January, 2019

Big Brother Is Watching You. Have a Nice Day.

January 17th, 2019 6 Comments


A friend of mine went hunting in Russia a couple of years back and among other interesting observations he made about the former USSR, one of the most telling was his account of getting by car from the airport in St. Petersburg to the little town several hours away where he was going to hunt.

Because he was a stranger in a strange land, he hired a car and driver to meet him at the airport and chauffeur him into the hinterlands. They got on the Russian equivalent of an interstate and drove steadily for four hours without incident, but when they stopped at what we might call a tollbooth to exit the highway, the driver had to pay a fine because a machine determined he had exceeded the speed limit by an average of two kilometers an hour.

Big Brother is watching you.

Jump to America.

For a variety of reasons, I had to drive my wife’s car for the first time a few days ago.

It is a brand-new, up-to-the-minute, non-descript, top-of-the-line Japanese economy car, bought primarily for the size of its cargo area (we have dogs) and secondarily for its fuel economy. It has a wide range of safety devices, sensors, and whatnots that detect this, that, and the other and then do an imitation of R2-D2 to let you know if something is amiss, emitting a range of generally cheery chirps and beeps and whistles and ding-dongs, all of which draw your attention to the dashboard where a screen tells you what to watch out for or what you’re doing wrong.

Like, for example, watching a damned computer screen instead of the road.

But so far so good. The little car was earnestly doing its job by communicating with me. Personally, my ideal vehicle would be a 1947 pickup from the golden age of pickups, preferably a Chevy that would get me from point A to point B safely and reliably and otherwise leave me alone. Sadly, that dream is long gone.

I realize progress is inevitable, but I hadn’t realized it was quite as pervasive or ominous as what I found in my wife’s little canine carrier with its computerized everything.

Why ominous?

We live a little way from town and I was taking a series of secondary, or possibly tertiary, backroads. I tend to be just a trifle old-fashioned and keep my eyes on the road, so I don’t know exactly when it first started, but I suddenly realized that the car was picking up the speed limit on the two-lane highway and posting that number onto the screen next to the speedometer. When I turned onto a secondary road through a residential area, it sensed that speed limit and posted it accordingly.

So the car knows where you are driving, how fast you are driving, how fast you should be driving, and probably a wide array of other, ancillary information you might prefer to keep private: what music you listen to; whether you sing along to the music you listen to; whether your singing is good or bad; just how bad it is; who knows what else? I find all that incredibly creepy.

But it’s worse than just creepy. Think about it: today, with this car, it’s where you are, how fast you’re driving, how much over the speed limit you’re driving, but tomorrow…

“Ah, ha! That’ll be $178.85 for averaging five-point-two miles over the speed limit for a total distance of forty-eight-point-three miles, of which eleven-point-seven were in a residential area. But for butchering, atrociously butchering, “I Did It My Way,” there will be an additional $200.00 fine. You may pay now by credit card or check, or the total will be added to your income tax along with applicable late fees and penalties. Have a nice day.”

And think about the day after tomorrow. Your car will automatically determine the posted speed limit on each and every road and you will not be allowed to exceed the speed limit for any reason whatsoever. There will be no mechanical override. The car and Big Brother know what is best for you and you will not be allowed, or even have the capacity, to exceed the parameters set for all drivers at all times on all roads. Yes, Big Brother knows your wife died because the ambulance drivers’ union was on strike and you had to drive her to the emergency room yourself and could not go fast enough to get her there in time. Big Brother is compassionate, and he offers his condolences. Big Brother knows the death of a wife is lamentable, but the cumulative good of the collective is far more important than any single life. Or wife. Have a nice day.

Big Brother is watching you.

The Kavanaugh Hearings Redux

January 9th, 2019 13 Comments

On Wednesday mornings a bunch of us have breakfast together at a local restaurant. It’s a guy thing.

Two of the regulars are brothers, retired police officers who served on the same force in the same town at the same time. They are both kind, highly intelligent men, but like many law enforcement officers, they have very sick, wickedly funny senses of humor. It is humor, after all, that allows law enforcement professionals to keep their sanity and a kind of perspective on the human animal, and these two men have it in spades.

The topic of the Kavanaugh hearings came up over the huevos rancheros and the enchiladas one morning shortly after the conclusion of that disgraceful circus, and I was a little surprised both brothers seemed to have lost their sense of humor. Both were adamant in their conviction that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was lying. When I asked upon what they based that conclusion, they cited the numerous inconsistencies in her statements, the lack of corroboration even by personal friends, the denial by people she claimed were witnesses at the party, as well as multiple other aspects of her testimony. One of them summed it up by saying, basically (I’m paraphrasing), “This is what we did for thirty years. We staked our careers and frequently our lives on knowing when someone was lying.”

