Monday, November 9, 2009

The Berlin Wall...the moral to the story

I was born during the early part of the Vietnam War. This war was part of a larger "East verses West", "Communist /Socialist verses Capitalist" cold war. For me and my generation, this is how it had always been. By the time I was old enough to know much of anything the USSR, The Iron Curtain, Cold War, nuclear missles, Eastern Bloc Countries, and the Berlin Wall were household terms.

"On May 8, 1945, the unconditional surrender of the German armed forces (Wehrmacht) was signed by Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel in Berlin, ending World War II for Germany. The German people were suddenly confronted by a situation never before experienced in their history: the entire German territory was occupied by foreign armies, cities and infrastructure were largely reduced to rubble, the country was flooded with millions of refugees from the east, and large portions of the population were suffering from hunger and the loss of their homes. The nation-state founded by Otto von Bismarck in 1871 lay in ruins."

"As Germany surrendered to the Allied Powers, the war in Europe officially ended. The land lay in devastation from the invasion and cities were turned into rubble from the bombing of Germany from the Allies. England, the Soviet Union, France, and the United States tried their hand in saving the destructed Germany. They decided the best way to rebuilt would be to divide Germany into four militarized zones, each one controlled by one of the Allied powers. Berlin was divided similarly. The government of Germany was also divided and each divided section was given the power to set the government they wanted on a ballot for election. Each country did this excluding the Soviet Union, which immediately set up their own communist government."
Think Quest

The three divisions of Germany held by Great Britain, France and the United States united those sections to form one "West" Germany while the division occupied by the Soviet Union (USSR) was kept under Soviet control.

By 1961 it was evident that the economy of the west was vastly superior and robust compared to that of the east or Soviet section of Germany (East Germany). Since the entire city (east and west) of Berlin was inside the borders of East Germany many people from East Germany began to migrate to the western part of Berlin.

So many people had migrated or fled to the other part of Berlin that the Soviet government felt they had to do something to curtail this movement. This was done by erecting a wall that surrounded the western section of Berlin cutting it off from the rest of East Germany.

"The Berlin Wall always was a symbol of the superiority of freedom over oppression and of the free market over a controlled economy. Those two aspects — politics and economics — were as much a part of it as the gray paint on its east side and the colorful and taunting graffiti on its west side."
Deseret News, November 9, 2009

I remember as a child hearing about people risking their lives in attempts to escape from the oppression of the east over that wall. Many people were successful while many others never made it. The wall was heavily guarded and anyone attempting to pass over the wall were shot, no questions asked.

The Berlin Wall and the "Iron Curtain" it represented were as normal to me as rock n roll, apple pie and lemonade. I am sure I was not alone in this thinking. We never imagined that things could change."

I saw life in the East just as the commentor to the Deseret News opinion piece, "My childhood was filled with watching footage of people daring to run for their lives hoping to reach freedom before guards in the towers would notice - rapid fire bullets took their lives again and again as they risked all rather than live under Soviet oppression! Americans how soon we forget - and propaganda covers the horror to modern youth unaware of the past. The dead do not repeat the truth from their history!"

The 1981 movie
"Night Crossing" told the story of two families who attempted to cross the barbed wire-walled East German border where automated machine guns, armed guards, and deadly land mines dotted this "death strip". On September 15, 1979 tired of the Cold War rules that restricted their lives, these two families built their own balloon as an escape vehicle to the West.

I saw that movie not long after its debut. It is a story that has stuck with me ever since.

The Berlin Wall and the "Iron Curtain" it represented were as normal to me as rock n roll, apple pie and lemonade (cliches intended). I am sure I was not alone in this thinking. We never imagined that things could change.

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of that wall. I had been married just a few short months when an undercurrent that had been brewing for years exploded to enable a cascade of events to unfold right before our eyes.

  • June 1987: Ronald Regan becomes the second US president to make an historic speech in Berlin, this time in front of the Brandenburg Gate. He echoes Kennedy’s devotion to preserving democracy. His exhortation – “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” – would become a catchphrase.

  • August 1989: The Eastern Bloc shows signs of weakening, with Hungary removing its border bloc with Austria. Thousands of East Germans escape to the West via Austria.

  • September 1989: East Germans begin organizing peaceful “Monday demonstrations” weekly in protest against the GDR government.

  • September-November 1989: Protests agitating for loosened border controls increase in number in the GDR.

  • October 18, 1989: Erich Honecker, who had ruled since 1971, resigns. His departure leaves open the possibility for looser border controls.

  • November 9: The GDR politburo, seeing the impossibility of maintaining a firm hand, agrees to a minor concession allowing limited travel across the border.

    At a press conference announcing the decision, a politburo member who had just learned of the policy mistakenly says that is immediately effective. In fact, it was to take effect the next day, in order to inform the border guards ahead of time.

    Thousands of East Berliners flock to the checkpoints and attempt to cross the border, overwhelming the guards by their numbers.

    People begin picking away at the wall by hand.
France 24 News

Almost over night the world I had grown up in had changed.

"It was a day in which the entire world seemed to exhale after decades of a tense Cold War many felt would last forever. It was, for many, the beginning of the real end to World War II, defined for them by years of war, followed by more than 40 years of oppression and occupation. And it was the beginning of a more chaotic world, defined by ideologies and terrorist threats rather than a superpower standoff."
Deseret News

Yet 20 years later as we observed the anniversary of this incredible day we must remember the lessons of the past. "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." George Santayana

Today our own government seems bent on moving toward greater control over the economy, quite ostensibly in the name of "saving" it.

But if we look to the lessons that can be learned from the history of oppression that was symbolized by that Wall we will remember. We will remember that it was the successes of capitalism that those behind that Iron Curtain risked their lives to reach. It was the oppression of governmental economic control that they were fleeing.

If we remember these lessons and learn from them we will avert a repeat of the past.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Free Speech

I came across this post at a blog I accassionally visit. Though my own personal feelings may not run as deep as this gentleman, I do carry a sense of trepidation with regard to the direction our country seems to be headed.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

by Richard Johnson

My concept of fear has evolved over the years. I used to be afraid of dark rooms and, as a little boy, I asked my mother to come in and look under the bed, in the closet and verify that there was nothing to fear in these locations Gradually I became confident that I could go to bed by myself, confident that nothing yucky was going to come out of the darker places and do me harm. (Though I still tried to sleep without arms or feet hanging out over the edge of the mattress, just in case something was under the bed that might find those parts appetizing.

