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Better Smile When You Cross That Border.
December 11, 2009 2:14 PM   Subscribe

Peter Watts Arrested and Beaten at the US Border. Author of the Rifters Trilogy, and that neat little vampire Powerpoint, he's been busted for "assaulting a border guard", and is looking at prison time. You can find more details here. His account of the matter is on his blog, here.

Watts, previously on MeFi here , here, and here . And in various comments...
posted by darth_tedious (208 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well goddamn. Our borders must be completely safe from writers if not terrorists and criminals. I wonder if this could have a chilling effect on our Land of the Free brand identity?
posted by blixco at 2:20 PM on December 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I would have called Watts the author of Blindsight which was nominated for the Best Novel Hugo. Let us hope there is video evidence of exactly what happened. Surely there are all sorts of surveillance cameras at the border crossing?

My inner asshole keeps whispering "why couldn't it have been Robert Sawyer instead" but I would never say that out loud. D'oh!
posted by Justinian at 2:26 PM on December 11, 2009 [7 favorites]


For I know he went off his rocker and started smackin' em. OTOH, from that I can see, trying not to get beat up counts as 'assaulting a police officer', so it will be interesting if any facts ever come out.
posted by Bovine Love at 2:27 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's too bad the video tape of the incident will soon be found to have been misplaced or the cops would have been completely vindicated. I guess they'll just have to settle for a conviction based solely on the testimony of the border guards.
posted by stavrogin at 2:27 PM on December 11, 2009 [7 favorites]


This is awful.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:29 PM on December 11, 2009


More importantly, why is Obama specifically targeting Peter Watts, and/or when will he personally intervene in this?

just thought we'd get that out of the way up front
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:30 PM on December 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


He looks old enough to know not to get mouthy with border officials. I learned that in my late teens. I seriously doubt that they just started beating him and broke out the pepper spray for shits and giggles.
posted by Albryhno at 2:30 PM on December 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


And this is why I avoid the USA. Man there is no way I could go face a 2 year sentence there for one bad day. IMO it's criminal that we allow any citizens to go to jail in the States, just based on the conditions in most prisons.

Better off living in a shack in the woods for the rest of your life. Talk about crazy.
posted by mek at 2:30 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


That sounds fucking awful. Here's hoping he recovers well, never has this trouble again, and that those responsible are in some way held to account (ha ha, yeah right).

Something I heard the other day (well, here actually): Currently none of Watt's books, including the Hugo nominated Blindsight, are in print in the US. What the heck is that about?
posted by Artw at 2:30 PM on December 11, 2009


He clearly assaulted the officers ego by not cowering in deference and not doing exactly what he was told like a good little subject of a police state.
posted by delmoi at 2:31 PM on December 11, 2009 [20 favorites]


(And definitely check out the vampire powerpointm, even if you are sick of vampires, that thing is sweet. TBH I think I enjoyed it more than Blindsight. )
posted by Artw at 2:33 PM on December 11, 2009


Ladies and Gentleman, Mr. Lee Greenwood.

Seriously though, the CBP employs some of the biggest assholes in all of the DHS. Some are just there to throw their weight around. And while they were hassling this dude in the southbound lane several kilos of meth and e came across the border. And the guys working the northern borders are supposed to be nicer than the rednecks working along the Rio Grande.
posted by birdherder at 2:33 PM on December 11, 2009


He looks old enough to know not to get mouthy with border officials. I learned that in my late teens. I seriously doubt that they just started beating him and broke out the pepper spray for shits and giggles.

Are you seriously putting forward the argument that getting mouthy with cops or border officials is asking for a beatdown? Really? What's next? "Bitch shouldn't have been wearing that skirt if she didn't want to get raped"?
posted by Justinian at 2:34 PM on December 11, 2009 [55 favorites]


Being mouthy with border officials, of course, being a perfectly good reason to get assaulted by them.
posted by DU at 2:34 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


He's apparently out of print in Canada, too. Of course, you can still download anything from his entire back catalogue at his site for free, but leaving a donation might be an extra nice thing to do right now.

There's some fervent discussion going on at these blogs, too.

Scalzi's Whatever
Boing Boing
Making Light

First mention in Canadian media: a National Post blog, with an absolutely predictable first comment.

And, of course, Twitter.
posted by maudlin at 2:35 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm worried about the affect his making public statements via his blog might have on his upcoming case. I really hope he's clearing all of this with a lawyer.
posted by ODiV at 2:38 PM on December 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


Sorry to say I've never heard of him. Starfish sounds like a lot of fun!
posted by brundlefly at 2:39 PM on December 11, 2009


I kinda wish we knew what happened before we go all attack:defend grrr grr grr, police State etc. It is possible the boarder guards overreacted, it is also possible they responded appropriately.

and isn't there some Godwin equivalent to pulling out the "Bitch shouldn't have been wearing that skirt if she didn't want to get raped" rhetoric?

but, no matter what, I hope the fellow is ok.
posted by edgeways at 2:41 PM on December 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Justinian: Are you seriously putting forward the argument that getting mouthy with cops or border officials is asking for a beatdown? Really? What's next? "Bitch shouldn't have been wearing that skirt if she didn't want to get raped"?

Can't speak for whether or not Albryhno was serious there, but it should be said that this attitude is not all that uncommon here in the U.S. once you scratch the surface of things. I suspect this is a large part of the reason that the jingoistic bullshit so often becomes obnoxiously shrill here. There's a lot of denial going on.
posted by metagnathous at 2:42 PM on December 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


it is also possible they responded appropriately.

Appropriately to what?
posted by Artw at 2:43 PM on December 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


He looks old enough to know not to get mouthy with border officials. I learned that in my late teens. I seriously doubt that they just started beating him and broke out the pepper spray for shits and giggles.
posted by Albryhno at 2:30 PM on December 11


It's good to know that the penalty for alleged mouthiness is pepper-spray, a severe beating, and two years of gang rape in a federal prison. It's also good to know that there will always be callow authoritarians who get off on the misery of others.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:45 PM on December 11, 2009 [33 favorites]


Appropriately to what?

Getting all mouthy and Canadian and such.
posted by Justinian at 2:45 PM on December 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Huh - my boyfriend had something very similar happen to him in Poland. Obviously, asking police for their names and being punched in the gut=assaulting a police officer. But you know - I thought- "heh, guess that's Poland for ya."

CPB are pretty touchy, but this is ridiculous. I did have an aunt that had her car torn to shreds by the CBP over a bottle of unlabeled aspirin - good thing she didn't talk back.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:47 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


ODiV, I'd imagine his lawyer's first strategy is to maximize publicity in an effort to get the charges dropped. If this hits Canadian papers tomorrow, the potential blow to holiday tourism might just do the trick.
posted by mek at 2:47 PM on December 11, 2009


I've read both Starfish and his collection of short stories, Ten Monkeys Ten Minutes. Both thoroughly enjoyable reads and it's really disappointing to hear about this.

Do border crossings have surveillance tapes? I'm trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, but my outrage will be saved for when they: A) Say "Sorry!", give him his computer back, explain that the border guards were following some xenophobic terrorist-fighting ritual the U.S. has mandated or B) Magically misplace the evidence
posted by battlebison at 2:47 PM on December 11, 2009


Look, didn't we just have the TSA ATE MY BABY!!! thread a couple weeks ago? Granted, the TSA is a pretty different organization than the Border Guards, and I am as distrustful of the cops as the next person, but that doesn't mean I automatically accept that a person in the middle of a stressful situation is capable of giving an accurate summary of events. The fact that this person is a respected novelists isn't any different than if he was a respected blogger.
posted by muddgirl at 2:50 PM on December 11, 2009 [10 favorites]


Thank god this got posted here. I was trying to follow the comments for updates on BoingBoing and for some bizarre reason every fifth comment or something is missing all its vowels. Stupidest website in the world.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 2:50 PM on December 11, 2009 [14 favorites]


This is an outrage and I'm so sick of this security state apparatus b.s. Especially in my home state.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 2:50 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm far too angry to post coherently. I'm going to read Blindsight again and grind my teeth into a powder with impotent nerdrage instead.
posted by Skorgu at 2:51 PM on December 11, 2009


isn't there some Godwin equivalent to pulling out the "Bitch shouldn't have been wearing that skirt if she didn't want to get raped" rhetoric?

...two years of gang rape in a federal prison.

Not to mention prison rape in any thread related to jail.
posted by battlebison at 2:51 PM on December 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


Do border crossings have surveillance tapes?

It would be shocking if major crossings did not. However, it isn't clear where exactly his car was when the search was being performed. It isn't unusual for car searches to take place off to the side in a location not covered by videotape. Why border cops would deliberately search your car in a location they know is not being taped is left as an exercise for the reader.
posted by Justinian at 2:52 PM on December 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


The sound of a million police apologists fapping.
posted by maxwelton at 2:54 PM on December 11, 2009 [13 favorites]


Appropriately to what?

We don't know what happened. It's at least possible, if obviously quite unlikely, that he was actually behaving in a threatening way or seemed unhinged and potentially dangerous. "Getting out of your car and questioning the border agent" also encompasses bursting out of your car, clearly agitated, and shrieking at a border agent while waving your arms wildly. Which is, again, very unlikely to have been the case.

I will say that in American-me and Canadian-biscotti's experience, Canadian border agents are about a zillion percent more likely to be assholes, especially to her.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:56 PM on December 11, 2009


Not to mention prison rape in any thread related to jail.
posted by battlebison at 2:51 PM on December 11


That's because anywhere from 5-10% of males in prison are raped or sexually assaulted every year. Non-violent prisoners are much more likely to be raped or assaulted than violent prisoners. In some prisons, rape or the threat of rape is used as a punishment or as a means of coercion.

