Petty Tyranny Watch

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The Secret Service is finding ways to keep busy.

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  1. The Seattle Times has an article that is a little more informative:

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2001914403_artwork28m.html

    Just a thought, the kid also showed support for Ralph Nader and lives in a very red county. Maybe in this most polarized of times, the support for Nader was enough to think the kid was actually nuts.

  2. Eric-
    Let me tell you a story.

    About a month or so after 9-11, some of my students told me they’d read that Nostradamus had “predicted” the attacks. I took advantage of that to give my kids a lesson how, in the words of Cecil Adams, “Nostradamus did for bullshit what Stonehenge did for rocks.” (Though I of course said ‘bull-POOP,’ to protect the purity of youth.)

    I pointed out that nobody had EVER managed to take a Nostradamus verse and use it to make an accurate prediction of something soon to happen; instead, N’s apologists would use verses to make “after the fact” predictions. Before 9-11, nobody reading Nostradamus predicted that the Twin Towers would fall after being hit by an airplane, but once that happened, some verses were found which seemed to bolster that idea.

    Likewise, suppose that tomorrow I went spectacularly insane and shot some people. If you went through the Hit and Run archives and took out everything I wrote, you could probably make some “after the fact” predictions. “Jennifer used the word ‘goddamned’ twice in one sentence! Why, she must have been boiling over with repressed rage! Why did we not notice this sooner?”

    Does this mean H&R readers should blame themselves for not reporting me to the cops? No. Does this mean that ANYONE who expresses anger or annoyance on these threads should be viewed as a potential threat? HELL, no.

    If you read stories about various school shooters, and look at the after-the-fact warning signs, you’ll find many of them identical to “warning signs” of kids who will grow up to be boring, normal adults. My generation grew up thinking Freddy Krueger and Jason were funny, yet we didn’t become slasher serial killers. Calvin, of Calvin and Hobbes fame, fantasized about blowing up his school with F-16 missiles, yet C&H fans haven’t slavishly followed this example.

    If a kid writes “I plan to bomb ny high school and kill the following members of the popular clique,” then by all means, worry. But few kids–even few school shooters–do that. Fact is, NOBODY can keep the world entirely safe. There will always be the risk that some normal-looking kid will pop and go insane. It is IMPOSSIBLE to predict and prevent every bad thing which might possibly happen, and if you try to do so–as in schools with their zero-tolerance policies–you get a cure far worse than the disease.

  3. Any bets that is was a government school?
    Now the boy’s being punished. “Up to the blackboard.”

    I will not urge people to vote for Nader.
    I will not urge people to vote for Nader.
    I will not urge people to vote for Nader.
    I will not urge people to vote for Nader.
    I will not urge people to vote for Nader.
    I will not urge people to vote for Nader.
    I will not urge people to vote for Nader.

  4. Speaking of which, the Feds are now hot on monitoring blogs. Is this a future H&R topic?

    Link
    here

  5. Didn’t Peter Bagge do a cartoon about this a couple months ago?

  6. Concerning my Nostradamus example, I just thought of a question–has there EVER been a case where the Secret Service, investigating a cartoonist or a columnist making anti-President remarks, has actually uncovered a threat to do harm to the President?

    Did Lee Harvey Oswald or Squeaky Fromme write, draw or publish their plans beforehand? John Hinckley did write some weird things, but none of it was clearly a threat to Reagan–it was all “after the fact” prediction stuff.

  7. This is one of those reoccurring news stories, to-wit, the Secret Service investigates a possible threat on the Presidents life only to discover it was completely harmless.

    I seem to recall from the last time this was a story a couple of years ago that the Secret Service has some sort of statutory requirement to investigate virtually every threat. Once the local cops reported it to the Secret Service they were pretty much obligated to look at it, no matter how trivial it appeared to be.

    I agree with Jennifer, the blame here lays with the inability of government school administrators to make common sense evaluations of a student dangerousness.

  8. I seem to recall that a few months ago Eminem was investigated because a track from his upcoming CD might be a threat against the President.

    My brother told me about it, and suggested that it would be a good time for counterfeiters to ply their trade, because Secret Service is distracted investigating Slim Shady.

    (Yes, I realize that the Secret Service has separate agents assigned to counterfeit and investigating threats against the Pres. I still thought it was funny.)

  9. kmw: I love how in that article regarding Salam Pax they say “it’s not certain that is his real name.” I figured it was 100% certain that it is NOT his real name. Though the fact that his name is Arabic and Latin for peace and no one would blog inside Iraq as a gay, anti-Saddam writer with their real name.

