Wednesday, January 30, 2013

And the Beat Goes On...and On...and On

Perhaps some of you saw the 60 Minutes interview with President Obama and ex-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton which aired this past Sunday.  If you didn't, you missed nothing substantive, so fret not.  If you did, then you saw the love fest between these two hard-core, liberal politicians who, a scant four years ago, were mortal combatants in a pugnacious presidential primary race.  Four years ago, the things these two said about each other would leave one to believe that neither of them had one scintilla of respect or admiration for the other and, most likely never would.  It was an almost unprecidented tableau of accusations about lying, misrepresentation, lack of trustworthiness and skills.  Sunday, it was a miracle how four years can make such a big difference. 

President Obama heaped praise upon Mrs. Clinton and even went so far as to say history would show that Secretary Clinton was one of the best State cabinet members "of all time", despite the fact that neither could cite even one major accomplishment during her tenure and the stain of the Bengazi embassy tragedy so prominent on her watch.  He said that they have become "close friends" during her time serving on his Cabinet.  She was equally lauditory of the President's skills and accomplishments and called him a close friend as well.  So what was the difference between these two people today versus where they were four years ago?  Simple.  Back then, Hillary wanted to be President in the worst way and was willing to do and say anything to gain that prize.  Barrack was in the same boat.  Today, Obama is a second-term, lame-duck President who, come four years from now, will have no dog in the hunt.  Clinton, who will have only one more shot at being the most powerful woman in the world given her "advanced age" of 70 when that election happens, needs his endorsement as the current party leader.  O.K., that is how politics works these days.

This is all very interesting; however, it was not the most revealing moment of the interview as far as I am concerned.  At one point, Steve Kroft, the 60 Minutes reporter who threw nothing but softball pitches at both Obama and Clinton for the entire interview, asked something like "what were the biggest differences between the two of you four years ago during the hard-fought Democratic primary?"  There was a brief pause as Obama and Clinton looked at each other and then laughed.  They both admitted there really was not that much difference at all.  They both said their individual campaigns had to work really hard to come up with debate points.  Almost apologetically, they admitted to strikingly similar if not identical policies and politics.  It was a seminal moment for me.  No, actually, it scared the hell out of me.

What this told me was that if Hillary Clinton campaigns for and wins the Democratic nomination to represent her party, with Obama's full-hearted and full-throated endorsement, that four years from now there is a potential for a minimum of four more years (God forbid EIGHT) of the same thing American's have had to deal with for the past four years and the coming four years.  Why is that scary?  Because instead of being a mere $ 16 trillion in debt today, or $ 19 trillion when Obama leaves office, American's will have to shoulder well over $ 20 trillion in debt.  The economy will remain stagnant and possibly slip into recession, the dollar will drop even further against foreign currencies, the Fed will continue to print money like toilet paper and inflation will rear its ugly head, possibly back to double digits.  More social reform will ensue and the number of people on welfare will skyrocket.  And, the likelihood of the United States defaulting on our debt could be a real possibility.

Too much doom and gloom?  Not finished yet.  If Hillary Rodham Clinton defeats her Republican opponent and becomes President it will be the end of the Republican Party as a viable ideological alternative. For the first time in American history, we will basically be a one-party system.   Why is that scary?  Because a one-party system is just this close (hold your thumb and index finger so close together that you cannot see light between them) to a dictatorship.

Now surely there will be some disagreement on that!    Comments?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Irresponsible Journalism Fixes No Ills

So most of you have heard this news story by now.  The Journal News, a Gannett- publication newspaper which services the three large counties north of New York City (Westchester, Rockland and Putnam), published the names of legal gun owners; including their addresses and phone numbers.  They also put online an interactive map with pins showing the exact location of these people, just like you can find for pedophiles and convicted felons who live near you.

