Friday, January 23, 2015

Watching History Repeat

To anybody who studies history, even as a hobby, it should be obvious by now that World War Three will not be fought between the US and Russia. Despite Putin's blustering -- most recently, sending his spy-ship to Havana harbor during the opening meeting between US envoys and Cuba (which earned the ship the nickname of "RS Showoffsky") -- it's clear that the glory days of the USSR are over, Russia is mired in the economic mess which the old regime brought on and can't afford anything like a major war.

No, World War Three will be fought between the Jihadis and everybody else.

Nobody else is so willing to ignore economics, politics, science, or anything else in their passionate bid to conquer the world.  Nobody else is so eager to believe their own propaganda, let alone try to sell it to the rest of the world.  Nobody else since... well, the late 1930s, which they seem determined to repeat.  For more similarities, go up on the Internet and search for Jihadist cartoons, films and TV shows which specifically attack Jews (followed by Christians, Hindus and Buddhists), not just Israel.  You'll find some incredibly offensive stuff, often copied directly from old Nazi examples.  Jihadis have been churning out this stuff since the end of WWII, and continue to, even as they howl outrage and death threats against a handful of cartoonists who pen much milder insults against Muslims, and they see no hypocrisy in it.  Besides fitting neatly any definition of fascism, the Jihadis copy faithfully the progress of the Nazis -- save only that they base their passion on religion instead of race.

Even more sobering is the Jihadis' faithful copying -- updated with modern tools -- the Nazis' strategies and tactics.  There's the infiltration of all available countries with a Third Column of immigrants/settlers who go recruiting among the natives, the artful suborning of native news media into pushing the Big Lie ("The Jews stole our land!"  "The West stole our oil!"), the preparatory -- or premature -- attacks intended to scare governments into submission, and finally the all-out takeovers of small neighboring countries. 

One can even see a parallel to the late '30s in the democratic countries' slow and unwilling awakening to their own danger.  Then, as now, the western press and politicians insisted that the "extremists" were only a small number, really not that dangerous, and everybody must be very-very careful not to insult or offend the "peaceful" majority.  Then, as now, the calculating fascists played on that tendency with claims that they'd been insulted, and the offenders must pay.

The major strategic difference between Nazis then and Jihadis now is the lack of a charismatic unifying leader.  The Jihadis have no Hitler, though plenty of ambitious sheiks and mullahs have vied for the job.  The secondary difference is that, being scattered over several countries rather than bound with nationalistic pride to any one, the Jihadis also fracture and factionalize into several sub-groups, which often compete with each other -- like Al-Qaeda competing with ISIL.  The third difference is their passionate impatience, which makes them underestimate their enemies and strike too soon.  The first attack on the World Trade Center, more than 20 years ago, was meant to economically cripple the US but can more accurately be compared to the Beer Hall Putsch.  The second, on 9/11 -- along with the other two hijackings and crashes -- was likewise meant to ruin the US's military and economy, but came off more like Pearl Harbor (except that the US did not follow through with the focus and energy our government had the first time around).  Also, the serious attacks began before the current Depression really started, and the 2008 Depression wasn't nearly as severe as the first one.  This means that, despite their intense recruiting among the poor -- particularly Black -- the Jihadis don't really have as big a Third Column as they claim or believe. (Likewise, as recent police raids around Europe have shown, thanks to modern police techniques, the various western governments do know who and where the Jihadis are.)

Despite the differences, particularly in timing, the similarities are striking.  History is indeed repeating itself, and only by understanding that can we forestall World War III -- or at least keep it from being as bad as either of the first two.

--Leslie <;)))><  



Saturday, January 10, 2015

Une Suggestion Pour le Securite de France Contre les Terroristes

Fait comme les Suisses faisant.

Arme et instructe toutes les gens.  Fait de toutes votre citoyennes un armee en reserve, observant et vigilant, prepare a agir immediatement contra un attaque terroriste.  Le danger des arretes faux est moins que le danger de la vulnerabilite a terroristes.

Nous somme toutes Charlie.  Laissez Charlie se defende.

...Et pardonne ma Francais terrible;  je ne l'ai etudie depuis 1978.

--Leslie <;)))>< Fish   

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Another Antidote to the Cop Problem

I don't usually quote whole articles from other folks, but this one is painfully opportune:

"10 Rules for Dealing with Cops, By a Cop

Few people understand that your constitutional rights only apply if you understand and assert them.
As a 33-year law enforcement veteran and former training commander with the Maryland State Police and Baltimore Police Department, I know how easy it is to intimidate citizens into answering incriminating questions or letting me search through their belongings. This reality might make things easier for police looking to make an easy arrest, but it doesn't always serve the interests of justice. That's why I believe all citizens should understand how to protect their constitutional rights and make smart decisions when dealing with officers of the law.

