Thursday, November 30, 2006

California Global Warming Carmaker Lawsuit is Specious

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California sues carmakers over global warming!
This picture conveys the dignity of this lawsuit.

Less than a week ago I called a featured Chronicle article “ludicrous” when its author called upon two unscientific studies to conclude American freedom of the press was significantly eroded after 9/11, then proceeded to not prove or support any of his points.

Now the San Francisco Chronicle has evolved from “ludicrous” to “specious,” which for the Chronicle is dramatic progress. Soon they may even reach the heights of “plausible,” but probably not any time soon with the current editorial staff.

The article is "Why we sue over soot," by Terry Tamminen, Wednesday, November 29, 2006, San Francisco Chronicle Open Forum. Mr. Tamminen served in the Schwarzenegger administration first as secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency, and then as the Cabinet secretary, and is the author of "Lives Per Gallon: The True Cost of Our Oil Addiction."

Mr. Tamminen began his article by building an analogy to California Attorney General Bill Lockyer suing automakers this September for contributing to global warming based on an example of “Bob’s BBQ” opening next to your house and creating a public nuisance that vexes you with greasy soot and cooking odors pouring through your windows.

At this point I determined to suspend all sense of disbelief concerning anything I know about the permitting and regulation of restaurants in residential areas and just try to concentrate on the situation Mr. Tamminen was analogizing. He has identified the nature and source of the public nuisance – it’s the greasy smoke from Bob’s BBQ – and he has identified the damaged party and the damage caused – you, and your grease stained house. If allowed to continue, your quality of life will be lessened, and you will sustain damage to your house requiring repair, and your property value will go down unless you find a buyer who loves living next to a BBQ restaurant.

There you have it – the creator and type of public nuisance is known, and the damaged party and extent of damages can be readily and objectively determined.

What his analogy has to do with the following is a total mystery to me.

“That's why the state of California is suing auto manufacturers on behalf of the public, seeking compensation for global warming pollution that is known to aggravate heat waves, wildfires and coastal flooding. Whether it is BBQ soot or tailpipe emissions, federal law guarantees the opportunity to seek redress against public nuisances -- acts or circumstances that interfere with our right to use or enjoy our surroundings or community.”

Mr. Tamminen names the public nuisance, global warming pollution, and the cause of the pollution, automobile tailpipe emissions. The damaged party is the public living in California, and the damage suffered is heat waves, wildfires, and coastal flooding aggravated by global warming pollution.

Since no damages, no law suit, the first areas to examine are the damages cited by Mr. Tamminen. First, deadly heat waves in California. We had one this year in July, which was thought to be responsible for almost 100 deaths. In 1995 Chicago had one that killed 780. In 2003 an August heat wave in Europe killed 19,000.

Looking back in history it seems that there have been a lot of deadly heat waves, and that the 2006 California one hardly registers on the deadly heat wave scale. For example, in 1936, “the deadliest heat wave in Canadian history hit Manitoba and Ontario. For almost two weeks in July, temperatures more than 44C left 1,180 Canadians dead.”

Can you believe it? That’s seventy years ago, in Canada!

In 1936, in Milwaukee, a heat wave caused 529 deaths. Milwaukee was struck by other notable heat waves in 1947, 1955, 1968, and 1970.

In 1934 in Ohio, during the week July 20-26, the estimated death toll was about 160.

Compared to now, there weren’t very many automobiles in Canada, Wisconsin, or Ohio in the early thirties, but there were deadly heat waves.

The next damages to examine are from wildfires. Here we find California Department of Forestry (CDF) records going back to 1933 of the number of fires, acres burned, and dollar damages. Since the dollar damages haven’t been adjusted for inflation, and homes and other improvements have poured into California fire hazard regions over the past 73 years, I’ll just consider number of fires and acres burned. The CDF records show the number of fires has diminished the last ten years compared to the two previous decades, and have been particularly low compared to historical records the past five years.

Except for 2003, the number of acres burned are about the same or lower than in previous years, and are dramatically lower than in the 1930’s and 1940’s. The worst fire year for acres burned in California was 1936, when 756,000 acres went up in flame. The next bad years were 1942 through 1945, when over a half-million acres burned each year.

Only two years, 1961 and 2003, in the last 50 had even half as many acres burned as in each of the years 1936, and 1942-1945.

So on your second point, Mr. Tamminen, we find a lot more tailpipe emissions and a lot less wildfire damage. Mr. Tamminen, so far the damages component of the California lawsuit against carmakers is non-existent, so we are left with only coastal flooding damages to save your analogy from scorn and derision.

In examining California coastal flooding, there seems to be a decided lack of comparative information. All I was able to find were articles about how California coasts would be flooded if certain global warming predictions came true. One concern was bluff erosion, which seems to be considered one of the greatest hazards of rising ocean levels. However, there was no information showing a dramatic increase in California ocean levels.

I must add from personal experience of living close to the Northern California coast in Point Arena and Gualala off and on since 1949 that crumbling coastal cliffs have always been a source of concern here. They are only more of a concern now because there have been so many homes, ever larger and more expensive, built above the coastal cliffs in recent years.

When I was a boy living here in 1949, I was warned, “cliffs crumble.” We still give that warning today, but it doesn’t stop the building.

During the 1950’s, while living in Point Arena, my friends and I spent a lot of time playing on the beaches and fishing off the rocks. The ocean level on those beaches and the rocks looks the same now as then, and the tides seem to expose and cover the same areas still.

My observations on ocean levels are admittedly unscientific, but please forgive me, because I’m commenting on an article that included even less scientific information to support any of its points as even my observations on the ocean level in Northern California not rising significantly in the past 57 years.

Someone else must be getting all of our increase.

In summary, I see nothing in Mr. Tamminen’s article that demonstrates any California damages, and with no damages to Californians, the California lawsuit against carmakers has no legal standing.

Mr. Tamminen goes on to fill his article with extraneous material, like the enormous penalties against tobacco companies awarded by the Mississippi tobacco lawsuit mill (without mentioning the dismissals on appeal), a lawsuit against pollution damage caused by North Carolina coal-burning plants, and Rhode Island lawsuits over lead-based paint.

In each of these examples, unlike in California, the lawsuits could name damaged parties and demonstrate their losses, and identify the probable causes.

Mr. Tamminen could not do the same for the California lawsuit, so it all comes down simply to this: “No harm, no foul.”

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Monday, November 27, 2006

US Freedom of the Press Rated Low in World Opinion

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Glorious Communist Freedom of the Press!
(as found in Russia, Cuba, North Korea, and many other nations that found the US to be 53rd in freedom of the press)

In a ludicrous article in the San Francisco Chronicle, William Bennett Turner, a San Francisco lawyer who teaches a course on the First Amendment and the press at UC Berkeley, says: “In a nation that preaches the virtues of democracy, the United States government has consistently eroded the media's ability to report and, by extension, undermines the ideals it professes to uphold.” Mr. Turner then goes on to masterfully not prove his point.

He begins his article on a strange note. citing the period of anarchic press freedom during Glasnost in the Soviet Union, when journalists were free to report anything. He fails to mention that the government and budding Russian mafia at that time were then free to murder the outspoken journalists, a Russian "freedom of the press" tradition that continues today.

Mr. Turner notes: “I used to tell my students on the first day of class that we had the freest speech and press in the world. I can't do that anymore. In recent years American press freedom has eroded.”

Interestingly, Mr. Turner begins his case by giving several contradictions to his main point. He writes: “By virtue of Supreme Court decisions (does this latest one change your mind, Mr. Turner?), the U.S. press remains freer than the press elsewhere in a few respects. He notes “our law provides significantly greater protection for the press against libel suits, especially by government officials.” In Mr. Turner’s free press havens of Europe, libel laws are used by both the governments and individuals to silence critics and commentators both. In France a journalist was tried and convicted of bringing the state into disrepute, even though he proved that France 2 (French public television) had falsely reported the death of Muhammad al-Durrah in September, 2000.

Next, “our law protects the press against almost any attempt by government to impose a ‘prior restraint’ on what can be published.” Certainly the citizens of “free press” Canada can’t say the same. In fact, Captain’s Quarters, perennially one of the most popular blogs in America, also became the most popular in Canada when Captain Ed reported news from a trial of Liberal government corruption in Canada that the Canadian news could not, even though the trial was open to the public.

Finally, Mr. Turner comments “perhaps unique in the world, our law protects the advocacy of dangerous, potentially divisive ideas.” I can only add that in much of the world, the practice of freedom of the press often leads to dead or imprisoned journalists.

So far Mr. Turner has done a great job of proving he was right when he used to tell his class we had the freest speech and press in the world, and is wrong now when he says we don’t.

If we don’t have the freedom of the press we once had, Mr. Turner, what has changed?

