Apr 092011

Easter Egg hunts are already more secular than religious

Why is it that liberals attempt to expunge all reference to Christianity from Christmas, while simultaneously welcoming and respectfully honoring all sorts of other festivals that are new to this country, such as Ramadan, Diwali and the made up nonsense known as Kwanza?

Not content with changing Christmas to ‘the holiday season’, they are now focused on making Easter a secular holiday too.  You might wonder what is left when you remove references to Christianity from a celebration of Christ’s dying for our sins and resurrection from the dead, but this is not a consideration that is preventing the attempted transformation of Easter into a secular event as well.

A Seattle school has required pupils who wish to distribute Easter Eggs to refer to them not as Easter Eggs but as Spring Spheres.  Let’s ignore the fact that an egg is not spherical in shape – apparently both the word Easter and the word egg are both anathema to God-haters.  A sphere is a perfectly round shape, sort of like the Earth or Sun, and an egg is, well, ‘ovoid’ in shape (with the word ‘ovoid’ simply meaning ‘egg-like’).

This bit of political correctness is doubly amusing for the fact that Easter Eggs per se are not part of the Christian tradition (need I add that the Easter Bunny is also not something straight from the Bible!) but are in truth some sort of strange pagan fertility rite that was grafted on to the Christian Easter tradition, so it could be argued that the teacher is simultaneously both correct as well as being way out in left field.

But the teacher probably neither knows nor cares about this, and instead is single-mindedly trying to shun another reference to Christianity (while doubtless encouraging religious diversity and expression just so long as it involves anything other than the Judeo-Christian heritage on which our nation was founded and built upon).

More details here.

Mar 292011

I’m having a tough time at present.  Like many of us, particularly self employed, I’m not making as much money as I used to.  So, guess what – I’m cutting back on my expenditures.  More meals at home; and cheaper meals when I still eat out.  I don’t buy as many movies as I used to.  I’ve cut back on my shooting.  And so on.

Chances are, you’re feeling some of the same pressures I am, and chances are, you’re making cut-backs too.

But what of the government?  Well, we’ve all become so used to hearing the phrase ‘trillion dollars’ in the context of our national deficit that it no longer excites all that much (but for a fun thought, if you piled a trillion dollar bills on top of each other, they would circle the world almost three times).  And our national budget is a mess of confusing things such as defense spending; it makes it difficult to pick it apart and gives lots of ambiguity for big-spending politicians to hide behind.

But what about our state budgets?  They’re a lot more simple and straightforward, surely?  What’s been happening there?

I went and did some Googling, and came up with the total annual revenues and expenditures for all 50 states, for the 12 year period 1998 through 2009.

Here’s a simple chart that shows what has been happening :

Although we have had two two year periods with revenues dropping (2001 and 2002, then 2008 and 2009), you’ll see that every year has shown state spending steadily increasing.

Could our economy’s problem be as simple as that?  Our governments – both state and federal (and you may as well toss in city and county, too) are simply spending – well, you can say ‘too much’ or, if you prefer, ‘more than they earn’.

Maybe that is it, in a nutshell – but if that is true, why is it, at least for me in my home area, I get the distinct feeling that I’m getting less rather than more ‘help’ from the government every passing year?  Parks are being closed.  Library hours cut back.  The roads always seem to need repairs.  And so on.  Where is all the money going?

I’ll not answer that last question (but someone should!); let’s just simply look some more at the massive growth in state government expenditures.

Let’s give our state governments as much ‘benefit of the doubt’ as possible.  Maybe we need to adjust for two ‘growth’ factors that could explain some of the increases in their expenditures – the growing population of the country (which rose from 270 million in 1998 to 307 million in 2009), and the annual inflation rate (which has been hovering around 2% during this time period).

If we’re going to adjust, maybe we should also adjust for the overall improvements in efficiency and productivity that have come down the pike over that time period.  Whether it is better computers, more automation in general, improved systems, or whatever else, most industries are getting more results per dollar they spend, particularly on staff.

And don’t forget there isn’t a politician alive or dead who hasn’t promised us he will cut waste and make government more accountable, effective, and efficient.  How do we factor all these promises into the growth in expenditures?

But let’s ignore what should be a several percent annual reduction in expenditures due to efficiencies, and instead just add adjustments for population growth and inflation.

