Behind the Iron Curtain part 12 – Police

These are my recollections of a life behind the iron curtain. I do not aim to give perfect and objective evaluation of anything, but to share my personal experiences and memories. It will explain why I just cannot get misty eyed over some ideas on the political left and why I loathe many ideas on the right.


Police did not exist. It was recognized to be a tool of oppression of common people by those in power and therefore something that an enlightened socialist regime does not need.

Did you believe that? I think not. But it is true. Police did not exist.

That is, the word “police” was not used in any official settings. During Habsburg rule in the Austrian Empire the police was mostly concerned with nabbing political dissidents and whilst during the First Republic it was actually really an organization for dealing with crime, that did not take long and during the WW2 it again morphed into an arm of oppression. The name “Geheime Staatspolizei” (secret state police) got stuck in people’s minds and the word police was irredeemably tainted in the minds of Czech people.

I do not know whether this was the actual reason for abandoning the word police by the regime, but I think it has played a role from what we were taught at school about history.

So the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic did not have any organization with the word “police” anywhere in it, but of course crime had to be investigated, traffic must have been regulated and miscreants had to be dealt with.

For this we had an organization “Veřejná Bezpečnost” short “VB”. Their yellow and white cars were very distinguishable and their uniforms made them easily recognized. Whilst they had the power to require “papers please”, they were members of community and at least where I live nobody minded them much. The derogatory term “policajt” applied to them, but without much rancor above what it usually has anywhere around the world.

And of course any totalitarian regime needs its secret police, even when not named as such, and ours was no exception.

The actual arm of oppression was the “Státní Bezpečnost“, short “StB”. These were plain clothes agents and everybody feared them. Nobody knew who belongs to this organization and who does not – a lot of the agents did have other primary jobs, infiltrating communities and spying on people, even their own family members. Everybody had to be extra careful about what they tell to whom and there was a huge culture of distrust. Critique of regime’s officials was one of the things that was frowned upon and one of the biggest challenges people raising kids had been to teach the kids tell truth at home, but to lie in public.

My father was a member of the Communist Party, he joined in his twenties and was an idealist. However he was also an honest man who spoke his mind, and one of his brothers was a political dissident living in USA – and they were in contact.

One evening my father came back from local gathering of the Communist Party and he informed my mother curtly “I might end up in jail, we’ll see”. These gatherings were officially places to discuss problems and solutions to them etc. but of course that was not particularly encouraged, what was expected was sycophancy. But in this one instance my father, when he had his turn to speak, did not reign in his honesty enough and said aloud words to the effect that a lot of the problems could be solved if only the grumpy fat old men in lead of the party actually cared about the people and not themselves. He got lucky.

Of course not everybody who opened their mouth and said something unfavorable about the Communist Party or the regime got nabbed and incarcerated. The way people function that would mean everybody would wound up in jail. But the possibility was always at the back of people’s’ minds. The way the regime worked, nobody knew if some innocent remark might be the point after which one gets into the regime’s focus, and once in focus, the StB could always find something. The maxim was that everybody is guilty and there is nothing you can do about it – only hope that you will not be the one who gets nabbed.

So people tried not to even think honest thoughts. This is how you control a populace – by building fences in their heads.

10 Plants: Bulldozed To Death.

In this June 17, 2015, file photo, marijuana plants grow at LifeLine Labs in Cottage Grove, Minn. | Photo: AP Photo / Jim Mone.

In this June 17, 2015, file photo, marijuana plants grow at LifeLine Labs in Cottage Grove, Minn. | Photo: AP Photo / Jim Mone.

That’s right: Confronted with a small-scale illicit marijuana grow on public land, the [Pennsylvania] State Police deployed a helicopter and the on-scene bulldozer and managed to kill their target. But that’s not how the cops tried to spin it.

Brought to you with utter disgust and contempt, contempt for fucking cops, who seem to be good for only one thing: murder. Contempt for the puritanical, colonial bullshit which is a complete blight on Amerikkan society.

