You say Police State, I say potato. Either way let's discuss surveillance and government overreach.

OG_slinger wrote:
Kannon wrote:

More sense than that.

Besides I'd be okay with the psych workup if we got our mental health system in order first. It's not gonna do anyone any good now. But, the MHS needs to get unf*cked, stat _anyway_. It'd do more good in preventing stuff like this, anyway.

Incidentally how is: "We need a competent congress before we can get good gun laws, and bad laws are worse than no laws" a circular argument?

Seriously though, I'm not actually sure there's room for agreement here. You think guns are evil, regardless, and I don't. I don't honestly see a civil way out of it.

So the rest of the world has to be perfect before you'll take a step towards addressing guns and gun violence? Now that's a cop out.

You don't need to fix the entire mental health system to prevent mass shooting like this. You just need to make sure people with mental issues can't buy firearms.

I've never said that guns are evil. I am simply incredibly frustrated with a system that allows firearms to flow like water in this country and people who wrap themselves in the American flag anytime that broken system is so much as questioned.

Last I checked, I didn't say that. But, until about 10 years ago, homosexuality was in the DSM. You don't prop up one broken-ass system with another one. Historically, the attempts have not gone well.

As an aside, there are quite a few of us who often have to deal with having well-controlled mental disorders. Having another set of bullsh*t I'd have to deal with because some dumbf*ck does not understand the difference between someone who is relatively stable and bipolar and someone who is a serious risk to themselves and others, does not sound like the way forward.

I also have my doubts it'd be that effective. The lunatic who went on the rampage here in Omaha several years ago stole the gun and ammo he used. I don't believe anyone noticed any warning signs of batsh*t insanity before the Aurora lunatic went off.

However, a functional mental health system probably would have helped the person who shot up Von Maur here. He fell through the cracks of the system.

f*ck guns. Fix mental health care.

Also, pretty sure I've never "wrapped myself in the american flag", and I've not seen Edwin do it either. We promoted solid reasons that a blanket fix without fixing structural problems wouldn't work. Because you know what? The system _IS_ broken. Look up. I, a few posts above you, suggested a wide ranging gun registration and licencing system. It's pretty clear, I thought, that I acknowledged the system is a bit f*cked.

I just don't think that the reason the system is broken is because it exists.

So, I restate my question. What, OG, does an ideal gun control system look like to you? Screw politics, I'm talking pure ideals here.

I love that unless I adopt the NRA's stance on gun control, I am a proponent of a police state.

OG_slinger wrote:

It's exceptionally difficult to justify "entertainment" uses for firearms. Or it should be in a sane society. No ones' idea of fun should be so deadly to others.

Most of the hobbies I tend to find entertaining have a very good propensity to kill people. Driving. Riding a motorcycle. Fishing. Firearms. Camping. Racing. White water rafting. Firing automatic weapons. Blowing sh*t up. Extreme mountain biking. Building/repairing/replacing high wattage systems. And many many others with a variety of means to kill people, either accidentally, purposely, or through different means, en masse.

Maybe I am no longer "sane" with how many countries I have visited but it seems to me like some of the freedoms we have here can take away from the freedoms we can exercise. If that makes sense.

Jayhawker wrote:

I love that unless I adopt the NRA's stance on gun control, I am a proponent of a police state.

Okay, I'm really tempted to make a snarky comeback, but I'm pretty sure you weren't talking about Edwin or I. (Who are both on record of thinking the NRA are f*cking nutbags.)

I can acknowlege that not all people who want working gun control want to ban ALL THE GUNS. Can the people who also want sensible gun control get some acknowledgement that we're not all NRA nuts? (Seriously, if my ideal system was proposed, the NRA would sh*t bricks. OF FIRE.)

Makes it hard to talk about when the reasonable people get lumped in with the nutbags on either side.

Also, for perspective, to see where the nutbags are coming from: This, and fake "federal raids" are apparently not that uncommon. If you grow up with that, I can see wanting to be armed in case the state rises up. Not saying they're right, just saying it's reasonable in their experience.

I'm talking about people that think that gun control discussion automatically qualifies for police state discussion.

I stated from the outset of this derail:

The necessity of this law might be worth a debate, but I see absolutely nothing about this as relevant to making the US a police state.

