Surprising news from our week in Iowa: People in the heartland may be as appalled by the No Secure Home initiative as people on the coasts. The first hint was an article by Charley Reese, a Southern Christian conservative, with his take on the Homeland Security Department:
The new Department of Homeland Security will merge 22 federal agencies and 170,000 federal employees into one monstrous bureaucracy. It will not make America safer.
After all, the key agencies most directly involved in fighting terrorism are excluded. They are the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Defense Department, not to mention the National Security Agency. So, if the most important intelligence agencies are left as separate agencies, what do they hope to accomplish by consolidating less-important agencies?
It’s bad enough they picked a name George Orwell might have thought of, but they are overselling this to the American public. It will take many months, probably even years, to actually put it together, and it is a rule of thumb in government that the bigger the bureaucracy, the harder it is to manage.
Furthermore, you can count on the fact that in this long process of consolidation, the individual agencies will have their work disrupted. So under the most optimistic projections, the immediate effect will be less efficiency and effectiveness, not more. I hasten to add, of course, that only God knows how the Immigration and Naturalization Service could possibly be more inefficient and inept than it already is.
So, OK, I’m like old Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia. I can’t think of anything good to say about this new monster bureaucracy. The only cheerful thing I can think of is what a British aristocrat, who hated us, said more than a century ago:
“God looks out for fools, drunks and the United States of America.” I sure hope that still holds.
Sounds like common sense.
Funny how you can use a phrase for, like, forever and still learn a new meaning for it. “Common Sense” has always seemed to mean something like horse sense – the lowest common denominator opinion; a kind of base line body of knowledge obviously valid but so diffuse as to be meaningless.
But this week I suddenly get a more interesting, cultural sense of the term. It’s our collective sense of how things ought to be, ever in contrast to how they are. Charley Reese taps in to our common sense of how governments should be designed in order to show how crazy this new level of bureaucracy is.
Wherever you are on the political spectrum, the Homeland Security Department’s scope and intrusiveness is an affront to your sense of what Washington should be doing. True conservatives shouldn’t buy this tar baby and liberals shouldn’t either. Perhaps our common sense of what’s sensible will join to dismantle this turkey before it plucks us. Are there other indications that the people aren’t so far apart on the overreaching security-industrial complex?
The Little Magazine That Could
I have low expectations for midwestern regional magazines distributed in motel rooms – my superior attitude toward them is disgusting, anticipating the hunky-dory school of journalism and Let’s-get-us-some-more-bidness boosterism. But when I picked up a copy of Midwest Today at the Best Western Long Branch motel in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, I was attracted to its end page, The Update and the Low Down. Five short essays I would have devoured in my favorite Blog Rolls:
- A listing of recent wins by clients of Tom Daschle’s lobbyist wife Linda: L-3 Inc.‘s flawed bomb-sniffing devices, which the FAA is required by the Congress to purchase; American Airlines‘ opposition to safety regs, while still nabbing $583 million in bailout grants. The author, Jon McIntosh, notes that the Daschels have refused to release their tax returns.
- A Teddy Roosevelt quote: “To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.” (Of course, Teddy wasn’t the kind of guy to sit out a war, and took a fanatic’s bullet in the chest).
The quote is cited in contrast to a warning to Ohio State University students that they were subject to arrest and expulsion if they even silently protested instructions from George II. OSU’s Richard Hollingsworth, who surely has better things to do, “urged” the students to give Bush “a thunderous ovation“.
Police, threatening arrests, escorted away those who silently turned their backs. Is this how you want your kids to be trained to think for themselves?
- Al Gore was subjected to extra screening on his way to and from a speech in Madison Wisconsin. “Just wanted to harass him, I guess.”
- Chekhov would get it: The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (“It’s what’s for dinner“) is controlled, according to small ranchers, by multinational companies and large factory farming operations, and collects $1 per head sold – the “Beef Checkoff” fee. “Checkoff dollars are used to to position poor quality, heavily processed products in direct competition with pure, American beef,” according to Steve and Jeanne Charter, who were fined $12,000 by the USDA for refusing to pay 250 Checkoff Dollars recently (the USDA could have fined them $1.25 million). A South Dakota Judge has ruled the fee unconstitutional, so the NCBA is appealing the ruling, presumably paying attorney’s fees with Checkoff Dollars. Maybe it’s about why the USDA acts as collection agency for the NCBA.
