Welcome to life under the Patriot Act revisited.

Way back in December of 2002 I wrote a small entry on Nicholas and Mary Monahan and their run-in with airport security. I was appalled at their treatment to say the least. Now I get word that a fellow blogger has had a less outrageous, but still very upsetting encounter with Federal TSA screeners as well. John of John P. Hoke’s Asylum warns us that the TSA Screeners apparently are allowed to use their discretion in determining which of your personal belongings they can steal… er… I mean “confiscate.”

I arrive at the airport, check my bags and head on down to the Security Screeners, these supposedly well trained, well mannered Federal Employees. I took both of my laptops out of their bags, and along with my shoes, jacket and carry on bags, placed them on the conveyor belt to the x-ray machine.

One screener asked to manually inspect one of my bags, knowing that I had nothing in it that was prohibited based on the TSA’s own site I allowed the search. This inspector found a lighter that I was given by my step daughter for our first Father’s Day together. It was a cigar lighter that did not run on Liquid Fuel, but gas. (Unabsorbed Liquid fueled lighters are prohibited based on the above PDF). He looked at it and exclaimed, “Wow I have always wanted one like this”. Then proceeded to tell me that he had to confiscate my lighter.

John challenges the screener’s judgment and proceeds to ask to speak with a supervisor. The supervisor pretty much tells him to fuck off and tries to dissuade John from filing a formal complaint via an attempt at physical intimidation. John took the form, got on his flight, and plans to follow up his initial entry with more as the story progresses. I’ll honestly be very surprised if he gets any justice out of this whole ordeal, but I fully support and encourage him to try.

This is the sort of crap that the Bush administration has brought us. When you can’t carry fucking fingernail clippers on an airline flight because it might be a weapon you know we’ve descended to new levels of silliness. Seriously, what the fuck is a terrorists going to do with fingernail clippers? Threaten to give the flight crew a really bad manicure if they don’t comply with his demands?? Man, I’m glad I don’t fly anywhere these days. I probably would’ve gotten arrested.

 

40 thoughts on “Welcome to life under the Patriot Act revisited.

  1. As reported, outrageous, nasty, and unprofessional.  Not sure what it has to do with the PATRIOT Act, though.

    And I agree that the restrictions are, in many cases, inane.  I could threaten someone with a ball-point pen a lot more easily than with fingernail clippers.  I don’t have a problem with screening processes per se, but the specifics are too often ridiculous (which only undermines the support for *needed* security).

    I hope Mr Hoke gets his lighter (and an apology) back.

  2. It shows the authorities using a climate of fear to do whatever the hell they want. 

    At least Mr. Hoke didn’t try to take any pictures.  He’d probably never have been heard from again.

    On 9/11, airline and FAA policies dictated non-confrontational handling of hijackings on the assumption that there would be negotiation, etc. 

    But keeping control of a plane is a do-or-die situation and every granny knows it now.  No one is ever going to take over an airliner again with anything less than a machine gun.  Pull out a boxcutter in a plane today and you’d just get the living crap beaten out of you.

    It should be pretty easy to keep machine guns out of airplanes.  So why are they worried about every knitting needle, pocketknife, or fingernail clipper?

    Oh, right –  it keeps us all intimidated and afraid.

  3. This is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard of.  Things like this are what is keeping me from visiting the US again.  i was there in 1993, saw many of your beautiful states, and would love to return, even possibly to live, but not while stupid people make stupid laws that give others the right to take advantage of you.  I have much respect for anyone who is not putting up with this and that are fighting back.

  4. Charles – This country still has more personal freedoms than most any other.  Stupid people will come and go but as long as there is an America there will be bastards like us trying our damnedest to disabuse them.  If our liberties ever cease to exist they can effectively rename the country from USA to Bushland.
    [Quote]“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”—Abraham Lincoln

  5. My mother recently visited us, and here is what she was allowed to take aboard after they inspected her carry on bag, cuticle clippers, fingernail clippers, tiny sewing scissors, a widget – which is an open, flat-edged razor about two inches in length, and a variety of pottery tools, one of which is a nasty looking shallow scoop with a razor’s edge.  All that she was allowed.  She was NOT allowed to take the four sewing needles that came in the little sewing kit.

