Happy Independence Day ...


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pax
June 24, 2005, 08:34 PM
So today I'm scurrying around getting ready to go camping next week. There are sleeping bags to find, groceries to purchase, clothes to launder and pack. I have to find the box of last year's unused fireworks and hunt down the kites and frisbees for the kids.

We always go to the beach over the 4th of July. The beach we go to is on Washington's Long Beach Peninsula, a 26-mile long stretch of flat sand that is so hard-packed that it's legal to drive upon. We join thousands of other revelers on the beach the night of the 4th, with giant bonfires and plenty of private fireworks. The spectacle of so many thousands of people firing off fireworks is awesome -- and truth be told, I always do get a kick out of watching other people's money go up in smoke.

Later in the evening, the City of Long Beach shoots off fireworks too. It's usually an intense display which lasts over 45 minutes. Even so, it almost cannot compete with the miles upon miles of private fireworks from party-goers who barely slow their own activities during the public show.

Afterward, we douse the bonfire and wake our sleepy children to help us hunt for lost belongings by the tenuous light of a nearly-dead flashlight. We always lose something. One year it was my husband's keys.

This year, even before I step onto the beach, I already feel as if I've lost something. I don't have a lot of joy thinking about the fireworks stands, hot buttered popcorn, or the free candy from the small town parade which precedes the main event.

As I type this, Congress is set to begin debate about an Amendment to the Constitution that would definitely limit freedom of speech -- and political speech at that. The most interesting part of that proposed Amendment is that it's also definitely an infringement upon the right of an ordinary American to do as he pleases with his own property.

Not that this sort of thing is shocking anymore, really.

This week, for instance, the Supreme Court handed down a decision that has torn the foundations from beneath private-property rights in this country. The Court ruled, in a sharply divided opinion, that local governments may seize private property from individual citizens for no other reason than to enhance the government's tax base. That is, the city council may decide that their income from taxes on property you currently own would be higher if WalMart owned your land, and may therefore seize your land and hand it to that megalith.

There are other ominous rumbles on the horizon. Nothing new, really, just the standard "ho-hum" fare familiar to any reader of the evening newspaper:

The Defense Department found a loophole which allows it to create a database containing records of all the nation's schoolchildren. This enables them to better enforce the Selective-Service registration requirement, for the draft which we are repeatedly assured is definitely not being considered by any of our elected officials.

The FBI, in conjunction with Homeland Security through a provision in the newest incarnation of the Patriot Act, is lobbying Congress for -- and will probably receive -- the ability to seize the private records of any business, anywhere in America, secretly and without a warrant.

A few days ago, the New York Times reported that the Social Security Administration relaxed its privacy policies and has provided data on citizens to the FBI in connection with terrorism investigations.

CNET is reporting that the U.S. Department of Justice is quietly shopping around the explosive idea of requiring Internet service providers to retain records of their customers' online activities, including chat room logs, online purchase records, private emails and bulletin board postings. If DOJ gets what it wants, your local ISP will be legally required to retain logs of all your online interactions -- and to surrender those logs to the feds upon request. And lest you think your email is secure because you use an encryption software, be advised that the Michigan Supreme Court recently ruled that the mere existence of privacy software on a suspect's computer was enough to establish criminal intent.

Reuters is reporting that the IRS is investigating whether unauthorized people gained access to sensitive taxpayer and bank account information. It seems that the Government Accountability Office (is that an oxymoron?) launched the probe because it believes the IRS "routinely permitted excessive access" to computer files. The GAO team was able to tap into the IRS data without authorization and gleaned personal and financial information about individual US taxpayers.

Again, that sort of thing hardly shocks us any more. It's certainly nothing new.

This past Monday, the Associated Press reported that the federal agency in charge of aviation security collected extensive personal information about airline passengers even though Congress forbade it and officials said they wouldn't do it. The story is that TSA gave pasenger name records to its contractor, EagleForce Associates, records containing data such as name, address, phone number and credit card information about individual travelers. EagleForce then compared the records with commercial data to attain first, last and middle names, home address and phone number, birth date, name suffix, second surname, spouse first name, gender, second address, third address, ZIP code and latitude and longitude of address for those same travelers. EagleForce then produced CD-ROMs containing the information and provided those CD-ROMs to TSA, and TSA now stores that data.

