Posts for February, 2012
As I sit here trying to come up with a subject to address, I'm a little like a deer transfixed in the headlights, not knowing which way to turn. How often have you been in conversation with a friend or spouse and the comment "The world's gone mad!" or something similar comes up? There is so much going on today that makes little or no sense, I think many folks just throw up their hands and read the sports pages. Even there we have madness. Ryan Braun shooting up testosterone??
Here are some examples. Environmentalists and the government are still talking carbon credits (Cap and Trade) while a recent Japanese study involving data from a satellite monitoring carbon emissions finds much more carbon emissions from third world countries than from developed nations like us. That's probably because we're constantly trying to do something about it and they don't care. And we're supposed to send them carbon credit money. ????
About electric cars, this all supposedly started in 1997 with GM's EV-1, described by some as "the worst car ever built." Actually, you can go back to the 1900's for the Baker Electric, the first all-electric car. It had a top speed of 25 mph, actually not bad for those days. I actually saw one. Wierd; completely quiet back when cars were anything but. Now we have the Chevy Volt, designed and produced with government subsidies and being sold with another large government subsidy. I don't get the impression that people are exactly beating down the doors of dealers to buy this thing. Hybrids like the Toyota Prius are selling because they're practical and affordable without government subsidy. (The Japanese government does exert control over their auto industry through their Ministry of Industry. They do pool a portion of corporate profits which is then distributed to fund new product development, but no tax money is involved.)
Why is the government trying to ram things down our throats that we don't really want, with our money yet?
Ethanol, the great white hope of emission control, is still being subsidized at about 50¢ per gallon while reducing fuel mileage and wrecking small engines. Solar panel development to try to make them efficient is heavily government subsidized with little to show for all that money over all these years. Solar is still a miniscule niche and inefficient supplier of power.
Windmills have been hyped, promoted and subsidized almost frantically it seems, for decades and wind power still is not a significant electric power source. In fact, some are being abandoned as government support dries up. If it's such a great thing, why hasn't it caught on in the marketplace? Incidentally, anyone see the irony in environmentalist objections to that proposed 385,000 volt transmission line to Minnesota as a "blight on the landscape" while the same folks promote windmill farms? To paraphrase Joyce Kilmer, "I think that I shall never see, a windmill lovely as a tree."
Then there's the defense budget. Anyone think we're living in a sane, stable world out there? Every country in the Middle East is virtually in flames, Iran is building nukes, Russia is becoming autocratic, China is building missiles to sink our aircraft carriers and shoot down satellites, North Korea rattles nuclear sabres and threatens world war every time a South Korean (or U.S.) tank drives around the block in Seoul. Meanwhile, the Administration is cutting--really cutting, not just reducing increases--the defense budget anywhere from $467- to $600 billion over ten years. Here's a snapshot of the consequences.
The Air Force: Eliminate six tactical air squadrons (10% reduction), terminate a RQ-4 Global Hawk (high-altitude remotely piloted aircraft) upgrade (Block 30), divest 38 new C-27J close support transports, retire 27 C-5A heavy lift transports (20% reduction), reduce an unspecified number of Air force, Reserve and National Guard personnel.
Army: Cut 80,000 personnel.
Marine Corps: Cut 20,000 personnel(10%).
Navy: Delay by two years development of a future ballistic missile submarine.
All Services: The F-35 Lightning II fighter project, in three versions for the Air Force, Marines and Navy, is being slowed although it is the only new fighter in the works to replace aging and overstressed assets.
Despite the winding down of Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, I do not believe the world is a safer place nor that demands on our military will diminish. So long as we insist on being a global policeman and military interventionist, a policy showing no signs of fading even in the present Administration, we place our forces in greater harm's way by reducing our military capabilities. I think this is nuts as well as dangerous.
I have deliberately not touched on the Wisconsin recalls or that ludicrous display of political irresponsibility going on with the Republican presidential aspirants. Words fail me.
O.K., that's enough. Make your own list. It will probably be longer than mine.
As most of you know, I do not normally list problems without resolution or at least analysis. So, this post as originally published was not complete.
The problem with what is going on in this country and the world today that has many of us disturbed and often, regrettably, polarized, is not one of policy or legislation or even ideology but rather of character. A person's character--who he is--is determined by his (I include the fairer sex under this pronoun) values. Values determine priorities which, in turn, form the basis of actions and conduct. Thus, we are defined by our values.
Today, we are led largely by individuals motivated by self-interests: ambition, power, prestige, wealth. Politicians at all levels are obsessed with getting re-elected and, consequently, soliciting huge campaign war chests with which to buy television ads. Mitt Romney convincingly defeated Newt Gingrich in Florida largely due to a blizzard of negative ads purchased with his very substantial campaign funds. I believe Mr. Romney is so obsessed with becoming president that he will do virtually anything to win the Republican nomination. Newt would do the same if he could. Not sure about the other two non-entities but I don't think either is running solely to serve others and our country.