  6. I live in Canada.  We have stupid people and stupid laws too but luckily we don’t have to deal with things like what I’ve read here…yet.  Like I said, I love the US and it’s people, it just infuriates what you are going through at this point.  keep fighting the good fight…the majority will prevail!

  7. Charles,

    the problem is what if the majority are assholes? Seriously, what if the majority of sheep people actually like this giving up of liberty for (false) security?

    I really think that we are imploding here

    feh!

  8. I am an Australian….soon to be another victim of the American “way of life”.Your so called freedoms are only a self perpetuating illusion…and none of you mob can bring yourselves to admit it.I mean just look at this outrageous article …and I will bet any money that this is not an isolated incident….you have been ground down to a fully controlled society and it seems your misfits end up in the armed forces “obeying orders ” and it will not be long before your so called “freedom of speech” will be removed and all “subversive”    ( read treason)activities will be put down with the full force of the military.You are about to become third class citizens .As the header of this website says “what the fuck is wrong with you people”
    Pure arrogance will be your downfall and your belief in your own superiority has blinded all of you .Remember what your President said …your either with us or your against us….What about keeping out of it. But NO ….(he tried to kill mah daddy )George says (bring it on)and I think the bible says …Reap what ye has sown …and look at you now …mounting casualties and no end in sight …barring nuking the lot of them …and you actually created these monsters in the first place…and don’t say you didn’t …it’s a fact. This is the degeneration of your once great peoples but you will not realise until it is too late to do anything about it….that is unless you WANT it to happen to you. I feel only pity for you and all the people you are about to drag down with you.That leaves only goodbye

  9. Madbilly, I’d love to tell you that you’re full of shit but the little subversive voice inside me says you may be absolutely right.  Deadscot’s Lincoln quote says it all.

    But this stuff is nothing new: we’ve been in danger of that happening almost from the start.  It’s a constant battle and we can’t give up. 

    Charles, a lot of Americans are very fond of Canada.  Don’t listen to Bill O’Reilley.  (good advice for anyone!)

    Captcha: peace. I like that.

  10. I call upon all citizens of these United States, be   they God loving or not to come together againist the deterioration of this nation, the steady loss of our freedom, and the ignorance and apathy being shown by our people. Too many are dying needlessly here and elsewhere!  Too many of us are thinking I’m only one, I’m too old, I’m too young, I have my pride, and I have too much to lose. Wake up people because if we don’t do something soon there will be nothing left to lose. 

    I don’t have the answer but surely some of you out there do.  Bring it out, I’m willing to help, support, and voice anything that will legally save this nation of ours. If the laws have to be changed to do it change them.  Not a bloody revolution but a creeping positive movement not unlike the movement that we are living through now only working to restore what voice and freedoms we have lost.

    The cost, who knows. Is it worth it? Yes!  It is our lives and our childrens lives. We need to get them back!!

  11. As another example of the stupidity of all this, a friend of mine recently took a flight and was told that she couldn’t take her sewing scissors on board (tiny things, with maybe half-inch blades) but her 12 inch stainless steel knitting needles were fine.

    captcha=“placed”

  12. madscot…  I have to challenge the frequently expressed American sentiment that you have more freedom than any other country in the world (I know, I know.. you said ‘most’…).

    On what basis do you make this claim?  What makes the US more free than England, or Australia, or Switzerland, or Mauritius for that matter?  I have travelled around the world, I visit the US at least 20 times per year, and I seriously question the validity of your statement about freedom.  It’s a fallacy that is perpetuated by the people in power and the media…  it’s like a self-help guru ‘if you tell yourself that you are thin and rich, then eventually you’ll believe it and will become thin and rich’.

    I think it’s a load of bunk.

    I feel more free and that I have more liberty when I am in countries other than the US.  I attribute that erosion of freedom to the current Administration, the Patriot Act, and the sickening quest for power of Bush’ corporate puppet masters.

    And get this, I am a moderate, right of center, business owner and avowed capitalist (and caucasian, if that matters)!  Bush must be repugnant to offend my demographic.

    Bring back Clinton and the good times when the worst scandals we had to face was ‘hide the cigar in the intern’.

