Monday, December 24, 2012

Rock, Paper, Scissors

The other day, I popped into Twitter to see what was trending.  I noticed the NRA tag was trending so I bit and took a peek.  Wow.  What a mess.  It is amazing how many really stupid people there are out there.  One tweet in particular caught my eye.  I’ll paraphrase here: 

To the NRA:  If a kid hits another kid with a rock, does that mean we should arm all kids with rocks?

I had to chuckle.  Really?  So let’s play this game out a bit: 

"If all the good kids had rocks, would the bad kids hit good kids with rocks knowing that the good kids would hit them with rocks?"

Oh – how about this one:  "If we allow good kids to carry concealed rocks, will bad kids be afraid to hit other kids with rocks?"

And maybe just a bit further:  "If you were a bad kid with a rock, where would you go to hit other kids with rocks?  A place where the kids may have rocks or a place where you know NO kids have rocks?"

And one more:  "In a world with rocks, would you rather your child go to school where an adult with rocks will protect them against bad people with rocks, or would you rather they go where the only rocks were wielded by bad people wanting to hurt them?"

See?  I LIKE this analogy!  It really helps put things into focus for me. 

Let’s try another tack:  If you send your child to Karate or Tai Kwan Do or Judo or other ‘self-defense’ classes, it’s obviously not just because of exercise.  Kids can get exercise doing a lot of other, non-violent things.  What if your kid is a jerk and uses that training in a wrong way; say to beat up other kids at school to steal their lunch money or sneakers?  The question then has to be asked:  Is the child to blame or is the martial art to blame?  To remain consistent with the anti-gun crowd, you would have to say that the child is not to blame – the martial art is to blame.  We should then ban all dojos and fight training of any kind, regardless of the reason.

Many times the argument about guns is that since nobody with a legal carry permit prevented the crime, that obviously guns are not the solution.  The thinking is that since it wasn’t stopped, that it couldn’t be stopped, and therefore guns can’t be part of the solution.  The other argument I hear is that the legally armed citizen could wind up killing or injuring other innocent folks if he/she gets into a gun battle with the crazy.  History seems to tell us something different.  There are many times when a citizen has stopped a rampage by simply pointing their firearm at the nut job.  Even if the wacko intends to kill himself, it seems that they don’t want to take the chance that the other person might make a mess of it and leave them suffering and alive.

The first example that springs instantly to my mind is the Pearl High School shooting in Pearl, Mississippi.  One of the main reasons that this one sticks out for me is that Pearl High School is where I went to school.  You may remember the story - a 16 year old student slit his mother’s throat, then went to school with a .30-30 rifle (not an ‘assault rifle’ or AR-15 – a hunting rifle) and started shooting folks.  The assistant principle, Joel Myrick, ran to his truck to retrieve his .45 caliber pistol.  He then chased the student down and held him at bay by pointing the pistol at him.  He then forced the kid down on the ground and held him down by putting his foot on the kid’s neck.  Two female students and the shooters mother were the only deaths.  Seven others were wounded.  But because of his actions, which did NOT include any shots fired, nobody else was killed and the shooter was arrested.

The shooter had planned to kill a bunch of kids at the High School, then go to the Junior High and do the same thing, but an armed citizen stopped the rampage.  Basically, the good-guy with the rock stopped the bad-guy with a rock, and a lot of good-guys are alive today because of that. 

An interesting aside is that the hero, Assistant Principle Joel Myrick was treated awfully and was roundly criticized by gun control advocates for pointing his gun at a student (it doesn’t seem to matter that the student was killing folks) and for holding this nut-job down with his foot on the kid’s neck.

Another example of this is Nick Meli.  He is the gentleman who, in December at the Oregon Clackamas Town Center mall shooting, brandished his weapon at the shooter and likely ended the rampage.  What?  You didn’t hear about that?  Huh.  I wonder why?  Anyway, the official report says that the shooter likely stopped shooting other people and shot himself when his gun jammed. 

Now, I don’t know everything about everything, but normally when guns jam, they don’t do it in a way that allows you to shoot yourself and not others.  As reported by KGW, a local television station in Portland, Oregon, a citizen with a concealed weapon’s permit, Nick Meli, drew his firearm and pointed it at the shooter, Jacob Roberts, but held his fire for fear of hitting other innocents.  The shooter was having problems with his rifle and saw Meli, and it appears that when he cleared the gun, rather than shoot other folks in the mall, he decided to shoot himself. 

Obviously, we won’t ever truly know what led him to shoot himself instead of continuing with his rampage – However, it seems odd to me that he went to the mall to kill lots of folks, was heavily armed with multiple magazines so he could accomplish that task, and after shooting only three people, has gun problems, cleared those problems and then decided to shoot himself instead of continuing what he came there to do.  I tend to believe that he thought it likely that if someone else started shooting at him, he might be injured and taken alive, so he killed himself to make sure it was done right with the least amount of pain on his part.  It’s also possible that he may have intended to kill himself when the police arrived, and may have mistaken Meli for an officer.  We’ll never really know.

What we do know is that a citizen with a firearm was present, and contrary to everything the left wants us to believe, there was no bloodbath caused by the law-abiding citizen.  In fact, this seems to be another case of a major bloodbath being prevented by the ‘rock’ carried in the hands of a citizen who hopes sincerely with all his heart, that he never has to ‘throw’ it.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Deconstruction - the 2nd Amendment

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” – 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

 We’ve all read these words and seen them.  We have heard people pontificate over and over about how the 2nd amendment gives us the right to have and carry arms, or that it only gives those in a well regulated militia that right.  In light of all of the angst and hand-wringing after the tragedy in Connecticut last week, I think it’s high time that we actually read the words above to see what they are saying.  Once we cede a right to the government, it’s very unlikely we’ll ever get it back.

Before we do, however, it is CRITICAL that you remember that the Constitution doesn’t GIVE us anything.  It is the definer of the limits on the government.  It is NOT a limit on you and me.  So first and foremost, the 2nd amendment does not give us the right to have and carry guns.  It prohibits the government from taking that right away from us.  See the difference?

