Summary: America fades away before our eyes while we snooze. What can we do to reawaken our fellow citizens? Perhaps we can do no more than warn our fellow citizens, so that’s what we do. Today we have “Weaponizing the Body Politic” from TomDispatch, 4 March 2012, reposted with their generous permission, a grim follow-up to Friday’s Ask the mineshaft: what’s gone wrong with America? The decay spreads faster than I imagined possible.
- Introduction by Nick Turse: memories of a visit to New York City
- Stephan Salisbury explains How to get Real Money for an Imaginary War
- Note on Sources and Further Reading
- About the authors
- After reading this: the next step to take
- For more information about the fading American Republic
(1) Introduction by Nick Turse: memories of a visit to New York City
When I covered the Occupy Wall Street protests last fall, I just couldn’t stay focused, despite the fact that people from across the country and around the world were traveling to that block-long half-acre park of granite walls and honey-locust trees in lower Manhattan to build a new mini-society. It boasted free housing, free food, free medical care, free education, and free music. Every day in Zuccotti Park there were thrilling rap sessions and you could watch direct democracy in action as people came together to exchange ideas in provocative new ways. To steal a well-worn activist phrase, it looked like another world was possible.
And there I was, staring across the street. While it seemed like 99% of the 99% were captivated by the excitement in the park, I was transfixed by the police.
Day after day, I would cover Occupy Wall Street and day after day, I would get hassled by members of the New York City Police Department. They didn’t like it when I asked questions about their Sky Watch tower — a two-story-tall, Panopticon-like structure outfitted with black-tinted windows, a spotlight, sensors, and multiple cameras that spied on the park. They got angry when I counted their dozens of police vehicles around the plaza’s perimeter, or when I asked questions about the unmarked white truck that just happened to have a camera mounted on a forty-foot pole protruding from its roof.
They trailed me, took pictures of me, demanded my identification, and repeatedly confronted me. One cop even declared my reporting “illegal.” But I couldn’t help myself. Watching the NYPD was like gawking at a car wreck. I was reminded of the police response to the 2004 Republic National Convention, but on steroids. To take just one example, back then, the NYPD had around 9,000 steel barricades to pen in protesters around the city — enough, that is, to stretch from one tip of Manhattan to the other. More than seven years later, the approximately 150 steel barricades that formed a cordon around Zuccotti Park were part of a NYPD inventory that could enclose the entire island in a formidable ring of steel.
In his latest article, TomDispatch regular Stephan Salisbury assures me that I was never alone in my fixation on the rise of a homeland security state, and his reporting gives even me pause. With Occupy protesters gearing up for a spring resurgence, Salisbury spells out just what activists will be up against — think unmanned drones, tanks, and super-sophisticated surveillance systems from New York City to Scottsbluff, Nebraska — in the months ahead.
(2) Today’s feature article by Stephan Salisbury
How to Fund an American Police State and get Real Money for an Imaginary War
At the height of the Occupy Wall Street evictions, it seemed as though some diminutive version of “shock and awe” had stumbled from Baghdad, Iraq, to Oakland, California. American police forces had been “militarized,” many commentators worried, as though the firepower and callous tactics on display were anomalies, surprises bursting upon us from nowhere.
There should have been no surprise. Those flash grenades exploding in Oakland and the sound cannons on New York’s streets simply opened small windows onto a national policing landscape long in the process of militarization — a bleak domestic no man’s land marked by tanks and drones, robot bomb detectors, grenade launchers, tasers, and most of all, interlinked video surveillance cameras and information databases growing quietly on unobtrusive server farms everywhere.
The ubiquitous fantasy of “homeland security,” pushed hard by the federal government in the wake of 9/11, has been widely embraced by the public. It has also excited intense weapons — and techno-envy among police departments and municipalities vying for the latest in armor and spy equipment.
In such a world, deadly gadgetry is just a grant request away, so why shouldn’t the 14,000 at-risk souls in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, have a closed-circuit-digital-camera-and-monitor system (cost: $180,000, courtesy of the Homeland Security Department) identical to the one up and running in New York’s Times Square?