- A review of High and Mighty: SUVs, the World’s Most Dangerous Vehicles, and How They Got That Way. This was the most surprising entry of all, quoting the author, Keith Bradsher of the New York Times: [SUV drivers] “tend to be people who are insecure and vain. They are frequently nervous about their marriages and uncomfortable about parenthood. They often lack confidence in their driving skills. Above all, they are apt to be self-centered and self-absorbed, with little interest in their neighbors or communities.”
Whew! Even I found those judgments over the top, but apparently not Midwest Today.
That got my attention, coming as it did on the heels of Charley Reese’s anti-imperialist sentiments the day before, so I looked through the articles. In addition to tips on antique hunting and affordable elegance, I found:
- The Fight to Save Big Muddy -How America’s longest river is endangered by poor water management practices, mostly the Army Corps of Engineers “The Corps of the Problem?“
- The Gathering Storm – Could We Be on the Verge of Another Depression Like 1929? Robert Kuttner notes that,
“What deregulation has produced is an economy and a culture rooted in conflicts of interest.
“The SEC already had the power to police most of these, but when Bill Clinton vetoed Newt Gingrich’s bill that made it almost impossible for investors to sue for securities fraud, Congress – with the support of many Democrats – passed it over Clinton’s veto.”
- Merge and Monopolize [apple] The FCC’s Michael Powell is on a Deregulation Binge. Includes a chart of consolidated st
ation ownership topped, of course, by Clear Channel’s 1231 stations in 190 markets.
- End of the Church Age? A rant against radio evangelist Harold Camping, whose megamaniacal crusade is to usurp local churches as HE becomes the voice of God over his 38 stations and 107 translators.
- Grant Wood Not Be Amused How the artist’s family is using copyright to block the reproduction of American Gothic on the Iowa U.S. quarter. However, a judge had had thrown out the family’s right-of-privacy claim in 1981, so the Quarter commission is pressing on (so to speak).
“We suspect the bohemian Grant, who delighted in bringing art to to the masses, would unhitch those bib overalls of his and bend over to give [the family] a moon shot to rival NASA’s.” (Let’s hope Disney stays out of this).
- Alarm over logging old-growth forests in the Black Hills and elsewhere.
- The World Health Organization’s findings linking fertilizers to Alzheimer’s.
- Concerns over recently approved nuclear waste caravans planning to pass within 1/2 mile of 50 million Americans.
- Public Being Misled by food producers’ new authorization to label irradiated food as “pasteurized.” Iowa’s Dem Senator Tom Harken added the provision to an agriculture bill recently. Agribusiness PACs contributed $192,138 over the last 3 years.
I’m not just commenting on how little I had to do last week. There’s a bright light here. If we, like the constitution, relish free speech, right of assembly, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, etc., we need to band together with those we may previously disagreed with, the way Virginians and Bostonians fought side by side so long ago.
Band with Your Brothers
If you’re as sick and tired of being sick and tired as I am, we should try an experiment. Let’s each reach out to someone on the other end of the political spectrum and find the important things we have in common rather than the trivial ideologies that have separated us.
We are being held hostage by bureaucrats and politicians and CEOs whom we wouldn’t consider for odd jobs in our little operations. Why should we submit to their agendas?
It’s not Republicans vs. Democrats or conservatives vs. liberals, it’s us vs. THEM. People vs. big organizations using people’s money against people’s interests. If you’re against big government – as you should be – then also oppose companies big enough to influence governments.
The current administration is oppressing all citizens with its own version of big government – in the most virulent form we’ve ever seen – bureaucracies that Republicans won’t try to dismantle. Without the Republicans’ traditionally trustworthy counterbalance against big gummint, we may be facing the darkest time in our history.
As Charley Reese pointed out, FDR, the legendary big-government guy, had about 15 people on staff while fighting his world war. George W’s got 3,000 bureaucrats directing the biggest military of all time and he still can’t find a 6′ 4″ Arab on dialysis. Isn’t this a good time for less government, fewer intrusions and more candor?
Now that’s a project for our Common Sense of how our country should operate.