Freedom

Freedom isn’t free can have more than one meaning.

The meaning people fixate on is that freedom is paid for with the blood and sweat of our fine servicemen and women, though the reality of that is slightly off. Those who have died in every engagement since WWII have not been fighting forces capable of extinguishing the light of freedom. Neither the Vietnamese nor the Koreans nor the Iraqis were an existential threat to freedom or the American people.

The people who fought there, the people who died there are deserving of our love and respect. End of statement. They are also deserving of the truth. They died for each other, died trying to get home in one fucking piece. Which is just as noble a cause.  Not for our freedom though, our freedom was never at stake in these fights. Just saying.

Freedom isn’t free can mean, for the more cynical among us, that Freedom, like all other things in this world, has become a commodity. There to be bought and sold to the man willing to pay the most for it, there to be bought like stocks and bonds.

Sure, freedom is important, but what makes it a commodity? It has been treated like a thing. A thing that can be moved aside like a can of beans on a shelf. The fact is that it has been swept aside by laws meant to protect the government (Patriot act, Fisa), and that people want it back, and that no person in uniform, no matter what they think, can fight and win and bring it back. If we pass laws that affect our freedom, that makes it a thing that can be whittled away, made smaller, easier to manage for those who have other agendas, other things they think are more important; the rich few, to whom borders mean nothing above We the People.

Are those laws meant to protect freedom? Yes and no. Yes in that they are designed to protect Americans from external threats, and No in that they have been implemented in such a manner as to create internal ones, particularly from the government towards the people…

I respect those who have fallen, sacrificed their lives for this country, regardless of all I just said. I salute the flag like they did. I salute the sacrifice like everyone does. What I want is a clearer and more precise picture of the world painted so that we can all see the real world for what it is. I do not want this day meant to honor the fallen, turn into jingoistic nonsense sloganeering by those who want slavish mindless respect given to a government that doesn’t deserve it, and one that long ago gave up on the concept “Of the People, For the People, By the People.” Those words are no longer true.

Freedom is free. Don’t let them lie to you. Death is a price we all pay, one way or another, no one gets out of this life alive.

Freedom is a choice. Not an easy one but no choice worth anything is easy. Freedom is work and responsibility and sweat and strain and a slog, a fight that is never over, fought by people who never rest and never forget to think of others before themselves.

Remember those who have fallen.

Think of the sacrifice.

Never forget what Freedom is.

Things to Remember

493px-James_Madison

James Madison in party mode.

 

Things to remember as 2016 becomes 2017:

First off, everything is going to be alright.  Right up until the moment it isn’t, and since you obviously can’t control that, why concern yourself overly with it. Enjoy the good things. There are many of them.

Secondly realize that in this world we have this thing called entropy, which means that everything goes to hell in some way at some point, and usually in a way that we have not foreseen. Think about it. How much of the shitstorm that was 2016 did you foresee? How much of it was avoidable? And to be honest was it ALL that bad? Somehow I’m thinking there were good things too.

Thirdly, the very concept of shitstorm is invariably in the mind of the beholder. I am sure that there are a great many people who had a really good year in 2016. Just because your candidate didn’t win, there was a higher than normal amount of stress in your world and some of your cultural idols died does not mean it was the worst year ever.

Fourth, there are people out there who had a great year, some for reasons you would find 399px-Jabberwocky appalling. There are millions of people who like the Oompah Loompah for example. Millions. Which is fine. We have this thing called freedom in this country. Don’t denigrate them because of him, or because they think differently than you, or want different things in their lives than you. Find a way to incorporate their lives into yours. They are, by and large good people. Don’t treat them like shit because you think differently from them, that helps no one. They aren’t the problem, you are, especially if you feel the need to be angry at them simply because of their politics. There is more than politics in the lives of most people. And, here’s a hint; you won’t make things turn around for you politically by alienating people you will need to work with later. That isn’t how politics works, not in the real world, regardless of what you think of that. Make friends with your political enemies where possible, hope always exists in places where enemies can become friends.

You will have a very hard time convincing me that 2016 was in some way worse than say the years of WWII, or The years of the great depression or great recession or the civil war years.

Doesn’t mean President-elect Oompah Loompah isn’t an asshole. Doesn’t mean there wasn’t tragedy in 2016. There was. It’s hard to not have tragedy in a world with this many people in it. I’m just saying as 2016 goes the way of the Dodo, have some perspective. You are strong and resilient. This is still America. We are a strong people. Things have gone right in other places. Be thankful for that.

Anger

Bunnies are assholes sometimes.