Prison rape is a symptom of a broken system, and its effects reach far beyond the the prison's walls. And ignoring prison rape when we talk about incarceration is goddamned naive and foolish.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:59 PM on December 11, 2009 [29 favorites]


I'll reserve my outrage for when I hear the details from some source that isn't totally a fan of Peter Watts. It's not that I doubt that it could be just as bad as presented in the OP, but seriously, have we not learned a metazillion times right here on the blue that outragefilter posts about the cops are rarely as simple as they seem when first posted?
posted by fatbird at 3:01 PM on December 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


Are you seriously putting forward the argument that getting mouthy with cops or border officials is asking for a beatdown? Really? What's next? "Bitch shouldn't have been wearing that skirt if she didn't want to get raped"?

Is/ought.

You're an idiot if you do what Peter Watts did.

If you want to fight back, do it from a position in which you aren't completely at the mercy of these thugs.
posted by MillMan at 3:01 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


The "we don't necessarily have the full story" apologetic I can understand, sort of, and theoretically we have been burned by TSA-ate-my-baby story (though, lets face it, everyone pretty much pegged her as weird from the get-go) . I really have no idea why anyone would leap to the assumption that Watts is making things up, but yeah, maybe theres some outside reason that the cops freaked out and made a mistake.

What I don't get is the apologists insisting this might be "appropriate". No it fucking isn;t. Not unless he was a criminal about to commit a violent crime who had to be forcibly detained. And if for some reason they mistook him for one that's not "appropriate", it's inappropriate behavior they have some excuse for.

And, let's be frank, I'd be highly surprised if the exclusive is a good one.

Also though internet blather is largely pointless if you condone this shit you are still, in some tiny way, a part of the problem.
posted by Artw at 3:03 PM on December 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


That's because anywhere from 5-10% of males in American prison

Fixed that for you.
posted by mek at 3:04 PM on December 11, 2009


When Peter got out of the car and questioned the nature of the search, the gang of border guards subjected him to a beating, restrained him and pepper sprayed him.

Yea, if he got out of the car unrequested, cops get jumpy. My father had a gun pulled on him once by doing that. The cop who did the bullshit tasering on video in Utah was completely absolved.

Not saying I like how far the cops can go, "reasonably" according to their own reviews. Just saying that putting cops into a state where they don't feel in control is apparently asking for a taserin'.
posted by FuManchu at 3:05 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


maxwelton - The sound of a million police apologists fapping.

I am no friend of the police, but on the other hand I don't automatically start fellating a bloger because he recounts a terrible experience with them. It's not apologism, it's common sense.
posted by muddgirl at 3:05 PM on December 11, 2009 [7 favorites]


Not that I agree with the border cops behavior but:

there must be a parallel universe in which….I did not get out of the car to ask what was going on. I did not repeat that question when refused an answer and told to get back into the vehicle.

When they tell you to get in the car, get in the car. Being right is nice, not being in jail for 2 years is nicer. I hate the idea that this stuff happens but unless you're ready to lead the revolution, it's best to avoid the confrontation. Not emotionally satisfying, not helping the cause, but keeping your ass out of jail.
posted by doctor_negative at 3:12 PM on December 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


I like most other rational people would wait to see some evidence before getting all jumpy about it.

But I found it hard to believe that some white guy asking what's going on would cause this reaction. No one wants to lose their job over something stupid. So either Watts did something unintentional and was considered a threat, like putting a hand behind his back, or the border guards were being goons.

Honesty like most things it's probably a bit of both.
posted by Allan Gordon at 3:12 PM on December 11, 2009


No one wants to lose their job over something stupid.

We all know the drill. No one is going to lose their jobs.
posted by Artw at 3:14 PM on December 11, 2009 [14 favorites]


This makes me want to drive down to Niagara Falls and yell at these pigs through a bullhorn. Totally sickening.
posted by stinkycheese at 3:17 PM on December 11, 2009


The sound of a million police apologists fapping.

Way to poison the well for anyone who's not already rummaging in the shed for torches so we can go burn down the Port Huron border crossing station.
posted by fatbird at 3:18 PM on December 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


But I found it hard to believe that some white guy asking what's going on would cause this reaction
Why? This is what American cops do: escalate, escalate, escalate. It's the only way they think they can control a situation.
posted by hattifattener at 3:19 PM on December 11, 2009 [10 favorites]


And while they were hassling this dude in the southbound lane several kilos of meth and e came across the border.

Southbound.... did we ever figure out which border crossing this occurred at? It says Michigan; if it happened at Detroit, southbound is Canada-bound.

Just sayin'.



As for what happened.... I've lived most of my life within 20 miles of the US-Canada border and crossed dozens upon dozens of times with no problems. Of course, I was told as a kid to answer questions clearly and directly and not give additional information. I guess now I know why that advice is given. He shoulda kept his mouth shut and stayed in the car.
posted by Doohickie at 3:20 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of the Sergeant Crowley/Henry Gates incident.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 3:20 PM on December 11, 2009


I strongly suspect that the prosecutor will decline to bring charges. That's often how these things work. As cops say, you can beat the rap but you can't beat the ride.
posted by Justinian at 3:20 PM on December 11, 2009


A real American never accepts back-talk from a Canuck. The maple-syrup stench coming off your average Canadian's breath is enough to get red American blood boiling.

Kudos, border guards! Continue to defend my way of life however you see fit.

Eh?
posted by elder18 at 3:21 PM on December 11, 2009


Why? This is what American cops do: escalate, escalate, escalate. It's the only way they think they can control a situation.

there does seem to be some kind of ingraned assholism in the American cops attitude. Certainly the notion that they're some kind of public servant is completely alien to them.
posted by Artw at 3:22 PM on December 11, 2009


(Not that there isn't a tendency for cops around the world to lord it over people sometimes, but that seems to be the American cops first response in any and all situations)
posted by Artw at 3:24 PM on December 11, 2009


Video cameras and flash memory are so cheap that we (and the police) should all be demanding that all active duty police wear a camera that records their entire shift in high resolution video on a loop. This should be uploaded to public servers every day, and be permanently entered into the public domain.

Only the corrupt members of law enforcement could argue against this. They have no reasonable expectation of privacy on the job, and if they have nothing to hide then they should be demanding that their good deeds be seen by all.
posted by mullingitover at 3:25 PM on December 11, 2009 [15 favorites]


"I'm worried about the affect his making public statements via his blog might have on his upcoming case. I really hope he's clearing all of this with a lawyer."

See, this is what's so insidious about the modern world. You get molested by government thugs, stolen from, humiliated, and left in the freezing cold half naked and you are then supposed to keep it to yourself, lest it hurt your chances in a court run by the SAME GOVERNMENT.

FEARFEARFEARFEAR

And if you don't feel the fear at first you are supposed to second guess yourself (or pay a lawyer to second guess you), until you DO.

What he's doing is the right thing, documenting his side of the story in plain view of everyone, and reaching out for some help in what must seem like a very cruel world. Even if it hurts him in court. ESPECIALLY if it does.

If this were me, and it actually went down the way he says, I would go stand at that border crossing every day, with a sign that says "RAPE VICTIM".
posted by chronkite at 3:26 PM on December 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Well, why isn't Obama getting involved in cases like this? Even if he is not legally in a position to do anything, the statement of a strong leader can resonate through society more strongly than anyone else.

I also think there's nothing more excellent than an impassioned writer. I look forward to Watt's next works!
posted by niccolo at 3:28 PM on December 11, 2009


We have no idea what happened. No confirmed facts, just one elliptical account.

But the fact is, that agents working at the borders are in a special legal category - almost untouchable. Take the immigration officials. These guys can deny a foreign visitor entry, completely 100% on a whim, and there is absolutely no recourse. I'm talking about visitors whose papers are 100% in order, with all the necessary visas etc. I had a friend visit me from Sweden. An attractive 23-year old, and the guy at the immigration guy at the LAX airport (INS at the time) started hitting on her. She was tired and just wanted to get through it, so I guess she was curt or insufficiently deferential and the guy as told her straight out that it is totally within his power to detain her right then and there and then put her on the next flight home. And he was right. Anyhow, she made it through, and of course, we complained, but were told not to bother. And yes, there are many stories of such lawless behavior by these thugs, and there is absolutely nothing you can do. At least if you are a citizen you have some slim recourse, but as a foreigner, you're SOL. The dude is Canadian - he's toast.

Again, I have no idea what happened, maybe he was mouthy, but man, we have some serious problems with our border agents and I don't see any movement to look into these problems... there is no voting constituency for it. Expect more of the same, forever.
posted by VikingSword at 3:31 PM on December 11, 2009 [10 favorites]


Related
posted by Doohickie at 3:31 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


why isn't Obama getting involved in cases like this?

Because some journalisdt isn't going to ask him about it becuase theres no race angle to hang the story on?

posted by Artw at 3:33 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


(the part starting at 1:40 would be most relevant)
posted by Doohickie at 3:33 PM on December 11, 2009


I've traveled across the US-Canadian border numerous times, and yes, there's a world of difference between the Canadian end and the US end. The one incident that sticks out most in my mind was when our bus made a stop at the US side of the border, we all got in line for customs, and this middle-aged Haitian guy started getting the third degree from one of the guards. It was nothing special at first - just general rough handling of the guy's belongings, barking out his sentences as if the guard was the one put out - all the while the Haitian guy totally patient and smiling politely. Then the guard uttered something I could not understand at all. It sounded like another language, but the accent was distinctly American. The Haitian said, "Um, I'm sorry, I'm not so good with English". The guard exploded, "I was speaking French to you, sir!" All eyes on the guard. Now blushing crimson with embarrassment, he said to the Haitian, "Step over here, sir, now" and led the guy into the custom's office. Our bus ended up leaving without him.