Ok.  So let’s move on:  Tell me what this sentence would mean to you:

“A great loaf of bread being desired by everyone in the house, the right of the people to keep and use flour shall not be infringed.”

Does that mean that the ONLY reason we can have flour is to make a great loaf of bread?  Of course not.  Any normal person would read this to mean that we have the right to keep and use flour with the outcome being that we may make a great loaf of bread.  In fact, you have a right to keep and use flour, even if you produce an awful loaf of bread.  Also, it says nothing of using that flour to bread our chicken or to thicken the gravy, but it’s understood that from the perspective of the writer, the defining function of the flour in this context is to make a great loaf of bread.  If this were in the constitution, you’d have to say that you have the right to keep and use flour, and that the government couldn’t prevent you from keeping and using that flour, even if you couldn’t make a great loaf of bread.  The limit is on the government, not on the flour user.

So carrying this forward to the 2nd amendment, the right of the people to keep and bear arms will have the effect of providing a well regulated militia.  It is not exclusionary.  Nowhere does it say that we can’t use those firearms to hunt or target shoot.  It also doesn’t say that we can’t use those firearms to provide protection against those who would do us harm.

Most importantly, if you remember the core premise of the Constitution and the bill of rights, you’ll remember that the 2nd amendment limits the government, not the people.  The very idea of a ‘constitution’ is to explain what constitutes the government.  It does not anywhere define limits on the people.  It’s a document that explains how the government works and what it can and can’t do.  In the case of the 2nd amendment, this means that regardless of whether we hunt, shoot skeet, or want to protect ourselves, that because we want a secure free state, the government cannot prevent you from keeping and bearing arms.  In fact, there doesn’t even need to be a well regulated militia, but if there is, it is the government’s job to regulate that militia.  If the government does not see fit to maintain a militia, that still does not allow the government to limit the ‘RIGHT’ of the people to keep and bear arms.

Remember – when you allow the constitution to become a document that defines the people’s rights in any way, you become bound by the government’s interpretation of those rights.  The bill of rights is ultimately a definition of the line the government can’t cross, not where our rights end.

One last thought:  You might think that the ends justify the means – that if we give this right away and let the government decide that we should all be stripped of this right, that it’s a good thing.  But what will you do when they come after the rights that YOU hold dear?  Like the freedom of speech?  Or the freedom of assembly?  Or the freedom of the press?  Or the freedom from self-incrimination?  Be very careful when you are picking and choosing your freedoms, or you may find you have none left.  The U.S. wouldn’t be the first country to give away it’s freedom.

Blame the Tool

Over the course of my adult life I have had the pleasure and the pain of working with contractors of different types having work done on my home.  Some have been very good.  Their work was exemplary.  The fit and finish was top-notch and the outcome was better than I ever expected.  However, there have also been some real stinkers.  These are the folks that just don’t seem to get it.  They have the same tools and the same amount of time.  I think I’ve finally figured out what’s different between the good ones and the bad ones.  When I tell you what it is, I’m sure you’ll have one of those ‘head-slapping’ moments, wondering why you didn’t think of it earlier.  The difference between the good ones and the bad ones MUST be the tools.

Right?  Did I nail it?  What?  You don’t agree?  Wait – you mean you think the difference is that the bad contractors have bad skills????  But wait.  That can’t be right.  You see, I keep seeing people blame the tools instead of the people using the tools in other areas, so it MUST be the tools, not the worker.  Example?  Every time somebody uses a gun illegally the left runs out and screams that we have to get rid of guns – that the guns are the problem.  So if the gun is the problem when it’s used in a manner inconsistent with its intent, then the tools must be at fault when they are used in a sloppy or incompetent way. 

When you come right down to it, guns are ultimately just tools.  They meet a need (ask a policeman if he’d feel ‘right’ being unarmed or try to hunt geese without a shotgun.  Try to protect your family from an armed assailant without a firearm) and are basically no more than an extension of the person wielding them.

Each time this kind of awful tragedy occurs, we see a segment of the population run out and try to take the blame OFF of the person who actually committed the heinous act, and put it on the firearm they used.  I’m not the first person to say this, but isn’t it possible that if some of the teachers had been armed with SOMETHING other than dry-erase markers and binders that maybe a psychopath would not have as good a chance to kill so many?

People always ask the same question when this happens:  Why.  It’s the simplest and most basic question and it’s also the most important.  I would like to posit some reasons why we’re seeing this kind of thing a bit more:

-        For years we’ve taught our children that they can do no wrong.  Parents are afraid to tell their kids that they are wrong – they don’t want to hurt their feelings.  Have you ever been to a kids soccer game where they don’t take score?  What happens if you punish your child with a spanking or a stern talking to in public these days?  It’s easier to let our kids ‘self-determine’.  Society won’t take your kids away if you let your kid be a brat.  They will if you try to stop the bad behavior.

-          Kids see themselves as their own moral authority.  They are taught that they should follow their hearts and that they know what’s right.  There is no ultimate standard taught.  Our society is, at every level, trying to destroy religion by making it the butt of jokes, by attacking those who might believe that there is a God or even that the universe was created.  If you are a ‘creationist’, these days that will be used against you to keep you from holding just about any public office.  Turn on the TV and you’ll find that those who believe in and follow God and religion (particularly Christianity and Judaism) are treated as though they are stupid beyond belief.  If each individual is his/her own standard, then we are doomed – remember:  Hitler, Mussolini, Amin, Stalin… they all believed they were right.  I venture to say that this idiot who killed all of those children also thought he was right.

-          For years we’ve taught our children that they are without hope.  This is the real destructive power of the religion of ‘global warming’.  It takes away all hope of a future.  Kids today are taught in school that everyone they know and love is contributing to destroying the earth they are going to have to live in, and that they have no future because of all of the horrible people that came before.  No wonder they have so much anger and resentment.  When you teach people that they are doomed from the day they are born, we shouldn’t be surprised that they are a bit unstable.