So much money has gone into armoring and arming local law-enforcement since 9/11 that the federal government could have rebuilt post-Katrina New Orleans five times over and had enough money left in the kitty to provide job training and housing for every one of the record 41,000-plus homeless people in New York City. It could have added in the growing population of 15,000 homeless in Philadelphia, my hometown, and still have had money to spare. Add disintegrating Detroit, Newark, and Camden to the list. Throw in some crumbling bridges and roads, too.
But why drone on? We all know that addressing acute social and economic issues here in the homeland was the road not taken. Since 9/11, the Department of Homeland Security alone has doled out somewhere between $30 billion and $40 billion in direct grants to state and local law enforcement, as well as other first responders. At the same time, defense contractors have proven endlessly inventive in adapting sales pitches originally honed for the military on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan to the desires of police on the streets of San Francisco and lower Manhattan. Oakland may not be Basra but (as former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld liked to say) there are always the unknown unknowns: best be prepared.
All told, the federal government has appropriated about $635 billion, accounting for inflation, for homeland security-related activities and equipment since the 9/11 attacks. To conclude, though, that “the police” have become increasingly militarized casts too narrow a net. The truth is that virtually the entire apparatus of government has been mobilized and militarized right down to the university campus.
Perhaps the pepper spray used on Occupy demonstrators last November at University of California-Davis wasn’t directly paid for by the federal government. But those who used it work closely with Homeland Security and the FBI “in developing prevention strategies that threaten campus life, property, and environments,” as UC Davis’s Comprehensive Emergency and Continuity Management Plan puts it.
Government budgets at every level now include allocations aimed at fighting an ephemeral “War on Terror” in the United States. A vast surveillance and military buildup has taken place nationwide to conduct a pseudo-war against what can be imagined, not what we actually face. The costs of this effort, started by the Bush administration and promoted faithfully by the Obama administration, have been, and continue to be, virtually incalculable. In the process, public service and the public imagination have been weaponized.
(a) Farewell to Peaceful Private Life
We’re not just talking money eagerly squandered. That may prove the least of it. More importantly, the fundamental values of American democracy — particularly the right to lead an autonomous private life — have been compromised with grim efficiency. The weaponry and tactics now routinely employed by police are visible evidence of this.
Yes, it’s true that Montgomery County, Texas, has purchased a weapons-capable drone. (They say they’ll only arm it with tasers, if necessary.) Yes, it’s true that the Tampa police have beefed the force up with an eight-ton armored personnel carrier, augmenting two older tanks the department already owns. Yes, the Fargo police are ready with bomb detection robots, and Chicago boasts a network of at least 15,000 interlinked surveillance cameras.
New York City’s 34,000-member police force is now the ground zero of a growing outcry over rampant secret spying on Muslim students and communities up and down the East coast. It has been a big beneficiary of federal security largess. Between 2003 and 2010, the city received more than $1.1 billion through Homeland Security’s Urban Areas Security Initiative grant program. And that’s only one of the grant programs funneling such money to New York.
The Obama White House itself has directly funded part of the New York Police Department’s anti-Muslim surveillance program. Top officials of New York’s finest have, however, repeatedly refused to disclose just how much anti-terrorism money it has been spending, citing, of course, security.
Can New York City ever be “secure”? Mayor Michael Bloomberg boasted recently with obvious satisfaction: “I have my own army in the NYPD, which is the seventh largest army in the world.” That would be the Vietnamese army actually, but accuracy isn’t the point. The smugness of the boast is. And meanwhile the money keeps pouring in and the “security” activities only multiply.
Why, for instance, are New York cops traveling to Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and Newark, New Jersey, to spy on ordinary Muslim citizens, who have nothing to do with New York and are not suspected of doing anything? For what conceivable purpose does Tampa want an eight-ton armored vehicle? Why do Texas sheriffs north of Houston believe one drone — or a dozen, for that matter — will make Montgomery County a better place? What manner of thinking conjures up a future that requires such hardware? We have entered a dark world that demands an inescapable battery of closed-circuit, networked video cameras trained on ordinary citizens strolling Michigan Avenue.
This is not simply a police issue. Law enforcement agencies may acquire the equipment and deploy it, but city legislators and executives must approve the expenditures and the uses. State legislators and bureaucrats refine the local grant requests. Federal officials, with endless input from national security and defense vendors and lobbyists, appropriate the funds.