You can read all the sordid details here.

The Chains of Intolerance.

Andrew Ellis Johnson, “The ICEman Cometh” (2018, detail), ink, charcoal, wax, graphite.

Andrew Ellis Johnson, “The ICEman Cometh” (2018, detail), ink, charcoal, wax, graphite.

Art and artists most definitely have a place in answering wrongs, great or small, and everything in between. Andrew Ellis Johnson has a searing piece up at Hyperallergic. It’s well worth seeing and reading.

All Lives Splatter.

A Chelan County emergency services worker posted a disturbing joke to the county’s Facebook account, kidding about protesters being rammed three weeks after a Virginia protester was killed by a driver who did so.

The worker managing the county’s emergency services Facebook account posted a crude cartoon with an illustration captioned, “All lives splatter … nobody cares about your protest / Keep your ass out of the Road”

The as-yet unidentified poster included the note: “I don’t wish harm on anyone … but protesters don’t belong in the road!”

Mmm, you don’t wish harm on anyone, but you show a depiction of people being harmed because, “hey, it’s funny, and those libtards deserve it, lol!” I imagine if such was directed at you, emergency services worker, you wouldn’t find it so gosh darn amusing. I sure as fuck don’t. Handing J. Q. Public license to murder is not funny. It’s not funny that open murder is being written into law, because of course, dissent is evil, so you better do all your dissenting someplace legal, like your closet, where you can’t help to effect any change at all.

Chelan County Sheriff Brian Burnett apologized for the post on Monday, saying the non-commissioned employee intended to share it only on a personal account.

“Staff at Chelan County Emergency Management feel terrible that this inappropriate and hurtful post made it onto the Facebook page,” Burnett wrote in the news release. “Changes have already been made in procedure to assure nothing like this will ever occur in the future.”

Oh, and that makes it okay, does it, to change things so this sort of evil shit can’t make it to the official page? Naturally, having employees posting this vile poison on their personal accounts, that’s just dandy! Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think I’d want Chelan County emergency services anywhere near me. Your asshole employees would be just as prone to killing me as helping me, right, Sheriff Burnett?

In recent months, law enforcement workers around the country have been called out for posting the meme and similar statements.

A Slate examination of the trend in August – “Run Them Down”: Driving into crowds of protesters was a right-wing fantasy long before the violence in Charlottesville – highlighted three police officers and one firefighter who were caught urging vehicle attacks on protesters. One Oregon cop was fired for suggesting that drivers “push the right” pedal when facing Black Lives Matter protesters.

Pigs will be pigs, won’t they? This is what happens when cops shops refuse to hire intelligent people. This is what happens when cops shops happily hire white supremacists and assorted dumbshit bigots. Then gives them a license to be homicidal prickshits.

Via Seattle PI.

No More Reading On Planes?

Hrag Vartanian.

Oh, the TSA has come up with yet another of their unbelievably stupid ideas, and naturally, are quite enthused about it. All books and all paper of any kind will be pulled for extra scrutiny. Given the collective brain power of the TSA, this most likely means that a very high number of potential passengers will not be making their flight, but be locked up in a back room somewhere, while the crafty TSA agents attempt to figure out the reading material.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is testing new requirements that would oblige travelers to remove books and other paper goods from their carry-on baggage when going through airport security. The new proposal hasn’t gone into effect, though the TSA, which is an agency of the US Department of Homeland Security, has tested it at airports, including in early May, when screeners at a Kansas City airport “forced passengers to remove all paper from bags, down to notepads,” according to Wall Street Journal; The Sacramento Bee reported that the TSA also tested this policy in Sacramento.