-        We teach our children fear.  Helicopter moms are legion these days.  Kids aren’t allowed to go outside the view of their parents.  They aren’t allowed to explore the rain culverts, or climb the trees or ride their bikes to the woods or build tree-houses or play with B-B guns or any of a million other things that most of the 50+ generation did when we were kids.  It’s much safer to put them in front of a computer or PSP or TV.

One quick aside here:  which do you think is more likely to teach a kid gun safety and proper use:  having a B-B gun or playing Modern Warfare, hmmm?

So our children have no faith, no hope and no sense that they can be wrong when they have an idea or want to do something and they are afraid.  Since all of this isn’t bad enough, we do one more thing that is, in my opinion, unforgivable:  We screw around with their brain chemistry by giving them psychotropic drugs to help control their behavior.  I’m pretty sure that in just about every single case where this kind of thing has happened, it comes out that the kids were on some kind of ‘mental’ medication.  That can’t be a coincidence.  In fact, the labeling on many of these drugs (like Adderall, for example) warns of things like extreme nervousness and paranoid delusions – mood swings that might include hostility and severe aggression. 

The bottom line is that it’s a tragedy that this happened.  It’s a tragedy that so many died.  But it’s also a tragedy that we aren’t identifying the REAL cause and working to correct it.  The tool is not the problem.  The defective human being is the problem.  We need to give our kids hope, teach them that neither they nor any other human being is the ultimate authority, and let them learn to trust themselves and not fear.  Finally, we MUST get stop medicating our kids into oblivion.  It’s taken 50 years to screw this up, so we probably won’t see it fixed for many years, but we have to start.  Otherwise, we’re just blaming the bad workmanship on the tool and not on the workman.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


I’ve been listening to a lot of television and radio about the mid-east turmoil, the election, and just about every other thing that's going on out there.  It’s been very surreal, to say the least.  Every morning, I turn on Fox and Friends while getting ready for work.  I listen to radio most of the day while at work.  I catch the news in the evening before dinner.  My iPad is frequently on Flipboard, Drudge Report, and other news aggregators so I can keep up with the news.  I hear the results of polls, see stories about all kinds of things and see politicians everywhere telling me what’s wrong with the world and how they are going to fix it.

A couple of days ago as I was pondering why the federal government was involved in so many things that should be local issues, I suddenly realized something:  Nearly every liberal policy affecting our nation is due to the problems of the ‘city’.   If you think about it, things like gun control, police over-reach, TSA 4th amendment infringements, control of ‘sins’ like alcohol and tobacco, pollution, high-speed trains and mass transit, school reform, light bulb design, toilet flushing and many, many other issues are things that are primarily issues in the city.  Most small communities and rural areas don’t even consider most of these things to be anyone’s business but their own, yet we see torrents of legislation coming out of the federal government to control all of these things at every single level.

You may remember that in an earlier blog, I mentioned the problems with legislating almost anything at the federal level:  that legislation ignores the needs of the community and emphasizes the needs of… well, for the most part, the city dwellers and federal bureaucracy.  As an example, there are a lot of murders in Chicago, Washington DC, Miami, New York, Los Angeles, and most other big cities.  The vast majority of gun related violence occurs in the major cities.  As a result, the cities have laws about gun ownership and such.  As long as the state constitution doesn’t prohibit these laws, this is well within their purview, in my opinion, since they are not limited by the federal Constitution.  The issue is that because of this ‘local’ problem, and in spite of the local laws to deal with the problem, the federal government also wants to try to deal with the issue by putting bans on assault-style weapons and large clips, or by putting limits on purchases of ammunition.  The question must be asked:  Does Bozeman, Montana have a problem with these things that this new law will help?  Does Pikeville, Tennessee have a mass of people being killed with folks armed to the teeth with assault weapons?  What about Anderson, South Carolina or Sharpsburg, Georgia?  The answer, of course, is no.  To take this a step further, I’d go so far as to ask where, exactly, these federal laws make any difference OTHER than in gangland in a large city?

Don’t like the gun issue?  Ok, let’s try this one:  Abortion.  Currently, it’s the law of the land (by federal fiat from the Supreme Court in the form of Roe –v- Wade) that abortion is legal (i.e. - no state can make abortion illegal).  Since this is a federal mandate, it applies to every single person in the US of A. This makes the minority (about 41%) of the country happy, and the majority (about 50% of the country) unhappy according to the most recent Gallup polling.  Now what would happen if tomorrow Roe versus Wade was overturned?  The most obvious change would be that the states would once again get to decide if, based on their populations, if abortion was legal or not.  Contrary to what abortion rights advocates say, it would not mean that abortion would be illegal.  The interesting thing is that once again, about 50% of the country would be happy, and the other 41% would be unhappy.  The question must be asked:  “Why is the happiness of only ONE of the sides, relevant?”  If Roe-v-Wade were overturned, folks in states that did not want abortion to be legal would have to travel to states where it was legal to get their abortions, but actually more of the country would have their desires met:  If you didn’t want to live where abortion was legal, you could move.  As it stands now, since we have a federal law making abortion legal, there is nowhere in the U.S. you can go to get away from the mandate.  To make the point a bit stronger:  What if tomorrow it was ruled at the federal level that ALL abortions were illegal nation-wide?  Now the pro-abortion side is angry since there is nowhere to go to get an abortion!  This is the danger of federal law:  It can give, but it can also take away and it leaves no options.

Back on point, then:  Since most federal lawmaking seems to be aimed at solving problems where large masses of people live packed together (i.e. cities), then, as with abortion or gun control, we find ourselves, as a people, being hammered by laws that have no positive consequence outside of the conclaves where the problems that needed to be fixed were located.  We’re trying to fix a bad mayor or a bad governor with federal law.  That is insanity!  Are the problems of Chicago really the same problems that the people of Waveland, Mississippi face?  Of course not!  Writing law at the federal level impacts every single person in the country.

