Saturday, April 15, 2006

Paving The Career Path - Part 1


A reader asked me to discuss, in greater detail, how employers view the University of Phoenix. This is a good question, but as it happens the answer is a little complicated. This is because I don’t know enough about the writer’s situation, to fairly say how such a degree may help their resume. This, combined with another query about the reputation of online degrees, suggested to me that a broader discussion might be appropriate. As you know, I am returning to school to pursue my Masters in Business Administration. I will be starting Graduate School this fall at either the University of Texas at Dallas, Texas A&M - Commerce, or the University of Houston at Victoria. The reasons for choosing these schools for my application are important, but I will have to return to them. This is because I am writing this column in response to some mail I have recently received.

I fooled with the idea about discussing where different educational levels take a person, but it really comes down to this - when you apply for a position in a company, you will be considered according to the factors of your experience, your skills, and your education. Experience comes with time, and work skills develop the same way, but education is a bit more difficult. Partly because your school, as much as your degree, influences your opening image with a company. There is a real value to prestige, if you are applying for a position that is out of the ordinary; you will have to show something on your application or resume which stands out. I know that sounds mercenary, but it’s a hard fact of life; any desirable position will get a lot of competition, and you need to stand out to get a chance for it. So choosing your school can be a very important factor.

Every year, magazines like U.S. News and World Report, Business Week, and so on run lists of their “best” colleges and universities. I put that in quotes, because you need to know what your standards are in a school; what gets points from a magazine may not match what you need. In my case, I got a Bachelor’s degree from a medium-scale university, arguably the best Undergrad school in Texas but only “Top 50” on a national scale after the years passed. Also, my degree was a Liberal Arts degree, a common choice but it doesn’t work well in the business world. Also, my college grades were not impressive. So when my Senior year began, I had no interviews and no post-graduation prospects. First lesson from my mistakes; understand that your choices will have consequences, both good and bad. I got into a company at a low-level position and worked my way up. After two decades of work, I have held some medium-level management positions and earned a few honors. I have solid experience and skills collected from the four companies where I have worked. The problem for me now, is that to move into a real executive position I need educational credentials beyond my present degree. So that is what is sending me back to school at my age. With my experience, you may note that I do not necessarily want a top-tier school. That is for two reasons. First, my resume can get me considered for employment at a lot of companies, more than any school I go to. But also, my resume has shown limits of growth and development, so that there are companies which would not consider me, regardless of where I might claim an MBA. With that in mind, I wanted to choose a school which provided the best results for my effort and expense.

The first quality you want to find in a school, is which one will most improve your resume. If you are young and have not established a work history, then the higher-reputation schools are necessary to get you considered. They also establish a good foundation for a promising career. The downside to those schools, is that they are extremely difficult to enter, very expensive, and very demanding. If you can’t make it through those schools to the degree, you’re out a lot of stress and money for nothing. A better choice for many people is a regionally-respected school, one with name recognition and a long history. These can also be tough and pricey, but not so bad as the top-tier schools. As a comparison, if you wanted to go to Stanford, widely respected as the top MBA school overall, you’d have to be able to commit maybe three years of full-time work, and $180,000 for the tuition, books, fees and other expenses. In comparison, the University of Texas is well-known and widely respected, and offers MBA classes in several major Texas cities in a two-year plan which costs somewhere around $72,000. Still difficult, competitive, and pricey, but not nearly as hard a road as Stanford. Of course, if you make it through the Stanford course, you’d be likely to claim about $120,000 a year after getting your MBA, whereas the Texas grad would only pull about $100,000 on the strength of the degree, but bear in mind that if you want to be, say, the CEO of General Motors, the school you go to will get you into a good company, but your resume and accomplishments will still decide if you get the top chair.

So OK, you accept that your work experience will decide how far you go, but won’t a school act like a booster rocket to get you the chance to be seen? Yes, provided you get the right degree and the proper qualfications. In my case, I am happy not to be the CEO of a major corporation, because I don’t need a quarter-million dollars a year, if the expectations damaged my family or marriage. But I do want an executive position, meaning I might want to be a CEO of a smaller firm, or to be the go-to guy for the CEO of a significant company. In fact, I already know from my work experience, that I find it very satisfying to solve problems and find good answers which improve performance for the company and satisfaction for the employees. So, to get to the point, I want an MBA to open the door to a position where I can combine my experience and talents to make the company more efficient and the employees feel better respected. Oddly enough, I think my niche for doing that is through Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. I am not kidding. I believe that I can hel apply the law in such a way that not only is the company compliant, but also improves the working environment. So, there’s my tack. You see, to be heard by the executives of a company on something like policy and Sox, you have be one of them, and for that I need the MBA. However, it does not need to be a top-tier MBA, just so long as it’s accepted as bonafide.

