May 132011

Few Cadillacs are sold in downmarket neighborhoods

Okay, so this might seem like a trivial question with an obvious answer, although perhaps asking if the government can force General Motors to do something is a bad example; being as how these days GM translates more to ‘Government Motors’ due to the massive bailout and shareholding in GM by the federal government.  Maybe they truly can force GM to do something as crazy as to open a Cadillac dealership in a depressed downtown slum area.

We can all surely agree that any car manufacturer should be free to open dealerships wherever it chooses, and should be equally free to not open dealerships wherever it does not wish to open them, correct?  That is just common sense and part of the free market.  There is not any suggestion that car manufacturers are obliged to offer their models in all marketplaces – a Yugo dealership should not be forced to open in Beverly Hills, and a Rolls Royce dealership should not be forced to open in Watts.

Let’s try another example.  Should the government be able to control where supermarket chains open stores?  Should they be able to say ‘No, you can’t open a store there, but you must open a store here instead’?  This might be more sensitive – could they say ‘It is unfair on this section of the population not to have a huge big upmarket Whole Foods in their neighborhood’, accuse Whole Foods of discriminatory practices, and force them to open their up-market overpriced stores in poor neighborhoods?  Do people have some sort of built-in right to have expensive supermarkets in their neighborhood, even if they can’t afford to buy the goods offered for sale in them?

Hopefully you agree that supermarkets too can open and close stores as they wish.

Now, for the third one.  Should the government be able to tell banks where they must open branches?  Unless you can see some way in which banks are different to car dealerships, to supermarkets, and to just about every other sort of commercial enterprise, you’ll probably agree that government has no business interfering with the normal commercial decisions of banks and where/how they open or close branches.

But, as this article reports, the government is doing exactly this; indeed, the Justice Department has opened a new division with 20 officials to try and force banks to do things which they would not otherwise choose to do themselves, including forcing them to lend money to risky borrowers and to open branches in areas they don’t see any commercial sense in having branches.

This is justified as a way to forcibly prevent banks from ‘red lining’.  Red lining was a practice, some decades ago, where banks would automatically refuse to lend money to a person based on where they lived.  This was before computerized data bases of credit reports, and at a time when discrimination was much more prevalent, and it suited banks’ purposes to simply say “If you live in a ‘bad’ area, we don’t want to risk our money with you”.  Was this fair?  Probably not, although on the other hand, whenever the government tries to force banks to lend money that they wouldn’t otherwise lend, we seem to end up with huge bailouts at the end of the day.

But these days, no-one in any bank ‘red-lines’.  They simply call up a credit report on their computer, and within 30 seconds, have a FICO score and a series of financial ratios in front of them that indicate if the applicant should be given a loan or not, and if the applicant should be allowed a discounted interest rate due to being an excellent credit risk, or if they should be charged an increased interest rate due to being a poor credit risk.

This is the same as – well, to use the car dealership example again; you go in to a dealership with a vehicle you want to trade on a new car.  If your old car is in good condition and low miles, you’ll get a higher trade-in value than if it is in poor condition and with high miles.  And if it is a vehicle that they know they can’t sell on, they might even refuse to accept it at all, or massively low-ball you on the price.

No-one is suggesting that car dealers should give the same trade-in on all vehicles.  But the Justice Department is blathering on about how banks should adopt identical policies for all potential borrowers, and ridiculously accusing banks of red-lining when in truth all the banks are doing is making prudent commercial decisions based not on race but on financial issues.

So bank regulators are setting the banks up for another banking crisis, by forcing them to open branches in areas where they don’t want to do business, and forcing them to lend money to people who by all normal measures are unlikely to be able to pay back their loans.  Does that sound familiar to you – aren’t we currently in the middle of a multi-trillion dollar economic crisis as a result of banks being pressured to make ridiculous loans to people who obviously had no way of ever paying them off?

