Monday, July 30, 2012

Week of 07/30/2012

More Reasons To End Sovereign Immunity
– by David Matthews 2

I recently got into a mini-argument with someone on Facebook over a certain news story from Columbia County here in Georgia.

The story was about a woman named Erica Masters, who was woken up by the sight of a county code enforcement officer in her bedroom, shouting at her to wake up and sign a disturbance notice for, of all things, an un-mowed lawn. When asked about the allegation, the officer in question firmly denied ever being inside the woman’s home and accused her of making the whole thing up. In most instances this kind of complaint would her word against that of a government official, and the government wins every time.

But Ms. Masters had more than just her word on her side. She had a home surveillance system, along with video of Code Enforcement Officer Jimmy Vowell walking into the house and sauntering around.

Mr. Vowell was subsequently fired for violating county policy and for lying. Of that, the Facebook poster and I are in agreement. The guy screwed up, and then he lied about it, and there’s video proving that he was a liar.

But what got us into the mini-argument was the follow-up news that Vowell will not face criminal charges for breaking-and-entering. Even though he clearly broke the law and is no longer a code enforcement officer (although he is fighting his termination as of this column) he will never face jail for his actions.

What my unnamed Facebook colleague did not understand is a legal concept called “sovereign immunity”. Just like “diplomatic immunity” protects diplomats from criminal charges in other countries, so too does “sovereign immunity” protect agents of the government from criminal prosecution when they violate their own laws.

There are several measures of immunity that governments large and small here in the United States enjoy. Legislators enjoy “legislative immunity” as specifically provided in Article I, Section 6 of the United States Constitution. This prohibits local or state governments from arresting members of Congress or interfering with them from anything shy of “Treason, Felony, or Breach of the Peace”. They also cannot be arrested or detained going to and from Congress, or for what is said or done in “Speech or Debate”. These all came from the abuses from the British Empire. In addition, there is the Eleventh Amendment, which protects states from being sued by its citizens or by other states or nations. And while the courts have haggled over its interpretations, they are unified in their belief that governments at all levels, as being functions and extensions of “the law”, are therefore above “the law”.

In short, what this means is that government and its agents - namely legislators, administrators, regulators, courts, police officers, and anyone else with a government badge and authority - are all considered above the law. As long as they can say that they are “doing their jobs” as agents of the government, then they are automatically immune from any kind of accountability or responsibility for their actions.

Yes, it is quite literally the Nuremburg Defense that is systematically supported and sustained by our judiciary!

Jimmy Vowell was fired from Columbia County because he violated administrative procedure and was caught lying about it. That’s an internal human resource decision. But when he broke into Erica Masters’ home and sauntered about like he owned it, he was doing so as a Code Enforcement Officer. In other words, he was still an agent of the government, and therefore he was above the law.

Baring acts of treason (using the definition in the U.S. Constitution, and not from the sociopathic definitions often given by talk radio and cable news channels), the only other way an agent of the government can be held to account for his actions is if there is a demonstrated personal gain to it. If, for instance, Mr. Vowell stole something for his own personal use while in the Masters’ residence, then that would be something he could be prosecuted for.

But just because I understand the notion of sovereign immunity, that doesn’t mean that I support either the concept or its current applications. In fact long-time Brutally Honest supporters know that I have not only spoken out against the current applications of sovereign immunity, but I am a firm believer that it is a concept that needs to come to an end.

Here’s another example: state and local legislators are supposedly “prohibited” from withholding records of their activities from the public. These kinds of laws are often called “Sunshine Laws”, based on the idea that political “cockroaches” scurry when exposed to the “sunlight” of public access.

The problem is that these are laws with no real teeth to them.

Let’s suppose some Good Ol’ Boy here in Georgia with a modicum of local power gets together with his cronies and he arbitrarily decides that Georgia’s Open Records Act doesn’t apply to him at all. They’re not going to have “public meetings” to discuss local business as per the Open Meetings Act. They’re not going to let the public know about the deals they make that benefit their “friends”. And they certainly will not let any kind of notes or records be made available for anyone outside of their little group. Ever.

Bear in mind that this is not just hypothetical. There have been several instances here in Georgia where local leaders have either found ways to supposedly “skirt” this kind of requirement or else out-and-out violated the law.

