September 2015 Archives

Syrian Refugee Calamity A Nutshell


The Worst Is Yet To Come


The Blackmail Caucus, a.k.a. the Republican Party

Paul Krugman

John Boehner was a terrible, very bad, no good speaker of the House. Under his leadership, Republicans pursued an unprecedented strategy of scorched-earth obstructionism, which did immense damage to the economy and undermined America's credibility around the world.

Still, things could have been worse. And under his successor they almost surely will be worse. Bad as Mr. Boehner was, he was just a symptom of the underlying malady, the madness that has consumed his party.

For me, Mr. Boehner's defining moment remains what he said and did as House minority leader in early 2009, when a newly inaugurated President Obama was trying to cope with the disastrous recession that began under his predecessor.

There was and is a strong consensus among economists that a temporary period of deficit spending can help mitigate an economic slump. In 2008 a stimulus plan passed Congress with bipartisan support, and the case for a further stimulus in 2009 was overwhelming. But with a Democrat in the White House, Mr. Boehner demanded that policy go in the opposite direction, declaring that "American families are tightening their belts. But they don't see government tightening its belt." And he called for government to "go on a diet."

This was know-nothing economics, and incredibly irresponsible at a time of crisis; not long ago it would have been hard to imagine a major political figure making such a statement. Did Mr. Boehner actually believe what he was saying? Was he just against anything Mr. Obama was for? Or was he engaged in deliberate sabotage, trying to block measures that would help the economy because a bad economy would be good for Republican electoral prospects?

We'll probably never know for sure, but those remarks set the tone for everything that followed. The Boehner era has been one in which Republicans have accepted no responsibility for helping to govern the country, in which they have opposed anything and everything the president proposes.

What's more, it has been an era of budget blackmail, in which threats that Republicans will shut down the government or push it into default unless they get their way have become standard operating procedure.

All in all, Republicans during the Boehner era fully justified the characterization offered by the political analysts Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, in their book "It's Even Worse Than You Think." Yes, the G.O.P. has become an "insurgent outlier" that is "ideologically extreme" and "unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science." And Mr. Boehner did nothing to fight these tendencies. On the contrary, he catered to and fed the extremism.

So why is he out? Basically because the obstructionism failed.

Republicans did manage to put a severe crimp on federal spending, which has grown much more slowly under Mr. Obama than it did under George W. Bush, or for that matter Ronald Reagan. The weakness of spending has, in turn, been a major headwind delaying recovery, probably the single biggest reason it has taken so long to bounce back from the 2007-2009 recession.

But the economy nonetheless did well enough for Mr. Obama to win re-election with a solid majority in 2012, and his victory ensured that his signature policy initiative, health-care reform -- enacted before Republicans took control of the House -- went into effect on schedule, despite the dozens of votes Mr. Boehner held calling for its repeal. Furthermore, Obamacare is working: the number of uninsured Americans has dropped sharply even as health-care costs seem to have come under control.

In other words, despite all Mr. Boehner's efforts to bring him down, Mr. Obama is looking more and more like a highly successful president. For the base, which has never considered Mr. Obama legitimate -- polling suggests that many Republicans believe that he wasn't even born here -- this is a nightmare. And all too many ambitious Republican politicians are willing to tell the base that it's Mr. Boehner's fault, that he just didn't try blackmail hard enough.

This is nonsense, of course. In fact, the controversy over Planned Parenthood that probably triggered the Boehner exit -- shut down the government in response to obviously doctored videos? -- might have been custom-designed to illustrate just how crazy the G.O.P.'s extremists have become, how unrealistic they are about what confrontational politics can accomplish.

But Republican leaders who have encouraged the base to believe all kinds of untrue things are in no position to start preaching political rationality.

Mr. Boehner is quitting because he found himself caught between the limits of the politically possible and a base that lives in its own reality. But don't cry for (or with) Mr. Boehner; cry for America, which must find a way to live with a G.O.P. gone mad.

Terminal Beauty


Blood Moon


Supermoon Total Lunar Eclipse Tonight


Skywatchers will have something to howl about on Sunday: a total Supermoon eclipse. Not only is this the best and last opportunity of the year for Americans to witness any kind of eclipse, but this particular phenomenon is extremely rare, happening perhaps five times a century. The last Supermoon eclipse was in 1982, and there won't be another until 2033.

Beginning at 8:11 p.m. Eastern (5:11 p.m. Pacific), the moon -- currently full and at the closest point in its orbit, making it an extra-large, extra-bright "supermoon" -- will enter the shadow of the Earth, darkening it until only light refracted around the planet falls on its surface. The redness of this light gives the moon a rusty color, resulting in the nickname of this type of eclipse: a "blood moon."

Weather permitting, everyone in the Lower 48 states should be able to view the eclipse -- in fact, it may be hard not to notice the blood-red moon hanging in the sky for the better part of the night. All of South America likewise has the opportunity, along with almost all of Africa and Europe.

It being fall, however, clouds could be a problem. If it looks like the moon will be obscured in your area (or you happen to be on the wrong half of the planet to see it), a number of observatories will be streaming live video of the eclipse, along with expert commentary. Slooh Community Observatory always puts on a good show, and NASA will be doing a broadcast as well.

Seed Bank Withdrawl


First Withdrawal from Svalbard Global Seed Vault


The ongoing civil war in Syria has led to the first-ever withdrawal from the Svalbard "doomsday" Global Seed Vault, a giant storage unit for plant seeds that's tucked into the side of a frigid mountain in Norway.

Established in 2008, the seed vault serves as a safe haven for the world's vast variety of edible plant seeds. In the event of a nuclear war or catastrophic natural disaster, the vault keeps "backup" seeds frozen and safe until they can be reclaimed.

p> So far, seeds have only gone into the vault for storage, not come out. But this week, researchers in the Middle East asked to withdraw seeds that they had previously deposited into the seed bank, according to the Global Crop Diversity Trust, the international organization that manages the doomsday vault in cooperation with the Norwegian government. The withdrawn seeds were needed to replace plant material stored in a gene bank (a facility that stores genetic material) near the war-torn city of Aleppo in Syria. [7 Perfect Survival Foods]

The Svalbard seed bank has exactly 865,871 samples from every country in the world, Asdal said.

"In fact, we have seeds from more countries than now exist," he explained, since some of the older seeds are from now-defunct nations such as Czechoslovakia.

Syria's civil war has killed a quarter of a million people since 2011, according to United Nations estimates, and driven 11 million more from their homes.

The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) said it has made a request to take back some of its samples from the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The vault was created by the Norwegian government in 2008 to protect vital crops such as wheat against global disasters, war or disease.

