The Frog In The Saucepan

It's an old story: There's this frog, see, and somehow, he (or she) has managed to jump into a saucepan full of water on the stove, and someone's lit the burner. The frog's having a good time, swimming around in this water ... which is getting warmer by the minute, but since the frog is already in the water, he (or she) is adapting to the rising temperature ... until, at some point, the water reaches a boil, and it's time for a little French cuisine.

That's what I immediately thought of when I saw this story in the Kansas City Star about how the local district attorney of Wyandotte County, Jerome Gorman, is having such a hard time finding porn (and drugs) to prosecute— two victimless "crimes," I might note — that he's trying to enlist reg'lar citizens like ourselves to help him find the stuff so he can throw the miscreants that are having fun with it in the slammer.

And frankly, that gave me the red-ass.

For one thing, if the porn and drugs in Wyandotte County are so well hidden — or at least so "under the radar" — that even the cops, with all their manpower and all their training, can't find it, maybe porn and drugs aren't a real problem in Kansas City!

The other problem I had is, ever since 9/11 and the USA PATRIOT Act and the "orange alerts" and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, I've noticed a concerted effort on the part of government to try to get me (and you) to spy on my (and your) fellow citizens — a concept that turns us into adversaries even though what we should be doing it trying to get along and practicing a philosophy of "live and let live." 

According to Gorman, this effort to turn us all into Junior G-Men stems from "statements that a grand jury issued last year, urging his office to actively prosecute violations of obscenity and drug paraphernalia laws."

Well, as readers know, that grand jury was the brainchild of Phil Cosby, Kansas' #1 anti-porn (and apparently also anti-drug) crusader, who, not satisfied that Gorman and others like him were busy prosecuting people who actually hurt other people, decided that what people were doing in the privacy of their own homes was — surprise, surprise! — actually everybody's business, even when they weren't hurting anybody with their weed and their XXX DVDs ... and that therefore, the cops should take an interest.

But of course, for the cops to take an interest, there has to be evidence upon which some judge can issue a search warrant — and of course, that would take time away from investigating real crimes and probably involve invasions of citizens' rights of privacy, which is a major no-no under the Fifth Amendment — so why not get reg'lar citizens like ourselves to do the invading for the cops? That way, the Constitution isn't violated, and the only problem is that it turns everybody into pod people or Big Brother followers, and subverts the ideas upon which the whole friggin' country was founded over 200 years ago.

But of course, reg'lar people generally don't know what's "obscene" under the law, so now Gorman is holding classes at the local community college "to educate residents that they should be looking for items such as bongs and glass pipes that are used to smoke crack cocaine [and] about obscenity — what is allowed and what is not."

"Gorman said that something might strike someone as obscene, but if it doesn’t violate state statutes, it can’t be prosecuted," wrote Mark Wiebe of the KC Star. "Gorman said he believes 99 percent of businesses operate within the law, and he stressed that he was not asking neighborhood leaders to conduct fishing expeditions."

Sorry, Charlie; that's exactly what he's asking neighborhood leaders (and pretty much everybody else who doesn't wear a badge) to do! 

Similarly, the Dallas (Tex.) Morning News reports that in response to all the furor the religio-reactionaries have been making about how Some People have been using local public library computers to view porn, library staffers have been suggesting that rather than install filtering software on the computers to prevent patrons from viewing whatever it is that the filtering company, in its infinite wisdom, has told its software to bar people from viewing, that instead, the library should install software that simply blasts a siren or rings a bell or licks a librarian's foot — well, or "sends an electronic message to the librarian" — whenever it detects that a patron is viewing XXX material.

 "It cannot be stressed enough that the best solution to prevent access to inappropriate Internet content is ALWAYS through monitoring usage," states a 24-page briefing document prepared for City Council members by the library's staff. "The solution proposed will enhance the current monitoring practices of the library staff."

That way, "Library patrons choose whether to continue to their selections after being notified, on-screen, of potentially objectionable content."

 Maybe the library can also post big signs in the computer area that say, "BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU"!

Is anybody detecting a trend here?

And finally, the New York Times, in a column titled, innocently enough, "Travel Bug,"  and subtitled, "Tell the T.S.A. (and Don't Hold Back)" whines about how people with Internet access and who, for all I know, remember the days when you didn't have to take off your shoes, your cellphone, your suspenders and unpack your loose change, your toothpaste, your shampoo, your mouthwash, your computer and your sleep apnea machine in order to get from the ticket counter to your airplane, are now leaving nasty messages on the Transportation Security Administration's blog with truisms like, "too many of your T.S.A. workers are just power-hungry morons."

Aw, gee, fella; give them a break. They're only trying to invade your privacy, waste your time and conduct an illegal search (and possibly also an illegal seizure) of the belongings of an American citizen or two or three or 40 million who're just trying to get from one place to another faster than they can drive the distance. Now why would anyone be upset about that?

"Despite the bloggers’ complaints," writer Joe Sharkey claims, "the airport security experience has clearly become more predictable, if not more enjoyable, in recent years."

WHAT THE FUCK??? "More enjoyable"?!?!?! To be penned up like a herd of cattle, forced into a straight line moving at a glacial pace toward metal detectors (and in some airports, whole-body x-ray machines), forced to empty your pockets and briefcase and purse and computer bag into rubbery trays that slide through an x-ray machine where some operator who's paycheck depends on being overly paranoid can disrupt your whole day (and possibly make you miss your plane) by uttering the magic words, "BAG CHECK!"

But what ho! Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

"Last week, readers scored a point after some complained about a security procedure," writes Sharkey. "At some airports, screeners had been ordering passengers to remove all electronics from their bags, rather than just laptops. There is no such rule. 'We learned that this exercise was set up by local T.S.A. officers,' the agency reported back on the blog. By Monday afternoon, the word had gone out to T.S.A. screeners nationally: BlackBerrys, iPods and other electronics stay in bags."

The fuck of it is, none of this crap would stop any dedicated "terrorist" from blowing up a plane if he/she really wanted to — consider the fact that air freight, which is often carried on the same planes as the passengers, is not x-rayed nor screened for any types of explosives up to and including nuclear — but the truth of it is, they don't really want to. My guess is, they're satisfied to have turned the United States of America into a police state much like their own.

Thank you, George W. Bush! 


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