Saturday, March 05, 2005

Politics and Morality


If you read the byline of my profile, you'll see this blog is about "Politics, Morality, and the occasional Idiom". That's what sets this blog apart, I believe; the recognition that there is a connection between the governance of a city, county, state, or nation, and the souls of the people who take on first duty, then pride. Some cannot meet the needs of the first challenge, others fail the second.

Earier this week, Senator John "Sometimes a Republican, Sometimes Something Else" McCain spoke aout against blogs, suggesting that the McCain-Satan Campaign Finance Reform Law should be used to control and regulate blogs. In retrospect, that's not really surprising: The Soviet and Chinese Politburos fear(ed) free expression by the people, and so do autocrats around the globe. Now that the blogs are showing a source of authority and power on their own, it's no wonder the mandarins want it reined. Back at the end of January, I began a program to contact every member of Congress on a series of questions most of my readers here and at Polipundit wanted answered - the results so far have shown an appalling sense of arrogance; only a scant few sent anything more than a form letter, even my own Senators and Representative have completely ignored the questions. It proves a point, but one of great dishonor among these elitist boors.

The original Congressmen were far different from today's lot. I'm not only writing about the racial and gender expansion, but the pervasive taxation and regulation, spurred on by people whose notions of success seem driven by television appearances and favors to/from friends. It shouldn't surprise anyone that a person who takes office through essentially a marketing campaign, for an office paying several times the salary an average American sees, not to mention a huge staff and accompanying budget, loses contact with Reality and the problems of ordinary people along the way. Does anyone expect a Representative, Senator, or President to have the faintest idea what it means to work on an hourly salary, under real-world conditions? I would love to see McCain try to sell products in a retail store, to see Pelosi try to develop a cogent business plan for a corporation, to see Kennedy walk auditors through an annual financial statement. Not likely. Congress is not a real place, yet its actions are depressingly serious in their impact.

Over the next couple months, I will begin to publish my grades for every member of Congress. Don't expect a high GPA for these guys, especially considering how many of them don't seem to be paying attention to the lectures.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Money Management for Idiots


I’ve been thinking about the whole Social Security/Income Tax/Medicare reform thing for a little while, from the perspective of those whistling wonders, the naysayers who cry out oh-so-desperately that there is no crisis, here, at hand, or on the way. I tried to leave out the obvious political whores, who would say anything for political gain. I will leave the reader to imagine how empty the halls of Congress are when that process is employed.

Anyway, a quick review of the Dow Jones History shows the rises and falls for more than a century, certainly a reasonable time frame. Since 1900, the Dow Jones Average has risen from 66.61 (January 3, 1900) to 10815.3 (June 5, 2000) . Even with the Great Depression, it's impossible to miss the fact that simply investing in an Index Fund produces historically strong returns.

The Social Security Administration has a calculator for people who want to figure out what they'll be getting from SSA, assuming it exists when the tiome comes. As an example, let's run the numbers for an average guy. The results for someone making $50,000 who is now 45 and retiring at age 75, projects $1,392.00 a month in SSA benefits. Contributions from age 22 to retirement, assuming $40,000 in average salary means (at 6.2%) an average of $2,480.00 contributed a year for 53 years, or $131,440.00 put in.

Taking the numbers then and plugging them in as a Stock Market investment, let’s say our guy averages that $2,480.00 each year over the years from 1982 to now. By 1997, my stock portfolio is worth all the money I will have invested by 2035. By 2009, I will have $576,376.05 in the portfolio, enough to pay me 1,440 a month to live on, better than Social Security can promise 26 years later. If I keep putting in that money, at that average rate, I will have $1.6 million saved by the time I am 60 years old. I could retire fifteen years earlier than with Social Security, and give myself $83,000 a year to live off (never touching the principal, by the way, which I can give to my children), against waiting another fifteen years in hopes the government will grant me $16,704 a year.

Even if there is no crisis, how big an idiot do you have to be to not understand the difference here?

Just for fun, I'll be plugging in numbers for various time frames, to determine a best-case/worst-case career investment based on actual stock market performance.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

World Coalescence Countdown

I was reading the book of Daniel yesterday, and it occurred to me that the book was in large part about seals. The entire book was about end times, and even within the book, there were things which confused Daniel – he reported them faithfully, even though he was perplexed by them. One of the lessons then, is that some things won’t happen until it’s their time. And that applies to the world as well.