  10. ah, the harmony! everyone in agreement (more or less)!!

    the schools, cops, SS are all “covering their asses” in case something ever goes wrong. Like jennifer said, the post-columbine zero-tolerance crap is to deal with law suits.

    if the art teacher didn’t call cops, and this boy later did something stupid, there will be someone questioning how the boy’s past behavior went unnoticed …

  11. Huh? I never said zero-tolerance stems from a fear of lawsuits. Having seen zero-tolerance firsthand, I suspect it stems from a lack of intelligence.

    Just for fun, I could take anything said by ANY of you on Hit and Run, and use it to “prove” that you’re dangerous. KTC2- your use of the word “brat” will look quite ominous, should you turn out to be a child-killer. KMW-why are you so nervous about the blog-monitoring? Must have something to hide. Mo–you’re an Arab. ‘Nuff said there. Shannon-you’ve posted from time to time that the government has on occasion been less than perfect; won’t THAT look ominous if you go on an anti-government rampage?

    Christ. There’s always plenty of fodder for a witch hunt, if that’s what you really want to do.

  12. “Having seen zero-tolerance firsthand, I suspect it stems from a lack of intelligence.”

    Jennifer: Out of curiosity, have you ever brought up the topic to administrators? If so, what were their responses?

  13. what about me?

  14. jennifer,

    my bad – wrong implication. I wanted to credit you with the zero-tolerance crap bit but wanted to add the law suit part (that was my opinion).

    now, if you are saying law suits are not the reason, why else will school districts all over the country going crazy? it is to “prove” in a court of law (when the victims’ “loved ones” sue) that they did everything they could, so they shouldn’t be liable.

    a teacher, when she calls the police, is more likely to be thinking about what she is required to do (by the policy) than intelligently (or stupidly) evaluating the objectionable act and determining that there is a grave threat.

  15. Mark-
    Hell yes, I brought up zero-tolerance to administrators; that is why I am now an EX-teacher.

    When the school took doors off the bathroom stalls (to stop kids from smoking) I protested that this was basically guaranteed to make kids view school as a humiliating place run by people who didn’t respect them. At the time I taught a low-level class that rarely wanted to do their assignments; I started having the class work on a letter to the school board, asking them to re-install the doors, and then the Dean of Students told me to stop it.

    When one of my students was expelled for a year, for possession of about one-fourth of a joint, I suggested that kicking him out of school and letting him hang out on the street all day was not the best way to keep him off of drugs. The Dean’s response? “Jennifer, I’ve been teaching longer than you’ve been alive.”

    When the (terminally short of money) school found money to buy Breathalyzers, which all students would be forced to blow into before being admitted to any dances or sports events or after-school activities, I suggested that teachers and administrators ALSO take the Breathalyzer tests, to set a good example for the students. This was dismissed without even giving me a reason.

    One of my students had low grades and lost her drive-to-school privileges. Problem was, she didn’t live on a bus line; if she couldn’t drive to school then she couldn’t GET to school. (She dropped out a week later.) I said that if we wanted kids to respect authority, we should perhaps demonstrate that authority deserves respect. A week later I learned my contract would not be renewed for the following year.

    Thoreau-
    Anyone who would willingly name himself after one of the most boring, long-winded writers in American history has already shown himself to be insane! I’ve already told the Secret Service that you are counterfeiting money; expect a visit SOON.

  16. The reason why I can’t support breathalyzers for teachers is that I’ve been smoking weed longer than you’ve been alive.

  17. Jennifer,
    “It is IMPOSSIBLE to predict and prevent every bad thing which might possibly happen, and if you try to do so–as in schools with their zero-tolerance policies–you get a cure far worse than the disease.”

    Again, I tend to agree here, but I don’t think any school administrator will concede this.

    And I would repeat thoreau’s question: what about me?

  18. Eric-
    Aren’t you the Christian? You know, the guy who takes orders from an invisible man in the sky? Just like Bin Laden? Yup–no surprise YOU did all the evil fucking things you’ve done.

    Some of you have been known to make insulting remarks on these postings. Calling people “idiot” and “moron” and such. Just like a sociopath, with an unfounded superiority complex towards the rest of the human race. Yup–no surprise YOU did all the evil fucking things you’ve done.

    Zorel-you’re claiming I said things I never fucking said. Lawsuits? Where did THAT shit come from? What other lies do the voices in your head tell you? Yup–no surprise YOU did all the evil fucking things you’ve done.

    Anonymous–claiming boys will be boys? Well, that would make a pretty justification for gang rape, wouldn’t it? Any other behaviors you’d like to excuse with your flippant little commentaries? Yup–no surprise YOU did all the evil fucking things you’ve done.