For the record, the TSA's action was entirely illegal and undoubtedly deliberate. Shall we expect that any employee, anywhere in government service, will spend any time for breaking the law for their employer? That seems unlikely indeed.

So here we are, headed into the week preceding the Independence celebration of these here United States.

But these days there doesn't seem to be much independence to celebrate.

Copyright 2005 by Kathy Jackson aka "pax."

Please do not distribute further without written permission from the author.

pax

People never believe in volcanoes until the lava actually overtakes them. Ė George Santayana

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fjolnirsson
June 24, 2005, 08:47 PM
Wow, Pax. That sums up how I've been feeling just perfectly.

critter
June 24, 2005, 08:59 PM
Good read. If you aren't disturbed, you are not informed.

XLMiguel
June 24, 2005, 09:12 PM
Bummer du jour. Thank you for your thought-provoking post.

pax
June 24, 2005, 09:46 PM
Thanks, guys.

pax

Standing Wolf
June 24, 2005, 09:49 PM
...these days there doesn't seem to be much independence to celebrate.

I have a hunch the founding fathers would rebel against our federal government and many of our state governments.

hillbilly
June 24, 2005, 10:02 PM
This 4th, fly one of these..........

http://www.gadsden.info/


I plan on flying one of these this 4th.



I also plan on taking some good friends to a shooting range that's about two miles from the lake cabin I will wind up at.

Seems like better things to do than feeling down.

hillbilly

CentralTexas
June 24, 2005, 10:15 PM
reading the other one where the guy is writing a book but scared to order a "How to make a silencer " book for research out of fear the govt will come after him. I really want to cry....
Well written PAX, have a great 4th!
CT

P95Carry
June 24, 2005, 10:43 PM
Pax - your writing skills just go on getting even better - very well put - and immense food for thought as we approach another ''4th''. Thank you. :)

Larry Ashcraft
June 24, 2005, 10:57 PM
pax,

Thank you for putting it better than any of us could.

Larry

sm
June 24, 2005, 11:14 PM
pax-

beautiful writing for sad times.

Thank you-

Steve

kal
June 24, 2005, 11:47 PM
Hmmmm.....I was thinking. Since the American citizen has the right to defend his property against intruders, invaders, AND GOVERNMENT......I believe one day some body is going to pull out that gun he has been saving for a rainy day. :eek:

Leatherneck
June 25, 2005, 07:38 AM
Pax,
You continue to amaze. You're a treasure.

Erosion is a slow process, whether of beach, or mountain, or rights. When do we cry "Enough!"?

TC

Biker
June 25, 2005, 08:09 AM
Well written Pax. Thanks.

It's been a long time since I felt this sad.

Biker

Boats
June 25, 2005, 08:33 AM
http://www.gadsden.info/i/clipart/Navy-Jack-clip-art.gif

Snake Eyes
June 25, 2005, 01:31 PM
Well written and thought provoking.

But what I really wonder is.....





......Do they still have the bumper cars in Long beach???

Nightfall
June 25, 2005, 01:39 PM
This Independence Day, I will exclusively be celebrating the past successes of our Founding Fathers. Our current condition isn't worthy of fireworks and BBQs. :(

pax
June 25, 2005, 01:46 PM
Snake Eyes ~

Yup. And they still have the Go-Kart racetrack, which never ceases to amaze me. :what:

pax

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. -- George Orwell

Chipperman
June 25, 2005, 01:57 PM
Sadly, a well written synopsis of current events.

It's getting to the point that every time I listen to the news, I expect to hear of another way that civil rights are being undermined.

Kamicosmos
June 25, 2005, 04:39 PM
I'll be working all weekend, and on the 4th itself. Nothing says freedom like holiday pay!

Oh wait....uh. Damn. :(

Good article Pax.

Old NFO
June 25, 2005, 05:34 PM
Good writing Pax, I just wish there were more postive things to write about... Having said that, I agree we are in a decline of personal rights.

It is reminiscent of George Orwell's book "1984." In that story, three slogans are engraved in the Ministry of Truth building: "War is peace," "Freedom is slavery," and "Ignorance is strength."

