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22 Oct 2005
Your Government Inaction In Action

I know Bush has taken a lot of heat over federal response to Hurricane Katrina. Much as I like to bash a sitting president, I don't think I can pin this one on him. Can't blame Clinton for it, either. Can't blame the first Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford, or Nixon. LBJ, JFK, Eisenhower, Truman, and even that other three-letter president, FDR, manage to escape the blame. Sure, FDR really made the bureaucracy huge, stripping Americans of freedoms they once had and subjecting those freedoms to review by a federal agancy or, more likely, a state or local agency created to fulfill a federal mandate, but he's not the one who started the whole bureaucracy ball rolling.

No, I have to reach back to 1816, when Congress ran things more than the President. I lay the blame for the bureaucracy at the feet of the 119 Jeffersonian Democrats in the House of Representatives and the then-Speaker of the House, Henry Clay.

I know Andrew Jackson would love to help me heap disdain and disrespect on Henry Clay, but I'll forego his assistance in this case, as he was instrumental in entrenching Clay's expansion of the bureaucracy for purposes of political patronage. And even though the US doesn't allow direct political appointment at all but the highest levels of the bureaucracy, there are bureaucratic agencies everywhere, created to favor this Senator's whim or that Representative's re-election hopes.

So what do these political gifts actually do for the tax dollars or deficits run up to pay for them? What benefit do we, the citizens of America receive for them? We all know the politicians get re-elected: incumbency is a powerful indicator of a politician's chances of success in an election. Those guys love a big bureaucracy, as it gives them more chances to dish out favors and increase their power base. But what about us?

I'll pass over the FEMA debacle in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. I'll not mention how CIA intelligence was ignored for ideological reasons in making the decision to invade Iraq. I'll skip consideration of the Cobell v. Norton case, in which Native Americans allege the Bureau of Indian Affairs either stole and/or lost over $150 billion in handling the revenue generated from lands owned by Native Americans. No, I'll skip over all of these to focus on something which I have first-hand experience with.

I want to know about getting my free buffalo.

Back in March, 2004, I was teaching US History in high school. We had gotten to the Vietnam War and the antiwar movement. I mentioned Abbie Hoffman as one of the activists in the movement to stuff the Establishment and that he wrote a book called, Steal This Book. I remembered twenty years ago, when a friend of mine brought that book to school and showed us the fun inside. I hadn't read the whole thing, but remained intrigued.

Then it hit me: This is the Internet Age. If there's any modern book that's available online in its entirety for free, it had to be that book. A trip to Google produced a mass of links. The first three were blocked by my school district's content filtering program, but the fourth link worked just fine, proving you can't block everything objectionable.

And there it was... Steal This Book. I read it for free, which means I stole it, just like Abbie told me to! I scrolled ahead to the "Assorted Freebies" section and read an intriguing bit about "free pets":

"Every year the National Park Service gives away surplus elks in order to keep the herds under its jurisdiction from outgrowing the amount of available land for grazing. Write to: Superintendent, Yellowstone National Park, Yellowstone, Wyoming 83020. You must be prepared to pay the freight charges for shipping the animal and guarantee that you can provide enough grazing land to keep the big fellow happy."

Now, the addresses had likely changed, but there it was. Federal herd management programs meant free elks. The next paragraph mentioned how to get free buffalo. Wow. The mental image of "the big fellow" grazing in my suburban Dallas backyard was enough to make me laugh more than fifteen seconds, which meant it would not be a good idea to actually get one.

I was nevertheless intrigued. I wanted to know more. I thought I'd pop off an email to a few federal departments and get a quick answer on the elk/buffalo situation. I must admit, I'd been spoiled by the excellent US government websites loaded with tons of useful facts and figures - the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Center for Disease Control in particular. Moreover, I'd recently gotten tremendous help in some historical research from the Library of Congress, going over and above what I'd expect anyone to do, going through presidential correspondence from 150 years ago to locate a set of letters of resignation, photocopy them, and send them to me. My impression was that, if the information was a matter of public knowledge, the US gov't was ready to dish it out on demand.

So I sent this email to the Bureau of Land Management and the Forestry Service:

Hello. I'm an American History teacher at a high school in Texas. Recently, I read that the Department of the Interior had a herd management plan that would allow private individuals to request excess elk or buffalo be sent to them for free, provided they had sufficient grazing land and would pay the freight charges.

I would like to know if this plan is still in place. If not, what has replaced it? If it is, what resources exist to assist the enterprising young elk or buffalo requestor? I don't have any desire or intention to actually acquire such animals for myself or anyone else, but the thought of shipping one as part of an overall herd management strategy is certainly intriguing.

Hope you got an answer for this one!

That was 30 March 2004.

Nothing came back after that. I wondered for a month or two, then gave up.

Then, I get this email:

Your message has been received by the Department of the Interior, National

Business Center Webteam. Thank you for your interest.

The date on the email: 17 October 2005. One year, six months, and 17 days after I sent the inquiry. And this wasn't the answer: this was the delivery receipt! Ten minutes later, I got another one, exactly like the first. Makes sense: I sent the two messages one after the other back on March 30th. If one took one year, six months, and 17 days to reach me, the other should take one year, six months, 17 days, and ten minutes to get to me.