Unfortunately, this important information has remained largely unavailable to the public, despite growing concerns about police misconduct and the excesses of the war on drugs. For this reason, I agreed to serve as a technical consultant for the important new film, '10 Rules for Dealing with Police'. The 40-minute docudrama aims to educate the public about basic legal and practical survival strategies for handling even the scariest police encounters. It was produced by the civil liberties group Flex Your Rights and is narrated by former federal judge and acclaimed Baltimore trial lawyer William "Billy" Murphy, Jr.

The opening scene portrays Darren, a young black man getting pulled over. He's driving home from college. This is the fifth time he's been pulled over in a year. Frustrated and scared, Darren immediately breaks Rule #1: Always Be Calm & Cool. Mouthing off to the officer, Darren aggressively exits the car and slams the door. The officer overreacts, dropping Darren with a taser shot to his chest.

Should the officer have tased Darren in that situation? Probably not. Would the officer likely be disciplined? No. But that's not the main point of 10 Rules. The point is that the choices you make during the course of such encounters have a massive impact on whether it ends with a simple warning, a tasing -- or worse. This is true even if you've done nothing illegal.

While being calm and cool is key to getting the best possible outcome, it's not enough to keep police from violating your constitutional rights. For example, when the officer commandingly asks Darren "You're not hiding any AK-47s in there? You don't mind if I take a look?", Darren gets tricked like most people do.

Intimidated and unaware of other options, he consents to the search. The officer carelessly dumps his bags, accidentally shattering Darren's laptop on the asphalt. In another "what if" scenario, the officer finds a small amount of marijuana hidden away. While someone else might have left it there, Darren winds up getting arrested.

What few people understand, but police know all too well, is that your constitutional rights only apply if you understand and assert them. Unless they have strong evidence (i.e. probable cause) police need your permission to search your belongings or enter your home. The instant you grant them permission to invade your privacy, many of your legal protections go out the window and you're left on the hook for anything illegal the police find, as well as any damage they cause in the process.

Of course, even if you know your basic rights, police officers are trained to shake your confidence. If you refuse a search, I might respond by threatening to call in a drug-sniffing dog and sternly reminding you that things will go much easier if you cooperate. Creating a sense of hopelessness for the suspect enables us to break down their defenses and gain compliance. In the film, we show several variations on these common threats, but the main lesson is that it doesn't matter what the officer says; you still have to remain calm and protect your rights.

In today's world of smartphone video, YouTube and Twitter, stories of police abuse travel fast, creating greater awareness of the problem of police misconduct. Unfortunately, this heightened awareness often serves to reinforce the notion that "cops can do whatever they want." It's true that much work remains to be done towards ensuring police accountability, but the very first step is to educate the public about basic constitutional rights.

Citizens who understand their rights are much less likely to experience negative outcomes, both on the street and in a court of law. Until each of us has the ability to protect our individual rights and recognize injustices against others, we're not likely to accomplish much in the realm of broader policy reform.

I hope 10 Rules for Dealing with Police will be embraced by parents, teachers, activists, and even police departments as we work towards reducing the tension that too often characterizes the relationship between cops and the communities they serve.

Here are the ten rules featured in the film:
1. Always be calm and cool: a bad attitude guarantees a bad outcome.
2. Remain silent: what you don't say can't hurt you.
3. You have the right to refuse searches: saying no to searches can't be held against you.
4. Don't get tricked: remember, police are allowed to lie to you.
5. Determine if you're free to go: police need evidence to detain you.
6. Don't expose yourself: doing dumb stuff in public makes you an easy target.
7. Don't run: they'll catch you and make you regret it.
8. Never touch a cop: aggressive actions will only earn you a more aggressive response.
9. Report misconduct: be a good witness.
10. You don't have to let them in: police need a warrant to enter your home."

The film, "10 Rules for Dealing with Police" is available right now on YouTube.  Yes, it's well worth watching.

--Leslie <;)))><  

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Happy Hannukah, Jolly Solstice, Merry Christmas, Joyful Sir Isaac Newton’s Birthday, Happy Kwansaa, Jolly Eid al-Fatr, Happy Bodhi Day, Merry Boxing Day, Joyful Ganesha's Birthday, Lusty Saturnalia, Happy New Year, Jolly Hogmanay, Merry Twelfth Night – and a partridge in a pear tree!

