Guest Editorial: Empire

Guest Editorial:
Empire Building, Fear, Greed and Surveillance in a Little Rural County of 3,500

First they got a grant to come and take the children from their parents,
and I did not speak out because I had no children;
Then they got a grant to come for the medical cannabis growers,
And I did not speak out because I was not a medical cannabis activist;
Then they got a grant to do surveillance for the IRS;
And I am speaking out before there is no one left to speak out.

Do we need more reminders of the danger of greed and the propensity for bureaucrats to increase their purview by selling fear? If so, we have the latest example in the grant that the Sierra County Sheriff’s Office has written that will require monthly reporting on his surveillance of us to the IRS. This looks to be an ugly trend in Sierra County. Department heads in this county are creating make-work for monetary gain.  In this particular case it is not only morally repugnant but illegal.

Do we really need this particular grant? Have we read it all the way through and considered the ramifications?  Since the sheriff is going to report one kind of farmer to the IRS, why shouldn’t he report them all? And why stop at farmers? Once that plane is in the sky with surveillance equipment there is no getting those pictures of your children playing in the yard or that smile on your upturned face looking at the sunset out of their databanks. Surveillance is something that United States citizens are slowly becoming comfortable with, slowly, and bit by bit. Just like we are getting comfortable with losing our liberties – slowly and bit by bit they are being eaten away because of apathy.  And also, some of us may feel that it doesn’t apply to us (“I’m not doing anything wrong/illegal, why should I worry about surveillance?”). The problem of allowing this take root in our county is that the definition of “what is wrong/illegal” is up to someone else and may change at any moment, and frequently does. Once surveillance is in place it is impossible to stop, or to retrieve info kept in federal or corporate databanks.

“No officer, you do not have my permission to use surveillance on me.” This is not an issue of cannabis (whether an illegal grow or a state legal grow).

This IS an issue of:

Sierra County and local law enforcement building an empire
… with federal funds that have strings attached
… with funds that we do not need or want
… by creating work that is not their job
And an issue of unwanted and unnecessary federal surveillance and occupation in our county

The Sheriff and the Board work for us. If anyone is going to do any watching, it should be us watching them. Perhaps we should apply for grants to surveil our local law enforcement and Board of Supervisors - don't we need to know every time they take heart or asthma or allergy or anti-nausea medicine and where they are getting it, how much money did that tractor or barn or chainsaw or truck cost and are they claiming it on their taxes? Don't we need to know where they get their other money and where it goes and if they are paying taxes on all of it (including alfalfa sales for cash)? What are their children doing while they are playing outside, and oh my, isn't that dangerous and shouldn't we take those children away from their parents? And, why do those cows really need all that water - look at all that water, wouldn't it be better used elsewhere? Oh, the things I could learn if I only had surveillance capability... And perhaps I could use all that info somewhere down the years, maybe not, but at least I would have it... and while we're at it, let's put video cameras in public and private places so we can watch what our local elected peeps are doing while they are working for us (and getting paid by us). How many times are they on the phone for non work related things, exactly how long was that break they took, did they do their dishes, what do they have in the refrigerator, how much alcohol did they consume, or what exactly are they doing on the internet, or just why on earth did they drive down that road when it has been closed?

It is time for us to show a sense of responsibility. Stick up for our neighbors. If we do not stop this now, it could be you next that has the IRS counting your cows, sheep, wool, and hay bales and checking to whom you are selling them for cash. After all, we all must pay our taxes… And it is the Sheriffs job to make sure we are all paying our taxes… Right?  Isn’t that what we all want to see, our sheriff’s face when he knocks on the door with a warrant to search in order to determine if we have paid our taxes? And in order to make sure everyone is paying them, our local law enforcement is inviting the IRS, the DEA, and the DOJ into the airplane and flying over our homes with them. All because, well, why was that exactly? Oh, right, there are people in the forest that– if you believe the Sheriff, are all here illegally and can’t pay taxes anyway – and ya can’t hardly catch them because they are so dang reclusive), and he THINKS that there are local people growing a medicinal herb that helps people who are really sick, that aren’t paying their taxes because the IRS says the herb is illegal and won’t allow them to pay federal taxes anyway without throwing them into prison for 60 years, so he is going to turn them in… or, wait, is it that he really needs to add an additional $11,000 to his departmental budget of $2 million? We have fewer than 3,500 people in this county.  And half of us don’t live here all year. Is that $11,000 really needed? Maybe it wouldn’t be if he weren’t flying an airplane around watching us.

We have enough issues to face as a county without going and looking for more things to get people in trouble. This is not a priority, and we need to stop getting federal funds that we do not need or want. We need to be working together, finding out what works well and enabling ourselves, and our neighbors to prosper and be resilient.  We have an incredible wealth of smart, savvy, fiercely independent people in this county.  Let’s work together.

We the people of Sierra County do not need to agree to this. Has the Sheriff even submitted the grant yet? If so, the Sheriff does not have to accept and spend the grant money when it comes in. There is no legitimate reason for Sierra County to invite this kind of surveillance into our lives. There is absolutely no reason for us to be burdened by the presence of the federal eye or the occupation of the feds in our county. There is no reason a determined public cannot correct this injustice. We can act to stop it now, and if it is too late to stop it, we can repeal it – or pass a county resolution against it. We also have the power to recall a rogue sheriff and board members.  Don’t listen to fear tactics, don’t buy into the greed.

Together we are stronger than fear or greed.

A concerned Sierra County citizen
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