    Sounds ridiculous, people, but if you actually committed a horrible crime I guarantee folks would take it seriously.

  19. “When the school took doors off the bathroom stalls (to stop kids from smoking) I protested that this was basically guaranteed to make kids view school as a humiliating place run by people who didn’t respect them.”

    At my school, we didn’t have any doors on the bathroom stalls because kids had torn them off. It made us view school as a humiliating place populated by dangerous meatheads.

  20. “Some of you have been known to make insulting remarks on these postings. Calling people “idiot” and “moron” and such. Just like a sociopath, with an unfounded superiority complex towards the rest of the human race. Yup–no surprise YOU did all the evil fucking things you’ve done.”

    Yer so right Jen, ‘cept you shoulda told him the manliest thing anyone in his family ever could do was to kick your dead quadro dad’s ass.

    Or was that “lick”?

    God your pathetic

  21. TWC–

    God, my pathetic what? You forgot to complete your sentence.

  22. Jennifer: Arab? That’s the best you can do? I’m hurt.

    Looking back on my high school years and the pranks my friends and I pulled off (not to mention the ones we decided against), I realize how lucky I was to get away with some of the stuff, scot free. I went to high school right at the beginning of the zero tolerance era, when the travesties were real news items, instead of “Ho-hum, another overreaction at a high school.”

    Maybe it’s because I happened to dodge all the shit that makes public schools gawd awful and managed to squeeze out a decent education, but I always felt that if I ever got tricked into having kids, I wouldn’t have a problem sending them to public school. After hearing the crap my bro and sis went through (exact same high school) and the crap in the news, not to mention Jen’s and the rest of H&R’s horror stories, I am convinced that my non-existant kids are going to a private school.

  23. Mo-
    You’re right; I was rude to shortchange you. M’kay, how’s this: the fact that you seem to know more truths about Salam Pax than does our own government proves that you’re in league with the terrorists?

    Or maybe, the fact that you talk about your non-existent children. . .um. . .something about hallucinations. “Tricked” into having kids? Obviously a misogynistic asshole.

    I hope this makes you feel better.

  24. “Shannon-you’ve posted from time to time that the government has on occasion been less than perfect; won’t THAT look ominous if you go on an anti-government rampage?”

    I am on an anti-government rampage. It’s just a very slow one.

  25. Much better. I love a good roast.

  26. Any answer to my earlier question? HAS there been a case where these Secret Service investigations uncovered a genuine threat to the safety of the President, or is this yet another case where our civil liberties are being eroded with no clear gain to the public safety?

  27. jennifer,

    “Zorel-you’re claiming I said things I never fucking said.”

    you are an (ex-) English teacher and you can’t understand what I write? am I that bad?!

    I didn’t say “you said lawsuits”. “I” said lawsuits! damnit. you said “stupidity” was the reason for zero-tolerance policies; I am saying “fear of lawsuits” is a major cause.

    You know, after reading all the stuff you wrote about your school experience, I have to respect you! But still, the facts are facts (you tend to go crazy whenever Bush is involved – or not involved, in which case you bring him up … well, you didn’t bring Bush up in this thread, so … well, it has been a long day; I need some rest 🙂

  28. This is depressing. We just had a thread a couple days ago about a teacher in a public (government) school ordering two students to toss a third out of a window. And, now this sad story that incredibly ends with; The student was not suspended, although he was disciplined.

    Abysmal academic standards, physical abuse of students and punishing anti-authority expression!
    It’s time for separation of education and state, now more then ever!

  29. Hey Principal Lusk; in calling the cops on this kid you were being very un-American. In doing what you did, you taught the students values that are anti-liberty. And then you actually disciplined this kid? You should be ashamed of yourself, Kevin Lusk. You’re the one who should be held accountable by the taxpayers of the Prosser school district.

    OK; he doesn’t sound like the type who reads Reason but here is Principal Lusk’s e-mail: Kevin.lusk@prosserschools.org

    And phone and fax:
    Prosser High School
    Phone: (509) 786-1224
    Fax: (509) 786-4227

  30. I read about this a few days ago. Much as I loathe Bush I must say this is not an example of the stupidity of his administration, but the stupidity of public schools in the post-Columbine “zero tolerance” atmosphere. Does this bimbo art teacher think that normal teenagers spend their days drawing pictures of happy little fuzz-bunnies?

    If a teacher calls the Secret Service and says “my student has threatened the President,” the SS HAS to show up. The school should be sued for “punishing” the boy.

  31. I stand corrected. The other versions of this story merely said that the Secret Service was “called in.” I didn’t realize that the agents saw the pictures before coming out to Washington State.

