The War Party Bares Its Fangs on Iran

The Iran Regime Change Act of 2015

by Jon PerrFollow

Daily Kos

March 29, 2015 – When it comes to the Iranian nuclear program, the United States is rapidly approaching a point of no return. The P5+1 talks are coming down to the wire even as the participants express cautious optimism that a deal could be inked as soon as Sunday. But if the negotiations in Geneva fail or if their opponents in Congress succeed in blowing them up, leaders of both U.S. political parties will have to quickly come up with a plan B to prevent Tehran from building a nuclear device.

To put it another way, all those who have sought to sabotage an agreement will have to put up or shut up. The Congressional Republicans who invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to torpedo the Iranian talks, the 47 GOP Senators who wrote the leadership of the Islamic Republic threatening to block sanctions relief for Tehran, the 367 House members who penned a similar letter to President Obama, the bipartisan supporters of the Corker-Menendez bill and virtually the entire 2016 Republican presidential field will have to put their money where their mouths are.

And the amount of that money could be as much as $2 trillion over a decade. Thousands of U.S servicemen and women, as well as American civilians, could be the casualties of a conflict that might well spread beyond the region. To ensure that Iran can never develop nuclear weapons, that’s the possible price tag in blood and treasure for an American invasion and occupation of Iran that would require "a commitment of resources and personnel greater than what the U.S. has expended over the past 10 years in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined."

Perhaps President Obama’s foes on both sides of the aisle would like to bring that package up for a vote in Congress. Call it the "Iran Regime Change Act of 2015."

Of course, you’d never know about any of these risks listening to those who casually chant, "Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran." (Continued)

Who Needs a Boss?

Happy Arizmendi bakers: Erin Singer, Suet Cheng, Aeri Swendson

By SHAILA DEWAN
New York Times Magazine

March 25, 2015 – If you happen to be looking for your morning coffee near Golden Gate Park and the bright red storefront of the Arizmendi Bakery attracts your attention, congratulations. You have found what the readers of The San Francisco Bay Guardian, a local alt-weekly, deem the city’s best bakery.

But it has another, less obvious, distinction. Of the $3.50 you hand over for a latte (plus $2.75 for the signature sourdough croissant), not one penny ends up in the hands of a faraway investor. Nothing goes to anyone who might be tempted to sell out to a larger bakery chain or shutter the business if its quarterly sales lag.

Instead, your money will go more or less directly to its 20-odd bakers, who each make $24 an hour — more than double the national median wage for bakers. On top of that, they get health insurance, paid vacation and a share of the profits. “It’s not luxury, but I can sort of afford living in San Francisco,” says Edhi Rotandi, a baker at Arizmendi. He works four days a week and spends the other days with his 2-year-old son.

Arizmendi and its five sister bakeries in the Bay Area are worker-owned cooperatives, an age-old business model that has lately attracted renewed interest as a possible antidote to some of our most persistent economic ills. Most co-ops in the U.S. are smaller than Arizmendi, with around a dozen employees, but the largest, Cooperative Home Care Associates in the Bronx, has about 2,000. That’s hardly the organizational structure’s upper limit. In fact, Arizmendi was named for a Spanish priest and labor organizer in Basque country, José María Arizmendiarrieta. He founded what eventually became the Mondragon Corporation, now one of the region’s biggest employers, with more than 60,000 members and 14 billion euro in revenue. And it’s still a co-op.

In a worker co-op, the workers own the business and decide what to do with the profits (as opposed to consumer co-ops, which are typically stores owned by members who shop at a discount). Historically, worker co-ops have held the most appeal when things seem most perilous for laborers. The present is no exception. And yet, despite their ability to empower workers, co-ops remain largely relegated to boutique status in the United States.  (Continued)

The Christian Right Still dominates the GOP — Is There Any End in Sight?

 

By Amanda Marcotte
Progressive America Rising via AlterNet

March 18, 2015 – In a recent interview on Fox, Christian right writer [3] James Robison went off on a rant about how Christian conservatives need to take over the government: “There are only 500 of you,” Robison said of Congress. “We can get rid of the whole bunch in one smooth swoop and we can really reroute the whole ship!”