It will be the first time seeds have been withdrawn from the facility, which lies more than 800 miles inside Arctic Circle -- midway between Norway and the North Pole -- and is the largest vault of its kind in the world. Built into the mountainside on the Svalbard archipelago, it relies on permafrost and thick rock to ensure that the seed samples will remain frozen even without power.

"We hoped that we would never get such a request," said Asmund Asdal, who runs the vault on behalf of the Nordic Genetic Resources Center. "Ideally, all the world's seed gene banks would function normally but of course we are prepared for this.

"We are of course very sad and frustrated at the situation in Aleppo but at the same time it shows that having a backup facility is important and it works."

ICARDA has requested approximately 16,500 of its seed samples -- one seventh of the total it has stored in Svalbard -- and hopes to reproduce them at its other facilities in Morocco and the American University in Beirut, Lebanon. Eventually it will send new samples back to Norway.

"These seeds are very valuable to the world," ICARDA's Director-General Mahmoud Solh told NBC News. "It is an important source for breeding programs, particularly for crops that have drought immunity or are resistant to the hotter temperatures we are getting because of global warming."

He said some scientists were still present at the Aleppo facility but that its one-time headquarters had been occupied by armed groups.

"Fortunately it is not ISIS, they are some fundamentalist groups," he said. "They seem to co-exist. They are using the land for their own benefit, for example to grow legumes, but we have no control of it.

"It is a very difficult situation," he added. "I can't tell you what will happen tomorrow, God only knows."

Is to take out the Shia faction altogether.

Why Sunnis and Shiites are fighting, explained in two minutes

By Max Fisher (The Washington Post)

Here, to illustrate the Sunni-Shiite divide, is a map showing the religious groupings in the region.

As you can see, Sunni and Shiite are spread out enough that they have to coexist within their respective countries, typically with one group in a majority and the other a minority. But they're also clustered enough that groups of Sunni and Shiite can develop local power bases that can compete with formal government authority. It's not ideal.

The battle between Islam's two major branches began centuries ago, but it's still affecting Iraq's path to a stable democracy now. The Post's senior national security correspondent Karen DeYoung explains. (Davin Coburn/The Washington Post)

The divide between the Sunni and Shiite branches of Islam is both ancient and still highly consequential today. In Syria, a Sunni-majority country dominated by members of a Shiite sect, fighting that began as anti-government has taken on sectarian overtones. That has spilled over to Iraq, which is Shiite-majority and has a predominantly Shiite government but is increasingly troubled by Sunni rebels. And the region's major powers have long pushed sectarian interests, with Shiite-majority Iran on one side and Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia on the other.

In this two-minute video, reporter Karen DeYoung and The Washington Post's video team give a very brief history of the Sunni-Shiite divide and what it means for Iraq's escalating violence today. It's important to note that this religious division is one of many factors driving the conflicts in the Middle East. Although theological differences are not in themselves enough to explain the fighting, it's important to understand the very basics to grasp what's happening in the region.

Finally a Way to Defeat the Babies



Volkswagen's appalling clean diesel scandal, explained

Brad Plumer

It sounds like the sinister plot of some straight-to-DVD movie. Since 2009, Volkswagen had been installing elaborate software in 482,000 "clean diesel" vehicles sold in the US, so that the cars' pollution controls only worked when being tested for emissions. The rest of the time, the vehicles could freely spew hazardous, smog-forming compounds.

Suffice to say, regulators were livid once they caught on. Last Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that Volkswagen had very flagrantly violated the Clean Air Act. Not only did the EPA order the German firm to fix the affected vehicles -- which include diesel TDI versions of the Golf, Jetta, Beetle, and Passat -- but the agency could end up levying fines as high as $18 billion. The Department of Justice is also contemplating criminal charges.

The scandal has only widened from there. On Tuesday, Volkswagen admitted that some 11 million clean diesel cars sold worldwide contain software to fool regulators, with the vast majority of cars likely to be in Europe.

Volkswagen, in other words, is in deep shit. The CEO, Martin Winterkorn, announced his resignation on Wednesday. The company has halted US sales of its 2015 and 2016 clean diesel vehicles and now has to fix millions of existing cars. It has already set aside $7.3 billion to deal with the problem. Meanwhile, VW's stock price has been plummeting, with the company losing one-third of its market cap in the last week:

John Vibes

(ANTIMEDIA) To comply with the 2005 Real ID Act, which the U.S. government has been slowly implementing for the past decade, citizens in a number of different U.S. states will now be forced to obtain a passport if they want to board an airplane -- even for domestic flights.

The Department of Homeland Security and representatives with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection have declined to comment on why certain states have been singled out, but starting in 2016, residents of New York, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and American Samoa will need a passport to fly domestically. All other states will still be able to use their state-issued driver's licenses and IDs -- for now, at least.

According to the Department of Homeland Security's guidelines on enforcement of the Real ID Act,

"The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on December 20, 2013 a phased enforcement plan for the REAL ID Act (the Act), as passed by Congress, that will implement the Act in a measured, fair, and responsible way.

Secure driver's licenses and identification documents are a vital component of our national security framework. The REAL ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005, enacted the 9/11 Commission's recommendation that the Federal Government 'set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver's licenses.' The Act established minimum security standards for license issuance and production and prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for certain purposes driver's licenses and identification cards from states not meeting the Act's minimum standards. The purposes covered by the Act are: accessing Federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and, no sooner than 2016, boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft.

States and other jurisdictions have made significant progress in enhancing the security of their licenses over the last number of years. As a result, approximately 70-80% of all U.S. drivers hold licenses from jurisdictions: (1) determined to meet the Act's standards; or (2) that have received extensions. Individuals holding driver's licenses or identification cards from these jurisdiction may continue to use them as before.

Individuals holding licenses from non-compliant jurisdictions will need to follow alternative access control procedures for purposes covered by the Act. As described below, enforcement for boarding aircraft will occur no sooner than 2016."

According to the fine print, not all 50 states have driver's licenses that meet the Real ID requirements, which could possibly explain why the aforementioned regions will not qualify in 2016. However, there is no specific mention of what the requirements actually are.

The Real ID act has been controversial since its initial proposal over ten years ago and is seen by many as a massive violation of privacy. One of the primary reasons it has taken the government so long to roll this program out is that the program is wildly unpopular and creates heavy backlash every time it appears in the news.

The tightening of the Real ID restrictions are seemingly intended to push people towards attaining the newly issued "enhanced ID," which adds more unnecessary paperwork and bureaucracy to the already tedious process involved in identification applications.

