Saturday, April 30, 2005

Jacque Chirac Full of Crap

I'm sure that is no surprise to anyone that reads here. I don't talk much about him because I see him as just another world leader with crap on his lips and his butt in the air, pretending in between to be an arbiter of world morality.

That's a laugh.

In the wee hours of the morning I was watching CSPAN and they had a translation of a Aril 14, 2005 "town hall" meeting between Chirac and a small number of people (mostly between the ages of 19 and 35 I'd say). This was a discussion on ratifying the EU Constitution. Obviously, old Jacque is in desperate need of shoring up his base (since polls indicate it is the young that actually support the EU Constitution more than the old concerned with French Sovreignty) if he is going straight to the young people.

I didn't catch the whole thing, but I did find some parts of it amusing.

First, politicians are ever the same, side stepping questions and throwing up bogies to distract the inquisitor from their original question. Let us not forget giving long winded answers full of verbose prose that end up saying nothing what so ever.

In the section I did catch, several people were asking questions about environmental protections and how they related to the EU constitution and the French Constitution.

Jacque full o' crap, explains that France is the first country to actually make the environment a constitutional concern.

Other's have talked about this before, but I think it's fair to mention again that the EU's ideas of what constitutions are for is why they are in such pain and legal quagmires. Instead of the austere idea of the constitution set down by our founding fathers and largely maintained as austere, for the basic purposes of setting down minimal guidance for creating and administering governmentand good society, they have tried to codify just about everything in existence, which, according to some readings, means that they often have extremely contradictory points.

I tried to locate it, but I read somewhere that they were codifying the right to free expression as, "shall have the right to free expression" then they throw in the contradiction, "except where such expression is harmful to the public good".

We in America know that that just opens up the valve for suppression of speech. Who is this grand arbiter that will decide what expression is harmful to the public good? You know what happens next? New laws and precedents that set "law" will have to be written and codified in ever more increasing degrees in order to determine that which is "protected" and that which is "harmful". One reason why I don't go for PC laws here. Too arbitrary and, depending on who is in power, your speech may be good or bad. You might recall the Sedition Act repealed in the US in the early 20th century. At the beginning of the 19th century, different political parties in power tried to use this act to silence their critics. This is one reason why it fell out of power. It really damaged the overall concept of the First Amendment.

I frequently thank God I live here and not over there.

Back to the environmental questions being tossed at ol' Jacqui boy. One young lady asked directly, what was it that, as a French citizen she could do to help reduce green house gases and why didn't the government impose certain restrictions on their life styles to help mitigate these gases.

Of course, as soon as I heard her ask the question, I almost started laughing. Yes, let's let the government tell you on what days you can drive, what cars you can drive, what food packaging you can buy and dispose of. Let's make it a law, with fines and prison terms. Of course, let's just tax you to 50% of your salary instead of 30% or 40% whatever is the current mode of operations in France, so that these laws and activities could be put in place. Then you won't have any money to buy anything or drive your car so it will be all good, N'est ce pas?

It is amazing the self flagellation of these folks. One wonders why the young lady didn't just get on the internet and find some ideas on how she could do it herself? Of course, that wouldn't allow her and her kind to impose their will on the rest of the poor smucks trying to make a living and survive so maybe that just isn't enough?

Back to Jacque full o' crap. Instead of answering the question directly, Jacque acts like the best of dictators in the ME and whips out his favorite whipping boy and goes to town, hoping to distract his young inquisitor with a greater evil. "Well, France's environmental policy must take into account, look over there! There's a big black cloud of poisonous gasses coming from the US." Don't you know that French citizens need not worry about their responsibilities since France has ratified the Kyoto Treaty (and apparently this is all one needs to do to be environmentally friendly), but the US, we evil environmental sabotuers, has yet to ratify it and there is nothing much more that France can do on the subject and since France is only one small part of the world, it didn't much matter what they did.

Then some bozo commentator (whose name I didn't get) asks what France is going to do to pressure the US into signing and ratifying this treaty. Jacque full o' crap takes this helpful bit of further distraction and comments about the upcoming G8 meeting where the US president will be "isolated" due to the US refusal to sign this treaty and there is an alleged general concensus in the G8 that will bring such pressure on the US. At which point, I had to giggle a bit. But he did go on to explain that legally and politically there wasn't much that France could do on the subject, but she shouldn't worry her pretty little head since France is doing all it can, while maintaining its focus on development.

In other words, as rightly noted by many, Kyoto treaty Schmyoto Treaty, if anyone thinks some country is going to totally give up its ability to develop and produce for the sake of saving the ozone, they got another think coming. Its really just a piece of paper to make everyone feel good that they are doing something, even if it is just signing the damn thing.

Strangely, this young socialist was not detered by the red herring Mssr. Full o' Crap (translated to de Merde I believe) tried to throw up and held on to the microphone, asking again, what is it that she and others as French citizens could do or expect the government to enact to insure that they are doing all they can.

Mssr. de Merde continued to throw up words like developing countries, Kyoto, policy and the US, meandering off to be saved by a commentator indicating they only had a few moments left to answer questions.

Additional questions asked about the EU budget and the amount of money being spent on development in countries like Spain and Portugal compared to France and compared to contributions to the budget. He actually explains the reality that they need to develop these other countries to create wealth there and open up trade between their countries, thus increasing economic growth and that they cannot ask countries, including France, to scale back their national budgets just to contribute more to the pork ponzi budget.

Sound familiar? Wonder where these folks got that idea?

Another question regarding French Sovreignty. So, would the French keep their place on the UN security council and be able to veto the bad ol' US or is this position in fact going to rely on the EU foreign minister and the consensus developed in the EU and, by the way, many eastern European countries have strikingly different policies than France, like on Iraq, so what happens if they don't have a concensus?

Mssr. de Merde explains France keeps its seat on the Security Council, but that the EU foreign minister will be responsible for trying to herd all the other countries into a bat to beat the UN and, essentially, the US with, but France will always make decisions about its own security issues and speak on them regardless.

He went on to talk about the necessity of the French to ratify the treaty. Using some scary language, he says that if the French citizens refuse to ratify the treaty, they must understand that France will give up its role as power broker (paraphrasing here, but essentially the same) in the EU.

With a news flash to the other members of the EU, the EU constitution and ideas are essentially based on french ideas and this constitution is meant to protect these french ideas and propagate them through out the EU so, he really doesn't understand how French citizens could oppose it.

No wonder the Brits are bulking. I wonder if they got this same broadcast? I wonder if Mssr. de Merde knows that he is spewing nationalistic bull merde while insisting that the rest of the EU swallow their own nationalistic ideas in favor of French ones?

Anyhow, the inquisitor then asked how the foreign minister of the EU was going to develop a concensus when the US was continuously interfering in EU business and convincing these other member countries to follow other policies and would this fabled Minister evince any policy if the EU members did not agree? (I was thinking what a good little indoctrined socialist the boy was; its not that these folks might find French to be anathema to their own struggle for democracy, but it is somebody else who formulates their foreign policy) Mssr. de Merde side stepped this question and continued to point to France's sovreignty in stating positions, the security council and, out and out stating, that he intends France to be the leader of the EU in ideas, at least, and make it an opposing power to "other powers in the world".

Gee..who would he be speaking of?

Finally, they wrapped it up and Mssr de Merde basically pleaded with the people to ratify this constitution so that France, who worked the hardest on it, would not be the laughing stock of the its position as a leader in the EU.

Any how, I only caught the last 20 minutes of the program, but I was struck how many times the US was brought up in their discussions. The old "bait and switch" tactic. Don't pay attention to the flaws in this gigundo piece of crap we're selling you, watch the big, black bird over the ocean called the US while we dip our greasy fingers in your back pocket and take your wallet so we can support this grand socialist scheme to become the next USSR on the European continent. Sure, France has problems like giant unemployment, crappy immigration and assimilation policies, but our economy is growing twice as fast as the other countries in the EU (yeah, they got a GNP of 1% compared to the .5% and .3% of their neighbors; brilliant economy structure).

Basically, I wonder how many French know they are getting snookered by the Wizard while little men play with their gadgets behind the curtain?

Friday, April 29, 2005

Things To Read...

If you've got the time. I know I'm long and windy, but I do find interesting things once in awhile that are not written by me *wink*. So, I highly suggest these reads:

Victor David Hansen explains why people hate the things about you (America) that they really wish they could be.

[hat tip: Tonecluster]

A new Iraqi blog, Iraq Rising, by Akbar gives us a glimpse into the life of an Iraqi growing up in the shadow of Saddam.

And, finally, Ali of A Free Iraqi does a little Question and Answer Session about Iraq

What's In A Word?

I’ve talked about this before, but I feel that it may require mentioning again.

I’ve heard others talking and speaking and they’ve used words like “theocracy” and “fundamentalists”. They weren’t talking about our foes on the other side of the ocean. They weren’t talking about Iran. They weren’t talking about Islamic terrorists.

It’s easy to understand why they use these words. Somewhere, a little group of regular citizens were sat down with some little electronic devices and they were shown a tape, or listened to a speech or were just fed some words, and they’d click this little button or the electrodes would take readings of their pulse when they heard those words. The marketing research recorded that they all had negative responses to those words and they reported it to the people who run the party and they passed it down to their little speech-writing folks who then figure out how to incorporate those words in the speeches of whatever group or person they are working for.