According to Mr. Turner, it all started Sept. 11, 2001. “Now that we are in a seemingly permanent "war" on terrorism, the government claims wartime powers that result in restricting press freedom.” For proof of his charge, he cites the increase since 9/11 of documents classified “secret” by the government. However, he offers no comparison to the classification of government documents during World War II, the Korean War, the Viet Nam War, or the one I am personally most familiar with, the Cold War.

I was a Cold War warrior in the Air Force from 1962 to retirement in 1984, and worked in the Security Service as a Russian linguist doing radio intercept from 1962 to 1965. During over twenty one years of service, under three Democrat and three Republican presidents, I wallowed in copious quantities of classified documents, many of which I was personally responsible for protection and safekeeping from disclosure. This, of course, was many years before 9/11, and curiously, was probably during the period Mr. Turner told his classes we had the freest speech and press in the world.

Mr. Turner then voices concern that the Bush administration is aggressively pursuing leakers of classified information. In particular, he thinks it worrisome that the pursuit of the leakers begins with the journalists and news media that received and disseminated the leaked classified information.

It seems very strange to me that someone in the legal profession would think it wrong that the Bush administration is attempting to carry out its Constitutional responsibilities to enforce the laws of the land. Nowhere in the Constitution, or in the laws that have been passed as provided by it, do I find the President has been granted the power to not enforce some of the laws, at the discretion of the profession of journalism.

Is it against the law to make an unauthorized disclosure of classified information? Yes, unless Mr. Turner can prove otherwise to the satisfaction of the Supreme Court, because Congress and American presidents all the way back to George Washington have considered it a violation of law.

Does it make any difference that the unauthorized disclosure is to a journalist rather than anyone else? So far, I have seen nothing in our laws, or in the laws of other nations, that give persons who make unauthorized disclosures of classified information to journalists an “Exempt from Prosecution” card.

Recapping my argument to this point, it is illegal to make an unauthorized disclosure of classified information to anyone. That seems simple enough, doesn’t it?

Then the next issue is, “How do you investigate and find who violated the classified information protection laws?” Logically, it would seem you would start your investigation at the point where you became aware a potential crime was committed. In the case of unauthorized disclosure of classified information, usually that means you go to the news agency that made the disclosure public, and then interview whichever of their employees were involved.

What happens if a journalist will not tell lawful investigators their knowledge of pertinent crime facts? Do you declare that, since the disclosure was to a journalist, no crime was committed, and drop the investigation?

Mr. Turner correctly notes that no such exemption for unauthorized disclosure of classified information to a journalist is or ever was in the Constitution of the United States, although he says that in Sweden the right of access to government documents is enshrined in their constitution. I know Swedes are a wild and crazy bunch, but I doubt even the Swedes just hand over their classified documents to any Muhammad “Swen” Swenson who asks to see them.

Lying by omission, are we Mr. Turner?

Mr. Turner correctly notes that American journalists have never had strong protections against subpoenas, but then curiously states that up until now they hardly ever needed it. I wonder, is he saying that journalists didn’t formerly engage in unlawful disclosures of classified information as much as they do now, or that previous administrations didn’t honor their responsibilities under the law? Since the laws haven’t changed, what’s different?

Curiouser and curiouser, Mr. Turner writes: “So far, the courts have refused to protect subpoenaed reporters no matter how important the information they unearthed or how insignificant the alleged crime.” Mr. Turner, I’m surprised that you, a lawyer, would think that courts could or should provide such protections to reporters. In effect, are you saying that the courts have the right to prejudge an investigation, before it even starts? Should you be reminded that the investigation is of an illegal disclosure of information, and the reporter by refusing to disclose pertinent information, information that only they may know, is impeding a lawful action and shielding a criminal?

I thought the indictment, trial, and sentencing phases were when the importance and significance of violations of law was decided, not in the pre-investigative stage.

Unlike Mr. Turner, I am not a lawyer, so I can only try to logically and with reason get to the heart of legal matters. Apparently Mr. Turner was seduced to rate the US low in freedom of the press based on our standing in world opinion.

As what essentially was the only proof of our loss of freedom of the press, Mr. Turner cited two surveys of world opinion, one by Freedom House, the other by Reporters without Borders, which he admitted were unscientific, but apparently he felt supported his point. Interestingly, the Freedom House survey lumps the United States into the top "Free" ranking, and above most of the nations that Reporters without Borders rank higher.

After admitting the subjectivity of the ratings, Mr. Turner wants to have it both ways, as he notes: "But it is sobering to see the consensus that the United States is no longer anywhere near the top."

Mr. Turner, isn't being ranked 17th of 168 countries considered being "anywhere near the top"?

For those with short memories, I remember the Cold War years, when world opinion as stated by the Iron Curtain “Peoples’ Republics,” African kleptocracies, Middle Eastern plutocracies, and Communist dictatorships routinely condemned the United States as the most despotic and least free nation of the world.

And I’ll bet that they didn’t think much of our freedom of the press then, either.

UPDATE: Pamela at Atlas Shrugs alerts that: "The Supreme Court ruled against The New York Times on Monday, refusing to block the government from reviewing the phone records of two Times reporters in a leak investigation of a terrorism-funding probe."

Apparently the Supreme Court wants a piece of the "erosion of freedom of press" action too. It looks like the Constitution still allows the prosecution of illegal disclosure of information.

I always thought it did, but this may come as a shock to Mr. Turner.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Affirmative Action Defeat Met With Deafening Silence

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The deafening sounds of silence that announced the landslide passage of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (Proposition 2) in Michigan indicate how the main stream media put their imprint on “news.” Each day I searched the San Francisco Chronicle for news of Ward Connerly’s attack on affirmative action in Michigan. Each day there was nothing. In fact, the latest interest the Chronicle appeared to have in the matter was October 30, a week before the election, when it reported a Michigan poll showed Proposition 2 was in a dead heat for passage.

Not surprisingly, the dead heat turned out to be a sixteen-point victory for Proposition 2, 58 percent for, 42 percent against. Mr. Connerly has already succeeded in having similar propositions passed in California and Washington.

The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative makes it unlawful for all public employers and public contractors, as well as public schools, to discriminate or grant preferential treatment on the basis of race, ethnicity, skin color, gender or national origin.

I don’t think the point has ever registered in the minds of Liberals that, in order to grant favors to one group, you have to discriminate against another. For those that think such discrimination is necessary for Blacks and Hispanics to progress, I would like to call their attention to the successes that Asian immigrants have had in America.

Naturally, Liberals are blind to minorities that don’t need their help, like the Asians. In fact, in California, Asians have done so well that they are now one of the groups that Liberals want to take from to give preferences to Blacks and Hispanics. To a Liberal, success means that you’re a target for discrimination.

Proposition 2 was opposed by Democrats, some Republican leaders, labor unions, the Catholic Church, major media outlets, the University of Michigan, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.

Against this formidable opposition, Ward Connelly only had the support of reason and fair treatment. It was no contest.

When a “blue” state like Michigan joins blue states like California and Washington, and gives an overwhelming defeat to affirmative action, Ward Connerly can proudly say that “affirmative action is dead.” The United States is well on its way to becoming the color-blind nation of Reverend King’s dreams.

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Eight-Man Football at Point Arena High

This may confirm Liberal suspicions that I played too many games without a helmet (1960)

My Point Arena High School experiences started a couple of weeks before I enrolled as a Freshman in 1956, because football practice began before the school year. I hadn’t given a thought to going out for football, although at 6’ 2” and 198 pounds I would be one of the biggest boys in our small high school, total enrollment 96.

The day before summer football practice was to start, my buddy Chuck York, who was about to start his Sophomore year, came by and told me Coach Snow wanted me at practice the next day. Chuck was already one of the best athletes in our high school, and had played both Junior Varsity basketball and Varsity baseball his Freshman year. Chuck was slightly taller than me, but not as heavy, and was much more muscular and coordinated. Although young, we were already the two tallest students.

Chuck hadn’t played football his Freshman year because Point Arena High did not field a Junior Varsity football team, and league and insurance requirements prohibited students younger than fifteen from playing Varsity football. That’s why I never gave playing my Freshman year a thought, although I liked football, and was a San Francisco 49er fan since we got our TV set in 1954.

The year before I entered high school, Point Arena High played six-man football. Six-man football was a fast, wide open game, since everyone was a potential pass receiver, and the field was the same as eight-man football, only 80 yards long and 40 yards wide.

Point Arena High shared the league championship in 1955, and fielded a strong team with sixteen squad members. However, the league decided to change to eight-man football the following year, and Point Arena was still only going to be able to field sixteen players. If any players were hurt or dropped out, the team wouldn’t be able to have full-team scrimmages.

That’s when Coach Ken Snow came up with the idea of Freshmen on the practice team. We couldn’t play in a game, but we came to every practice, got knocked around, improved our conditioning, learned some football skills, and suited up and sat on the bench every game so it looked like we had a bigger squad with more substitutes.

