Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cut, Cap and Balance or Cut, Cap and Kill

Cut Cap and Balance
Summary of Republican Proposal -- from Christian Science Monitor/Associated Press
    —  Cuts next year's projected $3.6 trillion in spending by $111 billion. Roughly two-thirds of cuts from department and agency budgets, one-third from automatically paid benefits, but leaves decisions to Congress about which programs would be cut. Exempts defense, security, veterans, Medicare and Social Security.
    —   Gradually decreases, or "caps," spending over the coming decade from 24.1 percent of the economy this year to 19.9 percent in 2021. Over the decade, that would mean about $6 trillion less spending than President Barack Obama proposed in his most recent budget. Congress would decide details. If a cap was exceeded, spending would automatically be cut, exempting Social Security, Medicare, military personnel, veterans and interest due on the debt.
   Congress must approve and send to the states for ratification a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget before the government's debt limit can be increased. After congressional approval of a balanced budget amendment, federal borrowing authority would automatically increase by $2.4 trillion, matching Obama's request. Requires that the balanced budget amendment resemble current House and Senate proposals, which would require two-thirds majorities in Congress to raise taxes or to allow annual spending to exceed 18 percent of the economy — more severe than the 19.9 percent target for 2021 in the cut, cap and balance bill.
The Counter Argument
Summary from Ezra Klein, Wahington Post, 04/04/2011
Bruce Bartlett (columnist for on line newspaper the Fiscal Times)  takes a look at the Balanced Budget Amendment all 47 Republicans signed their names to and pronounces it “quite possibly the stupidest constitutional amendment I think I have ever seen. It looks like it was drafted by a couple of interns on the back of a napkin.”
I think “stupid” is the wrong word. “Dangerous” is more like it. And maybe “radical.” This isn’t just a Balanced Budget Amendment. It also includes a provision saying that tax increases would require a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress — so, it includes a provision making it harder to balance the budget — and another saying that total spending couldn’t exceed 18 percent of GDP. No allowances are made for recessions, though allowances are made for wars. Not a single year of the Bush administration would qualify as constitutional under this amendment. Nor would a single year of the Reagan administration. The Clinton administration would’ve had exactly two years in which it wasn’t in violation.
Read that again: Every single Senate Republican has endorsed a constitutional amendment that would’ve made Ronald Reagan’s fiscal policy unconstitutional. That’s how far to the right the modern GOP has swung.
But the problem isn’t simply that the proposed amendment is extreme. It’s also unworkable. The baby boomers are retiring and health costs are rising. Unless you have a way to stop one or the other from happening — and no one does — spending as a percentage of GDP is going to have to rise. This proposal doesn’t interrupt those trends. It simply refuses to acknowledge them — or, to be more generous, it rules them unconstitutional. This is the equivalent of trying to keep your kid cute by passing a law saying he’s not allowed to grow up.
Another problem: In a recession, tax revenue plummets and GDP stops growing, but spending has to be sustained, or even increased, to a) give people unemployment insurance and Medicaid and other services they need and b) keep the economy from contracting violently. This amendments includes no provisions for recessions, meaning that when the economy contracted, the government would have to contract as well. That is to say, we’re still not out of one of the deepest recessions in American history, and every Senate Republican has co-sponsored a constitutional amendment to make future recessions worse. It’s just breathtaking.
A world in which this amendment is added to the Constitution is a world in which America effectively becomes California. It’s a world where the procedural impediments to passing budgets and raising revenues are so immense that effective fiscal management is essentially impossible; it’s a world where we can’t make public investments or sustain the safety net; it’s a world where recessions are much worse than they currently are and the government has to do more of its work off-budget through regulation and gimmickry. I would like to say something positive about this proposal, say there’s some silver lining here. But there isn’t. This is economic demagoguery, and nothing more. It’s so unrealistic that it would’ve ruled all but two of the last 30 years unconstitutional, which means it’s so unrealistic that there has not yet been a Republican president who has proven it can be done. And that doesn’t just suggest it can’t be done: It suggests that when Republicans are actually in power and have control of the budget, they know perfectly well that it shouldn’t be done. They’re just pretending otherwise for the moment.
Sooooo, best I can figure out the opposing view is that if you force the Congress and the President to plan for a balanced budget then as American's age they won't be able to pay for their benefits?  But if America fails would how will they pay?  
What I see in the Democratic approach is the standard talking points they use about the rich versus the poor and attempting to instill fear and loathing in their core followers.  They also stick to generalities and a whole  lot of examples that are not exactly relevant to what the bill says.
I would like to see a solid set of proposals from the Democrats on how they would bring our budget into balance.  So far all I've seen are sound bites designed to play to the emotions of the masses.  Isn't that what the Roman Emperors did when they built the Coliseum?
So far the voting has been strictly along party lines.  Time for you to decide for yourself who is right.  Obviously there are some who will never waiver from their position but America has a very large group of independents.  Hopefully they will consider carefully the options before them.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Pro and Con

