In a little over a year we’ve seen two amazing examples of how militarized our police forces have become. One was a “best case” scenario and the current one is just about as much of a worse case scenario as you can get. In 2013 the Boston Marathon was bombed by a pair of radicals. What happened afterwards was a combination of the full capabilities of the surveillance state, investigation, and militarized police. Through a series of cameras blanked across the area, the Boston PD and other law enforcement offices were able to identify the pair of bombing suspects. Eventually this turned into a chase, shoot out, and then a stand off. During the stand off we saw some pretty amazing pieces of equipment being deployed, including fully body armored SWAT teams, armored personnel carriers, infrared cameras, and other pieces of technology. All deployed to find one man huddled in a boat. Furthermore, the officers conducted full house searches without consent of the homeowners. All of these amounted to some pretty incredible uses of power by the city of Boston and the state of MA. All to find a terrorist.
Now, we’re seeing something similar playing out in Ferguson MO, where the police allegedly shot an unarmed black man in the suburb of St. Louis. This town has 21,000 people and has nearly identical pieces of equipment deployed to prevent protests over what’s clearly a case of perceived police overreach, brutality, and murder. According to Paul Szoldza of Business Insider, vets of the Afghan and Iraq war argue that they had less capable equipment when they were in their actual war zones. This is rather appalling. These are citizens that are essentially delegitimizing the rule of law because of the illegal actions of the police force. In response, the police force essentially sends in an improperly trained military force.
This is abhorrent. In the United States we should never see this type of behavior. We’d condemn these actions if it happened in Russia or a similar regime, yet here in the United States it’s acceptable. Furthermore, the FAA is complicit by enforcing a no fly zone thus restricting free speech – as it prevents any news helicopters from recording or reporting on the story as it unfolds. This isn’t an instance of a free press. It’s free as far as the military police allow it. I’m extremely concerned by these turn of events. I have no idea what we can do about this. It’s continually spreading and will likely only get worse.
Today, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), upheld the controversial Citizen’s United ruling of two years ago. I’ve written about some of this in the past and I’ve talked to many people about the implications of this. However, there are two major tenets in this ruling that matter. One: that you cannot limit the amount of money spent during a campaign because that restrict free speech. Two: that two separate groups can raise funds and use their right to speech without corrupting the political candidate. Additionally, there were some ground rules that were established as to when you are considered breaking this ruling and in violation of the law. One of these is that the two groups cannot coordinate their strategies and that the two groups must remain independent of each other.
In this most recent ruling, the SCOTUS essentially has stated that there hasn’t been any reason to revisit their previous ruling and that it now also applies to states. This is important as Montana had laws on the books that limited the amount of money that could be donated. This law was put into place to fight corruption in 1912.
This ruling is difficult because on one hand, at what point can you limit the amount of money someone wants to spend of their own money on political speech without restricting freedom of speech? If someone is willing to let you put ads up and pay money for it, isn’t it your right to do so? That part of the ruling is really difficult to argue with. However, The part that isn’t hard to argue with is the lack of independence. This has been pretty well displayed during the Republican primary. Without some of the mega funders campaigns effectively folded. Santorum is a prime example of this where his primary doner pulled out and that ended his campaign. Was this person willing to fund him because their views aligned extremely well or was Santorum changing his views to align more closely with the doner? We’ll never know to be sure, but it’s likely that there was conversations between parts of the campaigns and the doner.
In the US we will likely continue to have huge doners and this will likely continue unabated until we are able to pass a law or constitutional amendment to make this sort of donation illegal. Many liberals argue that the 1st amendment for free speech wasn’t designed to allow the wealthy to say whatever they want. That it was to give an equal voice to everyone. Sadly, media is run by people that wish to make a lot of money. Until we figure out a better way to disseminate political information that is unfiltered, we will likely continue to have the same unbalanced views portrayed.