Friday, June 6, 2008

Safety first?


An interesting civil liberties debate has cropped up in Washington, D.C., where police, in an attempt to claim some sort of control in a murder-wracked neighborhood, are setting up vehicle checkpoints. The Associated Press reports that police will check drivers' IDs, and if they don't have a "legitimate purpose" to be in the neighborhood - where eight people were murdered last weekend alone - they will be turned away. Of course, the American Civil Liberties Union came out against the plan. "This plan will treat every resident of that area the way criminals are treated," said Johnny Barnes, who directs the ACLU for the National Capital Area. Well, it sure appears that there ARE a lot of criminals in that neighborhood, and my guess is that police are not getting a whole lot of cooperation from residents in identifying those thugs who are doing the killings. District of Columbia Councilman Harry Thomas Jr., who represents the area in question, has reservations about the plan, but he concedes that many of the people involved in the recent shootings drove into the neighborhood to buy drugs and do violence against enemies who live there. No one wants to live in a police state, but at the same time, there comes a point where desperate measures are called for. Would it be better to just wait and call ambulances to remove dead body after dead body?

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30 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's a legitimate purpose? And how many drivers bent on murder are going to admit it?

June 6, 2008 at 5:57 PM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

I get so damn sick of the ACLU and its whining "I'm being persecuted" horsesh**t that I could just scream. Frankly, if it means that my neighborhood is going to be safer, then I have no problem with checkpoints or police checking my ID. We live in the land of the offended and we're all just one lawsuit away from some sort of financial retribution for our perceived persecutions. The ACLU is at the forefront of these ridiculous actions. I have yet to see a sensible legal action ever taken by the ACLU.

Several years ago in Richmond, our local ACLU zealot, Kent Willis, filed a restraint of trade suit against the city police because they started to crack down on prostitutes who were hawking their wares near city schools. No wonder thinking people don't take the ACLU seriously.

Why does everyone have to act like they're being singled out for something? Guilty conscience? Or has our society become such that people just want to bitch? I think it's the latter. How can one complain about a safer neighborhood? And whom do we sue to get the ACLU to shut the hell up???

June 6, 2008 at 10:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Freedom requires standing up for it in the worst of circumstances. As usual the O-R and staff rarely understand that fact. Instead, they always seem ready to surrender. How much violence is needed for the justification for the loss of freedom and rights?
Even more strange is the constant complaints about Republicans and Conservatives and national rights, but on something more basic and effecting actual citizens, there is a willingness to comply. Very strange logic.

June 7, 2008 at 1:28 AM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

What is stranger is the lack of understanding that one of the greatest liberties we have as a free society is that we are assured protection from the bad guys. That's the problem with the ACLU and other non-thinking people of that ilk. I don't consider showing my ID a violation of my personal freedom. I look at it as protection. What the hell is a beat cop checking my license going to gain by looking at my address and picture? Is he going to steal my identity? If he can look at a hundred licenses a day and remember the pertinent data from even ONE of them, then go for it, dude.

It's easy to piss and moan about one's rights being stepped on when one isn't living in the thick of the action. Anonymous, my guess is that you don't live in a rough part of town. You certainly wouldn't move to a neighborhood like the one in DC where you risk getting shot, what, every 9 hours or so. Back up your argument...why don't you move to DC, to that particular neighborhood, and then get back to us about your civil rights.

I have nothing to hide. If Bush, the CIA, hell even the KGB (yes, I know it doesn't exist anymore) wants to look at my stuff, go ahead. What are you ashamed of or afraid of someone finding out, anonymous?

June 7, 2008 at 8:01 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

The greatest attack on privacy and our constitutional rights has been waged by the Bush administration since 9/11. It could be argued that the terrorists DID win because they caused our country to abandon its principles and our citizens to live in constant fear. At the same time, on the more local level, I agree with Priguy that it seems like a very minor intrusion, and a legitimate response to a real, pervasive threat of harm, to show one's driver's license to police. If it helps them get one murderous thug out of my neighborhood, I'd be all for it.

June 7, 2008 at 9:42 AM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

Brant, don't you think a lot of people would say the same thing about Bush's methods?

"If tracing calls and looking at library records stops one terrorist attack, I'm all for it..."

I certainly don't feel any less free than I did on September 10th...

After all, it was "a real, pervasive threat of harm..."

