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Monday, August 31, 2009

The Danger of Expanding Bureaucracies


Stopping the uncontrolled expansion of the U.S. government has got to be the most important task facing conservatives today. The great danger in expanding the government is that doing so creates more bureaucrats. Once you create new bureaucrats, it becomes almost impossible to rid the place of them.

It is axiomatic that once you reach a critical mass of bureaucrats, the government ossifies and change back toward smaller government becomes virtually impossible. In fact, every attempt to reduce the number of bureaucrats only seems to increase their numbers. Nigel Hawthorne made a particularly enlightening comment about this phenomenon in his role as civil servant extraordinaire, Sir Humphrey Appleby on the BBC series “Yes Minister”. Here's the exchange with his boss the elected MP.

Jim Hacker, MP: Twenty three thousand! In the Department for Administrative Affairs? Twenty three thousand people just for administering other administrators. We have to do a Times-Motion study, see who we can get rid of.

Sir Humphrey: We did one of those last year.

Jim: And?

Sir Humphrey: It transpired that we needed another five hundred people.

Civil Servants exist to insure that nothing ever changes. They live in cubicles. They work seven days a week pushing papers around in an effort to basically avoid doing anything new or different. Change is meaningless to bureaucrats. It is anathema. Change means more work, something no bureaucrat welcomes.

Sir Humphrey on getting things done in civil service: "The Foreign Office aren’t there to do things. They’re there to explain why things can’t be done.”

Bureaucratic immobility is why every revolution in South America ends up replacing one corrupt government with a virtually identical one. They merely change the leadership. The civil service remains intact and in place. You can’t get rid of them. Bureaucracies are so hardwired into the fabric of a country that, if they were to suddenly disappear, we wouldn’t know what to do next.

Just look how much of our time is wasted appeasing bureaucrats. There’s standing in line at the post office, the DMV, preparing IRS forms, sales tax forms, forms your bank makes you fill out because some bureaucrat somewhere tells them you have to. In my years on the TxDOT Public Transportation Advisory Committee, I discovered that much of the paperwork, regulation and headache of getting transportation systems into place is not because someone passed a law, but because some bureaucrat in a tiny office somewhere decided they wanted some paperwork from you in order to justify their existence. And, because they have their ink-stained fingers firmly round your funding or approval for your project, you tamely submit.

I remember trying to find out why we were prohibited from solving transit problems with innovative, out of the box ideas. I was inevitably told we couldn't do that.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because it is policy that we can't do it that way?"

"Well, how do we change the policy? Do I need to talk to my representative and senator?"

"That won't help."


"Because it's a policy, not a law."

"And who came up with that policy?"

"I'm not sure."

"Then, who do I talk to about getting that policy changed?"

"I don't know?"

"What if I talked to the Director?"

"You can't do that!"


"It's against policy!"

This seemed entirely logical to this person. I attempted to go around the system and actually had some success in getting some policies changed. It was soon being whispered about that I was anti-transit and I only lasted one term. A local bureaucrat wrote me a letter in which he said it served me right for being arrogant!

A few years back when the state reduced the bureaucracy for human service related programs from 22 agencies to 5 there was a hew and cry about the land. They organized a series of local anti-change forums trying to stop the consolidation of departments and programs. Their arguments was that it couldn't be done without hurting poor and needy people.

I went to one of the anti-change meetings and listened. After a while I smelled a rat.

I stood up. "If we reduce the bureaucracies, won't there be more money for people in the programs?"

Speaker: "But the social workers will be overloaded and won't be able to process them all, so many people will not be served."

"What if we reduce the paperwork needed to process them."

Speaker: "Then we won't know if they are really eligible."

"Wouldn't it be better to miss a few welfare moochers and serve more people than to spend all our money on people sitting in offices pushing papers around?"

He paled a little and made a face like a fish trying to breathe out of water.

Then, I asked the speaker who he worked for.