Happiness by State


2015's Most and Least Happy States in America

Source: WalletHub

The Problem as Resource


As a global community, we all want to end poverty. Mia Birdsong suggests a great place to start: Let's honor the skills, drive and initiative that poor people bring to the struggle every day. She asks us to look again at people in poverty: They may be broke -- but they're not broken.

Fear Itself


Children of the Terminally Stupid


There are segments of the American population that should be shot like diseased dogs and left to rot in the street.

The Stupidty of High Tech



Remembering Mitch Synder


Brilliant advocate for the homeless speaking on government and housing in 1989. Snyder met an untimely death. Once again, as with all activists who are brilliant and articulate and shame leaders in government, he was found dead, and it was listed as a suicide. He worked in Washington DC. He angered many. He spoke the truth. Nothing written about him online can touch the good he did or tried to do.

Simple Profound Fact


assata shakurl.jpg

Re: KIm Davis



No, this is what the world looks like when you coddle religious extremists for decades, calling them instead "conservatives," which legitimized them and never calling them out. It's cowardice and malpractice on the part of our national media and judicial institutions.

"The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." - Plato

Lamar Alright




American Art



The Real Enemy Is Within


Chris Hedges

If you are not dedicated to the destruction of empire and the dismantling of American militarism, then you cannot count yourself as a member of the left. It is not a side issue. It is the issue. It is why I refuse to give a pass in this presidential election campaign to Bernie Sanders, who refuses to confront the war industry or the crimes of empire, including U.S. support for the slow genocide carried out by Israel against the Palestinians. There will be no genuine democratic, social, economic or political reform until we destroy our permanent war machine.

Militarists and war profiteers are our greatest enemy. They use fear, bolstered by racism, as a tool in their efforts to abolish civil liberties, crush dissent and ultimately extinguish democracy. To produce weapons and finance military expansion, they ruin the domestic economy by diverting resources, scientific and technical expertise and a disproportionate share of government funds. They use the military to carry out futile, decades-long wars to enrich corporations such as Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman. War is a business. And when the generals retire, guess where they go to work? Profits swell. War never stops. Whole sections of the earth live in terror. And our nation is disemboweled and left to live under what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin calls "inverted totalitarianism." Libertarians seem to get this. It is time the left woke up.

"Bourgeois society faces a dilemma," socialist Rosa Luxemburg writes, "either a transition to Socialism, or a return to barbarism ... we face the choice: either the victory of imperialism and the decline of all culture, as in ancient Rome--annihilation, devastation, degeneration, a yawning graveyard; or the victory of Socialism--the victory of the international working class consciously assaulting imperialism and its method: war. This is the dilemma of world history, either-or; the die will be cast by the class-conscious proletariat."

The U.S. military and its array of civilian contractors operate as enforcers and hired killers across the globe for corporations, many of which pay no taxes. Young men and women, many unable to find work, are the cannon fodder. The U.S. military has served as the handmaiden of capitalism since it committed genocide against Native Americans, carried out on behalf of land speculators, mineral companies, timber merchants and the railroads. The military replicated this indiscriminate slaughter at the end of the 19th century in our imperial expansion in Cuba and elsewhere in the Caribbean, in Central America and especially in the Philippines. Military muscle exists to permit global corporations to expand markets and plunder oil, minerals and other natural resources while keeping subjugated populations impoverished by corrupt and brutal puppet regimes. The masters of war are the scum of the earth.

It was the war profiteers and the military, as Seymour Melman has pointed out, that conspired after World War II to keep the country in a state of total war, deforming the economy to continue to produce massive amounts of weapons and armaments in peacetime. The permanent war economy is sustained through fearmongering--about communists during the Cold War and about Islamic jihadists today. Such fearmongering is used not only to justify crippling military expenditures but to crush internal dissent. The corporatists and the military, which have successfully carried out what John Ralston Saul calls a "coup d'├ętat in slow motion," have used their political and economic clout to dismantle programs and policies put in place under the New Deal. Brian Waddell writes of this process:

The requirements of total war ... revived corporate political leverage, allowing corporate executives inside and outside the state extensive influence over wartime mobilization policies. ... Assertive corporate executives and military officials formed a very effective wartime alliance that not only blocked any augmentation of the New Dealer authority but also organized a powerful alternative to the New Deal. International activism displaced and supplanted New Deal domestic activism. Thus was the stage finally set for a vastly extended and much more powerful informal U.S. empire outside its own hemisphere.

The war machine is not, and almost never has been, a force for liberty or democracy. It does not make us safe. It does not make the world safe. And its immense economic and political power internally, including its management of the security and surveillance state and its huge defense contracts, has turned it into the most dangerous institution in America.

Military expenditures bleed the federal budget--officially--of $598.49 billion a year, or 53.71 percent of all spending. This does not, however, include veterans' benefits at $65.32 billion a year or hidden costs in other budgets that see the military and the war profiteers take as much as $1.6 trillion a year out of the pockets of taxpayers.

The working and middle class fund the endless wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and a host of other countries while suffering crippling "austerity" programs, massive debt peonage, collapsing infrastructures, chronic underemployment and unemployment and mounting internal repression.

The war industry, feeding off the carcass of the state, grows fat and powerful with profits. This is not unique. It is how all empires are hollowed out from the inside. As we are impoverished and stripped of our rights, the tools used to maintain control on the outer reaches of empire--drones, militarized police, indiscriminate violence, a loss of civil liberties, and security and surveillance--are used on us.

We have devolved, because of the poison of empire, into a Third World nation with nukes. We are ruled by an omnipotent, corporate oligarchy and their Pretorian Guard. The political class, Republican and Democrat, dances to the tune played by these oligarchs and militarists and mouths the words they want it to say.

Appealing to GOP Paranoia


The Republicans Are Now Officially the Party of White Paranoia

Matt Taibbi (for Rolling Stone)

ABC News published an intriguing poll the other day, one that spelled out a growing racial divide:

"Nonwhites see Trump negatively by a vast 17-79 percent... That said, whites are the majority group - 64 percent of the adult population - and they now divide evenly on Trump, 48-49 percent, favorable-unfavorable. Clinton, by contrast, is far more unpopular than Trump among whites, 34-65 percent. So while racial and ethnic polarization is on the rise in views of Trump, it remains even higher for Clinton."

The Republicans already lost virtually the entire black vote (scoring just 4 percent and 6 percent of black voters the last two elections). Now, by pushing toward the nomination a candidate whose brilliant plan to "make America great again" is to build a giant wall to keep out Mexican rapists, they're headed the same route with Hispanics. That's a steep fall for a party that won 44 percent of the Hispanic vote as recently as 2004.