Public reaction ranged from a few, who thought this was a great service, to a majority who recognized this as irresponsible journalism at its worst.  One of the people on the list was Judge Jeanine Pirro, herself a legal gun owner.  Now anyone who was ever convicted in her court or sentenced by her to serve prison terms for their crimes has her address and telephone number and her exact location on a map.  She was furious and lashed out at the paper's publisher, Janet Hasson, president of The Journal New Media Group, and CynDee Royle, the editor and vice-president of The Journal News.  Her comments were printed in many other newspapers and aired on Fox News.

Hasson and Royle made brief statements defending their right to do what they did, but offering no reason for why they did it other than, "Our readers are understandably interested to know about guns in their neighborhoods."  And now, as Judge Pirro seeks a meeting with either one or both, they both have refused to discuss it.

One of the great freedoms we enjoy in this country is a Free Press.  It is guaranteed in our Constitution under the 1st Amendment.  It is a freedom enjoyed by very few countries in the world and defended regularly in our courts.  It is a good thing and we need it. But with that sovereign right comes great responsibility.  In the case of The Journal News, not only did they abrogate their responsibility, but trampled the Constitutional rights of thousands of individuals who not only have an expectation of privacy but a right to privacy, protected by the 4th Amendment.  Unfortunately, that Amendment applies only to federal and state government agencies.  It does not apply to private citizens or organizations. 

The information published by The Journal News is a matter of public record.  Remember, these are government-licensed gun owners.  Under the Freedom of Information Act, the newspaper had lawful access to the information and chose to reveal it to their readers. But should they have?

Let me respond to three people who commented favorably about the list and the map:

- "The gun permit maps are an effective way of showing how horribly widespread gun ownership is."

DUH?  You don't need a map, let alone specific names, addresses and phone numbers, to know that.  There are some 315 million legal guns in the United States.  That is one for nearly every man, woman and child in the country. And you needed a map to figure out there might be a gun or two on your block?

- "Please thank them.  This could be a turning point.  I do not want my daughter playing in a house with guns."

Then go to the parents of all your daughter's friends and ask them if they have guns in their homes.  Tell them either they have to give up their guns or your daughter will no longer be able to play with their child(ren).  When they tell you where to stick your nose after you get it out of their business, you can go home and tell your daughter that she can no longer play with 47 % of her friends because that is the number of households in this country that have one or more guns in their homes.

- "LOVE the gun license map!  Excellent information to anyone concerned with who they live around!"

While we are at it, would you like an interactive map of all the Jews in your neighborhood, like the Nazi's provided to concerned German citizens in the 1930's.  Or how about a listing of chain saw owners?  Texas residents concerned about those particular massacres would be interested I am sure.  Would you like a map of gays and lesbians?  You know, I am not wild about flaming liberals, so if they are in the majority in my neighborhood, I am getting the heck outta here!

"Armed" with this list of gun-owners and their addresses, is it a possibility that criminals in search of a legally registered weapon might now know exactly where they might find one?  Could this list allow intended burglars (or rapists or whatever) to know which homes on the block are not armed and target those homes instead?  Is it possible we have put these legal gun owners, who have broken no laws, have submitted to background checks and waiting periods, have, in some instances, been fingerprinted and registered and who are presumably responsible people, at risk of being ridiculed at least and targeted for vigilante abuse at worst?

If one of the gun-owners on that list is the recipient of a break-in, a burglary, a rape, or some other vile deed, will The Journal News step up to make them whole, assuming they survive the incident?  I don't know but, as a legal gun owner, if some irresponsible newspaper or other media source publishes my name, address or phone number and something nefarious happens because of it, we will find out.  I always wanted to own a piece of the media.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Experience is the Great Teacher

By the time you get to be my age a few things just start making sense on their own.  Things like, it is not wise to spend more than you make.  It is unwise to comment if your wife asks, "Does this outfit make me look fat"?  And if someone asks, "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?" understand there is no acceptable answer.  You lose both ways.  Some things just become clearer over time.  But for some of us, we have to learn the hard way.