Doubters are simply swept aside (while legions of security and terrorism pundits spin dread-inducing fantasies), and ultimately, the American people accept and live with the results. We get what we pay for — Mayor Bloomberg’s “army,” replicated coast to coast.
(b) Budgets Tell the Story
Militarized thinking is made manifest through budgets, which daily reshape political and bureaucratic life in large and small ways. Not long after the 9/11 attacks, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, used this formula to define the new American environment and so the thinking that went with it: “Terrorist operatives infiltrate our communities — plotting, planning, and waiting to kill again.” To counter that, the government had urgently embarked on “a wartime reorganization,” he said, and was “forging new relationships of cooperation with state and local law enforcement.”
While such visionary Ashcroftian rhetoric has cooled in recent years, the relationships and funding he touted a decade ago have been institutionalized throughout government — federal, state, and local — as well as civil society. The creation of the Department of Homeland Security, with a total 2012 budget of about $57 billion, is the most obvious example of this.
That budget only hints at what’s being doled out for homeland security at the federal level. Such moneys flow not just from Homeland Security, but from the Justice Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Commerce Department, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Defense.
In 2010, the Office of Management and Budget reckoned that 31 separate federal agencies were involved in homeland security-related funding that year to the tune of more than $65 billion. The Census Bureau, which has itself been compromised by War on Terror activities — mapping Middle Eastern and Muslim communities for counter-terrorism officials — estimated that federal homeland security funding topped $70 billion in 2010. But government officials acknowledge that much funding is not included in that compilation. (Grants made through the $5.6 billion Project BioShield, to offer but one example, an exotic vaccination and medical program launched in 2004, are absent from the total.)
Even the estimate of more than $635 billion in such expenditures does not tell the full spending story. That figure does not include the national intelligence or military intelligence budgets for which the Obama Administration is seeking $52.6 billion and $19.6 billion respectively in 2013, or secret parts of the national security budget, the so-called black budget.
Local funding is also unaccounted for. New York’s Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly claims total national homeland security spending could easily be near a trillion dollars. Money well spent, he says — New York needs that anti-terror army, the thousands of surveillance cameras, those sophisticated new weapons, and, naturally, a navy that now includes six drone submarines (thanks to $540,000 in Homeland Security cash) to keep an eye on the terrorist threat beneath the waves.
And even that’s not enough.
“We have a new boat on order,” Kelly said recently, alluding to a bullet-proof vessel paid for by, yes, Homeland Security (cost unspecified). “We envision a situation where we may have to get to an island or across water quickly, so we’re able to transport our heavy weapons officers rapidly. We have to do things differently. We know that this is where terrorists want to come.”
With submarines available to those who protect and serve (and grab the grant money), a simple armored SWAT carrier should hardly raise an eyebrow. The Tampa police will get one as part of their security buildup before the city hosts the Republican convention this summer. Tampa and Charlotte, which will host the Democratic convention, each received special $50 million security allocations from Congress to “harden” the cities.
Marc Hamlin, Tampa’s assistant police chief, told the Tampa city council that two old tanks, already owned and operated by the police, were simply not enough. They were just too unreliable. “Thank God we have two, because one seems to break down every week,” he lamented.
Not everyone on the council seemed convinced Tampa needed a truck sheathed in 1.5-inch high-grade steel, and featuring ballistic glass panels, blast shields, and powered turrets. City Council Vice Chairwoman Mary Mulhern claimed she found the purchase “kind of troubling,” a sign that Tampa is becoming “militarized.” Then she voted to approve it anyway, along with the other council members. Hamlin was pleased. “It’s one of those things where you prepare for the worst, and you hope for the best,” he explained.
When Mulhern suggested that some of the windfall $50 million might be used to help the city’s growing homeless population, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn set her straight. “We can’t be diverted from what the appropriate use of that money is, and that is to provide a safe environment for the convention. It’s not to be used for pet projects or things totally unrelated to security.”
Tampa will also be spending more than $1 million for state of the art digital video uplinks to surveillance helicopters. (“Analog technology is almost Stone Age,” commented one approving council member.) Another $2 million will go to install 60 surveillance cameras on city streets. That represents an uncharacteristic pullback from the city’s initial plan to acquire more than 230 cameras as well as two drones at a cost of about $5 million. Even the police deemed that too expensive — for the moment.
