Jed Babbin does some good analysis. This ain’t it.
In his piece, Babbin gives us the usual statist response to people expecting the government not just follow constitutional strictures, but to act like decent human beings. The mass surveillance of Americans (and pretty much everyone else) by the National Security Agency (and a host of other law enforcement and intelligence agencies that were using the data…) was pretty blatantly unconstitutional (hence illegal) and generally awful. His asides to insult Rand Paul on the situation place him firmly in the circle of the self-anointed political class, who expect us to conform and obey, rather than serving their charges ethically.
But we have to keep Americans safe! Babbin would respond. And Congress can’t do it, so we need the president to do it. Well, Jed…you’re doing it wrong. Yes, having a benevolent dictator dispatching policy without interference is very efficient. Stalin was very efficient. He was also evil. So i think we can ignore Babbin’s policy suggestions as wholly un-American.
Rand Paul (let’s really piss Babbin off — and Edward Snowden, and the three other whistleblowers that were ignored before he cock punched the intelligence community) was absolutely correct about the evils of mass surveillance, but worse — it makes for bad intelligence collection. And yes, Jed, I worked in that field, so I have some idea what the hell I’m talking about.
Here’s the problem. With mass collection, even with the best data mining software that targets select phrases and even dumps the crap when it (rarely) understands the context is unthreatening, you get a six-foot high pile of intercepts to go through every damned day. No one gets through all that. You just get more. It’s the simple, age-old problem that too much data leads to less intelligence than too little data; you simply can’t sift through it fast enough, and we still require a human to add context to the intercepts we have.
He cited two issues, a lack of HUMINT, HUman INTelligence or “spies”, and bureaucratic issues — the same damned thing, really, that made 9/11 possible, as points of failure in gathering actionable intelligence, and he’s right.
In the wake of 9/11, Congress reorganized the intelligence and law enforcement communities to get them to talk to each other more effectively. They created another layer of bureaucracy and tossed a bunch of redundant law enforcement groups under it, and now are shocked…shocked…that it didn’t work. He is the issue of top-down, statist thinking. Exactly the kind that Babbin brings to the table. Bottom-up reviews, restructuring — we’ve seen this before from Ivy League politicians and their sycophants. All that would happen is the creation of more positions for their classmates to fill at far-too-high pay scales.
Here’s why this won’t work: 1) FBI doesn’t share, and worse, they want your budget. Want to have your organization put under the microscope? Let the FEEB work an op with you and plan it. Now it will fail, your organization will look awful, and the FEEB will ask for more of your authority and budget be transferred to them. 2) More layers of bureaucracy mean more layers of bullshit to cut through before the policy makers see your stuff. 3) Most of that bureaucracy will be Harvard and Yale lawyer types from select families that wouldn’t know how to plug in a computer, much less make informed decisions on world policy. 4) The knucledraggers that know what they are doing will never get into positions where they can streamline the analysis and reporting process…they’re knuckledraggers, after all. Ask Gust Avrakotos.
Want to address this? Get rid of DHS, get rid of the half-assed separation between the operations and intelligence sides of the house (NCS and CIA, respectively), tightly task the dozens of law enforcement agencies so there’s less overlap — Customs does smuggling, Border Patrol handles border control, Secret Service does financial crimes, FEEB does interstate coordination of law enforcement, etc. etc… Get them out of intelligence as a mission. Cut the divisions that overlap to save funds.
Intelligence should be targeted and centralized…you know, what the Central Intelligence Agency was supposed to be. CIA should be where the analysis and reporting happens. NSA and NRO do SIGINT and ELINT very well. Let them collect and do initial analysis, but organizationally they should be under CIA. Operations — the military does a lot of this, but we need spies — National Clandestine Service sits in a weird organizational limbo, pull them back under the CIA’s umbrella. Keep them out of operations — they suck at this, as Iran, Iraq, Nicaragua, Cuba and Cambodia showed. They’re the eyes and ears; we need to recruit in the populations we need to, and we need open source intelligence…read the opposition’s fucking newspapers. Most of the time, they’re not really hiding what they’re up to. More importantly, target the right guys — the “bad guys” are usually pretty obvious. Target the demographic that is the problem. Profile. Concentrate your efforts. It works.
