Hey, Joe! These Are Our Demands

HISTORY on Twitter:

            Progressives and other leftists promise/threaten to pressure/take to the streets to make demands of Joe Biden if/when he falls short of our expectations. We on the left don’t want to be one of those bad bosses who tell you your work isn’t good enough but never say what they expect from you in the first place, so you’re reduced to fumbling around in the dark.

            Because there isn’t a political party or other formation that can credibly speak for a broad base of the American left, and because the left is divided between work-from-inside AOC-Bernie types and street-level activists, no one has defined a clear metric to judge the Biden Administration’s personnel, policy and legislative actions. As we saw under Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, vague demands foment the unaccountability that allows Democrats to wiggle away and take us for granted.

            We need a clear set of demands.

          I think our demands should look something like the following, and that if and when Joe Biden and Kamala Harris let us down, we should point out their sins of omission and commission, and protest immediately in the streets, on issues which have a rapidly-ticking clock attached to them; eventually, as the voting cycle dictates, the protests must continue in voting booths.

            Planet Comes First. No other issue matters if the earth and the people on it are dead or the climate crisis has prompted the collapse of human civilization. In any classic trade-off between short-term economic growth and longer-term environmental prosperity, reducing carbon emissions to net zero as close to overnight as possible (2030 is too long) and taking every possible step to reduce air, water and other kinds of pollution must become any responsible political leader’s top priority. Biden’s campaign literature called the Green New Deal a mere “crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face.” Screw that watered-down pablum. AOC’s Green New Deal should be expanded and broadened, with a radically shortened timeline, and signed into law on January 20, 2021.

            Immediate Relief for COVID’s Economic Victims. No one should suffer economic ruin due to government-ordered lockdowns to stop the coronavirus pandemic. Everyone evicted for nonpayment of rent or whose home was foreclosed upon after March 15, 2020 should be given housing of equal or at higher quality government expense, zero rent, for at least one year. All back rent currently outstanding should be forgiven. All overdue mortgage payments should be forgiven. Banks and landlords should be made whole by applying to a new federal program funded by reductions in the defense budget. Not only should the $600-per-week supplemental unemployment benefits that expired on June 30 be renewed, checks for that amount dating back to July 1 should be issued at once. Furthermore, any American who is currently underemployed or unemployed should qualify for those $600-per-week payments regardless of whether they previously used up their time-limited benefits. Going forward, there should be no time limit on collecting unemployment benefits.

            Fully Socialized Medicine. We tried for-profit medicine. It failed even before COVID. It’s time to join the modern world. Hospitals, labs, research centers and clinics should be nationalized into a fully socialized national healthcare system. Doctors and other healthcare workers should become federal employees. Health insurance companies, no longer needed, can shut down.

            Fully Socialized Higher Education. The college and university model no longer works. It doesn’t make sense to require young men and women to take on staggering student loan debt that entry-level salaries will never allow them to repay, much less settle down and buy a house. Private colleges and universities should be nationalized by the federal government, which also has the benefit of being a fair punishment for charging full tuition for virtual online education during COVID-19. State and local colleges and community colleges should be folded into a fully federalized system of higher education that is as free as primary and secondary public schools. After all, employers’ insistence on hypercredentialization has turned the bachelor of arts degree into the new high school diploma. Both should be cost-free.

            Restart the Police. It is painfully obvious to anyone with an ounce of sense that American policing is an engine of oppression rather than protection. That means it needs to be reinvented from the ground up. Reform isn’t enough. Taking away military hardware and training recruits with a guardian rather than a warrior mentality are starts, but systematic racism and the fact that the police view us as threats rather than as employers require starting from scratch. Every policeman — local, state, federal, postal, transit, whatever — should be fired. They should not be allowed to reapply for their old jobs. The police should become like abortions: legal, safe and rare. We need fewer cops. Most should be unarmed. None should be in the business of issuing fines. No one should be rewarded simply because they arrest more people. We shouldn’t be recruiting cops out of the military. Cops should be peace officers, not an occupation force.

            Empty the Prisons. Many inmates represent no threat whatsoever to society. Prison causes deep-seated psychological problems for the prisoners themselves, their friends and families, and society in general. Close down jails and prisons.

            End the Wars. Article 2(4) of the UN Charter and international law are clear: the only legitimate casus belli is in self-defense, either to an armed attack or the clear and imminent danger of such an attack, such as an army massing along another nation’s border. Any involvement in armed conflict that does not qualify as one of these must be discontinued. Drone assassinations are immoral and illegal, as are proxy wars like the U.S.-backed conflict in Yemen and wars of choice, like those in Afghanistan and Iraq.

