2007 letters to the editor

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HAPPY 200TH, ROBERT E. LEE

If Robert E. Lee were alive, he would be celebrating his 200th birthday on Friday, January 19, 2007. This date will probably pass without much notice in the North, but many of us in Dixie will mark the day with recollections of just how great a man he was. In this regard, I offer this reprint of his Farwell to the Army of Northern Virginia. If Mr. Bush wants to end the war in Iraq now, this would serve as an excellent draft for his farewell speech to the troops:
After four years of arduous service, marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.

I need not tell the survivors of so many hard-fought battles who have remained steadfast to the last that I have consented to this result from no distrust of them; but feeling that valor and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that would have attended the continuance of the contest, I determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen. By the terms of the agreement, officers and men can return to their homes and remain until exchanged.

You may take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed, and I earnestly pray that a merciful God will extend to you his blessing and protection.

With an unceasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration of myself, I bid you all an affectionate farewell.


NOT YOUR JOB, MR. PRESIDENT (1/24/2007)

In recent years, most presidents have taken the opportunity during the annual State Of The Union (SOTU) address to describe a number of initiatives, strategies, etc., which are to be the focus of the federal government during the coming year; and each year during my exegesis of the SOTU I separate the focus items into those which are authorized by the US Constitution, and those which are not. For example, early in this year’s SOTU Mr. Bush stated, “First, we must balance the federal budget … without raising taxes.” Bravo. That certainly is a legitimate and worthy goal. Specifically, he hopes to eliminate the federal deficit within the next five years; but given that he inherited a $284B surplus, which he turned into the fourth largest deficit in history (with the help of a republican Congress) I’m not going to hold my breath. He offered a few other legitimate pursuits, and then listed a host of items for which there is absolutely no Constitutional authority. For example, Mr. Bush claimed, “When it comes to health care, government has an obligation to care for the elderly, the disabled, and poor children,” and “We must continue to fight HIV/AIDS, especially on the continent of Africa.” Really? I’m sure this would come as a surprise to the Founding Fathers, who, apparently, forgot to include these obligations in the enumerated powers section of the US Constitution. I knew we were in trouble when Mr. Bush opened his address by incorrectly defining the job of the federal government as , “Our job is to make life better for our fellow Americans, and help them to build a future of hope and opportunity.” No, Mr. President, the job of our federal government is not to make life better for our fellow Americans (or Africans) by providing health care for poor children or funding efforts to fight HIV/AIDS; it is, as specified in the Congressional Oath, “to support and defend the Constitution,” and as specified in the Presidential Oath, “to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.” Perhaps it was said best on the floor of the House of Representatives by William Giles (1762-1830) of Virginia, who insisted that it was not the purpose nor the right of Congress to "attend to what generosity and humanity require, but to what the Constitution and their duty require." Amen.

VOTE FOR LESS CRIME (1/28/2007)

The “Full Faith and Credit” clause of the US Constitution requires every state to recognize and honor the “public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State,” and that’s why a marriage license, driver’s license, etc., from Georgia is honored by all the other states, and vice versa. In view of this, it has never made any sense to me that a Carrying a Concealed Weapon license (CCW) is not treated the same. Citizens who have a Georgia CCW know that their CCW is not recognized by neighboring South Carolina, and if they are caught carrying a concealed firearm in South Carolina, they are subject to arrest, and if convicted, may be fined and or imprisoned. On the other hand, Georgia does have “CCW Reciprocity” with 21 other states, which allows Georgia CCW holders to carry concealed in those states, in exchange for Georgia allowing CCW holders from those states to carry concealed in Georgia. Thanks to legislation currently being entertained by the US Congress, all that could soon change for the better. Both the Senate (S 388) and the House (HR 226) are considering national “Right-to-Carry” reciprocity bills that would provide national reciprocity for state CCW licenses. These bills would not create a federal licensing system; they would simply require the states to recognize each other’s CCWs, just as they recognize drivers’ licenses. Seems to me this legislation is long overdue, and I have written to my legislators asking them to support it. I respectfully suggest that you consider doing the same. The research is done, the results are in, and the conclusion is clear. As Professor John R. Lott, Jr. succinctly put it: “more guns = less violent crime.” And, as Robert A. Heinlein opined, “An armed society is a polite society.” I think we would all welcome less violent crime and more courtesy.

HEADS UP GSP (2/5/2007)

Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort on US129, about a mile south of the TN/NC border, marks the south end of a stretch of scenic, narrow, twisty highway that is claimed to have 318 curves in 11 miles. Appropriately, the stretch is called “the Dragon.” The Two Wheels Only Motorcycle Resort in Suches, at the end of GA180 (also known as Wolf Pen Gap Road, or, simply, “the Wolf”), marks the south end of a stretch of scenic, narrow, twisty highway that is claimed to be the “crookedest” road in Georgia. Each of these sections of winding road acts as a magnet for motorcyclists, most of whom are mature, responsible, law-abiding citizens, but a few of whom are immature, irresponsible, reckless riders who ignore speed limits, double yellow lines, caution signs, etc., and who invoke the scorn of not only the local citizenry, but also the rest of us motorcyclists who are tarred with the same brush. Indeed, my wife and I (we are both retired certified Motorcycle Safety Instructors), partly in fear of “guilt by association” and partly in fear of being run over because we observe the speed limit, no longer ride our motorcycles on the Wolf on weekends, nor on the Dragon at any time. Attempts by the law to enforce the speed limits have not been especially successful in the past, but that may soon change because there is a “new Sheriff in town.” Actually, he’s a new TN Highway Patrol captain who, according to a variety of motorcycle web sites, blogs, and internet forums, has pledged to put a stop to “race track driving” on the Dragon. Rumor has it that anyone caught going more than 50mph (the speed limit is 30mph) will be charged with reckless driving, will be jailed, and their vehicle will be impounded. Apparently, the plan calls for unmarked police cars, unmarked police motorcycles, and a joint effort between THP and the County; and reportedly, they are dedicated to “work until the problem is solved.” Heads up GSP and Union County; if it works on the Dragon, it should work on the Wolf.

