Category Archives: Politics

These posts are about politics. My views tend to change from time-to-time depending on new evidence I acquire or on changes to my worldview. This is, in my opinion, an entirely healthy thing. We should always be examining what we believe to determine if it fits with reality.

Government:origin,growth& form in the United States

I received a very thoughtful Christmas gift from Kamila this year. It was a book titled “Government : its origin, growth, and form in the United States, Ohio Edition“. The book showed an amazing amount of perspective into who I am. Books are very valuable to me — particularly books of this age (printed in 1902) with regards to government.

Governement: Its origin, growth and form in the United States - Ohio EditionFirst, the book is a historical view of government in the United States. Anyone that knows me well knows this is important to me. I love history , and more specifically United States history.

Second, it was entertaining that it was an Ohio edition since that is where I grew up.

Third, I love the book’s perspective. The book still describes our founders as men with character and conviction — men who put country first. While I’m interested in truthful historical perspective, I don’t like the concentration placed solely on the negative information we can find about our founders.

For instance, I’m well aware that Ben Franklin was womanizer. I don’t overlook it. I take in Ballot insertperspective, however, with my admiration for the man. He was one of America’s biggest life-hackers in history. He was an inventor. While today might point to iPhone apps developed to improve your life, others were and still are pointing to Franklin’s inventions as aides in every day life. I also consider the fact that to the day he died many ridiculed Franklin (in spite of his obvious contribution to the country) for being an abolitionist (after owning slaves earlier in life). I admire a man who can examine his own beliefs and take difficult positions after careful introspection.

All of that points out that while I am aware of how Mr. Franklin behaved in the presence of women, I am more prone to talk about the positive. I would want me kids to emulate the positive, not the negative.

Lastly, I love this book because it demonstrates her understanding that I don’t need expensive gifts — thoughtfulness was key here. I only wish I could return that sentiment – I’m a horrible gift giver. I’ll endeavor to do better next year!

This book was the perfect gift for me. Thanks Kami!

Run-in with Beaver, PA Police Department

I’m writing after a very long and scary night in an encounter with the Beaver police department in Pennsylvania.

My dad and I attended the 10pm showing of Star Trek at the Cinemark Center Township Theater near Beaver Valley Mall. All went well until our trip home. On the way home, I took my normal exit to cut through Vanport and Midland to take my dad home in Ohio.

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Directly off of the exit, I encountered something I have never seen before. Having lived in Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Washington State, I have never encountered a “sobriety check point“. Am I the only one who has reached the age of 33 without this “pleasure”? It was a foreign concept to me so when I approached the officer and he asked me for my license, I was taken aback. I hadn’t done anything wrong, and my “sobriety” can be ascertained without my license. I looked at the officer for a moment strangely and before I could react he immediately barked, “give me your license or I’ll arrest you”. I pulled my license out and handed it to the officer reluctantly. He then asked me something, which I cannot remember exactly. The question was effectively asking why I hesitated to give him my license. The question seemed strange and obvious to me. I answered, “Have you not heard of the fourth amendment?” Obviously the officer was not happy with the answer because he put his hand on his gun, leaned in toward me and started barking at me “Your F*$%ing 4th amendment rights?! Say something again and I’ll arrest you!” The police officer went on and on for what seemed like an eternity but was likely shorter than I remember. I literally feared for my life. I was among a dozen or so “peace officers” and I feared for my life as a law-abiding citizen. For what? For answering the question that he asked. Granted, my response was in a tone that was not respectful, but it was not taunting or belligerent either. The situation was so bazaar to me that the question just seemed absurd. It would be like an officer pulling you over to ask you if you know how to drive. The obvious fact that he pulled you over would indicate your ability do drive. Therefore, you might likely respond, “Umm. Seriously?” That’s how I felt.

My dad at this point looked shocked too and we were both scared. The man was clearly out of control. I gazed at the other officers at the checkpoint. They all had a very confused look on their faces too. At this point, I was scared – not so much for me but for my dad. He has two bad knees and all I could imagine was the police pulling him from the car and slamming him to the ground – all because I answered his seemingly silly question.

