Posts for January, 2013
I had listened to a speech given by P.J. O’Rourke on May 6, 1993 for the opening of the Cato Institute's headquarters in Washington, D.C. Once I got past the sarcasm, I found his wit to be unique. His style of political humor is harsh and he is not overly concerned with political correctness. O’Rourke reflects a by-gone era of satirical art.
O’Rourke may be a bit calloused but I share his disdain for big government.
I have enclosed a few of his most famous quotes.
- Freedom is not empowerment. Empowerment is what the Serbs have in Bosnia. Anybody can grab a gun and be empowered. Freedom is not entitlement. An entitlement is what people on welfare get, and how free are they? It's not an endlessly expanding list of rights — the "right" to education, the "right" to food and housing. That's not freedom, that's dependency. Those aren't rights, those are the rations of slavery — hay and a barn for human cattle.
- Government subsidies can be critically analyzed according to a simple principle: You are smarter than the government, so when the government pays you to do something you wouldn't do on your own, it is almost always paying you to do something stupid.
- I'm a registered Republican and consider socialism a violation of the American principle that you shouldn't stick your nose in other people's business except to make a buck.
- There are just two rules of good governance in a free society: Mind your own business. Keep your hands to yourself.
Keep your hands to yourself, Bill.
Hillary, mind your own business.
- Neither conservatives nor humorists believe man is good. But left-wingers do.
- The forces of safety are afoot in the land. I, for one, believe it is a conspiracy— a conspiracy of Safety Nazis shouting "Sieg Health" and seeking to trammel freedom, liberty, and large noisy parties. The Safety Nazis advocate gun control, vigorous exercise, and health foods. The result can only be a disarmed, exhausted, and half-starved population ready to acquiesce to dictatorship of some kind.
- I can understand why mankind hasn't given up war. During a war you get to drive tanks through the sides of buildings and shoot foreigners— two things that are usually frowned on during peacetime.
- Moscow has changed. I was here in 1982, during the Brezhnev twilight, and things are better now. For instance, they've got litter. In 1982 there was nothing to litter with
- The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work, and then they get elected and prove it.
- Many reporters, when they go to work in the nation’s capital, begin thinking of themselves as participants in the political process instead of glorified stenographers.
- Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.
- Authority has always attracted the lowest elements in the human race. All through history mankind has been bullied by scum.
- Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy, the whores are us.
- The second item in the liberal creed, after self-righteousness, is unaccountability. Liberals have invented whole college majors— psychology, sociology, women's studies— to prove that nothing is anybody's fault. No one is fond of taking responsibility for his actions, but consider how much you'd have to hate free will to come up with a political platform that advocates killing unborn babies but not convicted murderers. A callous pragmatist might favor abortion and capital punishment. A devout Christian would sanction neither. But it takes years of therapy to arrive at the liberal view.
- You can't shame or humiliate modern celebrities. What used to be called shame and humiliation is now called publicity. And forget traditional character assassination; if you say a modern celebrity is an adulterer, a pervert and a drug addict, all it means is that you've read his autobiography.
- The principal feature of American liberalism is sanctimoniousness. By loudly denouncing all bad things — war and hunger and date rape — liberals testify to their own terrific goodness. More important, they promote themselves to membership in a self-selecting elite of those who care deeply about such things.... It's a kind of natural aristocracy, and the wonderful thing about this aristocracy is that you don't have to be brave, smart, strong or even lucky to join it, you just have to be liberal.
- There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences.
- Health care is too expensive, so the Clinton administration is putting Hillary in charge of making it cheaper. (This is what I always do when I want to spend less money — hire a lawyer from Yale.) If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free.
- Government is a health hazard. Governments have killed many more people than cigarettes or unbuckled seat belts ever have.
- Advocating the expansion of the powers of the state is treason to mankind
- Biotechnology is a worry. What if they take genetic material from wet noodles and blowfish and splice it into politician chromosomes and create a Clinton administration?