So you, the good little citizen, wants to know what your “elected officials” are up to. So you request a copy of the records under Georgia’s Open Records Act. The Good Ol’ Boy says “Hell No” and tosses your request into the Ollie North Shredder.

He has just knowingly and willingly violated a state law. What do you do?

Can the State Police arrest the Good Ol’ Boy for violating a state law? Nope. Sovereign Immunity still prevails.

You now have to file a civil lawsuit against the local government under the Georgia Open Records Act and Open Meetings Act. That costs money out of your own pocket. And even if the judge says you’re in the right, that doesn’t mean that you’ll either be compensated for that money spent or that you’ll have access to those records.

Let’s suppose the judge agrees with you and orders Good Ol’ Boy to release the records of all past meetings and Good Ol’ Boy again says “Hell No”. He then throws the order into the Ollie North Shredder.

That’s now called contempt of court. Will he be arrested and spend time in jail until he complies? Nope. Sovereign Immunity still prevails. The local government is assessed a fine that they can choose to pay off or not. But the Good Ol’ Boy is not the one that has to pay that fine, because he knows that bill ultimately belongs to the taxpayers, so he’ll have them pay for his pig-headiness.

But suppose we were to change that by eliminating sovereign immunity and imposing criminal penalties for government officials for violating those same laws. Do you really think that Good Ol’ Boy and his cronies would be flippant about violating open records and open meetings laws if they knew that they could be personally arrested and personally sent to prison for it? I don’t think so.

And how about our small-town “your home is my home” code enforcement officer? Prior to him being fired, do you really think he would be so “self-inviting” if he thought there was a chance that he could end up going to prison?

Bear in mind that these instances are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg of gross abuses of power by those in the government that claim that they’re just “doing their jobs”. Again, here in Georgia, the local police were given blanket authority to seize any material they suspect are supposed “bath salts” or “synthetic marijuana”. No warrant needed.

I’ll repeat that… no warrant needed!

The State of Georgia has knowingly and willingly violated the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution!

The state claims that these drugs are so dangerous, and the synthetic properties can be altered and redistributed so fast, that they cannot wait for the legislature to “officially” outlaw them, so they just issue the dictatorial blanket authority to just seize anything the police suspect are the illegal substances. If they’re right about the substance, then they can file charges later. If they’re wrong… well then nothing happens. They still keep the product, again in direct violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Concerned yet?

How many of you take those “energy” supplements? You know, the small containers with liquid stuff you either down like a whisky shot or else add to your other drink. Suppose “Officer Unfriendly” sees you buy one at the local gas station and thinks it’s the “new drug”. Under this new “blanket authority”, that cop can seize your little “keep-me-up” mix. No warrant needed, and good luck trying to get it back.

Government officials operate under the presumption that they are always right, and they validate these kinds of tyrannical encroachments by claiming some vague “social good”.

But what happens when they are in the wrong, and they know that they are in the wrong? Nothing happens. They aren’t punished. Sovereign Immunity prevails. Sovereign Immunity always prevails!

Again, this is not something new. In 2008 there was the story of the mayor of a suburb of Baltimore whose home was violently invaded by state and county officials. His family rousted, the family dogs slaughtered in front of them, the family members, including their children, dragged out and sitting in the street in their underwear, all because of a package that was delivered to their home they had no idea about. Not one of the officers involved faced any kind of accountability for their actions. Not one. Sovereign Immunity prevails.

Then again, that suburban mayor should be thankful that only his dogs were slaughtered. Back in 2006, Atlanta’s oh-so-precious drug squad battered down the door of what they later claimed was a drug distribution center. In truth it was the home of 92-year old Kathryn Johnston. They killed her in her own home and then invented a reason for the raid, including fabricating testimony of drug purchases and then planting evidence to support it. And they probably would have gotten away with it if they didn’t do such a shoddy job lying about what they did.

Let’s get brutally honest here… the very notion of Sovereign Immunity is a blatant and deliberate violation of both the spirit and the very concept of “Rule of Law”. To declare that “no-one is above the law” and then to hold those in government above any kind of accountability for their actions negates the principle itself. You cannot claim to have a system of “checks and balances” and then nullify those “checks and balances” by declaring those people inside the system as being capable of doing no wrong.