HE SAW IT COMING (2/8/2007)

"If the federal government should overpass the just bounds of its authority and make a tyrannical use of its powers, the people, whose creature it is, must appeal to the standard they have formed, and take such measures to redress the injury done to the Constitution as the exigency may suggest and prudence justify." -- Alexander Hamilton (The Federalist Papers, No.33, January 3,1788)

AND JUSTICE FOR ALL (2/9/2007)

A few years ago Mary Meeks paid $110,000 to buy the Luther P. Jackson Elementary School in Cumberland County, VA, when, after the property had been dormant for years, the county declared the dilapidated 32 classroom building as surplus and put it on the auction block. After Meeks spent years and $250,000 renovating and titivating the property, school officials decided that they needed the school after all, and they offered to buy it back from her for $200,000. When she rejected their insulting offer they invoked Virginia's eminent domain laws, filed papers for a "quick-take," and set aside $200,000 in an account to compensate Meeks. The county tax assessor has valued the land and improvements at $609,000, so if Meeks is, as the Virginia constitution provides, entitled to “just compensation” for her land (she is), you would think that she would have a strong case when she appears before a judge to protest the paltry $200,000 offer. Wrong. The court will not allow property owners to use tax assessments as evidence. This will be an interesting one, and probably heartbreaking one, to watch. But do not expect a speedy resolution: it is in the county’s interest to drag this out as long as possible, hoping that financial pressure on Meeks will force her to accept their offer. If Meeks is determined, and wealthy enough to hold out, the litigation could cost her an arm and a leg, and could take years, because the concept of a “speedy trial” has gone to the same grave as the concept of “just compensation.”

A FIRST IN GEORGIA POLITICS (2/28/2007)

The non-partisan special election to pick a successor to recently deceased Charlie Norwood, US Representative for Georgia’s 10th District, is scheduled for June 19th. Since it is a special non-partisan election, Democrats and Republicans will not hold primary elections to determine which single Republican and which single Democrat will appear on the ballot; instead, there are likely to be several Republicans and several Democrats on the ballot. It’s to early to tell who all will be on the ballot, but the choices will probably include several Republicans (possibly including Jim Whitehead, Ralph T. Hudgens, Paul Broun, Bob Young, and Willie Green); several Democrats ( possibly including Terry Holley, Tom Chasteen , Alan Powell, and David Bell); and at least one Libertarian: James “Jim” Sendelbach. Yes, you read that right, for the first time in history there will probably be a Libertarian candidate for US Representative on a Georgia ballot! And if you’re wondering why there has never been a Libertarian candidate for US Representative on a GA ballot before, it is because Georgia's elected Republicans and Democrats have imposed a virtually impossible requirement on Libertarians (and other interested parties) to secure, roughly, 30 THOUSAND certified signatures of registered voters just to get on the ballot!

In the coming weeks you will probably hear a lot about the Republican and Democrat candidates, and not much about the Libertarian candidate, so allow me to introduce him. Dr. Jim Sendelbach holds a bachelor's degree in philosophy, a master's degree in theology, a doctorate degree in counseling psychology, and is a licensed professional counselor and certified forensic addictions examiner. He is presently co-owner & principal therapist at Anchor Point Neurofeedback and Counseling Center in Conyers. He is a VietNam era veteran (US Army), and has been married for 23 years to Susan Sendelbach who was born in Americus, GA, and earned her Doctor of Ministry degree from Emory University. He is a member of the International Society for Neurotherapy and Research, a member of St. Pius Church, a former member of Christ Our Hope Church in Lithonia, a member of the Pilot Club of Conyers, and the Conyers-Rockdale Chamber of Commerce, and he also serves as a mentor in the Rockdale County Juvenile Court Mentoring program. The behemoth, insatiable, intrusive, out of control federal government we are living with today was created by Republicans, Democrats, and Independents; but the Libertarians are running against the tide because they stand for less government growth, less spending, less taxes, less regulation, and more individual liberty. For this, I respectfully request that 10th district residents seriously consider voting for Jim Sendelbach on June 19.

MAKING SOME PROGRESS (3/13/2007)

Living in Georgia, where law-abiding citizens routinely “keep and bear” firearms for personal protection in homes, businesses, and vehicles, we tend to forget that there are places in this country where exercising such God-given, constitutionally protected individual rights are denied. Take for example, Washington, D. C. (on and off, the murder capital of the nation), where the law prohibits having an assembled, operable, loaded shotgun in the home (an unassembled, inoperable, unloaded shotgun is about as useful as a stick for self-defense), and absolutely bans possession of all handguns not acquired and registered before 1977 (and even handguns registered before 1977 cannot be carried from room to room in a home without a license, which is never granted!). From time to time, such draconian laws are challenged, and once in a blue moon, the anti-self-defense forces actually lose. Such was the case last week when the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit reversed a lower federal court on all counts and concluded that “the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms.” Hurrah! This case was not about machine guns and assault weapons, it was about ordinary, law-abiding citizens wanting to possess functional firearms within their homes for self-defense, and they won! This was the second time in recent years that a federal circuit court has upheld the individual nature of the Second Amendment, so we are making some progress in restoring our basic rights.

SHOCKED! SIMPLY SHOCKED! (3/16/2007)

Regarding the recent Justice Department (JD) findings that the FBI was abusing its authority under the Patriot Act, and had illegally obtained private records during some investigations: did anyone really believe that such abuses would not happen? For me, I'm about as shocked as Inspector Renault was in the 1942 film “Casablanca,” when he learned that there was gambling going on at Rick's Café. Abuses reported in the JD findings include illegally circumventing the National Security Letter (NSL) provision of the Patriot Act, and in some cases, issuing NSLs after the fact to “cover” illegitimate record demands for sensitive personal information such as telephone records and e-mail. Also according to the JD report, FBI agents contracted with phone companies to improperly obtain customer records, saying that subpoenas would later be issued in connection with an underlying investigation. But in a random examination of such “exigent letters,” not one subpoena was sent, and in many cases the requests were not tied to any pending FBI investigations, which was a clear violation of the law. The FBI director said no one has suffered harm from the “errors” made. Ha! Next time you’re caught speeding, try telling the trooper that it’s OK because no one “suffered harm” from your actions. Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy said, "You cannot have people act as free agents on something where they are going to be delving into your privacy … We all want to stop terrorists. We all want to stop criminals. But the FBI work for us, the American people, not the other way around." And, Republican Senator Arlen Specter thinks the Patriot Act may have to be changed and the FBI's power curtailed because "they appear not to be able to know how to use it." Amen! Sounds like bipartisanship to me. Let’s get on with it!

