Friday, August 28, 2009

The View from the Top

When I first reported to the submarine U.S.S. Woodrow Wilson back in my Navy days, I was immediately classified as an “air breather”. This particular designation was given to me – and all new submarine sailors – based on the fact that I was not capable of contributing anything productive.

I wasn’t qualified to stand any watches, I didn’t know how the ship’s systems worked, I couldn’t repair equipment; I didn’t know how to do anything other than the most rudimentary tasks.

About all I could effectively do was breathe the air. The same air that could have been used – and should possibly have been reserved for – those crewmembers who did productively contribute to the operation of the boat.

The labeling was meant to be an incentive for me to hurry up and get to a point where I would become a productive member of the crew. After all, nobody likes being called an “air breather” (i.e., worthless).

All of this was done primarily in fun, of course, but the distinction was also very clear and very real: there were those who deserved the air on that submarine, and there were those who did not.

Class distinction, in its most basic form.

Throughout history, people have always been delegated into a class structure. In it’s most simplified form, civilizations were made up of a very small minority called the aristocracy, and a much larger group which was essentially everyone else. The “common” class.

The aristocracy considered themselves above everyone else. Certainly they had their own internal subdivisions of status, power, & wealth, but as a group they were held to be entirely superior to any of those who were not a part of their small circle.

As a society today we no longer have an official “class” structure, but merely denying the existence of a hierarchy doesn’t make it go away. We no longer use the term “War on Terror” either, but what has actually changed other than the elimination of that particular term? Nothing.

Do we really believe that there is no class distinction today? If we do, it’s only because we aren’t paying attention. You can see it easily if you look.

But so what? Is that a bad thing? I mean, if our societies have always been like that anyway, what difference does it make if we’re still like that now?

Consider that these people – the very wealthy & powerful – are still a very small minority. Consider also that they fully control our government, either by holding the political seats of power themselves, or by leading the institutions that influence what direction our government takes.

Everything they do may be entirely legal, but does that even make any difference when they are also the ones who make and interpret the laws?

Again, so what? What’s wrong with that? Well, nothing on the surface. At least, nothing that those of us who belong to the vast majority of the common class could necessarily tell.

The problem with us, though – the common rabble – is that we assume that because we are good people, everyone else is too. We are all decent human beings. We care about each other. We all have the same basic core values.

But in making that assumption, we’re forgetting a basic principle: There are those who deserve, and there are those who do not. Who do you think today’s “aristocracy” thinks is “deserving”?

For a small insight, consider the below:

“I do not pretend that birth control is the only way in which population can be kept from increasing . . . War…has hitherto been disappointing in this respect, but perhaps bacteriological war may prove more effective.

If a Black Death could be spread throughout the world once in every generation survivors could procreate freely without making the world too full… The state of affairs might be somewhat unpleasant, but what of that? Really high-minded people are indifferent to happiness, especially other people’s…

There are three ways of securing a society that shall be stable as regards population. The first is that of birth control, the second that of infanticide or really destructive wars, and the third that of general misery except for a powerful minority…”

Those are verified passages from Bertrand Russell’s “The Impact of Science on Society”, written in 1953. Understand that Russell was hailed as one of the most brilliant philosophers of the 20th century. He was also a Nobel Prize winner; the recipient of an elite title bestowed to the elite by the elite.

Do we really believe that Russell was alone in his thoughts? Do we really think that other “high-minded” people don’t think exactly the same way? A little research may convince us otherwise. Do some searching on what the Rothschilds, Rockefellers, and others in their class have openly stated; you may be surprised at what you hear.

But again, what’s wrong with that? So what if they think they’re better than everyone else? Who cares? What difference does it make? Let them live in their privileged little world and they’ll let us live in ours. They always have before.

Yes, they most certainly have. But then again, they never really had a choice before, because never before in recorded history has there been means of doing anything about it, at least, not anything on a global scale.

Now there is.

Which really leaves only one unanswered question: Will they act on their beliefs?

We may think it’s incomprehensible that anyone could ever even contemplate such a thing, much less actually do it, but remember, there are those who deserve, and there are those who do not.

Friday, August 21, 2009

He Said / She Said - Grocery Shopping

He Said - by Blaine Staat

If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. That’s why I’m presently pushing this shopping cart down the grocery aisle. Shopping is so easy-peasy it’s ridiculous. And yet Catherine seems to struggle with it a LOT.

I just can’t figure out why she has so much trouble bringing home quality groceries. You know, real “straight from the farm” stuff that can be used to make good, healthy, sit down dinners at a properly set coffee table in front of the TV.