This is where accreditation and reputation come in. There are, so far as Business schools are concerned, three general levels of accreditation, and four general levels of reputation. Some schools are not accredited by any of the standard regional accrediting boards, and should therefore be avoided. Most schools however, have regional accreditation and a standard for achieving a degree comparable to the most established schools. The distinction, in terms of an actual demonstrably higher standard of academic expectations, would be membership and accreditation in the AACSB, or the Association for the Advancement of Collegiate Schools of Business, an international associaiton with upwards of five hundred business schools as members. Anyone who receives an MBA from an AACBS-accredited school, then, has a legitimate right to claim the highest accepted standard for acedemic qualification.

But that brings us to reputation. I mentioned four general levels of reputation, and these are, well, rather subjective. The top tier would be schools which have automatic name recognition as a business school, such as Wharton, Harvard, or Stanford. Note that in some cases it is the specific Business school which matters, while in others it is the university which carries the shine. These top-level regards are generally created by an alumni from the school who has done well in the world, and his school does the work to make sure they are mentioned whenever the fair-haired hero is named. The second tier would be schools which names have recognition, though the person citing the school may be vaghue on just how he has heard the name. More than a few schools of middling academic standards, therefore, have made their alumni more prominent through success on a playing field. The third level would be schools which are essentially unknown, and the benefit of the doubt is granted or withheld by the interviewer. The lowest level, of course, would be the school which name is known, but not in a positive way. Again, whether the interviewer holds this against the applicant depends on his or her personal choice. There is no hard and fast rule on where a given school will fall, but it should be understood that such pools of repute exist, and a school will affect your initial impression.

[ to be continued ]

Friday, April 14, 2006

Weiners On Parade – Censorship and Advocacy


Well, as usual the cartoon “South Park” has found a way to upset people, even when they agree completely with the cartoon’s message. This week, it was the high & mighty Weiner Dogs In Suits who run Comedy Central. You may recall that last week “South Park” ran the first part of a show wherein another cartoon, “Family Guy”, features a cameo appearance by the Muslim founder Mohammed. This cartoon of the Prophet would theoretically inflame radical Muslims blah blah blah. The guys at “South Park” did a nice job of sending up the hypocrisy of America proudly surrendering to Islam while denying their cowardice. Naturally, a lot of people were looking forward to this week’s ‘part 2', where Mohammed was supposed to actually show up.

Comes the day, and what happens at the big moment? The screen goes black, except for a text description explaining that Mohammed hands a football helmet to the Family Guy. Immediately after that another text screen explains “Comedy Central has refused to broadcast an image of Mohammed on their network”, and that launched the debate. At first, many people figured it was somehow part of the joke, a dig at the hypocrisy of modern broadcasting, if a strange one. But at NRO, Stephen Spruiell confirmed that Comedy Central actually did, in fact, make that transformation to flaccid weiner in one incredibly fast lapse of ideals.

Here we go again, into another debate which probably won’t change anything. Maybe that’s what saps my energy about discussing it. Of course, it should be observed that this is not Censorship, since it involves a private company making a decision about what it will do with its own proprietary material. That said, it certainly sends a message of poor import, to talk about Free Speech and eviscerate it at the very point which makes the point. I still suspect that the clip was always created that way, because there is no question to me that the “South Park” writers, Trey Parker especially, wanted to spark debate, and the episode as aired certainly did that.

But it occurs to me that we are missing the flip side here. I am not especially bothered when something is suppressed in order to prevent an undesired reaction, especially if people have the opportunity to find it elsewhere. Some people have pointed out that they don’t mind the negative things written by the press about President Bush, except that the press writes so differently about Democrats like President Clinton. They don’t mind so much that people won’t run a picture of Mohammed because it might offend Muslims, except that the same people have no concerns about pictures which are specifically intended to insult and offend Christians. The problem is not so much Censorship, since a private company or group has the right to choose what it supports, but an Advocacy falsely presented as objective fact. So it doesn’t bother me that I don’t see pictures of Mohammed, but by that established rule claimed by the media, I should not have to see pictures which defame my Lord and Savior. The practice goes beyond media, of course. I was reading a back issue of “Scientific American” this week, and came across two disturbing articles. One was an editorial demanding that pharmacists be compelled to provide “morning after” pills, even if such products directly violate their religious or moral principles. By itself, that was one thing, but the writer, speaking in the official capacity of the magazine, stated that pharmacists do not enjoy the same rights as scientists and doctors who also object to any practice connected to Abortion. The magazine actually supported a stance which by definition was duplicitious. Whatever your politics, this can hardly be called a morally defensible position, but is plain tyranny. Towards the back of the magazine, I read an approving review of a book denouncing Republicans, on the subjective claim that President Bush somehow is hostile towards Science. Not only were the cited claims at odds with the facts as I know them, the writer and reviewer completely left off from considering evidence that the President, and Republicans, approve and support a great many scientific endeavors. For instance, the review and the book made no reference to the fact that President Bush has requested, and the Republican-led Congress allocated, more money for AIDS research than any previous Administration, and by a significant measure. Again, my issue was not the partisan flavor of the article, but the presentation of the political insult as if it were objective fact. The two examples in that magazine were rank hypocrisy, and yet had made it past the editors and whatever proof-readers the magazine uses, right onto the pages. It leads me to question the magazine’s credentials to make any sort of claim, if that kind of conduct is to be condoned.

