Saturday, December 20, 2008
This Christmas we began a new tradition. When one of your kids is missing, Christmas is never quite the same again, nor will be until all of you are reunited in that wonderful world where we shall never experience again the pain of parting. When we lost our son, Micah, he left a big hole in our family celebrations. All of us have searched for a way to fill that hole with not much success. Micah was the family jester. He kept us all from being too serious.
Sheila and I were out shopping a few weeks ago, trying for everybody’s sake to get into the holiday mood. Worn out and almost out of cash, we stopped by the food court at Sam’s for a quick bite to eat. The young man at the counter who took our order looked tired and as he went back to get our order, Sheila noticed he had a slight limp and appeared to be in some discomfort when he walked. He was a big kid, not quite Micah’s size and build but near enough that Sheila remembered how Micah’s feet used to hurt him when he worked long hours.
Not content to express her sympathy with the boy she found out he had been wanting to get some of those gel insoles, but hadn’t been able to afford it. She picked up her sundae and while I was paying the boy, she slipped around to the side window and got one of the girls in the kitchen to find out his name (Ryan) and his shoe size.
She told me she was going to buy him some new shoes and gel insoles and sneak back and leave them for him with the kitchen staff. “It’s a gift from Micah,” she said, her voice catching a little. I understood what she meant and nodded agreement.
“It has to be a Christmas miracle, though,” she explained. We don’t have money to do it now, but I’m going to pray that God provides me with extra money to buy the shoes - maybe an extra shift for “Ray of Sunshine” (the sitting service she works for). “I could do that,” she smiled. She was excited for the next couple of weeks, looking forward to giving Micah’s gift. I just hoped Ryan would still be there when we got the money. I tried to figure out just how I was going to create some “extra money” for the gift without her knowing it was me.
Silly me. As long as I’ve lived with Sheila I should know better than to try to second guess them when she and God start working on a plan.
A week before Christmas, Mary Bob, the elderly lady Sheila works for, became ill and had to go to the hospital for testing. Sheila went with her to the hospital and worked 24 hours a day for the next 3 days. At the end of it, she was tired and worn out from being almost constantly on her feet for the better part of the time, but she had her shoe money.
We went by Sam’s and bought the shoes, but they didn’t have the insoles. As I checked us out, Sheila went over to the food court to arrange to leave the gift for Ryan when he came in. As she came back, I saw her face and the tears in her eyes and I knew something was wrong.
Ryan no longer worked there.
I knew what she was thinking. Why did it take so long for God to answer my prayer? It’s too late now.
“What shall I do,” I asked. I was just about to go through the checkout. If we didn’t need the shoes........
Then, I saw her get that “look” in her eye. “Buy the shoes,” she told me firmly and with tears in her eyes, my stubborn little Christmas angel stalked off looking for Sam’s manager. He sent her to Miss Verdell, who ran the human resources office. Miss Verdell listened to Sheila’s story with tears in her eyes. “Don’t you worry,” she told us. “Ryan will be here next Wednesday to pick up his check. I’ll see that he gets his gift.” Miss Verdell began tearing up herself. “I understand, maam. I just lost my husband in October. I’ll make sure Ryan gets your present.”
We picked up the insoles at Wal-Mart that night with a gift card and took them home to wrap. Sheila signed the gift card “from Micah”. The next day we went back into Sam’s to leave Ryan’s shoes with Miss Verdell. By the time we got there, the story of Ryan’s shoes had spread all over Sam’s - everybody that worked there knew about it.
You know, I think maybe this wasn’t just about Sheila or Micah or even about Ryan’s sore feet. This year with the collapsing economy, layoffs and uncertainty, it’s been easy for all of us to forget what Christmas is supposed to be about. Who knows, maybe folks needed a little reminder this year. Meghan suggested that maybe the guys who work for Wal-Mart and Sam’s were feeling less than warm toward customers since a group of bargain hunters had trampled a Wal-Mart greeter to death just a couple of weeks before. Maybe Sheila’s concern for a footsore Wal-Mart employee helped them realize at least some of their customers do care about them after all.
We got a very sweet letter from Miss Verdell a few days later with a poem in it.
The God of heaven knew the exact moment in history when we needed His son. He knows the exact moment when He needs to send Jesus back again. I’m glad that He, who knows the end from the beginning, causes everything to work together for good for those who love Him.
Giving to others is a good memorial to Micah. I remember one Christmas my Pathfinder club kids were so distracted by who was getting what. They were in the absolute throes of greed and I thought, you know we need to do something about it - maybe adopt an angel from the angel tree or something. Micah grabbed my arm and said, “Dad, I know just who needs us.” He knew a guy who had just lost his job, they’d just moved here from 500 miles away so the family was all alone, flat broke, fixing to lose their electricity, there was no food in the house and the kids were getting nothing for Christmas.
Micah got names and ages and sizes of the whole family (there was some guesswork involved because we weren’t going to tell them we were coming). The kids took up the cause with a will. We didn’t here any more about what they were getting or ought to get. They were having a blast filling this little family’s wish list. The church found out about it and everybody chipped in. We loaded down Micah’s little Nissan pickup with presents for everyone in the family, a month’s worth of food and enough cash to pay the bills till they could get back on their feet. One of our members criticized us and told us we should spread all that around, but Micah and I told her a firm “NO”. He said God gave us this family to bless and we should show them just how mightily God can bless.
Micah was supposed to sneak up on the porch and leave everything, but at 6’4” and 300 pounds, he didn’t sneak very well and was caught. He and the husband unloaded the truck and as they carried in the cornucopia of stuff, the kids’ eyes got bigger and bigger and the mother dissolved into a puddle of tears. Micah said it was the best Christmas of his life, giving that family that wonderful gift.
It was a vintage Micah moment. At his memorial service, families were lined up 10 deep to tell us how much Micah had meant to their children. Giving a gift in his name this year really made if feel like something of him was back in Christmas. It helped fill that terrible hole in Christmas that Micah’s loss left for us. It is helping heal us in a way we had not expected when God first inspired Sheila to buy Ryan a new pair of shoes.
So, Merry Christmas to all of you and may you each have an opportunity to participate in one of God’s little Christmas miracles this year too - maybe give a gift to someone on behalf of someone you miss terribly this Christmas. You’ll feel better. I promise!
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Irene Whiteside made a wise comment on one of our Facebook threads. She said that conservatives needed to stop being afraid of the "push back".
So what's that mean - "push back". Another thinker once said, "People who don't read history are doomed to repeat it." Let me give you a little history lesson about fear of the push back. We have to go back to the Civil War for this one. The mighty Army of the Potomac had spent 4 years wandering about the Washington, DC area trying to keep between the capital and Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. They actually won some pretty big battles, but they never followed through. Congress was terrified that Lee might sneak past the Army and capture the capital. They were so afraid that if the Army of the Potomac tried to follow through that the brilliant Lee would find some way to push back and overwhelm the Union forces - possibly punching a hole in the forces defending Washington and capturing the city.
President Lincoln was exasperated by the inability of his generals to make any headway against the Confederate armies. Lincoln once telegraphed McClellan and asked him if he wasn't using it, might the president "borrow the army".
Meanwhile, a stubborn little man was carving inroads into the heart of the Confederate States of America. Ulysses S. Grant, a virtual unknown who'd once served as a quartermaster during the Mexican War, had risen rapidly in the ranks of the western army because he had a habit of winning, following through and consolidating his wins. He took ground, and not only held it, but pursued his vanquished foes, often chasing armies larger than his own. He and William Tecumseh Sherman, a cavalry officer and man after Grant's own heart eventually took command of the Western campaign and thanks to poor communications with Washington, were able to move forward after a victory and demolish the armies they had defeated in the field, before General Halleck and Secretary Stanton could get a message back to them telling them to stop and hold in place.
Lincoln noticed and called Grant east to take command of all the armies of the Union. Lincoln gave his new commander full authority to plan and execute a campaign to win the war and Grant proceeded to do so. He ran interference with Congress and his own cabinet and General Halleck, protecting Grant from orders that would have held him back and prolonged the war for years.
The Army of the Potomac moved forward in concert with the Army of the James River and Sherman's armies in the West who were cutting a fiery swath to the sea. Lee struck him hard again and again. To his consternation, every time Lee faced Grant and drubbed the Union troops, they moved forward. Grant would attack. Lee would defend and hold him and then find himself forced to withdraw because his supplies were cut off. A railroad was destroyed or a port was captured. All through his career, whenever Grant fought an engagement, he asked himself afterward only one thing. "What do I do next to end this war?"
