28 December 2006

The Government We Deserve

It appears as if only Instapundit and precious few others have picked up on this story, but the incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has decided to use the power of her new office to silence the grassroots.

This surprises me as the blogosphere is usually pretty quick to pick up on these things. I found out about it from a friend of mine who sent me a link to an article on Human Events Online, but I have been able to find the story in other places as well.

Basically, Nancy Pelosi has teamed up with Naderite Joan Claybrook of Public Citizen to cook up legislation that would redefine grassroots lobbying "to include small citizens groups whose messages about Congress and public policy issues are directed toward the general public" according to Mark Tapscott's article in The Examiner, and "require any organization that encourages 500 or more members of the general public to contact their elected representatives to file a report with detailed information about their organization to the government on a quarterly basis", according to the Human Events Online article.

The bill also requires “grassroots lobbying firms,” to register with Congress and be subject to penalties whenever they are paid $50,000 or more to communicate with the general public during any three-month period. Interestingly enough, there are loopholes for labor unions, big corporations, and large non-profits.

For those of you who are paying attention, this legislation builds on the McCain-Feingold Incumbent Protection Act...excuse me, Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act...prohibition against criticism of congressional incumbents for 30 days prior to a primary and 60 days before a general election.

Pelosi earlier vowed to end the "Republican culture of corruption" that had imbued Congress. In order to do so she put forth the name of impeached judge Alcee Hastings for House Intelligence Committee and nominated "Mr. Abscam" Jack Murtha for House majority leader. It appears as if she is continuing down this same path.

Dostevsky wrote in "The Grand Inquisitor": "In the end they will lay their freedom at our feet and say to us, 'Make us your slaves, but feed us'". I'm wondering how much longer we will have.

PS: I have been asked if I am going to say anything about the death of former President Gerald Ford. Here you go. Ford was a place-keeper between Nixon and Carter. He is the only man to serve as President who was not elected to either the Presidency or the Vice Presidency, being appointed to both following the resignations of the previous officeholders. This is the single thing that is significant about the Ford presidency, proof that the Constitutional system of succession actually works. He did nothing particularly outrageous during his term. The political debacle that was VietNam faltered to an end on his watch, and he issued a pardon to a man that had not been convicted of any crimes, thereby short-circuiting any possible action against Nixon. He did wield the veto pen with authority, but aside from that and the aforementioned pardon nothing else he did as President is particularly noteworthy. However, he was a good man, and did his best both for the country and to restore dignity and respect to the office of President of the United States. For that, if for nothing else, he deserves our respect. Thanks Jerry, goodbye and rest in peace.

24 December 2006

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all!

Don't forget the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who make it possible for us to live in peace, and always remember why we celebrate this season.

To my non-Christmas celebrating friends, Happy Hanuka, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Ramadan, Happy Holidays!

To the ships at sea and the boys and girls in cammo, God bless you for the job you do, stay safe.

To the thin blue line, likewise God bless you for the job you do, stay safe.

Have a happy and joyous Holiday season. Merry Christmas to you and yours, from me and mine.
Photo by Mitchell Bell

23 December 2006

'Tis The Season

It must be Christmastime because my father just called with his annual "Jesus is the reason for the season" message.

I am definitely of the First Amendment mindset where it comes to religion, generally supportive of all and not favoring one over the other. If I had to describe myself religiously I would say I am a Deist. This bothers my parents, both who are ordained ministers and raised me in the Christian faith. In their mind I am an apostate, only one step above atheist, and they worry for my immortal soul. Someone should, I guess, because I sure don't pay enough attention to it. But I digress.

I made the mistake one year, while in a more Grinchy state of mind, of commenting that surely a man born in May or June (according to the research I have seen, Roman records put the tax collection and census in the summertime of 3BC) isn't responsible for anything that happens in December. Suffice it to say that I won't make that comment again. But the reason for Christmas, the season, is indeed the celebration of the Saviour's birth, regardless of what time of year the actual event was.

The simple fact is that the early Church, eager for converts, co-opted certain times of the year for their holidays. This gave a sense of familiarity to the holiday season for their new parishioners while at the same time removing the pagan aspects from the seasonal celebrations. For the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, they chose to celebrate their Saviour's birth. It makes sense to pick this day. The winter solstice is regarded as the beginning of the new seasons, from that day forward the days will get longer and the new growing season begins. New life will fill the earth. Christians likewise see the birth of Christ as a new beginning, so the parallel is appropriate.