Those words are powerful words indeed because they are associated with some of the worst incidents in American history.

From the Iran Hostage Crisis where the revolutionaries installed a “theocratic” government and held our hostages for 444 days to the continuous chants from then on of “Death to America” to the fall of the towers perpetrated by men who were “fundamentalist” Islamists whose own propaganda desires to install a world wide Islamic “theocracy”. These words are embedded in the American psyche as equal to “evil”, “oppression”, “terror”, “anti-freedom” and “death”.

These words are used now to prick the American conscious in new ways, but for the same purposes: to instill fear of something that has no real public face, nor stated agenda, nor leader. The ethereal. It cannot be defined with a specific organization and a defined membership with a list that can be explored and reviewed. The organization is loose knit with many “cells” and they don’t always proclaim themselves in the open.

This organization is loosely associated by their shared faith. They are often active in politics, but work largely behind the scenes, associating with actual political groups and working to put their own views forward in the political scene, trying to influence society.

The people they want you to fear are not aliens, nor subversives, nor foreigners. They are American and they call themselves “Christians”.

They want you to believe that these people want to take away your freedom. They want you to believe that the “morals” and “values” that they believe in are anathema to American values.

This must be the most ironic, if not outrageous, implication ever made.

Not only have I heard this from political forces, but common people who have had their common fears, funneled and re-channeled, away from the real threats of fundamentalists and theocratic governments, back towards their own citizens. I’ve seen editorials, articles and words written on the inter-net, denouncing these alleged “Christian Fundamentalists” as something that must be feared as much as, if not more than, those that truly seek to use their “fundamentalist” religious beliefs to stir up sectarian anger, attack our citizens and install a government based on religion, a “theocracy”.

I’ve also heard people who normally identify themselves as Christians, backing away from their identity. They say, “I’m a Christian, but I’m not one of THOSE,” fearing that they will be identified with this mythical, American “subversive” group that these others claim are waiting in the wings to take away our freedoms and make us adhere to some form of religious laws. What these laws are, no one knows since there is no codified law, nor list nor single list of laws adhered to by all Christians.

Well, who are “those” Christians that they all speak of? Who are they that seek to impose this invisible, unknown religious law?

I am a Christian. I will never say that I am not one of “those”, because I don’t know any of “those”. They don’t exist. They are the bogeyman made up to make you afraid; the invisible monster in your closet. They are the unknown meant to make you look the other way, make you forget that some of the things that they, who point to this bogeyman, have pressed for in the past as “freedom” have actually lent towards the destruction of “good society”. They have codified it, forced precedents that insist that, above the common sense of “good society”, these freedoms must be allowed.

Abortion. The concept of “rehabilitation” of criminals and that certain sentences are “cruel and inhuman” because they are too long allowing criminals to be back on our streets.

As a matter of fact, I recently saw a ticker on the news that proclaimed, “prison populace increases even as crime decreases”. What a concept. They’d have you believe that there is something wrong with this picture.

The irony of pointing to Christians and shouting about theocracy and fundamentalists is that it was Christians, devout Christians even, who came here and developed the very concepts on which this land was created, on which this government exists. It was they, these fearful Christians, who actually created the idea of freedom of religion, freedom of expression, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Yet, today, you are to fear these same people as those that might actually destroy this thing called freedom.

The further issue here is that some how, some way, Christian ideas do not have a place in guiding our society. This from the simple idea of “freedom of religion”, that now religion and any moral ideals or values that might be gained from it are NOW an anathema.

Fear morality. Fear values. Fear Christians.

That is what they want you to believe.

Why? It is so simple. It is about marketing. It is about publicity. It is about politics. It is about the last election.

In the last election, after the party that is proclaiming your need to fear these “subversives” lost the last election, they were viewing the exit polls and the reason people most often gave as the reason they voted as they did was “values” and “morals”.

This literally put the fear of “God” into them.

Immediately, the media and the party that lost began to ask, “Who are these people? Who are these people that say that they were voting for values and they did not vote for Democrats? Who are they that say that we do not have morals or values? They must be extremists, fundamentalists…*gasp*…they must be “Christians”!”

And these Christians are much more scary than terrorists. Terrorists they have ideas on how to fight. Christians and other people with “values” they have no idea how to combat except to make you fear these “values” voters. Put names to them, use words to equate these same “values” voters with the very people who actually did harm America.

This ought to be telling to those of us who do believe in “values” and “morals” and who call ourselves “Christians”. They don’t understand these “values”. It would be simple to say they have no “values” and, if you look at some of their actions in the last couple decades that have led to the destruction of what was once considered “good society” it would be so easy. But, then, I’d turn into them and be telling you to fear them. I believe each person can decide for themselves.

They tried to glom on to this “values” base and recognize their own “Christianity”. Their party leaders started talking about their own beliefs, their own base in Christianity, started quoting scriptures. But, they sounded so fake that, when the marketing groups and pollsters checked how this was playing in the populace, they found that this “values” group did not believe them. They did not get the boost from the use of this language.

Instead of understanding how their policies and ideas did not jive with the general populace and “values” so they could change their policies, they decided to attack it now with flaming rhetoric. Theocracy. Fundamentalists.

If they can’t join them, they want to beat them.

Well, I’ve been to plenty of Christian meetings and organizations and I have yet to hear anyone talking about how we Christians are going to take over the government and install a theocracy. Maybe I’m just too low in this “subversive cell’s” command structure to know that this plan exists?

Values are not wrong. Values based on religion are not wrong. Values based on Christianity are not wrong. Many people in this society have gotten their ideas about values from both religion and through the functioning of “good society”. They aren’t Christian values alone. They are the values of common people that work everyday and live everyday in this country, deal with society and have a fine tuned sense of what these values ought to be.

What are the basic values? Well, we think that society has gone to the dogs. People don’t appreciate each other. They aren’t courteous. Lying is okay. Cheating is okay. Everything is excusable because where someone was born, how someone was raised. Dangerous criminals aren’t just treated with compassion they are given free passes in attempts to “rehabilitate” those that good society and common sense would otherwise deem to be non-productive citizens who endanger society. There is the continual spread of sexual diseases and alarming numbers of unwanted births and abortion, even though, through the auspices of public money, we have sex education, free or very cheap birth control, health programs, welfare systems.

This says to those of us who believe in “values” that there is something wrong with those other ideas and they are not working. Somehow, because we question these policies adhered to by the so-called “liberals” (libertines), we are now the subversives that mean to take away freedom.

It is we “values” voters that recognize that legislation does not make society better, but understanding of “good society” and the peer pressure of those with “values” can actually improve society. We don’t believe that it’s the government’s job to tell people that promiscuity can be dangerous to your health. We don’t believe that it’s government’s job to cure social ills like unwanted births and abortions. But we do believe that the government should not make any laws that enforce ideas on the public that “good society” does not deem to be in its best interest and may actually lend to the creation of social ills.

We don’t believe that we should pat people on the head and tell them not to worry, they didn’t really do anything wrong and there will be no consequences. We believe that experiencing consequences, understanding that they exist and there is a price to pay for going outside of the law, or what society in generally excepts, is what keeps people from doing it in the first place. Not laws or programs that belay the consequences after the fact. We believe this actually harms society and is very costly.

This is, in effect, the social policies and laws that have been forced upon us for years in the alleged attempt to create a more free and open society. We believe people should have all the freedom they want, but that society should not have to pay for their mistakes and it is in societies best interests for people to try with all their might, not to make these mistakes.

Strangely, in these subversive meetings of Christians that I’ve attended, no one has actually put forth the idea that we should re-institute stoning for adultery, hand chopping for theft, public stocks, scarlet letters, burning at the stake, drowning witches, branding convicts, covering women from head to toe, veils, or forcing women to go back into the kitchen, completely subjugated to their husbands, barefoot and pregnant.

As a feminist, if I heard that last one, I’d laugh myself right out of our little subversive meetings.

What I believe as a “values” voter is that we need leadership that actually stands up and says, yes you have the freedom to do what you will, but you have a responsibility to insure that you do not harm yourself or society and there are consequences if you do.

We want our children to be safe, not worried about whether some repeat pedophile has been released and living down the street because they are considered “rehabilitated” by a penal system that does no so thing for a problem that has no such solution. We don’t want to have to worry about being robbed and shot at the grocery store because someone who was seventeen when he shot his last victim, got out of juvenile jail when he was 21 and now is shooting us when he is 22. We do not want to worry about being raped and killed by someone who has been in prison for ten years for raping three other women, whom he did not kill, but now he escalates, because he was not “rehabilitated” in a penal system that does no such thing.

We are appalled that 1.4 million abortions happen every year in this country. Not only because of the question of life, which we find sacred, not just religiously, but in the miracle of biology that creates it, but because it says something very wrong about our society. It says that there are no consequences for not behaving responsibly. It says that no amount of sex education or free clinics takes the place of the censure of the public for irresponsible behavior.