Oh look, Red Baron Supreme pizzas are on sale for $6.99 each. Well, well, well, a tantalizing price and all four food groups in one shot. I’ll take 6, thank you very much.

See how easy that was? Catherine, on the other hand, likes to buy things called “greens”, which take up a lot of space in the fridge and block your access to the cheesecake, much like the one I’m now putting in the cart at only $15.95.

Hey, you can’t make it for that.

Plus, there’s a lot of impulse buying when Catherine shops, even though I constantly reinforce to her that she needs to stick to the shopping list that I’ve been considerate enough to carefully review for her.

Wow! Check this out; a 2-pack of WD-40! One for the house and one for . . . well, the other part of the house.

Catherine will say - of course - that I “already have 3 cans of WD-40”, but she doesn’t know where they are any more than I do. Oh, hang on a minute, I’m at the cereal aisle. This could take a bit . . . . [time lapse] . . . . okay, I’m back.

You know, it’s amazing how much physical space 9 boxes of cereal takes up; I hardly have any room left in the cart. I guess it’s difficult to stuff all those vitamins & minerals into small packages, but hey, I love my kids, and I want them to be healthy, even if that means I have to do without something that I would like.

Like a couple bags of these powdered donuts which I happen to have just enough room for.

Well, that’s it. I’m done. See how easy that was? And how fast? Just one more little stop on the way to the checkout counter; my keen eyes happened to notice that they have Little Debbies on sale for only a buck a box. Can I spot the bargains or what?

Think I’ll pick up a few.

Of each kind.

Catherine would object, of course, but that’s why I didn’t bring her with me. And before any of you ladies point a finger, raise an eyebrow, or give me an “a-ha”, I promise you, these delicious individually wrapped snack cakes will be used for medicinal purposes only.

She Said - by Catherine Staat

Having one of “those” kind of days, I was relieved when Blaine offered to help out by running to the grocery store to pick up a few essentials, but there is always a bit of trepidation when I hand over the list to him because I never know what he will bring back along with the milk, bread, eggs, and cereal.

One huge spending area in any family’s budget is groceries. Blaine and I have sat down on several occasions, going over our family budget and finding ways to cut out the non-essentials. Being that I do most of the grocery shopping for the family, this is one way I can help with saving money.

I try to make sure that we stay away from “junk food”, as those tend to be the biggest cost items. I make sure I have a list before I go and follow it strictly, knowing what we will need for the week and buying only what we need.

I carefully chart out the menu items for the week and take into consideration that we can use leftovers from one night and remake them into something new for another night…again trying to conserve where I can, but without jeopardizing my family’s health in the process. Careful consideration not only goes into the grocery budget, but also in making sure everyone is getting a well balanced diet.

I take this job of grocery shopping very seriously! I also take my time reading labels and checking prices to see where I can get my best deals, which can often take well over an hour to do. Before heading to the store, I double check with Blaine to find out if there is anything more we may need to add to the list. He gives the list a once over and tells me that everything looks good and off I go with budget on my mind and list in hand.

It makes me wonder then when Blaine goes into the store and forgets our many discussions regarding our budget or his telling me how we need to “buckle down” on extra expenditures and only purchase items that we need.

I also remember the Need Vs. Want conversation. Did he forget how much those extra trips to the grocery can cost us without the list, or how he showed me on the computer – complete with graphs & charts - our spending habits and how those side trips are the biggies in our budget?

No, he won’t remember that until we go over the budget again next month, and he won’t remember that he was the one who went to the store and bought all of those said “extras.” He will however, again remind me that we need to “buckle down” some more, and that I need to be careful about buying items we really don’t need. I think Blaine just becomes like the kid in a candy store.

~ sigh ~ What is a mother . . .err . . . I mean, a wife, to do?!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Below is an excerpt of a real life event experienced by William N. Grigg as related in a post he wrote called "Hotlined":

“Grab some clothes and get into the van, now."

For an instant, that directive, and the tone in which it was issued, had the opposite of its intended effect: Korrin and our five older children, momentarily paralyzed by shock, looked at me in alarm. There was something in both the tone of my voice, and the expression on my face, that was new and a little frightening. None of them had seen my "game face" before. They were seeing it now.

Just seconds earlier, Korrin and I had been confronted on our doorstep by two very nice, well-dressed women who informed us that an anonymous "child endangerment" complaint had been filed with the Child Protective Services. Read more . . .

Mr. Grigg's experience is not even close to being an isolated event, and though we can take comfort that the story ended well for him, I think we would be foolish to automatically assume that that will always be the case.