Sovereign Immunity invites the very abuse that government officials claim “never can happen”. It tells local agents like Jimmy Vowell “Go ahead and do whatever you feel is right, and we’ll back you up all the way. Just don’t lie to us about it.” It tells local officials “You don’t really have to obey this law as long as you can find ways to get around it.” And it tells gun-toting militarized agencies “Go ahead and break down any door you want, slaughter the family pets, humiliate anyone you want, even kill them, and we’ll justify it afterward. Just don’t lie to us about it.”

“Government” is more than just a political phrase to be bantered about on the Sunday talk shows. It is more than just some vague reference to some non-corporeal entity through which law is “dispensed”. When we say “Government”, we are talking about human beings holding positions of power and authority in society. Whether that position is elected, appointed, or employed, it is still manned by and carried out by human beings; and what separates the just “Rule of Law” from the tyrannical “Rule of Man” depends on whether those human beings are treated no differently under that law than anyone else, or if they place themselves above that law, and thus above the rest of the people.

In his classic story “Animal Farm”, George Orwell slowly points out the road to tyranny by perverting an idealized society’s standards one by one. In a “farm” that declared that “all animals are equal”, it was no coincidence that this particular principle, considered the most essential of them all, would be the very last one perverted by the ruling pigs to read “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” Substitute “animals” with “humans” and you see precisely what Sovereign Immunity is designed to do.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Week of 07/23/2012

Texas Congressman Brings Shame To America
– by David Matthews 2

It is said that the state of Texas makes everything thing bigger. Big hair, big hats, big boots, big homes, big steaks…

And when it comes to politics, Texas doesn’t scrimp. They stick us with the biggest egos, the biggest attitudes, and the biggest pains.

Bad enough that we had to deal with eight years of the Bush Imperium, saddled with two wars, and the biggest war debt imaginable under President George W. Bush, formerly the Governor of Texas. A debt, by the way, which was then passed to Barack Obama to deal with and for the GOP to then blame because their egos refused to accept responsibility for any of it. Bad enough that we had to deal with the corrupt antics of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, also from Texas, and who also helped with that war debt.

Now we have to deal with the antics of another Texas politician… Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas.

Mr. Gohmert has a problem. He sees enemies in every shadow and under every rock. He sees armies of pregnant Muslim women flying to America under so-called “birth tourism packages” just so they could deliver babies in the United States, and in twenty years supposedly have armies of “American terrorists”. And if you ask him for proof, he’ll just repeat the whole thing again in a louder tone. Just ask Anderson Cooper about that if you don’t believe me.

Proof? What proof? He’s Louie Gohmert of Texas, a member of the United States House of Representatives! He doesn’t need proof! He just demands that you accept what he says without question. And if you don’t then he’ll repeat it even louder, because that apparently is what you do in Texas when people don’t believe you. You just repeat it in an even bigger and louder voice.

Sort of reminds me of another overbearing politician from Texas. This one would make all sorts of claims about Cuban hit squads and political “dirty tricks” but would not offer a single piece of proof; only his word that these things exist. You may have heard of him… his name was H. Ross Perot, and for a brief time he was almost considered a serious contender for the White House in the early 1990’s.

Oh, but don’t presume that Mr. Gohmert is an Islamophobe! He’ll tell you straight out that there are plenty of pictures out there on the “internets” of him being buddy-buddy with plenty of Muslims! Well, according to him, they exist. Just like the scores of pregnant Muslin women flying in on “birth tourism packages” to make future “American terrorists”.

There’s a word to describe this kind of person, and it is the common name of the human orifice where fecal matter comes out. And apparently it is the one thing that Texas knows has to produce larger and more prodigiously than any other state in the country.

But apparently having a bug up his butt about Muslims following the ravings of a cleric is not good enough for Congressman Gohmert. Now he has to spout off jihadist rhetoric like one of those Muslim clerics.

In the early hours of Friday morning, a lone gunman opened fire in a crowded theater in Aurora, Colorado. Seventy-one people were shot, twelve people killed.

At a time when the shooter was not yet apprehended or any kind of motives for the shooting were evident, Congressman Gohmert took it upon himself to proclaim that the massacre was the result of what he describes as the “ongoing attacks of Judeo-Christian beliefs”.

"People say ... where was God in all of this?" he said. "We've threatened high school graduation participations, if they use God's name, they're going to be jailed ... I mean that kind of stuff. Where was God? What have we done with God? We don't want him around. I kind of like his protective hand being present."

Did you get that? Congressman Gohmert believes that twelve people are dead and over seventy are injured because “God” supposedly didn’t protect them out of some perceived concept of petty vanity!