Otherwise, we've been a police state ever since citizens have not been allowed to drive tanks and possess nuclear weapons.

Then we played silly straw man games to prove that as not being true. Yet the entire debate, including the fact that the
NRA ca freely use the media to disseminate its position is pretty much proof that this has nothing to do with a police state.

Jayhawker wrote:

I'm talking about people that think that gun control discussion automatically qualifies for police state discussion.

I stated from the outset of this derail:

The necessity of this law might be worth a debate, but I see absolutely nothing about this as relevant to making the US a police state.

Otherwise, we've been a police state ever since citizens have not been allowed to drive tanks and possess nuclear weapons.

Then we played silly straw man games to prove that as not being true. Yet the entire debate, including the fact that the
NRA ca freely use the media to disseminate its position is pretty much proof that this has nothing to do with a police state.

I'd agree with that. Though, considering how the last couple of police state threads went, I'm not entirely sad we had a productive derail. (I think Edwin, Funkenpants, OG and I did a pretty fair job of outlining our respective positions reasonably.)

Maybe it is time for a Second Amendment Catch-All though.

I'll just leave this here:
http://9wows.com/world-map-showing-p...

U-S-A! U-S-A!

The US has by far the largest number of privately owned guns per 100 citizens, more than any other country in the world by about a third. Nearly 9 out of 10 Americans have one or more privately owned guns. By *this* measure, we are the most *free* country in the world!

(No, I don't believe this, but can we stop with the "omg Federal arrests in Omaha are 15% above the norm for 2003-2007, we're a Police State!" arguments? Maybe there's a whole lot of things that play into it instead, and we could look at the big picture for once... Either that or explain *how* the fact that US has some terrible policies about prisoners and some draconian laws leads inevitably to a valid comparison to Syria, or the Soviet Union, or East Germany, or other actual police states. Explanation is good.)

Robear wrote:

...can we stop with the "omg Federal arrests in Omaha are 15% above the norm for 2003-2007, we're a Police State!" arguments? Maybe there's a whole lot of things that play into it instead, and we could look at the big picture for once...

But see, the rate of incarceration is a pretty clear pointer to a police state. America has a much lower rate of, say, murder than many other countries, despite more accurate (read: not as under-reported) statistics. Yet our incarceration rate is still through the roof. So we're either very, very good at catching those serious criminals we do have, or we lock up a bunch of people for silly, inane, and sometimes very bizarre reasons. Is that not indicative of a police state? To you, maybe not. But to me, yes. Does it make the USA as much of a police state as other countries? No. But...

Either that or explain *how* the fact that US has some terrible policies about prisoners and some draconian laws leads inevitably to a valid comparison to Syria, or the Soviet Union, or East Germany, or other actual police states. Explanation is good.)

What is your definition, then? You're clearly making a delineation here, and I would agree that they do many things that the USA does not, but since this thread is in no small part about what defines a police state, let's have that exercise before we continue to kick the can full of No True Scotsman-brand beer down the road, eh?

I'd prefer the term 'prison state', since a police state usually describes a place where free expression is suppressed, people are imprisoned or killed without any due process, and there are no free elections.

Minarchist wrote:
Robear wrote:

...can we stop with the "omg Federal arrests in Omaha are 15% above the norm for 2003-2007, we're a Police State!" arguments? Maybe there's a whole lot of things that play into it instead, and we could look at the big picture for once...

But see, the rate of incarceration is a pretty clear pointer to a police state. America has a much lower rate of, say, murder than many other countries, despite more accurate (read: not as under-reported) statistics. Yet our incarceration rate is still through the roof. So we're either very, very good at catching those serious criminals we do have, or we lock up a bunch of people for silly, inane, and sometimes very bizarre reasons. Is that not indicative of a police state? To you, maybe not. But to me, yes. Does it make the USA as much of a police state as other countries? No. But...

Either that or explain *how* the fact that US has some terrible policies about prisoners and some draconian laws leads inevitably to a valid comparison to Syria, or the Soviet Union, or East Germany, or other actual police states. Explanation is good.)

What is your definition, then? You're clearly making a delineation here, and I would agree that they do many things that the USA does not, but since this thread is in no small part about what defines a police state, let's have that exercise before we continue to kick the can full of No True Scotsman-brand beer down the road, eh? ;)

We have the worst murder rate of any first world country, and a worse one than many other countries, fwiw.