We are equally appalled at the number of children that are born and abandoned, neglected or simply given away for adoption. Not because we have no compassion for these children or do not want them to go to good homes where they will be loved and cared for, but because it means that there is something wrong with society when this practice is an acceptable replacement for responsible behavior. Behavior that is, again, not mitigated no matter the amount of public resources we pour into education, clinics, welfare systems, etc.

We value our freedom and those of others. We know that that freedom does not exist in every country as we have it here. We do not believe that Communist China or true Theocratic Iran or despotic Syria or fake democracies in Africa are equal to this free society. We believe that this gives us a unique place in this time and space to lead the free world and oppose tyranny in its every form. We believe that we need to protect this freedom and that we should be viewed as strong in our freedom, but a society based on common values that are looked up to not ridiculed for not being whom we said we were or acting on what we believe.

We believe in wrong and right. We know that there are reasons that things happen, but we don’t believe that those reasons always mitigate the actions or that “nuances” should render us unable to act.

This is what they cannot understand about the “values” voters. This is why they have chosen to use market tested words in the public like “theocrats” and “fundamentalists” so that they can put fear into the hearts of the common man and make them believe that there are people out there who don’t really share their values but want to impose some extreme ideology on them, far beyond these shared values.

This is, very simply, an attempt at “divide and conquer” using scary words with scary meanings. Don’t listen to those Christians. They want to invoke a theocracy here and we all KNOW what a theocracy looks like, don’t we? They are “fundamentalists” who want to enforce their “values” on us and take away your freedoms. Why, tomorrow, they might even demand that everyone has to go to church and worship God through Christ. If those terrible Christians have their way, it will be the LAW. So Al Gore says. Mark his words. He knows. He invented the inter-net after all.

And, they’ve got people scared. Afraid enough to be running away from their ideas in an attempt not to be associated with these alleged subversives trying to take over the country. Yes, asking people to take some responsibility and saying that government programs to date have not helped the situation and that a little application of “values” might go a long way to fix it, is subversive.

Every time I hear someone proclaim themselves a Christian, but not one of “those”, I get a picture in my head Christians hiding their services in caves so they won’t be crucified by Nero. Or, better yet, Peter, also called Simon, who fulfilled the prophesy at the last supper and denied Jesus thrice before the cock crowed.

Usually, I’m amused when I hear the words “theocracy” and “fundamentalists” spilling from the mouths of people who are beating on pulpits and preaching like a hell fire and brimstone pastor at the Baptist Church on Sunday morning. Where ever did they learn those oratory techniques anyway?

I’m simply not finding it amusing anymore because it is quickly leaving the confines of hilarity and foolishness for fear mongering and persecution.

I am equally amazed at people who decry “religious cultures” and point here to the US as if it had any equivalency to a Saudi Arabia or Iran with religious police. We are a country that was founded on the backs of Puritan Christians and it was they who gave us the foundation for creating this free society and no amount of trying to wash it away will make it otherwise. It is wise to remember that, without this foundation, the United States would never have existed. Without this foundation, we’d either be an anarchic country constantly in revolution, a country controlled by a tyrant or a bunch of little colonies owned by many different countries without a constitution that stated specifically, “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” recognizing that these rights came from something more powerful than the silly and often greedy desires of men.

So, to my fellow Christians, stop huddling in dark corners and fearing to speak about politics without first denouncing your Christianity. We have every right, just as a person of Jewish faith or Muslim or Buddhist or Atheist to talk about politics, to put forth ideas about how to govern our “good society” and improve it. Using values based on our religion and up bringing to create these ideas is not wrong nor without precedent.

To all those who are worried about “those fundamental Christians bent on a Theocracy”; they don’t exist. They are the bogeyman created to scare you away from examining the idea that “values” might be important and those who are screaming “fundamentalists” and “theocrats” might not actually share your values and that some of their policies don’t jive with your sense of morality. These words are meant to frighten you into believing if you step one little toe over the line of “values” you are in danger of losing your freedom.

You can be both a person of faith and a person who values freedom. A person that has values based on his faith that guide his political idealism without fearing that the ill winds of a theocratic state follow your every decision.

Stop hiding in your cave. Stop denouncing your Christian brothers and sisters.

Stop looking for the bogeyman. He’s just a ploy to take your mind off the real problems like looming social security insolvency or real terrorists and tyrants that wouldn’t blink an eye at your Christianity before really taking away your freedom.

"Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God?" --Thomas
Jefferson: Notes on Virginia, 1782.

"A nation, as a society, forms a moral person, and every member of it is personally responsible for his society." --Thomas Jefferson to George Hammond, 1792.

"It is strangely absurd to suppose that a million of human beings, collected together, are not under the same moral laws which bind each of them separately." --Thomas Jefferson to George Logan, 1816.

"A departure from principle in one instance becomes a precedent for a second; that second for a third; and so on, till the bulk of the society is reduced to be mere automatons of misery, to have
no sensibilities left but for sin and suffering." --Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, 1816.

"I consider ethics, as well as religion, as supplements to law in the government of man." --Thomas Jefferson to Augustus B. Woodward, 1824.

"Political interest [can] never be separated in the long run from moral right." --Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, 1806.

"It is rare that the public sentiment decides immorally or unwisely, and the individual who differs from it ought to distrust and examine well his own opinion." --Thomas Jefferson to William
Findley. 1801.

"Lay down true principles and adhere to them inflexibly. Do not be frightened into their surrender by the alarms of the timid, or the croakings of wealth against the ascendency of the people."
--Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, 1816.

See also, The Extreme Christian Right: The Rottweiler

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

This Imperfect Freedom

Beautiful, Imperfect Freedom

There is something beautiful in freedom. Freedom is imperfect, it often times causes those that own it to work against it either through confusion or in hopes of quick resolution or in trying to establish some sort of perfection. But, like the best of art or nature, it is in its imperfection that the true beauty lays.

It is only rigid thinkers and rigid demagogues who look for perfection. In looking for perfection, they are often the ones that enforce tyranny in order to obtain this fabled perfection.

True liberty requires an open mind and open minds often make mistakes. But, as they make mistakes and refine their thoughts and actions, the shape of the statue or pottery, the colors of a painting, the ideas of freedom begin to emerge in all their imperfect beauty.

Never ask for perfection, only ask for the striving.

If you demand perfection, you will never be free.

Limits on Freedom

There is a limit to our freedom. It's a hard concept to understand, this limit, because the barrier is invisible and it sometimes leads people to either go to far or not far enough in fear of breaching this invisible barrier.

Some people, who claim to understand this barrier and fight to protect it like the ACLU, do not really understand the limit at all.

First, let me explain what I mean by the limit of our freedom. This limit is in reality the concept that allows personal freedom. Sounds kind of bizarre, I know, saying that there are limits to freedom while at the same time declaring that the limit gives individuals freedom.

This limit is about how far your own freedoms go before encroaching on others. This struggle is the struggle that is fought every day in democracy. It never goes away because there are always forces, whether individuals, organizations or governments that have their own ideas that they want to express and they believe are good for the people.

I was trying to explain this limit to a young Iraqi girl on a forum last year who was talking about her Christian teachers in Mosul who were wearing the hijab, even though it was not part of their religion, in fear of retaliation or even death. Basically, she believed that it was a good idea for her teachers to do so in order not to make the "terrorists" angry. She hoped that they would all wear the hijab so that things might become calmer in her area.

I should explain that this young woman is a devout Muslim (she said so, I did not "guess" this fact) who did not see anything wrong with wearing the hijab whomever you are or whatever you believe.

She had a few contradictory ideas and it did teach me that many people do not understand the true concept of freedom. She continuously expressed the idea that she and her family just wanted to be free. Not just free to vote, though, or free to be their own people, but free from the “occupation” and free to make Mosul into what they wanted. I do believe the “they” in question were devout Sunni Muslims. Again, I’m not guessing at this, but she did express support for the local “mujihadeen” who were there to “protect them” and were not the terrorists. Of course, when pressed whom she believed were the terrorists, she stated that it was Israelis and other foreign “terrorists” in the pay of the United States who was causing the problems and writing the threatening words on the walls. There were many people on the forum, including Iraqis, who tried to explain that it was her “mujihadeen” that was responsible, but she didn’t believe them.

So, I tried from a different tact to have a little influence on her ideas by expressing it in something she could relate to.

This was about what real freedom meant and where the limits of her freedom or the mujihadeen “freedom” were bound compared to those of her teachers. I believe that this is a lesson that we all need from time to time.

Our freedom does have limits. It ends at the beginning of our fellow citizen.

I explained to the young woman this very concept. Because she believed and was a devout Muslim, regardless of how much she enjoyed her religion and found nothing negative in it, including wearing hijab, her enjoyment of it ended at her own body and mind. It could not be enforced on anyone no matter how much she thought it was for their own good nor how much these allegedly patriotic mujihadeen thought it was for their own good either.

But, it is difficult to try to explain this limit while at the same time talking about “good society” which is regulated through the general understanding of those in society of what is good for them as a whole.

I think that the important aspect of this is to understand the core concepts of “good society” aside from what I talked about before. Coming to a consensus about what is “good” for society is usually based on universal understandings of “good”. That means that stealing, assault, murder, rape, defacing public property, terrorizing or threatening citizens in order to force them to commit to one political or religious belief or another is generally not acceptable to anyone.