This brings me to the blogs. Some people have dismissed political commentary blogs, because they see only a partisan argument. This is true, yet such claims miss the point that bloggers like me are only setting the balance right again, matching Conservative opinion and insight against the long-time presentation we saw only from the Left. Walter Cronkite was a truly influential Liberal. It was two decades later before Rush Limbaugh found the opportunity to answer him. Dan Rather was a truly influential Liberal. It was another two decades before Hugh Hewitt was able to counter him on anything like the same level. Countless other Liberal figureheads and icons have set this country on a course towards Socialism and all manner of wrongs, and it has taken time for the course to even begin correction. So, while I will do my level best to be open-minded and tolerant, it is my duty to speak truth directly and loudly, to balance the lies and demagoguery so long spewed from the mouths and papers of the Left. It is my place to set things Right, to speak for hope and truth and the ideals on which this nation was founded and which is the hope left to us by God, to save this world from itself.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Drake’s Advice On Iran


One disappointing facet of American education these days, is the lack of respect for History. As a result, people grow up to believe all manner of foolish things, like thinking not supporting their party will do anything but help the opposing party, like thinking that when two people disagree, the truth must lie somewhere in between them, or that you can trust a single group of media elites to give you an objective presentation of the facts. But it also means people miss the opportunity to learn lessons from the past, some of which could help to avoid costly repetition of History. And one of those lessons comes to us from the Honorable Sir Francis Drake.

Even as we speak, the insane asylum which passes for the Majlis of Iran is supporting the Jihadist policies of Mahmoud “Me for Mahdi” Ahmadinejad, which include a determined effort to ramp up uranium enrichment in what appears to professional eyes to be a clear weaponization campaign. That is, Mad Mad Mahmoud wants Iran to have a nuclear weapons stockpile. Needless to say, such a development would be bad enough when a government is known to be hostile to several of its geographic neighbors, but when that government has a significant history of supporting and even sponsoring terrorist groups and operations, the danger passes all limits of acceptable threat. A response is demanded, one which will fully counteract the steps taken by Iran towards a nuclear conflagration.

This is, of course, where matters get tricky. Iran has not, despite its apparent rush, just sat down and thrown its program together, but instead has developed a program which protects its material and secrets, both physically and in operational terms. The nuclear laboratories and development sites are in eight or nine locations, most of them underground and hardened against expected modes of attack. In addition, Iran’s nuclear sites are known to practice good discipline with regard to operational security, especially signals emissions and communication over clear airwaves. This makes any mission to wipe out the program in one blow difficult, even for the kind of weapons possessed by the United States. Also, given the recent actions taken by the U.N., the media, and some of our supposed “allies”, it could be very difficult to launch an attack on the sites before Iran found out about it and moved its critical components.

This is where Sir Francis comes in. Most people don’t have a lot of knowledge about the 16th Century, or interest in it for that matter, but the world was a busy place then, just as now. The world’s closest thing to a superpower in that day was England, which was hated by a lot of nations on the European mainland. Indeed, looking at how Queen Elizabeth I was regarded by most of the European leaders, one can see the seeds of common sentiment between England and America, even so long before the birth of our nation. And like the braver leaders of our day, Elizabeth often found it difficult to address serious threats to her realm, even where she explicitly held the power to act. Circumstance was not often a friend, and so ingenuity must be called to service.