Gradually I developed a clear understanding that though things might make me nervous (going on stage, first night (I did a stint in Long Beach, California where I found that one of the world’s great actresses routinely had someone standing off state holding a bucket incase she had to throw up before her first entrance); asking for a date, taking an exam in Hymena Hoffman’s history class, (one of the worlds all time great teachers, but a giver of exams that might curl your hair) driving a car solo for the first time, working up nerve to kiss your first girl, etc. Fright was reserved for things that might create permanent damage. There are things in my life that seriously frightened me: Driving a truck full of blocks down a steep curvy hill and putting my foot on the brake only to have the brake pedal go down to the floor; standing in the jump door of a Ford tri-motor airplane wearing a forest service parachute not much bigger (in my opinion) than an umbrella, then, on cue, jumping out that door, knowing it to be the last voluntary act of my life; prowling the city dump with friends in search of (I don’t remember what we were looking for) and having a brown bear rise up out of the refuse about ten feet away, looking like he was sixteen feet tall and shaking his head angrily; climbing my first forty plus foot pole with belt and hooks to instal the cross bars, braces and insulators to help install the Union Pacific Railroad CTC (central train control system), then feeling my arms, without my volition, reach out and clutch the pole (“freezing” on the pole, they call it), necessitating that at least two other climbers, (seemed like twenty) climbing the pole, attaching a pulley to my back, and literally prying my arms loose so they could get me back on the ground. (Actually the most frightening thing was when the foreman told me I had to immediately climb a pole again, and finish the job, or be laid off – with a wife and three children, one of them newborn, all, needing my salary to survive), that second pole was as bad as the jump door of the airplane).

These have always been the kinds of things that I felt were frightening, but they are immediate things, and you either survive them or not (obviously I did). When I say I am frightened, I don’t fear an immediate strike of lightening, but my fear is as vivid, just not as immediate and my fear is not of personal death, but for the death of the type of nation I have come to love.

A number of things which have happened since the election of President Obama which have made me nervous and distrustful, but I never felt an emotion that approached real fear until the administration launched its attack on the Fox news network (The Fox Network such as it is, holds no special place in my heart) an act, which, if upheld, essentially vitiates any hope we have for freedom of expression, a central focus of our Constitution and our way of life. Political correctness forces have been picking at this freedom for some time, but this is a frontal assault on the core of Bill of Rights. Almost at the same time it was revealed that our country (as one of a group) has endorsed a United Nations resolution that could become law in our country if some have their way, making public speech or criticism of an faith or religious group an international crime (the article I read implies that it identified this form of criticism as a form of terrorism.

The implications are mind boggling and hold more threat to our existence as it is than could be completely imagined.

I was calming down on this subject, but as I sat in our Cardiologist’s office, the President was shown being interview by some lady newsperson and his answers to her softball questions were so self convicting of Obama’s feeling that any organized criticism of his programs deserve stifling that my feeling rose again. Thus, this post!!!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

11 year old gives speech to Tea Party crowd

Sara Warmack is just 11 years old. On the 4th of July she stood before a Tea Party crowd in Tallahassee Florida and gave a well thought out, heart stirring, freedom ringing speech.

I know it has been over two months since she gave this speech, but it was just brought to my attention this week.

Keep in mind, there was no teleprompter for this young patriot.

If I find the text to this speech I will post a link to it.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Geese and Ganders in Budgeting

President Obama announced new initiatives today to help citizens save more money for retirement, making it easier to contribute to IRAs and 401(k) programs. I applaud his administration's efforts. An administration official (not named in the Reuters article I read) was speaking about the personal savings rate which has risen to 5% today from as low as 0.8% in April of 2008, and has even been negative in recent history. He said, "Right now the situation in national savings is unsustainable." He also called the negative savings rate, spending more than we make, of past years a "major macroeconomic challenge."

It's so amazingly refreshing for someone in government to say that it's not okay to continually spend more than you bring in, and that it's unsustainable to do so. Overspending increases your debt load, and increases interest payments to loans rather than paying for goods and services. When expenses exceed income it is called deficit spending.

Having a positive savings rate as individuals is absolutely critical as we make our personal budgets, and a positive savings rate is the result of having, of all things, a balanced budget. But wait. To go from zero to a positive savings rate, you also need to have something left over and unspent. That leftover is what you use to either pay down the debt you've built up in the past, or to build up savings. That unspent amount is the 5% mentioned above.

The really slick part is that once you've paid off your debt, your cash available to spend on goods and services goes up by whatever you used to be paying in interest. Then if you build up a nest egg of investments, the interest from those investments can either accelerate your savings or become additional spending money. So eventually, you can get to the point where you have everything you did while spending yourself into ever-increasing debt, but without actually going into debt to do it. Neat trick, isn't it?

It's the difference between sacrificing for the future, and sacrificing the future. To make this work, those who are overly fond of deficit spending (on a personal level or otherwise) need to trade in their audacious chutzpah for a backbone, sort of like a Cash for Clunkers program.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Tryanny of Control

Milton Friedman PBS Free to Choose 1980 Vol 2 of 10 The Tyranny of Control

In this video that I stumbled upon Milton Friedman expounds on the benefits and the history of the free market. It is well worth the time to watch.

To find other videos by this same presenter see:


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Grass Roots vs. Astro Turf

According to World Net Daily:

“The Omaha World-Herald reported that OFA (Organizing for America) workers have been knocking on doors and making phone calls in Iowa and Nebraska to garner support for Obama's health care initiative.

"It is the first time in recent memory that a presidential candidate has maintained an active, grassroots presence in either state after an election," the newspaper reported.

"Iowa has almost nonstop presidential activity," said Norm Sterzenbach, executive director of the Iowa Democratic Party. "But the idea of having a sitting president continuing an organization is fairly unusual.’”

First of all, let’s define grass roots. Wikipedia states, “The term implies that the creation of the movement and the group supporting it is natural and spontaneous, highlighting the differences between this and a movement that is orchestrated by traditional power structures.”

This description was found at

"Politicians often presented themselves as getting down to grass roots. They also talked about themselves, and the measures they favored, having support from the grass roots, that is, from their constituents--ordinary people, the salt of the earth. Grass roots lobbying takes the form of letters, phone calls, and visits from these constituents.

Politicians occasionally being unscrupulous, it has sometimes chanced that an artificial grass roots movement has been planned and put into action by the very politician or interest group that it seems to spontaneously support. In the 1990s, fake grass roots were labeled by their opponents with the trademarked name for artificial and rootless
grass, Astro Turf."

WND further states, “In March, when volunteers canvassed high-traffic locations in Birmingham, Ala., to support Obama's health care, education and energy policies, one event organizer told the Birmingham News, "We are looking for supporters. We're not looking for a fight. That will come later, when we have an army.’"

“Democratic National Committee spokesman Michael Czin said in July that OFA has hired staff in 38 states and intends to expand to all 50 states. OFA announced that it has organized 1,906 local events in all 50 states – from press conferences to community discussions – since it launched its health care campaign in June. "

World Net Daily also reported that Obama has been accused of "planting" OFA volunteers and supporters at many of his recent town hall forums so they may ask pre-selected questions. The White House insists that attendees are selected at random, but a closer look reveals many questioners range from Obama campaign donors and Organizing for America volunteers to single-payer health care lobbyists and Service Employees International Union members.

According to New Hampshire's DMUR 9 News, Obama health care supporters, including OFA members, are being driven to town hall meetings by the busload.’”

This was also reported by the
Hogue News about a town hall meeting in Bozeman Montana.

"The Obama supporters, who turned out approximately 150 people only a few of whom I could recognize from Gallatin County, initially outfoxed and out-positioned us."

