Saturday, April 28, 2012

Can a Bigger Government Be Better?

“Life Is Tough, But It Is Tougher If You’re Stupid”
 Allegedly said by John Wayne in the movie “Sands of Iwo Jima,” in the circles I travel this quote is routinely used by many of us as we shake our heads in disbelief of some foolishness.  I’ve just spent the last two days in a meeting with a group of acquisition experts listening to them explain why they can’t seem to get a handle on how to link the receipt of money from Congress to the purchase of equipment so they don’t spend too much or get the money taken away for not spending it fast enough.
Granted, with our Congress it is next to impossible to know exactly when they may actually pass a budget so we have the dollars to spend, but if they and the defense company write a contract with so much rigidity they can’t adapt to the known inability for Congress to pass a budget on 30 September then who is to blame?
As I listened to how they manage this program all the things I think of as important seem to be things they’ve not really thought about.  Simple things like making sure the training systems are updated and the maintenance personnel are trained, equipment is bought on time, spares are stocked, or repair processes are in place.  I wonder how this can be, but then again the reason we are having this gathering is because they are not meeting our expectations so why am I surprised?
In a lot of ways the problems we have with this team of “experts” are reflections of the problems we have with a strong central government where decisions are made far removed from the people they affect.  Over the past one hundred years or so we have added layer and layer of bureaucracy in the form of regulations, regulators, inspectors, policy-makers, agents, supervisors, and internal regulators to the point the Federal Government becomes a vast industry that produces nothing but more regulations.
Each time there is an abuse of power, in any form, there has been an outcry led by those who seek more power themselves, to have the federal government step in and make everything right.  To be clear -- power in my context comes in the form of controls of wealth, domination of others, or the ability to have their opinions certified as the only right ones.
As a fiscal conservative, but someone who grew up and was educated with socially liberal views I find myself caught between the two competing camps that define the political extremes we, as a nation, are being pulled towards, but at the end of the day it always comes down to two simple questions.  Do I want a far removed from local reality central government making all my decisions, and how much of that can we as a nation afford?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

There Aught to be a Law!

This morning CSPAN replayed the Congressional hearings on the GSA scandal from earlier in the week.  It was both disturbing and amusing at the same time.  As the Republican members expressed their displeasure over the conduct of these civil servants, and got on their soapboxes with the moral indignation of someone who has only the taxpayers best interests at heart, the Democrats too expressed astonishment over the callous way these high-ranking career civil servants had squandered “other peoples money.”  These are the same politicians who cannot agree on a balanced budget, and think nothing of adding a $2M mark for a pet project to a funding bill!  Now that is funny stuff.
I am sure a new round of legislation, regulation, mandatory reporting, and new layers of lawyer oversight will be implemented so these violations of public trust will “NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN!” When we decide it is wrong to teach morality, when we allow everyone to believe they can do whatever they want and there will be no repercussion how can this not happen again?  You cannot build an ever-larger government without expecting ever-larger scandal from lower and lower levels of the bureaucracy.  At least not until robots replace all the civil servants, and then we have to worry about one of them violating Asimov's first law.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

As Seen on Facebook.