In recent years it has become fashionable for businesses and locales to eliminate Christmas, replacing it with "Happy Holidays", so as not to offend our non-Christmas celebrating friends. Bah humbug. WalMart, for instance, decided last year to replace "Merry Christmas" with "Happy Holidays". This year, due to pressure from the overwhelming majority of Americans who celebrate Christmas, the "Merry Christmas" greeting is back. I'm glad to see the Christian community banding together to stop this practice.

Even if your preference is for Kwanzaa (that most American of holidays, invented right here in the United States, in LA, in 1967) or Hanuka or Ramadan, there is no reason why I can't wish you a Merry Christmas, and no reason why you can't respond with a greeting appropriate to your holiday. If you are the non-religious sort a Happy Holidays or a Happy (Winter) Solstice would suffice. The basis of freedom, after all, is that you should be allowed to do anything which does not result in physical or financial harm to another being, and acknowledging the celebration of the season surely causes no harm. In fact, it can do much good. Denying the trappings of Christmas to those who celebrate Christmas is not protecting the separation of church and state (which is not found anywhere in the Constitution, by the way), it is just "denying the free expression thereof". That in itself is unconstitutional. And if you find a Scrooge that is offended by your greeting, so be it. Don't let it stop you from enjoying the season.

So break out those nativity scenes, and wish me a Merry Christmas. Tell me that Jesus is the reason for the season. I'll respond with a Merry Christmas of my own, from mine to yours.

God bless us all, every one.

20 December 2006

Don't Fear The Reaper

Florida Governor Jeb Bush has suspended executions in his state following the botched job done on convicted killer Angel Nieves Diaz. According to medical examiner Dr. William Hamilton, officials inserted the needles that deliver the caustic brew through the veins and into the surrounding tissue. The execution took 34 minutes.

Doctor Hamilton refused to speculate if the execution was painful. David Elliot, spokesman for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said "We just think the Florida death penalty system is broken from start to finish." The relatives of Mr. Diaz are expected to file suit.

This is only the latest in a series of challenges of death penalty opponents to the death penalty on Eighth Amendment grounds. Maryland inmate Vernon Evans Jr. is challenging his death sentence on the grounds that it violates Constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment, saying that he faces particular risk of excruciating pain because his veins have been ravaged by decades of heroin abuse. A witness to the execution of Ohio inmate Joseph Lewis Clark has testified at his trial, saying that she heard "loud, intense, guttural moans and groans, like someone was in agony" during Clark's execution. Federal judges in Missouri, North Carolina and California have ordered changes to those states' procedures, and judges in Ohio and Arkansas have issued stays of execution until similar lawsuits could be heard in their states.

My initial reaction, as well as the reactions of many commenters to the stories, is one of indifference at best. After all, the victims of these men died under much more painful situations, so why should we care that their final moments are less than completely comfortable? In fact, many of the techniques suggested by the commenters are far worse than a trip of chemical bliss across the great divide.

However, I find myself in the role of devil's advocate, simply because we are supposed to be the good guys. It's all about that "moral high ground" you see. Executions are not supposed to be simply about punishment and deterrence, they serve to remove from society those individuals who have proven, through their actions, that they do not deserve societies' protection. Society should be benevolent in it's purpose, removing these individuals not out of malice but out of a sense of duty to the greater good.

There are some who adamantly oppose the death penalty in any form, calling it state sponsored murder. There are some that take the exact opposite stance, saying the punishment should fit the crime and that the killers should face the same method of execution as their victims did. Those who oppose the death penalty doubt the effectiveness, either as a deterrent or as a valid punishment. Those who approve of the death penalty point out, quite correctly, that an executed killer is very unlikely to kill anyone else.

My take on the death penalty is this, that which serves to further the cause of survival of the human race is right and proper, and that which does not serve that purpose is wrong. Murder is wrong because it does not further the cause of human survival as a species, therefore murderers should be removed at the earliest opportunity to prevent further harm. This means that duly convicted murderers should face the death penalty.

