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 262011
 

With friends like our President, who needs enemies

There’s a huge amount to dislike about the actions we are taking in Libya at present.  It is so extraordinarily inconsistent – why are we ignoring all the other nasty dictators around the world, and all the other popular uprisings, and instead deciding to take on Gaddafi in Libya?

You might say, cynically, that it is all about the oil, but I’m not even sure that oil is a large part of this equation – it is typically a liberal cheap shot to denigrate our foreign policy as being all about oil.

Libya represents only about 1% of the world’s oil production; if oil was dictating our foreign policy, wouldn’t we be doing much more assertive things in countries with larger oil production and unstable/unfriendly governments?  For example, Venezuela, or, most notably of all, Iran (almost three times more oil produced than Libya), where the popular protests against their apparently unfair rigged elections were greeted with apathy and disinterest by the western powers.

And, of course, if oil is so important to us, wouldn’t we be, ahem, drilling a bit more at home, too?

So, no, I don’t think our Libyan actions are about oil, but having said that, it isn’t clear what they are about.

Two more opening thoughts.

First, much has been made of Gaddafi waging war with his own people, and even killing them.  But isn’t that his own business?  If he was invading a foreign country, then possibly international treaties much empower or compel us to come to the other country’s aid, but who are we to pick and choose our favorites in a sovereign country’s internal dispute?

For that matter, if we are to now wage war against foreign governments due to them killing their own citizens (even if their own citizens have taken up arms and are fighting an armed uprising against the government of the day) then why don’t we also wage war against governments that passively kill their citizens, not with bullets, but with corruption?

What is the difference, in moral terms, between a government that kills a citizen quickly and cleanly with a bullet, and a government that allows a person to slowly starve to death, or to suffer the consequences of non-existent health care, both due to corruption and the misallocation of funds that should have been destined to help improve the lives of its citizens?

Second, much has been made of Gaddafi as being a crazed madman, and of having been a sponsor of terrorism against the west.  But these things are all in the past.

Gaddafi changed his tune, and for the last five years and more, has been increasingly a friend of the west and supportive of our common causes.  He renounced his nuclear plans.  He was even helping us in our fight against al Qaeda.

So now we’ve decided to take out one of our allies.  Hmmmm.

Let’s also look at the ‘rebels’ in Libya.  Who are they?   What is so very special about them that we’ve betrayed an ally so as to befriend them?

Well, we actually know almost nothing at all about these rebels.  But we do know a couple of things.  The first is that many of them have formerly been fighting against us in Iraq and Afghanistan.  And the second thing is that they are being actively supported by al Qaeda.

Read this last paragraph again carefully, and then struggle to understand it, if you can, because I sure can’t.

Maybe Gaddafi is indeed a madman; but perhaps his madness was in renouncing his terrorist ways, in ceasing his acts against the west, and in giving up on his nuclear ambitions.  Maybe his madness was in befriending the west.

It isn’t just us.  Look at the French.  Not all that long ago, they refused to allow our planes to overfly France when President Reagan went to bomb Libya (back when Libya truly was an enemy).  And now the short little Frenchman, Sarkozy, facing an increasingly tough battle to get re-elected as President, has become the ringleader in chief, calling for action against Libya.

Just across the English Channel, the English – the same English who cozied up to Gaddafi so much that they gave him back the formerly imprisoned-for-life Pan Am bomber, took on the role of second keenest nation to do battle against Libya.

People who had formerly been cheered for persuading the Libyans to make substantial donations and financial support, eg, for educational institutions as reputable as the London School of Economics have now resigned in disgrace for the sin of accepting donations from the Gaddafi family.

How can we describe our sanity when we turn our back on a reformed bad guy, someone who is now actively befriending us, and someone we had in turn been actively welcoming back into our fold as a friendly power.  Instead, we are supporting and helping equip our mutual enemies – the people we are currently fighting against in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Don’t get me wrong, Gaddafi is no saint.  But that which threatens to follow him is likely to be much worse.

Please read this article which not only details the lunacy on our part, but also reports how al Qaeda are taking arms from Libya to use against us on other fronts.

Mar 132011
 

Is this what the Justice Dept wishes our Police Forces to become?

Your city’s finest?  Apparently not quite so fine these days, at least not if the Justice Department has its way.

The Department of Justice – increasingly a source of political correctness, and sadly less frequently a source of justice – has decided that the solution to ‘too few’ black people being in certain police departments is to lower the entrance exam standards.  Presumably if it is easier to pass the police entrance exam, more black people will qualify, and then, presumably, police departments will give priority to filling racial quotas rather than hiring the best people for the job.

Interestingly, neither the Police Officer’s Union nor the NAACP will publicly support this latest move by the Justice Department, with the Fraternal Order of Police President saying, quite rightly, ‘It becomes a safety issue to have an incompetent officer next to you in a life and death situation’.

