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The US as Police State, part 1

This week marks the beginning of the “terrorism preparedness” drills Top Officials 4 and Vigilant Shield 08:

VS-08 will be conducted concurrent with Top Officials 4 (TOPOFF 4), the nation’s premier exercise of terrorism preparedness sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security, and several other linked exercises as part of the National Level Exercise 1-08. These linked exercises will take place October 15-20 and are being conducted throughout the United States and in conjunction with several partner nations including Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom, as well as the Territory of Guam

As usual, the truthers are shitting their pants in anticipation of a false flag terror attack and/or a preparation for the declaration of martial law. Nevermind that these threats failed to materialize during Operation Noble Resolve last August. (Aside: does anyone have a list of times that Alex Jones has “cried wolf” about terrorist attacks and/or declarations of martial law?)

Critics on the war on terror often remark on how our reaction to 9/11 is exactly what the terrorists wanted. We now cower in fear of terror attacks, give up freedoms, and question each other loyalty. I can’t help but wonder if the reactions to these drills aren’t exactly what the police state wants: a constant state of fear and loathing. Besides, “they” don’t have to declare martial law. We’ve been living under martial law since at least the 80s, when Reagan escalated the war on drugs to its current paramilitary status. But even before the effective beginning of martial law in the 80s, the US has had a long history of government repression. The real question is not whether the United States is becoming police state, but to ask if it has ever been a democracy.

When the Constitution was adopted in 1787, it was still legal for a person to own another person, only property owners were allowed to vote, and women weren’t allowed to vote at all. Only about 10-16% of the population had the right to vote.

It wasn’t until the ratification of the thirteenth amendment was passed in 1865 that slavery was constitutionally banned. It was another 5 years before the fifteenth amendment, guaranteeing blacks the right to vote, was ratified. Until the 19th amendment, ratified in 1920, women didn’t have a constitutional right to vote.

However, even these constitutional protections didn’t ensure a right to vote for every US citizen – it took another amendment, the 24th, to ban poll taxes. The 24th amendment wasn’t ratified until 1964. Also in 1964, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, finally ending any legal basis for racial or sexual discrimination. In other words, for the first 177 years of US history there existed state based repression of significant segments of society (and that’s aside from the Lebensraum policy of US expansion that all but eradicated the native population).

Even those who were allowed to vote couldn’t rely on their vote being counted. Vote fraud didn’t start with Diebold machines and the 2000 election – the case against Kennedy is one of the most famous.

Meanwhile, throughout the Vietnam War, men who couldn’t get deferments were enslaved by the government to fight and die on foreign soil, until the draft expired in 1973 (thanks to a one man filibuster by Mike Gravel).

Which brings us up to the War on Drugs, declared by Richard Nixon on June 17, 1971. Before we even had all our troops out of Vietnam, Nixon was already declaring war on a segment of US citizens: drug users. Though, as stated on Wikipedia the “war on drugs” could be considered to go back to the prohibition of opium in 1880, it was Nixon that began using the martial term “war.” So just as the US was finally being freed of slavery and granting a universal right to vote (except of course in the cases of prison labor, and I won’t even go into voter suppression issues), we entered a new era of government repression.

But if there was ever any “free” period in US history, perhaps it was the 1970s. Although the war on drugs was officially declared, the country seemed to be awash in drugs at the time. The war was ending, segregation was ending, AIDS hadn’t hit epidemic levels and homosexuality was being more accepted. In 1993 R.U. Sirius wrote:

The seventies actually were cool. Much cooler than the ballyhooed sixties. There was more sex in the seventies, more tolerance, the right wing was completely in retreat, Richard Nixon was still a pig, and cocaine wasn’t bad for your health yet! In the mid-seventies it was possible to believe that the whole country was moderately hip–and if that wasn’t enough, Punk was coming along to kick moderately hip’s laidback butt.

I’m sure there was more of a dark side, but if there’s a case for nostalgia for a period of US history, I guess this was it. But if the people of the United States were at last free from government repression in the 70s, the state made up for it in the 80s.

End Part One.

Read part 2.

New York Times: Save the Gnostics

Like their ancestors, contemporary Mandeans were able to survive as a community because of the delicate balance achieved among Iraq’s many peoples over centuries of cohabitation. But our reckless prosecution of the war destroyed this balance, and the Mandeans, whose pacifist religion prohibits them from carrying weapons even for self-defense, found themselves victims of kidnappings, extortion, rapes, beatings, murders and forced conversions carried out by radical Islamic groups and common criminals.

When American forces invaded in 2003, there were probably 60,000 Mandeans in Iraq; today, fewer than 5,000 remain. Like millions of other Iraqis, those who managed to escape have become refugees, primarily in Syria and Jordan, with smaller numbers in Australia, Indonesia, Sweden and Yemen.

Unlike Christian and Muslim refugees, the Mandeans do not belong to a larger religious community that can provide them with protection and aid. Fundamentally alone in the world, the Mandeans are even more vulnerable and fewer than the Yazidis, another Iraqi minority that has suffered tremendously, since the latter have their own villages in the generally safer north, while the Mandeans are scattered in pockets around the south. They are the only minority group in Iraq without a safe enclave.

Full Story: New York Times.

Australia to ban alcohol and porn for Aborigines

Australia’s prime minister announced plans Thursday to ban pornography and alcohol for Aborigines in northern areas and tighten control over their welfare benefits to fight child sex abuse among them.

Some Aboriginal leaders rejected the plan as paternalistic and said the measures were discriminatory and would violate the civil rights of the country’s original inhabitants. But others applauded the initiative and recommended extending the welfare restrictions to Aborigines in other parts of the country.

Full Story: Yahoo! News.

(via Hit and Run)

Moral dilemma? Brain tells right from wrong

It’s wartime, and an enemy doctor is conducting painful and inevitably fatal experiments on children. You have two kids, ages 8 and 5. You can surrender one of them within 24 hours or the doctor will kill both. What is the right thing to do?

For most people, this scenario based on one in William Styron’s novel Sophie’s Choice is almost an impossible dilemma.

But for a group of people with damage in a part of the brain’s frontal lobe that helps govern emotions, the decision is far clearer. They would allow one child to die.

Scientists say a study involving these people has produced unique insights into the brain mechanics of moral decision making and shows that in some key situations emotions play a fundamental role in moral judgements.

Full Story: ABC (Australia).

(Thanks Ulysses Lazarus!)

(see also: Re-Thinking Disorders).

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