He didn't think, "Will this help my political career?" He didn't think, "Will this get me a promotion?" He didn't even think, "Is this too risky?"
With Grant it was always "Win the War." "Stop the slaughter". Grant's determined aggressive style did more to save lives than all the careful shepherding of troops and resources that the Eastern generals did as they extended the war for years. Their timidity cost hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of dollars in damage to the whole country.
The Army of the Potomac reminds me of the Republican party. Led by weak leaders who - every time they win a victory - are so afraid of a "push back" from those they have defeated that they do not consolidate their victories. As a result, we keep having to fight the same battle over and over again. 1980, 1992, 2000, 2004. We win and then we try to hold on to power by giving ground. You can't give ground and hold power.
You advance. You fight. You consolidate your victories. You do the whole job.
Yes, the media will push back.
Yes, the Democrats won't like you and will call you ugly names.
Yes, the global warming enthusiasts, environmentalists and Hollywood elitists won't like you.
Get over it! Do not fear the "push back".
All we need is to find ourselves another Lincoln and Grant. I have some ideas about that, but it'll probably depend on God's will to make it happen. After all, Lincoln was a miracle. Grant was an unexpected gift. Neither man's character could have been predicted based on the history of the American political system and that of the U.S. military. Men like McClellan and Stanton and 90% of the lily-livered Congress - even General Halleck were all more likely to assume power and authority over the conduct of the war.
Instead, we got Lincoln; a man of integrity and honor; a man who listened when God whacked him on the head and inspired him to write the emancipation proclamation when everybody said it was a bad idea. We got Grant, a clerk and undistinguished former soldier who had a genius for strategic war; who understood that you could win battles and still lose the war.
God sent us President Reagan when we needed him. Whatever you think of George Bush, I believe God sent him to protect this nations from the chaos that could have enveloped this country in the wake of 9/11. Teddy Roosevelt came just in time to corral the excesses of the robber barons of the 19th century. Washington was the ideal man to set the tone for the presidents who would come after him. Adams, Jefferson each contributed his unique set of gifts to bear just when we needed them. Eisenhower was there to lead the war effort in Europe and the Cold War in the critical 50's when no president ever walked such a tightrope across a pit of potential catastrophe in history. Kennedy's tax cuts and his uncharacteristicly deft handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis preserved us from disaster. His challenge to land on the moon and subsequent death inspired a national effort that captured the country's imagination and engaged us in an effort that changed the world.
There were presidents that failed dramatically, that exacerbated problems and screwed up royally. We survived them. Some of these presidents only succeeded in one important thing in their entire presidency, but that one thing kept the nation alive and advanced the cause of freedom. It was enough.
We should pray for leaders to emerge who will help us to preserve our freedom and our nation. If we do not, one will be provided for us and it may not be God who provides that leader.
That's all I'm sayin'
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
I've been participating in a fascinating and surprisingly civil debate over Anthropic Global Warming (man-made global warming) over on the Banjo Hangout. You'd be appalled at how many smart people play banjos. I want to complement the participants on keeping it civil if not entirely apolitical. Nobody changed their minds among the debaters, but perhaps some folks on the fence were able to understand the issues a little better before they went back to practicing "Foggy Mountain Breakdown".
This is one issue where I think we folk are going to have to agree to disagree until all the evidence is in. Some have said that because the 70's era hysteria over global cooling has been discredited that we should automatically discount the turn of the millennium hysteria over global warming. I don't think that's very wise. After all, the scientists might be right this time - or they might be wrong. I just think we have to wait till all the data is in before we wreck the world's economy in the name of "saving the planet".
As someone points out in the new Keaneau Reeves movie, we can't save the planet. The planet will still be here, we can only save ourselves. How we do that is problematic. There's a lot of factors that go into keeping humans alive. Things like:
5. Protection from nasty radiation coming at us from the sun
6. Nasty things that fall from the skies
7. Nasty things that will kill us here on Earth (disease, toxins and evil power mad murdering despots)
8. A stable economic system and effective trade between groups of people
9. A self-renewing ecosystem
10.Sufficient numbers of us to renew the population indefinitely without overtaxing the previous 9 factors.
If we could focus on addressing these factors, I believe we could get beyond the politics and actually make a decent world for us to live on. We have one already - the best within light years of here. The challenge is to come together on what's important and quit worrying so much about who's ideology is correct.
Everybody do their bit to clean up after themselves, protect each other's right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and stop trying to be the big powerful kahuna all the time and life on this planet would be a lot nicer.
But, somebody said once that that's pretty much what would happen inevitably - that the meek would inherit the Earth. Those meek folks, He said, would be folks that lived by pretty much one simple rule - "Treat others the way you would want to be treated."
I have faith that that is precisely what will happen. I believe that evil will inevitably destroy itself at some point.
So it comes down to each of us doing his or her bit to be a decent, honorable person. A famous picket sign in the 60's proclaimed, "Suppose they gave a war and nobody came". Well, suppose they gave an unjust order and nobody paid attention. Suppose they wrote an unjust law and nobody obeyed it. Suppose they proclaimed themselves our leaders and nobody followed them. Suppose good people simply stopped doing what bad people told them to.
Just need a critical mass of good people, that's all.
Just one man's opionion,
Monday, December 08, 2008
A friend of mine thinks all the massive layoffs that increased right after the elections are caused by greedy corporations that "don't want to give Obama a chance".
Of course, he thinks everything is pretty much caused by greedy corporations and Republicans that "don't want to give Obama a chance".
I think it's kind of like skydiving.
Why do people skydive? Because you have the thrill of falling and soaring like a bird, then your parachute opens and you drift safely to the earth.
It's a risk, but the rewards are pretty great, so people pay a lot of money to skydive and pilots and ground crew and chute packers and parachute sellers make money.
Now imagine someone removes 50% of the panels from everybody's parachutes. Now when you jump out of the plane, you'll still soar all right, but when the chute opens a lot of the fun of the thing goes out of it. There is all that terror and screaming and then when you hit the ground there will be the broken bones and the months in the hospital and a good chance you'll be dead.
The risk factor just went up to the point that it's no longer much fun to jump out of the plane. Taking 50% of the panels from the chute took all the fun out of skydiving. So instead of skydiving, you do something else with your money besides hire chute packers, pilots and ground crew. You don't buy expensive parachute equipment. Instead you do something cheaper and less risky.
I hear that attendance at the movies is way up!
Just one man's opinion.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
The Pentagon announced it's going to post a 20,000 man rapid reaction force in the U.S. to respond to large scale terrorist attacks - particularly nuclear.
This makes me nervous on several levels.
1. Somebody really believes we're headed for a large scale biological and/or nuclear terrorist attack - enough so that they're ready to deploy military units whose primary job will be controlling panicky Americans rather than fighting enemy combatants.
2. The founding fathers were particularly nervous about standing armies being used against US Citizens. Last time that happened was during the Civil War. We have very wisely decided that in cases where a military presence within the United States is necessary to maintain order or cope with disasters, that we will use the National Guard and that only Governors of the individual states can call out those troops. Whenever the feds try to call up troops to cope with riots and such, the governors get rightly unhappy about it. They are closer to the problem and probably better suited to make the decision to deploy the troops. The standing military is supposed to be spending its time getting prepared to handle an external invader not our own citizens.
3. Colonel David Hackworth used to get really unhappy with military officers he called "perfume princes", political officers for whom military service was about advancing their careers more than it was about defending the country. For them military action is about posturing to intimidate, not about actually using the military. They don't believe in taking risks. They find it impossible to act quickly. They never move unless they have overwhelming force. That's why the mark of the perfume princes is all over this idea of having a battalion for use against a terrorist attack. Instead of the military developing plans to deploy more appropriate troops like SEAL teams and Delta Force special forces groups, trained in hostage rescue and rapid response, quick insertion missions that would be needed to respond to terrorism, the princes want to deploy large overwhelming groups to make sure they crush whatever opposition they have with little or no casualties. The problem is, moving these sorts of large groups is slow and often ineffective where you need surgical strikes. We don't need a battalion of storm troopers, we need a highly specialized group like television's "The Unit" - one that works fast, hits hard and is willing to take casualties in exchange for saving lives and winning battles. Big military responses often sacrifice lives in exchange for playing it safe. Remember how slow they were to get moving in the aftermath of Katrina. Large military groups don't move quickly. The Perfume Princes won't let them. They had the equipment, they had the capacity, but the generals wanted to make sure nothing happened too quickly lest soldiers' safety be threatened.