I picked up my ‘mini computer’. I didn’t even care that it wasn’t recording. I just wanted to get the device out and visible. I figured the police, thinking they were possibly recorded might be enough to deter him from making an unwise decision. Worst case scenario – if I did manage to record anything that the recording might serve as evidence if anything “happened” to my dad and I. Apparently, this decision worked in my advantage. I didn’t even have to tell him the device was on or that I was recording. His actions ever so slightly changed from “Who’s your daddy now” to “just get the hell out of here.” He just handed my license back and started yelling, saying “Go ahead and say something again.” I kept my mouth shut and he said, “Just go”. So as I turned my gaze back toward the road ahead of me, I didn’t even inch forward a foot from the checkpoint before he started cussing at me and yelling. It was disturbing. This man has a gun — and is sanctioned to carry AND use one by the city. He was dangerous and frightening. This was only the beginning of a long night.

After making it through the stop, I pulled over and called 911. I told them what happened and they directed me to go to the police department in Beaver to file a report. My dad, knowing the area better than I do, advised that I go around the checkpoint a different way so I didn’t instigate that officer further. The 911 officer, still on the phone at this point, seemed to indicate that going the alternate route wasn’t a bad idea.

My dad and I drove to the Beaver police department the back way and got into town where I was greeted with a darkened police station. (see Google street view below)

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I used the telephone outside the station to contact the police. The individual on the phone asked for my name, and said someone would be there shortly to take my report. My dad then said, “They aren’t going to be happy about you reporting one of their own.” I felt this was a slight risk, but was unlikely – something that only happens in movies. Boy was I wrong.

I went back to my truck for a minute and my dad stayed on the stoop of the police station. Just as I got into my truck, an officer pulled up. I got out of the vehicle and so did the officer. We met together and I began telling him what happened, my dad chiming in occasionally with his perspective and agreement that the officer was acting recklessly. The officer was very courteous and listened intently and seemingly concerned. He was a fairly young looking guy so I wondered if he was able to take the report or had to report to someone else first. The officer started to give me his perspective on the legality of sobriety checks and the reason for being able to side-step the 4th amendment (see the previously linked Wikipedia article for more information – essentially, it was decided that violation of constitutional rights is OK because its effective… hmm). I told him that at this point I wasn’t as concerned about that as I was with the officer’s very inappropriate actions and temper at the checkpoint. The officer may normally be OK. Maybe he had a bad day. Whatever the case, I didn’t think he needed to be at that station tonight. That said, I expressed my concern that all I wanted was to file the report and go home. Just as I did, another officer pulled up and started listening from his car. The second officer, also a young guy with a shaved head, stayed in his car for some time. After I while further into my story, the officer in the car told me “You know what, If I go and get that officer and he tells me it didn’t happen, I’m going to arrest you!” At that point, I told both officers that I was fine with that and I would prefer they got the officer so he could be present while I gave the report. I also told them that I might have been able to record the incident in question and really wanted to file my report. I could suddenly sense the mood change and the officer in the car looked visibly upset. Scared what may happen, I told the officer that I may have uploaded the recording already. I didn’t want them thinking that if they took the device, they could make it go away – and therefore the problem too.

The officer in the car said, “Go ahead and record me and put it on YouTube!” Based on his facial expression and the tone with which he said it, I thought he was being serious. I said “really?” “Yeah,” he said, “Put it up on YouTube. You’ll be arrested for wire fraud.” I then realized he was not serious at all. He was trying to threaten me. He got out of the car and kept saying, “go ahead and record me. But you can’t record anyone without their consent.” I said, “As far as I understand, you can record anything that is out in the public without consent. Reporters do it all the time. He said, “How much do you want to bet?” I said, “Well, nothing because unsanctioned gambling IS illegal, but I still contend recording in public is not.” At this point, I hadn’t even acknowledged that I HAD ACTUALLY recorded anything. I simply indicated that I might have been able to – but was uncertain yet. So I pulled the device out again and asked, “You did say I can record you then?” He said “No. I didn’t say that.” He changed his story — a flat-out lie. I asked him, “How can I even trust you to give you a report if you are already lying to me?”