Mark Twain once said, "There are three kinds of men: The ones that learn by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence to find out for themselves."  I am definitely in the latter category and have had to learn primarily from experience most of my life.  Ocassionally, painful experience.

Take, for instance, the time I was riding my bike down a 25% grade while on my paper route and decided it would be a good idea to see if I could steer the bike straight with my left hand on the right handle and my right hand on the left handle.  Well, let me tell you, the result is not something you want to experience, especially if you are a man and especially if you still hope to procreate some day.  The complete story of this experience can be found here in Pearl 33 - Keep Your Motion Going Straight Ahead.

So here, in my "golden years", it seems to me that I have experienced so much I ought to be an expert at most brain surgery and rocket science.  Of course, all I have to do is act like that around my wife or my daughters and they promptly point out the fallacy of my thinking.  So I guess I must continue to experience new things so that I can continue my education.  You are never too old to learn but my suggestion would be, to save wear and tear, stick to non-hazardous experiences and stay away from electric fences.


Monday, January 7, 2013

Sometimes a Ceiling is a Cliff

The dust has settled now.  A week has gone past since our esteemed Congress voted to avoid going over the Fiscal Cliff; raising taxes on the wealthy, permanently (yeah, right!) fixing the tax rates for some huge percentage of "hard-working families who are hurting" and failing, miserably, to decrease spending and start lowering the national debt.  I think Mark Twain said it best, "Suppose you were an idiot.  And suppose you were a member of Congress.  But then I repeat myself."

This piece of legislation is a travesty.  It is a joke.  It is the beginning of the next debate.  In less than three months Congress will be at it again, arguing over whether to raise the debt ceiling so America can continue to pay its bills.  Democrats will say, hell yes, and Republicans will say, hell no.  The outcome will be the same as long as the Senate is controlled by fiscally irresponsible men and women who care more about appeasing the electorate and special interest groups than reducing the financial burden we are shifting onto our children and grandchildren.  The new legislation includes some $ 67.9 billion in new PORK for special interests.  Charlotte Motor Speedway and other NASCAR track owners will get some $ 70 million in tax cuts, renewable energy companies (wind, solar, bio-fuel) will get over $ 116 million....oh, but that is only this year.  The 10-year cost to support these alternative energy projects, some of which are worthwhile and some of which are not, is $ 12.2 billion!

It goes from the sublime to the ridiculous.  $ 430 million to Hollywood producers to film their movies and TV shows in the U.S.  $ 222 million over two years to send the tax revenues collected from rum producers in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands back so they can increase production....of rum.  Must be the favorite drink of some Congressman.  (Now if we sent the taxes back to Lynchburg, TN so they could make more Jack Daniels, that would make more sense)  Here is one of my personal favorites.  How about $ 15 million for asparagus growers who have been hit hard by competitors from Peru?  PORK, PORK, PORK!

Let's look at this another way.  Consider these examples I was recently sent by a close friend which puts our debt problem in perspective:

* U.S. Tax revenue: $ 2,170,000,000,000
* Fed budget: $ 3,820,000,000,000
* New debt: $ 1,650,000,000,000
* National debt: $14,271,000,000,000
* Recent budget cuts: $ 38,500,000,000

Let's now remove 8 zeros and pretend it's a household budget:

* Annual family income: $ 21,700
* Money the family spent: $ 38,200
* New debt on the credit card: $ 16,500
* Outstanding balance on the credit card: $142,710
* Total budget cuts so far: $ 38.50

Kind of makes it real, doesn't it.  Here's another way to look at the Debt Ceiling:
Let's say, you come home from work and find there has been a sewer backup in your neighborhood....and your home has sewage all the way up to your ceilings.  What do you think you should do ......Raise the ceilings, or remove the crap ??
Unless we face the music, unless we get our elected representatives to do the right thing and consider serious debt reduction and not just a Band-Aid tm that taxes only 1% of the population, this debt ceiling will fall down and crush us just as if we had gone over the cliff...and worse.