Okay, but that’s still essentially subjective. I had the same feeling myself, watching the hearings, though unlike the two brothers, I wasn’t able to break my reaction down into identifiable triggers.

A few weeks later I had a conversation with a lady I see regularly and chanced to mention what the two brothers had said. The lady jumped in immediately, vehemently, almost in anger, saying she knew as soon as Dr. Ford opened her mouth that she was lying. When I asked her how she could be so sure of such a thing, she told me she had been held at knifepoint by an illegal alien, in her own home, for a significant portion of an entire day, while the illegal amused himself with her. “You don’t forget details in a situation like that,” my friend said. “Every second. I can recall every single second of those hours. There isn’t a detail of any kind I don’t remember with absolute accuracy.”

That certainly coincides with my own experience getting shot.

And shortly afterward, I happened to read an account by a woman who, through sheer luck, survived a murder attempt by a notorious serial killer. She too commented on the clarity of detail she could recall about an incident that had occurred over forty years earlier.

But regardless of what you or I might think about Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, it was the behaviors of the Democrat senators that should alarm you. That readiness, even eagerness, to ignore the rule of law, and to abandon any pretense of adhering to the principle, “innocent until proven guilty,” drove home the fact that this had nothing to do with justice for Dr. Ford, but everything to do with forwarding a political agenda.

In case you think I’m making too much of this—old news; ho hum; he was confirmed, so what’s the big deal—consider the following:

President Donald Trump has nominated an Omaha, Nebraska lawyer named Brian Buescher to sit on the US District Court in Nebraska. Mr. Buescher is a Catholic and a member of the Catholic charity and service organization The Knights of Columbus.

To give you an idea of how dangerously radical and far-right-wing the Knights of Columbus is, you should know that during World War One they ran the only integrated hospitality and recreation centers for American troops. They opposed racial and religious prejudice during the 1920s by commissioning books on black and Jewish history. Also in the 1920s, they waged a successful legal battle against the Ku Klux Klan. The Knights of Columbus spoke out about the plight of Jews in Nazi Germany even as progressive icon, then-president, and anti-Semite Franklin Delano Roosevelt turned away Jewish refugees seeking asylum from the Nazi holocaust. More recently, the Knights of Columbus supported The Little Sisters of the Poor in their fight for religious freedom. They have tried to help non-Catholic Christians, Yazidis, and Shi’a Muslims targeted for genocide by ISIS. And according to a very moving account in the Wall Street Journal by Pentecostal Minister Eugene F. Rivers III, in just the last decade alone, the Knights of Columbus has raised over one billion (that’s billion with a “b”) dollars and conducted hundreds of millions of hours of service for multiple charities. In just the last decade.

So why do those current progressive senatorial darlings Mazie Hirono (HI) and Kamala Harris (CA) oppose Mr. Buescher’s nomination? Is it because of his personal views? Is it because of his record? Is it because of his rulings? Is it because of his judicial writings?

No, Gentle Reader. Senators Hirono and Harris oppose Mr. Buescher because he is a member of the Knights of Columbus, and the Knights of Columbus do not believe in same-sex marriage or abortion. Hirono and Harris are not opposing Buescher because of his personal views, or because of judicial history, or because of his judicial rulings, or because of his legal writings, or because of his personal writings or opinions, or even because someone concocted a fake story about his drunken attempt to sexually assault her. They oppose him simply because he is a member of a religious organization they (Hirono and Harris) do not like. Never mind the courageous fights by that organization against racism and antisemitism (which still runs rampant in this country; witness the many members of congress who claim friendship with Lewis Farrakhan and who support the Boycott Divestment Sanction movement); Hirono and Harris see fit to condemn Mr. Buescher because they disagree with his views on sexual matters.

I want to make sure, Gentle Reader, you are absolutely clear about the implications of this. We’re talking about two United States senators, Mazie Hirono and Kamala Harris, women who have taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, and to enforce the laws of our country, who are ignoring the precepts of the First Amendment (free exercise of religion) and the very specific law spelled out in Article VI (“no religious test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any oath of Office or public trust under the United States”) to advance their own personal and short-term political agenda.

Kamala Harris is said to be jockeying for an inside post in the 2020 presidential run. If she should win her party’s nomination, before you consider voting for her, remember her contempt for the rule of law and the constitution she has sworn to uphold and defend, because there’s a word for her kind of politics: totalitarianism.

Perhaps you agree with senators Hirono and Harris; perhaps you believe strongly in same-sex marriage and abortion. That’s fine, but I hope you have the intelligence and moral conviction to separate your beliefs from the laws that protect you and me. If you do agree with Senators Hirono and Harris that anyone who holds a different opinion from yours should be banned from public service, don’t forget to remember that sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and this particular malignant and poisonous sauce will eventually destroy the laws and precepts that make up the best of this country. That kind of totalitarian sauce will ultimately destroy all of us.

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