Wrapped in the Flag and Carrying a Cross.

18 06 2016

That headline is from a quote by Sinclair Lewis which seems more and more to be chillingly prescient. Here’s another quote appropriate to the topic at hand:

Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.”- George Santayana

You may be curious about where I’m going with these quotes. I’m going to post a link to a news article here that will make my meaning crystal clear:

http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/14/politics/newt-gingrich-house-un-american-activities-committee/

Is everyone all through vomiting at the idea? Good. Let us continue.

For those who may have been living in a cave for the past few decades, there is an election approaching. This country has been mired in an election campaign for what seems like six or seven squintillion years. A campaign where the presumed nominee of one of the two major political parties has been openly espousing fascist ideology and overt racism to throngs of cheering supporters. Those same supporters who appear to be just fine with physically attacking anyone who vaguely hints at disagreement with their Leader or anyone with a less than lilly white skin tone. Supporters who have openly warned they would resort to violence if their Leader doesn’t win.

That’s bad enough, but now we have a retired politician from that same major political party saying- on camera- to a news organization that the country needs to return to the halcyon days of yesteryear in the form of the House Un-American Activities Commission. If you aren’t familiar with HUAC, go look it up. I’ll wait.

Here’s a bit of background for those unwilling to learn from history. In the 1950’s, a US Congressman names Joseph McCarthy claimed that he was in possession of a list of communists who had “infiltrated” the US government. He gleefully exploited public fear over the “Red Menace” (OMFG- the eebil rooshians are gonna come pollute our precious bodily fluids!) to establish the House Un-American Activities Commission in order to search out these communist infiltrators, wherever they might be- presumably including under your bed.

And so, the witch hunt was on. American citizens were accused to being communists or communist sympathizers, and the resulting public furor meant most of them lost their jobs and couldn’t get hired anywhere else. People were exhorted to inform on their friends, neighbors, and relatives if there was even a vague hint of “un-American activities”. Fear and prejudice and panic ensued, resulting in the director of the FBI investigating thousands of government employees to determine if they were sufficiently loyal to the United States- essentially based upon whether or not J Edgar Hoover agreed with their politics. Actors, writers, journalists, and publishers joined government workers in the endless search for the evil commies.

Please note that there was no burden of proof involved. Merely being accused was enough to destroy someone’s life and livelihood, and even successfully avoiding getting convicted in court wasn’t enough to undo the damage caused by being denounced.

This is what “the smartest man in the GOP” has publicly called for. On camera.

Never mind that HUAC was a cynically successful ploy by a small number of senior government officials and congressmen to gather more power for themselves. All these few people had to do was continually warn everyone they were in danger from godless communism and should therefore allow the power of the US government to be turned upon US citizens without check or hindrance. And the American people fell for it.

And a large number of Americans are being led down the same path to Hell today by their Leader.

Ooga booga! The evil moose limbs are coming to kill your children. Only we can protect you from this existential threat, but you gotta let us throw out that pesky Constitution in order to keep you safe. We pinky swear these powers will only be used against “them“. Them. The “others“. The people who don’t worship your god the same way you do. The people possessed of insufficiently white skin pigmentation. People who speak other languages. People who disagree with you politically. “Them“.

Shockingly, this message of xenophobia and bigotry is finding eager listeners among people who aren’t willing to use their brains much. Thinking is hard, and so is remembering lessons learned from long ago. Sure, it turns out that locking up tens of thousands of Americans who happened to be descended from Nipponese immigrants was stupid, expensive, wrong, and totally ineffective. Never mind that. This time is different, because … uh … because reasons.

Actually, there is a reason why dumb white people are buying into this line of thinking. There’s a reason why they have so much trouble articulating the source of their ignorant fear, and that reason is demographics. It turns out that white people will soon be less than half of the population. Oh, the horror! Rather than learning to treat other people equally, these dim-as-five-feet-up-a-pig’s-ass yokels are willing to destroy the very thing that made this country great: our non-homogenous society.

