Civil liberties or shopping: which better reflects the ideals of Western culture?

You certainly remember all of those cute little stickers and signs that went up shortly after 9/11 with the American flag shopping bag and the words "AMERICA: OPEN FOR BUSINESS" emblazoned on them. They were a real statement that Americans were not going to be intimated and "let the terrorists win". They were a deep reaffirmation of American freedom - freedom to shop, that is.

Too bad that our civil liberties don't generate nearly as much of a desire on the part of the Bush administration and Main Street to "not let the terrorists win":

- FBI is spying on dissident groups: The Federal Bureau of Investigation has collected extensive information on the tactics, training and organization of antiwar demonstrators and has advised local law enforcement officials to report any suspicious activity at protests to its counterterrorism squads, according to interviews and a confidential bureau memorandum.

"The F.B.I. is dangerously targeting Americans who are engaged in nothing more than lawful protest and dissent," said Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "The line between terrorism and legitimate civil disobedience is blurred, and I have a serious concern about whether we're going back to the days of Hoover."

According to the report, the FBI is collecting and analyzing information about legal activities on the part of dissidents. At best, this is a pointless waste of the time of personnel who, one would think, should have better things to do. But in light of the reported abuses of the so-called PATRIOT Act, we are clearly not in a "best case" situation. Instead, this spying will probably be used for other purposes: to infiltrate and disrupt dissident groups.

- Arrested Miami protestors get impossibly high bails: "The bonds appear to be excessive and more in line with felony charges than the misdemeanors in question," said Public Defender Bennett H. Brummer, whose office filed the papers in the Third District Court of Appeal.

Thursday's legal move came after a series of unusual bonds were imposed earlier in the day on protesters accused of minor crimes.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Maria Korvick ordered a $20,000 bond for Jesse S. Dewlow, 18, of New Jersey, and a $10,000 bond for James Anthony Samaro, 19, of Coral Springs, for loitering and prowling. The standard bond is $500, the public defender's office said.

(Link via Antiwar.com)

- Miami police beat legal observers: Eight legal observers sent to monitor Miami police during trade protests were arrested, and four were beaten by officers, their organization said Saturday as dozens of protesters were issued bond.

In a letter sent Thursday to Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, the lawyers guild said police used indiscriminate, excessive force against hundreds of nonviolent protesters.

- UK considers new emergency laws: Sweeping measures to deal with terrorist attacks and other emergencies are to be announced this week, giving the Government power to over-ride civil liberties in times of crisis, and evacuate threatened areas, restrict people's movements and confiscate property.

Some of the proposals in the draft version of the Bill, drawn up in the summer, have alarmed civil rights activists, notably a clause that gives the Government the power to suspend parts or all of the Human Rights Act without a vote by MPs.

Once an emergency has been proclaimed by the Queen, the Government can order the destruction of property, order people to evacuate an area or ban them from travelling, and "prohibit assemblies of specified kinds" and "other specified activities".

No fancy signs here. I guess that after all of our civil liberties have been robbed from us, Americans and their Limey counterparts will still have shopping to show that we're "not going to let the terrorists win".

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