Speaker: "I represent Citizens for Social Justice, a coalition of agencies....."

“No, I mean, who do you actually work for? Who gives you a paycheck?”

Speaker: "Uh, my, uh, regular job is with the Federal and State Employees Union."

"I see...."

That’s what I had guessed. The reason we have to stop this expansion of government is that once it happens, we’ll never be able to get rid of all the bureaucrats. Then, if we get all those new bureaucrats, they’ll make us waste even more time waiting in lines and filling out forms instead of doing our jobs.

I’m about ready to sell everything, buy myself a schooner and become a tramp trader in the islandes. The problem is, I could probably never get all the paperwork done to even get my boat out of port. I’d run off to the mountains, but I probably need a permit. Last time we had a church picnic, we had to reserve the lakeside campground 3 months in advance and leave a large deposit and fill out an environmental impact statement, insurance release, show proof of liability and proof of financial responsibility. I’m probably exaggerating, but not by much.

The only thing they didn’t ask for was proof of citizenship. That one I might have understood…

Tom King
Flint, TX

P.S. Also you might be interested in one more gem from Sir Humphrey on health care strategy in Britain:

“Yes, but we’ve been into that. It has been shown that if those extra one hundred thousand people had lived to a ripe old age that they would have cost us even more in pensions and social security, than they did in medical treatment. So financially speaking it is unquestionably better that they continue to die at the present rate.”

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Climate of Fear: The War for America's Shy People

The rhetoric in this countryhas become ridiculous - on both sides! Saying this will not get me a large audience as a blogger. Many conservatives have decided that telling lies is okay as long as your intent is good. The hard left has been doing so for years. Wild stories and inflammatory language is one way to have a popular blog, though.

Me, I'm congenitally unable to do some of the things you have to do to be a successful blogger - among those, tell "good" stories if I know them to be untrue. I'm not very good at writing to be search engine optimized. It seems dishonest to write so that you repeat key words that are popular search words on Google, Yahoo, Bing and the rest. Technically, I should find a way to mention, for instance, Ted Kennedy, Mary Jo Kopechne, Chappaquiddick, Robert Novak, Michael Jackson or Rebecca Gayheart and Eric Dane (some sort of romantick entanglement I believe). All these are high on the most often searched list of keywords this week. Unfortunately, four years of Mrs. Creel's English classes taught me the evils of artificial writing and I cannot do it and feel good about myself, no matter if it would help me get one million "hits".

If I wanted to rile up some conservative readers and win their allegiance, I should mention Van Jones, Glenn Beck or Town Hall. I do, if I have something to say about those things, but writing an article where I repeat those names simply to get the search engine to move me up in a word search seems as disingenuous as Michael Savage calling himself by his full name instead of using pronouns like "I" or "me". Makes me want to smack him!

According to master blogger, Robert Stacy McCain, some other tricks include finding ways to insert popular women in not much clothing into your blog, picking fights so that you gain lots of enemies and spending a LOT of time self-promoting.

Ah, well, I guess I didn't really want to be a wildly successful blogger anyway. I think I'd rather write honestly. I sleep better at night that way.

Now that I've wandered off topic, let me get back to it. I read a piece in which a liberal someone had gone to a town hall and waved around a map with Iraq on it. He found (surprise, surprise) that 75% of those who opposed Obama's health care initiative were:

1. Unable to find Iraq on a map though it was brightly colored and in the center of the map.

2. All stupid white people who only memorized anti-health care junk that Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity had sent them by e-mail or were paid by some mega-insurance companies that had paid them to spread lies about Obamacare.

3. All were probably either on Medicare or Veteran's Care and were hypocrites anyway.

Again I am shocked.

Okay, that was sarcasm. I admit it. It's just that once again, we're getting the same old Democrat tactic. I remember it from high school where it was a popular way to keep the cool kids in power. No matter what happens, if you don't believe and act the way the popular kids did, you were labeled stupid and ignorant even if you have a 139 IQ, a 4.0 GPA and actually knew what you are talking about.

