Saturday, July 10, 2010

Police State Costs

Maricopa County, Arizona has settled for almost half a million dollars with seven individuals arrested by Sheriff Joe Arpaio's deputies at a county supervisor meeting. That's actually small change for Sheriff Joe. Liability judgments and settlements against his office usually run into the many millions.

Here in Washington, liability costs are a bit lower but still real. Phillip Chinn, an Olympia activist detained on a spurious DUI en route to protest moving military equipment through local ports, has cost the Washington State patrol and two local governments $400,000. His vehicle license number was among several circulated to law enforcement to watch during protests and a trooper took the opportunity to detain Mr. Chinn on what turned out to be completely unfounded charges. The arrest served its intended purpose, though. Chinn never made it to the protest.

Freedom is not free. It's not even freedom.*

*with apologies to William Faulkner.


The New Black

When I was a lad, America was afraid of communists. They were everywhere. Or could be. You never knew. Even worse, they had rockets and bombs that could destroy America. Constant vigilance was essential. To call someone a communist in those days was tantamount to calling someone a traitor or Enemy of America.

These days "terrorist" is the all-purpose enemy, the constant danger. Brand someone a "terrorist" and that someone is suspect, their civil liberties restricted, even forfeit, in the interests of national security, of public safety. Most recently, respected Colombian journalist Hollman Morris was denied a US visa because of "terrorist activities". His transgression: associating with a rebel group while reporting on Columbia's long-running insurgency. Now America will not allow him a visa to accept fellowship for journalists at Harvard University.

Morris' reporting has embarrassed the Colombian government security forces which most likely assembled the allegations to torpedo Morris' visa. It may be a frame-up but the frame that worked was "terrorism".

America. Land of the Fearful.

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Monday, July 05, 2010

Meet the New Boss

The Washington Post goes all ga-ga over General Patraeus' assuming command in Afghanistan:
Seizing the flags of U.S. and NATO forces Sunday morning, Gen. David H. Petraeus formally took hold of the war in Afghanistan and began the daunting task of turning around an ever more deadly and unpopular conflict.
A general with a sterling reputation for military creativity and political acumen, Petraeus, 57, struck a determined tone in his remarks to fellow officers, foreign diplomats and Afghan officials, insisting "we are in this to win."

The accompanying photo shows a smiling Patraeus clutching a green flag. He looks happy to be where he is. Afghanistan is his chance to do what no American general has ever done: finally win the Vietnam war. No wonder he's smiling.

Read Patraeus acceptance speech and you will see the same words used four decades ago to keep America locked into an extended war that had no legitimate purpose. Those fine phrases are all back, along with international terrorism and "America, be afraid" hyperbole. Rhetoric and national pride prolonged the Vietnam war by at least five years after public support turned against the war. Rhetoric and national pride will do the same for this war. The Big Lie has a long shelf life.

The loss of public support for Vietnamwas not opposition to war as policy but simply the realization that there was no point to it, especially at the cost of my son's life. At that point, the Big Lie evaporated like the Wicked Witch of the West. And it still took years to finally end that war. That's why we have a "volunteer" military--to keep the public sufficiently removed from the most direct consequences of war so they won't be so quick to object. That combined with fear tactics has buttressed support for military action after the 9-11 attacks. Only now are most Americans beginning to look at the never-ending war as simply not worth it.

Now comes David Patraeus to show Americans that the effort is not only worth it but will succeed. For a general, there can be no greater opportunity.

This time we'll win it! It's just a matter of _________ (fill in blank).

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Sunday, July 04, 2010

Not Quite Declaration

From Thomas Jefferson's original draft of the Declaration of Independence. Among the complaints against the king that were cause "for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another" was slavery. Congress did not agree.

He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of INFIDEL powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce. And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people for whom he also obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed against the LIBERTIES of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the LIVES of another.