Two views:







I know I will be accused here of presenting a bias and jaded view of the political debate, I can honestly say I didn't set out to do that.  I searched for "views that support Obama" and "views that oppose Obama" The second video is one of a very few civil ones  I found and is the most articulate.  I am sure there may be others but I didn't find them.  The third video is pretty typical of what I found in the Pro Obama video category.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Small

Small           Cold
is the heart      of one who 
claim's to care    about others
Then they pass   them by on the
street, without stopping to 
share a moment in time
These are the people
who claim the
Government
unfeeling
really
?

Liberals make a big deal about how the government should take care of the poor and needy.  Why then does the liberal community give less then conservatives?  It is easy to give away someone else's money.


Perhaps it is time to debunk the myth -- liberal Democrats are more compassionate than conservative Republicans.  20/20 didn't find that the case.

Is it Just Me?

    Am I the only one who believes the Republicans share near equal blame with the Democrats on this problem of debt?  The true difference between the parties is no longer one believes in small government and the other believes in big?  They just pander to the groups that send them money?

     When confronted with the fact the democratic Congress and democratic President ran up trillion dollar/year debt is the reasonable response, well the previous president and congress ran up big debts and started illegal wars?  This is a visceral response, but at least the first part is accurate.  The Republican Congress and Republican President did precisely that.  The only difference is their bigger government was in defense, the current president's bigger government is in welfare (I include the mandated healthcare), while maintaining the bigger government of the previous administration.

     In 2008 I had hoped the Democrats of the 110th Congress would learn from the failures that cost the Republicans control, but they did not, as a result they lost the House in 2010.  When you pass legislation so distasteful compromise is not possible are you really doing the best for the country?

     As long as Democrats continue to keep the debate at the emotional level, making vague promises of change, and Republicans continue to talk about debt reduction as if it were a Democrats fault can we really get into serious solutions?

    The Republicans are now floating the idea of a Balanced Budget Amendment.  Finally -- something that would force fiscal responsibility.  Others have said 49 states require balanced budgets, why shouldn't the US Government?  I agree.  I would go one step further and include in that amendment the loss of pay and entitlements for all elected officials in the Congress and Executive if they fail to pass and sign that budget by the first day of the new fiscal year.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Where Do We Go From Here?

As a Nation who are we?   Have we become a population of sheep to be herded by so many media sheep dogs doing the bidding of their political masters, or have we always been sheep?  Are we so dulled by life that it is easier for us to buy lock, stock and barrel the rhetoric of the sound bite politicians who don’t debate, but just posture?
I am not sure what is right for America’s future but I am pretty sure that it will not be found by maintaining the status quo.  On one side we have a party that accuses the other of protecting the rich, while at the same time they raise campaign funds from their rich supporters in entertainment and the progressive cities of the Northeast.  It seems rather two-faced to have their spokespeople out saying the problems can all be fixed if we just make the rich, on those who own private jets, give us all their money and grow the government so it can redistribute that money to the needy, while raising millions of dollars to campaign on this socialist concept.  Is a larger government more likely to balance the federal budget?  Is there anything in history to show that is likely to happen?  Did the Soviet Union operate with all the wealth of the nation going to all the people, or did all the wealth of the people go to a few politically strong party members and the average person just survived waiting for the next handout?
The other party doesn’t have much to crow about either.  When given the opportunities to do the right thing and make this government a pay as you go proposition the party allowed the government to spent more than they took in.  In the 1980’s when Reagan promised to shrink the government we grew instead.  He continued to spend more than we had, at a rate that would have made his predecessors blush.  When we were attacked by Muslim terrorists on 9/ll and we had almost universal support to fight back, did we raise taxes to fund the military or did we mortgage our future to pay for two wars by spending more on defense then we could pay for with a balanced budget?  Just like in the 1960’s and 70’s the government grew without the funding to sustain it.
So, what are the real, fundamental questions we need to come to grips with?  My experiences have shown that really smart people, and people who think themselves to be really smart, can capture them into complex algorithms and formulas, postulating equally complex and mind-boggling theorems and solutions.  Things that are so complex, only the experts can understand them and we will all be made to feel that our future can only be decided by those superior members of the ruling and intellectual elite.  But I think this is pure BS.  The issues we face are complex, the solutions may be complex, but to understand the basic issues are not, and can be set into simple language so most people can understand and vote on them.
The first question is where does wealth come from?  Does the government create wealth, or is something else the engine?  Those who argue that the rich owe us their wealth believe it is finite and property of government, and by implication them.  This has been the mantra for socialism and communism since Karl Marx.  Experience in the free market world suggests that wealth is not finite and finds its way to those who have the courage and commitment to pursue it.  There is potential morality issue with some of those who pursue wealth to the detriment of others, but last time I checked our Government is only marginally involved in setting the moral standards of its citizens, and the constitution and its amendments only serve to affirm this.  How you answer this question is the foundation for everything else.
Next, what are the jobs only the federal government can do and what are the priorities for doing them?  This is really the heart of the debate between the two parties right now.  Since the great depression the US Government has had a social welfare program called Social Security.  When Congress and the President established this it was assumed it would be a pay as you go proposition where more people paying in would be able to pay for the care of the elderly.  Unfortunately Congress has a short memory and has routinely raided the SS trust fund to pay immediate bills they find better for their personal causes.  Is that social program the number one job of the federal government?  If it is then everything comes second and we must fund its survival.  Defense goes, interstate roads go, air transportation goes, environmental protection, etc.  Since this isn’t covered in the Constitution the founding fathers didn’t envision a government that would pay for a comfortable retirement for its seniors.  Spend a few moments outlining what, if it were you, would be the top to bottom priorities you want to pay for.  Then ask yourself – should every job on the list be paid for?  This is critical to the next question.
Finally, who is best equipped to spend your money, you or your government?  If the government is supposed to do everything for everyone then are you prepared to pay everything for it? If everyone gives his or her money to the government what is an individual's incentive to make more money?  This was the problem with the Soviet Union, no incentive to excel.  Why work if the government will meet your every need?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Balanced Budgets


