Monday, September 24, 2007

It Starts When You're Always Afraid

I had never heard of Joppatowne, Maryland, before, had to look it up when I read this.
Dedicated to everything from architecture to sports medicine, "career academies" claim to offer high school kids focus, relevancy, and solid job prospects. Now add a new kind of program to the list: homeland security high. In late August, Maryland's Joppatowne High School became the first school in the country dedicated to churning out would-be Jack Bauers. The 75 students in the Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness magnet program will study cybersecurity and geospatial intelligence, respond to mock terror attacks, and receive limited security clearances at the nearby Army chemical warfare lab.

The new school is funded and guided by a slew of federal, state, and local agencies, not to mention several defense firms. Officials say it will teach kids to understand the "new reality," though they hasten to add that the school isn't focused just on terrorism. School administrators, channeling Cheneyesque secrecy, refused to be interviewed for this story. But it's no secret that the program is seen as a model for the rest of the country, with the Pentagon and other agencies watching closely.

Students will choose one of three specialized tracks: information and communication technology, criminal justice and law enforcement, or "homeland security science." David Volrath, executive director of secondary education for Harford County Public Schools, says the school also hopes to offer "Arabic or some other nontraditional, Third World-type language."

Black Ops Jungle: The Academy of Military-Industrial-Complex Studies

The new reality. It's like America just isn't paranoid enough.

You're reading the stuff about the kind of data the TSA is compiling about travelers. Like this, from Wired:
Privacy advocates obtained database records showing that the government routinely records the race of people pulled aside for extra screening as they enter the country, along with cursory answers given to U.S. border inspectors about their purpose in traveling. In one case, the records note Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Gilmore's choice of reading material, and worry over the number of small flashlights he'd packed for the trip.

The breadth of the information obtained by the Gilmore-funded Identity Project (using a Privacy Act request) shows the government's screening program at the border is actually a "surveillance dragnet," according to the group's spokesman Bill Scannell.

"There is so much sensitive information in the documents that it is clear that Homeland Security is not playing straight with the American people," Scannell said. U.S. Airport Screeners Are Watching What You Read

You ought to read that one. They write down anything, like what it says on your t-shirt; they noted that one guy had a picture of a marijuana leaf on his flashlight.

And what does it come down to?

Here we are being safer. This MIT student is lucky to have gotten away with her life, the officials say, after she went to the airport to pick somebody up, directly from an MIT career fair where she had been showing off a project of hers.
It was an art project, meant to entertain career-day visitors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an M.I.T. sophomore assured security officials after she had been arrested at Boston’s airport yesterday.

But the officials were not amused. The student, Star A. Simpson, 19, is “very lucky to be alive,” said Maj. Scott S. Pare of the state police, commanding officer of the airport’s security contingent. “Had she not followed our instructions” when confronted by state troopers, “we would have used deadly force,” Major Pare said.

The trouble began when Ms. Simpson, wearing a lighted circuit board sewn to her black hooded sweatshirt, walked up to a customer service desk at Logan International Airport and asked about an arriving flight carrying a passenger she was to meet. A nine-volt battery was attached to the circuit board, and Ms. Simpson carried a wad of modeling clay in one hand. Her Taste in Art? Scary, Police Say

Fear is self-amplifying. You get scared, you jump, the jumping scares you... I'll tell you, I didn't like the idea of going to work on September 12th, 2001, but like hundreds of thousands of workers in New York and Washington, DC, I did it, we got on the Metro and took our chances. You're frightened, you don't know what's going to happen, but you've got to deal with it.

Fear is easily manipulated by politicians. You make decisions you wouldn't ordinarily make when you're afraid, you're less trusting, less thoughtful. It doesn't mean you make better decisions, you just make different ones.

Can you imagine if they'd killed that girl, which they were fully prepared to do? As it is, they're threatening her with a long prison term for bringing her art project to the airport, which is just insane.

I often wonder what would have happened if Bill Clinton had reacted to the Oklahoma City bombing the way George Bush reacted to 9/11. The Democratic Party could easily have gone on the offensive against right-wing radicals; it wouldn't have been hard to drum up a pretty convincing conspiracy theory, and it would have been politically expedient, as it would cast suspicion on the Republican Party. But they didn't do it. The Republicans though took the attacks of 9/11 and turned them into a gigantic propaganda tool, allowing them to undermine fundamental principles that we had understood to be the American way.

Now high school kids are being sent to paranoia school, personal database records are being compiled on innocent travelers, a geeky MIT student is on the brink of being executed if she doesn't get her hands up fast enough. We've got to stop this.


Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

Very good point about Oklahoma City, Jim.

September 24, 2007 11:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Immigration rallies, monks in Burma, marchers in Jena, UAW strike.

We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore!!!

The revolution is now.

September 25, 2007 7:54 AM  

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