August, 2014

Aug 14

“What Have They Ever Done For Us?” …Inside the Strange and Strangely Familiar Minds of “Sovereign Citizens”

My article on sovereign citizens and assorted rightwingnuts is up THE RAW STORY now. Raw Story titled it “A science fiction author ponders the dystopic landscape of the sovereign citizen mind”

Originally it had the What have They Ever Done For Us? title and this quote from Monty Python heading it:

‘All right… all right… but apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order… what have the Romans done for us? –Monty Python’s “Life of Brian”‘


Aug 14

A Tactic for Reducing Police Violence

It’s hard to imagine any American city or town’s police force going completely gun free (even in the UK the cops have guns–just not on their hips. They have them around though). But we might see a significant improvement in statistics relating to police use of violence if we reorganize police forces into two groups of officers encountering the public, one unarmed, the other armed. Unarmed police–that is, cops armed only with nightsticks and pepper spray, and protected by kevlar–will be sent on most calls.

Other cops–not SWAT, that would be a subdivision of the armed group–would be dispatched if there’s some reason to believe there’s a possible wrongdoer armed with a gun. An armed robbery, for example. The armed cops will get extra training on subduing without killing. They will have the guns but will be encouraged to look for alternatives to using them. This will be an opportunity to rethink police training–but it won’t be disarming police.

If it works in one town to reduce needless killings by police, other towns may be encouraged to try it out.

Aug 14

Women Are Invading America

Looking around in the USA today I notice a disturbing thing. More and more women, and children. Where are they coming from? It’s obvious. What’s clearly happening is, women are coming across the borders, and they’re taking our jobs, and housing.

There are many children around too. And what do they do? They grow up to have jobs. Jobs older adults could have had.

When I hear women talking to one another, using foreign words like “feelings” and “love”, I feel excluded. Why can’t they learn our language? Children also bring new slang into the country, like “Dude, that’s sick”. What does that mean? Can’t they learn our language if they come here? Pretty soon we’re all going to be talking their gabble and the women will impose their culture on us. I for one do not want to “share feelings” whatever that may be.

Aug 14

She Showed It Can Be Done. Women in Men’s Sports.

It’s past time for bringing women players into men’s professonal baseball. Into the Yankees, into the Giants and so on. You know–try them out. If they don’t prove out, don’t show they’ve got the stuff to compete, don’t hire them. But this girl –see the linked article–shows that some women will have the right stuff. Tackle football–nah, I can’t see most women in that, if any. Women are tough but that’s not fair. (Hell I think tackle football is a dangerous sport, prone to causing brain damage, should be flag football instead, but whatever.) And if women can compete with men in golf, baseball, why not let them try out for “men’s” basketball?

There was a time when it was claimed that Japanese men couldn’t physically measure up to compete in American baseball. Those naysayers were proven wrong.

Now it’s time for women in the big leagues.

Aug 14

The United Nations: We Need It. But We need it to be Different.

I’m a big supporter of the United Nations and will remain so, probably, since it does far more good than harm. But its sprawling, badly organized affiliated activities are under-supervised, and can do real damage at times. Here’s an example: A UN force sent to Haiti to help a nation in crisis, accidentally–stupidly, as they should have known better– caused a cholera epidemic, and a great deal of needless death, because of irresponsible disposition of their base’s sewage. The UN so far is not taking responsibility. (Follow LINK for story.)

In other places, UN peacekeepers were under trained, inadequately overseen and some of them committed acts of outrage on women in Africa, and in other lands.

Yet the United Nations really has averted a good many wars, and saved millions of lives, and Unicef (a charity I regularly donate to) is effective in helping impoverished children. There are numerous other useful UN programs. The very *idea* of a United Nations is inspirational, has social value in itself.

Conspiracy theorists worry that the UN has or will have too much power. Sadly the UN in reality has very little power to help the world–it is run democratically, which is good, but it’s too loosely structured, and a great many of its outlying components run things their own way. Hence the Haitian disaster. If there was more intelligent, centralized oversight in the UN, there would be no cholera in Haiti now.

The UN needs to take responsibility when an associated group makes a mistake. It should tackle the health crisis in Haiti, and provide healthcare and clean water to all those people harmed its poor oversight–or to their surviving relatives and neighbors.

Ultimately, the UN needs to be more organized, more rule-driven, not less. Then we’ll see it it become a more effective force for good. Meantime, we cannot do without a United Nations in a world soon to be 8 billion strong; in a world challenged by climate change catastrophe, weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and fanaticism. We need a UN more than ever. But we need a truly ethical, responsible UN.

Aug 14

Ferguson, MO– 60% Black…6% Vote.

Ferguson MO is 60 per cent African American..But In Ferguson, MO, it turns out that only 6% of African Americans in that town voted in the most recent city elections. My feeling is that those African Americans have become disillusioned with public institutions–and they lump voting in with the police, and politics. They may have been mis-led by the untruth that’s been glibly handed about–that voting is meaningless. Those who didn’t vote should consider the possibility that their failure to vote contributed to the situation that ended with the shooting of Michael Brown. Because if they’d supported a black, progressive candidate for mayor, he or she could have worked to remove the current police chief, could have done much to change the culture of the police department. Problematic, racist cops could have been removed.

So what we need is to communicate with people in communities like Ferguson about the difference that voting can make–we need to communicate that voting is powerful. That the tale that it is useless is false. That there are positive repercussions from registering to vote–and voting.

