Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Land of the free? Home of the brave?


{A really terrific} Guest Post by Ryan:

The following opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the proprietor of this blog site (wife). As with the situational awareness post, this one is rather lengthy.  Prepare accordingly.  I recommend booze and a comfy chair.

Liberty must always be guarded against power; for power corrupts, then it corrupts absolutely.  This mentality formed what was known as ‘English countryside opposition ideology.’  It was this mentality that a few radicals carried in the latter part of the eighteenth century.  Ironically, those radicals fought with the intention of retaining their ‘rights of Englishmen’ rather than forming an entirely new country.  Many colonists desired non-combat initiatives for redressing  their grievances.   Events, however,  played out differently than anticipated and precipitated a war for independence.  There remains an incredibly complex backstory dating to 1215 and the ‘Articles of Barons’ (more commonly known as the Magna Carta) that will remain left alone for time’s sake.

The balance of power in this country has constantly shifted.  One may consider the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Jackson’s ushering in the Imperial Presidency, or a myriad of other events that have shaped the country since its inception.   Currently, however, many things are taking place at unprecedented levels and with worrying rapidity.  Many measures are being taken in the name of security and safety, with the country’s interest in mind (we hope) to protect us from violence.

No one can determine the future.  There are no crystal balls and the Magic 8 balls from the nineties don’t work either.  Trust me I wish they did.  But, as intelligent (I guess) beings, we do have examples to learn from.  History provides these.  History also shows us that precedent influences all things one way or another, for better or for worse.  It is precedent, particularly in government policy and law, that must always be kept in mind when considering the decisions we make.

When considering governmental precedent, we must consider how much we value our personal liberties.  We live under a supposedly democratic system with the ability to vote.  Theoretically, these votes convey how we wish our statesmen to govern our lives, liberties, and society.  To vote without knowledge is folly--nay foolish.  

Unfortunately, we no longer have ‘actual representation’ on account of the leviathan size of both the geography and population of the United States.  


We have shifted to more ‘virtual representation’ through individuals we don’t actually know and whom we depend on to represent our best interest despite the detachment. 


Our governmental system has grown accordingly to leviathan proportions and the unfortunate fact is that many of its leaders, whatever their motivations, are changed by the power they gain and the game they play.  Let us remember the mantra of the English countryside opposition: Liberty must always be guarded against power; for power corrupts, then it corrupts absolutely.  This rings true today.

Death has become a scary thing in our society.  Let me be clear: I don’t want it yet.  But not so long ago it was accepted as a daily possibility (and still is in many places today).  Death is an inherent part of life.  We risk it every day we wake up.  We may have a brain aneurism, a fatal car accident, or perhaps we’ll be that one-in-a-million statistic that is eaten by a shark.  American society no longer recognizes this risk and insists that government pass legislation to mitigate every possibility for death.  As if something filed away in the library of congress will prevent death.  I realize the previous statement carries a bit of naivety; certainly there is good legislation that serves us well.  Prohibition on driving under the influence comes to mind.

But alas, there are many things happening today that carry troubling precedents under the guise of ‘safety’ and ‘security.’  


Consider the following: The Patriot Act, the NDAA for 2012 and 2013, Fusion Centers, and drone usage. Each of these measures, individually and combined, constitute dangerous precedents.  Here’s where I may lose some of you to “oh, another crazy, conspiracy person.”  So be it.  For those of you still here, think what you will and make your own decisions.  It’s your freedom to do so.

The Patriot Act, it will be remembered, was enacted by president G. W. Bush in order to develop intelligence and monitor potential terrorist threats against the country.  It utilizes current and developing technology to monitor electronic communications (all of it: phone calls, emails, text messages, fbook and even your precious blogs).  And even if you aren’t on any sort of watch list, your communications may still gain attention.  

Example: In 2008 I was on a new flag list compiled by the Department of Homeland Security for being a potential threat.  The reason? Caucasian males who were registered with the Republican party (as I was) who had combat experience in the Middle East were listed as a potential right wing extremist threat.  This flag list was widely condemned and, to my knowledge, officially disregarded.  Nothing wrong there, right?  Just good guys watching for bad guys.  Precedent.

