19 April 2013

A series of general rants and thoughts on the events of an early morning

1) Technology is amazing. People were effectively streaming the Boston area PD scanners on the internet. I'm not sure that's actually a good thing if they're actively pursuing someone who has a modest knowledge of the internet (but then again, all they really would need is a police scanner of their own). It is however, an interesting age. Reddit also managed to identify all kinds of apparel from rather fuzzy FBI photos. I also finally discovered a modest use for twitter this morning.

2) Technology is also horrible. Within the span of a few days, people and media have made all kinds of wild and unfounded accusations toward innocent people. Including a guy who has been missing for about a month. And an uncle who doesn't sound too pleased with his nephews has had his address blasted on CNN (joining a series of disjointed half-assed coverage on these series of events worthy of the total dismissal it receives on social media networks, especially twitter). These accusations were then accompanied by streams of people from all over the country, if not the world, releasing their hate and fear upon them on social media, reporters harassing said people, and so on.

3) I have a rather jaded perspective* of law enforcement I imagine from the popular view. But when people start tweeting that it looks like Call of Duty out there, and it's just SWAT wandering down the streets of Watertown, MA, looking for the fleeing suspect and any accomplices, I'm not all that surprised. The military and federal government have made all kinds of loans and guarantees to put military hardware and gear in the hands of local police forces. They've been militarizing their force for over a decade. APCs and belt-fed machine guns can be had, and have been used, at the high end of this absurdity. Somewhat unfortunate for my concerns on this issue, the actual National Guard was being deployed also this morning after a few hours of police work. This will make it unlikely that the casual onlooker will identify the police as police. And which may be unfortunate for all kinds of reasons (a rather dubious assumption that the "army" is needed to fight terrorism for example is given more force).

4) I suspect this will perhaps weaken the push for immigration reforms. This is despite that both brothers appear to have been here legally, and for a substantial duration. In general, I wasn't likely to find everything that will end up in a final bill proposal to be that agreeable, but the broad strokes of increasing access to foreign college graduates, high skilled immigrant visas, and work-visas were at least modest steps in a positive direction for more open borders, and a more focused enforcement on actual criminals of some variety trying to migrate here. I'm hopeful that crushing the (mostly stupid or ineffective in my view) gun laws will be sufficient demonstration of power for the right that they'll forget to be bigots as well, but I'm not counting on it. They were already whipping up demonstrations against any immigration reforms before this happened. One possible hope is that the confusion of Caucasians (in the quite literal sense) who are also Muslims should put to rest some of the demands for profiling.

*5) I tend to view law enforcement with suspicion. I do not think they're there to protect myself and my legal rights, but rather that I have to do that myself. Around them. I do think most cops are doing a difficult job, and trying to do it reasonably well. I do think we could help them by being reasonably cooperative at times (as in Boston today, with an effectively martial law system in place to catch the fugitive bombers). But there's really no reason to do so if a sufficient number of both themselves and other forces in our justice system seem more interested in body counts of arrests and detentions than in enforcing laws, or in enforcing anything like a just society and rather more interested in making people obey them rather than seeing themselves as servants of our collective demands for justice, order, and peace.

Brutality, error, and violence are oppressive enough. But then there's all the systematic factors like racism, profiling (of Arab/Muslims for example, which these two should start to call into question the wisdom of, as with the weird ricin guy), stop and frisk, and the show of force power surrounding drug laws and various other causes (immigration in some communities for example). I live in a suburban society and the most likely "oppression" I will suffer personally is a speeding ticket from a cop who didn't bother to use his radar and just eyeballed my speed, and possibly an absurd interest in whether or not I was drinking if driving at a later hour or (much less likely) whether any drugs are in my vehicle. My concern isn't for myself. It's for the millions of people who don't have the luxury of being white and middle-class and up.

In fairness to cops, if I think they are assholes (unfairly at times), they're not alone. I think that of most people. The only difference is that I'm pretty sure the cop is well-armed in all cases, and only partly sure of other people.
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