Besides myself, the other Freshmen “cannon fodder” were Sam Oglesby and Virgil Swift. Sam and Virgil were much smaller than me, but were tougher and in better physical condition. Sam would do prodigious amounts of sit ups, push ups, and pull ups, and I would think I ought to be working out too, but then I wouldn’t.

My first day of practice was a shock. First, there was the gear, in particular the jock strap. I put mine on, but then I put my underwear on over it. Chuck explained that I was supposed to wear the jockstrap under the football pants without underwear, but I was too confused and disoriented to follow his guidance.

I was issued a plastic football helmet, but soon noticed it was different from the other helmets. It didn’t have a bar across the front to protect my face, and in particular, my nose. Coach Snow saw my concern, and was very helpful. He showed me how to put cotton balls in my belt loop, and pull one out and stick it up my nose if I got a nosebleed.

The prior year I can’t remember any Point Arena players wearing face bars, so we, except for me, were the lucky ones to get the extra protection.

Coach Snow didn’t think of the plastic helmets in terms of our protection. He taught us to block and tackle by first making contact with the tops of our helmets, because he thought that hitting first with our helmets would be the most effective use of the hardest part of our protective gear. Hitting with the helmet first has since been outlawed, and is now a personal foul, an unnecessary roughness penalty called “spearing.”

Coach Snow was young, but he was stern, and a bit old fashioned. As evidence of old fashioned, we ran the single-wing offense, one of the few remaining teams that didn’t use the T-formation. The single wing was a running, not a passing, formation, and we only had a few simple pass plays. Our primary running play was the staple play of the single wing offense, “student body right.” With the line unbalanced to the right, the tailback took the center snap about where a quarterback in the “shotgun” formation would, and then followed the wingback, fullback, right end, and two pulling guards in a power sweep to the right. If the ball was spotted by the right hash marks, we would unbalance the line to the left and run a power sweep the other way.

As I wandered around our changing and equipment storage rooms in the upper floor of the old gym, I noticed the old football equipment was still on the storage racks. The old leather helmets were there and ready to go. I wondered how long it had been since they were last used, and now, fifty years later, I wonder whatever became of them.

Football practice on those hot August days was one of the most grueling and important things I have done in my entire life. I may have set records for sweating. After practice I’d sit in front of my locker and ring out my t-shirt before hanging it on the rack to dry overnight. Boats could have sailed on the puddles I produced.

The sweat was the product of me having to do strenuous activities, and continue doing them long past the point where I wanted to quit. Up to that point in my life, I did what I felt like doing, and stopped when I wanted. Now I found myself told to do things I’d rather not, and to keep doing them long after my body and mind agreed it was time to quit.

Coach Snow saved the best for last each practice day. After warming up, we would dry run plays, and then run the plays against the defense. When we finished that, and were really dirty and tired, and more than ready for a hot shower, it was time for the real work to begin: flops the length of the field and back.

Flops were very simple. You got into your three-point stance, then launched yourself forward onto your chest/stomach/face, popped up into a three-point stance, and did it again. And again. And … When you got to the end of the field – goal post to goal post was 100 yards – you turned around and flopped the 100 yards back. The first to get back had a few moments to catch their breath, then waste most of it yelling encouragement to the ones still flopping towards them.

As soon as the last flop was consummated, the wind sprints started. Again a three-point stance. Whistle. Sprint. Whistle. Stop. Back into a three-point stance. Whistle. Sprint. The first one or two to finish would be excused to the showers. The rest of us, whistle, sprint, whistle, sprint, “Grandma’s slow, but she’s 90!”, whistle, sprint, “Go! Go! Go! OK, showers!”

“Not you two. You were coasting. Now go down and back! Go hard! Go! Harder! Run it out! All the way! Now all the way back! Now you look like you’ve been working! OK, showers!”

I was a lineman, and by my Junior and Senior years I had lost over twenty pounds while everyone else was getting bigger, so I found I was the fastest lineman. On wind sprints I would give it everything I had as soon as the whistle blew, and usually was the first lineman to finish and get an early shower. I had learned a valuable life lesson. The more you goof off and take things easy, the longer you get to do them.

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Property Rights? We Don't Need No Stinking Property Rights

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Property rights? We don' need no steenkeen property rights!

The San Francisco Chronicle ran a New York Times article by Randal C. Archibold, November 24, 2006, Illegal immigrants fight border monitor in court. The article begins:

For years, Roger Barnett has holstered a pistol to his hip, tucked an assault rifle in his truck, and set out over the scrub brush on his thousands of acres of ranchland near the border in southeastern Arizona to hunt (illegal immigrants).

(Roger Barnett), after boasting of having captured 12,000 illegal crossers on land he owns or leases from the state and emerging as one of the earliest and most prominent of the self-appointed border watchers, Barnett finds himself the prey.

The New York Times article, by using the phrase “self-appointed border watcher” to describe a rancher protecting his property, is clearly slanted towards the American rancher being the bad guy, and the thousands of self-appointed illegal crossers over his land the victims.

But wait a minute, before you Liberals throw the illegals the rope to string Barnett up. The first thing, do property rights mean anything? I always thought that if you were on someone else’s property, you were either there with permission or you were trespassing. Does being an illegal immigrant give you a “Trespass Free” card?

I know up here in Northern California, our Limousine Liberals are just like the rest of us when it comes to property rights. They are all “self-appointed property-line watchers.” If you cross onto their property, they snarl at you like a junk-yard dog.

Not long ago Alice innocently rode her bike down a loop of Old Highway 1, and just at the end where it rejoins Highway 1, it crosses through a driveway/parking lot of the former (burned down) Old Milano Hotel where my Uncle Walter and family lived when we originally came to the area in 1949. A woman rushed out and rudely stopped Alice and ordered her to go back the way she came, rather than letting her cross the last hundred feet to Highway 1 through what looked like a public access road to the hotel parking lot.

For decades abalone pickers could not go to some of the most inviting areas because they bordered a large cattle ranch. American citizenship did not prevent the ranchers from chasing away anyone found on their property without permission. One of the best fishing and abalone diving areas near the ranch is still off limits, because it borders the old Loran Station now owned by Mendocino College.

Of course, property owners rightfully guard against trespassers on their land, who in this area are primarily tourists seeking access to the ocean across land for which the owner paid a lot of money to secure both the ocean frontage and privacy. That still doesn’t stop the public from considering that they have all the rights of the owner of the property, except they don’t have to pay any of his exorbitant property taxes.

Meanwhile, on the Arizona-Mexico border, a rancher who legally owns and leases thousands of acres to raise cattle is subject to legal jeopardy and Liberal ridicule because he wants to prevent illegal immigrants from trespassing on his land. Quick, one of you Liberal lawyers. Tell this dumb rancher how he will lose everything he owns if one of the illegal alien trespassers is killed or badly injured because of an unsafe condition on his ranch. The fact the trespasser had no right to be in the country, let alone on his ranch, isn’t going to save the rancher from liability, is that not so?

Who reimburses the rancher for loss or damage to his equipment or livestock caused by the trespassers? Or pays claims for death or injury to the trespassers? If you say insurance, are you sure? And who pays his premium and deductible? What insurance company knowingly would insure property, livestock, and equipment that is exposed to the illegal passage of tens of thousands of immigration law breakers?

The New York Times reported that Mr. Barnett was sued for “(T)hreatening two Mexican American hunters and three children with an assault rifle and insulting them with racist epithets, (and that the law suit) ended Wednesday with a jury awarding the hunters $98,750 in damages.”

Apparently, you now get in trouble if you are armed and confront armed trespassers on your own property. Why would Mr. Barnett go about armed on his property? Have any of you been reading about confrontations between law enforcement and illegal drug producing illegal “immigrants” in California?

Of course, being armed on your own property here in Northern California might not do you much good. The meth lab workers and marijuana growers are usually more heavily armed than the police. Since they are illegal in all ways, they bring their firearms with them when they come across the border, and probably more than a few come through Mr. Barnett’s property.

By the way, law-abiding hunters, which include all the members of the National Rifle Association, always get permission to hunt on the property of others, and follow all the owners’ rules, such as closing gates behind them. It is very hard to find illegal aliens and drug workers with the same ethical standards. Therefore, if you find unauthorized armed individuals on your property, you can bet they have broken and are breaking a high stack of laws.

Do they have hunting licenses? Are their firearms registered? Are they in the country legally? Do you know where they live? They know where you live. Will they take it calmly and philosophically when you tell them you’re going to report them to the police if they don’t get off your property? When the police come poking around, will they know who tipped off the police? When they lose millions of dollars worth of marijuana plants or methamphetamine, will they be PO’d?

Is it time for you to move far away?

Is that the message we’re sending to Mr. Barnett and the other ranchers and farmers in the path of the illegal alien “immigrant” invasion?

“You ranchers may think it’s bad now, but do anything to try and stop the illegals, and an army of their free lawyers will descend on you. You’ll have to pay for your own lawyers, so even if you win, you lose.”

Now that Democrats are in charge, think it’ll get any better?