    Chris

  13. To quote Benjamin Franklin: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

    -Nuff Said-

  14. -Nuff Said-

    I wish it were.  That Franklin quote, and many others from Jefferson, Paine, etc. making very clear the importance of freedom, can be found everywhere.  But the sheep continue bleating, “Save us, Mr. Bush!  Save us from the communists terrorists!”

    I am somewhat heartened by the response in my town to Farenheit 911.  GKC theaters were too gutless to show it, so the Normal Theater is showing it.  They got some angry phone calls but the movie is still showing.

    For several days it was sold-out and still has decent crowds.  Yes the movie is schlocky and slanted, but at least people are willing to plunk down for something that doesn’t put halos over the Bushies.

  15. I think it’s a load of bunk.

    It’s a free country so you may think what you wish.  By all accounts the US consistently ranks in the top 5 for personal/civil liberties and in the top ten for economic/government freedom.  With over 200 countries in the world I would say that’s pretty good.

    I too have traversed the majority of the globe and rarely have I had my personal liberties infringed upon but I have only resided in the US and Germany.  It makes quite a difference when you actually live in a country versus just passing through.

    You mentioned Australia in your rebuttal.  Great country but they have flaws.  Free speech is not totally protected, protective quarantines are issued without scientific merit and they have high taxation, high unemployment and are fighting an uphill battle.

    The UK just recently won the right for their own freedom of information act, something we’ve had in the US for a while.  They also have their own struggles with church & state as well as tort reform issues.

    Switzerland is a beautiful country to visit to if you are foreigner and chose to live there you will most likely always be regarded as an outsider.  They have incredibly strict labor immigration laws to go along with there stagnant economy.

    Mauritius?  I’m assuming you meant Mauritania which can hardly be considered a free state.  They are striving in the right direction as a third world country although they have several hurdles to overcome with the World Bank.

    Basically I stand by initial point.  We’re not perfect but we as US citizens enjoy more personal freedoms than most and the only way they will go away is if we give them away.

  16. I am a huge fan of both Lincoln and Franklin, and consider the former equal to America’s Moses (beyond the simple slavery notion).  And, Franklin is in many ways our former Einstein, in both science and social commentary.  So, i admire him wicked highly.  But, like the religious, one shouldn’t really use quotes to support/disavow current situations.  Exegesis has its place, even in politics.

    If stagecoaches could have killed hundreds in a single crash (relative to population concentrations to Franklin’s time), then i strongly doubt he would have opposed luggage searches.  Alas, they might have, at best, been able to kill a 100 in a spectacular gunpowder-laden crash.  Maybe someone else can think of an 18th Century equal to using a 747 to kill 300-600 citizens.  I cannot.

    Personal liberties are fantastic (just like Kerry wink, but they must be measured with safety of the community.  Franklin was familiar with this, seeing he created some of the first fire brigades in America.  He understood intimately the balance between communal and individual concerns.  Our current host of liberals fail this reasoning test.

    We live in era where millions of people can literally be held hostage by a few well placed individuals.  Franklin’s era had no such equal.

    Place quotes in context, otherwise its akin to using the captcha text as divine approval to one’s views—and just as silly.

    (and my captcha was Money, so (obviously) my comments hit the money on the spot, right?)

  17. rob

    Franklin was familiar with this, seeing he created some of the first fire brigades in America

    Its a long walk to get from starting fire brigades that do not infringe on your personal liberties to things such as the Patriot Act, telling Habeus Corpus to fuck off, and entering an perpetual state of Fear &tm;

    We live in era where millions of people can literally be held hostage by a few well placed individuals.  Franklin’s era had no such equal.

    King George III?

    My catptcha was field, as in out in left…

    As someone who was standing in Liberty Plaza when the 2nd plane hit and was in City Hall park when the first tower began to fall, I think that it is more important to Keep our Liberties than to piss them away for a false sense of security.

    Do you really think the TSA, Homeland Security, color codes and the rest of the Bush Fear Machine &tm; is making us safer, or just making us feel safer so we will go on spending our allmightydollars?