I've been through customs between many countries, but if I can avoid going into Canada from the US, I do it.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:37 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh hey, that's my border crossing. Been through it hundreds of times. Totally a horrible situation but to be fair to the US border guys they wave hundreds of thousands of people through there daily without so much as looking at them. They have questioned my mother's "accent" however which was totally funny coming from a lady who sounded like she became a border guard after getting laid off from the Grand Ole Oprey. And a childhood frond from the UK once had the border guards chase them to Maervyns or somewhere similar years ago when the border guards realized there had been a mistake and that my friend's family were not Canadians. Ah, the good old days. But mostly I get a whole lot of nothing at that crossing. You tell 'em that you're going to Kroger to buy a spiral-sliced ham 'cause they don't sell 'em in Canada and bob's your uncle.
posted by GuyZero at 3:38 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Are you seriously putting forward the argument that getting mouthy with cops or border officials is asking for a beatdown? Really?

Ok, here's how it probably went down. Car is stopped for routine check with a Canadian Sci Fi writer inside. Officials (Assholes they may be, whatever, who cares) stop the rental car and ask him to step out because rental cars are often used for evil deeds, perhaps rented with a fake license and credit card. Writer is feeling a little self righteous for having just driven all that way to help a friend move and as an intellectual type, has a healthy disdain for authority. Can't blame him, but it serves everyone's best interest to know when to un-puff your chest and just get on with things.
So, he reluctantly steps out of the car into the cold-ass weather and is even more annoyed, so he maybe tries to go back in the car to get his coat and they won't let him, possibly leading to the first physical encounter (ie, officer takes him by the arm and pulls him away from the car). Of course these details are unimportant and pure conjecture, but I'll bet they touched him first in a slightly aggressive manner in response to his refusal to recognize their authority.
From this point things escalate and I'm sure our sci fi hero gave a shove or two. Granted, it probably wasn't assault, but it's a fucking cop, everyone knows you don't shove a cop. PLEASE!!
In order to keep an orderly and safe society there are moments when we all have to submit to authority (yes even as adults, and even if it's a wee bit unjust), swallow our pride, stop being big fat emotional self righteous babies and simply move on. As a 33 yr old, I know it's not worth it to pick a fight with a cop, it's stupid and one of the least productive activities known to man.
In conclusion, I seriously doubt he'll get a single day of jail time, unless he really assaulted an officer. And I just bet that in the back of his mind he just wishes he would've simply said "yes officer" instead of "do you know who I am?? people BLOG about me!!
posted by Albryhno at 3:39 PM on December 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


Canada's not exactly a safe port to enter, either
posted by FuManchu at 3:40 PM on December 11, 2009


The Light Fantastic: "CPB are pretty touchy, but this is ridiculous."

Uh, my understanding is that the beatdown was adminstered by US goons, not the Canuckistanians.
posted by mwhybark at 3:40 PM on December 11, 2009


Would Canada extradite or penalize him for simply ignoring his summons? Obviously, that would mean never entering the U.S. again, and probably avoiding flying lest the plane need to land in a U.S. airport.

Blindsight was in incredible book. I'll be dropping some money in his paypal account tonight.
posted by Zed at 3:44 PM on December 11, 2009


Albryhno - This "shoving", where does it come from?
posted by Artw at 3:46 PM on December 11, 2009


VikingSword, you just made me rethink my tombstone.
posted by chronkite at 3:46 PM on December 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


Would Canada extradite or penalize him for simply ignoring his summons?

I seriously doubt it. There are plenty of Canadians who can't enter the US because they got into some issue at the border but none of them get extradited. This is why it's very, very good reason not to give casual acquaintances a lift over the border because you don't want to discover that you've become an accessory to trying to get a criminal over the border or something.
posted by GuyZero at 3:46 PM on December 11, 2009


chronkite - you made me laugh out loud! Doesn't happen too often, when I'm just surfing the net. That was funny, and very quick!
posted by VikingSword at 3:51 PM on December 11, 2009


Certainly the notion that they're some kind of public servant is completely alien to them.
See Warren v. District of Columbia for why police aren't legally responsible for protecting citizens.

Personally, I'd rather have some legal documents or some actual evidence before drawing any conclusions. Don't let that stop you guys from crying police state, and ignoring all reason in irrational fears. That's fine - just don't make broad claims like "The United States is a police state", and "Prison means 5-10% of males get raped". Let's see some citations and actual fucking evidence please.

Don't get me wrong. I hate most police, the mindset that goes along with being a power-tripping asshole cop. I will never speak to a police officer anything beyond what is legally required in my state (name, address, destination, business abroad). Anything else and I plead the 5th.

RSA 594:2 Questioning and Detaining Suspects. – A peace officer may stop any person abroad whom he has reason to suspect is committing, has committed or is about to commit a crime, and may demand of him his name, address, business abroad and where he is going.
posted by leafxor at 3:54 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


we should all be demanding that all active duty police wear a camera that records their entire shift […] Only the corrupt members of law enforcement could argue against this. They have no reasonable expectation of privacy on the job
This seems like a good idea. When it comes up, though, an argument against it is that the people who are interacting with the police have some expectation of privacy, and being put on the community-access COPS channel violates this. Even though I suspect much of this sentiment is astroturfed, it is an issue to consider.
posted by hattifattener at 3:59 PM on December 11, 2009


Leafxor, the 5 - 10 percent stat I quoted is directly from the DoJ. And that's the reported stat, per year. Serving more than one year or fitting the rape vic demographic, or serving time in a state prison as opposed to federal makes it much more likely than that. if you have a problem with my numbers, go see for yourself.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 4:01 PM on December 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


[i]Blindsight[/i] was one of my favorite reads of the last year. Having a lay interest in cognitive neuroscience topics and similar, large portions of it were specifically engineered to send little jolts right into my brain's pleasure centers. I'd never seen the FizerPharm (No problems. No Promises!) powerpoint presentation before, so that's the one positive side of this ugly story for me.
posted by Drastic at 4:01 PM on December 11, 2009


If the following quote from the account is correct there is something unusual here.
"Peter, a Canadian citizen, was on his way back to Canada after helping a friend move house to Nebraska over the weekend. He was stopped at the border crossing at Port Huron, Michigan by U.S. border police for a search of his rental vehicle."
I've been across the US/Canada border at least 10 times in the last couple of years and on your way into Canada you are screened by Canadian authorities and on your way into the US you are screened by US authorities.
posted by vapidave at 4:02 PM on December 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Leafxor, the 5 - 10 percent stat I quoted is directly from the DoJ. And that's the reported stat, per year. Serving more than one year or fitting the rape vic demographic, or serving time in a state prison as opposed to federal makes it much more likely than that. if you have a problem with my numbers, go see for yourself.

Please cite, because I can't find the numbers. I already looked.
posted by leafxor at 4:04 PM on December 11, 2009


on your way into Canada you are screened by Canadian authorities and on your way into the US you are screened by US authorities

Yeah, I thought that was the way all border crossings went: the country you're leaving doesn't really have any interest in what deeds you may be getting ready to unveil in some other country out of their jurisdiction. I suppose if they had reason to believe that you had just committed a crime inside the U.S. it would be a different story. But maybe that's just my limited experience.
posted by Brak at 4:07 PM on December 11, 2009


I've been across the US/Canada border at least 10 times in the last couple of years and on your way into Canada you are screened by Canadian authorities and on your way into the US you are screened by US authorities.

After 9/11, the U.S. instituted exit controls for nationals of scheduled countries. If you're from India, say, which has a large Muslim population (the main criterion for being put on the schedule), here on an H-1B, you were legally required to report to immigration on your way out of the U.S. so your exit could be recorded. The U.S. hadn't done exit controls before then, and hasn't set themselves up to do them in a way that provides full coverage, but it does do them, and it wouldn't surprise me to find them extending that to random checks at border crossing for anything--most likely drugs, though.

Short version: Until you're actually in another country, you're subject to whatever legal/bureaucratic procedures a country institutes. Communist countries had exit controls as strict as their entrance controls. I'd guess the main reason the U.S. doesn't do full coverage exit controls is cost and manpower requirements. But random checks with drug-sniffing dogs and whatnot shouldn't be all that surprising.
posted by fatbird at 4:09 PM on December 11, 2009


Why does anyone think it's sensible to travel to the US these days?
posted by mr. strange at 4:09 PM on December 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Just last week I was considering doing an AskMe about how to avoid these situations. At the border crossings down here in San Diego this happens every day. The reason you don't hear about it is most likely because it's happening to "brown" people.

I'm sick of this shit.

Also, the border guards, border patrol, homeland security...they are all underpaid and over worked. Those are some really shitty jobs. If those jobs were really serving a function other than fulfilling political promises/ideology, they would/should be properly funded and have properly qualified personnel.

I'll shut up now...
posted by snsranch at 4:09 PM on December 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why does anyone think it's sensible to travel to the US these days?

Because millions cross the border every year without any incident. If you're calculating the odds of a random unjustified beatdown, they're still pretty good.
posted by fatbird at 4:11 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


The first link says he was coming back to Canada when the beat down occured? The Blog link doesn't specify so if that is correct when did American Border services start stopping and searching people leaving the country?

"Video cameras and flash memory are so cheap that we (and the police) should all be demanding that all active duty police wear a camera that records their entire shift in high resolution video on a loop. This should be uploaded to public servers every day, and be permanently entered into the public domain. "

Kind of an invasion of privacy of everyone they interact with though. Consider the reaction of the google street van and extend it to the footage accumulated by officers in your proposal. I'm all for recording cops on the job but posting it to the net seems like it would be fraught with problems.

"You tell 'em that you're going to Kroger to buy a spiral-sliced ham 'cause they don't sell 'em in Canada and bob's your uncle."