Unfortunately, the answer to this one is not easy.  Part of the problem is that we’ve somehow let Washington believe that just because we send money to them, and they then send some back to us, that they can control what we do.  We give up the ‘right’ to self-govern.  In what sane world does this make any sense?  Here’s the analogy:  I give you $5 to park in front of your house.  You decide you’re going to refund me $1.00, and in exchange, without my permission or approval, you decide you can now drive my car any time you want.  We wouldn’t put up with this in any other area of life, but we do when dealing with the Feds.  Why do we do that?  If the people of Michigan send tax money to the federal government, and they then send some of the money back to the state to pay for public schools, why does that mean that we have to give up all sovereignty as a state where our children’s education is concerned?  Very odd!  So step one is that we have to cut the cord to the federal money at the local, city and state level.  This makes it impossible for the feds to say, “Hey, if you don’t do it our way, we’re going to cut off the money!”  Just like that, the states get back a huge chunk of sovereignty.

At a personal level, the single most effective thing we can do is to elect men and women to all offices who will take their oath to the Constitution seriously.  That’s not always easy to do – politicians are very good liars.  I think the most impactful thing we could do was outlined in an earlier blog I did:  Eliminate re-election of all federal elected posts altogether.  As mentioned before, this changes the dynamic dramatically at the federal level.  It keeps fresh, and hopefully more idealistic people at the federal level.  In my opinion, it also adds a tremendous competition to see who can improve things the most.  We need to find a way to help our lawmakers, presidents, and appointee’s see that most of the United States is not made up of people crammed into tiny spaces where automobile ownership isn’t even that important.  They need to understand that for most of the country, you can’t just run out and hail a cab or jump on the subway to get to work.  They need to see that banning smoking in Pierre, South Dakota or Abilene, Texas because people in apartments in New York or Boston are complaining isn’t the solution.  It’s simply creating anger, distrust and frustration with an out-of-touch bureaucrat.  In my book, Washington trying to tell some town in Florida what flies must be protected is the very essence of out-of-touch.  Hey Washington:  We don’t need your help!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Do the Safety Dance!

I’ll bet that, regardless of whether or not you agree with me politically, I can make a political statement that we will both agree with.  Ready?  Here you go:  I am sick and tired of politicians who either don’t know or don’t care what their jobs are.  So what do you think?  Pretty good, eh?  And I’ll go one step further:  I think they actually DO know what their jobs are, and further that they know WE know they know what their jobs are, and I believe they just don’t really care one itty-bitty bit.

Case in point:  Recently, in an interview on CNN with Jessica Yellin, President Obama said the following:  “What is absolutely true is that my first job, my most sacred duty as President and Commander-in Chief, is to keep the American people safe…”.  Now I am going to make another bet.  I bet most of you reading this think that he’s right, right?  I mean, he is in charge of the military, and their mission is to keep us safe, right?

Let me give you a partial quote.  See if you know where this line comes from:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend …”

I know, I know – I left off the last few words.  We’ll get to those in a few minutes.  Do you know where these words come from?  These words are specified in article two, section one, clause eight of the United States Constitution.  Article two specifically defines the office of the Presidency, including what the term should be, how the President is elected, how the electors are chosen, when the election is to be held, who can be president, how they can be removed from office, the salary to be paid, the oath of office, and what powers the president has in the office.

So, based on the comment of the President of the United States, the end of that quote must be something like, “…the people of the United States.”  That would make a lot of sense, right?  Especially since 9-11, we have all been inundated with our federal, state and local governments ‘protecting’ us.  I was just listening to Bill O’Reilly on Fox News tonight and in his segment with Alan Colmes and Monica Crowley they all agreed that being safer is the thing that makes all of the cost worthwhile and that at least two of them don’t believe that they have lost any liberty since 9-11.  As an aside, I found it interesting that Alan Colmes, the most liberal one of that bunch, is the one that paraphrased Benjamin Franklin when he said, “Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither”.  Bill O’Reilly should know better and should know that just because he has only lost liberties that he doesn’t really use, doesn’t mean he hasn’t lost any liberty.

Back to where I was heading: To my way of thinking, the real question is, “Exactly how much protecting do we really need?”  When did we decide that a bunch of lawyers and accountants that we elected to write laws and deal with international issues could protect us?  As I mentioned in an earlier blog, one of my favorite quotes is, “when seconds count, the police are just minutes away.”  If the police are minutes away, how far off are the nitwits that populate our elected offices?  Ever sent a letter to a politician???

Sad to say, I may have to admit that we may have grown into a country where the Presidential oath will likely in effect, if not in fact, say, “… support and defend the people of the United States.”  But really, what’s wrong with that, I hear some of you asking.  Well, first, let’s see what the President actually swears to do.  Here’s the entire oath:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Well, the military MUST be there to protect us.  I bet their oath says something like that, right?  Here’s the oath of enlistment into all of our armed forces except the National Guard (the National Guard oath is very similar, but includes wording about the orders of the Governor of the state):

“I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

Hmmm – still nothing about protecting the people.  Maybe Congress is supposed to protect us:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

All right then.  It MUST be the Supreme Court, then:

"I, _________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."

One note here:  All federal employees are required by 5 U.S.C. 3331 to take this oath.

I can hear you asking, “Ok, so if the President, the Congress, the Supreme Court, the Military and all federal employees aren’t supposed to protect us, who, exactly IS supposed to protect us????”

The truth is that the job of the President (and Congress and the military), according to their oaths, is NOT to protect and defend the people.  The oath is very specific.  The primary function of the President – the ONLY function codified in an oath is the preservation, protection and defense of the Constitution of the United States.  But guess what?  This is even BETTER than an oath to protect us!  It’s nutshell time: 

The most important thing that our Federal Government can do is to adhere, rigidly, to their mandate in the Constitution!  If they will do that one, single, simple little thing, we will absolutely, unequivocally, be safe.  If the Federal Government preserves, protects and defends the Constitution, this obligates them to provide those things that protect the people, not only from those outside the country who would do us harm, but also from threats inside the country and from themselves.  The founding fathers were certainly concerned about enemies who would attack us.  However, it is also very clear when you read the Constitution and other writings at the time, that there was a tremendous amount of fear of the government and its ability to harm the people.