Aug 14

The Great Horned Flesheater With the Golden Eyes

I was walking the dogs at sunset, and I was in some considerable pain, due to arthritis on my spine; the pain visits me most on walks. Then I heard whirring wings, and I knew it was a large creature flying over. I looked up to see its big coppery eyes, it’s broad wingspan. To my delight, the great bird landed on a fir tree near me, a tree of no great height. The big raptor was only about thirty feet up, on the tip top; a frail looking tip, but it did not bend under this large bird that seemed perfectly poised and centered, though it was as bulky as a wild turkey. I saw its “ear tufts” clearly–it was a great horned owl.

A mockingbird flew screeching at it, diving at the far more formidable bird, presumably because the owl was close to its nest. The owl took no notice of it. It was quite aloof; had the air of a nobleman who does not deign to notice some angry peasant shaking a fist at him. Again and again the mockingbird tilted at the owl; the great horned owl ignored him. It kept calmly still, occasionally turning its “facial disk”, as ornithologists call its visage, to look for early rustlings of juicy rodents.

Perhaps the owl had inadvisedly roused for the hunt a little early–it was not entirely dark out, and the big owl’s distinctive horned silhouette was too visible to fretful birds and fearful mice.

It shrugged off another hysterical mockingbird swoop, looked around a little more, then flew off into darker places, to wait for night. In the darkness the great horned owl is camouflaged against tree boles; is most difficult to see against a cloudy sky. It is like a ghost, then, but those big round doubloons, its eyes, are among the most powerfully perceptive eyes in nature; and if you do not see it, you may be sure it sees you.

I went home, then, having forgotten my pain.

Aug 14

Sovereign Citizens and Right-Wing Christian Wingnuts on Parade

I just cut this from an article I’m writing about Sovereign Citizens–people like Cliven Bundy and Terry Nichols (Oklahoma City Bombing planner) –cut for length and because I had to retool the theme of the piece but I think this is pretty damn interesting stuff, relating to these wingnut fringe groups:

The Sovereigns base their societal fantasy on a misreading of the Posse Comitatus Act and the 14th and 16th amendments to the Constitution; they claim that the 14th amendment relating to citizenship was “never properly ratified” and the 16th relating to taxation wasn’t ratified properly and didn’t specify power to collect taxes. Their fuzzy logic allows them to conclude they need not submit to any law except the murkily defined “common law” local to their area. Apart from whatever common law they agree to, they are, they claim, Sovereign unto themselves, and not U.S. citizens at all. All such claims have been tossed out with precedent finality in federal court.

Another sovereign citizen argument that hints at the underpinnings of the Sovereign mindset, states that the U.S. government keeps a secret account bearing, say, $1 million for every child born in the U.S. This “redemptionist” argument, fostered by white supremacist con artist Roger Elvick, insists that when the US government chucked the gold standard in 1933 it pledged its citizens as collateral for the gold. Scammers like Elvick use seminars and videos explain how you can get the million bucks you’re worth… Redemptionism, like sovereign citizen status, invariably fails in court.

In a Portland, Oregon redemptionist/sovereign citizen case, Miles Joseph Julison repeatedly intoned in court: “I, Miles Joseph, a bond servant of Jesus Christ, can only take an oath to Jesus Christ, as he has bought and paid for me by the blood of the lamb. And anything else, any other oath, would violate the religious dictates of my conscience. And I continue to reserve all of my rights without prejudice.”

There we see the persistent Sovereign linkage to fringe Christian fundamentalism and magical thinking. Julison kept insisting he is only subject to “the blood of the lamb”; to him there was no law without the admixture of the supernatural.

This kind of magical thinking is extended, with or without obvious religion, to all sovereign citizen thinking. If at one point the USA created the Federal Reserve, believers in redemptionism and sovereign citizenry are easily persuaded to believe that the USA legally converted the legal personhood of Americans into collateral for bonds. Despite much verbiage, no real evidence is given for this belief. It is an assumption prompted by the deep-seated need to believe–a kind of leap of “faith” in a fictional American history.

Aug 14

Rush Limbaugh and Fox News Smear Robin Williams–for Dying

Shepard Smith on Fox news says Robin Williams is a coward for committing suicide; Rush Limbaugh sneers derisively at Williams that he killed himself because of a ‘leftist attitude’…The reason this guy Smith and others at Fox and Rush Limbaugh are now speaking insensitively and derisively about Robin Williams’s death, is that Williams was a liberal, was well known to be a liberal, was part of liberal political charitable campaigns. Were he not a liberal, they would not be talking about him in this way and they would not have to apologize.

Meanwhile, William’s bereaved daughter Zelda is being harassed by trolls who, I suspect, are motivated by Rush and Fox because …Williams was a liberal. This gives the trolls “permission”. And it allows them to “interact with celebrities”…bringing some puffed up sense of imagined importance into their empty lives.

Read all about it:

Aug 14

A Sketchy Outline of Practical Drug Decriminalization

Clarification. To whom it may concern: I support completely decriminalizing the mere POSSESSION of small amounts of hard drugs, meth even, cocaine, heroin, MDMA, or, say, a couple of oxy pills in your pocket…and decriminalization of up to a brick or two of pot or hash or “magic mushrooms”. (I believe that bigtime pot dealing and shroom dealing should be regulated, though not too onerously). I think dealing cocaine, meth, bath salts, heroin, should remain illegal.

I think that anyone found with meth, cocaine, bath salts, should have the stuff confiscated and be given an opportunity for free detox and rehab. But it shouldn’t be forced on them.

I think persons with small amounts of heroin…should be allowed to keep it. Because it’s probably not going to make them psychotic and because if they withdraw badly we may have to pay for their ER stay.