Whaa? You can buy spiral ham in Canada. Costco for one stocks it.
posted by Mitheral at 4:13 PM on December 11, 2009


"Passport and boarding pass, please."

The customs officer was holding out his hand, palm up, a few inches above the counter that sat between us. At that time, many years ago, I was not so travel savvy and I didn't have my documents readily at hand. I put down my travel bag and started going through my pockets. At some point, I produced the boarding pass and put it on the counter as I continued to look for my passport. I finally find it, and place it on top of the boarding pass on the counter, put my wallet back in my pocket, put my jacket back on, pick up my bag, and look up at the customs officer. He remained motionless, hand still out, palm up, a few inches above the counter and the documents he requested.

A beat passes.

He is looking right into my eyes.

I'm thinking, are you fucking kidding me? You're going to bust my balls over this? You're going to sit there like an asshole and wait for me to pick up those papers, mere inches from your hand, and place them there? What the fuck kind of power trip are you on? Are you feeling the intoxicating power flow through your veins? Are you...getting off on this?

The rational side of my brain, which generally dominates the internal conversation, quickly calculated the cost-benefit ratio of each possible action filtered through the very unbalanced power dynamic between this glorified rent-a-cop and myself, at the time a college student. There was no win, only varying degrees of lose.

I took the least amount of lose possible, reached over and picked up the documents and placed them in his hand. He seemed very satisfied with my deference, and graciously allowed me on my way.
posted by Mountain Goatse at 4:15 PM on December 11, 2009 [18 favorites]


We know as much about this writer and this incident as we did Tiger Woods, and five minutes before the Escalade hit the fire hydrant, the general consensus was that Tiger was such a remarkable guy, we should pay him tons of money to endorse various products.

/me shakes head, walks away
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:17 PM on December 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


Costco for one stocks it.

Nearest Costco to Sarnia is 100km away in London. Port Huron's economy is about 25%+ cross-border shopping from Sarnia residents. Crossing the border there is so commonplace that people will go to Cracker Barrel for lunch. Years ago people used to cross the border just to buy gas and milk. Plus there's a huge volume of trucking through there since trucks can't go through the Windsor tunnel and prefer to avoid Detroit. That is one busy, busy border crossing.
posted by GuyZero at 4:20 PM on December 11, 2009


If you're calculating the odds of a random unjustified beatdown, they're still pretty good.

And that's just the border patrol!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:25 PM on December 11, 2009


Tiger Woods didn't do any imaginary and hugely unlikely shoving!
posted by Artw at 4:27 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ok, here's how it probably went down.

I'm glad everyone's keeping a level head without jumping to any wild conclusions.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:32 PM on December 11, 2009 [7 favorites]


That novelist was probably hopped up on PCP - Angel Dust! He could have punched his hand through a car window and not felt it for hours! Salman Rushdie did that one time!
posted by Artw at 4:36 PM on December 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


This makes me want to drive down to Niagara Falls and yell at these pigs through a bullhorn.

Now that's a meetup I could totally get behind.
posted by rokusan at 4:43 PM on December 11, 2009


That novelist was probably hopped up on PCP - Angel Dust!

Perhaps he was just going to see La Bohème. It's an opera.
posted by Brak at 4:45 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm withholding judgement until the surveillance tapes are released. Remember the brouhaha regarding Nic, her baby and the TSA? I've crossed the border from Port Huron to Sarnia hundreds of times, and only occasionally have had to pull over and submit to a vehicle search. Dunno why they chose me to inspect at the time, perhaps it was some sort of quota ("every 50th vehicle must undergo an inspection"). In any case, I was never pepper sprayed or arrested. It seems to me that a condition of crossing any international border, be it Canada to US or Germany to the Czech Republic, is the implied permission to be searched.
posted by Oriole Adams at 4:47 PM on December 11, 2009


Perhaps he was just going to see La Bohème. It's an opera.

Man, those border guards are going to feel it on New Years after they end up in the train with the gorilla. and are all shot to death by a robot arnold Swarchenegger.
posted by Artw at 4:48 PM on December 11, 2009


All I know is that I've crossed the Canadian border two or three times and the U.S. guards are dickheads every. Damn. Time. Yeah, I know their job isn't easy, but it's more of an institutional problem of people with an authority complex getting into law enforcement to begin with. In other words, petty assholes are attracted to that kind of work.

The Canadian guards have always been nice. Maybe that's confirmation bias, maybe that's just coincidence, but there you go.

I wouldn't surprise me in the least that Watts was simply mouthing off in some way and the guards took offense and flat out lied about him assaulting them. But who knows.
posted by zardoz at 4:51 PM on December 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Remember the brouhaha regarding Nic, her baby and the TSA?

Yeah, she was kind of obviously a flake. Remember 4 comments into that thread?
posted by Artw at 4:53 PM on December 11, 2009


GuyZero wrote: "You tell 'em that you're going to Kroger to buy a spiral-sliced ham 'cause they don't sell 'em in Canada and bob's your uncle."

Surely you don't tell them "bob's your uncle." In fact, that's probably what happened here. Insulting the family honor is not taken lightly here. ;)
posted by wierdo at 4:54 PM on December 11, 2009


Ray Bradbury was once arrested after drinking a pint of tequila and trying the "What did the five fingers say to the face?" joke on a cop in Times Square.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:58 PM on December 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


You know, not jumping to conclusions doesn't cost you anything.
posted by Bookhouse at 4:59 PM on December 11, 2009


The next time an American mentions Freedom a single tear will run down my cheek, because I always feel sorry for the criminally insane.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 5:01 PM on December 11, 2009 [7 favorites]


Ray Bradbury was once arrested after drinking a pint of tequila and trying the "What did the five fingers say to the face?" joke on a cop in Times Square.

I thought that was Rick James.
posted by Brak at 5:02 PM on December 11, 2009


I've driven from Spain into France, and you wouldn't even have known there was a border there if it weren't for the 'Bienvenue' sign.
posted by gimonca at 5:02 PM on December 11, 2009


I've driven from Spain into France, and you wouldn't even have known there was a border there if it weren't for the 'Bienvenue' sign.

All of western Europe is pretty much like this now. The result? Lots of bitter ex-border cops randomly macing people in the street. Is that what you want?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:06 PM on December 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


It's okay, the Eurotunnel still has it's grumpy customs people.
posted by Artw at 5:07 PM on December 11, 2009


I've driven from Spain into France, and you wouldn't even have known there was a border there if it weren't for the 'Bienvenue' sign.

And that's why the Eiffel Tower keeps getting bombed.
posted by rokusan at 5:17 PM on December 11, 2009 [10 favorites]


After he was imprisoned for a day at the border and his family posted bail, they tossed him out in the night without his coat (it was evidence). In Michigan, in December, in a storm.

You can bleat all you want about how the bitch had it coming, but that? That's attempted murder in my book.
posted by Michael Roberts at 5:20 PM on December 11, 2009 [13 favorites]


A Port Huron newspaper reports on the story. It includes a summary of a local police report, but given that the car passengers have said that Watts did not get physical with the guards, I'm not ready to take these claims as gospel.
Port Huron police Capt. Jim Jones would not provide the Times Herald with a copy of a police report about the incident Friday. But, he read the police report to a reporter.

Jones said Watts was crossing into Michigan from Point Edward when he was selected at random for a secondary Customs inspection. Watts exited his vehicle “angrily” and border officers began checking the black sport utility vehicle he was driving, Jones said.

Border officers ordered Watts back into the vehicle, and when he refused, officers attempted to handcuff him, Jones said. At that point, Watts began to resist and pull away from the officers “and became aggressive toward officers,” Jones said.

Jones said a border officer used pepper spray to subdue Watts. Jones said Watts “choked” an officer during the struggle.
Note that the Port Huron cop read a police report made to them, but it appears that they are reporting the border guards' claims and that they were not there. Or is there any good reason to believe that Port Huron cops would be anywhere near U.S. Customs?
posted by maudlin at 5:24 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


@wierdo: are you saying you don't know how to use the predominantly British phrase, "Bob's you uncle"? Rephrase it as:
You tell 'em that you're going to Kroger to buy a spiral-sliced ham 'cause they don't sell 'em in Canada and you're all set.
Not quite as colorful.
posted by A-Train at 5:29 PM on December 11, 2009


Always great to hear the advice in these kinds of threads. Advice on how to behave around officers of the law. I love that advice, it's hilarious, and I don't know what the advice-givers think they're doing. Helping? Who are they helping? I think they might be helping themselves.

When I hear that advice I see a beta male who prides himself on his neatness, tidiness, punctuality, and ability to stay levelheaded at parties. He's the guy who draws on his knowledge of Tom Clancy novels and his Boy Scout experience to do awesome stuff like washing his car without scratching the paintjob, reading maps while being a tourist, and sourcing meatball subs in ethnic neighborhoods.

Obviously not all respecters of authority have color-coded sock-drawers, but all of them are on the lookout for a leader. I will lead you, beta dudes. I can use someone who prides himself on being an early riser. Perhaps you can make my breakfast. Maybe make a game of it. Pretend you're dismantling a bomb. Ya nerd.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 5:30 PM on December 11, 2009 [16 favorites]


Call it a mad kind of intuition, but I think I'd bet money on that choking of a police officer not being a thing that actually happened.
posted by Artw at 5:34 PM on December 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


The next time an American mentions Freedom a single tear will run down my cheek
posted by Errant at 5:38 PM on December 11, 2009


I've interacted, mostly pleasantly, with lots of cops, and have never been beaten or even yelled at. That said, I can't help think that "good" cops are exceedingly rare because, almost without exception, they stand behind assholes and thugs in the name of holding the "thin blue line." That's bullshit.

