Monday, July 11, 2016

The Police Are A Domestic Military Force That No Longer Simply Serves And Protects


Like many people, I was enraged and glued to the television for several days watching thousands of people across the country peacefully protest the lynchings of two black men by police officers – Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

I was shocked and disheartened to hear that a mentally disturbed shooter, filled with anger and hatred of white police officers, army reservist Micah Xavier Johnson, opened fire on police at a peaceful demonstration under the banner of Black Lives Matter in Dallas, Texas.

My jaw dropped and I yelled out loud “what the fuck,” when I heard the chief of the Dallas police department describe at a press conference how negotiations with a pinned down Johnson in a garage where going no where and in order to put no other officers or civilians in harms way that they had decided to use a C-4 plastic explosive attached to a robot to kill the suspect in the Dallas ambush.

The police chief, David Brown, somberly described it as their “robot bomb.”

I immediately thought about the first time I ever heard about the police using a bomb in an American city. That was 30 years ago when the Philadelphia police dropped an incendiary device on a bunker on the top of a fortified compound from a helicopter during a standoff in West Philadelphia between the police and an outcast black separatist group named MOVE.

There were nearly 500 police officers at the scene, ready for urban warfare – flak jackets, tear gas, SWAT gear, .50- and .60-caliber machine guns, and an anti-tank machine gun.

Early in the morning on May 13, 1985, Philadelphia police commissioner, Bregore Sambor, yelled into his megaphone, "Attention, MOVE … this is America, … you have to abide by the laws of the United States."

Shortly after someone in the MOVE compound fired a weapon, the police responded with an estimated 10,000 rounds of ammunition over the next hour-and-a-half. Later that day, the city’s firs black mayor, Wilson Goode gave the go ahead to drop a bomb on the roof to destroy the bunker.

When the dust finally settled, 61 houses had burned, 250 people were homeless, and 11 people were dead, including 5 children. Only two people made it out of the MOVE house alive – a woman named Romona Africa and a child named Birdie Africa.

With little public debate, the police have slowly transformed themselves into a domestic military force – with what appears to be all the powers and protections of the regular military – and American cities populated by black and brown people have become urban war zones.

How did this happen?

Following a decade of "rights" movements (especially black and Chicano liberation movements), urban rebellions in hundreds of cities, and an increase in casual drug use by the baby boomer generation, the nation's policy makers (with popular support from the public especially those that fled the cities for the suburbs) declared wars on drugs, crime, and political protesters.

Local police departments were given the tools they needed to restore and maintain order: armored personnel carriers, assault rifles, submachine guns, flashbang grenades, grenade launchers, sniper rifles, Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams, sophisticated intelligence gathering equipment which has been coupled with an aggressive style of policing (such as, stop and frisk, and broken windows) and a series of court decisions designed to make their job easier but also erode fundamental civil liberties (such as, exemptions to Miranda and illegal searches, no knock warrants, and seizures of property).

The police have a strong financial incentive (especially in cities without lots of property tax paying citizens) to be aggressive. The desire to militarize themselves means they aggressively seize property and issue tickets to raise money; and lots of arrests – which proves to policy makers in Washington that they are being tough on criminal behavior – also means more dollars and military equipment from a wide range of federal programs.

What we are dealing with is a domestic military force full of people who see themselves as warriors on the battlefield. Whether they are good people with good intentions is of no importance. They and their supporters believe that the police are our last line of defense against a decline into chaos. They are our Warrior Cops.

With nearly 800,000 people with police type powers in departments spread across the country with little public or national oversight, this will not be "fixed" by better training, better police community relations, or getting rid of a few so-called "bad apples." This is a systemic problem.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Trump Is Unfit To Serve But He May Dog Whistle His Way Into The White House

Donald Trump is easily the most unfit person to be the presumptive nominee for president for a major political party in the United States since the two-party system emerged in the mid-1800s.

I could stop there. But I won’t.

Trump is a white supremacist and a xenophobic nativists. In a supposedly post-racial and culturally tolerant society, these two “character flaws” should eliminate you from serious consideration to become president.

However, to many of his supporters who feel like they have been forced to keep silent about issues involving race and ethnicity due to political correctness (Trump, on the other hand, is a godsend because he “tells it like it is”), and Republican Party officeholders such as, Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, and Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, who crave control of the Congress and the White House to advance their reactionary agenda, being a racist and anti-immigrant are not disqualifiers.

A few more things.

Trump also fails to make sense of reality through, for example, the use of logic or the establishment and verification of facts. Nor does he justify his beliefs on the basis of new or existing evidence.

Instead, the Republican Party’s standard-bearer is opposed to the use of reason. His thinking is incoherent rather than logical. Depending on the situation, he just makes up his own facts. And, he does not feel like he needs to justify his beliefs to anyone but himself.

A reader might accuse me of hyperbole. A few minutes of listening to Trump would change your mind. Almost every time he gives a speech or an interview, my jaw drops and I’m left nearly speechless.

Here are a few examples of nearly everything I have just laid out. Let’s talk a little about Trump's use of white identity politics.

The statement, "Make America great again," is really code words to appeal to whites on the basis of their white identity. Lots of white people love Trump for saying it.

But, who are these people? The typical Trump supporter has less than a college education, is male, and earns less than 50,000. Certainly, Trump appeals to them in part because he taps into their economic anxieties and the failure of the political class to solve their problems.

But, Trump also connects to them on the basis of their racial and ethnic anxieties and prejudices. To put this into perspective, we must also take a look at how demographic trends are changing America and the fear this is creating among whites.

The share of the nation’s population that is white is shrinking. The reason is twofold: most immigrants are not white; most children born in the country are not white.

The demographic changes have triggered an existential crisis for many white Americans and driven them toward Trump. His supporters say things like:

“Take American back.”

“This is not the same country I grew up in.”

“This country has gone to hell.”

“This country is going to hell.”

Trump’s race baiting plays to the deep hostility on the part of a significant number of white Americans to the demographic changes that are browning America.

Many Trump supporters also link the idea of being "American" with being white. The presumptive nominee knows this.

Following the horrific murder of 49 people in Orlando, Donald Trump said at a press conference, "The killer was born an Afghan, of Afghan parents who immigrated to the United States." This was not a slip of the tongue or ignorance about where he was born.

Trump knows exactly where Omar Mateen was born. That the media keeps saying Trump is stupid because Mateen was born in Queens NYC like him is just plain silly.

Trump was using his dog whistle, suggesting that because his parents were not American citizens at the time of his birth, that Mateen was an Afghan not an American citizen as the 14th Amendment guarantees anyone born in the United States. (I actually don't think he would even consider the children of naturalized citizens from non-European countries real Americans; he equates being an American with a set of values and racially identity that originates in Europe.)

The media can't bring themselves to acknowledge just how deeply racists and nativist Trump's campaign really is and will be of little help. On the other hand, many of his hardcore supporters understand where their candidate is coming from. This is why they plan to vote for him and he might just succeed.

Can you hear that whistle?