So, quite possibly, people might die as a result of this Justice Department move, including the people who shouldn’t have been employed as police officers, their partners and colleagues, and members of the public they are supposed to be protecting.

Is this really what the Justice Department intended?  Isn’t this definitely a case of the cure being worse than the ‘problem’?

Of course, there’s nothing new to the sad truth that political correctness trumps effective policing, every which time, every which way.  But that’s no reason to accept continued interference with one of the key services a civilized society provides to itself – maintaining effective law and order.

More details here.

Mar 092011
 

Sting or Entrapment?  Mission Creep or Commendable?

Don’t get me wrong.  I detest creeps who prey on young children as much as anyone else, and feel society’s needs would be well served by lining them up against the wall and shooting them, whether it be in the balls or in the head.

But.

We have to be very careful to be just as ethical and fastidiously honorable in law enforcement actions to apprehend pedophiles as we do to arrest petty criminals.  Indeed, because the stigma attached to even the slightest hint that a person may be a pedophile is so great – and, unfortunately, the rush to convict so overwhelming, law enforcement needs to be very careful before filing such charges.

And if we ever, if we ever start to reason ‘well, this sort of crime is so bad that we should be allowed to cut corners to apprehend such terrible people’ then before we know it, those same corners will be cut for every other sort of crime and misdemeanor too.

So, how should law enforcement catch pedophiles?  Should they passively sit back, eat donuts, drink coffee, and wait for someone to file a complaint?  Or should they be more pro-active and try and do some crime prevention rather than crime detection?  I think we’d probably all agree that a pro-active approach is a good approach.

And who should be doing this?  Local police forces?  State bodies?  Federal agencies?  Because pedophiles will often travel to their victims, it is appropriate to involve not just local police but state and federal bodies too, with the FBI seeming to be the logical federal level organization.

Now.  Let’s look at a recent expose revealing how the Homeland Security Department had set up a fake website selling sex tours to – no, not to Thailand or Asia, and not even to Eastern Europe.  Instead, they were selling sex tours to, of all places, Canada (sorry, Canucks!).

Two big questions here.

First, why is the Homeland Security Department involved in setting up fake websites to catch pedophiles?  Their Mission Statement, lists five areas of responsibility :

We have five Departmental missions:

  1. Prevent terrorism and enhance security;
  2. Secure and manage our borders;
  3. Enforce and administer our immigration laws;
  4. Safeguard and secure cyberspace;
  5. Ensure resilience to disasters;

Which of these missions does setting up honey-trap fake websites for pedophiles come under?  You might think ‘safeguarding and securing cyberspace’ is perhaps the closest category, and for sure, none of the other four come close.  But if you read what they say about their cyberspace mission, it is all about protecting against hackers and cyberterrorism and protecting the internet structure, not about catching bad guys privately doing personal bad things via the internet.

So, I ask again.  How and why did the DHS take it upon itself to set up this pedophile sting operation?  This would seem to be extreme mission creep, and it isn’t as though we’re short of other agencies that can (and sometimes do) carry out similar actions.

Now for the second big question.  Let’s look at the actual form of what DHS did.  They set up a website, then trolled all through the internet, posting fake recommendations about the website to encourage people predisposed to that sort of thing to go visit it.

The difference between a sting and an entrapment is never clear or easy.  One test is that a sting merely allows a person to do something they were going to do anyway, whereas an entrapment entices or lures people to do something they might not have done if it were not for the encouragement that was part of the entrapment process.

So where on the spectrum is this fake website?  Don’t you feel it is uncomfortably close to entrapment – particularly because the website makes it really easy to go to Canada rather than travel far away to eg Asia for such perversions?

Now for the other big question.  Why should we care or worry, if the bottom line is that bad guys are taken off the streets, and our children are protected?

We should worry because it is the thin end of the wedge.  Indeed, think about this.  A government organization which has no authority or tasking to do this type of work, takes it upon itself to carry out this project.  We’re past the thin end of the wedge already – we have government agencies assuming new powers and duties that were never given to them.

So the DHS is evolving from protecting our nation against terrorism and overwhelming natural threats and weapons of mass destruction to now choosing to go after pedophiles, one by one – indeed, they’re not even trying to protect our children against these creeps, they’re trying to protect Canadian children instead!

Which begs the question – yesterday it was terrorists, natural disasters and weapons of mass destruction.  Today it is sting/entrapment operations against Americans seeking to have sex with Canadian children.  What will it be tomorrow?

And that’s the really scary question.  Our government is expanding out of control.

 

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 282011
 

A 1901 version of the classic nursery rhyme

You might remember the nursery rhyme

Baa, Baa, Black Sheep
Have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir,
Three bags full.
One for the master,
One for the dame,
And one for the little boy
Who lives down the lane.