NOT FOR FAME (4/11/2007)

At the end of this month, Georgia will celebrate Confederate Memorial Day. In 1874, Georgia officially designated a day to formally honor the lives of Confederate soldiers and the sacrifices they made. The date set for this purpose was April 26th, in recognition of the date in 1865 when General Joseph E. Johnston (who was in command of the Confederate troops from Georgia) surrendered, marking the end of the War for Georgia. Most Southern states celebrate Confederate Memorial Day, but not all of them on the same date. Florida joined Georgia in celebrating on April 26th, but other Southern states have chosen other dates for other reasons; e.g., North and South Carolina celebrate it on May 10th, the anniversary of Jefferson Davis’ capture; Louisiana and Tennessee celebrate on June 3rd, Jefferson Davis’ birthday; and Texas celebrates it on January 19th, General Robert E. Lee’s birthday. Why do any of them celebrate a Confederate Memorial Day? Here are the words of Confederate Chaplain Randolph McKim, as inscribed on the Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery: “Not for fame, not for place or rank, not lured by ambition nor goaded by necessity, but in simple obedience to duty as they understood it, these men suffered all, sacrificed all, dared all, and died.” Those men were doing their duty as described by General Robert E. Lee when he wrote: "Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more, you should never wish to do less."

VOTE FOR WHAT YOU WANT (4/16/2007)

Last week a few friends and I were discussing America’s huge trade deficit (which will probably reach nearly $900B by the end of the year), and the one thing we agreed on is that America is certainly buying a lot more stuff from foreign countries, than foreign countries are buying from America. What we could not agree on is, if this is good or bad. That doesn’t bother me because the “experts” can’t agree either. Last time I looked there were at least a couple of dozen schools of economic thought operating in the USA, everything from the followers of John Maynard Keynes, who view huge trade deficits with alarm, to followers of Ludwig von Mises, who are not alarmed, and who believe that growing levels of trade and foreign investment boost US growth, job creation, real wages, and keep interest rates and inflation low. Next, my friends and I talked about America’s huge budget deficit (last year the federal government spent about $3B more than it took in), and the fact that when the deficit from last year is added to the accumulated debt from previous years, the total national debt comes to about $8.7T (that’s $8.7 Trillion); and we all agreed, as do virtually all respected economists, that this IS a problem. Just as individual citizens cannot continually spend more than they take in, neither can the federal government. Eventually, something gives, and there are only three options: increase receipts (that means more taxes), reduce outlays (Social Security, Medicare, & Medicaid represent over half of the expenses), or go bankrupt. Nobody wants the USA to go bankrupt (one of my friends describes that as becoming a banana republic, without the bananas!); and understandably, few citizens want the burden of increased personal taxes, or the inconvenience of reduced federal government largess. But we have to do something about the problem, and soon. Our elected federal officials know that we are on an unsustainable fiscal path, and are just postponing the inevitable by failing to make the hard decisions now, to either increase taxes or reduce handouts.

On June 19th Georgians in the 10th US Congressional District will have an opportunity to go to the polls to vote in a special non-partisan election to pick a successor to recently deceased US Representative Charlie Norwood. Whoever gets elected will have to face hard decisions concerning the budget deficit when he (all the candidates are males) arrives in Washington, and I predict the following: If he is a Democrat, he will probably vote to increase taxes; if he is a Republican he will probably vote to cut programs; if he is a Libertarian he will probably vote to reduce BOTH programs and taxes. Be careful how you vote. You may get what you ask for.

POGO WAS RIGHT (4/20/2007)

After days of watching, listening, and reading about the many interviews by media, law enforcement, and school officials, I have yet to learn of anyone asking the really important questions in the Virginia Tech massacre. Every survivor over age 21 who came within Cho Seung-Hui’s range of fire should have been asked these three questions: 1. Do you have a CCW? (a permit to Carry a Concealed Weapon – which can easily be obtained by any mature, responsible, competent, law-abiding citizen in VA ). 2. If there were no prohibition against carrying a weapon on campus, would you have been carrying a concealed weapon during Cho’s rampage? (early last year, following the defeat of a proposal to allow citizens with state-issued CCWs to carry their handguns on college campuses in Virginia, VA Tech spokesman Larry Hincker celebrated the defeat of the bill and announced: "I'm sure the university community is appreciative of the General Assembly's actions … this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on our campus."). 3. If yes to the first two questions, do you think you would have been able to stop Cho before he killed 32 innocent people? This ain’t rocket science, folks. The hand wringers who want to lay blame on the judge, Magistrate Paul Barrett , who refused to send Cho to a mental institution when he had the opportunity in 2005; or on John Markell, owner of Roanoke Firearms who sold Cho a 9 mm Glock 19 pistol, and ammunition; or on campus Police Chief Wendell Flinchum for costive response time; or on the lack of a student-alert text-message broadcast system; or on the lack of security cameras on campus; or on any number of other patsies, human, systemic, or mechanical, are completely missing the point. Last June, The VA Tech governing board approved a violence prevention policy (!) reiterating its ban on students or employees carrying guns and prohibiting visitors from bringing them into campus facilities. This week, VA Governor Tim Kaine is appointing an independent panel which will be led by retired Virginia State Police Superintendent Col. Gerald Massengill, to review the shootings and their aftermath. If they do their job properly, they will conclude that the blame rests completely with Tech's governing board for imposing a “victim disarmament policy,” rather than a “violence prevention policy.” The VA Tech governing board needs to offer a public Mia Culpa, and embrace Pogo’s assumption of responsibility: “We have meet the enemy, and he is us.”

A WAY OUT OF IRAQ (5/6/2007)

Recently, William A. Niskanen, Chairman of the Cato Institute and a defense department advisor during the Vietnam War, has come up with a way out of Iraq: “If the Democrats want to attract enough Republican support to override President Bush's veto, they should adopt a course change of their own: Declare victory and bring the troops home to flags flying.” Sounds like a good idea to me. Four years ago this week, President Bush, on the deck of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, USS Abraham Lincoln, as it steamed home from the Persian Gulf (at the time, it was located about 100 miles off San Diego) positioned himself in front of a ”Mission Accomplished” sign, and announced to some 5,000 sailors aboard, and to the rest of the world watching on TV: "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed." Niskanen noted that, even if major combat operations did not really end, all of the original military objectives of the U.S. intervention in Iraq have been accomplished: Saddam Hussein was captured, tried, and executed; the Iraqi military was defeated and disbanded; the search for weapons of mass destruction was completed (without finding any); the Iraqi people were afforded the opportunity to ratify a constitution and elect their own government. All of the realistic objectives for the use of the U.S. military in Iraq were accomplished quickly and at low cost. That should be a sufficient basis to declare victory and bring the troops home with honor. The fact remains that in its initial conception, the war in Iraq has long since been won. Our troops can do no more for that country, and we should welcome them home to ticker-tape parades. The longer we wait to withdraw, the more likely we are to bring about a post-war syndrome like that which followed Vietnam: striking a body blow to the pride and morale of the U.S. armed forces for a generation.