The Founders of this great nation were not motivated by personal gain. On the contrary, they risked and frequently lost all, including life, in a cause they believed in. We have not seen the like in a very long time with, I believe, one exception. Many will perhaps disagree, but I believe one president in modern times simply loved this country unconditionally. Among his most basic values was patriotism. His name was, as you may have guessed, Ronald Reagan. Everone else, including the present resident of the White House, was and is motivated primarily by personal gain and enhancement.
Until this changes, this country will continue to stumble along getting involved in stupid international adventures and domestic, bald-faced vote-buying without regard for its safety and benefit. We need leaders who truly care for the people, rich and poor, regardless of political gain. We need leaders who will maintain the safety and welfare of the United States above all else. This is not to advocate abusive conduct and disregard for the welfare of other peoples, for these actions also would be to the detriment of the nation. Making enemies benefits no-one.
Sorry, I have no names to present. I think some of the Tea Party folks are patriots first and foremost, but they too seem a bit myopic when it comes to larger issues of national welfare. What may help is to start small. Recognize that most of us plain citizens have the best interests of the country and its citizens at heart. Whether liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, we all want what's best for the nation. We must recognize that we differ largely in the means, not the ends. Then maybe we can start communicating.
For example, in economics, Republicans believe in the principle of from the top down. Benefiting entrepreneurs and business owners will benefit the workers as well, since they are the job-creators. Democrats, on the other hand, believe that helping the middle class workers and the poor will "trickle up" to benefit all. Both arguments have merit. The question is which works better. Maybe if we spent more time discussing the means instead of labels and personalities, we might find something on which to agree. And just maybe, some of that will trickle up into the halls of power.
And maybe the age of miracles is not past.
Futurist Alvin Toffler once said, "We are advancing the sophistication of deception faster than the technology of verification. The consequence of this is the end of truth." We have been subjected to a blizzard of deception concerning this Wisconsin recall mudpit for months now. Columnists, spokespersons, seminar letter writers and assorted pundits have been listing a litany of vile transgressions by Governor Scott Walker and his Republican supporters to justify spending $10 million in an eruption of so-called democracy to save us from this evil dictator in the State Capitol.
He has been accused of depriving school children of an education, disenfranchising 80,000 of our elderly, depriving the disadvantaged of health care and the working class of their livlihood. He is accused of taxing the poor to benefit the rich, who are his only friends, as well as despoiling our environment.. He is also accused of lying by omission by not explaining in detail how he planned to eliminate a $3.59 billion largely structural deficit. (Yes, I know, there's still a piece of structural deficit left if you employ GAAP, which no-one has done in Madison since the Civil War. O.K., he materially cut the structural deficit.) Of course, no-one asked.
Finally, this past week the "masque" came off. As I have maintained right along, this whole six months of recall mania was and is about a single issue: union money and power. As Marquette University Professor Walter Farrell used to say, "Follow the money." The largest Wisconsin teachers' union, WEAC, corralled the potential Democrat Governor candidates and demanded that they--as Governor--agree to veto any state budget that does not contain a restoration of collective bargaining rights. Only one candidate agreed: flaming Madison liberal Kathleen Falk. (Surprise!) WEAC immediately endorsed her candidacy. There was no mention of any other issue.
Unions, especially public service unions, have become big business. WEAC even runs a health insurance business that they crammed down the throats of school district administrations in their so-called collective bargaining sessions. Union leaders command substantial salaries, well into six figures. They employ hundreds of administrative personnel. This is all funded solely by union dues. Anything that threatens the union dues golden goose must of needs strike fear into their hearts and that's exactly what Walker's and the Republicans' ACT 10 legislation does by breaking the stranglehold WEAC and other teachers' unions had on school districts.
Loss of collective bargaining rights for benefits--something most other unions do not have!--pulls most of their teeth and greatly reduces their influence. This, coupled with the elimination of dues checkoff (automatic union dues payroll deduction), threatens to materially reduce membership as teachers and others who disagree with union politics bail out, something that already is taking place. They've also lost their health insurance monopoly, resulting in major layoffs and requiring competitive bidding which forces them to reduce premiums to compete with private insurers.
Thus, this whole taxpayer-funded recall movement is about one single issue: union dues. The rest is all smoke and mirrors. Democracy my ----! Tell me, Wisconsinites, do you want to spend millions of your money just to maintain union fatcats?
Sorry, folks, but it's too late to stop this travesty. All we can do is ensure that their plan fails. Get out there and vote! Don't let the union special interests carry the day.
As I'm sure most folks know, I am pretty patriotic. I love this country and consider it a blessing and a privilege to be living here. I think it is the greatest nation the world has ever seen. The reason is rooted in its founding by folks, or the descendents of folks, who escaped religious and despotic tyranny in England in search of freedom. They--the Founders--then created a Constitution carefully designed to gurantee that liberty. No other nation has a constitution that compares. It has stood the test of time and protected us from the corruption and tyranny that has afflicted many another sad land.