As is popular these days, an acquaintance on Facebook posted one of those cute pictures that reflect some inspiring or endearing sentiment, or solicits you to share some thought so some great fortune is bestowed on someone.  As I skimmed along reading the various entries, I found I kept coming back to this particular one.
“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”  ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
As I’ve noted on previous Blog posts, I was born and raised near the homes of the Roosevelt’s and Mrs. Roosevelt was still recognized as an influence until her passing in 1962; when I was eleven.  I used to regularly ride past her home Val‑Kill Cottage, but I don’t believe I was ever fortunate enough to see her.  I think of her as a great lady who was born to into a world of immense wealth and privilege, committed herself to the future President and stayed with him through all the trials of life, enduring even his infidelities.  During the Second World War she was indeed his eyes and ears -- traveling across the nation, to a significant number of foreign countries, and even to the Pacific war zone.  I think she set the standard by which modern First Ladies are measured.
So back to the quote!  I like the sense of it, but I wonder its purpose?  Quotes are interesting; they pop up and live long beyond their authors, and lose the context that truly gives them meaning.  They remain, floating out in the vast world wide web, waiting for some lessor mind to pull them up and use for their own purpose.  For example, I wonder if Mrs. Roosevelt spoke these words as she participated in the creation of the United Nations?  In discussing an organization whose charter would be “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war…” This organization, that now sits on the banks of the East River in New York, and serves as a place where voting blocks seem to be the fashion of the day, and the veto within the Security Council really reflects the exercise of power.  The UN is used now as more of a shield for action or inaction, a place where democracy is condemned and tyranny protected, than a place where great minds discuss great ideas.
Perhaps she spoke these words while traveling around the nation, during the great depression, speaking on behalf of the President, offering hope and inspiration for a nation and a world struggling with massive unemployment and an economy that would not recover, perhaps because of government interference.
Was it used in defense of her husband, when political rivals and those who argued for a one, two, or three term President, voiced rumors and challenges to his Presidency?
Or could it have been offered during an acceptance speech for one of the many honorary awards and degrees she received?  I can see her standing there talking to the assembled students at Russell Sage College extoling them to open their minds to new ideas, to fresh concepts to move toward a better society where all men are equal, and poverty doesn’t exist. 
For me, I would like to think this quote is meant to inspire young minds to be open to debate and discussion of great ideas.  Something I think we are woefully short on these days.  We now must think and communicate in sound bites and snippets of thought, never letting whole ideas we find discomforting float around and balance within a larger context. I think great minds have always been hard to find.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Good and Bad

Wine, good
Whine, bad
Wine, a pleasant way to enjoy grapes
Whine, an annoying sound of liberals

I suspect I've had too much wine, to tolerate too much whining.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

It is a Slippery Slope

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Officials with the Los Angeles Unified School District were considering a plan on Wednesday that would lower standards for graduation and even allow students to pass key classes with a “D” grade.
Funny – I was watching the Master’s Golf Tournament a couple of weeks ago, and Exxon-Mobile commercials were showing how America ranked in the world in Math and Science.  They were pushing for better support for education and higher standards for performance.
I guess the Los Angeles Unified School District didn’t get the memo.  As the professional educators put their collective brains together on how to address the deplorable standards of the LA school system, where only 15% of graduates can qualify for the University of California or Cal State University systems they come up with the answer… If we can’t meet the minimum standards, then lower the standards.
If that is not a union’s approach to protect its members than I don’t know what is? 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to This Blog

It is so funny when Congressmen and citizens become outraged over the abuse of Government funds, or the debauchery of people like the Secret Service when they are away from home.  While it is sad this happens and the poor Secret Service agents, and GSA senior leadership may lose their jobs is it really their fault?  How can we hold these people accountable, when we as a society have come to believe we are victims?  If we are a nation of victims surely these poor souls must be victims as well.
When Congress passes outlandish budgets and provides funds that no one wants or needs, and the system says don’t give any back or you will get less next year, isn’t it the job of the GSA to make sure every red cent of Congressionally appropriated, including all the earmarks, funds get spent, no matter what it takes to do so?  If they have to rent lavish suites, and throw massive party’s training sessions where everyone is forced to take home IPads and other expensive swag purchased with tax dollars how can we blame the poor civil servants doing this important work?  Heck they didn’t even have a fancy patch like the Air Force team did that said in Latin “Doing God’s Work With Other Peoples Money.” 
After 10 years of war, with Congress authorizing trillions of dollars and the President asking for even more, it is next to impossible to spend it fast enough, so how is it when the GSA comes up with solutions they are penalized by the very people who force the money on them?   Like Congressman never waste money on their paid flights home every weekend, or the junkets around the world in the name of research.
And as for the Secret Service, when you are on the B-team you’ve got to find a way to keep up the old morale.  As one agent attempted to save taxpayers the $47.00 extra one hooker wanted he gets thrown out of the country.  Now what kind of treatment is that?  He or She is clearly a victim of those nasty Colombian cartels.  The fact the US Government has signed the UN resolution on Trafficking in Humans, and every government employee is required to take annual training on avoiding those industries that traffic in humans, like brothels and prostitution rings, does not mean they should actually comply with the law, for Pete’s sake they are the Secret Service and the military advance team that sets up for the Presidents visit.  These are important victims and deserve all the love and support the liberal community can provide them.  These men and woman have struggled for years with the burden of not being able to tell anyone what goes on during these trips.  They are innocent, well not so innocent really, victims of a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy no one ever talks about.