Promote from the ranks to the leadership. The old school ties, the cake eaters, the ones that care if your report is in proper CIA format (like APA or MLA for you college kids, but for CIA…) and don’t like that provocative word choice…they keep things from getting where they need to.
When you need to act abroad, the special forces boys — they’re the hands; when you need operations, go to them. They do it well. At home, that’s law enforcement, but they are hampered by things like “rights” and “the law”…and should be. This job is hard, and should be; otherwise, what’s the damned point? (See two paragraphs down for more…)
Unfortunately, this is all for nought when the mission is not to protect Americans in general, but is operating to protect the political class. The issues with intelligence and law enforcement stem from an unspoken mission shift from protecting “the people”, to protecting the “right people”, the decision-makers, from enemies foreign and domestic. When that’s the mission, you’re going to miss real threats to the general population.
More spies, less bureaucracy and what you have should be from the doers, not the politicians.
So…after taking the Senate and holding the House, you would think that the Republican leadership might show some kind of move to temper the worst moves of the Obama administration, but fear not, Democrats! the GOP elite have shown themselves to be the exact same tone-deaf sots as Reid and his bunch. And Republicans, the uncomfortable feeling in your backside is Mitch McConnell and Company, currently humping you while protecting their power and access to your money.
Mitchy and the Moochers have decided that getting rid of the law currently destroying your access to healthcare, raising both your premiums and deductables — oh, and your taxes! — as well as giving the taxman new and interesting powers to climb into your rectum is just too dangerous, and if the Supreme Court rightly strikes the federal subsidies down in King v Burwell the GOP will ride to the rescue and keep the money train rollin’. Their excuse is the 2016 election, of course, and the fear of losing voters in the White House run.
There are several reasons why this argument is complete bullshit. 1) No one who is voting in 2016 to preserve Obamacare is going to vote Republican…ever. 2) No one who has been humped by Obamacare (like yours truly) is going to vote for a Democrat president…ever. In the case of Obamacare, it’s a zero-sum game — you will keep the GOP faithful and a lot of angry independents; you will not lose Democrats. They’re already in Honalee with Puff the Magic Dragon and the Amazing Endless Money Tree.
Simply put, the Senate Republicans — just like the Democrats — think of themselves as aristocrats. And like aristocrats, they feel you exist for one reason: to give them money and power. Obamacare is a lot of money coming into the federal coffers for these septuagenarian ticks to spend as they feel. They want the money as badly as the Democrats do, because they are all indebted to the health insurance industry, an industry that was certainly not destroyed or damaged by Affordable Care Act, but given government mandates to make you buy their overpriced product.
Additionally, Mitchy and Moochers showed themselves to be the same abusive turds as Democrats by throwing Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act up for renewal, despite the Judiciary Committee working on reform of this part of the legislation which authorizes the domestic spying programs that have angered pretty much everyone on the planet not connected to intelligence or law enforcement. It’s a move which will anger Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and House, not to mention everyone else tired of the growth of the police state. There are suggestions that McConnell did this to placate the military-intelligence-law enforcement-industrial complex that has grown out of control since 2001 (and especially since 2006…) while knowing that the libertarian-leaning Republicans in the House will kill it, allowing him to shrug it off with the Big Security types with an “I tried…”
Certainly, there is something to this, however, it is symptomatic of a political class that views the people as nothing more than a cash cow to be milked and a bunch of bumpkins they are pissed they have to go hat in hand to every election cycle. They hate and distrust the middle class — you have just enough money and power with the vote to screw things up for these wannabe dukes and duchesses, you expect them to respect you when they know you are beneath them (Why don’t you!?!), and they fear the day you get tired of being fleeced which is why their main “terror” concern is with Americans figuring out that they don’t really need this collection of idiots and criminals. That’s why they fear veterans, people with guns, people that want to stop the spying…you are their enemy, and the only way to distract you from the difference between their interests and yours is to jawjack about Islamic terrorism and Iran — threats, certainly, but nowhere as immediate and dangerous as our elected officials.
What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security.
