Writing on the Double Yellow Line

Militant moderate, unwilling to concede any longer the terms of debate to the strident ideologues on the fringe. If you are a Democrat or a Republican, you're an ideologue. If you're a "moderate" who votes a nearly straight party-ticket, you're still an ideologue, but you at least have the decency to be ashamed of your ideology. ...and you're lying in the meantime.

Location: Illinois, United States

Friday, May 29, 2009

Hogan’s Heroes, Revisited

Hogan’s Heroes, Revisited
© 2009 Ross Williams

With the change of Administration came a renewed call for trials and charges and habeas corpus and Due Process for the Detainees [incorrectly termed “Prisoners of War”] at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station. Those making these renewed calls are those who wish to advertise that they know nothing about the applicable international conventions which apply, and wish to do so as loudly as possible in public.

Typically, this would serve only to embarrass themselves to a wide audience. However – and unfortunately – the audience in question knows no more about it than the intellectual ninnies calling for civil rights to be lain at the feet of those who, until captured, were trying to kill US soldiers in a war zone.

Several things have been going on with this subject and it’s painfully obvious that no one – particularly none of those in authority or claiming authority – is willing to acknowledge anything outside their own narrow agenda. Perhaps this is not so surprising, but it is still annoying as hell. I’m getting more than a little tired of having to point out how not only is the emperor naked, but so are those who have ever sought to replace him.

Get some clothes on, all-a yuz. It’s chilly. And hit the gym, wujja?

At any rate. We embarked on a war in Afghanistan in late ’01 in response to the paramilitary agents calling themselves Al Qaida and residing in Afghanistan who undertook acts of war and quasi-war against us on 9-11-01. Because the putative government of Afghanistan – the Taliban – would not assist the rest of the world in locating and detaining those residents of Afghanistan responsible for the acts of war as would otherwise be required, the system of recognized international protocols commonly called International Law defined those al Qaida agents to be the responsibility of, and effectively agents of, the nation of Afghanistan.

Ergo, because Afghanistan was the refuge for a paramilitary group who undertook trans-national acts of war, and because Afghanistan refused to help find and prosecute that paramilitary group, the government of Afghanistan is assumed responsible for that paramilitary group and became complicit in their actions[1].

So we invaded Afghanistan.

The next thing that happened is – not surprisingly – the folks in charge of Afghanistan and the paramilitary group they helped fought back. The Taliban and al Qaida were not going to go quietly into that good night, and they shot back at us. When cornered, or when they ran out of bullets and RPGs, though, they gave up. Quit. Raised their hands and turned themselves in. They became our prisoners.

Just one wrinkle, though. According to the internationally recognized protocols – which are, once again, what we call International Law – the folks who fought back against our invasion were not, by and large, following the rules of how to play soldier. Those rules require that if you’re going to play soldier, you either:
1. Wear the uniform of your formal military force, or
2. If you are not part of a formal military force but wish to play soldier anyway, you must either [among other things] wear a badge or marking “recognizable at a distance” to indicate that you are not a civilian, or you must be part of a spontaneously formed invasion resistance force which carries its weapons “openly”.

The wrinkle is that neither the Taliban nor the al Qaida combatants did either one of those things.

…and it should probably be described here why these particular international protocols – in this specific case, the Geneva Conventions – were written in the first place. The reason was to make war somewhat more civilized, by making it easier to tell soldier [and those playing soldier] from civilian and thus make it a little safer for civilians caught in a war zone. If you were a civilian playing soldier and you didn’t follow the rules requiring you to identify yourself, then you are instead making it more dangerous for civilians in the war zone – for soldiers have the right to shoot at anyone shooting at them, soldier or otherwise. And if you make it more dangerous for civilians by refusing to follow the rules for playing soldier, the Geneva Conventions were written to discourage the practice be excluding those persons from the safeguards and protections that the Geneva Conventions otherwise guaranteed.

In other words, the Geneva Conventions themselves say that if you don’t play war properly, the rules of “fair” and “humane” treatment do not apply to you.