It's the rhetorical equivalent of the masterful comeback, "Oh, yeah!" The Democrats are masters of it.

They'er using it to marginalize the frighteningly large numbers of angry mainstream Americans who are showing up for Health Care Town Hall meetings this summer. The target to be intimidated and "guided" into correct liberal thinking by this particular anti-free speech campaign, however, is not the mythical moderates. It's not conservatives. It's not even the liberal base that supports the health care takeover. This tactic is aimed at people who, by nature, don't want to make a fuss. They don't want to get into a screaming match. They don't want anybody to be mad at them and they do not want to be thought of as "different". This is the group that is truly the swing vote in US elections. They are the go-alongs. It takes a lot to move them and fear that something bad will happen that will upset their world is one of the biggest things that motivates them to action. It takes a lot to get these guys out to a town hall meeting. It is not in their nature to go against anything, much less their duly elected congressman or woman. They don't really understand all the ramifications of political stuff like this because it really doesn't concern them. Only when something threatens the health, comfort and safety of their families. Why else do you think the message is, "Don't worry. Health Care Reform won't hurt you. It will make everything good for all Americans. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain....."

If you go to a town hall, watch how these plain simple folk react when they get really angry at their congressman. Watch them shake their heads as they speak. It's as though they are saying "No, no, no, no, no..." all the time they are confronting this powerful person that they may actually have voted for because they were comfortable with him. They don't want to be there. They don't want to confront this person. They look over at the union guys and the liberal plants sent there to intimidate them and they just flat want to go home and hide. Even their body language says "I don't like doing this."

The problem is that even if they agree with someone, if that person or group resorts to the tactics of shouting, fear and intimidation, they drive those same people away. It's a careful dance between just enough intimidation and too much. Joe McCarthy failed to understand that back in the early 50's. He was right about Communists infiltrating Hollywood. It really was happening. Americans were frightened by it. But when he resorted to Gestapo like tactics, he lost America's shy people. There was a point in the McCarthy hearings where the country gave a collective cringe and turned off their radios. After that, no one cared how much of what he said was true. They weren't listening anymore.

At first, Washington, the Adams boys, Jefferson and Patrick Henry were considered rabble rousers and the American colonists by and large really didn't want to hear them. Mel Gibson captured the sentiment in his character's reaction to the revolution in "The Patriot". He just wanted to take care of his kids and his farm. He wasn't looking to confront power. He knew what the cost would be and he shrank from paying that cost.

I don't blame him. I don't blame any of the grandmas and grandpas that have driven to the town halls in their pickups and big grandma Buicks. It happened during the Revolution. Britain got cocky and pushed their grab for power too far too fast. They made the silent majority, the shy people of America fear for their way of life.

That's what's happening in the first months of the Obama administration. They chose the quick grab for power over the slow, steady approach. The Cap and Trade and Health Care Initiatives are the equivalent of a "Hail Mary" pass in football. I think they've decided that this is the last chance for socialism and if they risk it all on this one roll of the dice, they can win!

Bloggers, talk show hosts and conservative action groups are fighting a delaying action, hoping Americans will wake up to what's happeing before it's too late. We need to block that Hail Mary pass or time may actually run out on us. We'll be left with a frightening new system of government with the power to destroy all opposition in its way.

Delay and Sound the Alarm!

We need night riders like Paul Revere to wake up the country to its peril. We also need the informants that found out the British were coming and where they were going to. Soon we'll need the patriots at the bridge standing toe to toe with a foe that is disciplined, well-armed and confident. But on that day, which side will America's shy people be standing behind? That's the critical factor in whether we win or lose in this fight for freedom.