This, my dear fellow Americans, is not grass roots. President Obama and his supporters want us to think that his agenda is what America wants. He wants us to think he is a community organizer.

He is an organizer, alright. But he is not organizing the communities. He is CONTROLLING the herds. This is not about Grass Roots, but Astro Turf.

Sources: World Net Daily, Wikipedia, Hogue News,

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Total Gangster Government

GM is now Government Motors. They have taken the rug out from under people who have built up these dealerships and want them to hand over their customer lists to GM so that GM can hand them to the dealership's former competitors.

Today it is GM dealerships. Tomorrow it is your business. Do you have the right connections?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Born Again Redneck: Charles Kesler on the "Liberal Project"

Sometimes someone else just says it better. Though I don't always see eye to eye with the gentleman at Born Again Redneck blog I do respect his opinion. This piece below, however, is right on. He brought to my attention an interview by Robert Robinson with Charles Kesler. Well said!

Born Again Redneck: Charles Kesler on the "Liberal Project"

Friday, May 1, 2009

Wall Street Journal gets it right

Finally, a realistic view of what conservatives see. This also goes for anyone else who is sick of the government run-away spending and corporate financial irresponsibility.

According to the April 30, 2009 article in the WSJ:
"There is a major cultural schism developing in America. But it's not over abortion, same-sex marriage or home schooling, as important as these issues are. The new divide centers on free enterprise -- the principle at the core of American culture." Read more...

Some points brought out in the article:
  • The [Tea party] protesters are homeowners who didn't walk away from their mortgages
  • They are small business owners who don't want corporate welfare and bankers who kept their heads during the frenzy and don't need bailouts
  • According to a Pew Research Center poll we are better off in a free market economy even though there may be severe ups and downs from time to time
  • For the moment, free enterprise is culturally mainstream
  • We need to offer specific, market-based reform solutions rather than merely ranting about the alternative
It is well worth the time to read the entire article.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Liberal media exposed

For as long as it is still available, I will have it here for all to see. CNN is trying to keep this from being viewed because they are embarrassed by it or they don't want people to see how blatant their bias is.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The significance of Atlas Shrugged

Having read Ayn Rand's Anthem, the following book was brought to my attention.

"Atlas Shrugged continues to gain popularity during this financial crisis, recently selling more copies than ever since its publication in 1957. Atlas Shrugged provides a vivid depiction of an America similar to today's and provides the ideological causes of today's failing policies."
Ayn Rand Institute

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tea Party Goodness

“Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.” (emphasis mine)

Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment
Department of Homeland Security


"Opposition to wrong ideas is not radical; it is necessary and required in a republic."

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Constitution of the United States of America, Amendment X

“I believe that our federal government has become oppressive in its size, its intrusion into the lives of our citizens, and its interference with the affairs of our state,” Gov. Perry said. “That is why I am here today to express my unwavering support for efforts all across our country to reaffirm the states’ rights affirmed by the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I believe that returning to the letter and spirit of the U.S. Constitution and its essential 10th Amendment will free our state from undue regulations, and ultimately strengthen our Union.”


I have apparently begun the dangerous slip into radical right-wing extremism, along with the Governor of Texas, millions of tax-paying citizens and the authors of the Bill of Rights. I took the radical and dangerous step today of going to a “Tea Party” here in Texas, and I had a wonderful time. Like myself, millions of tax-payers and the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, also went to Tea Parties not just here in the Nation of Texas, but all across these United States to vent their spleens over the egregious over-stepping of federal authority and uncontrolled spending and taxation that have become the modus operandi of this current Regime and Congress in Washington. The authors of the Bill of Rights, however, likely could not attend, but WOULD HAVE if they had had the opportunity.

Part of my inspiration to stand shoulder to shoulder with my fellow citizens was the release of the Department of Homeland Security’s document Rightwing Extremism. It is not a long piece, and it is certainly not difficult to understand, but some of the implications made me see red. The same Administration that proposes to triple our national debt paying for cradle-to-grave socialist programs also defines a right wing extremist as a person that holds state’s rights over federal authority.

As in, say, the Tenth Amendment in the Bill of Rights? Most people, including you, dear reader, likely remember this ancient document fondly known as the Constitution of the United States. I do. I carry a copy with me, and in there are defined the rights of the Federal Government. Nowhere in that document does it say that the Federal Government has the right to place our grandchildren and great-grandchildren under the servitude of a national debt of an unbelievable size. Nowhere in there does it say that a President has the right to dictate salaries to private institutions or to fire CEO’s of private companies. The Constitution does not allow the Government to oppose free speech. The current Administration has made it clear that talk radio that opposes them is “dangerous” and an “obstacle to progress.”

Many of these issues were discussed at the Tea Party today. They were discussed by obviously radical right-wing elements such as grey-haired grandmothers, businessmen in suits, middle-class families with children present, veterans, flag waving teens and people that had tears hearing hundreds of people pledging allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. I did not see any swastikas, KKK hoods, burning effigies or rock-throwing. I did not hear voices raised in anger, but I did hear voices raised in determination. This was not a protest by morons at a G7 meeting, but rather a gathering or people that you would usually meet at the supermarket, or at church, or at work that have had enough of Federal social engineering and domination. They are tired of a Federal Government that makes mandates to the 50 states at the drop of a hat, but cannot balance a budget.

I predict that these meetings today, that took place all over the states and were attended by huge numbers of people, are going to be ridiculed and castigated by the press and Administration. They are going to say that we are all being ‘programmed’ by the right-wing ‘echo-chamber’ and that if we had not had that medium we would never have had these thoughts ourselves. My answer to that is that my ancestors had these ideas before there were even radios to be had, and that we were simply raised correctly when we learned these conservative ideals. Opposition to wrong ideas is not radical; it is necessary and required in a republic.

God bless this Country.

*Note by Kelly: the last two pictures (thanks to a cousin) are from a Tea Party held at the Federal Building in Salt Lake City, Utah. Those in attendance endured the rain, snow and cold to show their support for this cause.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Libertarian Point of View

It is finally time to get something off of my chest that has bothered me for a great many years. I can sum it up in one word that every citizen of the United States has burned into our psyche:


I was born in 1963, five days after Kennedy was shot in Dallas. I was born in a small town in the Texas Panhandle, and most of my childhood memories are centered around the places that we lived and the small town that my Mom and Dad both went to High School in, a great place (that is mostly gone now) by the name of Quitaque, TX. It was in Quitaque that I learned my values for the most part. I spent many days there during the summers with both sets of grandparents, and a host of small-town personalities that grew to know me over the years, and I learned to love and appreciate them in ways that are hard to understand if you come from a big-city background. This was one of the last places in Texas where you could meet “sure enough” pioneers and the direct descendants of pioneers that came to that part of the southern plains right after the Civil War. My people were these people. They were cotton farmers and they were ranchers, and many of them still do these things. They are a hard people, seasoned by hard climate and a hard economy that has not changed since the Comanche were forced into Oklahoma reservations.