This was especially the case with Spain. Spain was into Catholicism in a very political way, especially with regard to the British. In 1569, the Pope in Rome declared Queen Elizabeth a heretic, and this spurred Philip II of Spain to apply religious overtones to his continuing feuds with England. Two notable developments pressed events to a crisis. First, Francis Drake, a noted pirate nicknamed “El Draque” for his daring, showed a clear preference for Spanish vessels as his targets, leading Philip II and many other Spanish nobles to blame Elizabeth for an alleged sponsorship of the man. Also, not unlike the Jihadists of today, the Spanish crown sponsored acts of violence against Protestants in the Netherlands, with Philip II himself promising a bounty for the murder of William of Orange. When William was murdered in 1584, England answered calls from Dutch rebels to send the Earl of Leicester in as Governor-General, which in no way pleased the Spanish. Accordingly, it became the policy of the court of King Philip II to invade England and overthrow both the court of Elizabeth and the new Anglican Church. To that end a huge fleet of warships was built, called the “Grande y Felicisima Armada” or Armada.

Whether or not Elizabeth had sponsored Drake before, she saw the need now for his service, and Drake also saw the need for such an alliance. Drake quietly began to cultivate contacts with the Basques, a minority in Spain who had been seeking rights and a homeland without success. Somehow, Drake convinced the Basques to help work on the ships of the Armada, but with special attention to certain details, like the masts and rigging. No one knows precisely how many ships were so targeted, but this all took place while the ships were in construction in 1586-7. The Spanish planned to test their new fleet to make sure they were sea-worthy, so to prevent this Drake raided the Port of Cadiz, leaving England on April 12, 1587, and arriving at Cadiz on April 29th late in the afternoon. Over the next day and a half, Drake destroyed every ship in port, some thirty-seven warships and merchant vessels, taking little damage himself. After this, Drake made as if he was headed to the West Indies, where in 1585-6 he had raised havoc before. This essentially forced the Spanish to do two things. First, they negotiated with the same Basques Drake had recruited to replace the destroyed supplies, and second, they decided to make the fleet ready for invasion; it was deemed too risky to let the ships sit at port, even for testing of their condition. So Philip ordered the fleet to make ready for the invasion of England, some hundred-thirty warships. These finally made sail in mid-April 1588, complete with Basque-supplied food (which included such delicacies as rotted fruit and rat bodies) and Basque-conditioned masts and sails.

The fleet ran into a storm shortly after leaving Lisbon, where the Basque’s handiwork showed its results. No ships were destroyed then at the storms, but the entire fleet had to return to port for repairs. Unfortunately for the Spanish, the damage done to the sails and rigging did not suggest to them the need to inspect their keels and hulls. The patched-up fleet set out again in May and held close to the northern coast of Europe as it approached England. A raid through the English Channel emboldened the Spanish, as Drake was not in position to fire effectively at the Armada, but the Spanish were not able to land troops at that time, for a variety of reasons. So the Spanish retreated to Calais and waited for the troops they were to ferry across to England, some 30,000 men headed by General Parma. This delay provided an opportunity for the English.

Admiral Howard sent a number of “fireships” into the Spanish fleet. Old worn-out ships loaded up with wood, tar, loaded guns and various explosives, these ships were released upwind of the Armada and allowed to make mischief as the wind permitted. More than a few ships of the Armada panicked when they recognized the fireships, so much so that some cut their anchor lines in order to get away from them. Those ships which cut their anchor lines lost significant ability to remain in position with a standing fleet, thus weakening the formation. The next day the English fleet attacked in earnest, and while the battle was technically indecisive, the smaller but mush more maneuverable English fleet suffered far fewer losses than the Spanish, and more to the point, both sides understood that the Armada was far from invincible. After losing dozens of ships, the remaining Armada of more than a hundred ships fled into the North Atlantic, and the threat of invasion from Spain was over.

Sailing around to the east coast of England, the Armada then discovered the cost of using the Basques. Strong gales met the fleet and many weakened hulls, whether from battle or the mischief from the Basque dockworkers, gave way. Most of the remaining Armada sank in the storms. This battle sent a clear message to France and other rivals of England; the Lion could be thwarted in its ambitions, but invading the island was far more difficult than it appeared, and could undo the invader through the attempt.

The lesson from Sir Francis is deep in layers. You use what weapons are made available to you, whether the ordinary or the unconventional. You make use of your enemy’s rivals and other foes to achieve common advantage. You do the unexpected. And you use every weapon at hand. The United States, in the matter of Iran, has every right to destroy the regime of Ahmadinejad, has every right to seek and destroy the key elements of the nuclear enrichment campaign, and has the right to act unilaterally or in cooperation with allies, as it sees fit.