Trump's supporters are people who are tired of being told they have to be part of some kind of coalition in order to have a political voice. They particularly hate being lectured about alienating minorities, especially by members of their own party.

Just a few weeks ago, for instance, establishment GOP spokesghoul George Will spent a whole column haranguing readers about how Trump was ruining his party's chances for victory. He noted that Mitt Romney might have won in 2012 if he'd pulled even slightly more than 27 percent of the Hispanic vote.

Will blasted Trump's giant wall idea and even ridiculed the candidate's deportation plan by comparing Trump to Hitler:

"The big costs, in decades and dollars (hundreds of billions), of Trump's project could be reduced if, say, the targets were required to sew yellow patches on their clothing to advertise their coming expulsion."

It's not clear how forcing 11 million people to wear yellow patches saves money, but whatever. However it was supposed to be taken, the shock argument didn't work.

A few days later, in a rare episode of National Review-on-National Review crime, blogger Ramesh Ponnuru blasted Will for his hysterics. He argued Romney wouldn't have won even with a 45 percent bump in the Hispanic vote. "He needed more votes, obviously," Ponnuru wrote, "but he didn't need more Hispanic votes in particular."

Ponnuru was echoing an idea already expressed by the conservative commentariat. Hack-among-hacks Byron York said the same thing in the Washington Examiner back in 2013. He argued that even 70 percent of the Hispanic vote wouldn't have helped Romney, whose more serious problem "was that Romney was not able to connect with white voters who were so turned off... that they abandoned the GOP."

Rush Limbaugh bought what York was selling, arguing that Romney didn't lose because he failed to convince Hispanic voters that Republicans "like 'em."

"The difference-maker was, a lot of white voters stayed home," Rush said.
Anyway, the night after Ponnuru ran his brief blog post a week and a half ago, Trump had Univision anchor Jorge Ramos tossed from a press conference in Dubuque, Iowa, sneering at him to "siddown" and "go back to Univision."
Conservative blogs and social media commentators cheered Trump's decision to have "butthurt" Jorge Ramos "deported" from the press conference, thereby turning the whole thing into another brilliant piece of symbolic political theater for the Donald

Whether or not it's true that a Republican candidate can win the White House with a minus-51 percent net unfavorable rating among Hispanic voters (Trump's well-earned current number) is sort of beside the point. The point is that Trump clearly feels he can afford to flip off the Hispanic community and win with a whites-only strategy. And his supporters are loving the idea that he's trying.

The decision by huge masses of Republican voters to defy D.C.-thinkfluencer types like George Will and throw in with a carnival act like Trump is no small thing. For the first time in a generation, Republican voters are taking their destiny into their own hands.

In the elaborate con that is American electoral politics, the Republican voter has long been the easiest mark in the game, the biggest dope in the room. Everyone inside the Beltway knows this. The Republican voters themselves are the only ones who never saw it.
Elections are about a lot of things, but at the highest level, they're about money. The people who sponsor election campaigns, who pay the hundreds of millions of dollars to fund the candidates' charter jets and TV ads and 25-piece marching bands, those people have concrete needs.

They want tax breaks, federal contracts, regulatory relief, cheap financing, free security for shipping lanes, antitrust waivers and dozens of other things.

They mostly don't care about abortion or gay marriage or school vouchers or any of the social issues the rest of us spend our time arguing about. It's about money for them, and as far as that goes, the CEO class has had a brilliantly winning electoral strategy for a generation.
They donate heavily to both parties, essentially hiring two different sets of politicians to market their needs to the population. The Republicans give them everything that they want, while the Democrats only give them mostly everything.

They get everything from the Republicans because you don't have to make a single concession to a Republican voter.

A Cop's View of the Travon Martin Verdict


A Cop's take on the Verdict

by Militant Apathy

The verdict was ridiculous but not surprising. The only way I would describe the way that I feel is nausea. I am just sick that this guy got off and his lawyers are going to shamelessly be doing victory laps on TV for the next several weeks. I also feel so terrible for Trayvon Martin's parents who had to live through that clown show just to see this punk Zimmerman walk. But right now my burning issue is with all of the police officers that defended this idiot from the beginning. Because as a cop of 11 years myself this burns me especially deeply.

First off I'll just say that for me to write this post I have to be brutally honest about a side of the job that most non-police don't even know that much about, the police-adjacent characters that play a pretty significant role in the career of the average police officer. NO not fireman and EMS. I'm talking about the other people that if you work the street you get to know by name because you see them that often. They are the medical examiners, the tow truck drivers, and yes at times the Security Types. Security types come in basically two flavors; bouncer types and security guard types.

Security Guard Types:

If you've gone to the calls and done the job you know dudes like this. You usually meet them pretty early on in your career and you get used to them, they can be clingy at times. As you gain experience you learn what they do well and what they don't. Most of the time the whole precinct knows who they are. They will work security at an apartment complex or a gated community. In my case I worked a pretty rough side of Atlanta so there were no gated communities there, only apartments, and trust me the apartments that had gates were the roughest of all. These security guard types usually know all the neighborhood "stuff". They know (or purport to know) who sells the drugs and who is breaking in houses. They definitely know about the noise complaints and the unruly kids. The teens smoking weed. Most of the time they want you to run some dope-boy off or break up the couple having sex in the parking lot. Or maybe they are in over their head with a thug that they have talked a little to sassy too and they have been told they are going to get beat up or worse. Sometimes they do get beat up and worse. There is a place for people like this. They should be respected for what they do. But they should always respect what role they play and even more than that the limits of their authority.

In my experience this person gets in over their head a lot. There seems to be this struggle between what they perceive as their authority and what they know is their responsibility. As a cop they can make your life easier if they just keep the little stuff tamped down, (i.e. kids running at the pool, loud music complaints). But When you drive up and the security guard hands you a 27 ounce bag of weed that they just "confiscated" from someone in a car that is now unoccupied, the occupant of which has since run into a now locked apartment that Mr security just happens to have the key to, and they are begging you to enter (with no warrant), so that they can "help you apprehend the perp", well I think you get the picture. Every single day police officers have to make decisions like this. All are trained, some better than others. Security officer's choose to make these decisions without the training.

