The Death of America

Here lies America
Born July 4, 1776
Died June 23, 2005
Murdered as she slept
By five black-robed assailants.

Too strong? Perhaps. It may be that the country will survive, although the American Dream apparently will not. If you are a property owner, you went to bed on Wednesday night secure in your Fifth Amendment property rights, keeping the government from taking your property by eminent domain, except in cases where it is necessary for the "public good," and with appropriate compensation.

Yesterday, our black-robed masters at the Supreme Court ruled by a vote of 5-4 that we no longer have those Fifth Amendment rights, and that local governments can now take your property for solely commercial development, arguing that "increasing the property tax rolls" falls under the rubric of "public good." It is as if the Supreme Court all got together to deliberate over a big bowl of stewed prunes, then five of them went and took a great big healthy dump (often a major accomplishment for our nation's senior citizens) and then wiped their asses with the Constitution.

How ironic is it that President Bush and the Executive Branch have been extolling the virtues of an "ownership society," and now the Supreme Court (Judicial Branch) is actively working against private property ownership? Our Founding Fathers must be spinning in their graves. Indeed, if we could harness the energy from that spinning, we could probably be energy independent for the next couple of decades.

What does it all mean? Well, if you own a single-family home in a nice location, say by the beach in Connecticut, and some big developer greases the palms of the local government (city council, county commissioners, whatever), then if you refuse to sell, they can take your property and give you what THEY think is fair market value. You might get half a million, while the developer then takes your property and makes twenty or thirty million by building luxury condos on the site. You lose your home and have to move somewhere else, and that half a million you get probably won't replace it. That was probably the worst thing about this Connecticut case. And as Justice Sandra Day O'Connor noted in her blistering dissent, no property owner in America is safe any more. We are all vulnerable to being forced out by the highest bidder. This could set off the largest land grab since the Oklahoma Land Rush, only this time it would be the government doing the grabbing.

This case shows the need for either term limits or a mandatory retirement age for our unelected, unaccountable Supreme Court justices. Only Clarence Thomas is under age 65, and most of them are physically infirm; it would not be surprising to learn that there were some mental infirmities as well, due to advancing age. I would think it would take a severe case of senility for such an horrific interpretation of the Fifth Amendment. This is probably one of the worst Supreme Court rulings in my lifetime.


Don't Be Such A Dick, Durbin

Warning: Screed mode ON. Read if you dare, flee if you must.

Some Democrats continue to wonder why they lost so badly in the last election. They can't understand how anyone could have voted for Bush or any Republican. Well, it was easy to do. When it came to defending this country against terrorism, the Republicans were the only adults in the room. Putting the political leaders of the Democrat party in charge of our nation's defense would have been as irresponsible as handing a 16-year-old the keys to his daddy's liquor cabinet and Ferrari.

Exhibit A: Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, the second-ranking member of his party's delegation to the Senate. Senator Durbin, like many of his Democrat colleagues, reminds me of nothing so much as a parrot, capable of learning a few words and phrases and repeating them ad nauseam without the slightest idea of what they actually MEAN: "Hitler," "Nazi," "gulag," "Pol Pot." They know that the words mean something really, really bad, but they aren't exactly sure what. On Tuesday night, Senator Durbin read the following into the record before a nearly-empty Senate chamber:

When you read some of the graphic descriptions of what has occurred here [at Guantanamo Bay]--I almost hesitate to put them in the[Congressional] Record, and yet they have to be added to this debate. Let me read to you what one FBI agent saw. And I quote from his report:

"On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold. . . . On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor."

If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime--Pol Pot or others--that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.

How dare you, Senator Durbin? How dare you compare conditions at Guantamo Bay with the Nazi death camps, the Soviet gulag or Pol Pot's killing fields? How many millions of people have died at Guantanamo Bay? How many total? ZERO. The very comparison shows a colossal ignorance of history. Lavrenti Beria and Reinhard Heydrich would look up at you from whatever circle of Hell they currently occupy, ask, "How many millions of prisoners have you killed?" and when you told them "Zero, but we made some of them VERY uncomfortable," they would laugh at you for the rank amateur that you are.