But why it should take that long is beyond me. Shouldn't we have a right to a speedy response to normal inquiries? This wasn't a Freedom of Information Act request. I just asked if the free buffalo program was still on.

Maybe my previous experiences were anomalies. Given the lack-of-response concerns I passed over above, perhaps this is symptomatic of a wider problem - a government insulated and unresponsive to the governed, representative of and accountable to only an aristocracy of corporate interests and major wealth. If that conclusion's right, we need to be about the business of challenging the existing power structures so we can recieve representation.

If it's incorrect, then where's my free buffalo?

by Dean Webb

07 Oct 2005
One Step to Better Schools

Everyone complains about the quality of public schools, but no one more so than the veteran teachers. We know how it used to be and we know how it is now, and the difference is staggering. Students used to be much better at everything, even doing research papers, and best of all, they could think more for themselves.

The biggest difference between then and now, the one that could save our schools, is a painful one for some folks to deal with, but I'll come right out and say it.


We used to let kids who didn't want to continue with their education drop out, and the sooner, the better. If they wanted to come back, it was under their own power and of their own free will, and they were usually more humble and, therefore, more teachable. Those who stayed weren't disruptive. Sure, they had other problems, but a body could learn in that class because the teaching end of things went smoothly.

There's a word for making everyone have the same poor quality of a good or service, as mandated by the state. It's Communism, and it's alive and well in the USA. Heck, with the Kelo eminent domain case, we don't even have real property rights anymore, so what, exactly keeps us from being a soft totalitarian state? We keep trying to force everyone to be good, and that's just not freedom.

Freedom means the right to make decisions that ruin your life. Freedom means the right to dig yourself a hole so deep, all you can do is warn people to stay away from your path. Freedom means the right to make a pig's breakfast of your future and not have anyone be obligated to bail you out.

People will still want to help, but that's their choice, their freedom. We still need to be free from governmental obligations to force everyone to behave themselves on their own. Yes, we need protections of life, liberty, and property ownership. We do not need everyone getting a high school diploma, whether they like it or not. The stupid people get a watered-down diploma which means nothing, and the smart people demand massive GPAs as a concession.

When everyone is pushed through the school system, the whole experience is cheapened. True, we pay the cost in social aid, so let's cut that, too. Let's say that, from now on, if you want help for your hard-luck case, go see a church or family member. If they tell you to get religion and quit drinking whiskey to get some help from them, that's their business. If you refuse those conditions, that's yours. But if you knew you could fall that low, you'd work all the harder at climbing higher if you were a rational person. But rational persons are in short supply, thanks to a school and social system that tries so hard to make sure nobody fails.

Sure, we have huge disasters. If we want to vote aid for them, let's have national elections for it. Let the people, not the bought-off representatives, decide what to do with their money in extreme circumstances. With the Internet, we can vote pretty quickly on anything. Those without the Internet aren't the ones paying taxes, so it's OK to not ask their say on how taxes are spent. But for the bigger disaster of public assistance and mandatory education, we need to stop preventing dropouts and leave things up to the dropouts themselves. When they've suffered for their freedom, what they acquire later on in life will mean that much more to them.

Forget No Child Left Behind. That's Communist claptrap. Let's dump the standardized testing and try freedom for a change.
by Dean Webb

05 Oct 2005
Last Drops of Gasoline...

Never had a pump run out on me as I filled up before.

Today, I needed to fill up and the first two stations I stopped at were totally out of gas. The third had gas, but as I filled up the tank, the pump quit putting out the regular unleaded. That was it. No more. OK, so more gas will come eventually, but it got me thinking.

Every oil company that's operated overseas I've ever heard of has engaged in violence towards the local peoples and the environment simply because it's cheaper to kill and pollute than to do things fairly. I may complain about the high price of gas, but it's violence that's kept the price relatively low. Should oil become more precious, it'll be violence that determines who gets to pay the price for the gas, not just the price itself.

When gas runs out, who will we be willing to kill or destroy in order to get our hands on the next source of monetarially cheap energy?

The greatest profits are to be had in dealing in weapons, petrochemicals, and illegal drugs. Why is it we have allowed those profiteers to purchase our governments? Why is it we allow people who criticize such crimes to be labeled as unpatriotic? Even if they're wrong, shouldn't their arguments be answered instead of shouted down?

Why is it the forgiveness of third world debt resulted in a boom among arms merchants? I was part of a group who asked for debt forgiveness, but those governments turned right around and took out new loans to buy new ways to kill people.

Why is it we do not hear of how both Democrats and Republicans have been co-opted by corporations and foreign influence?

Why is it the CIA and other intelligence agencies continue to provide legal cover for international cocaine and heroin traffickers?

When the gasoline ultimately runs out, how will we be judged?

by Dean Webb

Posted at:10 Jan 2009 06:21:36 PM

No Words portraits and romantic illustrations.

What's there to say?

I got words and pictures.

I got a message board.

Like I said, what's there to say?