He added that this takeover would cause "demons to shudder" and the "gates of hell to tremble," but what was really delusional about it was the idea that Congress is somehow devoid of Christians. In reality, 92% of Congress people identify [4] as Christian. More to the point, nearly every Republican, regardless of their sincerity in saying so, aligns with conservative Christianity, whether Catholic or Protestant, an affiliation reflected in their policy preferences. (One solitary Republican is Jewish.) The Christian right might not own all 535 members of Congress, but with Republicans in the majority, the Christian right is also in the majority.

And yet, as New York Times writer Jason Horowitz explained in a recent profile piece about evangelical organizer David Lane, Lane feels quite similarly: “For Mr. Lane, a onetime Bible salesman and self-described former “wild man,” connecting the pastors with two likely presidential candidates was more than a good day’s work. It was part of what he sees as his mission, which is to make evangelical Christians a decisive power in the Republican Party.”

Say what, said any reader who has cracked a newspaper, the New York Times or otherwise, in the past four decades. Making the Republican Party beholden to the Christian right is like making the sky blue or making cats stubborn. Can you really make something be what it already is?

That the evangelical right already controls the GOP shouldn’t really be in dispute. Not only do the Republicans do exactly as the Christian right tells them on every social issue, such as reproductive rights or gay rights, but Republicans also pay fealty to the Christian right by targeting Muslim countries with their hawkish posturing or using [5] Christian language to rationalize slashing the social safety net. If you were trying to come up with a quick-and-dirty description of the Republican Party, “coalition of corporate and patriarchal religious interests” would be it. (Continued)

We’re Spending Billions to Support the Most Corrupt, Abusive Arm of Law Enforcement

By Susan Grigsby
Daily Kos via Alternet
March 15, 2015

These guys are scary.

In March 2014, three women from Honduras—a mother, her 14-year-old daughter and another teenage girl—crossed the Rio Grande near Abram, Texas. According to Garrett Graff’s [3] article in Politico Magazine, they surrendered to U.S. Custom and Border Protection (CBP) agent Esteban Manzanares of the Border Patrol. Instead of taking them to the holding area in McAllen, Texas, Manzanares put them in the back of his patrol vehicle and drove around for a couple of hours.

    Then he stopped his truck in a wooded area. He raped both the mother and the daughter. He slit the mother’s wrists and tried to break the daughter’s neck, leaving them for dead in the brush.

    He drove off with the third woman bound in his green-and-white heavy-duty Border Patrol truck with a red-and-blue light bar on top, a Department of Homeland Security logo on the door and a U.S. flag on the hood. Somewhere out in the borderlands, the agent left his third prisoner hidden, bound with duct tape.

At the end of his shift, he went back for the girl, took her to his apartment where he raped her. Meanwhile, one of his earlier victims, still alive, had stumbled across the field of a surveillance camera and Border Patrol agents were sent to pick her up. Questioning the two victims led the agents to suspect that a CBP officer was involved and they called the local FBI office. Finding duct tape and blood in Esteban Manzanares’ service vehicle, the FBI agents headed to his apartment. There, Manzanares shot himself after the FBI knocked on his door and identified themselves as federal officers. The girl was found in his apartment, alive, naked and bound to a chair.

Border Patrol Agents conduct an operations check on a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle on the South Texas border.
Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle. To protect against a secret flood of IEDs on the border?

After an internal bureaucratic struggle that forced him to turn to the secretary of the DHS, the new U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) [4] director, Gil Kerlikowske, issued a statement [5] that said, in part:

    I want you to know that I consider these actions, if true, to be reprehensible and I know they are not representative of the agents of the U.S. Border Patrol. … I am deeply sorry that this incident occurred and am committed to doing everything in my power to prevent incidents like this from occurring again.

There are two things of note about this story. One is that Esteban Manzanares was already under suspicion [6] for allowing two border violators to go free, but the backlog of misconduct allegations at the inspector general’s office was so great that he was allowed to remain on duty until an investigation could be done.  (Continued)

Obama Absurdly Declares Venezuela a Security Threat

Channeling Reagan, Obama continues US pressure on Latin American leftist governments

by Mark Weisbrot
al-Jazeera

March 10, 2015 – Yesterday the White House took a new step toward the theater of the absurd by “declaring a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela,” as President Barack Obama put it in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner.

It remains to be seen whether anyone in the White House press corps will have the courage to ask what in the world the nation’s chief executive could mean by that. Is Venezuela financing a coming terrorist attack on U.S. territory? Planning an invasion? Building a nuclear weapon?

