May 092007

By Michael Hampton at Homeland Stupidity

Boston became the laughingstock of the country earlier this year after two incidents in which it responded to harmless devices as if they were real terrorist threats. Now Sen. Ed Kennedy (D-Mass.) wants to make absurd overreaction into national policy.

On January 31, Boston terrorized its own citizens, closing down traffic in parts of the city for several hours and sending out bomb squads to remove what turned out to be light boards, part of a marketing campaign by Turner Broadcasting for its Aqua Teen Hunger Force cartoon. That’s bad enough, but to make matters worse, officials continued to publicly call the light boards threats, even after they had been informed as to what they were.

Some people thought it was a fluke. But on February 28, they did it again. This time, they blew up a state-owned traffic counting device.

While Mayor Thomas Menino was able to extort $2 million from Turner Broadcasting to reimburse the city for his officials’ mistakes in the Mooninite incident, he completely failed to get any money out of the Commonwealth for blowing up its traffic counter. He did, however, prove that absurd overreaction to completely harmless, ordinary things is city policy.

And this isn’t even new for Boston; it turns out they have a long history of misinterpreting and overreacting to common, ordinary things. In 2004, officials there charged Joe Previtera with two felonies, “false report of location of explosives” and a “hoax device” for his protest in which he dressed like a tortured prisoner from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Officials complained about the stereo wires tied to his fingers. (The charges were later dropped.)

Sen. Kennedy’s bill, S. 735, the so-called Terrorist Hoax Improvements Act of 2007. The act would, among other things, attach civil liability to anyone whose actions were misinterpreted by authorities as being a hoax and who didn’t immediately notify those authorities about the actual nature of the incident.

This would make it much easier for officials to get large sums of money out of hapless people and companies who weren’t making any hoaxes at all, nor intending to do so. In other words, if the cops go nuts and overreact to something you did, even if it was perfectly reasonable and normal, you could be required to pay for the emergency response, no matter how absurd their actions were.

And the worst part of this bill?

“There’s nothing in the bill allowing individuals or corporations to sue government officials when hare-brained overreactions interfere with their lives and business or destroy their property,” says Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the Cato Institute.

I disagree.

The worst part of this bill is that it discourages anything “out of the ordinary.” Ultimately, this bill and bills like it which will certainly follow will enforce a national policy of uniformity in every aspect of our lives. Wearing the wrong color hat could someday be a crime. Oh, wait, in some places it already is.

We are all unique people. Allowing this stupidity to go forward is just one of many steps towards suppressing that uniqueness and moving us all toward the democratic ideal of mindless automatons who always follow the rules, never question our masters, and never, never express our individuality.

Please write your Senate and House representatives and ask them to vote against Senate Bill 735. Be an American.

  3 Responses to “Civil Penalties if Authorities Merely Misinterpret Your Intentions”

Comments (3)
  1. Excuse me, but where’s the attribution for your wholesale copying of my article?

  2. I owe Michael Hampton an apology. I love the stuff he writes, and while I don’t always agree, he does an excellent job of calling attention to the fact that our Democracy is becoming more facist every day.

    Because of the great job he does, I have posted a couple of his items here so the message can get out, and I have always provided him the appropriate attribution with a link back to his blog.

    As some of you know, I’m on the road again this week with a grueling travel schedule, but wanted to add some stuff. I was rushing to get this on before having to leave the hotel this morning, and I did not get the attribution added. You’ll notice it has now been added, and again, my apologies to Michael. I’m not nearly as good a writer as he is, so it would be no good to steal his stuff, it would be apparent it wasn’t mine.

    I hope you’ll visit his site and sign up for his email list. It’s good stuff (sometimes frightening, but always true.)

  3. Thanks! I know what it’s like to have a tight schedule.

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