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Open Mikes Q&A With Michael Maiello And Michael Orion Powell


I said it in my last interview with him - Michael Maiello is one of my best publishing friends. He not only saw me through the hard and good times but also seemed to see something in me nearly from the beginning. Our regular "Open Mikes" Q&A idea was his own and he wanted to switch it up this time - asking me questions! Gosh gee, I didn't even know I had thoughts that anyone would find that interesting. Here goes.....

MOP: When I talked to you last, you mentioned Ferguson in passing. That had just started up and so we didn't see the fallout yet. Rand Paul has said bluntly that we need to demilitarize police and Obama alluded to being okay with it. What do you make of it all?

MM: In Slate, Dave Weigel wrote a piece to the effect of "Libertarians have been trying to demilitarize the police for decades." That is totally true.  Conservatives have tried to maintain the weird belief that the government can't be trusted to collect taxes to fix bridges but somehow can be entrusted with its monopoly on force. Real Libertarians don't think that way.  They think that the same government that can't fix bridges also can't have its agents get the benefit of the doubt when they smack you with a billy club, or worse.  The problem with the Libertarian ideal is that it creates a vacuum of force on the part of government that will be filled by private interests (imagine the local business campus hiring Blackwater-type goons for security...)

Ferguson is too big a thing.  It has two parts.  The first was that two young black men were harassed by a police officer because they were jaywalking.  That is why the interaction with the cop happened.  Jaywalking.  Jaywalking is such a minor crime that most of us don't consider it to be a crime.  I have walked in the street or crossed against many a light.  I have never expected a ticket or even an encounter with the police over it, beyond a traffic officer giving general directions. Jaywalking turning into a shooting is really nuts.  That is problem one and it comes from police officers having too entitled an opinion of their own role as "the authority."  It fits into militarization because it is a militant mindset. A rational person, when dealing with a crime as innocent as jaywalking, just lets the interaction go when it starts to escalate.  The alternative, for a civilian, would be grabbing and shoving somebody out of the express line at the grocery store because they have too many items.  See what I said there?  "For a civilian..."  The police are supposed to be the servants of civilians.

Then we have the response to the protests.  The Ferguson police could not possibly deal with a city-wide civil action.  So, they banded together with police from neighboring communities.  A lot of the police working Ferguson during the protests were not local.  Maybe that made it easier for them to deploy tear gas, sound cannons and "non-lethal" rounds on the citizens there.

We started this talk when things were just heating up.  Now, the situation has abated.  But police around the country remain armed to exert military style control over the areas they are charged with protecting.  We should talk about this in six months and see if the local police forces have actually given up their Iraq-era surplus death machines.  I think we'll see that they have not.

MOP: Everyone is talking about ISIS and it seems clear that a renewed push to deal with Iraq has been taking place, whatever that would be. Pope Francis has suggested strengthening the United Nations so that policy to Iraq wouldn't just be defined by one country and its interests, like the United States. What do you think?

MM: Another foreign war... that will certainly not add to the militarization of our local police, right?

As for ISIS -- They are bad people.  I think we in the West can at least say that.  I think we can also say that if we are going to debate what extent of authority we will give our police and what weapons they can have, that we can also say that the vision of society exhibited by ISIS is just not acceptable to us, at all.

But, what is ISIS?  It's an Al-Qaeda offshoot and an offshoot of the resistance in Syria against Bashar al-Assad.  There is little doubt, based on where it comes from, that ISIS has learned its tactics and obtained its weapons, from U.S. sources. When we flood a region with weapons and killing ideas, they tend to spread and they tend to be used for purposes that we didn't intend.  It makes me very angry that the same people calling most loudly for military action against ISIS in Iraq and Syria were the same people who screamed "arm the rebels!" during the Arab Spring.  Now that we're in the Arab Autumn, they are basically arguing that we are obligated to go to war against the people they demanded we arm.

As for international forces and coalitions -- wouldn't that be nice?  But, the U.S. has spent more than a century insisting that "we handle it," and we have clearly done that as a way of cutting others from the global security process.  How do we now demand their involvement, particularly when they have interests and prejudices we haven't given much consideration? A good example is that Turkish forces are unlikely to come rescue Iraq's Kurds from an ISIS attack.

MM: Now, questions for you.

Stargate.  The release of hacked nudes of celebrities took over the news over Labor Day weekend.  Somebody I follow of Twitter remarked that the great open source fount of wisdom we thought we'd created online is nothing more than a panopticon for voyeurs.  What do you thinks?
MOP: I only followed this story a little bit but it does hook in to a few things I have thought alot about. One is the impact the internet has on quality control. People with nothing to contribute to society have a very powerful tool in modern technology - they can leave verbal abusive comments without threat of arrest or violence or they can use their computer to find private materials like these hacked nudes, which would have required breaking in to someone's house before the internet. The world does seem alot worse because of the internet because not only do we get to see the sort of people who do things like that in all their nasty glory but we also have seen them emboldened by their new power and the lack of retaliation they face.

People should take steps against this while still keeping the liberties the internet has given us. Websites need to padlock their most vital information and people should be wary of putting anything up they don't intend anyone to see. The comment thread should also be either abolished or heavily policed. It's not fair to have trolls and ghouls destroy the internet for everyone else.

MM: Kids playing outside.  Parents are being arrested for letting their children, 9-years-old and up, go to playgrounds to play without supervision.  The parents who get arrested for this tend to be working poor, but should that even matter?  Aren't 9-year-olds allowed out anymore?  (I used to go out at that age, on my bike).
MOP: I think that the social structure of this country is fractured  and authorities largely are responding harshly out of anxiety in their role of controlling something as confused as our own society. I got in alot of trouble as a kid but I never really felt fear that any of it would stick or that the society around me was irrational like it is now. Maybe I was just in kid world and didn't care?

There was an important book by a conservative writer, Robert Nisbet, who connected a rise in totalitarianism to a decline in community - the state naturally comes in with force to keep things together when normal communal bonds fall apart. Americans for a long time thought of totalitarianism as something that happens only across the world but that may be a big mistake.

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About Radical Second Things

Michael Orion is a blogger, writer, artist and photographer based in the Bay Area. Besides his maintenance and promotion of Radical Second Things, he contributes to the San Francisco newspaper SF Western Edition, where he writes about local non-profit organizations.

Mark Cappetta is a practicing Catholic and active LGBT activist. He has been instrumental in keeping Radical Second Things and updates the Facebook account almost daily.

Eva Gnostiquette is an artist, programmer, "future scientist," bi-trans girl and graphic designer. She voluntarily helped to create the first print issue Radical Second Things and designed our beautiful banners. Thanks so much, Eva!

Jordan Denato is a professional artist based out of Iowa. He took the initiative to illustrate both Jennifer Reimer's story and Michael Orion's Oscar Romero work. He has his own art studio, Tar and Feather Studios, and is a critical part of Radical Second Things.

Radical Second Things is a liberation theology themed blog that has clear cut goals - we see the structural decline of the United States and much of the west and hope to present alternatives that will offer "a preferential option for the poor" as more become vulnerable.

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