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October 28, 2006

A weblog about the politics and affairs of the old and glorious City of Albany, New York, USA. Articles written and disseminated from Albany's beautiful and historic South End by Daniel Van Riper. If you wish to make a response, have anything to add or would like to make an empty threat, please contact me.

October 28, 2006

Good And Bad Citizens

The establishment of two-tiered security at Albany International Airport is a prelude to bad times ahead

Many years ago I made the too-close acquaintance of a couple of creeps named Gerry and John. These two scumbags had a foolproof routine for ripping off retail establishments.

No matter how he dressed, John always looked like the filthy bum that he was. Gerry, on the other hand, was a charmer. He could pass himself off as respectable to anyone, and that was how he got through life. (Eventually, people would catch on that he too was a scumbag, but that’s another story.)

Their routine worked like this. Gerry would put on a suit and tie and a long raincoat like some fancy executive would wear. He would walk into the store and present himself to the employees, ask some small question about the merchandise and put them at ease. A few moments later John, dressed in a torn t-shirt, sandals and falling down pants, would saunter insolently through the door drawing as much notice as possible.

Instantly all attention was on John. He would shuffle up and down the aisles, picking up odd objects from the shelves and putting them back in the wrong places. Soon he would be practically surrounded by every employee in the place, from the security guards to the managers. All eyes were on the badly dressed bum.

Meanwhile, “respectable” and unnoticed, Gerry would be filling his executive raincoat with merchandise. He told me that sometimes he would be so loaded with stuff that he could hardly walk out the door. These two scuzzes told me with pride that they both supported themselves for over two years with this routine alone. As far as I know, they never got caught.

I often think of Gerry and John when I watch the “security checkpoint” at the entrance of Albany City Hall and at the entrance of the Albany County Courthouse two doors down. Both of those street scammers would have instantly recognized and understood these checkpoints for what they really are.

A new checkpoint scanner made by QinetiQ peeps underneath your clothes 
A new checkpoint scanner made by QinetiQ peeps underneath your clothes

Watch the checkpoints for yourself sometime and observe who gets searched thoroughly and who gets the light treatment... or nothing at all. White men in expensive suits are often waved right through. Poor, working class or badly dressed? Expect to empty all of your pockets and answer a lot of intrusive questions. And be sure to expect delays if you have a black face.

As Gerry and John surely would have observed, these checkpoints have nothing to do with weeding out criminals or preventing criminal acts. After all, the biggest and most dangerous criminals in our society are the best dressed, the Gerrys. And they have absolutely nothing to do with that imaginary crock called “terrorism.”

Some time ago I stood in the doorway of the Albany County Courthouse downtown and watched a long line of people get slowly searched and questioned by the chronically rude and nasty guards. Suddenly an unmarked van pulled up in the no parking zone in front of the building. The driver got out and loaded a hand truck with a stack of maybe eight feet of boxes.

This fellow hauled the boxes up the steps and stopped behind the guard’s desk. He had to catch the attention of the guards, who were concentrating on harassing the hapless people in line. The guards, startled, apologized sheepishly and moved out of the way. The guy moved his stack of boxes hastily into the interior of the building.

I don’t know much about munitions, but I figure he could have packed enough plastic explosive into those boxes to blast the Courthouse into the ionosphere. If the point of harassing decent people entering a public building is to prevent “terrorism,” then the terrorists are winning big at the Albany County Courthouse.

The purpose of these checkpoints is purely political. The idea is to physically separate American citizens into two classes, the “good” privileged, and the “bad” restricted. Into the Gerrys and the Johns.

At Albany International Airport in Colonie this separation is about to become complete. Travelers who are willing or able to pay a fee will be “fast-tracked” through the “security” checkpoints. All they have to do is flash a card and they will be waived through to their flights with little or no waiting.

Meanwhile, those who won’t or can’t pay the approximately $100.00 fee will be subject to the usual humiliations and confiscations. And there is already talk of more expensive “premium service” that will separate Americans into even more tiers of privilege.

A terrorist under scrutiny
A terrorist under scrutiny

It gets worse. Supposedly the background “security” checks will be done by the ponderous government bureaucracy known as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) which is part of the bloated “Homeland” Security.”

But the actual administration of the fast tracking and the issuing of privilege cards will be done by international corporations. Verified Identity Pass Inc. and Saflink Corp. are vying for the Albany Airport contract. The winner gets to decide which citizens fly hassle free and which ones get discriminated against.

In other words, certain police powers are being “privatized.” These corporations are being given the power to hinder personal freedom. This is one step closer to corporations gaining the right to detain individuals. That is, to arrest.

So, what’s the problem?

The privatization of police powers is an act of desperation by a government that has no confidence in its ability to govern. Basically, the government is giving away their most important power, that of enforcement. The government is awarding its monopoly of violence to the security corporations.

The corporations are becoming the government. And since corporations are “private,” they have no incentive to follow rule of law. They don’t have to answer to the voters. And that leads inevitably to oppression.

So, you might say, won’t oppression of the “wrong people” take care of crime? Won’t that make the “right people” feel safer?

The problem with oppression, either public or privatized, is that those citizens who are oppressed begin to believe that they are not part of society, that they have been designated enemies by the oppressors. And indeed, they have been.

In other words, if you violate MY rights, then I have no reason to respect YOUR rights. If you people in authority, either public or private, don’t trust me, then there is no way in hell that I’m going to trust you. If you want respect from me then you will have to earn it.

Only your guns prevent me from treating you the same way that you treat me. Your guns and nothing else. See how it works? Next thing you know, the government is hunkered down behind checkpoints and barriers, afraid to lower their weapons. Even for a moment.

I can tell you one thing that I know for an absolute certainty. If the legitimate elected government awards part or all of their monopoly of violence to the corporations, it is only a matter of time before the perceived right to commit violent acts becomes widespread throughout the populace.

Do you want to live in America when that happens?

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