That doesn’t mean that one cannot be a practicing, devout Muslim or Christian or Buddhist or Jewish or whatever else one would believe in, but it does mean that it is the core concepts in a pluralistic society that must be adhered to in order to avoid crossing that limit.

Going back to the ACLU, I was having a discussion with my friend Kender at Kender’s musing on his radio show about why it is that the ACLU’s adaptation of this very idea is actually a problem. The problem, as I noted, is in identifying where this invisible barrier begins and ends for each individual’s freedom. In trying to define this individual freedom and the barrier, the ACLU has determined that even the slightest overt presence of a religious symbol, text or ideology particularly in a public space owned by the public, infringes on this personal freedom which is guaranteed by the first amendment of the Constitution: Freedom of religion, etc.

The idea that a religious symbol in a public space actually is a tool of the state enforcing a specific religion on people is an outrageous idea.

The few incidents that continue to come to mind are the attempts to eradicate any symbol of the Ten Commandments, long used in this country, from the inception of this country as a symbol of law, from public court houses begins to cross that invisible line. The other was the insistence that a cross be removed from the seal of the City of Los Angeles, a city whose heritage and very existence relies on the fact that Christian monks created an outpost there in 1771 that eventually led to Spanish settlers arriving there and creating an enclave that then became a city. Frankly, I was flabbergasted that a symbol that represented the history of the city was forcefully removed by judicial fiat.

Now, your average person living in society probably never really paid that much attention to the fact that a cross was on the city seal. Your average person probably did not even imagine that this symbol was enforcing any ideology on them. If they did notice this little cross on the seal, they probably understood history and from whence it came.

Last, also in California, was the recent removal of an historical memorial to the dead of World War I that incorporated a cross. The memorial was removed because it was on public property. The presence of the cross was objected to by an atheist (who has every right to believe or not believe however that is understood) as enforcing a religion on them, by the state, because it was on public property.

Maybe it’s just me, but the very fact that it was a memorial and had been standing there for more than fifty years, seems to at least have given it a “grandfather” protection, much less had to be understood as, having stood there for fifty years, it was not actively enforcing any religion on anyone as no one, until now, even imagined it to be such a forceful structure. The cross certainly could not speak. It could not actively proselytize. It was inanimate and only had the power that individuals gave to it.

This is where the individual freedom line becomes blurry. As I noted earlier, many people strive for perfection and others simply demand it. In the demanding of perfection, they often go too far. The ACLU is demanding the perfection of a state completely devoid of religious symbols in public spaces in order to “clear up” this blurry line.

There is obviously a segment of society that supports this idea. However, I believe that there are many like me who, being a practicing Christian, would not find it reprehensible if I went to a public space and saw a memorial for Muslim soldiers who died in the defense of this country that had a symbol of Islam along with their names. Neither would I object to a memorial to the Muslims killed on September 11, 2001 in the World Trade Center. I would object if this memorial included the names of the murderers, but not because they were Muslims or there was an Islamic symbol attached to it, but because I object to memorializing murderers of the citizens of this country.

To wit I believe that the ACLU has lost this understanding of what “good society” and its inherent common sense accepts as freedom of expression.

I object to the ACLU’s attempts also on the grounds that they are using this idea to enforce an agenda, not because it is really a problem of the state violating the first amendment, which I remind people says “freedom OF religion” and not “from” religion. The agenda that the ACLU is pursuing is the adaptation of a total secular state that, by its very nature attempts to homogenize the people of the state and make them one blurry mess of people, wiping out their individuality and all the things that make them “the people” in this democracy which includes their ancestry, their ideas and their religion (or lack thereof).

In this they have crossed the line, the limit of individual freedom, all in their supposed quest to establish this line more clearly.

This is the difficulty in attempting to establish this line. It is the reason that I believe that we should not sit idly by and let this continue to be pushed without some push back from average citizens, whatever their religion or none. Now they are working on the state, but it does not seem very histrionic to note that they may begin defining an individual’s freedom to be infringed by any religious symbol that is in sight, whether on a person, carried by a person or seen via a public road, even if it is on private property.

I say that people should push back to insure that this concept is not allowed to be taken to its natural conclusion and actually pass the limit of individual’s freedom and impose total secularism on society, homogenizing it and wiping out real individuality and the free expression thereof.

As I pointed out in my post regarding the second amendment and the ACLU’s attempts to change that concept, a quote by Benjamin Franklin:

All human situations have their inconveniences. We feel those of the present but neither see nor feel those of the future; and hence we often make troublesome changes without amendment, and frequently for the worse.

I believe sincerely that the attempts by the ACLU to change the very concept of religion in our society and what it means to have “freedom of religion” has a very real possibility of becoming “troublesome changes without amendment, and frequently for the worse”.

In quoting some additional thoughts from Chief Justice Neilson of the Brooklyn City Court, circa 1875 regarding “common law”:

We stand by the river and admire the great body of water flowing so sweetly on; could you trace it back to its source, you might find a mere rivulet, but meandering on, joined by other streams and by secret springs, and fed by the rains and dews of heaven, it gathers volume and force, makes its way through the gorges of the mountains, plows, widens and deepens its channel through the provinces, and attains its present majesty.

The “main stream” of society does not lack religion. Neither does it misunderstand the fundamental idea behind the first amendment protecting freedom of religion and freedom of expression. It understands that this is meant as inclusion of all religions and expression not the exclusion and that physical representation of faith, whether public or private, do not exclude, but simply represents the existence.

I may be speaking too broadly as a representative of the average American. Maybe this is only my understanding and another would object. Yet, I feel it is important to say something on the matter lest I become one of the lazy, accepting the benefits of freedom and democracy without shouldering my responsibility to guide it and insure the continuation of “good society” and the perpetuation of this democracy and the ideas that were embodied in the Constitution and the Amendments.

Individual Responsibility in Democracy

Many have written and spoke on this subject. Still, many either find it too dry a subject or do not comprehend how this responsibility impacts their daily lives. They are content to reap the benefits of freedom and democracy, content to allow others to make decisions and guide this great laden ship on a safe course, without even putting forth the simplest effort, to vote, in order to insure its safe traversing of storm tossed seas or passing through the lethargy of the doldrums.

Some say it is because they do not believe that they are being truly represented, so why bother? Others because they believe that their choices little matter and things will go on, will you nil you, and they can continue to enjoy this freedom with little effort on their part. It is interesting that, in my private life, those who feel free to complain the most about the course of this democracy are often the ones who make little or no effort to participate in it.

Of course, many in our current society have not really had to struggle to keep their freedom or protect it in the grand way of our ancestors or even our grandparents who, not so long ago, were confronted with the very real concept that their freedom could be taken away by a dictator set on controlling their world. It is commonly understood that when something is free, people do not value it so much as the thing that they had to struggle to achieve.

Just as amazing is their inability to view the world without blinders or rosy shades and understand that there, just beyond an ocean that is not really so far away, tyranny resides and it would gladly take away the freedom they so loosely value. They cannot see “but for the Grace of God go I”. They cannot see that here, even in this idealistic idyll that we occupy, the threat of tyranny is never far away when we refuse to participate, to speak out, to vote, to shoulder our responsibilities.

I personally experienced an epiphany in the last four years that woke me from my lethargic participation. It was not a gentle wakening, nor a single event that brought on this epiphany. From the moment that the towers fell, to the fall of a tyrant’s statue, to the orange revolution, to purple fingers waving triumphantly, to the cedar revolution and beyond, I have come to understand my role in this great experiment called democracy and my role as the protector of my own freedom and all those that come after and all those that yet live in the shadow of tyranny.

I had been taught these concepts as a child, going to school and reading the thoughts of all the great thinkers of freedom, but I could not understand it. It was only history and I was living today. It was not free people that taught me the meaning of freedom. It took the words of men and women in far away places with names I could barely pronounce, the words of people who were recently released from their own tyranny, to make me understand what freedom meant and what my responsibilities were in the perpetuation of freedom.

Every day, as they learn and I read their words, so have I, feeling that I am again back in school, learning the lessons I should have learned so long ago.

A newly free Iraqi wrote, “I was not living until April 9th [2003], now I am, so let me speak” [Free Iraqi

Another wrote, “I was born on April 9th”

I’ve mentioned these words before in other essays that I’ve written on the subject of freedom. These words will stay with me forever because it was not simply the birth of a new, free nation and free people it was the beginning of my own birth into the true ideas of freedom and democracy.

Ali, of Free Iraqi wrote what should be a reminder to free people everywhere:

In the same sense, many Iraqis looked for the January elections to bring the long awaited Iraqi savior even if it meant many saviors not just one. They saw the advantage of multiple leaders/democacry and welcomed it but did not expect that these leaders would have so many differences and find a huge difficulty in agreeing on a common major goal.

Thus, Iraqis are brought back again to the same point where they have to ask questions and keep an eye on events. And with time and through these changes, it has become obvious to an increasing number of Iraqis that they can never go back to that idle state w[h]ere they left everything to whoever [was] in charge and instead they're gradually seeing how important their role in making their lives better, and I have no doubt that soon most Iraqis will find that not only [do] they have a role they should play but that this role is in fact the main one.