At this point, another car pulled up and the bald-headed officer said, “There’s the chief of police right there! We can ask him!” I said, “Great, let’s go talk to him.” So I started walking toward the chief and the bald-headed officer started shouting, “Don’t say anything, he’s recording this whole thing!” I never affirmed or denied it to the captain or anyone. The captain then started concentrating on my device despite my request to file a report. He didn’t care about the report. He wanted that device away from me. He kept demanding it from me. “Give me that phone. I want to see if it’s recording.” “No!” I exclaimed. “I never said it was recording, HE did,” as I pointed at the bald officer. The captain said, “Well, give me the device, I want to see. You have turned something very simple into something very difficult.” I thought, why was it *me* making this difficult? I just wanted to file a report. They were the ones getting very interested in what devices I had and making the issue about me, rather than simply taking a report. Were citizens that used to rolling over and giving up their rights? Am I really the only person they’ve ever seen who has indicated they had rights? Do they really not care?

I simply held my device and occasionally looked at it. I was afraid at this point. I realized it was the Serriff’s office against my dad and me. The only defense I had was that the police had no idea what technological capability my device had. They also weren’t certain if I had uploaded a recording or streamed it somewhere that others could see. They weren’t certain if my device was a phone and I had someone listening/watching/reading to an open call/video feed/text-to-speech for an witness. That device felt like my only defense against what was increasingly looking like a completely corrupt police department. “Give me the phone,” the captain said assumingly. “No. See, if I WERE actually recording you, and it is actually against the law, I have a right to not turn that over to you and incriminate myself. That is the 5th amendment.” At this point, another few officers had shown up and had circled. There were 6 surrounding me. Other officers were now looking in the windows of my truck and running my license plates. They were just looking for a reason to arrest me. One of the additional officers on duty said, “You think because you read a few law books you know what’s going on? It’s called wire fraud in PA. You can record video, but you can’t record audio. I need to see what you are recording“, insisted the captain. The officers were drawing increasingly close, and had surrounded my dad and I. Some had their hands on their guns. Others were standing very threateningly – like a cobra ready to strike. OK, I’ve seen “Cops” and other shows. I see how these things go down. I was ready for someone to tackle me to the ground at any moment and arrest me. They would then “lose” my device to make sure there was no proof and then I’d be stuck on defense rather than offense. I was playing out every scenario in my head and I kept thinking my poor father was standing in harm’s way. I was still scared they would take him down hard and he just couldn’t handle that right now.

So after repeated attempts to take my device, the captain said, “OK, let’s go! We are done here.” I asked “What about my report?” And they just ignored me and got in their cars. They weren’t even going to take my report. My dad and I went back to our truck. The police stuck around for a minute until the realized I wasn’t going anywhere just yet. I made a phone call to 911 again and expressed my concern that we were going to be harassed or worse on our way out of town. This was a rather valid concern at this point because the police had ‘driven off’ but had circled back around. Despite their obvious attempts to hide – turning off their lights and creeping into position so I wouldn’t see them, I could see them placing themselves in strategic positions. The 911 dispatcher gave me the number for the state highway patrol. I called that number and was told that the officer would call me back. As I waited for a return call, the police officers repositioned themselves. One even threateningly put himself directly in the alley in front of me as if to say, “go ahead and pull out, I dare you.”

The state trooper on the line was very helpful by providing me with some information, but he was unable to come help me in what I perceived to be a dangerous situation. So, I hung up and put my phone down in the console. I knew there are anti-cellphone laws in the area, so I didn’t even want it in my hand where they could say I was on it. I pulled out and drove down toward Bridgewater. It was just a mile or so away to get out of Beaver’s jurisdiction in that direction. My dad and I ended up driving completely around the jurisdiction of Beaver police department out of fear.

