Thursday, December 13, 2007

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

First of all, let me say that I used to be a huge baseball fan. I ate, drank, and slept baseball. I have followed Major League Baseball since the 60's. I am not really that big of a fan now. It has passed me in price. I somehow cannot reconcile Alex Rodriguez making a teacher's annual salary every time he steps up to the plate.

Baseball was a sport that offered something that many of us used to dream of: a five to ten year vacation between high school and the real world, when we got paid to play for a while. Then we grew up and worked like everyone else. Now, even a .200 batter with no home runs thinks it's his right to get a million dollars a year, and guaranteed retirement so he never has to work. We've created one more generation of parasites. Of course, there are the Nolan Ryans who invest their earnings in banks, ranches, and other things. But they are the exception, not the rule.

But that's not why I'm posting today. I just needed to lay the groundwork. I'm not a baseball fanatic any more, so there is no love of the game that motivates me to come to some as-yet-unnamed players' defense.

We are awaiting, within a few minutes of the completion of this article, the revelation of 50 to 80 players' names -- people who are named as "suspected" of using anabolic steroids. In other words, no one has any evidence that will hold up in court: we just want some new names to drag through the mud. Already, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettite have been "named," but of course, that's the baggage that comes with playing for the Yankees. In my own personal observation of Pettite, he doesn't match any dimension of a drug user. I doubt he's ever even overdosed on cough drops. But he's a big name, and that's what they pay the big bucks for.

Who are the people George Mitchell needs to be investigating? Let's start with the people who hired him. For a decade now, baseball has been held hostage by an "interim" commissioner who shouldn't be there. He's one of the owners. It makes as much sense as letting Don Fehr be commissioner. There has been absolutely nothing done to make baseball attractive. In fact, those in charge of MLB would be fired from any viable corporation that was not a monopoly in the first place. No attempt has been made to please the fans; only soak them. Where else is water sold for 20 dollars a gallon? Where else would they destroy children's interest by scheduling games that run after midnight?

Sketch a MLB logo of your favorite team on the wall of your store, and the MLB mafia will probably come in and shake you down for a "licensing fee," or tear your wall down, whichever you want.

But as evil as they are, the media papparazi has them beat. They are waiting to tear apart people and careers. By the time you read this, you will probably know the names of those who are being accused. No grand juries, no indictments. Just a former government suit and tie who a baseball team-owner-turned-commissioner hired to take the heat off his own incompetence.

Some of the people may be guilty. They may even be as guilty as OJ or Robert Blake. But they will not get a fair trial. They have been hung by the media already.

As I see the major news outlets salivating to get their hands on this document, I just try to remember where it came from. These players may be overpaid, indulging, excessive underperformers, but they are being unjustly lumped together.

They don't deserve this. It shouldn't happen. In our scandal-hungry culture, where checkout-stand "news" is accepted as fact without question, this is just another example of the seamy side of what is called "justice." It shouldn't happen. But then again, we had no choice. Baseball's "in charge" people, both in management and "labor" (for lack of a better word), ask no input from fans or those who pour billions into their sport annually.

It is for this reason that I no longer watch baseball, neither live nor on TV, and no longer subscribe to any baseball publications. Then, when someday, A-Rod is making 100 million a year for hitting a little white ball, I can at least take comfort in the fact that not one penny of that is coming from me. But if he's in the slander document set to be released about -- now -- I will be the first to come to his defense. Even he, overpaid and overrated as he is, in a children's game that doesn't matter in the long haul, doesn't deserve this. And no one else does, either.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Have I Lost Interest?

Rest assured, tiny number who read this blog, that I am alive and still as opinionated as ever. Unfortunately, the press of a very busy schedule has overwhelmed me in the last month. Additionally, nothing of real import has happened in the presidential race (way too long as it is).

I will make a prediction, however. Neither Hilary nor Rudy nor McCain nor Obama will be their party's nominee. A month ago, I could not have said that.

I still do not know who will actually be there next November, but we can rest assured that the ones who have spent the most money will, refreshingly, not be the ones who get the most votes. I call it the "Connally factor," which I will explain at some time in the future.

This entry is just a place holder. Like Rudy Guiliani and Mitt Romney, it won't be here much longer.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Meaningless with Zeroes on It

Well, tomorrow is the real Columbus Day. I'm looking forward to all the parades, the celebrations, and they other festivities -- that won't happen. No one will even think about it being Columbus day because it was "moved" to last Monday. I remember when I first heard of Columbus day in elementary school; for some reason my parents had forgotten to tell me about this holiday.
My first impressions of C-day were of someone who took the risk of possibly sailing off the edge of a flat world, against the advice and counsel of all of Europe and Asia. I saw him planting a flag -- possibly an American flag -- somewhere on the coast of, probably, Florida. All of us elementary kids looked forward to that special day in 1992 when we would celebrate 500 years of America. Somehow, I tied Columbus up with the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving.

What a wake-up call we've had. First of all, the 1992 celebrations never happened. By the time the 500th rolled around, Christopher Columbus was a white European racist who ruined world history. He somehow opened the door to the evil Europeans who came in and destroyed the diverse but peaceful native American culture, with its tranquil nature/religion, tolerance, and environmental awareness. By 1992 he was one of the top ten hated people in America.
--And the poor guy never even made it here! While some people say he may have gotten all the way to Central America, he probably never got beyond some Caribbean islands.

Of course, the whole civilized world knew the planet was round. They just thought it was a little smaller. Nations were vying with each other to get to the Orient first; the Portuguese had already taken the around-the-horn-of-Africa route, so they had to look elsewhere. If Columbus had not come; America still would have been "discovered." Everyone knew it was there.

The overt hatred of "all things Columbus," however, didn't overrule the holiday celebration. We still celebrate the day. Why? Because Columbus champions that great American value, the Long Weekend! For the rest of history, we will teach our children that a racist white man, at the bidding of a racist white government, was sent to a pure land to defile and destroy a culture of innocents, and he got there on a Monday -- every year!

Our children will not question why we celebrate such an evil exploit. All they know is that the bank is closed, you can't mail letters, and sometimes you even miss school because of whatever this man did.

If there is any better example of modern post-American nihilism, I can't think of it. We celebrate a man that our culture hates by taking off a day from work, and we usually don't even "celebrate" the right day, because what we're really celebrating is a decline in productivity and responsibility. When the "no-work/long-weekend" crowd moved the day to Monday in the "Stupid 70's," they moved a lot more. Even July 4th was under consideration (that would have been even funnier: "This bank will be closed July 7th for July 4th"), and many otherwise "meaningless" holidays were kidnapped and moved to Monday.

I celebrate the veterans who explained that November 11 was an actual historical date, and demanded that November 11 be celebrated -- surprise -- on November 11. At least one group had the backbone necessary to stand up to this 70's silliness. Of course, poor Columbus was not the only victim. We managed to bash two more White males. By combining Lincoln's birthday and Washington's birthday, we now have "Presidents' Day," another Monday off. The sad irony is that the guidelines for taking this Monday is that it is impossible for "Presidents' Day" to fall on either of these two men's birthdays.

When a new generation asks the one just past what the meaning of life is all about, we will have less satisfying info to give them than any other American generation before us. Throw Monday "holidays" for insignificant events into the pile with the Electoral College, the two-minute warning in football, and Sundays off, as things that no one remembered what they were for. We do so many things now that are meaningless. That's why, when something really does account for something, we need to stand up for it. The best thing we can leave for the next generation is meaning.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Inflammatory Journalism

I have an ongoing problem with CNN. It's one thing to report on valid news with whatever slant an agency has, be it to the left or right; it's quite another to attempt to "puff" a story and make it big news. ABC has a problem with that often. I turn on "Good Morning America" to see how things went overnight in Iraq, Washington, and anywhere else newsworthy. Too often I have to hear first who one on "Dancing with the Stars." That's artificial journalism, though not with malicious intent on the part of ABC -- Disney has always been known for its overzealous self-promotion -- but it sure messes up the priorities on what's important.

CNN, on the other hand, has been intentionally irresponsible. As if we didn't already have enough racially inflammatory events that have actually happened, they had to invent one. I'm genuinely sorry about the accident last week. It's always tragic when someone dies. Four teens were out well after midnight after leaving a party, and at a high rate of speed, lost control of a car. Alcohol was probably a factor as well. None of them had seat belts on. All were thrown from the car. One of the two surving teens made his way to the road and waved for help, and a motorist called 911. The police appeared immediately to offer aid to the two survivors. They told police of two other occupants, but in the dark of night, the police did not find them. At to this an incoherency of speech due to, at least, the excitement of the moment, and they assumed that the other two had possibly left the scene of the accident.

The incident poses questions to me immediately. Why was there alcohol available to minors at a late night party? How will we ever get young people to protect themselves if they don't even have the sense to "buckle up" when they drive? Why would parents not be concerned where their children were late at night?

Hours later, grieving parents went to the scene of the accident and, combing the wreckage, found the bodies that had been thrown from the car. The coroner has noted that the two probably died instantly from the high-speed impact. Sad, indeed, and regrettable. Lives and potential lost.

Now enter CNN. Give some understanding to grieving parents. They have made accusations, angry commentary, and asked for action. If I were in their shoes, I might have done the same thing, because I'd be hurting, looking for some reason in the midst of total loss. Any understanding parent would give them a pass and allow them to vent. They also need to be shown love from family, friends, and their minister.