It does make me queasy to hear folks rationalize about the actions of the officers in this incident because, and this is the key, it doesn't fucking matter if they're innocent or guilty of abusing their powers, because at the end of the day, they're always innocent. We, the public, will have no way of ascertaining the truth, as all evidence will disappear, and no one who might know the truth will come forward. And given that, shouldn't be very suspicious of the authorities when word of abuse does leak out?

It doesn't take any more effort as a society to treat suspects with respect. Jesus, the odds are extremely good that if you, Joe Law, randomly stop someone and make them stand around in the cold while you rummage through their stuff, they're going to be cranky. It's part of your fucking job to handle that properly, to remain polite and courteous under pressure, and if you can't do so, you're incompetent and should be shit-canned post-haste.

Even if this guy was blustering and angry, the idea that he deserves any of the shit he wrote about, even if any of it is exaggerated, is insane, and if you think it sounds about right, you really ought to think about the all of the meanings of the word "civil" and its use in the terms "civil servant" and "civil society."
posted by maxwelton at 5:38 PM on December 11, 2009 [10 favorites]


A Chinese business woman had this happen to her,at the Niagara Falls border crossing.
posted by hortense at 5:38 PM on December 11, 2009


That's, like, a whole room fulla straw men, there, Gamien Boffenburg.
posted by hattifattener at 5:41 PM on December 11, 2009


"Jones said Watts was crossing into Michigan from Point Edward when he was selected at random for a secondary Customs inspection. "

So, he was entering the U.S. and not returning to Canada?
posted by ericb at 5:42 PM on December 11, 2009


That's, like, a whole room fulla straw men, there, Gamien Boffenburg.

But a hilarious one.
posted by rokusan at 5:50 PM on December 11, 2009


I've been held on $500 bond at that border crossing waiting for my company to arrive with the cheque. And I've been turned back for having too much Chinese content in my declared Made in Canada product. Back then I was crossing sometimes three times a day, carrying hand puppets and princess and pirate dress-up clothes in Ford Aerostar van that kept blowing the fuse on the heater. The guard who caught me carrying more boxes than the manifest declared would take special attention when he saw the puppet guy standing in line, but eventually he became friendly about it, like it was nice to see a familiar face. Perhaps he felt that I, a little man carrying toys in an old van standing amongst long distance truck drivers, deserved a dismissive little chuckle whenever he saw me. Going through every day I started to learn who would be trouble and who would take the papers and wave me through. Never use the red pen for the paperwork. Only the guards use the red pens. American guards could be more directly intimidating, ex-military with guns on their hips, while Canadian customs had a higher percentage of female guards and co-op students manning booths, with only oversized flashlights for protection. Needing to present paperwork or pay for importation could kill half a day on the Canadian side, with all the irritations of dealing with any government office in Canada, waiting for one wicket to open while watching twelve people putter around at desks in background.

I've only crossed twice since 2001. I'd like to see places in the US, but border crossing is such a disincentive. When I'm considering travel I'm usually between jobs with time to waste, but being a single unemployed man travelling with little purpose invites extra scrutiny. Additionally, I have to tell them about those former employment episodes when they ask if I've ever been refused entry to the US.

I can't understand what happened in this instance. The first article says he was returning to Canada from Nebraska. Stopping a vehicle as it leaves the country is unusual. All that is required is bridge fare. You don't deal with customs as you leave. And the victim doesn't help his case by going on about parallel universes instead of telling us what happened. He's a writer and this is a dramatic incident, he should be able to make a convincing story out of it without the sci-fi trappings.
posted by TimTypeZed at 5:52 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Watts' friend, writer David Nickle, corrects himself:
I got a detail wrong in the account I gave below of Peter Watts' incarceration in the post below. I had understood that he had been released from custody in Port Huron, wearing nothing but jeans and a denim shirt, during a snowstorm - then walked across the bridge to Canada.

In fact, officials in Port Huron did transport him back to Canada before leaving him there, coat-less and without a vehicle, in a winter storm.

Just learned this fact after talking with Peter again. I've sent the correction off to John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow. I have also posted it here.
So he didn't have a coat or car, but he also didn't have to walk across the bridge.
posted by maudlin at 5:54 PM on December 11, 2009


"That's, like, a whole room fulla straw men, there, Gamien Boffenburg."

How upsetting.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 5:54 PM on December 11, 2009


Obviously not all respecters of authority have color-coded sock-drawers, but all of them are on the lookout for a leader.

Actually, some of us are just smart to recognize a fight we can't possibly win and decide that avoiding the beating and pepper spraying is the less costly option.
posted by fatbird at 5:55 PM on December 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


But Gamien, if you'll give me a heads-up, I'll be ready with a video camera the next time you want to wave your gigantic penis at the police and dare them to do something about it, you alpha-male you.
posted by fatbird at 5:56 PM on December 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


Well I knew my good mood couldn't last. For fuck's sake.

You're an idiot if you do what Peter Watts did.

If you want to fight back, do it from a position in which you aren't completely at the mercy of these thugs.


See, this reminds me of the gun-in-Toronto thread. If you want a society where safety is the norm, be prepared to have a society that jumps to attention at something like a reported gun sighting at a workplace. If you want a society that has a sane attitude toward officer-citizen interaction, you don't kow-tow to authority every time it becomes a remote possibility. How do you think these assholes develop this attitude? If everyone challenged them, would everyone get beaten? That wouldn't last long before someone found themselves out of a job. But instead 99% grovel and 1% stands up and that 1% gets beaten down. Sure it might be predictable, but don't blame the 1%.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:03 PM on December 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Also, and this is not directed at any of you, but fuck having anything to do with crossing through/over the U.S.. Haven't done it in years, has been a bit of a pain at times planning routes that avoid it, but no intention of doing otherwise. The last time I was forced to disembark and go through customs despite there being no need to even change airplanes (purely a passenger pickup stop) and asked "Purpose of visit?" I wanted to say "You tell me. There is not one fucking reason I want to be here." But of course, I don't want trouble. I don't want my bags ripped apart. I don't want a strip search. So I say "in transit" and go on my little way, secure in the safety of the 99% herd.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:07 PM on December 11, 2009


but he also didn't have to walk across the bridge.

I walked over the Bluewater Bridge as a teenager but it's now prohibited. It's completely illegal to walk over the bridge. They have trucks to shuttle people who arrive on foot over the bridge. So it's not like this was a favour or something.
posted by GuyZero at 6:12 PM on December 11, 2009


I'm thinking, are you fucking kidding me? You're going to bust my balls over this? You're going to sit there like an asshole and wait for me to pick up those papers, mere inches from your hand, and place them there? What the fuck kind of power trip are you on? Are you feeling the intoxicating power flow through your veins? Are you...getting off on this?

I can completely believe this. I can't link directly to it because it's in a locked entry, but there's an LJ community for disgruntled librarians and library workers where someone told a story recently in which that exact thing happened to them--they came by to drop some papers off for one of the guards, and another guard insisted that she had to hand them to the guard personally, even if she had to wait all day for that guard. Fortunately for the librarian, people in her profession are still accorded more rights than a prisoner, at least for the moment. I don't know if they're getting off on pissing on the next person lower on the pecking order, or that they instinctively see any challenge (no matter how trivial or symbolic) to their authority as a threat, or what.

When I hear that advice I see a beta male[blah blah blah]

Internet Alpha Guy is alpha!
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:13 PM on December 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


A Port Huron newspaper reports on the story.

Why is that local newspaper comments personify everything I fucking hate. It is as if their sole purpose is to piss me off and every commenter is that jack ass backup quarterback in high school who has a roofing company now, downs a 30 pack on the weekends and still think his shit doesn't stick.

Sounds like the "Stephen King wannabe" had a hissy fit! It also sounds like the border patrol officer knew how to deal with Canadians having tantrums.

I never get it when people try to resist arrest or not follow an officers order, even if you don't think you did anything wrong, you just make the situation worse.

Argh, well I guess the nadir of American society are the only ones left reading local papers online.
posted by geoff. at 6:17 PM on December 11, 2009


Or is there any good reason to believe that Port Huron cops would be anywhere near U.S. Customs?

The bridge is right smack in the middle between the old downtown and the new car-oriented shopping district of Port Huron. There are residential houses underneath the bridge on the US side. I do not know for sure but it would be reasonable that local cops and border patrol see each other reasonably regularly.
posted by GuyZero at 6:17 PM on December 11, 2009


Yeah, I'd get that they'd fraternize, but would PH cops have been right there during the incident?
posted by maudlin at 6:24 PM on December 11, 2009


My favourite part about Boffenburg's comment is the homoerotic subtext. Good to know there is someone out there thinking about my sock drawer. You wouldn't believe what's inside!
posted by mek at 6:26 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mek: Yeah, I got that vibe too. It's actually one of the most sexually-charged Internet Tough Guy rants I've seen.
posted by ®@ at 6:36 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Care for an ethnically-sourced meatball sub? My treat.
posted by mek at 6:38 PM on December 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


There is something really weird about the stern moralizing lecture about how you have to treat cops like landmines or dangerous zoo animals and that if you don't everything is your fault though.
posted by Artw at 6:43 PM on December 11, 2009 [10 favorites]


Please cite, because I can't find the numbers. I already looked.

You did?

Sexual Victimization in State and Federal Prisons Reported by Inmates, 2007.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:50 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Always great to hear the advice in these kinds of threads. Advice on how to behave around officers of the law. [..] When I hear that advice I see a beta male [..] Obviously not all respecters of authority have color-coded sock-drawers, but all of them are on the lookout for a leader. I will lead you, beta dudes. [..] Perhaps you can make my breakfast. [..] Ya nerd.

Congratulations, you have the social sophistication of a canid. You actually idealize that sort of dominance-driven hierarchy, don't you?

