Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Posse Comitatus

The Posse Comitatus Act is alaw that does not allow the US military to act like police force in dealings with civilians. It is, in my opinion a very good thing. Enforcing laws is a very complicated specialized task and even though I suppose one might view a cop armed with a gun, dressed in a uniform, as only oen small step removed from a soldier, the two tasks entrusted to the two government employees are very different. Which makes this story I read on the Daily Kos rather interesting. It's by an author posting as gjohnsit and is available on their website in it's full length version. I just excerpted a couple of paragraphs for some food for thought:

If you want a glimpse of the near future of America, look no further than Samson, Alabama.Last March, Michael McLendon, a disgruntled worker from Pilgrim's Pride, a chicken processing company, went on a killing rampage that left 11 people dead. While a horrible tragedy in itself, the event was marked by something more unusual - federal Army troops from nearby Fort Rucker were brought into Samson and other surrounding areas to patrol the streets. This fact was largely ignored by the major media.

The reason why the troops were manning traffic stops in the small Alabama town, in clear violation of the Posse Comitatus Act, was because the local sheriff asked for support from the military. The reason he couldn't handle the situation? Budget cuts in police enforcement.

What has this got to do with Michael McLendon and Pilgrim's Pride? In 2006, the giant chicken processor teamed up with Wall Street and borrowed hundreds of billions of dollars to acquire a rival company. To pay for the buyout, and the executive bonuses that came with it, it cut the wages of its workers. Soon after it found it couldn't pay for the debt and declared bankruptcy. This led to massive layoffs and devastation of the tax base of the community.

So who put together the deal that bankrupted Pilgrim's Pride? Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch. The Merrill banker who made the deal was recently hired by JP Morgan Chase. JP Morgan was behind the financial derivatives that has bankrupted Jefferson County, Alabama over a sewer project.

Because of the financial disaster regarding the sewer project, sewer charges were raised to more than double the national average. Poor, working residents are being forced to chose between water and heat. Cuts in the sheriff's office are so severe that plans are being made to call in the National Guard for any breakout in civil order.

If this sounds suspiciously like the scenario of a 3rd world nation in Latin America, it only means that you are paying attention.

"For if leisure and security were enjoyed by all alike, the great mass of human beings who are normally stupefied by poverty would become literate and would learn to think for themselves; and when once they had done this, they would sooner or later realize that the privileged minority had no function, and they would sweep it away. In the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance."
— George Orwell

Botany Class

Cheyenne likes to share the office with me when I am at the computer and some days I am of a mind to let sleeping dogs lie. But then where would she be without a daily off leash ramble? Bored is the answer to that, so off we go, on this occasion to Big Pine Key on the island's southern shore.The addition called Cactus Hammock is located between a trailer park and a collection of shore front homes and the long stretch between them is covered by a delightful shady footpath winding through the bushes. To get there we had to park the kennel and cross some flooded land:One unusual aspect of this particular trail is that much of the plant life has been labelled: Some of it has been labelled by vandals rather than botanists:I got it into my head it might be amusing to record these labels and have them to refer to when writing about other walks I might take.
The trouble is, there is no way in hell I am going to remember all these names:The walk itself is quite delightful on top of a sandy ridge next to the water.
It forms much of the hedgerow along the path:
Then there's something called a coral bean. That one's new to me:
This next one is a familiar piece of history, if not botany:
And these are everywhere and native:
These were beach combers from, I suspect, the adjacent trailer park:
Black mangroves are easy enough to identify because they have little stubby roots that grow out of the mud surrounding their trunks.
It's the white mangroves that I have trouble identifying. I think their leaves look rather similar to these black mangrove leaves:The other problem with this splendid botanical idea is that leave sin pictures tend to look pretty much the same to my eye:The tourist tree is an easy one:And as you all must know by now the gumbo limbo gets that nickname because it's bark turns red and peels, just like a tourist: I've got some gumbo limbos around my home and I am very fond of them and their bright green leaves. I also have a cactus that looks something like this:And the trash can is a sign that human interference is never too far away:And my other favorites, the date palms:This one vaguely resembles the poisonwood tree, known in the Caribbean as the manchineel:
The poisonwood tree has nasty black splotches on it's bark, the dogwood doesn't:There were more bushes and trees and labels than you could shake a stick at. Why they call this the "Spanish Stopper" I couldn't rightly say. Perhaps it was impenetrable to early explorers:The batteries in my camera went dead before I got a picture of the purple flowers produced by this bush but by then we were both a bit exhausted by this...exhaustive labelling and we called it a day.My assistant and I:I wonder if I will pluck up the courage to try to document the other labels I left behind this trip.