I don’t want to obsess on the Ferguson stuff, because I think it has peaked. The locals have been broomed, and with the state boys in charge, my guess is things will calm down. But before they do, let’s take a look at a couple of explainers on how we came to this point. First:
Faced with a bloated military and what it perceived as a worsening drug crisis, the 101st Congress in 1990 enacted the National Defense Authorization Act. Section 1208 of the NDAA allowed the Secretary of Defense to “transfer to Federal and State agencies personal property of the Department of Defense, including small arms and ammunition, that the Secretary determines is— (A) suitable for use by such agencies in counter-drug activities; and (B) excess to the needs of the Department of Defense.” It was called the 1208 Program. In 1996, Congress replaced Section 1208 with Section 1033.
The idea was that if the U.S. wanted its police to act like drug warriors, it should equip them like warriors, which it has—to the tune of around $4.3 billion in equipment, according to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union. The St. Louis County Police Department’s annual budget is around $160 million. By providing law enforcement agencies with surplus military equipment free of charge, the NDAA encourages police to employ military weapons and military tactics.
This is instructive, too:
Fears of Al Qaeda in the heartland led to the further transfer of surplus military equipment like Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles to cops, as well as billions and billions of dollars given to them in the form of Department of Homeland Security grants used to purchase such equipment.
Suddenly, you had small towns in Texas and New Hampshire with armored vehicles, machine guns, silencers, armored vehicles, bomb robots, night-vision goggles, and lately, drones, all in the name of counterterrorism. Such grants have totaled about $34 billion since 2001, a number that has no doubt increased since the Center for Investigative Reporting released that figure in 2011.
Of course, since Islamic terrorists have yet to storm America’s small towns, this equipment is not used for counterterrorism. The police have to use these fancy new toys, so they use them for more and more SWAT operations, like the service of no-knock warrants, drug arrests, expensive and lengthy standoffs with empty houses, and as we saw in Ferguson last night, taking on protesters.
And finally? This:
There’s a no-fly zone in an American town because police are worried they might retaliate against police for shooting and killing an unarmed boy. So far, here’s the headcount:
At least five reports of unconstitutionally detained journalists. Two civilians shot by Ferguson Police this month; one killed. Four nights of tear gas, a chemical banned in war. At least one family teargassed in its own backyard and home. Twenty-one thousand people who have no one to call in case of an emergency, like the man left to struggle for his life while police carted away two journalists last night for sitting in a McDonald’s.
Zero shot or killed police officers. Zero names released for the shootings police committed in the last week. Zero apologies. No accountability.
But really? The story of the day has nothing to do with cops and tear gas, but Starbucks — a deep dive into the life of a single woman trying to keep her head above water and maybe get ahead in the world, but can’t. Not because she isn’t willing to work, but because Starbucks, and thousands of companies elsewhere, have adjusted their labor costs by screwing over their employers with truly impossible scheduling. On-call hours, short-notice shifts, some sort of unique torture called “clopening,” where you close at a late hour and then open the place four hours later — all of this whittles away at the labor costs and improves the bottom line, but makes it impossible to negotiate as a lowly barista. It’s a great, infuriating read, and I encourage you to make it.
Alos, have a great weekend.