December 27, 2001
Afghanistan, Activist Cash

Here are some links:

ActivistCash- this site aims to show where various activist and issue organizations are getting their funding. The list of organizations is kind of limited at this point, but I expect great things from this site. It's run by the Guest Choice Network, a network of hospitality and foodservice industry folks who are sick of the "nanny culture."

And then two articles about civilian casualties in Afghanistan:

Civilian Victims of United States' Aerial Bombing of Afghanistan- This is a lengthy "dossier" of personal accounts from various attacks in Afghanistan. A very detailed and extensive tally of the toll the war has taken on that country and its people. That article is an opinion piece, whereas this chart here seems to be a bare-bones day-by-day recounting of the damage done in Afghanistan. Definitely some food for thought. I have yet to read these at length, but I will soon, and I recommend you think about doing so too. The best opinions are those that are fully informed.

Also, this is another opinion piece (a pretty heated one) called "The innocent dead in a coward's war." 

Posted by Lance Brown at 12:22 PM
December 25, 2001
Ode to John Ashcroft and Civil Liberties

(Sung to the tune of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town")

You better watch out,

You better not pout,

You better not cry.

I'm telling you why.

John Ashcroft's coming to town.

He sees you with your lawyer.

He listens to every phone;

He reads everyone's email,

and he locks you all alone.

With little tin guns

And tiny cellphones

Rooty hoot, hoot, he's breaking in homes,

Big Brother is coming to town.

He knows when you are traveling.

He knows who you're around;

Tried in military courtrooms,

Not a lawyer can be found.

He's makin' a list,

and checking for race,

Gonna arrest those who are dark of face.

Big Brother's coming to town.

You better watch out,

You better not pout,

You better not cry.

I'm telling you why.

Big Brother's coming to town.


See also "How the Feds Stole Christmas"

Posted by Lance Brown at 09:42 PM
December 18, 2001

Our government is being run by 22 year-olds taking 2 hour lunches.

I'm sure most of you are aware that our elected leaders are only peripherally involved in the actual writing of legislation, rules, and regulations. Aides, staffers, and now lobbyists and activists are regularly employed in the writing of parts or all of the text of the legislation that becomes law. 

A woman I know works at a California state agency which will remain nameless. In this agency, there is a team of young college people like this woman- and they are making laws. Well, not exactly- they are simply revising, fine-tuning, and editing laws. They basically are one half of a back-and-forth between the Governor and this agency. The contents of this back-and-forth are the specifics of new regulations and laws- the little wording and details of the rules which we will all have to live by.

My friend had basically two main things to say about her job. One was that it let her see how messed up our system is. She mentioned in particular how, when new programs or rules are implemented, part of that implementation includes a promotional campaign, usually with a giveaway or some sort of flashy hype-filled announcements. She also mentioned how lawmakers would often ask them to put together laws that conflicted with laws they had already pushed and passed earlier— and these students would have to let the lawmaker know that their new law would conflict with their previous law. "They don't even know what they have done, or what the laws they end up putting on the books actually say," is a rough but accurate paraphrase of her appraisal.

The other thing she had to say about her job was that it was fun working with a bunch of people her age, and they had a lot of fun, and took 2 and 1/2 hour lunch breaks, and didn't have to work hard.

A friend of ours then commented, "Oh, so you are wasting our tax money well, then." Indeed.

These days, disenchantment makes the world go 'round. Makes me wonder when the next time I'll be proud of my government will be.

Posted by Lance Brown at 03:32 PM
December 17, 2001
Operation Northwoods

Some disturbing news has cropped up from 40 years ago. Check out this article at ABC News about "Operation Northwoods."

Just when we thought it was safe to begin trusting our government again (ha ha), something like this shows up and lets us know how naďve that would be. If you're too lazy to click over and read the article (which you really should do if you haven't heard about this), here's the brief: In the early 60's our country's top military leaders hatched a plan to start a war with Cuba by attacking us and blaming it on Cuba. The plan went so far as to get approval from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and was presented to the Secretary of Defense.

So there's another one to add to the list when someone asks you why you distrust government so much.
Gives some food for thought for our current crisis as well. I mean, in 1962 we had a liberal president, so liberal that he was considered pro-communist by many others in the government at the time. So, when a plan was presented to incite war against Castro through devious and horrific misdeeds, it's not surprising that the plan would be rejected.