This is a country that has more churches in any given community than it has fast food franchises and big-box superstores. Tens of thousands of different variations and interpretations of Christianity alone, not to mention a special White House branch created by the previous President and sustained by the current one, and an exclusive and elite lobbying service on C-Street, and yet somehow that isn’t enough for Congressman Louie Gohmert’s version of God?

What’s next, Congressman? Do we complete the trip back to 1692 and start burning witches at the stake again because the crops were bad? Will that somehow appease your version of God, or will we really have to go “Old Testament” and start sacrificing animals at the altar?

To add insult to injury, Congressman Gohmert then spewed forth the asinine idea that this tragedy could have been prevented if someone watching the movie in the theater had a gun!

Perhaps lost to the Congressman is the fact that the movie featured in this tragedy was “The Dark Knight Rises”, the story of a masked vigilante who, as a child, lost his parents at the hands of a criminal, and thus seeks to make the city safe so no child would ever lose their parents because of some thug with a gun. Given the established fact that the legend of Batman is not only one of a crime victim but also someone that despises guns, who in their right mind would actually show up to a movie about Batman with a gun?

You know, I expect this kind of mindless, opportunistic, attention-starved narcissism from the evangelicals like Pat Robertson and his ilk. People who are to this day trying to re-write history to suit their own distorted visions.

But let’s get brutally honest here… Louie Gohmert is not supposed to be an evangelical minister trying to channel the spirit of Cotton Mather to the self-righteous Puritans looking for witches to burn. He is supposed to be a member of the United States House of Representatives! He is supposed to show a sound and deliberate mind when hashing through legislation dealing with crime and civil liberties. His words on this subject do not reflect well on his credibility as a member of that legislature!

Indeed, this kind of narcissistic jerk-jerk reaction to a tragedy at a time when all of the facts were still not in place is not only a black mark on his personal credibility, but also an embarrassment to the nation as a whole.

Even his Texas-sized ego is too big for him to own up to his own words. Instead, he now claims that his words were “taken out of context”. Apparently the one thing that Texas doesn’t make bigger than anyplace else is character.

I hereby propose that, much like was done with former GOP congressman Rick Santorum, we should Google-bomb the name “Gohmert” so that all future references point to the definition of the word “asinine”. Then, at least, there would be no question whatsoever what kind of person represents the State of Texas in Washington.

While I would otherwise hope that the voters in Congressman Gohmert’s district would be smart enough to show him and his ignorance the door this coming November, I would be honestly surprised if they did. Someone like Mr. Gohmert doesn’t get where he is today based on sound and rational voters, and since Texas doesn’t do anything small, one can only conclude that the same applies to the lack of voter intelligence.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Week of 07/16/2012

The Dirty Little Secret About Winning
– by David Matthews 2

There’s been a stream of questions that have been making the rounds in the media when it comes to the criminal trial of former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. If the allegations of rampant molestation are true, as were supposedly proven by his recent conviction, then how could it go on for so long without something being done about it? How could he continue to be placed in positions of power and authority without someone stepping up and saying that this was wrong?

Unfortunately these kinds of questions won’t really get answered. Or at least not in a way that would be honest.

But it won’t be the only kind of question that won’t ever be answered honestly.

For instance, we talk about bullying and how “bad” it is. But no matter much we talk about it and how “bad” it is, we don’t really address the behavior itself, do we? We say it’s bad, but we really do nothing to stop it.

The folks behind professional wrestling are probably the worst of the bunch. They’ll do their public service announcements, telling kids that bullying is “bad”, and then they’ll go right back to their storylines featuring spoiled prima-donnas, power-mad executives, and so-called “champions” that cheat and do everything in their power to get their way. Yeah, that’s really nailing the message about how “bad” bullying is, huh?

Well, believe it or not, these two things are connected, and what connects them is the real reason why we really do not want those kinds of questions answered.

It all has to do with… winning.

Think for a minute about the worst of the bullies. What is it that makes their actions so reprehensible?

Well it has less to do with what they do and everything to do with who they are. Or more to the point, who and what we perceive them to be.

The no-name thug that picks a regular fight with the 100-pound weakling is easily put in his place by society. Someone will step up for the victim. The police will step in. The courts will say that this is a crime. The thug may even serve some jail time and end up fighting off other bullies that decide to use him as the next victim.

