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1984 in 2012

3:30 pm in Uncategorized by Omnipotent Poobah

George Orwell has a well-deserved reputation as one of the 20th Century’s greatest authors – one with a Jules Verne-like ability to predict the future. Unfortunately, his predictions turned out to be much darker than Verne’s visions of spaceships and submarines. If possible, Orwell’s are more nuanced and scarily true. If he missed anything, it was the full-implementation of Ingsoc 20 years too late.

“There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time.” – George Orwell, 1984.

Let the Dystopia Begin!

In his book 1984, Orwell described a dystopian society tightly held under the thumb of Big Brother and his ruling elites. When I first read the story in the early ’70s, many of the elements of an Oceania aborning were already there. There was plenty of double think and double speaking abounded. Citizens, scared of almost daily hijackings to Cuba, were already grumblingly submitting to metal detectors, even as pundits agreed the public would never accept such a restriction on their personal liberties. But at least First Amendment-crushing wiretaps were still mostly the province of J. Edgar Hoover and the Richard Nixon Plumbing Company.

It makes me long for someone I can trust.

Today, Americans’ unnatural fear of bat-shit crazy extremists, and pretty much everything and everyone else on the planet, has turned them into lemmings that not only refuse to question draconian security rules, they beg for them – and Big Brother didn’t even have to brainwash them to do it.

Metal detectors are the least of a traveller’s problems in a day of strip-searches, x-ray peepers, no-fly lists, any liquid not contained in a clear 5 oz. bottle, or a spork. We have the classically doublespeak-named abomination PATRIOT Act to keep us safe by allowing our government,  and pretty much anyone with a $1000 campaign donation, to spy on anyone they please. The only way to treat a telephone these days is to assume it is a party line with you and 200 of our closest spies listening in.

Our complete conversion to Oceania isn’t quite complete…yet. However, the last pieces of technology needed for complete subjugation are going on line. We’ve already covered wiretapping and you can’t move anything on a computer without having the whole world watching. Mail snoops have been around as long as Ben Franklin was the first postmaster. However, Franklin reputably put his influence to better use than spying – reputedly peddling porn.

In a recent and little-noticed FAA funding authorization, the ruling elite wedged in a non-funding related requirement for the FAA to speed up authorizations for government agencies operating drones. The FAA must allow government lookie-loos to fly any drone weighing 4.4 pounds or less and operated in the line of sight, below 400 feet, during the day.

I await the day when an airliner sucks one into an engine on approach to St. Ronnie of Reagan National and crashes. I’m sure airlines will be forbidden to fly to leave more room for the drones the next day.

Wide-Open SnoopingBy nature, I’m not much of a Libertarian. People like Ron and Rand Paul are generally nutty and spend far too much time trying to make the rest of us nutty too. But Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson’s problem with a bill that makes America a, “wide-open playground for government snooping,” hit the nail on the head…and there’s probably drone video somewhere to prove it.

“Big Brother is alive and well, and now we’re talking about making it easier for him to fly remote control planes loaded with cameras over our neighborhoods,” Johnson said. “Based on our experience with the PATRIOT Act, the National Defense Authorization Act, and several other laws Congress has enacted in recent years, it is not alarmist to fear or assume that when we give the government the power to snoop, they will indeed snoop.”

No truer words by a Libertarian have ever been spoken. Government WILL snoop. They will sometimes do it for a good reason and actually stop some nefarious plot. They will sometimes do it badly and someone will end up at Gitmo sans habeas corpus. But most of all, they’ll snoop because they can and there is no one to watch them. It’s human nature. Everyone has a little bit of Mrs. McGillicuddy across the street peeking through the drapes in their DNA.

I’d feel much more confident about this slippery slope we’ve almost gotten to the bottom of  if the Pauls and other members of government would stop carping about the scary tyranny of light bulb efficiency regulations and low-flow crappers and concentrate on real tyranny.

That is unless they have a secret plan to bring Big Brother to his knees by faking the number of lumens a light bulb must have.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

The Light Bulb of Freedom and the Flush Heard Round the World

1:23 pm in Uncategorized by Omnipotent Poobah

The Tea Party loves liberty and freedom and well they should. No one likes to be mashed under the jackboot, drink tea under totalitarianism, or otherwise be ruthlessly held under duress by a tyrant. After all, that’s what the Constitution is all about. Sic semper tyrannis and all that.

But, tea totalitarianists have a curious sense of how to prioritize the liberties they’ll save. In May, Rand Paul (R-Kentucklhead Corners) took on the tough battle to protect the liberties of those squashed under the jackboot of light bulb efficiency rules and low-flow toilet regulations. He spoke passionately of how his low-flow toilet robbed him of his God-given right to crap in a bowl of his own choice and required him to sometimes flush twice, thrice, or quadrice. What a horrible injustice!

Ritch Workman Ain’t No Braveheart
The latest quest for freedom comes by way of FL Rep. Ritch Workman (R-Anita Bryant County). His excellency is worried about unemployment so is calling for the repeal of a 1989 statute outlawing the traditional values sport of dwarf-tossing. Rep. Workman sees the repeal of the safety regulation as a way of solving Florida’s unemployment problems by harnessing the free-market to put the state’s millions of Little People back to work at their chosen profession.

“To me it’s an archaic kind of Big Brother law that says, ‘We don’t like that activity,’ ” Workman said. “Well, there is nothing immoral or illegal about that activity. All we really did by passing that law was take away some employment from some little people.”

Now that’s true enough I suppose. Little People should be allowed to eschew demeaning carnival jobs in favor of opening for far more dignified Wet T-shirt contests. After all, they can’t all work on reality TV shows like a gaggle of excessively large repo men.

I’ll agree the law infringes the liberties of Little People. However, I can think of many things that abridge freedoms and liberties worse than bad plumbing and flinging Little People. Yet, the Tea Party either ignores those liberties or supports them without seeing it irony.

All Hail the No Dwarf Left Behind Bill
For example, why are so many Tea Partiers intent on passing a Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that crushes the freedom of gays to marry whom they like? Aren’t no-warrant phone tapping and the ability to board a jet without a cavity search liberties to be enjoyed by all – even Little People? Stacked against a recalcitrant toilet, someone listening to my phone calls seems a larger infringement on my freedom.

About the only bipartisan thing in America today is a fear of government. That’s a healthy thing. It is what keeps a democracy a democracy. Hand too much power to the government, corporations, or any other large institution insinuated into American life and you have a prescription for unrest and rebellion.

So, let’s extinguish the light bulb of freedom and the flush heard round the world and get to work on issues that actually mean something.

A little less tea drinking and a little more action please.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!