More Thoughts on America

More thoughts on America:

Christian Radio:

Why is it predominantly in the same frequency range as NPR? Coincidence? Maybe. More likely some clever attempt to punish the left wing, if you ask me. “Make those left coast L-worders lean over their steering wheels for several minutes on end while they buzz along at 75 mph on a freeway in the middle of nowhere, waiting for the tuner to latch onto the next proselytizers. Maybe a few of them will meet their maker that way. Serves them right.”

Then there’s the outside chance they might suck one of us in for awhile. Like they did me for a short time in the middle of Kansas. I listened to a drama about a family undergoing separation throes of the parents and related growing pains in the two children. Girl filled with the angst of undeserved guilt, boy rebelling against all authority. Really not badly done. The solution to all temptation, all evil, all that is out of your control, is prayer and trust in God.

Made me think about how religions of every sort are based in real-life problems. What makes for success of one religious doctrine over others is largely providing believable answers to the unanswerable. And, to be believable, solutions largely have to be untestable. You just have to have faith everything will work out to the will of God. ” It’s a mystery.”

I’m struck by how the Gödel Theorem sneaks in, even when unrecognized and running counter to the axioms and the function of the church. Any church.

Kansas:

It’s about the same length as the entire Central Valley of California; a long drive. And not nearly so flat as one expects from having grown up in the shadow of The Wizard of Oz. Some interesting history, too. It came into the Union under what must have seemed a reasonable compromise in Congress. The pro- and anti-slave lobbies drew a tie on whether Kansas should be slave or free. So they agreed to let the people of Kansas vote on the matter.

Result: immediate land rush of pro- and anti- slavery immigrants and a bitter fight (as in regional Civil War) for control of Kansas prior to the designated date of the election.

My family and, to some extent, the culture in which I grew up:

I’d always thought Quantrell’s Raiders were some heroic group of loyal Americans fighting for the righting of some kind of injustice. Saw a movie once which, as I recall, left that impression. However, it might just have been that it treated the subject innocuously enough that my own family’s prejudices prevailed. I’m sure I heard my parents make comments that made Quantrell’s Raiders sound like a group deserving praise and respect.

Fact is, they were a well-organized band of pro-slavery thugs who conducted raids on pro-freedom communities in Kansas with the explicit goal of killing all the “nigger-lovers” in town. And apparently they were quite good at it; they slaughtered whole villages. They were terrorists in the truest sense of the word.

The Nutzies:

There are few regions in this land where you can’t get NPR as you drive east or west. Sometimes you may have to try the dial again in a half hour, but that usually succeeds if you can’t find a station the first time. One of the stories catching my attention was the brouhaha over the law Congress passed gutting the Constitutional protection of Habeas Corpus and authorizing torture and military tribunals. McCain and some others were allowed to make some political hay for awhile, probably so he’ll make a viable Republican candidate for the Presidency after the people finally grow less naive about the ideological cartel that’s seized control of our country. I’ve come up with a great name for these tyrants in waiting: I’m calling them the Nutzies, for all the obvious reasons.

An alternative explanation for “McCain’s revolt” might be that it was intended, or at least encouraged, just to make it appear our protections are still in place because of the highly vaunted “compromise” the White House agreed to. As I understand it, McCain and company folded on every issue except the right to be shown the evidence being used against you and the explicit attempt to ignore the Geneva Convention by re-defining our interpretation of its “Common Article 3.” According to the NY Times story on the compromise (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/22/washington/22detain.html?ex=1160452800&en=841a3a3e462f8c27&ei=5070)

it’s not entirely clear that the White House gave up anything on this front. But, whether it did or not, the issue of Habeas Corpus trumps in any case.

The “compromise” gives the executive branch the most dangerous tool of all. The ability to “disappear” people. By letting the executive skirt the writ of habeas corpus, the police can arrest you for no reason other than that they want to arrest you.

