Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Federal Fortress

ACT for America logo

I spent Thursday and part of Friday at the ACT! for America National Conference and Legislative Briefing in Washington D.C. I missed the Wednesday night cruise on the Potomac — I got out of here too late to make it in time. But on Thursday I attended the legislative briefing at the Capitol and the luncheon that followed it at the Capitol Hill Club, at which Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff was one of the speakers. She and I had to miss some of the later conference sessions back at the hotel, since we were fortunate enough to book a meeting with Congressman Allen West in his office that afternoon. That evening was the dinner gala, at which Col. West was the keynote speaker.

Friday morning saw two excellent presentations by Cliff Kincaid and Andy Bostom. I had read many of Mr. Kincaid’s writings in the past, but never had the opportunity to meet him until yesterday. Andy is already a friend, of course, and well-known to most Gates of Vienna readers.

My original plan was to write up the conference in a single post, but there was too much material; the result would be long and unwieldy. So I’ll break it up into several bite-size pieces, each covering a portion of the events.

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As the late Root Boy Slim once sang: “I used to be from D.C., but they don’t want no more of me.”

I lived in the Washington area when I was young, residing at various times in the suburbs on both sides of the Potomac while commuting to work in D.C. itself. I didn’t like the place at the time, and it never grew on me. After five years of commuter hell I made a sensible career decision to relocate to rural Virginia, which is where I was born, and take up a vocation of poverty and privation as a landscape artist.

Every time I return to the area, I remember all too well why I left. The city’s suburbs have continued to expand, and now extend about thirty miles farther to the south and west than they did when I was a kid. The roads are more clogged and congested, much more of the landscape has been paved over, and the inner suburbs are now so culturally enriched that they seem more like Addis Ababa or Nogales than an American city.

So, all in all, I’m glad I got out. Being a lot wealthier wouldn’t have made living there worth it.

The greatest difference is in downtown Washington itself. Physically speaking, it hasn’t changed all that much in thirty-five years. There are more concrete-and-glass monstrosities housing the lobbying warrens on J, K, and L Streets, and the one-way system is even more baffling than it used to be. But from a superficial viewpoint, the city doesn’t look all that different.

Yet there is something creepy about the place. Back during the run-up to Desert Storm — which is now more than twenty years ago — I took the future Baron on a tour of the monuments and museums along the Mall. Everyone was terrified of a terrorist attack during the preparations for the war in Iraq, and it was the middle of winter, so most of the tourists had vanished from downtown Washington. I figured that it would be an ideal time to drive up there and take in the (mostly free) sights in Our Nation’s Capital.

I was right — we parked at a meter right next to the Washington Monument, and there was hardly anybody there except a few cops. There was almost no line waiting to ride to the top of the monument, where we braved the cold wind to look out over the city. Next we went to the Lincoln Memorial, had a quick look at the Capitol, visited the dinosaurs at the Smithsonian, saw the Air and Space Museum, and checked out the Botanical Gardens.

Even though we were in the midst of a terrorist scare, there were no metal detectors, no security barriers, no bag searches — it was still like the old days.

When I was a kid, you could just walk up the stairs into the Capitol. Any visitor could. But no more — those days are gone forever. The East Front has been ruined with the new underground visitors’ center through which everyone is funneled, and it’s just like the airport down there: long lines snaking out into the weather, X-rays, take your jacket off, bag searches, no liquids allowed — you all know the drill.

Walk down the nearby streets and notice how many of them are closed off. There are Jersey barriers and raised steel plates that only lower if you have the right card or the guard approves your car. A guy with a mirror on a pole looks at the underside of each vehicle when it enters the parking garage. As far as I could tell, every building housing federal functionaries maintains this level of security.

And then there are the police. They are everywhere. Capitol Police, Park Police, Metro Police, D.C. city police, and armed federal officers of various sorts whose agency designations weren’t familiar to me.

The Ranting ManThis is supposedly a free country, but our national capital looks like a police state.

All this security is designed to protect federal employees and elected officials, and preserve the infrastructure they require inside their hives. Businesses aren’t kept safe by these measures. Ordinary citizens aren’t being guarded by all those armed police. Heck, ordinary citizens are the ones whose scrota are being palpated at the checkpoints.

Yesterday morning I drove down Wisconsin Avenue, which is outside most of the Federal behemoth, so that things look more normal there — businesses, hotels, residences, open sidewalks. And then I passed a building behind a big iron fence with spikes at the top that turned outwards. There was a raised steel plate with a card reader at the entrance. Must be a federal building, I thought. And, sure enough, when I rounded the corner, there was the sign: “National Commission for Strategic Revenue Enhancement” or some such.