Not only do we have a role to play, but this role is in fact the main one.


In our complacency, we have oft forgotten the price paid for freedom. Not everyone, but even sometimes those that say they are grateful or understand the price, do not really have the concept. It’s just so many words and there are so many people who would need to be thanked. Those that should have our thanks, from the moment of inception to the his very hour, might say that our continued life of freedom is gratitude enough.

But, it is in the gratitude that we give when it was not we who paid the price of freedom directly, that we show the value of this freedom. Again, I am reminded by the words of others, how much I should value it above all other things:

Two years now and "they" still wonder
And "they" still ask Was it worth it?
Was it right?
Two years and it seems to me Like it was yesterday
Two years and "they" keep trying
To silence the voice inside us
Yet it only grows louder (…)

Two years since I started dreaming
Dreams that have a chance
And are becoming true
Two years since I regained my heart
And then I found her...
And she found me...
And the world looked beautiful!
And "they" think they can separate us?!
Think again, or keep wishing.

"They" say we are being slaughtered
"They" say we are being abused
Am I blind or are "they" the ones who are sightless?!
As why can't I see what "they" see?
And the best "they" can offer of their view is Maybe I'm a CIA?
Or maybe the other "they", that of their accusations is paying me?(…)

I see with my own eyes this other "they"
And I call them simply, Americans.
What are they paying me?
Oh, you couldn't afford that!
Saddam couldn't afford it.
Sadr cannot afford it.
"They" think any of these can?
Could their "they" even try!?

Two years and some are still
Trapped in the past
And some cannot withstand the moment
And want to arrive without struggle to a better future
While others just enjoy what is already better now
And work to meet the future, bettered with them.
Two years and they ask Should I be grateful?
Am I?
Do I even need to answer that!?
YES, and to the last breath!
[A Free Iraqi

Or, this letter that was written in Arabic and translated to English by Alaa the Messopotamian:

(…)What prompted me to write about this subject today is watching the film that was shown on the “Iraqiya” on the anniversary of the fall of Saddam, that showed the cutting of tongues and heads, the breaking of arms and other fearful tortures in the prisons of Saddam the “Haddam” [the wrecker-translator]. These things would have continued to our present day had the Americans not intervened to depose this savage animal and his criminal Baathist regime.

I asked myself there and then: How can I thank the American liberators who have avenged us and avenged all the victims of Saddam’s regime? How can I avoid being ungrateful like Muqtada and his followers, who are enjoying now the freedom that America brought while at the same time shouting insults at this same America? I could find nothing in my possession to thank these liberating soldiers except these words:

Thank you, soldiers of the United States of America and soldiers of her allies. Thank you our true friends. Thanks to all your sacrifices that delivered us from the darkness of Saddam to the light of freedom, elections and democracy.

We shall never ever, forget what you have given us, liberators “

And, a letter from the new President of Iraq to the British people:

(…) Britain should be proud that the liberation of Iraq has in our eyes been one of your finest hours.

History will judge Prime Minister Blair as a champion against tyranny. Of that I have no doubt.

We are not reticent about expressing our great thanks to the British people and paying homage to tragic British losses.

Every Iraqi family, in fact, has lost a loved one because of Saddam. Every Iraqi understands the pain of conflict, the grief that accompanies war.

We honour those who sacrificed their lives for our liberation. We are determined out of respect to create a tolerant and democratic Iraq, an Iraq for all the Iraqi people.

It will take time and much patience, but I can assure you it will be worth while, not only for Iraq, but for the whole of the Middle East.

yours sincerely
President Talabani

I learned the true meaning of gratitude and what our benefactors throughout history might have said on receiving such gracious praise.

The greatest repayment could only be that our Iraqi brothers and sisters grab on to this freedom, protect it and live by it as best they can.

That is, in the end, gratitude enough.

I loved you so I drew these tides of men into my hands and wrote my will across the sky in stars to earn you Freedom [T.E. Lawrence]

The Last Frontier of Free Speech

Here I am, writing in the last frontier of free speech. Hoping that my words are read by some and understood by at least a few. Knowing that, thousands of miles away, in places yet to be free, or in a distant future when some might wonder what it all meant, someone might read these words and understand something about freedom and democracy.

I have hardly the eloquence of Locke or Payne or Jefferson, but here, in this last frontier, I am able to participate in this grand experiment called democracy in their image and footsteps, from a common citizen to a fierce advocate for freedom, from a person who had no voice, to a person that shouts now to the world:


I thank you who read these words for giving me a moment of your time.

I thank those who created this tool, this last frontier of free speech, for giving me the vehicle to express my ideas.

I thank those who came before me and said all that I could ever say, showing me the way.

I thank those who stood on the watchtowers, the ones that paid with their lives, with their blood and the ones that came home.

I thank those who serve as elected representatives for giving time from their life and shoulder such great responsibilities.

I thank those who stand up and speak for whatever they believe for participating in this experiment called democracy.

I thank those who vote in every election for keeping the dream alive.

Thank you for this perfect, imperfect freedom.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Beverly Hillbilly Bikers Short Intermission:

Searching For Mr. Good Bar

About three years ago I was hanging out with my friend Jen. She was quite a looker. Incredible red hair and blue eyes and, of course, killer bod. She was the hot one in my little clique; the one that all the men tried to talk to first (even if she was with a guy).

She was dating this DJ at a local club called the Guacamole Grill. It wasn't Hispanic or anything, just a little restaurant with a bar that, after the restaurant closed down, would turn into full time club with dance floor and DJ. It wasn't big really, but it could be packed sometimes.

Frankly, the guy she was dating was a loser with a capital "L". When she first introduced me to him, I thought she must have been kidding. He had a pot belly, was at least 10 years older than her, had long black wavy hair, but was actually bald on top so he wore a perpetual baseball cap to cover it. His clothes were dumpy. On top of all that, his only job was being a DJ at this club and taking on a few small parties like weddings where he made a pittance and spent it it all on his equipment.

Worse yet, when I first met him, he was actually seeing another woman, Jen knew and still went out with him. I think she was still experiencing post-familial separation rebellion, I hope. I remember telling her that she could find someone much better. You know me, I can't really keep from telling people how to live their own lives when mine is so damned wonderfully full of prospects (that's sarcasm if you don't recognize it). She did finally listen to me and it was another lesson to me to be careful what you ask for. The next one turned out to be an obsession freak.

But, that's another story.

Prior to her finally breaking it off with DJ boy, she asked me to go down to this little club with her to hang out. I didn't have anything better to do so I did.

First, let me say that the bouncer had a neck the size of Texas and arms like a gorilla with a high and tight hair cut. His black polo looked like it could break at the seams.

We got in the club free 'cause Jen had DJ "free passes" so that was cool. We bellied up to the bar and I ordered my one and only Zima for the night, then we stood around chatting for awhile. Eventually, DJ boy noticed us and waved us up to the little stage where we danced for about a half hour before going over to the bar for some water.

An extremely good-looking guy was standing next to us. He had dark hair and swarthy skin with brown eyes and chiseled lips. He was wearing black dress slacks and a butter yellow sports suit jacket over a black shirt. Very striking. He was standing next to me and started up a conversation. With me.

I was really kind of awestruck. We actually talked for about a half hour. He was a technician at a local hospital and said that he lived near by, but had only lived there for about a month. He bought me a soda and, after a few more minutes of conversation, asked me if I would like to dance.

I love to dance. It’s my favorite thing to go out and “do”. If a guy I like dances or even acts interested in it, that’s a huge plus on the “date-o-meter”. The club was hip-hop with some rock thrown in. We danced for three songs and then went back over to the bar where we chatted for about another fifteen minutes, he asked me for my phone number and he gave me his, asking about going out to dinner sometime soon. Of course, I said “yes”. Some more good music came on and he asked me to dance again.

He was a good dancer. We were doing a little salsa/hip-hop/swing dancing/dirty dancing. It was cool. We danced two songs and then another very sexy hip-hop song came on and we started getting into it. I was dancing with my back to the main bar floor and he was staring down my cleavage (I believe), neither of us looking around much. About a minute into the song, I felt a very cold, very big splash of liquid on my back.

I turned around ready to give somebody and earful about bringing their drink on the floor. When I turned, I found myself staring at some very large bosoms. The owner of which was about 5’10” and 300lbs. She was wearing a yellow knit shirt that barely stretched over her bulk. I remember it clearly since the next thing I heard was a very loud voice over the top of my head saying something like, “You bastard! How could you?”

I was like, “What the hell?” I backed up about two paces so I could actually see what was going on. The chic had big brown hair that was suffering from split ends. Her face reminded me of Petunia Pig with an upturned nose and fat jowls. Standing next to her trying to look tough was the requisite ultra skinny friend with bad hair and bad skin.

I heard the guy from behind me say something like, “We’re just friends.” I couldn’t tell if he was talking to me or to her, but I felt him take a hold of my arm. That seemed to be like waving a red flag in front of a bull as her eyes, like little beady laser beams, seemed to focus on that move. I felt the hair on the back of my neck go up and was thinking, “Holy shit! I’m going to get my ass kicked in a club called the Guacamole Grill by Queen Kong!”