    -john

  18. Well hasn’t this stirred up the self deluded and the purely selfish amongst you people. I mean have a look at deadscots minor diatribe about your much vaunted freedoms….it must be a cruel joke to realise (one day) that you are part of the problem yourself and the illusion of freedom has blinded you all to your predicament.Much care has to be taken over the next few years because you are about to lose your ability to voice any anti government sentiment….you will be branded a “terrorist” and stuck in some illegal prison in some backwater country with no recourse to any legal system.And have to endure torture and abuse….so much for your “freedom…but what about the rest of the world….grind it into your version of life and if you don’t like it….up against the wall.I can do nothing but laugh at your arrogance and reaffirm my pity for you all.Sorry if it seems a little extreme but you mob had better wake up before you are not allowed to wake up.I leave your future in your own hands or the hands of the “few who rule you” and wish you luck with your struggle against reality.

  19. Rob, I don’t think anyone’s against luggage searches – we just want them to make some sense!  And be conducted in a way likely to engage the cooperation of ordinary citizens, not so unprofessionally as many examples have shown.  Searches conducted in this way actually yield better security.  When the public senses it’s just being kicked around by authoritarian pinheads, it doesn’t help security.

    A little common sense – too much to ask?

  20. Notwithstanding my poor grammer, I meant security is enhanced by searches conducted in a consistent, professional manner.  Gaa!  Time to get away from the screen and go home.

    Captcha: stop

  21. (i love this new found sense of up-manship in America concerning terrorism—ack! Hey, i lived near Qiryat Shemona Israel, saw a boyfriend turned to hamburger by a hizbullah hanglider, then tanks in front of my bedroom, and lived to write and speak about it.  Do my statements now carry more weight?  Or greater validity?  I truly hope *not*.  Reason be my judge, alone.)

    Back to reasoning-pure, sans anecdotal-weights and measures…

    King George would have been hard-pressed to kill thousands of Americans in one sudden action, akin to September 11, 2001.  That’s why i used the stagecoach scenario:  It involved use of a communal liberty (freedom of regional movement) and a personal liberty (right not to be molested or one’s belongings to be searched whilst doing execercising such right).  The King’s hordes could not have, and would not have, killed thousands in one night of terror (i can go into detail as to why not, i know a bit about British colonial tactics in the Americas).

    Look, it comes down to this…
    Personal rights versus community safety.  If you think we have no right searching persons for semtex and expolsive plastique while boarding trains, planes and buses (BZW, one of my favourite movies), then i’d say you have a high disregard for the community’s well being.

    I would have thought 9/11 drove that point home, as did the shot-over-the-bow anthrax test-punch we witnessed thereafter.

    All i can say at this point, is wait till a hundred or so suicide bombers show up at local malls one fine summer Saturday, or 10-20 radiological firecrackers during a subways morning commute appear.  Then this discussion might have better understanding here in our relative disneyland.

    .rob adams

  22. Poor, poor madbilly.  Your email address speaks volumes about you.

    Keep this in mind.  If the United States ever does get to the point where our personal liberties are completely taken away and people such as us are gone, the rest of the world will soon be subjugated to the same treatment.  Do you really think they would just allow you to sit by and laugh in the outback?

    Look, it comes down to this…
    Personal rights versus community safety.  If you think we have no right searching persons for semtex and explosive plastique while boarding trains, planes and buses (BZW, one of my favourite movies), then i’d say you have a high disregard for the community’s well being.

    A bit paranoid are we?  I doubt the guy making $8.50 /hr sifting through my undergarments would recognize Semtex if I stuck it on his forehead.  All I’d ask is for the government not to do everything in typical knee-jerk fashion and go over-board without much common-sense being applied.

  23. Just for the record, I have no problem with security I most certainly do have a problem with using security as an excuse for a quick power and liberty grab.

    We are spoonfed a diet of fear and color coded threats, that we are told from one side of the governmental maw that are serious and we must prepare and buy ducttape and pastic sheeting … while the other side of the gaping maw ever hungry for the love of money that all is well, vacation, buy SUVs and ignore the terrorist threats we just mentioned.

    The TSA and Homeland [in]Security department has done nothing to produce real security, rather than the venier of security … but scratch the surface and it is just a plain power grab (floating terrorism as a way to cancel elections, etc).

    The idea that we are engaging in anything that resembles security is a joke. If you want security, then you will need to pony up at the bar, turn your head and cough everytime you enter or leave any public space.

