How to Tell if You Live in a Police State

There is a saying that “good fences make good neighbors,” and I think there is some truth to that. In our case, the “fence” between us and our neighbors while our children were growing up was a patch of woods serving as a no man’s land between our properties.

Unfortunately, the problems with the neighbors, whom to protect their identities I will call the Lolos, didn’t have to do with fences or even patches of woods, but about the road running down the side of their property – the only way in to our small development. You see, even though they had sold the road easement to the developer, it seemed apparent that they never expected the road to be built. Regardless, they still considered the land it ran over as theirs (and, I guess, technically it is).

Now, I have always tried hard to be a good neighbor, and so soon after moving in I invited the clan up to our house and plied them with finger foods topped off with their favorite hooch. While I’m sure that at least a couple of the Lolos warmed to us, it was always obvious that the rather domineering matriarch held her blessings in reserve.

The result might be called an uneasy truce. A truce which came undone after the farmer’s unmarried daughter adopted and brought home a rescued dog from a shelter. Despite the fact that the large dog was clearly insane and a serial biter, in the eyes of the daughter it could do no wrong.

And by serial biter, I mean that I can personally attest to four people, two of them residents on the hill, being bitten by the mad dog. Showing itself to be an equal-opportunity biter, the mad mutt also bit the long-suffering husband of the Lolo matriarch and viciously mauled our own dog, the friendliest beagle mix you’d ever hope to meet.

The long and short of it was that the residents on the hill were essentially limited to cars only in order to travel down the short road running down the side of the farmer’s property. Any other alternative, say walking, jogging or riding a bike, required running a gauntlet with a very good chance you’d be attacked by the never-chained dog. The Lolos were, of course, well aware of the situation, yet, for what I can only imagine were purely vengeful reasons, refused to do anything about it.

Of course, the attacks were reported to the local police, who duly sent over the animal control officer, but the Lolo matriarch always made quick work of them – denying any attacks, pointing out that if there was an attack it took place on their property and threatening to pull strings with the local governing council to have them fired.

The final confrontation, regrettably, involved me and my children, still quite young at the time. The kids wanted to visit friends about a quarter of a mile away, and as it was a nice day I thought we should walk. While I can’t recall my exact mental state at the moment, I suspect I was fed up with the fact that the equivalent of a troll had for years effectively blocked walking access on the road leading to and from our property.

Being indignant but not stupid, I armed myself with an African war club I had traded a chief in Botswana for (he got a cigar and a baseball cap), handed one of the kids a bull whip, and off we set.

Despite walking as quietly as we could, right on cue the berserk troll dog, growling a mad and dangerous growl, came charging out of the driveway of the farmhouse. Shifting into full defense-of-family mode, I wound up and swung my African war club with all the strength I could muster, fully desirous of sending the hound to the burning hell it deserved. Unfortunately, instead of being rewarded with a satisfying thud, or even better, the sight of the dog’s head bouncing down the road, I whiffed it completely.

Even so, the club passed close enough to its snarling snout to cause it to pause in order to better reflect on its options. At which point the long-suffering husband of the matriarch rushed out and managed to get hold of the dog’s collar without getting bitten himself (yet again).

Extremely unhappy at the attack, on principle and specifically because it had put the kids at serious risk, I did something I am loathe to do and have only done once before in my life (when my car was stolen) and called the police.

Well, it turned out that my complaint, coming on top of all preceding it, fulfilled the allowable per-dog maximum for attacks on humans. Based on local regulations, the order went out for the dog to be put down.

Fighting the order, the matriarch forced the issue to court, where I was to appear as the star witness against the hellish hound. While I don’t want to drown you in the details, I will report that I opened my statement by flawlessly delivering a paraphrased line lifted from Paladin ofHave Gun – Will Travel fame.

“While I greatly regret having to appear in court against my neighbors,” I said with a dramatic nod in direction of the Lolos, “I have no moral or ethical compunction about having to do so.”

During my testimony, the daughter who spared no affection in her unremitting love for her maniacal mutt, grunted, sighed and laughed loudly. And while doing so, literally waved her hands in the air as if appealing to god her own self to smote me where I sat. In fact, she raised such a racket that the judge finally signaled me to pause in mid-sentence, leaned forward and asked, “What the hell are you doing?”

“I am laughing so I won’t cry,” she replied, raising her hands once again to the gods.