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Big and Smart

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Marian Helen Stonemetz Combs, circa 1930

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Harry Grover Combs, circa 1930

Mom and Pop were married in September of 1940. They met in Long Beach in Southern California after Pop gave up working as a “rough neck” in the oil fields and started building Liberty Ships for Calship on Liberty Island, Los Angeles. Mom was a waitress at Ma Gamby’s in Long Beach. Pop had worked laying oil pipeline for Standard Oil in the Maracaibo River Basin in Columbia in the late 1930’s, and met Mom shortly after returning.

Mom was just two months pregnant with me when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Pop enlisted in the Navy Reserve, but Mom made sure the Navy knew Pop was working in an essential war industry, and he was never called to military service.

I was born July 18, 1942 in Torrance by Caesarean. Mom couldn’t have natural childbirth because she had a deformed pelvis, probably because she was born with a club foot. She had an operation when she was a young girl to correct the club foot, but one leg was shorter and smaller than the other, and her deformed pelvis couldn’t be fixed.

After I was born, the doctor told Mom that she couldn’t have any more children, but she told him, “Just put a zipper in that incision, because I’ll be right back.” Eleven months and four days later, June 22, 1943, Ron was born.

Mom said she didn’t want to raise a lonely only child, so she gave me the greatest gift of all, my little baby brother. I think Ron was born a couple of weeks early, and was slightly premature and received special attention for his first week.

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Ron and I, about 1946

After the war, Pop went back into the oil fields, and Mom tried to combine raising Ron and me with song writing as we moved our trailer from one Southern California town to the next. Pop would finish on one oil drilling rig, and then we would move fifty or a hundred miles to the next rig. Every now and then Mom would take a bus (she never learned to drive) to a radio studio in Los Angeles, and present one of her songs. I think most of the time she tried to get on the Hoagy Carmichael show, and we knew she had been on the show when she came home with a corsage.

Mom was very smart. She was a straight A student in high school, and a Life Member of the California Scholastic Federation. Besides writing songs and poems, she was such a good artist by the time she started high school, she did the cover art for all four of her Maricopa High School yearbooks.

Pop was very smart too, with high grades in school and the ability to easily learn and understand the mechanical and electrical systems he encountered as a millwright and later as a boiler technician.

Brother Ron has Pop’s abilities to understand and work with electrical and mechanical things. When he was a young teenager the mysteries of internal combustion engines were no mysteries to him, like they always have been to me. Ron took a test in high school for Navy nuclear training and scored very high. Later, working for Pacific Gas and Electricity, electrical systems and circuits were as simple and clear to him as they were complex and confusing to me.

I’m the only member of my family who received an Intelligence Quotient rating, and my score is very high at 145. However, I have a feeling my intelligence was the lowest of the four of us. Mom and I were the best in the family at the sort of things you learned in school from books. Pop and Ron were the best at the sort of things you understand about the world around you. I’m smart enough to know that each of them had skills and abilities that I don’t, and each demonstrated high intelligence outside of conventional IQ testing.

For a short period of time from about my 13th to 15th birthdays, I was the biggest member of my family. I had always been a large boy, usually a head taller than any classmate, and much bigger than little brother Ron. I grew past Pop when I was 13, and he was a sturdy 5’ 11”. When I graduated from the 8th grade, I was my present 6’ 2”, and weighed 198 pounds, much taller and heavier than Pop, my teacher/principal James E. Russell, and almost all of the adult males in the Point Arena area.

I would dance with my pretty classmates, Treva, Jen, Clarice, Peggy, Yvonne, Junella, “Tex”, and their visiting friends, Lorelei, Marie, Marlene, and the first dance always started the same. They would turn their heads back, look way up, and say, “Gee you’re tall, how tall are you?” Or occasionally, “Is it snowing up there?”

Little brother Ron was smaller than average, and next to me he looked even smaller. When he was little, his nickname was “Peanut,” due to his lack of size. Later I nicknamed him “Runt,” and soon everyone called him “Runt.”

In fact, that was his nickname even after he grew over half a foot his Freshman year of high school, and during his Sophomore year reached his present height of 6’ 5”, and towered over me and everyone else in school, in town, and for all I know, all of southern Mendocino County. But despite his height, one thing didn’t change. We all still called him “Runt.” He was almost a foot taller than many of his classmates, but he was still “Runt,” even to the shortest.

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Ron and I, reassembling a wine tank for my future father-in-law Dean Miller to use as a water tank, at the top of Gypsy Flat Road, Gualala, California, Summer of 1961

I just traded e-mails with one of those classmates, Bob Seymour. He kept growing through high school, passed me, and is almost but not quite as big as Ron, but he still calls him “Runt,” and occasionally “Peanut.”

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Me with "little brother" Ron, 2006

Pop responded to the many compliments he received about us by saying that we were, “strong as an ox, and nearly as smart.” Ron and I would beam when we heard that, because we could tell Pop was proud of his big boys.

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Lawrence Ferlinghetti - Fool or Fraud?

We went to the wonderful Point Arena Movie Theater and saw “Flags of our Fathers,” another Clint Eastwood masterpiece. As I left the theater, sneaking wipes at my moist eyes, I thought about a San Francisco Chronicle article I had just read about Lawrence Ferlinghetti, San Franciso poet and writer.

In the Chronicle article he reminisced about his World War II experiences as a Navy ensign on wooden subchasers, seeing service in the Atlantic, then in the Pacific. Near the end of the article, when asked about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Ferlinghetti observed:

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"It was a monstrous, racist act, the worst the U.S. ever committed," he says. "Had the Japanese been white-skinned, those bombs would not have dropped."

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I reflected on his remark as I thought about what I had just seen in the movie. The Japanese on Iwo Jima fought ferociously, and when defeat was inevitable, committed suicide. Only about 1,000 of the 22,000 Japanese soldiers on Iwo Jima survived. US losses were 6,821, over twice as many deaths in one month as we have suffered in over three years of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. As horrific as the fighting on Iwo Jima was, it was just a prelude to the slaughter at Okinawa.

Twice as many were killed (approximately a quarter of a million) during the Battle of Okinawa than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. Estimates of civilian deaths go as high as one-third of Okinawa’s population.

I went to Okinawa on inspection trips while stationed at Hickam AFB in the early 1980’s, and my Navy Sea Bee buddy, Merv, told me about the desperate battles and staggering deaths from combat and suicide that the Japanese soldiers and Okinawa civilians suffered. He and some of his buddies searched the caves for World War II artifacts, not for souvenirs, but to turn over to Japanese societies for identification and presentation to the families of the missing dead.

Thousands of Japanese were entombed in the caves, and thousands -- women, children, old people -- threw themselves from the cliffs rather than suffer the humiliation and atrocities they had been told to expect at the hands of the conquering Americans.

Bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not a “monstrous, racist act.” If Ferlinghetti were a better student of history, or probably if he were just more honest, he would admit that the bombing saved millions of Japanese military and civilian lives, and the lives of hundreds of thousands of American soldiers and sailors.

I have absolutely no respect for you, Mr. Ferlinghetti, and your outrageous statements. You display your ignorance and/or dishonesty (which is it?) by not noting that German cities had already suffered much more sustained bombing than the Japanese. If you and other critics of the atomic bombings were fair, you would mention Dresden (75 percent destroyed), Hamburg (firestorms cooked and suffocated people in shelters), Berlin (70 percent destroyed, 1.5 million homeless), and many others.

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Dresden dead and dying

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Hamburg after the firestorm Hell

British Air Chief Marshal Arthur "Bomber" Harris famously said of the Germans "They have sowed the wind and so shall they reap the whirlwind."

It can easily be stated about all warfare that it is “monstrous.” Since most nations have a degree of racial homogeneity, perhaps the label “racist” fits too. However, terrible deeds had been done by the Japanese and Germans to both military and civilian inhabitants of the countries they invaded and conquered.

Mr. Ferlinghetti, let me try some historical word associations on you.

The Rape of Nanking. Any comments?

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The Holocaust. Do you have anything to add? Who does?

German and Japanese gross violations of the Geneva Convention concerning the treatment of Prisoners of War, and other war crimes. When you heard about their atrocities, did you get mad too?

The Blitz? London? Coventry? Plymouth?

The Bataan Death March. I knew a survivor. You probably didn’t. There weren’t many, you know.

Mr. Ferlinghetti, I find you guilty of either gross ignorance or dishonesty, either or both of which should disqualify you from being considered a serious commentator on the motives underlying the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A truthful and fair conclusion would be that a hundred thousand lives were sacrificed to save the lives of millions, and incomprehensible destruction.

Had we invaded the Japanese mainland, then you would be justified in labelling the resulting carnage "monstrous and racist," and just about any other horrible words you could assign.

However, almost all the soldiers and sailors you served with were glad we dropped the bombs and didn't invade. The Japanese should be.