But back to CNN. Their slant is one thing: Police negligence! It was the police's fault. In spite of the coroner's report, they believe that police inaction led to the boys' death (not speeding, alcohol, or lack of a seat belt). They readily quote the parents' call for the police commissioner's resignation; after all, he had to be the cause of this.

Let's be sure to play the race card. We have been inundated with the fact that the victims are all black; the parents are black. The police must have delayed their search because they didn't care if black people died; right? Interestingly, no one has mentioned the color of the police involved. I don't know whether they were black or white. I look forward to the day when the so-called egalitarian media can report a story without using race as a factor. It is time for us to follow Dr. King's "dream," and talk, not about the color of skin, but the content of character.

I wrote a letter to CNN on the day they headlined the inflammatory article. I got an auto-response, of course, which means, "No one of any import will ever read this, because we really don't care what you think." The next day, they were still riding the article, this time with a quote from one of the surviving kids, "If not for the police, they would still be alive." Now we're supposing the (white) police pushed these poor black kids into the ditch and left them to die there, kind of like "Mississippi Burning." I wrote another letter to CNN; same response.

Now, two days after the last story, they headlined it again, noting again how the father found the victims after the police refused to.

Is this a tragic event? Of course! Does our heart go out to those who are suffering through this? You'd better believe it! Has CNN showed responsible journalism? Yes, if you call Wal-Mart-waiting-line-tabloid-Elvis-is-Alive news articles "responsible." Otherwise, it is shameful. We don't need more inflammatory journalism. There were some wrongs here, but they were not with the police. I'm wanting to know who supplied alcohol to these minors. I'm wanting to know about the after-midnight party, and why they were there. I'm wanting to know why all these concerned parents weren't concerned about where their children were at 1 AM.

But CNN wants to widen the race gap, for reasons I don't understand. They want to accuse the people who work for half the salary of a news journalist, who stay out all night trying to prevent what happened in this terrible accident.

It's cheap journalism, and they don't have to answer to anyone about it. How long they can milk this story, I don't know. But if everyone is to share blame for the tragedy of this event, give a big portion of it to CNN. This is not journalism; it's childish irresponsibility.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Good News or Bad News?

The strike is over. Nobody really wanted it in the first place. It was a lose/lose situation. Not like the good old days, when half a million or more workers in Detroit would carry placards for a few weeks while suits and ties hammered out a save-face way for a super-wealthy automaker to share some of the wealth.

Everybody in the union had to know that a strike would help no one. They just couldn't let go of a sacred tradition. There are some sad elements to this strike. It shows the changing face of history. The strike itself is outdated and obsolete, and hails back to how it was two generations ago:

  • First, these things worked when America was a nation of manufacturers. We simply outpriced ourselves. Our labor is so expensive now that we can't fix anything, and have to subcontract someone else to actually make things. The force of organized labor was that Americans were needed to swing hammers, pull levers, and even push buttons. That doesn't happen anymore. If the strike had continued for any time at all, it would have done a good thing for GM: allowed them to dispose of the nine month backlog of manufactured vehicles that are crowding American car lots at the moment. It would have also done the inevitable bad thing: given a certain market share to Toyota, Honda, and Mazda, who already have a chokehold on American auto buyers, not because these car makers are evil, but because they make good cars that last for hundreds of thousands of miles. GM would have won for a short term, and foreign auto makers would have won in the long term. The workers wouldn't have won at all.
  • Second, these things worked when America had affordable health care. The "big three" automakers have all backed themselves into a hole: the high cost of health care. From the days of Henry Ford, American auto makers have seen to the health and welfare of their employees. The biggest economic problem for Ford and GM has actually been health care recently. Since medicaid and medicare pumped the prices up to impossibly high levels, even multi-billion dollar corporations can no longer afford to cover their valuable employees as they did in the past. The employees of GM wanted the health care plans of the 60's, and even if GM had wanted to do it, they couldn't have afforded it. That's why it was so easy for GM to part with 50 billion dollars to end the negotiations. While that will flatten any profits for the next few quarters, in the long run, it's a bargain.
Now the ball is in the court of the UAW. What will they do with 50 billion dollars to take care of the employee health plan? Historically, organized labor has fought tooth and nail to take control of the money boxes, usually in the form of pension plans. Ten years ago, that is how UPS got the Teamsters off their backs: they gave the pension fund away to the union. I don't know what the Teamsters have done with it, and I'm afraid to say anything too bad (I'm thinking about Jimmy Hoffa), but a pension fund is a walk in the park compared to managing health care.

I try to envision what the next decade of health care for GM workers will embody. I can already envision what is going on in the CEO's office of GM. Relief. The medical costs were killing the profits. I'll admit I don't know enough about these things, but it appears that GM has gotten rid of a problem child. I do not know if they will still be responsible for health costs or not. I suppose that there will need to be payments to the union on the part of employees; I'm sure that GM will take up a portion of that, though I'm not sure how much.

It's a big opportunity for the UAW, though. I'm imagining a person of true vision and creativity, restructuring the health care plan, and making it work for the tens of thousands of employees. Maybe they could even talk to Hilary Clinton. What better opportunity than this microcosm would she have to give her plan a dry run? If the UAW could somehow develop a managed healthcare plan that precluded policy holder abuse as well as provider overages, they could set the standard for future health care in America.

I know one thing. The UAW will not increase union dues and take a portion of every employee's check to guarantee health coverage, yet many of those union members are going to vote for a president next year that would do just that: take more of their money and then offer them "free" health care.

Many people have said that the day of labor unions is over; that it is an institution that served its purpose, but has now outlived it. Union membership, as a percentage of American population, is at an all-time low. But like the rest of American culture, what it really needs is a change of paradigm (I cringe as I use that worn-out expression, but it fits here). We're all having to make changes. We live in an age of data, information, high-speed interaction, and instantaneous communication. Nobody uses typewriters or adding machines, and traditional communication is on the way out.

If unions could re-tool; if they could leave the first half of the twentieth century and join the 21st, they might make a difference that would make them relevant again. The United Auto Workers has just been offered that opportunity, and given 50 billion dollars to work with. Most countries would be envious of having that much money to devote to health care. Now, what will they do?

I ask this directly to anyone in the United Auto Workers (you see how many readers I have...) What will you do with this? You can become heroes for a true reformation in the way we handle health care; you can call on patients, hospitals, doctors, and others in the health care chain to show true responsibility. Or you can do what unions often do. Pocket the money and settle for business as usual. It's your choice.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I Am Guilty as Charged!

There has been an irreversible change in the American economic system, and I am one of the guilty ones who effected this change. I have no excuse; I should have known better. It all began when I was in high school, and the new “discount center” came to my home town. Back in those days, the discount centers were on the square, just like all the other businesses. That wouldn’t last long, though. I remember the amazing discovery: my nineteen cent Bic pen, which could be purchased in any store on the square, was only sixteen cents in the discount store. I soon was passing by the other stores so I could save the three cents every time I needed a new pen.

Then the discount store moved. When it did, we moved with it. For three cents, I would go an extra two miles, to the main highway, where the new discount store was located. Understand, the local merchants were not gouging me. Bic had made a fortune with its nineteen cent pen (though there was also a 29 cent one that we sometimes splurged and bought). Now, since I was already two miles from downtown, I went ahead and made other purchases there. After all, the discount center had all sorts of things under one roof, even some groceries.

I didn’t understand at first why some of the local businesses on the square were going under. I supposed that the owners had reached retirement age, and just got tired of working. After a few years, our city square was composed of empty buildings, as well as some city offices, an occasional specialty shop, and some short-lived restaurants. Finally, the drug store and the Western Auto went under; after all, the discount store had all of those things anyway, and I could save three to five cents on a purchase.

Of course, we know now what happened. The discount store would order huge quantities of an item, and hold them at a large warehouse. Mr. Browning, however, due to the low volume of local sales, had to pay regular wholesale. Of course, his products were usually fresher (some of my “discount” Bic pens didn’t do as well as others, but after all, I was saving money).

The advent of “discount stores” brought a proliferation of similar businesses, and soon we had a choice. Now they all built out on the main highway, sometimes beyond the city sales tax boundaries. Then the super brand name stores (you know which ones) cornered the market. Oh, well, I will mention one out of necessity. When Arkansas businessman Sam Walton set up the first Wal-Marts, he furiously guarded quality. By then Bic pens cost more, but he could save us more. He also was appreciated for the jobs he brought to the US. I remember him in his own commercials, proud of the “Made in the USA” signs. Whole cities had their economies revitalized as he purchased huge quantities of bicycles, sports equipment, clothing, and other items from Smalltown, USA. Everybody was so happy that they didn’t even care that the city squares were now ghost towns. After all there were plenty of jobs in Wal-Mart and in its suppliers.

We might not have ever noticed if Sam Walton had lived forever. Though I’m not sure of the exact figures, Mr. Walton was worth between 6 and 8 billion dollars when he died, enough to pay for a decent funeral for a respected Arkansas entrepreneur. The last time I checked, however, some of his descendants/heirs were worth 15 to 20 billion and more – several of them, in fact. How did that happen? The truth is, Mr. Walton left them a magnificent network of trustworthy, efficient stores full of, for the most part, energetic and happy employees (“associates,” they are called). The temptation was just too great. Sam’s machinery was capable of much more. Since his death, Wal-Mart has slowly closed those American factories. You can do the math. You keep the same clientele, buying at least the same amount of merchandise, but you find a place that can do it cheaper. China was ready for that. For many years, it seemed like a win/win situation (except for the Smalltown USA factory workers, but life is tough, eh?)

