Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Henry Louis Gates and Police Abuse of Power

Most of you by now have now heard of Henry Louis Gates, the black scholar in Cambridge MA who was arrested in his own home after someone mistakenly thought he was a burglar and called the police; he was arrested for disorderly conduct, despite the fact that he had established himself as the proper resident of the home.

I will admit to bias here, because, frankly, I don't really have very much respect for the police so much, I particularly don't care for how much of the culture--particularly the Christian community, for whatsoever reason--seems to go so far as to downright worship the police; they constantly call on us as citizens to be "good citizens" but they never call out police abuse-of-power, they never call out police people as being responsible and accountable for how they treat the population as a whole.

It gets tiring, and frankly at this writing I am looking for any sermons I hear regarding this to totally speak about citizens' responsibility to "not be rebellious" but to say nary a word regarding how there are cases of abuse of authority and how wrong it is.

This has been painted as a racism aspect, and I don't know that I view it that way, but as a possible police abuse of power, certainly yet another case of police arrogance and lack of respect. I think this articile5 and this article6 (even better) nails it.

I think the fact that all the police unions etc are backing this is more proof of this; all they can do is talk about how hard their job is, blah blah. Big deal. Life is hard for a lot of people, that doesn't make abuse of power an okay reaction, ever. An average citizen entering his own home ought to not have to deal with a bunch of bologney and be totally okay with it just because the police think their job is hard. Yeah, so your job is hard--what's new? Lots of people have hard jobs, they don't go arresting people just because they don't like their attitude.

I think that Crowley, the arresting officer, simply arrested Gates because Gates challenged his authority and the legitimacy of the investigation. Sorry, but I'm not brown-nosing the police on this one. I think it's completely reasonable that if someone has been falsely accused of breaking into his own home--no matter what behavior proceeded the investigation--to be upset and not particularly warm & fussy (if short of verbally abusive) with any police presence at that point. Once the police had established that the person he was speaking with was not a burglar but in fact the proper home owner, they have no right to expect such a person to respond in anyway but something along the lines of, respectfully as possible, "time to leave; you're not needed here at this point."

I am one that tends to think that a lot of racism complaints these days are illegitimate. I don't agree with reparations, I don't believe in affirmative action. I don't think Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson need to go to every alleged racist incident and stir trouble up.

However, situations like Henry Louis Gates DO call for such "stirring up" if you will. It is outrageous that something like this would happen.

In a country that can elect a black man for president--granted, I don't like Obama because of his policies (I would have preferred someone like Walter Williams or Clarence Thomas), but I think it's great that the country is now at a point that a black man can be elected president--it is amazing we still deal with things like this. This is simply ridiculous. I don't think there was any racism element here, but certainly the police were arrogant. I agree with Barack Obama here (for the first-time--and maybe last-time--ever)--the Cambridge police did "act stupidly."

Thankfully all the charges have been dropped; that's as it should be, but more needs to be done. The police in this situation should be dressed-down for their behavior in the most strict manner. The message needs to be delivered--racism and police abuse-of-power is WRONG and will never be tolerated. Few things are more irritating than an arrogant policemen, and to behave this way in someone else's home is the most outrageous of all.


1Yahoo! Article
2Washington Post Article
3Wikipedia Article on the incident.
4Excellent opinion article on this topic.
5Obama Was Right About Gates Arrest
6Best Article About This, Talks About Police Abuse of Power & How Conservatives Are Too Prone to Siding with Police in Every Situation
7Video Clip at YouTube Explaining Why Arrest Was Wrong & Right-Wingers are Wrong About This
8Bill Maher's Comment, Around 6:25 Mark (YouTube Clip)
9Bill Maher's Comment, Clip #2, Around 1:03 Mark (YouTube Clip)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Privacy and RFID Chips

In a way I am a very paradoxical person. I love Internet access, I love being able to receive email and browse sites anywhere using my "smartphone" (either a Palm Treo or Blackberry, so far), I think it's wonderful. I also highly support the rights of candid/street photographers to photograph public life, without asking those around if it's okay, because of 1st amendment issues and because candid/street photography only captures the essence of life as it genuinely is when the subjects are unaware and not posed.

