Yesterday afternoon, two NYPD officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, were shot at point-blank range by a man named Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who also shot his girlfriend earlier in the day in Baltimore. Statements made online by Brinsley indicated that he was killing cops as retribution for what happened to Eric Garner, but reports are also coming out that he had issues for a very long time. The reactions to this shooting are predictable, especially from the right. An NYPD police union even declared war on its citizens.
We expect this. I’m going to talk now to those of you celebrating the shooting.
Before I begin this letter properly, I need to let you know: I’m a card-carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union and a donor to the Innocence Project. When protests over Trayvon Martin’s death happened, I stood beside people – as one of only a few white people in the crowd – and protested in Bridgeport, CT. I tolerated Ernie Newton and the Nation of Islam while holding hands with my friends and singing We Will Overcome. I get it. Police brutality is a legitimate issue, it’s one that any honest person will admit affects black people disproportionately, and it must be challenged and ultimately changed.
So believe me when I say: you’re screwing this up. At best you’re burning any currency that’s been built up since the acquittal of Daniel Pantaleo; you’re only going to get more people hurt, or worse.
I’m going to belabor two main points:
1) Speaking solely from a tactical perspective: we – by we, I mean protesters, supporters and others who decry police brutality – are in a position of weakness. It needs to be understood that a lot of people – I don’t have recent polls I trust, but I’m comfortable in calling this a majority – are perfectly fine with police officers using whatever means they have to control “other” people. To them, anything that threatens their sense of security of stability is open game. Remember: when the NYPD was spying on Muslims, most citizens approved of it; it didn’t affect them, if they didn’t have anything to hide, vague reference to 9/11, etcetera. These people are taught that the police are infallible. Yes, we know that there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary, but this is about optics. Simply put, we have to convert a lot of people, and rooting for murder is a poor way of going about that. Remember: everyone talks about Martin Luther King Jr., and it wasn’t because of his comments on rioting. Meanwhile, Huey Newton and Fred Hampton are footnotes.
2) None of what I said above takes into account humanity. The accusations people are making about the police is that they don’t hold into account the lives of those they “serve and protect”, particularly those of minorities. Statistics honestly bear all of this news out. But when you sit there and cheer for the deaths of two officers, with families that just lost someone before Christmas, take a look in the mirror and ask yourself what you have become. If you think so low of the police force or anyone in an uniform that you consider them monsters, do you really want to drag yourself to that level? Listen: I know people who are cops, or want to be cops, that I don’t trust with an ice cream cone, let alone a gun. The system needs reform. But when you cheer a senseless murder from an obviously deranged individual, you’re no better than the police. I’d argue you’re far worse, honestly.
I’m sure there will be a chorus of “you don’t get it!” from people saying a white man on a site that prominently uses the Gadsden Flag can’t speak for how to approach the police. I’d argue it’s my position as a suburban white man that gives me a perspective of the people you’re going to have to convert to get real, honest reform, and not just a temporary burst of energy that burns off just as quickly. Trust me: I hold no love for the ignorant white doofus who thinks racism ended on July 2nd of 1964, complains bitterly that life isn’t what it was like in 1986 for some reason he can’t articulate, and doesn’t understand our political system beyond hating Obama. But he has to be converted, or at least made to understand a new normal.
What is happening now is turning off that person. The more of those people that get turned off, the harsher the reaction can be from the NYPD and other police departments across the country. More death, more injury, more protests, more spinning of our tires. If we want true reform, and with it true equality regardless of race, then it’s critically important that we forcefully denounce Ismaaiyl Brinsley, denounce anyone who supports his actions, and keep working towards a better future for everyone.
Christopher Bowen covered the video games industry for eight years before moving onto politics and general interest. He is the Editor in Chief of Gaming Bus, and has worked for Diehard GameFan, Daily Games News, TalkingAboutGames.com and has freelanced elsewhere. He is a “liberaltarian” – a liberal libertarian. A network engineer by trade, he lives in Derby CT.
It seems the controversial $1.1T spending bill that is preventing the U.S. government from shutting down is chock full of surprises.
As you may know, much to the dismay of marijuana activists and lovers of democracy everywhere, the bill smacked down Washington DCs referendum that legalized recreational marijuana in the nation’s capital. What you may have missed (because those shifty politicians are doing everything under the table) is that the bill also quietly, but effectively lifted the federal ban on medical marijuana.
Let us be VERY clear… NO the federal government has not legalized, or ended the federal prohibition of medical marijuana.
No, really, they didn’t, no matter what High Times says.
