November 2007


Recent story in The Guardian: the Los Angeles Police Department was planning an ethnic enclave map, to identify the regions of LA where there might be terrorism brewing.  Problem was, they only were planning to map ethnic Arab enclaves.  They’ve been halted on the grounds of racial profiling, and the program is entirely scratched.  I’m not a friend of racial profiling, and, I don’t think it advisable for Los Angeles to grow the Angeleno equivalent of Londonistan.  The potential incubator of violence is certainly an issue for the UK.  Someone was trying to be proactive, no doubt.  The question is, why leave out everybody else? 

A quick look at the low points in LA History:
Now Los Angeles has a history of racial conflict, and it’s worth reviewing–but neither to revile nor excuse LA. 

There were the military v. Hispanic Zoot suit riots of 1941, where a town crammed with servicemen, marginalized Hispanics, and lots of rumors which set of a wave of tit-for-tat murders and consequent riots.  Since LA had a swollen population of displaced men from all over the nation (and for many, the first time off the farm and in the bars), a police force that would have been swamped by this event, and a marginalized Hispanic population in a concentrated urban area, you could easily say that conditions were favorable for prolonged violence, regardless of the town. 

Lesson No. 1: Displaced people strain the capacity of law enforcement. 
Lesson No. 2: Marginalized people don’t buy into the system. 
Lesson No. 3: You have to have capacity to be effective.

Then there were the Zebra murder serial killings of 1973-1974, when a splinter faction or subgroup of the Black Muslim movement (actually just plain flat a group of psychopathic killers) went around killing white people as products of some evil genius rather than people in their own right.  Police were entirely stumped by the random nature of the killings, and did try some racial profiling in order to sweep through and find the murderers. 

Lesson No. 4: Eventually the murderers were caught, and not through racial profiling, but through an informant. 

Since 1973 and the consolidation of narcotrafficking routes, the LAPD has been trying to get a handle on the gang wars between the Crips and the Bloods–versus the Latin Kings–versus–the Mexican Mafia, la eMe–starting in 1973 and continuing forward into today. 

However, there are so many social indexes involved in this phenomenon, and I will list only a few: it’s more about urban blight and lost opportunity–and the way prison culture is set up, which reinforces, at least with gangs, the racial nature of protection and violence.  Not to mention the fabulous profits for narcotics traffic out there, which fuels the economy of gang war.

Lesson No. 5: see Lesson No. 2, marginalized people don’t buy into the system, and add that urban decay creates competition that tends to settle along racial lines at least some of the time–a lot of the time.
Lesson No. 6: If there isn’t a legal economic outlet, then the illegal one will grow up and grow out, and
Lesson No. 7: There will be conflict as the state tries to bring security, or, contain insecurity. 

And then, for my last LA example, the brutal handling of Rodney King, whose abusive arrest was filmed.  Later, the four police officers that beat him without mercy were cleared in court, which spurred the Rodney King riots of 1992. 

Lesson No. 7: To avoid racial conflict, the state has to ensure equal protection and rights under the law.

Back to the Angeleno-Stan Map 
From this admittedly punctuated and facile overview, it seems pretty clear that most of these incidents are related to larger social movements: World War II for the Zoot suits; a pathological approach to the resentments underlying the Civil Rights Movement for the Zebra Murders; urban decay and drug traffic; and for the latest incarnation, the Global War on Terror Since 9-11.  Unfortunately, no one has ever drawn a Bubba Map for the White Supremacists of Idahoan enclaves (or Kansas City enclaves) or for those pockets of KKK still flourishing in East Texas and outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana or wherever they might still be.  Probably some Bubbas in Los Angeles too, making hate and raising Cain, and with the continued potential for real violence against society at large.  In the meantime, Arab-Americans are being racially profiled in Los Angeles and elsewhere.  Going through the lessons:

