Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Homeland Security or law and order gone too far? Is America turning into a police state before our eyes?

with 7 comments

homeland_security.jpg

There’s certainly been a lot of concern the last few years about the suspension of civil liberties in the USA and the direction the country is heading. And there have been some disturbing incidents, some people are genuinely concerned that the USA is turning into a police state. Several esteemed readers have brought some of these incidents to my attention, so I thought I would discuss them both in detail and in general. What does it really mean when people when people are threatened with machine guns for wearing jewelry or arrested for reading the Constitution?

It means we are living in interesting times, that’s for sure. Does it mean we are turning into a police state? Well, not really. A classic police states occur when one has an autocratic government retaining its hold or power, and/or an ideological driven government enforcing its chosen morality on the population. We don’t even have a national police force, no one has seized absolute power yet, and as for the Bush administration forcing its ideology on the American public…”money talks” is not an ideology. Furthermore, demonstrators are not being gunned down in the streets, people are not being dragged out of their homes and disappeared in the middle of the night, and just in general I don’t see the trappings of a police state unfolding around us.

Yet. I do have some concerns, though I must note that I have had concerns since the Ruby Ridge and Waco massacres. And just in general the “law and order” mentality that has pervaded the country since 9/11 is a little scary. For six years now our police agencies have been hunting for terrorists under every bush with this “we’re protecting America and anyone who disagrees with our methods is the enemy” attitude. The fact that there don’t appear to be all that many terrorists hiding in the bushes must be frustrating, and has certainly led to some overreaction on the part of law enforcement. In any event, a few recent incidents and what I can glean from them.

Arrested for reading the Constitution? A YouTube video of some Code-Pink demonstrators being arrested. This was posted by a reader a few days ago, and while it is a bit disturbing, I still think the same thing. IE it’s really hard to come to any firm conclusions about just what was going on here from the video. Arresting demonstrators has been a common occurrence for decades, some arrests are just, some aren’t. And forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but demonstrators doing their best to get arrested has also been a common occurrence for decades. Is that what was going on here? Beats me, I’ll let the lawyers decide this one.

Repeatedly shocked for daring to question Senator Kerry? Yes, well, this incident was a little more disturbing to watch. At a town hall meeting a 21 year old student rushed the microphone and demanded that Senator Kerry answer his questions. After less than a minute he was hauled away by the police and tased several times as he screamed for help. What can I say, the police did not handle this well by any means, but the student was being disruptive and confrontational himself. Frankly I do wish police were less inclined to use force, and I can certainly see why this might be viewed as a more evidence that the police in the USA are moving from “protect and serve” toward “kick ass and take names.”

Then there’s this little incident in the Boston airport recent, where an MIT student was arrested at automatic weapon’s point for wearing a “fake bomb.” No, she was wearing a piece of lighted jewelry. Somebody decided to err on the side of paranoia and have her arrested at gun point, I mean, who’s to say a terrorist wouldn’t wear a bomb on their chest with bright flashing lights? (As an aside, now the real terrorists know how to distract our security personnel, apparently it’s not that hard.)

What disturbs me most about this incident was what the “experts” and security people like state police major said: “Thankfully, because she followed our instructions, she ended up in our cell instead of a morgue,…” Let me see if I understand this, an America citizen is lucky she wasn’t gunned down in public for doing nothing wrong? “Obey instantly or be shot” apparently is how we are defending ourselves against putative terrorists? If she had been shot, I bet many of Americans would have thought it was perfectly justified. And frankly, that sort of attitude does scare me.

Lastly we come to another airport incident. No one was shot, but an innocent lady is dead nonetheless. A lady freaked out when her flight was cancelled, she made a scene, was tackled, trussed up and tossed screaming in a holding cell…where she was later found dead. The story so far is that she choked herself to death with her handcuffs. And we are to believe this is proper police procedure? The way to deal with distraught people is to tackle them, drag them to a cell, and shackle them to the wall? And then leave them alone screaming in a locked room? Isn’t this how they dealt with crazy people in the middle ages? I’m sorry, but those effing cops were so macho that three of them could tackle a 105 pound women and chain her to a wall, but none of them were macho enough to comfort her or try to reassure her or try to figure out what the hell was going on? Give me a break, this women’s death was senseless and I hope justice is served.

So I dunno, but sometimes I am seeing more and more a trend where the police think of themselves as above the law, and the population better do as they say or else. I don’t think it’s a police state yet, but we certainly seem to be training police with the right attitude for one. Protecting Americans by using force on them at the slightest transgression has nothing to do with protecting us from terrorists, I can only hope that the pendulum will swing the other way when we get an administration less obsessed with security.

And on the plus side, the US Constitution is still intact. A lot of Constitutionally funky laws have been passed, and the executive branch has exercised powers it arguably shouldn’t have, but they haven’t yet dared to overtly scrap or suspend the Constitution. It’s a trying time for the country, and Americans need to work together to fix the problems we have created for ourselves and a changing world has thrust upon us, but as long as the Constitution is still in effect I think there is hope for the Republic.

No disrespect is meant or implied toward the vast majority of security and police personnel who are doing a difficult job at the best of times. I remind people that for every incident such as the ones above, there are many more that were handled with professional aplomb…so they didn’t make it onto YouTube or the news.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit and is central to illustrating the post. The original photographic image is clearly public domain, the captions are from a T-shirt. My use of the captioned image does not in any way interfere with the t-shirt copyright holder’s marketing, arguably the opposite. Credit: coyotescorner.com?)