Edit: Save for Russia and Brazil, if they count as first world countries

Minarchist wrote:

Yet our incarceration rate is still through the roof. So we're either very, very good at catching those serious criminals we do have, or we lock up a bunch of people for silly, inane, and sometimes very bizarre reasons. Is that not indicative of a police state? To you, maybe not. But to me, yes. Does it make the USA as much of a police state as other countries? No. But...

No, our absurd incarceration rates are due almost entirely to the imprisonment of minor-to-moderate drug offenders brought on by "The War on Drugs," which is arguably more a symptom of America's history of cultural repression than it is an out-of-control government. Laws on drug use are slowly starting to relax, though, so we'll likely (hopefully) have slightly more sane drug policies a decade or two (or five or six) down the road.

The private prison system along with the bail bonds industry colluding to get tougher laws so more people are incarcerated (read: more profits) isn't helping either.

Slashdot wrote:

Wired has an article about a ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals saying the government can't be sued over intercepting phone calls without a warrant. The decision (PDF) vacated an earlier ruling which allowed a case to be brought against the government. The plaintiffs in the case argued that the government had implicitly waived sovereign immunity, but today's ruling points out that it can only be waived explicitly. Judge McKeown wrote, "This case effectively brings to an end the plaintiffs’ ongoing attempts to hold the Executive Branch responsible for intercepting telephone conversations without judicial authorization." The ruling does, however, take time to knock down the government's claim that the case was brought frivolously: "In light of the complex, ever-evolving nature of this litigation, and considering the significant infringement on individual liberties that would occur if the Executive Branch were to disregard congressionally-mandated procedures for obtaining judicial authorization of international wiretaps, the charge of 'game-playing' lobbed by the government is as careless as it is inaccurate. Throughout, the plaintiffs have proposed ways of advancing their lawsuit without jeopardizing national security, ultimately going so far as to disclaim any reliance whatsoever on the Sealed Document. That their suit has ultimately failed does not in any way call into question the integrity with which they pursued it."

Slashdot wrote:

Wired has an article about a ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals saying the government can't be sued over intercepting phone calls without a warrant

That summary from Slashdot is almost completely incorrect and, and while I did not think this would be possible, the headline on Wired is even worse - "Appeals Court OKs Warrantless Wiretapping." I guess that's what they feel they have to do to generate some extra page views and comments from readers (e.g., "OMG the government is above the law!"). Either that or they are completely clueless regarding the issue that the court was addressing.

Ninth Circuit wrote:

The threshold issue in this appeal is whether the district court erred in predicating the United States’ liability for money damages on an implied waiver of sovereign immunity under § 1810. It is well understood that any waiver of sovereign immunity must be unequivocally expressed.

This has been settled law since the founding of the U.S. But I guess that is less sexy.

Tanglebones wrote:
Minarchist wrote:
Robear wrote:

...can we stop with the "omg Federal arrests in Omaha are 15% above the norm for 2003-2007, we're a Police State!" arguments? Maybe there's a whole lot of things that play into it instead, and we could look at the big picture for once...

But see, the rate of incarceration is a pretty clear pointer to a police state. America has a much lower rate of, say, murder than many other countries, despite more accurate (read: not as under-reported) statistics. Yet our incarceration rate is still through the roof. So we're either very, very good at catching those serious criminals we do have, or we lock up a bunch of people for silly, inane, and sometimes very bizarre reasons. Is that not indicative of a police state? To you, maybe not. But to me, yes. Does it make the USA as much of a police state as other countries? No. But...

Either that or explain *how* the fact that US has some terrible policies about prisoners and some draconian laws leads inevitably to a valid comparison to Syria, or the Soviet Union, or East Germany, or other actual police states. Explanation is good.)

What is your definition, then? You're clearly making a delineation here, and I would agree that they do many things that the USA does not, but since this thread is in no small part about what defines a police state, let's have that exercise before we continue to kick the can full of No True Scotsman-brand beer down the road, eh? ;)

We have the worst murder rate of any first world country, and a worse one than many other countries, fwiw.

Edit: Save for Russia and Brazil, if they count as first world countries

Indeed but not 7-8 times the rate in say the UK.