Should there be a balance in life
Where all we are aligns and grows
In the orient they think so
It brings them harmony, you know!

So why is it so hard for us
To find a shared common approach?
All that goes into our Capital
Matches what goes out, for Pete’s sake 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Leadership

What qualities should a leader have?  A simple question that is impossible to answer.  We are approaching a show down between the leaders in Congress and the President, with each side critical of the other, and lobbying for press time to make their cases to the public, as if we really have a role in this debate.  So lets talk about that term leader and what it means.
Merriam-Webster defines Leader as a person who leads as a guide, or conductor, a person who directs a military force or unit or a person who has commanding influence or authority.
Leadership – the office or position of a leader, the capacity to lead, or the act or an instance of leading.
So, at least according to Merriam-Webster, there are no inherent qualities required of a leader.   Anyone, because of the position they hold, can be a leader, the real separator of bad or good leaders rests in the second definition of leadership – the capacity to lead.
If we look back in history we find wonderful examples of both good and bad leaders, in military, the arts, and politics so lets review a few.
Alexander the Great – Conquered  much of the known world by the time he was 30.  Born into a position of rank, he succeeded his father Phillip II of Macedon in 336BC at the age of 20.  For 10 years he commanded the loyalty of his Army as they invaded Persia and then India.  His abilities to inspire and lead have set the standard for leadership most military leaders aspire to.  He was fearless in battle, and quick to realize a tactical advantage and exploit it.  So there are two qualities to consider – physical courage and the ability to see what others do not.
Pontius Pilate, the fifth Prefect of Judea, when presented with a tough political call found a way to wash his hands of the whole affair.  History does not reflect kindly on Pontius Pilate.
George Washington – from Colonial Virginia, he was the dominant military and political leader of the early United States.  During the revolutionary war he held a rag-tag group of volunteers together during failed campaigns, terrible winters, and periods of retreat.  During the winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge Washington held his army together despite a lack of almost everything but cold and damp.  During the war he had to deal with Mutiny when Congress failed to raise funds to pay the Army and provide the material they needed.  In at least one case when the mutiny was put down he dealt with the soldiers who had rebelled with great compassion.  So I would characterize one of his greatest qualities as a leader as compassion.
Abraham Lincoln, The sixteenth President of the United States, he served as Commander-in-Chief during the Civil War.  In that war the North had every advantage except a competent General to lead the Army.  President Lincoln went through a half dozen Commanders for the Army of the Potomac before he found Ulysses S. Grant.  Often stymied by his own party out to feather their personal nests, Lincoln showed determination and perseverance.  He did not quit when it was tough or going against him.  He kept his focus on the end goal, preservation of the Union.  In that -- he succeeded and is revered as a great President.
U.S. Grant shows us a study in contrasts with both admirable qualities and demons that would ultimately lead to his failure as President.  As General of the Army his willingness to pursue and hound the Confederate Army ultimately led to the end of the war.  As President, his trusting nature and acceptance of cronyism lead to the widespread corruption in the Federal government.
Benjamin Harrison, Republican, the 23rd President, he took a treasury surplus and managed to zero that out and create a recession, leading to the eventual loss of both Congress and the Presidency.  How many people can name a highlight of the Harrison administration?
Ludwig van Beethoven, a German composer, his music survives as among the greatest compositions ever written.  He is among the most famous and influential composers of all time.  He achieves this status despite becoming completely deaf.  Musical genus alone does not account for this.  He was driven to excellence; he accepted nothing short of perfection in his work.  The demand to be the best you can be, the desire to excel when those around you accept less, enviable qualities for a leader.
Dwight David Eisenhower General of the Army and 34th President of the United States.  Commissioned a Second Lieutenant in 1915, he was only a Lieutenant Colonel in 1939, by 1945 he was a General of the Army, the highest rank the Congress has ever authorized.  He achieved this not through courage on the battlefield, but through his ability to unify and focus a group of powerful, egotistical generals and politicians like Roosevelt, Churchill, Patton, and Montgomery towards the common goal of defeating the Germans.  His ability to remain calm, divorce his emotions from the moment, and build a workable plan lead to our victory in Europe in World War II.
Gandhi, a simple lawyer, led the nation of India out from under British colonization.  How could one man do this?  He inspired and led with a moral compass and compassion for the poor that made it impossible not to follow him if you were Indian.  He stubbornly refused to play by the rules the British tried to force upon him.  He played to a bigger stage.
So, here we are approaching the financial ruin of the country and the question I put before you is what admirable qualities of leadership do we see in the President, the Speaker of the House, the House minority leaders, and our Senate leadership? 