So In the News...

(Reuters) NASA has cleared Space Exploration Technologies, AKA Space X, to carry cargo to the $100B space station.  The confidence of the private company is reassuring. "This is a test flight and we may not succeed on getting all the way to the space station," Elon Musk said. "I think we've got a pretty good shot, but it's important to acknowledge that a lot can go wrong. This is pretty tricky."  We’ve come a long way from Apollo.
(Reuters) In 2011 a sleepy Air Canada pilot took rapid evasive action to avoid a collision with Venus.  Fourteen passengers and crew were injured by the pushover maneuver.  Oh, I know Venus is bright, and a tired pilot can make mistakes, but that is why they have strobes on the airplanes.  Stars twinkle, planets are bright, and airplanes flash!  People, wear your seat belts, you never know when a planet may leave its orbit.
(Reuters)  Last year almost 1,800 people renounced their US citizenship or handed in their green cards to avoid taxes.  That is more than the combined total of 2007, 2008, and 2009.  The US is one of the only countries to tax its citizens for income earned while working abroad, and apparently the IRS doesn’t make it easy to file.  As Peter Dunn said, in giving up his citizenship, he felt American Citizenship had become more of a liability than a privilege.  So let the exodus begin.
(Associated Press) SECDEF (that’s the acronym for Secretary of Defense) Leon Penetta said he regrets the cost to the taxpayers to finance is weekend trips home.  ($32,000/flight).  So far the SECDEF has found it necessary to get away 27 times for a taxpayer bill of around $860,000.  He has reimbursed the government about $17,000, so he probably only feels about $843,000 bad.
(The Weekly Standard)  Under the category of what goes around comes around, DNC Chief, Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been challenged to release her tax returns by her opponent Karen Harrington.  This is in response to Ms. Schultz call for Presidential candidate Romney to release his.  Seems fair to me, if you are going to make demands of others be sure you’re willing to meet those same demands yourself, but that really isn’t a progressive politician's approach is it?

Monday, April 16, 2012

A World of Wonder

What an interesting place this world of ours
Moving between the problems we sow
Spectacular highs and deepest lows
Finding a path towards the light
Seeing the stars in a dark-dark night

So many mysteries before us
How high is the sky?
When do children ask why?
There are so many questions with so little time
So many rhythms, so many rhymes

I see in the future a loss of the past
We forget why we live here
Forget what to ask
No teamwork in our lives
A lack of discourse

All in our own worlds
Where we must come first
Everyone texting and tweeting
Put it out to all ‘cause

you are the you in Youniverse. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

What the Heck?

On ABC this morning there was a panel discussion where George Stephanopoulos asked the panel if the President should distance himself from his million-dollar donor, Bill Maher.  All the learned journalists talked about how his comments were playing into the hands of the Republican’s who were attempting to paint the Democrats as out of touch with the average American, and were elitist snobs.
Then Katrina vanden Heuvel said something in passing that caused me to question who is really out of touch with Americans.  She said this country has “inequality akin to Egypt.”   Really?  Has she ever been to Egypt?  