What’s a Fusion Center, you ask? These are facilities that utilize the Patriot Act to gather and compile information and build profiles based on that information.  They are operated by the Department of Homeland Security.  The DHS makes no-bones-about these centers and will tell you (in very nice, politically correct words) about them on their .gov website.  Precedent.  This little tidbit will have been flagged and logged shortly after its upload to the interweb.  Persons familiar with the intelligence community can tell you: the Department of Homeland Security and National Security Administration absolutely LOVE your smart phones and tablets.

NDAA is an acronym for National Defense Authorization Act.  In short, this is a bill that must be passed each year; it basically authorizes the Pentagon to run the military. No big deal.  Here yet again I may upset some of you.  The U.S. military, I think, could stand to be scaled back a bit.  Remember: standing armies are a symbol--and potential tool--of tyranny.  Our founders hotly debated whether or not to establish a federal army, and with good cause.  A standing military is at the disposal of whomever rules the country.  What if a ruler came to power who decided to use it against certain populations of his/her own countrymen?  Syria is a recent example; pour over some military history books and find countless others.  NDAA 2012 contains a clause under its counterterrorism section (1021) that authorizes the US military to legally detain “any belligerents,” including American citizens, against the US government.  The detainees do not receive their constitutional rights to due process.  No bail, no arraignment, no judge, no jury, no trial.  Only indefinite detainment until ‘they’ decide what the best course of action is.  Again, what’s the big deal?  Surely they’ll only be looking for the real bad guys… precedent.

In the past decade unmanned aerial vehicles have become a huge part of the US military’s operational load out. They are certainly a technological asset, however a dangerous one.  They range in size from small, man-portable units (about the size of a model airplane) to the massive Global Hawks, which have a 130 foot wingspan and range of nearly 9,000 nautical miles.  It’s an airplane.  Different types of drones conduct different missions.  Some are strictly for aerial surveillance and reconnaissance.  Others can carry offensive capabilities; most commonly Hellfire missiles.  These air-to-surface pieces were initially developed as anti-armor ordinance for close air support from helicopters.  Good ol’ technology has made it possible for a UAV pilot many miles away, some as far as Nevada, to play a ‘video game’ controlling an aircraft in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan and place such ordinance literally through a window of a structure.  It’s really quite incredible.

Connect these three dots: 

(1) Three weeks ago the Justice department issued a memo (subsequently leaked to NBC news) authorizing “an informed, high-level official” to utilize deadly force via UAVs against American citizens. Admittedly, it also specifies that the target(s) must be actively operating against the US, but how long before its modified to specify use against someone like Christopher Dorner?  After all, he was a domestic terrorist, no? 

(2) Secondly, Congress passed the FAA Reauthorization Act formally allowing drone operation in US airspace.  Let me be frank, they’re already in use in some areas.  After all they’re much cheaper to operate than a helicopter for law enforcement use.  

(3) FINALLY, a week-and-a-half later, the Distinguished Warfare Medal was created by Defense Secretary Panetta and his politicians at the Pentagon.  This award recognizes US cyber warriors, including drone pilots, for their good work.  In precedence, it outranks both the Purple Heart AND the Bronze Star with a ‘V’ device (a ‘V’ device given with gallantry awards denotes valor above and beyond what awards such as Bronze and Silver Stars already signify – extreme valor on the field of battle in the face of death).  Apparently playing video games in the safety of a command building is more harrowing than conducting actual combat operations where you and your brothers flirt with death on a daily basis.  Is it difficult to see that the precedent set with these measures translates into an enormous threat against US citizens?  Replete with a reward higher than some of our most distinguished military awards for the operators who are completely detached from actually experiencing death?

Precedent.  Since September eleventh, threats have evolved along with methods to prevent them.  In guerrilla warfare the more powerful forces struggle to learn their weaker opponents’ TTPs and SOPs; that is, how the guerrillas operate.  When the superior force gains insight to these procedures, it modifies its operations to become more effective.  Guerrilla fighters are often, and mistakenly, written off as shallow minded individuals.  This is quite the opposite.  They are extremely intelligent and adapt their strategies to offset the oft-overwhelming odds beset against them.  Thus the superior force finds itself again searching for new ways to counter the continuously evolving tactics.