So far I’ve got to tell you I see more Pontius Pilate than Alexander the Great, more Benjamin Harrison than Gandhi.  I don’t see a vision of what is possible; I don’t see the ability to put personal agendas aside for a common good.  I don’t see anything but grandiose pandering to the diehard supporters of both Parties.  Republicans want reduced spending (smaller government) and the Democrats want increased Tax (bigger government).  Neither side has a willingness to agree to a plan to achieve a government that will live within its means. 


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Electric Cellist -- Carol Thorns

     Discovered this when I was looking for fireflies.  Ms. Thorns is a South African cellist who has a wonderful airy sound.  Her album is Fireflies in the Rain.   Enjoy.     


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Through the Night

As the night closes in, and the darkness settles over the land with a blanket of stars; there are those who stand ready to respond to your call for help.  They don’t seek fortune, they don’t look to see their names in the paper, or brag to others about their jobs, but without them we as a nation would be a poorer place.
When a hiker is lost, a ship is in distress, a city submerged, or town destroyed by the tornado who is always there?  If you guessed the news then you are a jaded person, and need read no further.
In the Air Force there is a small group.  Most of these forces are “weekend warriors” in the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command, but there are some in the active Air Force who commit their lives to the motto “That Others May Live.”  When others won’t fly, they will leave the safety of their base to search for those who need help.  I can think of no greater job in the Air Force.  It is not glamorous like flying an F-22 Raptor, but it is every bit as challenging.  They don’t go as far, or carry as much as a C-5, but without them hundreds more would have been lost in New Orleans, and in Northern Japan.
When we are forced to engage in combat they are there!  They have saved US flyers since their early days in Korea.  In Vietnam their actions were legendary and the number of Air Force Crosses awarded to these men far out number any other group.
With a little over a hundred and twenty helicopters and thirty-six HC‑130’s they can be found wherever there is conflict, or disaster.  Often underfunded they make do with what they have, so others may live.  When they tried to replace their helicopters Senator’s Clinton and McCain, and the Representatives from Connecticut stopped it, because they didn’t like who won.  So they make do with helicopters that can barely meet the minimum requirements.





As they begin to recapitalize their 45 year old HC-130’s there seems always to be a higher priority for the funding and they are getting far fewer than they want and need.  But still they press on, so others may live.
As you go to bed this evening please say a prayer for the brave men and woman of Air Force Combat Search and Rescue who stand alert tonight that others may live.


Authors comment:  I don't intend this as a slight to the heroic work of the US Coast Guard.