The Taliban and al Qaida combatants were caught fighting out of uniform and, because their existence predated the start of the war and could not therefore be considered a “spontaneous” militia, they were also caught out of required marking “recognizable at a distance”. This means they were indistinguishable from civilians in the war zone. This means they made it more dangerous for legitimate Afghan civilians. And then we captured some of them.

Let’s read the actual GenCon[2] that applies here, the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. Article 4 of this GenCon describes who qualifies for the protections under this convention and, by exclusion, those who do not. The highlights:
· Para. A, subpar. 1: uniformed armed forces
· A 2: militias: “… having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance”
· A 3: armed forces even of nations not officially recognized
· A 4: military contractors [i.e., me]
· A 5: air or maritime crews not covered under other treaties
· A 6: spontaneously-formed militias which carry their arms openly

· B 1: ex-military who have tried or may try to rejoin the military
· B 2: any of the above who seek neutral country to escape the war

That’s it.

Nowhere in these critical definitions is the inclusion of pre-existing paramilitary groups who fail to identify themselves as civilians playing soldier. According to this Geneva Convention, the protections granted by it do not apply to them. They are making armed conflict more dangerous for civilians caught in the war zone and the protocols of International Law actively try to discourage this behavior by excluding them from humane treatment.

The standard rebuttal to this is to cite the third paragraph of Article 2, which says: “Although one of the Powers in conflict may not be a party to the present Convention, the Powers who are parties thereto shall remain bound by it in their mutual relations.” Which means that the United States is still required to abide by the terms of the Convention regardless of whether its enemies do or not.

…to which: we were. The Convention defines only certain types of combatants to have the protections guaranteed, and we were following the Convention by denying protections to those who do not meet the qualifications for Prisoner of War. With specific reference to the war in Afghanistan: Taliban and al Qaida combatants are not “prisoners of war” and we are under no obligation – according to the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War – to treat them as if they were.

In point of fact, we would, instead, be acting contrary to this GenCon were we to apply POW protections to those who don’t qualify.

The second quibble commonly made[3] is that Article 3 states: “…Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely … the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever…: Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture; … Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment; The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.”

Phwew! This, to these imbeciles, means that irrespective of who can be classified a proper POW by the terms of the Convention, the protections of POW must be applied despite the wording of the Convention itself which says otherwise.

That is simply preposterous. This idiotic interpretation of the GenCon is based, in no small part, upon the willful and deliberate elimination of the first sentence of the Article[4] cited: “In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:…”

Article 3 applies to civil wars and civil wars only … in nations which have signed onto the Geneva Conventions. The US invasion of Afghanistan is not a civil war. “Common Article 3” does not apply. Article 4 definitions declare that the combatants captured in the Afghan War are not POWs and not, therefore, granted protections.

So, if they don’t qualify as legitimate Prisoners of War, what is their International Law disposition properly to be?

Technically, the IntLaw definition which most closely describes these people is mercenary:[5]
Article 47.-Mercenaries
1. A mercenary shall not have the right to be a combatant or a prisoner of war.
2. A mercenary is any person who:
(a) Is specially recruited locally or abroad in order to fight in an armed conflict;
(b) Does, in fact, take a direct part in the hostilities;
(c) Is motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a Party to the conflict, material compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar ranks and functions in the armed forces of that Party;
(d) Is neither a national of a Party to the conflict nor a resident of territory controlled by a Party to the conflict;
(e) Is not a member of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict; and
(f) Has not been sent by a State which is not a Party to the conflict on official duty as a member of its armed forces.

A mercenary does not have the right to be a POW. …interesting…

And going down through the list of requirements of mercenary-dom:

Both the Taliban and al Qaida were recruited locally and abroad to fight in armed conflict; the Taliban, to fight against the “Northern Alliance”, al Qaida to fight against American-led crusading.

Both Taliban and al Qaida combatants actually participated in that [eventually merged] conflict.

Both are motivated by private gain – 72 virgins in paradise is, to their worldview, every bit as material as a paycheck; and since there were no legitimate armed forces of Afghanistan in the first place, any non-theological remuneration is more than a comparable uniformed combatant would get – anything is more than nothing.

