• City Council Passes Law Limiting Homeless People’s Belongings to What Can Fit in Trash Bin

    April 14, 2016 // 5 Comments »


    Like every American city in the Age of the 99 Percent, Los Angeles has a significant homeless problem.

    Full-on shantytowns are now a feature of LA’s urban landscape, with colonies of desperate men and women setting up camps, and building shelters out of tarps, wherever they can find safe space to do so. The city’s homeless population rose 20% over the last two years, now estimated at 26,000 human beings, fellow Americans.

    What to do about such a problem? Build affordable housing? Increase shelter outreach? Provide mental health and substance abuse counseling? Job training? Compassion for those less fortunate?


    The Los Angeles City Council approved a law Wednesday that limits the possessions of homeless people to what can fit in a 60-gallon trash bin. The measure spoke to the will of the people, passing on a 13-1 vote, with some hippie councilman opposing. Another city councilman, who voted for the law, said the measure “balanced the city’s need for safe and clean streets with homeless people’s personal property rights.”

    As long as those personal property rights are limited to what the LAPD, acting on behalf of the well-to-do, can easily throw away.

    But some good news: the council backed off even stricter rules that would have limited homeless people to what they could carry in a backpack. But the law allows the city to clamp down in this way in the future without further public discussion.

    Under the new measure, the city can impound homeless people’s “excess personal property” after providing 24 hours’ notice. The city will store the items for 90 days, during which time the owners can claim them. But they cannot evade further confiscation by moving the items to another public area, the ordinance says.

    With no advance warning, the city can seize and impound a tent that has not been taken down during the day. Bulky and contaminated items can be seized and discarded without warning. Wheelchairs, crutches and walkers are currently exempt.

    “We recognize this is just one step forward to address the homelessness crisis,” said the president of the Central City Association of Los Angeles.

    Why, next thing you know the LAPD will just start putting rounds downrange and deal with the homeless in what will no doubt be called the final solution, of freedom.

    (FYI: The photo above is my own, taken in New York City’s Washington Square Park; the one below, of Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, was taken by someone else)

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in #99Percent, Economy, Post-Constitution America

    LA Sheriff’s Deputies Rough Up Foreign Diplomat

    December 12, 2013 // 17 Comments »

    You’d think America had enough problems with its foreign image, what with drone killings, NSA spying and the president shooting selfie’s at Mandela’s funeral. But you’d be wrong. LA Sheriff’s Deputies roughed up two foreign consuls in the course of official diplomatic business. Here’s why that matters.

    Consular Visitation of Citizen Prisoners

    One of the primary jobs for any embassy or consulate abroad is the welfare of its citizens. Indeed, many of the first diplomatic outposts abroad were set up to protect sailors and merchants. This work typically includes visiting one’s citizens in foreign jails, a task young diplomats around the world conduct. As a State Department foreign service officer myself for 24 years, I must have done this hundreds of times. But no matter how many times I did it, it was always an unsettling feeling to walk into a jail, go through security into a cell or holding room, and then walk back out.

    Getting out, and being treated properly inside, was however more than an act of faith on my part. Diplomats abroad are protected people; under both formal treaties and long-established traditions (“diplomatic immunity”), a country should not mess around with another’s diplomats. Take a look at Iran– over thirty years since the kidnapping of American diplomats in Tehran, our two countries still are a long, long way from reestablishing relations.

    I once safely visited in an underground facility of an Asian country’s secret police an American Citizen who likely had been tortured. The system generally works everywhere, from first world countries to crappy police states in the developing world. However, one rough area where it does not work is in Los Angeles.

    Abuse in the LA Men’s Jail by Sherriff’s Deputies

    Federal officials on December 9 unsealed five criminal cases filed against eighteen current and former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies as part of an FBI investigation into allegations of civil rights abuses and corruption in the nation’s largest jail system. Four grand jury indictments and a criminal complaint allege unjustified beatings at downtown Los Angeles jail facilities, unjustified detentions and a conspiracy to obstruct a federal investigation into misconduct at the Men’s Central Jail. The latter allegations stems from sheriff’s officials moving an FBI informant in the jails to thwart the probe.

    But that somehow was not bad enough. New indictments de­tail three sep­ar­ate in­cid­ents in which pro­sec­utors al­leged that a sher­iff’s ser­geant en­cour­aged depu­ties he su­per­vised at the vis­it­ing area of Men’s Cent­ral Jail to use ex­cess­ive force and un­law­ful ar­rests of vis­it­ors.