Here's what I wrote earlier in the thread, Dan:

Talk to someone who has lived in a police state - say, the former Soviet Union, or Iran, or Burma, or North Korea, or East Germany, or Syria, and suggest that we are living in one in the US, and they'll soil themselves laughing at the spoiled Americans who can't appreciate what they have. Frogs don't let themselves be boiled uncomplainingly, and we will not put up with a police state if it begins to form. Surveillance is a different thing, and while it can be abused, the concept of a police state goes *way* beyond the government watching people in various ways.

One point that people don't seem to consider is that surveillance is not limited to the government. It's always been practiced by states to the best level of technology available, but that tech is also typically available to commercial and social entities. The Catholic Church surveilles it's adherents on a weekly basis. Advertisers have done it for the last century. Schools and universities routinely monitor students. Unions monitor their members. What's important is when the methods only available to governments come into regular, ubiquitous use, thus separating out government capabilities from those of other organizations, AND when the government begins to act on that information in a way that is contrary to individual liberty. We saw that in 2001 and 2002, when the FBI blew up every existing terrorist investigation by arresting thousands of suspects without cause. We saw it affect hundreds of individuals at Gitmo. And we've see a handful of dodgy assassinations by the Executive branch (people don't seem to consider the preceding hundred or so extrajudicial killings of non-citizens to be a problem, but okay). But none of this - none of it - rises to the level of a Cuba or a Syria or even a Singapore, which is both an *admitted* police state *and* often regarded as more pleasant than the US to live it. And our whining that we live in a police state because we can't brandish a licensed weapon in a police station while shouting "Allahu Akhbar!" is just petulant. We *do* have problems with encroachments on civil rights and individual liberties, but that does not make us a police state. It means we are a *democracy*; we make mistakes, and we fix them. If you want to see change in the US, look at the last 30 years of policy changes in the financial markets and the economy. Those were driven by *deliberate* choices, they have a clear effect, and there's no mistaking what was going on, as they've been complained about and opposed every step of the way. There's something that *really* hurt us. There's no similar grounding of deliberate direction in the mistakes we've been making in the (mis)handling of rights, nor is it in any way popular, nor is it unopposed. And it's demonstrably not affecting more than a handful of individuals, because the claims go well beyond ordinary police abuse or any other long-standing background problem of rights violation.

If you want to look at rights violations as evidence of a police state, you'd need at *least* what we had with "separate but equal", a set of government laws and policies that disenfranchise *millions*, deliberately, and with the support of the government. Then you can make the claim. Until then, there are many things worth opposing, but we *can* oppose them, and turn the policies around, as we've been doing publicly and with much debate for the last 11 years. Try that in Cuba. That's how *democracy* works, and while it's not perfect, it's what we've got, and it defends us pretty well despite periodic setbacks. We are freer now than we ever have been in our history.

If you want to put forth the idea that we're a police state, you need to consider the big picture. Does the government routinely monitor, arrest and torture citizens for dissent or even speech? Does it outlaw freedoms we have in our Bill of Rights? Is it corrupt on a daily basis - that is, does the rule of law apply to everyone, or only the elites? Does the court system operate for everyone equally, or does it simply deliver the verdict that the government wants it to? Does it have political prisons for political crimes? Does it have a secret police force to monitor the police and the citizens? Do citizens have a real say in the selection of government members, or just a sham? Are elections rigged or open? Does the government work to benefit the people, or simply to enrich the rulers by diverting a large amount of government funding to personal accounts while direly neglecting infrastructure and services? Can the government pass to a party opposing the policies of the one in power, or is the party in power perpetually entitled to it?

All of these are things that exist in actual police states. Do they exist here? I'd argue that no, we're not anywhere near that. We are beginning to be in a surveillance state - the UK is much farther along - but that's a very different thing. The fact is that the very fact that we've often turned around abusive policies and reigned in government abuses shows that we are *not* a police state - we are still governed ultimately by the will of the citizens, expressed democratically. Nixon didn't get to see the journalists who knew about Watergate killed by the CIA, as he suggested - he was run out of office instead. Compare to the leader of a police state, and the hundreds or thousands of journalists killed in police states for exactly that kind of investigation. I'm sure you can come up with other examples.

See here now:

"I’m trying to understand the government’s overall position," [9th Circuit Court Judge] Hawkins said. "The government’s position is you can’t sue the government, you can sue anybody else, but who those people are might be a state secret."