RON PAUL WAS RIGHT - AGAIN (5/16/2007)

If you watched the GOP Presidential Primary debate on Tuesday evening, you know that the liveliest exchange was when Rudy Giuliani interrupted Ron Paul to challenge his comment that our interventionist foreign policy created the “blowback” that led to 9/11. Paul stood his ground, and added, “They’re not attacking us because we’re rich and free, they’re attacking us because we’re over there.” Neither Giuliani nor the audience was buying any of it, which is unfortunate, because Paul was right: the main reason Islamic terrorists target the US (and western nations in general) is because we are on their soil and in their hair, and they want us out. There is plenty of evidence to support this claim. For example: The suicide bombing of the US Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, in April of 1983, and the similar bombing of the Marine Barracks in October (which were seen by many as marking the beginning of anti-US Attacks by radical Islamist groups), were motivated by American intervention in the Lebanese Civil War. The shoot down of the Pan-Am flight over Lockerbie Scotland, which killed 189 American civilians, was perpetrated by a group calling themselves the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution , who claimed they had destroyed the plane in retaliation for the US shoot down of an Iranian airliner by the US Navy guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes, which, at the time, was some 4 km inside Iranian territorial waters. The first NYC WTC Attack, in 1993, was planned by a group of conspirators including Ramzi Yousef, and financed by al-Qaeda. Yousef mailed letters to various NY newspapers just before the attack, in which he demanded that the US stop supporting Israel and end interference with the internal affairs of countries in the Middle East. The attack on the Khobar Towers US Military complex in Saudi Arabia in June of 1996, which was perpetrated by members of Hizballah, was organized by a group of terrorists who wanted US troops out of Saudi Arabia. The bombings of our embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in August of 1998, in which 257 people were killed and over 4000 wounded, were linked to local members of Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda terrorist network, whose list of grievances against the US included our participation in the first Gulf War, military operations in Somalia and Yemen, and the US military presence in Saudi Arabia. The suicide bombing attack against the USS Cole in Yemen in October of 2000, was organized by al-Qaeda, and is generally regarded as having been a protest against US involvement in the Middle East. And finally, the motivation for the attacks on 9/11 were explained by Osama bin Laden himself in his “Letter to the American People,” which few Americans have ever read. The letter first appeared on the internet in Arabic, and was later translated and circulated by Islamists in Britain. In the letter, bin Laden lists his motives for why he attacked us, and early in his list he includes: “Your forces occupy our countries; you spread your military bases throughout them; you corrupt our lands, and you besiege our sanctities.” Basically, the man was saying (and, I believe, with good reason), “Yankee go home,” and I agree with him that we should.

In other words, and as it was put by commentator Lew Rockwell, “It is not caving in to the bees to stop poking a stick into their hive.”

DODD: GOOD NEWS / BAD NEWS (6/4/2007)

The best question asked during the Democratic candidates TV debate last Sunday did not come from one of the CNN “professionals.” It came from Ivy Merrill, a substitute elementary school teacher, who was in the audience, and who got to ask the final question of the evening. She asked the candidates what their top priority would be during their first 100 days in office. The answers told us more about the candidates than any of the babble that went on up to that point of the debate. The main thing we learned is that Kucinich (“Be a president who helps to reshape the world for peace”); Richardson (“I would upgrade our schools”); Edwards (“To travel the world – re-establish America’s moral authority in the world”); and Obama (“The second priority is getting moving on health care…”), need to restudy the Constitution, which does not authorize the federal government to be involved in any of those activities! Indeed, the answers given by Kucinich, Richardson and Edwards, sound like responses that might be given by Miss America candidates, rather than presidential candidates. Kudos to Clinton and Biden, whose priorities (“end the war and bring the troops home”) are within the Constitutional authority of the Commander In Chief (and In fairness to Obama, he also mentioned that he would stop the war); but the top prize goes to Chris Dodd who said, “I’d try to restore the constitutional rights in our country. This administration has done great damage to them. I would do that on the first day. I wouldn’t wait 100 days on those items.” Bravo! The Declaration of Independence explains that the purpose of government is to secure the unalienable rights endowed to us by our Creator, not to “reshape the world for peace” or “upgrade our schools” etc. Dodd’s interest in restoring constitutional rights is good news. Unfortunately, that good news is more than offset by the bad news of his Senate voting record on the budget, the economy, civil rights, crime, education, energy, the environment, gun control, health care, immigration, jobs, social security, tax reform, and a few other issues. Too bad, because we are in dire need of a president who acknowledges that the Bill of Rights is routinely trampled by the federal government, and it is time to reverse course. Thus far, republican candidate Congressman Ron Paul (a Libertarian in Republican clothing, and clearly a long shot) is the best candidate who meets that criterion.

NRA vs. GOA (6/19/2007)

Unless you were really following the action closely last week you may have missed the news that the House passed HR 2640 by a voice vote, and that it now goes on to the Senate. If you’re not familiar with HR 2640, the fact that gun-grabbers Carolyn McCarthy (in the House) and Chuck Schumer (in the Senate) are the leading sponsors of this legislation, should tell you something. On the other hand, the fact that the NRA (National Rifle Association) also supports the effort should tell you something else. Hmmm. The NRA in bed with McCarthy & Schumer? What’s going on here? Well, it’s complicated, and the devil is in the details, but if the AP (Associated Press) was right when they suggested that this “could become the first major federal gun control law in over a decade," then it’s worthy of our attention. The GOA (Gun Owners of America) has sided with the AP’s description, and they are vehemently opposed to the legislation. Me too. I just wrote my Senators, asking them to oppose the so-called NICS Improvement Amendments Act (HR 2640), and I respectfully suggest that you consider doing the same.

FLAG ETIQUETTE (6/23/2007)

As we approach Independence Day it might be good to review the rules and customs pertaining to the display and uses of the US flag. Title 4, US Code, Chapter 1, is the official source, but it is too long (six pages) to reprint here, so I’ll just mention some of the rules & customs which, it seems to me, are less well known, or at least, less followed:

- The flag should not be draped over the hood, top, sides, or back of a vehicle or of a railroad train or a boat. When the flag is displayed on a motorcar, the staff shall be fixed firmly to the chassis or clamped to the right fender.

- The flag should not be displayed on a float in a parade except from a staff, or against a wall or window on the float.

- When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the union should be uppermost and to the flag's own right, that is, to the observer's left. When displayed in a window, the flag should be displayed in the same way, with the union or blue field to the left of the observer in the street.

- The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free.

- The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.

- The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.

- The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.

- No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform.

- A lapel flag pin should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.

- The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.