Monday, July 11, 2011

On a Monday Evening

The sun is setting as the thunderstorms roll across the Panhandle of Florida. The coolness of the air beneath the storm is refreshing after a day of humidity.  The rumbling always brings me back to the days of my childhood when I would sit in my room reading the tales of James Fennimore Cooper and Washington Irving, two authors who wrote of the stuff that made New York famous.
Growing up in the Hudson Valley two of Washington Irving’s works come especially to mind.  The first is almost universally known, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, with Ichabod Crane and the nefarious headless horseman who terrorized him. Washing Irving wrote about these legends stemming from the original Dutch colonization of the Hudson.  The second is not as well known, but it was a favorite, The Legend of Rip Van Winkle.
Originally written as a short story included in Irving’s collection entitled The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, I was first introduced to it around fourth or fifth grade as part of our reading assignments.  Coincidently that summer my Grandparents began camping in the Catskill Mountains near the setting of the story.  It was written by an author who had never set foot in those mountains at the time he penned the story.
The story of Rip Van Winkle is set before the Revolutionary war, and Rip was a amicable colonist of Dutch decent who is taken to long walks in the woods to escape his wife’s nagging demands.  One autumn day Rip and his dog Wolf are wandering up a mountain trail when he comes upon a man dressed in the style of the original Dutch settlers.  He is carrying a keg up the trail and asks Rip to give him a hand.  Soon enough they come to a open field where Rip discovers the source of the thunderous noises he had been hearing earlier.  There is a group of fashionably dressed Dutch settlers drinking and playing ninepin.  There is no conversation but he begins to drink their liquor and soon falls asleep.
Taken from the Web
No indication of copyright
When he awakes he is surprised to find his gun has rusted away, his beard is a foot long, and his dog, Wolf, is nowhere to be found.  When he returns to the village he recognizes no one.  The pub he used to frequent, the King George III, is now called the George Washington.  All the confusion gets sorted out and it is determined he had been asleep 20 years.  His wife has passed but his son and daughter are still there and they care for him as he resumes his life.
So when I hear thunder I just know those old Dutch kegglers are calling to me to join them for a game of ninepin.
[This tale is a quick read, I don't do justice to.  I would recommend it as a good bedtime story]

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Things I Have Always Wondered About

  • If there were starving children in China, why wasn’t there a way for me to mail them my vegetables?
  • Why are school buses yellow?
  • Who in the Navy decided left should be called port, and right should be starboard?
  • If you are half way to the moon, which way is down?  (As in everything that goes up, must come down)
  • Who taught the French to kiss?
  • Why did it take Europeans so long to figure out baths helped you stay healthier?
  • How do big Italian hookers fit into little Italian Fiats?
  • If Turkey and Greece were to sign a treaty would it be the Turkey Greece Peace?
  • If Great Britain sent all its convicts to settle Australia, where does Australia send its convicts?
  • Why aren’t there crosses on Easter Island?
  • If ships sink when they have a hole in them, why don’t submarines float?
  • Why are submarines and aircraft carriers called boats and everything else is a ship?
  • When did Florida drivers lose the ability to read traffic signs and why does Florida bother putting up signs when they know drivers can’t read them?  (It only confuses the out-of-state drivers.)
  • If the Kennedy’s were a clan, why didn’t they wear skirts?
  • When Mt Vesuvius destroyed Naples, why didn’t the Italians take the hint?
  • If Swiss Cows live on the sides of mountains, why isn’t one leg shorter than the other?
  • Why are deer so hard to kill when you’re hunting, but so easy to kill when you’re driving?
  •  What did librarians use before Google?
  • Did Dewey invent the decimal system before or after he lost his bid for President?
  • Is the Fulda Gap an upscale store in Germany?
  • What sadistic air traffic controller decided that every airplane going into Frankfurt had to hold over Rudesheim until they were almost out of gas?
  • When the Soviets occupied Poland, why didn’t they patch up all the bullet holes in Warsaw?
  • Why in Great Britain isn’t there a straight line between where you are and where you want to go?
  • Why don’t teenagers run the government, since they know everything?
  • If there are alien spacecraft, why did they only crash that one time in Roswell, NM and wasn’t it lucky our government was there to clean it up?
  • What is a cubit?
  • What wine does a cannibal use with European?  How about with a Middle Eastern?
  • Who figured out if you took grapes and walked on them and stuck them in a barrel for a year it was okay to drink?
  • Last one:
  • Did Polar Bears eat all the Penguins in the Artic?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