The Bouncer Types:

I can't lie, I've worked off duty at night clubs and been thankful for the security there. I have been in bar fights so massively bad that they looked like a scene from brave heart. When you are alone and the music is loud and everybody is yelling and screaming and running its hard to get backup so the only thing that has saved my ass a few times was the folks in security until the cavalry got there. Some of these folks are top notch, some are ex-pro athletes and martial artists. Some are even models and actors so you get a healthy mix. Many a night standing in the cold waiting on my shift to end I've talked to these guys about their dreams and some I've thought would be some really excellent police officers and I've told them so. I've encouraged them in the process, called friends in the department that were recruiters, even given personal references for them. So I definitely appreciate and respect what they do. At times I've worked with security that were more professional than some of the sworn officers that I worked the streets with. But then of course you've got the real knuckle-dragger's that just love to beat people up and then bring them to you looking like a grapefruit expecting you to look the other way. They are just clowns through and through and most likely sociopaths. Some of them may be doing drugs on the job but if they are real turds they may be the ones selling the drugs in the same club they work in. It's a dirty business. But they probably only make up a small part of the population.

In both groups, a lot of these guys probably work security because they have a desire at some level to be a police officer. I always took that as a compliment not with disdain. Law enforcement is an honorable profession and people do good work. But like any other job you have to have good people to do the good work. I've always believed that it is the combination of intelligence, integrity and courage that makes an average police officer a good officer, but I believe it is empathy that comes with experience that makes a good officer great. It is the same dynamic for security officers. The vast majority of these people are hard working folks that are very good at what they do. They are a true asset to law enforcement as long as they stay in their lane and do what they are supposed to do. I'm no longer a police officer I'm actually a counselor now. We have this term in the mental health field that we use that's called "scope of practice". If you are a mental health counselor, practicing outside of your scope will get your ass in trouble and your license revoked. Practicing outside your scope of practice in law enforcement will get your certification revoked and your ass prosecuted and put in prison. But what happens if you are a security guard and you "work outside of your scope of practice"? Well it looks like you can shoot somebody and walk free.

George Zimmerman:

George fits into a special category that we will just term the perpetual wanna-be. He loves guns, he loves MMA, he watches cops. He fancies himself a criminal investigator in the making. He patrols in his personal vehicle, keeps a police scanner and thinks that he has a direct line into dispatch. The dispatchers on night shift probably do know him by name only because he shows up on caller ID so much. On the night in question he probably sees Trayvon and for some tragic reason made his mind up that this sneaky perp wasn't going to get away from him this time. His GUN makes him do things that he shouldn't do because he is basically a coward. He follows, attacks, then is bested in a ground fight by a 17 year old boy that he outweighed by several pounds that he then decides to shoot at point blank range. Even the fight scene that played out in Zimmermans mind was written like an urban contemporary movie with Trayvon's last words saying "you got me". (really?) As a police officer you are trained to use the necessary force to subdue the threat but if there is no longer a deadly threat, deadly force is no longer necessary or approved. Translation = Had this been a real police officer, his ass would be in deep shit. The local police knew he was a cheese ball. That's why they never hired him. They probably knew him by name.

I think what we have in George Zimmerman is a person who very likely has tried to be a police officer many, many, many times but couldn't for some very good reasons. He has probably tried to apply to police departments and could not pass the entry requirements. Now from the surface you would say this is because of his size. You may surmise that he probably couldn't meet the weight or fitness standard. But I disagree. I would wager that Mr. Zimmerman has probably never gotten past the psyche evaluation. I'm sure laws prohibit the release of applicant information but I would bet that he has applied to at least 2 or more sheriff or police departments in the area and has been declined. You see even in a big city it's a relatively small community. Once you begin applying and fail a polygraph or fail a psych, that follows you. Chances are he's failed a few and has likely been blacklisted. Judging from his demeanor and some of the witness statements he may have some delusions as well. As many voter purges as FL has done it is amazing that this man was able to purchase a weapon after an altercation with police and a DV but I assume that is what having a father in law enforcement will get you. Just from the 30,000 foot view Zimmerman probably never should have been able to purchase a gun. Zimmerman never should have held the job that he did. And Zimmerman never should have been able to get away with murder but he did.

That is what is so infuriating and confusing about this case. Good police officers that I know personally very well, that I have policed with, bled with, have taken sides on this case that are completely contrary to everything they have ever demonstrated in their entire professional lives. People that would be pulling their eye teeth out with pliers if they had to deal with a guy like Zimmerman on their beat are cheering his acquittal. People that supervise officers. If this scenario had played out with one of their subordinates shooting an unarmed teen after pursuing them under these circumstances they would have recommended termination at the least and gone all in on an Internal Affairs Investigation are saying the prosecution never had a case. I am sure that my old department would not have hesitated a moment to prosecute any off duty police officer if they had done the same thing that George Zimmerman did. But for some reason this case triggered some sort of collective fugue state that has clouded every bodies mind. At some point this became a basketball game for them, our team versus their team. Now we've got defense lawyers doing victory laps, cops cheering prosecutors losing a case and 60% of the country feeling like a guilty man is going free.

Field Notes to Life During the Apocalypse

Arun Gupta


When the apocalypse arrived no one knew it could be so seductive. In the Pacific Northwest global warming has meant winter days fit for lounging outside in t-shirts. Wildfires feeding on drought-stricken forests are producing surreal tangerine-orange sunlight. The heat has wreaked havoc on everything from snowpack to marine estuaries, but it is also resulting in a longer growing season and greater crop diversification.

This is not to put smiley faces on the four horseman. Humanity, after taking over the driver's seat of evolution, has crashed it into the brick wall of industrial civilization.

Nonetheless, the apocalyptic world is what we make of it. We are now in a salvage operation where our goals are to recuperate and regenerate the disappearing world.

Blame cannot be spread equally. The culprits, the states, corporations, and institutions, are so few they can be named. For decades they have worked feverishly to block any meaningful transition away from a fossil-fuel economy. In 2015 atmospheric carbon dioxide blew past 400 parts per million, the highest level in the last 23 million years, and greenhouse gas emissions are increasing. The old world, formed over hundreds of millions of years, is ending because of the sixth great extinction, deforestation, collapse of fisheries, pollution, sea-level rise, wildfires, invasive species, and coral-reef die-offs.

The new world is the "anthropocene biosphere." Some scientists say our impact is so profound humans have initiated just the third stage of evolution in 3.8 billion years. This includes mass loss of biodiversity and homogenization of what remains. Carried on the arteries of commerce, "neobiota" like cats, rats, and mussels are so prolific they'll be immortalized in the fossil record. We've broken the "photosynthetic energy barrier" with oil coal and natural gas. We have colonized or modified every ecological niche. We have reset evolution through industrial and monoculture farming, pollution, breeding, genetic technologies, and emerging synthetic biology. We have created a technosphere dependent on and in competition with the biosphere, and which may merge living with machine.

