Wednesday, September 10, 2014

All Hail the Police State, Part 19

I've been slacking at keeping up with my blogging, but news I say today couldn't be ignored.  I've often commented on the militarization of police in this country and I always back that up with hard numbers and examples.  Today we have an article in USA Today showing just how much money the federal government is putting into militarizing local police departments.

It's more than 1 billion dollars.  Every year.

Take a moment and marvel at that.  Think of all the times some politician says there isn't enough money to fund highway repair or social programs or education endeavors.  How many school lunches could we provide with a billion dollars?  How many miles of highway could be poured for that?  How many potholes fixed?

Of course, that number pales in comparison to the 1 trillion dollars spent on the NSA this year.  Take this to heart, when you stamp a D or R on your ballot, you are supporting politicians that spend your tax money oppressing you, rather than supporting you.  There are a few exceptions, but 95% of the Democrats and Republicans are supporting programs like this, while telling you there isn't any money to support programs and infrastructure in your local community. 

There is an election coming up, please be thoughtful about who you give your vote to.

Monday, August 18, 2014

What I Saw in Ferguson

I live in St Louis, on the edge of what is considered north county.  Ferguson is about 5 miles north of my little burg.  I grew up close to that area and know the area of Ferguson, Dellwood, Jennings and Florissant quite well.  In fact, my two childhood homes are quite close to streets that have been mentioned in the news a lot- Chambers and West Florissant.  If you take those roads towards the edge of St Louis County from Ferguson you'd pass through the neighborhoods where I spent most of my years until I was 19 and got my own place.  I know that area well.

I'm not surprised by the racial tension, that's an area that has been in transition my whole life.  Section by section black people have moved in and white people have moved out to either west St Louis County or adjacent St Charles county.  Hell, my family was one of those- we moved from Bellefountaine Neighbors to lily white (at the time) Florissant when my dad noticed the first black family on our street.  When my mom moved from that house in Florissant a couple years ago that neighborhood was occupied by black folks in majority numbers.  Anytime you get one demographic displacing another there is going to be more tension.  I've heard it mentioned that St Louis is one of the most segregated urban areas in the nation.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

"Not All Men"

There is a feminist meme referred to as Not All Men.  It mocks men who don't want to be demonized and associated with rapists.  The idea is that when people are chastising all men as a demographic and calling them out as the source of almost all that is wrong in the world, "it's not helpful" for a man to suggest that not all men are evil.  In fact, it's asserted that such a defense is counter productive to the discussion.

That's exactly what it is- a defense.  A defense is needed because men are being attacked.  Whether a particular male involved in the discussion is part of the problem or not doesn't matter, all males are at fault.  Men are collectively called out as evil, as rapists, as misogynists, as being at fault for women making less, and a variety of other issues.  For sure, there are many men who are evil, rapists, misogynists and so on.  But lumping all men into a single category so they are easier to hate, rather than treating people like individuals, isn't helpful to advancing women's rights.  It puts men on the defensive.  It gives men the option of either being self-loathing or anti-feminism.  That's a terrible choice.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

An Amazing Book - Out of the Mountains

I'm just finishing up one of the best books I've read, Out of the Mountains by David Kilcullen.  If you have any interest in terrorism, organized crime or what keeps communities together, I highly recommend it.  It's the sort of book that made me thoughtful, offered a new perspective on many subjects and has inspired me to do some additional research.  It comes with my highest recommendation. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

All Hail the Police State, Part 18

I've written before about various government agencies that have firearms and SWAT teams, like the Department of Education.  Today I noticed that the newest SWAT team that's come to my attention is operated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife department.  You know, game wardens and park rangers.  Because the new futuristic super-poacher needs a militarized game warden to stop him.  Part of the  arsenal?  Gunboats mounted with .30 caliber machine guns including a 65 foot gulf patrol boat.  65' is almost superyacht status, a big freaking boat that cost millions of dollars.  To make sure people have their proper fishing permits, I guess.

That is crazy.

Almost as crazy as the Missouri Water Patrol, that has a SWAT team.  That trains on land.  Because, you know, they need a SWAT team to combat frat boys getting drunk and girls without their tops on in party cove at Lake of the Ozarks.

Stay safe out there!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

All Hail the Police State, Michael Bane Edition

I'm a fan of the Michael Bane Podcast and today's episode was particular topical.  He discusses the increasing prevalence of using SWAT teams in a dynamic entry (kicking in doors and using concussion grenades) for mundane warrants is putting officers at risk.  I agree.