Since Vietnam, American generals have been reluctant to put soldiers in harm's way. This happened after the US/Mexican war too. As a result, General Grant had a real problem with the generals he had to cope with during the Civil War. It wasn't until he promoted cavalry guys to command who had a special forces kind of attitude, like Phil Sheridan and Bill Sherman was he able to get the job done. They moved fast, hit hard and took risks when it advanced the mission. Other generals had to be poked, prodded and sometimes threatened to get them to move quickly and do things they considered risky. Thank God Lincoln found a commander in U.S. Grant who wasn't afraid to win. Had Grant not been focused on winning the war instead of furthering his future political career, the Army of the Potomac would still be wandering around Northern Virginia trying to find Robert E. Lee.
Liberals understand the perfumed military. Real warriors make them uncomfortable. I worry that under a liberal administration and the sunshine generals who will rise to the top in such a military, a battalion of soldiers that is tasked with crowd control will be used for the purpose of advancing political advantage. That is a valid purpose for the military in the leftist mindset and the temptation may be far too great.
Left leaning presidents have consistently turned the US military into some kind of community service/jobs program, using money that ought to go for weapons and training, to do social engineering in the military. Because of that, the Vietnam war was never about winning, but about gaining political advantage and testing new weapons systems for the military industrial complex which poured money into political campaigns. After 4 years of Carter's gutting of the military, they so screwed up the Iranian hostage rescue mission by trying to make sure the political needs of the 4 services were met. They wound up with a team so poorly trained and coordinated that they wound up crashing into each other and getting themselveskilled out in the Iranian desert.
A particularly telling exchange happened during Clinton's first inauguration. The Air Force sent a formation overhead to salute the president. One of his staffers complained. "What are those AIR FORCE PLANES doing here?" he complained with all the self-righteous disgust of a member of the peace movement.
Ron Silver was standing close by answered him. "But don't you see? Those are our planes now!" The guy was happy after that.
After 8 years under George Bush, we have a military in place with experience and the ability to do what they are supposed to do - seek out and destroy America's enemies. They've successfully replaced an evil dictator, wiped out tens of thousands of terrorists and freed the people of Iraq and Afghanistan from tyranny while keeping terrorists so busy that we've had not one terrorist attack on the homeland since 9/11 even though Osama has been threatening us for 8 years.
I fear that for the next four years, the perfume princes will be back in power in the Pentagon and they'll change all that. Instead of improving weapons systems, training and military planning and execution, they'll be back to changing the color of the berets and making sure they count how many women and gay people are in each unit so things will be "fair". Maybe they'll create some exciting new shoulder patches or some of those tight britches with the stripes down the leg.
I know - jack boots!!!!
Ulysseys S. Grant must be rolling over in his grave!
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Just hand me my old banjo,
For pretty soon I can go,
Back to dear old Washington far away.
Since Obama's been elected,
We'll not be neglected.
We've got Democrats in the Congress once again.
Once again, once again,
We've got Democrats in the Congress once again.
Since Obama’s been elected,
The Economy’s been corrected.
We've got bucketfuls of money pouring in.
We’ll take ourselves a little toke
We’ll eat our veggies till we choke.
The diet cops will watch us night and day.
You can tell a dirty joke.
Fornicate, but you can’t smoke.
We've got Democrats in the Congress once again.
Once again, once again,
We've got Democrats in the Congress once again.
Rush Limbaugh will be buried.
Gay folks can all get married.
We've got Democrats in the Congress once again.
No more mortgages to pay.
The donkey won election day.
No more workin’ in the blowing, snow and rain.
Security is watching us.
We’re all riding on the bus.
We've got Democrats in the Congress once again.
Once again, once again,
We've got Democrats in the Congress once again.
Since Obama’s now above us,
The whole world’s gonna love us.
We’re gonna all be just as poor as them.
...Poor as them, poor as them
We're gonna all be just as poor as them.
And if you're not a socialist
You're name is on the enemy's list
We've got Democrats in the Congress once again.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
The Seven Intelligence Domains are (sort of):
1. Verbal / linguistic (writing ability & wordsmithing - authors, journalists, poets, editors)
2. Mathematical / logical (physicists, statisticians, scientists, engineers)
3. Musical (musicians, sound engineers, composers)
4. Visual / Spatial (artistic ability - painter, architects, designers)
5. Physical (bodily or kinesthetic intelligence - athletes, craftsmen, surgeons)
6. Interpersonal (social talent – being good with other people - salesmen, teachers, lawyers, negotiators, diplomats)
7. Intrapersonal (capacity for self-analysis and the ability to examine your own behavior - planners, leaders, CEO's, gurus and religious leaders)
Recently, the Banjo Hangout forum (of which I am a member in regularly threatened standing) ran a thread profiling the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventories of BHO members - many of who were surprisingly anxious to post their test results on the Internet for all to see. The MB divides your personality into 4 opposing personality factors. The test identifies your 4 most dominant traits. The the factors can change from time to time if you're close to even on any of the paired factors. This trip, mine was ENTP. Sometimes it's INTJ.
I would venture to suggest that the interplay of the four factors (introversion vs extroversion, Intuition vs Sensing, Thinking vs Feeling, Judging vs Perceiving) may be an artifact of the dominance of the various aspects of intelligence. On this forum there are those who are truly musical geniuses (intelligence #3) who "get" the music in a way others of us (myself included) never will. My wife is one of those. She has perfect pitch, hears when the music is right and has the ability to obsess over a song until it sounds like it's supposed to. It took me two years of training my ear before I could even "hear" well enough to tune my guitar. The musically intelligent post new arrangements, new songs and instrumentals. They obsess over getting the rhythm, the tone, the timbre of the music just right.
I look at posts on the BHO and also see "technical" players whose ability comes through high levels of physical intelligence (intelligence #5), a keen sense of body movement through space, manual dexterity and stamina. They can become excellent technical artists, but without a corresponding high level of musical intelligence, they never quite get the feel of the music like those with true musical intelligence. The musical geniuses can tell the difference between the musical genius and the mere technician. I can't. I have to take their word for it. Musical geniuses get very frustrated with me. I'm satisfied with a lot less technical prowess - I'm just happy if they'll let me bang along in the background and don't hit me with a whiskey bottle to put me out of their misery. The technical players play too fast for me to keep up.
There are those who are more interested in the instruments themselves and constantly fiddle with them (intelligence #4). They are artists and craftsmen and approach playing like that. Their blogs are more about how a particular banjo configuration sounds, how they set it up or how they inlayed the mother of pearl than they are about the music.
There are the mathematicians (#2) who'd rather argue about musical theory, what's legitimately Clawhammer or Scruggs-Style. They love the theoretical. They quantify everything. It makes them happy.
The members with high levels of interpersonal social intelligence (#6) are the guys that network constantly, their posting numbers on the forums are astronomical and they have 2000 friends. It's not what they say, it's how they say it that's important. The banjo is a tool for hooking up socially. The dark side of this group are those who become forum moderators and spend their time figuring out who's violating the rules and how to keep them in line. The even darker side are those who manipulate relationships for their own purposes and who torment the moderators.
The ones with intrapersonal intelligence folks (#7) are the guys that are busily writing poetry and discussing the details of their personal lives with remarkable energy. They are more concerned about what they think than they are about what anyone else thinks. They understand themselves pretty well. They may not understand anyone else though and they may not eve care to.
The ones with high verbal intelligence (#1) are the shade tree humorists, writers, bloggers and song parody writers. They love words. They love using words to get what they want done. They type fast and write constantly. They too dabble in poetry, but their verse tends to be less about April and dawn and sighing and more often dryly funny or critical or acerbic. Words are their tools, not their children.
What is nifty is how well this intellectual soup works out. Facebook does this less well than the Banjo Hangout, but better than MySpace does. MySpace has so dropped it's controls that the place has become bogged down - like the borders of a swamp. Pages load slowly and garbage fills up everyone's pages.
Our new Virtual-Village project is modeled on the BHO design. We hope to keep it simple and pleasant to use and to make it a tool for folks who have all sorts of styles of thought and communication. It promises to be an interesting project. Hope to see many of you there as members. We're going to do some really fun and interesting things there.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Physicists don't like coincidences. So says a recent article in "Discover Magazine On-line.*" Apparently one of the coincidences making them very uncomfortable is recent evidence that indicates that life is somehow central to the way the universe functions.