Every group of immigrants has made America richer. They bring in new ideas, new foods and drink, new attitudes, new beliefs, and America gets better and stronger from adopting the globe-spanning range of new stuff brought here by immigrants. And every single one of those immigrant groups is treated like shit by the descendants of previous immigrants. In the 18th and 19th centuries, it was the Irish being vilified by descendants of English and Dutch immigrants.When Italians began arriving on our shores, the descendants of those Irish immigrants who been the subject of bigotry treated the Italians the same way. Asians, Africans, and Jews have been perennial victims of American xenophobia, along with anyone from any cultural background who doesn’t belong to the right religious group. They’re different, and therefore suspicious- if not outright evil.

Here’s a clue chit for the small-minded bigots among us: Different does not equal evil. Stranger does not mean enemy. Those “foreigners” you’re wetting your panties about aren’t foreigners anymore- they’re Americans. What are you imbeciles afraid of?

I want you

WITCH HUNT by Rush

The night is black
Without a moon
The air is thick and still
The vigilantes gather on
The lonely torch lit hill

Features distorted in the flickering light
The faces are twisted and grotesque
Silent and stern in the sweltering night
The mob moves like demons possessed
Quiet in conscience, calm in their right
Confident their ways are best

The righteous rise
With burning eyes
Of hatred and ill-will
Madmen fed on fear and lies
To beat and burn and kill

They say there are strangers who threaten us
In our immigrants and infidels
They say there is strangeness too dangerous
In our theaters and bookstore shelves
That those who know what’s best for us
Must rise and save us from ourselves

Quick to judge
Quick to anger
Slow to understand
Ignorance and prejudice
And fear walk hand in hand…

Current status: Appalled

Current music: We Belong by Pat Benatar





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





So much for the 4th Amendment

13 12 2010

Most Americans are probably not particularly familiar with the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution, but it’s just a little bit important.

Amendment IV- 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.

In plain language, this Amendment states that the government cannot search you or your property without a valid warrant, which must specifically identify what is to be searched and/or seized. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Sadly, this particular enumerated right has been getting whittled away for decades.

Here’s a new way the government can get around the requirement for a warrant. Let us say you happen to be minding your own business at a grocery store. When you enter the store, you will likely see a bunch of permits on the wall- either at the entry or behind the customer service counter. All of a sudden, a SWAT team bursts into the store and rounds everybody up. Everyone is searched and checked for any warrants or unpaid parking tickets, and one or two people will likely be arrested and hauled away in handcuffs. Let us say you are one of those people- either because you have a warrant or perhaps you got a little “uppity” with the cops (police routinely assume that anyone who stands on their rights is hiding something). Where did the police get a warrant for this raid? It turns out that they don’t need one, if they are “assisting” the government agency which issued the permits for the grocery store. Several police agencies have begun accompanying liquor-enforcement agents and similar government employees for the purpose of rousting everyone at a business they would like to search but have been unable to get a warrant.

Some courts- including at least one Federal Circuit Court- have ruled that this is perfectly acceptable. Nothing to see here, citizen. Move along- after you show me your papers. Anyone who works for or patronizes an establishment which receives a license or permit from the government can be searched and possibly arrested without benefit of probable cause, so long as the police can claim they were enforcing the license or permit requirements.

Say goodbye to your freedoms, citizen. This is for your own good. Mama- in the form of your local, state, and federal government- is going to do what’s best for you, whether you like it or not. The government is going to bend, stretch, and break the limits against such governmental over-reach found in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights by any means necessary to enforce the increasingly byzantine web of laws which surround us.

In a complex society (ours certainly qualifies), laws are necessary to avoid a complete breakdown of that society. Most laws were originally intended to protect the weak from those who would prey upon them. Sadly, such good intentions rarely last. Once a segment of society learns how to use the laws to their advantage, they begin crafting increasingly complicated laws covering almost every aspect of daily life for the purpose of gaining control over society as a whole. That old saw about absolute power corrupting absolutely is true. Any government with the power to give you what you want has the power to take it from you.