I have never been afraid of anything like this in my life. I stand up when I feel it is necessary. When I was a child in school, Edmund Burke’s quote had a profound impact on my life: “all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” I wasn’t grandstanding for my own amusement. I wasn’t trying to cause problems. I really just wanted to go home after watching a movie. However, this situation just got increasingly worse as more and more testosterone and abused power was added to the group. There was strength in numbers, but fortunately for me, there was also strength in using fear of the unknown and media scrutiny to keep me busy. I fully believe that if I had not had my device, or had the police had any certainty that I wasn’t recording them, I would have been in jail or dead — perhaps my dad too.

From our childhoods, we are told to cooperate with the police. However, I have always had distrust for law enforcement officers. Growing up, I was told about the police scandals in my little home town and knew that a badge isn’t necessarily a reason to trust someone. This certainly hasn’t helped the cause. Tonight I was threatened by an officer at a sobriety check point because I wasn’t familiar with them. I was directed into a bad situation by a 911 operator. I was threatened again by a gang from the police department – including the chief himself. I was told to give up my rights, that I had none. Even if I wanted to record the police officers, apparently it IS illegal to do so in PA (seriously, they can record you, but you can’t record them). I witnessed a police officer change his story to protect himself and others around him when he thought he was being recorded. The chief of police wouldn’t even take my report and in fact, threatened me instead of helping me. So the police are out to stop drunken driving (an admirable act), but were more than willing to break laws, abuse their power, and make threats to protect a man who was just as dangerous as a drunk driver – if not more so.

The police cry foul when citizens don’t help them out. Perhaps this is why. It has taken me three hours to write this up as my hands are still shaking and my heart is still literally racing from the experience. I still fear retaliation or reaction from them in some way. How are my dad and I to react?

Is Pennsylvania so corrupt that they give you means for the average citizen to defend themselves? What is a person to do if they feel their life is threatened and there is no other way to prevent harm other than to record the officer? What is a person to do when the police department is so corrupt that they won’t even take a report against one of their officers. I’m afraid to even go in to file the report now. I’m actually securing an attorney to handle the matter because I feel I have no choice. Had the police just taken my report, I would have been happier and there would have been no need for me to protect myself. Hell, they could have thrown the report away afterward. I wouldn’t have known any better. The point is, I didn’t make this a big deal. The police just gave me no choice but to make it one because they wanted to swing their authority around for absolutely no reason at all.

Please tell me what you think.

Update (May 9, 2009 – 9:34PM EST):

I’ve been doing some more reading and have found some more resources. First, I found the location to contact for public records. I will be requesting transcripts of the 911 calls, videos from the police vehicles, correspondence and public records about the officers involved last night. I also found that the Pennsylvania State Attorney General has a Public Corruption Unit. I will be contacting them on Monday to file a formal complaint and ask for an investigation.

Update (May 10, 2009 – 12:03AM EST):

In my previous version of this post, I posted that this was the Sheriff’s department. After doing some investigation and talking with my dad to confirm, it was the local Beaver, PA police, and not Beaver County police. Beaver is the county seat so the local police and Sherriff’s office are on the same street within blocks of each other. My sincerest apologies for the misunderstanding.

Update (May 10, 2009 – 1:00AM EST):
I was checking out Google Street view and found this ‘grab’ to be a bit humorous. That’s right, Google street view cams drove right by a speed trap on their way into Beaver from Bridgewater.

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OT: Bank transaction privacy is reporting a story about the use of financial transactions being used to track down terrorism.  Of course, our anti-American partners at MSN are, of course, lapping up the story like a dog to a toilet bowl. 

The article states:

According to their rules, any group of transactions totaling $5,000 or more that “is not the sort in which the particular customer would normally be expected to engage” can cause enough suspicion to create a SAR [Suspicious Activity Report].