We didn’t notice the creeping uniformity, the lowering of standards. After all, if a VCR breaks, it would have cost 50 bucks to fix it on the square in the old days. Wal-Mart has one for 60, and it’s brand new! I’ve often wondered where TV’s, VCR’s, and DVD’s now go when they die.

Years ago, if Mr. Browning’s store on the square didn’t have what I needed, or the size and color I wanted, I just went to the west side, and Mrs. Collins had it. Now, you can go to the Wal-Mart in central California and you will find the same merchandise, at the same price, that is on the racks of the Wal-Mart in West Virginia. And if you want “Made in America,” you’re probably out of luck.

Try to find a toy not made in China. While you’re at it, try to find one that will last from one Christmas to the next. I’ve watched the disappointment on the faces of my children as toys and gifts bought with hard-earned money broke within a few hours out of the box. We’ve taken advantage of Wal-Mart’s generous exchange policy, but were disappointed to find that the quality of the replacement toys was the same.

Now we’re finding out that everything from tires to dog food is coming to us from China. People and animals are dying because there’s no way anyone can control the quality of the cheap merchandise that is now the norm. The NTSB has no authority over the quality of a Chinese tire, and most Americans do not know they have one until their car has been totaled. We’re in a bind because we’ve dismantled the base of our manufacturing in the USA. If China suddenly cut off supply, we Americans would be unable to make a television or a toy or anything between. We are pouring trillions of dollars into the most populous nation on earth, who in turn is buying the choice real estate, investing in the space program, and buying up the best building materials. They, for all practical purposes, own the Panama Canal. They have been trying to buy interest in our oil companies and automobile manufacturers. Who can blame them? They have to spend the money somewhere, and the ones in power don’t want to waste it on the care of their own people.

We are at their mercy. And we are at Wal-Mart’s mercy. If Wal-Mart doesn’t have it, no one else will (in some places, because there no longer is anyone else). China and Wal-Mart set the trends for fashion (try to buy a dress for a teenage girl – it’s impossible), quality, and service. You can’t.

And who’s to blame? I am! It started when I wanted to save three cents on a Bic pen.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

Two weeks ago, we heard the story of an Idaho senator who had been accused of improprieties in a Minneapolis airport restroom. The questions were flying everywhere, as well as accusations and damage control. Call me naive, but my first question was, "What in the world is an Idaho senator doing in a Minnesota airport?" Just a few days away from that event, we heard that a planeload of US legislators had been "fired upon" in Iraq, and again, I wanted to ask, "What were they doing there?"

If you read the Constitution carefully (and nobody does, myself included), provisions were made for there to be a State Department to handle such things internationally. Congressmen and senators had one duty: to represent their constituencies in Washington. When not in Washington, they were supposed to be back in their own districts, finding out what the people who had voted them in wanted them to do the next time they went to Washington.

In 1989, we heard the sad story of congressman Mickey Leland, killed in a crash in Ethiopia. I am genuinely sorry that Mr. Leland lost his life, but I still have to ask myself just how close is Ethiopia to the Texas legislative district he was representing? Was he doing what ambassadors and others in the State Department ought to be doing, and, had he been where he was supposed to be, would he still be alive today?

My own governor, Rick Perry of Texas, ran up about $300,000 of our state's bill last year just paying for bodyguards while he traveled all over the world. Now I wouldn't begrudge him a couple of weeks' paid vacation, and seeing as how he's the governor and all, I don't mind paying someone to keep him safe. But I have to ask myself how much time he spent in Texas last year. I would think $300,000 would cover a lot of vacation time (a few centuries' worth for me).

Now I realize that maybe you have to fly through Minneapolis to get to anywhere in Idaho, but I'm not sure. I'm thinking that if Senator Craig had been in his own state, none of this would have happened. What interests do Idahoans have in Minnesota, anyway? Maybe it was a scheduled stop, and if he's like me, he'd rather deplane than try to use one of those tiny, over-used things they call "restrooms" on airplanes. But I'm not sure.

After all the hubbub, and knowing that not only are there people cruising airport restrooms looking for dates, but there are also undercover cops cruising airports looking for people cruising airport restrooms looking for dates, I think I may just use those little rooms on the airplanes from now on. And not order that second soft drink.

In the meantime, I would like to remind governors, senators, and congresspersons, that we want you to tend to business in our own state. Any vested interest I have in Ethiopia, Aruba, or Paris, our President and/or Secretary of State can take care of. Pretend it's an election year. Stay in your own state.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

September 12

Things will never be the same because we now live in the era of September 12. On the morning of September 11, 2001, we woke up to find that Saddam had shot down one of our spy drone planes (no big deal), Michael Jordan was planning a comeback (again), and Gary Condit was denying any involvement with a missing intern.

On the morning of September 11, airline passengers believed the story from the 70's, that if a hijacker takes over a plane, you just sit calmly and do everything he says, and everything will be ok.

On the morning of September 11, we knew that nothing could ever happen in America. Things were going to be okay. The Muslim guy who ran the grocery store on the corner looked different from you, but he did honest business and you figured he went home to his wife and kids every night.

On the morning of September 11, most Americans could open a bank account, get a driver's license, or book a flight without three forms of identification. You could board a plan without taking off your shoes, and no one suspected your 75-year-old mother-in-law of doing anything wrong. Homeland security was a fact, not an expensive government department.

On the morning of September 12, it had all changed forever. In my own life, I think there will always be the dichotomy: what happened before September 11, and what happened after.

When I was in high school, I went to see 2001: A Space Odyssey. I was amazed at this first realistic science fiction movie. It looked like my world, only better. I went to see it three times, despite not having any idea what the stupid ending meant (and finding out later that the author didn't either). I look back now and realize that the flight to the orbiting hotel was on PanAm (now gone), and he made a phone call on the Bell system (broken up by the Carter administration, and now replaced by a much bigger monster).

When I was 17, we had great hope for 2001. We would have a base on the moon. We would travel easily through space. Our lives would be made easier by computers and other technology. Somehow mixed into all that, we thought we would have solved most of our pressing world problems; we would have learned to get along. We would have cringed to know that the year would turn out so ugly.

So, 2001 was a great disappointment for those of us who had seen how it could have been back in 1968 -- even before September 11. When we woke up on September 12, we realized, more than ever, that there was no government nor institution that could give us our Utopia. People would always be people. HAL 9000 had shown us that we couldn't even trust computers (at least that part came true). On September 12, I realized that whatever improvements and optimism I was going to enjoy would have to come from inside of me. Politics and greed, hatred and intolerance destroy anything trying to occur naturally.

Maybe that's one thing I can say about September 12. We lost our innocence and had to grow up. On September 11, we had seen who the heroes were, and who the cowards were; we had found out that pressure and adversity highlight what's really important. I will live in the era of September 12 for the rest of my life. I wouldn't want to repeat it, and if I could go back, I would want to change it. But for what it's worth, we may have become better people by having to wake up on September 12. I remember being somewhat happy I had lived to see the sunrise of September 12, and being surprised that the thought was crossing my mind. I'm sorry for those who didn't get to see the sunrise on September 12; that includes those who have been born since, and will only read about the experience.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Global Warming Panic

I have a problem with globalism in any form. That should not surprise anyone who knows me. I also have a problem with creeping federalism. One example of the latter is when someone in Washington decides to attempt to address a West Texas issue with Washington ideas. In West Texas, some kid takes his Uncle Bill's truck to school because his is in the shop. That day, the federal or state government has decided to do a drug check, and the dog sniffs out Uncle Bill's pickup. What he finds is Uncle Bill's rabbit rifle, a .22 he always keeps behind the seat. Since the kid didn't bother to give the pickup a shakedown that morning, the rifle is his responsibility, and state and federal laws require that the young man be suspended for two weeks. Everybody in West Texas knows that the kid was just driving his uncle's pickup, but in Washington or the state capital, it meant that he was going to go on a rampage. But we can't do anything about it because government requires us to paint everything with the same big brush.

In the same way, I want to let you in on a secret about West Texas this year that you may not know: this has been one of the coolest summers we've ever had. I'll bet that when you think of West Texas, you see dry rangeland, cattle skulls, and a cactus or two -- especially if you've never been here. You also think of hot temperatures, and that's usually what we get. However, 2007 will go down in history here; unless some really strange weather happens, we will never make it to a hundred degrees this year. We didn't see 90 until mid-June, and we went through July and the "dog days" of August without ever reaching 100. Today, we didn't even make 80. I might also add that we've had record rainfall; our lakes, rivers, ponds, and streams are full. I'll bet you didn't hear about this on CNN.

All I've heard about is the "record heat wave" that has "threatened" this country, and all the people who have died from it. We need to get one thing straight: every day, somewhere in America, some place breaks a weather record. When you hear about an "all-time record" high temperature in Boston, what they mean is that it never got that hot on that day in that specific place. Some of those "all-time-high's" that I heard about this year were in the low 90's, which, usually, where I live, is like a Sunday School picnic.