Her eyes focused back on Mr. Good Bar and she proceeded to shout her outrage, “You son of a bitch. I just moved in with you and you are already scamming on other women! We were supposed to meet here and I find you dancing slutty with some ho’!”

That had me pissed for about two seconds. Then my saner mind took over. My grandpa always said if somebody was looking for a fight, you should first try to talk your way out of it. If the fight was inevitable, be the first to swing. If your opponent was twice your size with the reach of a Silverback Gorilla, find a bat.

Well, there was no bat in site, neither a beer bottle nor chair and the chic was blocking the way off the dance floor. Thus the more intelligent side of my brain told me that I’d only met this guy an hour ago and, no matter how good looking, there was no way I was getting my clock cleaned by Queen Kong on the dance floor of some shitty little club for him, so I started looking for a way to retreat and looking for Jen.

What sealed it for me were the next words out of the chic’s mouth, “Tomorrow, I’m moving all of my stuff out and you can have the key to your apartment back, asshole!”

Well, that was enough to make me decide that that evening’s entertainment was over and I should make a quick exit, “Well…ahem…I think this is between ya’ll, so, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll just go.” I started circumventing Queen Kong to the right; where her skinny sidekick was standing.

Mr. Good Bar took hold of my arm again and said, “Wait a second. Let me explain.” Again, red flag to an angry bull, Queen Kong’s nostrils flared and I took that as my cue to get the hell out of there.

“No. That’s alright,” I said, extracting my arm with a quick jerk, “this is your gig and I wouldn’t want to interfere or anything.” I scooted to the right again and started walking as quickly as I could off the dance floor.

For some reason, skinny, bad skin, bad hair, sidekick girl decided that she should follow me and lecture me on trying to break up people’s relationship. I was still pissed about the drink I was wearing and the chic was dogging my heels like a little yippy dog. I turned on her, “Yo! I don’t know you and you don’t know me. Let’s keep it that way. You go on back to your friend since it looks like she’s going to need somebody to move her stuff out tomorrow and we’ll just forget about this. Cool?”

I didn’t wait for an answer, but spun around and kept walking, looking for Jen and anything that resembled “safety”. Fortunately, Jen knew the bouncers so I was sure I’d get protected, but I HAD seen that King Kong movie where it takes a million tank rounds and ten planes to bring him down, so I was opting for security the whole way.

When I got over to Jen I said, “Never…ever…let me do that again.”

“What?” She hadn’t noticed a damn thing, too busy staring at creepy DJ guy.

So I pointed out the couple that was still having words on the floor with the skinny sidekick hovering near by and explained the little episode. Then I reached in my pocket, pulled out the number he’d written on a cocktail napkin, wadded it up and threw it on the bar. “Jen, just don’t leave me standing around by myself, okay?”

That had pretty much put a damper on my evening. I mean, it is one thing to think that a cute cool guy is trying to pick you up, but to find out that you are second runner up to next heavy weight champion of the “Thrilla’ in Manila” can dampen your ego some. I mean, what kind of taste DID this guy have in women and what the hell did that say bout me?

We’d gotten to the club kind of late so the evening was wrapping up about 30 minutes later. I was finishing sipping my soda and hoping Jen wouldn’t want to hang around all night waiting for creepy DJ guy to load up when my eyes lighted on Queen Kong making her way through the crowd towards us followed closely by skinny side-kick with extremely depressed looking Mr. Good Bar bringing up the rear. I almost choked on a piece of ice.

“Jen! Jen, dammit! Here they come.” I nudged her to make her look in the direction of soul train to hell.

“That’s who he’s living with? Da-a-a-amn!” That’s something coming from a good- looking chic dating a creepy DJ guy.

“Stop staring, dammit!” But it was too late. I could see that Queen Kong had noticed our position on the path to the door and she was giving me evil, Queen Kong, beady eye looks. Her skinny sidekick trying to emulate her but ended up just looking like a horrible fun house mirror image of the original.

I was standing near the bouncer so I got a little bit of my nerve back and decided to stare her down. Bravado at that late date, but it did salvage some of my pride. Mr. Good Bar, bringing up the rear by a good five paces off the last car in the train wreck, suddenly stopped in front of Jen and me and started rattling off some story as quick as his tongue could function, “Honestly, I really only met this girl a couple of weeks ago and she said she needed a place to stay so I let her move in with me. It’s strictly platonic. I’d really like to see you if I could and…”

At this point, whatever he was saying had lost interest for me as I noted out of the corner of my eye that Queen Kong had stopped and made a U turn by the door, sensing by her extra peripheral jungle sense that her entourage was incomplete. She started charging back in our general direction. Jen noted it too and, at the same time, we both reached out and gave him a shove towards the door, “Dude! I really don’t care what your story is. Just go on!” I was really irritated about the whole thing anyway and there was no way I was going to get between an angry gorilla and her chosen mate. I figured if it really was the case, he could extract himself out of the mess by himself.

He stumbled back a few paces and Queen Kong grabbed his hand and started dragging him out of the club. The look on his face was the mirror image of Faye Dunaway’s. The horror of his plight was setting in.

I nearly forgot, but yelled out as they were exiting the door, “Dude, lose my number. Please!”

They exited out the door while Jen and I stared after them. Until we let out a collective sigh, I had no idea we were both holding our breath. Then we both giggled. “Jesus! Can you believe the nerve of that guy? His humongous girlfriend was in the club the whole time looking for him and he was trying to pick me up. Dude must like to live dangerously.”

“Yeah,” Jen glanced at me from the corner of her eye, “I feel kind of sorry for him, though.”

She would.

“Whatever. I just hope she’s not in the parking lot waiting to kick my ass. All she’d have to do is knock me down and sit on me. The fight would be over.” Not that I have any particular prejudices against overweight people (lord knows I’ve struggled with my own), but I wasn’t really feeling very charitable towards her. She HAD thrown a glass of kamikaze on me (I could tell because I could still smell it on my shirt).

Jen didn’t say anything for a second and then, “I’ll have one of the bouncers walk us out.”

For once she was being practical.

Morals of the story?

1) There are all sorts of people that make up a couple. Don’t presume you know who will or won’t be a couple based on size or looks.

2) When you are having that first chat with Mr. Good Bar, make sure you ask him if he lives alone. If he has a roommate, is it a man or a woman? If he says it’s a woman, be sure to ask him if this roommate has any reason to believe that they are more than just roommates, but may be romantically involved. Such ideas might be inspired by things, like…oh…I don’t know….SLEEPING WITH HER!

3) If you are confronted by an opponent that is twice as big as you and you do not know karate, tae kwon do, have not been recently released by the Navy seals after a 10 year stint and constant training in the art of hand to hand combat with deadly force or have at least ten of your own friends with you, it is always better to retreat and live to fight another day.

4) The next time your friend says, “Hey, come with me and check out this club,” just say “NO!”


The computer is back on line and regular posting will resume.

Turns out the virus scanner I have did an update Friday afternoon that had a major flaw: huge uncompressed file that ate up the CPU. Some techie guy at the main office knew about it and told me the magic secret to booting up in safe mode on this computer. Uninstalled bad download and got the latest and greatest.

Computer is now speeding along at mach I.

Thank the lord of computer geeks!

Stand by for more posting.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Good Society, Liberty And The Rule of Law

I've often heard the comment that "we are a country of laws" or "we live by the rule of law" as if it is law that makes America or any country free or a good place to live.

If you look around the world, even the worst dictatorships and tyrannical regimes have laws of the land. These laws neither make them good nor give them liberty.

Good society is not created by laws, rather laws are created by good society to protect that society. Laws have only two possibilities, to guarantee liberty or to limit liberty. At no time do more laws make people behave better. There may be some fear of the consequences that keeps some people from going against the grain of good society and the laws they create, but, in good society most people do not live in the fear of these consequences on a day to day basis. In good society the general rules of behavior are understood and adhered to for the sake of good society not out of fear.

Those who do not contribute to good society must then go in fear of the consequences enforced by the law.

It is only through the consensus of good society that democracy can actually exist. Without the acknowledgement of certain unwritten rules of behavior across society, regardless of words written on a paper called "laws", all would be chaos, lawlessness and the rise of a tyrant would be imminent as the parts of "society" that simply longed for order would surely give away some of their liberty to gain such order.

Order without liberty is nothing. It is a subsistant existance, void of creativity and joy where living another day becomes paramount and all other aspects of real "life" fade into a memory. That's if one was every able to experience such a "life" before order without liberty.

So, what are the rules of "good society" that allow us to function as a democracy and live lives of order while simultaneously experiencing liberty?

I believe the founding fathers of the United States understood the concept of "good society" and that the laws were simply a reflection of those basic rules that already existed. This is sometimes referred to as "common law" or law that is commonly understood by the people without having it codified or written and by which people operate on a day to day basis with each other.

Peter Landry writes on the concept of common law:

Common law is law that comes from the common people, vers., legislation, which, comes from the "experts."

Common law comes about at the root levels of society: it is not law that is imposed by some authority from on high. The development of common law was "essentially a private affair concerning millions of people throughout dozens of generations and stretching across several centuries." It is a process that is self adjusting and which goes on everyday unnoticed, without great expense to the state and with out fractionalizing society.