Below is an excerpt from "What So Proudly We Hailed":

They came in, right through my front door, all seven of them – one social worker and five cops and a DHS agent.

The social worker, a flinty woman with short blonde hair, read off some kind of warrant while two of the cops grabbed Matty and Brooklyn and pulled them out the front door. Lisa was screaming, flailing her arms at the two men who were restraining her, and I vividly remember seeing the splashes of her spit and her tears as the droplets landed on the black body armor of the police.

And I just stood there and watched. I didn’t do a thing. Not a single thing. I just stood there and watched as my beautiful children vanished through the front door. I saw the terror in their wide eyes as they looked to me for an answer, and I heard their high pitched, panicked voices as they begged their daddy to help them as they were being dragged away.

And I did nothing. I stood there, just as a good boy should, just as they wanted & expected me to.

I like to think that I did the noble thing. That I didn’t react because there was an assault rifle aimed at my chest and I didn’t want my children to see their father gunned down in front of their eyes. But part of me doesn’t believe that. Part of me thinks that I did nothing simply because I was – and still am – a coward.

If you think that sounds unrealistic, far-fetched, or even downright ridiculous, it's only because you didn't hear about this when it happened a year and a half ago: SWAT officers invade home, take 11-year-old at gunpoint

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Anatomy of a Jihadist

There has been a good deal of news lately about Daniel Boyd and the members of his family that were arrested in N.C. last week.

Let me say first that I have no idea whether Boyd & company are guilty or innocent; I don’t have all the details, and they may very well be just as dangerous as the news outlets are portraying. But this case pushes the thought police game a little farther than it has gone before, because not only have they not committed any crime, there isn’t even any evidence – by the FBI’s own admission – that a specific crime was being planned.

The story originally perked up my ears when an acquaintance posted it on Facebook, along with the assertion that this – a white American man arrested for planning jihad – was proof that profiling does not work. That may be true, but of course, that would also mean that every man, woman, & child in the U.S. is now automatically a potential suspect, and if we are all suspects, I suppose we should all willingly submit to any & all intrusions into our privacy to prove that we are not.

Then yesterday I saw something disturbing. The AP reported that “A case against seven North Carolina terrorism suspects accused of plotting "violent jihad" may involve classified material that will raise national security issues if given to their defense attorneys, federal prosecutors said Monday.” Terror case in NC may involve classified material

Wait a second; so they’re saying that the defense doesn’t get disclosure? The defendants have been arrested without bail, will no doubt be tried in court (in a year or two or five), and the prosecution doesn’t have to give the defense attorneys the information they need to defend their clients because, like everything else today, it is a matter of national security?

How convenient. If you’re the prosecution, that is.

And then there is the other incriminating evidence found in the family’s home as reported by CNN: N.C. terror suspects had arms, ammo, FBI 'playbook,' agent says

According to the article, the Boyd’s had in their possession:

- Several weapons.

How many families in America do not have “several weapons” in their homes? Obviously there was nothing really odd or nasty like a .50 cal or you can bet we’d have been told (unless doing so might compromise national security).

- 27,000 rounds of ammunition, including some armor-piercing types.

Okay, that’s a lot of ammo, but I can list 3 reasons right off the top of my head as to why they might have that much.

1) Everybody has been stocking up on guns & ammo since Obama took office on legitimate fears of new regulation. Though none have been passed into law (yet), there have been bills proposed ranging from the required registration of all firearms (including rifles & shotguns) to the serialization of ammunition for identification purposes. How much ammo is "okay" to have, anyway?

2) Unlike cash, ammunition is worth something and will always be in demand. It would be usable for barter should hyperinflation render the dollar bill useless.

3) Constant government induced fear-mongering has prompted people to prepare for the worst. We are all in danger, remember?

- $13,000 in cash. In addition, Dylan Boyd had a deposit slip for $16,000.

So having cash in hand rather than sitting in the bank as an electronic number is incriminating? As in the case of ammunition, how much cash does it take to suggest that you are a felon? If he only had $8,000 in cash would that be okay?

I think the real issue here is that he “had cash”. I’m sure he also had a lot more than that available for use on his credit cards (I sure do), but credit card transactions leave a paper trail that can easily be monitored. With cash, well, who knows what people might buy. Apparently we are guilty if we even have the option.

- Four gas masks.

Guilty. Oh wait, gas masks are used for defense; they assume “the other guy” might gas you. In fairness though, I bet they also had some chemical or biological weapons of mass destruction laying around – most rednecks from N.C. do – but the FBI can’t tell us that because it might compromise national security.