For more than a century, scientists have rested comfortably in the idea that life in this universe is the result of one big old accident. Recent discoveries, however, are forcing scientists - physicists in particular - out of their comfort zone. It appears that life, after all, may not be just some cosmic accident, an accidental byproduct of a random mixture of chemicals, heat and the odd lightning bolt – here today and gone tomorrow as the universe goes.
“In some strange sense, it appears that we are not adapted to the universe;” says the Discover article. “The universe is adapted to us.”
So, as Christians, who have long been made fun of for believing that same idea - do we get to start jumping up and down and singing “Nanny, nanny, boo, boo! We told you so!” I mean after all, it seems that the biggest problem in physics is now that the universe looks like it may not be accidental at all, but, in fact, may be designed for us.
Should we gloat? Of course not. It would be ungracious. Satisfying, but ungracious.
- If you change even small things about the universe and life cannot exist. If, for instance, at the atomic level, the mass of electrons is doubled or the strength of the interaction between protons and electrons is altered by even a small amount, life would literally disappear. The Discover article points out that there are three space dimensions and one time dimension? If we had four space dimensions and one time dimension, then planetary systems would be unstable and our version of life would be impossible. If we had two space dimensions and one time dimension, we'd be flatter than a sheet of paper and again, life would not exist.
- Brandon Carter, a physicist at Cambridge proposed the idea that the universe was made just for us—the so-called anthropic principle—in 1973. The anthropic principle asserts that the laws of physics themselves are biased toward life. Renowned physicist, Freeman Dyson, who is by no means a creationist, goes so far as to say that if we accept the strong anthropic principle then it looks like “the universe knew we were coming.”
- Matter clumping: If matter was more evenly distributed in the universe, it wouldn’t have bunched up to create planets, stars and galaxies. If it had been clumpier, everything would have piled up into massive black holes where life is impossible. Like Goldilocks with the porridge bowls, apparently this universe was selected to support life because matter is just lumpy enough and not too lumpy, just hot enough and not too hot, which brings us to our next “problem” for physicists.
- Uniform temperatures: Oddly enough, the temperature of space is 2.7 degrees Celsius above absolute zero everywhere astronomers have looked. According to the original Big Bang theory, temperatures should be more random. If the universe has been cooling since the Big Bang, different widely separated regions of the universe would have had to exchange heat like ice cubes in a glass of tea. But since according to Einstein, nothing—including heat—can travel faster than the speed of light, then according to the conventional theory there hasn’t been enough time for that to happen. Exchanging heat, even at the speed of light, there hasn’t been enough time for the universe to achieve even temperatures everywhere and yet everywhere the temperature is the same.
- In 1998 researchers found that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. Theoretically, they expected the expansion of the universe to be slowing down and eventually stop altogether and then for the universe to actually begin collapsing in upon itself. Instead there is apparently some unknown “force that is built into the fabric of space and time that is pushing everything apart. For want of a better name, physicists are calling it dark energy. I call it "The Goldilocks Constant". What’s even more incredible for those who believe in random chance and chaos, the amount of energy is exactly enough to accelerate expansion, but not so much that it would cause the universe to rip itself apart. The amount of this so-called dark energy is coincidentally exactly right to allow for the existence of stars and planets and life. Nobel prize winner Dr. Steven Weinberg at the University of Texas*, says, “This is the one fine-tuning that seems to be extreme, far beyond what you could imagine just having to accept as a mere accident.”
Thursday, November 20, 2008
I took an interesting test today. You can take it too, just click on this link and it will take you to the test.
Find something you've written that's around 500 words - anything will do. Cut and paste it into the box on the website and the software will guess whether you're male or female. It's pretty accurate. It says I was predominantly male in my communication style - a manly man of letters so to speak. Who can argue with that!
Standard fare in any comedian's routine are jokes about the husband/wife communications gap. There's evidently scientific evidence now that women do indeed use a different communication style than men.
Any man who's ever lived with a woman for more than a week could tell you that one! Over my 34 years of marriage I've had arguments with my wife about such earth-shaking issues such as which way is 'front' and which is 'back', what's the definition of "clean", is it moral to do the laundry just to please her rather than because you "want to", whether your son "needs" the $150 Nikes that all the other kids have and over whether or not I talk too much in social situations.
In those years I have learned the following: "Back" is whichever way she says it is and has no relation to any logic that I can figure out, "clean" is about 10 more minutes of scrubbing than I'm willing to do, laundry should only be done if you love to do laundry, that the kid needs the shoes - money is immaterial when your child is being shamed at school and that nobody wants to hear my opinion anyway.
The French are not my favorite culture, but they have a saying that fits here. "Vive la difference." I think that's how it's spelled anyway. I agree. Hooray for the difference. Sometimes, I think, the best way to communicate with someone who doesn't think the same way you do is to find something you like about them and talk about that and don't worry about the rest of it. There are some things like shoes and laundry that just aren't worth arguing over.
Just one man's (probably wrong) opinion...
Friday, November 07, 2008
Anybody hear the tramp of jack booted feet? The clip below shows that our new president has the intention of creating an internal security force with the power of the military to keep an eye on things here in America.
Oddly, the day after Obama was elected, the CIA launched a massive campaign on the radio - here in East Texas at least - recruiting new CIA members. I also hear that the FBI has launched a major recruiting campaign at high school and college job fairs in the last couple of days. Could they be recruiting for the new "internal security force" already?
I think folks smell a rat. Gun sales jumped by 30% in the past month around here. One Dallas gun shop reportedly sold a million dollars worth of inventory in just the past few days. Wednesday, I dropped by a gun shop and found 20 cars in the parking lot. The place was jammed. I was there for 15 minutes and saw two AK-47 semi-automatic assault rifles go out the door. Women were picking up 45's and shotguns. It was the same at every gun shop I visited.
Obama's "security force" frightens me. What are they for? We need something stronger than our police? The FBI isn't tough enough? Can we trust that such a security force will be open to scrutiny by common folk. Will the media keep track to make sure they don't abuse the frightening level of power they will possess? The military is a powerful force. That's why we keep them on bases and don't let them drive tanks and assault vehicles up and down the streets of our towns. An internal security force promises to bring military firepower into our communities 24/7, not just when the president calls them out for disasters and riots. What laws are they going to be enforcing? Will anyone be watching? The media perhaps?
That's an important question, especially in light of recent comments by folks like Chris Matthews who said his job as a "journalist" was now to insure that Obama's was a successful presidency. How he would accomplish that was something he didn't go into in the interview, but since a journalist only has the power to shape the news, I would suppose that it is this kind of support that Matthews is offering to the next administration, not something he ever offered to the Bush administration.
I no longer trust the media to tell the truth about what the left is doing in this country. After 8 years of an Alice in Wonderland / down-the-rabbit-hole journey that we've been led on by the media and the Democrats working hand in hand, I've learned that all that the media tells us is not what it seems. They are perfectly capable of slanting the news in any direction they wish and calling it objective reporting. Keith Olbermann's, MSNBC's liberal attack dog, considers himself an objective journalist AND NO ONE IN THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA IS CHALLENGING THAT. And don't tell me Fox Cable News shills for the Republicans because even the University eggheads don't consider Fox Cable to be mainstream. When they do their studies about "the media" they don't include Fox or CNN in the reckoning.
A recent George Mason University study showed that the 6 o'clock news guys were totally in the can for Obama in this past election. The most balanced of all the evening news guys according to the study? Here's a shock - Brit Hume for Fox Network news had the closest to evenly balanced coverage of all the network guys according to the professor. Anybody who watched the coverage of this election is not surprised. I imagine the mainstream media power brokers all had to smoke a cigarette after the election was called for Obama Tuesday night. It was a collective orgasm for liberals in America.
The point is, the media, who are supposed to be looking out for us have chosen a side. Look what they've accomplished in the past 8 years:
1. They pinned the downfall of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae on Republicans despite the fact that it was Republicans who years ago called for tighter regulation of both institutions or a disaster was coming. They were hooted down by the Dems and the media. Don't believe me, let's roll tape:
Or this one:
AND YET ALL YOU HEAR IS THAT IT WAS BUSH'S FAILED POLICIES THAT LED TO THIS DISASTER.
2. They pinned President Bush with having failed in Iraq despite the fact that Al Quaeda in Iraq has been reduced from a 25,000 man terrorist force to practically zero. The last stronghold was taken down by Iraqi and American forces this past week in a battle that received no mainstream media coverage (it might have helped McCain, so it wasn't covered). The media pulled out of reporting in Iraq when it became clear that the surge worked, the country was settled down, they had met most of their target goals and they were ready for us to begin pulling out. If that had happened under Obama, there would have been dancing in the streets. Bush only got more criticism and branded a liar.