All of this hardware will remain in Tampa after the Republicans and any protestors are long gone. What use will it serve then? In the Tampa area, the armored truck will join the armored fleet, police officials said, ferrying SWAT teams on calls and protecting police serving search warrants. In the past, Hamlin claimed, Tampa’s tanks have been shot at. He did not mention that crime rates in Tampa and across Florida are at four-decade lows.
The video surveillance cameras will, of course, also stay in place, streaming digitized images to an ever-growing database, where they will be stored waiting for the day when facial recognition software is employed to mix and match. This strategy is being followed all over the country, including in Chicago, with its huge video surveillance network, and New York City, where all of lower Manhattan is now on camera.
Tampa has already been down this road once in the post-9/11 era. The city was home to a much-watched experiment in using such software. Images taken by cameras installed on the street were to be matched with photographs in a database of suspects. The system failed completely and was scrapped in 2003. On the other hand, sheriffs in the Tampa Bay area are currently using facial recognition software to match photographs snapped by police on the street with a database of suspects with outstanding warrants. Police are excited by that program and look forward to its future expansion.
(c) The Rise of the Fusion Centers
Homeland Security has played a big role in creating one particularly potent element in the nation’s expanding database network. Working with the Department of Justice in the wake of 9/11, it launched what has grown into 72 interlinked state “fusion centers” — repositories for everything from Immigration Customs Enforcement data and photographs to local police reports and even gossip. “Suspicious Activity Reports” gathered from public tipsters — thanks to Homeland Security’s “if you see something, say something” program — are now flowing into state centers. Those fusion centers are possibly the greatest facilitators of dish in history, and have vast potential for disseminating dubious information and stigmatizing purely political activity. And most Americans have never even heard of them.
Yet fusion centers now operate in every state, centralizing intelligence gathering and facilitating dissemination of material of every sort across the country. Here is where information gathered by cops and citizens, FBI agents and immigration officers goes to fester. It is a staggering load of data, unevenly and sometimes questionably vetted, and it is ultimately available to any state or local law-enforcement officer, any immigration agent or official, any intelligence or security bureaucrat with a computer and network access.
The idea for these centers grew from the notion that agencies needed to share what they knew in an “unfettered” environment. How comforting to know that the walls between intelligence and law enforcement are breached in an essentially unregulated fashion.
Many other states have monitored antiwar activists, gathering and storing names and information. Texas and other states have stored “intelligence” on Muslims. Pennsylvania gathered reports on opponents of natural gas drilling. Florida has scrutinized supporters of presidential candidate Ron Paul. The list of such questionable activities is very long. We have no idea how much dubious data has been squirreled away by authorities and remains within the networked system. But we do know that information pours into it with relative ease and spreads like an oil slick. Cleaning up and removing the mess is another story entirely.
Anyone who wants to learn something about fusion center funding will also find it maddeningly difficult to track. Not even the Homeland Security Department can say with certainty how much of its own money has gone into these data nests over the last decade. The amounts are staggering, however. From 2004 to 2009 alone, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that states used about $426 million in Homeland Security Department grants to fund fusion-related activities nationally. The centers also receive state and local funds, as well as funds from other federal agencies. How much? We don’t know, although GAO data suggest state and local funding at least equals the Homeland Security share.
Yet, as Tampa, New York City, and other urban areas bulk up with high-tech anti-terrorism equipment and fusion centers have proliferated, the number of even remotely “terror-related” incidents has declined. The equipment acquired and projects inaugurated to fend off largely imaginary threats is instead increasingly deployed to address ordinary criminal activity, perceived political disruptions, and the tracking and surveillance of American Muslims. The Transportation Safety Administration is now even patrolling highways. It could be called a case of mission creep, but the more accurate description might be: bait-and-switch.
The chances of an American dying in a terrorist incident in a given year are 1 in 3.5 million. To reduce that risk, to make something minuscule even more minuscule, what has the nation spent? What has it cost us? Instead of rebuilding a ravaged American city in a timely fashion or making Americans more secure in their “underwater” homes and their disappearing jobs, we have created militarized police forces, visible evidence of police-state-style funding.
