Canadian science fiction writer, beaten and arrested at US border

Discussion in 'World affairs' started by Vladd67, Dec 11, 2009.

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    Vladd67

    Vladd67 Stake Holder

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    Omphalos

    Omphalos הדרךקפיצת

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    Hmmmm. Now why do I think that this is not the complete story? Really, is there anyone else out there who does not know that the boarder cops are a bunch of provinical, self-aggrandizing butt-holes, who nevertheless should just be listened to as you pass through their domain? Maybe someone else out there who really cares if the boarder cops search a car that they don't even own? As I sit here and listen to my own BS detector, I have to ask what this guy did to provoke this. My guess is that he was not as innocent as that report from his "friend" makes it out.
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2009
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    Sparrow

    Sparrow Science fiction fantasy

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    Sorry, as a guy with very long hair and doesn't always look on the up-and-up, who has been stopped at border crossings, customs, airport security, etc... I have found customs agents, border guards, and the like, to be very professional and *eek-gads* can I say it, almost friendly. This would have been a very routine search of a rental vehicle with no good reason for tempers or impaired judgment, by all parties involved.

    I suspect the article I just read at boingboing isn't even "half the story".
    Also, these check points and border crossings are notorious for having plain view video cameras and additional hidden cameras, they will likely tell the real story.


    It's too bad all around.
    I like Watts as sf writer, his book Blindsight is excellent.
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    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    And if his lawyer does get him off, let's hope that he is also innocent.
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    iansales

    iansales Active Member

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    Watts has posted his own version of events here - No Moods, Ads or Cutesy f*cking Icons (Re-reloaded) » Not the Best of Possible Worlds.

    It wasn't so long ago that your friendly US law enforcement officers beat the crap out of a noted academic as he tried to enter his house after returning from holiday. So yes, I think it likely Watts is innocent - or guilty of no more than asking what the border guards were doing. If they would sooner attack than explain, then there's a big problem. And, don't forget, Watts was leaving the US.
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    pyan

    pyan Fortiter et recte! Staff Member

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    Yes, that puzzled me, as well. Surely it would be up to the Canadian guards to search his car, as he was entering Canada and leaving the US?...
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    The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    Terrorists are quite capable of making visits to identify possible weak security, and of leaving a bomb and running to another country to escape, so the mere fact someone is on his way out of the country is in itself no reason for the US guards not to stop a suspicious car.

    There are, unfortunately, a great many people in positions of authority -- usually in uniforms of some sort -- who believe they should never be questioned, and that if they are questioned they have a right to behave with aggression. There are also a great many people who do not understand this and have no concept of keeping very quiet when confronted by such officials. I have great admiration for the integrity of people who question authority and call it to account. I have less respect for their intelligence and common sense.

    J
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    Omphalos

    Omphalos הדרךקפיצת

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    Maybe Obama can invite this guy over for a beer. Though he will probably have to get some 8-point to make him happy.

    By the way, Ian. One case has nothing to do with the other. If we hope to resolve these things amicably and fairly, we have to listen to both sides.
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    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    What? Past bad acts by completely different individuals aren't to be considered as evidence? You astound me.
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    Sparrow

    Sparrow Science fiction fantasy

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    The episode you elude to was a perfect example of what happens when two assh@les come together and turn a simple misunderstanding into a federal case.

    Both were at fault, and neither deserved an audience with our President, much less a free beer.


    I don't much like cops myself, but they have a difficult job and warrant at least a passing respect.
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    Omphalos

    Omphalos הדרךקפיצת

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    Yes, but it was a racial issue, so I appreciate someone taking charge and defusing it before all the typical stupidity that usually follows could occur. At least, I remember nothing happening after the beer-in-the-garden.
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    iansales

    iansales Active Member

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    So one act of inappropriate violence by law enforcement officials on an innocent person has nothing to do with another act of inappropriate violence on an innocent person? spot the pattern.

    If you want to live in a country in which the normal response to those pledged to safeguard you is fear, then fine. But it'll never change for the better if you accept that.
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    Ursa major

    Ursa major Bearly Believable Staff Member

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    I have to say that in my (admittedly limited**) experience, US border police (whatever they were called) were the most aggressive I've met.

    I speak as someone who's been through Checkpoint Charlie a couple of times, entered Egypt at the then (this was the mid-80s) Israeli-controlled border at Rafah (i.e. from the Gaza strip into Egypt), crossed the Iron Curtain half a dozen times***, and also between the the DDR and Czechoslovakia.