It seems that the Department of Homeland Security has turned every single federal structure into a steel-ringed fortress bristling with the latest high-tech security. If you were wondering where all your tax dollars are being spent, this is one of the worthy causes you are so generously funding.

The place gives me the willies. It doesn’t feel like our government works for us anymore. And we don’t even work for it — we’re all just potential terrorists and petty nuisances who have to empty our wallets for Uncle Sam, but otherwise must stay out of the way.

I was relieved to get out of there. When I passed the last strip malls and townhouses and rolled out into the Virginia countryside, I felt a great weight lift from my shoulders.

19 comments:

blogagog said...

Hey, what the hell is "Natural Intelligence of Central Virginia"?

I hope it's you, or I just wasted money.

Baron Bodissey said...

Yes, that's us. That's my business name for programming & images, which we use for PayPal.

blogagog said...

Thanks. I'm poor and hate to waste money. You and the lady are awesome.

Graham Dawson (Archonix) said...

I had a similar experience in south america, driving through the diplomatic quarter of Asunción, and through parts of Buenos Aires on the way home. Most of the buildings were fairly pretty 19th century affairs, spanish colonial style or occasionally styled after some other European architecture, with a few modern buildings doted around here and there for the richer countries. Then we drove past the American compound, an I gained a little understanding of why my sister-in-law resents the united states so much. It was enormous. Huge gates, walls with iron fences, everything hidden. In contrast the presidential residence and the brand new legislature buildings there were open to the public. Though, there, the image was somewhat ruined by the huge shanty town across the road from the legislature. My brother took a photo, it's quite a contrast.

It always struck me that the actions of the federal government contradict the image I have of the united states as a whole. It would seem that, abroad, the federal government has always had a bit of a thing for fortress building. They - the feds, that is - probably resented the fact that they couldn't do it at home, and now they've finally been presented with the opportunity they're going all out.

Nick said...

It's pretty bad when you have to get your scrotum palpated, but at least they didnt' come out with the latex gloves and a tube of KY. Give them time though ...

JS123 said...

"the inner suburbs are now so culturally enriched that they seem more like Addis Ababa or Nogales than an American city."

This is going to be the hardest lesson for real Americans to learn, that America no longer exists and that we need to withdraw our allegiance to and identification with the country and put it into a possible future re-creation of our country. Once that is done and the emotional ties are cut we can get to work.

matism said...

Well actually, if we're lucky, the Religion of Peace may do wonders for America. Since the Powers that Be now admit that Mahmoud and his goat-lovers can build a bomb within two months, it is time to celebrate.

Yes, unfortunately Israel will be the first victim. And the Muslim in Chief will send his condolences. But I suspect that the US will be their second target. And mushroom clouds rising from New York and DC will do wonders to solve this country's problems.

Now if we could only get them to take out San Francisco and Chicago as well... But there's no sense expecting them to do ALL the work for us.

practicalprepper said...

Islam does have designs on the eradication of the West, on this we all agree. However, the knee-jerk fear of Muslim terrorists, the very fear that has been used as a pretext to assemble this pervasive, over-reaching police state, is unfounded and dangerous to liberty.
Ask yourself why not even the most rudimentary organized 'terrorist attack' has occurred on US soil since 9-11, save for the occasional lunatic like Nidal Hasan, the Ft. Hood jihadist.
Wars and constant fear afre useful tools for government and if the don't exist, they will cheerfully manufacture them from within.
'Al CIAda' anyone??

Zenster said...

Must be a federal building, I thought. And, sure enough, when I rounded the corner, there was the sign: “National Commission for Strategic Revenue Enhancement” or some such.

You're sure it wasn't the Department of Redundancy Department?

Why were you so surprised? What better monument to our career politicians than impregnable citadels of bureaucracy? Did you honestly think they were going to take all those billions of dollars and lavish them on the Great Unwashed™ for such trivialities as job creation and mortgage bailouts when they could be farting through an extra layer of silk?

Zenster said...

matism: Yes, unfortunately Israel will be the first victim.

What gives you that idea?

Have you never heard of the Samson Option?

Israel has very quietly but firmly informed all of its hostile Muslim neighbors that, should take even a single NBC (Nuclear, Biological or Chemical) strike, it will unleash its entire nuclear arsenal upon the MME (Muslim Middle East).

Why do you think that Saudi Arabia begged America to bomb Iran? This isn't just the usual Sunni on Shi'ia friction. At a recent pan-Arab meeting, King Abdullah essentially told Ahmadinejad to "sit down and shut up!"

