THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 384, September 10, 2006
"In my book, I'm number one."
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
I've been having a hard time this week deciding what I should write about. I usually write about whatever I've personally found most enraging, disturbing, or hurtful over the course of the last week. But this week, I haven't been able to settle on anything.
Make no mistake: last week wasn't a lot different than other weeks. In other words, I found plenty of things enraging, disturbing, or hurtful. Among other things, I could choose to write about such gems as:
Implanted Chips in Our Troops? That's right. RFID chip maker VeriChip is proposing the Pentagon replace those antiquated dog tags with implanted microchips containing comparable information. You had better believe VeriChip is on top of added "benefits" such as GPS tracking potential as well. This all sounds like pretty good stuff, especially when you consider the chaos of a battlefield. Kidnapped soldier? Zero in on his location (or at least the location of his forearm) via GPS. Killed soldier? Get instant identity confirmation (at least of his forearm). So what's my problem with this?
My problems are twofold: First of all, once foreign agenciesenemy soldiers, intelligence agencies, terrorists, or the likeknow we're implanting chips, they'll remove them just like they've removed dog tags in the past though with far nastier repercussions for the particular soldier involved (my guess is they'll be even more likely to do so given the very real misdirection possibilities involving the chips). And secondly, what's going to happen to the chip when the soldier resigns or is retired from service? My own personal best bet is that somebody somewhere will convince the soldier that the chip is effectively harmless, and the chip will stay where it is. That means he (or she) will be trackable via GPS for life. And who knows what information beyond name, rank, and serial number will be programmed into that chip for revelation to anyone with a reader both now and later?
File this one under both "enraging" and "disturbing."
Terrorist screening missed 75% of time US Citizenship and Immigration Services has confirmed that in an overwhelming number of cases, applicants for green cards, work visas, and the like weren't ever screened against a terrorism watch list. In some cases, though employees brought suspect information to the attention of supervisors, background checks couldn't be performed and so applications were approved. In at least one reported instance, one applicant who was checked and did show up on the terror watch list was approved anyway.
After the allegations came to light, supervisory personnel denied that there was any real problem and blamed a lack of "hits" against the list on their underlings' misspelling names or making typographical errors on their data entry. Frankly, I'm not sure why it happened (or in this case, why it didn't happen). I'm more than a little unhappy about the idea that an agency touted as working to protect us is clearly doing such a bad job. Adding insult to injury is the fact that hundreds of law abiding American citizens can't get on an airplane without a fight because their names are checked against an error-filled watch list without fail (the "error filled" part is just one more reason these screening and these lists are bad things).
This one gets filed under "enraging."
Will America survive to 2050? I'm not usually a big fan of Patrick Buchanan. While he's said some things over the years that mirrored my own opinions on the issues, his unbending notion that Christianityand his brand of it, no lessshould effectively be forced on everybody who doesn't agree with him has made me disregard much of what he says even when he happens to be right. In a recent op-ed, though, Buchanan merely cited some historical facts and the resulting events followed by a recitation of ongoing events and his logical conclusions given the past.
I almost cried when I read this latest column from Mr. Buchanan. I didn't tear up because he was being particularly hateful, nor was I unhappy because I knew there would be people who would listen to him and believe him even though he was wrong. I mourned because there won't be enough people who will listen to him despite the fact thatthis time, at leasthe's as right as anyone has ever been, and because I'm desperately afraid the answer to his title question is, "No."
File this one under "hurtful."
Gun 'Microstamping' Bill Passes California Senate Guns that, when fired, stamp cartridges with some sort of ID number, have been one dream of gun control advocates for awhile. This month, they got the California Senate to go along with them. Aside from the fact that such requirements will involve significant added expenses on the part of gun manufacturers and thus significant added costs to the end products involved, microstamping won't work. In fact, it will probably make crime solving even more difficult, and be an even greater threat to law abiding gun owners than the guns they have now.
How could that possibly be the case? As the news article cited above points out, it's simple enough. Much like ballistic "fingerprinting" won't work because barrels can be altered, in this case the teeny tiny hammer that imprints the teeny tiny numbers on cartridges can also be altered. Far worse than that, those of us who wouldn't alter those stamping mechanisms (in other words, those gun owners who are law abiding) face a very real threat to our freedom when the bad guys use our white hats against us. All they'll need to do is wander around shooting ranges and pick up spent cartridges we've either left behind or failed to find when we clean up. And voila! Proof positive that one of us was at a crime scene rather than the bad guy who really did the deed.