When it was her turn to testify, she stated that I made the whole story up. When pressed for a motive, she stated that I done so as part of a nefarious plot ginned up by myself and the neighbors up the hill to take revenge on the Lolos because we were mad they owned the road up to the development and so decided to take it out on her misunderstood mutt. (If the logic expressed in that last sentence seems convoluted, it’s only because it was.)

It was my turn to laugh, but I did so in a quieter and more dignified fashion (I like to think).

Unfortunately, due to a tight court schedule, the judge had to postpone the rest of the hearing to another day. And that gave the single-minded matriarch the time she needed to cajole members of the local council into giving her daughter’s dog a free pass. Leaving the dog free to bite another day. In fact, a few days after the hearing, an acquaintance of mine was bitten while biking by the farm. According to him, the daughter rushed out and asked him please not to report it. Unaware of the situation, he kept mum.

And so, pretty much for the entire childhood years of our kids, they and all of the residents on the hill remained unable to freely walk down the road.

By now, if you’re not asking what the point of these meanderings is, there’s something seriously wrong with you.

Well, here it is.

First and foremost, it is always worth remembering that humans can adopt very warped attitudes, even to the point of falling in love with mad dogs… and mad rulers.

But more to the actual point of mad dogs and all that, the mindset of all the various branches of what is currently lumped under the moniker “Homeland Security” – from the top right down to the domestic police force – has devolved to the point where a growing swath of the general population is now actively afraid of them.

In essence, we the people have stood passively by while our government has done the equivalent of falling in love with a REALLY BIG mad dog and set it by the side of every road leading from every house in America.

Previously, it was only black people who had been trained by bitter experience to fear “the man.” Now the rest of us are beginning to understand what they have been complaining about all these years.

(It strikes me that I am uncertain as to whether there is another more politically correct mot du jour than “blacks.” Having moved my primary residence to a country where political correctness has yet to take hold and never really having paid attention to the linguistics of racial typing any way, I fear I’m out of the loop.

But wait, I’ll look it up! Clicking over to Google and typing, “What is the acceptable term for black people?”…

The crowd-sourced Yahoo Answers sheds light by asking readers to answer the following question from a user:

What is the acceptable term for black people?

I’m just a little confused, because the NAACP is National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, yet it’s not politically correct to say colored. Now black is “bad”… but I don’t know why, “white” is still used for Caucasian people. Why does this term change so much?

Surprisingly (because it actually involves some logic), the “Best Answer” according to those who cast a vote on Yahoo Answers was the following from a user named “Evolving Squid”…

How about “people”, and “man” or “woman” when referring to individuals?Calling people with dark skin “African” or “African American” is really stupid for a number of demonstrable reasons:1. Not all people with dark skin come from Africa. Many people from south Asia and the Caribbean have dark skin.2. Not all people who come from Africa have dark skin. Across north Africa and minorities in the southern bits of Africa tend to be white.3. Almost no dark skinned Americans come from Africa, nor have had any relatives that have been within 500 miles of the African coast, let alone being from Africa, within the last 100 years. Calling someone with dark skin “African American” makes as much sense as calling a blonde-haired person “Viking American” because he had a Norwegian relative hundreds of years ago.4. A good many Americans who came from Africa (hence real “African Americans”) are light skinned, having been chased out of South Africa, Zimbabwe/Rhodesia, Tanzania, etc. by the dark-skinned majority.

I continued to poke around the font of all knowledge, the web, but it seems that no one is actually sure what the correct term is anymore. Paula Deen, however, could tell you one term that is very much not correct. Oh well. Having dawdled long enough, I will now yank hard on the wheel and return to the thread…)

The stats show that an increasing trend of police abuse (here’s a link to one interesting infographic that, using the comments from the police themselves, should give you a sense of the scale of what’s going on). And it’s not just the beat cops people worry about: a number of polls show that a majority of Americans now see the federal government as a direct threat to their personal rights and freedoms. All that has come to pass since the passage of the Patriot Act through Snowden’s recent revelations reveal that threat as real.

Speaking personally, unlike the idyllic country town in Argentina we now live for most of the year (a town where the police tend to follow more of the Barney Fife archetype), when I see a policeman here in the US I reflectively ratchet my threat assessment level to “code orange” – be on guard against a possible assault.

It may just be that I am becoming a paranoid, but if so it is because not a day passes without receiving emails from correspondents with stories about out-of-control members of the Homeland Security apparatchik.