The simplicity of the Constitution was based on recognizing this "common law". They simply wrote that which was commonly excepted amongst most, if not all, of the citizens that they were set to govern; govern by their consent based on their consensus.

The root of this common law was not actually written into the Constitution, but in the Declaration of Independence:

Among these unalienable rights are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

In other words, it is generally accepted within our "good society" that everyone has the right based on the laws of Nature and/or a Creator to live as they see fit, to be free to do as they can or cannot and to achieve by their own efforts that which they could measure as "happiness".

This was based on the concept of "free will" which was the predominant concept of the Protestant religions that shaped such countries and England, Scotland, Canada, United States and Australia. Even this though does not explain the order that exists within a "good society" because it is understood that not all people will always understand naturally the limit to which they can express this free will without interfering with the "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness" of their brothers and sisters.

This natural limit is expressed in common language as well as the New Testament, "do unto others as you would have done unto you". Or, as Peter Landry further expresses it:

The fact of the matter is that there exists all around us a great body of law which has not ever been (nor could it be) written down in one spot. In a way, its, its more of a process which has a single guiding rule, the "golden rule," a negative rule: "Don't do something to someone that you don't want to have visited on yourself, either directly or through the agency of a government."

The concept of government under this "common law" is best expressed in democracy when the people elect representatives who best "represent" their ideas. These ideas are in effect "common law" or consensus of the people.

What then if all of the people do not agree on what that "common law" is?

It is this issue which is expressed in the method by which laws are created and codified. It is the same method that occurs in good society by the exchange of ideas until the general consensus or understanding is expressed. This then is the "science" of the rule of common law, expressed rather poetically by Chief Justice, Joseph Neilson of the Brooklyn City Court:

"At the sea shore you pick up a pebble, fashioned after a law of nature, in the exact form that best resists pressure, and worn as smooth as glass. It is so perfect that you take it as a keepsake. But could you know its history from the time when a rough fragment of rock fell from the overhanging cliff into the sea, to be taken possession of by the under currents, and dragged from one ocean to another, perhaps around the world, for a hundred years, until in reduced and perfect form it was cast upon the beach as you find it, you would have a fit illustration of what many principles, now in familiar use, have endured, thus tried, tortured and fashioned during the ages.

Still, this does not preclude the possibility of tyranny either by a majority or by one. In a recent movie, The Patriot, the main character played by Mel Gibson expresses these concerns:

"Why should I trade one tyrant 3000 miles away for 3000 tyrants one mile away? An elected legislature can trample a man's rights as easily as a King can."

How then is good society able to function without forcing this "tyranny of the majority" on its other members. In government, this is expressed in the type of representative bodies selected. In society, this concept is excepted as the idea, once again, that each citizen must be leary about perpetrating something against their neighbor for fear of the repercussions.

It is also expressed in the general idea, also a root base of common law in good society that, "I am my brother's keeper." This does not simply equate to caring for our fellow humans and ensuring that they behave as is fit for good society. It does not simply equate to giving our fellow citizens materials, money or place in society so that they can be equal to each other. In democracies and good societies, the concept of being "my brother's keeper" is also understood that it is each citizens responsibility to ensure that their fellow citizens can take advantage of the same basic rights to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness".

In good society, these are the only things that are guaranteed and the "pursuit of happiness" is understood that each man or woman is given the same opportunities to "pursue" such happiness. It does not guarantee that they will start out on equal footing materialistically with their neighbors, but regardless of position or birth, they have the equal opportunity to "pursue" and achieve. In the understanding of being "my brother's keeper" it is understood that, in order for my own "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness" to be guaranteed, I must be willing to ensure it and protect it for my brother.

There are, undoubtedly, many other rules of behavior or "common law" that predicate "good society", but it is these basic concepts that allow for the consensual government, democracy, for whole societies.

Others have explored this concept much better than I, (thanks Brian H.)but it is this history and understanding of common law that is lacking in many societies. This is why some countries who attempt to enforce "democracy" from the top down, such as Russia or South Korea or any number of African countries, often fail and instead create even less perfect examples of government that turn into tyrannies or create chaos.

This concept of common law is slowly filtrating through the world with the advent of advanced communications, media, internet and the ability to travel nearly without limits. In some societies, the ideas are still vague and attempts to overlay democracy in countries such as Saudi Arabia where these concepts are not fully understood, internalized nor practiced on a regular basis may not have the full effect that we who wish democracy and freedom to be prevalent throughout the world would like to see in these countries.

Yet, I believe that the concept of "common law" is not completely alien to people who do not share my same ancestoral history. To whit, throughout history, ancient and recent, peoples have managed to live together under all sorts of government rule and lack thereof, without falling into complete chaos. Many ancient tribal societies lived by similar "common laws", unwritten and expressed in the care the tribe gave to each of their members and, prior to fuedal concepts of "noble and common" man, tribal societies found in the United States even practiced these ideas without having first experienced Christianity, Protestant religion or anglo-society. Their members were respected based on their own achievements, their own merits.

This means that common law can and has been practiced in other societies, that the lack of common law based on "anglo" concepts does not make the concept of "good society", "common law" and even "democracy" incapable of existence within other countries and cultures.

What it does require is that these concepts of common law must overcome the individual society's normal desire for "order" at all cost and allow common law to create the rules of society. Without this concept, tyrants rule, freedom is limited. But, without the consent and understanding of what this common law is, without society's consensus to censure behavior outside of what is acceptable in "good society", written laws and the ability to punish crimes against "good society" will not reduce crime against individuals or society.

This is true in existing democracies as well as psuedo-democracies like Russia and others.

We see this slowly coming to life in Iraq as the basis for common law and the censure of the public begins to fall on the criminals. As Iraqis begin to understand their role in "good society" and that this role is beyond their own family, their own tribe or ethnic structure, criminality becomes less acceptable. Crimes against society are censured by shunning and turning them in.

We see this slowly coming to life in Lebanon as the majority of society begins to demand freedom, demands accountability by those that govern to the consensus of the people, in the demand that the criminal acts of assassinating leaders that to not agree with those in power cease and desist.

It may be that advanced communications and interconnectivity of the current global world has allowed these ideas to filtrate into these societies. Surely, this ideology, beyond the tyranny of a few or the tyranny of ideologies, filtrated the Middle East, it gave rise to an opposition that believes it can stop this ideology of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" from spreading.

Aside from the advanced communications and technology, it is no longer simply the outside forces of the Anglo-sphere that is causing this ideology to spread. As whole societies, whole generations, begin to realize this concept within their own societies, tyrannical ideologies cannot stand.

In any society, tyranny can only exist with the consensus of the people. Tyranny, then, can be destroyed by the consensus of the people.

The rule of law does not predicate free societies. The rule of law can be and has been subjugated by tyrannical regimes and turned against the people. It is only in the rule of common law, in the existence of good society which includes the understanding that, as my brothers keeper, it is my job, our job, to insure that the rule of law does not impact my brother's liberty inadversely unless he goes against the common law of good society.

Unless laws are based on the common law of good society, these laws are extrenuous and will most likely result in the limiting of liberty for all in society, not just the few.

"Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it." Lincoln 1859

"In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free -- honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best, hope of earth." Lincoln 1862

It is this concept which drives current foreign policy in the United States. As global connectivity advances, in order for free societies to truly live by their ideas, the ideas based on common law and the basic concepts of liberty and equality, as they come into extended contact with societies that are not free, they must hold that freedom above all other ideas and desires. To accept that anything else, rule of law and order without freedom, is in anyway equivolent to their society and to void their common cause of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" means that they have also put a limit on their own freedom and voided the concepts of "all men are created equal" and "liberty".

This then must be the call of our generation. The call of all free societies whether they be Anglo, Latin, Slavic, African, Arabic, Kurdish, Asian, from where ever they may reside on this ever shrinking globe, we must find our common voice and in every corner of the globe, declare that the rule of law and order that supports tyrannical regimes is not acceptable and is not equivolent to liberty.

If we fail to do so, we have voided our own ancestoral inheritence of the "common law", the law that by nature demands freedom and liberty for all.

Whenever one man is a slave, whether to ideology, government or by oppression of individuals, we are all slaves and good society founders and falls from existence.

Blogging Light: My Computer Died

My computer died Friday, April 22, 2005 at 6:32 pm CST. RIP.

Until I can replace it, I will have limited access to computers and limited access to blogging. Sorry my friends, the 6th day of Biking through hell will be slightly delayed. I promise to be back and posting as soon as physically possible.

Keep checking back and don't forget me.


Border Security: The Maginot Line

In the previous post I briefly mentioned my research on the possibility of closing borders and creating Fortress America.

We played a word game. I said, "Maginot Line" and you say, (fill in the blank).

My friend Kender at Kender's Musings understood immediately what I was going for, but frankly dismissed it as "French stupidity" making the idea inoperable as opposed to what the real tactical problems with "Fortress France" were.

He and Mavenette insist that Fortress America is possible and preferrable.

I do not agree for several reasons. Particularly, after reading just some of the information available. And some of it sounds eerily like the problems with the building of the Maginot line.

first, let' discuss real numbers.