They are a patriotic people, make no mistake. My Grandfather’s brother lost his life in the Argonne in WWI while my grandmother’s uncle, named Jefferson Davis Chalk, Jr., also fought in France there and managed to come back. My grandmother lost two brothers in WWII. One died in Patton’s army, and another died in a plane that exploded in the Pacific over Tarawa. My mother had an uncle that flew 45 missions over Germany in a B-17 as a radio operator and gunner for the 8th Air Force. These are not a cowardly people, and my family has spread their blood over every American war since the time of the French and Indian Wars.

My memories of the Vietnam conflict are those that come from a boy watching events that come from those times. I remember watching campus riots with my mother on a small black and white television in the kitchen in Dallas in 1969. I remember watching the news about the December bombing of North Vietnam and the talks that followed. I remember with particular clarity the returning soldiers and POW’s walking off of airplanes to crying families.

I remember other things.

There were examples of people hating the soldiers that came back shocked and destroyed by that place. I remember listening to proud soldiers that came back to be despised and rejected by the very Republic that had sent them there, whether they had wanted to go or not. I remember families that would never be the same because the people that had gone did not return. I remember a nation divided by the blood of their children and fathers, and a national draft that forced college boys to pass courses at school or be sent into a jungle hell that ate boys like them like potato chips. I also remember that my family was and still is greatly angered about how that conflict was handled.

The neo-conservative movement of the late 90’s to the present wants to tell us that hating the Vietnam War is the same thing as siding with “Hanoi Jane” or John Kerry, the Benedict Arnold of the modern era. Hating the Vietnam conflict is, ergo, the same thing as being a liberal. This is simply not true. The egregious over-reach by the federal government that creates these kinds of wars is not a truly conservative viewpoint, and opposing that war was and is not the sole territory of the liberal camp. The anger that the Vietnam War created here in these United States cannot be simply written off as the result of kooks and vicious socialists that had the command of the national press.

So great was that anger that when Bush senior invaded Kuwait in 1991, remember that a great deal of attention was paid to the idea that this time, at least, we were going to get it right. A great deal of attention was paid to how the press was going to get information from the military. There was no way that we were going to live through the Vietnam conflict again.

Now we have to ask ourselves if we are doing it again.

Before you curse me as a liberal, allow me to explain. I am looking back from a conservative community that is mourning the loss of their children and fathers, and we are not happy about what happened there. The great lie of the “Domino Theory” was put to shame, and no matter how fervently the Kennedy and Johnson administrations might have believed it, the rest of Southeast Asia did not, in fact, fall to communism after South Vietnam fell to the North. Did bad things happen after the fall? No doubt that they did. The regime of Pol Pot was a humanitarian disaster. The slaughter of southern Vietnamese was a calamity. The point of anger came when we realized that all of the men and women that were lost in that conflict amounted to exactly ZERO. In fact, our intervention most likely caused a much greater slaughter than if we had just let the French fail to keep their colonial empire and let it go as such. Rather than let the military of this great nation fight that war to win it, we allowed the Cold War mentality to rule the day and the powers that were there decided that politics was the final arbiter of conflicts that claim thousands upon thousands of lives.

We cannot rewrite the past, and it does little good to even think about it unless we learn from our past mistakes. Ah, yes, and therein lies the rub, doesn’t it?

George Bush faced serious skepticism and sometimes outright opposition to invading Iraq not just from liberal elements, but also from the conservative elements. Why is that? I posit that not all of us that remember the Vietnam War dimly are necessarily liberals. I posit that the true and righteous anger over that calamity comes from a deep-seated and correct attitude about what a government of a Republic does and what it does not do. In a true republic, there is a sense of responsibility to the lives of citizens that are lost as a result of government action.

If this current regime pulls out of Iraq before we truly win, and we send others into Afghanistan to die with no clear goal, we are doing no less than re-inventing the Vietnam conflict in our own time. If there is no clear goal for the loss of life other than the political gain of one party over another, the righteous anger of the citizens asked to fight in these wars is not going to be just great, it will be, I predict, overpowering. I ask the Republican Party and the Democratic Party to both consider the loss of life as being other than something that happens because we have a military. If we are going to fight terrorism, we must declare what the goals are in a succinct and clear terminology.

In closing, I ask the readers to reflect on the words of the late President Eisenhower. If we bow to the wishes of an industrial war machine without thinking about the consequences, then we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

If car repair were run by the Feds

Introducing the Government-Backed DMV Automotive Repair Center!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Say it Ain't SO!

Nobody ever said that Somalian Pirates were brilliant, and an article in the UK’s Daily Express today shows that they are pretty certainly anything but bright. After spying what they thought would be a likely target to plunder, they raised the mizzen mast, hoisted the ‘Skull and Crossbones,’ and took after what turned out to be the FGS Spessart. This vessel is part of the NATO forces in the region sent there specifically to find and eliminate Somali Pirates.

A pursuit followed, and a good time was had by all but the Somalis. When it was said and done, several nations had a chance to send their forces with the chase and the pirates were duly apprehended.

Several things come to mind. First and foremost, do Somali Pirates get and/or read newspapers? The fact that there were ships in the area that were crammed to the poop deck with armed sailors, cannons and commandos is old news. The fact that they had nothing to do but fish or chase and catch Somali Pirates is also old news. This was a catastrophic lack of planning on the part of the pirates, but it speaks well of NATO. After all, while the UN has allowed tens of thousands of Africans to die in Dakar while they watch, and Tibet has been stomped into oblivion under Chinese boots, NATO knows what to do with armed forces. In 1996, the UN sat on their collective hands while Rwanda exploded into genocide. After at least a couple of decades of mouthing meaningless threats, forming committees while the innocent perish, and berating the US for actually following through with its threats, the UN still has done nothing. NATO, on the other hand, had finally seen enough oil and trade goods ransomed by the poorest people in east Africa to take decisive steps.

Do not take this the wrong way. I am, by no means, voicing support for piracy. The trade lanes that go by Somalia are very important, and the need to protect trade on the high seas has been an international priority since the first dug-out carried flint and mammoth tusks to trade with a neighboring tribe. I can only speculate why the rampant piracy in the South China Sea has not received a similar response, but I suspect that it has to do with the Chinese Navy and the fact that the Chinese consistently deny that there is a real problem there. The Chinese also consistently maintain that Tibet is much happier now that their history, temples and way of life have been permanently destroyed. But, I guess that the Red Sea is far enough away from China and Southeast Asia that they care about piracy.

The other thing that strikes me is that now there are a group of pirates that are being held on a ship until they can be tried. Now, I guess that holding people on board a ship is somehow a lot different than holding them in a pen in Cuba. I must also suppose that those people are being treated with the best medicine, being fed the best Muslim foods, being given new copies of the Koran, and are not in any way being interrogated except over afternoon tea with a polite game of “Truth or Dare.” Is it really impertinent of me to say that there is a measure of hypocrisy here when NATO forces detain and try international criminals but the US is castigated for doing the same thing? Maybe instead of Guantanamo Bay the US should have just put out a few boats and held terrorists in the cargo bays? Where is the clamoring that these international terrorists should be held in a sovereign nation’s jails somewhere and given all the rights and privileges of that nation’s citizens? Does the international community really believe that those that take and ransom an oil tanker are worthy of this treatment where those that pirated airliners and killed thousands of Americans with them are not? Those that kill the innocent and attack American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan should be given the same rights as Americans while Somali Pirates are subject to this treatment based on the fact that they threatened commerce?

I applaud NATO for ridding the east coast of Africa these scum, and I support their right to hold them, try them and imprison them. At some point I would ask that our nation be given the same consideration as NATO. Arrrrrrr…..matey…….

Wizard of Id...Got it right!

Wizard of Id

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A few things about this blog...

Dear Readers,

There are many items on this blog that are just as or more important than the articles posted on this site. From time to time an article from another source, a video, a book, or a blog gets our notice. We feel that these links provide support for our views. We hope that you will take the time to follow these links or suggested reading.

We also ask that if you have any suggestions in the way of books, articles, blogs, videos or the like, please add them in the comments and we will take a look them. If we like what we see they will become a permanent part of this blog.

Thank you,


Monday, March 9, 2009

How to Fix the Economy

Let's start with the obvious. Throwing a trillion dollars at big companies and Senator's pet projects isn't going to get us where we need to go. Yes, some small portion of it will really help, and some of the psychological shock and awe may help get things going. Other than that, meh.

Fixing the economy is a bit complicated, since it's hard to agree on exactly what's broken. For example, for years we had economists up in arms at our dwindling personal saving rate. In 2005 the average American spent more than he made. It was an outrage, bankrupting the next generation by leaving them no inheritance.

Fast forward four years to 2009. People are changing their spending habits, and have begun once again to save money. The economists (one would hope not really the same ones) are up in arms about how we need to spend money to stimulate the economy, and are outraged that people would be so thoughtless as to save their money in these dire times.

Now, about defining the term "fix." Do we really want to put the economy back where it was in 2006 and 2007? That's like rebuilding a car that flew off a cliff, but putting it back on the top of the cliff with the accelerator held to the floor. No, we don't want to put things back the way they were, or we will end up right back where we are.

The government is currently trying to keep companies from collapsing by subsidising, supporting, and in some cases buying them. Is this necessary? Sime of that help could very well be necessary to get the economy going quickly because of the large part some of those companies play. But the big question is whether it is sufficient. There we get a resounding "no."

Let's take a look at the environment that these companies need to survive. Unemployment is up. Pay is down. Spending is down, with part of that loss in spending going to savings.

Now, just like following puppet strings back to the puppet master, you can follow the money to see what's really going to happen here if we don't jump in.

Is saved money being taken out of the economy? Um, no. Not unless it's going under the mattress. Okay then, where does it go by and large? It goes to banks, credit unions, and brokerage accounts.

What do banks and credit unions do with their money? I mean under normal circumstances. They loan it back out to people and businesses, which is a way of them investing it. Currently they are too scared to loan money like they did in the past. This is good. The government is pumping billions of dollars in, and it's not really helping much. Why? Because they only want to invest where there's a chance of getting their money back! Duh!

They're looking at billions of dollars of losses due to loans they were encouraged to make so everyone could have their own roof over their head. Guess what? Some people are incapable of paying for their own roof, and some of them were speculators that got suckered into buying at a bad time. Not giving them loans is an improvement. So what happens if you stop giving loans to those incapable of making their payments in the long run? More money becomes available to those who have managed their finances properly. I bet those with credit scores over 750 have a lot less problem getting loans, so long as they continue their trend of only buying what they know they can actually pay for. That's how they got the score in the first place.

So now we have lots of people who are losing their houses. Everyone's sad about that. What do we do to "save the children" and feel good about ourselves? Do we put them right back into another mortgage and set them up to fail again like last time? NO! Wrong answer! How about this. Let them rent a place from the guy with the 750+ credit score, who has been out buying up foreclosed properties at discount prices, pulling bad debt from the banks.

Let's summarize so far. We have the foreclosed properties being bought up at a reasonable price by financially responsible people. We have the folks who got foreclosed being housed in rentals or mom's basement until they can get back on their feet. We have banks and credit unions slowly building up their cash reserves. The savings that isn't going into low interest accounts goes into the stock market or other investments where it will have a stablizing effect.

Unfortunately the car companies are in for a hard stretch. The've become used to selling luxury, such as the third or fourth car in a two-driver family, or selling the Hummer when a Civic will do. Americans have tightened the belt and been forced to face reality on personal budgets. That means people will make due with what they're driving for a lot longer, and consider buying from the glut of used cars rather than going for something new as a first choice. But you know what happens when people make their cars last longer without upgrading, and don't have a 2nd or 3rd spare? Maintenance and repairs go up as the cars age. It's not a cure-all, but I'd think seriously about investing in that service department.

Jobs are still missing from my list, so I'll pontificate on that subject next. Did you know that India has begun pricing themselves out of the outsourcing market? It turns out that they caught the entrepreneureal bug in a big way, saw a huge opportunity, bid really low, then discovered they were in competition with each other. Prices increased due to competition, pay increased as they fought for the most qualified employees, and we're now to a point where it's not as economical to hire foreigners to answer your phones or write your software.

So with foreign labor costs higher, there's more incentive to hire locally. Unemployment will go back down. Still, those jobs won't pay as much since labor costs go down whenever unemployment has gone up. Still, since we're going to be paying less for rent and mortgages, and other prices have held reasonably steady (other than gasoline and its whipsaw ride), people can get by on a little less. As they gain experience and seniority, pay goes up gradually over time.

So there are several of the major facets of our current economic crisis. The goal here is that when we put the rebuilt economic car back on the mountain, we point it along the road that goes up the hill and set it up to start out in first gear, rather than perching on the cliff zooming along at full speed.

So, allow me to summarize on how to fix the economy in five easy steps.
  1. Continue to save money and increase your savings rate wherever possible by reducing unnecessary expenses. Trimming the fat goes for both companies and people.
  2. Invest savings in good deals, such as discounted real estate or let the bank invest it for you.
  3. Borrow only when it is responsible to do so.
  4. Accept reduced-cost labor as a part of the cycle.
  5. Wait and watch as we rebuild based on good principles rather than unrealistic expectations.

I'll even throw in another item, although it won't apply to most. It's another one of those 750+ credit score kinds of things. If you're able, now is the best time in recent history to start a business because that will make you the one that is doing the lending, hiring the reduced cost labor, and building up to reap the long term rewards of success through responsibility.

Sorry for such a simple answer. I feel like the doctor telling the fat guy that the answer to all his problems is diet and exercise. It's always easy to say, but hard to do.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Being Fiscally Conservative

There's a lot of talk about liberal vs. conservative ideals and attitudes these days, but it seems that nearly all of our representatives in the US House and Senate have forgotten the meaning of being fiscally conservative. There's plenty of blame to go around.

President Obama stated in his address to Congress tonight (2/23/09) that one of his goals is to cut the budget deficit in half. That's a wonderful goal, but it's like saying he wants to sink half as fast as we are currently sinking. Bill Clinton and George W Bush and their associated congressional delegations both saw a budget surplus, so it's been possible in the past irrespective of political party. World circumstances are partly to blame for that surplus window being very small, so I'll grant that it's not just greed and corruption driving the deficit. Still, Old Hickory managed to pay off the entire national debt once so it's been possible in the past.

Given that we want to move toward a balanced budget, I like to compare small scale and large scale to identify principles. For instance, what happens if I as a consumer try to spend my way out of my financial problems? Assuming I can get infinite loans, it doesn't look so bad at first. I get my necessities taken care of, along with whatever I can convince myself looks like a necessity, along with a few things that are just too cool to pass up.

But what happens if my source of money shuts off and begins to come due? Not only do I have to suddenly balance my budget, but part of that budget n0w has to go to pay off both principle and interest to cover my spending spree. The national equivalent of this thought experiment is that in 2008 8% of our taxes went to interest payments. The deficit goes toward increasing the principle each year. I think it would be a bit high if 8% of my income went to interest payments, but some people are well above that percentage on their personal budgets.

Every time we run a deficit, that percentage goes up. Guess what happens if we keep running deficits every year? Pretty soon, we end up with so much of the budget going to debt that we can't pay for anything else. Could you survive with 25% of your budget going to interest? How about 75%? What's the drop dead value where you can't meet requirements for survival? What's our national drop dead point where we can't defend and support ourselves as a country?

If it helps, think of this Saturday Night Live skit, and apply it to governmental spending.

We have lots of options to choose from.
  1. Balance budgets now voluntarily. It hurts for a while, but it's like being vaccinated against stupidity.
  2. Gradually cut back on expenses as the percentage of debt service goes up, and put off the choice.
  3. Pay off debt later when we are forced to do so by an overwhelming burden of debt.
  4. Ignore it until we have uncontrolled inflation, and can use $100 bills as kindling.
  5. Call it quits and see what form of government comes out from the far side of the chaos.

Well, it turns out to not be much of a choice after all.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Wind of Change

It has been nearly 20 years since the fall of Communism/socialism in the United Soviet Socialist Republics and the other Eastern bloc countries, yet socialism in our own country is sung as the way of the future.

In doing a search on socialism in Google I found the following written just over a week ago.

I was standing on the Washington Mall on Inauguration Day, alongside nearly two million other people, and proudly watched the first African American take the oath of office in our nation’s history. That alone made the day deeply memorable, joyful, and historic. But I couldn’t help but think – and I’m sure that millions of others had the same thought – that the transfer of power from Bush to President Obama not only tore down a barrier that once was thought near impenetrable, but also signified the fading away of one era and the beginning of another.” A New Era Begins, Sam Webb, National Chair of the Communist Party of the United States of America 02/06/2009

My question to you is why would the chair of the Communist Party here in America be so proud about our current President of the United States?

Remember Joe the plumber’s chat with then candidate Barack Obama? Obama responded to the questions from “Joe” that he intended to “spread the wealth around”—in other words…a redistribution of wealth or socialism.

We Communists believe that socialism is the very best replacement for a capitalist system that has served its purpose, but no longer meets the needs and requirements of the great majority of our people.Gus Hall (1910-2000), former National Chair of the Communist Party of the United States of America 01/01/1996

The New Testament even talks of sharing with the poor. Acts 2: 44, 45:

And all that believed were together, and had all things common;

And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had

Americans have always been committed to taking care of the poor, aged, and unemployed. We have done this on the basis of Judaic-Christian beliefs and humanitarian principles. It has been fundamental to our way of life that charity must be voluntary if it is to be charity. Compulsory benevolence is not charity. Today's socialists--who call themselves egalitarians--are using the federal government to redistribute wealth in our society, not as a matter of voluntary charity, but as a so-called matter of right. One HEW official said recently, ‘In this country, welfare is no longer charity, it is a right. More and more Americans feel that their government owes them something."(U.S. News and World Report, April 21, 1975, p. 49). Ezra Taft Benson A Vision and a Hope for the Youth of Zion, 12 April 1977

The idea of helping the poor is a noble endeavor. Indeed, we ought to help the poor where we can. However, mandatory redistribution of wealth or socialism will never bring this about.

Edmund Burke, the great British political philosopher, warned of the threat of economic equality. He said,

A perfect equality will indeed be produced--that is to say, equal wretchedness, equal beggary, and on the part of the petitioners, a woeful, helpless, and desperate disappointment. Such is the event of all compulsory equalizations. They pull down what is above; they never raise what is below; and they depress high and low together beneath the level of what was originally the lowest.”

In my early 20s I noticed the results of socialism and communism in Eastern Europe. The stories come out of the east were less than stellar. History has shown those results.

Instead of growing, the capital stock of socialist countries has been declining. They've been consuming it. Most of the textile mills in eastern Czechoslovakia were built before the First World War. They still operate with the original machinery. In East Germany, many of the buildings seem not to have been painted since 1945. In some cases, no one even painted over the old and faded Nazi slogans on the walls. In the Soviet Union, there are chemical factories built 110 years ago that are still producing the same chemicals in the same way. It is a general principle that under socialism no factory is ever closed.

The capital stock inherited from previous generations has been largely worn out, and there are real declines in the standards of living of many East European countries. Those declines would have taken place sooner had it not been for the enormous amount of Western capital that was pumped in by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and other international lending institutions and used largely to finance current consumption
.” Why Socialism Collapsed in Eastern Europe by Tom Palmer director of Cato University, Fall 1990.

It has only been 20 years since that time. Many have not forgotten. The following is comment on a post at from someone named Chris in Romania:

For everybody that praise socialism,

I am from my experience: I lived under communism and I know what socialism is. I would rather die than go back in that time (before 1989 when we drop the communism in Romania). Socialism looks fine on the paper, but it was applied to people and it didn't work. And to make it work, hundred of millions of people were killed in the name of this ideology and it's still not working. If you want to correct the future, learn from the mistakes that were done in the past. And socialism is one of those mistakes.

It is sad to see people from WestEurope or US preaching how good the socialism is, when they haven't lived A DAYin a socialist society. They didn't stay in line to buy milk (the ratio was 1liter per day for 2 people), to buy bread (1/2 of bread per person), 2 liters ofoil per month, 2 kilograms of sugar per month, 20 liters of gas per month. Also,Sunday we had driving restrictions "to save gas".

I am glad that Romaniajoined NATO but I am not that happy that Romania joined UE in 2007. Millions ofRomanians had to leave the country and work in Western Europe because the wholeindustry and agriculture in Romania was ruined by the socialist ideology. Andthey work there like slaves, underpaid, with no benefits, while the westernpoliticians preach to their people, who are staying home on unemployment, how
good the socialism is
.” Chris, from Romania Sep 28, 2008

"The lyrics [below] celebrate the political changes in Eastern Europe at that time – such as the Polish Round Table Agreement and fall of the Berlin Wall, the increasing freedom in the communist bloc (which would soon lead to the fall of the USSR), and the clearly imminent end of the Cold War.

The Scorpions were inspired to write this song on a visit to Moscow in 1989, and therefore included references to the aforementioned landmarks.

In 2005 the viewers of the German television network ZDF chose this song as the song of the century. It is the highest ever selling song in Germany, reputedly selling over 6 million copies in that country alone, and is frequently played on television shows presenting video footage of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is widely known in Germany as the song of German reunification (and fall of communism in Eastern Europe generally), even though it only rose to popularity two years later.

The euphoria felt as these people were finally able to leave the oppression that had held their countries down was pronounced.

Wind of Change by The Scorpions

I follow the Moskva
Down to Gorky Park
Listening to the wind of change
An August summer night
Soldiers passing by
Listening to the wind of change

The world closing in
Did you ever think
That we could be so close, like brothers
The future's in the air
I can feel it everywhere
Blowing with the wind of change

Take me to the magic of the moment
On a glory night
Where the children of tomorrow dream away
In the wind of change

Walking down the street
Distant memories
Are buried in the past forever

I follow the Moskva
Down to Gorky Park
Listening to the wind of change

Take me to the magic of the moment
On a glory night
Where the children of tomorrow share their dreams
With you and me

Take me to the magic of the moment
On a glory night
Where the children of tomorrow dream away
In the wind of change

The wind of change blows straight
Into the face of time
Like a storm wind that will ring
The freedom bell for peace of mind
Let your balalaika sing
What my guitar wants to say

Take me to the magic of the moment
On a glory night
Where the children of tomorrow share their dreams
With you and me

Take me to the magic of the moment
On a glory night
Where the children of tomorrow dream away
In the wind of change

Even now there are countries in Europe who are experimenting with socialism.

Barack Obama talks about change and hope. But these people looked to a different kind of change—a change in the opposite direction from that which our nation’s leaders want to take us.

What I ask you now, is who will finance our socialist experiment? There will be no other nation on earth that will be able to pick us up when we fall.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Our Best and Brightest Hope

We have the obvious problem that the economy has hit a bump in the road. For some, it's a really big bump. We have foreclosures, layoffs, businesses and people going bankrupt. So we have weeping and wailing all around, right?

No, not even close. We have a shining beacon out there, able to turn the economy around, give finance a kick in the pants, and get society out of this "woe is me" attitude. Who is this paragon of goodness? The nearly trillion dollar government-built taxpayer money shotgun? Once again, no, not even close. The refunds, bailouts and handouts are likely to have an emotional impact which could possibly shorten the downturn, and some borderline-viable businesses will be saved, but that's not what recoveries are made of.

Let's make the reasonable assumption that some of those who have been in a layoff recently have been fiscally responsible and have spent the time and effort to build a nest egg. Yes, there are those who didn't get into loans beyond their means and who are able to hold a $20 bill for more than 10 minutes without spending it. The exact percentage doesn't make any difference. Now let's trim it down some more and assume that some percentage of those responsible types also have some entrepreneurial spirit. This results in new small businesses popping up all over the place.

If you assumed 5% savers and 5% of those as entrepreneurs, you have 2500 businesses formed per million layoffs. Of course my numbers are guaranteed to be incorrect, but the principle remains despite the numbers you would prefer to choose.

Those new small businesses will hire people, so the old-school companies don't need to hire everyone back to reduce unemployment. Some of the fledgling companies will fail as they always do, but some will thrive and move on to become the movers and shakers of the economic recovery, and will become household words in their states, countries, and even in the world.

To widen the scope, many of those small businesses will thrive because they meet the needs of you and me, the common citizen. Our part in the recovery if we're not forming these engines of industry, is to patronize them because they help us with what we need and want.

So whose vest is big enough to hold the shiny pin given for saving the world from economic disaster? Yours and mine, if we're up to the challenge.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A woman's right to choose...

The following article was brought to my attention by a friend. I almost didn't read it based on the title of it. But because I knew this friend I figured there must be something to it.

Flashpoint! A Woman’s Right To Choose
by Gary Graham

"No. I’m going to say it. I’m going to say what millions know in the front of their brains, and many, many more millions know in the depths of their hearts…but won’t allow themselves to think it, much less feel it. And believe me, I know I’ll be hated for saying it, I’ll be hated by people who don’t know me, have never worked with me, have never golfed with me, had a drink with me, shot the shit with me. They’ve never met me, don’t want to meet me…but they will hate me. I’m going to say it anyway: Abortion is murder."

He added:

"I was beholding an utter miracle. The miracle of life. And I also realized that from the very first merger of cell into cell, and the first divisions…that the whole miracle of life was from that point on struggling against all odds to become a fully-realised human being." Keep reading, you won't regret it...

Nothing out there that I have found says it better than Gary Graham does on this issue.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Legislation for Dummies: The Great TV Bailout

No, it's not the title of a new book that's out on how dummies can produce legislation. We have plenty of examples of that already. I'm talking about how our government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to guarantee our ability to watch TV. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't recall that being one of our constitutional rights.

In short, the government is selling off the radio frequencies used by analog TV signals, and all the TV stations will move their over-the-air broadcasts to digital, using a different frequency. Those stations are already broadcasting digitally now, so they're using both the old and new in parallel until they pull the plug on the analog broadcasts.

That means old analog TVs will go dark eventually. It was scheduled to happen on February 17th, but is being delayed to June 12th by Congress because of the millions of Americans who are too lazy to plod from the TV to the computer and fill out a web form for a $40 discount coupon for their own converter. (Be prepared to wait if you fill out the form, since they ran out of money and have 2.5 million procrastinators in line in front of you.)

Now let's look at the best and worst that could happen, irrespective of when the cutoff happens.

Worst: The people with old TVs who have no converter box will have their TVs go dark. Assuming the worst, they don't have the $40-50 to get a converter and didn't bother to order the discount coupon that would almost entirely pay for one. Bummer. Maybe they'll have to read a book or newspaper, or listen to the radio. I generally have greater disasters than that in my home on a weekly basis.

Low mid-range: TV goes dark, and Joe Sixpack hears at the water cooler that he needs a converter, and goes out to buy one during lunch. He never heard of the coupon program that was covered extensively by TV, radio, and newspaper for months. To pay for it, he has to give up two or three dinner dates with his sweetie, but it's worth it to make the TV start working again.

High mid-range: Joe Sixpack buys a new digital TV. Yeah, it costs him more money, but he was looking for an excuse to get a 50 inch plasma.

Best: Everyone who planned ahead is rewarded for their efforts. TV doesn't skip a beat, either because they have cable or satellite, already had a new TV with a digital receiver, or they had the government buy them a converter box via the tax-funded coupons. No interruption in turning our brains to goo on a nightly basis, courtesy of the Great TV Bailout.

This actually has much greater reach and impact than the silly TV signal issue. Let's stop removing consequences from the triad of poor choices, procrastination and ignorance. Technology advances, and we deal with it. I have video cards in a spares box that won't fit in my computer. Should I demand that the government fund an exchange program so I can upgrade my AGP to PCIe? Or an exchange program to tun in IDE disk drives in for new SATAs?