Proving the point, a quick dip into my email box for just the past few days:

  • Police kill dog. The story, which has gone viral as I have received it from a number of correspondents, has to do with a black man who was being rousted for no good reason when his dog, which he had put into his car but jumped out, was gunned down by the harassing officers. In fairness, I can accept that the police felt threatened by the large Rottweiler, but the fact remains they were in the process of roughing up its owner over filming them roughing someone else up. In other words, rather than having a quiet chat with the dog’s owner, who was so cooperative that even before the police reached him he had docilely assumed the recommended position – hands behind his back in order to facilitate being handcuffed – they felt compelled to start pushing him around, thereby creating the situation in the first place. If you want to watch the video, it’s available all over the Internet. It’s disturbing.
  • Police terrorize Belgium diplomat and his wife over breastfeeding. It happened at a New York golf club when the wife began discreetly breastfeeding their baby and replied in the negative to a manager who asked her to do it in the bathroom. After which, according to the NY Post…Minutes later, the Greenburgh Police Department arrived.Detective Scott Harding allegedly yelled, “Close the doors!” and two other diners were told to leave the terrace.”He was walking as if he was acting in a Western movie,” Neijens said. “He had one hand on his gun, one hand on his Taser.”Here’s the story.
  • US Army blocks access to Guardian website to preserve “network hygiene.” After all, can’t have our fighters for freedom learning the truth about the kind of freedom they are actually fighting for. Story here.
  • US post offices taking pictures of all our mail for database. According to an article just published in Reason… “The Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program, in which Postal Service computers photograph the exterior of every piece of paper mail that is processed in the United States – about 160 billion pieces last year. It is not known how long the government saves the images….” Full story here.
  • US mother loses baby over poppy seed bagel. Giving birth in a US hospital apparently now requires submitting to a blood test for illegal drugs. In the case of Elizabeth Mort, the test came up with a false positive – the result of having eaten a poppy seed bagel prior to heading to the hospital. And so, with zero due process, the authorities snatched her three-day-old daughter and held her captive for five days. Story here.
  • College student arrested after buying a carton of bottled water. And I quote, “Undercover Virginia police pulled a gun and tried to break through the car windows of a 20-year-old college student, suspecting that the underage girl’s sparkling water was a 12-pack of beer. She was later jailed.”When agents from Virginia’s Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) division saw college student Elizabeth Daly leaving a supermarket with cookie dough, ice cream, and a 12-pack, they assumed that she had purchased beer as an underage student and took extreme actions to stop her.”The seven plainclothed agents approached the vehicle in which the girl and her roommates were sitting, and one officer allegedly jumped on the hood of the car. Daly claims another officer pulled out his gun, which scared the students and prompted them to drive away.”

Just in this small sampling, we have police harassing a peaceful individual – then shooting his dog – for recording them on his phone camera… a police squad led by a detective is sent out to roust someone for breastfeeding… the US government applying cyberwarfare techniques against a media outlet… a baby taken from its mother for a false positive drug test… and seven undercover officers, with guns, aggressively “investigating” underage drinking.

In the case of the latter, I would have loved to hear the radio chatter, though I suspect it went something like this…

“Alpha team, we have a probable coming out of the door of the Jiffy Mart. It looks like she’s got a package!”

“Roger that, Bravo team, we have eyes on target.”

“Roger that, Alpha team. Can you see the package? Say again, can you see the package?”

“Bravo team, hold one. Officer Lipshitz is moving into position to identify the package.”

“Lipshitz, Bravo team leader here, Alpha team is asking if you can see the package.”

“Bravo team leader, Lipshitz here, hold one. Wait, it’s blue. Some beer cans are blue. It must be beer!”

“Alpha team, we have a confirm from Lipshitz – it’s beer!”

“All units, all units, we have beer! Move in, I say again: we have beer, move in!”

Is it just me, or does anyone else surveying the purported inability of the US government to reduce its massive budget by any real amount concur that paying seven officers to man a stakeout designed to arrest college students for drinking beer is money poorly spent? That they then mistakenly identified water as beer only adds inanity to the insults and injury.

But seriously, somebody could have been killed during this incident, and someone – a 20-year-old college student who had done nothing wrong – did end up in jail for the night.

You how you can tell you live in a police state? How about when people have to start worrying that they might end up dead or in jail as a result of breastfeeding in public, or buying water at a convenience store?

As one regular correspondent put it in an email to Doug Casey with a copy to me…


You have often made the paradoxical observation that it will be worse than you think it will be. While the context was economics and the financial hardships that would manifest, I think it is safe to say that culturally your quip has already played out. It is certainly happening way faster than I thought.

