The Confederate Flag

I wasn’t going to comment on the Confederate Flag debate but I see a lot of people making statements about not understanding any of the culture that wants to keep the flag. I grew up in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. My parents never introduced me to the Confederate Flag and it wasn’t part of any familial lore. I don’t have any connection to it. I always was a bad southerner but I understand.

Let me be clear, I firmly believe that this flag should be removed from flying at any government building or site.

It gets a little more foggy for me when it comes to statues and the like because I’m not a fan of anyone tearing down history; ISIS destroyed monuments, Hitler took down the original (of three) Statues of Liberty (much to the dismay of National Treasure), and these can never be replaced. American history isn’t very old but we do have a history to preserve.

Now, having said that, I understand why people in the South want to hang onto this flag. This is not a defense of slavery or a history of the war. This is a history of Southern culture and how it is being made to disappear. The history of the South isn’t taught in schools. Yeah, they teach the war and how we are evil.

First, speculators showed up at our homes and used laws written and skewed to take our timber. Next they took our coal and left us with company towns and coal script. A few chosen made some money but almost all of it went out of the area to the north where the history was written without and in spite of us. We were used for free and cheap labor, then abandoned. They paid only in principle and took the wealth. When we tried to fight back we had events like the Battle of Blair Mountain. Then the Democrats showed up and declared a War on Poverty, announcing that we could not help ourselves and they had to save us. They sent waves of people into the hills to educate and reform our people to be more like them with no respect for our culture.

We have one of three accents used by Hollywood when they want to make a character sound stupid. The hillbilly and redneck stereotype is demeaning and there is no political correctness because we are evil. We are the slave owners, the rapists, the ones on the wrong side of history in every story of the US on the east coast. We took the songs of our European ancestors and created Bluegrass and that has become a joke about a squealing pig. We survived a harsh and relenting environment of the Appalachia mountains and became dueling cartoon characters for Bugs Bunny to make fools. They give us imaginary characters like those Duck Dynasty asshats that put on a show for the masses.

However, I can’t post up defending myself because I’m a white male. I have white privilege and there is no glass ceiling for me. I don’t get to be proud of my accomplishments because I got all the breaks.

I understand why there is a movement for keeping the flag. Yes, there are groups like the KKK and others that use it for hate. However, there are groups of caring people that feel, rightly or wrongly, that their culture can do no right. That nothing we do as is worthy of pride. So, we take it. No matter what other think. We don’t have much choice. The logic of it doesn’t lend itself to the South because it FEELS like we always lose. So, given that, I can see the desire to hold onto a symbol of Southern Pride… any symbol.

Neil Gaiman book signing Oceans and Gods….

Neil Gaiman at the signing table

Last night I spent about 5 hours waiting around the bourbon district of Lexington waiting for Neil Gaiman to sign two books. I would, had it been someone’s fault, bitch about the wait. However, there were a huge amount of people there. The slide show by Joe Beth said that there were 25 people per letter group and there were people in the group labeled “P”. Just about an hour before my letter (N) was called, I watched the guy (I don’t remember his name) that runs the book signings take a Tupperware of ice water into the room where Neil was signing. Seeing that really made me feel for him. He was signing at least 900 items.

Seeing him there, smiling and chatting with fans, after five hours of signing his name was nothing short of amazing. I think he was just a little loopy by the time he got to my book. The heart, I choose to believe, was evidence of how much pain he was in and how much he loves his fans. How much? Click this link: Neil Gaiman’s sacrifice for his fans.

King George vs King Obama and King Cheney….

In 1776, the colonies sent a letter to the King of Great Britain with a list of grievances. I wondered how their list would hold up to today’s government. Here is the list and my (unlearned) notes:

The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. [The expansion of a secret court with no representation of the accused. Seems about the same.]

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them. [This one would be hard to match today except in making the case for lobbyists and superPacs. I can’t really blame that on them directly but they have done nothing to stop the problem.]

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. [Texas and other red states are now free to make whatever “Jim Crow” laws they want because of the stacking of the Supreme Court by Conservatives. This could be seen as requiring “large districts of people” to “relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature”.]

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. [Trade agreements are held in secret, courts held in secret, and over classification of government documents as “top secret” create a distance from “their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance”. We don’t have access to the law and our representatives are being lied to. We, the people, have been “called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable”.]