- Ecology is the science of everything. Nobody knows everything. Nobody even knows everything about any one thing. And most of us don't know much. Say it's ten-thirty on a Saturday night. Where are your teenage children? I didn't ask where they said they were going. Where are they really? What are they doing? Who are they with? Have you met the other kids' families? Now extend these questions to the entire solar system.
- Everybody wants to save the earth; nobody wants to help Mom do the dishes.
- Remember, FDA employees are serious about fear. We pay these people to panic about an iota of rodent hair in our chili, even when the recipe calls for it. FDA employees are first-class agonizers, world champions at losing sleep. When Meryl Streep got hysterical about Alar, they actually checked the apples instead of Meryl's head.
- When a private entity does not produce the desired results, it is (certain body parts excepted) done away with. But a public entity gets bigger.
- We’re told cars are dangerous. Is it safer to drive through South Central Los Angeles than to walk there? We’re told cars are wasteful. Wasteful of what? Oil did a lot of good sitting in the ground for millions of years. We’re told cars should be replaced with mass transportation. But it’s hard to reach the drive-through window at McDonald’s from a speeding train. And we’re told cars cause pollution. A hundred years ago city streets were ankle deep in horse excrement. What kind of pollution do you want? Would you rather die of cancer at eighty or typhoid fever at nine?
- I wonder how many of the people who profess to believe in the leveling ideas of collectivism and egalitarianism really just believe that they themselves are good for nothing. I mean, how many leftists are animated by a quite reasonable self-loathing? In their hearts they know that they are not going to become scholars or inventors or industrialists or even ordinary good kind people. So they need a way to achieve that smugness for which the left is so justifiably famous. They need a way to achieve self-esteem without merit. Well, there is politics. In an egalitarian world everything will be controlled by politics, and politics requires no merit.
- When a government controls both the economic power of individuals and the coercive power of the state this violates a fundamental rule of happy living: Never let the people with all the money and the people with all the guns be the same people.
- The only really good vegetable is Tabasco sauce. Put Tabasco sauce in everything. Tabasco sauce is to bachelor cooking what forgiveness is to sin.
- I am no stranger to loud noise. I've been to a Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels concert. And I once dated a woman with two kids.
- One of the annoying things about believing in free will and individual responsibility is the difficulty of finding somebody to blame your problems on.
- On page 8 of Earth in the Balance, Al Gore claims that his study of the arms race gave him "a deeper appreciation for the most horrifying fact in all our lives: civilization is now capable of destroying itself." For the most the us the most horrifying fact in many of our lives is that our ex-spouse has gotten a hold of our ATM card.
- Imagine a weight-loss program at the end of which, instead of better health, good looks, and hot romantic prospects, you die. Somalia has become just this kind of spa.
- The morning meal was served in traditional socialist fashion— very slowly, with the courses out of order so that the jelly arrived half an hour after the toast and the coffee didn't come until we'd called for the check.
- Wherever there's injustice, oppression, and suffering in this world, America will show up six months late and bomb the country next to where it's happening.
The current era of political satire produced by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert is significantly different from the satire of a past era. I feel that the new satire is a bit 'dumbed down' in order to be digested by its consumers. I also feel that it has become more crass and sacrilegious. Whereas the satire from the bygone era of O'Rourke, Will Rogers and HL Mencken is refreshing, with a little bite and great wit.
I try to prioritize the issues in my life. At the top of my priority is my relationship with God, my family, friends and neighbors. My career (ability to support my family) is my second priority. My service to my state and country is a third priority. My personal liberty, freedom and pursuit of happiness is a fourth priority. Everything else is a fifth priority.
Therefore political issues like gun control, taxes, government, health care are a low priority. I certainly have opinions on these matters, but I will not allow them to take a high priority. On occasion, the issues, such as taxes and gun control, may impact my ability to provide for and protect my family. And with greater regularity, the issues have had some impact my liberty and pursuit of happiness. But so far the political issues, even the latest proposed changes, have not infringed on my top priorities...and for that I am grateful.
The parable of 'The Good Samarian', as told by Jesus, is an excellent analogy in placing a high priority in maintaining a good relationship with my fellow man.
The Good Samaritan
Luke Chapter 10
One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”
The man answered, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”
The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.
