people to be using the same sort of equipment to try to kill us. We didn’t have the level of body armor cops routinely wear. So they are better protected, and as powerfully armed. Why?

Lots of numbnuts are focusing on the violent aspects of the citizens. Yeah, I think burning a gas station, and smashing up stores is a bad thing. I also know that this isn’t anything close to a riot. I’ve lived through riots (I lived in LA in 1992, and I worked in Hollywood. I’ve seen honest to goodness riots, this ain’t that).
Even if it were, that’s not how to reduce the tension. Say what you like about the failings of the LAPD (and they are legion) they have a decent handle on how to deal with crowd control (they don’t always adhere to it, e.g. The MacArthur Park incident). As a member of the National Guard we got riot training, and my unit got it from them (I had a couple of commanders who were in the LAPD, and we got some benefit from that).
First rule: cops on crowd control duty don’t carry firearms. They don’t carry shields. They do have helmets with masks, and they carry batons. There are armed cops in the area, but they aren’t at liberty. They can only shoot at designated targets, and only on command.

As decades of study has shown, adding distance between the police and the public makes things worse, FBI study on crowd management

Modern research supports a philosophy of public order policing from the 1970s referred to as The Madison Method of Handling People in Crowds and Demonstrations.7 This approach begins with defining the mission and safeguarding the fundamental rights of people to gather and speak out legally. The philosophy should reflect the agency’s core values in viewing citizens as customers. This focus is not situational; it cannot be turned on and off depending on the crisis.

Law enforcement agencies facilitate and protect the public’s right to free speech and assembly. When officers realize they are at a protest to ensure these rights, they direct their responses accordingly, from planning to implement the plan. Officers must have a well-defined mission that encourages the peaceful gathering of people and uses planning, open communication, negotiation, and leadership to accomplish this goal.

That ain’t happening in Ferguson.

What is happening is that people are upset. They have a lot of reasons to be upset:

Some stats on Ferguson

St. Louis Cty Police Lieutenant fired for telling cops to target blacks

Massively disproportionate police stops/searches/arrests

The amazing thing isn’t that they are protesting it’s that they aren’t being violent about it. Also to be considered is the level of response. I recall earlier in the year, a long (tense) standoff with a dude who was stealing from the public purse. A lot of his supporters showed up to protest the, “unfair treatment he got.

They were pointing loaded weapons at cops. They weren’t vilified in the press. Nope. A lot of folks on the Right side of the spectrum were (and still are) lauding them as heroes, standing up to tyranny. Why? Because a rancher didn’t want to pay grazing fees.

Where are they now? A group of people want to protest the killing of a kid. For that they are being brutalised. Their right to peaceably assemble is being denied. The right of the press to be free in its exercise is being denied. Their right to fair and equal treatment under the law has been systematically violated. They are being subjected to actual tyranny. Sadly what we hear from the Cliven Bundy supporters isn’t crickets… but cheerleading for the cops who call the people of Ferguson animals.

This is about justice. Its seed crystals are the lack of justice they have been suffering for years. This country was founded on the principle that this sort of abuse of state power is so fundamentally unjust that it merited revolution to remove.

The people of Ferguson haven’t done that (though perhaps they recall what happened in Tulsa when blacks chose to defend themselves against predatory whites). They did what we pretend is the way of things. They protested injustice. The assembled to petition for redress of grievance.

And the police ran riot.


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About the Hugos

For those who don’t know, they are something like the Oscars for Science Fiction works.  Like the Academy Awards the voting pool is limited, and also who most people think it is.  Anyone who is a member of the WorldCon (this year in London) or the subsequent year’s Convention (next year in Spokane), and the previous year’s convention (which was in San Antonio, Texas) is eligible to nominate.  Anyone who is a member of the convention at which the awards will be announced (in this case LonCon) is eligible to vote.

This year it seems an author made a pretty specific pitch to be nominated (Somewhere Puppies are Smiling) Among the slate he endorsed was one Theodore Beale, who goes by the hubristic nom-de-net of vox day.  He made news, recently, for getting kicked out of SFWA.  He’s a shit.  Racist, misogynist, white supremacist and all other manner of unlikable things.

He’s also a crap writer.

So, In my opinion, on the merits (i.e. his crap writing) he doesn’t deserve a Hugo.  On his other merits he ought to be shunned.

Thankfully the Hugo’s have a means for the voters to do that (and so I am commending it).  One, they need to vote (in any given year a lot of the eligible member of a convention don’t vote: many because they don’t feel competent to choose; for having not read the eligible works.  I often refrain from voting in categories I can’t really evaluate).

Two, they need to understand how Hugo Voting Works.  It’s an instant run-off; and I am pretty sure most people don’t understand how to best use it.

The idea is simple.  You have X candidates and get to rank them 1-X.  If your first choice loses, those votes are removed and the second choice from those ballots are added to the tallies of the remaining candidates, until there is a winner.

Where one has to be careful is remembering that one need not vote all the way down the ticket (and if you have a strong preference for one, or two, candidates you need to stop there).  If a ballot has no subsequent choices, no new votes will be added to the tally of any other candidate.  This can make, or break, who wins.  If you only have two strong choices, only vote for two candidates.

But, where the Hugos run-off voting differs is that there is another option.  No Award.  It’s an option to declare that, should your preferred choice(s) be eliminated you don’t think anyone else who was nominated deserves the award.  It’s a way to say a nominated work was (in your opinion) undeserving of consideration (it’s happened, at least once. that the community put No Award ahead of a nominated work, in 1987, L. Ron Hubbard came in 6th in a field of five)

So if, as I don’t, you think the quality of Beale’s work is worthy of a Hugo fine, you should vote for it.  If you think his work isn’t worth a Hugo, don’t vote for him.  If you think his work isn’t worthy, and his social behaviors, are unacceptable in civilised society then, even if you have no opinion on the other novelletes, you should cast a vote for No Award.

Because, as lots of people have said, it’s a great ballot this year.  It’s not the first year a dipshit asshole has been nominated.  It’s not even the first year a dipshit asshole I think is a blight on the face of humanity has been nominated.  We, as a community have the option to show that we discourage that sort of dipshit assholism.

The voting isn’t a closed book. You can take part. I’m going to quote Cat Valente here,

“A final note: you do not have to go to Worldcon to nominate and vote for the Hugos. You can buy a supporting membership for $40* and get that perk. I realize $40 is a lot to express an opinion, but every year we hear complaints about the ballot and every year I hope that my generation will vote a little more, because the Hugos are kind of a bellwether for the field, and I want new crackly risktaking goodness in there, too. Since I have no control over the price of the supporting membership all I can say is—give it a thought, if you have the scratch.”

*in the original it was $50.  LonCon is charging 40 for a supporting membership. In addition to the Hugo balloting (and really, what other prestigious award do you know of, for which you; as a fan, can vote?  I know that, for those years in which I voted, I helped shape what was seen as the best in the field; for the year.  I made my opinion known; in a very visible way, about authors to watch), you also have the chance to decide where the convention will be two years from now; which means you could try to vote for someplace close to home; or someplace you’d like to visit.  It’s a win/win/win proposition (because every con needs money to run).  For that $40, you will get a whole lot of stuff to read, and look at, because the Hugo ballot comes with a lot of files to make it easier to cast an informed decision when you vote.