If you think this is an overstatement, remember that back in 2009 the Department of Homeland Security released a threat assessment called, “Rightwing Extremism:  Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment” (I bet somebody got paid by the word for that title!).  I don’t want to get too far off the topic, but here’s a quote from this idiotic document:

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

Wow – so if you are opposed to abortion (or any single issue, apparently), you are a right-wing extremist.  Since 50% or more of the population of the United States believes abortion to be wrong, that makes half of the country right-wing extremists.  I guess I wonder why you wouldn't be an extremist if you support abortion.  Aren’t both equally valid points of view?  This report goes on to label returning military veterans as potential “…violent neo-Nazis, skinheads and other white supremacists”.  It says that if you are opposed to illegal immigration, that you are an extremist.  It implies that if you and your friends all agree on one of these issues, that you may be a ‘small terrorist cell’. 

I don’t want to over-dramatize this or beat this horse too hard.  To be fair, when this report ‘accidentally’ become public, there was a huge out-cry and ultimately, the official pronouncement was that this document wasn’t official policy.  The problem is that there is a lot of official policy that does violate the oaths of office for our elected officials.  Searches and seizures without a warrant are forbidden by the 4th Amendment to the Constitution. However, if you’ve flown a commercial airline since the TSA came into being, your rights have been violated.  The Joe Biden written and George Bush/Barak Obama signed ‘Patriot Act’ (yes, it is ‘renewed’ every so many years, and President Obama approved it’s renewal) along with the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 provide for warrantless wiretaps, TSA VIPR teams doing stop and search in major cities and on highways, drones over U.S. cities, cop-a-feel searches at airports and now in subways, train and bus stations, the militarization of local police forces and many, many more direct violations of our liberties as defined in the Constitution.

If our Federal elected officials and the unelected beaurocrats that they put into power simply follow the Constitution, then our liberties are protected, our national security is assured and our ability to thrive and grow as a society and nation are secured.  Our military will always be used to further the goal of protecting the Constitution from those who would harm it – whether they are Islamic extremists or another country threatening our sovereignty.  The Congress will always be watching that the laws they pass fall within their powers, and the President will act as a backstop against laws that aren’t Constitutional, and Congress will act as a backstop against a President trying to grab too much power.  The Supreme Court will ultimately act as the final arbiter of conflict between the laws and Constitution.  At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.

To my way of thinking, the real problem is that instead of providing ‘safety’ to the American People, by ignoring their oaths, the Federal Government is making us all less safe.  The people are very capable of taking care of themselves if they are just left alone.  Want proof?  How many terrorist threats have been ‘handled’ by the people instead of by the government?  The shoe bomber and the underwear bomber come to mind right out of the box.  What about the Time Square bomber?  On 9-11, which we are commemorating today, did the government save even one life?  Of course not.  The closest thing to a ‘save’ on that day was by the PEOPLE on flight 93 fighting back.  Nobody else had a chance.  The government is very good at Policing – but remember, that Policing is almost always something that happens AFTER something else happens.

The people will ALWAYS be the first line of defense when there is an attack within our nation.  That is our part of the pact with our nation.  We pledge allegiance to the flag, and to the United States of America, and to the Republic for which that Flag and the United States stand.  That’s your part of the pact.  It’s my part of the pact.  We have a duty and an obligation as citizens.  And trust me: it isn’t to watch the Kardashians or Survivor.  We get to do those things because we maintain a free society with government that is “… of the people, by the people and for the people…”.  Trust me when I say we do NOT want that to perish from the earth.  We must remind our elected representatives that they work for us - not the other way around.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!

If I asked you the question, “How can the government create jobs?”, what would you answer?  It’s an important question.  More and more people are out of work. Many have given up looking for work.  Many others have taken jobs that are completely out of their fields in an effort to keep food on the table and not rely on government hand-outs.  This question of how the government creates jobs is pivotal in the coming elections this November.  Each candidate says they have the key.  The question is, do they really?

In order to figure out what the key is, we need to ask a simple question:  What would the conditions for maximum employment look like and how do they differ from today?  To answer this question, we need to come up with a baseline scenario – a ‘test-world’, if you please, to experiment on:

1.       In our world, the people need the products and services that the companies (small businesses, large businesses, self-employed people, farmers, ranchers, factories, bakeries, retail sales, etc) produce.

2.       There is zero influence coming from outside of the company by any governmental agency.  In other words, the only influencers of the company’s products and services are from its own internal governance and from the people who purchase the product or service.  This means no regulations, no taxes, no OSHA, no EPA, no working conditions requirements, no healthcare mandates – the only outside influence or impact on the company is the customer.  The company produces the products/services and the people either buy or don’t buy the product.

3.       Companies hire people based on the need of the company to produce the goods or services.  In our perfect scenario, they hire good people with the appropriate skills and abilities, and pay them fair wages to make sure they keep those good people.

4.       A company that does not pay a fair wage or treat its workers well will lose its workers to other companies that do.

5.       If a company produces a product or service that isn’t needed, they will either go out of business or have to change their product or service into something that is needed.

6.       If the companies want their product or service to sell, the people need to have enough money to buy the product or service.  Competition between companies and demand for the best people leads to good salaries.  This leads to people buying more products and services, thereby driving the output of companies to whatever level the economy will sustain.

7.       None of the money that the company makes is sent to any government agency.  No lawyers are needed to deal with regulations, rules or mandates.  Lawsuits related to product issues are strictly handled between the customer and the company through the court system.  No government interference or fines.