The United States has 90,000 miles of coast line.
Canadian border = 9,000 miles (including land and water)
Mexican border = 7,000 miles

Over 116,000 miles of coast and border.

In order to provide human security, estimating one human per mile, not including support people, logistical issues, rapid response teams that would interdict after monitoring, that is 116,000 people. Let us not forget the actual legal entry points that are very busy on a daily basis with hundreds, if not thousands, of people coming and going, requiring many more people to secure those points, process, check, support, etc.

While there are 10 top ports in the United States for ships to enter, there are literally hundreds through which ships, products and small boats pass.

On any given day, over 2739 planes enter the United States' air ways. That is 1,000,000 a year. The number of cargo ships and freight boxes is insane. As I mentioned previously, nearly the entire country and most of the world, has become a JIT (just in time) user and orderer of inventory. The amount of unused inventory is also figured in the GNP figures we are routinely given. Un-used inventory is considered a bad sign for financial growth.

One "war game" showed that a shut down of ports for a week after a "disaster" backed up manufactured goods for two months. In a country of 300 million, the inflation of goods would resemble post glasnost Russia. Businesses would shut down. The stock market would crash. Chaos.

This is both the danger of an attack through this area as well as the danger of constricting flow of materials.

Before I go further, I want to go back to the "Maginot Line" and it's failures.

The Maginot Line's failures were strategic, logistical and incompleteness. Not to mention cost.

Disregarding cost, let's explore the other failures.

Strategic failures were in both tactics and incompleteness. First, it gave the French a false sense of security. The idea that they could hover behind their walls and no enemy would dare to attack through formidable lines of artillery. The entire line actually consisted of several large fortification areas with lines of many smaller fortifications. It did not span the entire border of France, but rather, spanned the areas considered "most vulnerable". Original plans had called for the entire border to be guarded just so, but the technology, the expense, the numbers of troops necessary to man these posts and the idea that fortifications in other countries, such as Belgium, would be primary guardians that would at least slow down the enemy long enough for the French to move troops to the area.

Some of the technology was relatively new and experienced it's own problems that took months to re-engineer. The project to build the entire line that was established, man it and prepare it, took nine years to build adn 3 billion francs.

The tactical problems with the line was the biggest problem. Warfare had left the fortress and trench war of WWI. It was the age of manuever warfare. Tying up large forces in stationary fortresses that could be circumvented or directly over ran depleted the French forces. Worse yet, the French relied on these fortifications to give them time to call up and mobilize reserve forces, never considering that the fortifications could be over ran in a matter of hours or circumvented within 5 days.

Other issues included under staffing of the fortifications and moving forces from less "threatened" areas to other more important areas, consequently simplifying the identification of weak areas for attack by the enemy.

Here in lies the problem with Fortress America.

Tactically, Fortress America, loses the tactical ability to "manuever" and respond to threats, ties up forces and resources. Trying to determine strategically where forces and technology would be distributed to the best use is nearly implausibly fantastically insane.

One thing that is already apparent, the technology we are currently trying to put in place is also new and also experiencing problems both installation and mechanically.

This does not even deal with the coastal waters.

The question that must be asked, is securing the borders impossible?

I believe the first thing we need to get away from is narrowing our idea of "security" to this border lock down with walls and forts. Remember that the "enemy" or illegal aliens, the coyote runners and potential terrorists are MOBILE. They are not restricted to one type of entry. They can come on foot, in cars, on boats, on planes and disappear quickly into the interior while we are busy "deploying" forces from fortress areas. Even "quick" reaction forces would have difficulty coordinating quickly enough to interdict.

Instead of imagining this implausible fortress completely "securing" the borders, we should imagine "controlling" the borders through means that are similar to our activities in Iraq.

We may well need thousands of more forces. These forces may not be trained any faster than developing this imaginary fortress line, but they are by far more capable than relying on technology or fortress lines alone.

New technology, such as infra red cameras, integrated cameras, sensors, UAVs, etc are already starting to be used and can be a "force" multiplier. Even reading the CBP presentation, it's apparent that the idea of changing the culture and tactics are a long way from becoming accepted in the organization, much less the office of Homeland Security. They are saying that they need to change and they have restructured command and began considering upgrading equipment and some quick reaction forces, the idea of actually "controlling the border" has not left the "policing" mind set and entered into what would really be necessary to truly effect complete control of the border: military tactics.

Let me explain. I mention already that we need "manuever" warfare tactics. Hunkering down or trying to control specific areas of the most endangered miles of border will not stop the flow of immigrants, legal or illegal. I might also mention that the 9/11 attackers were in the US LEGALLY. Let's not forget that.

The integrated warfare tactics the military is using in Iraq to control areas are the tactics we require in border control. This includes additional man power, well above the original idea of 5,000 forces that are planned by 2006. This requires training. The information from the CBP indicates that even training 200 additional people, updated training for their current forces in both law and in new technologies, is taxing their current infrastructure.

Border Patrol alone would require another 10 to 20 thousand forces to even begin operating in anyway that resembles control and this may not include support. It is possible that current military training facilities could assist, but witht he current war underway, these facilities, too, may be over taxed.

Therefore, before money can be spent on recruiting forces, money must must be spent on upgrading the training facilities, improving and increasing them. Before this can even happen, a real re-organization and development of a "strategic plan" must take place. Today, a plan exists, but it is in no way complete nor does it really attempt to restructure the department. Today, they are still operating and planning as a police department.

No matter what we do, we must also remember that immigration is still a matter of legal work and laws apply to actions, so any real strategic plan must be able to incorporate adherence to these laws into the strategic plan and training.

The training infrastructure can only be built once a true understanding of how the technology would be integrated into the strategic plan.

These things are all a matter of time, money and commitment. Once that is developed, then, and only then, can we truly consider the ability to secure the borders.

Updated forces would need many more helicopters, UAVs, tactical patrol equipment and quick response teams on call at a moments notice.

Here we are only dealing with land border control. Waterways are another story and I'll address later.

Continuing, intelligence is also necessary. In the matter of border patrol, intelligence needs to be upgraded to the same level of gathering that we use in Iraq. What I mean by this is that the border patrol cannot simply rely on local police for information, nor rely on the good will of residence of any area to keep their eyes out for trouble and report it. Aside from some southern border towns, most people keep to themselves and don't pay much attention, purposefully or not. Border patrol intelligence needs to take on more aspects of military intelligence gathering.

Information from the CBP indicates that they are doing some work within border towns to try and become familiar with people, help them with problems, even so far as looking for government and private resources to help in developing the towns and their infrastructures. Very similar to what we are undertaking in Iraq and what is working to assist in intelligence gathering.

I believe that this needs to be updated and upgraded. Even considering that the residence of these towns are American citizens and that border security seems to be the watch word of the day, it is still not something that is being re-enforced daily with these citizens. Further, just as dangerous as Iraqi "insurgents" coyotes running illegals are equally dangerous, particularly in the Mexican area where it is deeply rooted in organized crime.

Rewards need to be public, information on secured, anonymous lines need to be publicized more intently and one on one work with communities needs to become a more important aspect of our border control.

What we must be aware of is that neither our citizens as a whole nor the office of Homeland Security and certainly not Border Patrol, is on a war footing. For good reasons they have been reluctant to perpetuate this thought by words nor actions, yet, the lack of it continues to allow complacency, not just in our citizens, but in our beaurocratic agencies.

These are my current thoughts on updating our border patrol. There are bills and actions under scrutiny in Congress and Homeland security. I will try to organize some information on these items.

One thing is certain, simply saying "secure the borders", or demanding more officers or money, will not resolve the problem. This is a problem of culture, amongst citizens and government alike.

The one area in which we are excelling is taking the war "outside" the fortress and to the enemy. This is also an area that must be understood. Until "war footing" for our interior security is integrated with the strategic "war footing" of our international policies, we will not essentially change and the danger will remain the same.

We have come a long way from September 11, 2001. We have a long way to go. Computer systems date back to 1984. This development, along with a new strategy, infrastructure and culture, must be first developed and rapidly. Money into any other programs, including personnel or technologies, will not even begin to approach the problem of controlling our borders.

If anyone has military training in strategic planning and using integrated technologies and rapid response teams, please feel free to add your commentary on how this will be achieved.

Due to computer problems, I am unable to post some of the links from the sites I was reading. I will attempt to update this post with those links so you can read what I've been reading.

Govexec: Border Control

Put up this wall (What's wrong with this? Israel can go into Palestinian territory and catch the bad guys, using the wall in conjunction with military action. We cannot invade Canada or Mexico, contrary to some folks ideas)

Cargo Security (securing cargo BEFORE it is loaded and transported from foreign ports is much more effective than trying to check it in our ports or before they come into port where it is already too late. Yelling for improved "cargo review" in American ports is a smokescreen and not very well thought out strategically. Remember the war game I mentioned. Something comes into our ports and explodes or simply sets off alarms stops incoming products and brings commerce to grinding halt. See my comments above)

Water way security needs an upgraded, improved and increased personnel. Along with general defense spending, the Coast Guard needs to be treated as a real arm of the defense mechanism and given appropriate funds, support, materials and personnel.

The CBP website is down right now. Look for when it comes up.

Standby for more info on this subject.