For this to make any sense, you must first realize that Mad Jad is a disciple of Ayatollah Khomeini. Now, pause to consider these words from Khomeini's 1980 address at Qom:

We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah. For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land [Iran] burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world.

In other words, Khomeini, and by extension, Ahmadinejad, have no problem turning their entire country into one giant suicide bomber, just so long as Israel is destroyed. Ergo, the odd Muslim support for America's bombing of Iran.

The problematic aspect of this situation is that Israel knows it damn well and has very wisely taken measures to deter even something so monstrous as suicide on a national scale.

Implicit in this equation is the fact that there are increased chances of Iran directing a stray warhead towards America's shores. An innocuous container launch system could send in a cruise missile on a flat low-altitude trajectory, be almost impossible to stop and land a fearsome blow upon The Great Satan™.

Remember; beyond a certain number of Islamic nuclear warheads there emerges a non-zero probability that one of them with be diverted into terrorist hands.

It is only stupidity on a gigantic scale that permits Western politicians to ignore this stark math. America continues to remain a top candidate for nuclear terrorism and we have in no way established any sort of deterrent matching that of Israel.

What does that tell you?

Zenster said...

matism: Now if we could only get them to take out San Francisco and Chicago as well... But there's no sense expecting them to do ALL the work for us.

PS: If you sincerely mean that, you are one sick twisted f&%k.

JUST A SINGLE NUCLEAR STRIKE COULD PLUNGE AMERICA INTO A DECADES-LONG ECONOMIC DEPRESSION THAT WOULD MAKE THIS CURRENT RECESSION LOOK LIKE A SUNDAY PICNIC.

Do us all a favor and apologize for posting such unmitigated drivel.

Remember, taking out San Francisco would involve the immolation of Silicon Valley, this world's technological engine.

How much would you like to bet that California ― the world's EIGHTH economy, were this state rated as an individual nation ― probably pays for a significant chunk of your state's Federally funded social services?

If anything, you just wished for my death so please feel free to stuff it up your tailpipe.

Hesperado said...

The need for heightened, expensive security is not wrong nor misplaced; nor is its actualization in all its various forms, some of which were described (with curious detachment) by Baron.

The only thing wrong or misplaced about this upbeefing of security is the paradigm in which it operates -- the paradigm, namely, that continues to whitewash Muslims and the Islam they follow.

The sooner we realize collectively that all these trillions of dollars which not just Washington, D.C., not just major cities in the U.S.A., not just North America, not just Euriope and the UK and Australia -- but the entire world (including Islamic tin pot dictatorships) is spending in airports, train stations, government offices, utility stations, energy stations, many public places, and other important sites -- is all because of Muslims, the sooner we can take measures against Muslims and get back to a degree of our former normalcy.

Or we can keep putting off the inevitable, and make the ultimate management of the problem that much costlier, messier and bloodier than it needed to be.

Meanwhile, too many in the A.I.M. bruit about distracting conspiracy theories and sow over-complication and confusion grotesquely mirroring their opposite reflection in the PC MC denial of the Islam Problem; where, rather, our collective eye should be ruthlessly and rationally on one ball, and only that one ball.

After we've taken care of the Muslim Problem, then various motley Westerners with too much time on their hands can go back to indulging their various eccentric theories and hobbyhorses about what is "really" wrong with the West.

But first things first. The house is on fire.

Zenster said...

Hesperado: The need for heightened, expensive security is not wrong nor misplaced; nor is its actualization in all its various forms…

Rubbish. It most certainly is when such measures selectively protect the political elite and do practically nothing to enhance public safety. This is especially the case when, for a tiny fraction of the cost, Islam's aristocracy could have been subjected to a highly effective campaign of targeted assassinations that could have seen global jihad stalled for years, if not decades.

The only thing wrong or misplaced about this upbeefing of security is the paradigm in which it operates -- the paradigm, namely, that continues to whitewash Muslims and the Islam they follow.

You neglect to note that the countless billions of dollars being thrown away on marginally effective security measures could have been better spent creating non-government jobs that would have stimulated America's economy in far more healthy ways.

While this intensely misguided strategy does, indeed, "whitewash Muslims and the Islam they follow", it has done so at the cost of many more American lives through homelessness, poverty and general social issues left unaddressed in favor of building a near-police state that only continues to strangle economic recovery.

The sooner we realize collectively that all these trillions of dollars which not just Washington, D.C., not just major cities in the U.S.A., not just North America, not just Euriope and the UK and Australia -- but the entire world (including Islamic tin pot dictatorships) is spending in airports, train stations, government offices, utility stations, energy stations, many public places, and other important sites -- is all because of Muslims, the sooner we can take measures against Muslims and get back to a degree of our former normalcy.