In this world, driven completely and totally by demand and supply (of products and people), we can imagine pretty close to maximum employment.  Companies have only a single goal that they need to deal with:  getting more customers with their products.  This is the basis of a capitalist system.  I either need a product or want a product or am convinced by someone that I need/want a product, and someone produces this product for me and I pay them for it.  As any kid who has mowed lawns in the summer can attest, the system works pretty well.  My neighbors have yards.  I have a mower.  I want money.  They want their grass cut.  I undercut the competition or offer some other incentive for them to use me to cut their grass.  I trade my time and effort and resources (my lawnmower and gasoline) so that I have money to spend for the products and services that I want.  If I do a good job, money continues to come my way and life is good.  If I do a bad job, my competition will take over for me and get the money.  It’s simple and it neatly falls into the description above.

So let’s take my example lawn service and play with it a bit.  Let’s call it “Doug’s Lawn Care”.  I start out with a single employee:  myself.  Let’s say that I can comfortably mow 3 or 4 lawns per day by myself.  I’m charging a fair price and providing a good service.  Let’s say that I’m charging $20 per lawn.  People really like how I mow their lawns.  They tell their friends and pretty soon, I’m completely maxed out on lawns.  I’m now mowing 4 lawns per day, 7 days per week.  I really don’t want to mow any more lawns since I want to have time to spend with my friends and enjoy the money I’ve made.  However, demand for my services is so high, I hire a friend to help me.  This friend and I agree about how much we will each get along with a small amount of each lawn charge going into a savings account that we can use for growing the business (advertising, parts for the mowers or new mowers, and that kind of thing), and our goal is to double the number of lawns we cut, since there are now two of us.

This works well.  Now, instead of 28 lawns per week, we are able to cut 54 lawns per week and still be able to enjoy life.  Things are great!  Pretty soon, we are able to hire more friends and we are now mowing nearly every lawn in the neighborhood.  We have achieved maximum employment!  There are no more lawns to be mowed (demand) and we have exactly enough people to mow them all (supply) and our cost of doing business (maintaining the mowers) is managed by the money we put aside.

At this point, the neighborhood association comes to Doug’s Lawn Care and says, “We don’t like the fact that you’re using gasoline powered lawn mowers.  It’s too noisy and the smell makes us sneeze.  Also, the planet gets sick when you use gasoline.  To cut the grass in our neighborhoods, you must use these special electric mowers that cost 5 times as much but are environmentally friendly.”

Whoa.  Now we have to buy a bunch of expensive electric lawn mowers and extension cords?   The electric mowers don’t last as long, are more expensive to maintain and have to be replaced regularly.  The electric mowers are smaller and much harder to use, so we won’t be able to cut as many lawns anywhere near as fast.  Our savings money isn’t anywhere near enough to deal with these new costs.  These regulations and ‘taxes’ reduce the ‘pool’ of money that we have.  To meet the new requirements, we will either all have to take a pay cut to pay for the new equipment or we’ll have to reduce the number of people cutting lawns.  Nobody wants to take less money, so the only way to deal with this is to reduce the number of people cutting yards and/or increase the cost of the yards we cut, but still cut the same number of yards.  We can’t get more yards, since we already have all of the yards.  Hiring more people in other neighborhoods to cut more yards isn’t possible, since we already don’t have enough money to cut the yards we have. 

Pretty soon, to meet the requirements, I’ve reduced my staff by half, raised the price of a yard to $30 and we’re each cutting 8 yards per day and it’s taking a lot longer per yard.  Nobody but the Association is happy.  The workers hate the longer hours and less play-time, the laid-off workers are unhappy since they don’t have any money and the homeowners don’t like the higher cost and their electric bills are going up.  Some of them begin to cancel their contracts with Doug leading to even more layoffs and fewer yards mowed.

The neighborhood association gets together and says, “We know what the problem is!  Doug’s company is greedy and they don’t hire enough people.  We want them to hire more people.  We need to figure out how we can stimulate the number of jobs that Doug’s Lawn Care provides.”  They come up with all kinds of answers:

1.       We’ll ask each homeowner to give us some money and we’ll ask Doug’s Lawn Care to give us some money that we can give to a bank, so that Doug can go borrow the money to pay for the new employees.

2.       We’ll ask each homeowner to give us some money and we’ll ask Doug’s Lawn Care to give us some money that we can give to a bank, so that Doug can go borrow the money to pay for the new lawnmowers.

3.       We’ll ask each homeowner to give us some money and we’ll ask Doug’s Lawn Care to give us some money so that we can create a fund that is managed by the association that can be loaned out to Doug so that he can pay for new employees.  Of course, some of that money has to be paid to the managers of the fund.

4.       We’ll ask each homeowner to give us some money and we’ll ask Doug’s Lawn Care to give us some money so that we can pay the difference in cost between the original $20 and the new $30 lawn fee so that everyone’s lawn looks nice and nobody has to go without lawn service.

5.       We’ll make rules that all lawn mowers must be union workers so that Doug can’t lay them off and so the amount of money they make can’t be reduced and so the amount of work they do is not too high.  Doug will have to make homeowners pay more.  As more homeowners cancel their service, Doug will have to raise the price on the other homeowners to keep paying the people he can’t afford to keep.

6.       Oh.  I guess one other option might be that we could eliminate the electric mower requirement, there-by reducing the cost of doing business, but this makes us sneeze and polar bears are drowning!

Of course, all of the options they come up with, with the exception of the last one, require the homeowner to pay.  The difference is that the homeowner can decide he doesn’t want to pay Doug and he can cut his own grass.  However, they can’t decide to not pay the homeowner’s association!  They break kneecaps!  Ultimately, Doug goes out of business and files bankruptcy since he can’t pay the loans off that were given to him to keep him afloat.

I think you can see the point I’m trying to make:  the ONLY reason government can improve on the jobs numbers is because the government is the one that limited the jobs in the first place.

During this economic downturn, the response of our elected officials is that there must not be enough regulations, taxes, fees and such on the corporations and job creators.  Therefore, the fix to the problem is to tax and regulate everyone more (especially those companies and small businesses that won’t/can’t hire) so that the money can be given or loaned to ‘stimulate’ hiring.  In what world is this sane?