But this year has been different. West Texas has been cool. On Easter Sunday, there was snow on the ground, after a high in the 30's the day before. We had a blizzard on that Saturday. In West Texas. Where Easter usually sees 90 degrees and sandstorms. Between April and June, we saw the temperature stay in the high 70's to low 80's. My A/C bill hasn't been this low since the days of $1 gasoline.

Why hasn't this been reported? It's been downright cool down here! Could it be because this doesn't reinforce the fear that is being inflicted by a special interest group that wants you to think that somehow, Americans are melting the poles? We're killing polar bears, and somehow, this northern industrialized nation has even opened an ozone hole over the south pole!

Usually, by August, even the nights are no relief: the temperature stays in the 80's. This year, it's been the high 60's to low 70's. This morning, it was the 50's.

This brings me back to the "global" view I hear about. Some people assume that, because cherry blossoms came out early in Washington this year, that everybody must be experiencing the heat. I know it's been hot some places, but the thing here is that it has not been hot everywhere. I would assume that a global pattern of warming would affect everyone. For some reason, this traditionally hot zone of West Texas has not been affected. We didn't see 100 for the entire summer. We think it's going to be a cold winter, but we could be wrong...

It will probably be warm next year, but it won't be everywhere. I see that Farmer's Almanac is predicting 2008 to be the hottest year in a century, and they are probably right -- somewhere. It was the hottest year in a century this past year, too, in a few towns. In my town, it was about as cool as it ever gets.

I guess I just want the globalists to quit foaming at the mouth. They found a rifle in Johnny's uncle's pickup, and they now think that we're all a bunch of trenchcoat mafia out here (because they would be if it was in their car). But we're fine. Weather patterns change. Everyone knows that. I think we've severely overestimated our puny human ability to influence this rather large planet.

As I noted a few months back, our sister planet, Mars, has also been going through some global warming, too. I somehow don't think that SUV's had anything to do with that. It happens. To all planets -- at least the ones that have an active sun. Old Sol has just stirred a bit, like he does every so often.

Some day, a big city on the East Coast will get cold again, and the prophets of doom are going to warn us about the new ice age that will make most of North America and Europe uninhabitable (like they did in the silly '70's), and they will have to blame somebody for it. We Americans will probably be the ones. We need to get used to it.

In the meantime, the only global warming that is for sure is the constant supply of hot air that comes at us from both coasts from people who don't know anything about history and have nothing better to do.

I'm glad that, at least here in West Texas, we got a summer off. Even the hot air of blathering environmentalists didn't affect us this year.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Time for the Parties to Step Up

I just heard some great news this morning. I have to admit my ignorance of something I should have known: the political parties themselves can decide whether their state primaries are binding or not. This one, I have to hand to the Democrats. The DNC is seriously considering downplaying some of the primaries that are being moved up too early. In the race to get in the picture early, some states are even considering binding presidential primaries before New Year's day, or in January. The Democratic party has decided that this is too much. I concur (how often do I get to say "Democratic" and "I concur" in the same paragraph?)

I have suddenly realized that this is not a government nor a federal issue. It is a party issue. How wonderful it would be for a party to suddenly declare that all state primaries are merely "straw polls," and nothing else. What a wonderful idea -- to have the candidates show up for their political conventions and duke it out in late summer, rather than bore us to tears with their monolithic, cookie-cutter political mumbo-jumbo?

As it stands right now, the presidential nomination in both parties may be sewed up before the first robin of spring 2008 lands in my state. That means a long, hot, UGLY summer of one-on-one between two dull candidates, neither of which can excite us the way they used to. If the election were held today, it would be between Rudy Giuliani and Hilary Clinton -- possibly the ugliest election in history. If this happens, I suggest we modify the ballot. I would recommend they give us two choices: not Clinton, or not Giuliani, because that's what the vast majority of people who bother to vote will actually be saying in November of '08.

So now is the time, Demos and Republicans. Tell the candidates that the primaries are non-binding -- merely "suggestions" for the state delegates. Or perhaps, this year, we could start by saying that only half of the delegates in each state will be decided by primary. When I realize that some candidates have already spent in excess of $20 million, and today is supposed to be the opening day of campaign season, I realize how bloated and vulgar the election process has become.

I'm still hoping for a dark horse to emerge some time next summer who will ride a wave into Washington. Someone to be excited about. If both parties would do something to curb early binding primaries, we might get that.

If we continue with the same old same old, we will have the same old cookie cutter politicos with their tired, insincere ideas. And November will be bad news for all of us.

"I Told You So..."

Our country is in a health care crisis. No doubt about it. When the cost of health is more than five times the cost of living, something is wrong. Unfortunately, both Democratic and Republican socialists think that the problem can be solved by Big Government.

As I have stated in earlier commentaries, I think government financing of health care is not one of the cures, but rather, one of the causes of the health care crisis. There is nothing more inefficient, wasteful, and outright corrupt, than government funding of anything. Medicare is one of those disasters right now.

However, I am seeing something happen that I warned about years ago. When Ted Kennedy first proposed subsidized national health care, I told those in the debate that state-supported health insurance would show some of the same tendencies of state-supported education. When something becomes state-supported, something else becomes compulsory. When the state or the federal government funds education, everybody has to go to school -- to their schools -- or be approved by them to go to another.

I told people twenty years ago that if we got national health care, we would be forced to go to the doctor. We would be forced to receive health care that Big Government deemed necessary. Everybody laughed at me. Now, however, we find that John Edwards is proposing just such an idea.

"It requires that everybody be covered. It requires that everybody get preventive care," he told a crowd sitting in lawn chairs in front of the Cedar County Courthouse. "If you are going to be in the system, you can't choose not to go to the doctor for 20 years. You have to go in and be checked and make sure that you are OK." He goes on to say that the government will enforce mammograms, as well as other routine inspections. It's just like I said it would be. But everybody else laughed. It's time to quit laughing. It might be silly not to go to the doctor for a yearly checkup, but it's certainly not the government's business to make sure we do, any more than being their business to see if we've changed the oil in our car or cleaned out the cat's litter box.

Another reason to quit laughing is because that's not all that I predicted. What if the federal government decides you're incapable of raising more than three children, and you're pregnant? After all, they handle your medical expenses, so what say would you really have in whether or not to get an abortion? What about that hopelessly ill grandmother who's just drawing medicare funds but will never get better? Big Government knows best, and they may decide they know better than you do when to pull the plug. How about sterilization? Then again, there are other medical procedures that would make you a better person, and your friendly local government will know what's best for you.

You think I'm being extreme in this? People did 20 years ago, but if John Edwards gets his way, we will be forced to go to the doctor. Who's going to pay for this? The "government," of course. What does the "government" mean? For some reason, liberals think of it as some vast resource of unlimited money that miraculously replenishes itself, much like the meat does in the grocery store cooler, or the water does in the tap over the sink, or the milk does in those little cartons next to the coffee creamer at Wal-mart.

As someone who has lived in other countries that have nationalized health care, I want to warn you that it doesn't work. It's like the rest of socialism: It works on paper, and really looks great. Then, you try it with actual people, and it completely disintegrates.

We need to do something about the health care situation in the US, but it needs to start somewhere else. Melody Hobson, on ABC's "Good Morning America," recently reported that over 80% of all medical bills are incorrect. If hospitals were anything but hospitals, federal regulators would have closed them down. First, we need to crack down on inefficient, inaccurate -- and even intentionally corrupt -- hospital billing. Then, we need to do something about 5 dollar Tylenol tablets and 5000 dollar a night hospital rooms. Afterward, we could go after private insurance, but we might not have as much to do; if they weren't getting scammed by medical entities, they might not try to pass as much on to policy holders. Is it too much to think that a time could come again when a day's treatment at a hospital would not cost a year's salary?

If we switch to a federally funded insurance, we will go in the opposite direction. Tylenol will be 50 dollars a tablet, and a hospital room for the night will be 25 thousand dollars, and that's just the start. And who will pay for it? Why, all you filthy rich people, that's who. Edwards has a tax plan just for you.

By the way, in the liberal world, "rich" describes anyone who earns money and can pay his own bills. Their goal is that no one do that, except, of course, John Edwards, Ted Kennedy, and those select few who really know how your money should be spent.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

"Only the Names Have Been Changed..."

What happened to all the idealists in the “new era?” I remember last November – Nancy Pelosi, shining and triumphant. After all, the big “house-cleaning” had been a mandate of the people. They wanted liberal policies, she supposed: more taxes, bigger government, universal health insurance, liberalized abortion laws, and more rights for gays and lesbians. Isn't that what the party is about? Obviously, that’s what America wanted, because they had thrown out the pro-life, anti-gay, fundamentalist conservatives.

Now, there’s something that most of the media does not want you to know. As dismal as Bush’s approval rating is (and you haven’t heard much about it lately because it’s been going up), he’s got a double-digit lead on congress. Wonder of wonders; even Dick Cheney has a higher approval rating than congress.** Why do you suppose that is? Could it be that the people that put them there are somewhat dissatisfied with their first year of performance? I mean, you can only milk “history” so far. It’s one thing to be the first woman speaker of the House, but finally, you have to do something besides wear a dress to congress and talk about your grandchildren. These people were put into congress last November by two groups: those who were “protest voting” the incumbents, and those who want to see more liberal tax laws, abortion funding, and gay/lesbian rights, including gay marriages. I have no data, but I suppose that the former was a much larger group than the latter.