For all this, humans are incapable of ending the world. One biologist notes, "Sterilizing the planet to remove all life would require something like melting the Earth's crust to molten lava and boiling off the oceans and atmosphere." In the previous five mass extinction events in earth history, the biosphere recovered after several million years. That's small comfort here and now, but it has implications for apocalyptic living. Given predictions of earth as a celestial cinder, an increasingly common impulse on the left is to despair, thinking society will erode into a desertscape of warlords, techno-scavengers, and water-worshipping cults before homo sapiens wink out of existence. The right, meanwhile, is gripped by magical denialism. About 40 percent of the U.S. public believes, against all evidence, that the warming is due to natural causes.

End-of-history thinking paralyzes us to act, while denialism serves the interests of business-as-usual rulers. We need another option: embracing our science-fiction future where the experiment that began with the rise of capitalism and the burning of fossil fuels has slipped out of our grasp.

The thought-provoking Donna Haraway spans the real to the imagined in considering the many irreversible losses upon us and the ones to come. She suggests creating "webs of speculative fabulation, speculative feminism, science fiction, and scientific fact" as a way to "to join forces to reconstitute refuges."

This is not a postmodern broadside against grand narratives--there is no bigger story than the end of the world, after all. Haraway calls for mining mythologies, particularly those of regeneration. The first step is to recuperate living systems, not in zoos that are little more than living mausoleums, but in the world itself. Recuperation applies to the human world, too. As capitalist globalization has stripped forests and oceans of life, so has it exterminated cultures, languages, ways of living, politics, economics, and peoples.

Preserving refuges of the wild that can survive the coming tribulations is daunting, especially when there is so little wild left. In the immensely lush region stretching from Northern California to Southwest Canada, at most 5 percent of the original habitat remains. Of that, 80 to 90 percent of the vegetation is composed of non-native species.

As such, whatever we save will be invented. It's a meshing of scientific fact with fiction to transcend the End Times: that of a dead planet, an unalterably capitalist future, a religious judgement day. It is also a rejection of heroic narratives, whether a universal class that will forever resolve all antagonisms or Hollywood's lone man who melds flesh with machine to redeem the world with a single messianic act.

We are the generation that's crossed into the apocalyptic wilderness, and for us there is no exit. Maybe it will end in a nightmare of methane seeping up from seabeds, setting the atmosphere on fire, incinerating billions, followed by a toxic blanket of hydrogen sulfide suffocating the lands, and ending in a scorched ozone-less planetary coffin.

But scientific models of what runaway global warming might look like are speculative. They are mythologies of death, and they can weaken the resolve to mitigate climate change. Similarly, doomsday scenarios turn adaptation into a survival of the richest we see playing out already. The most powerful nations chose to keep using the global atmosphere as a dump, so now they choose walls and armies to keep out the globalized waves of desperate humans they birthed.

Our job, Haraway writes, "is to make the Anthropocene as short/thin as possible and to cultivate with each other in every way imaginable epochs to come that can replenish refuge."

There is no map for the apocalypse, just historical guideposts full of paradoxes. We have been builders now we will be scavengers, patching together novel ecosystems that can rewild the world in the millennia it will take for earth's fever to pass. However much we want to live in harmony in nature, we are doomed to dominate it. Not for profit, but for heritage. Preserving life will occur amid a never-ending funeral for vanishing species and entire biota. Acts of creation will be met by destruction. The corporations and governments that forced us into the wild will not change because of polite protests, social media, or voting.

This logic is evident in the parched Western United States being ravaged by wildfires. This summer, Shell Oil, backed by the White House and protected by all manner of police, forced drilling rigs and supply vessels through waterborne blockades in Seattle and Portland. The vessels are now in the Arctic exploring for oil that once burned will turn up the global thermostat, dry out the land, and spark more wildfires. Yet oil is so plentiful there is no profit-making logic to drilling in and possibly poisoning one of the most pristine, distinct, and fragile ecosystems on the planet.

But Shell is committed to a higher principle: that the only purpose of the natural world is to serve as raw material for accumulation. If humanity does navigate the anthropocene, it will be because we destroyed this logic of death that dominates our current way of life.

A version of this article originally appeared in Telesur.

White Supremacy as a Mechanism


No Refuge: the Specter of White Supremacy Still Haunts Black America

Lawrence Ware

My uncle blamed everything on the white man.

Global warming? It was the white man. Drugs destroying the community? Blame the white man. Football team lost? The white man was at fault.

Uncle John was the kind of ghetto philosopher you'd find dropping knowledge in the barbershop while waiting for a chair to open. He'd probably walked in without an appointment. People would listen half heartedly, passively allowing the words to wash over them. Intermittently the listener would mumble an obligatory "that's deep," meant to acknowledge the passing of time.

He would talk about the way the white man invented AIDS as a way to rid the country of homosexuals. He was convinced that the white man flooded the black community with drugs to undermine the Black Panthers. He thought billiards was a game invented to teach 'red, black, and yellow' people to accept oppression. (The game ends when the WHITE ball knocks the BLACK ball off the GREEN table.) He was convinced he was right.

He wasn't wrong.

While my uncle was incorrect in his assessment that there was a singular white man behind all of these ills, he was right to think that there was something nefarious afoot. He was neither a trained philosopher nor an academic historian, but he had good intuitions. He was unable to name it, but he was talking about white supremacy. bell hooks prefers the term white supremacy over racism because:

...racism in and of itself did not really allow for a discourse of colonization and decolonization, the recognition of the internalized racism within people of color and it was always in a sense keeping things at the level at which whiteness and white people remained at the center of the discussion....In my classroom I might say to students that you know that when we use the term white supremacy it doesn't just evoke white people, it evokes a political world that we can all frame ourselves in relationship to...

White supremacy is not an indictment of any one person, but, rather, it is an indictment of a system that permeates all of life in the West. It is as ubiquitous and invisible as the air we breathe--especially in America. In this country there was a relinquishing of white ethnic identity during the Civil War. Wealthy slave owners needed working class European-Americans to be united in their support of the Confederacy, so whiteness as a homogeneous, ontological racial identity was emphasized. It worked brilliantly. Even today this conceptual frame is so strong that many white working class Americans vote against their political and economic interests in an attempt to combat the encroachment of black and brown people upon what their white privilege tells them they deserve. It is because of this white supremacy and white privilege that I understand why, like Lupe Fiasco, a black person might eschew the notion of patriotism. We know too much.