If I were put in charge of a program to deal with Iran, I see three projects which deserve my support. First, I would set up special units tasked to attack and destroy critical elements of Iran’s nuclear development team; a nuke is a complex device and the loss of certain material or components can devalue the threat. Along those lines, I would suggest finding means to contaminate the fissile material, as well as deny or sabotage trigger mechanisms. Bearing in mind the likelihood that Iran’s principal use of a nuclear device would be as a terrorist weapon, the targeting of guidance or delivery platforms would be a lesser priority, although still worthwhile. The elimination of selected military and imamate leaders would also be a logical priority, although such actions would require NCA approval and must be held in strictest secrecy. I would not, for reasons of visibility and likely public outcry, target Ahmadinejad himself or high-profile Majlis leadership, but would instead sponsor, although indirectly, more secular political alternatives, which do in fact exist in Iran and whose public support is far greater than the media reports.

As to immediate actions, I would strongly support planning for air raid on any military assets which could be expected to be used in any kind of offensive action, especially staging bases for armor, submarine docks, and silos within 100 km of the borders to Iraq, Pakistan, or Afghanistan. I would ask Congress to immediately double the effective military commitment to Qatar, the U.A.E., and Bahrain. I would make clear to anyone asking on the issue, that I considered Iran a clear threat to the United States and its interests, and that preparations for an appropriate response to any Iranian action must be undertaken now.

If Iran was ever directly connected to any insurgent actions inside Iraq, I would authorize reprisal raids within Iran, so far as Zanjan, Arak, or Ahvaz. I would make clear that any action by Iran risked decisive response, to be decided and measured solely by the United States.

I would also work from within, however. Iran has been seeking support from the Palestinian Authority who, once you get past their fecal leadership, can sometimes be surprisingly useful as an ally. The PA, apparently unknown to the Iranians, have been making some overtures to the West, as many members are less than pleased with the results of their last elections. Carefully managed, then, the PA may in some cases serve American interests if specific members can be recruited. The reason they would want to do this, is the common-sense desire to be on the winning side for once, knowing that their only serious chance at a permanent homeland is with U.S. support, which would have to be earned. Also, the League of Arab States is more than a little below the radar – this group of 21 nations is not unlike NATO in some respects, and while technically non-affiliated with the United States, has cooperated with the U.S. in some past times, and certainly leans more towards America than towards Iran, which (pointedly) is not a member of the League.

My point is that we don’t have to have big explosions in major towns in order to have significant results – indeed, such operations as will serve us best may well be underway already. Just something to think about when the MSM goes off pretending to know what it’s talking about.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Revenge of Jabba – How Ted Kennedy Wages War Against America

- jdi -

I can’t say that I hate Ted Kennedy. I try very hard not to hate anyone, and in Ted’s defense he’s been through some tragedy and drama in his life. That said, I cannot easily think of anyone else in American politics who has done more than Ted Kennedy to undermine and devalue the American ideal and Constitutional standards. Therefore, I will say here that I consider Ted Kennedy an especially pernicious enemy of the Republic, and a villain in the darkest context.

It should also come as no surprise that I am a staunch supporter of President George W. Bush. In my eyes he is the greatest President of my lifetime, even passing Ronald Wilson Reagan, who before 2001 held that position so firmly that second place in the standings could not be seen. The War on Terror, the all-out resolution to settle matters in Afghanistan and Iraq, the tax cuts, the courage to take on Social Security reform, two outstanding Supreme Court selections and many outstanding Federal court appointments, and the tenacity to attempt broad reforms in many other arenas makes Bush a truly significant leader and visionary. The present whiners and fair-weather supporters do not detract from his accomplishments in the slightest. Dubya has his faults, of course. He has difficulty at times confirming that he understands the public mood, and even when he is fully in command of an issue, he often must be understood by what he does, because his elocution is clumsy. A bit like Moses in that respect, but I digress… I have been trying to sort out what it is, precisely, which prevents President Bush from being plainly understood and his proposals being seriously considered. The answer was obvious; Senator Kennedy was insinuating himself into every debate like Jabba the Hutt making a wager, in such a way as to suggest that he agreed with the President, thereby invalidating Bush’s position from serious counsel. The first time Jabba did this was when Bush began to propose a means to reform public education. Senator Jabba attached himself to the issue, and conned many leading Republicans into supporting not Dubya’s initial ideas, but the perverted version spun by the Hutt from Massachusetts. The result turned “No Child Left Behind” into ‘Ted Kennedy’s Sabotage Delight'. Seeing the success of his mission, Jabba has worked relentlessly against Dubya and against America, all the while pretending to embrace serious discussion. And this is his mietre again, in addressing the Illegals question.