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Niggardly Liberals vs. Compassionate Conservatives

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Niggardly is a word synonymous with stingy and miserly, and a niggard (noun) is a miser. They are both derived from the Old Norse verb nigla, meaning "to fuss about small matters". (The English word "niggle" retains the original Norse meaning.) The word is not related to the word nigger, (and only an idiot) unfamiliar with the word "niggardly" might take offense due to the superficial phonetic similarity between the words.

For many decades the Left has trumpeted that Conservatives “don’t care about the poor.” Liberals have painted Conservatives as heartless, stingy, uncaring, exploitative, and selfish. So, knowing the track record of Liberal truthfulness, it came as no surprise to me to find that the opposite is true.

The proof has arrived in a book written by Syracuse University professor Arthur C. Brooks, titled "Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism" (Basic Books, $26), due for release Nov. 24.

The child of academics, raised in a liberal household and educated in the liberal arts, Brooks has written a book that concludes religious conservatives donate far more money than secular liberals to all sorts of charitable activities, irrespective of income.

In the book, he cites extensive data analysis to demonstrate that values advocated by conservatives -- from church attendance and two-parent families to the Protestant work ethic and a distaste for government-funded social services -- make conservatives more generous than liberals.

When it comes to helping the needy, Brooks writes: "For too long, liberals have been claiming they are the most virtuous members of American society. Although they usually give less to charity, they have nevertheless lambasted conservatives for their callousness in the face of social injustice.".

It has been my experience and belief that the only time Liberals care about the Poor is when they need votes. In fact, Liberals need to keep the Poor poor or they will lose their most reliable supporters.

As an example, the Liberal dominated public education system appears to be designed to keep the Poor uneducated, so they will stay poor and Democrats. “You poor people, you’re miserable now, but just think of how miserable you would be if you didn’t have Democrats to take care of you.”

(The above, of course, is another of my made-up quotes that, although false, illustrates the truth of the matter. I’m not like CBS and Dan Rather, who never admit the stuff they make up. I’m proud of mine, and I know I could find a Democrat who would say it, if only I could find a Democrat who would ever tell the truth.)

Dr Walter Williams on black education: “Education in Philadelphia's public schools is so rotten that the state government is threatening a takeover.

"There are 176 out of 264 schools on the failing list. The primary victims of Philadelphia's public schools are black students whose chances for upward mobility are being systematically destroyed by callous politicians and teacher's unions.

"If the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan set out to destroy black academic excellence in Philadelphia, I doubt whether he could achieve as much damage.” Dr. Williams, in later comments, applied this observation about black education to the entire Liberal dominated American public school system.

Conservatives are compassionate because the core of conservatism is the empowerment of the individual, not dependence on the welfare state. Conservatives donate more time, more money, even more blood, than Liberals. Conservatives believe the answer to welfare needs is private sector jobs, the answer to educational deficiencies is opening the education establishment to competition, and the salvation of Social Security is personal savings accounts.

Compassionate Conservatives have an answer to the illegal immigration problem, too. They begin by asking the question, what is compassionate about supporting a system that encourages people to leave their families, their homes, their culture, and make a dangerous journey to a strange land to support themselves and the ones they leave behind? Once in America, the illegal immigrants do not have legal standing to protect themselves from victimization and exploitation. The money they send back to their families only serves to increase their dependency, and the long separations destroy the chances of having healthy family relationships.

Liberals play for votes in the immigrant community by advocating not enforcing immigration laws, and making it easier to find a path to American citizenship.

Conservatives ask, how does encouraging illegal immigration help solve the problem? If Mexico and other illegal immigrant donor states would work to free their economies and strengthen the rule of law and property rights in their own countries, the resulting prosperity would reduce their reliance on the United States being a beacon of hope to their rapidly growing excess of impoverished citizens.

Liberals found years ago they could practice painless compassion by spending other peoples’ funds, and then make political hay by labeling Conservative tax cuts as selfish.

Thanks to Professor Brooks, their monumental hypocrisy is exposed.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Pelosi Sabotages Her Own Big Day

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On a popular street in Charleston, where all the tourists go in horse drawn carriages, there is a stinking spot that was never cleaned because someone took the Horse Urine Marker as a souvenir. The Democrats have their own stinking ethics issues that were never cleaned when they were in power because they covered them up. Now they're back, and already stinking up the place. Time to throw out the marker!

With the election just a bit over a week behind us, Nancy Pelosi already has shown remarkable ability to muck things up.

In the San Francisco Chronicle (Editorial, Pelosi’s choice, November 15, 2006), the day before Nancy and Jack Murtha lost her first big test as House Speaker before she even became House Speaker, the Chronicle tried to put a positive spin on her debacle by saying it sent “two strong signals about the leadership style of the incoming speaker. One, she values and rewards loyalty. Two, she is willing to take risks on behalf of people and ideals she believes in.”

So Nancy “values and rewards loyalty.” Doesn’t that mean the same as Nancy supports the cronyism that Democrats criticized so heavily in Republicans?

And Nancy “is willing to take risks on behalf of people and ideals she believes in.” That sounds a lot like a description of President Bush, who Democrats accused of being blind to his peoples' failures and faults.

It's remarkable how vice becomes virtue when the party label changes.

The Chronicle noted that: “Pelosi's support for U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., suggested the Democrat-controlled House will take a forceful role in trying to reshape Iraq policy.” I wonder if the Chronicle will now note that the 149 to 86 vote against Jack Murtha was a resounding defeat by Democrats of the position of immediate withdrawal from Iraq that Pelosi and Murtha support?

Personally, I must thank Nancy for making big news out of the Murtha Massacre. I wasn’t looking forward to the cacophony of triumphal trumpeting I expected as the Main Stream Media fell all over itself announcing the First! Female! Speaker! of the House! TA DA!

By setting the stage for “Nancy and Jack’s Utter Defeat” on the day of her anointing, the lead headlines far and wide mirrored Drudge’s, “The Lady Denied,” a testament to the Democrats’ ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. (Now even the New York Times has piled on. If you're a Democrat, you know you have really messed up when that happens. The Los Angeles Times chimes in too, not only about the Murtha mess, but on Nancy's anticipated support for impeached former judge Alcee Hastings over Jane Harman. Nancy's "most ethical" House of all times is headed for a still-born birth.)

This Cox & Forkum cartoon shows all's well that ends well - I suppose.

The Chronicle editorial makes mention of Murtha’s current ethical cloud:

Pelosi's pledge to Murtha was a risk not only because of potential strains with Hoyer loyalists, but because it turned the spotlight to concerns involving Murtha's relationships with lobbyists whose companies received a combined $100 million federal earmarks that Murtha helped secure. A Washington Post story on Tuesday detailed how the largest featured recipient of earmarks, the PMA group, had contributed more than $200,000 to Murtha's campaign in each of the last three election cycles. Also, Murtha's brother was a senior partner in a consulting firm that received a $4.2 million earmark -- allegedly with Murtha's assistance -- in 2004.

The word "earmark" -- once limited to the jargon of Capitol Hill -- became a Campaign 2006 buzzword as Democrats deplored the way the public's business was routinely traded in a "culture of corruption" under Republican rule. While the war in Iraq was one catalyst for the voter disgust with Washington that produced the Democratic takeover, so was the culture of corruption.

The Chronicle doesn’t mention the conversation Murtha had with Pelosi about ethics following his statement to other Democrat congressmen that ethical reform was a bunch of “crap.”

“My Dear,” said Murtha condescendingly, “when we said we wanted to clean up corruption in Washington, everyone knew we meant Republican corruption. Republicans were hogging all the good stuff. Now it’s our turn.”

The above conversation and quotes were made up by me, in the spirit of the type of CBS reporting championed by Dan Rather. While false, they illuminate a greater truth.

From omissions in the Chronicle editorial, I sense the editors and reporters of the Chronicle are among the tiny group of Americans, most of whom are brain dead or in solitary confinement, who haven’t seen the now famous “You Tube” video clip of Murtha dancing around a $50,000 ABSCAM bribe in 1980.

Murtha - Abscam

For Murtha and other unethical Democrats, "Happy days are here again!"
- Democrat theme song under FDR, and any time they are first at the public trough.

(For the American 53-minute uncut Murtha-ABSCAM video, go here)

They may have watched Murtha interviewed by Chris Matthews on MSNBC “Hardball,” where Matthews lobbed Murtha softball questions and at the same time suggested answers that fit Murtha’s alibi, that he was just trying to bring investment to his district “for the people.”

I heard one Democrat already say, “You Republicans are desperate. That was like, you know, twenty-six years ago.”

Right. I think it was the same guy who said the forged Texas National Guard letters that were from, like, you know, over thirty years ago proved that George W. Bush was unfit to be president.

Murtha, like the idiots in both parties trying to pass themselves off as leaders, was also critical of the legal search of Congressman (D-La) William Jefferson’s congressional office after he accepted a bribe and stashed $90,000 of it in his home freezer. According to Murtha, many Democrats, and Republican “leaders” I am too embarrassed to mention, it is an abuse of Separation of Powers for the Administration to enforce the laws of the land it is sworn to uphold if it involves intrusion into the sacred caverns of congress, where privilege and arrogance reign supreme.