The Taliban and al Qaida both are largely foreign transplants into Afghanistan; Taliban coming in following the evacuation of the Soviet forces to take advantage of the power vacuum in order to install a fundamentalist Islamic regime, and al Qaida arrived in the years after that because the territory suddenly became a safe haven from which to plan and plot anti-western, anti-US paramilitary activities.

Neither are members of any state military.

Neither were sent by another state.

They are mercenaries. They are “illegal” combatants insofar as this protocol of International Law says they “do not have the right” to be combatants, and if captured, they do not have the right to be POWs.

If they do not have the right to be POWs, and are not rightful combatants, then why is there so much fuss about us treating them impolitely?

Because most of what we know about International Law comes from Hogan’s Heroes reruns.[6] Hogan could always stymie the Nazis by waggling his finger and invoking the Geneva Convention, thus causing the Gestapo Major Hochstetter’s blood pressure to skyrocket and Klink to issue his withering and weary cry of exasperation, “Colonel Hoga-a-an…”

Ultimately though, on the point at specific issue here – these captured combatants are “illegal” combatants and were called “detainees” instead of prisoners of war – the United States was entirely correct in its initial claims. Using the very plain[7] interpretation of the applicable pieces of International Law, the vast majority of those captured in the Afghan war and sent to Guantanamo were outside the protections of the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War; they were more properly defined as mercenaries and thus not “rightful” combatants in the first place – which also denies them POW protections; and the criticisms of US policy over the terminology and treatment are baseless, requiring whole sections of international treaties to be voided.

On other issues, though, the official US position was based upon moral grandstanding and upon no legal footing whatsoever: the desire to charge these captured combatants with US crimes.

At issue here is a very basic requisite of US and International Law: no ex post facto laws are allowed. The crime of “terrorism” was created by an outraged Congress after these people were captured and sent to Cuba. They were then to be tried for committing these crimes for actions they took prior to being captured. This is both an IntLaw foul as well as US law foul. Can’t do that.

Yes, yes, I know. We were all so very indignant that the world’s most visible and damaging acts of terrorism to date were taken against us on our own soil; that is enough to make anyone’s blood boil. But you gotsta follow the rules. It is enough that we have captured a whole bunch of mercenaries to whom we owe, under International Law, no particular politeness.

That wasn’t good enough, though. The Administration wanted to rub salt into their wounds, add the insult of war-criminal conviction to the injury of being captured in a holy war against crusaders and, by being captured, denied martyrdom. So Congress back-dated a brand new law to try the “illegal combatant” detainees using procedures which no US or international legal authority would support.[8]

…and the Administration was surprised as all get-out that the perennially tear-stained sympathy-fops among us, decked out in their self-loathing hair shirts, would object in every legal forum in the country until they found a judge who knew as little about international rules of war as they themselves did[9].

The perennially tear-stained sympathy-fops tried every manner of “legal” argument as well, in attempt to find any kind of story that would resonate with an ignorant judge. Among the arguments used were:

1] The Administration tried to sidestep American Constitutional protections of those in its custody by placing the “prisoners of war” in a non-US territory so as to escape US jurisdiction. Sorry, guys; Guantanamo Bay Naval Station on the island of Cuba is US territory. Stop listening to Castro.

2] The fake “prisoners of war” are entitled to have charges filed against them, and legal representation to dispute those changes, and just because they were captured – it says so in the Constitution. Sorry, guys; hostile actions between nations [or pseudo-nations, in the case of al Qaida] are governed by international law, and international law only. The international law which we signed onto and agreed to abide by says so. Further, no charges are necessary in order to detain a combatant, and any legal representation is only warranted if they would be charged with specific crimes committed “as a prisoner of war”.[10]

3] These pseudo-POWs are to be tried in civilian courts with legal rights afforded to US citizens … by virtue of the fact that it is the US which captured and is now holding them. Sorry, guys; International Law says otherwise.[11] Those captured in hostile action are subject to the capturing nation’s Military Law.