“So the hell what?” you ask.  “It’s all for good purpose.”  PRECEDENT. Once precedent is set on any issue, future generations will look back and assume that whatever that precedent set at a given time has now become acceptable and subject to further implementation.  Consider some examples: the welfare system, Roe v. Wade, the Transportation Security Administration (Liz would like me to add federal taxes here, that’s a good one)—all implemented with good intentions and limited scope in their time, but have since grown exponentially.  Precedent is always a slippery slope.

So it goes.  In their continual expansion/evolution of tactics, the G-men whittle away your personal liberties--all in the name of ‘security.’  Americans, for the most part, are like frogs.  If you stick a frog in a pot of lukewarm water and gradually increase the heat, the frog slowly acclimates to it until it boils to death.  It is your choice whether or not you wish to make yourself knowledgeable to the constantly evolving state of your liberties.  Do you think you still have fourth amendment rights?  According to the Patriot Act, you may not.  What about your fourteenth amendment right to due process?  Thanks to NDAA and drone authorizations, you might not in the future.

We live in ‘the age of terror,’ where technology and unconventional tactics against civilian targets is standard operating procedure for the bad guys.  The federal government has grown to astronomical proportions, and so too has its tactics to combat terrorism.  Even in domestic matters, the police state of the nation has grown to massive proportions.  SWAT and tactical teams are the norm these days.  They operate on a regular basis, even if it’s to serve out a simple warrant previously executed by a handful of officers.  These days armored vehicles roll up and deploy multi-team units who use explosives to breach doors, storm a building and apprehend their suspect (or worse).  And they get the wrong house more often than you might think.  They are professionals, but they are humans being.  They are fallible.

What’s the line?  Where is it, if it exists, for you?  These things you must decide for yourself.  In the model of my situational awareness post, my intent for this post is to throw a wrench into your routine thought process.  No, I’m not telling you that I’m going all 1775 and looking for recruits.  I’m telling you that this shit happens every day.  It happens constantly whether you care to notice or you don’t, while you escape reality in whatever ways you do. Ball games, church, reading a book, watching a movie, going on a date.  All well and good, everyone needs something.  But don’t let yourself become complacent.  Complacency kills (you’ll recall, and I know you’ve all been practicing your situational awareness).

I’ll close with a quick reference to liberties.  The War for Independence (1776-1781) was the culmination of a century-and-a-half of actions by both Parliament and colonial assemblies and the reactions (or lack thereof) on both sides.  Colonial assemblies and Parliament both gained power simultaneously and a struggle between center and periphery began to simmer.  The rights of Englishmen were the stakes.  Actual representation by locals was paramount to colonials; virtual representation from across the Atlantic was despised.  An interview with an aging Revolutionary veteran conveyed the common sentiment of those who believed in liberty (many popular “revolutionaries” wished to remain under English rule, where they gained much wealth). 

 In 1843 Levi Preston, a minuteman at Concord in 1776 and veteran (then in his nineties), gave the following statements to an interviewer:

Mellen Chamberlain: “Captain Preston, what made you go to the Concord Fight?”

Levi Preston: “What did I go for?”

Chamberlain: “… Were you oppressed by the Stamp Act?”

Preston: “I never saw any stamps, and I always understood that none were ever sold.”

Chamberlain: “Well, what about the tea tax?”

Preston: “Tea tax? I never drank a drop of the stuff, the boys threw it all overboard.”

Chamberlain: “But I suppose you have been reading Harrington, Sidney and Locke about the eternal principle of liberty?”

Preston: “I never heard of these men. The only books we had were the Bible, Watt’s psalms and hymns and the almanacs.”

Chamberlain: “Well then, what was the matter?”

Preston: “Young man, what we meant in going to meet those Lobster-backs [British regulars – Redcoats] was this – we always had governed ourselves and we always meant to. They didn’t mean we should.”

The last statement embodies what the real fighters felt.  They treasured their local, that is ACTUAL, representation by peers who understood the needs of the day as no man across an ocean could.  Do our representatives, senators, justices and president actually represent our best interest?  How can they?  There are too many of us. Have you spoken to your representative?  Do they know you and have your best interest in mind?  Of course not. 


