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Just Shoot: Turning Search Warrants into Death Warrants and SWAT Teams into Death Squads PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by John W. Whitehead   
Monday, 09 June 2014 05:59

“A government which will turn its tanks upon its people, for any reason, is a government with a taste of blood and a thirst for power and must either be smartly rebuked, or blindly obeyed in deadly fear.” – John Salter

How many children, old people, and law-abiding citizens have to be injured, terrorized, or killed before we call a halt to the growing rash of police violence that is wracking the country? How many family pets have to be gunned down in cold blood by marauding SWAT teams before we declare such tactics off-limits? And how many communities have to be transformed into military outposts – complete with heavily armed police, military tanks, and “safety” checkpoints – before we draw that line in the sand that says “not in our town”?

The latest incident happened last month in Atlanta, where a SWAT team attempting to execute a no-knock drug warrant in the middle of the night launched a flash-bang grenade into the targeted home, only to have it land in a crib where a 19-month-old baby lay sleeping. The grenade exploded, burning his face, lacerating his chest, and leaving him paralyzed. At the hospital, he was put in a medically induced coma.

If this were the first instance of police overkill – if it were even the fifth – there might be hope of reforming our system of law enforcement. But what happened to this baby, whose life will never be the same, has become par for the course in a society that glorifies violence, turns a blind eye to government wrongdoing, and sanctions any act by law enforcement – no matter how misguided or wrong. As I detail in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, this state-sponsored violence is a necessary ingredient in any totalitarian regime to ensure a compliant, cowed, and fearful populace.

 
Lights, Camera, Arrested: Americans Thrown in Jail for Filming Police PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by John W. Whitehead   
Wednesday, 19 March 2014 05:53
Once again, the U.S. government is attempting to police the world when it should be policing its own law-enforcement agencies. We’ve got a warship cruising the Black Sea, fighter jets patrolling the Baltic skies, and a guided-missile destroyer searching the South China Sea for the downed Malaysia Airlines flight. All the while, back home in the U.S., our constitutional rights are going to hell in a handbasket, with homeowners being threatened with eviction for attempting to live off the grid, old women jailed for feeding crows, and citizens armed with little more than a cell phone arrested for daring to record police activities.

Robin Speronis now finds herself threatened with eviction from her own Florida home for daring to live off the grid, independent of city utilities such as water and electricity. City officials insist the Cape Coral resident’s chosen way of life violates the international property-maintenance code and city ordinances. Mary Musselman, also a Florida resident, is being held in jail without bond for “feeding wild animals.” The 81-year-old Musselman, on probation after being charged with feeding bears near her home, was arrested after officers discovered her leaving bread out for crows. Meanwhile, Brandy Berning of Florida was forced to spend a night in jail after recording her conversation with an officer who pulled her over for a routine traffic stop.

Welcome to the farce that passes for law and order in America today, where crime is low, militarized police activity is on the rise, and Americans are being penalized for living off the grid, feeding wild animals, holding Bible studies in their backyard, growing vegetables in their front yard, collecting rainwater, and filming the police.

 
How Can the People Be Protected From the Police? PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by John W. Whitehead   
Tuesday, 25 February 2014 10:36

“We live in a small, rural town. Moved here in 1961. I don’t remember what year the State Troopers moved a headquarters into our town. Our young people were plagued with tickets for even the smallest offense. Troopers had to get their limits for the month. People make jokes about that, but it has been true. Every kid I knew was getting ticketed for something. But now it is so much worse. I raised my kids to respect police. If they did something wrong and got caught, they deserved it and should take their punishment. But now I have no respect for the police. I feel threatened and fearful of them. They are aggressive and intimidating. They lie and are abusive, and we do not know how to fight them. I am not a minority here, but people are afraid if they speak out they will be targeted. We are just a small town. I just don’t care anymore if they do target me. I am afraid they are going to kill someone.” – letter from a 60-year-old grandmother

The following incidents are cautionary tales for anyone who still thinks that they can defy police officers without deadly repercussions, even if it’s simply to disagree about a speeding ticket, challenge a search warrant, or defend oneself against an unreasonable or unjust charge. The message they send is that “we the people” have very little protection from the standing army that is law enforcement.

For example, Seattle police repeatedly Tasered seven-months-pregnant Malaika Brooks for refusing to sign a speeding ticket. While Brooks bears permanent burn scars on her body from the encounter, police were cleared of any wrongdoing on the grounds that they didn’t know that Tasering a pregnant woman was wrong.

 
Putting Big Brother in the Driver’s Seat: V2V Transmitters, Black Boxes, and Drones PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by John W. Whitehead   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 13:27

It’s a future where you don’t forget anything. ... In this new future, you’re never lost. ... We will know your position down to the foot and down to the inch over time. ... Your car will drive itself; it’s a bug that cars were invented before computers. ... You’re never lonely. ... You’re never bored. ... You’re never out of ideas. ... We can suggest where you go next, who to meet, what to read. ... What’s interesting about this future is that it’s for the average person, not just the elites.” – Google CEO Eric Schmidt on his vision of the future

Time to buckle up your seatbelts, folks. You’re in for a bumpy ride.

We’re hurtling down a one-way road toward the Police State at mind-boggling speeds, the terrain is getting more treacherous by the minute, and we’ve passed all the exit ramps. From this point forward, there is no turning back, and the signpost ahead reads “Danger.”

Indeed, as I document in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, we’re about to enter a Twilight Zone of sorts, one marked by drones, smart phones, GPS devices, smart TVs, social media, smart meters, surveillance cameras, facial-recognition software, online banking, license-plate readers, and driver-less cars – all part of the interconnected technological spider web that is life in the American police state, and every new gadget pulls us that much deeper into the sticky snare.

In this Brave New World awaiting us, there will be no communication not spied upon, no movement untracked, no thought unheard. In other words, there will be nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

We’re on the losing end of a technological revolution that has already taken hostage our computers, our phones, our finances, our entertainment, our shopping, and our appliances, and now it’s focused its sights on our cars. As if the government wasn’t already able to track our movements on the nation’s highways and byways by way of satellites, GPS devices, and real-time traffic cameras, government officials are now pushing to require that all new vehicles come installed with black-box recorders and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications, ostensibly to help prevent crashes.

 
Pete Seeger (1919-2014): He Changed the World One Song at a Time PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by John W. Whitehead   
Wednesday, 29 January 2014 11:56

Pete Seeger at the Clearwater Festival 2007. Photo by Anthony Pepitone.

My job is to show folks there’s a lot of good music in this world, and if used right it may help to save the planet.” – Pete Seeger

The world will be saved by people fighting for their homes. Homes will be saved by people who fight for the world.” – Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger, the activist/singer/songwriter who tried to change the world with every note he uttered, died January 27 at age 94, and we are all the poorer for it.

A longtime friend whose letters I treasured for their hand-drawn embellishments and whose words of encouragement urged me to keep on fighting, Seeger belonged to a dying breed of Americans who cared more about making a difference using whatever resources were available to them than luxuriating in creature comforts and basking in the glow of their greatness.

Long before the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix or Bob Dylan, there was Pete Seeger, a lone ranger fighting injustice with little more than a five-string banjo in hand and a gift for putting words to music. Unarguably one of the most important musical influences of the 20th Century, Seeger helped to lay the foundation for American protest music, singing out about the plight of everyday working folks and urging listeners to political and social activism.

 
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