File this one under...do I have a category called "just plain stupid?" I'm going to need one.
There are literally dozens of other stories in recent days, all with impacts on freedom just as significant as these, that I could cite and then write about to share my pain and my outrage. I could write about the abridgement of the Constitution, the erosion of the Second Amendment, ongoing infringements of the First Amendment, and much more. But you know what? Those aren't the things that made me the maddest last week. Those aren't the things that make me want to write about them.
Believe it or not, the thing I keep coming back to when I repeatedly ask myself what I found upsetting last week is this: I was driving to the movies. Traffic wasn't all that heavy, though there were certainly other cars on the road. One of themunfortunately, it was the one of them that was driving just ahead of mewas a battered pick-up truck. The idiot behind the wheel of said pick-up truck drove about three miles in a 45 mile per hour zone at all of about 25 miles per hour.
As I watched the clock on my dashboard tick closer to showtime, I was pleased to see my turn-off just ahead. But you guessed it: the idiot behind the wheel of the pick-up truck swerved to the left just ahead of me where he apparently intended to take the same turn (I say "apparently" because he never once considered the use of a turn signal). When the left turn arrow lit up ahead of us, the idiot made a wide slow turn and then accelerated rapidlyall the way back to 25 miles per hour (yes, lest you ask, the road we were now on also had a 45 mile per hour limit).
Thankfully, a few miles later, the idiot apparently determined to turn right (I say "apparently" because he still wasn't using a signal, but he was staying in a "right turn only" lane) while I had to continue on for another mile or so. As I pulled up next to him at a red light (which, by the way, I wouldn't have had to stop at if the idiot had been driving at a normal rate of speed), I glanced to my right and took note that the idiot was laughing and having what appeared to be an animated conversation on his cell phone. Given his all too obvious inability to drive and talk at the same time, I suppose I should be grateful he wasn't also chewing gum.
I don't know that I can say the idiot was an idiot, or even a terrible driver. What I do believe I can say is that he was concentrating solely on himself and the surroundings in his cab rather than other drivers and the road ahead of, beside and behind him. And after having figured that much out, it suddenly struck me that that's precisely why there are so many other idiots doing things that enrage, disturb, or hurt the cause of freedom. They, too, are concentrating solely on themselves and their immediate environment.
Without thinking of the immediate unintended consequences, or the repercussions for the future, those in our Armed Services could all too soon find themselves implanted with computer chips (and with that kind of precedent, don't for a minute think that students won't be next, followed shortly thereafter by welfare recipients, the elderly, and the rest of us) that will follow them along whatever road they choose to take for the rest of their lives.
By failing to listen to others who are are involved and who have important knowledge to contribute, and by moving onward wearing blinders despite ongoing warnings, the War on Terror is being fought domestically by those who are either intentionally or inadvertently hamstrung by bureaucracies and worse. By obstinately plodding along existing pathways, mistakes are compounded and failuressome of them likely to be catastrophiccould be just around the next curve.
With a focus solely on gun crime as it currently exists, consideration isn't being given to the reality of the issue nor to the considerable down side of a hurried "solution" that will prove to be false to the detriment of all. Microstamping, ballistic fingerprinting, RFID-enabled handguns and the like only sound like good ideas if you believe all of the hype (much of which is exaggerated) and entirely disregard the many warning lights that are blinking like a Christmas tree if you bother to open your eyes to look.
Unfortunately, because so many of these things don't impact us directly (at least not right away), we're inclined to focus only on those things that do. That's why I'm sitting here still obsessed with an idiot on a cell phone from several nights before. The good news, though, is that I've not forgotten the bad news. I got away from the idiot behind the wheel of the pick-up truck by moving in a different direction, and I firmly believe we can get away from all of the other stupidity? ignorance? idiocy? lunacy? usurping our freedoms by doing exactly the same thing.
Either way, we're going to get where we're going sooner or later. And frankly, I'm just a little concerned about the destination at the moment. We can't keep moving along behind these things ahead of us merely because they're ahead of us and all too often block the way. We've got to turn off before it's too late. Missing my movie start time would have made me even madder, but let's be realistic: there are other scheduled shows, and I can surely manage to make one of them. But if we miss the opportunity to turn our country around while there's still some small chance we can, well, just how long do you suppose it will be before we can expect to see another instance of freedom rising up ahead of us? And how many of us will survive to find out after the road we'll be taking while freedom falls instead?