Occasionally, the matter of leaving a flag out at night, without illumination, causes some loud discussions. Some folks believe it is disrespectful of the flag, others believe it is OK. The only thing in the code about this is: “It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.” I read this to mean that it is not necessary to either illuminate the flag at night, or hoist it every sunrise and lower it every sunset, except for flags which are “on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open.” And in answer to a question several people have asked, I think this means it is OK to display a flag on a mailbox post, without illumination, because a mailbox post is neither a “building” nor a “stationary flagstaff in the open.” And that’s why, if you go past my mailbox, you will see a little cloth flag on display, 24/7!

KILLING FOR OIL CONTINUES (7/2/2007)

This is not a letter about the Middle East. It is a letter about how our federal government is killing us as a result of Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. To save gasoline (and hence, oil), laws enacted by Congress mandate that vehicles sold in the US meet certain fuel efficiency standards. One way auto makers increase “fuel economy” is by building smaller and lighter vehicles that burn less fuel, and those cars kill more Americans than their heavier predecessors. The conventional wisdom that passengers in smaller/lighter vehicles die at a much higher rate when involved in traffic accidents with larger/heaver vehicles, is supported by traffic safety experts such as Dr. Leonard Evans, internationally recognized researcher and president of Science Serving Society, who estimates that drivers in lighter cars may be 12 times as likely to be killed in a crash when the other vehicle is twice as heavy as the lighter car. And he’s not alone: the National Safety Council, the Brookings Institution, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the General Motors Research Laboratories and the National Academy of Sciences all agreed that reductions in the size and weight of passenger cars pose a safety threat. Much as I would like to think that Congress would take into account these (presumably) unintended consequences before increasing the CAFE standards, the fact is that the senate energy legislation passed late last month mandates a 40 percent increase in fuel economy standards. In numbers of fatalities, a USA Today analysis of crash data found that since CAFE went into effect in 1978, 46,000 people died in crashes they otherwise would have survived, had they been in bigger, heavier vehicles. And to add insult to injury, the Heritage Foundation estimates that other aspects of the new energy legislation will result in gas prices in excess of $6 within the next 8 to 10 years. I wonder how many more Americans will have to die before Congress gets the message that they’re costing us money and killing us?

MARINE LIFE vs. MARINERS (7/12/2007)

On October 24, 2005, Hurricane Wilma pounded the Florida coast, killing six, knocking out power to more than three million people, and raising havoc with numerous boats, including Peter Halmos’s 150-foot Perini yacht named The Legacy, which Wilma tossed about like a match stick, finally depositing it, upright, and fairly undamaged, in the shallow waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. That was almost two years ago and Halmos is still trying to get his $30 Million yacht back from the feds who will not let him retrieve it from the Sanctuary until they can determine the “most effective way to remove the vessel with the least damage to natural resources.” After almost two years, you would think they would have come up with an answer. The Sanctuary is administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) , and encompasses 2800 square nautical miles of the waters surrounding the Florida Keys. Now, regardless of your opinion on the matter of the legitimacy of the interest the feds (NOAA) have in “balancing the long-term health of the ecosystem” in general, or protecting “extensive reef building coral formations” in particular; it seems to me that the priority of the federal government should be in protecting the life & property of citizens, before protecting coral formations, especially when the contest is between a few miles out of 2800 square miles of sanctuary vs. a citizen’s private property valued at $30 Million. Halmos is the Hungarian émigré who founded SafeCard Services, Inc. in 1969 with $500 and a typewriter, and eventually became a multimillionaire, so $30 Million to him is not the same as $30 Million to you or me (especially me!); nevertheless, it is unthinkable that the feds have tied up this man’s property this long. He and the feds are reported to be close to a compromise solution, but if it doesn’t come soon, I couldn’t blame him a bit if he decides to throw in the towel and move back to Hungary.

COULD BE WORSE (7/7/2007)

The non-partisan special election to pick a successor to recently deceased Charlie Norwood, US Representative for Georgia’s 10th District, is over, and although my choice for the slot (Libertarian James “Jim” Sendelbach) did not win, our neighbors in District 10 did pick a candidate who, if his campaign promises hold, will, like Congressman Ron Paul from Texas, carry around a copy of the US Constitution in his pocket and will, like Congressman Paul, commit himself to restoring government according to the Constitution as our Founding Fathers intended. Describing himself as a “strict constitutionalist,” Dr. Paul Broun, Jr. is an opponent of illegal immigration, a proponent of private property rights, a support of abolishing the IRS, is a member of the NRA, is pro-religious freedom, and anti-ACLU and activist Federal Judges who, he observes, are “destroying America’s heritage of religions freedom and religious expression.” Things could be worse.

NO TO UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE (8/4/2007)

The fundamental question in health care is the same as the fundamental question in so many aspects of our lives: who is in control, the government, or you? Government intrusion into our daily lives is so pervasive that many people have come to accept it as the norm. As Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1788, “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, and government to gain ground.” The extent to which we have failed to halt this “natural progress” is evident in the fact that the feds now control the size of the holes in our Swiss cheese, the amount of water in our toilets, and a million other details of our lives. If we allow them, they will take over our health care system, and if you are unhappy with your medical care today, just wait until it’s controlled by the feds and they decide what services, tests, and treatments you receive; when and what doctors you can see; and what hospitals you can use. There is abundant evidence that this is how it works in countries with government controlled medical services, and those who don’t believe this just haven’t done their homework. Those who would have us believe that the US Social Security and Medicare programs are “very effective” must not have noticed that both programs are on unsustainable courses: Medicare faces insolvency during the lifetime of most greybeards and Social Security is expected to follow suit perhaps 20 years later.

The US Health Care System does have its problems, and nobody I know thinks it should remain as is; at the same time, a government take-over is not the answer. Quite the opposite: government should step aside and let the creative forces of the free market address the problem. And much as some would like to believe that the priority of our elected officials should be to “put people first,” that’s not their job. Their job is to attend to what the Constitution and their oath of duty require, not to what generosity and humanity require. President Franklin Pierce (1852-1856) put it this way, “I readily and, I trust, feelingly acknowledge the duty incumbent on us all as men and citizens, and as among the highest and holiest of our duties, to provide for those who, in the mysterious order of Providence, are subject to want and to disease of body or mind; but I can not find any authority in the Constitution for making the Federal Government the great almoner of public charity throughout the United States.” It’s a quantum leap from Pierce’s understanding of the Constitution, to the kind of thinking that holds health care as a “basic human right” to be provided by the federal government. The Founding Fathers did not include health care as a basic human right in the Declaration of Independence or in the Bill Of Rights, nor did they grant Congress the authority to provide or guarantee universal health care. As Americans we enjoy a plethora of rights. The right of a citizen to have his government force his friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens to pay for his health care (at the point of a gun, if necessary), is not one of them.