Our Constitution was designed to provide limits on the power of government. “Congress shall make no law” is one of the common phrases in the Bill of Rights. People in government do not like these restrictions. No matter their political affiliation, these members of the self-identified political ruling class want to make decision on your behalf whether you like it or not. These political leaders tend to get very snippy when any of the rabble they try to rule start to demand accountability for those rulers and their actions.

Worse, the courts have been allowing our ruling classes to get away with violating the rules. Ever been stopped at a DUI checkpoint? Perfectly legal, despite the 4th Amendment’s requirement for a warrant for such searches. Get frisked by a cop on the street? According to the Supreme Court, that’s legal too. Buy a ticket on an airline? You just volunteered to give up your protection against unreasonable search.

Little by little, we, the People, have allowed our political ruling class to steal away our rights. Far too many people even applaud as our precious liberties are taken away.

So, how do we, the People, reverse this downward spiral into a police state? The first method is to pay attention. We return to Ed Howdershelt’ s Four Boxes. “There are four boxes to be used in defense of liberty: soap, ballot, jury, and ammo. Please us in that order”.

Pay attention to what your elected officials are doing, and pay even closer attention to what the people appointed by those elected officials are doing. If you find something you do not like (if you have truly been paying attention, this is almost a given), speak up. Go to your local government meetings and make your displeasure known. If that doesn’t fix the problem, vote the bastards out of office at the first opportunity. Vote against increases in taxes to pay for stripping liberties from citizens. If people are still losing their innate freedoms, take the bastards to court. If someone is unjustly accused, stand up for them in court. If you are called upon for jury duty, you have the right and the duty to vote your conscience. If you feel the law is not being applied properly, use your vote in the jury to express your displeasure.

Once the courts have failed to protect our freedoms, we, the People will have no choice but to open that Fourth Box. Politicians, bureaucrats, police, judges, and all other government agents take note: We, the People, do not want to open that Fourth Box … but it’s still an option. Do not make us resort to it. If you leave us no other means of protect our liberties, we will. I’m still enough of an optimist to think that would be a Bad Thing, so please- stop convincing me that I’m wrong.

 

Current status: Grim

Current music: Beds are Burning by Midnight Oil





Pseudo-poppycock

8 09 2009

As I write this, the nation is opening a new front in the (long-since lost) War on Drugs™. The Federal Gummint, along with a few local and state jurisdictions, have apparently decided that we (the People) cannot be trusted with pseudoephedrine.

For those of you not familiar with this over-the-counter drug, pseudoephedrine (brand name Sudafed) is a decongestant- a non-addictive chemical which dramatically helps with sinus congestion. It has been issued over the counter for decades because of its efficacy and lack of side effects. For millions of people with allergies, colds, flu, or chronic sinus problems, this inexpensive drug is a boon beyond price.

Unfortunately for those sufferers, the Gummint (in typical mama knows best dearie form) wants to make pseudoephedrine in all its guises available by prescription only. Not because of some recently-discovered side effect wherein the user is transformed into radioactive iguanas or might be prone to wandering bladder syndrome followed by catastrophic explosions. No, the Gummint (we only have your best interests at heart) is doing this (for your own good, of course) because some people might use it to make meth.

Never mind that ordinary citizens already have to show identification before purchasing this dangerous product. Never mind that such laws have had no measurable effect (in Oregon, for example, where this is already state law) on the production of meth anywhere. Never mind that pseudoephedrine is no longer strictly required to make meth anymore (there is a fast, cheap, and dirty method of making the vile stuff in a 2-liter soda bottle which does not require any pseudoephedrine-containing products). In a classic case of padlocking the barn door long after the horses have escaped, the Gummint is bound and determined to “do something” about the “meth epidemic”. In a typical Gummint frenzy to appear to be accomplishing something, this inexpensive drug may soon be only available with a doctor’s prescription. I assume the Gummint’s next smooth move will be to outlaw common household chemicals (such as baking soda) to combat meth, and perhaps potting soil to combat the “scourge” of marijuana.