Peace officers should be focused on deescalation and resolving conflict peacefully.  When they arm up with machine guns and grenades and break windows and kick in doors they are bringing violence to a peaceful situation.  They are choosing to escalate the violence rather than pacify it.  Any instructor will tell you that as the violence level escalates, officers are at risk.  It certainly puts civilians at risk.

I've had an intruder in my home.  I was able to resolve the situation without violence.  However, if that intruder has burst into my home in a violent manner instead of coming in quietly, my response would have been quite different.  I would have responded with force.  Instead, I was awoken by my dog and had a moment to gather my thoughts and investigate.  If I was startled awake by violence, it increases the chance I will respond with violence.  It's human nature, hard-wired in us.

I hope police re-evaluate their focus on militarization.  We are all citizens here.  We aren't enemies.  Treating us that way increases the chance we will adapt to be enemies- in that scenario everyone loses.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Day We Fight Back

These folks are doing good work and worth checking out.  If you don't approve of the police state, it's a great day to let your representatives know.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Effect of Tarifs

If you read this blog much, you already realize I'm a motorcycle enthusiast.  I currently own two motorcycles, a Kawasaki dual sport and a Harley.  I bought my first bike at 18 and have owned one continuously for 15 years.  I'm a brand agnostic, lots of companies make good bikes, it all depends on what you are after.

Because of my interest I follow motorcycle news and over the last few years I've noticed a trend in the industry.  Manufacturers are building factories in India.  There are a number of reasons for this, a big one being tariffs.

India, and some other Asian countries like Vietnam, impose very high tariffs on imported motorcycles and scooters.  India is a becoming a huge market for two wheeled transportation, but bikes from Europe, Japan and even China are prohibitively expensive.  So what do manufacturers do?  If they want to sell products in a country where it's not feasible to import, they build a plant.

Honda is up to 4.  KTM is not only building new bikes in India, they are designing new models specifically for that market.  The old British brand Triumph has built bikes in India for some time and are even planning on building a bike in India they export to the UK.  The other British marque, Royal Enfield, is made in India.  Even Harley Davidson makes motorcycles in India.  Their latest offering, the Street 500 and 750, were even designed with members of the engineering team in India. 

It's a changing world out there!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Making a Difference

I'm glad that people getting degrees in Art History, French and Creative Writing notice there is injustice in the world.  I'm glad they are outraged about it.  I'm often dismayed how shocked they are about injustice that has existed for hundreds of years, but we all become aware of the world at different times.  I do however, have a hard reality to share.

An English major at some fancy university is quite unlikely to make any headway against that injustice.

Why?  They are going to enter the world after university with some great tools, but not tools or skills that will enable them to really make a difference.  Sure, they can use perfect grammar when expressing their outrage on Facebook or at Starbucks, but they don't have the tools to gain the power, influence or money to change the world in any substantial way. 

The people who change the world need the influence to do so.  They need to be a charismatic and powerful speaker in a position of importance.  They need to have money behind them to get their message out.  They need to be politicians or lobbyists.  They need to start non-profits.  They need to be able to influence and write legislation.

If you want to change the world, you need to be a lawyer.  Or a politician.  Or have an understanding of business, community organization.  Be a politically connected cultural leader, like clergy.  Have money to put into your causes.  You need to be a traditionally successful person to change the system.  It's great we have people who are passionate about a degree in Women's Studies and have a desire to change the world in a substantial way.  But it's highly unlikely they will.  It takes power, money or influence to change the world.  If fighting injustice is really your goal, then you need to follow a path that gives you that power, money or influence.

Good luck! 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Sturdy Shoes

Over the weekend I went to a fundraiser for the local burner group and hackerspace.  It's an annual event and my wife and I have attended a the last few years.  We have friends that run in both the hackerspace and burner communities and the money raised supports art grants.  While at the event I realized something about the people I generally socialize with.

They all wear boots.

I've mentioned before I've volunteered with Zombie Squad for a number of years.  When I first discovered ZS I realized I had a lot in common with them.  These were people who wanted to be prepared, wore sturdy shoes but weren't religious nutjobs or wanna be militia men. 

One of the core holdings of the burn community is radical self reliance.  Sure, a lot of them run around in very little clothing at burns, but they are more likely to be wearing boots whether out and about or partying in the playa.

The bars I frequent tend to be dives- biker bars, industrial and goth bars- again, you see most of the people wearing sturdy boots.  At gun ranges and in the outdoors people are more likely to wear boots.  On motorcycles, people wear boots.  In fact, other than the people at work and the people I play hockey with, most people I choose to associate with are more likely to wear boots than not.  I find that interesting.