Copyright 2012 Stephan Salisbury
(3) Note on Sources and Further Reading
The following documents can all be found in pdf format by clicking on “here”:
- the UC Davis Comprehensive Emergency Management plan here,
- Census Bureau figures on Homeland Security spending here,
- a report on questionable fusion center actions here,
- the GAO report on fusion centers here,
- a report on the decline in the terrorist threat here,
- and Congressional testimony favoring counterterrorism “mission creep” here.
To catch Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Salisbury discusses post-9/11 police “mission creep” in this country, click here, or download it to your iPod here.
(4) About the authors
Stephan Salisbury is cultural writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer and a TomDispatch regular. His most recent book is Mohamed’s Ghosts: An American Story of Love and Fear in the Homeland.
Nick Turse is associate editor of TomDispatch.com. An award-winning journalist, his work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, and regularly at TomDispatch. His new TomDispatch series on the changing face of American empire is being underwritten by Lannan Foundation. You can follow him on Twitter @NickTurse, on Tumblr, and on Facebook.
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch and join us on Facebook.
(5) After reading this: the next step to take
“Anger is easy. Anger at the right person, at the right time, for the right reason, is difficult.”
— Aristotle, in the Nicomachean Ethics, book IV, chapter 5 (lightly paraphrased)
“Telemachus, now is the time to be angry.”
— Odysseus, when the time came to deal with the Suitors. From the movie The Odyssey (1997)
Then read Five steps to fixing America. These are small first steps on a long journey.
(6) For more information about the fading American Republic
(a) For all posts about this topic see the FM reference page America – how can we stop the quiet coup now in progress?
(b) Posts about America’s enemies within:
- Fear the enemies within America more than those without, 21 December 2011
- “Lawfare” – using the law to undermine the Constitution (a powerful tool in the quiet coup now in progress), 22 December 2011
- Some foes of the Republic revealed themselves by sponsoring the Enemy Expatriation Act, 30 January 2012
(c) Posts about America today:
- American history changes direction as the baton passes between our political parties, 18 May 2008
- Can Americans pull together? If not, why not?, 29 July 2008
- The sky darkens over America, as we (the little people) are made smaller than we were last week. 24 January 2010
- Is the American Republic dying, as in the last days of the Roman Republic?, 20 July 2010
- Another American judge weakens the Republic’s foundation, 8 August 2010
- The guilty ones responsible for the loss of our liberties, 11 September 2010
- America is the new Rome. Late Republican Rome (not the best of times), 13 October 2010
19 thoughts on “How to Fund an American Police State (aka Weaponizing the Body Politic)”
Can expressing an opinion get you on the no-fly list? Like say if a hypothetical person just happened to support the Turkish boats going to Gaza. Is that risky? Where’s the red line here? I mean, at some point, it’s just better to just keep quiet.
I did have a conversation with someone who was looking to move to Finland, and this woman said she had been in demonstrations after 9/11 and that she was on the no-fly list and was working on a way to get there via Canada. I can’t verify or prove this, but she seemed rational. It just makes me wonder, what’s going on out there?
“Can expressing an opinion get you on the no-fly list?”
I don’t see why not, particularly if the person in question is of Middle Eastern descent. The article noted that the Department of Homeland Security is not particularly good at vetting all of the “data” it receives and we occasionally hear of infants or extremely elderly people being on the no-fly list because of poor vetting.
I actually don’t think it’s all that difficult for a perceptive observer to realize that “what’s going on out there” is a pervasive campaign — although not necessarily an official, organized, or even deliberate one — to intimidate, marginalize, and eventually (insofar as possible) silence anyone who challenges the current perspectives and goals of the dominant group in this culture. For some of the groups which fall under the larger umbrella of the dominant group — such as the neoconservative Republicans and their occasional allies, the Christian Reconstructionists — these goals are by no means secret. The Christian Reconstructionists want to see the United States become a country governed by Biblical law, and the neoconservatives want to establish a global empire under the control of the United States.
Wonder when our own equivalent of the SS or Gestapo in the US will be created or has it already?
We’re not at that point in the process, as the SS and Gestapo are extreme forms of tyranny. We do have several agencies which might easily evolve into security services of the type possessed by most autocratic governments. Even the Gestapo was staffed by experienced policemen, and largely processed leads from informers.