3. They managed to trash Sarah Palin without being criticised as sexist, despite using almost cliche' sexist reporting accusing her of being an adultress, shopaholic, dim-witted, inexperienced and ill-informed. Imagine if they'd used that against a liberal female candidate. The howling in Ramah would have been a thing to behold. Here's Sarah explaining the "shopaholic" thing:
Let me just add right here (Go Palin/Thompson 2012)
4. They managed to fragment the conservative wing of the Republican party by first trashing one and then the other of the conservatives in the race. They witheld coverage from some, called into question candidate's religion, morality and associations - a thing they NEVER did with Obama. As a result of the fracturing of the primary process, the Republicans finally nominated a candidate that it's base didn't want. The convinced dim-bulb Republican leaders that the media just loved John McCain. Democrats convinced these guys that lots of them would go over to McCain because he was such a bi-partisan guy. Once they had this straw candidate set up, then they went at him hammer and tongs to knock him back down and surprise - he lost the election! Anybody got a Marlboro?
There's more, but let's just say we can't trust them to observe and report even if it means our liberty. The leftist media seems quite content to become Pravda and we can look forward to a future of reporting that makes the Orwellian world of 1984 look like a documentary - "Our Glorious Leader Obama: The Early Years".
We've always been strong in this country because somebody was watching the government for us. The founding fathers didn't trust government. They were right not to. Sadly, now we can't even trust the guys who are supposed to be watching the government for us. And if the Fairness Doctrine rises from its grave, we'll see that process accelerated.
I'm just sayin'
Thursday, November 06, 2008
How about that? Do we believe everything that happens in this world is God's will.
How about Hitler's rise to power? Six million dead Jews? Was that God's will?
Joseph Stalin's takeover in the Soviet Union? 16 million dead Russians? How about that?
The firstborn of Israel slaughtered by Pharoah? Surely that was God's idea?
I like Bible stories for good moral-of-the-story kind of examples. To escape the famine in Canaan, God made sure Joseph was in a position to set up a refuge for His children there in Egypt. Trouble is, when the famine was over, the Israelites decided to stick around since the pay scale in Egypt was way better than back in Caanan. So 400 years later, they're still in Egypt only the government has changed and they're now slaves. God's will?
I think not. Did God know it would happen? Yup! So why didn't he get a nicer Pharoah elected? I think it's because that's not what God does.
Clear back to the garden, God lets people choose what they do on their own. He knew all along that they would choose wrong a lot of the time. That's why the whole Jesus dying on the cross plan was put in place before he ever balled up some mud and blew in its nose. He knew we'd screw up, but like any parent, he loves us any way and would do anything for us - even die for us.
Lots of things happen that God doesn't ordain. If He did ordain everything, then He'd have a lot to answer for, but instead of waving His magic wand and making everything perfect, God let us choose for ourselves, screw up if we feel like we need to and then, when we ask him to, makes it come out all right in the end.
So the answer to the question is "No" God didn't pick the president. Ever once in a while he prods one wise and brave man into the breach when the walls have been broken down and the Huns are over-running the defenders. I think that happened in 1980. Maybe it'll happen in 2012. We'll see! The rest of the time we get whoever we're fool enough to elect.
Till then, it's comforting to know that Barak Hussein Obama is creating a new 250,000 man INTERNAL security force. I think they're recruiting already. In the past two days the CIA has been running recruitment ads on TV and the FBI has been hitting all the high schools and college job fairs. I've never seen that before. Think maybe they're expecting trouble?
Guess its about time to go take my paranoia meds.
"SOMA" Keeping the masses tranquil since 1984!
I'm just sayin'
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
|Mount Obama, Antigua|
(formerly Boggy Peak)
DATELINE: Nov. 6, 2008 ST JOHN'S, Antigua - Antigua's prime minister wants to rename the island's highest mountain peak "Mount Obama" in honor of the U.S. president-elect. "Boggy Peak," as it is currently known, soars more than 1,300 feet over the island's southern point and serves as a transmission site for broadcast and telecommunication providers. It also is a popular hiking spot. Political analyst Avel Grant says the name change could draw more tourists to the island.
So, I wrote this song (with recent revisions)....
(tune: Big Rock Candy Mountain)
1. Election Day as the sun went down and the stadium was lighted
The mobs all shout with joy and tears, interviewees were delighted
Oh I never thought I'd see this day, on Barak Hussein I'm countin'
I know I won't have to work no more
... in the Big Obama Mountain
In the Big Obama Mountain it's a land that's fair and bright
Where the handouts grow on bushes and you party every night
Oh the jingling of the keys in the Cadillac Trees
and the mortgage bailout fountains
Where solar power blinks and my carbon footprint shrinks
...in the Big Obama Mountains
2. In the Big Obama Mountains security's on its way!
Dissenters wear 'lectronic tags and we'll take their guns away
The radio waves are full of truth, Rush Limbaugh had to go
Oh, I'm bound to do what the party says to
When they tell you what kinda job to do
... in the Big Obama Mountain
3. In the Big Obama Mountains you don't have to change your socks
Well that's okay since you can buy none
cause they snapped shut Wal-Marts locks
The bossmen have to tip their hats since the unions took command.
Now our pay is higher and and we can't be fired
But there ain't no job and we don't get hired,
... in the Big Obama Mountain
4. In the Big Obama Mountain the jails are not for you
But they keep the cells for those that cling to guns and religion too
There ain't no Gideon's Bibles, we've been declared religion free
Oh, I'm a goin' to stay where you sleep all day,
Where there's love and peace and our health care's paid
... in the Big Obama Mountain
Oh, I'll be happy and gay come election day in the Big Obama Mountain!
Friday, October 31, 2008
Original post 10/31/2005
You’ve Got to Be Kidding!
It’s Halloween -- that wonderful time of year when we as a society engage in our curious annual ritual exploration of our darker natures. Witches and werewolves decorate church halls and schools and ever more grisly horror movies cram the television schedules. The whole “celebration of evil” thing kind of gives me the creeps every year, but I go along anyway like most of us do. I dig out my threadbare spider costume with the extra pairs of arms and spend a pleasant evening giving the heebie-jeebies to the neighborhood urchins that show up at my door to “Trick or Treat” in ever dwindling numbers.
I particularly love all those smarmy Halloween TV specials that try to explain to us what the real “Spirit of Halloween” is.
When I was growing up in a small East Texas town, as near as I could tell, the “Spirit of Halloween” has something to do with scaring each other and ourselves half to death while snagging up all the candy we could lay hands on – sort of a celebration of greed and nastiness. I suppose it’s some sort of collective exercise in facing down the boogey men that haunt us throughout the rest of the year (like old age, illness and Jesse Ventura running for the presidency). Three years ago, I dressed up in a blue pin-striped suit and rubber Al Gore mask and went round the neighborhood creeping out my Republican neighbors. I won’t try that again, though – turns out, my neighbors are more heavily armed than I had even guessed. Hey, maybe all this scaring ourselves is a useful exercise after all. We had an unusually heavy voter turnout in my district that year. Who knows? Maybe I contributed in a small way, I don’t know.
The dark forces of political correctness keep trying to redefine Halloween as some sort of sweetsie-pie Christmas clone instead of the guilty and totally unjustified pleasure it is. But has all this Halloween revisionism has finally gone too far? This year, it seems, the dark forces of political correctness are, as J.R.R. Tolkien put it “growing in the land”. The schools it seems are their first target.
Now, Halloween, when I was a kid, was always about how much candy you could gather in a weeklong orgy of parties and one wild night of trick or treating. You’d stuff all your loot into paper grocery bags and hide it under your bed and eat sweets for the next six months. It was a wondrous celebration of greed and excess. We had big parties at school and dressed up as axe murders, witches, demons and fairy princesses (most of the princesses would later grow up to be cheerleaders, but since children might be reading this, I won’t even go there – too scary). One thing you could always count on, though, was getting a nice pile of hard candy at the school party (the kind that lasts for six months without growing hair and oozing out into a multi-colored puddle of melted chocolate and fruit creams decorated with an assortment of variegated dust bunnies caught in the quagmire).
WELL NOT THIS YEAR! This year, the diet police are getting into the act. TISD elementary school kids brought home a list this year. It is a list of what treats are “acceptable” and what treats are “not acceptable” to bring to the Halloween party. The list is like something Rod Serling would have written.
Acceptable: Popcorn, M&M’s, Reese’s Cups, Pretzels, Goldfish Crackers, Snickers, Milky Way, Three Musketeers, Hershey Kisses, Caramel, Baby Ruth, Beef Jerky, Teddy Grahams and Milk Duds.