    The only time I felt as threatened was passing from Jordan into Israel (West Bank). And that was only because it was very hot and the heavily-armed Israeli soldier guarding the coach had eyes so close together, he made Bjorn Borg's look as far apart as the former Mrs Kennedy's. (He still didn't shoot us, so the threat was all in my imagination. :))

    I think the big problem is that unlike the other American's I've met - all of them almost unnnaturally friendly (as seen from an English perspective, that is :eek:) - those folk who guard the US borders seemed to be trying to act extra tough (as though they were auditioning for a remake of, say, Blade Runner or worse). On the other side, no-one expected any civility from East German border guards, so there was little chance you'd even think of making a "smart" remark.



    ** - I've flown in and out of the US only four times, always on business.

    *** - Not counting Checkpoint Charlie.
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    Omphalos

    Omphalos הדרךקפיצת

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    Actually, I see a broader pattern in all the uneventful boarder crossings and police/policed interactions.

    The idea that some Massachussetts cops who over-reacted to an angry homeowner could in any way bear on the actions of some Michigan boarder guards is laugh out loud funny. If you were here, you would actually hear me laughing.

    C'mon, Ian. I've heard you speak multiple times about taking middle eastern perspectives in mind when evaluating problems that arise when westerners interact with them. That alone long ago convinced me that you were a reasonable man. Can you not do the same here? Can you really not consider that the author may have done something to contribute to this? Can you not consider another side may exist to this story?
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    The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    Two incidents in a population of however many millions does not a trend make, especially when the officials are not even in the same branch of law enforcement or the same part of the country. Two is obviously two too many -- one is too many -- but the incident is bad enough without being conflated with others which are irrelevant, I think.

    The episode needs to be investigated, and no matter what the truth of Dr. Watts' reaction, the guards need to be sent for re-training: they should be able to diffuse a situation of this kind, not make it worse. And yes, you are right, that each and every incident of official aggression of this kind -- no matter what the provocation -- should be brought into the open and exposed so that the American people are more aware of what is being done in their name**, and they should demand better of their officials. The police and border guards are meant to be watch-dogs, not wolves.

    J

    ** and the same goes for our police and officials in the UK.
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    iansales

    iansales Active Member

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    The point I was making is one the Judge has just made. That the border guards failed and should be held accountable for their failure. And no, I don't think Watts contributed to the situation; or rather, his actions were no more than reasonable - i.e., he asked what the border guards were doing. I would expect any person to have the right to do that in the same situation. If it resulted in violence from the police here in the UK, there would be an enquiry.

    Omphalos, I am a reasonable person, but that doesn't mean I will find excuses for others' unreasonable behaviour.
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    iansales

    iansales Active Member

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    Omphalos

    Omphalos הדרךקפיצת

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    Just so we're clear my friend, I was not implying that you had become unreasonable. I was just trying to appeal to your better nature.

    Still, Ian, the manner in which he "asked what the boarder guards were doing," is probably the critical fact here. There is a difference between "excuse me sir, would you like my trunk key," or "can you tell me why Im here," as opposed to "what the hell are you doing, you can't do that!!!" Honestly, all I have seen here are some self serving and intentionally vague postings about the facts from the author and a few of his buddies. There is NOTHING out so far (cant see all your links here at work, btw) that shows whether his "inquiry" was reasonable or unreasonable, calm or indignant, peaceful or irate. Until all the facts are in, I assume that everyone was being reasonable, or at least their actions pass the reasonability laugh-test. And yes, the reasonableness of the boarder guard's actions is directly relatable to the way that the author presented himself to them.

    How the heck do you expect that the system will ever be made better if we react without understanding what was in the boarder guard's heads? Shall we punish them without knowing if they thought they were reacting reasonably? Let them off without knowing if they were just in a pissy mood and were looking to boot-jack some poor soul? There is ALWAYS another side to every dispute. Always.

    EDIT: OK. Opened up those links on my personal laptop. There's nothing there, Ian. The facts are still out.
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    Ursa major

    Ursa major Bearly Believable Staff Member

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    There is a further accusation regarding his release, namely the unsuitable clothing he was left in to face the weather.

    Setting aside for a moment whether this account is accurate (the way he writes it, it's only implied, and there's no corroboration), is this a reasonable response to the situation by those security folk?
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    iansales

    iansales Active Member

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    Omphalos, according to people who know Watts - and whom I know well enough to know they wouldn't lie about this - he's not the sort of person to respond to a situation like this with violence. So I expect he did no more than ask loudly, as he has claimed.

    However, as one the links I posted suggests, being Canadian he's probably never learned to be subservient to border guards (as US citizens have). But then, that's not something that should be accepted. It's also worth pointing out that, according to a comment on Watts' own blog, he had every legal right to refuse a search.

    Now if this had happened in the Middle East, then it'd be an entirely different matter. The UAE is still pretty much a police state, and if it had been me then I'd have trod very carefully around armed men in uniform. But this did happen in the Us, which is allegedly a free country.

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