Ironically, the politicians are at least partly right:  Government does have a role to play in creating jobs (or perhaps more accurately, in RE-creating jobs), but only in-as-far as they created the loss of jobs in the first place.  Unfortunately, like our fictitious homeowners association, they keep coming up with the wrong answer.  Thinking that you can increase the cost of doing business and that somehow that will ‘punish’ or push companies into doing more hiring is not just wrong-headed – it’s stupid.

The answer to the jobs problem is simple and it involves several approaches:

1.       Reduce the burden on the company.  This means fewer regulations, lower fees, less taxes

2.       Reduce the burden on the customers.  This means reducing taxes on the people who would buy the products and services and reducing government interference in the market overall.

3.       Create a stable environment for business.  This means adopting a pro-business attitude in all aspects of government oversight.  It means not demonizing corporate profits, which ultimately are the main reason a company is in business!  Ideally, most business regulations would roll over to the states.  Most issues can be dealt with at the state level without federal interference.

Politicians like to make us think that what they do is way above us mere mortals; that we just don’t understand the issues or the complexities.  I think they are at least partially right, in that I really do NOT understand the politician’s response to most things.  However, just because I can’t understand their moronic ideas doesn’t mean I don’t understand the issue or how it can and should be handled.   If you think about it, it really is simple:  If the number of jobs is reduced because government has imposed costs and restrictions on companies, then the only way to improve the jobs numbers in any meaningful way is to get government out of the way.  Unfortunately, since doing this does not benefit government, it’s likely to be an up-hill battle.  It requires them to reverse the things they did to limit the jobs in the first place and accept responsibility for screwing things up initially.

One last thing:  I have heard several democrats make the same idiotic charge lately:  Reducing taxes on corporations will reduce the money coming into the government thereby imperiling social programs and other vital needs.  Why do we accept such drivel?  If we accept for a moment that all of those social programs are actually needed (and I don’t), then think it through:  If we reduce the cost and difficulty of doing business, then business will grow.  When business grows, people are hired.  When people are hired, consumerism/demand increases.  When consumerism/demand increases, companies have to produce more.  When companies produce more, they have to hire more people.  Voila! It’s the great circle of prosperity.  Everyone, including government, benefits, because:

-          People are hired – they pay taxes

-          People have money to buy things.  The things they buy are taxed at every point from raw materials through point-of-sale.  More things made and sold = more taxes paid

-          Companies produce products and services – they pay more taxes and hire more people

-          More people hired, better pay for work =more taxes

Finally, I can hear some of you screaming at your monitors: “We don’t want the government to get all that money!  You’re playing into their game!”  Trust me:  I believe we are ALL over-taxed.  We need a fair tax system (as in everyone pays – even the poor.  We all need some skin in the game and an understanding of what government costs us).  In my ideal world, it would be a flat rate tax established in the constitution and only changeable by a constitutional amendment, with zero deductions.  In my less than humble opinion, it is NOT the job of government to incentivize or penalize any person’s legal behaviors.  But this is a discussion for another day.

Monday, August 20, 2012

It's Finally Time for the Fix!

For a long time, I’ve struggled with the question of term limits and reelection questions.  For years I’ve heard conservatives (and even some liberals) saying some variation of “we need term limits – Senators and congressmen should serve no more than 2 (or 3 or 4) terms!  This will solve the problem!”  The belief seems to be that if we can limit these guys to two or three terms that we will fix the problems since, of course, that means someone else will have to take the seat of power that they have and that crony-ism will disappear.  And, to a certain extent, this is true.  However, I have come to believe that this is actually playing into the problem and doesn’t go anywhere near far enough.

 As I see it, there are several problems endemic to our current structure:

-       Politicians can get in office, do favors for big donors, shower their district with money, and ultimately use name-recognition to stay in power for decades, if they’re good at playing the game

-       Long-time office-holders have huge power based on committee membership, tenure in the office, personal favors and the like.  If you are a young, idealistic member and cross a powerful Senator or Congressman, your ability to do anything other than warm your seat is nearly zero

-       Re-election campaigns take huge amounts of time and money.  Politicians who are in office, immediately start figuring out how to stay in office.  I mean, it’s a sweet gig, if you can get it!  Decent salary, money from lobbyists, deals that can make you very wealthy and powerful, health-care, and a retirement program that is next to none.  Are our politicians really being productive if their number one objective is keeping all that stuff and their position?

-       When an office-holder leaves office, frequently there are a cadre of unelected ‘handlers’ that stay behind for the next person coming into the office to make their transition into the job easier and to make sure they know their place

Let’s see if I can find a way to express the problem in one sentence.  Let’s try this:  Running for re-election is at the core of most of the problems in politics.  Yep.  It may be a little bit of an exaggeration, but not by much.  Name just about anything that you dislike about someone in elected office, and it almost certainly is at least to some extent, impacted by the need for re-election.

My solution is very simple.  I’m advocating the complete elimination of more than one consecutive term for ANY federal elected politician.  Imagine it…  A president comes into office, works from the day he is inaugurated until the day he leaves, and doesn’t spend a single minute working on re-election since he can’t be re-elected.  Members of Congress – same thing. They have nothing to do but their jobs! 

Simplicity is the key to success, so here are the key elements I’d like to see in this reform:

1.    One and only one term in office for all federal elected offices including the Presidency

2.    A maximum of two Non-consecutive terms are allowed

3.    If you are elected to an office, you can’t be elected to any OTHER office until a minimum of two years after your last term ended

4.    Elimination of any payment or benefit (health insurance, retirement, etc) to elected officials after their term of office ends (with the possible exception of the Presidency – we’d have to talk about this one)

5.    Sitting elected officials would not be allowed to campaign for or publicly support ANYONE running for any office

6.    Anyone who has held public office cannot participate in any campaign or be a part of any government office (including as a staffer for another elected official) for the equivalent of one term of office after they leave office.

7.    Terms of office should overlap by 30 days.  This gives the outgoing official time to transition everything to the incoming official.  Generally, power would be shared during that time, but only the incoming official has the power to vote, sign legislation, submit bills, etc.  The outgoing official is in an advisement capacity only.