-Ellipses

June 7, 2008 at 10:05 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

I can certainly see your point, Ellipses, but I guess I'm thinking about the degree of intrusion and the level of infringement. Police have always had the right to pull someone over and check their ID if they though something was amiss. The sad thing about the Sept. 11 attacks is that our existing anti-terror apparatuses did raise red flags that, if recognized and followed up, might well have prevented the attacks. In the wake of Sept. 11, one certainly should have expected a crackdown and the breaking of a few privacy rights eggs to make a better anti-terror omelet, but I think we went too far in some areas. I find it repugnant that we held people, some of whom we knew were not terrorists, for years without charges at Guantanamo Bay. And I question the value of information we obtain when we waterboard a terror suspect. If I were being waterboarded, I'm pretty sure I'd tell my torturers whatever it was I thought they wanted to hear, true or not. And if the government wanted to get you or I off the street, all they have to do is declare us an enemy combatant, without making their evidence public, and toss us in a hole somewhere. It's a slippery slope. I just find there's a large gulf between what we have done in the name of terror-fighting and what the D.C. police are trying to do. Now, if they start pulling people out of their cars and performing deep cavity searches ...

June 7, 2008 at 10:54 AM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

Yeah... The Guantanamo issue is a rough one. On one hand, you have Khalid Sheik Mohamed... who I wouldn't mind keeping in a hole for a few more decades without seeing daylight, let alone a trial... but then there are the ones that are like "kinda sorta" terrorists. And then some who PROBABLY aren't. So, for the sake of consistency, I guess it's a bad idea.

As far as breaking a few eggs... I think the way we did it was not the most efficient way to crack down. It ended up being a years long process of scaling up surveillance with no real end in sight of the whole operation. If we had initiated a "shock and awe" campaign domestically... basically declared marshal law and became an eastern soviet block for 6 months to ensure that another attack wasn't imminent, we would probably have accepted that so long as we went "back to normal" with no lingering wiretaps or FISA issues. Oh well, hindsight is 20/20... in the meantime, I will be at citizens library next Saturday in the Medieval literature section probably around 10 am... I will use the card catalog computer closest to the reference books.

-Ellipses

June 7, 2008 at 12:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem is that, except in rare cases, erosion of liberties takes place so incrementally and so subtly that by the time we realize they are gone,it will be too late to get them back. That's what I fear. And. like Brant, I think the 9/11 attacks might have been averted if we had been better at collating and sharing information. And I'm sure that terrorists -- domestic or foreign will again strike on US soil when they think the time is right. I don't think that our stepped-up efforts since 9/11 will deter the most determined of them. Given the chaos caused by the 9/11 attacks, terrorists don't have to strike very often.

Although the ACLU sometimes takes up ridiculous causes, I can see their logic in some cases. I don't like it when they take up, say, the case of someone who wants to have a prayer removed from a high school commencement but allows the complainant to remain anonymous. I think courage of your convictions is a lesson to be learned in addition to freedom of -- or from -- religion.

But I also can see the logic behind the police wanting to conduct searches. But Like anonymous #1, I'm not sure that really valuable information can be had at police stops. Do they turn away everyone not from the neighborhood? Would anyone bent on making trouble be stupid enough to tell police, "I'm here to buy drugs," or "I'm here to kill the Smith kid."

Figuring out just who the bad guys are is tough. Do you stop a black guy driving a Jaguar in an all-white suburb? (Johnny Gammage) What about a white guy driving in an all-black neighborhood (me)? About 20 years ago I went to Orlando, FL, alone. One night, looking for a restaurant, I turned around a couple of times within the same three-block section. A cop pulled me over and told me he did so because that section was notorious for prostitution and he thought I was looking for a girl. OK. I'll buy that.

Years before, I was pulled over on I-79 by a state cop who claimed he thought I had no front bumper on my VW Beetle. How he figured that out from behind me, I don't know. I think in reality he pulled me over because I had hair down to my mid-back and had the back of car loaded with clothes in black plastic trash bags, which might have held pot.

The price of an open society is that we take chances. I don't want the government tapping my phones or checking where I go online. I think government effort would be better spent aimed at fixing health care, plugging the loopholes that have allowed corporations to get rich at the expense of 95% of Americans, and trying to repair the damage Bush & Co. have done over the pastyears to the reputation of the US abroad.