4] Sadly, et cetera.

Even more sadly, not one of the legal arguments made against the Administration’s proceedings were based on the only sustainable legal argument available: neither applicable international law nor US law support the concept of writing a law against terrorism after the fact with which to charge paramilitarist combatants.

In any event, the wet panties at the ACLU eventually found a judge as dim and ignorant as they were, and got a federal court to stop the legal proceedings against the detainees based on their potpourri of boiled gasbag assertions. The Administration, naturally, appealed the decision and the USSC put their political thumbs in the pie.

The most notable plum the High Nine pulled out of this nursery rhyme case relied upon a grossly distorted, dishonest and legally insupportable reading of Article 3 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. They completely removed the qualification that Article 3 applies only to “armed conflict not of an international character”, which very clearly does not apply in this case, and thereupon wildly extrapolated the whole range of Convention protections to those the Convention excludes from protection, and to whom other conventions specifically deny those protections.

In other words: the USSC ruled that International Law is subordinate to US Law, and required us to treat as POWs those which International Law says are not POWs. The US acting high-n-mighty and self-superior. Who’d-a thunk it?[12]

Well, they are the USSC, after all; they have the authority to define how the US interprets its obligations under international treaties … irrespective of how logically strained or legally insupportable those interpretations may be.

So … fine. The “detainees” at Gitmo are now POWs. Which means that the US’s formal obligations to them are defined by post-Article 4 provisions of the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, which include the following:
· The POWs cannot be charged with crimes not defined at the time “said act” was committed – article 99.
· Absent criminal charge for judicial proceeding, the POWs do not need, as they are not otherwise entitled to, lawyers – article 105.
· The POWs can be held for an indefinite length of time, the end point of which is “the cessation of active hostilities” – article 118.

To say that this whole thing has been bungled from the beginning by every stooge involved is an insult to stooges. And we are now seeking the extremely myopic policy of releasing the Prisoners of War [previously and properly termed “detainees”] under the false notion that a nation – specifically the US – cannot detain those who tried to kill their soldiers during a war.

Arguably, this whole thing came about in the first place because the US tried to backdoor its collective righteous indignation into the crime of painting a target on America, and how dare anyone do that. When professional panty-wetters took exception to prosecution of this crime being used in the name of the United States, instead of arguing that the new “crime” was anti-procedural gimcrackery, they scatter-gunned a legal response which threw the whole thing into spiraling nonsense.

At this point, little can bring it back to a sound legal footing except those who untracked it in the first place with their “crime of terrorism” lunacy; they need to throw up as many legal roadblocks as the ACLU did and claim that the charges levied against the newly-defined POWs were improper, and have all legal renderings from the first such charge voided.

If the men detained in Gitmo are mercenaries as International Law says, then go through the proper mechanisms of defining them as such and summarily execute them – as we are entitled under that International Law to do.

If these people are, instead, to be considered Prisoners of War, then they get no lawyers and the ACLU needs to go away; further, they are also to be confined until the end of the war in Afghanistan – whenever that may be – and the ACLU needs to shut up about their indefinite detention.

But this wholesale redefinition of US and International Law to suit the whim of the day – no matter whose whim it is – has gotta stop. Makes us look arrogant and self-righteous to the rest of the world. … as if we think our rules are more important than everyone else’s and we’re making it up as we go along.