An innocent enough ditty, and one I’d always thought to be related to the fact that black sheep are rare and so have a more valuable wool than normal white sheep – or at least may have formerly had more valuable wool until modern aniline type dies made it possible to get intense blacks from originally/naturally white wool (and perhaps genetics allowed for more black sheep to be selectively bred if needed).

But, silly me.  Apparently I failed to realize that it is really all to do with racism and slavery.  Some of the sad souls who believe this have changed the words to Baa Baa, Rainbow Sheep in a desperate attempt to be oh so politically correct.

But – wait – don’t they know that references to rainbows these days has a gay connotation?  Oh my, what will the gays think?  And so, some even more politically correct fools are singing ‘Baa, Baa, Happy Sheep’ – but doesn’t that now give offense to those of us suffering from a depression disorder?

Details here.  Read it and weep.

Three further comments.  First, to say that it originates from slavery is a very broad comment to make – slavery having been prevalent for many hundreds of years.  Second, a  Wikipedia article on the nursery rhyme quotes a source as debunking the ridiculous claim of the rhyme having anything to do with slavery, and third, I circle back to my opening comment.  Black sheep are good, rare, special and valuable.  This song makes a positive feature of black sheep, with people wanting the wool.

It seems the mere mention of the word ‘black’, no matter what the context, is enough to get some people knee-jerking their nonsense in response.

Feb 232011
 

Home Page for the Delaware Office of Human Relations

Time for some straight talking and clear thinking, folks.  Unless you’ve had your head in the sand for a decade or more, you’ll know that any type of ‘Human Rights’ or ‘Race Relations’ or ‘Equality’ commission or board or other quango group is appallingly biased and myopically focused not on free, full, and fair rights for all, but instead obsessed with finding often imaginary slights and affronts that may possibly relate to certain minority pressure groups, and blowing these up into major deals.

Meanwhile, those of us who form what is rapidly becoming an even more disadvantaged minority group – middle aged, middle class, European-Americans (hey – how come every other group has a double-barreled description of their ethnicity except us – why can’t we be proud European-Americans?) get to suffer the reverse-discrimination forced on us by these non-elected bodies (usually peopled by non European-Americans, and definitely peopled only by those with political opinions far left of center).

It is our fault, we are told, that almost every other group in the country doesn’t work as hard as us, isn’t as gainfully employed as us, doesn’t study as conscientiously, isn’t as healthy, and gets in more trouble with the law (notable exception to this – Asian-Americans).

Unfortunately, we can’t always just laugh and ignore their ridiculous posturing and victim-seeking mentalities.  Sometimes they have enforcement type authority and the ability to fine people and companies who run a-foul of their nonsense.

And so it was in Delaware, where the state Human Relations Commission fined a movie theater $80,000 for violating the state Equal Accommodations Law.

You need to read this article to see what the imaginary offense was, how it got to be presented to the Human Rights Commission, and what happened when the theater appealed to the state Supreme Court.

The facts are stark, and to make sure you don’t miss them, what happened was the director of the state’s Office of Human Relations was in a movie audience and felt slighted by a request for everyone to turn off their cell phones.  So, without telling any other patrons who she was – indeed, she vaguely pretended to be either a generic lawyer or someone who worked for a lawyer – she rabble roused the other theater goers then arranged for her Office of Human Relations to get the other attendees to agree to file a complaint, together with her, to the Human Relations Commission.

Except that at the last minute she took her own name off the complaint, so as not to be ‘a distraction’ to the process, and tried to slip into invisibility in the background, making it seem as if this was a spontaneous group of people who acted independently with no encouragement or coordination by her and her office.

Judging by the Supreme Court’s verdict, the Human Rights Commission created a kangaroo court that – of course – found the theater guilty, without explaining how it could make such a finding in face of credible evidence to the contrary, and compounded its errors of fact finding with errors of application of the law.  The Commission’s $80,000 fine was over-ruled by the Supreme Court.

But – and here’s the most important part of the whole story.  Who is accountable for an action that should never have been presented, and a very wrongful decision that should never have been made?  And who will pay the costs for the theater company in defending itself twice – first to the commission and secondly to the Supreme Court?

Yes, it’s great that – eventually – justice was served, but at what cost?  There has been a huge consequence to the theater group, and for sure their legal costs will have matched or exceeded the $80,000 fine they were first stuck with, and they’ll have got plenty of bad publicity all the way through this three and a half year process.

The innocent – the theater – has been severely punished.  The guilty – the woman director, her ‘Office of Human Relations’, and the Human Rights Commission, all walk away totally free of any censure or negative consequence.

Something’s awfully wrong here, folks.