Take My Freedom – Please!

Since America was shocked out of its exceptionalism by 9/11, we’ve been facing a classic political dilemma:  Security versus Freedom.   In the old Soviet Union, security definitely won, and even today, Russians wax nostalgic for paranoid Stalin and his much-vaunted Order. From the 30’s to the 50’s, there was neither chaos nor crime – there was however state terrorism and the knock on the door in the middle of the night.  Here in the U.S., we’ve prided ourselves on our Freedom, even when J. Edgar in his prom formal was listening at our door and making sure that we weren’t Reds.

Post 9/11, however, we seem to have cheerily folded up the Bill of Rights and handed our privacy to the Feds and various Web-based monoliths.  The result has been a safer – albeit much more intrusive – America.

To start with the Googles, Facebooks, and Microsofts:  they can indulge in as much finger-pointing as they like, but the truth is that each of them is tracking us like a bloodhound so that we can be targeted by advertisers.  In a 2010 speech, Zuckerberg proclaimed that “the age of privacy is over.”[1]  He seems to be proving his point with Timeline, which makes it incredibly easy for me or anyone to find your posts from 2005, when you were going through your Anarchist phase.  The Timeline, to put it neatly, lasts for several centuries. . .

Google is doing its best to “be evil” by scanning every word of Gmail for the purpose of determining ad placement.[2]  Microsoft skewered this practice with a series of ‘Gmail Man’ videos, though they themselves have never been angels.  The Googster “inadvertently” created a database of worldwide WiFi networks – and the info on them — while taking pictures for its Street View program.  Even though they later apologized, those 600 gigs of data still live. [3]

If you have any doubt that mouthing concern about “privacy” is nothing more than corporate B.S., here’s the result of a 2010 Carnegie Mellon study:  “My students and I discovered that Google, Facebook and thousands of others essentially have bogus privacy policies.”[4]  Well, who wudda thunk it?

To set our sights on the Big Daddy of privacy invaders – the Fed – shows us something of larger consequence than getting a pesky online ad from Viagra (and your name’s Virginia).  Bush’s signing of the 2001 (USA) Patriot Act, and Obama’s extension of same, promises at least  three more years of authorized roving wiretaps, business records searches, and the ability to surveil “lone wolves.”[5]  What does this actually mean?

That National Security Letters “permit the government to obtain the communication, financial and credit records of anyone deemed relevant to a terrorism investigation even if that person is not suspected of unlawful behavior. . . .reports have confirmed that tens of thousands of these letters are issued every year and they are used to collect information on people two and three times removed from a terrorism suspect.[6]   When I was in junior high, I used to worry that the government could check my library records and find out I was reading Marx.  Heck, that was just teenage paranoia – now, they really can!!   And it’s nice to know that under the Patriot Act, the FBI can search e-mail and phone records without a court order.  Who needs those pesky papers anyway?

Let’s move on to the indefinite detention of immigrants and searches without a subject’s permission, shall we? [7]  They should go well with the unmanned drones flying over the U.S. doing domestic surveillance.[8]  Whoa, what is this, Afghanistan?  Not really, since we’ve spent $100 billion reconstructing that country while our citizens lose their homes, jobs, and dignity. But anyhoo. . .

In the two months after 9/11, 1,200 Muslim-Americans were arrested in sweeps, mainly on immigration charges. Most had absolutely no proven ties to terrorism.  And the FBI, while pretending to do community outreach, spied on Muslims in their mosques, etc.   In fact, “…they recorded intelligence about Americans’ religious beliefs and practices, associations, opinions, and expressive activities in violation of the Privacy Act.”[9]  But that’s OK, since 39% of Americans say U.S. Muslims should carry special identification.[10]

It was recently revealed that Quantico training of agents consists of telling them that “that “main stream” [sic] American Muslims are likely to be terrorist sympathizers; that the Prophet Mohammed was a “cult leader”; and that the Islamic practice of giving charity is no more than a “funding mechanism for combat.”[11]  Does that apply to the church collection plate?

We’ve all heard about “enhanced interrogation” techniques, a pleasant euphemism for simulating drowning in prisoners using Cheney’s favorite pastime, waterboarding.  You know, it’s not a “used car”, it’s a “pre-owned vehicle!”  The truth of things actually doesn’t change when you rename them.

Still, the scariest violation of all has occurred, sadly, under Obama.  Attorney General Holder has justified the killing of Americans abroad, without charges or a trial, as long as those people are suspected “terrorists.”[12]  In his own words: “Due process and judicial process are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.”[13]  I imagine that might be a surprise to the Founding Fathers.  But not to Anwar al-Awlaki, born in New Mexico yet blown away by a joint CIA-military drone strike in Yemen.[14]

Now that we can freely murder our own, it seems that all things are possible.  Martial law if a city gets “out of control” – especially minorities.  The shooting of citizens here if it can be justified under the broad brush of “National Security.”  Another Manzanar if the U.S. is attacked again.  Because we have let politicians and the media scare us, we have handed over our privacy, rights, and freedoms freely – something the Soviets didn’t have too much choice about.  If we don’t stand up for the current target of populist ire – Muslim-Americans — we’ll be sitting down beside them in some cozy little cell at Gitmo.

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The Red & The Blue: Two Nations, One Under God, Divisible

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

OK  I’ve got an idea.  Sometimes these can be dangerous – like when I wanted to enroll in law school or get an MBA – but I think that this one has merit.  Hear me out.