The eighth amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted." The basis of the amendment comes from the desire of the Congress to prevent the same kinds of abuses of power of English officials that historically set bail and methods of execution. Various courts have ruled on the Eighth, and some methods of punishment are forbidden completely, such as drawing and quartering, burning alive and disembowelment. Certain other punishments have also been outlawed by American courts, such as the revoking of citizenship of natural born citizens and punishment of individuals based on disease or illness rather than specific acts.

Robert Heinlein, in the book Starship Troopers, postulated that all punishment by it's very nature is cruel and unusual, since it is not a normal state of being to be punished and any punishment is by varying degrees cruel since it is a denial of various rights. He writes that the statute should be against excessively cruel or unusual punishments. Courts seem to agree, since they rule against punishments only when they are deemed excessive. Also, since the statute is against cruel AND unusual punishments, cruel punishments are allowed if they are not unusual and unusual punishments are allowed as long as they are not cruel. The Supreme Court has ruled that the death penalty is constitutional except in cases of minors or mental incompetents.

Taking all of this into consideration, it would seem that death by lethal injection is indeed Constitutional since more that one state uses it (so it's not unusual). When done right it is not excessively painful either, so it doesn't meet the definition of torture or cruelty. If the execution of Angel Diaz was botched by the executioners it doesn't negate the Constitutionality of the execution method. Certainly an investigation should take place and training should be held to educate the executioners so that further incidents are prevented, but this method of execution, and execution itself, does not seem to violate the Constitutional ban.

Time to pay the piper.

15 December 2006

Reuters Joins The Navy

Observe Exhibit A. An obvious fraud. Fauxtography at it's worst.

This photo is purported to be of the Scoundrel and various members of the Line Division, Fighter Squadron Three One onboard Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia circa 1988. Our presence is inferred to the extreme left in the picture. The owner of this malicious bit of forgery is pictured at the extreme right, in the white hat.

We know for a fact that this photo is a scandalous lie. We were never this young. We have proof. Any assurances as to the authenticity of this photo by the photographer or any of those other miscreants pictured forthwith should be dismissed as slanderous fakery. They were, after all, Sailors, and we know how those people can be.

Any of the pictured individuals may contact me immediately via the comments on this post and be rewarded with a hot denial of alleged youth and a cold beverage of choice if ever in the vicinity of the Refuge. In fact, the offer is open to any members of Fighting 31 from 1986-1990. I'd be glad to hear from you.
Photo by John Deck

14 December 2006

Justice for All

Much ado has been made about the Duke Lacrosse team and their rape scandal. This story has made the national news, complete with the talking heads bloviating on the subject, of which they had little knowledge.

The basic story is this, at a party thrown by members of the Duke Lacrosse team on March 13, 2006, there were strippers. These strippers left before their appointed time and then called police, saying that one of them had been sexually assaulted by three members of the team.

From there the story gets ugly and muddied. Starting off is the fact that the two "exotic dancers" were black, while all but one member of the lacrosse team is white. Of course the usual suspects had to weigh in with their opinions just because of the race issue. Other than being a factual side note, the matter of race has little to do with the story.

The three accused have alibis for the time of the alleged incident. One was actually at an ATM when the assault supposedly took place, ATM cameras record him there and he has the time stamped receipt. The cab driver that took him to the ATM backs his story. The other two have as alibis the testimony of their teammates, which admittedly is not as ironclad.

The victim could not, at first, pick her alleged assailants out of a lineup. Finally after much deliberation she identified her attackers from a photo montage of the team members. No persons other than team members were included in the photo display.

Physical evidence is limited to DNA samples taken from the victim. These DNA samples identify five male persons, none of whom are on the Duke Lacrosse team. This information was not included in the lab's final report, and defense attorneys were not made aware of this until October 2006 when they were able to study documents made available from the lab through court order. The lab initially refused to provide this documentation, citing privacy and cost issues.

Mike Nifong, Durham County prosecuter, rode the issue into a re-election campaign. Before the election he spoke publicly and often about the case, giving more than fifty interviews with various news media outlets. After the election he seems to have lost interest in the case. Deliberations are not scheduled to begin in the case until spring of 2007, a year after the initial accusations were made. In fact, according to court testimony in October of 2006, Mr. Nifong had yet to discuss the case with the accuser.