Manufacture, distribution, transportation, storage, sale, possession, and use, of Marijuana are all still federal crimes. Further, they are automatic disqualification on a background check, or a drug test, or a security clearance etc… etc…
They also make one a prohibited person with respect to firearms, explosives, and destructive devices.
Yes… even in Washington and Colorado.
All they did in this omnibus appropriations bill, was to partially defund and deprioritize enforcement of federal marijuana prohibition, against medical marijuana dispensaries only (NOT grow ops, or users) in those states with medical marijuana, between January and September.
Here is the actual text, of the portion of the bill in question:
“Sec. 538. None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana. Sec. 539. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used in contravention of section 7606 (“Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research”) of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Public Law 113-79) by the Department of Justice or the Drug Enforcement Administration.”
There has been no real change in the law, there is just a change in the administration of a small subset of enforcement.
In fact, this action makes getting the changes we need in the law harder and less likely.
Far worse though, it furthers the toxic notion that we can just arbitrarily, capriciously, and disparately, choose to not enforce the law, when we feel like it… But then any time we change our mind we can go ahead and start enforcing it again.
This disrespects and debases the very foundation of rule of law.
I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.
Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra
The fact that the police can get away with killing an individual who presented no threat to anyone with the whole incident caught on camera is quite disturbing. A grand jury decided not to indict a NYPD officer by the name of Daniel Pantaleo who used a choke-hold banned by his own department which resulted in the death of Eric Garner. Unlike the incident in Ferguson which contained conflicting testimony and forensics which support Darren Wilson’s version of the event, this event in New York was caught on video from at least two different camera angles (and available on YouTube for the whole world to see). This seems pretty cut and dry at least for an indictment.
So how is it that almost any accused individual brought before a grand jury is indicted unless the accused individual happens to wear a government issued costume? Are grand juries really that biased toward the police? After reading a few dozen comments on threads responding to the grand jury decision, I’m afraid the answer is yes (if you want to lose all hope for humanity, read the comment section to any article of consequence). I reach this conclusion because these are the sort of people who serve on juries and decide that it’s perfectly okay for the police to kill someone if the suspect had any criminal record of any kind, resisted in any way, or even “disrespected” the police on the scene.
The truth is that reforming the way police do things is going to take time as changing people’s attitudes is going to take time. There are things that we as individuals can do here and now so that we don’t become victims of the police, however. Many of these perfect, law abiding specimens of humanity who like to share their wisdom with the rest of us on the internet say that if Eric Garner hadn’t resisted (at all) he would never have been put in the choke hold that contributed or caused his death. On this point, I grudgingly have to agree.
I don’t say this because I believe the use of force against Garner was appropriate but because far too many people do (and juries are composed of people who aren’t always very reasonable).
One common thread in many of these viral videos where the police overreact is that the individual either resists (however mildly), makes a sudden move, or is perceived as being armed . The worst thing you can do is give the cops a reason to use force and an excuse for jurors who will normally give the police the benefit of the doubt a reason to doubt.
So how does one increase one’s odds of surviving an encounter with an overzealous cop? Here are a few suggestions.
1.Before you end your session on the internet today, watch Flex Your Rights’ “10 Rules for Dealing With Police.” I have the entire series and a summary of the rules posted here. If you know how you can respectfully but firmly assert your constitutional rights before the next time you are confronted by the police, you will have advantages most people do not and you will reduce the chances that the encounter will escalate to violence.
2. Act as if the encounter is being recorded and your actions will be scrutinized in front of a judge, jury, and/or the general public. For better or worse, cameras have become ubiquitous, so the chances the encounter is being recorded increase everyday. Use this to your advantage. Better yet, if you have a camera phone, record the encounter yourself. Recording the police in public is legal almost everywhere in the U.S. Follow this link to be sure of the specific legalities of your state. Once you have the camera rolling, follow the aforementioned “10 rules” and be the kind of person a judge, jury, and the general public would be sympathetic toward. If you act like a jerk or are disrespectful in any way (regardless of how the cop acts) this could all backfire.
3. Don’t make any sudden moves and keep your hands visible at all times. If you are pulled over keep your hands on the steering wheel and turn on the dome light if its dark out. When the cop asks for your license and registration, say something like “My license is in my wallet” and very slowly reach for it and hand it over. Then say “My insurance card and registration is in the glove box” then slowly open the glove box and retrieve the documentation. Better yet, have the documentation ready before the cop comes to your window; its less movement and you know you will be asked to produce these items anyway. Had this man followed similar advice, he might not have been shot by a South Carolina State trooper.
