Is Anyone Paying Attention?

27 11 2011

I realize that thinking about our politicians and their manifold stupidities tends to cause projectile vomiting and blinding headaches, but it would behoove all of you who enjoy the liberties guaranteed by the Constitution to start. For those of you for whom thinking of any sort is actively painful, allow me to clarify that- everyone in the United States should start paying attention to the shenanigans going on in the halls of government.

It seems that a few Senators with an “R” in parentheses after their names have managed to sound out all the big words in Orwell’s 1984, and decided that they liked some of the ideas presented. They liked it so much that they proposed a bill to basically make the “War on Terror” more or less permanent and give the US military authority to detain and indefinitely imprison any American citizen on suspicion of being engaged in terrorism. By the way, for those of you who aren’t in shock after reading that, this includes American citizens within the continental United States. Put more simply, YOU could be arrested by the US Marines in your back yard if someone with a grudge called the local office of the Department of Homey Scrutiny and said you were building bombs for Al Qaeda. You could be hauled away in cuffs and tossed into a cell for the duration of the “War on Terror”- which would now be essentially endless.

There are those in this country who might be okay with this- provided it happened to people they dislike or merely disagree with. Those people are fools. Worse than fools, they are willing to sell themselves and their children into servitude in the vain hope that doing so will make sure those uppity moose limbs, ay-rabs, messicans, and hippies won’t be able to sully their precious American landscape with their differences. Without meaning to, these imbeciles are building the walls of their own future prison cells, because they don’t realize that THEY are a trouble-maker with different ideas to someone else.

This sort of Byzantine use of power is becoming ever more widespread, and is by no means exclusive to the Federal government. The Feds are merely the level of government least responsive to citizen anger. Witness the tale of Timothy Siaki, an American citizen who happens to be deaf. When police were called to a disturbance, they found Timothy and his fiance engaged in a loud argument- because both of them were deaf, they were arguing in Ameslan (American Sign Language), but they were so agitated that they were vocalizing as well. The police naturally arrested Timothy because he wouldn’t respond to their commands. This is easy to understand, since Timothy can neither read lips nor read or write English. His fiance tried to tell the police that she was in no danger, but they ignored her, because she also could not speak properly, and none of the cops bothered to get an Ameslan translator. This failure to get someone who understood Ameslan involved lasted for 25 days, during which time Timothy was almost deported by Immigration. He was almost deported despite the fact that Immigration agents knew he was an American citizen. I hope the lawsuit Timothy filed after his release leaves the police department and Immigration in bankruptcy.

Now let us look at abuse of power at the State level. It seems a High School class in Kansas were taken to the capitol and chanced to hear a speech by the governor. One of the students went on Twitter and said a few unkind things about the governor, then described her feeling that the governor did not represent her interests or her political views. Someone on the governor’s staff read the comments, and then contacted the girl’s school administrators to punish her for her temerity in saying unpleasant things about the governor. I realize that Kansas is not the most important state in the union, but surely even the governor of Kansas has better things to do than harass high school students who exercise their 1st Amendment rights to voice their opinions.

Since we’re discussing schools, it seems that a Catholic school somewhere in this country has decided that certain books are forbidden for their students- including a large number of classics such as Milton’s Paradise Lost. One student has decided to bring those books to school anyway, and has even gone so far as to start lending the books to her fellow students. For those of you old enough to remember the Soviet Union, this sort of thing used to happen all the time in the USSR. Then, books were banned for political reasons. In the “Land of the Free”, it largely happens for religious reasons. Granted that a religious school might not want to carry “controversial” books in their school library, but there ‘s no reason why students should be forbidden from reading the books on their own. Haven’t these idiots ever heard of the Streissand Effect? How about the best way to lead a pig? Taking the trouble to ban a book and publicly punish those who defy the ban merely guarantees that more students will read the works in question.

What do all of these incidents have in common? Bureaucrats and administrators who are insulated from public displeasure. Senators can count on their idiocies being forgotten by the time their six-year terms are up, so they don’t bother even pretending they are working in the country’s best interest anymore. Immigration officials hold secret proceedings out of the public eye for deciding on deportation- even for American citizens. State governors theoretically should be more susceptible to the peoples’ will, but the antics of the current crop of governors with an R after their names seem bent on acting like tin-plated despots in their own little fiefdom (This does not exonerate those with a D after their names, by the way. The most overt examples of corruption, cronyism, and abuse of power just happen to be from republicans recently, but democratic governors have their own traditions of the same crimes). School administrators who are so well insulated from the public they allegedly serve that they can impose censorship and generally rule their domains with an iron fist.

So what can we, the People, do about all this? First and foremost, pay attention. These abuses and excesses happen because those committing them correctly assume that the fickle public won’t remember anything past the next TV season. Once you start paying attention to the antics of these blights on the body politic, you’ll start to realize that we (the People) are paying these drooling jackasses to violate our civil liberties and build a police state against our will. They work for us. If they fail to perform their jobs to our satisfaction, fire them.