“By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.
“Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’
“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.
The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”
Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”
To understand the parable by Jesus, the reader must understand who the Samaritans were. There is much debate over the origins of Samaria, but most historians believe that the Samaritans are of Jewish origins, from the tribe of Ephriam and Menassah, who had lived on the east side of the Jordan river. They were taken into captivity by Assyrians centuries earlier and then later returned to the area of Canaan. During the time of Jesus there were roughly one million Samaritans living in the region. But there was tremendous hatred and conflict between the Samaritans and the Jews. The Jews believed that the Samaritans were perverting the Jewish faith with their own customs, laws and traditions. And the Samaritans accused the Jewish people of bigotry, condescension and persecution.
The second aspect of the parable that the reader needs to know is that the priests were required to do good. They had a motto similar to “Malice towards none and charity towards all.” The Talmud commanded the priest to be shepherds who would tenderly lead and care for the flock. But if a priest touches anything dead or unclean, they are also declared to be unclean and must undergo a long purification process.
As in every parable, the real subject matter is the nature of Jesus and how he deals with man. The beaten, broken and bruised man is you and me. We have been robbed by this world, beaten down, bruised and battered. We are vulnerable and prone to wounds and destruction (both self-destruction and destruction at the hands of others).
The religious leaders, who are commanded to help and are more concerned about rules, regulations and appearances. When the religious leader saw the broken, bruised man lying at the side of road, his first thought was for himself and the tremendous inconvenience the situation would produce. The priest was fearful that the broken man might cost him something in terms of money, time and reputation. Just the purification process, following the help to this man, would be a long inconvenient ordeal.
The temple worker represents the common working man. Since he worked in the temple, he was considered to be a decent, upstanding citizen, highly respected. The worker passed by the broken man without helping because it was unproductive; not profitable. He is busy running from one job to the next, not concerned about the plight of his fellow man. His God is his belly and money is his top priority. Of course, every now than then, he might do a good deed for the purpose of maintaining a good reputation, but it is not his heart.
The Samaritan of this parable is Jesus. He is hated by the Jewish people. He is rejected, despised and persecuted.
The broken man, over the course of his life, was almost certainly involved some kind of hurtful action against the Samaritans, thus against Jesus. Doubtless, the broken man would not want help from Jesus (the Samaritan), but he was helpless; in no condition to object.
But when Jesus sees the broken man, he sees past the personal animosity and conflict between the cultures and has compassion on the man. Jesus looked beyond the faults to see the need.
Jesus placed the broken man on his donkey, took him to the hospital and then a care facility; paying for it from his own pocket. The cost to Jesus was very high. But in the parable, the Samaritan (Jesus) is depicted as riding a donkey, not walking, signifying that he had some means. But he wasn’t being driven in a chariot, implying great wealth. The depiction is that the hospitalization and care for the broken man may have cost the Samaritan a considerable portion of his assets.
The command by Jesus to the religious expert, who questioned him, to be a good neighbor was a shock to the man’s system. There was no possible way that he would have the necessary compassion to spend much of his money to help a man that he hated. At this point the religious expert turned around and left Jesus. He understood that all of his religious training, education, wealth, prestige and understanding would never get him into right standing with God and his fellow man without self-sacrifice, faith and compassion.
The key to the passage is grace, mercy and compassion. More precisely, it is the depths of grace, mercy and compassion God has towards man...and the depths of self-sacrifice that is required for us to deal with our fellow man in a similar fashion.
Grace (as displayed in the parable) is the unmerited compassion of God on man.
But it is more.
Grace is the unmerited compassion of God on man, who has rejected God and has animosity towards God.
But it is more.
Grace is the unmerited compassion of God on man, who has rejected God and has animosity towards God, but God gives it at great cost to himself.
But it is more.
Grace is the unmerited compassion of God on man, who has rejected God and has animosity towards God, but God gives it at great cost to himself, knowing that the cost can never be repaid.
But it is more.
Grace is the unmerited compassion of God on man, who has rejected God and has animosity towards God, but God gives it at great cost to himself, knowing that the cost can never be repaid, repeatedly.