Lesson 1: Displacing people through mapping and targeted enforcement will lead to more, not less, instability.
Lesson 2: Marginalized people (through racial prejudice or lack of economic opportunity, or, both) are more likely to not buy into society.  But since one way society has of marginalizing populations is through racial profiling, it’s counterproductive to do it officially.
Lesson 3: The capacity to be effective might include an enclave map, but not one totally focused upon one ethnic group.  Like a Bubba map, a psychopath map, etc.  But that’s a lot of people to map: why not try something else?
Lesson 4: To get informants, you have to have a relationship.  To have a relationship, you have to have someone who believes that the system will take care of him rather than marginalize him.
Lesson 5: Economic revitalization will help people buy into the system and put violence–racist or otherwise–away.
Lesson 6: and help eradicate the violence associated with illegal economies; and
Lesson 7: Equal rights and protection under the law is a necessary component to the long-range goals of law enforcement.

So, mapping Angeleno-stan  was never the best approach.  Maybe that money could go into mapping better economic revitalization instead, for the good of all races and creeds.  It’s a thought.

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I just found this treasure at a local used bookstore: The Petroleum Dictionary, by Lalia Phipps Boone.  Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1950.  

The Last BarrelWell, the heyday of Texas-Oklahoma well drilling is over, although you can still drive by and find those workhorse pumps attempting to get that last drop out of the oil sands below the prairie.  Mature oil fields: but back in the day, the oil patch developed its own Americanized language, which took from the world of cowboys and machinists, and then gave the language back again.  It is a language of common sense, sweat, and romance: people in love with their jobs and the way of life it represented.  And you’d have to be in love with it: it was loud, dangerous, and dirty work, in every sense of the word.

One tradition that I think derives from cowboys is the contempt for farmers: farmer’s oil, for instance, is ‘a worthless black substance resembling oil that comes from blue shale’ and farmer’s sand, is “the productive sand which allegedly would have been reached if a dry hole had been drilled further.  No doubt those farmers contemplating oil leases would have preferred those Texas oilmen to drill all the way to China.  Heck, I think today that all of the U.S. would be inclined to agree with the farmers, given that 20/20 hindsight. 

Miss Rita of BeaumontGusherMs. Lalia even mentions one pimp and two madams in her book: the gentleman is named Ben Hogan of Pennsylvania, the “Wickedest Man in the World”; the ladies, “French Kate” (of course, French) but also “Lizzie Toppling”.  So you can just imagine what she left out–in particular, the madams of Texas and Oklahoma.  I wonder who the wickedest man in Texas was?

However, you can find other sources:  for instance, this deathless oil painting decorated the Dixie Hotel in Beaumont–an establishment run by Miss Rita of Beaumont, as a matter of fact.  The painting is by Aaron Arion, and combines the 1880’s with a small nod to the flatness and vistas of Depression era muralists such as Tom Lea and Thomas Hart Benton: Spindletop Viewing Her Gusher

We don’t allow this kind of thing these days: gushers, I mean.  Once the sign of success, we have now decided that it Wastes the Product.  We don’t allow human trafficking either, but somehow that’s been harder to change with advanced technology.

Here are some excerpts from the Foreword:

To spud in, which originally meant to indicate initial drilling operations, has undergone extension to designate the beginning of any activity.  If one is starting a meal, a job, a game, or a drink, he is spudding in.

Now you also have to think that this term was a joke about planting potatoes at one point.  Sort of a way to contrast the Drill and the Shovel in the scale of human enterprise.

The nouns roustabout and bird dog have also undergone generalization.  Originally roustabout was the name applied to the laborer who assisted in the loading and unloading of river craft in the United States.  In the oil field the term is applied to several different kinds of workers.  . . .   In drilling, he may be either an unskilled laborer or a skilled one.   . . .   Needless to say, he aspires to be a tool dresser or a roughneck.  The activity of any roustabout is roustabouting.

