Hysteria

23 03 2009

I go away for a week, and the Aluminum-Foil Deflector-Beanie crowd suddenly experiences a resurgence of purpose. I hope there isn’t a cause-and-effect relationship there.

As reported on FARK and Fox news (among other places), something called the “Missouri Information Analysis Center” (MIAC) issued a document to be used in training Missouri police officers and state troopers in detecting domestic terrorists. Assuming your brain cells do not require long-distance phone service to communicate, following the link above will probably cause you physical pain, so I will summarize:

ZOMG! The New World Order is a-comin’, and the Blue Helmets are gonna getcha!”

I’m only slightly kidding. The sheer hysteria in the linked article and the comments thereon would be funny if it weren’t so painfully real.

I have read the actual document from this MIAC organization, and there are some Constitutional issues with it- most notably the training of police officers to use political opinions (in the form of bumper stickers) outside the two primary parties as evidence of Militia involvement (and therefore domestic terrorism). I’m pretty sure the First Amendment to the US Constitution was intended to prevent this sort of crap, but I could be wrong. You be the judge:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Maybe it’s just me, but those bits about “Free Speech” and “Peaceable Assembly” and “Petition for Redress of Grievances” seem to forbid this sort of Byzantine exercise of police power. I think that any police department arresting or even mildly inconveniencing citizens under the auspices of this training will quickly find itself sued to smithereens under the First Amendment.

Not that you could prove anything of the sort by the histrionics on the linked website. According to Prison Planet, the document in question actually states that any American who talks about his or her Constitutional rights, owns a gun, flies an American flag, or attends any sort of protest is suspected of being a Domestic Terrorist.The fact that little of this is evident in the actual documents appears to have no effect upon the hysteria.Reading some of the comments on Prison Planet’s website is revealing- a large number of them apparently believe that 9-11 was an inside job by the Gummint. Hysteria and paranoia are not a good combination.

In a similar vein, a great many people all over the country are apparently buying firearms and ammunition in anticipation of wholesale gun bans and possibly even confiscation by the Gummint. The net result of this panic is the steep rise in the prices of firearms and ammunition- to the point where manufacturers are having trouble keeping up with the demand. If you enjoy shooting the most common types of ammunition, count on it costing a Hell of a lot more than it used to- assuming you can find it at all. Forget about buying the more popular firearms of whatever sort- there’s a waiting list almost everywhere. If you have your heart set on a so-called “assault weapon” (a nebulous term that essentially means any weapon whose cosmetic appearance makes gun-haters swoon with fear), count on a long wait and a vastly inflated price. All because of raw stupidity feeding hysteria and panic. Mob mentality.

I approve of honest citizens availing themselves of their Second Amendment rights for defense of themselves and their neighbors. As a gun owner, I take the responsibilities inherent in those rights very seriously. That said, far too many of the people buying firearms  these days appear to be panic-stricken fools. I am not getting a warm fuzzy feeling about the probability of all of these people being responsible gun owners.  The possibility that this spike in firearms sales will result in tragedy (and therefore more ammunition for gun-haters to further restrict my liberties) worries me greatly.

Hysteria is never useful and panic is always stupid. In this case, it is also counter-productive.

Current status: Awestruck at the stupidity of my fellow Americans

Current music: Space Lord by Monster Magnet

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L’Envoi

14 03 2009

I’ll be attending a conference in San Diego next week, so I won’t be able to reply to any posts until March 21st at the earliest.





Highway Robbery

14 03 2009

Literally.

It turns out that the police in Tenaha, TX are taking advantage of a loophole in a stupidly-conceived law and committing highway robbery. If you happen to be black or latino, and are passing through Tenaha, you find yourself at great risk of getting pulled over for some nonsensical reason (You were driving too close to the white line, amigo). If you are driving a fancy new car, you are very likely to be dispossessed of the vehicle unless you can prove it was not purchased with the profits from the drug trade. If you happen to have a lot of cash in the car (since Tenaha is on the main road to several casinos in nearby Louisiana, this is fairly likely), the cash will almost certainly be seized by the police. Objecting to these practices results in severe threats against the owners. People get threatened with arrest, long jail times before trial, and their children getting taken from them and given to foster homes.

