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This is not what a police state looks like

Back in my early days, when I was a queer journalist in the queer press, I was even a bit queer for the queers. I ran into all kinda trouble all the time because I just wouldn’t take what somebody said to me as the gospel truth simply because they, like me, happened to be gay.

Call me crazy, but it just seemed to me that being gay had nothing to do with one’s ability to tell the truth, or, more to the point, to understand what the truth is. Sometimes, man, you’re fired from your job because you suck at it or you’re so obnoxious nobody wants to work with you, not because you’re gay.

Now, as in the case of Cheryl Summerville and Cracker Barrel, back in the day, sometimes we have what we call an open and shut case. Summerville’s manager actually wrote on her termination slip that she violated company policy because she was gay. OK, now that’s pretty obvious. Sometimes it’s not so obvious. But when somebody comes to me and says “Such and such company fired me because I’m gay,” the first thing I’ll do is ask, “How do you know?” And if that somebody doesn’t hand me a pink slip a la Cheryl Summerville, then I’m gonna have to do some investigating.

It’s not that I don’t trust you … oh hell, it is because I don’t trust you. I don’t trust anybody. I’m a journalist, for christ’s sake. I’m not supposed to trust anybody.

So when I see Occupiers marching down the street chanting “This is what a police state looks like” because the cops are making them march on the sidewalk instead of the street, I groan a little bit. For the record, THIS is what a police state looks like:

Now, that first night in Oakland looked a lot like this, especially when the idiot cops shot tear gas cannisters into a group of protesters trying to help a former Marine who’d been wounded. But that behavior got plenty of condemnation, and hasn’t been repeated to that extent. A little pepper spray? Inappropriate, yes, but good lord people, this guy was shot in the face with a tear gas cannister, from the back of an army vehicle, distance just a few yards. He died.

Really a far cry from what most Occupiers have had to put up with, not to say that police haven’t been out of line. They have. Municipal leaders have been utterly stupid, ordering cops to break up these protests. It’s not looked good for them, but it’s not looked like Egypt and the Palestinian territories.

And as if that’s not enough, we also have third tier “journalists” (and others) whining that they’re being censored on Twitter, apparently not understanding that when one floods the timelines with the same hashtags over and over, spam-catching robots will suspend the account. Same type people claim YouTube is doing the same thing by vanquishing things lik, oh, Occupy videos, although I can tell you from my own experience — I regularly monitor these things in my actual job — that I can find any Tweet and any video, not censored unless it violates terms of service — like, you know, copyright violations — any time. Twitter and YouTube don’t have the manpower or the inclination to play those stupid games. They’re run by software, which actually can screw up and require a human to do something like de-suspend accounts.

But even the people who live in an actual police state aren’t immune to getting carried away, as if the truth isn’t bad enough. In the first video up there, a woman is brutally beaten and kicked, along with a male protester. When this photo was released, protesters seized on it to claim the soldiers sexually assaulted her. If they did, the video didn’t show it, unless it’s a cultural thing — she was wearing a hajib, and she was uncovered in the course of the soldiers dragging her around. But they also tried to cover her back up. Doesn’t excuse the savagery with which they beat and stomped her, and seriously, that’s enough. That isn’t how an army should treat its own people.

Which brings me to the National Defense Authorization Act. My, but the Twitterers have gone apeshit over this bill, which pretty much sucks. It enshrines Bush policies of indefinite detention and other such unconstitutional behavior toward terrorist suspects. But unlike what you’ve been told by those Twitterers, it does not authorize the military to indefinitely detain American citizens. Quite the contrary. It specifically exempts Americans from such bullshit.

In fact, it does not change current law one iota.

You’re safe, Occupiers.

Do we need to maintain diligence to prevent the complete destruction of our liberties? Hell, yes.

But far be it for some of our more, shall we say, excitable progressives to acknowledge that fact. Instead, they’re all about how they’re not gonna vote for Obama because he’s gonna sign the bill and allow the military to come in and arrest American protesters and hold them in Gitmo until the cows come home.

