Thursday, August 19, 2010

American "Liberties"

I think it is funny that Americans drone on and on about how their Constitution guaranties them liberties. You have the recent example of the right to build a place of worship on private land if it meets all legal codes... unless it is a mosque. In that case everybody agrees you have "rights" but sage heads wag and tell you that it would be "imprudent" to exercise those rights and freedoms.

And here is bit in an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about your "liberty" to travel unmolested around the country... unless you happen to be carrying 7 cheques that are deemed "suspicious" by somebody from TSA that decides to paw through your belongings...
At what point does an airport search step over the line?

How about when they start going through your checks, and the police call your husband, suspicious you were clearing out the bank account?

That's the complaint leveled by Kathy Parker, a 43-year-old Elkton, Md., woman, who was flying out of Philadelphia International Airport on Aug. 8.

She says she was heading to Charlotte, N.C., for work that Sunday night - she's a business support manager for a large bank - and was selected for a more in-depth search after she passed through the metal detectors at Gate B around 5:15 p.m.

A female Transportation Security Administration officer wanded her and patted her down, she says. Then she was walked over to where other TSA officers were searching her bags.

"Everything in my purse was out, including my wallet and my checkbook. I had two prescriptions in there. One was diet pills. This was embarrassing. A TSA officer said, 'Hey, I've always been curious about these. Do they work?'

"I was just so taken aback, I said, 'Yeah.' "

What happened next, she says, was more than embarrassing. It was infuriating.

That same screener started emptying her wallet. "He was taking out the receipts and looking at them," she said.

"I understand that TSA is tasked with strengthening national security but [it] surely does not need to know what I purchased at Kohl's or Wal-Mart," she wrote in her complaint, which she sent me last week.

She says she asked what he was looking for and he replied, "Razor blades." She wondered, "Wouldn't that have shown up on the metal detector?"

In a side pocket she had tucked a deposit slip and seven checks made out to her and her husband, worth about $8,000.

Her thought: "Oh, my God, this is none of his business."

Two Philadelphia police officers joined at least four TSA officers who had gathered around her. After conferring with the TSA screeners, one of the Philadelphia officers told her he was there because her checks were numbered sequentially, which she says they were not.

"It's an indication you've embezzled these checks," she says the police officer told her. He also told her she appeared nervous. She hadn't before that moment, she says.

She protested when the officer started to walk away with the checks. "That's my money," she remembers saying. The officer's reply? "It's not your money."
There's more gory details, go read the original article.

Americans have "liberties" like I have the "super powers" of superman. I could lift a big iron locomotive over my head, but I just don't feel like it right now. Under Communism soviet citizens had a panoply of rights that were wonderfully extensive and impressive. They had all these rights so long as they didn't actually expect to exercise them. Hmm... sounds like American "freedoms".

So I wish Americans would just tone down all the breast beating and flag waving about their glorious "freedoms" guaranteed by their Constitution. They've got a few more freedoms than the terrorists locked up in the supermax facilitiy in Colorado, but nowhere near as many as they think they have.

I chuckle because the above story demonstrates that Americans are more like the old soviet citizens with their vast list of "freedoms". They "have" these freedoms so long as they don't actually try to exercise those freedoms.

Here's a different case reported by cnet news where students and parents might think they have a right to assume that they aren't spied on by school authorities:
A Pennsylvania school that was caught secretly snapping photos of students via laptop Webcams will not face criminal charges in the case.

Triggered by complaints and a civil suit by Harriton High School student Blake Robbins in February that he was photographed at home without his knowledge, the FBI and local officials launched an investigation to determine if the Lower Merion School District illegally misused the Webcams.

But federal and local prosecutors looking into the incident were unable to prove criminal intent on the part of school employees and therefore could not prosecute the case, according to U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger.
That's right, you have all kinds of "rights" to privacy but if somebody sneaks a camera into your bedroom and watches you... well, no crime because they obviously have no "criminal intent", especially if they are the "authorities" like the school board!

Think about these claimed freedoms and liberties... the founding document makes this very impressive claim:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
But at the same time the founders of this country were slaveholders. Just what "unalienable rights" did those slaves have? Just what kind of "pursuit of happiness" was granted to the slaves? Facts like these don't seem to slow down those in the US who love to rant on and on about how "freedom loving" they are. The blathering pundits of Fox News are really big on "liberties" so long as it is theirs and not yours. The quintessential American "freedoms" are those that billionaires get to exercise. Riffraff aren't expected to demand any "freedoms".

Freedoms are real unless you have a police force that respects those freedoms. Americans should think about that.

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