But it is more.
Grace is the unmerited compassion of God on man, who has rejected God and has animosity towards God, but God gives it at great cost to himself, knowing that the cost can never be repaid, repeatedly, not grudgingly and with a open hand and open heart.
The parable commands us to go and do the same, thereby making our relationship with our fellow man a very high priority. But at this point in my life, I doubt that I have the ability to have this level of compassion on someone that I fundamentally disagree with. However, it is my goal.
I have been following the conflict in Syria with great interest and I am trying to get an understanding of the cause of this conflict and how it will affect the region. US media sources have implied that the conflict is a natural home-grown rebellion against the dictatorship of Assad. Of course, I believe that this is a much more complex issue.
Forces aligning with the Syrian rebels:
- Saudi Arabia and Qatar have both pledged $300 million in support of overthrowing the Assad regime
- Turkey has provided bases for training the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
- Egypt and Libya are supplying the surplus weapons to the FSA
- NATO and the US are actively supporting the rebels
- Sunni Muslims
- An economic depression has created fertile grounds for anti-government resentment
Forces aligning with the Assad regime:
- Iran has provided weapons and funding to Assad
- Russia has provided weapons and military intelligence to Assad.
- China has been a vocal supporter of Assad and has denounced the rebels.
- The minority population in Syria consisting of Alawite Muslims, Druze, Christians, Kurds, Shi’ite Muslims and Jews are fearful that the Islamist rebels will follow the lead of Egypt once they have control
The official Israeli position is that they are neutral on the conflict. But Israel has been at war with the Syrian funded Hezbollah for many years and Israel is officially still at war with Syria since 1974. According to an IDF website, Israel is concerned that if the Assad regime is toppled, Syria could fall into the hands of Islamic extremists and engage in a cold war similar to Egypt. Others, however, see a regime change in Damascus as serving Israeli interests because the effect would be Iran's loss of its key regional ally.
Unlike the Egyptian revolution, in which most Israelis agreed that the overthrow of Mubarak was bad for Israel, there is no such consensus about the overthrow of Assad.
What we know:
- In 2011, a contract was signed between Iran, Iraq and Syria to build a natural gas pipeline by 2016 from Iran’s giant South Pars field to the Syrian Mediterranean coast in order to supply Europe with natural gas.
- Turkey is the current exporter of natural gas to Europe, originating from the Russian oil fields and the Caspian Basin.
- The Ba’ath party has a long history of conflict with Islamist extremists and Salafists. This includes the 1982 crack-down in the city of Hama; known as the Hama massacre by Sunni Muslims.
- A treaty of mutual assistance was signed between Tehran and Damascus
- With the rise in tension between Iran and the Gulf states, the US has benefited greatly. The latest contracts to sell F-15 fighter jets to the Royal Saudi Air Force is valued at $30 billion, the United Arab Emirates bought an anti-missile system and Chinook helicopters worth $4.5 billion, and Oman ordered fighter planes for $1.4 billion.
- The US is paying massive amounts of foreign aid to Middle East countries. This includes $1.56 billion annually to Egypt.
- The total value of Syrian contracts with the Russian defense industry likely exceeds $4 billion, according to Jeffrey Mankoff, an adjunct fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies Russia and Eurasia Program.
- China and Russia vetoed another Security Council resolution in October that would have called for the condemnation of Assad for the Syrian conflict.
- The Russian-Syrian economic trade exceeds $20 billion annually
- The German newspaper Bild had revealed that members of the BND (German intelligence) stationed on ships near the Syrian and Lebanese coast and at the NATO base near Adana collect intelligence on the movement of Syrian government troops and share this information with the forces of the FSA
- Elements of al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood have surfaced in Syria among the FSA forces.
- The EU has slapped an oil and arms embargo against Syria
- Obama had created an executive order to impose sanctions against Syria http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/syria_eo_08182011.pdf
Claims by Assad:
Assad had claimed that the unrest in Syria is not an uprising but a Qatari-instigated aggression designed to dominate the country and ensure Qatari access to the Mediterranean Sea for its gas export.