Fifty years ago last night, a musical inspired by Al Capp’s “Li’l Abner” opened on Broadway, and it was later made into a very entertaining movie. The songs featured some of the cleverest lyrics I have had the pleasure of hearing, and the lyrics of one were dedicated to the memory of the South’s most inglorious general.

As I review my thoughts of congressional leadership, I am reminded of the words that described the leadership of General Jubilation T. Cornpone, “First in war, first in peace, first to holler ‘I quit!’”

Obviously, a Democrat.

“With our ammunition gone
And faced with utter defeat
Who was it that burned the crops
And left us nothing to eat?”

With leadership in Congress like the Republicans before the election, and the Democrats after, all we can pray is our enemies laugh themselves to death.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Keep It Simple, Simplifiers

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There are two kinds of people in the world, Simplifiers and Complicaters.

I can hear you Complicaters screaming right now that there are grades of simplification and complication, and each subset must be described and named, and that the differences between each subset are so subtle as to make categorization meaningless, and therefore it is impossible to make any generalizations involving simplicity and complexity.

To that I say, you’re simply wrong. A Simplifier can simply do it, and a Complicater can’t, and never the twain shall meet.

Politics is a simple activity, carried on by very simple people, who then make it very complicated, and then can’t get anything right.

Taxation is a perfect example. The purpose of taxation is to raise revenue to fund government operations. Simple.

Too simple to satisfy politicians. Politicians noticed that taxpayers will respond to different forms of taxation in order to increase tax benefits or reduce negative consequences. For example, Alice and I decided to delay retirement until we reached 55 in order to save taxes using the once-in-a-lifetime exemption for over 55-year olds on the sale of our primary home. In 1997 when we turned 55, the law was changed too, to allow anyone to exempt the gain on the sale of their primary home from taxes each time they sell a home they have lived in for at least two years of a five-year period.

Alice and I think the new law is a vast improvement over the old, but why did it take so long to change it?

Why is income taxed? Income taxation is complicated, expensive, wasteful, and encourages taxpayers to cheat. The tax code itself fills an entire wall of long shelves, and both the government side and the taxpaying side employ huge armies of high-priced lawyers and accountants to either find or fill tax loopholes. Since it is more lucrative to be the lawyer and/or accountant who shares in taxes saved than it is to be the salaried tax agent for the government, the government always finds itself playing an expensive game of catch up.

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At the same time, income taxation law motivates taxpayers to do things they would only do because of the tax consequences, such as timing the sale of assets or selecting the method of payment or the way assets are held.

Sometimes the best laid plans of mousy accountants and leonine lawyers are not enough, and successful and traditional family businesses must be sold to pay the death taxes. Liberals say this doesn’t happen often, but still it happens, and just because it only hurts a few doesn’t make it right.

There are many other abuses due to our complicated income tax system. One abuse is that many employers and employees don’t pay payroll taxes because they operate in the illegal all-cash economy. Here in Northern California, some of my wealthiest neighbors don’t pay income taxes because they are marijuana croppers. However, their wealth doesn’t prevent them from filing for welfare benefits on the basis that their reportable taxable earnings are zero.

Individuals are not the only ones dancing to the strings of the tax master puppeteers. Businesses have developed many abominable practices in their quest for advantages from our tax system. For example, legally maintaining two sets of books, one for taxes, and one for reporting income to shareholders and investors. The tax books feature accelerated depreciation to maximize expense write offs and reduce taxes, whereas lower depreciation expense is reported to shareholders to show higher profitability.

Similarly, inventories are stated under Last In, First Out (LIFO) methodology to increase expenses and reduce taxes, while another more sensible method, like a perpetual inventory system, is used for shareholder reports to show higher profitability and to control costs.

Since our tax system is so involved and complicated, how can it be significantly simplified? The answer is embarrassingly simple. Just get rid of income taxation, and replace it with a national sales tax.

No, you politicians get your hands out of the cookie jar right now! I said replace income taxation with a national sales tax, not add a national sales tax to the existing income tax.

I know how politicians think.

“How… how … how… ” (politicians stutter when threatened by a loss of power to distribute goodies to the ones they think deserve them) “how are you going to fund Social Security without payroll taxes?” Glad you asked. The answer is simple, too. Everyone contributes to their own personal savings account.

“But… but … but… how are you going to fund Medicare without payroll taxes?”

Glad you asked again. Everyone will contribute to their own personal medical savings account. When they reach Medicare age they will chose a plan that is right for them, and pay for it from their medical savings.

“You … you … you … can’t do that. It would bankrupt Social Security and Medicare.

Wrong. While you weren’t paying attention, Social Security and Medicare already would be considered bankrupt if the government would be honest about what is owed current and pending retirees, and projections of what will be available to pay them. We can’t go on much more than one decade unless something is done to save both programs now.


Time’s a wastin’.

What are you waiting for, a miracle?

Besides a miracle, the Democrats are waiting until things are so bad, the only answer is to raise taxes … and raise taxes … and raise taxes some more. Raising taxes drastically will have the effect large tax increases always have – the economy will get flushed down into a septic tank already filled with the economies of European socialist welfare states.

“Glad you joined us,” will be their loud cry. “We knew the Democrats wouldn’t fail us.”

Again, there is a simple solution to future doom and gloom. Enact the tax reforms, encourage business activity, and grow the economy. Even Democrats, such as JFK, once realized that a hearty, growing economy would fill the government’s needs for revenue, and that tax reductions would create more tax revenue than tax increases.

Imagine, if you can, an economy not always doing the wrong things at the wrong time because of the effects of payroll taxes. Payroll taxes are an enormous business expense, even if sales are down, and make tough economic times even tougher. Sales taxes, on the other hand, go up when sales go up, and go down when sales fall.

Sales taxes don’t need a huge bureaucracy to collect, enforce, regulate, and adjudicate, and don’t require armies of lawyers and accountants for tax planning and tax return preparation. In fact, at present income taxes put a huge hidden burden on the economy by diverting enormous amounts of resources just to maintain and operate the tax system.

I know that politicians would find it really hard to give up a system that enables them to do so much social engineering, and gives them so much power to punish and reward.

However, politicians are our representatives, entrusted by us to do what is right for our nation. Our system of taxation has become much too expensive and complicated, and it’s time to replace it with a simple, effective, and efficient system.

It’s no longer just annoying. Our tax system threatens our prosperity, which in turn threatens our security.

It’s time to fix it.

It’s that simple.

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

No Surprises In Democrat Agenda

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Nancy's New Democrats will be running the show!

Special interest groups are demanding Democrats reward them for their long, loyal support, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times, aka The Democrat Newsletter.

The American Civil Liberties Union gave up its nonpartisan masquerade and wants the Patriot Act gutted, and an end to wiretapping of overseas terrorists in the act of contacting their cohorts in the United States.

Abortion activists, in particular the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, claim they were the biggest winners, and expect support for expanded access to abortions and reduced abstinence education, for starters.

Gun-control advocates, such as the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, also think they won big, and want to revive the ban on assault weapons, as a first step.

Labor unions are demanding universal healthcare, leading to greater government control over business and the revival of unions. Unions also demand laws discouraging corporations from seeking inexpensive labor overseas, again weakening business and reviving union power.

Of course, there are demands for withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, leading to eventual defeat there for President Bush and the US, and retreat from the war against terror. Even the New York Times now thinks that's a bad idea.

Here in Northern California, the Left feel that Democrat leaders promised impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, and won’t be satisfied with anything less.

The problem Democrats have is that, besides their rabid leftist supporters, they courted enough votes from centrists to narrowly regain the House and Senate. Their centrist support helped Democrats elect centrists, not leftists. Democrat leaders in the House and Senate are Leftists, but their new colleagues are moderates.

If Democrats could claim anything resembling a mandate, which they can’t, it would be to govern as moderates, but their loyal supporters won’t stand for that. They didn’t vote for Democrats to be Republican Lite.

The most recent example involves Nancy Pelosi's attempt to hold on to the moderates by supporting a moderate (for a Democrat), John Murtha, for Majority Leader. This has upset George Soros and his merry band of Leftists, and his organization CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) has attacked Pelosi viciously for "her endorsement of one of the most unethical members in Congress, Rep. John Murtha (D-PA)."

Remember Nancy, the moderates get you votes, but Soros pays the bills.

Be that as it may, for many good reasons, the Democrat Left have long been political lost souls. If they get their way, they will soon deservedly resume wandering in the political wilderness.

Democrats should be careful of what they wish for, because sometimes wishes come true.

UPDATE: The Allen Report,, reports the Democrat Honeymoon only lasted five days.

UPDATE 2: “Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) told a group of Democratic moderates on Tuesday that an ethics and lobbying reform bill being pushed by party leaders was ‘total crap...’"
So much for the Democrats' war on corruption and ethical reform. Another Honeymoon already over.