Not Acceptable: Drinks, gum, hard candy (jawbreakers, peppermints, etc.), gumdrops, jelly beans, jellied/fruit flavored slices, marshmallow candy, Fondant (Candy Corn, soft mints), licorice, candy coated popcorn, suckers, cotton candy, Fruit Rollups, Twix, Kit Kat, Gushers, Gummy Bears, Pixie Stix, Now & Laters, Red Hots
As a provider of day care services, my organization was concerned that we might be in violation of some new state law, so we gave the school a call for clarification. I wanted to know why the school was discriminating against jellied orange slices and Candy Corn (two of my personal favorites).
“Oh,” the administrator explained to my staff, “That’s because the items on the “unacceptable” list don’t have nutritional value and the other ones do.”
FADE IN: (Creepy Music) “You are now entering another dimension……….. The Dietetically Correct Zone”.
Okay, let me get this straight. There’s some sort of policy lodged in some obscure corner of the school system that says Halloween must be nutritional. Puh-leeeeeeeeeeeeese!
Wanna bet there’s some federal funding at stake if you don’t show that your school is doing something about reducing the number of fat kids in their classes? Somewhere, some skinny vegetarian leftist political correctness vampire bureaucrat has decided our kids need to have a nutritionally balanced Halloween and some poor school cafeteria director has to figure out how to make that happen.
What’s sad is that they’re telling parents that it’s a state law. You mean to tell me that gang of right wing Republicans who ran rough shod through the state house last spring passed a law that passed legislation requiring the public schools to protect our kids from Candy Corn, Jelly Bellies and Jolly Ranchers?
Yeah, right. I’m betting it was some vegetarian in the Dept. of Education myself.
So how does our hapless cafeteria maven explain the list? Let’s see. You can have popcorn and caramel, but if you coat the popcorn in the caramel, it loses all its nutritional value.
And what about the chocolate? Why is some chocolate acceptable and other chocolate is not.
Oh, that’s easy. It’s okay if it’s MILK chocolate.
Well, Halellujah, Three Musketeers has been moved into the Dairy Group.
Now what else can we have? Beef Jerky – one of our favorite Halloween Treats as a child. Usually, we got those from the 90 year old who came to the door after we banged on it for 15 minutes without stopping and woke him up.
“Can’t you see the porch light’s out?” he growled.
“Trick or Treat!”
“I got some Beef Jerky here, kid. Take it or leave it!”
Oh and how about chit’lins and pork rinds? They didn’t mention those. You can’t just leave out those traditional holiday favorites – not in East Texas you can’t! And how about that no “drinks” provision? Sugar–based soda I can see and of course there are all those Internet stories about how aspartame and saccharine are made from toxic waste, so we can’t send diet sodas. But do they really mean we can’t send over festive little bottles of peach schnapps? What is our education system coming to?
I notice virtually everything on the list has a relatively short shelf life before it goes stale. That’s a bummer. That junk wouldn’t have lasted two weeks at my house. That means that, thanks to our ever-vigilant school system’s enlightened leadership, no child will be sucking hard candy for the next six months, right? Thank goodness for the wisdom of the TEA.
So, one more time: You can have popcorn and you can have caramel, but evidently, if you coat the popcorn in caramel suddenly – poof – all the nutritional value is gone. You can have a Teddy Graham cookie AND a Milky Way, but not a Twix or Kit-Kat which are cookies covered in chocolate (but presumably not MILK chocolate which would get them under the “Dairy Group” umbrella).
And I want a recount on candy corn! Halloween is the only time of year you can legally eat that stuff I think and I would feel deprived if I missed the candy corn season. And the candy corn people make those little orange pumpkins too and they’re almost as good. Candy corn and jelly beans, I would argue, should be in the “vegetable” group. Maybe we need to organize a lobbying effort to get Fruit Rollups and orange slices put into the “fruit” group. Cotton Candy could be in the fabric group for all I care and I think Red Hots should be illegal anyway.
We need to do a new holiday special this year. Call it the Grinch that Stole Halloween. We could get Umma Thurman as the evil vegetarian leftist school superintendent that is trying to ruin Halloween by taking away all the candy and forcing little children to take home sacks full of rice cakes, bean curd and tofu-based snack treats instead of candy.I’m just sayin’
In the 60's LBJ kicked off "The Great Society" program. On the heels of badly needed Civil Rights legislation, resisted, often violently by his own party, Johnson offered up what was intended to be the second great equalizer - the so-called "War on Poverty".
They meant well. They really did, but socialism's centrally planned approach has never been a very successful at anything. Central planning cost tens of thousands of American lives in Vietnam. Unfortunately, the War on Poverty was centrally planned too and like Vietnam, it proved to be a miserable quagmire of a failure.
If you were ever on welfare during its heyday in the 70's you will remember how hard it was to get off welfare. If you took any job whatever, your benefits disappeared and you were left worse off than before. How many poor families with kids will take such a risk simply to achieve self-reliance. So, the upshot of the War was to create a permanent poor class, dependent on government largesse, who learned to work the system as though it were a job in order to keep their benefits going. I once did vocational counseling with a kid from a poor background, the victim of abuse and neglect. I asked him what he wanted to do with his life when he grew up. He told me, quite unabashedly, "When I'm 18 I'll get my welfare and the women will take care of me."
What the Great Society did was create a culture that built a wall between the poor and "all the rest of us". It built a virtual ceiling between the poor and the middle class. Then came welfare reform. As a result of efforts to create transitional programs that made the journey to self-reliance easier and made permanent reliance on welfare almost impossible, the classes in this country changed. The ceiling came down and people began moving into the middle class that had never been there before. Yes, the wealthy class grew larger during this time, but the middle class stayed virtually the same and the poor got fewer. That means people as a whole were becoming wealthier. Isn't that a good thing?
Apparently not. They want to tinker with it again.
Now, we have a presidential candidate who says, I want to give something to the middle class. Well, we need to think about that. Every time those guys want to give us something, something bad seems to happen. So, let's think this through.
Obama is only going to increase tax people over $250,000 he says. Hey, I don't make 250K - so why should I care. Let's look at who is going to get clobbered with higher taxes.
THE GREEDY RICH? Nope. Those guys are sitting on piles of money that's already been taxed. They could live for decades and decades on what they already have without paying another dime in taxes by simply spending what they have. Well, we'll get it when they die you say. Nope. The super wealthy have teams of lawyers and they've been dodging the death tax for ages. A good share of them will create foundations in their names and leave it to those - a lot of them don't care much for their lazy kids anyway. THE GOVERNMENT WILL NOT TAX MONEY THAT'S ALREADY BEEN MADE AND TUCKED AWAY. They may get some of the interest, but not enough to matter.
THE MIDDLE CLASS? Not directly, but higher taxes on business does not mean that business is going to take less profits given the risks they take. Business is merely going to increase the prices of things we pay for. Inflation like the late 70's will likely be the result and money to compensate for the increased tax burden on profits will trickle up from the lower and middle classes who buy goods and services. The middle class is still going to pay the burden of taxes one way or another. If they don't, business will slow down drastically and once the working rich have been impoverished and can't pay anymore, somebody is going to have to.
THE POOR? They don't pay taxes, so a tax cut is meaningless to the poor. Their cost of living will rise to pay the tax bills for the grocery stories, gas stations, and department stores. The government is going to need to give them a bigger check to get by on. More and more welfare has been shown to seal the poor into the poverty level. It doesn't move them toward the middle class. It traps them and kills their spirit. Dispirited folks are lots easier to control
THE ENTREPENEURIAL WORKING RICH? You betcha. These are the guys that are powering our economy. They are making money. Now money made is money taxed. These guys aren't sitting on piles of gold, they're pumping piles of gold through the system, creating jobs, powering the economy. The economy is about activity, not about accumulating piles of money. The government runs by siphoning off some of that flow of gold. If they get greedy and take too much, the flow will stop because it's not worth the effort if all you get back is a trickle from your hard work. If activity stops, the piles of gold come to rest and sit where they are and people who don't own the piles don't have money coming to them anymore. People get laid off, business cuts back to whatever level most effectively balances profits and the tax burden instead of doing as much business as they can. There's no longer any point to working full out to grow your business if the tax guy is the only one that will reap the benefits.
