Thursday, August 21, 2014

This Is Bad For My Brand

The Morning Joe Rebuttal For August 21, 2014

There’s been a striking amount of favorable timing not just for Radley Balko but for the principles he has been fighting for on our behalf for some time.  Earlier this week I tweeted an acknowledgement of that timing in a manner so cryptic only bees and dogs may have connected with it:

prepped a nation for this moment, even echoed & amplified, tonight a high water mark

Now Joe Scarborough is on the bandwagon with a moderately spacious segment given to Radley this morning to talk about militarization of our domestic policing.  For good measure Scarborough even lobbed a flash grenade at the atrocious use of SWAT teams to serve low level drug warrants rampant across the country.

I obviously think they could’ve devoted an entire hour to something this important.  Maybe there is some calculation afoot?  Maybe the anti journalist ‘axis of evil’ criticisms Scarborough weathered over his requests that journalist submit to law enforcement regardless of their free press duties last week stung him and this was him swinging his pendulum.  Mr. Scarborough can swing a pendulum, it’s a gift.  

Radley Balko was via timing, (maybe) necessity, and good fortune free to connect the dots with his Morning Joe airtime.  Giving heavy armor to police undermines their central manifest to protect people’s rights, and serve the public interest.  It provides the wrong sort of mission creep in police ranks amplifying militaristic urges to fight an enemy rather then form a community.  Balko was easily able to find a forum on his segment to connect the two key principles of militarization and misguided SWAT raid employment as both derivative of federal provision.

The SWAT raids on disproportionately low level crimes and warrants aren’t random, they are specifically driven by a horrible legacy DEA program of providing federal money to local law enforcement to make drug raids.  This phenomenon is routinely exasperated by the insane inclusion of Marijuana as a Class I drug (on par with heroin, more evil than meth by one, more evil than Oxycontin by 2), meaning you motivate law enforcement even in Colorado, Washington, and the grey area capital of the world California to ‘get that money’ by raiding marijuana use.  Balko in his columns over the last several years have highlighted the unsightly human toll of SWAT raid justified shooting deaths, wrong addresses with dead innocents, warrants drawn from 7th grade science projects, and flash grenades harming toddlers.

Militarization has blurred the lines between your SWAT division and your whole police force.  To the naked eye, Ferguson displayed this, the whole force of Ferguson and St. Louis County can militarize on demand.  They can point their weapons on the community they serve without regard to propriety.  This exists everywhere in America, and it took Ferguson’s outlandish display to drive it home.

The Republican party thinks they have found their calling to re-capture hearts and minds in the 53% of America no longer trusting them.  They have Rand Paul authoring multiple bills to end asset forfeiture and reduce prison populations, and penning anti-militarization op-eds in Time.  And now they have Joe Scarborough making it OK for the middle of the road GOP to question police roles in the whole country.
But before you relax, 'tough on crime' isn’t done with us.  We will still have all sides fear mongering to placate the police lobby, the DEA lobby (which includes Purdue Pharma), the defense industrial complex, and the gun lobby. They are likely going to do what all good lobbyists do: play both sides of  an issue to prevent progress, where the status quo is profitable to them.

Mr. Scarborough is great to have provided this forum today, let's hope the coverage can resist fading. I would reasonably expect that ‘whatever it takes to take the Senate’ is the prevailing wind here, and as soon as the lobby dominated non-presidential election cycle needs him, Scarborough will be silent on MRAP’s and SWAT.  I hope not.

Mr. Balko on the other hand, is celebrating the paperback release of his book “Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces”.  You release your paperback after you have sold enough hardcovers to justify publishing.  That 14 months in this case has provided proof that this book flat out predicted Ferguson, and maybe the book’s other theories should be central to police planning and control going forward.

One lingering concern was the Thomas Roberts question: “In the wake of 9/11 isnt there a segment of the population that wants this heavy armor distributed across the country, and they just don’t want to know about it?”.  I’m a Thomas fan, he is appropriately impatient when people don’t make sense with their messaging in interviews.  But, man, what a collection of nightmares presented as normal American inclination: 'hide the truth from me', 'I’m still in a fear prison from 9/11', and 'let’s have a secret domestic army'.  Hasn’t that question been asked and answered for well over a decade? Aren’t these the results?

This was a particularly good show.  The hostage and ransom panel was another gem. That's a whole other column.  It’s definitely the antithesis of a slow news day.  I’m even a fan of the alternative ‘cold blooded bastard/son of a bitch’ references to the President (with famous suspended President insulter Mark Halperin at the table) to respond to the latest round of vacation shaming.  But then again, any day Peter King can’t commute to the set in his personal MRAP and poison another episode of Morning Joe is a victory for all of us.

Read everything Radley Balko writes, it’s infuriating, but it’s the path back to domestic freedom.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Hapless Guessing

The Morning Joe Rebuttal for Friday April 18th, 2014


A seasoned MJ cast at the 7am Eastern block attempted to dissect the Bundy Militia story, and forgot or misrepresented about half of it, but still felt strongly enough to draw conclusions on all fronts.  