    LA Unlawfully Arrests and Mistreats Foreign Diplomat

    The abuse found a low point when an Austrian consul went to the jail in June 2011 with her husband, also a diplomat, to visit an arrested Austrian citizen. The Federal indictment alleges that a deputy sheriff at the jail unlawfully arrested the diplomat husband, who clearly identified himself as such, outside the jail because he had “walked near the doors going into the visiting center.” His actions did not amount to a crime, the indictment asserts. Nevertheless, as the male diplomat was handcuffed, the female diplomat asked to see a supervisor. She was also arrested and handcuffed too, the indictment alleges, “despite the fact that [she] had committed no crime and would be immune from prosecution if she had.”

    A deputy then forcibly took the consul and her husband to a room outside of public view and searched them. One unconfirmed report suggests the male diplomat was thrown to the ground as he was being arrested.

    In addition to the outright abuse committed by the LA Sheriff’s thugs, diplomats are by treaty with the United States immune from search except under very special circumstances (routine consular work is not one of them.) While a small town cop well outside diplomatic circles might not know about all this, the visit by the Austrian consul was definitely not LA’s first trip around the dance floor.

    Another Not the First Time

    The scary thing for the Austrian diplomat was the similarity of her abuse and another case at the same jail. Gabriel Carrillo went to Men’s Central Jail as a free man to discuss problems visiting his brother there. Instead, a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy handcuffed him, took him to a break room with no windows or public access, and threw him against a refrigerator. His arm was fractured in the encounter and he received cuts to his nose and face. Afterward, four deputies tried to have him falsely charged with resisting an officer. Carrillo was detained for five days before he was released without charge.

    The State Department had to get involved in LA with the Austrian consulate to smooth things over and make the diplomatic incident go away. The story has apparently been kept out of the public eye until now, when the bigger tale of LA law enforcement acting completely out of control finally made it to the press.

    Another sign of America morphing into a police state.

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    Posted in #99Percent, Economy, Post-Constitution America

    Help Your Country, Win Valuable Prizes

    June 20, 2011 // Comments Off on Help Your Country, Win Valuable Prizes

    In Peter’s book, one pervasive theme is the incredible amount of money that was wasted in Iraq; one chapter is entitled “Money and our Meth Habit,” and compares the waste he saw around him as a PRT Team Leader with the dope budget for Guns n’ Roses.

    Among the more celebrated pissing away of cash episodes is the unsolved mystery of what happened to the $6.6 billion dollars the US Government lost in Iraq (some put the total missing as high as $18 billion).

    After the March 2003 invasion, the Bush administration flooded the conquered country with cash to pay for reconstruction. Altogether between March 2003 and May 2004 $12 billion in cash was airlifted into Iraq. Pentagon officials determined that one giant C-130 Hercules cargo plane could carry $2.4 billion in shrink-wrapped bricks of $100 bills. Along the way, $6.6 billion was lost. Can’t be found, Unaccounted for. Gone.

    Let’s take a second to figure out how much money $6.6 billion is. To begin with, it is about three entire fucking airplanes full of hundred dollar bills. The LA Times says it is enough money to run the Los Angeles Unified School District for a year. You can buy more than 20,000 Rolls Royce’s with that money (your cost may vary, dealer tax and prep applies).

    Anyway, the money is gone and we have to find it, citizens.

    This website hereby officially requests you to send in clues as to where the money is now located. You can stay anonymous, or, if you include your name, we will offer the following valuable prizes to the best clue:

    — A free copy of WE MEANT WELL, plus author Peter Van Buren will call you and personally apologize for the parts that are not really that funny.

    — Bloggeteer Jason, as part of a younger demographic (though Jason is a real person, he is not a gay girl in Damascus), will give up one of his private “stash” of now-rare Four Lokos, if you are old enough and physically attractive.

    We also have feelers out to Gary Busey’s people, and hear Gary may donate some socks. We asked people near the subway for money, and will also throw in the $3.58 we got, plus the one Canadian coin (a “shilling”).

    If you are famous or clever and want to donate a prize, you can write to us about that also. Don’t back down Colbert, we know you weren’t that drunk when you promised.

    Send your clues to info@wemeantwell.com. Do not include the word “Viagra” in the subject line, and don’t type in ALL CAPS LIKE YOUR MOTHER. Offer void if it gets us in trouble.

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    Posted in #99Percent, Economy, Post-Constitution America