Here’s the chart again with a third line added to show what the growth in expenditures could be allowed to be.

So, no matter how much the politicians regularly promise cut-backs and budget cuts and all the other stuff they like to trot out, look at the gap between the green line and the red line.  Actual expenditures have been growing by almost 6.2% every year, about twice what could be explained by population increases and basic inflation.

Where is the extra 3% a year (in round figures) of government expenditure going?  Are you getting 3% more benefit from your state government each year?

And, to close on the note I opened with, the states revenues plunged from 2007 to 2008 and dropped still further in 2009 to a level little more than half that of 2007.  Meanwhile, expenditures continued to steadily rise like there was no tomorrow and no crisis.

This is sheer unaccountable lunacy.  We’d be homeless on the street if we treated our personal finances that way.  Hmmm – come to think of it – making some politicians homeless and dumping them on the street might be the best thing that could happen to them…


Mar 072011

FL Turnpike sign

I don’t know when you last drove on one of the toll roads operated by the Florida Turnpike Authority, but believe you me, it can be an expensive experience.  What do they do – pave the roads with gold?

Anyway, so there you are, pulling up to the ticket collector’s box, and you’re due to pay maybe a $7 or greater toll.  The good news is that the Florida Turnpike website says

Customers can pay their toll with cash (U.S. Currency) on Turnpike facilities.

That’s kinda sorta what you’d expect, right?  Indeed, they won’t even take a credit card.  If you don’t have one of their Sun Pass transponders, your only other choice is to reach into your wallet and pull out some green.

But – wait.  You’ve got a couple of dollar bills, and then nothing smaller than a twenty.  No problem, you pass it over to the toll collector, and they tell you you’ve got to show some photo ID and refuse to let you leave the toll booth until you do.

If you object, they threaten to call the Florida Highway Patrol to presumably arrest you or force you to show ID.

And if you complain to the Turnpike management, they’ll deny it ever happens.

But a FL resident took a series of recordings to prove how widespread the practice of demanding ID before changing $20, $50 and $100 bills was, and subsquent document discovery action against the Turnpike Authority showed them scrambling to erect a facade of obfuscation and lies about the program.

Here’s a fascinating expose on what has been going on – be sure to watch the video in the top right as well as to read the article.

What is not explained by the Turnpike Authority is why they did it.  Sure – there’s an excuse – to catch counterfeiters; but in the 885 occasions when they received counterfeit bills, they never once passed the information about who presented the bill to them, to either the local authorities or the US Secret Service.  And a much simpler approach would be to do what any store does – to simply use a counterfeit detecting pen on the banknotes.

Some bully boy is on his own little power trip, just because he can.

The Authority is now anticipating being on the receiving end of a huge class action lawsuit that could run into hundreds of millions of dollars.  But where will this money come from?  From the citizens of FL – the same people who have been bullied illegally by the Turnpike Authority into unnecessarily showing ID.

How many people will lose their jobs over this?  You know the answer to this already, don’t you – no-one.  Will anyone lose their pension?  No, almost certainly not.  And that’s the real outrage.  Public service employees shamefully and shamelessly abuse their jobs, with no negative consequences whatsoever.


Mar 072011

Voting at a polling booth

Answer me this, if you can.

First, only citizens can vote, right?   Okay, so that’s a no-brainer question.  We all know the answer to that.  You have to be a citizen to vote.

Second, foreign immigrants have to pass an English language test to become a citizen, don’t they?

Yes, they do.  But don’t just take my word for it.  Here’s the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website that states, under eligibility requirements (to become a US citizen)

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for naturalization under section 316(a) of the INA, an applicant must:

  • Be 18 or older
  • Be a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least 5 years  immediately preceding the date of filing the Form N-400, Application for Naturalization
  • Have lived within the state, or USCIS district with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence, for at least 3 months prior to the date of filing the application
  • Have continuous residence in the United States as a permanent resident for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of the filing the application
  • Be physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
  • Reside continuously within the United States from the date of application for naturalization up to the time of naturalization
  • Be able to read, write, and speak English and have knowledge and an understanding of U.S. history and government (civics).
  • Be a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States during  all relevant periods under the law

Lots of interesting stuff there.  You can only become a citizen if you’ve had a green card for at least five years (and illegal aliens don’t have green cards), you’ve got to be able to read, write and speak English, you’ve got to be of good moral character, and you’ve got to be ‘well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States’.