4. Understand that you are NOT in control. If the police have decided to put cuffs on you and/or arrest you, do not physically resist, attack, or run. If you do, the results will not end in your favor. Whatever injustice has befallen you will not be settled until later. Also, keep your mouth shut and only speak of the event with your attorney.
Its my hope that these cases which have scandalized us all will lead to better understanding of how we can peacefully resist the growing police state. Its not my intention to blame the victims such as Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Kelly Thomas and countless others but to do my part in not creating new victims of overzealous cops afraid of their own shadows.
 Its become a pet peeve of mine seeing headlines that state that the police shoot an “unarmed” man. For one, unarmed does not mean harmless. Also, its probably safe to say that most of the time when the cops shoot an unarmed person, it was unclear if s/he was armed at the time. While we can and should scrutinize the police when they use force, we cannot expect them to have perfect knowledge in real time.
The federal government has already “federalized” local police if by federalization he means providing military grade toys at a discount. I don’t quite understand how providing tools which can actually protect the public such as body cameras “further” federalizes the police. As long as these departments receive these toys, the public damn well has the right to review in HD quality video and audio how these toys are being used (along with the normal police activities).
It sems that there is at least one area of agreement (with caveats) between some in law enforcement and some civil libertarians: cops should wear body cameras. The how, when, and where is still a question for all concerned but at least there seems to be some agreement on the broad outlines.
In the week following the officer-involved shooting in Ferguson (Mo.), many have asked me for a comment and/or my commentary on the matter. My reply has generally been, “What, precisely, might that comment be? We know very little detail regarding the incident itself, so any ‘analysis’ on my part would be tantamount to irresponsible speculation. Further, analysis of the rioting and looting (and police response to same) would be redundant — we’ve got reams of columns on crowd control tactics and strategies.”
One thing, however, merits mention in this space. It’s directly related to the first thought that came to my mind when news of this tragedy broke: “Man, I hope that officer was wearing a body camera.”
By now, we can correctly surmise that he was not, and it’s a reasonable contention that if he had been wearing a body camera — and that video was examined by agency leadership and released responsibly to the public — Ferguson would probably have been spared the violence and unrest.
Wyllie anticipated that there would be some cops, departments, and PoliceOne members who would disagree with this notion. From there he offered 3 reasons why the upsides outweigh the downsides:
1. Officers’ fears about “Big Brother” are crushed by good, sound policy collaboratively created by all stakeholders — administrators, police unions, civil rights groups, local lawmakers, and others. Citizens’ fears about Fourth Amendment issues — for victims, witnesses, and other uninvolved persons — are similarly crushed by that same policy.
I must interject here. We have street cameras on just about every major intersection in every major city in America. If its good enough to place you and I under constant surveillance, its good enough for the police. The police should also be reminded that they do indeed work for us. Any time the police are on duty and in public, there is a chance that they are being watched by the public. They do not have a right to privacy when they interact with the pubic. This is especially true when the actions of the police have the potential to take freedom or life away from individuals concerned.
Wyllie continues with his other 2 points:
2. Concerns over budgeting for the investment in new gear (and training for same) are quelled by the statistical data suggesting that the outlay in cash is far less than the cost of settling frivolous (and baseless) lawsuits over alleged officer misconduct when no such misconduct occurred.
3. Any argument alleging that “the technology just isn’t there yet” is flat out false. Five years ago, such a statement may have held some water, but companies like TASER International, Digital Ally, L-3 Mobile Vision, and VIEVU now offer rugged, patrol-ready products with high-definition recording capabilities in light, wearable form factors.
Doug Wyllie sees the writing on the wall; he points out that the White House petition for the “Mike Brown Law” which says “all state, county, and local police [should be required] to wear a camera” already passed 100k signatures. Wyllie is probably correct arguing that there would be fewer misconduct lawsuits with the cameras. One PoliceOne member added:
Personally I look forward to being able to show the jury exactly what the POS I arrested was doing, saying and what he looked like when I arrested him; rather than the cleaned up chap in a borrowed suit that the defense brought to court.
I think its also fair to say that cops would be discouraged from being involved with any misconduct in the first place. If we lived in a world where everyone involved in a police encounter is being recorded, everyone involved has every reason to be on his or her best behavior.
I’m all for body cameras. Yet, when they go against what people want them to say, it will be: “The police fixed the cameras.”
To this concern I have two answers. First the technology is already available to determine if a video has been tampered with. If the video shows the video at the 5:07:29 minute mark and then it suddenly skips to the 8:10:12 minute mark, most people are going to understand that there is some missing footage. The second answer is to policy of how, when, and where body cameras will be used.