[…]

TSA agents already have the authority to search what they want, and anyone who has been subject to extra screenings will know that notebooks and other books are often flipped through by agents, who sometimes even read their pages. That was the experience of artist Kameelah Janan Rashid, who was removed from a plane on her way to Istanbul in 2015. Yet this new policy, as outlined by Stanley, “would lead to more routine and systematic exposure and, inevitably, greater scrutiny of passengers’ reading materials in the course of the screening process.”

Henry Reichman, professor emeritus of history at California State University at East Bay and chair of the American Association of University Professors’ Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, told Inside Higher Ed that the screening change was troubling:

Academics are unsurprisingly big readers, and since we don’t simply read for pleasure, we often read materials with which we disagree or which may be seen by others as offensive. […] For instance, a scholar studying terrorism and its roots may well be reading — and potentially carrying on a plane — books that others might see as endorsing terrorism. In addition, because scholarship is international, I suspect academics are more likely than others to be reading and carrying material in foreign languages, which might arouse some suspicion. … Finally, academics (as well as editors and journalists) may well be carrying pre-publication materials — drafts for peer review or comment, etc. — and these could raise special concerns.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said in an interview with Fox News Sunday last month that the department “might and likely will” expand the new carry-on policy.

The Full Story is at Hyperallergic.

If You’re Black, Being A Cop Won’t Stop Cops Shooting You.

Image from the scene where an off-duty officer was shot by a fellow cop in St. Louis (image via Twitter).

Y’know, if this doesn’t drive home the endemic bigotry in this fuckin’ country, and the problem of bigoted cops shooting and murdering people on the basis of skin, I just don’t know what will drive it home. All I have here is sputter and head shaking. This truly should be unbelievable, because something like this should never, ever happen.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and local news outlet Fox2Now, a white St. Louis police officer shot a black off-duty officer from his own force after a car chase ended in a crash outside the off-duty officer’s home.

The African American officer, who has not yet been identified, came outside of his home while off-duty after hearing the commotion from a car chase that ended nearby. Despite identifying himself as a cop, the man was ordered to the ground by two officers. He complied, and soon after, they recognized him and told him to get up.

That was when a third officer entered the scene, and because he did not recognize the black off-duty cop and claimed to “fear for his safety,” shot the off-duty cop in the arm.

The Post-Dispatch reported that police are calling the incident an example of “friendly fire” due to the suspects from the car chase firing at police. The paper also reported that police initially claimed that the 38-year-old African American officer, who has been on the force for 11 years, was “caught in the crossfire.”

Obviously, this ‘incident’ is going to come with many different stories, as cops try to spin it this way and that, in an attempt to make it look like anything except what it is. When in the fuckety fuck are people going to wake the fuck up, and stop accepting this bullshit? Cops are out of control, and free to run around murdering people at will, as long as the victims have the right skin colour, then they were just askin’ for killin’, you betcha. Fucking disgusting, and even more disgusting are all the people on juries, freeing murderers. That has to stop.

This is a real problem,” Rufus J. Tate Jr., the attorney for the injured off-duty officer, told the local Fox affiliate.

“In the police report, you have so far, there is no description of threat he received. So we have a real problem with that. But this has been a national discussion for the past two years. There is this perception that a black man is automatically feared,” the attorney concluded.

I do believe that belongs in the understatement of the century category.

Via Raw Story.

Says It All.

Philando Castile (What’s Trending).

Rep. Barbara Lee: #Philando Castile was shot in cold blood. The world watched it LIVE. What will it take for the justice system to value Black lives?

Do not go looking at the comments, unless you feel like spilling your stomach.

Be A King: This is why there’s the cry & movement, #BlackLivesMatter. It’s not anti-all lives mattering. It’s anti-#PhilandoCastile’s not mattering.

Shaun King: I must remind you that #PhilandoCastile never even broke a law. He wasn’t speeding. He was racially profiled and pulled over for being Black.

Ox: I live in a country where cops can kill me & go home for dinner. But if we don’t stand for the nat’l anthem it’s a problem.

Via Raw Story.