There have been some comparisons between George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, and well there should be. But it occurs to me, that as President Bush is finally beginning to receive credit long-overdue for his efforts to spread Democracy through the world, that it didn’t hurt for the timing to work out as it has.

It took courage, make no mistake of that, for President Bush to go into Iraq when he did. Bush risked losing the 2004 election on that decision, and what’s more, was seriously concerned about the potential cost in lives, and the permanent effect on the region. But unlike his predecessor, George W. Bush made his decision based on the right moral course, not only for America, but for Democracy in general, and he is now seeing results that simply would not have happened without his conviction and stamina. It also helps that Bush saw the time was right for this action.

The Middle East, as we know it today, emerged from the control of the Ottoman Empire after World War One. Essentially, there were three initial factions – the British controlled Egypt, the coastlands which became Israel, Jordan, and present-day Iraq, the French controlled what became Syria, Libya, and Lebanon, and Ibn Saud made a deal for his family to control Arabia, at the time believed to be largely worthless sand, with a bit of oil under it. The boundary lines were artificial, cutting off cultures, races, and historical routes. After World War Two, a number of these countries had tried to accomplish independence through ill-made treaties with the Nazis, and so they found themselves subjected yet again, this time to either the Soviets or the Europeans. The Americans offered the semblance of independence, but usually only on terms favorable to U.S. businesses or the military. The region also gained strategic value, due to its geographical position joining three continents.

I mentioned that brief history, to give a rough idea to the reader, of just how alien the concept of true independence and representative government is, to the peoples in these nations. This does not mean, at all, that they are not ready for it, but that the forces wishing to establish a responsive government truly representative to their people, have had much to overcome. During the Cold War, the United States was opposed by the Soviet Union in many places, and even after that, the nations of continental Europe resisted giving up their lucrative arrangements, even to the extent of selling arms to dictators. I have always found it amusing to count the cries against the U.S. for long-ago mistakes, while those same speakers ignored current and increasing complicity by France, Germany, and Russia in the arming of terrorists. Or did you think Hezbollah made its guns by wishing for them, its bombs by a clever trick with dirt?

When Saddam Hussein sent Iraqi tanks across the border into Kuwait in 1990, he set off the first stroke in a set of events that has gained momentum to the present moment. The first Gulf War proved, absolutely, that the military force of the United States was unparalleled in power and capability. No one even comes close. This set the stage for discussions between many Arab nations, and although those initial talks failed, they were not completely forgotten. In fact, it may reasonably be speculated that terrorists like bin Laden decided to attack the United States directly, because they realized that America would eventually be able to eradicate their networks, and might do so soon. The reluctance of Bill Clinton to take action spurred these groups into planning direct attacks, and also caused the continental Europeans to show their true colors towards the issue of defending Democracy and Liberty, as the Bosnia debacle showed. The absolute corruption of the United Nations was also made evident in that decade of abysmal negligence, from allowing the genocide in Rwanda, to half-hearted measures in Bosnia, to graft and extortion in the Iraq Oil-for-Food program, to outright rape of children and oppression of millions by UN “peacekeepers” in the Congo and other African countries. By 2001, it was clear that the United States, for good or ill, stood almost alone. When we were struck on September 11, it was not only the brazen assault on thousands of innocents by terrorists, it was also a desperate attempt by the forces of evil to bluff the U.S. out of a clear mission. President Bush called that bluff, and has not minced words or proposed half-measures in answering the call.

Do I think the Middle East is now suddenly a happy place of free peoples and true independence? Of course not. We have a lot of work to do, but the ball is rolling. Afghanistan and Iraq have had free elections, and nothing said by the Left can change those facts. We have scared Libya into promising to give up its WMDs, and the people of Lebanon have risen up to throw off a generation of Syrian occupation. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, even Iran have also seen stirrings of a demand for free elections and a responsive government, not by American diplomats, but by their own people. The sparks in a few places are catching on, and frankly, the movement underway now is the most promising thing I have seen in that region in my lifetime. Count the tasks ahead, but count the victories, also.