You know why the rest of use don't pick fights with cops? It's the same reason we don't pick fights with dogs: we don't actually care what they think. So we throw them a bone and get on with our business. Woof, woof.
posted by ryanrs at 7:03 PM on December 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


Settle, ladies, don't make me do loads of push-ups!
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 7:13 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


mullingitover: "Video cameras and flash memory are so cheap that we (and the police) should all be demanding that all active duty police wear a camera that records their entire shift in high resolution video on a loop. This should be uploaded to public servers every day, and be permanently entered into the public domain.

Only the corrupt members of law enforcement could argue against this. They have no reasonable expectation of privacy on the job, and if they have nothing to hide then they should be demanding that their good deeds be seen by all.
"

That sounds nice in theory, but I was curious, so I back-of-the-enveloped the numbers:

500,000 police officers in America
20 hours recording time per week
50 work weeks per year
100 MB/hour for low-resolution video
$1/gigabyte digital storage (marginal cost)

comes to

$30 TRILLION dollars per year.

JUST for the digital storage. That doesn't include the massive startup costs for buying all the camcorders, paying for electricity to run the massive digital storage banks they would need (or paying a company to do it), paying for the bandwidth they'd need to supply every bored American with infinite unlimited, unedited runs of Cops, etc.

It's not going to happen any time soon.

But I agree that it would be great.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:14 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


The last time I was forced to disembark and go through customs despite there being no need to even change airplanes (purely a passenger pickup stop) and asked "Purpose of visit?" I wanted to say "You tell me. There is not one fucking reason I want to be here." But of course, I don't want trouble. I don't want my bags ripped apart. I don't want a strip search. So I say "in transit" and go on my little way, secure in the safety of the 99% herd.

Isn't this how most countries work? I've flown into a number of European cities, and customs always asks me that question. I think being a smartass would not prove wise in any city. Last time I flew into the Heathrow, the border patrol badgered me about how long I was staying, who was I seeing, where was I staying, let me see your hostel reservation(!). Dick border patrols are not particular to the US.

There is something really weird about the stern moralizing lecture about how you have to treat cops like landmines or dangerous zoo animals and that if you don't everything is your fault though.

Really? Com'n now. We're not saying it's right. I reckon everyone agrees cops should be more patient. And not to flip out at the littlest thing. And all that jazz. It's called reality. I don't like it, but I prefer choosing to live another day..
posted by jmd82 at 7:22 PM on December 11, 2009


"You actually idealize that sort of dominance-driven hierarchy, don't you?"

Yeah, no I really don't. But hey! If we're going to make this about power and latent homosexuality and whatnot, let's go there, I'm fascinated.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 7:24 PM on December 11, 2009


Why do you think that's a significant expense, Salvor Hardin? It's only 10¢ per recorded hour. Even if the cops are being paid minimum wage and have no other associated expenses, that's only 1.3% of the expense of paying the cop in the first place.
posted by hattifattener at 7:28 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Salvor Hardin, your starting estimates are reasonable, but I don't believe your math.

100 MB/hour for low-resolution video
$1/gigabyte digital storage (marginal cost)

So that's $1 for 10 hours of video, right?

500,000 police officers in America
20 hours recording time per week
50 work weeks per year

That's 500 million man-hours, right? So, $50 million for video monitoring of police? Why *aren't* we doing this? (Yeah yeah I know, because private citizens have it under control.)
posted by A dead Quaker at 7:34 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Peter Watts has another post about this here:
I’m at the point now where I can’t talk a whole lot about ongoing proceedings. I am seeing a few common misrepresentations making the rounds, though, that I’d like to set straight:

* Some are concluding that, when I was “dumped across the border in shirtsleeves”, I had to walk across the Blue Water Bridge in a snowstorm without my coat. No. The bridge is on the US side of the border, which they had to drive me across to dump me on the other side of; and Canadian Customs was on that other side. This was no Starlight Cruise; I was not exposed to the weather unprotected for an inordinately long time. Still. It’s winter. And they have my coat.

* Others have warned me to delete my previous post, lest the bad guys seize upon it and twist it to their own dark purposes. Having had erroneous quotes attributed to me in the past, I know this is good advice (which is why I won’t be commenting in too much detail upon some of the arcane blow-by-blows of the case in question). But my lawyer vetted that post before I put it up; I stand behind it.

* Thanks to whoever posted the link to the Times-Herald story. I have three comments about the allegations therein. Firstly, the story claims that I was entering the US, not leaving it: this is empirically false. Secondly, I find it interesting that these guys characterise “pulling away” as “aggressive” behavior; I myself would regard it as a retreat. And thirdly, I did not “choke” anyone. I state this categorically. And having been told that cameras were in fact on site, I look forward to seeing the footage they provide.
posted by nooneyouknow at 7:50 PM on December 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


>> You actually idealize that sort of dominance-driven hierarchy, don't you?

> Yeah, no I really don't.

But that is how you view the world, yes? You see interactions with police as tests of dominance that must be challenged and won. You look down on those who avoid and deescalate conflict. That is what you meant when you said:

When I hear [advice on how to behave around officers] I see a beta male [..] on the lookout for a leader. I will lead you, beta dudes. [..] Perhaps you can make my breakfast. [..] Ya nerd.
posted by ryanrs at 7:53 PM on December 11, 2009



That's 500 million man-hours, right? So, $50 million for video monitoring of police? Why *aren't* we doing this?


Huh...weird....I don't know what I did before - you're right - it comes to $50 million! Wow - yeah, we should do this. That being said, the setup costs would be pretty large, but it's possible to spread that cost over several years by phasing the program in. Not to mention, you could move footage to archival tape after 5 years, and get rid of it in 10. Or something like that.

Sorry about the crappy multiplication skillz, and thanks for catching that!
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:54 PM on December 11, 2009


That's 500 million man-hours, right? So, $50 million for video monitoring of police? Why *aren't* we doing this?

The unions would never allow this.
posted by geoff. at 7:57 PM on December 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


But that is how you view the world, yes? You see interactions with police as tests of dominance that must be challenged and won. You look down on those who avoid and deescalate conflict.

Substitute "thread" for "world" and the two of you could be pulling off the biggest meta-ironic comedy gag in history.
posted by rokusan at 8:02 PM on December 11, 2009


Just so you know, I'm staring at this thread right now, and if any of you look away from your screen before I do, I'm totally the alpha male.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 8:05 PM on December 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


Isn't this how most countries work? I've flown into a number of European cities, and customs always asks me that question.

It's not about the question but about making everyone get off the plane despite never having any intention to "visit" the U.S.. This wasn't always done, but now, yes, is as a matter of course.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:22 PM on December 11, 2009


"My name is John, and I hate every single one of you."
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:24 PM on December 11, 2009


I'm showing my brightly-colored distended bottom to alert all of you to my alpha status. Look upon it and weep, fellas.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 8:28 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's not about the question but about making everyone get off the plane despite never having any intention to "visit" the U.S.. This wasn't always done, but now, yes, is as a matter of course.

Well how else are they going to deport people to torture-land?
posted by Artw at 8:37 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Only the corrupt members of law enforcement could argue against this. They have no reasonable expectation of privacy on the job, and if they have nothing to hide then they should be demanding that their good deeds be seen by all.

Ugh. I hate, hate, hate this attitude. Take out "law enforcement" and insert "teachers", and you have exactly the argument I've seen made when people talk about how to improve the school systems. Yeah, just put cameras in the classroom and record all the teachers, every second of every day, and make it freely available for anyone to watch at any time. After all, if they're doing a good job, what have they got to be afraid of? The only people who would oppose such a notion are the lazy slackers we need to get rid of! If you don't have anything to hide, what are you worried about anyway?

Now there are some problems with law enforcement corruption, and that's putting it mildly. But there must be a better way of dealing with entrenched problems in some of our public institutions than putting the people on the front lines under the microscope. It comes down to treating people as the professionals they've been trained to be. If they fail at that professionalism, remove them from the job, or give them more training, or something. I don't know about anyone else, but I would find the idea of being recorded every second at my job to be horribly intrusive and stifling, as well as a complete mind-fuck - and I'm proud of the work I do, thank you very much.

And you know what? A camera may catch a cop abusing her power, or a teacher sleeping at his desk, or whatever. But it won't do a hell of a lot about "trapping" the invisible, all-pervasive problems that underlie the system - racism, funding issues, political struggles, etc. It puts the focus on individuals who are acting in an imperfect system. There will always be people behaving badly in any institution, but there's got to be a better way of dealing with institutional problems than laying all the blame at the feet off the individuals.

And also: this alpha/beta male stuff is simultaneously amusing and gross. At the moment I'm proud to be penis-less so I can avoid the whole thing entirely.
posted by Salieri at 8:40 PM on December 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


And also: this alpha/beta male stuff is simultaneously amusing and gross. At the moment I'm proud to be penis-less so I can avoid the whole thing entirely.

Careful, someone might have to tear off their Gold's Gym tee and start flexing!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:46 PM on December 11, 2009


zardoz: "All I know is that I've crossed the Canadian border two or three times and the U.S. guards are dickheads every. Damn. Time..."

I'm from the US and recently married to a Canadian and have crossed the border a lot in the company of my now wife and visiting some family in Canada. When we cross on our way to Canada they are they are mean to her and nice to me, when we cross into the US they are mean to me and nice to her. Also the US government has blamed Canada (repeatedly, the link is just one recent example) for a what they say is a porous border and the net result is that the border agents are caught in the middle and resent it. I was out of compliance with US border law when we crossed into Canada after the new passport rules were supposed to be enforced last June and the border agent from Canada said, "Our rules are still the same (for US citizens visiting Canada) but you might get some trouble coming back to the States.". The border agents are also actually immigration agents, if one of them decides that you are not welcome at that particular crossing then you are welcome at none. So I swallow my principles and yes sir and no ma'am.

