Sunday, August 17, 2014

Ferguson police declared war on Ferguson's people. Which city will be next?

Over the past few months, “American cops kill unarmed black person” has become the new “Local woman gives birth” – a headline appearing so often, you can't even keep track of all the stories unless you personally know one or more of the actors involved.

And over the past couple years, “Police declare war on entire city due to one man within” has also become commonplace: remember last year, when cops in California searching for Christopher Dorner forced people out of their homes at gunpoint, fired at random pickup trucks just in case Dorner might be inside one of them (he wasn't), surrounded entire stores and told the shoppers within that they were forbidden to leave? No warrants, no constitutional oversight, just cops flexing their authority muscles because they can.

Remember April 2013, when the entire city of Boston was put under house arrest while cops searched for the Boston Marathon bombing suspect? When I first heard that a Dunkin Donuts was the only city business open that day, I figured that must be an anti-cop joke – they're all a bunch of donut-suckers, ha ha ha – except it turned out to be absolutely true: the donut shops stayed open so cops could get their fried-pastry fix while performing warrantless searches of Bostonians' homes.

And then, just over a week ago, Americans learned about Ferguson, Missouri – a town whose overwhelmingly black population is overseen by an overwhelmingly white police force so corrupt, they've been known to beat an innocent man and then charge him with destruction of property for staining their uniforms with his blood – and two days before an 18-year-old named Michael Brown was supposed to start college, a Ferguson cop shot him dead in the street. The usual MO: cops swear he was a vicious criminal on the attack, witnesses say he was unarmed, had his hands in the air and was trying to surrender.

So the people of Ferguson took to the streets in protest, and the military was called out against them – sorry, I meant to say police with military-grade equipment including armored personnel carriers and other tools generally used by foreign occupying armies were called out against them.

Ferguson residents were tear-gassed while standing in their own fenced-in yards. The FAA declared a no-fly zone over the city – police craft can fly, but the media's not allowed to see what's going on there. Journalists were being arrested, then released without charge, for doing their jobs (were I a cynic, I'd say “It's as though the cops don't want anyone to witness what they're doing.” But surely I am wrong, for our own authorities so often assure us that privacy is unnecessary since only wrongdoers ever have anything to hide).

This morning I was up until about 2:30 (Eastern time) watching the Livestream video feed from Mike Brown at KARG Argus radio: the media were ordered not to leave the “staging area” on pain of arrest, so of course the video feed was limited to whatever was within camera range of that staging area just in front of a beige-brick McDonald's.

But even that limited line of sight showed plenty of horrors. I saw cops firing teargas cannons into distant crowds of peaceful nonviolent protestors whose only “crime” was being outside after midnight, in violation of the curfew imposed on the city. Then the cops fired temporarily blinding flashbomb cannons into the crowd; I lost count of how many after the sixth or seventh.  An armored vehicle pulled up near the staging area, and soldiers (sorry, “cops”) in body armor came pouring out and ran off-screen. Then the cops started using “sonic cannon” – noise-making machines designed to cause immense pain and disorientation to whoever hears them. At the same time these sonic cannon and blinding flashbombs were being used to disorient people, the cops announced that anyone who didn't leave and go home immediately would be arrested.

Then all the action happened off-screen: I watched journalists and cops milling around the “staging area” while sonic cannon (and possibly screams?) could be heard in the distance, and a radio announcer (presumably Mike Brown?) said that police were arresting protesters on another street – a street which no media has the right to film, a street Americans are not allowed to see, thanks to the no-fly zone and the designated staging area and similar authoritarian diktats. More teargas fired into crowds. More sonic cannon shattering the night air. In the United States of America.

I will not dare to predict what will happen next, in Ferguson and throughout the country; I'd love to think “This'll be the last straw, this'll start the pushback; Americans have had enough tyranny in the name of security and now things will change for the better.” Except, if you're a longtime reader of this blog, you probably recall all the times I made similar predictions before, and every damned one of them turned out wrong. “TSA demands the right to sexually molest you before a flight? Surely my fellow Americans won't put up with this … oh, dammit, yes they will.”

Still: as bad as things are, they could always be worse. Missouri's senator Claire McCaskill at least had sense enough to say “We need to de-militarize this situation—this kind of response by the police has become the problem instead of the solution.”