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people. [Again, not a direct correlation to today but I’d make an argument that there is a secret body of government and law that has dissolved our “Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.]

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within. [I can’t think of a way to make a case for this one. Immigration reform? hmm.]

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands. [I can’t think of a way to make a case for this one. Immigration reform? hmm.]

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers. [Secret laws, secrets courts, etc.]

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries. [The case could be made for the FISA courts to be dependent on the will of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He appoints them and they are accountable to no other person; no appeals, no representation, and follow his will.]

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance. [This is something that the Tea Party jumps on all the time. There are too many federal offices that do very similar things. The red tape and bureaucracy, as in Kafka, is a form of harassment with little substance.]

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures. [Are local police now a standing army? SWAT teams are now commonly used to enforce minor law volitions like shutting down poker games and arresting citizens by driving tanks through their houses.]

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power. [There was a fight by the Obama administration (and the Cheney one before) to create a legal standing for the military to detain US citizens with no due process. With Gitmo and secret detention centers around the world and drone strikes on US citizens while they travel abroad, this is very close to true.]

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us: For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States: For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: [There are a lot of Tea Baggers that would argue this. I’m not one of them.]

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury: [Federal prosecutors often use lies, delays and intimidation to strong arm the accused into forgoing “the benefits of Trial by Jury”. Most federal cases are “settled” with the intent of furthering the career of these political figures.]

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences. [Secret courts, secret laws… Broad interpretation of vaguely written laws and over zealous political prosecution based on political beliefs.]

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies: [This reminded me of the argument that Cheney and Obama have made that there is a 100 mile “Constitution-free zone” extending from any point of entry to the US.]

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments: [Secret courts, secret laws… Broad interpretation of vaguely written laws and over zealous political prosecution based on political beliefs.]

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever. [Secret courts, secret laws… Broad interpretation of vaguely written laws and over zealous political prosecution based on political beliefs.]

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us. [Secret courts, secret laws… Broad interpretation of vaguely written laws and over zealous political prosecution based on political beliefs.]

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. [Secret courts, secret laws… Broad interpretation of vaguely written laws and over zealous political prosecution based on political beliefs.]

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation. [What was the name of that military contractor that committed all those war crimes in the name of the US in Iraq? Blackwater? Oh, they changed their name to Xe after the bad PR.]

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands. [I’m not sure about this one. It may not have a modern equivalency.]

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions. [The actions of the government have created as many radicals as they have opposed both domestic and foreign. The suspension of our rule of law and destruction of the Constitution are giving ground to radical ideologists. This will not end well.]

This was kind of a fun exercise.

All men created equal…

I started wondering about the state of the government in relation to the documents that started this grand experiment.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – Declaration of Independence 1776

The phrase above states that “all men are created equal”. I know that the founders didn’t mean ALL men. They were referring to white, male, landowners. Yet, I wonder to myself about the modern meaning of these words and how it relates to the US and the world today.

When you ask an American, “who does the ‘all men’ phrase refer to in the Declaration of Independence?”, I would guess that they would reply with the question: “what is the Declaration of Independence?”. The ones that know the document, I think, would state that it means everyone. No one should be left out of that phrase. I’m not arguing citizenship but the fundamental rights of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”.

However, what would be the ramifications of extending the Bill of Rights to non-citizens? The voting and other rights that require citizenship or ones that don’t apply directly to people would not be applied, of course. For example, the ninth and tenth amendments deal with rights not listed in the documents and how to handle state rights. These wouldn’t apply to people but shouldn’t we, if we “hold these truths to be self-evident”, extend these other rights to “all men”? Shouldn’t a non-citizen expect a speedy trial, the freedom of speech, or the right to not incriminate themselves? What about the right of personal property, papers and documents be subject to a warrant with proof of probable cause?

At this point, I should point out that I’m not talking about undocumented people living within the US borders. I’m actually wondering about people that are citizens of other countries. People that will never visit the US. However, their data just may cross our “borders” without them ever knowing.

For example:

“The Internet lacks geography, so I wouldn’t draw any immediate conclusions with regard to some of those numbers that have been put out there as to who’s being targeted and who isn’t.” – Former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden.

