June 13, 2011

Police SWAT teams under fewer restrictions than troops in Afghanistan

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Government, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 12:12

John W. Whitehead recounts the ongoing militarization of police and other non-military government agencies:

The militarization of American police — no doubt a blowback effect of the military empire — has become an unfortunate part of American life. In fact, it says something about our reliance on the military that federal agencies having nothing whatsoever to do with national defense now see the need for their own paramilitary units. Among those federal agencies laying claim to their own law enforcement divisions are the State Department, Department of Education, Department of Energy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service, to name just a few. These agencies have secured the services of fully armed agents — often in SWAT team attire — through a typical bureaucratic sleight-of-hand provision allowing for the creation of Offices of Inspectors General (OIG). Each OIG office is supposedly charged with not only auditing their particular agency’s actions but also uncovering possible misconduct, waste, fraud, theft, or certain types of criminal activity by individuals or groups related to the agency’s operation. At present, there are 73 such OIG offices in the federal government that, at times, perpetuate a police state aura about them.

[. . .]

How did we allow ourselves to travel so far down the road to a police state? While we are now grappling with a power-hungry police state at the federal level, the militarization of domestic American law enforcement is largely the result of the militarization of local police forces, which are increasingly militaristic in their uniforms, weaponry, language, training, and tactics and have come to rely on SWAT teams in matters that once could have been satisfactorily performed by traditional civilian officers. Even so, this transformation of law enforcement at the local level could not have been possible without substantial assistance from on high.

What’s worse than the vast increase in the use of heavily armed police SWAT teams for law enforcement is the casual way the teams are used:

Ironically, despite the fact that SWAT team members are subject to greater legal restraints than their counterparts in the military, they are often less well-trained in the use of force than are the special ops soldiers on which they model themselves. Indeed, SWAT teams frequently fail to conform to the basic precautions required in military raids. For instance, after reading about a drug raid in Missouri, an army officer currently serving in Afghanistan commented:

     My first thought on reading this story is this: Most American police SWAT teams probably have fewer restrictions on conducting forced entry raids than do US forces in Afghanistan. For our troops over here to conduct any kind of forced entry, day or night, they have to meet one of two conditions: have a bad guy (or guys) inside actively shooting at them; or obtain permission from a 2-star general, who must be convinced by available intelligence (evidence) that the person or persons they’re after is present at the location, and that it’s too dangerous to try less coercive methods.

Remember, SWAT teams originated as specialized units dedicated to defusing extremely sensitive, dangerous situations. As the role of paramilitary forces has expanded, however, to include involvement in nondescript police work targeting nonviolent suspects, the mere presence of SWAT units has actually injected a level of danger and violence into police-citizen interactions that was not present as long as these interactions were handled by traditional civilian officers.

QotD: Canadian foreign policy

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Media, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 12:03

Further proof of the Americanization of our politics: the journalistic elevation of the drunkard’s walk known as Stephen Harper’s foreign policy to the level of a “doctrine.” We spent the post-Gulf War nineties hearing about “the Powell doctrine”, and in 2001, Charles Krauthammer gave George W. Bush a doctrine of his own as a post 9/11 present. Today, the Globe and Mail’s John Ibbitson gifts our prime minister with his very own “Harper Doctrine,” spelled out as follows:

     “We know where our interests lie and who our friends are,” he declared, “and we take strong, principled positions in our dealings with other nations, whether popular or not.”

I’m no foreign policy guy, and John Ibbitson has taught me more about how Canada works over the years than I like to admit. But apart from supporting Israel “four-square, without reservation” — which Harper does seem keen on — I don’t see the evidence for the rest of it. “No foreign aid funding for abortion” doesn’t seem like much of a doctrine to me. As for “aggressively asserting our sovereignty in the North” … how so?

Andrew Potter, “Canada’s foreign policy, in black and white and orange”, Maclean’s, 2011-06-13

AC Grayling’s “embryo London humanities university … has induced apoplexy in the old left”

Filed under: Britain, Bureaucracy, Education — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 09:35

Simon Jenkins marvels at the over-the-top response to the announcement of a new private university in London:

This has been a purple week for red rage. The hirsute philosopher, AC Grayling, may call himself a “pinko” but his embryo London humanities university in Bedford Square has induced apoplexy in the old left. He and 13 high-octane scholars are having their lectures “targeted”. The Guardian is in ideological meltdown. Foyles has been hit by a smoke bomb. The Kropotkin of our age, Terry Eagleton, claims to be fit to vomit. Bloomsbury has not been so excited since semen was spotted on Vanessa Bell’s dress.