Let’s take a look at the probable consequences of this action: A drug that anyone can now pick up at any grocery store or drug store for about six dollars will now only be available after paying a doctor upwards of fifty dollars for an office visit. Because the common, inexpensive drug must now be carried in the security of a drug store safe and only dispensed by licensed pharmacists, the cost per unit will have to be raised (to pay for the additional paperwork, among other things). Law-abiding citizens stricken with sinus headaches, allergies, or sinusitis will now have to wait until they can be seen by a doctor before getting any relief at all. The best part of the whole plan, of course, is that this will have almost no measurable effect on the production and sale of meth. The only possible real effect on meth production this might have would be to reduce production by local meth-heads and increase production by Mexican drug lords. By all means, let us create a new revenue stream for the narcolords south of the border. After all, those stalwart, law-abiding hombres would never dream of violating US laws.

This asinine drug war has to stop. We (the People) need to be smart enough to recognize a lost cause when we get beaten over the head with it day after day. Criminalizing common items in a demonstrably vain attempt to prevent people from getting high (or low) is having the effect of militarizing our police forces, creating a crippling number of overcrowded prisons, and fueling the drug violence in Mexico with billions of our dollars. We’ve gone this route before with Prohibition, and look how well that turned out. Seriously. Look at how Prohibition turned out. The parallels are staring us in our collective face, but we (the People) are seemingly unable to accept the stark reality of this War on Drugs™. Legislating puritanism does not work in a free society.

One of the people at the Centers for Disease Control was interviewed about the so-called “Crack Epidemic” of the 80’s by P.J. O’Rourke for his book, Parliament of Whores (published in 1991). This worthy forecast that the “crack epidemic” would be mostly over in about ten years because most of the crack addicts would be dead by then. This was entirely accurate, if politically incorrect.

Let us stop criminalizing so-called “dangerous drugs” and start criminalizing dangerous behavior. This is similar to what we are doing with alcohol in the wake of the failed experiment in national puritanism called Prohibition. We criminalized the behavior, not the substance. All we (the People) need to do is extrapolate existing laws to cover dangerous behaviors which are already illegal- such as driving under the influence. Drive while stoned or drunk, spend a  year in jail, mandatory. Cause damage to people or property while stoned or drunk, double that. Kill someone while stoned or drunk, life in prison without parole (or death, if your state allows this). Pretty soon, those without the self-discipline to enjoy their drug of choice at home will all be dead or in prison. This idea has the advantage of being far cheaper than the current War on Drugs™, but would also strangle the flow of cash to the drug lords in Mexico. Taxing the various recreational pharmaceuticals will be problematic for a considerable time, but the huge cost savings from not funding the attempts to win an unwinnable “War” should really be enough of an incentive to try this. Any tax revenue raised would be pure profit for the Gummint, compared to the hundreds of billions of dollars currently being poured down a rat-hole every year for no appreciable gain.  It also has the enormous advantage of being far more friendly to liberties of the individual citizen.

Any one of these advantages ought to be enough to convince people to end this wasteful War on Drugs™. Sadly, I fear far too many of my fellow Americans- on both sides of the political spectrum- are uninterested in rational decision making or logical choices. Those on the left might claim to be appalled at the callous disregard for the lives of the addicts, while those on the right might claim to be outraged at the idea that someone might be enjoying himself outside of their idea of “proper behavior”, but they’re both just trying to disguise their desire to control others.

Here’s a lovely quote from Heinlein which seems appropriate:

Political tags – such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth – are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.