Who do they think they are kidding? Some may say that the language is just there because it is necessary under U.S. law in order to impose the latest round of sanctions on Venezuela. That is not much of a defense, telling the whole world the rule of law in the United States is something the president can use lies to get around whenever he finds it inconvenient.

That was the approach of President Ronald Reagan in 1985 when he made a similar declaration in order to impose sanctions — including an economic embargo — on Nicaragua. Like the White House today, he was trying to topple an elected government that Washington didn’t like. He was able to use paramilitary and terrorist violence as well as an embargo in a successful effort to destroy the Nicaraguan economy and ultimately overturn its government. (The Sandinistas eventually returned to power in 2007 and are the governing party today.)

The world has moved forward, even though Washington has not. Venezuela today has very strong backing from its neighbors against what almost every government in the region sees as an attempt to destabilize the country.

“The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) reiterates its strong repudiation of the application of unilateral coercive measures that are contrary to international law,” read a statement from every country in the hemisphere except for the U.S. and Canada on Feb. 11. They were responding to the U.S. sanctions against Venezuela that Obama signed into law in December.

Didn’t read any of this in the English-language media? Well, you probably also didn’t see the immediate reaction to yesterday’s White House blunder from the head of the Union of South American Nations, which read, “UNASUR rejects any external or internal attempt at interference that seeks to disrupt the democratic process in Venezuela.” (Continued)

2016’s Untold Story: How The Election Could Bring A New Wave Of Progressive Warriors

 

While the presidential contest consumes much of our attention, down-ballot races could power a liberal revival

By Luke Brinker
Progressive America Rising via Salon.com

March 10, 2015 – As America marches inexorably toward a presidential election that will almost certainly feature another Clinton, possibly pitted against yet another Bush, a sense of resignation and fatalism has taken hold among many observers on both the progressive left and the anti-establishment right.

While Jeb and Hillary would trade barbs on such perennial wedges issues as abortion and same-sex marriage, and Clinton may be more supportive than Bush of what passes for a social safety net in this country — just don’t mind that bit about ending welfare as we knew it, and try not to focus on that pesky vote for bankruptcy “reform” — neither Wall Street-friendly candidate poses a threat to the plutocratic powers that be. Indeed, the masters of the universe can’t quite decide which of the two they’d prefer to see elected. Either way, they rest assured, they win.

Dispiriting as the coming national contest can be, however, it should not obscure one of the less-discussed dynamics of the 2016 elections: Across the country, a crop of unapologetically progressive candidates promises to infuse a new populist energy into the fight for the U.S. Senate, and may well transform the terms of debate within a Democratic Party that has spent the better part of the past three decades reconciling itself to the Reagan Revolution and embracing neoliberalism.

Rep. Donna Edwards (D-The Elizabeth Warren Wing) is the latest progressive to toss her hat into the Senate ring, announcing today that she will seek the seat being vacated by Maryland Democrat Barbara Mikulski. Though she has served in Congress for six years now, Edwards is fundamentally an insurgent: The community activist won her seat after toppling a hawkish, centrist incumbent in the Democratic primary, and as a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Populist Caucus, she’s been at the forefront of the effort to move the Democrats leftward on issues like austerity, a living wage, foreign policy, and civil liberties. Befitting her congressional service, Edwards plans to run as an unabashed progressive populist.

“The corporate interests are gonna come at me with all their money,” Edwards tells voters in her announcement video. “But if you’ll join me in this fight there’s no way we can’t win. and when I step into Barbara Mikulski’s shoes as your next senator, you’ll always know where I stand — with you.”

Edwards won’t enjoy a clear Democratic field: Fellow Rep. Chris Van Hollen has already launched his bid for Mikulski’s seat, and he has secured the backing of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

Though Van Hollen has put forth some worthy proposals on economic issues, he’s hardly the most progressive nominee Democrats could field in a race their candidate is almost certain to win: Liberals haven’t forgotten, for instance, that he backed the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction framework, which would have cut Social Security benefits. Edwards, by contrast, supports Sen. Warren’s proposal to expand the program. The congresswoman has also staked out more civil libertarian positions than Van Hollen; whereas she supported the Amash-Conyers amendment to overhaul the National Security Agency’s surveillance practices, Van Hollen voted against it.