— Milton Mayer, They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-1945
Raisin farmers in California are required to give up a certain amount of their crop without compensation to the FDR-era Raisin Administrative Committee (yes…we have one).) Farmers Marvin and Laura Horne been locked in legal combat for ten years to retain their property, the case got to the Supreme Court only to get kicked down to the 9th Circuit Court, where they lost. Now it’s headed back to the Supremes (whose sterling record of protecting property rights will no doubt remain a thing of imagination.)
At the heart, does personal property — crops, here — qualify for the same protections under the Fifth Amendment’s “Takings Clause” as real estate? The obvious, correct answer to anyone not part of the political class is YES but the Supremes showed their hand in Kelo v New London. The government is more than willing to steal your property for the benefit of big business interestes (Pfizer in Kelo, large packers like Sun-Maid in California in Horne.)
USDA v Horne goes long past the raisin farmers — it will set a precedence for all personal property. Does the government have the right to steal your stuff? If they do, then what is the point in working to better yourself?
Over the last week, the New York City Police Department thought they really had their community by the balls. All those ingrates bitching about police violence and intrusion into their lives — boy, they were really gonna see the truth! The NYPD decided to go on a quasi-strike. Oh, they’re still collecting paychecks, but the arrest rate dropped 66% overall. And since they’re negotiating their new contracts — weeeeell, now deBlasio and company will have to do their bidding.
The city didn’t descend into chaos. By not going after “broken windows” offense like public drinking, vagrancy, and vandalism, not only has New York not fallen to pieces, but the lives of many of its poorer residents has improved (many of whom sit in jail because they can’t afford to pay harassment fines or court costs.) Tensions between the citizens and police have stabilized because they aren’t being busted, or frisked, for no reason at all.
This isn’t the first time that de-escalation and a more away from legislating every damned thing people do has worked. In Acapulco, the police went on strike– traffic improved, and violence decreased. The military decided to take it a step further and disarm them. Now they’re begging for their jobs back.
The legalization of marijuana in Colorado has led to a decrease in murder in Denver by fifty percent! This is no surprise to historians familiar with the end of Prohibition in 1934. when you stop making things illegal, by definition you get less crime. When small acts like having a joint don’t lead to SWAT raids, you have happier and safer people…and wasn’t that the point of government? To secure our liberty and happiness?
One German town got rid of traffic lights and regulations. Traffic didn’t just improve — it got faster and safer. Even in terms of driving, market solutions — where people create the rules ad hoc and obey them because it’s more effective — work. Imagine how much freer and better life would be if you weren’t (unwittingly) breaking an average of three laws a day. Imagine what might happen if places allowed competition with the police — private security could do the same work as the police, but would be open to civil and criminal prosecutions for malfeasance…and without the power of the state and unions to protect bad apples, the people could be more assured these entities would do their jobs, or lose their contracts.
But the law isn’t written to protect you, but to monetize you for the state. The police, they are not really there to protect you or your property, as a recent court case in Chicago infamously found…they are there to intimidate and shake you down for money for the local governments.
Here is the judge — one of the better legal minds of our times — hawking his new book Suicide Pact: The Radical Expansion of Presidential Powers and the Lethal Threat to American Liberty
Even since the ham-handed response in Ferguson by the local police department and St. Louis County Sheriff’s Department, there’s been a sudden interest in the militarization of the police throughout the country. The subject had already grabbed the interest of libertarians and some progressives with the response to the Boston Marathon bombing, and conservatives noticed with the Bundy Ranch incident, but the racial aspect of Ferguson got it into the mainstream news.
Almost as quickly there has been a steady pushback by supporters of the law enforcement/military/intelligence-industrial complex. We heard how Michael Brown had robbed store, had injured the police officer — see!?! Obviously a line of riot-geared cops with armored vehicles was the proper response to a protest against police violence! Suddenly the timeline is changed — there weren’t riot cops until the rioting started (wrong.) It was just a response to people breaking the law!
The latest of these screeds comes from Andrew Malcolm in Investors’ Business Daily. His Militarizing the Local Police is a Good Thing is as well considered as the title suggests. The gist of his argument: most of the material is night vision goggles and assault rifles…so what?