The Durham police have also been tainted with the scandal. The cabbie that provided the ride, and therefore the alibi, to one of the team members was charged with shoplifting in a case where the shoplifter used his cab as a getaway vehicle without his knowledge. He was cleared in court. The police also set up the flawed lineup, and the head investigator on the case has been accused of bias against Duke students in past incidents.

In the meantime, the lacrosse season has been cancelled, the head coach has resigned due to threats made on his well being, the team's reputation has been dragged through the mud, members of the team have had their pictures with the legend "rapist" posted about the community, many of them have been threatened, and three young men have had their lives put on hold until the trial actually commences.

Why the accusation was made if there was no actual assault remains a mystery. My own theory is that the girls wanted to leave early with their pay, and the boys wanted at least some of their money back if the girls were leaving early. The accusation, in my mind, is more of a revenge issue. Of course it could be that the accuser was so addled that she thought an assault had actually taken place. I guess we won't know for sure until the trial, and maybe not then.

Duke University apparel sales, especially Lacrosse T shirts, have tripled.

The More Things Change

I have been finding it exceedingly hard of late to find any subjects worth writing about. Not that there's a lack of things happening world-wide, there simply hasn't been anything that's captured my attention enough to prompt me to pontificate.

One thing that I have been keeping an eye on however is the Russian situation. It seems that the government of Putin is becoming more and more authoritarian and less and less glasnost-ic.

I can't point to any one incident that marks the beginning, but there have been rumblings for several years now. One of the more recent issues was the murder of Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya at her Moscow apartment. Although nothing directly ties her murder with the Putin regime, the type of killing brings back bad memories of the KGB, an organization that President Putin is very familiar with.

Another story that has been making the rounds is the death of Alexander Litvinenko. Once more, ties to the Russian government are tenuous at best, but the manner of his death from radiation poisioning is highly suspect.

Most recently is the shakedown of Shell Corporation by the Russian government. They have been forced to hand over their controlling interest in a large liquified gas project, giving rise to the fears that the Kremlin will use their natural resources as a political weapon.

I have been trying to remember which Soviet leader spoke of a period of openness that would fool the world into thinking the Soviet Union was relaxing it's iron grip, just before the grip tightened again and crushed all resistance. This was the fear in the late eighties when the Soviet Union was disolving before our eyes, that somehow this was a grand deception of sorts playing out to make us complacent. I am also trying to recall the Naval leader that exhorted us Sailors to remember that "the bear is still a bear". I have failed on both accounts, I guess it's old age catching up with me. They say the memory is the second thing to go. I'll be darned if I can remember what was first, though. But I digress.

Time will tell how these events will unfold, but I think it would be ironic to see the rebirth of some sort of Soviet Union. I fear such an event however, because I don't think today's America has the intestinal fortitude to withstand such an event. Search as I might, I don't see a Ronald Reagan standing in the wings ready to take his place on the stage of world events. And from my point of view, we desperately need such a figure.

I hope that I am wrong.
Photo from ThoseShirts.com

10 December 2006

Give Me Your Money

On one of the train e-groups I belong to we recently had a discussion involving AMTRAK. Such discussions are not uncommon amongst model railroaders, especially when the groups concerned have an international flavor, as is the case with most e-groups.

I am of the opinion that AMTRAK was fatally flawed from the beginning, that if there were any money to be made in passenger service that the big railroads would make it and if there wasn't then passenger trains needed to fade quietly into history. This opened the floodgates, soon posts were flying about government bailouts of airlines, electrification, reasons that no one took the train, and the amount of government subsidies in various transportation systems both in the US and overseas.

I love trains. You might have noticed the train related photos on site. I love riding the East Broad Top in south-central Pennsylvania. But I don't think my love for trains justifies taking money out of your pocket to pay for it. It is my stand that if a corporation cannot support itself through revenue from customers that willingly pay for the goods and services they provide then they don't deserve to exist. Period.