Senator Durbin needs to visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. and maybe make a road trip to Cambodia to visit the museum there that commemorates the two million people killed by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge. He needs to look at the pictures from the liberation of the Nazi death camps by Americans at the end of World War II, he needs to re-read Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's works, and then he needs to ask himself the question: What do all of these have in common? The answer: In every case, the prisoners were systematically being starved to death. Starvation is the tool in every tyrant's toolbox. Contrast with the prisoners at Gitmo, who actually have GAINED weight while in captivity. They are probably better fed, better housed and receiving better medical care than they ever have in their lives. And then there's another question: How many people in Cuba, outside of Guantanamo Bay, even HAVE air conditioning at all? How many of our soldiers in Iraq? Damn few.

Finally, Senator Durbin needs to remember exactly who these prisoners are. One of them is the man who was believed to be the "20th hijacker" from 9/11, who was turned away by an alert Customs agent. The jihadis at Guantanamo Bay would slit Senator Durbin's throat as soon as look at him, and would ululate "Allahu akbar!' while they did it. Indeed, if not for the heroic actions of the passengers of Flight 93 on 9/11, jihadis just like those at Gitmo would have flown that plane into either the White House or the Capitol Building where Senator Durbin works. Frankly, on 9/11 and for about year thereafter, I would have had no problem if the guards at Gitmo had repeatedly Tasered the testicles of every jihadi there to get them to talk.

These prisoners are not legitimate prisoners of war covered by the Geneva Convention; they were in civilian clothes and as such could have been shot out of hand when they were captured. The fact that we didn't do that shows more loudly than Senator Durbin's windy speech that we most assuredly are not like the Nazis, the Soviets or the Khmer Rouge. And consider that many of them have been repatriated and of those, about a dozen have been recaptured, with others doubtlessly killed fighting against us. If anything, we have been too kind to them.

One last word for the Senator: Don't be such a Dick, Durbin.


Out of Sorts

Don't know why, but I've been feeling more surly, more grouchy, more curmudgeonly over the past couple of days. There are a number of possible reasons why, but it doesn't really matter which one (or ones) are the root cause. I'm just feeling out of sorts. All I want is to get June over with and get to July, since I have a week off at the beginning of next month.

I spent some time this morning reminiscing about the "good old days" at work with one of the few grizzled veterans who remain from when I started in Automation 14 years ago. It brought smiles to both our faces. The stuff we used to do was kind of juvenile, but quite entertaining. Alas, things have become dull and gray.


Arlene: Not So Bad

At least she wasn't too bad here. We got a lot of rain and a little wind the last couple of days, but it could have been worse. We've already gotten more than our normal rainfall for the entire month of June. The sun is out now, though, for the first time in about a week. Things are looking up.

My brother Karl had asked me back in April what I wanted for my birthday. Unusually for me, there was actually something in particular that I wanted. I told him he could send me the new book "1776" by David McCullough, although it wouldn't come out until late May. Well, I got the book in the mail the other day and it's really an interesting read. If you're a history buff, you'll want to read it. I really enjoyed McCullough's biographies of John Adams and Harry Truman, and this is another one to add to the list.


Annoyance Factor: 11

It was the Monday from Hell today at work. My Annoyance Factor peaked out at 10 and then went to 11. Everything that could go wrong did, starting with having to try to track down two racks that some weasel stole off of my machine, and only being able to find one of them. Neither of my dispatches went out on time. I don't like Mondays anyway, and this one was worse than most. At the end of the day, a hapless clerk from the day crew came along and tried to steal the trays that I had stockpiled on top of my racks to use to retray them. It was actually therapeutic to yell at him: "HEY!! DON'T STEAL MY TRAYS!!" He grumbled about being yelled at, but he put the trays back. I immediately went to work on retraying the racks before any of the other day crew scavengers came around. Normally I try to get the racks retrayed before the day crew arrives at 6:30, but today it just wasn't possible.


Small World

First, a little personal background: I was born in Texas and lived there until I was eight years old. My family moved around the state several times, based on my dad's military career and his teaching career after that. My last stop in Texas was Denton, where my dad finished up his Master's Degree at North Texas State University in 1968. From there, we moved on to St. Joseph, Missouri, and later to Kansas City.

Well, the other night, I was working with one of our new PTFs who is originally from Chile. We got to talking about our backgrounds, and when I mentioned that I lived in Texas as a kid, he mentioned that the first place he lived when he came to the U.S. in 1975 was: Denton, Texas, where he studied at North Texas State University on a soccer scholarship. It is, indeed, a small world. I'm not going to put the "after all" at the end of that sentence because I'd probably owe Disney royalties if I did.