It’s a great idea to have state and local police departments armed way beyond the firepower of any conceivable opponent. Remember the North Hollywood bank hold-up some years back that turned into a 45-minute shootout because both robbers were better armed and protected than cops hiding behind patrol cars?
See? That single incident proves that police need tanks and air strikes! How did that end, by the way? Oh, that’s right — the suspects died.
This argument that having police armed “beyond the ability of any conceivable opponent” includes a very obvious opponent: people being oppressed by a government that is abusing its authority. Like shutting down legitimate businesses by browbeat banks. Or refusing to honor laws that have been passed. Or using the organs of state to spy on its people. Or using unrestrained violence against people on the flimsiest of excuses. (Just google Radley Balko and there should be a nice list of these incidents…)
Statists don’t like it when the people expect the government to follow the same rules as the rest of us, or have the ability to say “no” to whatever scheme the powers-that-be have in the offing, or wish to make a living without being shaken down by the parasites in the regulatory bureaucracy.
Let’s watch Malcolm trot out the same tired reasoning for militarized police:
We’re in a new era now. The first 9/11 when jumbo jets became weapons should have taught us to think outside the box when imagining attacks on the homeland. Dirty bombs, Ebola. Sarin. Breast bombs. Gone is the age of a whistling Officer O’Riley walking his beat, checking that shop doors are locked.
Actually, community policing by police who are on foot, know the people on their beat, and look like the people in the neighborhood is an excellent idea. Violent encounters with the police are much less likely to happen when the cop is a person not some impersonal, armor-clad machine of the state.
As to the terrorism is imminent bullshit the statists have been slinging since 2001. The major terrorist incidents — the Fort Hood shooting, the DC sniper, Botson marathon bombers, the blunderwear bomber, the numerous incidents of Muslim honor killings — have all been caught or killed without the aid of military equipment. How was the Boston bomber caught? — oh, shot by normally armed police officers, not the SWAT team special forces-wannabes. The blunderwear bomber was beaten up by passengers. The Fort Hood shooter was arrested after being shot not by MPs, but by a local police officer armed with a pistol. No assault rifle. No grenade launcher. No MRAPs or APCs. DC Sniper? State troopers. Not SWAT.
Here’s a link to an interactive map showing what the 1033 Program has shoveled into your local area from The New York Times. So what exactly are the alleged benefits of militarized police? What is the application for this equipment? Generally, warrant service and drug raids, where the majority of injuries are not caused by the suspects, but by trigger happy police officers.
Here’s a little infographic:
The militarization of police is demonstrably not to protect us from terrorism, but to protect police officers from the public. What’s wrong with that, you might ask? When the police are trained to think of their service as “war” and the public as “the enemy” it’s very easy to lose sight of the primary mission of protection of the public and their property, and service — instead, the public are something to be feared and hated, and controlled. Here’s the much cited Sunil Dutta — a professor of “homeland security” at Colorado Tech University showing what the attitude of a militarized policeman looks like:
Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?
He has a point: most stops are routine and over quickly. To be fair, most police interact with folks when they are having a pretty bad day (or the stop is causing a bad day…) — reaction to police encounters is sometimes inappropriate to why the person was stopped. But this “How dare you not meekly submit?” attitude is just as inappropriate. Having a monopoly on the legitimacy of force thanks to a badge and a gun does not always make right.
Worse, however, is this…
But if you believe (or know) that the cop stopping you is violating your rights or is acting like a bully, I guarantee that the situation will not become easier if you show your anger and resentment… Save your anger for later, and channel it appropriately. Do what the officer tells you to and it will end safely for both of you. We have a justice system in which you are presumed innocent; if a cop can do his or her job unmolested, that system can run its course. Later, you can ask for a supervisor, lodge a complaint or contact civil rights organizations if you believe your rights were violated. Feel free to sue the police! Just don’t challenge a cop during a stop.
So, suck it up, little people! So what if the police abused you? that supervisor’s going to do what? Oh, that’s right — side with his officer. How about that civilian oversight board? Unlikely you’ll see more than a down twinkle from them. You can sue them, right? Of course, the police have special protections thanks to their union-negotiated contracts that make it damned near impossible to fire a problem police officer. Maybe you get lucky and get a settlement — the officer doesn’t pay; the taxpayers pay.