[1] A similar situation arose in South America in 2008, in which a paramilitary group in Ecuador crossed the Colombian border to undertake acts of quasi-war against Colombia. Columbia notified Ecuador that the raid took place; Ecuador said “Sorry, we can’t help you,” and Colombia thereupon sent its own military across the Ecuadoran border to kick some paramilitary ass. Ecuador complained to the UN and every reporter it could find about the Colombian border incursion, and while the reporters dutifully took notes about the US lapdog Colombia being rude to Ecuador, the UN said, “Too bad; you needed to either stop that paramilitary group before they raided Colombia, or turned them over to Colombia when asked. Doing neither makes you responsible for them.” Cuz that’s the way it works.
[2] http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/91.htm
[3] This argument was made in front of the USSC, which repeatedly cited “Common Article 3” in order to upend the heretofore universal interpretation of this GenCon and which effectively obliterated Article 4 of the thing. Legislation from the bench?
[4] Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, article 3
[5] http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/93.htm
[6] “We” does not include me, by the way. But unfortunately, it appears to include many of those who argued ineffectively in front of the USSC on behalf of the US posture taken – which was entirely consistent with both our previous enactments of these GenCons as well as the universally recognized international interpretations of them. “We” also, unfortunately, includes nearly all of those who argued against the US position – and who continue to do so – for it requires wholesale redactions to the protocols involved in order to get the strained interpretations they wish to arrive at.
[7] Not to mention universal
[8] Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, article 99
United States Constitution, Art I, Sect 9
[9] Are your ears burning, ACLU?
[10] Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, article 105
[11] Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, article 84
[12] …and wasn’t that why al Qaida attacked us in the first place? For presuming to be better than everyone else? Why, I believe it was.

Monday, May 11, 2009


I Know Why the Free-Range Cock Crows
© 2009 Ross Williams

Roosters are mean.

They are territorial.

They are aggressive.

Worse, they are single-minded aggressive[1].

They are arrogant, have no discernable memory and no known ability to comprehend reality.

It is only because we want to have some protection from critters for our hens while they roam the yard during the day that the rooster we have has not yet died a violent and bloody death, though it’s been close a few times. The thing has drawn my blood twice, my oldest daughter’s once. It’s stalked my wife on several occasions, and made the mistake of ruffling its feathers at my son – whose rooster it is, by the way – at which time my son took to it with an aluminum baseball bat.

My wife has repeatedly smacked it with the kennel-cleaning shovel. Both my daughters have kicked it, never gracefully, but my youngest runs from it when she’s alone with it in the yard. I routinely punt it across the pasture whenever it comes within boot-swinging range. My son and I have taken to periodic pre-emptive strikes whenever it goes into pre-attack posture just to keep the damned thing humble for a few hours, and our farm-sitter refuses to sit the farm unless we catch it and cage it.

We have saved its neck a dozen or more times from our two bigger dogs who got the stray notion through their wind-swept skulls that they wanted a fresh-kill chicken dinner. I feed it daily before work, and half the time I am thanked by being skulked from behind with its neck feathers fluffed out looking for an opening to slash my leg into ribbons with its spurs. …for the third time.

It refuses to learn that if it would just strut around the yard acting as the front-line deterrent to nosy cats and the occasional coyote but otherwise leaving folks be that we would also leave it alone like we do the hens. Instead, it must act belligerent to any who cross its path which, mostly, are the folks who feed it and save its occasional life.

It has a compulsion to – literally – get its ass kicked by those who are bigger and stronger and have the opposable thumbs necessary to hold shovels and baseball bats as weapons. When pushed or annoyed enough, we accommodate it, and chase it into and through the barn to the pasture where, in a panic, it dodges this way and that to avoid being punted. Sometimes it can’t avoid the boot and ends up flapping and sprawling several feet away in a panicked, clucking heap.

Does it learn? No it does not.

And after each skirmish, after each encounter, it turns around, shakes it’s feathers down, struts off and crows[2]. Loudly.

It is very clearly declaring that it has won the battle. It may have drawn no blood, it may have been booted twenty feet, it may have lost two dozen feathers after being doubled off the wall, it may have no obvious, tangible signs of victory, but by god! it won.

The measure of its winning? it’s still alive. It wasn’t given the brutal death that nature would dictate for it had it attacked, say, a fox, and that many semi-natural people would assume for it, so … therefore … it is the clear victor.

And being so victorious and all, it’s going to let the whole world within earshot know about it. So it crows.

We’ll go out to the pasture to bring a horse in for the farrier, the rooster could be a hundred feet away; we leave the pasture with the horse… the rooster won again! It crows.

We’ll go out to the garden to pick asparagus and the rooster could be nowhere in sight. We go back in the house… the rooster won again! It crows.