I for one could say I had a great year. After years of first searching for a new career and then trying to get hired on full time in that career, I finally landed that full time job. Almost shed a tear when I found out I had made it, so long and arduous was the journey.  Let’s see what else. I’m still a runner. Which, for those of you that aren’t, is great for clearing the mind and strengthening the body, and in the long run makes the person who does it tireless. I highly recommend it. If a two hour run ain’t kicking my ass, no way a few extra hours of work will. On top of all that, I’m still married to the most awesome person ever. If you have a happy place to go to, it makes everything easier, and home is a happy place for me, she makes me happy. With that as my sword and shield, I can take on the world and win, without a shred of fear in my heart.

 

So do me a favor America. Don’t dwell on the negative.

I’ll take care of that as I skewer our soon to be asshole-in-chief.

You go find your happiness, I have mine.

I’ll fight the monster. I’m good at it, been doing it for ages, and I enjoy it.

If you want to help as we move ahead, thats great. But pick your fights with the right people. Fight bad policy and bad decision making, not good people who feel and think differently than you. We’re on the road to the future together, let’s travel it as friends.

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But there are some people, nevertheless—and I am one of them—who think that the most practical and important thing about a man is still his view of the universe. We think that for a landlady considering a lodger, it is important to know his income, but still more important to know his philosophy. We think that for a general about to fight an enemy, it is important to know the enemy’s numbers, but still more important to know the enemy’s philosophy. ~ G.K. Chesterton, Heretics (1905)

No Different than Yesterday

445px-Initial_s_Paulus_Frank_1601eems like forever.

I haven’t written here in nearly a year.  Three hundred and forty eight days, if you include today.    I have not been idle in all that time. Some, not all.   I have been writing a great deal, some of my best work I think.  If you want to read it it’s over on writeisland.wordpress.com;  It’s fiction, sci-fi, horror, crime noir, paranoid fiction.  Lots of short stories, serialized.

If you enjoy that kinda thing by all means head on over.

I thought it was time to come back here and again write about the real world.  The real world is a nice place that has some insanely horrible things happen in it, often because of our own hubris, or stupidity, or insanity, or … something.  Things that the best fiction writers could not come up on their best days.

Let’s get started.

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My last post, almost a year ago, was written about the fun things that occur on the Korean peninsula.  So why not start where I left off, give you some level of continuity with news coverage.

It seems that Kim Jong-un is committing crimes against humanity.  He has between eighty and one hundred and twenty thousand political prisoners held in four locations.  He uses starvation as a form of punishment in these prison camps.  The system of resource allocation that the DPRK uses causes “avoidable” starvation among the population.

Some media outlets are using the word Nazi in reference to the treatment of the people of North Korea.  The head ofUN_building the UN commission has detailed all the crimes in a downloadable document you can get directly from the U.N. here, and I must tell you it is a compelling read about a place that exactly fits every negative aspect of the word orwellian.

The worst part about this?  We know, not just presume they are doing bad things to their people along with Japanese and South Koreans, but know they are doing it.  So what happens next?

Nothing.

Not a god damned thing.

Hua Chunying, spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry has called the report “Unreasonable criticism” and the reporting I have read, from the NYT  and the VOA, China will veto any action by the U.N. in this matter.  According to the NYT, She said “We believe that taking human rights violations to the International Criminal Court is not helpful in improving a country’s human rights situation.”

…Is not helpful…

If that isn’t helpful, if removing the problem by putting the people who are systematically raping and killing it’s own people and starving and torturing those they don’t do that to, what does work?  Asking nicely?  Saying “Pretty please, with sugar on top?”

Note that in nothing that I have quoted, or seen, they never say that North Korea is innocent.  They are saying that, “yes, they are guilty.”  But they are also saying “We don’t care what you think, we condone this behavior.”

They sound like criminals protecting other criminals.  Because they are.  By not helping bring the perpetrators of crimes against humanity to justice, they become guilty of aiding and abetting that criminal activity.

By protecting the North Koreans, the Chinese themselves are guilty of crimes against humanity.

And by being so weak as to not be able to do anything about it, the United Nations proves itself a useless body when it comes to the dispensation of justice on a global level against any real criminal activity.

Crying damn shame.  But at the same time I can say that I am happy that I live in a country where those kinda things don’t happen. Because of the eternal vigilance of it’s people.

At least not yet.  Today things are fine, but the road ahead is murky, as always.

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I don’t know if I’m back to doing this here every day, but I know I won’t be ignoring it for another 348 days.

I’ll write to you again soon, America.  Catch you later.