And, like any police state, the authorities will find any number of willing accomplices within the populace. In the case of the brazen Belgian breastfeeder, shown here, apparently the manager was concerned that the black backpack containing the baby’s necessities might also contain a bomb.

Reading even the local paper in this very small town, it is notable how many of the reports in the police blotter these days are the result of the police being called out by “concerned” citizens as a result of paranoia or a bad case of busy-bodyness. A sampling…

June 18, at 3:31 p.m., complaint about people partying on a vacant lot on Jones Hill Road. No one was found.

June 19, at 10:16 p.m., a suspicious vehicle was seen at Maggie’s Bridge. It had mysteriously disappeared by the time police arrived.

June 21, at 7:42 p.m., report of two employees at a local bar having a verbal argument; no arrests were made.

June 23, at 9:33 a.m., a caller reported a Quebec RV parked next to the construction site for Stowe’s new ice arena. The caller was worried the campers were about to “dump their tanks” on the site. Police spoke to the owners of the RV, who said they were headed home and hadn’t planned on dumping their tanks.

June 24, at 12:18 a.m., report of an underage drinking party at Maggie’s Bridge. Police found two people, who were not underage and were not drinking.

June 26, at 2:36 p.m., a man was “making people uncomfortable” at the Union Bank on Smith Street.

June 28, at 8:08 p.m., a woman on Homes Lane complained about a neighbor’s child “being loud.” Police spoke with the child’s parents.

June 29, at 12:38 p.m., police were told a stop sign went missing at the intersection of South Hollow and Lane Hollow roads. It was there when police arrived.

Going back to the mad-dog-waiting-on-the-side-of-the-road analogy, it seems to me that the risk of misadventure at the hands of the overzealous state is escalating to a perilous point.

I’m not talking about just being beaten up or gunned down, but also about being made a social outcast or financially ruined for tripping over some law that shouldn’t have been enacted in the first place. Even wishing to peacefully trade goods and services using private currencies – such as the Liberty dollar, whose founder Bernard von NotHaus was labeled a “financial terrorist” – can get your door kicked in.

In terms of a specific roadside threat, the classic example is provided by the alcohol blood level which, if exceeded even a little, tips you into the category of hardened criminal. In most states, the allowable alcohol blood level is .08, well below what the original scientific studies on how much is too much to drive recommended. Nevertheless, if you are in an accident and you have had even a single drink, it will invariably weigh against you – and in a big way.

Even the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving has turned against the organization, accusing it of adopting a “neo-prohibitionist” attitude when the original mandate was to address the specific problem of drunk driving. And so it is that even a single drink at your favorite restaurant means passing the equivalent of a mad dog on your way home. You can only hope it doesn’t bite you.

(A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: During the period around the Fourth of July holiday, celebrating American freedom and all that, the police are particularly active with road blocks.

As the breathalyzers used at these unconstitutional road blocks are notoriously inaccurate, if you are stopped and asked to blow, it is within your rights to ask that the analysis be performed with a blood test. The police don’t like the inconvenience of having to transport you to the local hospital for the blood to be drawn, but don’t be afraid to ask. Just do it politely or they could shoot your dog.)

This same mad dog lurks by the side of every road, watching in every airport, data center and pretty much everywhere else you turn in the US these days. That it is supposedly owned by we the people makes the situation the height of irony. Even walking quietly is no guarantee you won’t be attacked.

While I wish it were otherwise, the authoritarian trend that has escalated so surprisingly since 9/11 will, I am sure, run its full course. Which is to say that the trend is likely to slow and maybe turn down again only after something akin to Kent State happens that finallyawakens a level of righteous indignation sufficient to send the public en masse into the streets.

When might the tipping point be reached? Looking at the litany of abuses of power – to which you can add widespread domestic spying and the prosecution of whistleblowers – and the lack of public reaction, I think we are a long way off.

Speaking of whistleblowers, I have a whistle to blow. A business associate of mine who has a sister in the New York police force showed me a card that is issued by the police union to the immediate families and even just friends of police officers in that state. If pulled over by the police for pretty much any reason, simply show the card and the police officer will send you on your way. In other words, it’s a “get out of jail free” card.

Oh wait, I just did a quick search and the whistle was already blown on these cards earlier this year. Yet it appears to have had no consequence, as the cards are still being issued. You want to know how else you can tell you are living in a police state? How about when regular folks get harassed and the relatives and friends of the police get a free pass?