Yet, at the same time, I very highly value my privacy.

I have had enough bad experiences with society at large, and even the police, that Jenifer and I were, frankly, relieved to be able to move to the "boonies" as it were, away from the large city and out in the woods where we don't have the whole world meddling in our business. We can shout when fighting if we want to, when I become angry I can shout and break a drinking glass in the sink if I want to--no worries about the police showing up and refereeing it when neither of us want the government involved in private family matters. That's just the way we like it.

Personally, I don't think of our country in the same post 9/11 regard many others do, including fellow conservatives. This may be a key area where I'm more liberetarian than conservative--I am appreciative that no new attacks have occurred in our nation since 9-11-2001, but I do not agree with warrantless wiretapping, NSA, "data-mining," or any of that type of civilian surveillance to achieve it. I don't for one minute think that September 11th 2001 instantly made invalid my privacy concerns, or anyone else's either. I think airport security, school campus security, and the like have all gone completely overboard.

Anyone that thinks my stance is lunacy in light of such acts as the Virginia Tech massacre don't know their history: the worst school disaster in history actually occurred in 1927, go here1 to read all about it. Yes, before we had Internet, digital photography, violence in the movies, and 9-11 itself, school violence was taking place--in 1927 (before the Great Depression, too). That revelation is astounding to me, and really drives home the point--all this rush to squash people's liberty and privacy for the sake of safety under the premise of "9-11 changed everything" is brought on by people operating in pure ignorance of history and the proper perspective of it.

Some 3-4 years ago, I read about RFID tags in Consumer Reports, and then I read this article2 today, which served to remind me of just what is at stake here with RFID tags.

RFID tags are chips that contain unique information about a person and transmit this information wirelessly to detectors that can acquire this information. RFID tags commonly exist in clothing and other items, mainly for the purposes of allowing easier inventory tracking. However, RFID tags can sometimes be found in driver's licenses and other sensitive documentes as well--including credit cards (commonly called "PASS").

In theory, this actually would allow individuals to be tracked, 24-7, anywhere they're at.

This ought to scare the pants off of anyone.

While I love computers, Blackberries and Internet where it allows you to use such sites as Wikipedia and Yahoo! to search for information on a certain topic and acquire it quickly, I dislike it just as much when it prevents a person from being able to live their life without it being an open book. For example, I personally think someone should be able to, if they move from one state to another, be able to do so without their past following them and preventing them a chance to "start fresh"--so long as they're not a serial killer, obviously. Trouble is, databases and Internet--and now maybe RFID tags as well--make it to where you can't start over and just live life anonymously without intrusion.

A good example of this involves us and our attempts to be parents. Anyone who knows me well knows of our past struggles with child protective services (CPS). Problem is, CPS is everywhere. Take your child to the doctor with a bruised eye resulting from a baseball game, and it can turn into a full-blown investigation. Drop your child off at daycare and do so where you haven't had time to Barbie-Boll polish them to the nines (I don't mean covered head-to-toe in mud, either), and it can turn into a full-blown investigation as well.

The real problem: if you've ever encountered any such struggles, even years ago in a different location 3,000 miles away, that history will follow you and haunt you all these years and miles removed from it. It's despicable, and undermines your attempts to just parent your children free of hassle.

RFID tags really could mean yet more liberties eroded, and I have no interest in it happening. Just because 9-11 happened does not mean we should trade any of our liberties for the allusion of being more secure. The government is already too much in our business as it is anyway.


1 Bath School Disaster of 1927, source: Wikipedia
2 Chips in official IDs raise privacy fears. Yahoo!, 7-11-2009