Ready for everyday torture of Occupy protesters?

                         From Gizmodo, sketch of a "riot shield" now in the laboratory

The use of tear gas, pepper spray, billy clubs, other weapons are now commonplace in efforts by America’s local police officers to dispatch those involved in Occupy Wall Street demonstrations.  As protesters make use of constitutionally protected rights of free speech and assembly, they are confronted by increasingly potent varieties of “crowd control,” including forms of violence that cross the line between civilized law enforcement and practices of torture.  Our newly militarized “riot” squads carry an impressive array of high tech instruments that city and campus cops now wield with little sense of restraint.  The boys and their toys are ready for whatever expressions of freedom you have in mind.

Among the more insidious devices deployed or under development are ones that attack demonstrators  with high intensity sound waves.  These include the LRAD sound cannon used in police crackdowns against Occupy Oakland and in the political cleansing of Zuccotti park.  According to a report in Gizmodo:

The LRAD corporation says that anyone within a 100 meters of the device's sound path will experience extreme pain. The version generally utilized by police department  (the LRAD 500X) is designed to communicate at up to 2000 meters during ideal conditions. In a typical outdoor environment, the device can be heard for 650 meters. The 500x is also capable of short bursts of directed sound that casuse severe headaches in anyone within a 300-meter range. Anyone within 15 meters of the device's audio path can experience permanent hearing loss. 

Evidently, the cannon is just the beginning of an ongoing process of "innovation" in this field of engineering and marketing.  Google Patents contains a patent application for a dandy item, the "Man-Portable Non-Lethal Pressure Shield," submitted in December 2010 by James H. Bostick and now, according to Gizmodo, patented to Raytheon, Inc., The "non-lethal pressure shield creates a pulsed pressure wave that resonates the upper respiratory tract of a human, hindering breathing and eventually incapacitating the target." 
I find it appalling that there is not widespread public outcry about the development and use of these technologies against citizens who are simply exercising their basic constitutional and human rights.  The purpose of sound cannons and the new riot shields is to cause injury, perhaps permanent injury, to the ears and internal organs to persons who receive their blasts.  Thus, the summary judgments of police result in what amounts to immediate, extreme physical punishment without arrest, presentation of evidence or judgment in a court of law.  Injure now, ask questions later!

How is lawless conduct of this kind justified?  Or have we reached a point at which questions of  justification are beside the point?  Having grown accustomed to the "enhanced interrogation" of those suspected of “terrorism,” the American populace may be ready for swift, mundane torture of their neighbors who are simply marching in the streets, holding signs, chanting slogans, and camping in Occupy parks.

Small robot drone for monitoring political demonstrations

At a robotics industry trade show in Washington, D.C. recently one of the corporate vendors, AEE Technology based in Shenzhen, China, unveiled its small drone aircraft, the F50, advertised to be  especially good "as a tool for monitoring protests."

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, the device is "about the size of a pizza pan" and shows "the burgeoning international competition in the market for unmanned aerial vehicles and military robots." 

Although a drone for watching people who gather in public to express their views  may seem ominous defenders of free speech, the drift of opinion at the show had a more upbeat, market oriented slant.  Thus, P.W. Singer, author of the book Wired for War, observed, "The market for military robotics has gone global, and China is looking to be a major producer and exporter in that market, just like the U.S."

To my way of thinking, Singer's statement  is a good example of how an academic can become a flack for the arms industry.  Indeed, at a conference I attended this summer, Singer enthusiastically regaled an audience of philosophers with news of  the burgeoning field of "killer apps" in the robotic arms race, and then asked the crowd to ponder "the ethical implications" of these things.  How uplifting.

The road to slaughter and, now, police surveillance is paved by very clever, well paid intellectuals with seemingly noble intentions.  From the WSJ  story: "Michael O'Hanlon, a defense expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said China's interest in developing unmanned aircraft as a tool for policing crowds or responding to emergencies was 'totally understandable, and legitimate.'"

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From now on a new dimension -- one might even call it an "innovation" -- will be added to attempts to exercise the right of free speech and assembly worldwide -- fear of drone aircraft hovering overhead. 

More "Support the Troops"

It was the best of armies. It was the worst of armies. Two news stories paint a picture of the way the nation honors the defense of freedom on Memorial Day.

From The Daily Freeman (appropriately named)

Appeals court bars Cheney foes from West Point
Associated Press

WHITE PLAINS - The mere presence of Vice President Dick Cheney does not turn West Point into a public forum and is not an "open invitation" to protesters, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday.

Cheney is scheduled to deliver the commencement speech at the U.S. Military Academy today, and about 1,000 people had hoped to march onto the campus for an anti-war demonstration. ....

The protesters' attorney, Stephen Bergstein, said the military gets too much respect.

"No other institution in our society enjoys the deference that the military establishment enjoys," he said. "There are things you can't do in our society, and protesting at a military institution is one of them. It's a shame because they invite Cheney and he can say whatever he wants."

Besides the constitutional issue, the court agreed with the Army that it had legitimate security concerns.
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[In another story, some "legitimate security concerns" show up prominently.]

CNN: Young officers leaving service at 'alarming' rate

CNN reported on Friday about the "alarming number" of mid-level army officers leaving the military as soon as they complete their initial commitment, many of them citing family reasons and multiple deployments. The army has been forced to offer new incentives for re-enrolling, including bonuses and extra training.

The percentage of career officers deciding not to stay in the military is the highest it has been since the Vietnam War and includes many West Point graduates, "creating a brain drain in the top ranks." A general interviewed by CNN expressed concern that "we're losing the next generation of future combat leaders for the army."

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Perhaps what our intelligent career officers have figured out is that the current and future wars of Bush and Cheney have had a negative effect upon the defense of freedom in "Homeland" (formerly known as the U.S.A.). In years to come perhaps Memorial Day will become a time to remember the wisdom of avoiding the kinds of unjust, futile slaughter that cynical old "leaders" often impose on American youth. In this mode, Memorial Day could start by asking: What kind of war is it that will not permit photographing coffins of our fallen soldiers?