"Correct, your honor," Letter said moments later.

We appear to have arrived at our destination.

One can only hope that this is destined for an over-rule by SCOTUS, but I'm not so sure.

Minarchist, the rule of law - however weirdly it's comprised - is not a feature of police states. The very fact that this could be appealed, or that Congress could change the law, speaks against the idea that we're there.

If you can't actually redress a grievance (1st amendment) against the 4th Amendment, because as the court stated in the brief, the government didn't explicitly waive its "right" to Sovereign Immunity, how on earth is that the rule of law? That's fiat. A law that breaks two constitutional amendments? Sure, congress could change it, but so could a dictator, if their whims were to do so.

We have Congress. I forget, who is the dictator again? Isn't that just a hypothetical? A dictator could do anything he wants, sure. Where does this fit into that?

On a functional level there's no difference between monarchy and oligarchy. Which is not to say that we have either, but that's not my point. My point is that, according to this law and ruling, we cannot address a basic grievance against unlawful search. Do you disagree with that? Sure, congress could so something about it, but if they do, I will eat my (very dapper) hat. I'd pin it at a 0.1% chance of actually happening.

On a functional level there's no difference between monarchy and oligarchy. Which is not to say that we have either, but that's not my point. My point is that, according to this law and ruling, we cannot address a basic grievance against unlawful search. Do you disagree with that? Sure, congress could so something about it, but if they do, I will eat my (very dapper) hat. I'd pin it at a 0.1% chance of actually happening.

"Basic grievances against unlawful search" occur and are redressed all the time. This is not basic, involving as it does national security means and methods, nor is it everyday (although it may become that depending on how one views NSA surveillance technology). That's where the snag comes in. This is not in any way an ordinary violation, or representative of the vast majority of searches, wiretapping or whatever that occur every day without legal issues. It's a special case. Yes, it's abusive and needs to be fixed, but it's part of a much bigger issue that's mired in political squabbles and ideology right now.

I'm not sure where monarchy and oligarchy come into it, but then again, you said that wasn't your point. Color me confused.

Min, what's *your* definition of a police state? How do you decide that one issue means that (as you put it) "we are there"? I'm having trouble understanding how such a complicated issue arises and is settled by one court case, when so many things *seem* to play into what a police state is.

Can I now ask for sympathy from my friends who lived in China in the 60's, or grew up in East Germany or Lithuania under the Soviets? Are people being disappeared for protesting the US police state? Seriously, what's your standard here?

Robear wrote:
On a functional level there's no difference between monarchy and oligarchy. Which is not to say that we have either, but that's not my point. My point is that, according to this law and ruling, we cannot address a basic grievance against unlawful search. Do you disagree with that? Sure, congress could so something about it, but if they do, I will eat my (very dapper) hat. I'd pin it at a 0.1% chance of actually happening.

"Basic grievances against unlawful search" occur and are redressed all the time. This is not basic, involving as it does national security means and methods, nor is it everyday (although it may become that depending on how one views NSA surveillance technology). That's where the snag comes in. This is not in any way an ordinary violation, or representative of the vast majority of searches, wiretapping or whatever that occur every day without legal issues.

But there's mounting evidence that this is normal, that huge swaths of the populace are getting tapped (among other things) every day without proper legal procedure to do so. The only reason these people found out was that the gov't accidentally sent them a letter that alerted them to the situation. When everything is done in secret, how can you say with confidence that this doesn't happen all the time?

Min, what's *your* definition of a police state? How do you decide that one issue means that (as you put it) "we are there"? I'm having trouble understanding how such a complicated issue arises and is settled by one court case, when so many things *seem* to play into what a police state is.

Can I now ask for sympathy from my friends who lived in China in the 60's, or grew up in East Germany or Lithuania under the Soviets? Are people being disappeared for protesting the US police state? Seriously, what's your standard here?

A fair question. It's a bit difficult to define, I suppose, since it's somewhat of a gut feeling, but if I had to put words to it I'd say when society gets to the point that if something bad happens I may actually think twice about calling the police. After all, we now live in a country in which a family can call the police for help restraining their mentally disabled son only to have the police shoot him right in front of their eyes.