Elected officials- especially at the Federal level- should only be concerned with ensuring the most effective means of guaranteeing the things written into the Preamble to the Constitution:

We, the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity do ordain and establish the Constitution for the United States of America.

To accomplish all of these things, our elected oafish-als are supposed to be bound by the rules set forth in the body of the Constitution and the various Amendments thereto. By my reckoning, every last one of the abuses and excesses listed above violate that last italicized item in the Preamble. They also violate the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, and/or 7th Amendments to the Constitution. Why are we (the People) paying these imbeciles to trample our civil rights underfoot?

Because none but a loudmouthed few seem to be paying attention, and fewer still seem to care.

Current status- Disgusted

Current music: Banditos by the Refreshments

What’s in a Name?

25 10 2011

How about … bullshit?

The doddering old geeps who currently infest the halls of government in the Logic-Free Zone (who are collectively unlikely to understand email, let alone anything complicated like the internet), have decided that we cannot be trusted with free and unfettered access to data online and are trying to pass a law called- ironically- the PROTECT IP Act. This name is ironic, because the actual wording of the legislation- as currently written- protects nothing more than the unearned income of the RIAA, MPAA, and similar parasitic organizations.

Remember the First Amendment to the US Constitution- the one preventing Congress from passing any laws abridging free speech? It seems that our bought-and-paid-for Congresstoadies have decided that it would be a better idea to legislatively turn that power over to a couple of corporations and bypass that pesky 1st Amendment thing. Under this law as written, any website can be held criminally and civilly liable for any copyright infringements committed by any user of the website. In short, corporations can censor and shut down any web site accused of copyright infringement. Note that I said, “accused”. Not convicted- merely accused. As currently written, an employee of RIAA (for example) could accuse me of using this blog to infringe on copyrighted materials. Without benefit of trial or even presenting a warrant, RIAA would be able to shut me down based solely on the say-so of any random stranger. Think about that for a moment and realize why I referred to the 1st Amendment in the past tense. RIAA and MPAA don’t have a history of malicious litigation against totally innocent people, after all. We can trust them, right?

In a pig’s eye. We, the People, don’t trust our elected representatives with this sort of power. Why should we trust another entity without even the tenuous level of control we currently hold over Congress?

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Bill of Rights and the protections it guarantees for individual liberties, let me put this another way. As written, Youtube, FaceBook, Twitter, and every news aggregator site in existence would be forced to shut down. That’s just for openers. Any site with user-generated content would be hostage to the tender mercies of whatever rapacious corporate entity was unhappy with their content.

Aside from giving faceless corporate drones total control over online content (and thereby destroying the internet) in the interest of nearly microscopic profit increases for their corporate masters, why would our trusted and honorable elected flunkies corporate whores representatives want to do such a thing? Why would those in power feel threatened by free and unfettered communications and information?

Perhaps the worthless cretins in our gummint have been paying attention to the so-called “Arab Spring”. Without exception, the uprisings and revolutions occurring throughout the middle east were fueled and organized by ordinary people with Twitter and FaceBook and YouTube accounts. By an odd coincidence, those are the very communication tools this bill seems to have been written to control or destroy. Whodathunkit?

Methinks it is time and past  time to remind our elected representatives who they are supposed to be working for. Any congressmoron who votes for this bill (and this has “broad, bi-partisan support”, so neither political party should escape our righteous wrath) should be drummed out of office- preferably immediately. These vermin-in-office are “public servants”, and we are the fucking public. The sponsors and co-sponsors of this bill should probably be indicted for treason, and- if convicted- shot.

Perhaps the “distinguished” members of the House and Senate haven’t thought their cunning plan all the way through. If this bill passes as written (or even in any vaguely similar form), the US Government will effectively- and immediately- piss off almost everyone in the country at the same time. Many businesses would be crippled by this bill, and millions of voters would be mightily wroth at the loss of their social media and porn. The only “people” (I include corporate drones and executives as an unearned courtesy) who will like this law are those who make their living shitting on the American people as a matter of habit. Revolutions have been started for less.

You “honorable” members of the House and Senate may wish to read the Declaration of Independence sometime. It’s obvious you incompetent shills have never done so before. Read the bits listing the sins of King George, and realize that those exact same crimes can be laid at your collective feet. Your current actions are in direct contravention of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights- which you paid buffoons swore an oath to protect and defend. If Congress cannot or will not uphold their oaths to the Constitution, they will have abrogated any authority they may currently hold and removed any possible justification for their continued pay and privileges. Congress serves the People of the United States, not various wealthy corporations at the expense of the People.

Let us go back to Ed Howdershelt’s Four Boxes: “There are four boxes to be used in the defense of liberty: soap, ballot, jury and ammo. Please use in that order.”

We can use the First Box right now. Send an email, tweet, postcard, or phone call to your congresscritter and senator and make sure they know you oppose this malicious legislation. If they fail to listen to their constituents, we open that Second Box and vote the motherfuckers out of office. ALL OF THEM. If this fails to correct the problem, take the bastards to court. This sort of assault on our basic liberties should be easy to fight in court- assuming the federal courts are even remotely as independent as their documented status under the Constitution. If the courts uphold this law, we’d be forced to open that last box, and that would be the end of the United States. For those of you not certain about it, this would be a BAD THING. Every rational person in this country should do their utmost to avoid getting to that point. Evidently rational people are somewhat scarce on Capitol Hill. Who knew?