    I mentioned my 911 experience not for oneupmanship, but because I am sick of people using it as an excuse for their cause celebre… for more info, read this post

    See the idiocy here? We are engaged in a security perception as opposed to a security exercise.

    I have no problem with reasonable, consistent and intelligent security measures, but the typical knee jerkoff reactions we have received that infringe on the Liberties we are trying to defend are pointless…

    Lets tear up the Constitution, create extra-governmental agencies and do it all just incase someone else tries to do it…

    feh!

    Why are lighters confiscated, but I was able to bring a cigar cutter on board?

    The whole idea of well, lets give up XYZ so that the big strong daddy figure we know as the government can protect us from ourselves is bullshit.

    How much are you willing to give up for a false sense of security?

    The beautiful thing is we are still allowed to disagree… we are still allowed to criticize the government, until a new sedidion act is ramrodded down our throats all in the name of patriotism

    … back to work …

  24. I guess you’re right, Rob – King George didn’t have the terrible destructive power of the nail clipper!

    You can take gas lighters onboard but not ones that have a wick, or this guard will let you have knitting needles while another one won’t.  A photography student in Seattle gets the hard-ass treatment for taking pictures of a tourist attraction, while a guy from Pakistan sneaks across the Cdn border illegally, is jailed for one night, and released because of lack of funding. Other Pakistanis living and working legally in this country for years are arrested and deported apparently without reason, leaving their distraught families behind.  A guy from Vermont gets fined for crossing an unguarded border on a weekend to go to church.  It just doesn’t make any sense.

    I’ll try to make this as clear as I can:  no one is against appropriate security measures being taken.  They need to be driven by sensible policy, and carried out in a professional and correctly focused manner.

    But there’s no additional security to be had by security measures that fail to distinguish between a terrorist threat and normal activity.  It doesn’t make anybody safer.

  25. My own feeling is that security issues in the US are so confused and bungled precisely because we are NOT in nearly enough danger to take it seriously.  We are not good at it; we don’t know how to prioritize effectively; the population in general doesn’t understand it (on the abstract OR the visceral level).  Our way of life really HASN’T changed since 9/11, people.  We’re a little more hysterical, but then again, we Americans tend to get that way about everything. 

    As Rob pointed out, if you really want to see what terrorism looks like, you have to look somewhere other than the US, like Israel.  (I lived in Mevasseret Zion and Ramat Aviv.)  When you have terrorist attacks going on REGULARLY, and you know what real threats and destruction are, then you get a population that knows what the RIGHT security is and cooperates with it. 

    We had one really big domestic terrorist attack, and one really big attack by foreign terrorists.  That’s been it for YEARS (3).  We’re spending all our time biting our nails, imagining the next spectacular event while at the same time still happily driving our SUVs, going on picnics, shopping at the mall, and debating about carbs.

    Now, if we ever got to the point where we were afraid to take the bus, where we stopped letting our children go to certain public places, where we had to inspect every abandoned shopping bag in EVERY neighborhood in the country, THEN we’d really be under the threat of terrorism.  And Bush, Ashcroft and co. would never be able to get away with just instituting “political security.”

    (“other”)

  26. From what I’ve read about security in Israel, it is carried out by very highly trained people in a very professional manner.  It’s a combination of behavioral profiling (that is, distinguishing between normal and dangerous behavior) and keeping track of dangerous people. They say: “Americans look for weapons.  We look for terrorists.”

    GeekMom, since you have lived in Israel, you are now the only person I’ve met (though virtually) who knows if this is true.  Can you elaborate? Thanks.

  27. Security in Israel is, by no means, always conducted by the highly trained professionals you meet, say, when boarding an ElAl flight or when entering the Knesset.  For example, Hebrew University (where all guns by *all* individuals are strictly prohibitted, rather rare in Israel), pedestrian gate security is often done by old Eastern European grandpas, which often take some glee in inspecting cute females purses.  But, for example, if your children’s school class are going on a hike in this or that reserve, it’s so unheard of to have them escorted by well armed (and well-trained) 20-somethings.  Keep in mind that HU has excellent security and literally almost surrounded by a radar-army base, and a nature reserve while hiking often not so close.  Thus, the different calibar in personell.