EMIGRATE OR CAPITULATE? (8/9/2007)

Unlike many people who, like my wife, can trace their American heritage back to the Revolutionary War, or beyond, I was born in the US of Italian immigrant parents who were part of the flood of adventurous Europeans who arrived at Ellis Island during the early 1900s; so my American heritage begins with me. One hundred years ago next month, my father’s father made his first reconnaissance trip from Italy to the US, and after more trips to arrange for work and housing, he immigrated (legally) with his wife and children (including my father) to the US. Perhaps it is because I am a first generation American, that I especially appreciate the sacrifices made by early Americans, and why I think it is so important, particularly for young people, to understand that others had to struggle, suffer, and sometimes, to die, for the freedoms that today, too many of us seem to just take for granted. And for those who agree with me that history is important, we are in good company. A couple of thousand years ago, in the land of my ancestors, the Roman historian Tacitus wrote that the principal objective of history was to prevent virtuous actions from being forgotten, and to insure that evil words and deeds should be remembered. As I commemorate the 100th anniversary of my grandfather’s first trip to the US, I’ll also be remembering the Founding Fathers whose virtuous actions secured the blessings of liberty which today are being eroded by the evil words and deeds of politicians who fail to do their sworn duty to support the Constitution. I pray we can correct the course the country is on, lest my grandchildren, or theirs, decide, as my grandfather did, that it is better to emigrate than to capitulate. God bless America.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW … (8/18/2007)

Regarding American political luminaries who have passed from the scene, there are many about whom I have said, or at least felt, “Where are they now that we need them.” Today’s big spenders in Washington bring to mind three men whose frugality concerning the public purse, and whose understanding of the Constitution as intended by the Founders, would be a welcome relief.

My first citation may be a surprise. Those who have seen the tombstone of Davy Crockett may recall that it reads: "Davy Crockett, Pioneer, Patriot, Soldier, Trapper, Explorer, State Legislator, Congressman, Martyred at The Alamo. 1786 – 1836." As kids we learned that he was the “king of the wild frontier” and that he died at the Alamo, but we were taught very little about his work in the US Congress, where he served two terms as a member of the House of Representatives. His performance there should, but unfortunately does not, serve as a model for modern Congressman. For example, during his first term in office, Crockett successfully opposed a $10K relief bill which was proposed for the widow of a naval officer, giving the following eloquent rebuttal:

"We must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not attempt to prove that Congress has no power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right to appropriate a dollar of the public money." When the vote was taken, the measure failed; and rumor has it that Crockett was the only member of the House to make a substantial private contribution to a charitable fund for the widow.

The second is about President Franklin Pierce who, in a famous incident in 1854, was pilloried for vetoing an extremely popular bill intended to help the mentally ill. In the face of heavy criticism, Pierce countered: "I cannot find any authority in the Constitution for public charity." To approve such spending, argued Pierce, "would be contrary to the letter and the spirit of the Constitution and subversive to the whole theory upon which the Union of these States is founded."

The last is Grover Cleveland, the “king of the veto,” who rejected hundreds of congressional spending bills during his two terms as President in the late 1800s, because, as he often wrote: "I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution."

Where are these guys, now that we need them!

IRRESPONSIBILITY, CONTINUED (8/24/2007)

Four months ago I penned a Letter To The Editor concerning the shooting incident at Virginia Tech in which Cho Seung-Hui massacred 32 innocent people. I opined that the popular finger pointing at various patsies - human, systemic, or mechanical - completely missed the point, and that if the VA Governor’s independent panel which was established to review the shootings did their job properly, they would conclude that the blame rests completely with Tech's governing board for banning legally owned and carried firearms on campus (essentially, a “victim disarmament policy”), meaning, nobody had a gun to shoot back at Cho once he began his methodical butchering. I went on to suggest that the VA Tech governing board needed to offer a public Mia Culpa, and embrace Pogo’s assumption of responsibility: “We have meet the enemy, and he is us.” Well, the governor’s panel is scheduled to release its findings next week, Tech’s own internal review was released this week, and if the Tech recommendations are a harbinger of the governor’s panel’s conclusions, VA Tech students will have little reason to feel much safer than they were before Cho’s deadly rampage. Tech’s 200-page report contained such limp-wristed suggestions as “centralizing the campus police and fire departments into one building … upgrading the cellular and phone systems on campus … increasing the number of case workers on campus … replacing many of the types of door handles (Cho chained the doors during his attack) … and instituting a system to alert students and staff members of emergencies by text messages to cellphones, e-mail accounts and online instant messages.” The governor’s office announced that his independent panel’s 250- to 300-page report, due out next week, would be “comprehensive and detailed” and would offer at least 70 recommendations for changes. Unless one of those changes is to allow law-abiding citizens with government-issued CCWs (a permit to Carry a Concealed Weapon) to carry their handguns on college campuses (don’t hold your breath), students, faculty; and staff will continue to be vulnerable to the people on campus who ignore the “gun free zone” signs: criminals and nut cases like Cho.

CONSTITUTION DAY (9/10/2007)

220 years ago next week, on September 17th 1787, the final draft of the US Constitution was signed, and on February 29th 1952 the US Congress designated September 17 as “Constitution Day” (actually, “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day”). Few people paid much attention to the date until a couple of years ago when a new federal law went into effect mandating that “Each educational institution that receives Federal funds for a fiscal year [that’s virtually every elementary school, high school, college or university in the country] shall hold an educational program on the United States Constitution on September 17 …” So, expect the students to get at least a dash of US history in school next Monday. Expect too, that it will be tainted by the “Living Constitution” evangelists. These are the folks who argue that societal progress must be taken into account when interpreting the Constitution (Al Gore is an example). In opposition there are the “originalists,” folks who argue that the Constitution has a fixed and knowable meaning which was established at the time it was written (Thomas Jefferson is an example). Modern day advocates of the Jefferson position include sitting Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia who believes in sticking to the plain text of the Constitution “as it was originally written and intended.” Or, as Jefferson put it, “On every question of construction [of the Constitution] let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or intended against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.” I wonder how many students will be hearing this side of the story?