AMTRAK is not alone in this. Agriculture is also heavily subsidiesed, most notably in the sugar and dairy industries. There's a story going around right now about a man named Hein Hettinga who successfully took on the dairy industry in California for a period of about 3 years before they, with the help of Harry Ried, took him out. Basically the deal is that the California dairy producers were shafting the consumers to the tune of 20 cents a gallon, and Hettinga took advantage of a loophole that let him sell his milk for less. Thanks to Harry and his pals on the Hill the Congress closed that particular loophole, and the taxpayers took it on the chin. To the tune of about 1.5 billion dollars a year, according to watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste.

Price controls and corporate welfare have never been good ideas. They didn't work for Nixon, they didn't work for the Commies, they don't work for the consumers now. Congress needs to lose it's fascination with government "fixes" that are best left to the marketplace, fixes which end up being worse than the problems that they are supposedly solving.

One of the reasons the Republican ship went down in flames this last election was the voter's anger at the abandonment of conservative values, among them being limited government and fiscal responsibility. The Republican congresses of the past several years have seemingly abandoned these ideals wholesale. One thing is for certain, it's not Newt Gingrich's Congress.

My advice to the Republican party is to return to your roots. It's time to cast off the big government Republicanism (an oxymoron if I ever saw one) and rediscover the Reaganesque ideals of smaller, limited government and fiscal responsibility. If you do this you will attract the Libertarian middle and once again regain power. If you don't, get ready for long cold walks in the wilderness.

If Americans want people who act like Democrats to be in power, they will vote for Democrats. At least then there is no suprise.

About Last Night

On Saturday evening the 109th Congress met for the final time. They passed a tax and trade bill, took steps to normalize relations with VietNam by establishing a trade relationship, opened eight million more acres in the Gulf of Mexico to drilling, passed a measure to share civilian nuclear technology with India, passed a bill to overhaul the Post Office, delayed their automatic pay raise until February when the stopgap spending bill expires (they failed to pass 9 of 11 routine spending bills before the October 1 deadline), and killed a proposal to pay a total of about $10 million in severance to hundreds of senior committee and leadership aides who will lose their jobs when the changeover shrinks the Republican payroll. Critics said the severance was too generous.

The fight for the tax and trade package was contested by Republican budget hawks because its price tag will exceed budget control measures, but those objections were overridden by the Senate. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg (R-NH) was especially displeased by that, fuming "You know, it's sort of that old Pogo line, 'We've met the enemy, and he is us'."

Most of the fiscal problems were left for next year when the Democrats take control. Wisconsin Democrat David Obey was particularly annoyed by this, calling the 109th "the most useless Congress in modern times."

I have to agree with him.

In complete but unofficial returns, Louisiana Democrat William Jefferson has been re-elected to Congress. He received 57 percent of the vote over state Rep. Karen Carter in a runoff despite an ongoing federal bribery investigation.

Jefferson, who has been accused of taking bribes from a company seeking lucrative contracts in the Nigerian telecommunications market, was forced into the runoff against Carter when he failed to win 50 percent of the vote in the primary. He has not been charged with any crime and denies any wrongdoing.

"I guess the people are happy with the status-quo," says Carter.

People have the government they deserve, says I.

And finally, the Space Shuttle Discovery finally lifted from it's launch pad last night for the first time since 2002. Discovery will be in space for 12 days on a mission supporting the International Space Station.

The crew of Discovery will deliver a large truss section of the space station and conduct several space walks to install it. They will also assist the ISS crew with a rewiring job that will convert the station's power source from battery to the solar arrays.

Discovery is set to return to Kennedy Space Center on December 21st.
NASA photograph

09 December 2006

Mea Culpa

I caught some flak about not writing a Pearl Harbor Day post, especially since I'm a Navy vet. What can I say, it was a bad day for the battleship guys, but I was an airdale. At any rate, the day was pretty well covered in posts around the blogosphere.

I did two things on Pearl Harbor Day, the first was to lead a tour of my son's school around the semiconductor fabrication plant that I work at, which was a lot of fun. The second thing was to cozy up to the History Channel and watch the Pearl Harbor documentaries over and over.

It's easy to say that the Japs executed a cowardly dastardly sneak attack and if we had only known things would have been different, but watching the shows leads me to the conclusion that if we had to be attacked, that was the best way for us to get it.