8.    Staffs are equally not allowed to serve beyond the term of their boss and will assist in the transition, but cannot be part of the next term.

In addition, I’d like to see these changes implemented around this concept:

1.    Reverting election of the Senate to the original intent in the constitution:  Senators would be selected by the legislatures of the many states and would serve up to a six year term.  Keep in mind that they would serve at the pleasure of their legislature and could be recalled and replaced at any time, if the state so desired.

2.    The House would serve a two year term and be elected as they are now

3.    The President would serve a four year term and be elected as happens now, via the electoral college

These changes would, of course, involve amending the constitution.  However, these changes would, in my opinion, change American politics forever for the better.  Throughout history, the professional politician has mangled and destroyed more nations, people, wealth, and prosperity than anything else.  Remember:  No war begins without a politician.  No trade or embargo happens without a politician.  No foreign policy happens without a politician. These things are crucial to a nation, and politics, especially fearing re-election repercussions, cause people to make decisions that are not always in the best interest of the nation as a whole.

I can see lots of up sides to doing this.  For example…

-       Offers of support (i.e. – money) for their next campaign would be non-existent once they are in office since they can’t run again

-       Actual representation of the states that sent them starts to actually happen

-       I bet we’d see third-party candidates start to have more influence

-       No real need for redistricting – that’s just a tool for re-elections

-       Since a sitting politician can’t support anyone running for office, there’s no need for fund-raising trips, stump speeches, rallies and other things to get in the way of their work

-       The politician can be 100% focused on their work

-       Since we are eliminating all of that time spent stumping and pumping for re-election, perhaps the Congress can once again be a part-time entity – hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?

-       Since everyone would be new every few years, the ‘good-old-boys-club’ becomes almost impossible to maintain.

There are probably LOTS of other positives.  I'm sure there are some negatives as well, like maybe the loss of all of that experience would be bad.  Or that we'd wind up with a bunch of amateurs that don't know how to legislate running things.  Hmmm - I don't know why, but neither of those scare me as much as a bunch of deep insider, crony jack-asses playing with my future and the future of my children.

I like to dream, and although the chances of this ever happening seem absolutely invisible, it is fun to imagine a presidential campaign where all of the candidates were private citizens.  Imagine not having to pay for the re-election campaign of the president, who has to fly around on Air Force One or drive around on Greyhound Bus One while he or she should be dealing with a faltering economy or unemployment or wars in multiple countries.

All of this dreaming got me to thinking about other things I’d like…

In my ideal world, I’d kind of like to see these changes as well:

-       First and foremost:  Case law and foreign law should NEVER be used to evaluate the constitutionality of anything. The constitution IS our country.  It is the document that establishes the form of our Federal government, the restrictions on it, the makeup of our republic and the limits on its power as relates to the states and the people.  Any law or court case that hinges on a constitutional matter MUST be evaluated against the constitution itself and not some other person’s opinion about it.  The problem with using case law is that it assumes that the last guy or last court got it right.  That may be fine with laws that are challenged outside of constitutional grounds, but when it comes to the foundational documents that say who we are as a country, each and every challenge MUST be evaluated on its own merits against the standard.  Using case law as the comparison for constitutionality is like the old VHS video-tape problem of a copy of a copy of a copy.  The original still looks good, but the copy stinks.  It is crucial that the evaluation of anything as being constitutional or not must be in comparison to the standard itself, and not to a copy in the form of someone’s opinion.

-       Lawyers would NOT be allowed to run for any political office in the legislative branch of the government.  Let’s face it:  it’s a conflict for those writing the laws to also be in the position of using those laws in the private sector.  I refer you to wolves guarding the henhouse.  It seems to me that the possibility of writing law to benefit other lawyers is just too great.  Not to mention, if we get rid of lawyer/lawmakers, maybe we, the people who have to live under those laws, will understand the laws that are written.

-       For a period of 10 years from the time this law was passed, extendible in 5 year increments, for every law that is written, 5 laws must be eliminated.  This is SO needed.  There are so many laws on the books – so much duplication and contradiction.  To make things worse, there is a huge mass of case law surrounding this mountain of laws, and on top of all that, there is another mountain of rules made by each of the Federal departments that the law pertains to (Ever seen the Obama-care legislation?  Any idea how many times “…as deemed appropriate by the secretary” or words to that effect appear?).  This makes it impossible for the citizen to pretty much do anything in life without breaking some law, somewhere.  Turning us all into unwitting lawbreakers is NOT a good thing and not what we would expect from a free society.

What do you think?  Any of that make sense?  Hey, while we’re dreaming, I’d like to see these as well…

-       Go to a single standard of proof for civil and criminal cases.  This would prevent the silliness caused by someone being found innocent of a criminal complaint, then being sued by the victim for the crime they were found innocent of, and being found guilty.  It should not be possible to be innocent of something and then be found guilty under a different standard.  Whether you agree or disagree with the ruling on O.J. Simpson, once he was found innocent, he should NOT have been able to be sued into poverty for the crime he was found innocent of committing.  That is not justice.

-       Loser pays.  Period.  If you are accused of a crime by the state or sued by someone else, and you win, the loser, no matter who it is, pays.  This MUST apply to even criminal cases.  I would go so far as to say that if you are found guilty and later determined to be innocent, that the state or feds must repay all costs to the innocent party and recompense them for all lost wages, loss of status and for any suffering they had because of that bad ruling.  There MUST be consequences for bad decisions.  The state must be held accountable if the rest of us are going to be.  A person can be utterly ruined by a lawsuit that they win.  Example?  When I was going through concealed carry class in Missouri, at that time there was no castle doctrine.  The instructor made it clear that if you defended yourself against someone trying to kill you, even if you weren’t charged with a crime, the average person would have to pay between $80,000 and $200,000 in legal fees to fight the lawsuits that would certainly be brought by the family of the criminal.  Can you afford that?  Sure, it beats being dead, but not by much.

So, that’s my vision for America.  What do you think?