Should our basic values end at the border? I know why that is currently the case. There is a physical limitation on law in the pre-internet era. However, what would it take to provide the same level of “rights” to those that are not under our rule but could need our protection? If we truly hold to these unalienable rights, should they apply to everyone?

I’m not sure how this would work but I do know that in the modern era of instant and global communications, this should be addressed. Citizens of the US are not being protected by their representatives from their government. Our rights are being taken away and may not apply any longer. So, honestly, I don’t think extending these rights to non-citizens will make any difference at all. However, it should. We should be fighting for our rights here at home and trying to extend our rights beyond our physical borders into the digital world. It takes strong leaders and honest men to take a stand on principles. So, given our current political climate, it is a moot point.


Baseball sucks… here is why…

I’ve always had a distain for baseball. I hate it. I know… a lot of people like it but I’ve always hated the “sport”. It’s boring. How boring? The Simpsons have done a lot of spoofs on the game but this is my favorite. Homer goes to a game but can’t drink beer.

The show South Park also did one where all the kids hate the game so much, that they actively try to loose. By doing so, the season ends more quickly and they can do fun things instead of having to play.

I used to hear people defend the game by talking about how it teaches sportsmanship, teamwork, and a sense of tradition. Well, I have a new reason to hate “America’s Pastime”. There seems to be an unwritten rulebook by which every baseball fan or player lives. It seems that two professional baseball teams, the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks, had a game the other night. During the game one player for the Dodgers (seems like a dodger would get out of the way) gets hit by a pitch thrown by a Diamondback. The Dodgers are, according to the article, expecting that one of their players be hit with a similar pitch. Keep in mind, these are not children… these are highly paid, “professional” athletes.

So, why is there an ESPN article about the unwritten rules of baseball? Because there is a controversy over how many pitches it took the Diamondback pitcher to actually hit the batter. I’ll restate that for you. The problem isn’t that a grown man playing a children’s game for millions of dollars a year hit another adult with the intent to injure him. The problem is that it took him four pitches to hit him. This is the tradition that’s being taught by baseball? That you get even but there are various rules that should be followed. There is no sportsmanship and if your tradition is all about getting even, it sucks. Just like baseball.

Mississippi’s AG, @AGJimHood, is ignorant of the law and the Internet….

I have a lot of things I want to talk about. However, I’m going to do a short blurb about the states AG position. Mississippi’s AG, a dummkopf named Jim Hood, has taken it upon himself to put Google on trial in the court of public opinion (because there is no legal case to bring). I know you can guess why. Privacy issues? No. Collection of user geo-data without consent? No. General douchbaggery? Not even close. It’s because Google runs a search engine. See, if you put something on the internet… Google will help people find it. That should be illegal, according to the AG. Never mind that Google didn’t post it. They posted where it was. Don’t bother with the argument that Google is not legally liable for the webpages that someone else has made. No, a general understanding of how search engines and the world wide web work are too much of a hassle to master. Besides, he doesn’t want to do anything about the problem that he has invented. He just wants press for demanding that something be done. It makes no difference to Jim Hood that Google is protected from him by safe harbors (DMCA) and there is a process in place to combat these sites. Jim Hood just wants to grandstand and take credit for anything that might be done.

AG Jim Hood will tell you that he is protecting people and shutting down illegal websites used for pills, pictures, or movies. I don’t see how. By unlisting these sites from Google, you have hidden the problem. Think about it like this. There is a very bad man (or woman) that wants to sell knockoff meds to make money and try to kill off someone’s Gram-Gram. So, they set up a website and a fancy mail-order business. Hide behind some shell corporations and the money starts rolling in. At this point, their website is crawled by Google’s spiders and they optimize their ROI. Google starts listing their page in searches for “home drug sales” and “Gram-Gram” murder. Soon, when you type, “how do I kill my Gram-Gram with shitty mail order drugs?” into the search bar…. Google shows their website. Now, who has done something illegal? Yes, the seven year old in the internet café reading over my shoulder got it right. The asshats that set up the site, are selling knockoff meds and trying to thin out the  blue-hairs are the ONLY ones doing something illegal. So, by delisting them with Google you have made it very hard for law enforcement to find and convict these people. All the while, they can still be found on the net by any other search engine or web crawler.

Great job, Jim Hood. You’ve helped someone poison little old ladies just to get some political points. Hope you can live with that. Dip-shit.

*note: this blog is my opinion.