How can I be patriotic when at the time of this country's founding I would have been considered 3/5ths of a human being? How am I supposed to get teary eyed when someone sings America the Beautiful with lynching on my mind? Black people were enslaved longer than we have been free in this country, and upon our release from that evil institution, many white people did all they could to institute Slavery By Another Name. Patriotic Americans intent on keeping freed slaves full of fear founded the KKK. The American government instituted policies that economically, educationally, and politically disenfranchised black people. Then, after the civil rights movement, different policies that were just as racist, but slightly less overt, were enacted that put us in the position we are today. Now, we have Donald Trump gaining support from white Republicans by spewing racist, misogynistic comments and harkening back to an alleged great time in America's past...I'm just not sure which great past deed he wants to revisit.


Maybe he wants to reinstitute slavery or revisit implementing Jim Crow laws in the south. Perhaps he wants to give new blankets tainted with small pox to Native Americans. It could be that he wants to throw new Japanese Americans in internment camps. I'm looking forward to his policy papers telling us what he has on mind.

If nothing else, this summer has taught black people in America one thing: there is no refuge.

If you thought you were safe by embracing respectability and moving to the political right, Trump and his supporters are reminders of what awaits. Wear the suit. Play the game. Republicans will use your smiling black face to cover up policies that set the clock back on voting rights and fair housing. The police will kill your children, and your political allies will donate money ensuring the killers get out on bond.

If you thought you could find safety from racism by moving to the left, white progressives have shown us what happens if you step out of line. Raise your voice, they say. Speak up for yourself, they declare, but you must do so respectfully. The same progressives that cried crocodile tears while holding #BlackLivesMatter signs have shown their true colors by trying to silence black women they feel have stepped out of line. White progressives that police black political activity are still operating as agents of white supremacy. On the right and on the left--white supremacy is still at work. Black America, you are not safe. Your political allies will not save you.

Uncle John was wrong about a singular white man intent on disenfranchising black people in America. It is not the 'white man' we should be concerned about. White supremacy is the culprit. We must dismantle any system that refuses to see our humanity. It is time to wake up and #StayWoke.

Pictures and 1000's of Words



Pharmco Corruption


Sanders: "End the Great American Drug Heist"


Robert L. Borosage

This week, Sen. Bernie Sanders took on Big PhRMA, the all-powerful prescription drug company lobby, by demanding an end to the Great American Drug Heist.

This isn't because drugs are expensive. This is because we are getting robbed. ... The drug companies have rigged the rules to make out like bandits.
Americans pay the highest prices for prescription drugs in the world - even though taxpayer money supports much of the research that develops the drugs. Drug costs increased nearly 11 percent last year, more than double the rise in overall medical costs. This when prices generally were up less than 1 percent. One in five Americans, Sanders noted, don't fill a prescription because of its cost. Lives are lost because drugs are too expensive.

As Sanders noted, we spent about 40 percent more on prescriptions in 2013 than they did in Canada, the industrial country with the second most expensive drugs. Our costs were nearly five times per person than those in Denmark. When they spend $20, we spend $100 on the same prescription. Think about that.

And if nothing changes, it will get more ridiculous. Medicare projects that drug costs will continue to rise about 10 percent a year for the next decade. Millions more Americans will simply be unable to afford the drugs they need.

This isn't because drugs are expensive. This is because we are getting robbed. And we're getting robbed because our politics is utterly corrupted. The drug companies have rigged the rules to make out like bandits.

As Sanders put it:

Our drug costs are out of control because that's the way the pharmaceutical companies want it. Other countries have national health insurance like the Medicare For All plan I have proposed, and these national plans are able to negotiate better prices. In this country, however, drug lobbyists have been able to block Medicare from negotiating better prices on behalf of the American people.

Yes, he got that right. Congress actually voted to prohibit Medicare from negotiating bulk discounts on prescription drugs. There is no excuse for this except corruption.

When the Bush administration put together the prescription drug bill in 2002, it invited lobbyists into help draft the bill. As Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson detail the story in their book "Off Center," the drug industry contributed nearly $30 million in the 2002 election cycle, three-fourths to Republicans who controlled the White House and the Congress. In 2003, the drug industry spent more than $100 million on federal lobbying. The drug companies established fake grass-roots groups. The conservative direct mail front, United Seniors Association which featured the notorious Republican lobbyist-crook Jack Abramoff on its board, organized a full court press.

It gets worse. The projected costs of the bill were so high that the Bush administration suppressed the true costs. Thomas Scully, the head of Medicare, threatened to fire the Medicare actuary if he released the real numbers. He then left the government to become a lobbyist for the major drug companies. Billy Tauzin, the chair of the House Committee that wrote in the bill and the ban, ushered them through the House and rolled the compromised Senate Democrats in the conference committee. A few months later, he retired to become the head of PhRMA, the drug companies chief lobby, at a cool $2 million a year. You can't make this stuff up.

Democrats railed against this outrage in election after election. But when Barack Obama pushed to pass comprehensive health care reform, he had to figure out how to overcome the big money lobbies of the insurance companies and the drug companies. One of the first deals cut by Rahm Emanuel, then his chief of staff, was to extend the ban on Medicare, thereby buying the silence of Big PhRMA. And insuring that the Great American Drug Heist continues to this day.

Sanders detailed a five-point program for ending the rip-off. Repeal the ridiculous ban on negotiation bulk discounts for seniors. Make it easier for Americans to purchase drugs on-line from Canada where they are cheaper. Crack down on drug company fraud by stripping them of patent protection for any drug fraudulently manufactured or sold. End "pay for delay," the scam where a drug company producing an expensive brand name drug bribes another company to delay protection of a cheaper generic drug. And force transparency from drug companies to expose the reality that taxpayers are paying for most of the R&D that goes into drugs, while the companies' R&D is focused on how to package and market the resulting breakthroughs to pocket maximum profits.

There is no more obscene example of how big money and special interests corrupt our politics to rig the rules against Americans than the Great American Drug Heist. CAF has campaigned against this grotesquerie for years. Sanders is right to expose the scam. It is preposterous that this rip-off has now lasted for over a decade.

Religious zealots


culheath yesterday

In reply to: Larry Robinson-1323081 #40.3

You realize you and your religion limit the creator with your petty notions of God, right. You think you can define something so incredibly complex and infinite with a word? Or by anthropomorphizing?

Or by constraining a 14 billion wide creation to some pathetically small set of moral parameters that suit your ridiculous biases. What sets you religiously obsessive people apart is the sheer enormity of your arrogance and hubris.

