Russell Madden

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FREEDOM, As If It Mattered
Russell Madden
Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu.
Softcover, $24.95
Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu.
Hardcover, $34.95

(Preview. Also available in a digital edition, $5.63.)



Russell Madden


Given all that has happened in this country in the past three months -- terrorist attacks, anthrax scares, massive expansions of government power, and economic upheaval -- it's comforting to learn that some things have not changed.

I was reminded of this fact while listening to the radio the other day. A news report detailed yet another casualty of recent actual and expected drops in tax collections here in Iowa. After hearing the dire warnings regarding the elimination of this vital state position, I wondered how I -- or the good and solid citizens of the state of Iowa -- how we would ever survive without this essential service.

One of the Midwest states highest in taxes, Iowa sits atop a half-billion dollar "reserve" fund, i.e., taxes stolen in excess of what is "needed" to meet current budgetary demands. The politicians refuse to return any portion of that wealth to those who actually earned it, i.e., the taxpayers. That stance is hardly surprising. Most politicians are loathe to relinquish any of their ill-gotten gains. Less money translates into less power.

Oddly enough, though, Iowa has a constitutional requirement that the state budget remain in the black. No deficit spending. Since, wonder of wonders, the legislators are not dipping into the "rainy day" fund to meet budgetary shortfalls, they are forced to -- get this, now -- cut spending.

Whoa! What planet are these guys and gals from?

Oh, sure, there has been talk of raising our state sales tax, eliminating state income tax deductions, or increasing tax rates to increase the loot available for distribution. After all, having less to spend on such pet projects as constructing an enclosed "rain forest" -- in Iowa, mind you -- or redoing a city's decrepit river front property to aid a local casino must pain these politicians to no end. How else can they convince their constituents that they "care" for the people's welfare? I mean, my own city's politicians recently demonstrated their concern for my welfare by increasing my property taxes to help pay for new swimming pools, a new baseball stadium, and remodeling schools...and I don't even use any of those "services."

Oh, wait a minute. I forgot. The politicians merely "supported" those proposals. The voters -- my dear neighbors -- are the ones who passed these idiocies and expect me to help pay for them. They are the truly compassionate ones.

I only hope these folks don't "care" so much for my "welfare" that they put me into bankruptcy...

While the state legislators cradle, Scrooge-like, that five-hundred-million dollars of our money, they and the governor -- who earned an "F" in fiscal matters during last year's boom times -- have instituted both targeted and across-the-board spending cuts. One of those casualties of a "selfish" public -- and how schizophrenic they are: shoveling out dough with one hand while, on the other hand, looking unkindly upon politicians who jack up taxes -- was a position discussed on that news report.

You see, callous SOB's -- like me -- who resent their meager shekels flowing out of their pockets towards the state capital simply don't understand how important this position is.

I envision a single tear trailing down the governor's cheek when he learned of this disgusting abomination.

Yes, it's true. Iowa must perforce eliminate...its state bee inspector!

According to the news report I heard, this tragedy must not be left uncorrected. After all, the report stated, bees are vitally important. Without bees, what would pollinate our plants? Without bees, where would Iowa honey producers be? Without a state bee inspector, who will inspect our beehives and our honey combs and assure vulnerable consumers that the honey they buy is up to snuff? By golly, without a state bee inspector to watch over the apiaries of this great agricultural mecca, i.e., Iowa, what will the bee guys do? Will they be forced to rely -- gasp -- on the free-market? Will we helpless honey fans be at the mercy of unscrupulous beekeepers who will cut corners and ignore the quality of the honey we smear upon our muffins, our toast, and our rolls?

Say it isn't so!

I mean, the report said these bee wranglers generate millions of dollars worth of goods every year. And the stupid Iowa politicians can't spring for the measly cost of a poor bee inspector? Talk about returns on investment! How shortsighted. A few tens-of-thousands in salary in exchange for the health -- maybe even the very existence -- of this -- and I quote -- "important" Iowa industry that is worth millions to the state...

I am so ashamed.

Here I have been foolishly worrying about such obscure issues as warrantless searches of emails, phone calls, and homes, detention without bail or legal representation, military tribunals, reinstitution of the draft, gutting posse comitatus laws, censorship, gun registration, escalating the War on Drugs, undeclared military wars, national identification cards, and other such fine points of freedom when I should have been devoting my time and effort to lobbying the state of Iowa to preserve and protect the important position of state bee inspector.

Perhaps I need to reconsider how I have been investing my talents. I'm sure if I try, I can unearth a whole plethora of activities that are "important" and that thus justify state oversight and/or funding.

Let's see.

Earthworms are important. They aerate the soil. If something untoward should befall those little wrigglers, we Iowans could not possibly grow sufficient corn and soybeans to feed a major proportion of the world. To preserve and protect those eyeless wonders, we should immediately ordain an "earthworm czar." Indeed, the production of food is so important for basic survival that the president and Congress should offer the support and resources of the entire nation to help protect those hidden crawlers.

Golly. There must be thousands of such vital links in the ecology that we could -- and should -- monitor and nurture.

I envision an office of "Homeland Agricultural Security" to coordinate the disparate activities of various agencies and private vendors involved in this "important" work. Now.

But let's not limit ourselves to such mundanities as food, shelter, and clothing. It's long been known that people do not live by bread alone.

Consider the videogame industry. While the movie industry brings in about $8 billion in annual domestic revenue, the purveyors of PC, PlayStation, and other games -- and this was before the introduction of Microsoft's X-Box and Nintendo's Cube -- earned over $11 billion annually.

How do we know, though, that this "important" industry is being run as it should be? Who ensures the quality of the games? Who protects us -- and let's not forget the children! -- from shoddy game or console makers? Clearly, the consumer must be defended from the potential depredations of greedy manufacturers. Who knows when they might do something wrong?

How long will we videogame players be forced to flounder adrift and alone without the reassuring presence of a videogame inspector? The "Office of Homeland Entertainment Security" has been languishing for far too long! After all, Hollywood is billions behind their rivals. We must have a level playing field. Immediately.

What else? Gee. Maybe automobiles and such. Where's our "Office of Homeland Transportation Security"? Er, uh...I guess we already do have a Department of Transportation, don't we?

But I bet they could do more! After all, driving is "important," damn it!

And junk food. Boy. Imagine how much money is involved in producing, distributing, and consuming those Twinkies, chips, candy, and soda pop? That's "important," too.

And cat food. Dog toys. Pet supplies of all kinds. Let's not forget: for how many adults and couples are pets surrogate "children," vitally "important" to their psychological well-being? Such interests must be addressed without delay.

Ah, heck. This is taking too long. After all, everything is "important" to someone. In the interest of time, energy, and efficiency, let's just establish an "Office of Homeland Everything Security." Security is, of course, the bee, er, be-all and end-all of existence, is it not? And if it's "important" to someone, somewhere, somehow, then the State should obviously be involved as much as possible. Right?


Or so I've been told...


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