Most people who have served their country in military service come out patriots. There is something that happens when you are in a position of responsibility for defending your country, in harms way if necessary. You come away with a connection and a lasting appreciation for your country that is difficult to achieve in any other venue.
The American fighting man has no equal in the world. His tenacity, courage and ferocity have surprised many an adversary, including Adolf Hitler and the Japanese who could not believe that their fierce and dedicated soldiers could be bested by "soft" Americans. The realization that the Americans would defeat Japan's defenders was a significant factor in their surrender. Even Saddam Hussein was surprised.
The reason for this military superiority is, I believe, because the American soldier knows and values above all else the great nation he is fighting for. A sort of kinship develops between him and his country. He is fighting for something of which he is a part, including the folks back home, which leads him to perform acts of great bravery and sacrifice.
There is one black stain on our nation that will never be erased. At the end of the Vietnam war, the soldier came home, not to appreciation from his country for his great sacrifice, but viciousness, spitting and accusations of "baby-killer". Jane Fonda was a heroine and he was the villian. This tore asunder the kinship relationship that sustained him through the horror of that war that took the lives of many of his comrades, leaving him with a sense of loss and futility that resulted in many of the adjustment problems experienced by Vietnam veterans. This must never be allowed to happen again!
I think few of us realize and appreciate what we have in his wondrous nation of ours. We are entangled in the issues of everyday life and the ridiculous at times political shenanigans. Allow me to use another's words to try to illustrate what is the basis of patriotism for me and hopefully many others.
I recently came across an editorial--unsigned--from, believe it or not, The New York Times. Of course, it was published in 1940, well before the Sulzbergers and others took the Grey Lady down into the gutter of partisanship. The Times was once the greatest newspaper in the country and perhaps the world. The following is that editorial, written on June 14, 1940 in commemoration of Flag Day, a regrettably neglected holiday.
(On a personal note. I sometimes think I'm a pretty good writer. But periodically I run across something that puts me in my place--a rank amateur. This is one of those. It says what is in my heart much better than I could ever hope to express. May it touch you as it touched me.)
What's a flag? What's the love of country for which it stands? Maybe it begins with love of the land itself. It is the fog rolling in with the tide at Eastport, or through the Golden Gate and among the towers of San Francisco. It is the sun coming up behind the White Mountains, over the Green, throwing a shining glory on Lake Champlain and above the Adirondacks. It is the storied Mississippi rolling swift and muddy past St. Louis, rolling past Cairo, pouring down past the levees of New Orleans. It is lazy noontide in the pines of Carolina, it is a sea of wheat rippling in Western Kansas, it is the San Francisco peaks far north across the glowing nakedness of Arizona, it is the Grand Canyon and a little stream coming down out of a New England ridge, in which are trout.
It is men at work. It is the storm-tossed fishermen coming into Gloucester and Providence and Astoria. It is the farmer riding his great machine in the dust of harvest, the dairyman going to the barn before sunrise, the lineman mending the broken wire, the miner drilling for the blast. It is the servants of fire in the murky splendor to Pittsburgh, between the Allegheny and the Monongahela, the trucks rumbling through the night, the locomotive engineer bringing the train in on time, the pilot in the clouds, the riveter running along the beam a hundred feet in air. It is the clerk in the office, the housewife doing the dishes and sending the children off to school. It is the teacher, doctor and parson tending and helping, body and soul, for small reward.
It is small things remembered, the little corners of the land, the houses, the people that each one loves. We love our country because there was a little tree on a hill, and grass thereron, and a sweet valley below; because the hurdy-gurdy man came along on a sunny morning in a city street; because a beach or a farm or a lane or a house that might not seem much to others were once, for each of us, made magic. It is voices that are remembered only, no longer heard. It is parents, friends, the lazy chat of street and store and office, and the ease of mind that makes life tranquil. It is summer and winter, rain and sun and storm. These are flesh of our flesh, bone of our bone, blood of our blood, a lasting part of what we are, each of us and all of us together.
It is stories told. It is the Pilgrims dying in their first dreadful winter. It is the Minuteman standing his ground at Concord Bridge, and dying there. It is the army in rags, sick, freezing, starving at Valley Forge. It is the wagons and the men on foot going westward over Cumberland Gap, floating down the great rivers, rolling over the great plains. It is the settler hacking fiercely at the primeval forest on his new, his own lands. It is Thoreau at Walden Pond, Lincoln at Cooper Union, and Lee riding home from Appomattox. It is corruption and disgrace, answered always by men who would not let the flag lie in the dust, who have stood up in every generation to fight for the old ideals and the old rights, at risk of ruin or life itself.
It is a great multitude of people on pilgrimage, common and ordinary people, charged with the usual human failings, yet filled with such a hope of a land in which a man can stand straight, without fear, without rancor.
The land and the people and the flag--the land a continent, the people of every race, the flag as symbol of what humanity may aspire to when the wars are over and the barriers are down; to these each generation must be dedicated and consecrated anew, to defend with life itself, if need be, but, above all, in friendliness, in hope, in courage, to live for.
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