ARE YOU SMARTER THAN A … COLLEGE SENIOR? (9/20/2007)

If the subject is US History, are you smarter than a Cornell (or Princeton, Duke, or Yale) Senior? Well, if you are a greybeard, chances are very good that the answer is “yes.” About a year ago the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) published a report entitled, The Coming Crisis in Citizenship: Higher Education’s Failure to Teach America’s History and Institutions. The title pretty much sums up the findings, which corroborated the findings an earlier study commissioned by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) entitled Losing America’s Memory: Historical Illiteracy in the 21st Century, which were consistent with the concerns of many of America’s most distinguished historians and intellectuals who had expressed alarm about the growing historical illiteracy of college and university graduates and the consequences for our nation. Last week ISI released the findings of their most recent study, entitled Failing Our Students, Failing America: Holding Colleges Accountable for Teaching America’s History and Institutions, and obviously it is, in the words of Yogi Berra, “déjà vu all over again.” Perhaps even more disappointing is the fact that in this latest study of 50 top colleges & universities, America’s most prestigious universities (where the university presidents are all making over half a million dollars per year) performed the worst: those mentioned in the first sentence of this letter receive some of the largest government subsidies, and they all finished in the last five places.

According to David McCullough, a distinguished scholar, historian and Pulitzer Prize winning author who has been talking and lecturing at colleges and universities continuously for over a quarter of a century, there’s no question whatsoever that the students in our institutions of higher learning have less grasp, less understanding, and less knowledge of American history than ever before. McCullough feels that we are “raising a generation of young Americans who are, to a very large degree, historically illiterate; and if our best and brightest are graduating without a grounding in the past, we are on our way to losing the understanding that makes us all feel part of a common undertaking, no matter how diverse our backgrounds.” Every year, public and private colleges receive billions of tax dollars from federal, state, and local governments, and the time has come for higher education’s key decision-makers – state legislators, trustees, donors, alumni, faculty, students’ parents - to hold the colleges and their presidents accountable for teaching their students America’s history. As McCullough has warned, “the fact that young Americans don’t know our history, is not just something we should be sad and worried about, we should be angry. We should be angry because they are being cheated and they are being handicapped, and our way of life could very well be in jeopardy because of it.” Amen.

READ BEFORE SIGNING (9/29/2007)

The Congressional Record is the official record of what goes on in the US Congress, is published every day Congress is in session, and can run anywhere from a few pages to a few hundred pages. During a given session of Congress (about a year) the Congressional Record typically runs thousands of pages and during the last decade, has ranged from about 15K to 30K pages per congressional session. The Congressional Record provides a way for us to keep track of what our legislators are doing, but few of us have the time or inclination to wade through such volume (an unkind rumor has it that when Jacqueline Kennedy was the First Lady, she used to throw away the Congressional Record every morning, without even bothering to unwrap it). Fortunately for us, there are some watchdog groups that keep an eye on the Congressional Record, and when appropriate, they bark to get our attention. One such group is “DownsizeDC.org,” whose goal is to get Americans to oppose bad laws, and to support good laws. To that end they have been promoting a campaign to pass the “Read The Bills Act” (RTBA), which would require each bill to be read aloud in both the House and Senate, require every member of Congress to swear that he/she has either personally read or heard read the entire bill, and require that every bill must be published on the internet several days before the vote. You would think that Congress would not have to pass a law to order itself to read the bills it is considering, but the truth is that members of Congress routinely pass huge and complicated bills which none of them has read. Often, copies of a bill are not available before a vote, or they are available with such short lead time, that there is not adequate time to understand the content, effects, and cost of a bill before the vote. For example, DownsizeDC.org reported that last week, the House considered and passed a 422 page bill (HR3580) a mere twenty minutes after the text of the bill was released. I know all the House members are speedy readers, but I doubt if any of then can get through 422 pages in 20 minutes (at this rate, one could read the entire Bible in about an hour) . We need the RTBA. If you agree, you might want to get on the bandwagon at http://www.downsizedc.org/.

COLUMBUS DAY (10/7/2007)

There is no controversy over the historical fact that early in the morning on October 12, 1492, almost ten weeks after sailing out of Palos, Spain, the lookout aboard the Pinta, one of three ships in the mini-fleet of Italian mariner Cristoforo Colombo, sighted land and shouted out “Tierra! Tierra!” There is also no controversy over the historical fact that upon Cristoforo’s return to Spain, Queen Isabella was so pleased with him that she knighted him, awarded him the title of Admiral of the Ocean Seas, and eventually, bank rolled three more voyages for him. For the next four centuries Christopher Columbus (we “Americanized” his name) was generally regarded as a having made a positive contribution to world history, and in 1892, following President Benjamin Harrison’s proclamation urging the public to mark the 400th anniversary of the event, Americans across the country responded enthusiastically with parades, and other celebratory activities in the first official Columbus Day holiday in the US.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and not everyone is as pleased about Cristoforo’s adventures as were Queen Isabella, or even President Harrison. Today we have historical revisionists, such as the folks at the “Transform Columbus Day Alliance” (TCD) who reject the celebration of Columbus and his legacy, and who will try again this year (as they have for the past 15 or 20 years) to put an end to Columbus Day. We can expect TV coverage of events in places like Denver, CO, where parades will likely be met by TCD protesters, including hundreds of American Indians and supporters. And Colorado is not unique: there are seventeen states that do not recognize Columbus Day, including some (e.g., South Dakota) which have renamed October 12 as “Native American Day,” and other locations, such as Berkeley City, where they passed a law changing the name to “Native American Day” and then, later, to “Indigenous People Day” (rumor has it that the Italian American Anti-Defamation League gave Berkeley City their “Insensitivity Award.”)

Apparently, there are a number of Indians, and sympathizers, who are upset about strong evidence that Cristoforo’s men gave some of the Indians a bad time; but at the same time, they ignore strong evidence that in a kind of cruel quid pro quo, the Indians gave some of Cristoforo’s men syphilis, which they unwittingly carried back and introduced to Europe. I would suppose that some people, including King Louis XVII and King Henry VIII, did not appreciate Cristoforo’s “gift” from the New World, any more than some contemporary protesters do not appreciate his “gift” (Western Civilization, including writing, the wheel, and the achievements of Aristotle, Galileo, Newton, etc.) to the New World. If you ask me, we Americans (including the modern protesters) came out ahead, and I’ll be celebrating that fact on October 12.

INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY TOLL ROAD

Back in October of 1998 President Clinton signed the “Internet Tax Freedom Act” which bars the feds, as well as state and local governments, from taxing internet access and from imposing discriminatory internet-only taxes. It was a temporary prohibition, has been extended twice, and is once again, up for renewal. Last week the US House of Representatives voted to continue the moratorium and if the Senate and the President fall in line as expected, we will have another four years of tax free internet access. Hoorah. But - before we rush to thank our legislators for this act of kindness, we need to understand that “no tax for the next four years” is not the only option possible. The most attractive option is “no tax, ever!” That is the wish of a bipartisan majority of the House who favor making the moratorium permanent, but it is an option which was thwarted by the House Speaker when she employed a procedural move insuring that the permanent tax ban could not be considered. Look for a similar move in the Senate, despite an effort by “no tax, ever” Senators to push for a permanent extension of the moratorium. Commenting on the four year moratorium, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated, “[It] will help promote innovation, affordable internet access, and broadband services for American consumers and businesses. Americans must not face a toll road when they get on the information superhighway.” Indeed Madam Speaker, and this will still be true in 4, 8, or 12 more years, which is exactly why we need a permanent moratorium.