It’s almost as if its existence is validated by these battles, real and imaginary. To those unaware of these barnyard dynamics, the rooster is merely making noise; it’s what they do. To those who’ve lived it, fed the cute little chicks[3] from pups, and watched them grow to pullet-dom only to have the two males fight incessantly until one was dead and have the victor turn its attention to every other bipedal life form around it, the rooster is bragging about routinely getting its ass kicked.

Which is funny as hell, cuz there’s no similarity between reality and this bird’s perception of it. It helps that our egos, not to mention our lives, are not affected by idiot poultry posturing, as well.

On the barn floor, though, a rooster who brags like this will draw the attention of every other rooster around. This is why, when there were two roosters in our flock, only one of them crowed. Only one was allowed to crow. It started out being the leghorn, since it was the first to grow up. It was big and strong and repeatedly smacked down the smaller, lighter rhode island red. And crowed about it afterward.

But the red soon grew up itself, and though staying smaller, it became quicker and scrappier, and didn’t like the leghorn crowing all the time. One day I came home from work to hear the red crowing and I looked in the chicken house to discover that the two boys had redecorated – painted the walls with the leghorn’s blood. I found Foghorn under the chicken house, humbled, covered in dried blood and plotting revenge.

…which it attempted to get many times. Every once in a while we’d hear the leghorn crowing[4] and knew that the power balance had shifted once again, but it never lasted for long. The red would soon retake the throne and the leghorn would be silenced. It was silenced for good one cold spring day a few years ago, probably after another of its failed coup attempts.

If we were roosters, we’d have the same visceral reaction every time the remaining rooster strutted around crowing in all its 8-pound glory. We would not simply respond to its aggression or pre-empt its aggressive posturing. We would be obliged to seek it out and kick its ass every time we heard it, for any reason. For that is nature. The real world works that way[5].

And the real world does not simply work that way among arrogant, bombastic birds, either.

Dogs, cats, horses – our two horses have a very clear winner and a very clear loser as well. And people work this way, too, though most of us seem too pious to acknowledge it.

I’ll come in from the pasture in the afternoon, listen to that bird shooting off its mouth, and some days I’ll very distinctly hear Hugo Chavez bragging about how he is defending South American independence from US imperialism[6] … by sending all his oil to Texas because he doesn’t have the knowledge or resources to refine it himself.

Other times I’ll clearly hear the Presley-loving, pompadoured comb-over Li’l Kim gloating about how he has bested the whole world by starving his people to death in order to afford to build a rocket out of spare American parts and bubble gum[7] … which he’ll then point at US forces in South Korea or Japan and crow once again.

Yet other days I’ll hear the unmistakable cackling of Ahmadinejad – who actually looks like a bird – boasting how he’ll blow Israel off the map and anyone else [i.e., the US] who stands in his way[8].

And still other times I’ll hear the sweet melodies of Castro crowing how, even under the barrage of US economic warfare, Cuba is still an independent powerhouse[9] of … of … of cigar rolling, perhaps.

There are others besides these, as well. All, in their own puny, insignificant ways are cocks crowing their magnified importance to a world better than they are, as they strut around the chickenshit barnyards they call home. Each is begging to have his ass kicked by those bigger and stronger and with better weapons and who will one day get tired of listening to them brag.

If we were Martians, it’d be funny as hell.

[1] …to the degree they have minds.
[2] Except, notably, when my son took batting practice on it. It hid for a week.
[3] awwwwww
[4] It had a lilt in its song that the red doesn’t have
[5] In the real world, crowing, bragging or gloating IS aggression.
[6] http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,518677,00.html
[7] http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,519418,00.html
[8] http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,517186,00.html
[9] http://www.foxnews.com/politics/first100days/2009/04/22/fidel-castro-obama-got-overture-wrong/

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Saving the World from Democracy

Saving the World from Democracy
© 2009 Ross Williams

Every so often I get an email – usually from my mother – about how some history professor, or political science professor, or other expert in the field has just proven that US democracy is about to fold up its tent and hit the road. It’s normally based on some ancient Athenian history professor, or political science professor, or other expert in the field who noticed that the Greek’s own experiment in democracy a few millennia ago folded up its own tent once the Greek citizens realized that the authority for power in a democracy – Majority Will – can very easily plunder the Treasury of all public wealth by law, thus causing the Government of, by and for The People to quickly become the Government of, by and for the Lazy. It’s soon discovered to be easier to find some convenient [and wealthy] minority to lawfully rob[1] in order to continue satisfying the thirst for plundering the public treasury by the lazy majority.