And what have they done with their “mandate?” Well, they’ve drummed out an Attorney-general, issued several worthless subpoenas that cannot be enforced, and made sure that every Iraqi insurgent wakes up each morning with confidence that American troops will soon be gone. Honestly, can anyone tell me anything else Congress has done since January? They have spent a whole year throwing firecrackers at the White House with totally meaningless non-binding resolutions. At least, most normal people (notice I didn’t say the media) consider them meaningless. If they want us out of Iraq, why don’t they flex some of that newly-acquired political muscle and get us out of Iraq? Don’t get me wrong; I’m not in favor of liberal government, but if I were, I would be bitterly disappointed right now – no concerted effort to overthrow Bush’s tax cuts; no attempt to fund abortions; no efforts to add gay marriage to federal law – nothing.

In an amazing role reversal, the Democrats and Republicans are pretending to be – get this – each other! Republicans want to protect the poor, honor alternative lifestyles, and distance themselves from pro-lifers as much as possible. They want to court the gay vote, and while they don’t want to tax us further (at least publicly), they want to escalate spending. Meanwhile, the Democrats are quoting scripture, preaching in pulpits – sometimes even in white churches, and talking about God and government.

Never have I wanted a third party as much as I do now. I’ve looked into some of the others, but most just don’t have the heart – or the leader – to inspire enough Americans to abandon their own useless parties and “cross over.” It can happen, though. In the late 1970’s the Republican party was not a major contender. It had most of the characteristics of a third party, and then it had a leader. Ronald Reagan could inspire people to “take the plunge.” Even after he was out of office and suffering from Alzheimer’s, his momentum was still rolling. In 1995, I heard an East Texas farmer tell me, “I had never voted for a Republican in my life, but this past election, I voted a straight Republican ticket.”

Is there anybody out there with more charisma than I have, who could form a new party that inspired and actually had some convictions that did not change every hundred miles down the road? I have an idea for a name for your new party: call it the “Reaganite” party. However, one caution: look past anyone – even the obscure candidates – who are running right now. Find someone else with the spine that Reagan had. Even if I don’t agree with him on all issues, I’ll vote for his backbone (that’s the way RR did it).

In 2008, there may be a Democratic president elected, provided they can continue to keep everyone disillusioned about Iraq. If they win, they will manage to hang on to congress as well. But in 2010, it will swing back, and when it does, we will have a whole new slate of politicians to keep on doing the same things that have been done since 94 – nothing important. Or, we can vote for someone else. What if we woke up on a January day in 2011, and found that congress’ majority was made up of Independents? It could happen, couldn’t it? Or am I being too idealistic?

**Update, 9/19/07 -- both the President and congress have plunged to new lows, though Bush maintains his double-digit lead over congress. Check the story at:

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Talk About Out of Touch!

I didn't see the most recent Republican debate. I won't have to. They answered all my questions just by being there. Now I have to confess. I'm one of those "fundamentalists," which of course, according to the news media, means I go to church on days that are not Christmas, Easter, or funerals. I guess that makes me part of the "religious right."

But I digress. This is not about the ongoing befuddlement the media has with the fact that most Americans actually believe in a God that closely resembles the one depicted in the Bible. This post is about how far the once-mighty Republican party has fallen.

I have tried to watch all these straw people climbing over each other, and it's hard to get excited about any of them. With the possible exception of Rudy Giuliani, who ought not to even be a Republican anyway, they all claim to want to win the evangelical Christian base that Ronald Reagan reached in the 1980's.

I have a hint to any future Republican candidate: that base is out there, and still reachable, but any idiot should know this one: You're not going to reach any of them debating on a Sunday morning!

If any one of these mentally numbing stuffed shirts had thought about it, he would have realized that he could have won the debate hands down by making a simple statement: "I will not be at the debate on Sunday morning; I will be in church."

Such a statement would have left all the others scrambling for damage control. I especially am perplexed that former Reverend Huckabee did not understand this -- he was once a Southern Baptist pastor.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not commenting on their church going habits. I'm talking about campaign strategy. Did none of them have even one person on their staff that could venture, "Uh, sir, a Sunday morning debate will not cement any support from the largest voting bloc you're trying to court right now."

Not only are these candidates completely out of touch with the electorate; they don't have any intelligent advisers either. Do I really want another president like Bush -- a decent, moral, upstanding type of guy who has absolutely nobody with any integrity (outside of his own wife) to guide him? I know when I voted for Bush, I did not vote for Karl Rove, and I really wished I could split my ticket and not vote for Cheney either, but he came with the package, kind of like MTV comes with my "family" package on cable TV. The only difference between Bush and these guys, though, is that, whatever you think of Bush, he towers over this anemic list of candidates. And none of them remember that over 50 million Americans go to church every Sunday morning. Fifty million votes would elect anyone president.

Is it just me? Was this possibly the stupidest move in the history of the Republican party? Well, it's there with Watergate, Teapot Dome, and all of 2006, to be sure. When I hear Hilary Clinton put on a southern drawl and start talkin' 'bout Jeee-sus in a Mississippi pulpit, I realize that she's only perfecting what her husband was an expert at: lying. When Barak Obama talks about his "faith," I know he's just looking for some of those undecided "church people" votes. Now, when a Republican candidate postures his own religious piety, I can answer him as well, in the ancient words of Saint James, "Faith without works is dead."

Monday, May 7, 2007

A Big Step in the Wrong Direction

The news is, "Earlier is Better," in the world of politics. As the epidemic of early primaries continues to infect more and more states, we get further and further from ever again having a president that can be the leader we need for the time we need. New Hampshire, of course, wants to continue to be the first, and from articles today, we find that the NH primary may end up being this year. Florida has tried to upstage South Carolina by scheduling its primary for the same date, and SC is responding by considering moving its date as well, perhaps also putting its primary in 2007. I haven't heard from the Iowa Caucus people yet, but can they be far behind?

What does this mean to us? I've already written extensively about the damage that the primary system has done to our ability to elect a good president, and invite you to read those earlier entries. Said simply, primaries raise the cost of running for the presidency, they take the candidate away from real life and put him/her on a "road show," and by moving from state to state as the press follows the crusade. The result is a general growth in vagueness of the candidate's platform, prompted by the desire to please each voter in each state of each primary. In trying to be "all things to all people," the candidate compromises himself/herself and backs away from issues of conscience and integrity. Consequently, we can hear Hilary acting like Rosie O'Donnell in New York, and then hear her quoting scripture and using a southern drawl in Alabama. Who is the real Hilary? Will we ever see her? Probably not.

In the classic concept of the political convention, some candidates would have "risen to the top" by campaigning in some -- not all -- primaries, non-binding, by the way. The delegates then would have a general idea of "who's hot and who's not," but no one would have a lock. It is in the heat and smoke of a hot August convention that a candidacy is forged, and real presidential material emerges. Sometimes, the winning candidate is a dark horse who has never won a primary. That's the way it's supposed to be.

So, it's bad enough that primaries have become binding and obligatory. It's bad enough that conventions are now coronations where the candidate with the biggest organization, the most money, and the best press has wiggled to the top. What could be worse? Moving them to earlier dates! What little struggle for excellence was left -- a hot summer full of personal contacts and campaigning -- is gone. What we have left is fund-raising, photo ops, and continual posturing. When it's over (and, for all practical purposes, it will be over before February is, and we will be left with over eight months of campaigning. The candidates of the major parties will be obvious. Instead of the desperate August-November run (usually about nine weeks), we have about 35 weeks to fill with mud-slinging, accusations, and general dirt. If the candidates are governors, senators, or representatives, some states will be left with absentee representation. Let's be honest there are only so many things you can do in a presidential campaign, and none of those things are very productive or conducive to strengthening our republic. In all honesty, a political campaign is a depressing period of negativism and pessimism, only occasionally broken up by an orchestrated "rally" where we can sing "Happy Days Are Here Again," but not really mean it.

Now I'm hearing that at least one party is considering moving the national convention to an earlier date. This will mean that even the cookie-cutter platforms will be in place earlier, depriving candidates of even more issues that should be in a campaign. There will be less individuality; instead, major candidates will be singing the party line.

Simply put, 2008 looks to be a boring, disgusting, useless election year. By January 1, the mud will already be flying; when we're supposed to be enjoying bowl games (which, curiously, are also moving in the wrong direction, timewise), we are hearing campaigning. An activity that was made for hot summer days, band boxes, corn on the cob, and fireworks, will instead be indoors in heated buildings as blizzards rage outside.

What can we do? I don't know, but I'm looking for an answer. We need to diminish the power of primaries, and keep the suspense of which candidate will emerge for the conventions. Put the conventions in the Dog Days of August, and turn the air conditioning up to 80 degrees. Just following these simple suggestions would give us a seedbed to spawn a candidacy that would make our hearts beat with excitement again. Wouldn't it be nice to vote for someone, instead of voting against the "other guy," like we've been doing for nearly 20 years now?

Oh, one more thing. Stop letting the IRS send 3 dollars per person to an "election fund." Make the candidates do something else. Do you really want the government funding presidential campaigns? That may be one reason why they're in the sad state they're in right now.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Time's Sudden Surge of Honesty

I want to be the first to commend Time Magazine for coming clean on this issue. While most current publications and networks continue their wimpy sniveling, claiming to be "moderate" in their views, Time showed its true colors in the "Top 100 Most Influential People" feature today.