But what if the bully in question is the star quarterback of the local football team? Or maybe the most popular girl in school? What if he’s the CEO of the largest bank in the area? What if he’s the patriarch of the most powerful family in the community and treats the area as his personal fiefdom? How fast do you think society will step up for the victim then?

Think about the real-life “Mean Girls”. We don’t punish them for their manipulative ways, do we? No, we celebrate them! We make movies about them and put them on cable TV shows like “Bad Girls” or “Jersey Shore”.

Think for a minute about all of the abuse that goes unreported because the abuser is someone powerful or popular or wealthy. You only find out about it after they’re dead or after they’re in jail for something else, and only then will everyone wonder why “nobody noticed” or “nobody did anything”.

What’s the difference between them and the no-name thug? Status. Stature. Wealth. Influence. All the trappings of success.

In other words… winning. They’re all seen as winners.

Now take a look at our so-called “institutions” such as Penn State or even the Roman Catholic Church. When faced with allegations of some horrific act, such as someone in a position of trust molesting children, what is their first concern? Is it for the truth? Is it to find out if the accusations are real? No. It seems that their first concern is to their own reputations. They would rather keep a predator loose than to risk a “scandal” that could “demean” their status in the community.

But it seems our society has no qualms dragging ordinary people through the public mud even on the mere inference of impropriety. There’s no “concern” for the accused’s reputation then. “Better safe than sorry”, we are told.

What’s the difference between the ordinary citizen versus a collegiate official or priest? Stature. Prestige. Influence. Again, all the trappings of success.

Again… they’re seen as winners.

Think about the business and financial institutions that have fallen in the past ten years. From Enron and Worldcom to Countrywide and AIG. In every single instance, there is a time when certain flaws are discovered in their operations. Someone sounds the alarm. There is plenty of time for the errors to be fixed and to either stave off failure, or to lessen its impact to the business. But nothing is done. The alarm is ignored, it’s dismissed and the author is discredited as being a “flake”. It is only after the damage has been done that people start asking what happened and why nobody did anything.

Why do we do that? Why do we ignore the clear and present warning signs and then feign ignorance of them after-the-fact?

Well it’s simple, really. Corporate executives ignore the warning signs because at the time, their actions are bringing in huge profits for the business. They’re being hailed as business wizards. They’re being honored and celebrated.

In other words, they’re seen as being winners. And it is only after they fail, after they stop being seen as “winners” that we start to recognize the flaws that were always there. And then our own egos will refuse to admit that the formerly-dismissed whistleblower was right all along.

Are you noticing a pattern here?

Let’s get brutally honest here… the dirty little secret about winning is that we will excuse and justify just about anything that a supposed “winner” does.

We constantly say that “cheaters never win” and “winners never cheat”, but those are, in fact, outright lies. The truth is that we refuse to recognize when so-called “winners” cheat. We will consciously refuse to spot the flaws, the abuses, the acts of greed and corruption, the very things that we vilify and criticize in others. We will either excuse those flaws, or justify those flaws, or rationalize their necessity, but we will never treat those people like we would our neighbors or even ourselves.

We see this on a regular basis in professional sports. Remember the so-called “Bounty Scandal” of the New Orleans Saints football team? Did it come out when the Saints won the Super Bowl? No, it came out in 2012, after they lost in the Division Playoffs.

We see it in politics. We see it in the political candidate that claims to champion “family values”, but whose personal record is the very epitome of the word “hypocrisy”. What does he say when his star is still on the rise? He claims that “his message” is supposedly more important than his personal actions. And we will actually believe it! We will actually latch on to his serial hypocrisy and become an accomplice to it.

We see it in education. We claim that education is “important”, yet we pay more attention to the school’s sports teams than to the teachers. Johnny can’t read, but that doesn’t matter as long as he can score the winning touchdown in every game.

The point being made is this: we will really never solve some of these social problems that we claim are “important”, simply because the principal perpetrators of these problems are people we deem to be “winners”. We will never stop bullying until we are willing to take down the star quarterback or the head cheerleader. We will never truly crack down on serial molesters until we are willing to take down the churches and the universities that shelter them. We will never have real business accountability as long as we still think that some businesses are “too big to fail”.