I think I can tell you which side they'll take. It'll be the side that best convinces them it can protect their way of life - the things they most value. The side that best articulates its case without malice or brutality (or at least without the appearance of malice and cruelty) will carry the field. As Ghandi and Martin Luther King, the original Martin Luther and Jesus Christ himself demonstrated, it may require some of us to have nerves of steel - the ability to hold our fire till we see the whites of their eyes. We may have to risk our lives and our honor, our wealth and our safety. Some of us may be ruined in the effort. Some may not survive. The way to win may well be for enough of us to go down with dignity and reveal the foe as a cruel tyrant by his behavior. We may lose talk radio, conservative news, religious broadcasting and independent publications before it's over. We may lose a lot of things we value before America fully wakes.

I hope not.

In this current, and what I believe may be final, conflict, we must tell the truth, no matter what. We must not pass along lies and rumors just because it works to make people believe like we do. Our opponents do that very well. They lie themselves and then convict us in the press of lies we never told. They make up things to support their agenda, no matter whether they are the truth or not. We must not do that too! We must not resort to the tactics of Goebbels, Stalin, Mussolini Saddam Hussein and their ilk simply because lying is an effective tool to get what you want.

Let us be careful in this conflict to tell the truth. I'm listening to both sides and there are many out there who believe that what our government is trying to do is wrong. Many tell the truth scrupulously no matter what their critics say to the contrary. Others say exciting things that will get them ratings without any concern for whether the things they say are true or not. If it sounds good, they'll use it. I get a dozen e-mails a day from people I care very much for with stories in them that are lies. They are great stories and may make me mad at people I should be mad at. Nonetheless they are lies and we hurt ourselves by telling them.

It is harder for a righteous man to fight a war. There are weapons we may not use; tactics in which we may not engage. The clerk at my local grocery store believes that Jesus's coming is imminent. That may well be the answer to the prayer that many freedom-loving Americans have been praying lately.

God help us!
Publish Post

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Coming CIA Purge*

The Obama administration has signalled that it may prosecute members of the CIA for "human rights violations". This does not surprise me at all.

If the left is to secure a permanent lock on power, one of the first things they must control is the flow or information. One of the chief sources of information for a president is the Central Intelligence Agency. When President Bush came into office, the CIA leaned significantly left after 8 years under President Clinton. My wife and I have a relatively who works for the agency. He predicted at the time that President Bush would be the worst president ever. The basis for his prediction was apparently that the president was a conservative. I got the impression that his opinion was also the corporate opinion at CIA.

That doesn't surprise me much. It's a romantic notion that intelligent spies could manipulate events and people to accomplish some greater good. It's the same notion that drives socialism, Marxism and other forms of tyranny - the idea of an intelligent elite who control things for the good of the ignorant masses. The idea of a conservative, that believes in smaller, less intrusive government, free markets and doing things in the world to stop evil-doers, rather than just observing passively and commenting with a know nod, probably frightened the bejeebers out of the CIA. Like the perfumed princes in the military, the lords of CIA much prefer pretending to be soldiers or spies. It's much safer than actually risking your life in a fight.

When George Tenet resigned in the wake of 9/11 and intelligence failures in the run up to the Iraq war, Porter Goss, his replacement attempted to make cultural changes to CIA. One thing he evidently did was instruct analysts to tell the president the truth. He wanted them to quit filtering the information and presenting analysis to the president that was colored by political ideology rather than facts. In other words, Goss wanted them to tell the president what was really going on and not what they thought the president ought to know about what was going on. This reduced the CIA role to being an encyclopedia and highly detailed news source rather than an influeintial policy advisor and, if truth be told, a manipulator of presidential opinion.

George Tenet, Bush's first CIA director, was a Democrat by training who served in the Clinton administration. His career as director was acknowledged to have increased morale at the CIA. It's little wonder. Bureaucrats tend to lean left. The left supports larger government, greater control by government and more intrusive control. No agency has a more congruent mission with the left than CIA. Goss's attempts to change the CIA culture were met with fierce resistance. There was rejoicing in the agency when he resigned and many left leaning agents returned to administrative positions in CIA. The coming of Obama was met with euphoria in the ranks and a wild hope for a restoration of the CIA to it's former glories. Obama seeks greater government control over events at home and abroad. The CIA with its massive information gathering capacity is the very agency to help him achieve that.