Current status: Surly, suspicious, and lacking in altruism

Current music: Uprising by Muse





Epic Fail-out

26 11 2008

The neo-barbarians are here.

I am not referring to skin-clad savages wielding axes and spears, of course. Those are the old-school barbarians, and their so-called “barbarism” was largely the result of a bad PR image crafted by their supposedly “civilized” opponents.

The creatures I call “neo-barbarians” are not foreign enemies or rivals. These are home-made barbarians. We can’t defend against them by locking the gates, because they’re already in our midst, trying as hard as they can to destroy our civilization. From within.

These are the people who don’t understand civilization or how it works, and wouldn’t like it if they did. People who think that civilization is just something that exists, and all they need do is enjoy what they do understand- luxuries, a high standard of living, and easy work for high pay. Responsibilities are something for the Government to worry about. Everybody has money, but the Government is always broke. Deficit spending, and ever more “vital” social services for which the Government has to spend money. The most vital program, of course, is buying votes to keep the Government in power, but it gets harder and harder for the Government to get anything done. (roughly paraphrased from H. Beam Piper)

Still worse is the incessant babbling of “rights” with absolutely no mention of responsibilities. People complain about not getting enough from the Government but do everything possible to avoid paying any taxes. People complain about getting screwed over by the courts but exhibit outstanding initiative in getting out of jury duty.

There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Everything we have- including our rights- involves some sort of cost. The price of having all those inalienable rights is the responsibility to be a good citizen. Serving your country (in one form or another). Obeying laws which make it possible for three hundred million people to operate a high-tech, mobile society with the fewest possible problems. Paying for the Government services you receive. Voting in elections. All of these things are the bare minimum responsibilities to pay the price for our civilization.

As I have mentioned before, the United States of America is not a democracy. Our country is a constitutional democratic republic. We (the People) elect representatives to run the government for us. The original Constitution only allowed for the direct election of US Representatives (Senators and the President were selected without direct voting from the People), because the founders were terrified of the People being able to vote themselves into servitude in pursuit of Government largess.

This has historically been the downfall of all wealthy republics, and the United States is taking the same self-destructive road. In order to keep the masses of people happy and comfortable, Rome paid for lavish public spectacles in the circus and provided free bread to the poor. Whole generations of people grew up in Rome demanding this largess, never bothering to seek jobs- the Government would take care of them. Sooner or later, such social programs end up consuming all of the republic’s treasure. When this happens, the republic either collapses from the weight of all the freeloaders or expands militarily to pay for the masses of citizens who contribute nothing. Anarchy or Empire. Neither choice is particularly appealing.

Our Government is promising to spend trillions of dollars to appease the masses. The odd twist in our American version of the fall of Rome is the nature of those masses. In Rome, it was the masses of people in the City who were dependent upon the Government for their livelihood. In America, the masses are the corporate sponsors upon whom the Government depends for its livelihood.

The difference in definition is of little consequence. Even if the Government spent those trillions of dollars pouring money into the pockets of individual citizens, it would have the same toxic effect upon the future of our republic. For what seems like the best of reasons, we are headed down the rocky road to Anarchy or Empire- probably both.

Have we- as a species- lost the ability to learn from the mistakes of the past? The current program of corporate welfare (Government-subsidized failure, really) is merely a thin veneer over generations of failed fiscal policies. Throwing good money after bad never works. All we are doing is stealing from our nation’s future prosperity, and thereby rendering that putative prosperity less and less likely.

We can do something about it. Assuming you can pry yourself away from the orgy of consumerism that the holiday season has become, sit down and contact your elected representatives. Failure to do so makes you complicit in the fraud and outright theft now taking place in Washington DC. Even this would not be enough. Representatives and Senators are supposed to ignore the wishes of the electorate if doing so were in the best interests of the country. For far too long, however, our Government officials have been willing- even eager- to ignore the wishes of their constituents if it were in the officials‘ best interests.