Rewind 25 years. I grew up in Seattle and used to go to shows in Vancouver in the early eighties. In the olden days if you were impolite or a biped they would assert their authority with extreme prejudice. I had a friend that was cavity searched every time he crossed into Canada. Come to think of it that might be why he went.
posted by vapidave at 8:47 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Gamien Boffenburg: I can use someone who prides himself on being an early riser. Perhaps you can make my breakfast. Maybe make a game of it.

Powdered glass smoothie, coming right up.
posted by Decimask at 8:51 PM on December 11, 2009


Careful, someone might have to tear off their Gold's Gym tee and start flexing!

Ooh baby, you know what I like!
posted by Salieri at 8:52 PM on December 11, 2009


The grain of truth in the alpha goofiness is that every single cop I have ever known in real life... thinks exactly that way.
posted by rokusan at 9:41 PM on December 11, 2009


Powdered glass smoothie, coming right up.

Heh, smoothy. Girly liberal drink.

Real men chew their glass.
posted by rokusan at 9:46 PM on December 11, 2009


This all started with his car being, as he put it, 'swarmed' by border guards. Under those circumstances I can't predict what I might do; can you? It might just freak me out enough to get me out of my car toot suite. Wrong thing to do, but it might happen if I'm spooked enough.

For the last 7 years I had thought, "There's just too much risk in crossing the border. I've posted anti-war sentiments, sent emails critical of Bush administration policies, and searched for all manner of things that might be on the trigger list of Echelon. And it's all potentially available at some border guard's request. I'll just wait six months after Bush is history, and all will be well."

Sorry, still too risky. Maybe in another 7 years.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 9:54 PM on December 11, 2009


About it being odd that it says he was stopped by U.S. border guards when heading into Canada..
I cross between Fort Erie, ON, and Buffalo, NY, twice a week, normally. Every so often, when going into Canada—but before I leave the U.S. and right beside the Duty Free—there are U.S. guards briefly stopping each vehicle.
posted by Silly Ashles at 9:54 PM on December 11, 2009


Oh, and the first time they stopped me like that, it did seem like they "swarmed" my car. I stopped because one guy motioned for me to do so, and in moments they were at least five people surrounding my car. (And I'm a [white, female] U.S. citizen driving a U.S. plated car. ...And it did freak me out.)
posted by Silly Ashles at 9:58 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sorry, still too risky. Maybe in another 7 years.

Hopefully President Palin will have better US/Canadian border policies.
posted by ryoshu at 10:26 PM on December 11, 2009


Ryoshu: I've gone to bed with happier thoughts...
posted by Hardcore Poser at 10:29 PM on December 11, 2009


A-Train wrote: "@wierdo: are you saying you don't know how to use the predominantly British phrase, "Bob's you uncle"? Rephrase it as:
You tell 'em that you're going to Kroger to buy a spiral-sliced ham 'cause they don't sell 'em in Canada and you're all set.
Not quite as colorful.
"

I like it dry. Real dry. Like the desert dry.
posted by wierdo at 10:30 PM on December 11, 2009


I do so love the concept that pissing about in a cock-measuring match is alpha behaviour. A useless cock measuring match at that - you end up fucked up, authority figure ends up pissed off and more likely to be a cock to the next try-hard alpha, and we all walk past averting our eyes from your shame.
posted by geek anachronism at 10:35 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thank god this got posted here. I was trying to follow the comments for updates on BoingBoing and for some bizarre reason every fifth comment or something is missing all its vowels. Stupidest website in the world.

Boing Boing: when you need your moderation to have less thought and more HURF.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 11:28 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is exactly why I have no plans to visit the USA. I'm going to stay in Europe, where our cops might be corrupt and violent and evil, but you're unlikely to get a whole bunch of people on a liberal website like this one saying "You answered back to the cops? You deserved that beatin! I'm 33 and I KNOW you just buckle down when some uniformed orangutan on a power trip asks you to do something inexplicable."
posted by handee at 12:53 AM on December 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


Okay, fuck this shit. I know that the plural of anecdote is not data but I`ve heard one too many border crossing anecdotes as of this one. This shit just became data. My chances of getting beaten and arrested while crossing the border are now unacceptably high for me to even consider entering the United States in the foreseeable future.
posted by tehloki at 1:18 AM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: This shit just became data.
posted by rokusan at 3:23 AM on December 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


20 hours recording time per week

Don't forget overtime. Or those pre-work/post-work incidents. In short, those cameras would be on in the car all the freaking time.

However, in the J.D. Robb mystery books which take place in the year 2060 after an event called the Urban Wars decimated cities across the world (and I really want her to write a real sci-fi book about those Wars!), the cops there have personal recorders that they wear like a Star Trek-style communicator that records video and audio so that they can preserve exactly how they come upon crime scenes and after reading something called the revised Miranda rights, all interrogations and interviews. The idea is that it protects the cops so that no slimy lawyers can claim that someone confessed under duress or that searches were performed incorrectly.

The unions would never allow this.

It's all in how you sell it. If you see this as a tool for preventing lawsuits, preserving convictions, and weeding out corruption, it's a winner! What union would be against that?
posted by TrishaLynn at 5:01 AM on December 12, 2009


Hey tehloki are you ok there?
posted by vapidave at 5:27 AM on December 12, 2009


My inner asshole keeps whispering "why couldn't it have been Robert Sawyer instead"...

Well, Rob can afford better lawyers, and (whether you like him or not) is probably tough and stubborn enough to make the DHS regret it big time. Not to mention his new friends in Hollywood. Just sayin'.
posted by lodurr at 6:09 AM on December 12, 2009


What's making this whole Gamien Boffenberg mini-pileon especially hilarious to me isn't the tin ear y'all have for satire, it's the apparent lack of irony in the rush to assert alpha status by declaiming on the evils of daring to talk about dominance-contests.
posted by lodurr at 6:17 AM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


As ROU_Xenophobe said, our experience mirrors vapidave's. If someone's gonna be mean, the Canadians will be mean to me (a Canadian). I have never had the kind of hassles coming back into the US that I have had going to Canada. However, the times I have had hassles anyway (and I cross pretty regularly) are few.

And I really don't think that suggesting that people be polite and do exactly as the border guards say is the same thing as willingly placing your face under the crushing boot of tyranny (tm). It's easy to get all "oh those power-hungry assholes", but they have real danger in their jobs, just like cops do, and I am pretty sure that it's not easy to know as a situation unfolds if the person you are dealing with is just some guy who's getting a bit irritated with you, or if s/he is actually dangerous. The fact that there are some power-abusing jerks drawn to these jobs doesn't negate that fact. I really rarely try to excuse asshole behaviour from people in positions of authority, but hindsight is 20/20.
posted by biscotti at 7:00 AM on December 12, 2009


Guards on the US-Canadian border have a dangerous job? Really?

Seriously, anybody have any ## on that? Versus, say, US-Mexico border?*

--
*which has a big effing fence on it that concentrates traffic to a small number of chokepoints, thus guaranteeing that anybody wanting to get anything much across has to go through a US Customs checkpoint. Versus the Canada-US border, which is largely wide-open once you get past the Great Lakes in either direction, thereby allowing anyone to cross with more or less anything smaller than an industrial turbine as long as they're willing to go that far to do it.

posted by lodurr at 7:14 AM on December 12, 2009


"And I really don't think that suggesting that people be polite and do exactly as the border guards say is the same thing as willingly placing your face under the crushing boot of tyranny (tm). It's easy to get all 'oh those power-hungry assholes', but they have real danger in their jobs, just like cops do, and I am pretty sure that it's not easy to know as a situation unfolds if the person you are dealing with is just some guy who's getting a bit irritated with you, or if s/he is actually dangerous."

I'd like to see some numbers on that because I'd bet taxi driver is a vastly more dangerous job than Canada-US border patrol guard.
posted by Mitheral at 8:04 AM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd like to see some numbers on that because I'd bet taxi driver is a vastly more dangerous job than Canada-US border patrol guard.

Pretty sure that I read somewhere that almost 500 a year go down with E. Coli, due to not washing their hands after performing intimate searches.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:23 AM on December 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


ok, you're really freaking me out with that one right now because I don't know if you're being sarcastic. (I'm kind of enjoying the feeling, so don't clarify on my account.)
posted by lodurr at 8:31 AM on December 12, 2009


Bruce Schneier would classify this type of harassment as security theater ("...[M]easures that make people feel more secure without doing anything to actually improve their security").

I'd go a step further: I'd say it's security porn.
posted by lodurr at 8:36 AM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


This thread has everything. Well played, folks, well played.
posted by ob at 9:26 AM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I know that the plural of anecdote is not data but I`ve heard one too many border crossing anecdotes as of this one. This shit just became data. My chances of getting beaten and arrested while crossing the border are now unacceptably high for me to even consider entering the United States in the foreseeable future.

Yeah, it's become a real enough possibility. I'm Indian, living in Mexico, and will probably make my first ever visit to the States next year, and I'm already feeling like I need to do some serious mental training for the shit that is inevitable at the airport. (and this, despite going through Israeli security without flinching while I was a student there for 2 years)
posted by dhruva at 11:50 AM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, Rob can afford better lawyers, and (whether you like him or not) is probably tough and stubborn enough to make the DHS regret it big time. Not to mention his new friends in Hollywood. Just sayin'.

See? It woulda been a WIN-WIN for everyone involved!
posted by Justinian at 2:35 PM on December 12, 2009


vapidave: I'm perfectly okay, I'm just not willing to subject myself to the ever-increasing risk of provoking retaliation from border control officers ™ and getting what's coming to me ™ that comes with entering the U.S. nowadays. I've heard too many horror stories. Data, etc
posted by tehloki at 3:48 PM on December 12, 2009


This is what American cops do: escalate, escalate, escalate.