While the Edwards-Van Hollen contest sets up a potentially epic clash, former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold is unlikely to face any serious Democratic challengers as he vies to reclaim his old job next year. Feingold recently stepped down from his role as an African envoy for the State Department, stoking speculation that he’ll seek a rematch with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), the man who ousted him in the 2010 Tea Party wave election. The former senator has done nothing to discourage such speculation, pointedly referring to his “once, current, and I hope future chief of staff” in his final State Department speech and planning a “listening tour” of his state.

Feingold’s return would mark a particularly sweet victory for progressives, whose 2010 defeat ranked among the most devastating blows for Democratic liberals. (Continued)

A Rebuttal to Cleveland PD’s Infuriating Excuses on Why They Killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice

By Shaun King
DailyKOS

March 2, 2015 – Last known photo of Tamir Rice before he was killed by Cleveland PD. Taken just a few weeks before his murder.
Do you see the picture above of Tamir Rice? Please take a good look at it. Look at his eyes, his smile, his boyish manner. It was the last-known photo taken of Tamir just weeks before he was shot and killed by police on November 22, 2014.

Hanging out and having fun in the park near his home in Cleveland, Ohio, Tamir Rice broke no laws that day. A 12-year-old sixth grader, Tamir, according to his teacher, was on the drum line of the band, loved sports, and enjoyed drawing. He was the baby boy of Samaria Rice, had never been in any trouble with the law or his school, and he loved life.

Shot and killed by an officer who was dismissed from his previous police force for lying, mishandling his gun, and weeping uncontrollably during his gun training, Tamir is now being blamed for his own death by the city of Cleveland and called a "menacing" man child by the Cleveland Police Union.

Can I keep it all the way real? Call me dumb, but I just didn’t see this coming. I know ripping apart victims of police violence is the modus operandi of the police, but seeing them do it with a child is despicably low, unethical, and unnecessary.

Speaking about Tamir last week, the man chosen by the Cleveland Police to represent them to the public, Steve Loomis, stooped to a new low:

    “Tamir Rice is in the wrong,” he said. “He’s menacing. He’s 5-feet-7, 191 pounds. He wasn’t that little kid you’re seeing in pictures. He’s a 12-year-old in an adult body. Tamir looks to his left and sees a police car. He puts his gun in his waistband. Those people—99 percent of the time those people run away from us. We don’t want him running into the rec center. That could be a whole other set of really bad events. They’re trying to flush him into the field. Frank [the driver] is expecting the kid to run. The circumstances are so fluid and unique. …

    “The guy with the gun is not running. He’s walking toward us. He’s squaring off with Cleveland police and he has a gun. Loehmann is thinking, ‘Oh my God, he’s pulling it out of his waistband.’”

While a real part of me feels dirty for even responding to Steve Loomis—it’s not as if he’s some random racist—he is the official representative for the police and what he thinks and says matters. Police voluntarily pay this man to be their mouthpiece.

First off, Tamir absolutely is the boy we see in the photos. We’re not going back in time and showing photos of Tamir as a toddler, but we’re going back to the month before he was killed. That’s a boy. He has fat cheeks. His skin is as smooth (and hairless) as a baby’s butt. His eyes have an innocence that most of us lost decades ago. They look like an episode of SpongeBob and a slam dunk from Lebron would take all of his troubles away.

We must refuse to allow Steve Loomis or anyone else to make Tamir into a man, a man-child, or a kid in a man’s body—he was none of these things. He was a sweet, fun, playful son, brother, student, and friend. In the four weeks after the above photo of him was taken, he didn’t morph into a goatee-having, tattoo-toting, musclebound man. He looked just like he did in this photo.

Secondly, Loomis called Tamir "menacing." Since when did anyone, including a man who is 5’7" become menacing? This is not even the average height for an American man, but is short. Both officers who pulled up on Tamir and Steve Loomis himself are several inches taller than this child. At quick glance, Loomis appears to be a huge man and the notion that he would find Tamir "menacing" is preposterous. Furthermore, the word "menace" has so many loaded connotations that just don’t apply to Tamir. He was a boy playing at a park. (Continued)

How Class Struggle Emerges Under the Democratic Tent

Centrist Dems Ready Strike against Warren Wing

By Kevin Cirilli
Progressive America Rising via The Hill

March 2, 2013 – Centrist Democrats are gathering their forces to fight back against the “Elizabeth Warren wing” of their party, fearing a sharp turn to the left could prove disastrous in the 2016 elections.