Will cameras solve all questions of misconduct? Of course not. Cameras certainly have their limitations. But having a video of an event presented to a jury is certainly better than relying solely on conflicting eyewitness testimony.
Point of clarification: One person who commented on the Face Book link mentioned “And audio might be nice.” I assumed Doug Wyllie meant that audio should be part of the video recording as well. After re-reading his article, I realize that he never mentioned anything about audio. Perhaps this too will become a very important part of the debate. It’s my position that audio should be included. Video alone might be helpful in very clear cut cases but distort the meaning of what the viewer sees in other cases.
Community Conservatism: How Government can Empower Civil Society
Matthew and Stephanie Souders – November, 2014
Concerns of the Civil Society
In the many post mortem analyses of the 2012 presidential election and the two surrounding “republican wave” midterms, it has become apparent that what drives the health of the Democrat Party is not Middle Class America in the way it once was, but very poor, and the very wealthy. Progressive policies have marginalized the middle class and made it difficult for people to change their financial status through over-taxation and over-regulation of small businesses, through a system of wealth transfer that mostly hurts the middle class, through microscopic interest rates that are disincentives to saving and debt management and through a bloated, inefficient social safety net whose unpaid liabilities are an enormous anchor on market confidence, and thus, GDP growth.
Both parties have an unhealthy focus on the wealthy. Democrats believe in a system of, as Mitt Romney called it, “trickle-down government”, in which our social betters determine which businesses should benefit from rent-seeking behavior and which should be regulated out of existence for our own good and court the wealthy with the promise of largesse. Republicans still believe, to some extent, in Reagan’s system of “trickle-down economics”, in which government courts the support of big businesses with an interest in deregulation and low corporate taxes. In both models, the real concerns of the middle class are completely ignored.
We’re not short on polling and research on the question of what the middle class wants from government. In order of importance, according to a host of exit polls and issues polling done by Pew Research, Gallup and Rasmussen:
• Establish an economic climate where my job actually pays (what they actually mean is: where my median income actually goes up at least as fast as inflation, preferably faster)
• Make government accountable and ensure that it’s actually working properly (while most in the middle class are not quick to blame Obama for every failure of the bureaucracy, they are nonetheless completely faithless, now, that government can work well)
• Make our education system actually work and give us good choices so that our children are prepared for the adult world
• Get the cost of healthcare contained and give me broad choices in doctors, hospitals and insurance plans that fit my needs
• Reduce or stabilize the cost of energy and make us less dependent on foreign energy markets
• Protect a basic social safety net and care for those in real need, defend against fraud and abuse of our good will
• Keep our communities safe from threats, foreign and domestic
• Keep law enforcement constructive and fair
• Respect our freedom to choose how we’ll live our lives and respect our privacy
• Be good stewards of our natural resources and the environment
• Demonstrate that you can govern (people are results oriented, but a lack of willingness to compromise on either side is an immediate turn-off to moderate middle class Americans – and a philosophy that downplays the importance of government is also a turn off, as people want to feel that their lives are backstopped by a competent, effective government)
The nice thing about the above list is that both Democrats and Republicans in the middle class come up with about the same list in about the same order (Democrats might place environmental stewardship a little higher up, and Republicans might move government accountability to the top slot in some cases, but otherwise, our priorities tend to align well across party lines). The difference between us is not what we think is important, really; it’s how we would go about addressing each issue.
Here’s the thing – voters, being human, tend to respond to the core meaning/value in your message, more than to the particular policies you support; and candidates for office (and the national party leadership, obviously) tend to frame their policy ideas in value-centric terms. The 2012 presidential election was a battle between Obama (whose convention proclaimed the message “government can work for all of us / they disagree, and that’s dangerous”) and Romney (“yes we did build that / they think they own you!”), and, as I’ve just observed above, people tend to prefer to believe that government can be a force for good (because it can be, and because it’s comforting to seek leadership). Libertarians and the Tea Party – two groups that don’t often see eye to eye – tend to instinctively believe that government is like fertilizer. It’s horribly stinky and we want as little of it around as possible, but necessary at some level. I’m here to tell you – that is not the message that middle class America wants to hear, even if there is some truth to it. If the Republican Party wishes to establish a governing agenda that wins hearts and minds back toward conservatism (including cultural conservatism), they must demonstrate that they can govern proactively and listen to the desires of the middle class, since the middle class still tends to drive the cultural conversation. What follows is a set of core values that should be embraced by the GOP if they wish to make something of their current governing majority, as well as a sampling of specific policy suggestions in line with those values.