You will find people of real influence. There's Justin Timberlake. Ask most people about this bastion of American Excellence, and you will get an answer that includes the phrase "wardrobe malfunction" and a reference to The Super Bowl and Janet Jackson. And then, of course, there's Rosie O'Donnell. My, how my life has been influenced by her. So much so, that I won't even watch "The Flintstones" anymore -- in any form -- because she once played Betty Rubble.

Talk about influence. Every night, before I go to bed, I pray that Angelina Jolie will make the right decisions that determine my own national security, the price of gasoline, and the availability of health care in my local community.

Let's not forget Al Gore. He made the list under the heading "Scientists and Thinkers." No doubt the man is an accomplished scientist; after all, he invented the Internet. But thinker? He still thinks he won the 2000 presidential election, and he didn't even win his home state. Not many candidates can say that.

Now, let's see who did not qualify. How about George W. Bush? That's right. The President of the United States did not make the top 100. Never mind that he can, with the stroke of a pen, veto something by Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Barak Obama, or Hilary Clinton (they are all on the list), or send Osama Bin Ladin into hiding in a cave somewhere (OBL is on the list, too), I guess he just doesn't have any clout. Maybe it's because the office of president is merely ceremonial, just a figurehead, and the more important issues are handled by congress. No, wait a minute, that can't be it. Queen Elizabeth made the list, and that's all she is. Maybe it's because his Dad was president before him, and Time doesn't feel that relatives of national leaders should qualify. Oops, forget that as well. Raúl Castro is on the list.

Maybe it's because they left off the purveyors of inflammatory party rhetoric. Nope. George Soros made the list. Maybe the people of the U.S. didn't want Bush on the list. That can't be it, either. In Time's listing of popular vote, we see George Bush comfortably in the top 100, but then again, maybe Time, thinking about poor Al the Thinker, wanted to let George see how it feels to win the popular vote and still not "get in."

Seriously, the list is a sad one. Oh, there are some people who deserve to be there, all right. Love her or hate her, Nancy Pelosi deserves to be on the list, since she will be in history books as the first female Speaker of the House. Condoleeza Rice is there, as well. But the list is sadly overbalanced with entertainers, athletes (is soccer really a sport?), actors and pretenders (George Clooney is there), and rock stars. It sends a message to the world: America is by far the biggest consumer in the world. We expect and think we deserve to be fed, filled, and entertained. If one of those fields is lacking, we expect to be subsidized. Do you know why nothing you buy at Wal Mart is "Made in America" anymore (that buzzing sound is Sam Walton spinning in his grave)? Because the rest of the world is kept busy making things for us to consume and throw away. We import everything. It takes the other 6 billion people in the world, working in manufacturing, just to keep up with the Black Hole that is America.

And we only have three exports: Politics, Sports, and Entertainment. I remember a few years back, living on the coast of South America. They had no Dr. Pepper or Dial soap, no USA Today or Snickers Bars. But they all knew who Michael Jordan was. I could walk the streets and hear Madonna singing "Daddy, Don't Preach" to uncomprehending ears (except mine). When the President of Peru decided to clean up congress and threw out the whole corrupt bunch (he was a good president, even though he himself had been made in Japan), the US thought it necessary to denounce the infringement of democracy in Peru. Anyone who has lived in Latin America knows that when God made automobiles and democracies, He did not have Latin Americans in mind. We go around the world trying to impose our narrow political viewpoint on countries who have neither the cultural nor the spiritual background that is a necessary seedbed for the processes of government that we have in our own country.

But back to Time. No hem-hawing on their part. They showed just how liberal and left-leaning they are. I am not a fan of Bill Clinton, but when he was president, in spite of his many flaws, I would never have been stupid enough to say that he did not deserve to be in the Top 100 Most Influential people in the world. He was President of the United States! Come on!

To the people at Time: we know you hate Bush. But your snub was childish and ill-advised. You don't have to like him to recognize his influence. Your idiocy was showing when you omitted him. If the blogged responses to your list are any indication, you obviously are tired of publishing a magazine, and hoping it will silently go away. But you have your pride. We know of your left leanings, of your sympathy for extreme causes. And you weren't afraid to admit it. I hope that major networks and other major publications will come clean as you did, and quit pretending to be "objective." You have helped us all.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

So it Was All a Joke...

Sheryl Crow came clean yesterday. Painted into a corner by her ridiculous comments, she cut a hole in the wall and got out, and the press gave her a free ride. She was just kidding about the toilet paper, after all.

That's the difference between a liberal environmentalist and a normal human being. When most of us tell a joke, we don't have to wait 24 hours to make sure that everybody "got it."

Liberalism, in case you haven't noticed, is possibly the most "un-funny" thing there is. They don't know how to tell or take a joke, so I find it interesting that they now have to tell all the rest of us when they have told one.

Did you ever hear the following joke?

Q. "How many feminists does it take to change a light bulb?"


Liberals are unable to poke fun at themselves. They don't understand how George Bush can stand before the correspondents' dinner in Washington every year and joke about himself in front of a less-than-congenial crowd. He must have an angle; after all, they would.

To the liberal mind, humor is just another way to get what you want, when you want it. The thought of actually entertaining someone serves no purpose. Liberal "humor" must fall into one of three categories: sarcastic, insulting, or dirty. I spoke of "Rosie's rant" in the last post, and have since seen her performance before a women's achievement group. Fortunately, we were spared the R-rated four letter words, but there were enough PG-13 ones left to let us know one thing for sure. She doesn't know how to be funny.

Most Americans understand the therapeutic value of a belly-laugh. Liberals don't. Whether it's John McCain (a liberal wannabe himself, but he's too funny) singing "Bomb, Bomb, Iran" to a Beach Boys' tune, or the famous Reagan mike test, liberals take things seriously. I've never met one that saw the humor of life in general. Take, for instance, the time they were trying to shut down ALL logging in the Pacific Northwest. Why? Why, the spotted owl, of course. Poor little endangered creature was very delicate. Not only did she nest in only one type of tree; the forest had to be full of them. Even the thinning of trees in a commercial forest would eradicate this poor little creature from the ecosystem. Then they found a spotted owl nest in a Wal-Mart sign. Now that was funny! At least most Americans would think so.

So thanks, Sheryl, for letting us know you told a joke. We know how hard it is to do that, but you were very noble. You stayed within the ethos of your own philosophical group. You explained the rationale behind telling the rare joke: "We're just so happy that people are talking about global warming, even if it's brought on by a joke," she said. It also gave her a chance to insult Karl Rove, one of the easier slow moving targets of the left -- somewhat easier than Dick Cheney, but a little harder to hit than Adolph Hitler, but this is just for point total, after all.

All I ask, Ms. Crow, is that the next time someone to the right of you politically, socially, or morally, decides that humor is apt for the moment, that you give him or her some leeway to tell a joke as well. I know you won't understand, totally, but realize that they might actually just be trying to entertain the ignorant multitudes like myself and other normal Americans.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Give Someone Enough Rope...

Why even worry about challenging the radical fundamentalist segment of the environmental evangelists? Pope Al and his merry band of disciples manage to shoot themselves in the foot regularly.

Sheryl Crow is an excellent example. When I first found out she was doing a global warming tour, it was while she was in Dallas. Sam Champion, a pretty good weatherman for "Good Morning America," had been sent there to cover her concert, but handily, Dallas was having an Easter season snowstorm which had really put a damper on the global warming tour and he got to cover it in person, bundled-up and breathing frost. I never did hear how many frozen Texans braved the cold to go listen to her global warming concert.

Traveling the US in her biodiesel bus, she proclaims the "gospel" of green responsibility. She has two new ideas: first, limit the average American toilet paper consumption to one square per necessity (as Dave Barry would say, "I am not making this up"); secondly, purchase "dining sleeves." These nifty little accoutrements would, I suppose, attach to a stylish evening ensemble somewhere near the wrist. Instead of nasty napkins, gentlemen and gentlewomen of refinement would wipe their mouths on their sleeves. I suppose they would be laundered and re-used -- the sleeves, I mean, not the people.

I only have a few isolated fears about this assault on global warming:

1.) Who is going to monitor the "one-tissue-square-per-visit" law? Will the federal government need to institute another cabinet position to enforce this requirement? Are there exceptions? Who decides? Do we need to add a few more judges for the new cases that will be before the courts? Who determines the dimensions and thickness of the squares?

2.) What do we do with the "dining sleeves" after we use them? Isn't hot water laundering somewhat wasteful? Certainly we don't re-use them. Do we get them with buttons, snaps, or velcro? I have a better idea than the dining sleeve. British nobility used to do it, so I'm sure it's good enough for us: let's get more little fluffy dogs. During a meal, we can wipe our greasy fingers on the dogs as they go by. That's what rich British people did during the Elizabethan Era. The dogs will probably lick the food off later. This way, there is no waste or laundering! If anybody knows Ms. Crow, please tell her she can use my idea and save the embarrassment of trying to figure what to do with a soiled dining sleeve. Lap dogs work much better, especially fluffy ones. I don't know if Chihuahuas would work. I recommend miniature collies, or maybe even terriers.

3.) How do we appease the great paper-producing lobbies that are about to receive a double blow to their economic well-being? They sell table napkins as well as -- other types. Scott, Kimberley-Clark, and many other major corporations which employ thousands of people may have to cut back on production.