--Leslie <;)))>< Fish   )O(

Friday, December 12, 2014

Solutions to the Cop Problem

Going into detail: yes, we have to make sure (even if it takes federal laws and funds) that every cop in the US -- federal, state, county, and municipal -- wears a bodycam when on duty.  The cameras must include good microphones and be designed so that the wearers can't turn them off or censor them.  They must have sturdy batteries that can run for 12 hours without a recharge, powerful enough to transmit constantly to local receiving stations that will store all the records on computers, regardless of structures in the way.  They must also be on a part of the uniform that's never covered up.  And yes, give the cops bullet-proof vests so they won't feel In Fear For My Life so readily. 

Second, likewise make certain that every cop in America is supplied with a taser, as well as a hand-stunner, and that the cops get extensive training in their use.  Tasers need redesigning for features like reloading quickly, longer and sharper prongs to get through layers of cloth, and multiple-shot capacity.  When stun-guns are as reliable as lethal guns, cops will be more likely to use them first.

Third, get the military, which has the records, to come take back all the tanks, rocket-launchers, armed helicopters, fighting vehicles, etc. that it handed out to various police departments, and give that hardware to the state National Guard chapters, where it belongs.  If the cops find themselves in a situation where they need military hardware, they can always summon the local National Guard -- which has specific training in the use of such.

Finally, yes, go after the cops who killed those unarmed civilians with Deprivation of Civil Rights charges, lawsuits, and anything else that will stick.  Nothing will change the thuggish attitudes of cops, but the certainty of getting legally stomped if they have too much fun at the citizens' expense will at least make them more circumspect.

To use an old phrase, cops who aren't thugs at heart will have nothing to worry about;  if they're innocent they have nothing to hide.  Right?

--Leslie <;)))><   )O(      

Friday, December 5, 2014

Beyond Ferguson: It's a Nationwide Problem

So now we've got the Garner case in New York City, where the video shows four cops jumping on one unarmed man -- whose main crime seems to be "resisting arrest" by hollering "Don't touch me!" and swatting a cop's hands away -- grabbing him in an outlawed choke-hold and pinning him down until he died, and getting acquitted by a local Grand Jury.  In Ferguson the chief problem was stupidity all around, but this is a clear case of cop bullying, blatantly excused by the court system.  In this case the protests have been very well organized and self-controlled -- but then again, NYC is used to hosting protest marches.

One thing that even the most ambitious Black politicians have admitted is that it's not just a Black/White problem.  We've all seen examples, several posted on YouTube, of cops attacking and killing unarmed Whites, Spanish, Asians, et al -- and not just White cops doing it.  All that the victims had in common is that none of them were visibly rich, powerful, armed, or had many friends around them.  In short, they looked like easy victims -- exactly the sort that robbers would normally pick on.  Now it's the cops doing it too. 

In fact, the problem is the corruption and militarization of our police forces over the past 20 years and more. It started with the "asset forfeiture" laws, under the excuse of the War on Drugs, which encouraged cops to steal (and discouraged the use of cash US currency).  It grew worse with the recent custom of the military handing off its used heavy hardware to police forces instead of the National Guard, which has encouraged a general War on the Poor.  What else can explain, for example, sending a whole SWAT team to arrest a small shop full of barbers for the crime of letting their barbers' licenses lapse?  Is it coincidental that such cases have increased as marijuana has gained in legality?

There's no excuse, really, for all these kill-the-unarmed cases.  It would be hard to find a cop in the US today who doesn't carry a taser and/or hand-stunner (along with tear-gas spray and club);  why haven't the cops bothered to use these weapons first?  Why go first for the gun or the gang-up choke-hold?  Where have cops gotten the idea that the unarmed are that dangerous?

Well, the first step toward reversing the trend is to insist that cops wear body-cams as well as carrying tamper-proof cameras mounted in their cars.  The next step, obviously, would be some thwacking great lawsuits aimed at those cops who used an outlawed choke-hold on Garner.  In fact a lot of deprivation-of-civil-rights cases would also tend to make the cops more circumspect.  And in any case, get those tanks and heavy artillery away from them, and send them to various National Guard armories, before the cops take it into their heads to go after civilians with those, too.

--Leslie <;)))><   )O(               

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Ferguson: Stupidity Cubed

(I was going to tell about our bizarre family adventures this past week, but the Grand Jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri, and its aftermath, have pushed that aside for the moment.  So here's my take.)

Yes, the Grand Jury in the Ferguson case decided not to indict the cop, and the inevitable protests followed.  Did any of this seem a little bit planned to you?  Did anybody notice that certain not-exactly-elected politicians seemed to expect -- and plan for, and (dare we say) hope for -- a string of nation-wide Black riots on the scale of the Rodney King explosions?  And didn't they seem the least bit disappointed when that didn't happen?  In fact, doesn't it seem as if those certain political pundits are still trying, despite the slacking energy of outrage with the passage of time, to please-please-please get those Blacks to riot everywhere?