Monkeyleg
June 25, 2005, 06:02 PM
Pax, thanks for ruining my weekend. ;)

On a more serious note, are you submitting that piece to any newspapers? It's definitely on the level of the writings of major columnists.

pax
June 26, 2005, 12:55 PM
Monkeyleg ~

Sent it to my little local. Haven't heard back from them, yet.

pax

Headless Thompson Gunner
June 26, 2005, 02:25 PM
If you've written any other essays I'd like to read them. Can you tell me where to look for them?

thereisnospoon
June 26, 2005, 05:40 PM
.... :cuss:

Vitamin G
June 26, 2005, 07:07 PM
Just ordered "Don't Tread on Me" Tshirt.


And one for my friend, and my boss, and my father, etc...

cracked butt
June 28, 2005, 10:56 AM
hat is, the city council may decide that their income from taxes on property you currently own would be higher if WalMart owned your land, and may therefore seize your land and hand it to that megalith.

Good read, but I have a problem with everyone making Walmart out to be the bogeyman on everything. Has Walmart been involved with pushing eminent domain issues? If not, you are doing the same to a legitimate capitalist business as those who throw "semiautomatic assault weapons" into their editorials do to gun owners.

pax
June 28, 2005, 11:21 AM
cracked butt ~

Good point, and that's one reason I asked people not to spread the article around. It was & is a rough draft.

Here's the current version, which I think might read a little bit easier:
Happy Independence Day...

So today I'm scurrying around getting ready to go camping next week. There are sleeping bags to find, groceries to purchase, clothes to launder and pack.

We always go to the beach over the 4th of July. The beach we go to is on Washington's Long Beach Peninsula, a 26-mile long stretch of flat sand that is so hard-packed that it's legal to drive upon. We join thousands of other revelers on the beach the night of the 4th, with giant bonfires and plenty of private fireworks. The spectacle of so many thousands of people firing off fireworks is awesome -- and truth be told, I always do get a kick out of watching other people's money go up in smoke.

Later in the evening, the City of Long Beach shoots off fireworks too. It's usually an intense display which lasts over 45 minutes. Even so, it almost cannot compete with the miles upon miles of private fireworks from party-goers who barely slow their own activities during the public show.

Afterward, we douse the bonfire and wake our sleepy children to help us hunt for lost belongings by the tenuous light of a nearly-dead flashlight. We always lose something. One year it was my husband's keys.

This year, even before I step onto the beach, I already feel as though I've lost something.

As I type this, Congress is set to begin debate about an Amendment to the Constitution that would definitely limit freedom of speech -- and political speech at that. The Amendment easily passed through the House. The most interesting part is that the proposed Amendment is also definitely an infringement upon the right of an ordinary American to do as he pleases with his own property.

Not that property rights are as sacrosanct in America as they used to be.

This week, the Supreme Court handed down a decision that has torn the foundations from beneath private-property rights in this country. The Court ruled that local governments may seize private property for no other reason than to enhance the government's tax base.

What it means for ordinary people is that as of today, here in America, it is perfectly legal for your local city council to seize your land and hand it over to private developers. After all, the land your house sits on might bring in more tax revenue if itís turned into the parking lot of a big box store.

There are other ominous rumbles on the horizon. Nothing new, really, just the standard "ho-hum" fare familiar to any reader of the evening newspaper:

The Defense Department found a loophole which allows it to create and keep detailed records of all the nation's schoolchildren. This enables them to better enforce the Selective-Service registration requirement, for the draft which we are repeatedly assured is definitely not being considered by any of our elected officials.

The FBI, in conjunction with Homeland Security through a provision in the newest incarnation of the Patriot Act, is lobbying Congress for -- and will probably receive -- the ability to seize the private records of any business, anywhere in America, secretly and without a warrant. Read any good books lately? The titles could soon be on file with the FBI.

A few days ago, the New York Times reported that the Social Security Administration relaxed its privacy policies and has provided data on citizens to the FBI in connection with terrorism investigations. Again, this can all be done secretly and without a warrant.