Written by unitedcats

October 8, 2007 at 12:02 pm

Posted in Crime, Politics, Terrorism

7 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. “Money talks” is an ideology. It is a very bad and dangerous ideology, which equates money to speech, and lack of money to lack of speech. It is the essence of economic fascism, those with money rule, those without money serve.

    whig

    October 9, 2007 at 12:44 am

  2. Next: Taser is substitute deadly force, not to be used to subdue. It can be fatal.

    whig

    October 9, 2007 at 12:48 am

  3. Also: The lady who died in the airport incident, they won’t turn over her internal organs for independent examination.

    whig

    October 9, 2007 at 12:49 am

  4. I totaly agree Doug. The US has not turned into a police state, but it is victim to a few bad apples and those that see that harm to a few is justified if that harm may protect the majority. As a side note, When my cop friends got issued taser guns, they could not wait to use them.

    Jason

    October 9, 2007 at 6:56 am

  5. TASER are A substitute to deadly force. They are meant as an incapacitating agent. They are better than batons and CS or pepper spray. Officers issued TASERS get tasered in training. TASER “deaths” are around 250 w/ no sole cause cited as COD.
    The big issue people should have re: TASERS is the increase use. There can be reasonable suspicion that they get used to quickly. As far as overwhelming physical force ie 3 + police to subdue 1. That is meant to limit harm to all parties. I agree with your statements about leaving people alone though on many levels. Good read – as always.

    in2thefray

    October 9, 2007 at 9:04 am

  6. Sleepless and toothless in Lost Wages. My trip to visit Mom went smooth going there except for Homeland Security taking away my almost empty toothpaste tube because they can not use any common sense when an almost empty tube was interpreted to be seven ounces because that was its full weight printed on the tube.

    The return flight was on US Airways which when I finally left had consumed most of the near hour of the time to make the connection in Lost Wages with the only flight on the rest of the way to San Luis Obispo, Calif. When we did take off we had no particular storms in our path according to the national weather and the plane did not seem to be making a lot of maneuvers around any bad spots of weather. It seemed pretty direct in its line off flight. When I got aboard I asked them to tell the captain to put the pedal to the metal to make the connection. It would seem that there would be no reason not to try to make up a little time and get back some of the time needed to get from gate to gate. The connection in Lost Wages was a once a day flight at 11:55 and it would be a 24 hours for the next one.

    Two thirds of the way across the country I heard the engines seem to slow and the plane did not seem to be putting out the usual power but then seems to loosing speed instead of making any effort to make up any of the time needed to increase the gate to gate time window on the ground. When we finally got to Lost Wages we had missed the connection by half an hour and the airport was a ghost town. US Airways customer support was closed inside the terminal and I had to go to the ticket counter outside where they gave me the option to wait 23 hours to go from Lost Wages to San Luis Obispo, or take the 7AM flight to Phoenix and wait for the next Phoenix to San Luis Obispo flight and get home at noon instead of after midnight the next day.

    I asked them about a hotel and food and that I was going to miss a days wages because I would not get to my job as the janitor for the Graduate Night Club’s College Night. They told me that it was all uncompenstable. They did make the arrangements for the Phoenix detour, but I would not be making it to work that night. I have checked with a friend in the federal government and he leads me to think that US Airways might have been trying to cheat me out of my rights to save them selves a little expense not to mention the cost of the extra fuel to even try to make up the tight connection window. The customer experience seems secondary.

    Now I think that I have been mistreated as a customer by US Airways. They did not get me to work in San Luis Obispo as contracted. When they missed they did not offer accommodations or food. Sorry does not pay the rent that the lost wages puts an extra strain on. By 4AM they posted the gates for the flight to Phoenix but when I tried to sleep at the gate there was this malfunctioning homeland security alarm that kept going off every few minutes so I was sleepless in addition to hungry stranded in ghost town of closed concessions and I was missing my wages for my ten hour a night janitor job.

    Since I was not able to sleep or brush my teeth or eat, I entertained myself checking out the terminal and noticed that my Golf Cart Key that was in my pocket turns on some of those half ton electric trucks that are left all over the terminal. I was standing next to one when a couple of maintenance workers came out of a door near by and I asked them if I could drive that electric truck. They said sure if I had a key. That was all I needed to here. I had my key in its switch and the main power switch on and it was beeping and the battery indicator showed a full charge. They would take your tooth paste away but they leave you with a common key that operates equipment that could have been driven through locked doors and down a loading ramp and wedged into the airplane door where it would not have fit very well. If I had my toothpaste I could have greased up the sides and maybe it would have made it onto a plane with that truck. I gave up that thought before I did any damage.

    Don Hedrick

    June 16, 2008 at 9:25 pm

  7. i cannot believe the actions of your homeland security authaurities recent actions.up to october of this year over 300,000 irish have been sent home,in 2001 only 100,000 were deported.i understand after 9/11 action had to be taken .i have a brother in usa for last 20 yrs he has worked and paid his taxes,but because of a dui he has spent last5 months incarserated[he’s legal by the way].it’s a money scam,states making money out of this is a disgrase,irish,hispanic ,italian all helped build america,shame on ye,god bless barak obama.

    michael matthews

    November 8, 2008 at 4:26 pm


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: