Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Self-Defeating Business Model (with a side order of guilt)

Over the Christmas holidays I saw a commercial on TV that I thought was absolutely shameless.

It showed a bald-headed young girl in a hospital bed on the sidewalk of a busy city street pleading to those walking by to make a contribution for Hodgkin’s Disease research, only to see all of them walk right on by without a glance, ignoring both her and her pleas.

The message – complete with its triple helping of guilt – was that Hodgkin’s Disease needs more money for research. I don’t doubt that it does; but then again, who doesn’t “need” more money? I have yet to see any business, organization, government, non-profit, or charity hold up their hands and say, “Okay, you can stop now. We’ve got all we need.”

How many non-profit organizations exist today whose stated purpose is to “find a cure” for whatever medical condition they represent? I have no idea, but there’s a bunch, and many of them have been around for a long, long time.

Pick your condition – cancer, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, AIDS, etc.; Have you ever thought about how much money the organizations “fighting” these conditions collectively rake in every year? Year after year? Decade after decade?

And yet, for all of the money pumped into them, can you name one that has actually come up with a cure for anything? Just one?

The short answer is that none of them have, and the reason why is exactly the same reason why GE will never sell a lightbulb that won’t burn out and Duracell will never invent a battery that actually lasts a really long time, because if they ever do, we won’t need them anymore.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that these organizations don’t do anything to help – they do – but finding cures is not one of them. If you’re looking for a cure for cancer, for instance, don’t look to the American Cancer Society to find one. What possible reason could the ACS have for finding a cure for cancer?

The ACS has over 3,400 offices nationwide, thousands of employees making a nice living, and tens of millions of dollars pouring in each & every year. It’s a pretty cool business model as business models go, but it does have one tiny little flaw: If a cure for cancer is ever found, the ACS goes away.

Make no mistake, the ACS is in it for the long haul – 96 years and counting; an organization doesn’t advertise “careers” on their website unless they honestly believe you’ll have plenty of time to have one. Finding a cure for cancer isn’t even one of ACS’s corporate goals. Why would it be? It would put them out of business.

So am I saying that you shouldn’t give money to the ACS and organizations like them? Absolutely not. Just don’t be under the misconception that your donation will actually help find a cure, because it won’t, no matter how much guilt is thrown your way.

Upton Sinclair is credited with stating, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it.”

I would suggest that with the tweaking of only a few words, Sinclair’s statement could describe every medical non-profit organization in the world: “It is difficult to get an organization to find a cure for something when their very existence depends on not having one.”

If that makes me a cynic, so be it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Gitmo Bait & Switch

The AP reports this morning that a significant step in closing the military prison at Guantanamo Bay has been taken. The article is below, but to cut to the chase, the prisoners currently held in Gitmo will be moved to an underutilized prison located in Illinois.

AP sources: Ill. prison to get Gitmo detainees

This is being painted, of course, as good news. Moving the facility to the U.S. will bring much needed jobs to Americans, and the President, no doubt, will throw this achievement on the table as a flagship campaign promise that he kept.

There are just two little problems.

First, the whole issue with Gitmo was not that there was a prison located there; it was – and still is – what was happening at that prison:

Hundreds of “suspected terrorists” were being rounded up, arrested, and held there indefinitely. No charges were being brought against them, they were not told what they were arrested for, and they had no right to an attorney or a speedy trial or anything else that we afford to even the most base of criminals.

Oh, and we tortured many of them repeatedly, in a variety of new and exciting ways, kind of like they did during the inquisition except that 1) since we are the “good guys” it’s ethical now, and 2) because of improvements in torture technology, any confessions we gained were 100% viable.

The fact that these things were done on a military base located in Cuba is what really made all of this remotely acceptable, because Cuba isn’t the United States, and the prisoners weren’t really criminals in the ordinary sense; they were military combatants, and since – conveniently – there was a war going on we could hold them as prisoners of war for as long as we wanted.

The outcry about Guantanamo was that people wanted it shut down, not moved. What sense does moving it make?

Imagine a wife being angry at her husband for having a long-standing affair with “Lucy”. She wants the affair to end. What has been accomplished if her husband stops seeing “Lucy” only to start sleeping with “Susan”? Would this make the wife happy?

No? Then why would we be satisfied, because that’s exactly what is going on here with Gitmo.

But it’s actually even more ridiculous – and damning – than that, because there is a second problem with this Gitmo solution, and it should make every American bristle with alarm.

To continue with the “affair” analogy for a moment, not only is the husband merely dropping one mistress for another, he’s actually moving her into his own house! Again, should the wife be happy about this?

Think about this for a second: We are moving the Gitmo prison into the United States.

What does that mean? It means that it is now acceptable to the American people to have a prison within our own borders where people can be arrested, held without being charged with a crime, afforded no rights, given no trial, and – if a confession is needed to validate the whole thing – tortured.

And it's okay with us!

We have created a war that is unwinnable, and can therefore be “fought” indefinitely. We have made it acceptable to arrest people based on what they might do. We are continuing to broaden the definition of “terrorist” to include almost any group of people who might speak out against the government.

And now we have our very own U.S. “terrorist” prison to lock them all away.

Well, let me rephrase that; we have our first U.S. “terrorist” prison. We can certainly build more of them if we need to, because we’re setting a precedent here, and once a precedent is established, it’s simply a matter of repeating it over and over and over.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

We’ll Tell You Everything, But First We Need to Talk About What We’re Going to Tell You

I read this article the other day and thought it was laughable:
Yahoo, Verizon: Our Spy Capabilities Would ‘Shock’, ‘Confuse’ Consumers

Basically, the story is about Yahoo! &Verizon refusing to divulge information that should be available to the public under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Verizon's justification for not providing it is that the information “might confuse” the American public. Their concern is touching. But shouldn’t the public be the ones to make the determination of whether or not it is confusing? After all, if it “might confuse” the public, it also “might not”. Either way, is that a legitimate reason to say “No” when the law says “Yes”?

Even more ridiculous is Yahoo!’s stance: “'Therefore, release of Yahoo!’s information is reasonably likely to lead to impairment of its reputation for protection of user privacy and security, which is a competitive disadvantage for technology companies,' the company writes.”

So, let me get this straight. The American People have the right to information unless it will make an organization look bad.

Oh. Okay.

I was scratching my head after reading that, wondering where these guys get off coming up with this kind of stuff. And then I read the below article and suddenly I remembered; they learned it from the United States Government: PROMISES, PROMISES: A closed meeting on openness

To spare you from having to read the entire article, it basically describes how the government is having a meeting about “openness”, and as proof that they are both serious and that they know what they’re talking about, the meeting is closed to the public.

“The closed conference will provide tips for FOIA public liaisons on communicating and negotiating with people who make requests, and introduce the new Office of Government Information Services to them, said Melanie Ann Pustay, director of the Justice Department's Office of Information Policy, which takes the lead on government openness issues.”

Really. And what “tips” would be needed to respond to a FOIA request? Hey! Here’s one: provide the information. And what needs to be “negotiated”?

“Pustay said she planned to say the same things at the private workshop that she would say publicly. She offered these reasons to explain why it was closed: She wanted government employees to be able to speak candidly, and the conference would be in an auditorium at the Commerce Department, where she said a government ID was required to be admitted. The AP and others news organizations routinely enter government buildings to cover the government.”

Well, if she really planned to say the same things, what would it hurt to have a couple of reporters there? And what would government employees not be able to talk about in an open session that they would be able to discuss in a closed one? Perhaps, oh . . . . I don’t know, things that they don’t want to discuss in front of the public? You know, things that might “lead to impairment of its reputation”?

“Pustay said she is looking for ways to improve how the government responds to information requests, which costs roughly $400 million each year.”

Maybe the public would be able to provide some “tips” on how to do that. If they were allowed to attend, that is.

“The director of the new Office of Government Information Services, Miriam Nisbet, said the event was closed to make sure there would be room for all the government employees attending.”

This just sounds like a bad joke:
Q: How many government employees were at the meeting?
A: All who attended.

Sorry, there’s just no room. Can’t fit even one more person in. Nope. Not even one. Not a square to spare.

"I can understand skepticism anytime a meeting for government people is not necessarily open to the public," Nisbet said. "However, everything that is discussed there is absolutely available for the public to know about."

“Not necessarily”? Are you kidding me? What kind of people even say things like that? Do they actually think it makes any sense?

No worries, though. Ms. Nisbet has assured us that everything in the closed meeting - er, . . . I mean, the "not necessarily open" meeting - will be available for the public to know about.

Unless it won't.

Friday, November 20, 2009

How to Get a Job in Government

Note: Neither of these are mine; just passing along. Enjoy!

Case Study #1:
A country boy answered an ad to buy a mule and paid $500 for it. A few days later he came by with his truck to pick it up and the seller came around and said, “I’m real sorry son, but the mule has died and I can’t give you your money back ‘cause I already spent it.”

The country boy said, “Well, just give me the mule anyway and I’ll raffle it off.”

Weeks later, the seller met the country boy and asked him how the raffle went. The country boy said it was a rip-roarin’ success; he raised $900 by selling raffle tickets for $2 apiece.

The seller exclaimed, “Wasn’t the winner upset when he found out the mule was dead?”

“Oh, landsakes, yes,” the country boy replied, “he was real mad.”

“Well, what did you do?” the seller asked.

“I apologized and gave him his $2 back,” the country boy said.

One year later, the country boy was hired to run the U.S. Treasury.

Case Study #2:
A father was trying to prompt his teenage son into choosing a career, but he had no idea what the boy’s interests were. Sneaking into his son’s room one day, he laid a Bible, a silver dollar, a flask of whiskey, and a girlie magazine all in a row on top of his son’s dresser.

He then hid in the closet with the door cracked open so he could see what his son would do when he came into the room, thinking to himself, “If he picks up the Bible, he’s going to be a preacher. If he picks up the silver dollar, he’ll probably be a banker. If he picks up the whiskey, he’ll wind up a drunk. And if he picks up the girlie magazine, he’s doomed to be a womanizer.”

Pretty soon the his son walked in the room and went straight over to the dresser. He picked up the Bible and put it under his arm, slipped the silver dollar into his pocked, took a shot of whiskey, and then started flipping through the girlie magazine.

“Oh, no!” the father thought, “he’s gonna be a congressman!”

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Intent to Deceive

There is a lot of concern today over the accuracy of information found on the internet. That concern is absolutely justified; anyone can get on the web, start a website or blog, and say anything they want. Dress it up nice, write intelligently, provide lots of references, and you gain instant credibility for your position (with at least some of the world).

With so much disinformation out there, we have to be careful to take what we read (and see) on the internet with a grain of salt. We are encouraged – and rightfully so – to get our information from trusted sources rather than from extremists in any direction.

But what constitutes a trusted source these days? Take me for instance. Surely my blog carries far less weight than a more “respectable”, well known institution, does it not? After all, who am I anyway? What makes me an authority? Why should I be trusted?

Good questions, and I don’t have answers for them, other than to say, “no one”, “nothing”, and “no reason”, respectively. If that’s okay with you, it’s okay with me.

Where we all run into a problem is when sources that should be reliable & credible prove that they aren’t.

For example, I ran across an article from the Anti-Defamation League this morning entitled
Rage Grows in America: Anti‑Government Conspiracies

I would consider the ADL to be a legitimate organization, more so than “some guy” blogging from a little town in Kentucky, anyway. But right off the bat they lose all credibility. The article starts with this:

“Since the election of Barack Obama as president, a current of anti-government hostility has swept across the United States, creating a climate of fervor and activism with manifestations ranging from incivility in public forums to acts of intimidation and violence.”

Wrong. Completely wrong. Yes, there is most definitely a “current of anti-government hostility”, but it has nothing to do with Barack Obama. Anti-government sentiment has been building steadily – and, in fact, began to skyrocket – throughout the Bush era. I know that, because I’ve been keeping my eye on it for years. It is merely continuing to grow under Obama, namely because nothing has changed.

By trying to twist “anti-government” to mean “anti-Obama”, the ADL is purposely misinforming its readers.

Later in the article it makes the following statements regarding a group that refers to themselves as “Oath Keepers”:

“One manifestation of the ideology of resistance was the creation in March 2009 of the Oath Keepers, an anti-government group that tries to recruit police and military personnel and veterans. Members refuse to obey hypothetical “orders” from the government, “orders” that speak more to their own paranoid and conspiratorial beliefs than to any realistic government action.”

Again, this is a complete misrepresentation of what the Oath Keepers are about. Oath Keepers make one assertion and one assertion only: that they will not enforce un-Constitutional orders. That’s it. Period.

Is that anti-government? Does that speak to paranoid and conspiratorial beliefs? Why would a group that has vowed to uphold the Constitution of the United States be considered a “manifestation of the ideology of resistance”?

Do you want to know why there is a growing frustration and anti-government current sweeping the country? Because people feel that they cannot trust the government, and they feel that the government is overstepping its constitutional bounds.

Is that unreasonable? I don’t think so. It’s not like they don’t give us plenty of reason to feel that way. We are lied to all the time.

My definition of a lie, by the way, is “anything that is done with a purposeful intent to deceive”. This would, of course, include “bald-faced” lies, but it also includes those other things we call “half-truths” and even complete silence, if it is done with the intent to deceive.

And, unlike the below*, that’s no lie.

CNSNews.com: “Madam Speaker, where specifically does the Constitution grant Congress the authority to enact an individual health insurance mandate?”

Pelosi: “Are you serious? Are you serious?”

CNSNews.com: “Yes, yes I am.”

*Excerpt from a conversation (or lack thereof) that occurred on Oct 22nd between a reporter and Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi never did answer the question; her spokesman later made the statement that she didn’t answer it because it was not a “serious question”.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Drone Wars

In the very first “Star Wars” movie back in the mid-70’s, Obi-Wan Kenobi makes a reference to “the Clone Wars”. Although he didn’t elaborate on what the Clone Wars were – and regardless of how silly it actually played out when George Lucas finally got around to putting it on the silver screen decades later – it was easy to surmise from his comment that the Clone Wars were a bad time.

Clones and drones aren’t the same thing, but are they really so different? One is biological, the other is mechanical. Other than that, both are carbon copies of a set design, and both presumably exist for a single purpose.

Drones are becoming more and more commonplace in modern warfare, with increasing capabilities and deadlier payloads. Conventional wisdom (at least for those who have drones available to use at their pleasure – namely us) seems to be that they are a good thing: Destroy your target without incurring any personal risk to yourself.

Sounds nice. But have we really thought this through?

Below is an article by Tom Engelhardt that questions our current love affair with drone warfare.

The Folly Of A `Drone War'

As I read this piece, a couple of things caught my attention. The first was this:

“Everything, in fact, will be almost infinitely upgradeable, since we’re still in the robotics equivalent of the age of the "horseless carriage," as Peter Singer of the Brookings Institution assures us. (Just hold your hats, for instance, when the first nano-drones make it onto the scene! They will, according to Jane Mayer of the New Yorker, be able to “fly after their prey like a killer bee through an open window.”)”

I’ve been hearing about “nano-drones” for some time, and although the technology may or may not be there yet to do what Engelhardt describes above, it’s certainly not a stretch to believe that if we can’t do it today, it won’t be long before we can.

What would a man living 2,000 years ago think if he saw something like that in a vision? How would he describe something he couldn’t possibly understand? Would it possibly sound like this:

Then out of the smoke came locusts upon the earth, and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power. They were told not to hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.

And they were not permitted to kill anyone, but to torment for five months; and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings a man. And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death flees from them.

The appearance of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle; and on their heads appeared to be crowns like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. They had hair like the hair of women, and their teeth were like the teeth of lions. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to battle. They have tails like scorpions, and stings; and in their tails is their power to hurt men for five months.
- Revelation 9:3-10

Interesting. In and of itself, it means nothing; just pure speculation.
But it is interesting.

Moving beyond possible Biblical connections, Engelhardt goes on to say:

“So why am I not excited -- other than the fact that the drones are also killing civilians in disputed but significant numbers in the Pakistani tribal borderlands, creating enemies and animosity wherever they strike, and turning us into a nation of 24/7 assassins beyond the law or accountability of any sort? Thought of another way, the drones put wings on the original Bush-era Guantanamo principle -- that Americans have the inalienable right to act as global judge, jury, and executioner, and in doing so are beyond the reach of any court or law.

Whatever the short-term gains from introducing drone warfare in these last years, we are now locked into the 24/7 assassination trade -- with our own set of non-suicide bombers on the job into eternity. This may pass for sanity in Washington, but it’s surely helping to pave the road to hell.

Haven’t any of these folks ever seen a sci-fi film? Are none of them Terminator fans? Are they sure they want to open the way to unlimited robot war, keeping in mind that, if this is the latest game in town, it won’t remain mainly an American one for long. And just wait until the first Iranian drone takes out the first Baluchi guerrilla supported by American funds somewhere in Pakistan. Then let's see just what we think about the right of any nation to summarily execute its enemies -- and anyone else in the vicinity -- by drone.”

Think closely about these two statements in the above:
“ . . . that Americans have the inalienable right to act as global judge, jury, and executioner, and in doing so are beyond the reach of any court or law.”
“ . . . the right of any nation to summarily execute its enemies -- and anyone else in the vicinity -- by drone.

Judge, jury, and executioner. Not just of your enemies, but anyone else you choose.

Surely, however, not your own people. It would never come to that. Would it?

. . . the AG was squeezing harder and harder. Already they were starting to fly patrols out west using UAV’s equipped with thermal scanners, computer recognition systems, and Vulcan III cannons. They had decimated our ranks in the desert regions of Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada, and as the AG’s grip got tighter , they were becoming bolder about their methods and less concerned with who might see them. There was a war going on, you know.
- excerpt from What So Proudly We Hailed

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Behold My Beautiful Wife

My wife is beautiful.

She is outwardly beautiful.
The clothes she chooses are feminine and appealing, yet they reflect a modest aura of mystery that others can only guess at. She is lovely when she wears her hair down; whether carefully sculpted before an evening out or carelessly tousled on her pillow as she awakens, it gives her a beauty and a soft feminine grace that defies logic. I feel as though she is teasing me when she wears her hair up, and I’m still amazed that with the simple pull of a comb and a gentle shake of her head, her beauty can be magnified so greatly with such little effort.

She is physically beautiful.
I love the softness of her body, the smoothness of her skin, and the warmth that I feel when I touch her. My favorite part of her body is where her waist gently swells out to her hips, and to feel that swell with my hands is to know without a doubt that I am in the presence of a woman. She thinks it’s unsightly, but she couldn’t be more wrong.

She is inwardly beautiful.
The genuine kindness and caring that dwell in her heart is magnificent to witness. She has a playful spirit, and I will go to great lengths to break her composure, and then delight in her tears of laughter. She is beautiful when she smiles. The light in her eyes, the happiness on her face. Her joy is my heart’s desire, and when that contented inner beauty shines out in her smile, all is right in my world.

She is spiritually beautiful.
What makes her most beautiful to me is something that no one else can experience. She is beautiful because she is my wife. Because she wears my ring. Because she said “I do”, and in doing so chose to spend the rest of her life on this earth with such an imperfect man, and to share her beauty with me despite all of my faults. She knows there will be no refunds on her time; there will be no “do-overs”. And yet, by my side she remains.

If that’s not beautiful to behold, what is?

“Like a lily among the thorns, so is my darling among the maidens.”
Solomon 2:2

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Monster Devouring Us

Just an interesting article on the potential perils of the internet. It's not very long, but it raises some very pertinent questions that very few people today seem to be concerned about:

The monster devouring us: Even the men who created the internet are beginning to fear its power to destroy our freedom

If the above is intriguing to you and you haven't read "What So Proudly We Hailed" yet, maybe you should. Every nightmare begins with someone crawling into a warm, comfortable bed, but what would it be like if you couldn't wake up?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Just Between You & Me

I’ve been thinking a lot about secrets lately. Not just secrets themselves, but more to the point, things that are done in secret.

As far as I can tell, there are only two real reasons why someone would hide something from you:

1) It’s none of your business
2) It’s something that they shouldn’t be doing

Are there other reasons? Quite possibly, but I would guess that any other justifications for secrecy would probably fall somewhere under those two, even if they appear to be different on the surface.

There are obviously many legitimate things that fall under the category of “none of your business”. Intimacy between a husband & wife, for example, would certainly qualify as something you have every right to do in private (even though there are some today who opt not to).

The government uses secrecy with different classifications that also fall under the “none of your business" category, such as “NoForn”, “Classified”, “Secret”, and “Top Secret”. To have access to something with one of these classifications you must not only have the clearance to view it, but just as importantly, you have to have a “need to know”. (In other words, just because you have a “Secret” clearance doesn’t mean you can arbitrarily look at everything labeled as “Secret”; if there is no valid reason for you to see it, you’re still out of luck.)

As long as everything is on the up and up, and the people holding the secrets are men & women of integrity, there’s really no problem.

But any study of history – secular or Biblical – will show beyond a shadow of a doubt that not everyone is a person of integrity, and regardless of how our environment may have changed over time, human nature has not. All people are inherently greedy, selfish, and power seeking to some extent, and we always have been.

There are some, however, who take that greed, selfishness, and lust for power to a much higher level than the rest, and they too have always been. Integrity is not an issue for these people; it’s something to be bartered or traded or sold outright to achieve what they want.

Consider this quote from an article that I read the other day:

“It's a safe bet that if control of the world is up for sale, you will be outbid. And the people who want to buy it--the people who crave dominion over everyone else--will not be good people. Good people don't want to rule the world.” Source: Government = Corruption

Do you agree with that statement? If you do, and if good people truly don’t want to rule the world (or rule anything else for that matter), then who does that leave?

And if we’re not talking about “good people” anymore, what reason do you suppose the people who want to be in charge have for doing things in secret? Is it really just “none of our business”, or is it possibly – or even more likely – that they are doing something that they shouldn’t be doing? Something that they know we would not approve of?

Evil lives in darkness & shadow because it wants to remain hidden; it cannot live in the light. Should we then be a little more skeptical of all the things done in secrecy these days? If there is nothing to hide, then why hide? Because there sure seems to be a lot of things that are hidden from the “unwashed masses”.

I don’t trust anything or anyone whose existence is shrouded in secrecy. Whether it has to do with the Federal Reserve, the Bilderburg Group, Bohemian Grove, Freemasonry, even the Vatican; if you’re doing it in darkness, you’re hiding something.

And my guess would be that it’s because you’re doing something you’re not supposed to be doing.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Hippos Under the Blanket

Amid all of the hoopla and controversy about health insurance and the “public option”, ostensibly to be offered by the federal government as an option to private insurance, this is the first time I’ve seen the below statement, included almost as an afterthought midway through this article from the Washington Post: Prognosis improves for public insurance

"The public option would effectively be just another insurance plan offered on the open market. It would likely be administered by a private insurance provider, charging premiums and copayments like any other policy."

Interesting. But why would that particular statement jump out at me? Because I’ve seen it before, in concept if not in verbatim script:

Excerpt from What So Proudly We Hailed”:
“ . . . they never changed the infrastructure of the private system already in place. They “ran” the program on the surface, but the real meat & potatoes of the whole thing was still run by the insurance companies, those 3rd party middlemen who added no value at all and did nothing except transfer money from here to there and grow rich in the process.

The only difference was that now they had more customers, which, the last time anybody at an insurance company checked, wasn’t a bad thing. More customers meant more money, and all the healthcare companies had to do to get those customers (and the money that came with them) was to allow the state government offices to have access to patient accounts and medical records. No harm in that; they were all working together after all.

So when the program went federal, all that really happened was that instead of the health insurance companies working with state governments, they started working with the feds instead. It was a different colored blanket, but the hippos wrestling underneath hadn’t changed. They’d just gotten fatter.”

Just dumb luck? Apparently I'm either very dumb or very lucky, because this isn't the first time reality has followed the fictional words I penned two years ago. I always thought the conclusion to What So Proudly We Hailed was beyond the realm of any real possibility, but as we continue to head in that direction, I'll admit that I'm not so sure anymore.

Friday, October 23, 2009

For the Common Good of All

When it comes to the government executing on the statement in the U.S. Constitution that reads “ . . . provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States . . .”, is there a limit on what they “provide”?

Apparently not, according to the House Majority leader:

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that the individual health insurance mandates included in every health reform bill, which require Americans to have insurance, were “like paying taxes.” He added that Congress has “broad authority” to force Americans to purchase other things as well, so long as it was trying to promote “the general welfare.”
Source: Hoyer Says Constitution’s ‘General Welfare’ Clause Empowers Congress to Order Americans to Buy Health Insurance

Is it just me, or is Hoyer’s definition of what “provide” means a little different from what you or I would find in an average dictionary? It seems to me that in addition to the “broad authority” which Hoyer grants the government, he also afford himself a “broad interpretation” of word meanings as well.

What’s really disturbing about this is not just the prospect of the government telling people that they have to purchase health insurance (or pay a fine if they don’t), but the fact that if/when this is done, a precedent will have been set that will undoubtedly give the government the ability to dictate what you must buy in the future, if it so chooses.

What else will come up in the years ahead that the government will deem necessary for all Americans to purchase “for the general welfare”?

Hoyer refers to car insurance as an example of a comparable mandate; but that’s not even close to the same thing. You only have to buy car insurance if you decide to drive a car; you have the option not to, even though very few people exercise that option.

Not so with mandatory health insurance. If you’re alive, you will have to buy it.

Is there anyone naive enough to actually believe that this would be the last thing the government would force its citizens to purchase once we give it that ability?

He added that Congress has “broad authority” to force Americans to purchase other things as well, so long as it was trying to promote “the general welfare.”

Hoyer’s words, not mine.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Female Word Meanings

I don’t think Catherine attended the same type of schools that I did because she doesn’t seem to understand the meanings of normal everyday words. I’m also aware that she isn’t the only woman who doesn’t seem to have a good grasp of the basic concepts of the English language; it’s an affliction that apparently affects wives everywhere.

When I was in school, I paid attention sometimes, and that investment during my youth - added to the vast store of information that I have gleaned during my marriage - makes me somewhat of an authority on this subject.

With that in mind, and in my constant struggle to make the world a better place for all, I’ve decided to clarify a few simple words that seem to have completely a different meaning to women than those that have been officially defined by that famous bachelor Mr. Webster (and we know that he was a bachelor because if he had ever been married he might have actually defined some of these things differently and thus saved many a newly married man from countless hours of confusion and lonely nights sleeping on the couch, not to mention entire forests that have been mown down over the years to print out credit card receipts for roses).

1) nothing (n) – something of no importance

Female definition: something of great importance that is so ridiculously obvious it will not be explained to the husband even though he needs to apologize for it and make massive & immediate reparations. (In context: “What’s wrong, honey?” “Nothing.”) It should be noted that the magnitude of “nothing” will increase exponentially if the husband naively mistakes its use to actually mean “something of no importance”.

2) minute (n) – a period of time equal to 60 seconds

Female definition: any period of time required to accomplish a task that the wife wants done right now, the scope of which may range from hours to days. Usually preceded by the words “Honey, can you come here for a - ”

3) phone-call (n) - a convenient, easy way to transfer information over a distance

Female definition: a convenient, easy, and absolutely non-negotiable action required whenever a husband will miss his expected arrival by more than 5 minutes (of the type that equal 60 seconds). Not applicable to wives at all, regardless of time frame involved.

4) money (n) – coins or paper currency issued by a government as a medium of exchange

Female definition: an inexhaustible and magically appearing resource that must be exchanged for goods & services as quickly as possible in order to prevent its accumulation.

5) period (n) – an occurrence of menstruation

Female definition: a time of extreme fatigue and crankiness lasting from 5 to 31 days of any given month.

6) no (adv) – a term used to express categorical refusal

Female definition: a term used to express categorical refusal. Common synonyms: I’ve got a headache; I just washed my hair; Is that all you think about?; Your parents are sleeping in the next room; Your parents will be visiting next week; You have parents. Sometimes also used to mean “yes” - but rarely - and you’ll never realize it if it does.

One-Stop Chipping

Every time I’ve written a plug for What So Proudly We Hailed I’ve told myself “this is the last time.”

And then I read something else so disturbingly close to what is in the book that I feel compelled to do it again. So I apologize in advance, but . . .

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology has been around for a long time. This excerpt was from a news article I read this morning:

About the size of a grain of rice, the microchip is inserted just under the skin and contains only a unique, 16-digit identifier. The microchip itself does not contain any other data other than this unique electronic ID, nor does it contain any Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking capabilities. And unlike conventional forms of identification, the Health Link cannot be lost, stolen, misplaced, or counterfeited. It is safe, secure, reversible, and always with you.
Source: Microchip Implant to Link Your Health Records, Credit History, Social Security

It’s not quite “one chip does it all”, but it’s pretty close. GPS tracking technology could be added easily to this particular chip, and, as was announced back in May of this year, the ability to remotely kill with an RFID chip has already been invented, if not yet patented: Saudi 'Killer Chip' Implant Would Track, Eliminate Undesirables

Should GPS and remote termination capability ever be added in, you’ll have the exact same RFID chip that is depicted in What So Proudly We Hailed.

And then the fun really begins.

What So Proudly We Hailed is a novel of the future. It was not written as a “light Sunday afternoon read”, but as a warning of where technology can lead when it is coupled with a blind, unquestioning trust in mankind. In that respect, reading it is kind of like waking up to a cold, overcast Monday morning.

Most people don’t like cold, overcast Monday mornings. But how else would we know we don’t like them unless we have personally experienced one? What So Proudly We Hailed depicts a future that nobody would want; but how will we know for sure that we don’t want it unless we know what it is?

I would suggest that it could even be important to see that unwanted future, because unlike the weather on Monday, we might actually be able to do something about it.

Maybe you should read What So Proudly We Hailed. You don't have anything to be afraid of.

Then again, maybe you do.

What So Proudly We Hailed and Finding Liberty can be purchased from http://www.linearwavepublishing.com/. Both books – including delivery – for only $20.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What Changed?

Back in the mid-80’s I went down to Engineroom Lower Level (ERLL) on the U.S.S. Woodrow Wilson to relieve the watch. I got a turnover from the previous ERLL watchstander who gave me an update on the current status. Among other things, he told me that he had just switched the lube oil purifier to the #2 TG lube oil sump.

A submarine has two steam driven turbine generators (TG’s) which generate all of the electricity for the entire ship. Each generator has its own lube oil system to flush & cool its bearings. Because it isn’t possible to do an oil change of these oil systems like we do on our cars, the ship also has an oil purifying system that takes oil from a sump, cleans it, and then pumps it back. The lube oil purifier, or “LOP”, gets switched around during the day to different oil sumps so that all of the oil systems are under a continuous cleaning cycle.

It’s not hard to switch the LOP. Each oil sump has an inlet and outlet valve; all you have to do is shut those two valves on the sump you’re done with and open them on the sump that you want to purify. Pretty easy. And this is what the prior watchstander had told me he had just done.

About 5 minutes after he left, I’m standing there drinking my coffee and trying to fully wake up when suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see lube oil shooting out of the vent line for the #2 TG sump and spraying all over the place, which is certainly not what it was supposed to be doing.

When a casualty happens on a ship, one of the first things that we were taught to do is to ask “What changed?” In other words, it everything was fine a few minutes or hours before, did anything happen recently that might have caused the problem you are seeing now?

In this case, the ship was not doing any maneuvers or speed changes. No evolutions or drills were in progress. We were simply cruising along submerged in the North Atlantic at a leisurely 1/3 bell with all of the regular hums and vibrations that our engineroom normally had. And yet, for some reason, there’s oil shooting out of the vent on this sump, which, again, was definitely not normal.

Knowing that the last watchstander had just changed the valve lineup on the oil system that was now exhibiting this problem, I ran to check that the valves were in the proper alignment.

They were not.

In the state I found it, he had left the system so that the LOP was pulling oil from #1 TG sump, purifying it, and then dumping it into the #2 TG sump. I took corrective action and fixed the problem.

And then spent the rest of my 6 hour watch fuming mad as I cleaned up a whole bunch of spilled oil.

It’s a simple concept; not even close to rocket science. If there wasn’t a problem before and now there is, did something change that might have created the problem?

Granted, sometimes things just break or go wrong for no specific reason at all. But what I’ve found is that, more often than not, when things go wrong it’s usually because something changed. This applies to relationships, employment, the economy, our healthcare system; pretty much anything.

Over the past two years I’ve written some very pointed & critical posts about vaccines, modern drugs, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and other “modern marvels”.

Do I know that any of these things are dangerous? Do I have any proof at all? Absolutely not. I don’t know for sure that there is anything wrong with any of them.

But I do know that most of those things came into being in just the past few decades. Today, we are dealing with an explosion of diabetes, obesity, and autism in our kids. Just this morning, I read about a new study which states that 1 in 100 children are now diagnosed as autistic. 1 out of every 100! Why?

In our small community here, 2 kids have already died this year from cancer, and a third is fighting for his life. Why?

In all my years growing up in public school, I can’t remember a single kid who had autism or that died from cancer. I remember a couple of kids with Down’s Syndrome, a couple who were diabetic (from birth), and a couple who were morbidly obese.

Nothing like what we are seeing today. It didn’t use to be this way; why is it like this now?

I find myself asking that same question that I did 20 years ago – What changed? – and I see that the number of vaccines we are pumping into our kids has more than doubled since I was young. I see HFCS in everything we eat. I see people bypassing sugar for chemically created sweeteners. I see people rushing their kids into the hospital emergency room for antibiotics every time they get a sniffle or a slight temperature.

We didn’t do or have any of these things when I was growing up. Is it possible that there may be a link? Should we not at least take a hard, unbiased, objective look?

My kids are not autistic, diabetic, or obese. They are healthy, fit, and suffer no allergies. Is this simply due to “good genes”, or could it possibly be because we avoid vaccines, HFCS, aspartame, and emergency rooms in general whenever we can?

What about our school systems? Our kids used to get a decent education – what has changed that would allow my kids who are homeschooled to outperform kids being taught by dedicated, educated experts in their field? I’ll readily admit that I don’t know more than the teachers do; so how is it even possible that I can do a better job than them? But I can. Why?

What has changed during the last 20 or 30 years in our school system? Is the problem simply cultural; a sign of the times? Or did we in fact do something – or several things – that fundamentally altered the system to create what we have today?

I’m not a betting man, but if I was, I’d put my money on the latter.

I don’t know all of the answers. I’m not even sure that I know all of the questions. But I’m not blind either, and while I may not be the brightest bulb in the lamp store, I’ll at least give myself credit for having a persistent – and possibly annoying – flicker.

In closing, what unsettles me even more than the fact that nobody seems to be investigating the question of “what has changed”, is another question which, if we ever get around to answering the first one, would seem to be the obvious follow-up:

Why was it changed?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Delayed Reaction

I watched a movie a few weeks ago called “Flash of Genius”. The movie was based on the true story of Robert Kearns, the man who invented the “delay” feature that is now part of the windshield wiper systems of every car manufactured today.

The movie depicted how Kearns was able to solve a problem that had, to that date, stumped the engineers of all the major car companies. In fine fashion, Ford Motor Company then stole his idea and he was forced to spend years in legal battles with Ford to gain credit for his patent, which he was eventually able to do. Chalk one up for the small guy.

What was most interesting to me, however, was the time at which this happened. Kearn’s original patent was filed in 1964. Remember, he was able to figure out the solution to a problem that was baffling the best car engineers of the day: how to delay the timing on windshield wipers.

Why is that so interesting?

Well, think about it. The time is 1964.

The Brooklyn Bridge had been constructed a half century before. We had already split the atom, invented atomic weapons, and had a fleet of nuclear powered submarines prowling the oceans. We had invented radio and television, broken the sound barrier with manned flight, and put an object into orbit around the planet.

We had done all of those incredible things – and many, many more – and yet we couldn’t figure out how to make a windshield wiper delay for a second or two until 1964.

That just absolutely boggles my mind.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Cancer of Negativity

Note: Every month our local newspaper, the Casey County News, graciously affords me valuable space to contribute an article on behalf of our local Chamber of Commerce. The below article ran in last week's paper. I almost didn't send it in because I thought it might be too personal and not "newsy" enough, but I have received more comments about it from our local residents than any other article I've written in the past 2 years. On the assumption that maybe I did something right, I thought I would share it here.

Five years ago I almost got fired.

It was a shocking experience, because nothing like it had ever happened to me before, and I never saw it coming.

For years I had been a sales manager with VERITAS Software, and a good one at that. But the head of our department – my boss – was entirely self-serving. Under his “leadership”, a similar attitude was bred among most of my fellow managers, and while they were busy furthering their careers, indulging in 3-hour lunches, and pretty much doing as they pleased, their employees lived in a neglected, hostile work environment.

I tried to keep myself apart from my peers as much as possible. I was committed to those who worked for me, rather than for myself. My own employees frequently told me how glad they were that they had me as a boss, while many others told me that they wished they did.

And then one day we got a new department head, and everything changed.

I loved my new boss. He was down to earth, grounded, and dedicated to doing the right things for the right reasons. 3-hour lunches were suddenly a thing of the past.

I felt a great deal of excitement, not only at the prospects of what the future might hold, but also in the knowledge that my self-serving peers were finally going to get what they deserved.

So imagine my surprise when less than 2 months later I found out that it was my head on the chopping block. I went home that day with an ultimatum from my new boss: “decide if you want to work here, but know that even if you say yes, one more mistake and you’re gone”.

I spent that night in a confused daze, trying desperately to understand what was going on, until finally, I had no other choice but to look at myself. I didn’t like what I saw.

Ever since my new boss arrived, I had been waiting for my fellow managers to get what they had coming to them. What I hadn’t noticed, however, was that none of them were acting selfishly anymore; now that they had a true leader, they were working together as a team for a common good.

But I wasn’t.

Because of my own vengeful desire, I was working for their failure, and as a result, every word I said was motivated by that desire, and it was all negative. Without even realizing it, I had somehow allowed myself to become the very thing that I had always fought against.

Instead of being a pillar of strength for my new boss to lean on, I had become his biggest problem. I was a cancer that was eating away at his organization from within, and like any cancer, I had to be removed in order for the body to live.

Understanding this brought me incredible amount of relief, as well as an equal amount of shame. This was not who I was. Luckily, I still had a chance to prove it. So I did. I forgave the past, I let go of my hate, and I started clean. From that point on, everything was different. Everything was better.

So what does this have to do with commerce?

All of the organizations here in Casey County – whether individual businesses or the community as a whole – have a lot of issues to deal with. The good news is that there are a lot of good people working really hard to make things better. But there are also a fair number of people who have allowed themselves to become predominantly negative in the comments that they share.

The irony is that those people who voice negative comments truly do want things to get better, and yet their own negative words actually work to prevent things from changing.

All of us would like to see a brighter future for Casey County; for our businesses, our organizations, our churches, and our community as a whole. But to accept a brighter future, we have to walk away from the past. We have to let it go.

There is no other way.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I received a rather nasty comment last week to a post that I wrote a long time ago. The comment bothered me because it was apparent that the person knew me personally – either now or at some point in the past – and obviously held me in low enough regard to make a hurtful comment while staying under the cover of anonymity.

It wasn’t the comment that upset me so much; it was more in finding out that someone that knows me personally doesn’t like me. Don’t get me wrong on that; it has nothing to do with ego or a need to be “loved by everyone”. I’m not quite that shallow. It’s just that I’m honestly puzzled about who I might have offended. I just don’t know. And that bothers me.

But while I may not be able to do anything about the commenter, I would like to address their comment, or at least the subject of it – addiction – because it might help those of you who have never experienced addiction if you understand what’s going on with people who have.

I’ll get straight to the point: I am a drug addict.

While my drug of choice – nicotine – is legal and may seem mild compared to others, I don’t try to sugarcoat what I am. I’m not a “smoker”, I don’t suffer from a “bad habit”; I am an addict. It’s that simple.

I started smoking when I was 13, which puts me at 30 years and counting. And I’m not a casual smoker either; I smoke like I mean it. Two packs a day. Every day.

I can’t stop.

I don’t say this because I want your sympathy or pity; I am very aware of the fact that I could stop if I really wanted to. But that’s the thing; I don’t really want to, and I just want you to understand why.

Because that’s the question, right? Why wouldn’t I want to stop? Why would any halfway intelligent person smoke when they know how bad it is for them?

Believe me, I know every single reason there is to stop smoking, and I would wager that, by experience, I can name a few more reasons that you aren’t even aware of.

So why don’t I just stop then? Simple answer: Fear.

When most people think about addiction – and I mean those who are not addicts themselves – they think about the physical withdrawals to the drug, whether it’s nicotine, alcohol, meth, or whatever. Regarding cigarettes, you see the patches and the gums and all of the other things that are supposed to ease withdrawal. And they do work, by the way. So what’s the big deal with quitting then?

That’s what I want to explain, because I’ve had the opportunity to give that question a great deal of thought while “standing on the front lines”, so to speak.

The problem is that there are two parts to addiction. The first is the physical addiction.

When you start putting a drug into your body, it throws your body’s balance out of whack, and being the smart machine that it is, the body automatically makes adjustments to compensate for it.

When you continue to put that drug into your body, your body continues to adjust to it, and after awhile, this new condition – drug & compensation – becomes the new “normal”. Your body starts to expect that this drug is going to continue, and if it stops, it throws everything out of whack again.

Your body realizes that something is “wrong” and tells you to fix it. With a craving.

A craving is a lot like hunger. Non-addicts understand hunger. Your body wants food and you get hungry. If you get something to eat, the hunger goes away. For a little while. At some point you get hungry again, you eat again, the hunger goes away again. Same thing with a drug.

And, like hunger, if you don’t eat something, the hunger doesn’t go away; it starts to get stronger. Where at first it might have been mildly annoying, after awhile it starts becoming imperative. You really need something to eat. Same thing with a drug.

At some point, if you continue to resist your hunger by not eating, your body starts having a physical reaction – fatigue, stomach cramps, shaking, faintness, shortness of temper, loss of concentration, etc. Your body is, in effect, going through withdrawals. It wants food, and you’re not giving it any. Same thing with a drug.

And here’s the thing: All you have to do to make that physical discomfort go away is to eat something. That’s it. Same thing with a drug.

The difference between hunger and drug addiction is that if you don’t address your hunger, your body eventually will start to self destruct. With addiction, the body will only go so far, and then it will start to rebound. Your body has to have food; it doesn’t have to have the drug.

For an addict, if you can make it through that incredibly uncomfortable period of days (or weeks), your body will eventually fix itself. It will balance itself out back to the old “normal”, just like it was before the drug use started.

It’s this physical reaction that all of the patches, gums, and other drugs are aimed at relieving. They help the addict get through that withdrawal period by easing the physical symptoms until such time that the body is no longer craving the drug.

Sounds simple. Sure, it’s an uncomfortable period of time, even with the patches & gums, but it’s not forever; you know it will eventually end. You just have to hang in there until it does.

But the physical addiction is only half of the story, and I would suggest – at least for me – the lesser half. I can handle pain. I’ve been uncomfortable before. For me, the real battle is overcoming the mental addiction.

How do I explain what I mean by mental addiction?

Think of it this way: imagine yourself going through everything that you do in a normal day. Eating breakfast, driving your car, working or going to school, getting groceries, spending some time with friends and family – whatever it is that you normally do during your day.

Imagine yourself doing all of those things just like you normally do, with one exception: You are completely naked. No clothes at all. Everyone else is dressed; you’re not.

Don’t take this lightly; try to really imagine that you are doing it, or that you will have to do it. How would it make you feel? Would it be uncomfortable for you? Could you honestly do it at all?

It’s important to understand that going through your day naked would have no physical effect on you whatsoever. It wouldn’t hurt. There would be absolutely no pain at all.

But could you do it? Of course, you could do it, but would you? Even if it was in your best interests to do so? It's all about "willpower", right?

That’s kind of what the mental addiction to a drug feels like. It's not exactly the same, but that's as close as I can describe it. Like clothing, you don't really need it, but it has become so much a part of your life that you cannot imagine living your life without it.

And it’s incredibly powerful too, far more powerful than the physical addiction (at least for me). It’s so powerful, in fact, that just by seriously thinking about quitting, my body will start exhibiting physical withdrawal symptoms, even if I’m smoking while I’m thinking about it. That’s some serious mojo.

Now ask yourself, if you had your choice of either going through your day feeling as physically bad as you’ve ever felt, or going through your day naked, which would you choose? My guess is that you’d probably take the physical discomfort over nakedness. I would too.

But what if you had to do both? Not only would you have to feel physically terrible, but you’d also be completely naked at the same time. And not just for one day either; you have to do this for weeks. And you know from talking to other recovering addicts that the desire never really ever goes away entirely. You’ll always be in some state of undress for the rest of your life.

Would you go through that if you didn’t have to? What if you could just . . . postpone it for awhile? Would you do that instead? Be honest. Just for a little while? Because you can, you know.

It’s easy.

And suddenly 30 years have gone by.

Please know that I’m not making excuses for myself. I know what I need to do. I have that conversation with myself every day. I know I’m pushing my luck, and I know that my luck will only go so far. Maybe it’s already passed the point of no return. I don’t know.

But I didn’t write this for sympathy. I wrote it because maybe it will help those of you who aren't addicts to have some understanding of what’s really going on with someone who is. And maybe it might also help someone else to never make the mistake I did.

Not all knowledge is worth gaining. On the topic of addiction at least, I often wonder what it must feel like to be blissfully ignorant.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The View from the Top

When I first reported to the submarine U.S.S. Woodrow Wilson back in my Navy days, I was immediately classified as an “air breather”. This particular designation was given to me – and all new submarine sailors – based on the fact that I was not capable of contributing anything productive.

I wasn’t qualified to stand any watches, I didn’t know how the ship’s systems worked, I couldn’t repair equipment; I didn’t know how to do anything other than the most rudimentary tasks.

About all I could effectively do was breathe the air. The same air that could have been used – and should possibly have been reserved for – those crewmembers who did productively contribute to the operation of the boat.

The labeling was meant to be an incentive for me to hurry up and get to a point where I would become a productive member of the crew. After all, nobody likes being called an “air breather” (i.e., worthless).

All of this was done primarily in fun, of course, but the distinction was also very clear and very real: there were those who deserved the air on that submarine, and there were those who did not.

Class distinction, in its most basic form.

Throughout history, people have always been delegated into a class structure. In it’s most simplified form, civilizations were made up of a very small minority called the aristocracy, and a much larger group which was essentially everyone else. The “common” class.

The aristocracy considered themselves above everyone else. Certainly they had their own internal subdivisions of status, power, & wealth, but as a group they were held to be entirely superior to any of those who were not a part of their small circle.

As a society today we no longer have an official “class” structure, but merely denying the existence of a hierarchy doesn’t make it go away. We no longer use the term “War on Terror” either, but what has actually changed other than the elimination of that particular term? Nothing.

Do we really believe that there is no class distinction today? If we do, it’s only because we aren’t paying attention. You can see it easily if you look.

But so what? Is that a bad thing? I mean, if our societies have always been like that anyway, what difference does it make if we’re still like that now?

Consider that these people – the very wealthy & powerful – are still a very small minority. Consider also that they fully control our government, either by holding the political seats of power themselves, or by leading the institutions that influence what direction our government takes.

Everything they do may be entirely legal, but does that even make any difference when they are also the ones who make and interpret the laws?

Again, so what? What’s wrong with that? Well, nothing on the surface. At least, nothing that those of us who belong to the vast majority of the common class could necessarily tell.

The problem with us, though – the common rabble – is that we assume that because we are good people, everyone else is too. We are all decent human beings. We care about each other. We all have the same basic core values.

But in making that assumption, we’re forgetting a basic principle: There are those who deserve, and there are those who do not. Who do you think today’s “aristocracy” thinks is “deserving”?

For a small insight, consider the below:

“I do not pretend that birth control is the only way in which population can be kept from increasing . . . War…has hitherto been disappointing in this respect, but perhaps bacteriological war may prove more effective.

If a Black Death could be spread throughout the world once in every generation survivors could procreate freely without making the world too full… The state of affairs might be somewhat unpleasant, but what of that? Really high-minded people are indifferent to happiness, especially other people’s…

There are three ways of securing a society that shall be stable as regards population. The first is that of birth control, the second that of infanticide or really destructive wars, and the third that of general misery except for a powerful minority…”

Those are verified passages from Bertrand Russell’s “The Impact of Science on Society”, written in 1953. Understand that Russell was hailed as one of the most brilliant philosophers of the 20th century. He was also a Nobel Prize winner; the recipient of an elite title bestowed to the elite by the elite.

Do we really believe that Russell was alone in his thoughts? Do we really think that other “high-minded” people don’t think exactly the same way? A little research may convince us otherwise. Do some searching on what the Rothschilds, Rockefellers, and others in their class have openly stated; you may be surprised at what you hear.

But again, what’s wrong with that? So what if they think they’re better than everyone else? Who cares? What difference does it make? Let them live in their privileged little world and they’ll let us live in ours. They always have before.

Yes, they most certainly have. But then again, they never really had a choice before, because never before in recorded history has there been means of doing anything about it, at least, not anything on a global scale.

Now there is.

Which really leaves only one unanswered question: Will they act on their beliefs?

We may think it’s incomprehensible that anyone could ever even contemplate such a thing, much less actually do it, but remember, there are those who deserve, and there are those who do not.

Friday, August 21, 2009

He Said / She Said - Grocery Shopping

He Said - by Blaine Staat

If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. That’s why I’m presently pushing this shopping cart down the grocery aisle. Shopping is so easy-peasy it’s ridiculous. And yet Catherine seems to struggle with it a LOT.

I just can’t figure out why she has so much trouble bringing home quality groceries. You know, real “straight from the farm” stuff that can be used to make good, healthy, sit down dinners at a properly set coffee table in front of the TV.

Oh look, Red Baron Supreme pizzas are on sale for $6.99 each. Well, well, well, a tantalizing price and all four food groups in one shot. I’ll take 6, thank you very much.

See how easy that was? Catherine, on the other hand, likes to buy things called “greens”, which take up a lot of space in the fridge and block your access to the cheesecake, much like the one I’m now putting in the cart at only $15.95.

Hey, you can’t make it for that.

Plus, there’s a lot of impulse buying when Catherine shops, even though I constantly reinforce to her that she needs to stick to the shopping list that I’ve been considerate enough to carefully review for her.

Wow! Check this out; a 2-pack of WD-40! One for the house and one for . . . well, the other part of the house.

Catherine will say - of course - that I “already have 3 cans of WD-40”, but she doesn’t know where they are any more than I do. Oh, hang on a minute, I’m at the cereal aisle. This could take a bit . . . . [time lapse] . . . . okay, I’m back.

You know, it’s amazing how much physical space 9 boxes of cereal takes up; I hardly have any room left in the cart. I guess it’s difficult to stuff all those vitamins & minerals into small packages, but hey, I love my kids, and I want them to be healthy, even if that means I have to do without something that I would like.

Like a couple bags of these powdered donuts which I happen to have just enough room for.

Well, that’s it. I’m done. See how easy that was? And how fast? Just one more little stop on the way to the checkout counter; my keen eyes happened to notice that they have Little Debbies on sale for only a buck a box. Can I spot the bargains or what?

Think I’ll pick up a few.

Of each kind.

Catherine would object, of course, but that’s why I didn’t bring her with me. And before any of you ladies point a finger, raise an eyebrow, or give me an “a-ha”, I promise you, these delicious individually wrapped snack cakes will be used for medicinal purposes only.

She Said - by Catherine Staat

Having one of “those” kind of days, I was relieved when Blaine offered to help out by running to the grocery store to pick up a few essentials, but there is always a bit of trepidation when I hand over the list to him because I never know what he will bring back along with the milk, bread, eggs, and cereal.

One huge spending area in any family’s budget is groceries. Blaine and I have sat down on several occasions, going over our family budget and finding ways to cut out the non-essentials. Being that I do most of the grocery shopping for the family, this is one way I can help with saving money.

I try to make sure that we stay away from “junk food”, as those tend to be the biggest cost items. I make sure I have a list before I go and follow it strictly, knowing what we will need for the week and buying only what we need.

I carefully chart out the menu items for the week and take into consideration that we can use leftovers from one night and remake them into something new for another night…again trying to conserve where I can, but without jeopardizing my family’s health in the process. Careful consideration not only goes into the grocery budget, but also in making sure everyone is getting a well balanced diet.

I take this job of grocery shopping very seriously! I also take my time reading labels and checking prices to see where I can get my best deals, which can often take well over an hour to do. Before heading to the store, I double check with Blaine to find out if there is anything more we may need to add to the list. He gives the list a once over and tells me that everything looks good and off I go with budget on my mind and list in hand.

It makes me wonder then when Blaine goes into the store and forgets our many discussions regarding our budget or his telling me how we need to “buckle down” on extra expenditures and only purchase items that we need.

I also remember the Need Vs. Want conversation. Did he forget how much those extra trips to the grocery can cost us without the list, or how he showed me on the computer – complete with graphs & charts - our spending habits and how those side trips are the biggies in our budget?

No, he won’t remember that until we go over the budget again next month, and he won’t remember that he was the one who went to the store and bought all of those said “extras.” He will however, again remind me that we need to “buckle down” some more, and that I need to be careful about buying items we really don’t need. I think Blaine just becomes like the kid in a candy store.

~ sigh ~ What is a mother . . .err . . . I mean, a wife, to do?!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Below is an excerpt of a real life event experienced by William N. Grigg as related in a post he wrote called "Hotlined":

“Grab some clothes and get into the van, now."

For an instant, that directive, and the tone in which it was issued, had the opposite of its intended effect: Korrin and our five older children, momentarily paralyzed by shock, looked at me in alarm. There was something in both the tone of my voice, and the expression on my face, that was new and a little frightening. None of them had seen my "game face" before. They were seeing it now.

Just seconds earlier, Korrin and I had been confronted on our doorstep by two very nice, well-dressed women who informed us that an anonymous "child endangerment" complaint had been filed with the Child Protective Services. Read more . . .

Mr. Grigg's experience is not even close to being an isolated event, and though we can take comfort that the story ended well for him, I think we would be foolish to automatically assume that that will always be the case.

Below is an excerpt from "What So Proudly We Hailed":

They came in, right through my front door, all seven of them – one social worker and five cops and a DHS agent.

The social worker, a flinty woman with short blonde hair, read off some kind of warrant while two of the cops grabbed Matty and Brooklyn and pulled them out the front door. Lisa was screaming, flailing her arms at the two men who were restraining her, and I vividly remember seeing the splashes of her spit and her tears as the droplets landed on the black body armor of the police.

And I just stood there and watched. I didn’t do a thing. Not a single thing. I just stood there and watched as my beautiful children vanished through the front door. I saw the terror in their wide eyes as they looked to me for an answer, and I heard their high pitched, panicked voices as they begged their daddy to help them as they were being dragged away.

And I did nothing. I stood there, just as a good boy should, just as they wanted & expected me to.

I like to think that I did the noble thing. That I didn’t react because there was an assault rifle aimed at my chest and I didn’t want my children to see their father gunned down in front of their eyes. But part of me doesn’t believe that. Part of me thinks that I did nothing simply because I was – and still am – a coward.

If you think that sounds unrealistic, far-fetched, or even downright ridiculous, it's only because you didn't hear about this when it happened a year and a half ago: SWAT officers invade home, take 11-year-old at gunpoint

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Anatomy of a Jihadist

There has been a good deal of news lately about Daniel Boyd and the members of his family that were arrested in N.C. last week.

Let me say first that I have no idea whether Boyd & company are guilty or innocent; I don’t have all the details, and they may very well be just as dangerous as the news outlets are portraying. But this case pushes the thought police game a little farther than it has gone before, because not only have they not committed any crime, there isn’t even any evidence – by the FBI’s own admission – that a specific crime was being planned.

The story originally perked up my ears when an acquaintance posted it on Facebook, along with the assertion that this – a white American man arrested for planning jihad – was proof that profiling does not work. That may be true, but of course, that would also mean that every man, woman, & child in the U.S. is now automatically a potential suspect, and if we are all suspects, I suppose we should all willingly submit to any & all intrusions into our privacy to prove that we are not.

Then yesterday I saw something disturbing. The AP reported that “A case against seven North Carolina terrorism suspects accused of plotting "violent jihad" may involve classified material that will raise national security issues if given to their defense attorneys, federal prosecutors said Monday.” Terror case in NC may involve classified material

Wait a second; so they’re saying that the defense doesn’t get disclosure? The defendants have been arrested without bail, will no doubt be tried in court (in a year or two or five), and the prosecution doesn’t have to give the defense attorneys the information they need to defend their clients because, like everything else today, it is a matter of national security?

How convenient. If you’re the prosecution, that is.

And then there is the other incriminating evidence found in the family’s home as reported by CNN: N.C. terror suspects had arms, ammo, FBI 'playbook,' agent says

According to the article, the Boyd’s had in their possession:

- Several weapons.

How many families in America do not have “several weapons” in their homes? Obviously there was nothing really odd or nasty like a .50 cal or you can bet we’d have been told (unless doing so might compromise national security).

- 27,000 rounds of ammunition, including some armor-piercing types.

Okay, that’s a lot of ammo, but I can list 3 reasons right off the top of my head as to why they might have that much.

1) Everybody has been stocking up on guns & ammo since Obama took office on legitimate fears of new regulation. Though none have been passed into law (yet), there have been bills proposed ranging from the required registration of all firearms (including rifles & shotguns) to the serialization of ammunition for identification purposes. How much ammo is "okay" to have, anyway?

2) Unlike cash, ammunition is worth something and will always be in demand. It would be usable for barter should hyperinflation render the dollar bill useless.

3) Constant government induced fear-mongering has prompted people to prepare for the worst. We are all in danger, remember?

- $13,000 in cash. In addition, Dylan Boyd had a deposit slip for $16,000.

So having cash in hand rather than sitting in the bank as an electronic number is incriminating? As in the case of ammunition, how much cash does it take to suggest that you are a felon? If he only had $8,000 in cash would that be okay?

I think the real issue here is that he “had cash”. I’m sure he also had a lot more than that available for use on his credit cards (I sure do), but credit card transactions leave a paper trail that can easily be monitored. With cash, well, who knows what people might buy. Apparently we are guilty if we even have the option.

- Four gas masks.

Guilty. Oh wait, gas masks are used for defense; they assume “the other guy” might gas you. In fairness though, I bet they also had some chemical or biological weapons of mass destruction laying around – most rednecks from N.C. do – but the FBI can’t tell us that because it might compromise national security.

- A book called "Emergency Response to Terrorism," a document described as a fatwa (Muslim religious edict) of jihad (holy war) against America, and an old identification card with suspicous wording.

I have a copy of the Quran and a few other books on the Muslim faith that I use for reference. I also have about a dozen Bibles in various translations, The Books of the Apocrypha, several copies of Animal Farm & 1984, and a couple hundred copies of my own little dystopian book What So Proudly We Hailed. Am I an extremist because I have those things? Are we going to start banning & burning books now just because we don’t like what they say? Weren't the Nazis bad guys for doing that?

- They also found a trench under the deck of the house, which a witness told the FBI was a bunker to store and conceal weapons, and a plywood plank placed in a tree so that someone sitting there could see anyone approaching the house, according to Sutton.

A trench under the house and a piece of plywood in a tree? Well, why didn't you say so in the first place? Call in Judge Dredd. Then line them up and shoot ‘em.

Dangerous precedents are being set here my friends. Precedents that will affect all of us whether the Boyd's are guilty or not.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Nation of Children

Back in April, the Chinese movie star Jackie Chan caused a little stir with some comments that he made:

"I'm not sure if it's good to have freedom or not," Chan said. "I'm really confused now. If you're too free, you're like the way Hong Kong is now. It's very chaotic. Taiwan is also chaotic."

He went on to say: "I'm gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled. If we're not being controlled, we'll just do what we want."

Source: Jackie Chan: Chinese People Need To Be Controlled

As you might imagine, Chan took a good deal of flak for those comments. But was he wrong? And could his comments be expanded to include all people, not just the Chinese?

If you’ve read my posts over the past couple of years, you know that the majority of what I’ve written has dealt with the erosion of our civil liberties. What you haven’t necessarily seen is my frustration that so few people seem to care.

Like Jackie Chan, I too have often wondered if the American people even deserve freedom. We don’t seem to handle it very well, and these days we certainly don’t seem to value it very much either.

Years ago I had a revelation of sorts. I was thinking over my life and trying to determine at exactly what point I had become an “adult”.

1 Corinthians 13:11 says this: When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.

When do we become men? And what are these “childish things” that we should put away?

In our materialistic culture, “childish things” would seem to be toys and other playthings of our youth. But I don’t think that that’s what Paul is talking about at all.

Children are immature (no one would argue that), and adults are supposed to be mature. But what is maturity anyway? Knowledge? Wisdom? I don’t think so. I think it’s simpler than that.