The large tax burden on the $250,000 to million dollar earners will effectively discourage middle class folks seeking to expand businesses and create wealth from doing so. If, when you step over the imaginary line between middle class and wealthy, you take such a tax hit that it's not worth it, you are creating the same ceiling for the middle class that you did for the lower class with the Great Society debacle.
You see, if the Democrat Party can figure out how to make the middle AND the lower class dependent on government largesse, then they figure their political power is secure. What better way to do that than to virtually wipe out the entrepeneurial rich folks, the ones who remember what it was like to work their way up from nothing. These guys vote conservative and you need to marginalize them. To do that you tax them into oblivion without harming your wealthy super-rich supporters like George Soros and his ilk. Much better for the central planners to create an elite ruling class and a homogeneous "masses" content with just enough bread and circuses to keep them from causing the fat cats any trouble.
The plan is brilliant and obvious and I fear that maybe we ARE too stupid to understand it. If we let these clowns get away with turning America into Amerika: with talking us into selling our birthright for a bowl of soup; with turning us against ourselves to consolidate their power - then we deserve what we get.
The American Dream is not a house and car and pretty good food. The American Dream is that every individual is free to achieve whatever he or she can achieve. It is not this dismal pictuer of everybody the same, everybody serving the government's needs, really smart people telling us what jobs we should take, how much money is fair for us to make, what we can say and do and believe. The Democrats have sung their little "We are the party of the working man" song over and over and over. The media have provided the musical accompaniement. The Country Club Republicans aren't much better. They keep growing government every bit as fast as the Dems. It's a power struggle now between two evils and we're being forced to vote for the lesser of two evils.
Yes, we got Sarah Palin - a bone thrown to us by McCain because he realized he had no conservative support and another Country Club Republican couldn't help him on the ticket. The truth is most conservatives are voting for McCain/Palin in hopes that he'll either croak or that she'll kick his butt and make him do what's right. Either way we are going to have to fight like the furies if we're going to keep our liberties in the coming years.
Please, for God's sake, read your history books. History is repeating itself and we are marching lock step toward the very thing our ancestors fled Europe and the Old World to escape.
Stand up and vote people. It may be your last chance! Buy us some time and maybe another Ronald Reagan will rise up and provide the leadership we need to save our own fuzzy butts!
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Did President Bush make up a story about Saddam' wanting to acquire yellowcake uranium for his nuclear program?
Conventional wisdom assumes that he did in order to have an excuse to invade Iraq.
Did Saddam Hussein have any WMD's or materials for making WMD's?
Conventional wisdom says no! Saddam was simply tired of all those pesky weapons inspectors and there really wasn't anything dangerous in Iraq any more.
The truth, it turns our is somewhat different. In a July 5, 2008 story in the Associated Press and printed in the archives of none other than MSNBC and CBS ( http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25546334 ) is this delightful story that got zero coverage in the media. Had it been a story about how Bill Clinton had saved the free world by bombing a Sudanese aspirin factory, it would have been top news for a week. Instead they buried it.
So what's the story? The United States in June 2008 removed 3500 barrels (that's 550 metric tons for those of you who are counting) of yellowcake uranium from a secret storage facility in Iraq.
Why did the President keep it a secret when telling about it would have helped him politically?
Well, they couldn't get it our of Iraq because no one wanted it transported through their country. So we kept it's existence secret till we moved it out so that terrorists in Iraq wouldn't know it was there and attempt to take it.
There are a couple of conclusions you sorta have to come to.
1. Saddam did have materials for weapons of mass destruction. Stick yellowcake in a SCUD and blow it up and voila' you have what's known in the terrorist world as a "dirty bomb" - the holy grail of Al Quaeda. Boy howdy would they have loved having this one.
2. George W. Bush was right about the danger posed by Saddam. He had at the very least the capacity to produce dirty bombs. Anyone believe he wouldn't have developed (or at least tried to develop) actual nukes if we'd simply left him alone for the past 5 years? Anyone believe he wouldn't have shared that sort of stuff with the same terrorists that his own former ministers claim he had dealings with? Remember he was paying cash rewards to the families of terrorists who blew themselves up in Israel.
Now, the same guys that have repeatedly said, "Bush lied" and there were no "WMD's" even after 550 TONS of proof showed up in Canada last summer want to be elected to run the country. They say, "Iran is only a little bitty country and not a threat." They say, "If we just reduce our military so that we're no longer a threat, then the world will love us again." Want to bet whether or not they are right?
The same guys that for the past 8 years have been saying that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were in splendid shape and told Presiden Bush that we didn't need to do anything about the subprime mortgage problems when he warned them about it want you to give them a whole bunch of money and supreme power to "fix" the economy.
The same guys that have been in control of the Congress for almost 2 years, during which time, the U.S. economy has taken a nose dive into the dumpster, want you to give them a super majority and the White House so they can really fix things up!
ARE YOU PEOPLE NUTS! These people are not your friends. I'm not sure they're even real people. I'm not sure but I think wherever they came from, there were pods involved....
I'm just sayin'
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
A famous quote attributed variously to a distinguished assortment of politicians and humorists goes like this, "There are lies, damned lies and statistics!" We're all a little suspicious of statistics, but most of us believe in them a little more than we'd like to admit.
I learned a little something about statistics during my brief tenure in two graduate schools and the big thing was that for a study to be valid you have to have an accurate sample. The closer you get to creating a sample of survey respondents that accurately reflects the same makeup as whatever group of folks you want to discover something about, the better your results.
One way to do that is to use another set of statistics to guide you in choosing your sample. Polls of registered voters, for instance, select participants that reflect the proportions of Democrats, Republicans and Independents who actually registered to vote. In other words if 49% of registered voters in South Carolina are Democrats, 38% are Republicans and 13% unaffiliated, then the pollster doing a survey of registered voters would pick a thousand or so voters and make sure he had 49% Dems, 38% Republicans and 13% Independents if he wanted his study to be accurate.
This year, that's a problem because a lot of Republicans registered as Democrats! If you go by voter registration, you're not going to get a true picture of the registered voters because a bunch of "Democrats" aren't really Democrats and have no intention of voting for Barry.
During the primaries, the infamous "Operation Chaos" skewed the registrations significantly in a lot of so-called battleground states. Rush Limbaugh's campaign to keep Hillary Clinton in the race by having Republicans cross over and vote in the Democratic primary, resulted in hundreds of thousands of Republicans registering to vote as Democrats. Since the primaries are over, most have never bothered to change their registration back. They don't need to to vote for McCain.
The only problem is that voter registration now shows an inordinately high number of registered Democrats on the books and pollsters use those numbers to determine how they sample their pre-election polls.
So, when the pollsters choose a sampling of registered voters, they select for an artificially large number of Democrats based on how voters registered for the primaries in areas where Operation Chaos took place. This could account for Obama's having such a tenacious lead. I suspect a blind sample of voters might show significantly different results.
At any rate, polls based on likely or registered voters should be suspect. They very likely have a sampling that has too many Democrats in it. The poll results are therefore going to inevitably lean toward Obama. This could mean a nasty surprise for pollsters in November, but only if the polls themselves don't discourage conservatives from voting because it looks hopeless for McCain and Palin.
This year of all years, DON'T BELIEVE THE POLLS. I'm betting they're skewed because Operation Chaos gave us a false distribution of Democrats and Republicans among registered voters.
Just one man's opinion.
Friday, October 03, 2008
Reports indicate the Japanese banking crisis shows no signs of improving. If anything, it's getting worse. Following last week's news that Origami Bank had folded, it was today learned that Sumo Bank has gone belly up. Bonsai Bank plans to cut back some of its branches. Karaoke Bank is up for sale and its employees are having to sing for their supper. Shares in Kamikaze Bank have nose-dived and 500 jobs at Karate Bank will be chopped. Analysts report that there is something fishy going on at Sushi Bank and staff there fear they may get a raw deal.
UPI - Dateline Edinburgh: BANKING CRISIS SPREADS TO IRELAND & SCOTLAND. Financial experts in Ireland report that another consequence of the US sub-prime mortgage crisis is that the debt load for Dublin Bank is triplin'. In related news, Limerick Savings & Loan director Peter Nan was indicted yesterday, charged with removing a whole bucket of money from the vault. Prosecutors say, "Nantucket!" A disappointing third quarter earnings report for Clancy Brothers Ltd. is expected to be released tomorrow. The firm has set high earnings goals, but experts believe they won't "Makem". Officials at Riverdance Mortgage & Trust stated Flately - "We've been stomped!"
On the other side of the Irish Sea, bank examiners report this week that the Bank of Scotland has indeed lost their shorts.