Meanwhile, in the alternate universe where Todd Akin never said anything abut “legitimate rape” and thus managed to win that senatorial election, Sen. Akin released a statement expressing support for the brave police of Ferguson, Missouri and pointed out that when legitimately innocent people get shot by cops, their bodies have ways of shutting the whole thing down.

Ferguson will be under curfew again tonight. I suppose the police are re-stocking their supplies of teargas and flashbombs, too.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Join the Movement: Real Garments™ for Real People

Join me! I'm trying to start a new pseudo-scientific social fad: the Real Garments movement!

It's based on various forms of food faddism, only less likely to rot sans refrigeration. The idea is that all the mindless manual labor which our ancestors spent all of history trying to escape is actually beneficial for you, whereas letting modern machinery do your drudgework, like, cheapens your basic essential humanity somehow. So forget modern, impersonal, factory-made mass-produced clothing; you're not really "dressed" unless you're wearing clothes you made yourself, using your own spinning wheel to spin your own thread out of fibers from your own pet sheep or gardenful of flax or cotton plants, then weaving those threads into cloth with your own loom. (At some point in the process, you're also supposed to color this with your own dye, made by boiling bark or berries gathered from your own land.) Do what our ancestors did: be independent and self-sufficient, live a healthy, natural back-to-the-Earth lifestyle, spend years of repetitive labor producing a single piece of fabric, then drop dead by 35.

Also remember: every single member of the world medical and scientific community -- especially the ones who contradict the Real Garments bloggers and tell you that mass-produced clothing can be worn with no ill health effects -- is part of an insidious plot to make life worse than it currently is. To learn the truth, and raise yourself above the common run of "sheeple" [e.g., people clueless enough to think Dr. Jonas Salk knows more about medical science than Dr. Jennifer McCarthy] make sure you read the Real Garments blog! Or just give the Real Garmentsblogger some of your money.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day 2014: what freedoms did our soldiers die to protect?

I know, I know, I've been neglecting this-here blog so badly, you'd be forgiven for thinking it is the constitution and I am the US government.

Some of this neglect is due to legitimately responsible grownup reasons: I've been spending the bulk of my weekday waking hours working as a consumer journalist, writing about the virtues of frugality or warning about the latest credit card hacker attack du jour. But when I'm finished work for the day and ready to turn my attention to matters political ... I burn out.

This is Memorial Day 2014, the day which (as various patriots keep reminding me) commemorates all the American soldiers who died to protect American freedom. This includes soldiers from the Revolutionary War, War of 1812 (aka Revolution 2.0: when we said we don't wanna be Britons anymore, we meant it), the Civil War (Union side only), and World War Two.

But what about the many American soldiers who died for causes less noble than that of American freedom? Don't they deserve holidays too? I say they do, and offer a few suggestions:

Territorial Expansion Day: honoring the American soldiers who died in the Mexican and Spanish-American wars.

Resource Acquisition Day: honoring the Americans who died to ensure oil-exporting countries did so on terms favorable to us.

What The Hell Was THAT All About Day: honoring the Americans who died in World War One and Vietnam, plus our various blink-and-you'll-miss-it "humanitarian" interventions a la Somalia.

Treaty Obligations Are A Bitch Day: honoring the future Americans who will die defending Taiwan from the rapacity of the mainland Chinese. Not sure if the Korean War falls under this day or WTHWTAA Day, and I'm too lazy to look it up.

The Carpal Tunnel Hour: Only an hour because it's not worth a whole day; honors the front-line fighters in America's drone-bombing wars.

In all seriousness: what freedoms should we celebrate today? The one solid advancement on the personal freedom front lately is in the matter of gay rights: some time ago I stopped keeping track of just how many states have legalized gay marriage, but at the rate we're going I wouldn't be surprised if the Feds recognize it before the end of the decade.

That's a measurable improvement, but everything else is worse. As I type this, I can pretty much take for granted that the government has access to all of my private emails and phone conversations. Whistleblower Edward Snowden remains in lonely exile somewhere in Russia, and I am still a northern Virginia resident whose mood turns foul whenever I drive down a certain local highway and see the two glittering glass skyscrapers emblazoned with the name BOOZ ALLEN HAMILTON, Snowden's former employer, given generous chunks of my tax dollars each year in exchange for spying on me.