Finally, our respective agendas converge. The obscene diversion and waste of this world's wealth due to Islamic jihad and its ineffective prosecution by the West is something that is rapidly becoming criminal with respect to malfeasance by Western leaders.

Or we can keep putting off the inevitable, and make the ultimate management of the problem that much costlier, messier and bloodier than it needed to be.

Or, as I have been saying for many years, each day's delay in decisively defeating Islam only ups the butcher's bill for Infidel and Muslim alike.

Meanwhile, too many in the A.I.M. bruit about distracting conspiracy theories and sow over-complication and confusion grotesquely mirroring their opposite reflection in the PC MC denial of the Islam Problem; where, rather, our collective eye should be ruthlessly and rationally on one ball, and only that one ball.

To which your needless nitpicking and gratuitous arguing have only contributed. Please consider adopting a more refined strategy of first finding some respectable level of general agreement and then proceeding to diverge with your own views.

You continue to alienate many people, myself included, who might otherwise lend great assistance in propagating your own valuable explanation of the PCMC meme. When you are finally able to conduct yourself with that degree of maturity, your contributions will have a far better chance of enjoying the acclaim and popularity that they appear to deserve.

kenyon said...

During the 80's, I worked for an International Corporation with operations in Brazil, Mexico and Argentina and I did a little traveling. Rampant crime was the primary reason that Americans lived together in guarded, gated hi rises. We learned to do this the hard way by losing employees to the local predators. So, while the American government is fortifying Washington, DC for a threat that it will not address, Corporate America in foreign nations is just trying to protect its assets.

Hesperado said...

Thanks kenyon.

When in doubt, assume the best, not the worst, about Americans and the West. In this case, about those forbidding American buildings in Latin America that so alienated Archonix above; and the trappings of what seems to be a "police state" that similarly disturb Baron, we can assume there are good reasons for them, or we can assume darker motives. The most important good reason is that Muslims want to blow them up. The only problem with our governments in the West in this regard is that they currently remain stuck in a paradigm where they can't admit what they otherwise reasonably conclude, because that reasonable conclusion (and the Muslim plots & acts that would lead us there) would force us, the West, to behave in ways that resemble bigotry, racism and war crimes. They are, effectively, waiting for a preponderance of evidence whose threshold for persuasion is set irrationally high.

Egghead said...

OR: Through unchecked third world immigration from Mexico with its violent drug gangs and Muslim countries with their violent jihadis-in-waiting, the federal government is creating a violent cocktail in our nation in order to rob of us our true human and civil rights via a police state.

AND: In case we the people come looking for the traitors who are knowingly committing this treason upon our formerly free and proud country, the federal government is protecting itself against an armed and angry citizenry - otherwise known as the domestic terrorists that the federal government says are the true threat to the federal government.

Dan Casey's Other Blog said...

R.I.P. Root Boy Slim, boogie blues poet and prophet

Zenster said...

Egghead: Through unchecked third world immigration from Mexico with its violent drug gangs and Muslim countries with their violent jihadis-in-waiting, the federal government is creating a violent cocktail in our nation in order to rob of us our true human and civil rights via a police state.

Have you ever considered the possibility that federal agencies, along with law enforcement in general, view this sort of "job security" as an opportunistic event and just milk it like the last cow on the farm?

The foregoing is a far more likely explanation than any sort of grand conspiracy theory and is much more "energy efficient" with respect to implementing and managing.

Yes, it still has the same damnably corrosive effects on our culture and society but it does not require anywhere near the coordination or orchestration that you assign to this effed up situation.

You yourself have previously cited the Law of Parsimony™. Please try to keep it in mind.

Dymphna said...

@ Dan Casey's other blog:

Thanks! Another admirer of Root Boy Slim and His Sex Change Band (back before gender transformation was a commonplace)

When we saw one of his performances, Root Boy happened upon the Baron in the men's room. When he saw the B's glorious attire -- i.e., a "Pep Boys" tee shirt, RB was dazzled. He eyed the shirt and then asked what size it was. On hearing it was a 'Medium', Root Boy responded, "MEDIUM??? I haven't worn that size since 5th grade".

Thus was the Baron saved from having to return home shirtless...

BTW, your profile shows that you live in God's country down in southwest VA...the Baron learned to pronounce the name of your town correctly from a friend in college...said friend spent his freshman year teaching outlanders how to properly say 'Rownoke'...

...will have to check out your other blog.