Much has been said about the failure to heed the radar picket's warnings, or the failure to see that the USS Ward's attacks on the midget sub was the forerunner to the main event, but the bottom line is that it's easy to second guess and armchair quarterback after the fact.

Communications weren't as good then as they are now, nor were targeting computers (they weren't electric and digital, but they were computers), and deck guns were aimed and fired manually instead of electrically and radar guided, so there was some skepticism on the part of the brass about the Ward's claims (they did find that sub, 60 years later, with a hole in it just where the USS Ward guncrews said it would be). There was also a flight of B-17s that arrived just in time to be destroyed during the Japanese attack, just as the radar officer said there would be. The timing, in other words, was perfect. In fact, if the Japanese ambassador had been able to deliver his message on time, the attack would be remembered as the opening battle and not as a sneak attack at all.

But as I was saying, it was the best possible scenario for us aside from not being hit at all. Had the battleships received adequate warning to put to sea it is likely that they would have been attacked by aircraft and subs as they left the channel, and then they would have been truly lost in deep water instead of being recoverable from the shallow harbor floor. Of the battleships that were sunk that day, only the USS Arizona was never raised from her shallow grave. She lies there still, as the USS Missouri keeps watch.

Likewise, had the Army Air Corps been given ample warning to scramble aircraft it would have only ensured their destruction while airborne (with a corresponding loss of aircrew). The new Zero fighter was a much more able and agile craft than anything the Army owned at the time, and since the Army brass had not paid attention to the Flying Tiger's reports they did not learn the tactics that would have enabled the airmen to survive aloft. Therefore, even though the cost in aircraft was high, the cost in aircrew would have been a much worse blow.

Best of all is the fact that the Navy's three PacFleet carriers were out on that fateful Sunday, and so escaped the harm that befell their deck-gunned siblings. These three carriers were the nucleus of a force that went on to deal death and destruction to the Japanese fleet at Coral Sea and Midway, thereby turning the tide of the war in the American's favor. Also, since the carriers weren't accounted for, a third Japanese attack was cancelled. The intended targets for this third attack included drydock facilities that were instrumental in recovering the sunken battleships as well as ammo and fuel supply depots. With these facilities intact, the Navy was able to quickly recover from the devastating attack and go on the offensive.

We learned many lessons from Pearl Harbor, but unfortunately we haven't yet learned the key one. The secret to thwarting attacks is not to think of the possible and take preventative measures, the secret to thwarting attacks is to think of the impossible, determine how to make the impossible possible, and take preventative measures against them.

No one was ready for an attack on Pearl because no one believed the Japanese capable of such a thing. No one believed that torpedos could run in the shallow harbor without hitting bottom when they were released. The Japanese didn't settle on impossible as an answer; they figured out how to make the torpedos work and they learned the lessons of carrier warfare from the British and the use of aircraft against surface ships from Billy Mitchell. It was an ironic lesson, one that we have yet to learn; the secret to surprise is making the impossible possible.

Likewise, no one was ready for the September 11th attacks. Once more, no one believed such a thing to be possible. It had never been done before, so it wasn't a possibility that anyone considered, therefore it wasn't a thing that we were ready to prevent. Tom Clancy thought of it, but of course that was just fiction. Nineteen young Arab men made the impossible possible.

Those who fail to learn from their history are destined to repeat it.

08 December 2006

Polite Society

My wife called me at work today to let me know the neigbors down the street had been robbed. Apparently their house had been broken into while they were gone. They were canvassing the neighborhood to see if anyone had seen anything and from what I understand not having much luck at it, which is not especially surprising since they are surrounded by empty houses.

My wife wondered if we should have the security system activated. It is installed, but up to now we hadn't put much thought into having it turned on. We live in a quiet neighborhood, two miles from the nearest town, and Franklinton is rural to say the least. There is usually someone here since I work nights and am home during the daytime, and the houses on either side of us are occupied. The neighbors to one side of us spend their summers in New York state, we watch their place while they are gone and they return the favor.

Something else my wife brought up was the purchase of a firearm. I haven't had one since I found out the .357 Magnum I owned had been stolen, I immediately returned the purloined firearm to the rightful owners and haven't bothered buying a replacement for one reason or another. It's a good idea, and I would truly like to have one of each; pistol, rifle and shotgun.