Some day you will dissolve and the universe will not notice your passing anymore than it does the dropping of a leaf from the tree.

You Lookin' At Me Boy?!


This Black Driver's Mistake Was Looking a Police Officer in the Eye

cardboard.cop.jpgJohn Felton was driving to his brother's house in Dayton, Ohio, on a recent night when he noticed a police car tailing him. Not wanting to give the officer any excuse to pull him over, Felton, who is black and was visiting Dayton from Michigan, tried to drive extra carefully. But the effort was insufficient: Soon after making a turn, Felton was forced to stop his car and show the officer his driver's license.

It turned out Felton had not switched on his turn signal at the exact right moment; as you can see from the video Felton made of the encounter and sent to talk show host David Pakman, the white officer told him he had failed to signal within 100 feet of making his turn.

But why, Felton wanted to know, had the officer decided to follow him in the first place? That's when the stop went from being an ordinary illustration of racial profiling to an extraordinary one.

"You made direct eye contact with me and held onto it when I was passing you," the officer told Fenton. The implication was that Fenton had marked himself as a suspicious character simply by looking at the officer.

Update, Aug. 28, 5:10 p.m.: The city of Dayton put out a statement about the incident, acknowledging that "making direct eye contact with an officer is not a basis for a traffic stop." The statement implies--but doesn't say outright--that in pulling Felton over for not signaling within 100 feet of a turn, the officer was complying with a Dayton police initiative called "Safe Communities Through Aggressive Traffic Enforcement," aimed at reducing traffic-related fatalities. The statement also says that the police department "is in contact with Mr. Felton," and that he "has agreed to a conversation with the officer, facilitated by the Dayton Mediation Center" that will "allow Mr. Felton and the Officer to discuss the specifics of the incident."

For those who have been following the past year in race relations between police officers and black people, that will sound familiar: Making eye contact with cops was also what set off a chase in Baltimore that ended with Freddie Gray sustaining fatal injuries in the back of a van.

During a eulogy, the Rev. Jamal Bryant to say the following to Gray's mother:

On April 12 at 8:39 in the morning, four officers on bicycles saw your son. And your son, in a subtlety of revolutionary stance, did something black men were trained to know not to do. He looked police in the eye. And when he looked the police in the eye, they knew that there was a threat, because they're used to black men with their head bowed down low, with their spirit broken. He was a threat simply because he was man enough to look somebody in authority in the eye. I want to tell this grieving mother ... you are not burying a boy, you are burying a grown man. He knew that one of the principles of being a man is looking somebody in the eye.

John Felton made it out of his encounter with the Dayton police officer with only a citation. As you can see from watching his video, he knew it could have been worse.

Update, Aug. 28, 5:10 p.m.: The city of Dayton put out a statement about the incident, acknowledging that "making direct eye contact with an officer is not a basis for a traffic stop." The statement implies--but doesn't say outright--that in pulling Felton over for not signaling within 100 feet of a turn, the officer was complying with a Dayton police initiative called "Safe Communities Through Aggressive Traffic Enforcement," aimed at reducing traffic-related fatalities. The statement also says that the police department "is in contact with Mr. Felton," and that he "has agreed to a conversation with the officer, facilitated by the Dayton Mediation Center" that will "allow Mr. Felton and the Officer to discuss the specifics of the incident."

For those who have been following the past year in race relations between police officers and black people, that will sound familiar: Making eye contact with cops was also what set off a chase in Baltimore that ended with Freddie Gray sustaining fatal injuries in the back of a van.

During a eulogy, the Rev. Jamal Bryant to say the following to Gray's mother:

On April 12 at 8:39 in the morning, four officers on bicycles saw your son. And your son, in a subtlety of revolutionary stance, did something black men were trained to know not to do. He looked police in the eye. And when he looked the police in the eye, they knew that there was a threat, because they're used to black men with their head bowed down low, with their spirit broken. He was a threat simply because he was man enough to look somebody in authority in the eye. I want to tell this grieving mother ... you are not burying a boy, you are burying a grown man. He knew that one of the principles of being a man is looking somebody in the eye.

John Felton made it out of his encounter with the Dayton police officer with only a citation. As you can see from watching his video, he knew it could have been worse.

Rise of the Taser Drones


First State Legalizes Taser Drones for Cops, Thanks to a Lobbyist


North Dakota police will be free to fire 'less than lethal' weapons from the air thanks to the influence of Big Drone.

It is now legal for law enforcement in North Dakota to fly drones armed with everything from Tasers to tear gas thanks to a last-minute push by a pro-police lobbyist.

With all the concern over the militarization of police in the past year, no one noticed that the state became the first in the union to allow police to equip drones with "less than lethal" weapons. House Bill 1328 wasn't drafted that way, but then a lobbyist representing law enforcement--tight with a booming drone industry--got his hands on it.

The bill's stated intent was to require police to obtain a search warrant from a judge in order to use a drone to search for criminal evidence. In fact, the original draft of Representative Rick Becker's bill would have banned all weapons on police drones.

Then Bruce Burkett of the North Dakota Peace Officer's Association was allowed by the state house committee to amend HB 1328 and limit the prohibition only to lethal weapons. "Less than lethal" weapons like rubber bullets, pepper spray, tear gas, sound cannons, and Tasers are therefore permitted on police drones.

Becker, the bill's Republican sponsor, said he had to live with it.

"This is one I'm not in full agreement with. I wish it was any weapon," he said at a hearing in March. "In my opinion there should be a nice, red line: Drones should not be weaponized. Period."

Even "less than lethal" weapons can kill though. At least 39 people have been killed by police Tasers in 2015 so far, according to The Guardian. Bean bags, rubber bullets, and flying tear gas canisters have also maimed, if not killed, in the U.S. and abroad.

Becker said he worried about police firing on criminal suspects remotely, not unlike U.S. Air Force pilots who bomb the so-called Islamic State, widely known as ISIS, from more than 5,000 miles away.

"When you're not on the ground, and you're making decisions, you're sort of separate," Becker said in March. "Depersonalized."

Drones have been in use for decades by the military, but their high prices have prevented police departments from obtaining them until recently. Money's no problem for the the Grand Forks County Sheriff's Department, though: A California manufacturer loaned them two drones.

Grand Forks County Sheriff Bob Rost said his department's drones are only equipped with cameras and he doesn't think he should need a warrant to go snooping.

"It was a bad bill to start with," Rost told The Daily Beast. "We just thought the whole thing was ridiculous."

Rost said he needs to use drones for surveillance in order to obtain a warrant in the first place.

"If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear," Becker remembered opponents like Rost saying.


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