Fat chance.  The continuing protests seem to be guided by a little more common sense than expected.  For example, the Brown family's own insistence that cops everywhere in the US have constantly-running body-worn videocams, as well as car-cams while on duty, would make a real difference.  At the very least, it would put an end to cops trying to stop civilians from filming them;  it's already getting hard for cops to persuade judges that being videotaped somehow "interferes" with their ability to do their jobs.  Already clips have shown up on the Internet refuting claims by crooked cops, and the presence of cameras that the cops cant control or censor would definitely rein in their thuggish tendencies.  This is a reform that would work.

And so far, this is one of the few rays of common sense in the entire miserable business.  Another was the the county prosecutor's televised speech describing, in as much detail as he legally could, the reasons for the Grand Jury's decision.  It's true that Grand Juries are usually little more than rubber-stamps for cops' arrests, but there are exceptions -- and everyone could see the reasons why this would be an exception.  The fact that the jurors were elected months before the Wilson/Brown incident happens means that they weren't chosen specifically for the task of getting the cop off.  Also, three of the jurors were Black, and -- as with any other jury -- it would have taken only one contrary vote to stop the decision.  Finally, the prosecutor made certain that the Grand Jury got to see/hear all the evidence, of which there was plenty, which is why the deliberations took so long.

What the details of the case, particularly the physical evidence, reveal is lying, incompetence and stupidity on all sides: the kid, the cop, the witnesses on both sides, and even the protesters.  From the top:

Brown and his buddy went into a store, and the fool kid swiped some cigars -- surely knowing that the store had security cameras that picked up the incident -- and ran out the door.  Stupid!  Then, instead of ducking into an alley, sticking to the shadows, running and staying out of sight for a few days until the heat died down, what did the punk do?  He swaggered down the middle of the street as if he hadn't a care in the world.  Stupid!

Meanwhile, the robbed store-clerk had called the cops and given them Brown's description.  Wilson was closest, and was driving toward the store when he saw a kid exactly fitting the robber's description strolling down the street toward him.  He could see that Brown wasn't carrying a weapon, so he stopped his patrol car, yelled at the kid to stop, and then started to open his car door.  Brown stopped, but he pushed back on the car door while calling the cop a 'pussy'.  Stupid!  Now Wilson could easily have pulled out his taser -- or even his hand-stunner -- and zapped Brown into safe unconsciousness, but instead he kept wrestling to open the door.  Stupid!   He pulled out his gun instead.  Stupid!  He yelled at Brown -- who had now retreated about 25 feet -- to stop and put his hands up.  Brown definitely did stop and turn around, and at least partially raised his hands, but from that point the witnesses' statements differ wildly.  He either stood still until he was shot down, partly lowered his hands and walked toward the cop, or lowered his hands and charged Wilson -- who shot him several times, missing vital targets, before finally landing a fatal shot.  All this at less than 25 feet.  Incompetent!  Brown then reeled away from the car and collapsed some 20 feet away.

Now the physical evidence includes blood-spray from Brown on the inside of Wilson's patrol car.  How did it get there if Brown was 25 feet away when he was shot?  One of the witnesses (who happened to be Black) claimed he saw Wilson standing over Brown and shooting him in the back;  two autopsies -- one by the county ME's office, one by a private lab at the Brown family's request -- confirm that Brown was never shot in the back, but only from the front.  Worse, a lot of the witnesses (who happened to be Black) made repeated statements that contradicted the physical evidence, other witnesses statements, and themselves.  Stupid!  This, obviously, did not sit well with the Grand Jury.

And then we get to the protests.  The Black Community Leaders of Ferguson should have noticed, at their very first march, that a lot of opportunistic punks used the cover of the march to smash windows and loot stores -- which was guaranteed to draw the attention, and action, of the cops.  Those protest leaders should have taken care to police their own ranks, appointed some sturdy local folk to watch for punks and stop them before they could smash, loot, and attract cops.  But they didn't.  Stupid!  In fact, a lot of the stores that those punks smashed, looted, and finally burned were Black-owned and Black-managed.  Not that the punks cared.  Stupid!  There are even scattered reports of Jihadist mullahs going around to local mosques and urging young Blacks there (whom the Jihadists have been targeting for some time) to go to Ferguson, join the protests, and "get your own back" from the "Great Satan" (who, of course, is White) -- and tales of gullible Black punks actually doing it.  Stupid!

Amid this thundering mess of bigotry, lying, incompetence and above all stupidity, it's hard to find anyone to cheer for.

--Leslie <;)))>< Fish