There are already peaceful mass protests going on in most of our major cities. These protests have largely been marginalized by the government and media- despite their numbers and endurance. Add in a populace growing increasingly frantic financially and feeling betrayed by those in power, and season with sweeping legislation from Congress which demonstrates in no uncertain terms that our government has become the legislative arm of the extremely wealthy. Cook quickly by- effectively-  shutting down the internet, and voila! Revolution.

The really sad bit is that the scenario I’m painting here is easily avoidable. All it would take to avoid this whole mess is for our politicians to realize that blatantly fucking over 300 million armed and increasingly desperate people is incomprehensibly stupid. We, the People, have been very forgiving of Congressional misdeeds so long as the basic social contract between governed and government is maintained, but our patience and tolerance has limits. Brazenly and openly treating the People like serfs will neither be forgiven nor forgotten. Under those circumstances, those who see themselves as our rulers would be considered fortunate to only get turned out of office.

It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress. -Mark Twain

Current status: Enraged

Current music: Touch of Grey by the Grateful Dead


23 01 2010

Here are a few bits and pieces of interest to me.

Stupid Gets Smacked Down

And yet fails to learn its lesson. The Glenn County Board of Education has reversed Gary Tudesko’s expulsion for the horrific crime of having firearms in his truck … off campus. The board saw the firestorm of protest (mostly online) generated by the case and decided to trim the sails of the Willow High School administrators.

Those worthies are expressing outrage. The district superintendent was particularly insane in his complaint:

Steve Olmos’ response was one of confusion.The decision “has left me dumbfounded, almost speechless,” he said. The county board “is undermining our authority. They are definitely saying we don’t have jurisdiction off campus,” he complained.

Here’s a clue chit: You don’t have any authority off the fucking campus. If Gary Tudesko had brought those shotguns to school, he would have deserved expulsion- and probably some jail time. The fact that those shotguns were legally stored in a private motor vehicle off campus means he hadn’t broken any laws. He hadn’t broken any school regulations, either. The fact that he’s apparently a redneck of the first water is not an expulsion offense.

Score one for reason and rationality.

Hoist One for our Founders

I like the Brits. I like a lot of things about the UK. I am profoundly less enthusiastic about the UK’s libel laws and their State religion.

It turns out that a certain blogger has been pointing out the very stupid writings and sayings of a certain Anglican vicar, who complained to the police. The police sent an officer around to talk with the blogger, who thereafter agreed to move his blog from Blogspot to WordPress (he had apparently started the blog while in school, and the school wanted no part of the controversy). The police stressed that the blog’s author was not being “cautioned” or warned.

The vicar apparently decided that he now had all kinds of authority. Here is what he wrote to an Australian blogger who was also tormenting him with his own words and deeds:

You must take a little more care who you brand as anti-semitic otherwise you too will be receiving a caution from the police as the young former student of Leeds did recently. One more reference to me and you will be reported.

Vicious little bastard, isn’t he? The vicar, Stephen Sizer, is an anti-semitic loon of the first water and a Holocaust denier who is apparently a favorite read among the thugs ruling Iran.

One wonders why the police felt it necessary to confront a blogger over what is surely a matter for civil courts- even in the UK. Imagine that sort of crap taking place here in the US.

Pastor: I want to complain about this guy who’s been writing things about me. On the internet.

Police: You got the wrong number, buddy. That’s not a police problem.

Pastor: But … he’s making me look bad!

Police: Sue him. Not our problem.

Not that I have that much faith in most police agencies in this country, but they have more than enough on their plates without getting involved in purely civil matters.


Take a soldier out to your local watering hole, and buy that worthy a drink in honor of Major Richard (Dick) Winters (retired), formerly of Easy Company, 516th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne. He turned 92 this week. For those who have not managed to catch Band of Brothers on TV, here’s a clip. Here is a clip showing Maj. Winters in person.

There are several worthwhile reads regarding Dick Winters and the men he served with. Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers. Winters’ war memoir is Beyond Band of Brothers. Wild Bill Guarnere and Babe Heffron wrote Brothers in Battle: Best of Friends. Buck Compton wrote Call of Duty.

These men were heroes all, and they would likely be the first to remind you that they weren’t alone in their heroism. Thousands of ordinary men were thrust into a world of savagery and fire and blood and fought their way through it, making the world a much better place by doing so. We owe these men, and their brothers in arms wearing the uniforms of Great Britain, France, Poland, Russia, and China. Those men and women who fought and bled and all too often died to rid the world of a monster. We were lucky to have them.

If there is a just god, then Dick Winters should be enjoying all the nonagenarian trim he could handle. People who have met him claim he is extremely modest and very private, so we can’t drag him down to a bar and pay for his drinks in perpetuity. Happy birthday, sir.


Current status: Tired

Current music: Skye Boat Song