The New York Times is worried about Kennedy’s “drive to strike a deal with Republicans", comparing the demands of illegal aliens to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Utter garbage to be sure, but it shows that even the Times has noticed Kennedy’s attempts to pull Republicans into his orbit. A word to President Bush, if I may – keep Ted Kennedy’s tentacles off your plans, please, and direct the GOP to steer clear of Senator Jabba’s company.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006



Because my father is in the hospital, I did his taxes last week. As a result, I am still finishing up my own return, which has put me in a mood to discuss the American tax system, in none too kind a sentiment. Basically I believe, as I understand most people do, that the system we have in place is inconsistent, inequitable, and simply fails in its most important functions. The questions of course are to find a better system, and then find a way to commit Congress to adopting that improvement.

There are essentially five ways in which a government can produce revenue through taxation. The government may apply a tax to the general population in some manner, it may tax consumption, it may tax foreign investment, it may tax the presumably wealthy and the acquisition of luxury items, and it may tax corporate wealth. The United States does all of these things. The average person pays taxes on his income, his home and automobile(s), pays sales tax on his purchases, pays additional tax on gasoline and “luxury” items, pays Social Security and Medicare, and gets less from his employer than he might because his employer is forced to pay Social Security and Medicare, as well as a variety of corporate taxes. If our man saves any money and invests it, he then has to pay taxes on any interest or profit from it. And most of that is Federal tax; we have not touched State, County, and Local taxes except for the property tax and license fees. There are tolls to pay on some roads, additional sales tax for all sorts of things, and additional fees for basic services, like water, sewer, trash pick-up and so on. Assuming our man has electricity, there are additional taxes and fees included in his statement, and the same for his phone service, his cable TV and/or satellite, and additional charges when he gets rid of his old tires, batteries, and motor oil. Small wonder the average American feels overtaxed; there are fees and charges hidden in just about everything.

This is just stupid. What I mean is, not only do I disagree with the present method, but the way the system works is sure to anger the taxpayers, regardless of their situation. Consider the Income Tax filing, for example. If a taxpayer finishes his form and discovers he owes money, he is angry at having paid taxes all year, and now is being told to pay still more. But if he has overpaid and is due a refund, the taxpayer will be unhappy that the government has taken too much of his money, and he has to ask for his own money back, money which he could have spent or invested earlier, but the government took too much. The 1040 Form is difficult to fill out, especially with the implied threat of penalty even if an honest mistake is made. All in all, the system is very poorly presented, and the whole manner very inefficient and punitive. It allows too many loopholes, yet at the same time punishes too many regular people. It is highly unlikely that any two people find themselves in the exact same tax condition, which further creates the impression that the system is inconstant and arbitrary, that someone who knows how to play with numbers is allowed to cheat while someone trying to pay his fair share gets taken for a sucker. Worse, the IRS has recently had to admit that its own telephone counselors sometimes give out the wrong advice, yet they still penalize the taxpayer for the error.

This only adds to the contempt the average American must feel for the tax agency. Then there is the tax rate. The U.S. Income Tax system uses a graduated tax rate scale, meaning that the percentage tax you must pay rises as your income rises. As Rush reminds us, the top half of wage earners pay 96.03% of all income taxes, which means that as you work harder and get your well-deserved promotions, the government will take more and more of your paycheck. Add to that the taxes paid on investments, capital gains, interest, and so on, and what you have is a clear disincentive to save or state your earnings.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

It’s no wonder that every corporation of significant size and every individual of significant worth hires as good a tax attorney as he can find, to protect what he has. And this in turn angers the Middle Class taxpayer. He knows he is paying taxes which the poor escape, yet he feels he is paying a larger share than the rich, whom he believes use lawyers to skate from heavy taxes. So at every level, the taxpayer feels he is improperly burdened by the system. That’s not the best way to collect revenue, making your citizens feel that they are being played for suckers.

The Federal Budget being sorted out by Congress right now is an estimated $2.77 Trillion dollars.
Given the estimated 143.6 million working people in the United States, that works out to $19,289.69 per working person. That’s, uh, just your Federal tax tab for this year. Feel rich? It may surprise people to see the average so high, because most people don’t notice how much their employers have to pay, and how much more gets handled through bonds and the like. And, ahem, because the Federal government has been quite willing to spend money it does not have, and knows it will not produce. It seems to me that one necessary change in the allocation of Federal monies should be, that no member of the House, Senate, Judiciary or White House should receive a penny of money until and unless all other federal apportionments have been made, and then paid only from remaining balances, not allowing for any deficit spending for their paychecks. That would spur interest in a balanced budget, I believe.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Future of Latino America


Well, the mob was out there again this weekend, stomping around demanding that Congress stop legislation which might slow down the flood of illegal entry into the United States. As before, a large portion of the marchers were students, with a large representation of Liberal special interest groups. As before, the marchers had no interest in the facts, but demanded “Fairness”, “Justice”, and opportunity for “all immigrants”. The strange thing is that no one objects to those things for immigrants, but we do wish to have some measure of security for our borders from terrorists, murderers, and the like. And in that deceptive speech lies the fraud being perpetrated upon the Hispanic immigrants themselves, by their self-framed “advocates”. The way of these protests, if successful, would condemn millions of Latinos to lives of suffering and deprivation, specifically because of the methods used by these groups.