Here’s how it might work: a local federal prosecutor who just happens to be a good friend of the Sheriff decides he’d like to run for District Attorney. They decide there’s no better way than to get a high profile reputation for drug convictions. Be good for both their reputations. The Sheriff recruits a couple of “cooperative” officers into the plan to engage in “aggressive enforcement.”

The instructions to these officers: “Stop anyone you think looks suspicious and search their car. If they give you any lip about it, or if just talking to them serves to convince you they’re ne’er-do-wells, search it with the intent of planting evidence if you don’t find any. If you do find drugs, arrest those in possession and interrogate them for their sources. If you don’t find anything, plant some dope on them, interrogate them just as aggressively. If you don’t come up with anything, we’ll let them cop to a plea of possession later on. In neither case do we want you to file initial charges. Leave that to us”

In the event the innocent don’t want to cop the plea, the prosecutor points out the fact that dope was “found,” and the conviction certain. Innocents will plead guilty every time in this scenario. It’s not rocket science.

In the event the “perps” that actually were in possession don’t turn over the info on the distributors, the prosecutor labels them “enemy combatants,” making sure they understand what rights they’ve lost by having been so designated. If they still resist, the prosecutor ups the ante at every stage. Because of their status as “enemy combatants,” no amount of appeal to the court system can intervene during this process (this is the bit that the “compromise” has changed). Because the prosecutor knows these guys are guilty, he knows he’s doing “the right thing.”

The debates about what to do with these guys may, or may not, go on between the local prosecutor and his/her superior (it depends largely on how “hands on” the superior might be). In any case, there’s a large incentive for the superior to go along in the very fact that the lower official has already engaged in behavior embarrassing to the department.

And what are the down sides to the superior for going along with the prosecutor’s misconduct? If, after years of captivity, possibly–quite likely probably torture–(the perps, being guilty, clearly have valuable information re. who supplied them)–and no progress at all on nabbing a higher-up, who cares? There’s no writ to worry about. If, for some reason, the public does finally get interested in this particular case, and prosecution in a military tribunal can’t be avoided any longer, the captive can simply be released without charge of any kind (this has already occurred numerous times).

Depending on just how evil the people in power might be, there are other, much worse scenarios, including the whole question of who to target, but why wax more paranoid than the average reader is apt to tolerate?

No one has to be answered to; it’s a “national security issue.” There’s really not even an obligation on the part of the government to admit they’ve got these guys. That’s the origin of the phrase “habeas corpus;” it means “produce the body” (of the guy you grabbed). If, as seems likely, the pressure results in getting information on the dealer, the prosecutor cops the now cooperative perp to a light plea, conditioned on his silence, and moves up the chain, fully equipped with the same tools he/she just used on the underling.

This is a law-enforcement dream. Cop a few “innocents,” who you could tell by looking at them they deserved at least this much, to a few minor pleas in exchange for a virtually irresistible enforcement tool. In fact, it sounds pretty good to a great many Americans who would love to see the drug dealers put away.

The problem lies in the fact that power corrupts. It won’t take long for this technique to find application in every arena of law enforcement. When you realize that, you should recognize the basic nature of “law enforcement.” As a former teacher, I know it well. Law enforcement is nothing more nor less than discipline.

The main difference between a democracy dominated by one political faction and a dictatorship is that a democracy is so damned undisciplined. This is the stuff of which the fall of democracies is made. Eventually, if you don’t salute the Nutzies, you’ll be disciplined.

Oh, don’t get too excited about the supreme court throwing this out on its ear like you’d expect. This is the neo-conservative court. I’ll be very surprised if they don’t agree a bit of discipline is exactly what this country needs.

Double “oh:” just so you don’t think I’m getting too political by bandying about the term “Nutzi,” be fully aware that any kind of fascist ideologue is a Nutzi, they don’t have to be of the currently dominant ideology. It’s just that these are the Nutzies we have to deal with at the moment.

Time to go.

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