Some will say that firearm ownership does not deter crime, but looking at the crime statistics of Kennesaw, Georgia makes me wonder. Cherry Tree, Pennsylvania is wondering as well. The same people who say that firearm ownership does not deter crime will say all sorts of other things to discourage firearms ownership as well, but I don't think their reasoning makes sense.

First off, let's make something perfectly clear. The police are not obligated to prevent crime. They will if they can, of course, but their purpose is to investigate crime, not prevent it. They carry firearms for their own protection, not for ours. And finally, they cannot be all places at all times.

A friend of mine told me a story about a home invasion. He heard the invader and called the police. He was told by the dispatcher that the response time was likely to be 30 minutes or more and that he should barricade himself into the bedroom and wait for the police to arrive. He told her to just send the coroner then, that he had a gun and was going downstairs to shoot the thief. 5 minutes later the squad cars rolled in with lights blazing and caught the would-be burgler. The officers that responded then asked the homeowner about the gun. "What gun," he said, "I don't have a gun." "The dispatcher told us that you did." "The dispatcher told me that you wouldn't be here for another half an hour."

My daughter in law told me about her mother who walked out of the bathroom to find an intruder in her home, helping himself to her belongings. She went right for the bedroom and grabbed the shotgun, when she emerged the intruder was gone and her belongings were still there, piled in the middle of the floor. Apparently he knew what she was going for, and rightfully figured it wasn't worth his life.

All in all, I think I would rather be the subject of one of those two stories rather than the subject of a robbery, or worse.

06 December 2006

G'day Mate!

You may recall the mufti of Australia who, in defense of the young Muslim men who were convicted of rape in 2000, said "If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it ... whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat? The uncovered meat is the problem." He then added "and then you get a judge without mercy (rahma) and gives you 65 years".

The "uncovered meat" has decided to respond. Melbourne grandmother Christine Hawkins has spearheaded the organization of a protest march, originally scheduled for Saturday, December 9th, at the Michael St mosque in Brunswick, Australia. The event has since been postponed to Australia Day, January 26th, 2007.

Mrs. Hawkins had this to say in an interview: "We're encouraging people to wear beachwear. The reason for that... we've called it the 'The Great Australian Bikini March' because it's got an interesting, iconic image for Australians that most Australians, you know, even from their childhoods remember summer holidays with great fondness, of going down to the beach, sitting in the sun, warm, swimming, lots of nice memories.

And that we're actually identified all the world for our beach culture, so it's a statement about maintaining our way of life through using the icon of beach culture.

And there's a bikini because of the comments made about "uncovered meat". So, basically what we're saying is look, we're not changing, we're Aussies. We're not going to be covering up to avoid rape."

The mosque has scheduled a barbecue and open house for the same day.

Some news sources have linked the event with racism since the march was scheduled for the anniversary of the Cronulla riots in New South Wales, which is the likely reason for the delay until January. Mrs. Hawkins denies the connection.

I myself think that it's a fun way to show disapproval of the imam's words, and totally reflects the character of the Aussies I have personally met. I also think it's refreshing to see that some people are not overly eager to prostrate themselves at the altar of Muslim outrage.

We could learn a lot from those Aussies.

04 December 2006

Strange Bedfellows

You may or may not have noticed that the Blogging for Bolton button is gone from the sidebar. That is because John Bolton has tendered his resignation to a disappointed President George Bush.

"I'm not happy about it," Bush said during a farewell appearance at the White House. "I think he deserved to be confirmed. The reason I think he deserved to be confirmed is that I think he did a fabulous job for the country."

President Bush told Mr. Bolton that he would be missed, adding "You've been a stalwart defender of freedom and peace."

Madame Hillary has all but thrown her hat into the ring for the 2008 election. Having just won a second term as New York Senator, Clinton is "reaching out to her colleagues in the New York delegation and asking for their advice and counsel and their support if she decides to make a run," according to top adviser Howard Wolfson.

If she should win, I know several people who should be in public places for the swearing in ceremony. Just to have a good alibi.

President Felipe Calderon has been sworn in - and at - down old Mexico way. He endured catcalls and "brawling lawmakers" as he took the oath of office. California governer Arnold Schwartzenegger was on hand for the ceremony and dubbed it "good action".