As long as we put certain people and certain groups on a pedestal and worship them as pseudo-deities, we will never be able to address the evils that go on in their shadows.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Week of 07/09/2012

Wally Streeter and the Drought
– by David Matthews 2

Once upon a time in the hypothetic land of Republica, a group of businessmen led by Sir Wallace Streeter convinced the people of the small but growing community to erect a dam on the Cash River just north of them.

Their concerns, they said, were for the welfare of the community, and nothing more. They believed that by controlling the amount of water that flows from the Cash River into the community, they would prevent those devastating floods that they feared would destroy the area. Granted, such flooding was rare, but whenever it happened it would be of great concern to those in charge.

So the leaders allowed Sir Wallace and his friends in the Banks Family to build that dam, but only with the promise that they would ensure that the community would never be without water.

It wouldn’t take long before the water gathered north of the Capital Dam, turning Cash River into the Cash Lake, and making the surrounding landscape around the lake into the ideal place for Sir Wallace and the Banks Families to build their homes. And what lavish homes they were! Beautiful places where they could go boating and swimming, where they could have fishing tournaments, and even talked about putting in parks so that the rest of the community could enjoy the beauty that was made by their hands and by Mother Nature.

But then, not too long after the dam was built, the people just south of the community began to complain. While the lake was great for fishing and boating and swimming, the people south of the dam that relied on the fish for their food and for their business were quickly cut off. The Cash River was too shallow south of the Dam for people to go boating or swimming. But Sir Wallace and the Banks said not to worry, that they would ensure that there would be a place for people to do all those things in Cash Lake.

A few years later, some more people complained about the dam. The people whose well-waters came from the Cash River began to go dry. That means no fresh water for their homes for cooking or bathing.

By this time Sir Wallace and the Banks had turned things over to their children, and Walter and the new Banks Clan had a ready-made solution to this problem: just put those families on the community’s water and sewer system. This was all part of their long-standing promise to make sure that the community would never be without water. They would simply provide it to the public. And the water would be filtered and purified; safe to drink, cook, and bathe in. Water and sewage, and even some “grey water” for crops and sprinklers.

Of course all of this convenience wouldn’t be for free. There was always some kind of cost associated to this “charity”. But Walter and the Banks always said that it was the best deal that one could ever get for water that used to be free. Besides, you get guaranteed water, clean, fresh, and pure. And there’s always Cash Lake for swimming and fishing and the new water park for the kids to splash around in.

Time moves on, and eventually control of the Cash Dam and Cash Lake falls to the most recent generation of Streeters and Banks, namely Wally Streeter and Dollar “Too Big” Banks. And according to them, things could not be better! Sure, there are some people that are complaining about old pipes and the deteriorating quality of the water purification, but those complainers are dismissed as being attention-seeking troublemakers. The water is flowing, business is booming, and everything is just fine!

Then, one day, tragedy hits Republica.

The land is hit with a terrible drought; one that has not been felt since the Dam was built. Without rain and snow to replenish the lake, the water levels begin to drop.

Then the underground pipes providing water and sewage begin to collapse and rupture, causing thousands upon thousands of gallons of water to shoot out. Homes begin to collapse and streets are shut down when sinkholes begin to form from the collapsing pipes underneath. The complainers, it turns out, were right all along. (But nobody wanted to say that too loudly.)

If that wasn’t bad enough, it then comes out that the water filtration and purification plants that the Streeters and Banks had been using all this time to provide “clean” water for the community has been breaking down for the past few decades. The people have been drinking and bathing and cooking with gradually contaminated water!

To make matters worse, it is also discovered that Streeter and Banks had entered into agreements with nearby communities for that very water from Cash Lake, taking it before it reaches the Dam, never mind before it reaches the community. Crafted back when water was supposedly “plentiful”, these neighboring communities now expect Streeter and Banks to continue to honor their agreements at the expense of any other concern, including the community south of the Dam.

The leaders of Republica declare an emergency. The parks are closed. New water restrictions are imposed. All access to the Capital Dam and to Cash Lake are closed. Boating and fishing are temporarily outlawed. Priority is supposedly given to patching the leaks in the pipelines, stopping the sinkholes, fixing the water filtration, and slowing, if not reversing, the drop in lake levels.

