Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Stories like this (from The Charleston Gazette in West Virginia) just make me proud to be an American:

A group of Christian conservatives is urging Gov. Joe Manchin to reject a federally mandated digitized driver's license law, comparing the bar-coded national ID program to the "mark of the beast."

...Pastor Ervin "Butch" Paugh, a 57-year-old Nicholas County preacher who heads the group, said last week that the new driver's licenses are unconstitutional, invade people's privacy and conflict with Christian beliefs. He said the federal government is trying to create a "police state" with the new ID law.

"This is a total takeover by the beast system and a plan to ID everyone on the planet," said Paugh, who has a nationally syndicated radio show called "Call to Decision." ...

Hmmmm. I know people think the Mark of the Beast is in the bar code, but this is a new one on me. But let's continue:

Paugh predicts that the federal government will require that digitized thumbprints, facial and eye scans, and DNA information be included on driver's licenses. He believes hundreds of thousands of Americans will refuse the new standardized driver's licenses.

"I don't want the information about my personal life put in a public record for anybody to get a hold of who can hack into a computer," Paugh said. "If I give my uniqueness to a beast system, I can never get it back. The beast system will eventually kill all those who follow it."

Well, I have credit cards, so basically anyone on the planet who wants to know where my wife and I had dinner last Saturday night can undoubtedly obtain that information from a small-time Russian mobster with Internet access. But enough about me. Let's learn more about our complainant:

Paugh's group includes conservative Christians from Nicholas, Kanawha, Harrison, Randolph counties, and Canada. They meet Saturdays at a member's house and Sundays at a motel room.

Most members have refused to obtain West Virginia driver's licenses.

Instead, they drive with licenses from the "Republic of Anodyne," a fictitious country run out of a Florida apartment building with an "embassy" in Tampa. The organization issues driver's licenses and passports for $40 each, no questions asked.

Paugh said West Virginia State Police and local law enforcement agencies accept Republic of Anodyne licenses.

However, Sgt. M.F. Johns of the South Charleston detachment of the State Police, said the agency accepts only government-issued licenses.

"I have never heard of that," he said. "Unless it comes from an official state government or another country, we wouldn't accept it."

This is no joke. Here's the Republic of Anodyne Web site, and, yes, you can apply for a driver's license, citizenship, a passport, a press pass, a concealed-carry permit, and, for good measure, a master's degree or doctorate from Anodyne International University. (The doctorate costs $1,475; bargain-hunters will want to spring for the master's, which is only $950.)

Paugh's web site, www.calltodecision.com, displays an upside-down American flag flanked by a colonial American flag and a Confederate flag.

This is true.

The group believes the United States would have been better off if the South had won the Civil War, although they don't believe slavery should still exist....

Well, that's a relief.

Pastor Butch -- that's what he calls himself -- does, however, believe in 9/11 conspiracy theories -- and also weather-modification conspiracy theories. Interestingly, he's no fan of Bush: he believes the war on terror is "Elite Mind Control 'Controlled Chaos.'" Oh, and he likes a chuckle now and again.

I have no grand, overarching conclusion to draw from all this. I guess I'm just amused that people like Pastor Butch still exist.

(And relieved that they don't live anywhere near me.)


(And no, I'm not saying you're a wacko if you object to Real ID -- I know that there are sensible-sounding objections from non-wackos as well.)

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