The very nature of policing seems to be changing. Despite crime rates that have been plummeting for decades (and continues to plummet despite an economy in the crapper, which is quite notable) and record low numbers of on-duty cop deaths, the police have somehow convinced themselves that every member of the public is a potential threat. Every local police department is awash in grants from Homeland Security to buy the latest toys and weaponry. Attitudes have shifted, and I'm not sure the local police are our friends any more.

We now see 6-year-olds searched at airports, armed police patrolling the halls of junior high schools, drones deployed over U.S. skies to crack down on crime, SWAT teams arresting the sellers of unlicensed raw milk, armed agents shutting down peaceful medical marijuana clinics, code officers and other regulatory agents granted the powers and weaponry of peace officers, trigger-happy police who seem to reach for their weapons before trying other, less-deadly alternatives. We’ve become a society of checkpoints and searches and increased surveillance wherever we go. We have federal workers who monitor bank accounts and gain added powers to snoop on us (as this instance attests), and broad anti-terrorism laws that allow the authorities to detain citizens indefinitely without due process. Or even kill citizens without due process.

Are we China in the '60s? Do I expect a gulag to open down the street next week? No, of course not, and neither I nor anyone else in this thread has made that claim. But do things have to be that bad in order to be considered a police state? Are there not degrees of this? It's obviously a debatable topic, as 24 pages and counting of this thread (which is what, like #6 in the last few years? :)) will attest. But what I and others are trying to get across is that we are running down that hill at breakneck speed, and all it takes is one little rock to trip on before we're rolling the rest of the way with no hope of clambering back up.

(Urban minorities may claim that we've been a police state for a long damn time, and they'd have a lot of evidence to back that up; it may be that only now little Johnny is finally under threat and a larger portion of the populace is beginning to think that way.)

Minarchist wrote:

(Urban minorities may claim that we've been a police state for a long damn time, and they'd have a lot of evidence to back that up; it may be that only now little Johnny is finally under threat and a larger portion of the populace is beginning to think that way.)

That was me. I always knew we were less than free an the government's reach was too wide and their powers were growing. I dutifully watched movies about inner-city injustice and wagged my finger. But when the dismantling of hard boundaries in the Constitution began post-9/11 is when I truly woke up. As always we try to empathize and understand but it's always easier when it starts to affect you or potentially affect you.

Minarchist wrote:

Are we China in the '60s? Do I expect a gulag to open down the street next week? No, of course not, and neither I nor anyone else in this thread has made that claim. But do things have to be that bad in order to be considered a police state?

Many of the civil rights laws we take for granted did not exist prior to the 1960s. Or at least, allowed the government much more leeway than in their present form. So if the current state of affairs is enough to define us as a "police state," we've been a police state for a long time.

Robear wrote:

Quote:

On a functional level there's no difference between monarchy and oligarchy. Which is not to say that we have either, but that's not my point. My point is that, according to this law and ruling, we cannot address a basic grievance against unlawful search. Do you disagree with that? Sure, congress could so something about it, but if they do, I will eat my (very dapper) hat. I'd pin it at a 0.1% chance of actually happening.

"Basic grievances against unlawful search" occur and are redressed all the time. This is not basic, involving as it does national security means and methods, nor is it everyday (although it may become that depending on how one views NSA surveillance technology). That's where the snag comes in. This is not in any way an ordinary violation, or representative of the vast majority of searches, wiretapping or whatever that occur every day without legal issues.

But there's mounting evidence that this is normal, that huge swaths of the populace are getting tapped (among other things) every day without proper legal procedure to do so. The only reason these people found out was that the gov't accidentally sent them a letter that alerted them to the situation. When everything is done in secret, how can you say with confidence that this doesn't happen all the time?

I can't. But look at the situation. These laws are (and have been) a point of contention, and will continue to be. They were implemented legally and are subject to oversight and change, if the will is there to do it. And more importantly, they are one thing - they are not part of a campaign to remove control of the country from it's citizens.

A fair question. It's a bit difficult to define, I suppose, since it's somewhat of a gut feeling, but if I had to put words to it I'd say when society gets to the point that if something bad happens I may actually think twice about calling the police. After all, we now live in a country in which a family can call the police for help restraining their mentally disabled son only to have the police shoot him right in front of their eyes.