    Trust me, some of the complaints i’ve read here and elsewhere concerning inconsistent and unprofessional security certainly do happen in Israel.  I’ve had security guirrellas quiz me on the contents of my address book (i was impressed, actually), but also had some completely miss a belt-buckle-ala-knife.  When you’re dealing with such large volumes, errors shall happen.

    Also…
    One has to seriously ask themselves why we have *not* seen any major attacks here since 9/11.  I’m often reminded of an account from someone who met with UBL before the event.  BinLaden was raising funds amongst some saudis and was describing their larger agenda concerning the US homeland:

    In describing the future attackS, he held up his arm and pointed to the first digit in his index finger and said (i paraphrase, of course), “This is the first event [9/11]”.  Then, pointing to his wriest said, “This is the second action.”  And, then pointing to his elbow, “This is the third event.”

    This gives you a sense of severity, and 9/11’s fairly conservative nature.  9/11 was conservative.

    If suicide bombers had shown up at our malls frequently, we would have security at all malls.  Instead, they wait for one grand day, so as to avoid any security measures.

    .rob adams

  28. I can’t claim to be terribly up to date on Israeli security, especially since the intifadas, but I can tell you that it’s not all based on strategy (although El Al has had decades in which to hone theirs to unbelievably fine levels).  As Rob mentioned, it’s also pervasive and participatory.  Mothers help out with “guard duty” in front of kindergartens.  (Not that they’re armed, or trained to do much; it’s the surveillance and coverage that count.)  I have to laugh at people here who see uniformed, armed National Guards on ONE subway platform ONE TIME and freak out and scream that we’re living in a police state; in Israel there are armed soldiers on nearly every block, and you make friends with the ones you see every day, because you know they NEED to be there and you appreciate what they do.

    When everybody is equally under threat, everybody participates in security.  I think the reason there is so much controversy over security measures here in the US is that deep down, people really don’t feel the measures are necessary—and in fact we may never reach that critical mass of terrorism on US soil that causes them to change their minds.

    Having said that, security is also often a thankless job.  If you do it right, it looks like you weren’t needed after all, because nothing bad happens.  You need a certain level of bad stuff actually happening, and a demonstrably comparable level of threats being caught (and publicized) to convince folks that security is both necessary and reasonably effective.

    Bin Laden may well have to adopt that “make it big, make it count” strategy because the US is such a large country, and the amount of travel involved makes it impractical to implement pervasive terror.  (Why would you spend days trying to smuggle explosives into Nebraska for just one hit?)  But that also means he has to put some really large eggs into one basket, and large eggs are a lot harder to hide. 

    (“recent”)

  29. Rob, GM, thanks for the first-person info. I’d like to see more of that in newspapers.  You’re right that most Americans have limited experience with terrorism. 

    I waited a few days to distill my thoughts on this:  What bugs me about the Patriot Act is that terrorism seems more like the pretext than the reason for it.  It seems clear to me that the act was already mostly written when 9/11 hit.  Pols signed it without reading it because they saw that they had no politically expedient choice.

    Another thing we Americans have not experienced first-hand is intelligent security.  We know that terrorists aren’t afraid of a show of force.  A schoolyard bully with a tin badge does not make us feel any safer. We want the security to be at least as intelligent as the terrorists trying to break it.

  30. DOF, you’re absolutely right.  We don’t want overtly political measures, especially ones that seem to dovetail so conveniently with the goals of the ruling party.  We want to understand the threat; we want to see specific measures that target those threats; we want to know that inconveniences (and let’s face it, most security is inconvenient) are both necessary and effective.  We want to know that it’s not causing or supporting other wrongs (such as racism).

    None of these things have been addressed by this administration.  No wonder we don’t trust it!

    (“around”)

  31. deadscot…

    First of all, Mauritius is situated approximately 2000 kilometers off the south-eastern coast of Africa and lies east of Madagascar on 20 S, 57.5 E.

    It is a democratic country.

    I don’t know what you’re specifically referring to with regards to Australians not enjoying free speech, but would be interested to hear an example.