But first, before the left can solidify it's hold on the nation's premiere spy agency, the conservatives that have crept into the agency over the past 8 years must be dealt with. This past week, the President announced the beginning of what promises to be a pogrom of politically non-aligned CIA agents. The prosecution of those responsible for so-called "human rights abuses" is the perfect vehicle to accomplish that purpose. When the "cleansing" is done, the CIA will be a reliable tool for a powerful leftist government. Bush era appointees and recruits to the agency are probably working on their resignation letters and cutting deals to avoid prosecution right now.

The CIA is a dangerous thing. In the hands of the current administration and Congress, it a tool for making bad things happen quickly. The relative who works in the CIA told me once, "If you knew half of the stuff that goes on in the world, you wouldn't be able to sleep at night." I bet if I knew half of what was going on at CIA right now, I wouldn't be able to catch even an afternoon nap!

Just one man's opinion....

Tom King

*This blog is for entertainment purposes only. The author knows absolutely nothing about the CIA or President Obama or anything the Left is up to. Please do not hurt my kitty cat, leave dead horse parts in my bed or attach anything electronic under the seat of my truck as I am basically harmless and not worth the powder it would take to blow me up.

Monday, August 17, 2009

American Psychiatric Association Warns Therapists not to Treat Homosexuality

"Politicizing a Mental Disorder"

In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the primary diagnostic tool used by psychiatrists and psychologists to identify mental disorders. With a stroke of the eraser, the mental health establishment made it okay to be gay. There was dancing in the streets of San Francisco. There was strong opposition to this measure from the psychological community, but these scientists were shouted down.

With that action APA instantly "healed" millions of troubled individuals by simply saying "Never mind, go ahead with what you're doing, just learn to live with it."

The APA tried to reach a compromise with objectors in 1980 by including a new diagnosis - ego-dystonic homosexuality which simply stated was a persistent lack of normal arousal, that interferes with heterosexual relationships the person wants and emotional distress caused by unwanted homosexual arousal. Apparently, even this recognition that some people didn't want to be gay was too much for the activists. There were riots by gay activists at scientific conventions. In response to the ensuing uproar, the APA, always a tower of Jello, in 1986, removed the diagnosis entirely from the DSM, leaving only a faint vestige of it under "Sexual Disorders Not Otherwise Specified".

At the time, psychologists working on homosexual treatment programs wondered if preventive therapy for homosexuality would be prohibited. They were reading the future correctly.

The campaign to legitimize homosexuality continued with a recent two year APA task force that examined the issue. They released their report this year with a stern warning to therapists not to suggest that homosexuality was a mental disorder or to recommend "reparative" therapies aimed at changing sexual orientation. APA further states that in dealing with gay clients from conservative faiths, therapists should be "very cautious" about suggesting treatments aimed at altering their same-sex attractions." The report goes on to say, "Practitioners can assist clients through therapies that do not attempt to change sexual orientation, but rather involve acceptance, support and identity exploration and development without imposing a specific identity outcome."

The task force that issued this report included not one psychiatrist that believed homosexuality is not a normal adaptation. Further, the APA task force took as STARTING POINT, the belief that homosexuality is a normal variant of human sexuality, not a disorder, and that it nonetheless remains stigmatized in ways that can have negative consequences.

Big surprise the outcome of that "scientific" study.

This issue makes less and less sense the longer it is debated. The Rolling Stones once sang, "Satan, Satan is my name. Confusion is my game." So it seems to be with this issue. Both sides grow increasingly muddled in their thinking.

