28 July 2005

Thursday Suppliment and Round Up

I got linked to this thread in my Google Alerts using Keyword ACLU:

Shoo, ACLU!

Random Bag Searches in New York City Should be the Least of the ACLU's Concerns By Pauline Millard Jul 28, 2005

The news has been all aflutter lately over the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) in New York conducting random searches of bags in the New York City subways, as well as on commuter trains coming in from the New Jersey and Connecticut suburbs. After two sets of attacks in the London tubes and on its busses, it only seems natural that New York City would want to do something, anything, to try and make its denizens a little safer.

One has to wonder what's taken so long. Immediately after September 11th, it seemed as if anything was an open target: a bus, a subway, even a crowded club or bar. To me, it seemed like just a matter of time before I would start to have to open my purse before walking into pretty much any building, much like they do in Israel.

One day shortly after the September 11th attacks I was walking along 86th Street when a plane flew low overhead, causing a rumble across the neighborhood. I think it was one of those F-14s that would regularly patrol Manhattan back then. Nevertheless, literally everyone along the thoroughfare stopped and looked up at the sky, as if another attack was headed our way. People were on edge. It wasn't until the plane was out of earshot that they commenced with their shopping or started pushing their strollers again.

I think of that minute-long interval whenever I see the footage on the news of people opening their bags for policemen in the subway. The soundbites are always the same, "If the searches are making the subways even a little safer, I don't mind waiting a minute to be searched." These comments are obviously coming from people who aren't carrying explosives in their backpacks. (Although I've always wondered about the explosive potential of hairspray, a book of matches and a particularly bumpy bus.)

It surprises me, then, why organizations such as the ACLU would want to look into this new practice as extensively as they seem inclined to do. They've gone so far as calling the random searches unconstitutional and suggesting that they encourage racial profiling. They plan to send monitors to train and subway stations to keep an eye on policeman in order to make sure they're not just pulling over people who look foreign. (Um, this is New York. Everyone looks foreign. Just last week someone asked if I was Greek.)

New York City police commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said in a recent interview in the New York Times that even he wasn't that thrilled with having to implement the searches. He said that he had felt since as early as February, 2004 that New York City may have to go down that road, but it wasn't until the London bombings this past July that he realized it was time to put the plan into action. There were legal issues to think about, especially since last year a court nixed the idea of bag checks at the Republican National Convention. However, after some careful planning, New York devised a way that would ensure a hopefully random and effective way to search bags that won't irritate New Yorkers. They are likening the searches to police checkpoints that deter drunken drivers, which is all based on a numerical sampling.

Look, I'm all for keeping an eye on The Man and not letting things get too Orwellian. I back Free Will as much as the next gal. I'm also familiar with the Fourth Amendment. But out of all the issues that the ACLU could be picking at, and judging from their web site they've got quite a few menu options, random bag checks in New York City seems like it should be the least of their concerns.

I would argue that New York has a pretty good grasp of the situation. Kelly seems like he's perfectly adept at overseeing this, being that he is the former commissioner of the United States Customs Service. Meanwhile, the ACLU is big enough and has the resources for things that seriously need further inspection, such as this behemoth we call the Patriot Act and Judge John Roberts's nomination to the Supreme Court. But a little rummaging through a back pack in an effort to nab a potential bomber? Come on. There are larger fish to fry. source

In other news, CAFTA passed narrowly in the wee hours of the morning. The vote was 217 to 215 and the measure now goes to the President for signature. I am of the opinion that CAFTA isn't good for the nation. Sure, free trade is something that I would normally be on board for, but there needs to be some assurances of protecting American jobs. And this bill does not do that. But regardless of what the working man thinks, the President will be signing the bill and it will become law. Just like NAFTA, it will mean that cash strapped US companies will be free to relocate operations to Costa Rica or some backwater like that where they can hire local labor at a weekly cost of less than a Happy Meal. And passage of this bill just reinforces the fact that the Fair Tax needs to be considered and passed. Thereby creating an incentive for US companies to keep existing operations here at home and return those that have left. The Fair Tax is the only shot the US has at becoming competitive in manufacturing again. It is a fact, that the best made products are made right here in the Good 'Ol USA. But that quality comes at a price. Our workers deserve to make a wage that would afford them the opportunity to buy the very products that they are making. And keeping competitive with the cheap foreign labor force, US companies have frozen wages while increasing prices for their products. And it has become so bad that an auto industry supplier cannot afford to pay it's workers a wage that would permit them to buy the very car that they are producing parts for. I know this from personal experience. As little as 2 years ago, I worked for a company that manufactured parts for GM. My particular job was to operate a paint system. But there is no way that I could have afforded to buy a new Trialblazer, Envoy, Trooper, Grand Am, or any other vehicle that we made parts for. It is time to give our employers an opportunity to keep business here at home. By passing the Fair Tax, all the hidden taxes incorporated in the end user cost of the product would be removed. Those savings will be passed onto the consumer, give the employer an opportunity to develop more products and hire more people to make them. And if the tax structure as it exists now is no longer there, profits go up, growth goes up, stocks go up, savings go up, spending goes up, personal incomes go up, and revenue for the government to waste goes up. Visit the Fair Tax website and check out the faqs. The plan is a win, win, win situation.
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