    Every single authority figure in this case was a raving idiot.

  32. What did the Service actually do here? The article doesn?t say ? it just states the kid was disciplined, presumably by the school. Is the school at fault for calling the cops? Are the cops at fault for contacting the Service?

    Post-Columbine, can a school afford to ignore anything?

  33. (rolling eyes) Boys will be boys. Shouldn’t it be a good thing that at his age, he is interested in current events and politics?

  34. Eric-
    The Service came to the boy’s house and “questioned” him. Perhaps some apologists would excuse this by saying “Yeah, well, the kid wasn’t arrested, so no harm done” but that is bullshit–you think having government agents come to your house isn’t in an of itself a bit of a threat? Especially for a kid?

    And yes, schools CAN afford to ignore certain things in a post-Columbine era, assuming the authority figures have IQs in the THREE digit range. This wasn’t an essay where the kid wrote, “My goal in life is to kill the President and here’s how I plan to do it;” he drew what amounted to a political cartoon. Anyone who can’t distinguish between a political cartoon and a bona-fide threat is too fucking stupid to be entrusted with the education of the young. That art teacher needs to quit her job and work for the goddamned Hallmark corporation, if her sensibilities are that goddamned fragile.

    One of these days I’ll have to tell the story of how *I* handled it, when my students turned in violent poetry and stories, or wrote eerie things on their websites. Hint: no cops were involved, and none of the kids went on to shoot up the school, or themselves, or blow up the President.

  35. Uh, that was supposed to read “in AND of itself a threat.”

  36. Jennifer,
    I tend to agree – virtually all kids are not a threat to shoot others. But what about those that are? How do schools deal with those?

    About the Service, I’m a little easier on it, because while the kid probably is not a threat, that’s not to say a family member isn’t. The kid’s drawing may represent something he heard or observed at home or eleswhere.

    Not likely, I know, but isn’t that their job, to determine likely threats?

  37. They sure taught that brat a lesson about dissent now didn’t they? Bet he’ll think twice before speaking out against authority again!

  38. Jimmy Antley,

    You’re right about zero tolerance not being just a school thing. I got in trouble at one place for joking about gut-shooting a senior management person with a flare-gun, and vividly describing her screaming and clawing at her flesh as steam from the white-hot phosphorous poured out of the entrance wound.

  39. jennifer,

    Law suits are not directed at public employees (they don’t have much money anyway) – rather, at the school districts or the employers.

    So, the bosses make up the CYA rules which when implemented, look stupid.

  40. “Does this mean H&R readers should blame themselves for not reporting me to the cops? No.”

    Ms. Jennifer:
    We cops call ourselves. The black helicopters have been dispatched. Have a nice day.

  41. Jennifer, Zorel has a good point about the fear of lawsuits bit. You’re not always right, by the way. You have a lot of experience and good stories about public schools, and I agree with you on pretty much every one (and want to second Rick Barton’s summary of the situation).

    Zero tolerance bullshit is not just a school thing. If you’ve ever worked in a big or medium sized company, you will see a lot of the same.

    The whole zero tolerance business indeed stems from a lot of stupidity on the part of a lot of people who think they are doing good. However, fear of a lawsuit in the future often makes managers and people in authority do things that are just asinine. Other times, they just use “we could get sued” as an excuse.

    This is pretty minor, but a good example anyways. I go to the same grocery store as I always did, and the mutherfuckers now ask me if I need help with the bags every time. I am not old or crippled or weak looking. I don’t usually buy more than 2 to 3 bags worth of stuff. It just pissed me off — not, mind you, because I find it insulting, as in “they think I’m not able to tote a few lb. of groceries”.

    It’s more like, whose stupid-ass idea is it to ask every single customer this, just to be politically correct, so an old dude won’t get all huffy “you think I can’t carry my own stuff. Why, in my day we carried our groceries 3 miles throught the snow, and it was uphill both ways, you young wippersnapper!”

    But, the girl told me, they have to ask everybody. It’s a directive from the big cheese at the back of the store, or maybe even from the headquarters in Muncie, Indiana. Fear of lawsuits, Jennifer??? Most likely.

  42. Jimmy and ZOrel-
    The one reason I suspect “lawsuitophobia” is not as issue here is because it’s extremely hard to sue public employees over what they have or have not done as part of their jobs.

    (On a related note, I am very surprised that some enterprising lawyer hasn’t started a class-action suit against schools for passing out diplomas to kids who haven’t learned a thing. But give it time.)

  43. Yeah, that might be the one good use for lawyers, other than just a shark bait.

  44. Jennifer, props for working in the M’kay.

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