The gay community wants you to believe that homosexuality is not a choice. They also get mad every time someone tries to find out whether there is a genetic or physical problem with the brains of gay men and women. A study that indicated a shrinkage of the pineal gland in homosexual men was hooted down by the gay community. If it's not a choice, then there ought to be a physical basis for it not being a choice. For a long time the gay community has maintained that being gay is not a choice, but also has no physical basis.

This confuses me. Heterosexuality has a definite physical basis. I am aroused because physical things happen in my body. How is that now so with homosexual arousal? Recently the gay community has embraced the muddled idea that there is a so-called normal "gay gene" and claims that proves that gayness is 'normal'.

Unfortunately, the APA says there is no gay gene and with this recent ruling, the APA's version of 'don't ask, don't tell' for scientific research, the APA has effectively shut down any legitimate research into what does cause homosexuality and how to treat it. They have, in effect, told gay people who don't want to be gay to "Get used to it!" They've opened the doors of derision on such researchers in the same fashion that the global warming people have done with scientists who are skeptical about global warming in the Al Gore era.

The Christian community's resistance to such research hasn't helped. The mystical nonsense about the human brain that many Christians accept as gospel, does not allow either mental illness or genetic factors to be causative for homosexuality. Homosexuals some vocal leaders argue, are just bad people who want to be bad and therefore must go to hell.

This too is obvious balderdash. God places us in a physical body that, in a sinful world, is not always perfect. If you can get cancer, lung disease or have birth defects that cause asthma, digestive problems or a physical disability, is it any less likely that the delicate mechanism of the human brain might also, on occasion, have something wrong with it?

When Christ healed people with mental illness, did he not also repair the shattered brains of those people as well? When he drove out the "demons" did he not also repair the damage that allowed those demons to lodge there in the first place. It is God's purpose to bring us in this life to healing and health so that we are free to choose whether to follow Him or not. The Psalms say, "He knows that we are dust." That is a comfort to me because I have worked for years with people whose minds, through no fault of their own, have been damaged to the point that they could not make good decisions. Does God abandon them because they were born with fetal alcohol syndrome and cannot reason cause to effect properly?

God, whose eye is on the sparrow, surely sees these folks and finds a way to save them. The Apostle Paul says that some of us will be saved as a "man escaping through the flames". I have to wonder whether he was talking about some of the truly damaged among us, the aborted babies, the severely mentally ill or those who die under tremendous abuse. I believe God can bring each and every one of us to a point of decision. Who will you serve? He knows what is truly in our heart. The evidence of the thief on the cross shows that salvation isn't about what we do, but about simply embracing the salvation that is offered to us. To those who die not fully formed as humans, I believe God is powerful to save. In heaven, God could place in my arms any child that never had a chance at life and I will with unspeakable joy, raise that child as my own. I will befriend any soul that had Downs Syndrome in this life and comes to heaven as a childlike soul and I will gladly mentor him or her to adulthood.

The APA has said we must not offer healing to those who suffer with unnatural desires of homosexuality and wish that they did not. Well, civil disobedience works for Christians too and I believe that every Christian therapist, psychologist, counselor and psychiatrist should fearlessly disobey the APA. We should continue research into the physical causes of this disorder and work tirelessly on treatments. We should treat our brothers and sisters who choose to remain gay with the same love and tenderness we would treat anyone. We must love our enemies as well as our friends and that duty extends to the lesbian couple next door, the gay men down the streat and even to the misguided protestors at the APA conventions. They are our fellow travelers and we are commanded to love them as we love ourselves.

It's that simple.

Just one man's opinion.

Tom King

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sleight of Hand

Well in an apparently magnanimous gesture, the Obama Administration is sending signals that they are prepared to bow to the "fake" astro-turf roots trumped up phony pressure from all those hired insurance company goons that have been showing up to disrupt the Congress's peaceful town hall meetings.