CNET is reporting that the U.S. Department of Justice is quietly shopping around another brilliant idea: requiring internet service providers to retain records of all online activities, including chat room logs, online purchase records, private emails and bulletin board postings. If DOJ gets what it wants, your local ISP will be legally required to keep logs of everything you do online, and will be required to surrender those logs to the feds upon request.

Lest you think your email is secure from such snooping because you use encryption, be advised that the Michigan Supreme Court recently ruled that the mere existence of privacy software on a suspect's computer was enough to establish criminal intent.

Reuters is reporting that the IRS is investigating whether unauthorized people gained access to sensitive taxpayer and bank account information. It seems that the Government Accountability Office (is that an oxymoron?) launched a probe because it believes the IRS "routinely permitted excessive access" to computer files. Under the GAOís direction, a team of hackers was able to tap into IRS data banks without authorization. The hackers gleaned personal and financial information about individual US taxpayers.

What this amounts to is that various branches of the government can capture and keep an incredible amount of information about you Ė about your business dealings, about your children, about your private correspondence, about your personal financial information. They donít have to ask a judge for permission, they donít have to tell you about it, and theyíre not keeping it secure from thieves.

Hereís another one:

This past Monday, the Associated Press reported that Transportation Security Administration collected extensive personal information about airline passengers even though Congress forbade it and officials said they wouldn't do it.

For the record, the TSA's action was entirely illegal and undoubtedly deliberate. Shall we expect that any employee, anywhere in government service, will spend any amount of time in jail for breaking the law? Donít hold your breath.

So here we are, headed into the week preceding the Independence celebration of these here United States. I still need to find the box of last year's unused fireworks and hunt down the kites and frisbees for the kids. But itís hard to feel excited.

These days there just doesn't seem to be much independence left to celebrate.

Copyright 2005 by Kathy Jackson aka "pax." Please do not post this article anywhere else without written permission from the author.
pax

GunGoBoom
June 28, 2005, 11:26 AM
Great essay - can you give me written permission here to send it to my friends via email? Thanks!

pax
June 28, 2005, 11:28 AM
GGB ~

Please, please, just send them the link. I am trying to get this one published in the "real" press in a few places, and if it is widely available on the web, it really hurts my chances.

Thanks,

pax

Monkeyleg
June 28, 2005, 06:22 PM
Thanks for that reminder, Pax. Many large newspapers will not print a column if it's appeared anywhere previously.

I'd love to see your article in the NY Times, or the Seattle Post at the very least.

eagle45
June 28, 2005, 08:25 PM
Very interesting read, pax. It would hurt a lot less if it were not so true. Keep it up.

antarti
June 28, 2005, 08:43 PM
Reading that made me feel like I was gut-punched... sadly, a very effective piece you wrote. The last thing I wanted to feel this 4th was a dread of the inevitable "boot-heel against the face".

I had put the Fourth out of my mind completely after this decision, but now I am thinking all the smoke, fire, and concussions (not to mention the tied up fire departments) would be a great diversion for... oops, this is THR, forget I said anything, which I didn't... <edit snip>

EDIT: Anybody think of getting a copy of this to Vin Suprynowicz?

pax
June 29, 2005, 10:13 AM
Headless Thompson Gunner ~

Sorry I missed your question earlier! :o

Haven't published a lot of this kind of rant, except maybe you could find a thing or two here on THR in L&P. I write to my local paper occasionally, but that's not on the web anywhere that I know of. Been meaning to collect a lot of these pieces into a web site, but haven't gotten around to it.

I write gun reviews & other work for Women & Guns magazine, and have written a couple pieces (more coming) for Concealed Carry magazine. None of those are political, though -- for W&G, I do gun & class reviews, and did a series on kids & firearms. For CCM, so far I've written a piece about kids & guns, and a semi-funny one that's in the works about guys who want their wives to like guns. More topics down the road!

pax

1911 guy
June 29, 2005, 10:44 AM
Well put and disturbingly accurate.

roo_ster
June 29, 2005, 02:59 PM
I avoided reading this thread for a few days since I was not feeling particularly happy about the coming Independance Day. "I don't want to read some saccarine article about the 4th after our liberty just took repeated body blows & is currently wheezing for air," I thought to myself.

If you aren't disturbed, you are not informed.
Indeed.

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