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/#!/OccupyLA/status/146483712501088256"]

I won’t pretend to say I know why they’re doing this. And yes, I would have liked to see a Democratic president undo the nonsense that George W. Bush foisted upon us. But frankly, we don’t live in an atmosphere that would allow that right now. Can you imagine the House ever agreeing to such a thing? The Senate, where a Republican minority prevents a vote on any bill they don’t like, which is anything Obama supports?

Not gonna happen, my friends. This is what we like call “reality.” And baby, it sucks. Big time. And still so called progressives would rather rip apart each other than focus on the real political problem we have, and that is simply this: There aren’t enough of us yet to affect the change we need. And that’s really, really frightening. If we don’t get those changes soon, we’re not gonna like where we end up.

But we’re gonna end up there as long as we waste all this time and energy denegrating the people who still have a shred, small as it may be, amount of decency left in their tiny little money-sucking hearts and let the real bad guys off scot free.

Here’s a crazy idea: Forget politics. It’s hopeless. Seek out people instead. Real people. Not rich assholes caught up in a permanent and continuous re-election cycle. Talk to the people, the American people. The ones who vote for those dicks. The ones who wouldn’t vote for those dicks if they really understood what’s going on.

And stop whining about the media. The media is just a mirror, and a cracked one at that. That’s why we get distorted news, warped messages and incomplete ideas. Teach the people not to rely on it. Teach the people to think for themselves. When they do, then we’ll see change.

And for god’s sake, be real. And pay attention, really close attention.

Take Bradley Manning, for example. He’s the guy accused of leaking all those cables to Wikileaks. His defense? He has gender identity disorder, and it affected his judgement. But what do I see out in Twitter-land? That it’s the government blaming it on his orientation. No, folks. It’s not. It’s his defense attorneys.

[blackbirdpie url="http://twitter.com/#!/polerin/status/148205431150477313"]

Seriously, it’s bad enough out there without having to try to make it look worse. We lose credibility when that happens.

And without credibility, we have nothing.

Historical ignorance

You already know this, but the Tea Party nuts et al, and I include Ron Paul as chief among them though he’s not a tea partier per se, have no fucking clue what they’re talking about. The raise the mighty specter of the Founders for damn near everything. Or the Constitution, which, as far as they’re concerned, is a closed and static document. Not surprising since they consider the bible in the same light. The King James version, of course, from the 17th century, as if the damn thing sprung forth whole and in English at that time.

Ron Paul, for example, opined about Wednesday’s recommendation from the National Transportation Safety Board to ban non-emergency phone calls and texting. Sayeth Dr. Paul,

I was thinking about that because it was in the news today. So I went to the Constitution and I looked at Article 1, Section 8. There is nothing in there about telephones. “Then I thought, ‘Well there is nothing in there about what you can do and can’t do when you are driving in a horse and buggy either.’

But did that second thought bring some sense into Paul’s head? Oh, no. He just used it for his contention that the federal government shouldn’t be regulating anything at all, that it should just be a free-for-all here on planet earth.

We know how well that’s worked out so far.

As for the Founders, well, just take a look at the bozos in colonial get-ups pretending they’re the direct descendants of the Boston Tea Party, which, in fact, was a protest against corporation getting special treatment by the English government. Got that one backwards, morons.

And they’re all up in arms to make the military bigger, to strengthen “national security,” even if it means taking liberties with our liberties, which will be just fine as long as it’s Occupiers and the like having their liberties infringed upon and not them. And that, it seems to me, goes directly against the Constitution.

The Founders themselves got that idea. Here’s Ben Franklin:

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Hey, I’m down with that. But even George Washington, who was, you know, like the first president and the general who earned us our independence from England, wasn’t keen on all that military and national security crap either. Says he,

Overgrown military establishments are under any form of government inauspicious to liberty.

