Monday, August 18, 2014

the path to a police state

  A man was killed on the streets of Ferguson.  Not by some gang banger, but by a police officer... a man tasked with protecting the public from violence.  As that man, Michael Brown, fled this officer, he was shot in the back.  And as he raised his hands to surrender, that officer shot him five more times.  And as that officer walked up to this dying man, he put a bullet in his head.  These are the facts, witnessed by several people.  This was murder.

  Some will say that Michael Brown instigated an attack on this police officer, reaching into his window, grabbing for his gun.  They will also bring up the robbery of a convenience store moments before by Michael Brown, although the officer was unaware of this fact.  Both of these things could have been true, and it changes nothing.  The reality is that in the moments that followed, the officer was out of danger, yet still chose to use lethal force.  Even when assaulted first, even if assaulted by a hypothetical dangerous criminal, an officer has a responsibility, nay, a higher moral standard, to exercise restraint in his power when he controls a situation.  It may seem unfair to the cop... that were their roles reversed and a criminal held a gun on him, he might see no mercy... but the public expects its protectors to have the integrity to do no harm unless it is absolutely unavoidable.  In exchange, the public (for the most part) agrees to comply with demands of the police.  If that social contract breaks down, it becomes a dark day for civilized society... the start of a march down the path to a police state.

  Something tragic has happened when a community has lost faith in those who are designated to protect them. When the word of a police officer has been so tarnished, that we find we cannot believe them anymore than the criminals they stop.  These men and women are given extraordinary powers and authority, and they must subscribe to a higher standard.  If they are unable to achieve these qualities, than it is time we provide additional checks and balances to hold them accountable for their actions.  We need strong state laws allowing police to be surveilled uninfringed by the public.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

the rise of putin

Anyone else noticing the striking similarities between the rise of Putin and the rise of Hitler?

Adolph Hitler, 1938 Time Person of the Year

  The end of World War I left Germany in a state of economic collapse.  The fledgling German democracy was ill equipped to deal with these challenges, and Hitler was able to rise by stoking nationalist sentiment in the population.

Hitler and Hindenburg, the man who appointed him to power

  Following a contested election, Hitler was appointed as chancellor by President Hindenburg, and following Hindenburg's death, he was able to suspend free press, and seize unilateral powers of a dictatorship.

Jessie Owens at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games

  After showcasing Germany's rediscovered national pride in the 1936 Berlin Olympic games (albeit being embarrassed by Jessie Owens dominance over German sprinters), he began a systematic expansion annexing the Rhineland, Austria, and the Sudetenland, all in the name of protecting German speaking populations in these regions.

The Sudetenland, German speaking parts of Austria

  Leaders of the west were unwilling to enter another war, turning a blind eye to Germany, and finally signing an agreement legalizing Germany's expansions and proclaiming "Peace in Our Time".  The further invasion of Poland would spark the beginning of the Second World War.

Now the rise of Putin:

Putin, 2007 Time Person of the Year

The end of the Cold War left Russia in a state of economic collapse.  The fledgling Russian democracy was ill equipped to deal with these challenges, plagued by corruption.

Putin and Yeltsin, the person who appointed him to power

Boris Yeltsin appointed Putin as a First Deputy Prime minister, and following the resignation of Yeltsin, Putin succeeded to the presidency.  Putin's presidency has been characterized by suspending free press, and manipulation of elections to guarantee himself defacto dictatorial powers.

Russian Hockey player following defeat at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games

Putin had the chance to showcase Russia's rediscovered national pride in the 2014 Sochi Olympic games (albeit being embarrassed by the Russian hockey teams failure to metal).

Russian speaking portions of Ukraine, used as justification to authorize invasion

Russia began more militaristic interventions in Georgia in 2008, and appears on the brink of invasion of Ukraine, both in the name of protecting Russian speaking populations along their borders.  NATO and the western powers have basically turned a blind eye.

I'm not saying Putin has ambitions of world domination, or that he would begin any systematic genocide like Hitler did... but the parallels of history are disturbing.  The Greatest Generation had to learn the hard way the price of appeasement of dictators.  Are we destined to repeat the mistakes of the past?