- A book called "Emergency Response to Terrorism," a document described as a fatwa (Muslim religious edict) of jihad (holy war) against America, and an old identification card with suspicous wording.

I have a copy of the Quran and a few other books on the Muslim faith that I use for reference. I also have about a dozen Bibles in various translations, The Books of the Apocrypha, several copies of Animal Farm & 1984, and a couple hundred copies of my own little dystopian book What So Proudly We Hailed. Am I an extremist because I have those things? Are we going to start banning & burning books now just because we don’t like what they say? Weren't the Nazis bad guys for doing that?

- They also found a trench under the deck of the house, which a witness told the FBI was a bunker to store and conceal weapons, and a plywood plank placed in a tree so that someone sitting there could see anyone approaching the house, according to Sutton.

A trench under the house and a piece of plywood in a tree? Well, why didn't you say so in the first place? Call in Judge Dredd. Then line them up and shoot ‘em.

Dangerous precedents are being set here my friends. Precedents that will affect all of us whether the Boyd's are guilty or not.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Nation of Children

Back in April, the Chinese movie star Jackie Chan caused a little stir with some comments that he made:

"I'm not sure if it's good to have freedom or not," Chan said. "I'm really confused now. If you're too free, you're like the way Hong Kong is now. It's very chaotic. Taiwan is also chaotic."

He went on to say: "I'm gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled. If we're not being controlled, we'll just do what we want."

Source: Jackie Chan: Chinese People Need To Be Controlled

As you might imagine, Chan took a good deal of flak for those comments. But was he wrong? And could his comments be expanded to include all people, not just the Chinese?

If you’ve read my posts over the past couple of years, you know that the majority of what I’ve written has dealt with the erosion of our civil liberties. What you haven’t necessarily seen is my frustration that so few people seem to care.

Like Jackie Chan, I too have often wondered if the American people even deserve freedom. We don’t seem to handle it very well, and these days we certainly don’t seem to value it very much either.

Years ago I had a revelation of sorts. I was thinking over my life and trying to determine at exactly what point I had become an “adult”.

1 Corinthians 13:11 says this: When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.

When do we become men? And what are these “childish things” that we should put away?

In our materialistic culture, “childish things” would seem to be toys and other playthings of our youth. But I don’t think that that’s what Paul is talking about at all.

Children are immature (no one would argue that), and adults are supposed to be mature. But what is maturity anyway? Knowledge? Wisdom? I don’t think so. I think it’s simpler than that.

Children are selfish by nature. Their whole world revolves around themselves; what they want, when they want it. They don’t think of other people because at that point in their lives all they can focus on is themselves. The world beyond that is too big for them to comprehend.

When a child acts in a selfish manner, we call it childish behavior. Immature behavior.

But if the dominant characteristic of immaturity is selfishness, then it would stand to reason that the dominant characteristic of it’s opposite – maturity – would be selflessness, and if that is true, than the “childish things” that Paul speaks of doing away with are not toys at all; they are selfish behaviors.

There is a ring of truth to that. Think of all the people you know that you consider to be “mature”. My guess would be that they are very selfless people.

So where does that put us? When I look at our society today, I see what I believe is the same thing that Jackie Chan sees; an entire nation of people who have never matured. A nation of people who have been trained from the beginning of their lives to think of no one other than themselves. A nation of children.

And we are spoiled rotten.

The danger in this is that children cannot care for themselves. They are entirely dependent on others to care for them, set boundaries for them, and discipline them.

If this line of reasoning makes sense to you, then consider where that puts us as a culture:

Throughout history, all nations have followed the same cycle: a rise and a fall. Some of these nations lasted for centuries, while others only a few short years, but none have ever endured indefinitely. All of them started, rose in power & wealth to varying degrees, and then eventually met their demise.

It’s very similar to life itself; we’re born, we grow, we decline, we die.

For every nation that has completed this cycle – and they all do eventually – there is an accompanying chain of events that each has followed:

1. People in bondage gain spiritual faith
2. Faith evolves into courage
3. Courage brings about liberty
4. Liberty results in abundance
5. Abundance progresses to selfishness
6. Selfishness turns to complacency
7. Complacency devolves into apathy
8. Apathy leads to dependence
9. Dependence delivers us into bondage

So I would ask you: Where do we stand as a nation today?

Personally, I would have to think that our best days appear to be behind us. And though it pains me to say it, maybe that’s the best thing. It’s certainly what we deserve.