Two of the important and chilling lesson from the past decade:
(1) Many Americans love neither liberty nor our Constitutional regime — and will eaagerly work against it if told to do so by the government. They will do almost anything the government tells them to do. Unlawful surveilance, detainment, torture, and murder all receive applause. Conservative websites are filled with comments by such people, enough to staff a thousand Gestapos.
(2) Many of these people alrady work in our intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
I was going to post something jocular about how J. Edgar Hoover and Hermann Goering might have been brothers separated at birth and raised under different circumstances, but then I decided to google image-search them and it became less funny. Try it yourself. Pictures of both men emphasize uniform, dominance poses, severe expressions of tough disdain, with quarter-angle faces in a roman pose… Uh… OK, maybe not so witty.
Seriously, though – the core of an SS or Gestapo is authoritarian personalities like Eichmann, Goering, and (yes) Hoover, who adopt the agenda of their state masters unquestioningly and who carry it out regardless of the means to the end. Hannah Arendt, in “Eichmann in Jerusalem” portrays such men as energetic, thoughtless, bureaucrats – basically the psychopath-meets-bureaucrat. The people who build a Gestapo or an FBI are able to identify the authority-inclined and give them a sense of grand purpose and a snappy uniform and, voila – instant holy warriors.
I believe its important to distinguish between the SS and Gestapo. The Gestapo was in most ways a typical secret police apparatus. My guess is that the Stasi (East German secret policy) considered them amateurs.
The SS was something else. Not unique (is anything in history unique?), but less relevant to the current trends in the US polity.
More broadly, I believe these NAZI analogies tend to fog the discussion — even when accurate. Given the number of other historical analogues, IMO its seldom useful to go there. That is, IMO, the insight of Goodwin’s Law.
@FM – I agree completely.
The problem with Nazi analogies and, indeed, all analogies is that they often obscure more than they reveal. Usually, we have the vocabulary and knowledge to speak directly about a topic without having to resort to analogy at all.
What we should be talking about is why the NYPD is performing sectarian investigations, why the CIA has civilians who have been apparently authorized to carry out extrajudicial killings, and why military weaponry and tactics are increasingly permeating policing. We can do that without resorting to analogies; none are necessary for us to understand the situation.
Being a historian, in a way, involves a search for analogy. It’s hard to hear the creaks presaging the collapse of a modern empire and not hear the echoes of the fall of Rome. Because, other than that he overgeneralized horribly, Santayana was more right than wrong. Where it’s easy to analogize the Gestapo to modern secret police, we can (and should) still extrapolate trends: when you have “enforcement” that is hidden from oversight, you tend to see governments rely on them more and more as they become increasingly totalitarian. Emphasis on secret policing and hiding from the rule of law is a bad sign. This is an observation we make from watching the evolution of many totalitarian regimes (including the Nazis) and it’s one we must make, today.
During the Civil War, the South used a lot defensive tools such as coastal forts, Coast Guard vessels and local armories to break away from the North. The North spent a lot of money and lives overcoming them.
History rarely repeats but it often rhymes. These weapons and tools create possibilities that could not exist without them. Eventually the possibilities can become probabilities. And the probabilities can become history. And history rarely agrees with the original intent of the people who created it.
Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Talk, talk, talk.
Until they start dying, there will be no positive change.
By the time they start dying it will be too late for positive change
Fascinating (disgusting) report.
Like Nick, my time at the local OWS events was spent in part watching the thuggery-in-action and prep by the local Gendarmes.
Complete over reaction ordered by the City (Fed?) Officials.
Increasing in scope and flagrance, as time passed.
Keep in mind, though, it is planned as “Deterence”.
Numbers will overwhelm.
Certainly a few will possibly receive some serious whoopin’
Events can alter many a Plan.
For several years, this site has been meticulously documenting and analyzing the degeneration of the socio-political system of the USA: illegal wars of aggression based on fabrications, abductions and torture of suspects outside any jurisdiction, organization of what can only be called concentration camps, illegal, systematic spying on citizens, official assassinations of people (citizens or not) without due process, shielding officials from international crimes, repression of whistle-blowing, widespread corruption in the government, crumbling of political culture, reign of incompetent politicians, discarding of legal precedent, arrogant violations of international law, increasing recourse to State secrets and State security privilege — I surely miss some.