Britain’s professors, lecturers and student trade unionists appear to be united in arms against what they most hate and fear: academic celebrity, student fees, profit and loss, one-to-one tutorials and America. Grayling’s New College of the Humanities may be no more than an egotists’ lecture agency, better located at Heathrow Terminal 5, but the rage it has evoked is fascinating.

What Grayling has done is caricature the British university. He has cartooned it as no longer an academic community but a high-end luxury consumable for the middle classes, operating roughly half a year, with dons coming and going at will, handing down wisdom in between television and book tours. Just when state universities have been freed by the coalition to triple their income per student (initially at public expense) to £9,000, Grayling has mischievously doubled that to £18,000.

World Bank: smaller governments produce higher economic growth

Filed under: Economics, Government, Liberty — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:33

Tim Worstall summarizes a recent World Bank report that seems to have reached quite sensible conclusions:

Given the level of economic debate currently in the UK the results might surprise. For they support an economic and civil liberalism entirely unlike anything that any political party currently puts forward. This first result is that:

For instance, a one unit change in the initial level of economic freedom between two countries (on a scale of one to 10) is associated with an almost one percentage point differential in their average long-run economic growth rates.

This is unlikely to please those we think of as being on the political left: what, you mean people should just be allowed to get on with things without the direction of a beneficent state? But there’s not that much support for the sort of One Nation Tory paternalism of the other lot either:

In the case of civil and political liberties, the long-term effect is also positive and significant with a differential of 0.3 percentage point.

Yes, people really should be left alone, to shag and to smoke and to live their lives as they please. And finally, it’s going to absolutely appal all of those who insist that it’s the positive freedoms that really produce economic growth:

In contrast, no evidence was found that the initial level of entitlement rights or their change over time had any significant effects on long-term per capita income, except for a negative effect in some specifications of the model.

Income redistribution, high (or low) unemployment pay, child care subsidies, they just don’t make any positive difference to growth but might have negative ones.

In other words, the less your government tries to do outside the basic duties of protecting the citizens from external threats and domestic crime, and providing an honest and transparent set of laws and a stable legal framework, the better off your country will be both economically and socially. Kinda like that minarchistic “night watchman state”.

British carbon tax may spark de-industrialization

Filed under: Britain, Economics, Europe — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:51

The current British government’s global warming/climate change programs, combined with the European Union’s policies, may have triggered a race to the exits by British industry:

Now, the CBI and Britain’s leading chemical firms have warned that the proposed “carbon floor” tax (also unique in the world) will make our industry so uncompetitive that, unless the policy is changed, it will lead inevitably to mass plant closures and job losses. Similarly, the European Metals Association warned last week that the EU’s various “anti-carbon” policies are becoming so costly that they are already forcing steel, aluminium and other producers in their energy-intensive industry to relocate outside Europe, losing hundreds of thousands more jobs.

At one end of the scale, then, whole industries are protesting that the soaring costs of “climate change” measures will amount, in effect, to a colossal economic suicide note. At the other, we begin to see how the obsession with “climate change” will push our own household energy bills through the roof, driving millions more people into “fuel poverty”. Apart from anything else, by 2020 our Government expects us to pay £100 billion for a further 10,000 useless, subsidised windmills, plus £40 billion to connect them to the National Grid. These costs alone would almost double our present electricity bills.

Furthermore, we are all unwittingly having to pay billions for the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme, the Carbon Reduction scheme, higher airline taxes, higher vehicle duties, highly paid “low-carbon officers” in our council offices, and heaven knows what else besides. With the new carbon floor tax soon due to raise our energy bills by further billions, we can see why the Government’s own forecast — that the Climate Change Act will cost us up to £18 billion annually until 2050 — might well be an underestimate.

Most terrifying of all, however, is the extent to which our politicians remain firmly locked in their little green bubble, oblivious to the practical implications of the measures they have set in train. As for what purpose it all serves, we may note last week’s report that China, already the world’s biggest CO2 emitter, is now also the world’s largest energy user. Each year it increases the world’s CO2 emissions by more than the total that Britain emits annually.

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