Of course the leadership doesn’t address who would be paying for the repairs. Streeter and Banks say that they’ve talked about bringing in a new water filtration system, but it would cost a lot, and they won’t mention who would pay for it. They give the same response to replacing all the old pipes that handled water and sewage all across Republica. Nothing is said about the homes and streets that are torn up and condemned by sinkholes caused by the ruptured and collapsed pipes. Nothing is also said of the thousands of gallons of water that still gets sucked out of Cash Lake to go to neighboring lands. They also don’t mention that the water and sewer rates are slowly and steadily going up.

Years go by and the restrictions remain in Republica. Water is still rationed, and violators are punished. The costs for those “conveniences” are still going up with no relief in sight, even for those that are on fixed incomes. Access to Capital Dam and Cash Lake are still cut off, so there’s no way to check if the water levels are still low. The people are expected to simply make do with what little they have, and then be willing to give up even more at the proverbial drop of a hat.

Of course, Wally Streeter and “Too Big” Banks and their friends aren’t complaining about being inconvenienced. They’re having pool parties and talk about drinking expensive bottled water. As far as they are concerned, the “crisis” was over and done with a while ago.

The water quality in the community is still poor; the water pipes are still crumbling, and the deteriorating sewer lines are still causing sinkholes. But nothing is done to fix those problems other than to just talk about it. Streeter and “Too Big” Banks both say that it costs money to fix these things that they don’t have “in the budget”. They would rather focus on the “water levels” first. Besides, they’re not too happy with the people in charge over in Republica, so they would much rather wait for “better management” before doing any of that.

Besides, they say, they’re still living up to their agreement. They’re still providing the people of Republica with water. Granted, it’s rationed, polluted, not available to certain groups, and far more expensive than in days gone by, but Wally Streeter and “Two Big” Banks will both proclaim that they are still upholding that promise made by their predecessors all those years ago.

Now let’s get brutally honest here… how long do you think the people of that hypothetic land of Republica would be willing to endure those conditions? Do you really think that they would be willing to endure that for years on in with seemingly no end in sight? Especially if there are rumors of either the lake levels no longer being “low” or if the owners of the dam were treating the whole matter with reckless disregard for the community.

Imagine what things would be like if we treated our economy like we treat our water. Our real-life Streeter and Banks, specifically Wall Street and the “Too Big To Fail” banking institutions, certainly carry on as though they hold the very fate of the land in their greedy hands.

History has shown that such prolonged misery can only fester for so long. When promised relief doesn’t come, when a “temporary crisis” becomes more permanent, when those with very little appear to be the only ones making any significant sacrifices, there eventually comes a breaking point. And believe me when I say that those that feel they’re getting screwed over will take that frustration out on something and on someone. The French aristocracy certainly found out first-hand how inventive the great unwashed can be back in the 18th Century when they reached their breaking point. There is a reason why that time was referred to as la Terreur.

Much like the hypothetical situation, our current economic drought depends entirely on who is holding all of the resources, whose promises take priority, and who is being asked to make the sacrifices. Believe me when I say that those at the bottom of the “Capital Dam” will have no qualms bringing the whole thing down on everyone if they feel they have nothing left to sacrifice.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Week of 07/02/2012

Hate The Healthcare Mandate? Blame The Sin Taxes!
– by David Matthews 2

I suppose I should stop being surprised at the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court and the seemingly infinite ways they have of justifying and sustaining the cult of the status quo.

After years of hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing and the hysteria and the fear-mongering and the hypocrisy and the out-and-out lies being uttered over the Healthcare Reform Act, it finally fell to a 5-4 decision that couldn’t split a legal hair any finer if they used an electron microscope.

Can the government force you to buy healthcare insurance? According to the justices, no, it can’t. That’s supposedly a violation of the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution.

But those same justices then said that the government can still tax you as a penalty if you don’t buy it.

It’s a stroke of brilliance (sarcastically speaking) if you think about it! Philosophically, they couldn’t allow the individual mandate to stand as a business requirement. But to get rid of it on that basis would then upend the new status quo as dictated by President Barack Obama and especially by the big insurance companies that secretly demanded it. They also refused to “punt” the decision until 2014, because that still meant that they would have to decide on it then.

So the status quo champions found a way to toss the requirement out but still keep it in place. It’s not “forced purchasing” anymore; now it’s a “tax” for those that don’t choose to purchase it. Genius!

Now, for the first few minutes when this legal mind-screw came out, I kept on wanting to curse out Obama and the justices for this duplicitous weaseling of the legal system. How can you say that something it’s “wrong” but still find a way to weasel it in?