What about North Korea, some ask? What about China? What, indeed. North Korea has begun to show signs of discontent among its people for their “Dear Leader” and his plans to keep them poor and cold and starving. Nuclear weapons are useless against your own people. And as for China? In 1989, more than a million people tested the notion that China could be free. Then, the PRA killed hundreds, perhaps thousands, and imprisoned thousands more to silence them. Now, the stirrings are beginning again, and this time, there is no guarantee that the government can put it down. The leaders of China may not be wise, but they are not yet complete fools. They may be counted on to make the best deal possible, and while they will tell themselves they are destined for victory, the fact is that more than half of their army spends time working in factories and guarding prisons, to bolster the PRC GDP and guard against the mendacious plots of the Falun Gong, who somehow threaten the regime by exercise and meditation. They find it necessary to occupy Nepal with more troops than the Soviets used in Poland, in order to quell Buddhist monks. The PRC is known to have stolen important plans from the United States, yet has as yet been unable to develop a true ICBM, or a long-range bomber, or a functioning aircraft carrier. China is often described as a rising power in International Trade, yet no independent authority exists to audit their books. If we have learned anything from the Enron debacle, it is that corrupt executives in large organizations will lie to the auditors, and if we have learned anything from the Soviet Union, it is that any nation run by a ‘Politburo’ or ‘Central Committee’ is filled with corrupt executives.

It may well depend on the character of the President who succeeds George W. Bush, but at this moment I would submit that the powers in China, like the old regimes in the Middle East, are discovering that there is a clock on their dominion.

And that clock is counting down.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The Hard Option

The American Revolution means different things to different people, but it’s reasonable to believe that it started small, as a minority of people who got sick of continuing the old way of things. I mention this, because it shows the arrogance and false logic of Justice Kennedy’s excuses in the Roper v. Simmons atrocity he delivered yesterday, complicit with four other elitist judges. It’s a fair assumption that none of these worthies has spent more than a few minutes in the general population in the past decade, to so disparage the rights of juries, states, and to so naively frame the threat posed by juvenile murderers in particular. Enough of that, except to say that I fully expect these charlatans to have a hard time of it, when they stand to account for this decision before the Almighty.

American History was never meant to be complicated nor overly technical. Any competent high school student understands the process - The Executive Branch (President) directs actions and proposes budgets and treaties and appointments; The Legislative Branch (Congress) enacts laws and ratifies treaties and amendments to the Constitution, and the Judiciary (Courts) insure that the laws are in compliance with the U.S. Constitution. The notion that any of these branches may take on a powers beyond those specifically apportioned by the Constitution, is treasonous by definition. In the past, Presidents have been impeached (A Johnson, Clinton) and censured (Jackson) for such arrogance, and Congressmen have gone to jail (J Traficant) for crossing the lines the way these Justices have done with apparent impunity. It’s clear enough to many Americans, that the time for reform of American Government is well overdue.

I have been looking at the major political events in my lifetime, and one thing which strikes me over and over again, is the way that accomplishments are short-lived; it’s as if a reformer accomplishes one good measure, then loses interest in the movement, allowing for corruption and a shallow routine to take the place of genuine reform. Consider the Property Tax revolt in California which led to the passage of “Prop 13”; that was a clear message, yet Legislators are still wrestling with the balance between fiscal responsibility and playing santa claus with endless social programs. On the Federal level, the problem has simply become a recurring obscenity; one can scarcely imagine the founding fathers setting up a government intended to regulate nearly every aspect of our lives, to put up laws by men who are almost never accessible, much less answerable, to the people governed, and to pass taxes which never end and which are based on a code which even the IRS admits no one person is likely to be able to fully understand.

I was born in 1960, which saw the contentious election of, arguably, the last sane Democrat to occupy the Oval Office. The Democrats brave enough to lead America in the Second World War, however, were not resolved to keep our promises to Vietnam and Cambodia. The Republicans who were wise enough to back Ronald Reagan when he faced down the Soviets, were not tough enough to stand behind George H.W. Bush when the Democrats lied their way back into the White House. The Democrats would stand neither for the wisdom of the Contract With America, nor would they fully embrace Bill Clinton. And now, with the success of George W. Bush’s policies in War and the Economy proven to the satisfaction of most reasonable people, and no end of nations eager for the chance to govern themselves, the Republicans recoil from the hard work of meeting the challenges W has presented them. The Republicans have a clear majority in both houses of Congress. The question is, will they have the resolve to do as they have promised, and reform the Courts, Taxes, Social Security, Foreign Policy, and Medicare, or were those just election-year promises?