Here’s how to deal with this problem. Pay attention. Find out how your Representative and Senator voted on various issues. Penalize them for self-serving decisions by kicking the lying bastards out of office. Senators can be tough to handle for most Americans. A senate term is six years, and most Americans can’t hold a coherent thought for that long, much less remember how their Senator voted.

The House of Representatives is another matter entirely. A House term is only two years. With a little effort, even Americans can remember whether or not a given Representative deserves a new term. Better still, if you can’t remember, vote in somebody else. Always err on the side of replacement when it comes to Gummint Oafishals. They are supposed to be public servants. In my opinion, that gives them a degree of completely undeserved status. Our elected representatives are more like parts in a machine. When the parts quit performing their designed function, they get discarded. Think of your Senator or Representative as a malfunctioning part and treat ’em that way. We might start to get better results from the Government.

Eventually.

Current status: Disgusted

Current music: Smaointe by Loreena McKennitt





Not Paying Attention

1 10 2008

Whiskey.

Tango.

Foxtrot.

Somebody out there hasn’t been paying attention. Off the top of my head, I’d say that would be just about everyone: from the President to the Senate to the misnamed House of Representatives to the average US citizen.

Congress (you know, the people we hired to manage our country for us) is hard at work planning on all-new ways to squeeze blood from a stone. In this case, we (the People) are the stone. None of the jackasses on Capitol Hill will be paying for the so-called “bailout”. That would be you and I- the average taxpayer.

The tax-fattened imbeciles in Washington tell us, “Harumph! This legislation is necessary to prevent the financial meltdown of this country!”

Says who? This country doesn’t have $700 Billion to spare. The only way to perform this financial miracle would be to print an extra eleventy-squintillion dollars. Net result: The value of the dollar drops to something less than spit, and we end up with an economic nightmare anyway.

Another “justification” for this scam is to protect the availability of credit. Brilliant! We’ll have more access to worthless currency. Actually, the currency would be less than worthless, because its value (already based on faith and other ephemera) would decrease daily.

We, the People, neither want nor need the pork they’re trying to cram down our collective throat. Our employees in the Government need to be told, “No more!” If the weight of decades of political tinkering with the financial system is finally bringing the whole thing down around our ears, the best choice available is to let it fall. Trying to stop or slow the process will only make it worse. Our Gummint is incapable of doing even simple things without screwing them up. Trying to “fix” something as complicated as our kludged-together financial system is entirely beyond their abilities. The Law of Unintended Consequences is the only legislation that always gets passed.

Let economic evolution wreak its havoc. Trying to prevent the tide from coming in is not just futile and stupid, it’s also dangerous.

 

Current status: Incredulous

Current music: Worlds Away by Strange Advance





That’s some fine police work there, Lou

17 08 2008

I always wanted to be a police officer. I planned on it during high school, and even worked out a career path that started with a tour in the Army as an MP and ended with me working in Law Enforcement until retirement. Funny how things never work out the way you plan ’em.

The way it worked out, I ended up joining the Navy ten years after high school. In the interim, I took some college courses for a career in Law Enforcement. Once I turned 21, I started applying to various police agencies. After not making the cut for several years, I was finally getting close. A small town PD was hiring one officer, and I was one of three final candidates. All three of us were given a standard psychological evaluation and were interviewed by the psychologist. I was turned down because I had scored two points too high on the aggression scale. Historically, hiring candidates with high aggression scores led to lots of unnecessary lawsuits. So I was out of the Law Enforcement business.

With the hindsight born of two decades of experience, I think they made the right choice. I’ve learned a lot about myself since then, and the young man I was would probably have been a magnet for citizen complaints. That said, the young man I was twenty years ago would probably be guaranteed a slot in most police departments today.