They'll be telling us that this is a wonderful concession and that it won't destroy the insurance companies like everyone said and that this will not be just a wonderful little benign bit of legislation that helps some sick people get the help they need.

That's the hat, but where's the rabbit and what's up his sleeve - that's the trick. It's always misdirection with these folks. I knew a former missionary who used to get churches build using these kind of bait and switch tactics. It was in a holy cause, but I had to wonder what God thought about how we were getting our churches built.

Being Adventists in a Catholic country, getting churches built was sometimes difficult. The town fathers really didn't want any competing churches in the city and my friend found out pretty quickly that getting plans approved by the town council was pretty nearly impossible until they tried an old trick for getting approval from someone who didn't want to approve your project. It works like this:

First, they brought in 3 sets of plans for the proposed church. One set, the one they presented to the council first would be a huge ornate structure that looked like a cathedral that would dwarf the local Catholic church building. The town fathers were properly horrified.

Next they presented a very Protestant looking building along the lines of the Crystal Cathedral or something with a golden dome and an enormous lighted cross. They were further horrified.

Finally, our building committee presented the modest structure plan they had intended to build all along. The members of the town council were so immeasurably relieved that they voted instantly to approve the plans we'd wanted all along to construct.

I think this health care thing is the same tactic. So what's left in the health care bill that we're supposed not to notice? Well, how about access to our bank accounts, fines for the uninsured, expansion of government meddling in another American industry which they've already thoroughly screwed up just with Medicaid and Medicare alone.

We're inviting the camel to stick it's nose in the tent for no real benefit that I can see. We should be talking about cutting back government control of the health care system, not expanding it. We should take away the restrictions on doctors and the absurd pay systems with programs like Medicaid where providers wait 3 to 6 months for a check. We need to get the feds out of health care altogether and come up with something run at the state and local level that makes more sense. Give doctors tax incentives for doing pro bono work. Give local groups the power to figure out what works best in their communities. Quit trying to create a "system" that will work in every community in the nation. Big government-run bureaucracies are always woefully inefficient. They have the same problem as the carpenter who only had a hammer in his tool box. With only a hammer, every problem our carpenter encounters seems to call for a nail!

Let's just say, "No!" to ANY health care bill at all. There are surely options that allow health care to run on sensible free market principles without opening the door to even greater restrictions on our liberties and more new ways for the government to diddle in our lives.

How 'bout it? Had ENOUGH yet?

Just one man's opinion.

Tom King

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Decline and Fall and Rise of the Invisible Writer

America is a nation of writers. Though formal literature got off to a slow start, the bulk of early American writing was done by millions of diarists writing alone. When someone died in those days, particularly someone of position or influence, the first things the family did was find his diary. You wanted know what your dearly departed had said about you that might be problematic.

To this day, old diaries represent a major source of historical evidence, despite the subjective nature of the writing. I used to wonder why people stopped keeping diaries. Teenage girls, of course, kept it up. Accumulating a secret stock of damning written ‘evidence’ against all the people who have ever mistreated you, that can be read aloud at a special high school assembly after your tragic death, has always been attractive to teenage girls for some reason.

The average American, however, has left off keeping extensive personal diaries. I wasn’t sure why until the great ice storm of 2004 left our rural community without power for nearly a week. I played the guitar a lot; listened to my Walkman till I ran out of batteries. Finally, in desperation, I dragged out my old journal. I dutifully entered daily handwritten entries up until the television came back on.

Ah, but personal writing is not dead! To paraphrase Mark Twain, the death of personal writing has been greatly exaggerated. While the keeping of handwritten journals and private manuscripts may remain in decline, actual private writing may be experiencing something of a comeback. Recently I did a personal inventory to find out what all I had written over the years. I went through my stuff from the 60’s and 70’s in no time. My Sweet Baboo long ago tossed most of it in a fit of cleanliness that extended even to the top shelf of my closet. My extensive early works were gone. Then, I waded into the computer era. My hard drive and pile of backup CD’s yielded 3 full books and 3 unfinished ones, a biography of my son, some 200 poems, short stories, thousands of photographs, humorous, religious and political essays and a dozen web pages.