But what if such a plan were to be presented to a more conservative, war-friendly president? What if he could be convinced that faith in government had sunk so low after Election 2000, that the populace was at risk of falling out of the grip of the established parties, and the establishment itself? What if he could be convinced that the U.S. needed a new enemy, a new "cold war" of sorts? And what if he could be convinced that this couldn't be a normal "quickie" war, but instead needed to be a lasting conflict, just like the cold war? A new world quest, to replace the quest to end communism. Hmmmm...

 A lot of people (people who might be considered "fringe" by the majority) have implied or claimed that the Bush Administration had advance knowledge of the September 11th attacks. There are many different variations on the theme, but they all stem from that sense of immense distrust that comes from reading about stuff like "Operation Northwoods." If one set of leaders would decide it was wise to attack our own population in order to foment war, isn't it reasonable to conclude that another set of leaders might do the same?

I hate to be cynical...I really do. I wish that I could find a rational way to trust our leaders, but history has shown over and over again that when people get too much power, and too much ability to hide what they do, heavy duty corruption is the result. And I don't mean dirty-deals-corruption, I mean moral corruption— corruption of the soul, if you prefer. No system of human interaction can succeed for long if bad people are able to wield too much control over others. 

Our system was designed to prevent that, by creating a government that must answer to the people— one that we could hold accountable, by voting, through the courts, through a free press, the right to demonstrate, the right to defend ourselves from intrusion, and any other of a number of ways. The problem is, too many of the controls have been consolidated in the hands of too few, largely due to the actions of the U.S. Government in the past 100 years or so, combined with the citizenry's apathy and disinterest. We've asked government to control virtually everything— it shouldn't be much of a surprise when our leaders start feeling like they are kings of the world. 

That set of Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1962 must have believed that they were doing right. Somehow they had reached a way of thinking where they thought it was morally permissible to purposely instigate a war through such devious and disgusting means. They thought everyone was so misguided that they needed to devise a twisted secret plan to regain control of things. Brew up a war, and whammo, 80% of the American people will jump up in unison in support of their government, and against the bad guy. It sounds so simple, and it really does work, so I can understand how the seed of that idea came to be. A similar idea has been played out in the movies "Wag the Dog" (where the administration fakes a war) and "Canadian Bacon" (where the administration does just what the Operation Northwoods schemers had planned, except with  Canada as the enemy.) 

Like I said, I hate to be cynical. And I hate to be living in a time and place where there is substantial cause to distrust our national leaders. But I can't be blind to what our leaders have done in the past, or or live in denial of what they could do, and may be doing.

However, as cynical as the facts force me to be, I am optimistic as well. People who are morally corrupt are flawed, and weak in the most important way. People who are that corrupted inside are bound to screw up, and in the end, truth, freedom, and the vigilance of those good people who are willing to bother will pay off, and the opportunity will come to take their power away from them, and give it back to its original owner— the people. Or, more properly, the individuals.

People should not have the power to rule the lives of others— but that's exactly what we've given to our government. We have got to be ready to take it back...if we ever get a chance.

Oh, and sorry it's been so long since my last post. I have been very busy, and one of my pets was injured, which was a major disruption in my life for a while.

On a positive note, my local paper, The Union, published an op-ed of mine this past Saturday, Bill of Rights Day. Check it out!

Posted by Lance Brown at 12:50 AM
December 07, 2001
More on Gay marriage

This is a late addendum to my long-ago post about gay marriage.

I think the base issue is that people should be able to form whatever unions they want as long as they aren't hurting anyone. If two people want to draw up a contract that says they consider themselves married to one another, with all the associated responsibilities, it seems like any court would have to honor that contract.

Now, whether businesses or other private enterprises choose to acknowledge such a contract may be a different issue. It should be up to hospitals and other non-government places to set their own standards on what constitutes a family according to their procedures. But the government should not be making such a value judgment on our behalf. Family takes on so many different shapes these days that there is no way to create a national standard, or even local standards. It must be left up to consenting adults to decide who their family, or partner, is.

Posted by Lance Brown at 08:01 PM