It is frequently cited in these mass-produced emails that this Majority Will understanding of their power to plunder others under color of law has a ceiling of about two centuries, which puts our Welfare Society and other entitlement programs right on schedule for our democracy’s self-destruction. Political entropy.

Despite the sarcastic and cynical way I’m describing all this, the concept is sound[2]. Democracy without an abundance of self-discipline is doomed to fail sooner rather than later – two centuries, in the Grand Scheme, is no time at all – and it takes on the air of handing the house keys and check book to our three pre-teens and hopping a flight to Rio. What do we honestly expect to happen while we’re gone?

Of course the house will be a shambles when we get back – if it’s there at all. Of course the checking account will be overdrawn. Of course the child with all the Big Ideas® and Clever Schemes® is going to convince the fence-sitting child to go along with almost every cockamamie notion … over the objections of the timid, stick-in-the-mud, responsible child who keeps his room clean.

Of course this will happen. This is a Duh Moment.

Laziness and whim-fulfillment win out every time. And satisfying our whims is the ultimately laziness, for it not only means less work, but it also gives us an emotional charge at the same time. This is the reason that once the voters in a democratic society discover they can compel their legislatures to create Social Security, Food Stamps, Welfare, Medicare and Medicaid, all programs whereby the public rationalizes why it deserves a share of the public treasury, the more Big Ideas® and Clever Schemes® are going to be created with grander and grander rationalizations as to why more and more people similarly deserve having their existence underwritten by everyone else. “Universal” Healthcare, anyone[3]?

The ironic thing is that we created democracy to get away from this lazy, whimsical government which is known, in other circles, as Tyranny. You could look it up. In fact … here[4]. Pay particular attention to: “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.”

What’s old is new again; there is nothing new under the sun; same shit different day … take your pick. In any event, the Declaration of Independence, if edited for modern diction and syntax and presented to the US government, would be fairly substantial evidence of treason were anyone to sign it; change a handful of names and virtually the whole thing reapplies today.

We have become our own parents. The outrages and offenses we bristled against 230 years ago and which caused us to arms are what we now do to ourselves. …seemingly without a second thought. We will happily reintroduce pre-democratic, pre-Constitutional expediencies if it suits our whim, our fear, our laziness. And we will self-righteously defend those lazy, whimsical, fearful notions as “moral” or otherwise justifiable when confronted about them.

I could go off here on large-scale issues owing to our nation’s mass paranoias like the Patriot Act, drunk driving, sexual predation, drug crimes – but I’ve already done so[5]. I could wax cynical on our nation’s laziness in accepting bureaucratic nannying and overkill rather than having to take the slightest bit of responsibility – not to mention risk – for and upon ourselves … but I’ve already done that as well[6].

Instead, I’ll point at a different subject.[7] Something new.

Some stupid lady, being stupid while driving, flattened another lady stopped at a stop light. The second lady was on a motorcycle, minding her own business and obeying traffic laws. The first lady – the stupid one – was applying nail polish to her fingernails and “didn’t see” either the motorcycle or the traffic light.

Understandably, virtually everyone hearing about this is outraged; I know I am. One woman is dead in a senseless and preposterous accident at the hands of a stupid, brainless, thoughtless other woman. It is outrageous, and outraged is how everyone should be.

But what is happening is that prosecutors are searching law books high and low for reasons to charge the stupid woman with a crime. Why? because they are listening to the majority of us … who are justifiably outraged, and are busy trying to convince ourselves that “something must be done”. More than issuing the stupid lady a traffic ticket, that is.