AP News Flash:
Caracas - The Venezuelan Petroleum Group is in the tank.
Denver - The Cripple Creek Savings Bank is now up the creek - some authorities say without a paddle in a chicken wire canoe.
Ontario, Canada - The Bank of Nantucket has kicked the bucket.
London - The London Market, recently characterized by market watchers in Britain as a "little piggie" stumbled today and ran all the way home. Market chairman T.L. Pigg, could not be reached for comment, but in a written statement from his home in Luton, stated "Wee, wee, wee!"
Edinburgh, Scotland - McDonald Medical & Pharmaceutical Industries today announced that it has "bought the farm". McDonald senior partners claimed the problem was "Here a quack, there a quack, Everywhere a quack, quack."
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
- Pitchfork and Torch Manufacturing and Sales – The law of supply and demand. That’s all I’m saying.
- Unemployment application processor – Can’t have too many of those. Be sure to get a conceal and carry permit, however. Things could get hairy.
- Yard Painting Professional - This is a new career track I recently became aware of. Banks are hiring these guys to paint the yards green in neighborhoods where all or most of the houses have been repossessed to prevent the neighborhoods from looking bad in case they actually sell some of these $300,000 turkeys. Yard painting lasts about 3 months and if you get enough of them you could be secure till the end of the crisis.
- Elected Official – Invest in some yard signs, make a lot of promises you know you can’t keep and you could have yourself a secure job for the next 4 years so long as you don’t mess up and actually do anything while in office. There is some risk of being tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail by angry mobs of taxpayers, but if you hedge your bets by cornering the pitchfork and torch concession, you can even make that a profitable experience.
- Multi-billionaire – This one’s a no-brainer. Simply start with a couple or three billion dollars and try not to spend it all before your stock portfolio disappears.
- Cayman Islands charter pilot – Corporate magnates will always need access to their money, especially in uncertain financial times. You’d be surprised how many will charter your plane or boat just to go down and make sure it’s still sitting there in the vault. It makes them feel secure.
- Head of Major Quasi-Governmental Agency, Secretary of the Treasury or Chairman of the Senate/House Banking Committee - Apparently you can’t be fined , fired or prosecuted for anything you do in these positions. Great work if you can get it.
- Soup Kitchen Operator – Keeps you busy and those that still have money contribute heavily to these organizations to keep the masses semi-content (at least to keep them from playing with pitchforks and torches).
- Bank Repossession Officer – Again lots of work, you will not be popular but you’ll be busy. I recommend you start heavy anti-depressants on your first day on the job and pack heat.
- Irish Step Dancer – Okay, there’s probably not going to be a lot of money in it, but it’s a heck of a way to work out your frustrations and it really makes your butt look tight.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
1. Government of the people by the people and for the people. As goofy as they get sometimes, we still have the right to vote 'em out and we can even change presidents without having to throw a civil war, unlike much of the rest of the world. You can't have a healthy economy without a stable government that doesn't monkey around with your business too much.
2. Peace - We don't have other countries running over our country blowing up things with tanks and missiles and such because they know we would, as that sage philosopher Hank Hill would put it, "kick their asses" Amazing how good that is for business.
3. Safety - Internationally? See above. Locally? We have a police force that believes it's here to "serve and protect" not spy and control the masses. Makes it a much better climate in which to do business.
4. Outstanding education - A few countries may claim to do it better, but most of 'em send their kids here for college. An educated populace is a money-making populace. And if you think our kids are stupider than we were, I challenge you to take the high school exit tests we give here in Texas. Brutal!!! Also, just because some of our kids are too lazy to take advantage of an available education doesn't mean that they can't. If they do, they grow up to be very smart people who make considerably more than the world average. I don't give a gnat's testicle that someone thinks Sweden's education system is better. So what. Who's the superpower anyway?
5. Low taxes. It was an ancient Roman senator that remarked that as taxes were increased, revenue to the empire decreased for some reason. Despots, dictators and tax collectors have been scratching their heads about that one for centuries. Business works better when the king doesn't take all the extra money you make away from you wiping out an incentive you have for making all that extra money in the first place.
6. Judicial system. When the robber barons rob you, if enough of you get together and take their sorry hineys to court, you can often find redress of grievances without having to stage a revolution or organize a raiding party. Merely hiring lawyers often works quite well.
7. We are an innovative people. Now the guy who criticized me about the whole "we consume to much" thing said that this premise was just wrong. In other words, Americans are fat and lazy and stupid, not smart, hard-working and creative. Okay, anyone want to guess how many superpowers there are currently in the world? With the entire planet hoping to knock us off our pins for being arrogant, I think we're pretty remarkable to stay on top of the heap for as long as we have. We come from ancestors who were kicked out of every "civilized" country in the world - most left the Old Word because they were smart enough to see what was really going on and got out while they still could - looking for a better land where they could be free to be their own creative selves without fear of persecution and where opportunity abounds. By the process of natural selection, Americans as a people are more likely to be energetic, creative and probably a little ADD. Though we come off as brash, boorish and arrogant to the entrenched bureaucracies of the old world who believe they are superior to all other life on Earth, Americans do tend to be great problem solvers. Not a lot of lazy, stupid people moved here from overseas. It was too hard to get here for the poorly motivated and they passed their genes along to their kids and grandkids.
8. We really do believe that everybody can do well with a little personal effort. The idea that it's all a zero sum game in which folks who do well must be robbing from others is not widely accepted in America. Folks who do rob from others in order to do well are generally rewarded with jail terms when we catch them at it and because this is an open society, a whole lot of them do get caught. We buy into the idea that a "rising tide lifts all boats". Our recent financial woes stem more from meddling and profiteering by our leaders than by any over-consumption on our part. In other parts of the world there is little or no expectation that a person may rise in the world any farther than their father or mother did. They are imprisoned by class, culture and a locked in bureaucracy that does not reward or even in some cases permit people to perform at a level above their fellows. To this day, the talented people of the world in such cultures look around them and see one shining city on a hill where they may make their dreams come true and they flock here by the millions, thereby improving the gene pool. Even the guys who swim the Rio Grande, if you did a profile, you'd probably find a gene for stubbornness, hope and courage in the majority of them.
9. In America you have the freedom to fail. We can all screw up time and time again, but if we keep on getting back up and wading back into the fray, we have every opportunity to turn it all around and succeed. The freedom to screw up and wind up virtually homeless and scrambling to get back on your feet is probably the most precious freedom we have and not one that is well understood or appreciated. In many countries, to fail is to die or be cast out. Here, it's a way of life that causes our mothers to worry about us. To create a pervasive fear of failure in a society is the surest means for creating a society that enshrines mediocrity and abhors risk-taking. Freedom to fail means we are also free to take risks so long as we don't mind accepting the consequences if we screw up.
10. Freedom of religion - the fact that each of us may worship as we please creates a body of the faithful that is strong in its diversity, that embraces the charitable needs of the nation (one church works with the homeless, another with orphans, another restores neighborhoods, others build houses, others run food pantries and soup kitchens, still others run hospitals and do disaster relief, still more send money and medicine to the sick and starving in other countries). The freedom to believe or not to believe without fear of retribution gives our nation a kind of strength that is not found in repressive societies where one faith is the only faith or where none at all is permitted.
Besides, Americans are nice people for the most part. When we produce more food than any other country, we share that food, we do not take it by force from other nations. We're the only country where being fat is a sign of poverty.
When we are able to buy more than we sell worldwide, how do we do that year after year? By being a huge money-making engine such as the world has never seen before in all its history.
When we consume energy, we buy it from others who wish to sell. We do not steal it from them. If they wish to hang on to their oil, we would have to find energy elsewhere. There are lots of sources. We just use the cheapest ones while they are available. We tear around burning gas and heating and cooling our homes and eating well and living in nice houses which others make money by building for us. Why? Because we believe that a nice life can be had by all and that an artificial leveling of income that turns us all into some grim proletariat where effort receives no reward and advancement comes by the clock and not by talent combined with hard work is unacceptable!!!!
The myth of the zero-sum economy is the most pernicious pack of drivel ever foisted on a trusting public by the supposed guardians of democracy. Today was a tough day for Wall Street. Maybe they need to dig down a little and buck up too. Maybe the tough, creative, wild men that came to this country looking for a chance need to re-emerge and drive out the creeping bureaucrats that have gradually overwhelmed our economy and would stultify it in order to bring it safely under control.
America has never been at its best when it was "under control". We're wild men and risk-takers. Let's try not to forget that as we're cleaning up the mess the bureaucrats have made of things.
I'm just sayin'