I have mentioned before, that I believe many of the illegals do not understand how the system is meant to work, and worse are lied to about their chances of being accepted here. This is for a number of reasons. First is language; if you cannot understand what someone is saying to you, you cannot participate in dialogue with them. For all the pride in Latino heritage, refusing to learn English speech and reading only denies Hispanics opportunity in education, work, and society. Simply put, far more people speak English than Spanish, especially in the United States, so refusing to learn English is to reject the opportunities offered by the majority of the people. Second is culture; Hispanics and Caucasians and Asians and Blacks who live in the United States often find a lot of common ground. Where laws are concerned, many habits between the races are similar, and for the simple reason that people tend to obey laws which they consider necessary and reasonable, and a consensus is developed through a sense of mutual respect and responsibility. Consequently, it is vital for immigrants to learn quickly which laws are most important and act in cooperation for those priorities and ideals. Otherwise, immigrants will find themselves outcasts because they do not act in alignment with commonly accepted rules of behavior.

This is the real cost of supporting illegal immigration. Besides the obvious dangers in allowing people to enter the country without reasonable checks to ensure they will be neither violent nor a burden on the country, there is the fact that such practices introduce a wholly unacceptable dichotomy into the nation’s landscape; people who are neither taught the standards of conduct and their benefits, nor are they inclined to learn to participate within their new community. These illegals attempt to subvert the laws and covenants of American cities and states for their own personal benefit, which is the conduct of thieves and rebels. It is not at all unreasonable for a nation to protect itself against such conduct, nor to increase security where necessary to protect the general welfare of its citizens.

The hypocrisy taught by the illegal entrant proponents is evident by a simple examination of their own conduct. People commonly lock their doors and windows these days, in order to keep out burglars and predators, yet these same people object to the government securing the border from the same sort of criminals. They want to be able to work for the wages promised without fraud, and to receive what they pay for, yet they object to the government demanding fair payment of taxes and measures to prevent fraudulent use of services and resources. They want to raise their children to be good and honest, yet see nothing wrong with breaking important laws whenever they choose.

If illegal immigration is not significantly curtailed, not only will Hispanics continue to increase as a share of the population (which is fine), but the participation of Hispanics here who are illegal and non-compliant with U.S. law will increase, not only as a share of the general population, but as a proportion of the Hispanic demographic. This is a crisis which threatens all Hispanics, because if and when illegals outnumber legitimate Hispanics in the United States, this will corrupt Hispanic values and ideals with the replacement by illegal and immoral practices, as already evidenced by increased gang activity, especially in terms of drug and gun running, by such groups as the Latin Kings and M13. Such actions will inevitably provoke a crackdown by government forces, which can only harm all Hispanics. Further, the conflict between illegals and law enforcement can only escalate, as the illegal population crosses the line where the economy can no longer provide ready employment and functional resources; the balance is already strained in hospitals and schools, and so a backlash is inevitable. In addition, the trite argument that illegals 'do the jobs regular Americans refuse to do’, even if true, does not consider that such jobs are limited in number, duration, opportunity, and location, and as a result continued illegal entry by workers unable to pursue advancement because of their legal status and poor education, especially communication skills, will directly result in an explosion of unemployment in those cities and regions where illegal entrants live. In addition, the social separation between illegals and Americans, brought about by the continuing refusal to assimilate, will result in bitter isolation and insurgent rhetoric, which in turn can only lead to a devastating increase in crime and violence; it is not unreasonable to expect riots, even insurrection, in urban areas. The problems which Mexico is facing today result from ignoring the troubles in its neighbors to the South; the United States cannot afford to repeat that mistake.

The sole solution to this crisis is to act now in protecting the infrastructure of the economy and state governments. A wall/fence must be built and maintained; sharp and direct penalties must be enforced on anyone who supports or protects illegal entry, whether the coyotes who make fortunes in human trafficking or the employers who choose to ignore mandatory identification procedures. Hispanics who are here legally must become involved, especially to help illegals understand the reasons for following the process to valid residency and citizenship. Spokesman for Latinos must make clear that while treasuring one’s own heritage is precious and right, demanding to supplant American values and laws within the United States is wrong and destroys their own opportunity. Democrats and Republicans alike must fight the temptation to play political short-term games in order to win the next election, and serve the country in the greater measure by protecting borders and government alike. And we the people must support the heavy lifters, and remain focused on the larger ideal.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Middle East - A Primer


One thing which sticks in my craw is when people in the media bray on and on about something where they clearly do not understand the context or direction. Certainly this is the case with the War in Iraq, where every MSM reporter seems to begin with a network orientation that presumes defeat, negativism, and anti-American anger by the locals. Such a posture is not only dishonest and falsely maligns the noble and costly work of our military, but also insults our Middle East allies.

