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Police Should Be on – Not Behind – Cameras PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by Thomas L. Knapp   
Wednesday, 10 December 2014 05:43

Police body cameras are all the rage lately. Al Sharpton wants them used to monitor the activities of cops. Ann Coulter wants them used to “shut down” Al Sharpton. The White House wants them because, well, they’re a way to look both “tough on police violence” and “tough on crime” by spending $263 million on new law-enforcement technology.

When Al Sharpton, Ann Coulter, and the president of the United States agree on anything, my immediate, visceral reaction is extreme skepticism. In this case, the known facts support that skepticism.

(Editor’s note: According to a recent article in the The Dispatch/Rock Island Argus, Hampton, Illinois, recently began using body cameras, and the Davenport, Bettendorf, and East Moline police departments have either tested them or plan to acquire them.)

It’s exceedingly unlikely that widespread use of police body cameras would reduce the incidence or severity of unjustified police violence. We’ve already seen the results of numerous technology “solutions” to that problem.

The introduction of mace and Tasers to police-weapons inventories encouraged a hair-trigger attitude toward encounters with “suspects” (“suspect” being law-enforcement-ese for “anyone who isn’t a cop”). Their supposed non-lethality made it safer to substitute violent action for peaceful talk.

The introduction of military weaponry and vehicles to policing hasn’t produced de-escalation, either. Quite the opposite, in fact: Now we get to watch small-town police departments stage frequent re-enactments of the Nazi occupation of Paris in towns across America.

And police-car “dash cams”? That’s obviously the most direct comparison. But the dash cam often seems to malfunction, or the police department mysteriously loses its output, when a credible claim of abusive police behavior arises.

On the other hand, it’s absolutely certain that widespread use of police body cameras would increase the scope and efficacy of an increasingly authoritarian surveillance state.

The White House proposal calls for an initial rollout of 50,000 cameras. Does anyone doubt that the output of those cameras would be kept, copied, cross-referenced, and analyzed against law-enforcement databases (including but not limited to facial-recognition databases) on a continuing basis?

Assuming a camera attaches to a particular officer with an eight-hour shift (rather than being passed around at shift changes for 24-hour use), that’s 400,000 hours per day of random, warrant-less searches to be continuously mined for probable cause to investigate and arrest people. Even George Orwell didn’t go so far as to have 1984’s Thought Police carry portable cameras everywhere they went!

Video technology is certainly part of the solution to police violence, but that solution should remain in the hands of regular people, not the state. More and more of us every day come into possession of the ability to record video on the spot, while instantly porting it to Internet storage so that it can’t be destroyed at the scene or tampered with after the fact. Cops need to be on cameras they don’t control.

But part of the solution is still just part of the solution. Even when cameras catch violent, abusive, criminal cops in action – as, for example, when business security cameras filmed Fullerton, California, police officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli beating homeless man Kelly Thomas to death in 2011 – it’s incredibly hard to get prosecutions and even harder to get convictions.

Ubiquitous video monitoring of state actors by regular people is a start. But the only real way to guarantee and end to police violence is to bring an end to state “law enforcement” – in fact, to the state itself.

Thomas L. Knapp is senior news analyst at the Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS.org), where this commentary originally appeared.

 
Internet-Gambling Ban: A Winner for Sheldon Adelson, a Losing Bet for the Rest of Us PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by Ron Paul   
Wednesday, 26 November 2014 09:47

Most Americans, regardless of ideology, oppose “crony capitalism” or “cronyism.” Cronyism is where politicians write laws aimed at helping their favored business beneficiaries. Despite public opposition to cronyism, politicians still seek to use the legislative process to help special interests.

For example, Congress may soon vote on legislation outlawing Internet gambling. It is an open secret, at least inside the Beltway, that this legislation is being considered as a favor to billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson. Mr. Adelson, who is perhaps best known for using his enormous wealth to advance a pro-war foreign policy, is now using his political influence to turn his online competitors into criminals.

 
The FBI: America’s Secret Police PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by John W. Whitehead   
Thursday, 06 November 2014 10:00

Every regime has its own name for its secret police. Mussolini’s OVRA carried out phone surveillance on government officials. Stalin’s NKVD carried out large-scale purges, terror, and depopulation. Hitler’s Gestapo went door-to-door ferreting out dissidents and other political “enemies” of the state. And in the U.S., it’s the Federal Bureau of Investigation that does the dirty work of ensuring compliance, keeping tabs on potential dissidents, and punishing those who dare to challenge the status quo.

Whether the FBI is planting undercover agents in churches, synagogues, and mosques, is issuing fake emergency letters to gain access to Americans’ phone records, is using intimidation tactics to silence Americans who are critical of the government, or is persuading impressionable individuals to plot acts of terror and then entrapping them, the overall impression of the nation’s secret police force is that of a well-dressed thug, flexing its muscles and doing the boss’ dirty work.

It’s a far cry from the glamorized G-men depicted in Hollywood film noirs and spy thrillers. The government’s henchmen have become the embodiment of how power, once acquired, can be so easily corrupted and abused.

 
Fee for Service Is Not the Problem PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by Sean Parnell   
Thursday, 06 November 2014 09:07

If you go to your doctor with severe pain or some other symptom suggesting a serious injury or illness, do you want him or her to have a financial incentive to treat you, or would you rather the doctor have a financial incentive to withhold care?

Although few will admit it, a sizable number of health-care policy wonks seem to prefer the latter, having apparently diagnosed doctors being paid for the care they provide patients as one of the problems with the U.S. health-care system.

This view was perhaps best expressed by President Barack Obama back in the summer of 2009, when he was pushing for what ultimately became the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. “You come in and you’ve got a bad sore throat, or your child has a bad sore throat or has repeated sore throats,” Obama said at a press conference. “The doctor may look at the reimbursement system and say to himself, ‘You know what? I make a lot more money if I take this kid’s tonsils out.’”

The heart of this allegation is what is known as fee-for-service medicine. Essentially, this means doctors are paid for the treatment they provide patients, no more and no less. In other words, pretty much the same way most of us pay lawyers, accountants, mechanics, hair stylists, and anybody else who provides a service for us.

 
End the Fed: The Economics of Liberty PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by Grant Mincy   
Wednesday, 08 October 2014 20:42

The Federal Reserve is responsible for implementing U.S. monetary policy. As it directs the world’s largest economy, the Fed earns top rank among powerful institutions. Though the central bank guides state monetary policy, the Fed is largely a private institution. As such, bank operations move in secrecy, absent of oversight from the public arena. Thanks to Carmen Segarra, however, we now have some keen insight to the inner operations of the Federal Reserve System.

Segarra was recently employed at the New York Fed as a bank examiner, charged with ensuring the bank followed internal regulations and conducting “oversight” of the economic powerhouse. During her tenure, Segarra grew suspicious that the Fed was rather lenient with powerful, well-connected investment banks – notably Goldman Sachs (a key player in the 2008 financial crisis). To document her concerns, she recorded 46 hours of private meetings and conversations. Her recordings reveal the Fed is, in fact, rather cozy with the financial institutions it’s supposed to regulate. With evidence in hand, Segarra voiced her objections. She was soon fired.

 
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