For months, moderate Democrats have kept silent as Sen. Warren’s (D-Mass.) barbed attacks against Wall Street, income inequality and the “rigged economy” thrilled the base and stirred desire for a more populist approach.  

But with the race for the White House set to begin, centrists are moving to seize back the agenda.

The New Democrat Coalition (NDC), a caucus of moderate Democrats in the House, plans to unveil an economic policy platform as soon as this week in an attempt to chart a different course.

"I have great respect for Sen. Warren — she’s a tremendous leader,” said Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), one of the members working on the policy proposal. “My own preference is to create a message without bashing businesses or workers, [the latter of which] happens on the other side."

Peters said that if Democrats are going to win back the House and Senate, "it’s going to be through the work of the New Democrat Coalition."

"To the extent that Republicans beat up on workers and Democrats beat up on employers — I’m not sure that offers voters much of a vision," Peters said.

Warren’s rapid ascent has highlighted growing tensions in the Democratic Party about its identity in the post-Obama era.

Caught in the crossfire is the party’s likely nominee in 2016, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose husband took the party in a decisively centrist direction during his eight years in office. (Continued)

End the Embargo of Cuba Now – A Forum and Discussion

Ariel Hernandez, first secretary to Cuba’s UN Mission, with Bob Guild and Luis Matos

By Pat Fry

The Metro NY CCDS organized and co-sponsored a panel presentation February 19th at Local1199 SEIU in mid-town Manhattan on the breakthrough in U.S. policy toward Cuba and what it will take to end the five and a half decades-long embargo of Cuba. Co-sponsors were the Local 1199 SEIU Latin American and Caribbean Democracy Committee and the World Organization for the Right of the People
to Health Care (WORPHC).

Long time Cuba solidarity activist, Bob Guild, Vice President of the NJ-based travel agency Marazul that has organized educational trips to Cuba for many years, spoke of the new travel regulations announced by the Obama Administration.

“The changes are significant for the right of the U.S. people to travel to Cuba,” said Guild. He explained that any group can now sponsor a trip to Cuba – unions, neighborhood organizations, the PTA and not have to apply for a license to do so. From the point of view of U.S. State Department, said Guild,they are encouraging travel because they believe it will undermine the Cuban government and its political system. “We are not emissaries of the U.S. State Department,” Guild said.

He spoke of the attacks on many who have advocated against the U.S. ban on travel over many years, including bombings of Marazul Tours and Local 1199’s union hall that injured a maintenance worker, and the 1979assassination of Cuban American Carlos Muniz, a leading solidarity activist with the Antonio Maceo Brigade. The policy change is a victory for the Cuban people because the U.S. was forced to recognize the legitimacy of the Cuban state, he said.

Ariel Hernandez, First Secretary of the Republic of Cuba to the UN Mission, said “The blockade of Cuba continues and the U.S. policy of ‘regime change’ in Cuba has not abated.” One way in which this is playing out is the attempt by the U.S. to ease import/export restrictions for the private sector in Cuba and not for publicly-owned restaurants and hotels. Hernandez said that the private sector in Cuba has some of the strongest pro-government people in the country. “Cuba will never accept any U.S. interference in our internal affairs,” he said.

Negotiations on many issues including telecommunications and internet, will continue the week of February 23, he said. “We are optimistic in the process. We are very strong in our position of sovereignty.”

Luis Matos of the Local 1199 SEIU Latin American and Caribbean Democracy Committee and the World Organization for the Right of the People to Health Care (WORPHC) spoke of the importance of educational trips to Cuba. The WORPHC has been organizing trips to Cuba for 30 years mainly among health care workers and rank and file union members. Matos stressed the importance of educational trips to Cuba in order for people to learn of the Cuban system of health care, Cuban life and society.

Muata Greene, a retired EMT medic in NYC, works with the WORPHC in organizing trips. He said “Cuba is a great example of the right of the people to health care. The people that go to Cuba are taking the message back to the U.S. – single payer health care for the U.S.,” said Greene.

Among the 60 people attending were many activists in Cuba solidarity work, including Leslie Cagan who headed the Cuba Information Project in the 1990s, Gail Walker of Pastors for Peace/IFCO, Ike Naheem and Jaime Mendieta of the July 26th Coalition. Anne Mitchell of CCDS chaired the panel and welcomed everyone on behalf of the three sponsoring organizations.