None of these people seem to get charged with any crime. Ever. And this is all perfectly legal.

During the course of our stupid and long-since-lost War on Drugs, several states passed laws allowing police departments to seize the proceeds of the drug trade. These police organizations could then sell the seized properties to augment their budgets. Many of you reading this may be nodding and asking, “So?”

The folks who wrote those laws neglected to account for the perfidies of human beings. These asset seizures are officially described as civil actions- not criminal. In criminal court, the burden of proof is on the prosecution, and that burden is beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil court, the burden of proof is on the person filing the suit, and that burden is a preponderance of evidence. If the police take a few thousand dollars in cash from you, you have to prove it wasn’t part of the drug trade in order to get it back. Worse, you have to prove it to a judge and jury in the police department’s jurisdiction.

We already have p0lice paramilitary units shooting up innocent citizens in the name of the War on Drugs. Now they can legally steal your money or property and you have a very slim chance of ever getting it back.

Let’s take a look at the IVth Amendment to the US Constitution, shall we?

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Maybe it’s just me, but the text of this Amendment seems to make this sort of behavior strictly illegal.

I keep coming back to the Four Boxes. We can deal with this stupidity using the first three Boxes.

SOAPBOX: Talk about it. Write to your Congressweasel and Senator. Write to your state legislators and the Governor. Write to the newspapers and TV stations. If you think the forfeiture isn’t an inherently bad idea, get your legislature to modify it so the seizure can’t take place until after conviction and with a separate legal procedure.

BALLOT BOX: Start petition drives to get the law repealed or amended. Vote against legislators who refuse to change or repeal it. Run for office yourself and campaign against it.

JURY BOX: Sue the motherfuckers! If you know someone this has happened to, support them in suing the police. Don’t just sue to get the property back, sue for punitive damages. If we (the People) make it more expensive to engage in this behavior, perhaps the police will stop seeing the citizens they allegedly serve as sources of funding for next year’s budget.

This stupidity is made possible because people refuse to let go of their puritan ideals. I must prevent someone else from enjoying himself, even if it means giving up my own liberty, property, and life! I am not willing to surrender my liberty, property, or life to prevent Joe Stoner from blazing a doob.

The police have no incentive to stop these seizures themselves. We have put them in the position where they look upon the public they allegedly serve only as a source of funding. We (the People) need to use those first three Boxes to put a stop to this before we are forced to resort to the Fourth Box.

Current status: Disgusted

Current music: In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel





The Sons of Martha Have Had Enough

3 03 2009

I generally despise poetry. That said, there are a few poets I can stomach (it’s an extremely short list), and Rudyard Kipling is my favorite among them. He wrote a poem called The Sons of Martha, which I reproduce below (courtesy of the Literature Network):

The Sons of Martha

The Sons of Mary seldom bother, for they have inherited that good part;
But the Sons of Martha favour their Mother of the careful soul and the troubled heart.
And because she lost her temper once, and because she was rude to the Lord her Guest,
Her Sons must wait upon Mary’s Sons, world without end, reprieve, or rest.

It is their care in all the ages to take the buffet and cushion the shock.
It is their care that the gear engages; it is their care that the switches lock.
It is their care that the wheels run truly; it is their care to embark and entrain,
Tally, transport, and deliver duly the Sons of Mary by land and main.

They say to mountains, “Be ye removèd.” They say to the lesser floods, “Be dry.”
Under their rods are the rocks reprovèd- they are not afraid of that which is high.
Then do the hill-tops shake to the summit- then is the bed of the deep laid bare,
That the Sons of Mary may overcome it, pleasantly sleeping and unaware.

They finger Death at their gloves’ end where they piece and repiece the living wires.
He rears against the gates they tend: they feed him hungry behind their fires.
Early at dawn, ere men see clear, they stumble into his terrible stall,
And hale him forth like a haltered steer, and goad and turn him till evenfall.

To these from birth is Belief forbidden; from these till death is Relief afar.
They are concerned with matters hidden- under the earthline their altars are-
The secret fountains to follow up, waters withdrawn to restore to the mouth,
And gather the floods as in a cup, and pour them again at a city’s drouth.