His opponent for the election, Lopez Obrador, was less enthusiastic. After loosing by less than one percentage point, Mr. Obrador declared himself to be Mexico's "legitimate President" and set up a parallel government. "I won't respect a thief, and I will always call him that" said Mr. Obrador.
Photo of Mexican President Felipe Calderon

01 December 2006

Death and Taxes

Coming up on this Christmas season, I am reminded of an incident that took place about a year ago. The company I work for was offered a $750 bonus to each worker that worked on Thanksgiving day by one of our major customers. They had a product line that they wanted to deliver for Christmas, and they needed the components to assemble the products. As you might imagine, there were no shortages of volunteers to work that Thanksgiving day!

When the checks appeared, however, the amounts ranged from $400 to $500. The rest of the money had been eaten up in taxes. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, but Uncle Sam and Governor Mike had to get their shares.

Let me stop here for a moment and tell you what this discussion is not about. It is not a complaint about government, governments are necessary and proper to maintain order in the lives of men, and taxes are collected to support them. No anarchist am I, history does not support the notion that left to themselves men will conduct themselves honorably towards each other. Quite the opposite, in fact.

One needs look only as far back as Afghanistan, post Soviet occupation. Once the Soviets were gone, we left, too. The fates of the Afghanis were best left to Afghanis, we reasoned. But politics, as nature, abhors a vacuum. The result was the rise of the Taliban, and utopia certainly did not follow. Financed and supported by the Taliban, poppies (used in opium production) and terrorism soon became the chief exports of Afghanistan. We learned the error of that way on September 11, 2001.

But as I said, we are not discussing governments here, we are discussing taxes. More specifically, the means of tax collection. We currently have what is called a progressive tax, meaning the more you make the higher percentage you pay. At the present time, more than half of all tax revenues are collected by the top 5 percent of income earners. The bottom half of income earners pay little to no tax whatsoever. Given this, it's easy to see that the only thing progressive about the present system is how it gets worse. Under the present system it is quite possible to get a raise and see the real amount of your paycheck decrease due to taxes. It happened to me once while I was in the Navy, the raise we got put me in the next higher tax bracket.

HR25 and S25 are the House and Senate bills to introduce a completely new system of taxation. Unlike the current system that taxes income, the Fair Tax is collected at the point of sale of new products and services. A sales tax, in other words. All other forms of taxation, including payroll (Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid) taxes are abolished. The tax rate, set at 23 percent, is calculated to be revenue neutral, meaning the government's tax receipts will remain the same under the Fair Tax as they are under the current system.

The prices of goods and services will remain about the same since there will be no corporate income taxes. For those who are not aware, the concept of corporate income taxes are a farce. Taxes levied on corporations are carried as business expenses, and prices of the end products reflect that. Since there will be no corporate income taxes levied under the Fair Tax the prices of goods and services will decrease by the amount of corporate income taxes. The results are cheaper products at the point of sale; with the addition of the Fair Tax collected at the point of sale the total cost will remain about the same.

You will see all of your paycheck in your pocket, the only deductions will be corporate health care and retirement plans and state taxes (for the states that have income taxes). Additionally, all income earners will receive a "prebate" calculated on the current poverty rate; any taxes paid for goods and services up to that amount will be refunded to the taxpayers.

You will see, on your receipts, what the cost of government is to you. You will be able to control how much tax you pay based on your consumption habits. There will be no loopholes, no special interests, and best of all, no IRS. April 15 becomes just another beautiful Spring day.

Taxes remain commensurate to wealth, a rich man will go buy an expensive new automobile and pay the tax on it while a poor man will go buy an inexpensive used one and pay absolutely no tax on it. Taxes will only be collected for brand-new goods and services, used goods are completely exempt.

There will be some drawbacks for certain; I'm not claiming the Fair Tax is perfect, only better. One of the drawbacks will be all the tax attorneys and lobbyists that are thrown out of work. There are some valid concerns of course, but all in all I believe the Fair Tax would be a much better method of financing our government's operations than the current tax plan. But don't take my word for it, take a look at the Fair Tax website and see what you think.

Nothing can be done about death, of course, but we can make taxes a little less painful.