Thanks to the War of Terror™, police departments all over the country are getting the money for loads of military-grade equipment and intensive training in military-style tactics. There are several problems with this, the largest being that police do not do the same job as the military. Police are supposed to enforce the law. Period. Full stop. The military is supposed to support the Government’s decision by force. One of the laws the police are supposed to enforce is the Posse Commitatus Act, which forbids the use of military personnel for law enforcement work in the United States. Since the military cannot legally be used inside the country for police work, the police are being converted into paramilitary organizations.

This can- and has- led to multiple abuses. Police departments around the country routinely use their new training and equipment to conduct violent invasions of private property in the name of the War on Drugs®. I’m all for using military tactics and weapons in extreme cases, when the situation is a matter of  life-or-death. Even under those circumstances, I would prefer that a judge issue a warrant specifically authorizing extreme measures (with common-sense exceptions for life-or-death exigent circumstances). I would also prefer that every use of these paramilitary units be subject to citizen review. If we’re going to allow paramilitary police units to operate in our cities, they should be held to strict standards of behavior. This would help reduce the number of cluster-fucks.

Case in point: Last night, the Buffalo Police conducted a no-knock warrant on an apartment. They smashed through the door, applied the buttstock of a shotgun to the head of an epileptic resident of that apartment, and only then realized that they’d raided the wrong apartment. Whoopsie!

Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. According to a Cato Institute website, this happens far too often. So far in 2008, there have been five such botched raids, the only one of which made the news involved a supremely stupid incident where a county police agency conducted a no-knock raid on a house in someone else’s jurisdiction. They burst into the house, shot the homeowner’s two dogs, and interrogated the homeowner and his elderly mother for a couple of hours next to the corpses of their family pets. At some point in the proceedings, they finally figured out that their “suspect” was the mayor of the town. In addition to raiding the mayor’s house, the Prince George County PD had also neglected to inform the Berwyn Heights PD that they were conducting operations in their jurisdiction. The worst bit of all, the PG Police refuse to admit they’d done anything wrong. Forget about an apology.

This is far from the worst possible scenario. Since 1985, 42 completely innocent people have been killed by the police during these raids, and 24 police officers have been injured or killed. I live in a moderately bad neighborhood (because housing prices prevent me from buying a house), and I own firearms. If the local police (who do not have a reputation for impressive intellects or even professionalism) were to raid my apartment by mistake, I would very likely end up shooting them (and probably getting killed as a result). There are a couple of people currently serving long prison terms under exactly those circumstances.

Back to last night’s incident. A Buffalo PD spokesman had this to say:

We wouldn’t be comfortable discussing the internal investigation. We can say comfortably that over 1,100 search warrants were executed last year and 580 to date this year and that, with such a high volume and such a fast-paced environment, it is understandable that mistakes could happen.”

I don’t know about you, but I do not consider this an appropriate response to such a colossal fuck-up. This sort of mistake is not understandable- it is inexcusable.

Here’s an appropriate quote from one of the founders of our country:

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both. -Benjamin Franklin

We, the People, are perilously close to the precipice Ben Franklin was warning us about. As a society, we need to use the Four Boxes to keep the Government our servant and not our master. Use the Soap Box (as I am doing now) to warn your fellow citizens of the danger and mobilize them to change the way the Government operates. Use the Ballot Box to enact legislation and elect representatives to sharply restrict these dangerous practices. Use the Jury Box to sue police agencies who permit their zeal for arrests to violate the rights of the citizens. Use the Jury Box to acquit fellow citizens who are driven to use the Ammo Box to defend themselves from Government invasions of their homes and property.

For those who think that nothing like that could happen in this country in the modern era, I invite you to read up on the Battle of Athens. It can happen here. It has happened here. We, the People, are being victimized and killed by the very Government we pay to serve us. They are Public Servants. We, the People, are the Public. Make your voices heard! Vote the bastards out! Sue police departments who violate the compact between Public and Public Servant. When necessary, defend your life against the well-meaning incompetents who are threatening your life and killing your fellow citizens.

Current status: Irked

Current music: Mystic’s Dream by Loreena McKennitt