So A Man Walks Into a Bar

A man walks into a bar; sees an attractive woman sitting alone and goes up and asks to buy her a drink.  She agrees, and as they chat he asks her a hypothetical question.  If he gave her a million dollars, would she have sex with him?  She thinks about it a minute and says -- yes she would for a million dollars. 
 They go back to their small talk and after a while he asks if she would go back to his room and have sex?  She slaps his face and says to him “What do you think I am?  He says, “We’ve already established that, now we are just negotiating over the price.”
Recently, a similar hypothetical question was posed, if a loved one was on trial for their life, and you could lessen the chance they would be convicted would you lie and say you had abused them, causing them to act irrationally?  Some answered in the affirmative, some in the negative.  Fortunately, this is a choice most will never be faced with, but how you answer says a lot about the core values you hold.
If it is okay to lie to help a loved one in court fighting for his or her life, is it okay to save someone from a parking ticket?  How about cheating on a spouse, or on a test?  At what level do you sell yourself so someone else doesn’t have to be responsible for their actions? 
In this example, the sad thing is it appears no one places faith in the jury being able to make the right decision.  Right decisions apparently are only the ones people without all the facts can make on TV and the Internet.  The most forthright answer I’ve heard on the recent trial here in Florida came from one of the jurors.  “Being found innocent is not the same as saying she didn’t do it.”  We have a legal system that demands the prosecution prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” someone is guilty.  Would you want any less if it were you on trial?

Alone

In the quiet of the morning there is time to reflect, to consider the opportunities life has given; as well has the hardships faced.  Each moment brings a new experience, but it is only when we are alone do we have time to understand what we have gained from each of them.
If we know only success in life, if each want is fulfilled and each need met without effort than we have lost fully half of what life can be.  How do you gain empathy or compassion if you have no understanding of the struggle that others must endure?  If life is only joyous and happy then the loss of a loved one, or the pain of rejection is never known to you, and there is no true joy because it is all you know and there is nothing to make joy better or worse than anything.  Each day is another day, nothing more.  There are those who have this problem, they have been handed great wealth, or prestige or fame without effort and we see in them selfishness, arrogance, pettiness and intolerance.
If, in life, we know only hardship and struggle with no happiness to balance it also is half a life lost.  If forced to survive hand to mouth, if living without hope, if knowing only pain and rejection then it is as if life is a dark tunnel that runs on forever.  Each day is a day to be survived, not a challenge to face and overcome, just survive.  There are those with this, and we see in them some of the same traits we see in those who know only joy.
For balance life must have fullness.  Success, no matter how small, should be recognized.  Pain, as great as it might be; endured.  Balance comes from within and it is within we must look for our harmony.  It is nice to be recognized by others, but if that is most important then that recognition will be fleeting and unsatisfying.  Support from others is wonderful, but if we look to that as our crutch when we are in pain that too will be insufficient.  It can only support us for a short while, and then ultimately we will be left to find our own way.
As modern science attempts to reduce the struggles of life is it really doing us a favor?  That is a question each must answer as an individual but for me, too often does it afford an excuse not to look within us for healing and growth.  If we are sad and a pill can make us happy then it must be a good thing – right?  If we can live high above the noise of the city, looking out to see only the lights and not have to worry about others, then why not?
Look within yourself, be you, recognize good and bad.  Spend time alone.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Free Advice

One of the advantages of having been around for six full decades is I’ve learned a lot of lessons I am more than happy to pass along.  Since these are free you can bail out at any time and not have lost more than a few moments of your day.
First thoughts are sometimes the best ones, but if they are always the first things out of your mouth they will often be replaced by your foot.
It is easy to swear, it takes no discipline, no self-restraint and no thought for others.  It also usually accomplishes next to nothing in affecting the conversation, persuading others or making good impressions.
Listening is the hardest thing in the world to do well.  We are almost always thinking about what we should say in response when someone is talking to us.
None of us want to be judged, yet most of us have no reservations about judging others.  Actually this isn’t right, all of us want others to judge us as wonderful human beings, but that is next to impossible when we are busy being our judgemental selves.
Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes all the way to the bone.  On one level a flippant remark, but if you think about it there is great truth buried there.  If you have a mean spirit where you always think the worst of someone, or spend your time tearing others down to build yourself up -- your “ugly” does go much deeper.
There is great social value in the 10 commandments, even if you choose not to believe they are handed down from God, so let’s talk about them.
1.     I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, of the house of bondage.  You shall place no other gods before me.  [Seems like a reasonable request, but what if you don’t believe in God?  I think the point here is that as a people we need a unifying construct to keep us together, if we loose that then we as a society will break down.  We can look back to the Romans, Greeks, and even the French, as their unifying beliefs became weaker so did their society.]
2.    You shall not make yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or is in the earth…  [This has to stem from the practices of the ancient societies and separates the Jews from those other religions; it also had to make traveling through the wilderness for 40 years a lot easier since they didn’t have to carry that graven image around.]
3.    You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.  [Even God didn’t like swearing and since we use it in prayer I am sure he didn’t want to keep going “What, What did he say?”]
4.    Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  [The commandment that says STOP and smell the roses!  Most of us older people remember when stores closed on Sunday, you had little to do but relax, a quality we spend too little time appreciating.  It required you to plan ahead, another lost quality.  Living in Europe it was really great to know on Sunday you didn’t worry about shopping you could go to the wald (woods) and bike, picnic, visit and relax.]
5.    Honor your Mother and Father.  [The idea of family is central to the survival of a society.  If we don’t have mothers and fathers then how does that society continue?  This has got to be one of the harder commandments for teenagers who know they know everything and their parents are out of touch.  This leads directly to the next commandment!]
6.    Thou shall not kill. [questions?]
7.    Thou shall not commit adultery.  [Divorce has always been messy, think about the divorce courts back then when sheep were the currency of the day.]
8.    Thou shall not steal.  [If everyone is stealing from everyone else how does a society stay together?  For us to prosper we need to know when we give our words they count, and we also need to know that others will not take advantage of us.  What we are seeing today is just the opposite of this, today it seems to be “Thou shall get all you can from the sucker”]
9.    You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.  [see previous comment]
10.  You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbors wife…. [Coveting was as big a problem then, as it is now.  Today everyone is coveting something, liberals covet rich peoples money, conservatives covet no taxes, politicians covet tax payers money, televangelists covet more TV time and everyone’s money, etc.]
My last bit of free advice is to eat ice cream on a regular basis, but if you want to stay thin you need to exercise.  If you don’t want to stay thin make sure you have a king size bed.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