Being stupid isn’t a crime. If it were, there wouldn’t be a single person not locked up for one reason or another … and usually several. Society cannot function that way, and that is the ultimate purpose of having a government: to create a society that works.

Not all of our stupidities cause the senseless deaths of others. Some stupidities simply cause them grievous bodily harm, or poison their water, or make them ill, or cause them property damage that insurance cannot and would not touch. When these are done deliberately, they are called assault, or fraud, or what have you. When they are done out of stupidity, they are properly called stupidity.

Others of our stupidities annoy people, cause them to lose sleep, cause them to lose hair, or gain weight, or offend their sensibilities to distraction. In some instances, where actual harm is done by these stupidities, we can sue the stupid for being stupid. But being stupid is still not a crime.

You can’t criminalize stupidity; it would violate our civil rights. The right to be stupid is near and dear to most of us and many could not live without it. Witness those who defend the Designated Hitter and 90% of network television. Finding excuses to punish stupidity because it causes outrage is called vigilantism, which works off the human emotional impulse of vengeance. Which is, to beat the dead horse, what we tried to get away from 230 years ago. And here we are, less than ten generations later, trying to rationalize getting right back into it. …because it will make us feel better right now.

Illinois legislators, ever ready to be super serious in response to some outrage or other, are talking about criminalizing this stupidity. …because, like voting ourselves a share of the Public Treasury, we have discovered we can also vote ourselves out of freedom and into tyranny just as easily by indulging our whims, our laziness or our fears.

Being free means being free to be stupid. But being stupid carries risks – to ourselves and others. I find it interesting[8] that most of those clamoring for laws to criminalize others’ inconvenient or outrageous stupidities are quick to deny that the things they do which inconvenience or outrage those others should themselves be criminalized.

…like lawsuit abuses which have the cumulative effect of driving doctors out of practice by raising all malpractice insurance rates because a handful of doctors are truly incompetent enough to MALpractice medicine, while other doctors are sued because some [lazy] patients want a windfall for having undesired health and have to defend themselves … at the insurance company’s expense.

…like the endless justifications for pilfering the general public to pay for their own guilty consciences and sympathy binges, or their own lazy greed.

…like rationalizing vigilantism by passing laws in the heat of the moment to make others’ stupidities a criminal act.

Criminalizing stupidity has the net effect of formalizing vigilantism[9] and the emotional satisfaction we derive from it takes us one step away from Rule of Law which is supposed to be based on an unemotional, pre-defined and deliberative response to potential outrages. It moves us two steps closer to the barbarism of tyranny. Claiming to be “Rule of Law” because you’ve managed to change the law to criminalize stupidity along with deliberate actions is to short circuit everyone’s liberty for the current notion of stupidity. …which is what takes us two steps closer to tyranny: most of us aren’t even aware that their own future right to stupidity is now in jeopardy.

Let’s not even mention the effect it has on the ideals identified in our Declaration of Independence [it emasculates them], nor the principles fleshed out in our Constitution [it obliterates them].

No one is justifying stupid women stupidly applying nail polish while driving stupidly and flattening random motorcyclers obeying traffic laws. But others are justifying vigilantism under color of law to make themselves feel better.

Vigilante justice: can’t get more democratic than that.

[1] Lawful robbery is called taxation
[2] See Parliament of Whores, by the inimitable P J O’Rourke
[3] Do we really believe it makes a difference whether the public treasury is being plundered on behalf of ourselves, or on behalf of those we feel sorry for? Robbing Peter to pay me? versus robbing Peter to pay Paul? Either way, Peter gets robbed. Liberals and other sympathy-junkies have no moral leg to stand on.
[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Declaration_of_Independence
[5] http://dblyelloline.blogspot.com/2009/01/government-bait-n-switch.html
et al
[6] http://dblyelloline.blogspot.com/2009/01/liar-liar.html
et al
[7] http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-nail-polish-fatalmay05,0,570584.story
[8] Which is to say hypocritical and self-righteous
[9] http://dblyelloline.blogspot.com/2009/04/its-dog-eat-dog-out-there.html