The TSA's mandatory molestation policy is now in its fourth year of existence. American children whose parents take them on airplanes are raised to believe "Government agents have the right to see me naked or touch me in intimate places anytime they want, so long as they cite 'security' as an excuse." The children are raised to believe this is normal, and living in a free country does not include the freedom to decide for yourself who is and is not allowed to see and touch your naughty bits.

Over in California, twentysomething sociopath Elliot Rodgers murdered some attractive women because they wouldn't sleep with him, and also murdered some men presumably because women did sleep with them. Rodgers' parents knew he was about to snap and reported this to the police, who visited Rodgers at his apartment, had a friendly little chat and then left him alone.

His parents meant well, but calling the cops to report a possible upcoming murder spree was absolutely the wrong action for them to take. Here's how American law enforcement works in 2014: Anytime cops hear a rumor of possible drug use in a home -- even when the rumor turns out to be completely false -- they send a SWAT team in to raid the residence, and the innocent people killed by trigger-happy cops are considered acceptable collateral damage. The moral of the story is: if you think someone is a mass murderer, do not report this to the cops. Instead, tell them "I think he's selling dime bags of weed out of his apartment, and by the way: he and his family are waaaaay too poor to ever afford a lawyer."

Happy Memorial Day.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Cliven Bundy: Supporting Liberty by Supporting Slavery

If feisty cattle rancher Cliven Bundy thinks being a slave preferable to being a welfare recipient, why doesn't he apply the same logic to himself? Being a slave beats being utterly incapable of keeping your inherited business afloat without free cattle feed from the government, right?

Strike a blow for liberty: remove Cliven Bundy's right to self-determination and sell him off to the highest bidder. He'll be much happier that way. Really! He all but said so himself.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

In Honor of Holy Week

I've been watching bits and pieces of various Easter/Jesus movies from the 1950s or 1960s, which teach that the greatest of all Jesus' miracles was never mentioned in the Bible: how the HELL did so many blonde-haired, blue-eyed, lily-white folks manage to live in ancient Israel without getting sunburned?

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Imminent Absence of Gay-Rights Pioneer Fred Phelps

Apparently Fred Phelps of "God Hates Fags" infamy is on the edge of death, but his family can take comfort in his life's work as a strong (though inadvertent_ promoter of gay rights. Seriously: I remember watching a documentary about him some years ago, before he was nationally famous (and, I think, before any state even recognized "civil unions," let alone "gay marriage") ... the Westboro Baptisters were holding one of their typical Tourette's-style insult-laden protests, and the documentary filmmakers were asking ordinary bystanders about it. One nearby driver watched the event as he sat in his car waiting for a traffic light to change, and when the documentarian asked him what he thought, he had a pained expression and said something like "Well, no, I don't exactly approve of homosexuality, but what THESE guys are doing ...." and I could almost see the little thought-wheels turning in his brain: "If these hateful idiots agree with me regarding sexuality, what  does that imply about my own attitudes ...."

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

The Sympathetic Magic Behind E-Cigarette Bans

Los Angeles has decided to ban e-cigarettes same way they ban regular cigarettes, and over at Consumer Affairs I discuss this and point out the similarities between e-cig opposition and the primitive belief in sympathetic magic: 


In modern American pop culture, the best-known example of sympathetic magic is found in voodoo-doll horror movies: “This doll looks just like you, so anything affecting the doll affects you too.” Western-literature majors or Old Testament scholars might also be familiar with the alleged healing or fertility powers of mandrake root — the roots of a mandrake plant often branch out to look somewhat like a four-limbed human figure, ergo the believers in sympathetic magic thought: “Since it looks like people, it must have power over people!”

And belief in sympathetic magic appears to be enjoying a renaissance among those who oppose “e-cigarettes” or “e-cigs,” basically on the grounds that a battery-operated metal tube emitting water vapor looks like a burning tobacco cigarette emitting cancerous smoke, ergo it must have the same disease-inducing power as said tobacco cigarette, right?

The full article is here
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