The proper way to handle it is to let people change over time and to learn from both their mistakes and the advance of society. Stop teaching people that the government will always step in and save us from ourselves. I don't want the government to waste all those tax dollars on coddling. Let's learn our lessons and get on with it.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Fourth Amendment Damaged?

It is not often that I find myself agreeing with Ruth Bader Ginsberg, but I have to think that this is a case worthy of further discussion. An article from USA Today highlights a recent decision of the Supreme Court that allows evidence against a person, obtained via an unlawful arrest, to be used against that person.

The case in point centers around a person that is, arguably, an idiot that probably did deserve what he got:

A warrant clerk in Coffee County, Ala., mistakenly told a police investigator that a warrant from a nearby county was out for Bennie Dean Herring, who had driven to the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department to get something from his impounded truck. The Dale County computer error was quickly discovered. But by the time the warrant clerk alerted the police investigator, Herring had been arrested and found with an illegal pistol and with methamphetamine in his pocket.

Bennie’s attorney naturally argued that because the arrest had arisen from bad information, and the arrest was therefore illegal, that evidence seized could not be used against him in a court. The lower courts upheld the decision to use the evidence and the Supreme Court verified that decision in a split of five to four.

I have to say that this decision bothers me, and I find myself in the rather odd position of agreeing with the more left-oriented members of the Supreme Court. Ginsberg points out errors in government computers are not at all rare, and, just because the police did not set out to intentionally infringe on his constitutional rights, that did not give them the power to do so. In other words, for the long arm of the Law, it can be negligent and there are no consequences.

Again, to be fair, it is harder to think ill of the Coffee County, AL police, because, seriously, what kind of idiot brings a gun and a pocketful of meth to the police station? Further, he was there to get items from an already impounded truck, so methinks that the police had a right to be suspicious in the first place. But rule of law is not designed to protect only upstanding citizens with more than one operating brain cell; it is designed to protect us all. If Law Enforcement in general has no incentive to keep its data clean and thus protect us from undue harassment, then you can bet that it will not.

Recently, the Dallas Police Dept. came under serious scrutiny because they had gone so far as to purposely plant evidence on people, and they arrested, prosecuted and jailed these poor unfortunates. The victims of that abuse have been finally exonerated, but what is to stop a law agency from planting bad information on citizens in their computers since they can use that for searches that they could not otherwise do? Should the police then find anything on one’s person or property that could cause charges to be brought, then it would be up to the defendant to prove that the police were deliberately trying to deprive them of their rights. How would a defendant go about that process? In the case of the Dallas PD, once the evidence was shown to be powdered drywall and not cocaine, the results were obvious. How do you do that for bad data?

I make a living working in databases, and have for better than 20 years now, and I can tell you that that scares me. Even the best data bases have errors, and that is why audits are so necessary. In my case, having bad data affects the bottom line, and so we have a powerful incentive to clean our data. Not only that, we are responsible for our data and “negligence” is not an excuse that would work at all. In fact, it would likely get us into trouble and fired. Not so for law enforcement, now that the SCOTUS has delivered its wisdom to the masses.

I open this item up for discussion as a way to see where my reasoning could be so far off from the likes of Antonin Scalia.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Those Darn Jews

Gaza has been a real sore place lately, and there are some good reasons for that. Mostly because there have been a lot of casualties. A lot of those are, in fact, civilians. Now there are those, such as our friends at Human Rights Watch, that are demanding a UN investigation into the wrongs that have occurred there in the “Occupied Territory of Gaza.”

I am not one to belittle human travesties. There have been many in the Middle East, and most especially in the Palestinian occupied lands. Shall we endeavor to investigate some of the claims made there?

Let’s see. First I think it is important to remind everyone that the Palestinians voted their political power of representation to an organization called HAMAS, a name of a predominately Sunni movement that basically means “Islamic Resistance Movement.” What, exactly, are they resisting? What is their chief ‘modus operandi’? Why, nothing other than the complete and total annihilation of Israel. They resist the idea of a Jewish state, pure and simple. When they attained political power several years ago, the main result was what? Let me guess:

1. A better economy with a focus on the living standards of its citizens?
2. A focus on trade and a normalization of relations with Israel, Syria, Lebanon, and others?
3. Building hospitals and roads and homeless centers and other socially needful endeavors?

No, the result was none of these things. Rather, the time and attention of the governing powers in Gaza have been given to the pouring of Iranian-made missiles into Israel to the count of thousands. Never mind the continual push of what we now consider more acceptable forms of terrorism, such as suicide-bombings of children in school-buses, killing people that are shopping and beheading captives on film.

Never mind all of that. The really shocking and horrible thing that has recently happened is that Israel decided that they have had enough of the missiles. Now, to get at these munitions and the people responsible for firing these deadly weapons, the Nation of Israel found itself in a rather uncomfortable position. Much like American military personnel in Iraq, these unfortunates had to decide if the collateral casualties of the civilians killed were less important than getting to the weapons and leaders that Hamas was hiding behind them.

They made the only rational decision that could be left. They have to get the munitions that are killing their own citizens and the leaders that fired them regardless of the fact that Hamas was hiding those things behind innocents. Even at that, Israelis tried very hard not to target those places, and they dropped leaflets warning of attacks. They announced on the radios that these attacks were going to occur. When those that were warned refused to leave, the inevitable occurred. When the gutless pigs of Hamas fired mortars from a school and the Israelis returned fire, the “Religion of Peace” adherents have decided to blame the Israelis for the deaths of those beautiful children that were held hostage by their own people.

There is no fire in hell hotter than that reserved for those that would regularly sacrifice their own children.

There is likewise little sympathy for a people that will not defend their children.

These are simply the cold hard facts of a democracy’s self-preservation versus the cold hard facts of a fanatical theocracy opposed to that democracy. Like them or not, you have to choose that which you prefer. To deal with a terrorist that has no interest in your personal survival, there can be only one answer.

Kill them.

Kill them where you find them and kill them without remorse. Grieve for all of their victims, but do not hesitate to eliminate those vermin at every single opportunity.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Citizenship in Action

I received an email yesterday, written by a woman who lives in our town. Her 19 year old son was killed in a car accident a few months back, and it has been terribly hard on the family. He was a great kid. A great example, well liked by everyone, religious, everything you could imagine.

So what was her email about? Complaining of the unfairness of the universe? Feeling she deserved something in return? Nope. She wrote to ask her friends to help someone else. To help another human being in need. You see, there's a small shop nearby that's going out of business. He's got quite a bit of inventory, and less than a week to sell it before he closes up.

She had ventured out (which is difficult in itself still) to buy some gifts, and discovered that the owner had his own share of sadness with having to close down. By herself, there wasn't much she could do. But she was writing to ask those she knew to stop by, and spend a few dollars each to help the business owner to make the closing less painful.

What would our country be like if more people took it upon themselves to help others, rather than insisting that the government make up for our misfortunes? One person can't always do a lot. But one community can ease burdens, lend a hand, and make a difference when we know and care about each other. What could one country could do with the proper focus on a common goal?