So, in that case, and here’s the question – why do we need to provide voting materials in any language other than English?  See this newspaper article where the US Department of Justice is attempting to force Lorain County, OH, to provide five times more translators at polling stations than they already provide.

Oh – wait.  They already provide translators?  But apparently not enough for Eric Holder and the DoJ – even though there’s no clear indication that the present number of translators is insufficient.

Here’s an idea.  Fire the present translators.  Get rid of the bilingual signs.  If you want to vote in our country, do so in our language.  Surely that’s not only in line with the citizenship requirement to read and write English, but also the requirement to we well disposed to the good order and happiness of the US.

Feb 222011

George Washington, Soldier and Statesman

Feb 22, 1732 saw the birth of George Washington, commonly considered ‘the father of our country’.

He played a leading role in the War of Independence and was the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army (a position he resigned at the end of the conflict), he presided over the constitutional convention that was responsible for writing the Constitution in 1787, and was unanimously elected as the nation’s first president, serving from 1789 – 1797.

He died on December 14, 1799.  In the years since then, he has consistently been ranked as one of the nation’s greatest presidents (usually Lincoln is placed first).

If you’d like to read a treasure trove of sage advice, his Farewell Address at the end of his Presidency makes for at times heavy going, but very illuminating reading.

Here’s a Wikipedia article that summarizes/explains it plus gives links to the full text original source.

However, to compress his sage wisdom, and taken from various published utterances, here are some shorter quotes to remember him by :

On Freedom of Speech

  • If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter
  • When one side only of a story is heard and often repeated, the human mind becomes impressed with it insensibly.

On Firearms

  • When firearms go, all goes. We need them every hour.
  • Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples’ liberty’s teeth.
  • The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference – they deserve a place of honor with all that’s good.
  • There is nothing so likely to produce peace as to be well prepared to meet an enemy.

On Personal Success

  • Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.
  • Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company.
  • I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is the best policy.

On Government

  • The administration of justice is the firmest pillar of government
  • Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action
  • However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.
  • It is important … that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres; avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism.
Feb 202011

Photo NY Post/JC Rice

We all go through various phases in our lives.  The terrible twos.  The teens.  Perhaps a mid-life crisis.  Maybe even dementia.  But surely the worst of all stages is as we exit the teens and become fully empowered with all the rights of adulthood that society chooses to bestow upon us, but none of the maturity and sense with which to use our new rights.

The picture, taken from this NY Post article, illustrates a student demonstration against allowing ROTC back onto the Columbia campus.  The students are of course encouraged in their empty opposition by some of the ‘professional student’ types that never graduated to the real world, but who stayed on, first as teaching aides and then as junior professors and then as full tenured professors, people who are uniquely able then to ignore any and every aspect of the real world without care nor consequence, because their jobs, their amazingly easy working requirements, their once ever seven year paid full year of ‘sabbatical’, and their very generous salaries, benefits and pensions are all guaranteed, no matter what.

So we see a Sociology Professor Emeritus saying ‘Universities should not be involved in military activities.  Columbia should come out against spending $300 billion a year on unnecessary wars’.

I guess he has no problems with spending billions of dollars a year on sociology professors?  Or how about all the DARPA funded research grants that universities delight in taking – how does he feel about that?

But, back to the sign.  This is an astonishingly ridiculous thing to protest about for two reasons.  First, if there is an imbalance between rich and poor in the army, isn’t that a reason to encourage the army to recruit more rich kids from Columbia?

Second, do these people not know the services are all-volunteer forces these days?  No-one is, hmmm, ‘pointing a gun’ at the lower income groups and conscripting them into service.

Third, don’t these people want low income communities to be offered one of the best tickets out of a cycle of poverty that exists?  A services career gives a soldier training, education, a sense of pride and self-worth, a values system, and the motivation to improve his or her life upon leaving the services.  Rather than condemn our services for hiring people that few other employers would touch, shouldn’t they be commending them, and in turn joining as officers so as to help the lower socio-economic group enlisted men to improve themselves even more?

Don’t get me wrong.  These rich young fools are welcome to believe what they wish.  But why do they seek to impose their own naieve view of the world on their fellow students?  If some students wish to join ROTC, where is the harm in that?