Even the Greeks realized that a republic can only grow so large before the governmental system must shift to accommodate an ever larger population.  As that shift occurs and governments gain more power, they are more easily corrupted.  Accountability is diluted.  


The system then must decline: either rapidly and violently or slowly as a human body does with age until it succumbs to the process.  Personally, I think the coming decades will be interesting (to say the least).  And I think American society may become less comfortable than we may be accustomed to.

As with my situational awareness post, I’m going to part with a suggestion.  I was going to give you several, but you’ve been here long enough.  Here it is: food.

How much do you have at home?  If the grocery stores were quickly emptied, how long would what you have last? A few days?  A week?  More?  Less?  Do yourself a favor and stock up.  Rice, dried beans, and canned goods have a very long shelf life.  Get enough to last you two weeks to a month.  I don’t think a lot of us consider the complex logistics that go into stocking stores nationwide.  If these logistics are severely interrupted for any reason, you’ll have some time on your hands to make a plan.

Let me give you an example: Modern day New Orleans, post Hurricane Katrina.  Before Brent came to Alpha Co. 1st Battalion, 6th Marine regiment, he was a firefighter from a small town in northern Louisiana.  His department went to New Orleans to help.  I won’t relay any specifics other than they couldn’t help much.  The situation was pretty bad.  The water limited movement of law enforcement and national guard.  Gangs of men, operating at a near tribal level, roamed, raped, pillaged and killed.  Hunger drives people to do the unthinkable.

Build your food stash.  Blame it on hurricane, blizzard or other natural disaster preparedness.  At the worst, your friends may make fun of you, but consider this: what if you lost your job unexpectedly?  At least you’ll have something to fall back on till you’re on your feet again.  In conjunction with that, I’ll remind you once more to procure some form of defensive capabilities.  I will avoid the myriad second amendment arguments taking place right now, but I would really recommend you get something.

Think what you will of me, I don’t care.  But IF (or even when?) shit hits the fan, you’re potential well-being is on you.  God gave us all free will, how you use it is up to you.

While I encourage you to do your own research and make your own judgments, here are a few articles, gov’t sites and transcripts as starting off points. I tried to keep them as ‘mainstream’ and ‘balanced,’ from both conservative and more liberal sources, as possible. The information is out there. It’s for us to analyze and judge; we still have that freedom. Remember, it’s all about precedent.  Not what it says or does right now, but how it paves the way for future legislation.

NDAA 2012:


Patriot Act:


Fusion Centers:

Also, these things cost money:

UAVs:





Not sure if this one will work, but it’s a better version of the Preston interview, it’s on google books:

5 comments:

  1. Rocky went to summer camp last year and earned his rifle badge. Rob went with him. After the boys seemed to be finished with the course, the instructor asked out loud, "Ok. Who hasn't shot a gun yet?" To which Rob raised his hand, "I haven't!" Everyone looked at him and the instructor said, "You've NEVER shot a gun before?" Rob shrugged his shoulders and said, "I'm Canadian, eh!?" They all laughed and Rob shot a gun for the first time.
    Although he is Canadian, he is working toward American citizenship. He'd prefer it over Canadian, even with Obama in the W.H. he said. Ultra conservative uncle you have here in Utah. We haven't gotten a gun - yet. But we have food supplies, five fireplaces and plenty of venison around if need be.
    You're smarter than you look, nephew-in-law!

    Love to you both -

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    1. And considering how good he looks, that's pretty smart ; )

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  2. That was supposed to be a funny comment about being smarter than you look - of course.

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  3. Oh, yeah - you guys might enjoy these novels from Bud MacFarlane: and they're free: http://www.catholicity.com/novels/

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  4. I took it as such; although more as a compliment. I'm really not that smart. I don't know much about Canadian citizenship as compared to US (I won't lie, sometimes I think other places are worth looking into), but I hope Uncle Rob's process is smooth. I know sometimes the people who try to do it right and follow protocol are the ones who tend to get screwed over. Lots of people have never fired a weapon before. Nothing wrong with that. It definitely means he hasn't developed any 'bad habits' yet... always a good thing. Enjoy the wide-open spaces out west, can't say I'm not more than a little jealous.
    -RCT

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