More than a month ago, I sent out a questionnaire to every member of the Senate and House of Representatives. The response, so far, was pathetically underwhelming. My own Senators have not responded at all, nor has my Congressman. That silence, I realize, speaks to the method of their routine, but it also confirms that it is time that we stopped knocking politely on the door, and began to kick the thing, hard. Whether you are Liberal or Conservative, Democrat or Republican or Libertarian or anything else, it is obvious that our leaders have become complacent cows, munching on the pastures they have known for years. When the Supreme Court ignores the basic rights of a jury to mete out an appropriate sentence, or when the Senate Majority Leader equivocates on an absolute need, or puts critical needs on a back burner, or Republican Leaders play games with promises made in the election, it is time to answer in no uncertain terms. I would counsel the Republican Leaders, to show your stripes. If you are Republican, then stick with President Bush, and stop playing games. If you are Leaders, then take the challenge up and pass what has been promised. I may be Republican, but I and other blogs will hold you accountable. Do not dare to think that promises are enough, or that you get a pass for playing the part of the Conservative. The President could have been speaking to you, when he warned the world: ”You’re either with us, or against us.”

Pick a side. We’re watching.

Justice Denied

The United States Supreme Court yesterday proved how utterly out of touch they are, from the Constitution of the United States and the general welfare of the people.

In the case of Roper, Superintendent, Potosi Correctional Center v. Simmons, the USSC ruled 5 to 4 that a murderer who kills his/her victims before the felon reaches his/her 18th birthday, cannot be executed for that crime, regardless of any factors meriting such a punishment.

Justice Kennedy wrote the majority decision, and in so doing cited the 8th and 14th Amendments were violated in assigning the death penalty to Christopher Simmons, for the crime of premeditated murder. Not only did Simmons admit he planned the murder beforehand, bragged about it afterwards to numerous persons, he also recruited Charles Benjamin and John Tessmer into the crime with the specific promise that 'they could "get away with it" because they were minors'. In short, Justice Kennedy assisted a murderer in his effort to suborn the consequences of his crime.

Justice Kennedy claimed a "national consensus against the death penalty for juveniles", but faild to cite compelling evidence supporting such a claim. Further, Kennedy failed to address the clear distinction between a child being put to death, against the fact of a man not even arrested and tried for the crime until he was legally an adult, as in Simmons' case. Kennedy cited a 1968 sociology book as if it were empirical evidence (Identity: Youth and Crisis, by E. Erikson (c)1968) , and demanded that the United States submit to International Consensus ("the Court has referred to the laws of other countries and to international authorities as instructive for its interpretation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of "cruel and unusual punishments"). Kennedy even cited treaties to which the U.S. is neither signatory nor participant!

Justice Stevens concurred with Kennedy, claiming that "our understanding of the Constitution does change from time to time", going so far as to claim that Alexander Hamilton, were he alive today, would agree with Justice Kennedy.

Justice O'Connor dissented, stating bluntly "The Court's decision today establishes a categorical rule forbidding the execution of any offender for any crime committed before his 18th birthday, no matter how deliberate, wanton, or cruel the offense. Neither the objective evidence of contemporary societal values, nor the Court's moral proportionality analysis, nor the two in tandem suffice to justify this ruling." O'Connor went on to note, "the Court has adduced no evidence impeaching the seemingly reasonable conclusion reached by many state legislatures: that at least some 17-year-old murderers are sufficiently mature to deserve the death penalty in an appropriate case. Nor has it been shown that capital sentencing juries are incapable of accurately assessing a youthful defendant's maturity or of giving due weight to the mitigating characteristics associated with youth."

Justice Scalia also dissented, stating "What a mockery today's opinion makes of Hamilton's expectation, announcing the Court's conclusion that the meaning of our Constitution has changed over the past 15 years--not, mind you, that this Court's decision 15 years ago was wrong, but that the Constitution has changed". Scalia went on to observe "the Court says in so many words that what our people's laws say about the issue does not, in the last analysis, matter". Scalia also noted "the basic premise of the Court's argument--that American law should conform to the laws of the rest of the world--ought to be rejected out of hand. In fact the Court itself does not believe it. In many significant respects the laws of most other countries differ from our law--including not only such explicit provisions of our Constitution as the right to jury trial and grand jury indictment, but even many interpretations of the Constitution prescribed by this Court itself. The Court-pronounced exclusionary rule, for example, is distinctively American".