T minus 140,400

It is now 140,400 seconds to the last US manned space launch probably in this decade.  That is assuming it launches on time, which is not likely, but still, it will be a sad to think we as a nation have so many problems we can no longer put men into space without help from Russia.
I guess that should be chalked up as a consequence of 9/11 and the sky rocketing [pun intended] cost increases in the cost of the shuttle program.
So in honor of that event I share this poem 
Once, there was a scientist sitting in Germany, wondering just what to do
When along came a monster who sat down beside him, and said I can make a rocket for you 
Well quick as a wink, not stopping to think, the scientist said yes -- that will do
Then after the war, when he had rockets no more, the American's came wandering through
Said the Yankee's to Warner, come back  across the water, and we will make rockets -- Just us two
So off he did go, to Huntsville you know, in hopes his big dreams would come true
Two decades away, the US would play with the Saturn he had built his own way
On our way to the Moon, it happened so soon, we didn't know just how to stay
Unfortunately for us, we have lost the vision he brought and the dream he tried to instill
And so we arrive at this very sad day with nary a hope, we just pray
God speed dear Atlantis as you lift this last time; on your fini flight for U.S.A.


PS:  I know there are private ventures in the works in western U.S.  I don't count them for two reasons.  First, they will not carry a practical payload to space.  They will be, at best, thrill rides.  Next, they may launch from the US but they are substantially foreign venture capitalists funded projects.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Random Political Thoughts

     Here we are sixteen months from the next Presidential election and the press is all ready to pick the contestants and start the general campaigning.  This is only encouraged by a President who doesn't do much besides campaign.
President Obama and Former Representative Anthony Wiener D-NY
     I found it laughable that he was raffling, auctioning, or otherwise not soliciting $10, $5, and in the end $3 donations for an opportunity to go to the White House and have lunch with himself and the Vice President.  He couldn't really be raffling, or auctioning or having a lottery with the donations because that would violate state and interstate gaming laws.  So really you didn't need to send any money because it wouldn't improve your chances of winning, but who knew?
     On the Republican side we have numerous candidates running.  Several really haven't stopped since they lost their last try, and at least a couple appear to be in it to boost their book sales.   But it is early and the MainStream Media (The new code words for those pinko liberal news networks i.e. anyone but Fox (unless they ask stupid questions like "Are you a flake" and then they too are pinko-liberal MSM)), hasn't really picked who they want to win so they can tear them apart.


      So here we are with all these candidates having debates that no one really cares about talking about those important issues like how the President and Democrats have screwed up everything and they are just the man or woman to fix it.
     Then we have the negotiations on the National Debt and what has to represent the biggest "I'm just here for the free food," pass the buck, statement of this administration.  After a hard day of talking he comes out and says those leaders in the House and Senate have to lead, leaders lead and those guys in the House and Senate have to roll up their sleeves and get it done (on raising the debt ceiling).  So essentially his leadership style is based on Larry the Cable Guy!  Way to go Mr. President!  So exactly what is your role in Government?  Oh ya, you got UBL...
     Finally on a high note, while the Vice President, Mr. Biden, was out in Las Vegas telling the union leadership that the President and he were there men, and soliciting their support.  The rumors start about his being replaced by Andrew Cuomo.  What's a VP supposed to do?  He leaves town for one little trip to Sin City (a city the President said we should stop visiting) and all the sudden they want to replace him?  The injustice of it all!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

So, What is the 4th of July?