A bird dog is a field geologist: the person who can smell out the oil and point those roughnecks in the right direction.  Nowadays, we use technology. 

What I’d love to hear, from others: what’s the slang in other languages and other states?

Fiction about the American Oil Patch:
♦ Honor at Daybreak a Western by Elmer Kelton, about Central Texas, the spudding of wells, the fights, and the human trafficking during the not-so-great Depression
♦ Mean Spirit, by Linda Hogan, about oil, fraud, and the Osage tribe in Oklahoma, set in the Harding Years of the U.S.

Photo: columbia.edu; texasescapes.com

Well, gotta love this:

Some faction of the Kurds have revealed their own strategic goal by dissassociating themselves from it.  That is, some diaspora groups are protesting in the United States that Turkey wants to invade Kurdistan for Kirkuk.  It doesn’t have anything to do with PKK depredations on their soil, of course–or the incipient threat of destabilization throughout Iraq, spreading north, and compromising Turkey’s security in general.  Oh, no, it’s that oil again.

Let’s go for that conspiracy scenario, just long enough to kill it For Ever:
1. Turkey, with, uh, WAY MORE military capability than the U.S., has decided that they could conduct war with Iraq in a far more efficient fashion than the U.S. ever could. 

Nah.  The paranoids may have a point with that efficiency thing: on the other hand, seeing that the U.S. actually has the capability, and can’t guarantee security, it seems past ridiculous to think that Turkey would go flying, marching, and tanking on in to the same revenue-threatening and life-threatening black hole of Iraq in order to take on a town that is primed for resentment and strife.

2.  One protester stated that Turkey is not afraid of the PKK, but rather afraid of a Kurdish state.  And of course this makes, yes, perfect sense. 

Nope: The PKK wants to bomb Turkish towns and resorts, killing innocent people and being sneaky about it, disrupt the economy and create conflict and strife.  The Kurdish state wants to ship oil through Turkey and get on with making money.  Uh, I know Turkey is completely unfavorable to the idea of generating income, preferring instead to foment domestic instability and gleefully hailing each incident of lost infrastructure.  It’s just this attitude that makes Turkey a force for good in the international system–

Personally, I believe that Kurdish-Americans would go a lot further by deprecating the PKK and trying to help Turkey provide goods and services for its own ethnic Kurdish residents.  Oh, and building partnerships to keep those pipelines in northern Iraq in good order: for the good of Iraq, Kurdistan, and Turkey–heck, the world at large.  Hope you’ll think about it–and then do something constructive. 

Kirkuk is a mess, but not Turkey’s mess:
Consider the machinations, forced importations and deportations that have been occurring in Kirkuk: the blame doesn’t rest with Turkey: a history of forced Kurdish deportations from the Kirkuk area has been rectified with new human rights violations–forced non-Kurdish deportations from Kirkuk. 

The stratagems may be based upon history, but history has not taught compassion.  Right now, the paranoia of the non-Kurdish Kirkuk residents is the justifiable paranoia: because they’ve been had.  It’s a bad business, and Turkey’s got nothing to do with it.

Well, there is no way to re-start and gain impetus without apologies first.  I’d like to think it was a deep dark cyberwar but I doubt I’m that important: My computer broke, and after several emergency procedures, I had to give it up.   Support personnel were very supportive, but there’s only so much you can do by phone.  Yo, I do not pass the computing I.Q. test.  I did pass the manners test, though: I have been polite to everyone, even though I wanted to grab someone’s collar and yell out my frustration.  However, wisely these poor support people know better than to put their collars in anyone’s vicinity.  It’s got to be tough though–being on their end of the phone.

So, I lost it all–all of it recovered or okay to lose, except: addresses and passwords.  Cut off from my community!  It’s been bad.  For the last few days I couldn’t access this account, kept getting a password loop.

But that’s more than you want to hear: suffice to say, I’m back, and

if I have inconvenienced anyone, I humbly beg your pardon.