True. Police doctrine is that you should always be one step up the scale of force from the person you are engaging. They think it's a recipe for control, but it's actually a recipe for escalation, that is, pushing a situation out of control.

Of course, the police have the guns and the gang to back them up, so they don't usually get hurt when they push a situation out of control, so it's not a big deal to them.

Border-guard-as-asshole anecdote: I was returning from Tijuana with a friend. The border guard asked her what her citizenship was (he was holding her passport) and wouldn't allow her to proceed until she finally figured out he wanted "United States" rather than "American." She was pretty slow on the uptake, kept saying "American," and he kept asking her again. It was pretty obvious he was just doing it to entertain himself, but it wasn't very entertaining to us. He gave no indication that he would give up on his little game, and gave me a dirty look when I figured it out and clued her.

But at least we didn't get beaten.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 4:21 PM on December 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'd like to see some numbers on [how dangerous it is to be a border guard] because I'd bet taxi driver is a vastly more dangerous job than Canada-US border patrol guard.

Pretty sure that I read somewhere that almost 500 a year go down with E. Coli, due to not washing their hands after performing intimate searches.


Well, that explains why taxi drivers smell like that.
posted by rokusan at 4:32 PM on December 12, 2009


dhruva: (and this, despite going through Israeli security without flinching while I was a student there for 2 years)

What's that like? I've been told it's extremely rigorous, but is there consistency? I would find your account very relevant in this context.
posted by lodurr at 5:34 PM on December 12, 2009


tehloki: "vapidave: I'm perfectly okay, I'm just not willing to subject myself to the ever-increasing risk of provoking retaliation from border control officers ™ and getting what's coming to me ™ that comes with entering the U.S. nowadays. I've heard too many horror stories. Data, etc"

Glad to hear it. Seriously, thanks.

My cousin Tim, an unnatural spawn of a Canadian mother and an american father was a dual national. He used to work in Canada and live in Blaine WA. Every day he crossed the border on his way to work. He said about what you might think, "look them in the eye and give short answers".
posted by vapidave at 8:40 PM on December 12, 2009


Settle, ladies, don't make me do loads of push-ups!

I don't know if this was meant as a joke ...

You sound like you have something to prove. Perhaps as the years go by, you'll mature and learn that you don't. Or not. That might be better, because I'll need someone to change my oil when I decide I no longer wish to save the money on it by doing it myself. Hey, alpha dude, we do need ditch diggers, and I'm more than happy to hire you, but you work for me, got it?
posted by krinklyfig at 11:55 PM on December 12, 2009


Now there are some problems with law enforcement corruption, and that's putting it mildly. But there must be a better way of dealing with entrenched problems in some of our public institutions than putting the people on the front lines under the microscope.

Yeah, perhaps, but not for border guards. That should be under camera anyway, for many reasons.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:59 PM on December 12, 2009


justinian: See? It woulda been a WIN-WIN for everyone involved!

Except Rob. Oh, wait, I get it.
posted by lodurr at 8:05 AM on December 13, 2009


Seriously, this whole Gamien Boffenberg thing is cracking me up. "Hey, let's claw our way over each other's backs to count coup on the guy who points out that people count coup on each other."

Yeah, you're really proving him wrong, guys. Way to go.
posted by lodurr at 8:07 AM on December 13, 2009


By his own account, he did repeatedly ignore the border guards' instructions to shut up and get back in the car. That's a really poor idea. I don't know how it works in Canada, but in the U.S. you get your say in court. One does not negotiate with police at all unless invited to do so (in which case, it's not a good idea either, because they're trying to get something out of you which can be used against you in a court of law).

Obviously, there is a limit to the instructions you should follow, but shut up and sit down is a pretty harmless one.
posted by jimfl at 9:51 AM on December 13, 2009


jimfl, if all you're saying is that it's unwise to argue with men who have the authority to beat you, then I don't think you'll find many people here who'll argue with you.

The real point open for debate, IMO, is whether we ought to put up with that state of affairs. I'm on the "NO" side of that one.
posted by lodurr at 1:48 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know, the whole 'don't argue with the police' thing has a reason.

YOU may be a sci-fi writing milquetoast, but they also have to deal with fuckwads of the first order, who may have guns. So if they tell you to do something and you don't do it, it's going to go badly for you, because they have no idea if you are a sci-fi writer or a fuckwad with a gun.

You don't like it, sue them. If you win, great. If you don't, you were never going to.

And let me also remind you that being a cop/border gurard is one of the shittiest, most miserable, most boring, most unappreciated, loneliest jobs out there. So yeah it may attract assholes. Be thankful you aren't doing it.

And don't argue.
posted by unSane at 5:38 PM on December 13, 2009


(If it was a FANTASTIC job, you'd be doing it).
posted by unSane at 5:39 PM on December 13, 2009


> What's that like? I've been told it's extremely rigorous, but is there consistency?

Well its extremely rigorous. I was consistently grilled for up to 45mins by two different people, the second one repeated questions that the first one had asked to cross check. They go to minute detail. For example I told them I was a science student, and they wanted to know if had any publications, and then wanted me to show the journal with my paper in it, and luckily I had a copy of the issue for some reason, and the guy flipped to the page before moving on to the next question.The baggage search is extremely thorough, and no stone left unturned etc. Funnily enough, Israel was the first country I ever went to outside India, and I thought all airlines did the same! It was only later when I was flying elsewhere, that I realized that the security was more or less perfunctory, compared to El AL. (I kept hanging about waiting for them to ask me questions). The thing that helped me I guess, is a kind of trance mode one goes in while dealing with it, and it comes from hours of training doing pointless bureaucratic tasks in India. Like standing in line for 3 hrs to buy a train ticket.
But even Israeli style security is always polite, if firm. I never felt like they were escalating anything, but of course, if I had protested anything I guess it would be another story.
posted by dhruva at 6:13 PM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


And don't argue.

You do realize you sound like an obsequious bootlicking toadie, right?
posted by Justinian at 8:24 PM on December 13, 2009


Justinian: I found some years back that a stiff dose of Jungian-derived personality theory (e.g. MBTI) helped me deal with the fact that a certain percentage of the population has a tendency to value order above all else. I realized that, as much as I found the attitude personally incomprehensible, the fact that other people had that attitude did actually contribute to the fact that society doesn't just implode.

It helped. Some. But I still find myself meeting responses like unSane's with bafflement, at least until I force myself to let go.
posted by lodurr at 2:45 AM on December 14, 2009


Here's another update from Watts.
posted by Zed at 3:59 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


It would be great if the DA doesn't press charges, as has apparently been rumored (based on Watt's update @ Zed's link). But that would still leave this hanging out there, which would annoy the shit out of me. I don't wish Watts any more pain, but I hope this can produce some focused outrage and help a few more people to understand that the only reason we don't have fascism in this country is because we periodically get effectively-outraged at offenses.
posted by lodurr at 4:39 AM on December 14, 2009


unsane: And let me also remind you that being a cop/border gurard is one of the shittiest, most miserable, most boring, most unappreciated, loneliest jobs out there.

I don't know, these folks seem to be having a good time.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:40 PM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


(If it was a FANTASTIC job, you'd be doing it)

The talking from the ass. It is strong in this thread.

Border officers are not correctional officers. Different trajectory entirely. Seems like every law class has a half dozen whose young person working job on the way to/through law school was as a border guard. Shoveling shit this is not. I don't know where you're getting that from, except "they're doing what you won't or can't, punk" is a pretty safe go-to routine for the internet. Who are these guys? Guys who didn't want to work as lifeguards is who.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:36 PM on December 15, 2009


Well, to be fair, in order to work as lifeguards at most places they'd have to have a Red Cross Lifesaving or WSI certification before you apply. So it might be easier to get a job as a border guard than a life guard.
posted by lodurr at 2:58 AM on December 16, 2009


True dat, but having worked around pools, moved, and gotten to know a bunch of ex-border guards, the main determining factor for youth employment appears to be proximity. Near a border? Border guards. Near a lake/beach/pools? Lifeguards. In the mountains? Ski/snowboard patrol, lifties, etc. By all accounts, none of these are the kind of grind unSane is alluding to.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:41 AM on December 16, 2009


I dunno. I've had ex-lifeguards insist that boredom is a major health hazard.
posted by lodurr at 11:37 AM on December 17, 2009


Only one person complained when I started reading magazines while lifeguarding. it's not like those little old ladies at the 11 AM swim even put their permed hair in the water so it's not like they're going to drown. And I think the most important reason to have two guards on deck is so they can chat once in a while to break the monotony.
posted by GuyZero at 11:48 AM on December 17, 2009


see, you're being serious. after i posted that answer i thought, 'ah, crap, someone's gonna take me seriously.'

i was just talking about the risk to the person who's bored. though you do, implicitly, have a point about the risk to others.

(at the Y I go to the aquatics manager apparently sneaks a silhouette into the pool periodically, to test the guards' alertness. supposedly they get some kind of a black mark on their Permanent Record if they don't spot it within 90 seconds or something.)
posted by lodurr at 12:29 PM on December 17, 2009


Guarding is tremendously boring duty. Snowboard patrol is (IMHO) king of this semi-arbitrary pack of jobs. Alas, I grew up nowhere around mountains.

Border guard duty is boring, I think, but the fascism keeps it fresh.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:54 PM on December 17, 2009


How does one join the Paratroop Ski Marines?
posted by Artw at 3:02 PM on December 17, 2009


ya gotta know someone, artw. not that many part-time openings.
posted by lodurr at 9:37 AM on December 21, 2009


I'll just have my own uniform tailored and wear it to the secret meetings.
posted by Artw at 12:05 PM on December 21, 2009


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