But then I came to the realization that it’s neither Obama’s fault nor the fault of the Supreme Court for coming up with this backdoor method. They didn’t create the rationalization that they just used to screw over the citizens that can’t afford healthcare coverage. They just found a way to exploit an already-existing screwjob.

You want someone to blame for this decision? Don’t blame the executive or judicial branches of our government. They really didn’t create the screwjob result. Blame the ones who did.

Blame the legislature!

Let’s get brutally honest here… it is the legislative branch of government that came up with the asinine idea that they can tax anyone and anything for any amount and for any reason!

You don’t think the government hasn’t tried to tax behavior before? Think that this is somehow a “new form of tax”? Stop lying to yourself and think about the various “sin taxes” that out there today.

When politicians want you to stop smoking, what do they do? Do they outlaw cigarettes? No, of course not! What they do is they jack up the cigarette tax. And they don’t quibble about the justification behind it either! They don’t claim that it’s an “essential means to generate revenue”. They want to price cigarettes just high enough that smokers are forced to quit on their own, but in the meantime they’ll eagerly take all the money they can get from those smokers.

Several cities including Houston are imposing a so-called “Pole Tax” on strip clubs and other forms of legal and legitimate adult entertainment. Again, it’s not considered an “essential tax needed to generate revenue”. They intentionally are imposing a sadistic tax to gradually shut down those legal places of adult entertainment without looking like they’re “the bad guys”.

Look at the legal brothels in Nevada. They’ve been legal for generations, but the state and county governments certainly want to make them suffer for existing, so they slap them with huge tax bills in the hope that they will eventually drive those businesses into insolvency.

In fact I’m surprised that New York City’s Thug-Mayor Michael Bloomberg hasn’t tried this course yet in his ongoing crusade to turn the Big Apple into New Singapore. Instead of outlawing the Gallon-Gulp soda or so-called “trans-fats”, just hit the consumers with a $7-per serving “health tax”. The same could be said of some of the other asinine bans. Don’t ban the fois gras; just impose a $20-per plate “animal abuse tax” on the people that order it.

Ever hear of a windfall profits tax? You did if you ever won a big jackpot in the lottery or if you got a huge civil court award. Depending on the state and the amount, you could be forced to pay as high as a 100% tax on that award. Why? Because you’re not supposed to win in these things!

Sorry to hear that Acme Inc’s brakes were intentionally defective and you lost your whole family and two of your limbs, but, gosh darn it, the government thinks that you were never supposed to get that ten-million in compensation! And even if the attorneys drag out the case until the kinetic end of the universe, the government feels that you should pay that tax bill now. And the same applies if you won that Big-Mega-Power-Money jackpot you see all those ads for. You know, the ones designed to help out “education”. The cardboard check that you’re holding means absolutely nothing once Uncle Sam and his fifty spoiled brats gets wind of it. Enjoy the win, just don’t get used to the winnings.

And the justices have already said that this kind of tax is perfectly legal!

Even our income tax system was designed to “curb behavior” of sorts. By its very nature, the government penalizes you for making too much money! Find a way to supposedly beat it? The government then hits you with the “Alternative Minimum Tax”.

So, really, why should anyone be shocked when the highest court in the country uses the same justification to sustain Obama’s prized reform program? They’ve allowed all sorts of taxes be created in the name of “curbing behavior” or “penalizing conduct” in the past, so what’s one more tax to them?

And isn’t it funny that the people that scream and shout and proclaim “Unfair” at the top of their lungs over this kind of “tax” are not only silent about some of these other “controlling” taxes, but may even actually support them? Where is their “Tea Party” resistance when it comes to getting rid of the “sin taxes”? It’s one thing to complain when the taxes affect your personal bottom line, but what about when they affect someone else’s bottom line?

I’ll let you in on a dirty little secret: the same legislature that feels they can tax the business you hate into oblivion has no qualms going after your personal business next if they feel so inclined.

It’s clear that the people who want Obama’s healthcare program repealed need to do more than just get one law passed. There needs to be not just tax reform, but also tax limitations. The very idea that government at any level should be allowed to tax anyone and anything for any reason at any time is just as much of an abusive power as the idea that it can outlaw anything it wants. If the so-called “Tea Party” crowd is not willing to do this much, then not only will they have to deal with this problem again at some point in the future, but they are insulting the very spirit of rebellion that they claim they are trying to emulate.