I know, that one probably uses too many big words for some of the more unenlightened among us to understand. But back then, even the idiots had a better vocabulary, and they weren’t happy with Washington’s positions on liberty either. They accused him of bribery and treason. Sayeth George,

I am accused of being the enemy of America and subject to the influence of a foreign country.

Further, Washington said, he was under near constant attack by the idiocracy. His enemies, he said, portrayed him in “indecent terms” that could barely compare “to a common pickpocket.”

Sound familiar? Now, “common pickpocket” isn’t such a broad smear these days since bankers have been getting away with it for decades with the blessings of the Republican party and some Democrats. But back in the day, when the general attitude was more civilized and less honest, that was a very bad thing indeed.

Now, it’s true that Thomas Jefferson wrote that “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants,” but he had in mind actual tyrants and actual patriots, not the play variety with false accusations.

Jefferson also had a few other things to say about liberty. Like

Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.

and

It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others: or their case may, by change of circumstances, become his own.

and of course

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.

I don’t know about you, but that seems awfully clear to me. Looking a few more of the Founders positions sort of makes the cafeteria-style picking and choosing that conservatives employ look a little, well, cherry-picked.

The man who wrote the book on liberty, Thomas Paine, was pretty adamant too.

He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.

Take that, Gitmo.

And just for fun, here’s a little note from James Monroe:

To impose taxes when the public exigencies require them is an obligation of the most sacred character, especially with a free people.

Used to be that Americans understood their history, or at least the part about how and why we became a country. I can show you things Andy Jackson, that son of a bitch, said about liberty and equal rights and such, but the bastard only applied those to white people and certainly not those the Europeans stole the place from. And of course the Founders themselves saw fit to make slaves 3/5th of a person. And women? Not mentioned in the Constitution either, I’m afraid.

The point is that the Founders weren’t perfect, and neither was the Constitution. But the Founders were smart enough to realize that and set it all up so laws could be written, regulations could be established and even the Constitution itself could be changed, although that’s a tad hard to do until enough Americans evolve into sanity on whatever the issue is. Barack Obama:

I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we’ve struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We’ve made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.

Ah, politics. Such a load of crap, dontcha think? There’s the news this week that Obama has decided he will, in fact, sign the defense authorization act, which supposedly includes passages that would make indefinite detentions of American citizens a reality. At least that’s what all my lefty Twitterers are saying. Me, I haven’t read the bill, and I doubt they have either. I’m not saying it isn’t true, mind you. I am saying we don’t know until we read the damn thing. Rep. Adam Smith has read it. In fact, he worked on it. Read what he has to say about indefinite detentions of Americans here.

Whatever the truth of the text, Obama withdrew his veto threat because they came up with some “softer” language on detentions and a couple of other things. But I’m seeing all these lefties swear they’ll never vote for Obama now.

Is that wise? Isn’t that how we got eight years of George W. Bush? Do we really want to elect Newt Gingrich? Or some other nutcase who has yet to appear on the horizon? I don’t think Sick Rantorum has had his time in the front-runner’s position yet. OK, so maybe Republicans could come to their senses and nominate Huntsman or Johnson or somebody else who hasn’t succumbed to brain rot. But don’t hold your breath.

And don’t give me any bullshit about how we need a viable third party. This isn’t the 19th century when that worked. Or actually didn’t, when you look at the history. I’m afraid I’m with the general on this one. George Washington opposed parties, period.

There is an opinion, that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the Government, and serve to keep alive the spirit of Liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in Governments of a Monarchical cast, Patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in Governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And, there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be, by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.

Again, probably too many big words. But here’s the gist: Parties are a bad thing because they tend to create a slavish loyalty not to the country or the people but to the party. That shouldn’t be allowed to happen, but since we already have parties, we’re gonna have to really be on guard to keep the parties’ natural tendencies from engulfing us.

Oops, too late. We failed on the “uniform vigilance” thing.

The Founders, they may have done and said some stupid things, but they were sure right about what it would take to maintain the liberty they fought for. And we have let them down.