Harry Reid labeled the groups that showed up heavily armed to the media saturated melee as ‘domestic terrorists’, and Nicole Wallace was put in the difficult position of toeing the GOP line of apologizing for them and attacking Reid’s assertion.  If you were to take Wallace’s factual analysis to its core precepts, you have to accept that the federal government showed up suddenly with a one million dollar land use bill, and then began armed enforcement action, and that there is a segment of society that has a serious disdain for federalism, to the point of denying its viability as the ultimate governing authority of the United States as imposed by it’s citizens and constitution.  OK, she didn’t put those high minded buzz cornerstones in her descriptives, but that's just it, you have to fall short and live in vagaries, otherwise illogic beams down on you.  You can say they have a ‘deep distrust’ of ‘all things federal’, and that it’s OK to bear arms in this situation because ‘the government was armed’, but it simply belies the principles of organized society.

Of course John Heilemann attacked the armed civilian response analysis, which is entirely accurate, but no one could move the conversation one dimensional analysis further, as it pertained to Wallace’s tenuous platform defense.  

Barnicle smartly read a definition of terrorism, but two well respected journalists took unbelievably placebic opposition.  

David Gregory, still smarting from an awkward back story about Pulitzer Prizes being awarded to people he thought should be charged for espionage, said calling the militia response ‘terrorism’ probably needed to be thought out more.  ‘Thought out more’ is actually what happened.  Missing fact number one that the panel simply could not rise to in analysis: the President directly ordered the de-escalation.  This is in step with his foreign policy pattern in similar decisions not to strike Syria or send arms to Ukraine (more on this later).  The President and his team including the FBI and ATF, groups immeasurably harmed by the Branch Davidian disaster, have showed an evolution in response: stand down and take good notes.  It is a dare, the President to the militias, as indicated by Harry Reid, ‘we are going to enforce the law, and now we are better prepared to quietly interdict all incoming armed militia response before it can dangerously assemble’.  The rule of law will preside, and the likelihood for a first response cataclysm has been for the time being averted.

Eugene Robinson, similarly missing the integral analysis of this event, called it a civil matter that the courts could decide as is prevalent in our higher order society.  Hey Gene, the 5 o’clock train left at 5, and it’s 7.  The civil matter was decided long ago, and this is more like Ruby Ridge than we’re allowing.  The civil matter, and this speaks to Nicole’s fundamental misrepresentation, has been decided appropriately (admittedly, that’s a guess given the asymmetry of the current judiciary) over a long amount of time.  The rancher Bundy refused to acknowledge the existence of a federal government, that million dollar accumulation of land use charges accrued over 20 years and was always billed. Bundy attempted to make the payments to the county he resides in, in keeping with his anti-federalist views, but the county couldn't accept the money on the federal government's behalf, in hindsight, I believe our President would ask for a more clever adaptation at this spot in the future, although that’s plausibly unrealistic, and/or, coddling a misanthrope. To attempt to label the current events as a civil matter is to grant some level of immunity to 20 years of willful violation of court orders and that’s not a civil matter.  What good is civil law if it’s not enforceable?

Nicole Wallace, when she tries to paint a picture of a sudden one million dollar bill, is being mischievous.  If I we’re a representative of the GOP, that is the last thing I would ever want to do as it stands on the very last tethers of credibility, driven into the margins by marginal belief sets treated as absolutes and defended with mischievous semantics across all topics.

This discussion imploded at this point and never recovered.  Wallace: ‘It’s not like he was getting monthly bills”, Truth: yes he was.  Wallace:  ‘I don’t see any guns’, Video: guns.  Barnicle: ‘there is a very disturbing segment of the population’, Truth: that was also on the 5 o’clock train you and Gene missed, those people have been around forever, but they seem to really bubble up when there’s a Democratic President.

The ultimate 5 facts short conclusion was attempted by Gregory as he trotted out the right versus left analysis to try and sum up the differences exasperated in this situation.  These warring parties are both margins on the right.  The militias are obvious, but what we aren’t talking about is that the agencies participating in the enforcement.  That conglomerate, both local federal agents and local law enforcement, is by no means some Obama ‘hope and change’ army.  Those people are the law enforcement right.  The US Attorney for the State of Nevada is a Republican.  If Nicole is the person representing the right in this discussion, the bickering parties are in essence two of her small toes ready to fight each other with guns.  The Democrats are at best in a position to referee the event, and Harry Reid is right in calling out the militia as ‘domestic terrorists’ and portraying the situation as a ridiculous escalation of gun toting immatures aggravated by not getting their way.  These are the people who blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City.  The administration knows this and is positioning itself to regulate this and any ensuing action to the fullest of it’s abilities.

We are simultaneously monitoring the Ukraine, and in a stunning parallel, its a story with separatists with guns at odds with their government.  Lots of differences to be sure, but the US has to handle its domestic efforts in manner that allows it credibility at the table of that international affair with a ton of similar elements.

Having complex arguments on the fly is the recipe for Morning Joe.  Unfortunately the tendency towards unprepared analysis is prevalent.  Hard to say if anyone could do it better than these highly qualified people, but I suspect that both John Heilemann and Eugene Robinson wish for a more effective presentation of the whole situation in retrospect.  I clearly have the advantage of DVR multiple viewing playback and prepared response, so it’s not a fair counterpoint, except that the truth has to be advanced. John and Gene would want that.