DAPL Approval Illegal, Judge Finds.

Trump on DAPL. © Marty Two Bulls.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the law in its fast-tracked approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), a U.S. District Court Judge in Washington D.C. has ruled. Judge James Boasberg said the Corps did not consider key components of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in granting the Lake Oahe easement under the Missouri River when directed to do so by President Donald Trump shortly after his swearing-in.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, with the Cheyenne River Sioux as interveners, had challenged the approval on the grounds that adequate environmental study had not been conducted. Boasberg agreed on many points, though he did not rule on whether the pipeline should remain operational. It has been carrying oil since June 1.

“Although the Corps substantially complied with NEPA in many areas, the Court agrees that it did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline’s effects are likely to be highly controversial,” Boasberg said in his 91-page decision. “To remedy those violations, the Corps will have to reconsider those sections of its environmental analysis upon remand by the Court. Whether Dakota Access must cease pipeline operations during that remand presents a separate question of the appropriate remedy, which will be the subject of further briefing.”

A status conference will be held next week, according to the environmental law firm EarthJustice, which is representing the tribes in this case. Energy Transfer Partners, the pipeline’s builders, did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

“This is a major victory for the Tribe and we commend the courts for upholding the law and doing the right thing,” said Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II in a statement. “The previous administration painstakingly considered the impacts of this pipeline and President Trump hastily dismissed these careful environmental considerations in favor of political and personal interests. We applaud the courts for protecting our laws and regulations from undue political influence, and will ask the Court to shut down pipeline operations immediately. ”

Indian Country Today has the full story.

Where there’s the smallest good news, there’s always bad news, and in this case, it comes in the form of Zinke:

“I think, talking to tribes, they’re very happy,” Zinke said of his proposal, adding that he “talked to all parties, and they’re pretty happy and willing to work with us.”

But this is not so, according to tribal representatives. In a June 12 press call hosted by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), the vice-chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Navajo Nation Attorney General Ethel Branch said the tribe’s leaders have “maintained a consistent position that they support the monument designation.

“If there is any happiness,” Branch said,” it’s probably that the monument remains intact as of now.

“I think [the ‘happy’ characterization] is probably just a characterization coming from Trump,” Branch added.

Natalie Landreth, a lawyer with the Native American Rights Fund who represents the Hopi, Zuni and Ute Mountain Ute Tribes on Bears Ears issues, said during the Udall call that the proclamation that set up Bears Ears as a national monument had already formed a structure in which five tribes, known as the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, work together to co-manage the monument.

“It’s unclear exactly what the secretary is suggesting, so until we know more details about what he’s talking about, it’s difficult to have a view on it,” Landreth said. “Our initial reaction on behalf of the three tribes we represent is that this was really a cynical effort to distract Indian country from the devastating blow of reducing the size of the monument.”

Landreth said that some of her impacted tribal clients told her as of June 12 that Zinke had not been in touch with them on this matter.

“We don’t know who he’s talking to and what they may have said,” Landreth said.

Full story here.

Kicking Kirchmeier.

Oceti Sakowin Camp. © C. Ford, all rights reserved.

There’s a petition, and yes, I know people get petition tired, but please click on over and sign this one, to remove the murder-minded and incompetent Kirchmeier from his position as Sheriff of Morton County. Kirchmeier took a brutal stance from the beginning, and as some of you will recall from the Standing Rock posts, he spread misinformation and outright lies from the beginning, and never stopped telling lies, either. He used all the climate justice warriors as an excuse to spend outrageous amounts of money on military equipment, so he could play a latter day Custer, obviously hoping for better results. In the end, his unholy alliance with the oil companies worked out just fine for him, giving him equipment to oppress and harm, all while lining his pockets. Please help out by adding your name to the petition.
 
Remove Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, of the Morton County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff David Clarke Gets His Trump Appointment.

Sheriff David Clarke Jr. CREDIT: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin.