A Philosophy to Govern
A) Take Responsibility and Do the Work
The media often paints a picture of our current divided government as a battle between those on the left who want to govern and those on the right who do not, and there are vocal members of the GOP caucuses in both chambers of the legislature that give the media ample sound bites in favor of this description. By now, you know their names well, so I won’t rehash them. However, as is equally obvious, to anyone paying attention to the party, the GOP does in fact desperately want to govern, and that this can actually be dangerous (in so much as they allow their desire to govern to create bigger, rather than different and more effective government). It is, ironically, the left which seems not to want to govern. Progressives in the legislature have increasing sought to take matters of law out of the hands of the legislature and give it, instead, to bureaucratic government agencies and the executive branch. They still wish to transform society using the power of an activist government, but they want to do it through channels where there can be no debate on the merits of their ideas. It is actually this progressive abdication of the personal responsibility for governing (as best expressed by Obama’s refusal to hold any of his key people responsible for the spectacular failures of the bureaucracy on his watch) that is most hurting the ability of the legislature to function. The GOP must seek in the legislation it passes to take responsibility for the outcomes of that legislation and to get enough bipartisan support that it can share that responsibility with the left.
B) Make Our Priorities Your Priorities
Both parties have a nasty habit of playing to their bases and feeling the need to take specific actions on every piece of their “base-centric” party platforms in the hope that this will get them elected again. Base turnout is important in maintaining a governing majority, but what is more important is being perceived by the electorate at large to care about the same things that they do and place your priorities where they do. Obama’s schizophrenic presidency spent “focusing like a laser” for five seconds at a time on a hundred different things was in stark contrast to his 2008 campaign, in which he did in fact focus entirely on the real concerns and fears of the electorate. And of course, we all know that the GOP has a tendency to shout SQUIRREL at the first sign of a chance to discuss social issues or international matters that simply are not at the forefront of our minds in the middle class. The authors of this piece are staunchly pro-life, but even we recognize that we need to get our fiscal house in order first before we can spend any time on such matters.
C) Focus on Service and Community
The most important development of the last decade in US politics is the move toward a distrust of a self-absorbed ruling class elite that no longer concerns itself with what is happening in our towns and to our civic organizations. One of the reasons the GOP is doing so well at the state and local level, even before their 2010 and 2014 national midterm routs, is that the representatives it’s choosing at those levels are quality candidates who are deeply tied to their local communities and remain so for long stretches after they take office. When you pit the left and its tendency to turn the country into a series of fiefdoms competing for government support against the local branches of the right, and their tendency to focus on community pillars like successful businesses, churches, and charities, the right wins far more often than they lose. At the community level, people want to come together and celebrate their home. The national GOP, however, has generally been playing the same 50% plus one game that the left plays (witness Romney’s 47% remarks). To address this problem, the national GOP should craft policies that favor community pillars over top-down community organizing, small businesses over large ones, and civic society over the government as often as feasible. And more than that, Republicans must not forget that their success comes from being tied to their communities and earning the trust of those communities – they should return home as often as they’re able, reach out to people in communities that don’t traditionally vote Republican, and stay active where the live.
D) Gain Back Their Trust
There is a lot of talk about a “Republican Civil War” in the press, now that they have a legislative majority. The GOP is less monolithic than the Democrats – meaning we have a healthier exchange of ideas, but also a harder time pleasing everyone and staying on message. There are four basic factions in our coalition: Libertarians, Classical Social Conservatives, Reform Conservatives, and the Tea Party. Each faction is fighting to control the narrative, and, of late, libertarians are gaining the upper hand on the tea party for the “arm twister” prize (going to the group most able to move the GOP establishment in a new direction). Mitch McConnell just endorsed Rand Paul for the 2016 nomination, for example (eyes sideways!). If this divided GOP can come to any sort of basic agreement on how best to govern for the middle class without “sacrificing” any members of its coalition, I believe all members of the coalition will eventually get what they want most. Just because, for example, a reform GOP agenda doesn’t put pro-life issues at the top of the list doesn’t mean we need to renounce social conservatives and their ideas. Just because most of the GOP disagrees with libertarians about international policy doesn’t mean we need to remain outwardly hawkish to keep the establishment happy. First, prove you can forge a coalition and stay united on some of the things we do agree on. Win back the trust of the electorate and then, when a social conservative has a message about abortion, perhaps society will be more able to hear it without cynicism. First you win the governing mandate – then you win their trust – then you win their hearts – then you win the culture.