Children are selfish by nature. Their whole world revolves around themselves; what they want, when they want it. They don’t think of other people because at that point in their lives all they can focus on is themselves. The world beyond that is too big for them to comprehend.

When a child acts in a selfish manner, we call it childish behavior. Immature behavior.

But if the dominant characteristic of immaturity is selfishness, then it would stand to reason that the dominant characteristic of it’s opposite – maturity – would be selflessness, and if that is true, than the “childish things” that Paul speaks of doing away with are not toys at all; they are selfish behaviors.

There is a ring of truth to that. Think of all the people you know that you consider to be “mature”. My guess would be that they are very selfless people.

So where does that put us? When I look at our society today, I see what I believe is the same thing that Jackie Chan sees; an entire nation of people who have never matured. A nation of people who have been trained from the beginning of their lives to think of no one other than themselves. A nation of children.

And we are spoiled rotten.

The danger in this is that children cannot care for themselves. They are entirely dependent on others to care for them, set boundaries for them, and discipline them.

If this line of reasoning makes sense to you, then consider where that puts us as a culture:

Throughout history, all nations have followed the same cycle: a rise and a fall. Some of these nations lasted for centuries, while others only a few short years, but none have ever endured indefinitely. All of them started, rose in power & wealth to varying degrees, and then eventually met their demise.

It’s very similar to life itself; we’re born, we grow, we decline, we die.

For every nation that has completed this cycle – and they all do eventually – there is an accompanying chain of events that each has followed:

1. People in bondage gain spiritual faith
2. Faith evolves into courage
3. Courage brings about liberty
4. Liberty results in abundance
5. Abundance progresses to selfishness
6. Selfishness turns to complacency
7. Complacency devolves into apathy
8. Apathy leads to dependence
9. Dependence delivers us into bondage

So I would ask you: Where do we stand as a nation today?

Personally, I would have to think that our best days appear to be behind us. And though it pains me to say it, maybe that’s the best thing. It’s certainly what we deserve.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Emperor Has No Clothes

I’ve always loved reading. I don’t know why; I’m just boring that way, I guess. Even as a kid I read a lot, sometimes even preferring to read (if it was a really good book) rather than play outside with my friends.

I have no idea how many books I’ve read over the course of my life. 2,000 maybe? I’m guessing, obviously, but that’s probably somewhere in the neighborhood.

While that doesn’t make me an authority on literature by any means, I do think it allows me to make the claim that - when it comes to books - I have accumulated a fairly decent body of comparison by which to judge good from bad.

And when it comes to bad, there are two novels that have made the Top 10 of my all time “hackers” that I wanted to warn you about. Why these two? Because they have somehow gained the status as being “classics”, and are both also considered to be part of a group known as the “Best 100 Novels of All Time”, which I think is a travesty and an insult.

I was recently reading William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. The key word here being “was”.

What an unbelievable piece of junk. If you’ve never had to read The Sound and the Fury, consider yourself lucky. I’ll share a brief insight into what reading it is like with the below example, which, while not taken from the book (I made it up), certainly could have been:

I walked to the edge of the cliff Sweet corn and looked faraway at the don’t go there don’t go there I must you can’t and mama turned to look at me “Got to get yo feet out’d mud boy” before she faded into a door that was black and then it wasn’t black and then I made the noise again
are you going to the dance
well you should ‘cause you dance nice
says you
says me
but the lights came back and I went away the watch the watch why isn’t it ticking she smells like grass because you broke the hands off of it and cut your finger smells like grass and bled like grass on the new white tablecloth.

Now let me ask you: Was that enjoyable to read? Does it make any sense? Would you read 350 pages of that clap-trap without someone holding a gun to your head? Would you believe that I actually read 140 pages of it before coming to my senses?

Now, I don’t profess to be the sharpest tack on the bulletin board, but I had to go to Wikipedia and read the synopsis just so I could discover what the story I had been reading was actually about. It blew my mind. It also didn’t resemble anything that I read in the book.

Faulkner was credited with writing this novel using the “stream of consciousness technique”. Ooooooo, that’s so Avant-garde! I’m sorry, but I’m not impressed. I’ll give William credit for trying something new, but at best it was a bad idea and at worst it was just plain annoying and stupid.

The “stream of consciousness technique” reminds me of that period of years back in the 90’s when every commercial and TV show suddenly was filmed with “shaky-cam”. Do you remember that? The camera is bouncing up and down, zooming in and out - even going in and out of focus – as if the cameraman was either drunk or a 12 year old child.

Have you realized that the Avant-garde “shaky-cam” era has passed? Do you know why? Because it was a BAD IDEA. Just like The Sound and the Fury. Don’t waste your time.

The second book of jaw-dropping dumbness that I want to point out is The Catcher in the Rye. This book starts nowhere, ends nowhere, and doesn’t do anything of any importance in between.

If you enjoy reading about a teenage boy with nothing to be upset about that is dead set and determined to be upset about everything anyway, then you might enjoy this waste of paper and the innocent trees who gave their lives to see it in print.

My guess is that The Catcher in the Rye probably got its undeserved attention & acclaim because it deals with teen angst punctuated with a continuous barrage of foul language, both of which would have been considered “shocking”, “ground-breaking”, and – dare I say (yes! dare! dare!) – “Avant-garde” at the time of its publication.

It's notable to me that J.D. Salinger only published this one book. My guess is that his daddy used up the only favor his friend at the publishing company owed him.

I know that some of you may cry foul that I would pan both of these books, but reading should be a pleasure, not a chore. It should not require in-depth “study” to figure out what is going on or what it means. I didn’t have to ponder the concepts & themes that Dickens relayed in David Copperfield; they were transferred inherently. I didn’t even notice.

And before someone says that I just don’t understand or appreciate “classic” literature, let me set the record straight: I do. Very much so. Just not these two. I’m sorry, but with The Sound and the Fury and The Catcher in the Rye, the emperor has no clothes, and I’m not going to say otherwise, no matter how many other people insist that he’s dressed in grand fashion.

As an antidote to the above, here’s a few “classics” I’ve read this past year that are worth reading:

Silas Marner by George Elliot – I can understand why high schoolers would not like this book - the sentences are much more complex than what we see today and the vocabulary that Elliot uses shows how much our language has degraded over the years – but she penned a great story.

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins – A nice little mystery delivered in a clever manner. The passages of the story told by the self-righteous church lady are, by themselves, worth the price of the book.

The Last of the Mohicans by James Fennimore Cooper – Requires a little bit of concentration, but a wonderful story that leaves you feeling as if you lost a good friend.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Price of Existence

It sounds like a noble concept: “universal healthcare”. Everyone gets the medical attention they need. What could be wrong with that?

A few statements to start:

First, in the U.S., we aren’t talking about universal health care, we’re talking about universal health insurance. There is a huge difference, make no mistake.

For years, this country did have universal health care; doctors and hospitals were available to anyone if they were needed, and you paid them for services rendered when and if you used them. It wasn’t until the early 70’s and the Nixon administration that health insurance really took off.

Now we speak of “health care” and “health insurance” as if they are synonymous. They are not.

Second, there are (at least) two main reasons why our current healthcare system is broken and cannot be “fixed” in it’s present state:

1) It is a “for profit” system. Insurance companies make money by collecting premiums. They do not make money by paying claims. If claims start cutting into profits, they will either raise premiums or deny claims or both. They do not care about you; they care about getting your money. Period.

2) People expect to get something for their money. Nobody wants to waste money. People pay thousands and thousands of dollars into their “healthcare plans” every year. Is it any wonder why they take themselves or their children in to the emergency room for every sniffle, cough, ache or pain? They’ve paid for it; they want to use it, even if they don’t really need to. Having insurance encourages people to use it as much as they can, and as the claims go up, so do the premiums.

Knowing that, it’s interesting (but no surprise) that our “fix” for healthcare is to make it bigger; to expand it so that everyone has to be a part of it whether they want to or not. The following article is a couple of weeks old; I just haven’t gotten around to addressing it. You can read it in it’s entirety, but the title really says all you need to know:

Senate bill fines people refusing health coverage

“Mandatory insurance” is not a new concept. It’s mandatory that we have insurance to drive a car. It’s mandatory to have insurance if we have a mortgage on our home. But this is different, because in all other cases, the insurance is mandatory only because we chose to do something that we didn’t have to do (drive a car or borrow money for a home, for instance).

This insurance would be mandatory on everyone simply because we exist.

Think about that for a moment. Think hard.

If we can be forced by law to be a part of a system against our will, can we also be forced to do whatever that system tells us we must do?

Logic says that if the uninsured are being forced to participate in mandatory insurance because they are a “burden” on the rest, then everyone will be forced to do what we are told by this healthcare system for the same reason. And, like the system itself, you won’t have choice in the matter.

Vaccines, drugs, exams, blood; whatever we are told to do, we could be forced to do, whether we wanted to or not.

We need to understand that once we give up control of our lives, they no longer belong to us.