As "Dandy" Don Meridith would sing, "Turn out the lights, the party's over."

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Devil Made Me Do It

In a previous post I modestly answered the burning question of whether mankind has free will or if all is divinely preordained by asking the simple question, “How would a perfect God decide the issue?” The answer was simple.

We simply have free will.

Simple inquiry can solve all sorts of burning questions.

If God is perfect, can the Devil exist? Of course not! Remember, if God exists, God is perfect, and God has existed for all time, and created all things. Why would such an all knowing, all seeing, all powerful God create a Devil to vex mankind? Since God would know the works of such a Devil, his creation, why create it? To see if what God knows will happen, will happen? Where’s the logic to that?

God, if Devils you must have, just give man free will, and he will find Devils enough.

Since man made God in his image, it has always been a temptation of men to give him human frailties. However, as each new religion trumped the ones that came before, God evolved to perfection. Gone now are the lusting, scheming, envious, and duplicitous gods of the Greeks and Romans. They were a lot of fun, but were fatally flawed. Now only the Hindu have fun gods, although Vishnu appears to have evolved to the top of the lot. However, since Vishnu has many avatars or incarnations, the Hindu religion never gets as dull and boring as the monotheistic ones.

Be that as it may, these very entertaining early religions, by featuring a Top God – Zeus, Jove, Thor, Aton Ra, and etc., contained the seed of the evolution of a Supreme Being. Soon the Jews believed in only one God, who was perfect in all ways. Christians believed the same, except they differed from Jews in that they believed Jesus was the long awaited Messiah, and the Jews are still waiting. Muslims incorporated all that came before from the Jews and Christians, then declared some of the teachings of God were lost and corrupted by man, leaving only the Quran as the perfect, unchanged and uncorrupted word of God.

Unfortunately, since God had to transmit his word through the Angel Gabriel to Muhammad, clearly an imperfect being based on the evidence of history, it is corrupted too. The Satanic verses and other mistakes are simple and clear proof that the Quran, like the Torah and Bible before it, is flawed and therefore could not be the uncorrupted teachings of a perfect God.

Returning to the point of this discussion, such things as the existence of a Devil or two or more would be a mistake, another proof of imperfection that is incompatible with the God we created.

Therefore, the Devil is obviously a creation of man to place the blame for his sins on “evil forces,” and not on his own weaknesses and failings. “The Devil made me do it.”

Baloney! Or “bologna!” for the purists among us, and “BS!” for the impurists.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Political Football

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Football and Democrat politicians make strange bedfellows.

I love football and politics, possibly because they are similar. Both involve a team selected and trained to do a mission. Coaches and fans select the members of football teams. Key individuals and voters select the politicians.

This analogy, of course, is not perfect. Football coaches have much more power over selection and training than fans, key individuals, and voters. Unless they work for Al Davis and the Raiders.

Another sign the analogy is not perfect is that for a long time the Democrats were successful, even though, as Will Rogers remarked, “I’m not a member of an organized political party, I’m a Democrat.”

However, since nothing in this world, and possibly in the next, is perfect, I’ll get on with it.

Football teams do best when they play as a team. Star players can be great on a team, when they play as part of the team. The 49ers were lucky. In their glory years they had consummate team player stars like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, and Ronnie Lott. Or did I just get this all backwards? Maybe what I meant to say was the 49ers had their glory years because their star players were consummate team players.

The New England Patriots with Tom Brady, and the Indianapolis Colts with Peyton Manning, both have present-day stars who are team players.

The Republicans haven’t had much luck having their stars stick to the game plan. John McCain and a coalition of other middle-of –the-road Republicans and Democrats agreed among themselves not to filibuster President Bush’s judicial appointments, as long as they were the kind of justices a liberal Democrat would nominate.

Makes you wonder why we Republicans thought it was so great having a Republican in the White House to make judicial appointments, doesn’t it?

The Dallas Cowboys have Terrell Owens, and the Oakland Raiders have Randy Moss, and about now both teams probably feel about their star players like President Bush does about John McCain.

Again, this is not a perfect analogy. The Cowboys and the Raiders both sought after Owens and Moss. President Bush didn’t go looking for John McCain. If President Bush could wheel and deal like a football coach, he would have traded John McCain for Zell Miller years ago. And thrown in Arlen Specter for an option on Joe Lieberman.

In politics, as in football, everyone can’t be a star. Most of your players need to be reliable and dependable hard workers. That doesn’t mean they just blindly follow orders. The best ideas and deepest insight usually come from the guys in the trenches; in football, it’s the linemen, in politics it’s the members of the House of Representatives, because with reelection coming every two years, they’re in the fight everyday.

Senators are the most out of touch, with reelection every six years. Senators spend an inordinate amount of time reflecting on their importance, which is probably why the American voting public in their infinite wisdom doesn’t elect senators President. Et tu, Hillary?

In football, the team that wins the Super Bowl has a very hard time repeating because of the corrosive effect success has on teamwork and effort. The players on the winning team forget how hard they worked to get to the top, they let personal goals get in the way of teamwork, plus their hunger to win is diminished.

Republicans in Congress avoided defeat for a long time after they won in 1994 because they had been out of power for so long that for many years they were still hungry. Republicans also kept their edge because Bill Clinton was President, and Republican majorities were never large.

When President Bush took office, Republicans continued their winning ways. In fact, Republicans increased their majority in the House by eight in 2002, whereas in the 1994 mid-term election after Bill Clinton became President, the Democrats lost 54 seats.

After Republicans won everything in 2004 and were the strongest they had been as a party in almost a century, they started falling apart as the Democrats had before them. But where it took the Democrats a long time to fall from the lofty heights they held for decades, the Republicans started playing “every man for himself” while the Democrats were rigorously enforcing party discipline, and soon Republican leaders looked disorganized and ineffectual.

Republicans had mistaken their 2004 mandate as an invitation to act like politicians with no fear of not being reelected, instead of working hard on Republican principles such as reform of Social Security and Medicare.

If Republicans had paid attention to the lessons of football, they would have known that when a team is having problems, the most popular player on the team is the back-up quarterback. The fans don't give credit to the reasons that the back-up isn't the starter, or to the fact that the starter is struggling because the team has forgotten about teamwork.

Again, not a perfect analogy, because in politics the back-up is the other party. However, the Democrats only looked good compared to Republicans because the Republicans forgot what they told the voters they would accomplish. All the Democrats did was help the Republicans flounder. The Democrats, with the eager assistance of the main stream media, actively undermined United States efforts in Iraq and in the war against terrorism.

Where the Republicans succeeded, the Democrats, again with media assistance, ignored the booming economy and low unemployment. Each economic positive was scrutinized to find the insignificant negative among the good news, and that became the headline.

Among the “Shortest Books” category, right next to “Tips for Faithful Husbands” by Bill Clinton, “Quarterbacks I Respect” by Terrell Owens, and “Modern French Military Heroes,” will go “Great Legislative Accomplishments of Dennis Hastert and Bill Frist.”

As a final thought, football teams and political parties do the same thing when they are in trouble. They are forced to punt, and the other side goes on offense.

The Democrats have the ball now, and they got it by attacking President Bush and disrupting Republican legislative efforts. Apparently Democrat voters followed Michael Kinsley’s advice in Slate. Mr. Kinsley, who will never be mistaken for a conservative, suggested Democrats read their party's position paper, but only after they voted. That way, they would only suffer "after-the-vote" embarrassment, not "why vote?" apathy. (Hat tip to Captain's Quarters)

When or how will the Republicans get back in the game? I suggest they try to remember what worked for them from 1994 through 2004, and get back to it. The Democrats didn’t come up with a winning team, they just let Republicans put together a losing one.

Less than a month ago the Oakland Raiders won against the Super Bowl champion Pittsburg Steelers 20-13 with only 92 yards of total offense. The Raiders did nothing except get out of the way while the Steelers beat themselves. The Raiders took the same approach in the Seahawks game and were stomped 16-0.

The Democrats and Raiders have a lot in common. They can win as long as their opponent is determined to beat themselves.

I think the Democrats have just woken up to the realization that they can beat themselves now, as indicated in this Guardian article, like the Republicans just did.

Hopefully the Republicans noticed that they have met the enemy and it is them.

Republicans still have nothing to fear but themselves.

Free Will Or Preordination?

FOXTROT, by Bill Amend
Jason: Go Deep.
Marcus: How can free will coexist with divine preordination?
Jason: Too deep.
Marcus: If Batman died, would the Joker be happy?

Do we have free will, or is everything preordained?

A bright fellow suggested the following simple test to prove we have free will: stick your finger in the air, and choose whether to hold it still or wag it. Which ever you do proves you had free will to chose.

In all respect, what a horrible attempt at proof. With the wagging or non-wagging finger still held high, the believer in preordination would say, “Whichever you did, it was God’s will.”