The officers learn that they are beyond punishment. They feel entitled to abuse their authority. And that can’t go wrong, can it?
August 9, 2014 saw the killing of a “black youth” Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson. As is so often the case in these fatal police encounters, the policeman was white and the “offender” black. Since the killing, the Ferguson Police and the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office then seemed to make exceptional efforts to make themselves look as bad as possible (see the John Oliver video below…it’s spot on): the officer was given 72 hours to make a statement on the incident (this is due to very real psychological results of exposure to violence, which can alter a person’s perception of the event), followed by a bumbling press conference about how Brown was shot many more times than a couple, but not that much more; to the heavy handed response to the protests by Ferguson residents that included attacks on the press (well, al-Jezeera…), and finally the petulant refusal after taking well-deserved heat from the national press to even respond to looting and other violence. The Missouri governor, Nixon, then decided to double down on the stupid with a press conference to chastise the people of Ferguson for being angry and rolled out the National Guard.
Which had exactly zero effect on the violence and criminality now loose in the poor to middle class suburb of St. Louis. Why? asked The Washington Post‘s Emily Badger. Her thinking is actually pretty accurate: the National Guard were once an escalation of force, as they were during the Vietnam and Race riots of the 1960s and 1970s, but today, they wear the same uniforms and have the same weaponry as the police themselves. They aren’t an escalation; they’re just more cops to the rioters. Ed Morrissey — ordinarily a good analyst and reporter — pooh-poohs this notion, citing the heightened authority of the National Guard as the greater deterrent. He is, in this case, wrong. The poor of the city, those who feel (rightly or wrongly) oppressed by a status quo that allows the police to act as they will with little risk of censure, and the professional agitators brought in from Chicago and other Progressive cities do not see a difference. It’s “the Man”, as they would say in the 1960s (or the Golden Age of Protest, as some baby boomer idiots would like to remember it.)
Michael Tomasky over at the less-than-laudable The Daily Beast threw his hand in with the usual baby boomer progressive response to anything that looks white-on-brown: It’s a Race War! It’s a suburban on urban war! It’s…well, you get the idea. Kevin Williamson over at National Review took the opportunity to point out that Ferguson and St. Louis, like most towns with these kinds of problems, are symptomatic of the Progressive governance of the past half century. He’s got a few good points, but they don’t explain why Ferguson is so emblematic of this time, and why it’s causing the stir it is across the nation.
A white cop shot a 6’5″ behemoth of a black “teen.” He claims he was rushed by this unarmed teen who had allegedly stolen cigars a few minutes earlier, and was in fear for his life. This is the new narrative of the police apologists, and it may even be true. I’ve known quite a few men this size (and one woman) — if they were rushing me, intent on doing me bodily harm, I’d probably shoot them, as well. The idea that this teen was not a threat because they were “a kid” is also laughable to anyone who has ever been outside the civilized world — teenagers are the lion’s share of soldiers in Africa, with the jihadis, and historically in Europe. A sizable portion of those US troops in Afghanistan? Teens. Teenagers are more dangerous than adults because they often haven’t internalized social norms nor the idea of mortality. But neither of these is the point. Painful as it might be to hear for the pro-Wilson and pro-Brown sides — this is not an unusual case. It’s the response that made this a greater story.
It’s not even about white on black violence, although certainly the racial component makes it easier to cast this in a comfortable racial narrative. In Albuquerque, a homeless man James Boyd was shot in even more egregious circumstances by heavily armed police. He was white. The resulting protests spiraled into a riot, although it did not escalate to the levels of Ferguson (and I would suggest this is where the racial aspect is important in Ferguson — it allows the rioters to claim legitimacy for their actions.) The Boston Marathon bombing saw police going house to house in armor, aiming weapons at people without regard for public safety (or FourthAmendment protections.) The Bundy Ranch fiasco wasn’t about an old white guy illegally grazing his cattle on BLM land. All these have one thing in common… The police lied about their motives, and aggressively used military hardware to try and intimidate people.