Having engaged in more than my fair share of transactions last year that involved more than $5000 on a weekly basis, and having had my fair share of “irregular” bank transaction requests, I can state that I more than likely have one or more of these reports generated about me and suprisingly enough, I’m not cowering in a corner waiting for the feds to bust down my door.  Now, if I had engaged in any illegal activity, I am sure I’d be singing a different tune. I also appreciate the fact that our government is trying to track possible terrorist activities and I’m thankful that we have a President who is willing to do what is necessary to meet that need.

It seems to me I remember some certain “Jersey Girls” complaining:

I watched my husband murdered live on TV. . . . At any point in time the casualties could have been lessened, and it seems to me there wasn’t even an attempt made.

Among other things, they charge that nothing was done in a meaningful timeframe to save anyone’s life, that the delay was on purpose, and that [President] George Bush was responsible for the deaths of three thousand people.

I actually can understand the sentiment and complaints. I can even sympathize with the rationale, but these same women are complaining when we do try to gather intelligence.  Democrats are proud to bring up the intelligence failures of 9/11, but are also quick to leak intelligence to ensure failure again in the future — and they wonder why they lost the Presidential election as well as the House and Senate in 2004?

Now, I’m certain I’ll be attacked for taking this stand, but I want to get one thing straight. I don’t believe that the government should be so involved in our lives either.  I think that we have let the government etch itself too deeply into our way of life. Let’s not forget that the government was never intended to control so much of our lives.  Instead, we’ve perverted it to do so and now we are paying the consequences of those decisions.  Socialism has crept into our society years after we supposedly defeated it.  We’ve put the burdon of our every-day lives onto the government and now that the government is taking what we have given them over the years, we are going to complain? 

You cannot have it both ways. Either you have a government that is in charge of distributing wealth, protecting citizenry, giving “free” health care to “everyone”, establishing what is moral and what is not, literally robbing from the not-so-rich and giving to the not-so-poor, educating our children (if you can call it that) and caring for our every need, or they can be a thin layer of government that conforms to the will of the people and doesn’t have the ability or business of prying into our every day lives.

Protests in Seattle: anti-communist?

The news has been reporting about China’s President Hu visiting Seattle, its businesses and, of course, Bill Gates’ home. What wasn’t widely publicised was the number of protesters in the area. Monday night, I had to run back up to my office and grab some paperwork I left in my desk. On my way up there, I saw several protesters at the corner of 40th and 156th in Redmond. Their banners decried alleged ill treatment of Falun Gong supporters, and, of all things, communism. Having only been in the Puget Sound area for a short while, I find myself wondering how this can be. They don’t call this side of the continental US the ‘left coast’ for nothing. That puts us square in the center of the pro-socialism crowd. So again, I ask, what are these people complaining about? This is what this side of the country yearns for — complete government control over what you can and can’t say at what time, in the presence of what company and with what tone. If government were a drug and communism were crack, socialism would definitely be cocain — the perfect gatway drug to ease you into the rest of your useless life as a crack adict. So I say, put your banners down and bring peace to this riddled puget sound area. Quit rocking my boat! The government of China knows what is best for their people and has every right to tell people what they can and cannot do with their money, their children, their weapons, and, of course, their voice. And don’t you worry with programs like social security, medicare, medicaid, welfair, unemployment, national endowment for the arts, Department of Education, FCC, minimum wage, income tax, tarrifs, gas taxes, sin taxes and the like, you will never have to worry about forming your own opinions on what is an appropriate income at retirement, what drugs are best for you, being responsible at work, painting something that someone is willing to pay to look at, what your children are and are not allowed to learn, what your radio DJs are and are not allowed to say, how much crack a single mother of four can afford to buy while holding down a part time job at McDonalds, how much you are allowed to earn for yourself, what you are allowed to buy from other countries, where you can afford to travel, or what habits infringe on another person’s rights so much that you have to pay extra for the right to continue it. Isn’t socialism fun?

What part of conserve gas do you not understand?

Forgive the non-technical post and the language, but this has me a bit upset.

