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Monday, April 10, 2006


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related, Britt Blaser's (not recent) Secreted Ballots and a War Story.
("False urgency is such a staple of advertising that we're inured to it, so that all emergencies seem equally optional. In airplanes and democracies, they aren't...")


OK, lets hear more about the tear gas thing. I, for one, have never heard about that experience.


Wow. I just read Anna's link Secreted Ballots and a War Story and it really, really got to me.

We definitely need to revamp the election system. The big problem is not people have cheated or can cheat -- the big problem is that you can claim that they cheat.

Our system of government works on faith more than anything else. If people can ask reasonable questions about the accuracy of voting systems it will shake the faith and probably be more damaging to our government that most other things. We can't afford a series of lame ducks trying to consolidate their power so they can get something done.


OK, lets hear more about the tear gas thing. I, for one, have never heard about that experience.

Let's see: Tallahassee Airport, Nixon rally, circa 1968-69. My father took me to protest. Everyone else had anti-war signs. We had something really specific that didn't make any sense to me. Anyway, when we showed up with a sign, we were rounded up with the rest of the protestors and told we had to stay within a small, out-of-the-way area defined by a low chain-link fence.

Everything was peaceful until one protestor got into the regular pro-Nixon crowd on the tarmac. I was on my father's shoulders, and I remember that guy being pulled down and beaten. Then police in riot gear surrounded our fenced-in "free speech" area.

My dad, a veteran of the Civil Rights movement, decided that was the signal to leave. I remember him getting very aggitated, pushing through the crowd to get out the only gate. Moments after we got loose, the police tossed CS grenades into the containment area and all hell broke loose.

I remember two things about it: 1. Being stunned that policemen would beat people for no reason; 2. being hit by the tear gas as the cloud spread out on the breeze and people began panicking.

It was pretty awful, but it could have been a lot worse if my dad hadn't seen it coming.

Anyway, wasn't something that I thought about much until I went to the gas chamber in basic training in 1985 and got my first whiff of that CS gas. It was like being transported through time and space to that chaoitic airport scene. They aren't kidding when they say smell is the sense most associated with memory.

How you see the world has a lot to do with what you learned when you were a child. Like my peers, I learned in kindergarten and elementary school that policemen were friendly helpers. But I also learned that police were to be feared.

If you weren't there that day, you'd probably be more than willing to believe that it was the hippies who caused the problems. I'd bet that's the way the TV covered it, too. But that's not what happened. And the problem with authoritarian control is that sooner or later, enough people figure out on their own that the truth isn't being told.

Authoritarian control creates rebellion, whether you're talking about a nation or a household.

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