The federal shutdown battle highlights an oppressively overgrown government, delayed dinosaur bones, and mistreatment of a House stenographer

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Oct 17, 2013 The federal shutdown battle highlights an oppressively overgrown government, delayed dinosaur bones, and mistreatment of a House stenographer

My seven-year-old son is very bright. However, any explanation by me to him about the federal government shutdown’s delaying the arrival of a new T. rex skeleton to the Natural History Museum was not going to lessen his disappointment at not seeing the skeleton yet, let alone being kept out of what he calls the dinosaur museum for two successive weekends.

Now the shutdown has been reversed — of course at the last moment rather than before, not helping global financial markets at all, let alone the earnings of the hot dog seller near federal buildings in downtown Washington, D.C. and everyone in between — through a temporary delay of a further budget impasse rather than on any real resolution.

The federal government budget has been long overgrown — we would not have seen a government shutdown otherwise — with a huge part of that overgrowth coming from the billions spent on warfare, an overgrown and oppressive national security and police state, military contractors, and constant investigation, pursuit of, capture, interrogation and caging of alleged terrorists and their allies; and the billons spent on federal policing, prosecuting, pretrial jailing, judging, mandatory minimum sentencing, overblown sentencing guidelines, and imprisoning in a criminal "justice" system that makes a mockery and fraud of any claim that ours is truly the land of the brave and home of the free rather than the land of the cops and home of the caged. I am not satisfied about paying taxes and seeing the budget band-aid against the shutdown, when a huge portion of such funding is going towards warfare, oppressive national security, and an oppressive criminal "justice" system.

Majority rule can be tyrannical, of course, to those not in the majority; government is a necessary evil to begin with. On paper, then, allowing filibustering by legislators and delayed presentation of legislation can help avoid the majority’s prematurely shoving a vote down legistors’ throats without sufficient debate and proposed amendments and substitutions to bills. From what I can tell, the government shutdown would have been averted or ended much earlier had the full House and Senate floor simply had a chance to vote on legislation to keep the federal government open. Here, the legislation that apparently reversed the shutdown apparently was drafted behind closed doors. So often federal legislation runs in the hundreds of pages. If that were the case here, that meant insufficient time for Congressional members to even read the legislation, where too many legislators do not even read the full text of legislation even when they have more time to do so, instead relying on others to characterize the legislation for them.

The budget impasse arose from those opposed to Obamacare. As much as I am saddened by the huge gap between those of means and less means in the world, I was never crazy about the idea of national health insurance nor socialized medicine. Moreover, the healthcare system in America is overgrown in part because too many people let their health go until they have symptoms that need checking and hugely expensive treatment, too many people rush to the doctor at the first sniffle in the nose, and doctors over-test in part to reduce exposure to medical malpractice lawsuits. The American medical system focuses too much on allopathic rather than homeopathic healthcare. Furthermore, American society is so full of stress, worry about unemployment and job loss, disconnectedness, and hooray for individualistic me/to hell with you attitudes that people’s immune systems are eroded. Imagine a society where people are not laughed at to have the option of doing a few minutes of meditation at their desks, before the start of a business meeting, at the start of the school day, and even at the start of a holiday family gathering that otherwise has the potential of going downhill from there, and to have the option of being taught and encouraged to pursue such practices. If that sounds nuts to you, it is being practiced successfully at the hugely profitable Google, regardless of how much Google invades privacy and has kowtowed to such oppressive governments as China’s.

Ronald Reagan and friends are not off the mark about the oppressiveness of big government. As we see more money, programs and power that get concentrated in governmental hands, we see more threats of abuse and actual abuse of governmental power. The money for government comes from forced taxation (who pays taxes gladly and voluntarily?), and new and expanded police powers and criminal laws seem to be added to just about every piece of social program legislation, starting with efforts to avoid fraud and misuse in the programs, but of course the innocent get prosecuted all the time as well, and I want to see the criminal justice system shrink, not expand.

The federal government is too much an imperial government paying lipservice to democratic approaches, while roaming the globe for suspected terrorists and their friends where the U.S. government would yell in an outcry if another government’s agents arrested people on American soil, selectively insisting on nuclear disarmament and freezes by selected nations while maintaining a huge nuclear arsenal and giving a wink and a nod for numerous allied nations to maintain nuclear arms, and engaging in ultra-secrecy, which of course prevents the government from being very democratice, because sufficient democracy cannot co-exist with hyper-secrecy. Jimmy Carter tried removing some of the trappings of Nixon’s imperial presidency — including by such superficial actions as stopping the practice of playing "hail to the chief" and the more substantive approach of trying to do without a formal chief of staff — and glot slammed down at the next election by an electorate filled with people wanting to see greater muscle in the White House, as well as wanting to reverse runaway inflation and unemployment. Thereafter, United States voters elected presidents playing a big power game, and Congress has joined in for a long time.

Even with the backdrop of such an imperial government, I hope that such Congressional members with a true conscience (regardless of my view on their opinions and voting) like Senator Bernie Sanders are troubled with the apparent forced hospital transport and psychological evaluation of longtime House stenographer Dianne Reidy, who was caught on tape ranting on the House floor about Freemasons, government, and Jesus. Such rantings might mean that a good — underlined good, not detrimental — psychological evaluation and counseling might be of benefit to Ms. Reidy, but only if voluntary on her part, or maybe this was just an abberation for her. Any of us living in big cities have heard delusional rantings from scores of people, with us knowing them to be harmless and having no fear of them. Any forced hospital visit for Ms. Reidy was not justified.

On the topic of stenographer Dianne Reidy, it is very troubling how easy it is in the jurisdictions where I practice for police and civilians to have harmless people forced to get psychological evaluations. A key motivation for delusional rantings probably stems from being so troubled with reality that fantasy becomes more bearable. Who knows what sent Ms. Reidy to the verbal brink after so many years of being a popular fixture on Capitol Hill? Did she have friends or family members financially harmed by the government shutdown? Had she or a loved one just gotten diagnosed with a scary disease? Had she just suffered a relationship breakdown? Had someone abused her? Was she just plain exhausted? That is nobody’s business but Ms. Reidy’s, and it was nobody’s business for her to be forced, if she was forced, to any psychological evaluation. She had no right to stay on the House floor during such rantings, but once she was removed from the floor, that should have been the end of the story. Congress, Capitol police and prosecutors: Free Dianne Reidy now, and do not prosecute her.

Resuming today will be federal government business as usual. Based on what I have said above, such business as usual is not pretty and needs the right changing, fast.

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