Campaign Contributions to be Revisitied by the Supreme Court

In January of 2010, in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission,  the Supreme court ruled that portions of the McCain-Feingold act (BCRA) along with the Michigan Campaign Finance Act and one other court ruling were unconstitutional, in that they restricted political  expenditures by corporations.

In an upcoming case, the Supreme court will decide in the case McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission whether individual caps on contributions are constitutional.  The current caps that exist state that an individual may not give more than $46,200 to  federal candidates over a 2 year period and that individuals may not give more than $70,800 to other political entities , such as national and local political parties and non party committees, such as 501(c)(4) organizations.

The CEO of Coalmont Electrical Development Co., a man named Shaun McCutcheon, wanted to give over a 2 year period according to the Reuters story a total of $55,500 but was not allowed to because of the legal restrictions placed on individuals by federal law.  The story goes on to state that the rationale for the legal challenge, as delineated by Mr. McCutcheon and the RNC’s counsel in this case, James Bopp,is as follows:  Federal limits on individual donations force those that want to give more to go outside the system and give to superpacs rather than to the candidates they wold prefer to give to.

I want you to look closely at that last sentence.  While not Mr. Bopps words (to read them go to the Links page for the link to read them yourself) they accurately speak what Mr. Bopp said.

When I roll that thought around my head, I am greatly dismayed by what I see.  In large part because it would give wealthy people a more direct route to the halls of power than they already have. And they already have a huge advantage over the poor in this nation.

If the court agrees with McCutcheon here what will happen to the electoral process?  I am not sure.  The man, McCutcheon says he only wanted to give a few thousand dollars more than the legal limit.  But the court is not restricted by the wants or needs of that one individual. The worst case scenario, and the one I think both parties, Democratic and Republican alike are rooting for is to completely do away with individual limits.

The legal challenge to the law does NOT seek to amend the number of dollars that individuals may give. What it seeks to do is completely wipe the law off of the books and make the specific portion of law that limits individuals contributions unconstitutional.

The rub here is simple.  If McCutcheon wins this case what is bad now about campaign finance will become worse.  If he wins, then millionaires and billionaires will, until new legislation is passed, be able to buy elections lock, stock and barrel.

And will we be able to fix this should the system break this way and take power from the people?  Let me put it this way; Have we been able to fix the damage done by Citizens United in the courts and Congress?

About that much.

So the answer is simple.

Nope.

And who gets pinched out of the scene there?  The little guy.  This would be yet another blow to freedom for the poor and disenfranchised in this nation. We will become even more than we are now a nation where money is speech.

And if money is speech, does that not make poverty silence? How can people like us, the millions who live paycheck to paycheck, keep up?

We won’t be able to.

And there isn’t a damn thing we can do about it.

Hope they don’t do it, we can only wait until the Supreme Court decides this in the next session, which begins in October.

Have a nice day.

Who Needs Privacy?

Pic of the day: The Garden of Eden, by Thomas Cole

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A mind not to be changed by place or time.
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n.

John Milton, Paradise Lost

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“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about.” 

These are words that are thrown about by a number of people.

Apologists for the homeland security apparatus.

People who don’t care overmuch about privacy.

People who think security is more important than freedom or just think security is important.

People who honestly think that only people with something to hide has anything to worry about.

Silly people all.

The problem with being surveilled, studied like some rat in a maze has nothing to do with the people who are being surveilled.  It has more to do with the people who are doing the surveillance, and the moral implication of their actions.

Why are they looking at me? How are they going to use the information they glean from watching me?  What inferences are they making about my actions from what they see?  Just because they can see what I think of as me doing perfectly legal things, does not mean they see that. Their eyes watching me does not guarantee that they will see the things I am doing in the same light that I see them in.  Who gave them permission to surveil me, to watch me when I am doing nothing wrong? Where does my dignity go when my most private movements are up for viewing by faceless, nameless strangers?

Privacy is a basic human need and anyone who uses that argument about having nothing to worry about if you’ve done no wrong forget that basic human need.  No one has the right to steal my privacy from me.  No one.  Those who don’t mind losing their privacy also don’t mind losing their dignity.  Anyone who believes in that argument believes that the steely eyes of unseen strangers are acceptable ornaments in our lives, ornaments that are in truth nothing more than chains around our hands and feet.

I do not trust those who surveil me, not because I have something to hide, but because they are hidden in every way imaginable while they watch me.

This isn’t really about security, it’s about control, control of my life and my world.  I won’t give that up meekly or weakly.  I will fight for my right to live as a free man.  Anyone supporting the nothing to worry about if you’ve got nothing to hide thought process supports giving up control of their personal lives.

Which is frankly stupid and Un-American.

Just saying…

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That’s it from here, America.  G’night.