To prove or disprove free will vs. preordination, you have to use the framework of the believers in preordination, not that of the convinced skeptics.

It is actually extremely simple to prove free will if you use the arguments of the believers in an omnipotent God, and none believe more in a perfect deity than Muslims. They believe Allah is perfect, and will demand the death of any who say otherwise, be it a learned Muslim like Salman Rushdie, or some freedom loving Danish cartoonists.

Part of being a perfect god is being the instrument of absolutely everything that happens. So if you have a perfect god, you have preordination, right?

Wrong, you have the proof of free will!

It’s very simple. Perfect gods do not sin. In fact, gods establish punishments for sinning, some of which can be severe. For example, eternity in Hell, or wearing a burka in August.

Would a perfect god sin by making one of his believers sin, and then would this perfect god punish the believer for all eternity for doing what god made him do?

Of course not! The only explanation for sin is free will.

Any other explanation requires god to be petty, a bored deity, playing with his/her/its creations like a child with dolls or toy soldiers.

You might call such a god fun loving, or vicious, or capricious, or a lot of other things, but you never accuse such a god of perfection.

So, sinners, you have free will.

The Devil didn't make you do it.

The credit is all yours.

Republican Straw Poll For 2008

As frequent readers of this blog, and both of you know who you are, you know it is my firm conviction that we should have started the 2008 presidential campaign the day after President Bush was reelected in November 2004.

Hillary started running for 2008 while the chads were still hanging in 2001.

John Kerry was the sacrificial lamb in 2004 for Hillary, then recently opened his voluminous mouth and thoughtfully erased himself from competing against her in 2008. I wonder what she will say in her Thank You note to him. It should start out: "Dear John."

One good thing to come out of the 2006 election. Republicans have weeded out the "bad idea" candidates and "no chancers."

Still, we are getting off to a late start for 2008.

But better late than never, and this survey is a good way to start.

And leave comments, please.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Of Mensa and Me

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I didn’t know I was eligible to be a Mensan until I was 40. By then there were many signs that I was smarter than the average bear. I was a lazy day dreamer in elementary school, but scored at the level of a high school Junior or Senior on California State Achievement Tests when I was in the 4th and 5th Grades. I was a better student in high school, but I never had to put out much of an effort to learn, so I didn’t put out much of an effort. Fortunately, I was interested in and enjoyed most of the things being taught, so I paid attention in class just for the pleasure of learning.

My ability to learn did not impress all of my peers. I remember a pretty redhead in high school who disdainfully called me “The Brain.”

In those days pleasure, not achievement, was my motivating principle. Yours too?

In my considered opinion, I had the best childhood of anyone in any place for all time, but I can’t tell you precisely why it was so special. The combination of me living in Point Arena, a very small city on the northern California coast in the 1950’s may have been the perfect blend of person, time, and place the world only sees once in a creation.

However, I am holding open the possibility that there are and were many others who felt the same about their fortunate childhoods as I did of mine. However, if they somehow could have cognition of my feelings, they would know I was right.

My first two years of college saw my fun-loving ways placed at odds with the more systematic and applied approach to gaining knowledge expected in college. Paying attention in class was no longer good enough. In fact, there was a uniform expectation that a serious student would do much more work outside of class than in.

After two years of college I had a mediocre grade point average and was too broke to start a third year. Then I enlisted in the Air Force, was sent to learn Russian at Indiana University, and married Marilynn. Suddenly the added element of responsibility transformed me from a mediocre student to the top of my class.

Actually, in the interest of full and honest disclosure, even though there is no one to contradict me anymore, I was third in my Russian class. I earned a B in the first five units, as I transitioned into being a serious student, followed by nineteen units of A.

After Russian classes at Indiana University, the Air Force sent me to Goodfellow AFB in Texas for three months of radio intercept training. By finishing on top of my class there, I was sent to another three months of training in specialized radio intercept at the National Security Agency, Fort Meade, Maryland. Another top of my class finish got me first selection of my next assignment, Karamursel, Turkey.

All of this happened in a very exciting two-year period. I joined the Air Force, went to Basic Training, was selected for language school, got married, went from language school to radio intercept school, my first son was born, went to another radio intercept school, and then went overseas. Texas, Indiana, Texas, Maryland, Turkey, husband, father, twenty-one years old. Thinking about it still makes my head spin.

I went to night school in Turkey at the University of Maryland, and later to night school with City Colleges of Sacramento at my next station after Turkey, Mather AFB near Sacramento. While at Mather I scored high on Air Force Officer Qualification tests and was accepted to attend the University of Arizona for a degree in Accounting, after which I would go to Officer Training School and become a commissioned officer.

I completed my first semester at Arizona with fifteen units of A grades. Starting at language school at Indiana, to the end of the first semester at Arizona, I had 46 semester hours of straight A’s. Then I got greedy and added work on a Russian degree to the Accounting degree, and the string of straight A’s was snapped.

Even with working on two very dissimilar degrees, I graduated 65th in a class of 1,475 "with high distinction," with a 3.6 GPA and membership in the all-colleges honor society, Phi Kappa Phi. As a useful point of reference, only the cream of the Phi Beta Kappa crowd are eligible for Phi Kappa Phi.

Much to my delight, the Air Force rewarded me by choosing to send me to Michigan State University for a MBA as soon as I completed Officer Training School. As part of the process I took the Aptitude Test for Graduate Studies in Business (ATGSB), and scored 676 which placed my result in the 98th percentile of those that had taken the test.

It didn’t really register with me at the time, but the population that had taken the ATGSB were either graduates or students who were close to graduation, and who had done well enough as undergraduates to apply for graduate school. In other words, a pretty bright bunch.

After completing the MBA at Michigan State, I finally started working again for the Air Force. I was Budget Officer at RAF Bentwaters and Woodbridge Bases in the UK for five years, worked in Budget and Accounting and Finance for four years at Scott AFB, Illinois, and then four years at Hickam AFB, Hawaii as Comptroller and Comptroller Division Inspector.

While in Hawaii I applied for and was accepted into a University of Southern California PhD program in Education Administration, which required me to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Again I scored a total that, like the ATGSB, placed me in the 98th percentile.

Unfortunately, not long after I took the GRE in October 1978 my unit was reorganized and I was assigned to the Headquarters Pacific Air Forces Inspector General team. My new duties required me to travel on inspection trips over 100 days each year, to Korea, Japan, and The Philippines, which would not allow me to attend enough classes to satisfy the standards of the PhD program.

Before I started the travel job I was able to take a CPA exam review course and then take the two and a half day CPA test. Although I had never worked in public accounting, I passed all four sections of the test the first time, placing me in the top ten to fifteen percent.

In 1982 I was transferred to my last Air Force assignment as an Internal Auditor at Travis AFB in California. Not long after I started work in the Audit Agency there, one of my co-workers told me he had just been turned down for membership in Mensa. He explained that he had never taken a standard IQ test, but had sent scores of other tests Mensa accepts, such as his GRE scores, which weren’t high enough for membership. I checked my GRE scores against his application information, and found mine were much higher than the minimum required.

For the GRE, the Mensa minimum for math and verbal scores combined was 1250, which equates to a 132 IQ, and my combined score was 1410, almost 13% higher than the Mensa minimum.

I excitedly sent off a membership application, and soon received an acceptance letter.

Over twenty years later, with the Internet in full flower, I wondered if anyone had done correlations of GRE scores with IQ, and of course they had, as well as listing qualifying scores for IQ societies more restrictive than Mensa.

Intertel and the Top One Percent Society ask for IQs of 136 or 137 and a GRE score of 1300. The Triple Nine Society and IQuadrivium, both 99.9th percentile societies, accept GRE scores of 1460 or 1454 and IQ scores of 149 or 150.

My score of 1410 placed me somewhere between the top one percent and the top one tenth of one percent societies. Happily, the website provided a formula for computing IQ from GRE combined math and verbal scores. Using the formula, my 1410 GRE score equaled an IQ of 146.65 and a percentile ranking of 99.8, and the conversion table gives a range of 143.73 to 146.65.

Call it a 145 IQ, and change.

Now to arrive at a meaning out of this. Is there anything special about having a 145 IQ?

Yes! It indicates that I am a significant underachiever. I have wasted a lot of brain power in my life, and present trends indicate I will waste a lot more. There are several valid reasons for my underachievement. One is my aforementioned laziness. Two is the fact that when given a choice between pleasure and achievement, it took me years before I realized there was a choice. Three is that I lack natural talent for a broad range of activities, such as music and art. Four is that I have enjoyed life too much, and never felt motivated to change significantly.

Regrets, I have a few, but then again, too few to mention.

My biggest intellectual regret is I didn’t start writing earlier. Now I’m writing a lot, but without any clear purpose. I hope that by putting in a lot of effort at this keyboard I’ll find a voice and create a body of writings to mix, and stir, and ferment, and eventually to froth up into a palatable vintage I can label and sell.

Or hope there’s a market for vinegar.