Recently, the observation “it is getting worse than I thought, faster than I thought” is appearing more frequently here.
There surely must be a point when one can state that, even if the “extreme point of tyranny” has not be reached, one has definitely left a democratic system and effectively entered a tyranny.
Are we there yet? If not, what is the tipping point? If yes, what to do then?
All good questions. None of which I can answer.
Furthmore, I don’t know the cause of the problem, its nature, or cure. My guess is that is was always such during the great trials of history. So we just just go forward as best we can. Discussions of our situation usually display a misunderstanding of our situation. It’s quite simple.
When one has doubts about watching the OWS movement and equates it with the Stasi then we are watching the same kind of people who protest against going to mosques to see what is said. Perhaps I am old fashioned but why didn’t the author think to mention these people were breaking the law daily and destroyed the livihoods of hundreds of people. I guess its all about our rights, and the rights of others be damned.
When a society can guarantee the safety of its members perhaps the danger of a police state is actually promoted by those who are the authors of such anarchy. Napoleon came to power because everyone feared the beast of the revolution.
Hitler came to power promising to restore order and prosperity. This article promotes the anarchists who run riot each day. This is why we have flashmobs, the looting, the judges who proclaim sharia and attack christianity.
This article makes me wonder which side is sane. To me the answer seems to be neither.
Veritas provides another demonstration that propaganda works, and that the Constitution has died in the hearts of many Americans.
We could spend thousands of words debunking this nonsense, but it would all be in vain.
Yep, you’re primed to vote for a tyrant. You may get the opportunity to do so before you die; you will probably outlive the Constitution.
“Veritas provides another demonstration that propaganda works, and that the Constitution has died in the hearts of many Americans.”
??? Has it died or was it ever truly alive? It has been so very easy in this Country since the late 60’s that I wonder if multiple generations just simply took an “Incomplete” in that Class and so never had to ponder what a Constitution may entail and require.
Oh yeah the propaganda sealed the deal, no doubt, for some of us.
Watching the response to OWS is sine qua non to seeing the death of a Constitution….it is very easy to defend a Right to Speech when you agree with it and the proponents thereof.
And now we have this.
An article that claims to defend “the fundamental values of American democracy — particularly the right to lead an autonomous private life” should be carful not to support the enemies of that very concept.
Direct democracy and ‘FREE’ rides have no place in a land of liberty. Liberty is a byproduct of consequence and to argue for a new world, socially engineered to produce a society without need for police is not only preposterous but it is dangerous.
The occupiers were, at best, aimless misanthropic coeds having a good time, and at worst useful idiots creating interference for one of the biggest overreaches of our government in a century. Pointing out the growing cost of upholding our overburdened legal system to use as an argument in support of anti-capitalistic mobs breaking down our institutions is duplicitous and misguided.
OWS sympathizers are arguing for more centralized power, equaling more police and more force. How else would a heterogeneous society be engineered to offer everything for free?
This is all absolutely horrifying. It started under George W. Bush and continues under Obama.
But it is also clear that any politician who stands up and says “Whoa there- do we really need all this stuff in the hands of the police? There’s no ‘existential’ threat to the USA from terrorism” would be on a hiding to nothing from public opinion mediated by the media, and those with a vested interest in selling the stuff the police have bought (what Eisenhower warned against – the MIlitary Industrial Complex). For, while it is true there is no existential threat to the USA from ‘international terrorism’ or ‘Muslim terrorism’, it was actually possible to destroy some 3,000 people in one single blow and so traumatise the USA. Which led directly to a stupid war against Iraq, the hopeless quagmire of Afghanistan, Homeland Security and the enormous expendiiture on ‘police equipment’.
One question is – how neurotic a response was that? Or was it cynical? It’s a moot point. But the response happened, and it is very difficult to blame most of the politicians who supported it. And then, of course, once you have those resources in the hands of the police, it’s really, really difficult to stop them from using some of them against OWS and other manifestations of legitimate protest and disturbance.
So it really is this latter area that needs your focus, because the primary argument is truly lost, ancient history. The question should now be bout what the police are actually being allowed to do with the stuff once they’ve got it. The need, therefore, is to argue loudly and effectively for specific and strong judicial ‘checks-and-balances’ in its use – and not to wring hands about the fact that the stuff is out there.