There is nothing I hate more than to see millionaires complain about money problems. NASCAR is apparently having some difficulty with their races due to the recent gas hike. My favorite quote was:

“We also are seeing it in our aircraft. Our charter company, because we charter our team planes, has given us an extra charge directly due to the raise in fuel costs.”

Well boo-f ‘ ing-who.

School Security:Blaim the kids & send them to jail

So now you can now send kids to prison and charge them with felonies when your security is so lax that they can waltz in. Here’s the long story.

Here’s the short story.

A school handed out Apple iBooks to 600 students in a school. These laptops had various “security” features on them to keep them from accessing parts of the internet, or installing anything. They also had monitoring software that allowed a school administrator to see what was being viewed on the student’s laptop. I appologize that I don’t know if the software was custom made or if it was a known package. In any case, the password used to bypass these features was foolishly taped to the back of the laptops.

Using this password, the kids bypassed the software so they could download iChat to talk to each other. They also reportedly turned the tables on their school by monitoring the administrator’s desktops instead of the other way around.

This is typical childhood behavior. Kids are currious and given the opportunity to explore, they are going to do so. Given a challenge that they “cannot do x”, they will do x, y and z to prove you wrong. As the kids pointed out, and I oddly enough agree with the kids for once — the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. I’ll go one step further to say the punishment doesn’t fit the right people. Those involved with the “security” of these systems need to be shot. We’ve had examples of disobience to simple rules that date back to Adam and Eve and a simple piece of fruit. What makes you think that history will somehow change itself and kids will simply obey an order? If they are curious, and you leave the door open enough to fit their fingers through, they will find a way in.

In my mind, the correct response to this would be to give them a slap on the wrist for the disobedience, put the kids in some sort of programming course , nurture their natural abilities, sack the programmers who wrote the systems to begin with, and charge the kids with designing a better system. To me, that’s education!

Where’s the liberal/conservative outrage now?

Things I haven’t heard on Air America and America Right that I thought for sure I would:

“Newsweek lied, people died”

“Guns don’t kill people, Newsweek Kills People”

I guess I shouldn’t be suprised. Both republicans and democrats have tricked most of the nation into taking one side or the other without question. Citizens don’t seem to be able to find fault when there is definite blame to be placed. They can’t give credit, when there is definite kudos to be delivered. There is no co-operation for fear that the “other side” might appear to be making progress.

Why in the world can we not disagree civily anymore? Why does everything have to be a political tool? As intelligent citizens of this nation, can we not at least shame ourselves into seeing things for what they are? Newsweek went to print with this story because of this political hatred that has been spread from one end of the nation to the other. There was a day and age when common sense dictated that although there might be a story somewhere, some stories just shouldn’t be told for the sake of the nation. In this case, it was a story that was just flat out wrong, and all because an entire news organization is hell bent on killing this nation in favor of increasing a subscriber base.

This nation belongs to every citizen herein. Can we not find common ground and attack those areas that we agree on and forgive those that we cannot? I’m not asking you to drop your leftist/rightwing agendas, but why does everything have to be a federal law? Why can’t we let the states and local municipalities decide what is right for their communities? It leaves far more people happy than not. Its what the framers of our government intended.

I feel like I’m rambling, and believe me, I could ramble forever on this topic. But I won’t. I’ll just post this message as a prayer to the nation’s citizenry that we stop the bickering, and start fixing things that desperately need our attention.

Minutemen Incident — So funny! is still set as my home page. This morning there was an article posted that had me chuckling to myself because of the picture at the top of the article.  It was a picture of an ILLEGAL IMIGRANT holding up a T-Shirt. I will never call these people “undocumented workers” so people can help you forget the first thing they do is disrespect our country by breaking the law to get here and disrespecting the many people who stand in line to come here the legal way.

In any case, the funny part was what the T-Shirt said:  “Bryan Barton caught an illegal alien and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.”

I don’t know why it made me laugh so much, but I thought I would share it.