Take the DP World ports deal, for example. Yes, it was badly handled by pretty much everyone, but the annoying presumption began with comparisons between the United Arab Emirates and Al Qaeda. Such statements only displayed a complete lack of comprehension about the history and character of the Middle East, usually made and repeated by people who couldn't be bothered to learn the basics. This article attempts to begin discussion about the Middle East by identifying the key players and their significance.

Most people do not care to learn History, so I will leave off from the thick mass of information, and just start off with a quick recitation about who the major players are in the Middle East, or as I think of them, the Six Directions of the Middle East. The cast may surprise you.

Egypt - Many people don't think of Egypt as a major player in the Middle East, but for most of History Egypt was definitely Big-League. When Rome set up its empire, the main nation in the Middle East was Egypt. When Napoleon set out to control the Middle East, he did so by taking control of Egypt. And Britain did the same, never quite making Egypt a colony but setting up garrisons all the same. One reason for the Suez Canal, after all, was that it established gains for both Egypt and Britain. And finally, two of the most significant major players in the 20th Century Arab world were named Nasser and Sadat. The first shock from the Middle East to scare both the Kremlin and Washington was not OPEC, but the United Arab Republic. And it was Nasser and Sadat whose 'Non-Aligned' nations tactics forced both sides to treat with them.

Saudi Arabia - When Islam granted Arabia control and stewardship of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, it was partly because of the piety represented by the families in place. When Ibn Saud made his deals with the Imam Muhammad Abdul Wahhab, it was a cunning blend of politics with religion, and led to the rise of modern-day Wahhabism, the reactionary sect which is believed to drive some, if not most, of the Jihadist violence of the past two centuries. The Royal Family has tried to distance themselves somewhat from the worst extremists, but this is a bit like a Mafia family trying to go 'legit' and pretend their money just happened through innocence. More, the Crown in Riyadh has always had a hand in affairs of the neighboring, and also smaller and less influential, countries, trying to annex desirable territory and coerce agreements to Saudi advantage. As an example, almost no one realizes that the U.A.E. was a band of small nations which created a federal government to prevent their invasion or plain annexation by Saudi Arabia. Abu Dhabi for example almost ceased to exist in 1949, as Riyadh claimed nearly 80% of the land as its own. Fortunately for the Sheikh, the Saudis attempted to bribe a British arbitrator in 1954, which offense caused the British to declare that a modified version of the 1937 boundaries would serve as the line. More than a few Middle Eat nations have suggested that Saudi Arabia has few friends beyond the ones impressed with its money.

Iran - It's a plain fact to people now, that the Muslim extremists in Teheran have been creating and supporting terrorist organizations, for the purpose of destabilizing Middle East regimes and pursuing an asynchronous warfare against the West. But the Shah also pressed to expand his empire, and another reason for forming the U.A.E. was Iran's continuing effort to seize desirable oil fields and strategic islands. "Persia", as Iran was called until 1971, regularly represented itself as the Empire of the Middle East.

Iraq - Besides its unmatched capacity for oil processing, Iraq served to counter both Saudi Arabia and Iran in weight and power, a check many Arabs thought was necessary to prevent hegemony. Yet the Communists almost turned Iraq into a trump card, by fueling insurgencies throughout the Middle East through proxy terror groups and various "Popular Fronts", such as Yemen. The Baath Party existed long before Saddam Hussein, and assassins hired in Baghdad are an old, old story.

Britain - When Napoleon invaded Egypt, Britain discovered that it needed to not only have friends in the Middle East, as a barrier to protect India and for its position in the Mediterranean Sea, but to control vital territory. Accordingly, Britain set garrisons in numerous places, and established not only the ruling families, but the boundaries of many countries. This arrangement lasted longer than the colony system for Britain, indeed well into the 1970s.

The United States - When Britain began to cut and run from military commitments in the Middle East, the nation which took up the slack was America. Not only because the United States also desired stable oil production and a barrier against Soviet overthrow of important strategic nations, but also because the Middle East recognized that they needed a 'Patron', a nation which would prevent apocalyptic change.

It comes down to this, then. Every significant international event by a Middle East nation in the past century has been in cooperation with, reaction to, or opposition against one of these six major players. From there, the course should make more sense.