America is hopelessly divided politically:  hence, the stalemate in Congress; the Presidential elections that hinge on the votes of three people in Ohio — and one could be Joe the Plumber.   Let’s face it – we have evolved into two separate nations with values and beliefs as far apart as L.A. and Alabama.  Instead of sitting and crying about it (or getting vicarious revenge through The Daily Show), let’s do something for once.  Here then is my immodest proposal:

Do what Lincoln should have and break the U.S. into two distinct nations:  The United States of Tolerance (UST), and the United States Of Jesus (USJ).  Here’s how it works:

Eliminate all present federal highways which cross the country, like the I-90.  The 5 (Golden State) can stay since it traverses wholly Blue Land.  In their stead, build a road from Seattle to Minneapolis, with no exits in Montana and North Dakota.  Similarly, build an interstate from Los Angeles to New Mexico, and from NM to Florida, with no offramps in the South.  In this freeway’s mind, Dixie does not exist.  They will have their own roads (possibly dirt) for White Vehicles Only.

Now that we’ve cut off transportation between the two prospective nations, let’s examine how commerce between them will work.  The same as it does now, except that taxes in USJ will be paid to their new capitol in Montgomery, AL (I wanted to make it Richmond, after the Confederacy, but good on VA, they’re a Blue State now!).   Good luck to USJ, since they currently collect more in federal aid than they pay out in taxes.  I’m sure that Texas border vigilantes will serve as local police, and the KKK can put out the fires they start.  The Idaho Militias can provide an ad hoc National Guard.

Now onto federal laws.  The UST will still retain the Constitution, though Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Roberts will be “encouraged” to retire.  With Originalists gone and a predominantly Democratic Congress, the following laws will be passed:

1)      National Healthcare (and not even one mention of the word “socialism”!)

2)      Equal Pay For Women  (Even though they’re not fetuses, they’re people.)  Which brings us to:

3)      Reproductive Choice – made on a personal, not governmental , level.  And oh yeah:

4)      Use of fetal tissue to cure deadly diseases

5)      Legalization of gay marriage

6)      Abolition of the NRA

7)      Proponents of hate speech and racism deported to USJ, Deep Fried Sector

This leaves the USJ to enact whatever the hell laws they want.  Such as:

1)      Combination of Church & State

2)      USJ declared a Christian theocracy, with Jesus the titular head

3)      No abortions – ever.  Ditto, contraceptives.   An occasional maybe:  the rhythm method.

4)      Teaching of “intelligent <sic> design”, i.e., Creationism, in schools

5)      Founding Fathers to be depicted riding dinosaurs (thank you, Tom Tomorrow!)

6)      Women to be stay-at-home Moms only – sorry, Nikki Haley & Elizabeth Dole!

7)      Mexican border to be guarded by Star Wars missile defense manned by slaves  captured Hispanic nationals.

8)      Every citizen required to own a gun.  NRA has its own federal department.

So what’s so wrong with my scheme?  It’s practical, and relieves the mounting pressure between religious zealots who wish to dwell in the 15th century and the “cosmopolitans” of Manhattan, with their soy lattés, NPR, and sodomy.

UST gets to keep Hollywood, the NY publishing industry, Las Vegas, and Hawaii; USJ gets nearly the entire South;  states filled with waving wheat and potatoes; and Alaska, with animals aplenty waiting to be slaughtered, preferably from a low-flying helicopter.  Florida, although a Blue State in the 2008 election, will be considered On Probation until 1) They acknowledge the existence of Cuba  2) They learn to distinguish a hanging chad from an orange and  3) Kathleen Harris is exiled to Wasila.

Likewise, Santa Cruz, CA and Eugene, OR will not be admitted to the UST until they sign an acknowledgment that it’s not the 60’s anymore.   If California objects to anything, it can simply withdraw and become its own country again (The Bear Flag Republic) .  Its GDP will still be more than the entire USJ’s.

On the other side, Texas might want to declare its independence if it decides to Remember The Alamo. JR Ewing might be brought back to head the Lone Star nation.  Mitt Romney can preside over Utah, and a hologram of Jefferson Davis can be the President-at-large.  Minorities (non-Christians, blacks, Hispanics, LGBT, anyone-who-isn’t-white) might want to emigrate over to the UST.   Likewise, those who are struck by the thunderbolt of Enlightenment, as well as evolutionists, women, and the entire population of Austin, TX.

Atlanta will be declared a Neutral Zone, like Switzerland but with CNN instead of Alps.  Ted Turner, “The Mouth Of the South”, will be named Honorary Mayor, unless he remarries Jane Fonda.  Lockheed with be forced to move its operation from Marietta, GA, back to Burbank, CA (hey, we need jobs!).  USJ companies allowed to continue doing business in the UST:  Krispy-Kreme, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Popeyes.   Those we’d like to have:  Chick-Fil-A, Emeril’s New Orleans, and Lexington Barbecue No. 1.

Los Angeles and NYC will be declared “no go zones” by the USJ.  A Fundamentalist film industry will be set up in Dollywood, TN.   USJ residents will be allowed to cross over into Florida in case they want to go to Disney World (why make the children suffer?).   The inverse will be true for Nashville.  And oh yeah, country music is banned in UST — except for Willie Nelson.

I think you can see that I’ve come up with a workable solution.  No more Congressional squabbling.  No more Santorums jamming their antediluvian views down our throats , and on their side, no more exposure to “R”-rated films and Rihanna.  Let’s end this Values War once and for all.  As long as we get to keep Graceland.

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