    In keeping with concrete examples to support an argument, I’d like to point out the recent case where a member of the US House of Representatives (Corinne Brown from Florida) made a statement on the floor, which characterized the Republicans’ theft of the election as a coup d-etat.  She offered the opinion that the US should invite the UN to be obervers at the next election to make sure that the 2000 fiasco in Florida is not repeated.  Instead of engaging in a lively debate on the proposal, the Republicans ordered that the Rep’s comments be stricken from the record.

    It strikes me as censorship when an elected member of the government cannot voice an opinion without the governing party ‘erasing’ those comments from the official record.  A remarkable lack of freedom of speech, I’d say.

  32. Do you really expect me to believe that the US is not one of the most ‘free’ places in the world?  I stipulated that each free country has its difficulties and with that I would say that the US easily ranks in the top 5 of all countries and number one as a developed nation with extreme ethnic diversity.  Sorry about the mix-up with Mauritius.

    I don’t know what you’re specifically referring to with regards to Australians not enjoying free speech, but would be interested to hear an example.

    What I wrote was that Australia has no law totally protecting free speech.  Censorship is allowed in Australia on a Commonwealth and Territory level.  States are allowed to censor articles, and force the removal of websites that do not comply with local ordnances for decency and/or material that they find objectionable. Electronic Frontiers AU

    In keeping with concrete examples to support an argument, I’d like to point out the recent case where a member of the US House of Representatives (Corinne Brown from Florida) made a statement on the floor, which characterized the Republicans’ theft of the election as a coup d-etat.  She offered the opinion that the US should invite the UN to be obervers at the next election to make sure that the 2000 fiasco in Florida is not repeated.  Instead of engaging in a lively debate on the proposal, the Republicans ordered that the Rep’s comments be stricken from the record.

    It strikes me as censorship when an elected member of the government cannot voice an opinion without the governing party ‘erasing’ those comments from the official record.  A remarkable lack of freedom of speech, I’d say.

    I think you misunderstand how congress functions.  Having watched Corrine Brown’s statement over at MSNBC I can easily make an argument for both sides.  Some of the main purposes of the ‘taking down’ process are to prohibit escalation of an unfruitful argument, restrict retaliation and to maintain civility on the floor.  Below is an excerpt from the Public Policy Center:
    [Quote] By curtailing the offending member’s right to speak until it is determined whether his words will be struck from the record, the rules also dampen the likelihood that the tensions will escalate. The process of taking down the words focuses the House’s attention on the nature of inappropriate discourse; striking words from the record expresses collective disapproval; requiring the consent of the body before the offending Member is permitted to re-enter the debate establishes a formal mechanism for reincorporating those who have breached decorum into the deliberative community.
    This process also minimizes the likelihood that a person attacked will respond in kind. By focusing debate on the topic under consideration rather than on the advocates themselves, the rules depersonalize the discourse of Congress. So, for example, speakers do not address each other but rather the chair (“Mr. Speaker”), they speak of each other as representatives of a state (“the gentlelady from…”) not as spokespersons for a party or a position; the person recognized by the Chair determines whether, if, and to whom he or she is willing to yield.
    The taking down process makes institutional sense only if the Chair is perceived as even-handed and consistent and the Members of both parties are presumed to share an interest in maintaining comity. By contrast, if the Members of each party treat the taking down process as a partisan act, the process becomes a meaningless exercise that will inevitably produce a result consistent with the wishes of the Majority party. Depending on what suits its interest, the majority party can successfully appeal any ruling of the Chair or table any motion to appeal a ruling. If a Member of the minority objects to striking the words, the majority has the votes to strike.[/Quote]
    Corrine Brown has already issued a Government Press Release restating what she said on the House Floor.  She can surely present her arguments before congress at a later time in a more suitable fashion if she so chooses.  One of the beauties of residing in a free country.

    captcha = ‘steps’ Two steps forward one step back.

  33. deadscot, I recall reading someplace that the United States ranked around about 13th on the Freedom Index. I’ve been trying to locate where I read it previously, but I’ve been unable to do so which is why I hadn’t mentioned it before. As it turns out there’s all manner of “Freedom Indexes” out there ranging from Freedom of the Press to Economic Freedom so trying to nail down how “free” any country is has been tricky.