To some of us it is the hometown parade led by the old veterans of bygone wars, a picnic in the park, or the gathering together to see the fireworks.  It is young people walking together ahead of the parents, or the flags that fill the main streets of small towns across the countryside, but what is the 4th of July, really?
For many it is a day of ease, a time to relax and enjoy a holiday with outdoor cookouts, baseball games, family, friends and food.  Some find a momentary rush from the banners and garlands that decorate front porches across small towns.  For others, alone in the cities and towns, it is just another day filled with quiet desperation and fear, but what is the 4th of July, really?
Why should we celebrate this day, above others?  What is it that makes this day different?  Is it just the parades, the picnics, the free time, the concerts in the park, the fireworks, or is there more?  I think each of us must find our own answer but there is so much more that I am not sure I can do justice to the day.
History teaches the Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia agreed on July 2nd, 1776 to declare the colonies independent from Great Britain.  Setting into motion events that would ultimately lead this nation to represent the best a nation can be, and alas at times the worst a nation can be.  A small group of individuals, empowered by the peoples of their home colonies came together to forge a new future for a land that was still raw, untamed, and largely unknown.
The colonies had been the site of surrogate conflict when the French and the English engaged in the war from 1756 to 1763.  During that war, the French and Indian war, the French and their native allies in an effort to dominate and control the inevitable westward expansion of continent attacked and harassed the English settlers.  The war started when George Washington, as a Virginia Major, demanded the French withdraw from the Ohio valley.  The consequences of the war were the stationing of a large force of British troops in the Colonies.  This led to ultimately put a burden on the Crown on how to pay for that large garrison force and the King decided to levy taxes on the colonies to pay for that protection. [Does this sound at all familiar to what is going on today?]
As the King, and the Parliament, exerted its right to levy these taxes, and other burdens like the taking of property to garrison its troops, the merchants of the North and the landowners of the South found common ground to come together and consider changes to the status quo.  In the early 1770’s political writers such as Samuel Adams, James Wilson and even Thomas Jefferson[i] began to question the right of Parliament to control the colonies.  They began to assert the colonies allegiance was to the Crown, and not the civil government that Parliament represented.
This came to a head after Parliament passed the Coercive or Intolerable Acts[ii] to punish Massachusetts for the Boston Tea Party of December 1773.  As a result of the punitive nature of these various acts the colonists organized the 1st Continental Congress to formulate a protest and request relief from the Crown.   Those petitions were rejected and led the King to declare the colonies in a state of rebellion.[iii]
In a nutshell that is how we reached the point where we decided; leave the safety of the Crown, and strike out as 13 independent colonies.  But, just as we see in our representative government today, writing the preamble would not be an easy venture.  Men like John Adams, from Massachusetts, wanted to strike back in words sharp and biting that there be no mistake we were severing all ties, but there were colonies where the desire for independence was not nearly as strong and they rejected his first draft of the preamble.  So it came to pass in June 1776, congress chose a committee of five representatives to draft what would become one of the finest summaries of our problems with England.  Those five were; John Adams from Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin, Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson, Virginia, Robert R. Livingston, New York, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut.  While Thomas Jefferson is widely credited with this, there is some question as to how much was his words and thoughts and how much was just his crafting of others thoughts.
So what did they say?
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.[iv]
More importantly what does it mean?
In the simple sense, if we take the words as they are laid out we are, for the first time as a nation-state, saying there is a natural law where all men are equal before the eyes of God.  The Royalty of Europe does not hold special position and the people of the 13 colonies have chosen, by their own authority to separate from an unjust government.  This is an important lesson and one we should not forget.  We, the people, have the power to govern ourselves; if we give up that power we will be the poorer for it.  Each day we should consider how we govern our self, and what authority we are willing to vest in others.  Clearly, most our founding fathers were willing to take the chance we as a nation could make sound and rational choices about our lives and livelihoods, without a distant and remote government telling them what to do.
So why is this day so important?  It marks the first time where we codify the power to govern is granted by those who are governed and not by some inherent right of birth, or ordained right given by the gods, or a God.   It doesn’t just limit, as the Magna Carta did in 1215, but states clearly the right to govern is a privilege granted by the governed.  That is a very big deal and one of the reasons service in the military was a simple choice for my life.
So what is the 4th of July? It is a day to determine the course of your life, what you will do in service of others, and what you can do for our nation.
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