June 7, 2008 at 2:59 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

You make some good points, anonymous. My "funny" story about being pulled over by police occurrred in North Franklin Township. I was driving home from work many years ago, about midnight, and went out Park Avenue. Just as I crested the hill at Washington Cemetery, a police car pulled out and followed me down the hill. I was careful, of course, to stay under the speed limit, but as I neared the bottom of the hill, the officer hit his lights and pulled me over at Gabby Market. He approached the window. I rolled it down. He told me, "The reason I stopped you is that you were driving close to the white line on the right side of the road." It wasn't, you went off the berm, or you were weaving. It was, "You were driving close to the white line." No, the reason he stopped me was that it was late at night and he wanted me to roll down my window so, just maybe, he could get a whiff of alcohol and make a DUI arrest. It was a bogus stop. Now, I would suspect that most officers wouldn't resort to this kind of crap, but some do.

June 7, 2008 at 4:20 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

Here's my story...

I got pulled over on Rt. 19 last year after a night at the bar.

The officer came up to my window and asked me if I had been drinking... I told him

"I had 3 or 4 beers earlier, then I went to the bar... It was my buddy's birthday, so we all did a couple of shots. Some guy was sloppy drunk and he wanted to buy us umbrella drinks, so I had two tequila sunrises and a hurricane. I choked a little while smoking a cigarette and threw up. That left a nasty taste, so we had a couple rolling rocks to wash the taste out. We each did 1 more shot of bourbon and sang happy birthday. That was about 5 minutes ago... then you pulled me over."

The cop told me I would have to get out of the car and he would take me "down town."

I said "WHAT?!?! Don't you believe me?!"

-Ellipses

June 7, 2008 at 5:13 PM  
Blogger Roger said...

E... said,

I certainly don't feel any less free than I did on September 10th...

If people were honest, I think rare would be the person to have given much thought about freedom before 9/11. I venture to guess that most people would have answered "Is the US vulnerable?" in the negative. People took freedom for granted.

After 9/11, people had (and still do) an entirely new sensitivity toward the idea of freedom. I believe we are less safe now than before 9/11, only because I now have a better understanding of how easily an attack could happen. Frankly, I'm very surprised that no other significant attack has not taken place on US soil since 9/11.

So, do I feel less safe? You better believe it! And, my feeling has nothing to do with looking at my library records, listening to my phone calls, or any other "giving up of personal freedom," as some actions are usually called. Rather my feeling less safe has everything to do with how relentless the enemy is, the driven conditioning the enemy has undergone, and their intentions. Did we all have an understanding of this before 9/11?

June 7, 2008 at 10:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think we're any less safe than we were before 9/11 ... we are simply more aware that we aren't safe. In reality. we're lucky that there have been so few attacks on US soil.

June 8, 2008 at 2:44 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

The issue of vulnerability is an intriguing one... is 7 years long enough to start trading the "where were you" and "what were you thinking" questions (like with the kennedy assassination)?

I was a senior in high school. I had a 4th period lunch which put me in the cafeteria at 9:45. I went in the cafeteria, to our usual table... There weren't many people in there... a friend of mine came in, all excited and rather spazzy... he said "We're under attack, they're flying planes into the world trade center and they bombed the pentagon."

Now, on the issue of vulnerability... these are my immediate and visceral thoughts to that information:

1. Some jackass crashed his cessna into the WTC.

2. Nobody "bombed" the pentagon... it's the freakin' pentagon. You couldn't break a window on that building without being shot.

3. Where the hell is everybody (there were probably only 10 people in the cafeteria at this time)?

So yeah, on 9/10, if you asked if we were vulnerable, I would have said no.

-Ellipses

June 8, 2008 at 3:00 PM  
Blogger Scott Beveridge said...

I prefer freedom of movement on public sidewalks and roads, despite the risk.

June 9, 2008 at 6:53 PM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

No one is trying to take away that freedom. All anyone is trying to do is make is safer for others like you (and me) to be able to have "freedom of movement on public sidewalks and roads..."

That is a ridiculous statement, Scott. Your one-sentence posts are without foundation and therefore a waste of time.

June 11, 2008 at 6:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You don't have the freedom if you have to show credentials and ask for permission or explain where you are going. Beveridge was absolutely correct and said it simply.

June 12, 2008 at 4:26 AM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

Then the thugs that are invading these neighborhoods are free to blow you people away. Still, like I said earlier, I'd bet a year's pay that neither you nor Beveridge would ever consider living in one of these areas, so again, it's easy to bitch when you're perfectly safe.