  34. Point taken.  I’ve seen the various studies also and based the majority of my previous arguments on the freedom of economy, freedom of press and freedom of religion.  Freedomhouse.org has some interesting studies posted on their website along with some analytical background of each study.

    Most economic studies I have been able to find place the US in the top 10 for economic freedom.  The US also ranks consistently in the top 5 for freedom of the press and interestingly falls out of the top five when it comes to freedom of religion.

    Granted statistics in this area are highly subjective but I will stand by original argument:

    This country still has more personal freedoms than most any other.  Stupid people will come and go but as long as there is an America there will be bastards like us trying our damnedest to disabuse them.  If our liberties ever cease to exist they can effectively rename the country from USA to Bushland.

  35. Hi deadscot… I’ve been away so just saw your post.

    I appreciate your point of view and the manner in which you present it.  I love the civility of this place.

    I’m not slamming the US.  I find that the Freedom slogan used so frequently in the US over the past couple of years, is presumptious.  The Land of the Free (self-annointed), the home of Freedom Fries, may not actually be the ‘free-est’ country on earth.

    As I acknowledged in my first post, you only said ‘more freedoms than most’…

    Just my observations lately.

    Wouldn’t you agree that the US has become less free since 9/11?  Don’t you think the Patriot Act (just to return to the subject of this thread) infringes on the rights of the citizens in the US? 

    The Act dictates that the goverment can approach any individual, company, agency, organization, at any time to investigate any person for any reason that it deems fit.  The body that provides the information for the investigation can be ordered to not disclose the incident to any other person/organization/agency. 

    That means that you personally could be the subject of an investigation, have personal information collected on you, have your friends, neighbours, employers, family members interrogated about you, and you can not be informed about it.

    You could go to the police about the suspicious person in the van outside your house, and the guy digging through your trash, and they cannot help you.  You could go to the FBI about the wiretaps on your phones, and the fact that someone is intercepting your mail, and they can’t/wouldn’t help you.

    Anyone who tells you about the investigation could be arrested for threatening homeland security.

    No court is needed to authorize this investigation.  You could be arrested, detained and interrogated, without ever being told why.  Upon release, you could feasably never be told why you were arrested, why your property was confiscated.

    You are obviously well-read and well-informed.  Perhaps you can enlighten me as to the faults in my reasoning?  Or would you agree that the Patriot Act is eroding the freedoms that you enjoy as an American.

    Thanks for the engaging discussion.

    Chris

    BTW- the people of Mauritius forgive you.

  36. Welcome back to the mix –

    I’m not slamming the US.  I find that the Freedom slogan used so frequently in the US over the past couple of years, is presumptious.  The Land of the Free (self-annointed), the home of Freedom Fries, may not actually be the ‘free-est’ country on earth.

    Agreed.  The US has been banging the drum loudly.  Keep in mind though that ‘Freedom’ is our rallying cry and 9/11 struck a central nerve in this country.  It is a shame that is has been turned into political marketing tool over the past few years and ‘Freedom-Fries’ is definitely one of the low points.

    Wouldn’t you agree that the US has become less free since 9/11?  Don’t you think the Patriot Act (just to return to the subject of this thread) infringes on the rights of the citizens in the US?

    I agree but it still doesn’t’ move the US out of the top ten.  We are headed in the wrong direction and hopefully our tried and true system will prove to be self-correcting in that regard.  The ‘Patriot Act’ was a government knee-jerk reaction to a very serious event that demanded some sort of immediate action.  I’ve argued time and again that the ‘Patriot Act’ won’t stand the test of time.  Americans will not allow it too.  We are seeing the ‘Patriot Act’ misused on a regular basis and the authors of the document are harshly criticizing law enforcement agencies for showing poor judgment.  Only time will tell.

    As far as your notes of the ‘Patriot Act’ itself, I would say that you have been subjected to a lot of the misinformation that surrounds the act.  Much of what you have stated is what I would call an ‘old-wives’ tale.  Some of it is unfortunately true but I would recommend going over to Patriot Act FAQ and reading through the District Attorney’s notes on the matter.

    I don’t know where else in the world where my freedoms across the board would be as equally high and as equally well balanced with my lifestyle.  Economic freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of choice, freedom of religion, and democracy.

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