The damage is done, and here is where we stand now:

[] Convicted murderers have their lives and health protected to a degree they have never enjoyed before, even as the unborn child has no legal protection whatsoever, innocent as it is;

[] The U.S. Supreme Court does not allow States to decide the punishment for capital crimes, regardless of the will of the voters;

[] The U.S. Supreme Court does not trust juries to make the appropriate decision in the specific cases of heinous crimes;

[] The U.S. Supreme Court does not trust the United States Constitution to mean what it says, but demands an "evolving" interpretation;

[] Unelected judges, unanswerable to any authority on this earth, have taken upon themselves powers only seen up to now in the hands of dictators and tyrants, without any Constitutional authority or consent of the people affected by their decisions;

[] A message has just been sent to teen gangs and violent youth offenders, that they will not be held accountable for their actions to the same degree as adults. That is, the U.S. Supreme Court has just validated the gang technique of using juveniles for violent crimes, knowing they will escape the most serious consequences;

[] The United States Supreme Court has sent the clearest possible message, that they do not consider themselves bound by the restrictions and responsibilities that other branches of government must accept. Accordingly, there can no longer be any doubt that the U.S. Supreme Court must be reformed to redress this violation of the Constitutional apportionment of powers.

In case you wondered if it still matters who you vote for in Senate of Presidential races (2006-2008-2010), consider where we will be if certain parties or ideologies win these races.

Mr. Frist, it's time for the talk to end, and to "go Nuclear" NOW in the Senate, to make sure we get sober, sane, judges on the bench. We simply cannot take the chance that even more justices like Ginsberg, Kennedy, Stevens, Souter, or Breyer will get their claws into power.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005


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I have been out the past few days, laid low by a case of food poisoning, and a subsequent punishment meted out by my intestinal tract. I will spare you the details, except to warn you to check out the expiration dates on your foods.

As it happens, I also discovered a Trojan Horse on my computer, along with an assortment of viruses sent to me. Apparently, they are a new generation my existing defenses couldn’t whack. Great. I’m working on getting rid of them with a couple new things.

That brings me to the obvious topic of viruses. As I sit here, wondering if I can coax my stomach to accept some soup, and I’m feeling the effects of a mild fever and some annoying but also-mild vertigo, I’m a bit annoyed by the fact that viruses generally don’t announce themselves. You’re fine, you’re fine, you’re fine – wham.

The thing about viruses is, they don’t know any better, they just do what they do. From what I understand, viruses can actually be good in some cases, even if they are just a small virus that inoculates a person against something nastier, like a childhood disease protecting the adult later on. In other cases, there doesn’t seem to be a worthwhile purpose for some viruses, but they exist and we must deal with that fact.

Politically, the virus question naturally finds some relevance in debates between Democrats and Republicans, and between the Old and New Media. Like a virus, the body may be weakened or strengthened by fighting off the invader, or if the invader wins, the virus becomes the new paradigm. I’ve noted before that the Democrats of today bear little resemblance to Andy Jackson’s Democrats, or the Democrats under Franklin Pierce, or the Democrats under Grover Cleveland, or the Democrats under Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, or John Kennedy. In their turn, the Republicans of today do not look all that much like the Republicans under Lincoln, under Hayes, under Taft, Harding, Eisenhower, or Nixon. The times change, sometimes drastically, and we are at just such a turning.

It’s always amusing to see each side try to paint the other as the invader to the American body politic, when in fact we all are trying to direct the course as time and events move us forward. I will venture to say that the New Media represents the virus here, but that’s because the Old Media has become a cancer (in the definition that a cancer is a malignant growth that will kill the body if it is not stopped). Blogs, then, are the scalpels, which explains why DufusUnderground and DailyKooks (I think you know which I mean) are hurting themselves by their own efforts; they’re like clumsy wannabes who don’t know what they ‘re doing. And in the end, the New Media will become the standard, absorbing from the OM what works and has value as a gathering tool for news, while the best blogs will develop into news analysis networks worthy of the name.

In the meantime, I will be seeking out topics worthy of a blog, and a healthcare product which can completely remove the room-spinning and headache qualities of my present condition.