Position of US politicians:
- Senator John McCain has been leading the charge to declare war against the Assad regime.
- President Obama expressed great concerns about the alleged atrocities committed by the Assad regime.
- Hillary Clinton has indicated support for the FSA
- Representative Ron Paul has been critical of the US sanctions against Syria and the administrations’ support of the FSA
Four main voices have emerged to provide objective data about the conflict;
Professor Michel Chossudovsky, director of Centre for Research on Globalization
Jonathan Steele, former foreign editor of the Guardian and Middle East analyst
Aleksey Pushkov, the chair of the Russian parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs
Professor Guenter Meyer is chairman of the German Middle East Studies Association (DAVO), president of the European Association for Middle Eastern Studies (EURAMES), and chairman of the International Advisory Council of the World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies (WOCMES).
The best summation of the situation:
Patrick Seale, Middle East analyst wrote, “The Middle East is facing an acute danger of war, with unpredictable and potentially devastating consequences for the states and populations of the region. A "shadow war" is already being waged - by Israel and the United States against Iran; by a coalition of countries against Syria; and by the great powers against each other. A mere spark could set this tinder alight.”
Syria has had the misfortune of being the host of a major conflict between multiple nations: Iran against Saudi Arabia and the US and NATO against Russia. And the Islamic extremists are at war with the secular government. Syria appears to be chosen because of its strategic alliances. It appears that the sponsoring Middle East nations are vying for control and the US and Russia are vying for the defense contracts, as well as US opposition to Iran. Turkey is in it to be the sole supplier of natural gas to Europe. About 10 nations have a vested interest in the conflict in Syria and are pouring fuel on the fire.
This conflict is similar to the Vietnam War in which Vietnam was essentially the host nation for the US-China war. But in this case the US is creating strange bed fellows. In an attempt to oppose and isolate Iran it finds itself in league with Islamic extremists.
Phil Mickelson made the news earlier this week when complaining about the taxes that he pays to the Golden State. He mentioned the idea of moving to Florida to save millions in taxes.
“There are going to be some drastic changes for me because I happen to be in that zone that has been targeted both federally and by the state and, you know, it doesn't work for me right now,” he said. “So I'm going to have to make some changes."
California voters in November approved Proposition 30, which, in addition to raising the state sales tax, carries a menu of new tax brackets that hit millionaires like Mickelson hard.
Phil was defended by Tiger Woods who claimed that taxes were a key element in his decision to move from California to Florida.
- A 12.3% top state tax rate, up from 9.3%, on income above $1 million.
- A 1% state mental health surcharge levied on incomes above $1 million.
- A 3.8% Medicare tax rate, which includes a new 0.9% Medicare surcharge on earnings above $250,000.
And since Phil is self-incorporated, he pays an additional:
- 1% in state disability insurance taxes.
- 6.2% for state unemployment taxes.
- 1.2% in federal unemployment taxes (also paid by corporations in Florida).
- 0.1% in state employment training taxes.
On top of the income taxes, Californians pay high usage fees and property taxes (in comparison to Florida).
In 2012, Phil’s income was $61 million in winnings and endorsements. Gregg Wind, a partner at Wind & Stern, an accounting firm in Los Angeles, claims that Phil could save about $8 million on his 2012 taxes by moving to Florida.
Phil Mickelson back-peddled from his comments on taxation after getting hit with the firestorm that it had created and apologized for his insensitivity.
Comments made about Phil:
“He is a pampered 1%er”
“un-patriotic and selfish”
“Flee-bagger, avoiding the payment of his fair share”
And many comments that can't be repeated here.
My thoughts on Phil:
People pay to watch you play golf, not to talk politics. Don’t wade into politics and economics unless you have a backbone and can take some heat. If you want to move to Florida, go ahead and save $8 million, just don’t advertise it or politicize it. In this environment of hyper political polarization, it is best not to speak your mind if you are an entertainer…unless you are a liberal entertainer. But at least Phil was not advocating for a policy or policy change, he was just venting, and so would I if I was losing $8 million.
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