’cause nothing says “We hear and understand your concerns about police violence” like a line of police dressed as soldiers, armed to the teeth, and backed by armored personnel carriers. This is about the burgeoning police state, as John Oliver humorously but accurately lampoons:
Lest you think that criticizing the police is appropriate, however, Rich Lowry over at National Review would like to tell us how wrong we are:
When Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown, the officer was presumably wearing a typical police uniform and driving a typical police car. He either acted in entirely justifiable self-defense, made a catastrophic misjudgment after an altercation, or (in the extreme version of the protestors) shot Brown because he wanted to execute a black teenager. None of these possibilities have anything to do with the militarization of police one way or the other.
Except…the likelihood the situation would have escalated to the status of full-blown rioting might have been much less without the presence of heavily armed, armored men. Lowry addresses this, as well:
What Ferguson needs is the restoration of basic order, and the absence of it has never been the fault of the police, but of a small, lawless fringe of protestors bent on mayhem.
I am in full agreement. As with any instance of rioting, be it the Watts Riots, the Rodney King riots, Ferguson, or any number of anti-war demonstrations turned violence during Vietnam War — things normally jump the line between protest and violence quickly and due to the presence of a small number of malcontents. However, mob mentality only goes so far. Wide-spread rioting grows when the rioters feel entitled to do so. Now why might they (or the rioters in Albuquerque for Boyd, or Los Angeles for King, or the “patriots” at the Bundy Ranch feel that?
Let’s start with the police response to not just these incidents, but to the multitude of violent police encounters involving warrant service, drug searches, suspect canvassing, or other low-impact offenses. We have seen an increasing use of military-style tactics and force on even small offenses from small municipal forces to federal agencies like the EPA or FDA. Even when someone is not shot, they are often put in danger by police who are using “violence of action” to achieve surprise and initiative. This is made more dangerous by the changes in training since 9/11.
1) Police are now trained to view their own safety as paramount, despite the violence directed at police being at a historic low. This focus on the officer “going home after his tour” heightens the likelihood and perceived legitimacy of use of force. This is especially on display with officers armed with “less than lethal” weapons like the taser, perhaps because the notion that the violence is not lethal — like 20,000 volts or a bean bag moving at 700fps — is somehow cuddly.
2) Their training exaggerates the threat of terrorism and drug violence, as well — but that is to be expected: both of these federal efforts (or “wars”, as they term them) are exceedingly profitable for local and state and federal law enforcement. Annually, $62 billion alone is spent on the futile “drug war”, and counterterrorism money and equipment through the DoD 1033 Program adds to that. That’s without addressing the additional profits made using asset forfeiture laws.
3) Police were not given special legal protections when they abuse their authority, from being able to lie to a suspect about their investigations, to no knock-warrants, to surveillance overreach. When they transgress the law, they are given special protections thanks to police union contracts that give them more leeway for making statements, that make it difficult to fire problem officers, and support from the various officials that allow them to skew public opinion to protect miscreants in the system.
The issue of police militarization, however, is itself symptomatic of a more insidious problem. Progressives like Tomasky — with his suburb vs. urban tropes — are already trotting out the specter of class war, but their understanding is hampered by a fondness for materialist nonsense. The United States has always been a radically different case from Europe, where the ideas of Marx developed and then were taught to all those late 19th Century progressive thinkers. Ask any American what “class” they are and you will get the same response from most working class to the wealthy like Ann Romney: We are middle class. Our “classes” are not based on money, as much as the means by which it is acquired. One group works, the other — let’s call them the political class — use the monopoly of the legitimacy of force to take from that first group.
The militarization of police is a symptom of the increasing desperation of the would-be aristocracy, who see the general populace as a threat to them, as much as they are the host from which they feed. These oligarchs have their pet sycophants, like Lowry, who will always find a way to excuse the excesses of the police, for those police are there not to protect the people, but to defend this political class from their prey.
Law tends more and more to be grounded upon the maxim that every citizen is, by nature, a traitor, a libertine, and a scoundrel. In order to dissuade him from his evil-doing the police power is extended until it surpasses anything ever heard of in Oriental monarchies of antiquity.
HL Mencken, Notes on Democracy