But how many times have the police helped people in this situation *without* screwing up? Surely thousands if not more for each problem like this. Why is that not on the scale?

The very nature of policing seems to be changing. Despite crime rates that have been plummeting for decades (and continues to plummet despite an economy in the crapper, which is quite notable) and record low numbers of on-duty cop deaths, the police have somehow convinced themselves that every member of the public is a potential threat. Every local police department is awash in grants from Homeland Security to buy the latest toys and weaponry. Attitudes have shifted, and I'm not sure the local police are our friends any more.

And yet the restrictions on them far exceed those even in the 80's or 90's, and we're worlds away from the 50's and 60's. The previous decades would be even worse. Consider the 30's; the FBI spent *years* hunting down and killing bank robbers, counterfeiters and others, gunning them down in the streets from ambush with automatic weapons. Are we *really* worse than that? It was not until the 1950's that the "third degree" - physical violence in interrogation - was outlawed in most states. It was not until the late 60's that the Miranda ruling appeared.

Are we really worse off now?

We now see 6-year-olds searched at airports, armed police patrolling the halls of junior high schools, drones deployed over U.S. skies to crack down on crime, SWAT teams arresting the sellers of unlicensed raw milk, armed agents shutting down peaceful medical marijuana clinics, code officers and other regulatory agents granted the powers and weaponry of peace officers, trigger-happy police who seem to reach for their weapons before trying other, less-deadly alternatives. We’ve become a society of checkpoints and searches and increased surveillance wherever we go. We have federal workers who monitor bank accounts and gain added powers to snoop on us (as this instance attests), and broad anti-terrorism laws that allow the authorities to detain citizens indefinitely without due process. Or even kill citizens without due process.

The problem is that there are reasonable reasons for these things that happen frequently, like patrolling schools (a large rise in school violence comes to mind), and also that many of them are serious outliers (Can you find *two* instances of SWAT teams taking down raw milk producers?). Trigger-happy policing? Try reading a newspaper from the 20th century. Checkpoints and searches? Outside of airports, I have not seen one in decades, since I drove near a marked DWI checkpoint one night in the early 90's. Increased surveillance? There, I agree with you, as well as with the worry about anti-terror law abuses. But we've still got a lot going on in that area - things can change - and I think that's policy that's driven more by politics than rational thought. It's certainly not the product of a cabal trying to take us over....

Are we China in the '60s? Do I expect a gulag to open down the street next week? No, of course not, and neither I nor anyone else in this thread has made that claim. But do things have to be that bad in order to be considered a police state? Are there not degrees of this? It's obviously a debatable topic, as 24 pages and counting of this thread (which is what, like #6 in the last few years? ) will attest. But what I and others are trying to get across is that we are running down that hill at breakneck speed, and all it takes is one little rock to trip on before we're rolling the rest of the way with no hope of clambering back up.

Certainly there are degrees, and as I noted, I think we already live in a surveillance state. But what I want to put into the conversation is that far from being "one trip" away from the functional loss of our rights, we still have tons of checks and preventions in place. The rule of law still holds - corrupt lawmakers are routinely convicted and sent to jail; at worst, they end up disgraced and out of office. Corrupt policemen are arrested and often convicted. All the people unjustly grabbed in the aftermath of 9/11 have been released (the ones in the US); we still have a problem with the system of external prisons and torture sites that has to be addressed. Laws that would restrict rights even more are debated and usually rejected. Presidents can be impeached. Federal law enforcement routinely comes under scrutiny for screwing up.

All of these things would need to be subverted and neutered all across the country before we could even enter into the beginnings of a police state. And the overall trend is *away* from that. Look at the Militia issue in the 80's and 90's. At one point, the FBI and DEA and DOJ were besieging militia and sovereign citizens who didn't pay their taxes or the like. But after a few badly embarrassing operations, that stopped. Because the *policy* was changed, because it wasn't working. Now, militias and the sovereign citizen movement still exist, and they still kill people and rob banks and such. But the fears that the military style assaults on compounds and houses would lead to more of that were wrong. That's *not* gone the way you would expect if it happened today.