I would add that there is one bright side to this story. We got a two-for-one, because this event also gave Rosie O'Donnell a little more rope as well. I would tell you about it, but I'm embarrassed to repeat any of it. She said it on network TV, and I'm surprised that Barbara Walters didn't have a coronary, because it was off-the-wall, even for Rosie.

You don't want to know...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Carefully Worded News Items Show Bias

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Supreme Court Wednesday upheld a controversial law banning a specific abortion procedure critics call "partial birth," a ruling that could portend enormous social, legal, and political implications for the divisive issue.

In other words, only "critics" would dare call it "partial birth." And it is only this ruling against it that will have implications for such a "divisive issue."

The sharply divided 5-4 ruling could prove historic, and offer a possible signal of the court's willingness, under Chief Justice John Roberts, to someday revisit the basic right to abortion guaranteed in the 1973 Roe v. Wade case.

Vote 5-4 for abortion, and it is a "mandate." Vote 5-4 against abortion, and it is a "sharply divided" court... And of course, it was a "basic right" to abortion that was "guaranteed" in the Roe v. Wade case. I don't see any biased language there. Do you?

...The legal sticking point was that the law lacked a "health exception" for a woman who might suffer serious medical complications, something the justices have said in the past is necessary when considering abortion restrictions.

The "health exception" is why the Supreme Court has routinely stricken down legislation banning this obscene practice. The propaganda that was fed us, of course, is that the "life of the mother" has precedence over the life of the baby (but we call it a "fetus" which helps us de-personalize it, despite the fact that we were all 'fetii' at one time, with the possible exception of some lawmakers and justices who were probably hatched in a more reptilian manner).

I have never figured out how a partial birth abortion could help the health of the mother. In case you haven't heard, the partial birth process involves pulling the baby feet-first from the womb until just the head is left inside. Since the head is still in there, it's not yet a "person" and the brain can be damaged and/or removed by rather heartless procedures. When a normal child is being born feet first, it is called a "breach" birth, and such a form of birth can damage the mother permanently. With partial birth abortions, the child is intentionally turned around and the mother is put at risk of a "breach" birth and the potential dangers it involves. To suppose there is any consideration of anyone's life -- mother or child -- is utmost hypocrisy.

So some people on the Supreme Court have come around to thinking like human beings again. I can only hope the other four get there some day. While I'm at it, I guess I ought to add something also about another victim of abusive surgery -- the Fourth Amendment.

It was the Fourth Amendment that was abused and twisted to allow the Roe v. Wade ruling that overrode state sovereignty regarding the killing of the unborn. I need to add first that before Roe v. Wade, abortion was not prohibited by the federal government. It was an issue left to the states. Some states had allowed abortion decades before Roe v. Wade. All that ruling did was force all states to allow it. Beforehand, someone had to go to a state that allowed it. That state then got to perform it, pay for it and/or arrange billing, and then live with the decision. Doctors who had a conscience also had an option to move to a state where they would not be forced to violate their hippocratic oath. The Roe v. Wade ruling just made the drive a little shorter for those who wanted the procedure, forced all 50 states to allow the procedure, and paved the way for taxpayers' money to pick up the tab.

And the basis for this? A so-called "right to privacy" in the Constitution. Actually, that right was intended to prohibit illegal search and seizure and the investigation of a citizen without "probable cause." This was interpreted as the right to -- yes, you guessed it -- kill babies!

What the 4th amendment actually says is that no one may illegally enter a safe, private place, and remove or endanger the inhabitants or their possessions. How does that guarantee abortion? It sounds like an abortion, actually!

If the Roe v. Wade decision is ever overturned, the media tells us that our country will be driven back into the dark ages. Women will be frequenting back alleys, and dying in hospitals because the doctors' hands are tied. Actually, if Roe v. Wade were overturned, nothing would change immediately. The decision regarding abortion would merely be put back into the place it belongs -- the authority of the states, as was intended by the framers of the constitution. Then if, oh, say, Massachusetts wanted to kill the unborn, force doctors to do it, subsidize hospitals and clinics that did it, and pay for the procedure while taxing their residents, they could do it. But if, oh, say, Idaho decided they did not want to do this, no one in Washington, D.C., or anywhere else could tell them they had to. Sounds pretty totalitarian, doesn't it? But what if some poor Idaho girl needed to terminate a preganancy? Maybe she could move to Massachusetts? What if some doctor wanted the big bucks for a quick procedure? He could go there, too! What if some doctor with a conscience in Massachusetts decided he could not kill unborn babies anymore, but he wanted to keep his license? Hey, he could move to Idaho or some other state that didn't force him to do the procedure! Or how about a pharmacist that didn't want to sell the "morning after" pill as if it were a Tic-Tac or a Tylenol? He could move, too!

There's one drawback, of course. States would have to pay for their own decisions in this area. There would be no more federal funding. Oops, that might be the catch. We sure don't want to slow down the production of the big cash cow we call Medicaid and Medicare. We might actually have some money left in it by the time Generation X gets ready to retire.

A 5-4 vote is only a small victory, but lest we forget, it was the same 5-4 vote that kept innocent children on Death Row in 1989. It was a 5-4 vote in 1972 that voided all death penalties on the books. But that day, remember, it was a "mandate," not a "sharply divided" court, that made the decision and overrode 50 state legislatures.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Definitely Not Another Pretty Face

My mother used to say to me, "Fools' names, like fools' faces; always seen in public places." She was addressing my need to write my name on things that didn't need them. As with many of her other sayings, the lesson stuck. After all these years, that was the first thing I thought about in this whole Imus thing. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have no desire to serve anyone but themselves. I don't understand why these two people have been given a place in the sun. "Reverend" Jackson has always considered himself the successor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Am I the only one who realizes that Jackson doesn't hold a candle to Dr. King?

Both of these so-called "men of the cloth" broadcast "ME! ME!" whenever they speak. Their messages, as one of them would probably phrase it, are "deleterious icons of negativity" in our culture. When was the last time you heard either of these two people say anything nice about anyone?

When O.J. Simpson is accused of murdering his wife, it is a situation that needs the cool heads of the American jurisprudence system, not Jesse Jackson reminding us that O.J. is black and being profiled. When the Rodney King situation occurs and the situation spreads like wildfire, the last thing we need is Jesse Jackson with a can of gasoline. This man who, I remember, made more money in the 1980's than George H.W. Bush and paid less taxes, reminds us constantly of the "oppressed" and the "downtrodden," who are victims of American society. When Jackson stands before the Democratic convention and calls Republicans "baby killers," does no one but me see the ironic humor? Why does he not have to back his words with facts like everyone else?

Have Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton ever had jobs? Has either one of them ever had to punch a clock or fill out an application? How can they understand the problems and trials of the unemployed and the bankrupt? How can they know what it's like not to be able to buy groceries or pay a medical bill?

How do these millionaires come off declaring themselves to speak for the poor? Both of these men are using and abusing the black population of America. Have they every done anything for the people they claim to represent? A hundred years from now, what will the history books say about them, if anything? Dr. King will be there, and probably Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, and other Black Americans who have contributed to the betterment of everyone's life -- be they black or white.

If there were some way we could just ignore them, I think they would go away. Why can our networks not just leave them alone? Instead, they turn every negative event into a "photo-op."

Fools' names, like fools' faces; always seen in public places. Two millennia ago, a scriptural writer said, "You show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works." To two "reverends," I offer this same advice. Try doing something positive. We're tired of looking at you and hearing your whining. Use the millions of dollars you both have to do something constructive. Try making a difference somewhere.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Thank You, Essence Carson

Thank you, Essence, for bringing a moment of light into an otherwise obnoxious, disgusting story. I saw you on "Good Morning America" this morning. When Robin asked you if there was a difference between the words Imus used, and the way that hip-hop and rap singers use them, you were, of course, supposed to say, "Yes, there is. Those are expressions of our own culture, of our blackness, and we earned the right to use them after years of white oppression."

Instead, you said, "No." You said that the words were just as bad and obnoxious when millionaire trash-talkers say them as they are when shock jocks say them. And for that, I thank you for the breath of fresh air. I don't know anything else about you, what you believe, how you feel about life in general, but on GMA this morning, you presented yourself as a decent, admirable human being who knows the difference between what is decent and what is not.

You hit the nail on the head, whether you meant to or not. We have been so desensitized by the garbage we have tolerated and allowed our sons and daughters to pay the purveyors millions of dollars, that it is hypocritical to pretend to express shock when some wild cowboy uses the same words.

It is NOT okay to use demeaning, vulgar, or obscene words, no matter what color, religion, or gender persuasion you might be.

Essence, you didn't have much to say this morning. Coach Stringer did the talking, and she's a pretty likeable person herself. But what you did say, you said with truth and conviction. I hope your voice is the first of thousands, even millions, that decry the fact that these poisonous words and concepts are being said by anyone. I read on your profile that you want to work in the music industry after you finish college. I cannot think of a better person for it. Maybe your positive contributions will push out some of the ridiculous trash that passes for "music" currently.

You are wiser and more honorable than Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and the whole media put together. And again, I thank you for being yourself this morning. I don't know what effect Imus' words had on everyone else, but they gave you a platform to say the right thing. They didn't demean you; they elevated you to the level where you deserve to be seen. I hope you spoke for your whole team. If you did, I'll be rooting for you, not only to win it all in the NCAA next year, but to be put in places of leadership where we can hear more of what you have to say. Thanks for everything!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

What is "Freedom of Speech" anyway?