            Throughout the campaign, centrist Democrats told progressives that they should vote for Joe Biden and then push him to the left after he won. They even said that they would march in the streets alongside leftists. Well, Biden won because progressives voted for him. Now it’s time for the centrists to make good on their promises. Pushing for these and other progressive goals would be a good start.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

The First Thing We Do, Let’s Fire All the Cops

Image result for militarized cops

            In the latest shooting of an innocent civilian by a trigger-happy police officer, a white Fort Worth cop blew away a 28-year-old African-American woman through her bedroom window as she played a video game with her eight-year-old nephew. Atatiana Jefferson’s neighbor had called a nonemergency police number to request that they check on her because her doors were wide open.

            “The officer did not announce that he was a police officer prior to shooting,” a spokesman said. Instead, he shouted through the window before killing Jefferson: “Put your hands up! Show me your hands!”

            This atrocity followed the recent conviction of a white officer in Dallas who claimed that she had entered the wrong apartment in her building before mistakenly shooting an African-American man. Botham Jean, 26, was eating ice cream in his own home, clearly not hers, when he was killed.

            Police shot and killed 689 people so far this year in the U.S. Blacks are 2.5 times more likely to be shot to death by police officers than whites. Many victims were unarmed.

            Is it any surprise that only half of the public has confidence in Officer Not So Friendly? Public perception is worse among minorities and young people.

            It’s not a major political campaign issue but it ought to be: domestic policing in the United States needs to be reinvented from the ground up.

            “From their earliest days in the [police] academy, would-be officers are told that their prime objective, the proverbial ‘first rule of law enforcement,’ is to go home at the end of every shift,” Seth Stoughton noted in the Harvard Law Review. Policing experts call this me-first approach the Warrior mentality. “Officers learn to treat every individual they interact with as an armed threat and every situation as a deadly force encounter in the making.”

            In the real world, America’s streets are not a war zone. 95% of police officers go through their entire career without ever having to fire their weapon. But many cops are military veterans—and vets are 23% more likely than non-vets to draw and shoot.

            Increasingly concerned about police shootings and the eroding of trust between cops and the people, some leaders are trying to promote a Guardian mentality instead. “The Guardian mindset prioritizes service over crime-fighting, and it values the dynamics of short-term encounters as a way to create long-term relationships,” writes Stoughton. “As a result, it instructs officers that their interactions with community members must be more than legally justified, they must also be empowering, fair, respectful, and considerate. The Guardian mindset emphasizes communication over commands, cooperation over compliance, and legitimacy over authority.”

            The priority for cops shouldn’t be that they get to go home at the end of every shift. They should make sure that the people they interact with are safe.

            This is common sense. It’s also an uphill battle.

            The militarization of domestic civilian policing is no longer a concern about a phenomenon in development. It is here. Police departments throughout the United States have acquired tanks, armored personnel carriers, automatic weapons and other military hardware transferred from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. SWAT teams, which originated in the military-style LAPD, are everywhere. Even little towns like Mt. Orab, Ohio (pop. 2,701) and Middleburg, Pennsylvania (pop. 1,363) have a SWAT outfit ready to take on bands of heavily-armed goons in case a 1980s action movie inexplicably comes to life there.

            For Americans of a certain age, cops no longer dress or look like cops. The police carry stun grenades and semiautomatic pistols and rifles and wear Kevlar vests. They’re bulked up, obviously on steroids and certainly no stranger to the weight room. Their hair is cropped short, military style. They’re scary and they mean to be.

            There’s a reason they look like that. One out of five police officers is a military veteran. Police brass love vets. So even cops recruited from the civilian population learn to emulate that military look and swagger.

            Federal programs encourage and even mandate preferential treatment of vets by police departments when looking for recruits. But this is exactly the wrong direction. Trained to have an authoritarian approach to interactions with civilians and frequently the victims of PTSD, veterans who become policemen are more likely to resort to force, less interested in deescalation and more likely to mentally deteriorate and even to commit suicide while on duty.

            As of this writing this story is still developing, but I would not be surprised to learn that the 35-year-old officer involved in the Fort Worth shooting was a vet.

            Police officers have the power of life and death over us. They have discretion to harm us through less dramatic interactions like issuing us traffic infractions that can cost us thousands of dollars. The potential for abuse or poor judgment requires that police officers be selected from among those members of our society who are least interested in pushing around their fellow citizens. Aggressiveness should be considered a negative quality in police recruiting.

            As with any position in which the holder is vested with power, the paradox is that those who most want the job are those who should least be permitted to hold it. It should almost be a reverse draft: the less you want to be a cop, the better qualified you are for the job.

            I would fire every single police officer in the United States and suggest that if they want to come back they reapply for their positions under completely different guidelines. I would take away guns from most policemen – they simply don’t need them – and replace semiautomatic pistols with traditional revolvers as the standard sidearm. No more military gear, no more bulletproof vests. Return the tanks to the Pentagon. And I would put an end to recruiting from the military.

            Warrior cops don’t make us safer. They’re loose cannons who need psychiatric counseling, not guns.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

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