June 12, 2008 at 6:20 AM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

I suppose I value the ABILITY to walk down the street more than the FREEDOM to do so... I know, that makes me an asshole on some level... But I would rather show id before going into an area if it reduces the chance of a bullet impeding my progress. My, how far we have come from the rhetoric of Give me Liberty or Give me Death...

-Ellipses

June 12, 2008 at 8:59 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

I don't think Patrick Henry or any of the other Founding Fathers could have envisioned the day when crack dealers and other assorted thugs would take over entire neighborhoods, arm themselves with 9mm handguns and even assault rifles, and execute people with impunity. I'm with Priguy and Ellipses on this one. While I generally stand for civil liberties, in some cases a minor inconvenience is required for the greater good. I no longer fly, in part because of the post-9/11 hysteria that has people being forced to shed their freakin' shoes at airports, but if I did decide to fly, I would understand the need to subjugate my general objection to an improper search to the necessity of ensuring that people were properly screened for weapons. And I might as well start another argument here. I would have no problem with the security people at airports singling out "Arab-looking" people for extra attention at the checkpoints. After all, the people who were responsible for 9/11 were Arabs, and it's radical Muslims who continue to preach hate and death toward Americans. But in our PC world, we have to check everyone, even though the chance of an old white guy like me flying a plane into a skyscraper is next to zero.

June 12, 2008 at 9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, the 9/11 hijackers were Arab, but Tomothy McVeigh was Born in thw USA, and they just captured three all-white, no-dark-meat, militia boys not too far away. Terrorists come in all shapes, sizes, creeds, sexes and races. But I want to avoid the "Papers please!" syndrome so prevalent in all those WWII movies.

June 12, 2008 at 1:30 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

You are correct that there are lunatics of all colors and nations of origin, but right now the militant Islamists seem to have made us Public Enemy No. 1, so I would focus on them first. And I understand that many innocent Arab people might be unduly targeted, but if the nonviolent Muslim world would work harder to root out the crazies in their midst, rather than quietly accepting, if not secretly supporting, the violence of terror purveyors, we would all be better off. Of course, the rulers of these Middle Eastern nations are fearful that if they try to clamp down on the radicalism, they're the ones that will end up, as John Candy used to say on SCTV, "blowed up real good." And I can't, in good conscience, say that the Arab world's hatred toward us is totally misplaced. The actions of the current administration in Washington have been disastrous in terms of out standing in the world as a whole.

June 12, 2008 at 1:40 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

I meant "our" standing. Sorry.

June 12, 2008 at 1:41 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

You know what sucks? And I understand how hippy this sounds... but in 130 years, no person alive today will still be alive... our wars, strifes, hostility toward others... It may advance something on a macro level... but for a real sense of fulfillment, if you would do something to make one person's life better... one on one, touch someone's life... You KNOW that you did the right thing. You KNOW that the world is better off because of your action. It seems so trivial and petty to cause anguish, pain, or despair in another person when both you and that person are equally mortal and will suffer the same fate (death) within a relatively short window... makes me a sad panda.

-Ellipses :-(

June 12, 2008 at 2:17 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

But there are the psychopaths who think that by carrying out the supreme being's will, they'll be set up with a couple of dozen virgins in the afterlife. Let's see, good deeds or a couple of dozen virgins? Hmmmmmm. I'm just sayin' ...

June 12, 2008 at 3:32 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

Virgins are overrated... If I am going to spend eternity with 72 chicks... I want at least a couple of whores.

Hell, I can get 72 virgins here on earth... It's called a star trek convention!

-Ellipses

June 12, 2008 at 3:50 PM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

There's an episode of the animated show "Family Guy" in which a terrorist blows himself up and ends up in the proverbial room full of virgins. Turns out it's 72 male geeks playing "Magic - The Gathering."

As for profiling Arabs for searches, I say go for it. If there was some horrific crime committed by a group of short, fat opinionated red wine drinkers, I'm not going to be indignant if I'm singled out for an extra search. Political Correctness will be the death of this country.

June 12, 2008 at 4:24 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

Naw... I still have my money on an asteroid of plague.

-Ellipses

June 12, 2008 at 4:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...
they were saying the same thing 130 years ago. Things haven't changed much.

June 12, 2008 at 9:37 PM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

Radical Muslim terrorists were being racially profiled in airports 130 years ago?

June 13, 2008 at 6:17 AM  

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