 

DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME

Some of us who were not paying attention to the details when President Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005, may have missed the provision that beginning in 2007, the start/stop times for Daylight Saving Time (DST) would change. For the last several years, DST began on the first Sunday in April and ended on the last Sunday in October, but beginning in 2007, DST begins on the second Sunday in March, and ends on the first Sunday in November, giving us a total of 238 days of DST versus 210 days last year. The new rules will give us an extra four or five weeks of DST each year so if you didn’t like the old DST, you now have even more to not like. This group will probably include folks in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Arizona, where DST is not observed (except for the Navajo Indian Reservation in AZ, which does observe DST). When I was in college in Indiana, the Hoosiers did not observe DST, but they finally came around in 2006, after having resisted DST since its inception in 1918. In fact, there were a lot of resisters in 1918, and the national DST law was repealed in 1919 and DST became a local matter. It stayed a local matter until the beginning of WWII, at which time the national law was revived, and remained in effect until after the war, at which time DST reverted to local control. About 40 years ago the Uniform Time Act went into effect, nationalizing and standardizing the start/stop dates for DST, but allowing for local exemptions. Since then, the Feds have tinkered with earlier start dates, but this is the first time that both start and stop dates have been changed. Winding up this trivia, the expression “Daylight Savings Time” (ending with an “s”) is popular, and can be found in some dictionaries, but the official spelling is “Daylight Saving Time,” not “Daylight Savings Time.” And although “Daylight Saving Time” is official, the expression is actually inaccurate, because no daylight is really saved. “Daylight Shifting Time” might be more accurate, and if someone wants to start a petition, I’ll sign it!

 

FLAG-FOLDING FLAP

Most people have probably seen, either live or in the movies, a gravesite military burial service featuring the playing of taps and the precise, ceremonial folding of an American flag into a triangle which is then presented to the next of kin. There is a traditional ritual which accompanies the flag-folding, in which members of the Memorial Honor Guard Detail fold the flag 13 times, during which they recite the significance of every fold: the first fold represents life, the second a belief in eternal life, etc., and the common recitation for five of the folds includes the word “God.” Well, the latest effort by secularist fanatics to rid public spaces of all references to God recently took place in California (are you surprised?) when someone complained about the utterance of the word “God” in the narration for the 11th fold of the flag, during the burial service of a veteran at Riverside Memorial Cemetery (the identity of the complainant has not been disclosed; however, we may assume it was not the next of kin, as they are allowed to exclude any portion of the ceremony). As a result, the National Cemetery Administration (part of the Department of Veterans Affairs - the “VA”) banned future flag-folding recitations by Memorial Honor Guard Details at 125 national graveyards throughout the nation. Fortunately, not every one at the VA is as nuts as Steve Muro, director of field operations who reportedly wrote the new policy. Early this week, following a nationwide uproar by the American Legion, other veterans groups, a bipartisan assortment of Congressmen, and a flock of ordinary citizens, William Tuerk, Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs at the VA, basically reversed the ban by releasing a statement that “A family may request the recitation of words to accompany the meaningful presentation of the American flag as we honor the dedication and sacrifice of their loved ones.” With the new procedure, survivors of the deceased will need to provide the material and make the request; and also, requests for recitations that reflect "any or no religious traditions, on an equal basis" will be accepted. Obviously, Mr. Tuerk is one federal bureaucrat who has not completely lost his senses. And, if there’s one, there may be more. Keep your fingers crossed.

 

OTTO WAS RIGHT

H.R. 3685, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), is taking fire from two sides, but for opposite reasons. The ENDA bill extends protected class status to include “actual or perceived sexual orientation.” Thus, the current federal prohibition of employment discrimination against persons on the basis of their color, age or sex, will be expanded to include sexual orientation. Many Christian organizations, and individual Christians, claim this goes too far. And they don’t like it. Some Christians say that this would force businesses, Boy Scouts, universities, schools, religious radio & TV Stations, daycare centers, etc., to violate their personal and religious beliefs by hiring applicants whose behavior is considered as sinful; for example, this would prohibit certain Christian bookstores from refusing to hire known, outspoken homosexuals to sell material to Christian children. Meanwhile, “on the other side of town,” many people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, along with many sympathetic organizations, including the ACLU, have formed a coalition to oppose H. R. 3685 because, they claim, it does not go far enough. They insist that both sexual orientation AND gender identity must be included, to insure that the entire LGBT community is protected. They say that singling out sexual orientation creates an artificial line that leaves out transgender people, and any other people who do not match cultural stereotypes for masculinity or femininity. Perhaps with both sides objecting, the legislation will fail to pass (I sincerely hope so). But that’s when the real trouble will begin. Look for both sides to emerge with new legislative proposals which will suit their opposing objectives, and which will guarantee that they will be back to fight again on another day. As German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck warned: “There are two things you will never wish to watch: the making of sausage and the making of legislation.” Amen.

 

PITY THE CHILDREN

If you have kids, grandkids, or other grade school children whose future you care about, there is good reason to be concerned about the financial burden they will inherit when they grow up. Last week, for the first time in history, without much fanfare and even less prime time news coverage, the National Debt roared past $9T – that’s right, Nine Trillion Dollars. And the lion’s share of that bill will fall to the kids who are in grade school today. Thomas Jefferson worried that a profligate generation might mortgage their children’s future by accumulating a huge debt, then passing the obligation on to the kids to pay for it (indeed, he wanted to include a Constitutional requirement of intergenerational financial sustainability which would prohibit us from incurring financial obligations faster than we can pay them off – but he did not succeed). Apparently, our current Congress and President have no such worries. When President Bush took office, the national debt was less than $6T, and now it’s past $9T. Also during his tenure, Mr. Bush has taken us from a $230B federal budget SURPLUS (the largest in US history) to a $163B federal budget DEFICIT. And all this during a period when revenues increased by probably 30%. There is no way we greybeards can pick up the tab for our government’s largess, so future generations will be stuck with the bill – unless they refuse and there is another revolution, which will extract a different kind of payment from them. Jefferson also opined, “ The tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” In any case, pity the children – they will pay for it, one way or the other.

 

 

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