Magnolia Trees

It is tragic when a tree species is ravaged by disease.  In past years we have had American Chestnut Blight, Amerilla Root Rot, Anthranose and Leaf Spot Disease, Annosus Root Rot, Aspen Canker, Bacterial Wetwood (also called slim flux), Beech Bark Disease, the list goes on and on.  We have your Dutch Elm Disease, Dwarf Mistloe, Sooty Mold, Sudden Oak Death, Verticillium Wilt and White Pine Blister Rust.
There is no justice in the world!  Not one of these terrible plagues will kill the Magnolia that trashes my front yard with its continual tree droppings.

Saturday, April 14, 2012


Hermits have a singular allure in our nation.  Individuals who divorce themselves from society to live alone, attempting to become completely separate from the world that surrounds them.  On the one hand our nation owes a great debt to past generations of hermits who through this separation discovered much of the land we now call the United States, or wrote about life at Walden Pond.  On the other, hermits are feared for their anti-social behavior that when threatened can manifest itself in violence, as evidenced by Mr. Krasinski.
As our planet fills with humans, and the density of people per square kilometer increases, where will the next generation of hermits go?  How much will society increase pressures for all individuals to conform?  Will they band together as they did in the 1960’s?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Closing the Door

There are days when it is best just to close the door quietly behind you and walk into the night.

Taking Exception

Is it just liberals who take offense every time someone challenges what they have to say or is it everyone now?  I miss the ability to go back and forth in a discussion without everyone weighing in about how mean someone is just because they don’t agree with something that is said.
Oh well I guess I will have to learn to keep my thoughts to myself and just go read a book.  It’s probably better for me anyway.

Monday, April 9, 2012

It is So Much Easier This Way.

There are times I would love to take people aside and ask them, what is your problem?  I’ve gone through life with a simple detachment and have an unfortunate quality where I believe its okay to be different from others and it’s okay for others to be critical of me, I can either accept or reject that criticism based on how much I value the person rendering it.  I’ve not had a lot of experience of people coming to my defense, not do I have an expectation that should happen.
Obviously that approach doesn’t really work well in today’s world.  If anyone is critical of anything it becomes the responsibility of the mob to attack and beat the offender down as a dangerous, vile, contemptible, inexcusable, irrational, example of a sociopath who does not know that in todays online society we can only praise each other, unless of course you are a liberal commentator and then it's okay to call people names and wish for their expiration.  I note here liberal commentator but the same holds true of conservative commentator.  It is just that the liberal spin machine is always complaining about, or pushing companies to boycott, conservatives it’s hard to tell if it about something they’ve said, or just the fact they are alive.
So, as we move from a democracy to mob rule, I guess I need to know what the rules are so I can avoid the fate of that guy who was beat down and stripped and robbed in Baltimore while the mob laughed.  Funny thing, color is never mentioned in this report, why isn't that always the case?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Reflections on this Easter

I am amazed how many people believe if you have faith in a God you can’t see, or prove to be, then you have a closed mind ruled by superstition.  These same people profess to be open to new ideas, and believe themselves to be progressive in their views on how mankind can flourish, if only they weren’t held back by the superstitious believers.
Who really has a closed mind here?  The ones who profess their faith, or the ones critical of those who don’t believe as they do?
I acknowledge there are those who use religion as a shield to justify their human failings like ambition, greed, jealousy or hate.  This is true whether you are Christian, Jew or Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist, Spiritualist or Scientologist, Pagan or Druid, Agnostic or Atheist.  When you seek to force your values, or lack of, on others you violate one of the basic tenants of a free society, the right of self-determination.  When you demean the views of others the question can only be, to what end?
I wonder, would we be a better world without our beliefs?  After much consideration I don’t think so.  They set the framework for hope, and a future beyond the problems we face each day.  When our country was established it was by men and woman escaping the persecution of their beliefs by a religion that controlled the state.  How strange now, a little over two hundred years later, that religious belief is being attacked by the state as it seeks greater control of our lives. 
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