First, I had never even heard of Don Imus before. I don't like "shock" radio, and have never felt the need to listen to it. I have stated before that I don't even think that "Freedom of Speech," as our forefathers saw it, protects vulgar or crude language. It should not give people the right to show pornography in public places or over the media. It has everything to do with free political speech -- the ability to speak out against perceived injustice and inconsistencies in our own country and culture, and nothing to do with "shock jocks."

But having said that, I'm disturbed at some people's downright legalistic interpretation of the First Amendment. It seems to say, in effect, "This guarantees the freedom of everyone else to believe what I want to believe, to watch what I want to watch, and to say what I want to hear."
I don't care if Don Imus and Howard Stern never are on the radio again. In my book, they are not worth the waste of time it takes to listen to them. I feel that local standards of decency should empower local governments to keep us from having to listen to such garbage. And the same goes for Snoop Dog, 50 cent, and the rest of the trash-talkers that our teens are currently making multimillionaires by throwing hard-earned pizza and paper-route dollars at them.
What amazes me is that when one of the aforementioned trash-talkers demeans women, authority, and entire racial and social groups with filthy language, not only are they protected, they are applauded. Chrysler lets one of them do a commercial with Lee Iacocca (if I still had even a small urge to ever buy a Chrysler, it's gone now).

Where was Al Sharpton when these trash-talkers were denigrating not just one small basketball team, but one half of the US population?

Next, who decided that Imus' little outburst was "racist?" It reminds me of the old (and hilarious) story Bill Cosby told about the time they put the bullet in the furnace during shop class. The bullet went off, and the students snickered.
"Who put the bullet in the furnace?" the shop teacher asked. They continued to snicker. "Who put that bullet in the furnace?" he asked again, and again, they just snickered. "It takes a pretty low-down type of no-good to put a bullet in a furnace," the teacher said. "Only someone with a terrible mother would raise his kid to put a bullet in a furnace."
"Wait a minute!" one of the kids yelled. "I didn't put that bullet in the furnace, and you quit talking about my mother!"

That's a little of what I felt when "reverend" Al decided to parade his own daughter out on his talk show and lump her into the group of girls that Imus had insulted. I think he insulted his own daughter more than Imus had insulted anyone. As far as I know, she never has played basketball for Rutgers. Also, I've seen the Rutgers team. It's not all black. In fact, it appears to have about the same racial make-up as most college basketball teams. Am I racist for saying that? No, just observant. For some reason, God has chosen to gift certain people with more ability on the basketball court, and I have noticed that a disproportionate majority of them happen to have dark skin. So what? More power to them!

If I decide to say that basketball is just a game for morons, is that racist? Could I say the same thing about golfers and not be racist, since only one of them is mostly black?

Why does someone lose a job for expressing an opinion? Sure, it might have been a stupid thing to say, but if we all lost our jobs for saying something stupid, we'd all be unemployed. I'll bet that even Mother Teresa said something stupid in her life.

I know for a fact that "reverend" Al Sharpton has said a lot of things that were not only stupid, but racist. Why doesn't he lose his job? And as stupid as he talks, he (shudder) usually makes more sense than Jesse Jackson. Why is it okay for some people to say something and we excuse it, but not for others? Why are people being fired for expressing opinions? What does the First Amendment have to do with all of this?

I believe we'd all be a lot better off without Don Imus and Howard Stern and Opie and Anthony spewing their garbage on us, but while we're at it, why not get rid of the hate jockeys that we call "rap artists" and the rabble rousers that we call "advocates of civil rights?" But why stop there? Some people don't like Al Franken or Rush Limbaugh, Hannity or Colmes, George Will or Sam Donaldson. Let's get rid of them all.

Freedom of speech seems to be a very elastic, variable concept. Popular cartoonist Johnny Hart died last Saturday, and in the midst of the accolades that were rightfully sent his way, comment was made about the "controversial" nature of his Christianity that was in his comics. He even had some newspapers drop his comic because of its "controversial" nature. I'm amazed that anyone would even think that Christianity, and one's self-expression of it, was "controversial." Our forefathers, who wrote the First Amendment, would have had no problem with Johnny Hart. If they could have predicted Snoop Dog, on the other hand, they might have just called the whole thing off.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Extraplanetary Warming

Maybe not since the days of the Army McCarthy Hearings has there been such a rabid explosion of furor over such an issue. Global warming is not just a scientific contention; it involves constitutional and political issues. Just last week, it took a Supreme Court decision to inform a president that global warming exists. I'm not arguing its existence; I'm just wondering what part of the Constitution puts scientific discovery in the hands of the courts.

To even question one aspect of global warming is to be found guilty of heresy in an inquisition that would make Torquemada envious. A local weatherman makes a joke about global warming; suddenly, he has been re-assigned. To work with the major national weather networks, one has to buy the whole case, lock, stock, and barrel. Anyone who would question it is branded as archaic, uninformed, and incapable of thought.

So then I read that Mars is having the same problem we are having. In the time we have been observing the planet since the 1970's the average temperature of the planet has gone up nearly a degree, and environmentalists will readily tell you that's a whole lot! -- especially when we're talking about our own planet. One might even venture that Mars has experienced the same degree of warming as has our own earth. It seems to me that the basic principles of scientific investigation would come into play here (we called it the "scientific method" when I was in junior high). If we would really like to see what's causing a phenomenon, let's isolate the effects of that phenomenon and compare influences.

Hmmm. Let's see. What do Earth and Mars have in common? Pollution? Industrialization? Deforestation? Population explosion? How about all those cattle burping methane into the atmosphere? I have looked closely at the issue, and it appears that only one variable applies to both planets: we orbit the same sun. We have known for many years that Old Sol is rather unstable. El Niño himself depends on that fickleness. Is it just remotely possible that just maybe the Sun is at least a player in this whole global warming thing?

A few years back, Hollywood and the environmental extremists (fundamentalists?) worked together to produce a movie to deal with the first "inconvenient truth" -- which was that they had been preaching global warming and a new ice age at the same time. "The Day After Tomorrow" did a good job of taking two obviously contradicting statements and hypothesizing that one can cause the other. My wife and I had the same question after seeing the movie: "If our own industrialized societies will cause the next ice age, what caused the last one?"

I have no doubt that hydrocarbon emissions and other man-made factors play a role in the overall equation that is the environment of the earth. We should do everything in our power to decrease pollution and destruction of natural resources. Most normal human beings understand these things. What we don't understand is the rabid fundamentalist rantings of people who drive SUV's and tell us to conserve; of people who want us wearing "Jimmy Carter" turtleneck sweaters in our own 62 degree homes while they use 10 or 20 times the energy we are using. It's hard to take a politician seriously who preaches to us about saving energy while his Escalade idles in the background to keep the air conditioner running.

Today I read an interesting article by Richard S. Lindzen of Newsweek magazine. He believes that global warming is a fact. He wants to do something about it. He is "on board" with what much of the media is preaching to us. However, he is also thoughtful, insightful, and honest about what is really going on. He calls his article, "No Such Thing As a 'Perfect' Temperature." I quote him out of respect for his truthfulness and openness. I do not accuse him of believing what I believe, nor do I wish to force him into my own box. He probably would not agree with me on most of what I say, but he is not a "foaming at the mouth" environmental fundamentalist, and I do not understand why he was allowed, in the midst of environmental witch hunts, to write something like this. Surely the Supreme Court could have stopped him. In a nutshell, this seems to be the point of his article:
  • The only thing we can know for sure about climate is that it changes.
  • In a time when local weather forecasters can even mess up on the weekend outlook, why are we believing we know what will happen in 50 years?
  • There is no compelling evidence of impending catastrophe.
  • Is a warmer climate really a bad thing?
  • Many of the "indicators" that have been used to undergird the panic have been fluctuating for years, such as sea-level rise, etc.
  • Climate modelers themselves have not been able to explain some historical fluctuations such as the warming of 1050 to 1300 and, more recently, the 1976 cooling -- and despite their inability to account for the past, we're taking them at face value as they try to predict the future. (My note -- I've been amazed over the years how "financial analysts" can always tell us after the New York Stock Exchange closes, just why the market went down; but they can never predict what it will do the next day, or what effect daily factors will have -- it is that same "after the fact" logic that environmental advocates are trying to turn into prophecy today).
  • Most of what we have done so far to reduce emissions has caused more problems than it has cured.

I will look next week to see if Mr. Lindzen is still with Newsweek; if, in fact, he is still allowed to speak anywhere. After all, he has spoken heresy, and it would seem he must be burned at the stake for it.

An interesting question is posed by someone who responded to Lindzen's on-line article: "If it is northern industrialized nations that are destroying the atmosphere, why is the ozone hole over the south pole?" Another noted that Einstein's theory of relativity has never been contradicted, never been proven wrong, has always played out, yet after a century, it is still just a theory, yet global warming is proclaimed as a fact from media pulpits everywhere.

It seems to me that there are possibly many factors contributing to a changing environment. Some of them are man-made, and others, such as volcanoes, are beyond our control. Yet it seems that the biggest contributor of all is out of our reach. Is it too simplistic to suppose that the number one contributor to global warming and/or the decrease of temperatures worldwide on our own planet is the same thing that is causing these things on Mars? I think it's the big orange thing that keeps coming up in the East. But I guess that's heresy.