I’m sure that Dave Clarke is just giddy over being appointed to homeland security. For the rest of us, it’s a walking, talking, nightmare. No one could possibly be less qualified than Clarke, whose hatred knows no bounds. Many times over, this man should have been tried for his crimes, and if there was any justice, he’d be sitting in a prison cell for the rest of his life.  He’s in the midst of a prison deaths scandal right now, but apparently, that doesn’t matter, anymore than his previous crimes. This is just the tip of the Clarke iceberg:

Clarke has called the Black Lives Matter movement “black slime” that “needs to be eradicated from the American society and the American culture,” “garbage” and a “subversive movement” that seeks to overthrow the government, and said that the movement is driven by “an ideology of victimhood with a list of grievances that do not exist.” He has dismissed concerns about police brutality by saying that “black criminal abuse, black criminal brutality” is “the real brutality going on in the United States.” The real problem in “the American ghetto,” he has said, is “modern liberalism.”

Clarke said that Michael Brown, the black teenager shot by police in Ferguson, Missouri, was a “co-conspirator in his own demise” because he “chose thug life.” After Sandra Bland, a black woman who had been thrown to the ground during a traffic stop, died in police custody, Clarke went on Fox News to chastise her. He said that he would have used even more force against a group of black teenagers who were thrown to the ground by police outside a public swimming pool in Ohio, telling people who saw a racial component in the action to “shut up already.”

Clarke has been colorful in his condemnation of President Obama and Hillary Clinton for sympathizing with the Black Lives Matter movement, calling them “straight-up cop haters.” He called Obama a “heartless, soulless bastard” for speaking up about “goons” killed by police and said that the Obama administration’s attempts to address racial disparities in policing were a plot to “emasculate the police” in order to impose dictatorial control.” He accused the president of worsening racial divides in the country by pitting “whites against blacks” and “Hispanics against Americans.”

The sheriff is also happy to throw red meat to his conservative audience on a number of other topics. After the Supreme Court struck down state marriage equality bans, Clarke called for a “revolution” to “get this country back,” complete with “pitchforks and torches,” urging his audience to launch a standoff against the federal government the next time a bakery or the like is fined for refusing business to a same-sex couple.

When Trump caused a national uproar when he attacked a judge because of his Mexican-American heritage, Clarke took to his radio show to defend the candidate.

Clarke first became a conservative hero when, in 2013, he aired radio ads in his county urging citizens not to rely on calling 911 but instead to learn to protect themselves against crime. Speaking at the National Rifle Association’s convention last year, he proposed adding a semi-automatic rifle to the Great Seal of the United States. Appearing on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ radio program, Clarke warned that a renewal of the federal assault weapons ban would lead to gun confiscations that would spark “the second coming of the American Revolution, the likes of which would make the first revolution pale by comparison.”

While Clarke has no patience for African Americans who have deadly run-ins with the police, he has repeatedly associated himself with anti-government militia groups who have staged armed standoffs with federal government agents or who threaten to defy federal law. Earlier this year, when a group of armed activists took over a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon, Clarke backed their cause, saying that the country had reached a “pitchforks and torches moment” that couldn’t be solved by an election.

In 2013, after he aired his ads discouraging citizens from relying on 911, Clarke accepted the “ Constitutional Sheriff of the Year” award from the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, an anti-government group that promotes the idea that county sheriffs are the highest law enforcement officers in the country and thus have the power to defy federal laws that they believe are unconstitutional. In his acceptance speech , Clarke declared that “government” was the “common enemy” of the “patriots” in the room. In a radio interview that year, he said that “on an everyday basis, to me, federal government is a bigger threat” than terrorism.

Just this year, Clarke spoke at a fundraising event for the New York chapter of the Oath Keepers, an anti-government group aligned with the Constitutional Sheriffs that urges law enforcement officers and military personnel to defy laws they believe are unconstitutional and encourages its members to form militias ready to defy an out-of-control federal government. At that event, Clarke called Black Lives Matter a “hate group” and vowed to do “everything I can” to get Trump elected president.