Then, I hit the Internet. I found 5 blogs, 8 forums I contribute to regularly, three books in progress on, an e-book excerpt from my only published book, and two poetry websites with my poetry collections. I also host a poetry class that I plan to turn into an e-book. I’ve published hundreds of web-based articles on subjects ranging from rose bush pruning to treatments for dog diarrhea.

I’m thinking that if I croak, my family is going to have a devil of a time finding the electronic equivalent of my diary. It’s scattered all over the Internet. I suspect that’s pretty common these days. Lots more people write than used to. They just aren’t using paper. The Internet conveys a sense of anonymity that attracts the shy writer. It allows us to be far more courageous than we would be otherwise. Someone who might never stand up in a public meeting and criticize the mayor, will fearlessly take his honor to the woodshed on his weblog.

The invisible writer is baaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!

He’s just not so invisible anymore. He has a poetry web page his kids don’t know about. She writes a political blog with hundreds of followers. His family tree website has photos and stories from five generations. She teaches an on-line class for organic gardeners and is completing a new e-book on growing organic hothouse tomatoes.

The beauty of the Internet for the shy writer is that it frees us from the tyranny of the publishing industry which had built a virtually impenetrable wall about itself to keep out the riff raff. In defiance, millions of would-be writers publish their work daily on the Internet and are finding an audience. Talented people can build an audience one reader at at time. Best of all they don’t have to pass through the soul-destroying process of finding a publisher. You can work on your draft novel on-line with the help of a half dozen friends and nobody sends you a rejection slip. We may not make much money, but we are honing our wordsmithing skills.

Today, invisible writers like Emily Dickson would have had a devoted following on instead of having had to die first and hope someone accidentally discovered her manuscripts. You wonder how many brilliant “invisible” writers we lost because nobody ever opened that box in the closet after they died. Nowadays they’d simply live on in cyberspace.

How cool is that?

© 2009 by Tom King

Sunday, August 09, 2009


You may have heard about the White House’s new “fink on the people who disagree with nationalized health care reporting site” that Linda Douglass, White House Propa...., I’m sorry, ‘Communications’ Director has set up. Apparently the Drudge Report dug up an inconvenient old video of the President assuring supporters that a single payer health care system IS one of his goals, but that it might take a while to get there.

Apparently, Douglass thinks we loyal Americans need to let the White House know if anyone else is out there undermining our faith in socialized health care. She’s set up an e-mail address where loyal minions can turn in such troublemakers - .

My question is, “What do they plan on doing with this information. Here’s the paragraph from the White House’s website.


Facts Are Stubborn Things

There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to

A whole lot of people have begun sending crank e-mails to the site. I’ve started forwarding all those e-mails I’ve been getting from Dr. Ooalong Mobanga the son of the late Commerce Secretary of Nigeria who wants me to help him get several million dollars out of a secret Swiss bank account. I figure the White House might want to look into it as a way to fund health care.

Ben Sley recently posted an interesting note reminding us all of the scene in the movie “Spartacus” where, when the Romans defeated the gladiator revolt, the Roman general demanded to know which one of his captives was Spartacus. Virtually every man stood up and claimed to be Spartacus. He suggested that if they were looking for people who were spreading information about health care, maybe we should all contact the site and tell them, “I am Spartacus!”.

It’s a lovely bit of civil disobedience and I like the idea. Of course, one has to remember that the Romans crucified everyone who said “I am Spartacus”, so this sort of thing may actually have consequences. I do have an alter ego whose e-mail box I can use.

Let ‘em crucify Mr. Crankypants! See if I care!

Mr. Crankypants is Spartacus!

Mr. Crankypants is Spartacus!

Mr. Crankypants is Spartacus!