We are a big country with a huge, complicated government and society. It's got a huge inertia based on the rule of law, and many many ways for that to be protected. I see lots of little, relatively unconnected things - DOJ guys pointing guns at a child in a closet, for example - that are worrying, but not indicative of a systemic problem that is unfixable. I see evidence of two worrying trends that could aid an eventual totalitarian society, but don't of themselves mean that we are there yet - surveillance and the loss of oversight over covert operations and related laws. But again, neither of them have come anywhere near creating an actual police state.

What's a police state? I find Wikipedia has a good definition.

"A police state is one in which the government exercises rigid and repressive controls over the social, economic, and political life of the population. A police state typically exhibits elements of totalitarianism and social control, and there is usually little or no distinction between the law and the exercise of political power by the executive.

The inhabitants of a police state experience restrictions on their mobility, and on their freedom to express or communicate political or other views, which are subject to police monitoring or enforcement. Political control may be exerted by means of a secret police force which operates outside the boundaries normally imposed by a constitutional state."

What's worth asking here is, how do we get there from here, and how far along are we? And what is in place, what can be done, to prevent it? Surprisingly, there are still a *lot* of obstacles
to this in place, and what I'm saying is, put those on the balance. For anecdotes, ask "how often does this happen, and does it happen most everywhere?" Look for what else is going on - police abuse in the inner city or the South has nothing to do with a police state and everything to do with American culture. Increased militarization? There are a *ton* of influences that lead to that, and yeah, some police agencies are better trained than others; there are screwups. Bad policy? Sure, but that's something that can be easily turned around if the problem is pushed to Congress. And so forth.

We *are* seeing a rollback of some of the protections that came into place in the 70's and early 80's. But that's policy based, and it's *not* an attempt to turn the US into a totalitarian state. It's related to the politics of moral beliefs and law and order. There are other examples too. The point is that "We're in a police state" is not the only possible explanation, or even the most reasonable one. It's the scariest, and it fits a story about individual liberties that's certainly popular these days. But there are so many counter-examples that it takes willfully ignoring them to put anecdotes up against actual practice - and anecdotes are *very* easy to come by in a country of 320 million people.

When you hear "cop shoots black man during arrest", the police state context is easy - of black men arrested, how many are shot? You might find that some areas actually *do* show racially based abuses - some cities are famous for it. But it's not everyone, not everywhere - and don't forget that before 1965, this kind of abuse was sanctioned and justified under the law as just the result of the difference between the races. In light of that, are we worse off? I'd say no, even though the situation is not perfect.

Anyway, I think you can see the point through the tortured analogies. A police state has no difference between "the law" and the use of political power. We are *nowhere* near that; those things are still very rare exceptions. Even surveillance is not usually abused for political purposes, although the last instance of that I know of was in the mid-2000's (and we did find out about it.) But we do need to have a national debate on surveillance technology and practices; that's quite interesting and does have a lot of ramifications that we have failed to think about as a society.

I don't really want to play the comparative morality game, since for this conversation it's pretty much a definist fallacy -- especially when you're using historical anecdotes to try and disprove modern anecdotes. I think at this point we're going to have to agree to disagree. I did want to point out one small thing, though:

But there are so many counter-examples that it takes willfully ignoring them to put anecdotes up against actual practice - and anecdotes are *very* easy to come by in a country of 320 million people.

You're right, pretty much all evidence at this point is anecdotal. Unfortunately, that's all we have to go on. The only people who could provide such statistical evidence, the police and DOJ, have a pretty obviously vested interest in skewing them a certain way. This is like trusting statistics from the NAR about home sales, and we know how accurate those are. It is what it is.

In other news, is it just me or has stuff like this been happening an awful lot lately?

Well, then, fair enough. I don't think for example that citing overall trends in civil liberties is anecdotal. But could you at least comment on the definition of "police state"? At least to let me know where you stand on that, since that's my position, pretty well explained. Perhaps we could better understand each other by comparing definitions, as you offered yours above.

"A police state is one in which the government exercises rigid and repressive controls over the social, economic, and political life of the population. A police state typically exhibits elements of totalitarianism and social control, and there is usually little or no distinction between the law and the exercise of political power by the executive.

The inhabitants of a police state experience restrictions on their mobility, and on their freedom to express or communicate political or other views, which are subject to police monitoring or enforcement. Political control may be exerted by means of a secret police force which operates outside the boundaries normally imposed by a constitutional state."

Would you settle for "surveillance state"? That's a pretty interesting discussion in itself, as to where that is going...