In discussion of next steps to end the embargo, Pat Fry reported on the lobby efforts in Congress, spearheaded by the Latin American Working Group. The LAWG has an online petition in support of legislation to lift the travel ban (S. 299 and H.R. 664). The identical bills are bi-partisan but the lobby focus is aimed at Republicans before more Democrats sign on. A bill to lift trade restrictions was
also introduced in Congress but with less support at this time.

At the conclusion of the forum, there was consensus on a proposal to build a network to:

1) Share information and build support for “End the Travel Ban” legislation, including circulating the LAWG online petition at http://www.lawg.org/action-center/78-end-the-travel-ban-on-cuba/1407-tell-congress-its-time-to-end-the-embargo

2) Initiate a petition to completely bring an end to the embargo of Cuba and repeal the Helms-Burton law that enforces all aspects of the U.S. embargo.

3) Share information about educational trips to Cuba and build participation to encourage as many as possible to go to Cuba and learn first-hand the Cuban socialist project.

The US is Heading Into a Heavily Militarized Future

By Tom Englehardt
Beaver County Peace Links via TomDispatch

Feb 17, 2015 – I never fail to be amazed — and that’s undoubtedly my failing.  I mean, if you retain a capacity for wonder you can still be awed by a sunset, but should you really be shocked that the sun is once again sinking in the west? Maybe not.

The occasion for such reflections: machine guns in my hometown. To be specific, several weeks ago, New York Police Commissioner William J. Bratton announced the formation of a new 350-officer Special Response Group (SRG). Keep in mind that New York City already has a police force of more than 34,000 — bigger, that is, than the active militaries of Austria, Bulgaria, Chad, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Kenya, Laos, Switzerland, or Zimbabwe — as well as its own “navy,” including six submersible drones. 

Just another drop in an ocean of blue, the SRG will nonetheless be a squad for our times, trained in what Bratton referred to as “advanced disorder control and counterterror.”  It will also, he announced, be equipped with “extra heavy protective gear, with the long rifles and machine guns — unfortunately sometimes necessary in these instances.” And here’s where he created a little controversy in my hometown.  The squad would, Bratton added, be “designed for dealing with events like our recent protests or incidents like Mumbai or what just happened in Paris.”

Now, that was an embarrassment in liberal New York.  By mixing the recent demonstrations over the police killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and others into the same sentence with the assault on Mumbai and the Charlie Hebdo affair in France, he seemed to be equating civil protest in the Big Apple with acts of terrorism.  Perhaps you won’t be surprised then that the very next day the police department started walking back the idea that the unit would be toting its machine guns not just to possible terror incidents but to local protests.  A day later, Bratton himself walked his comments back even further. (“I may have in my remarks or in your interpretation of my remarks confused you or confused the issue.”)  Now, it seems there will be two separate units, the SRG for counterterror patrols and a different, assumedly machine-gun-less crew for protests.

Here was what, like the sun going down in the west, shouldn’t have shocked me but did: no one thought there was any need to walk back the arming of the New York Police Department with machine guns for whatever reasons.  The retention of such weaponry should, of course, have been the last thing to shock any American in 2015.  After all, the up-armoring and militarization of the police has been an ongoing phenomenon since 9/11, even if it only received real media attention after the police, looking like an army of occupation, rolled onto the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, in response to protests over the killing of Michael Brown.

In fact, the Pentagon (and the Department of Homeland Security) had already shunted $5.1 billion worth of military equipment, much of it directly from the country’s distant battlefields — assault rifles, land-mine detectors, grenade launchers, and 94,000 of those machine guns — to local police departments around the country.  Take, for example, the various tank-like, heavily armored vehicles that have now become commonplace for police departments to possess.  (Ferguson, for instance, had a “Bearcat,” widely featured in coverage of protests there.)

Since 2013, the Pentagon has transferred for free more than 600 mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles, or MRAPs, worth at least half a million dollars each and previously used in U.S. war zones, to various “qualified law enforcement agencies.” Police departments in rural areas like Walsh County, North Dakota (pop. 11,000) now have their own MRAPs, as does the campus police department at Ohio State University.  It hardly matters that these monster vehicles have few uses in a country where neither ambushes nor roadside bombs are a part of everyday life. (Continued)