They do not preach that their God will rouse them a little before the nuts work loose.
They do not preach that His Pity allows them to drop their job when they damn-well choose.
As in the thronged and the lighted ways, so in the dark and the desert they stand,
Wary and watchful all their days that their brethren’s ways may be long in the land.

Raise ye the stone or cleave the wood to make a path more fair or flat;
Lo, it is black already with the blood some Son of Martha spilled for that!
Not as a ladder from earth to Heaven, not as a witness to any creed,
But simple service simply given to his own kind in their common need.

And the Sons of Mary smile and are blessèd- they know the Angels are on their side.
They know in them is the Grace confessèd, and for them are the Mercies multiplied.
They sit at the feet- they hear the Word- they see how truly the Promise runs.
They have cast their burden upon the Lord, and- the Lord, He lays it on Martha’s Sons!

This particular poem is particularly appropriate these days, in my opinion. There seem to be a great many people donning the mantle of the Sons of Mary, blithely certain that God in the guise of the US Government will intervene between their folly and the consequences thereof. Far too many people apparently believe that the laws of cause and effect do not apply to them. “Consequences? Not my problem. I’m an American citizen/Christian/Democrat/Republican/insert-special-interest-group-here!”

Rather than rely upon the whims of some celestial voice or earthly government, I prefer to earn my own way.  I refuse to blindly hope that things will turn out for the best, because I am incapable of blissfully ignoring the cold and unpalatable nature of reality.

All of those Sons of Mary out there who defer or shirk their responsibilities in the happy knowledge that someone else will pick up the slack, take notice- the Sons of Martha are sick of carrying your load.

It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re a good person.  The Universe does not care. It also doesn’t matter what flavor of religion or politics you find appetizing. If you aren’t willing to carry your own weight and own up to the consequences of your actions, you are a parasite. Parasites exist by extracting what they need to survive from creatures that actually work for a living. The host creature- the Sons of Martha, in this case- must disencumber itself of the freeloaders draining it of vital nutrients before the drain becomes crippling.

Actions have consequences. Failure to act is itself an action, and also has consequences. “The bank shouldn’t have loaned me all that money!” does not negate your personal failure in choosing to ask for- and accept- a loan you couldn’t pay back. Furthermore, I see no reason why I should be forced to pay the penalty for your stupidity- again.

And it isn’t just me. Far more people buckled down and made the necessary sacrifices to pay their debts than have defaulted on loans. Those people are also getting soaked to pay for the minority of people too stupid or lazy or financially incompetent to pay their fucking bills on time.

It has been argued that some people failed to pay their bills through no fault of their own. People who lost jobs as a result of someone else’s failings, for example. I concede that there may be a tiny percentage of the people I am excoriating who may fit this description. In the bad old days of the early 80s, I was even one of them. But I didn’t find it necessary to shrug my burden off on the taxpayers.

I found a job delivering pizzas while my wife worked as a secretary. We contacted all of our creditors and worked out deals with them- they would each get paid a little bit every month. One of our creditors got paid the normal payment- plus as much extra as we could afford until it was paid off. Lather, rinse, repeat. We scrimped and saved and did without and dug ourselves out of the hole we’d dug ourselves into. And we paid off every fucking nickel we owed. With interest.

Notice that there was no appeal to God or Government involved. Sacrifice and self-discipline and a sense of personal responsibility are apparently not politically-correct terms these days, but those are exactly what is required on the part of those Sons of bitches Mary who are begging for the Gummint to come save them. Instead of manning up and dealing with the problem, these Sons of Mary seem to be bent on ruining everyone else.

I am tired of working my ass off to make a living, only to watch more and more of my money stolen by the Gummint to rescue deadbeats. What little remains is devalued by increasing inflation- which is the inevitable result from printing scads of fiat money to pay for ever-larger and more expensive Gummint programs for neer-do-wells.

This sort of Goodies-for-Undesirables program coupled with massive inflation (think of Zimbabwe)  stand a fair chance of driving what’s left of our Republic into the ground and barking at the hole. Wealthy republics seldom last long- usually only until the People discover they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury. This is exactly what is happening to the United States of America right now, and I am sorry (but not altogether surprised) to see it. We had a pretty good run- 233 years- but I fear we’re looking at the last days of this Republic.

I hope I’m wrong.

Current status: Pissed

Current music: Lucifer by Alan Parsons Project