Via RWW, click on over for the full story.

Also see: Why Sheriff Clarke will be a disaster in his new job, according to his predecessor: ‘Just plain awful’.

15 Million Dollars.

Chemical warfare, Turtle Island, Oceti Sakowin Camp, November, 2016. © C. Ford, all rights reserved.

New York Daily News writer Shaun King obtained audio where Energy Transfer Partners freely admitted that they worked closely with the Sheriff’s Association, and wow, did they ever. They became one and the same.

Water protectors who lived at camp can attest to ETP and law enforcement’s collusion and fraternization, but the record speaks for itself.

The Sheriffs’ Association has a $3.46 million dollar budget, according to tax forms. Some of this funding comes from corporate sources, like TigerSwan. TigerSwan maintains offices in Iraq and Afghanistan. TigerSwan’s CEO is a former adviser to the multinational private security firm, Blackwater. Blackwater was founded by Erik Prince, a Trump campaign donor and the brother of Betsy DeVos, the U.S. Secretary of Education. Besides funding the Sheriff’s Association, TigerSwan is in charge of Dakota Access intelligence and supervising overall security for the company. Tigerswan works for Dakota Access, while funding and partnering with the Sheriffs’ Association.

The Sheriff’s Association purchased military gear from the U.S. Department’s Defense Logistics Agency thanks to the Defense Department’s 1033 program. Think corporate welfare for the defense industry.

Wait, there’s more. Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren offered to reimburse North Dakota and Morton County for costs due to defending the Dakota Access Pipeline.

So why are U.S. taxpayers forking over $15 million dollars to North Dakota?

Despite the fossil fuel industry’s wishes, America is not an oil company with an army. We should not be bankrolling our own oppression.

Incidentally, the Dakota Access Pipeline is not even operational yet, and it’s already sprung a leak in South Dakota, just southwest of the Lake Traverse Reservation. End this foolishness.

Ruth Hopkins at Indian Country Today has the full story.

“The roadblocks end where the white people start.”

Madison County Sheriff Randall Tucker. CREDIT: AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis.

Oh my, segregation and a demand to show “papers”, along with the constant milking of people of colour for cash, which helps to keep them in a cycle of poverty as well. Anyone surprised this is going on in Mississippi in 2017?

Madison County, Mississippi, is among the most segregated places in America. Past court decisions have made note of its “racial isolation” and “confluence of…geography and demography.”

Part of the reason the state’s wealthiest county remains so divided, according to a new class-action lawsuit filed Monday, is that county leaders want it that way — and are willing to use local law enforcement to enforce an unofficial cordon around the county’s roughly 40,000 black residents.

The Madison County Sheriff’s Department (MCSD) “has implemented a coordinated top-down program of methodically targeting Black individuals for suspicionless searches and seizures,” the suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and pro-bono lawyers from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett says. The suit names 10 individual plaintiffs but seeks injunctive relief on behalf of “thousands of victims” of the county’s policies.

The roadblocks and checkpoints MCSD allegedly maintains are not like the random DUI stops many motorists have encountered here and there. Plainclothes deputies typically wait in unmarked cars, giving the stops an ambush feel at odds with the sirens-and-orange-cones officialdom of a typical checkpoint.

What’s more, the complaint says, the department locates these camouflaged identification inspections in and around the few communities in Madison County where there is a concentrated black population.

The alleged system requires African-American residents submit to unconstitutional searches and seizures as part of the normal course of going to and from their homes, which the suit argues is a violation of the Constitution as well as of their personal dignity.

“Forcing citizens of the United States to ‘show their papers’ in this fashion runs afoul of the law as well as the most basic norms of decency in domestic policing,” the suit says.

There’s much more to the story, click on over to Think Progress.