One of the interesting consequences of this financial melt-down is that even the people the government was trying to ‘help’ have been massively harmed as a result of their dysfunctional help.  No-one has won, except perhaps for the government itself, which has used the financial crisis it generated largely by itself as a justification to become even more involved in all parts of our nation’s economy and commercial dealings.

It is common for some people to vilify bankers as being greedy and short-sighted, but spare a thought to who is forcing them to do these clearly stupid things – our own government.  There was a time when everyone respected their local banker – what has changed?  Government regulation is what has changed.

I’ll close not with answers, but with two questions.

1.  Why should the government treat banks differently to car dealerships, supermarkets, and just about every other type of private enterprise?

2.  Why can’t the government learn from its past mistakes, rather than repeat them?

Apr 222011

Getting a US Passport is about to become harder

There is, ahem, a bit of controversy about our present President and the legitimacy of his claim for American citizenship.  Apparently all he has had to do is show a ‘short form’ certificate of life birth, unsigned by any attending doctors or hospital officials, and that is all.

Some people think that it should be necessary to show more evidence to prove one’s eligibility for the supreme office in the country, and with it, the mantle of leader of the most powerful nation on earth.  Others of course disagree.  But let’s not go there – let’s leave that for others to thrash out.

However – here’s a question :  If we are to require more evidence to confirm the eligibility of a candidate for the office of President, what should that be?

That’s actually an easy question to answer, thanks to our own State Department.  They are proposing to amend the form we must complete to get a passport, adding some extra questions.  Actually, adding a huge amount of extra questions.

Go have a look at their proposed new form here.  Section A seems easy enough, although why do they need to know our social security number?

But, read on.  Look at section B, which requires the date and place of birth and citizenship of all related family members, including step parents.

And they’re only getting started.  Next is section C, with questions such as where your mother lived a year before you were born.  And that’s an easy question in this section – how about dates and details of both pre-natal and post-natal visits?  Details of when/where you may or may not have been circumcised!

Now for another memory test.  You’re probably familiar with applying for jobs or credit that might ask you to list past addresses and employers, perhaps going back three, five or even ten years.  So get ready for section D, E and F – but these require you to list details of every place you have lived at since birth, every school you’ve ever attended, and every job you’ve ever had.

You even have to remember the zip codes – I’ve no idea what you do if you’re sufficiently old as to have had addresses prior to the zip code system being instituted.

And as for your jobs, you also have to remember the name of your supervisor and give a phone number at which he can be contacted!

So let’s see this form first filled out, in its entirety, by our present President, shall we.  If it is good enough for the State Department to require us to do this form to get a passport, surely the least he can do is fill out the form, too – indeed, doesn’t he also need a passport?

More details here.

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 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 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.

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 212011

F-14 Tomcat, 1970-2006, a glorious plane deservedly made famous in Top Gun

Okay, sadly there’s nothing particularly new about how all our armed services have shame-facedly capitulated to the overwhelming force of political correctness.

After all, the two main reasons the Fort Hood muslim terrorist was so successful (13 killed, 29 wounded) were :

(a)  Because soldiers aren’t trusted with firearms.  Yes, read that again slowly – we don’t trust our soldiers with firearms, even on their own base.

(b)  Because the terrorist was a muslim terrorist.  If he were a ‘white supremacist’ the authorities would have locked him up tighter than a drum, ages before he got close to the base with his weapons, but because he was a muslim terrorist, well, it was necessary to embrace diversity.

Anyway, read this article published by a reporter who can always be relied upon to take a strategic bit of leaking and play it up in the press.

It seems that the foundation set up to commemorate the Navy’s 100th anniversary of military aviation saw fit to celebrate the role of women fliers – such incredibly important events in naval aviation history as ‘the first female operations officer’ were featured much more prominently than things which they largely ignored (a little event in South East Asia, for example, or a slightly larger event all around the world which started at Pearl Harbor).

The ridiculousness of this is well stated by former Marine aviator Roy Stafford, who is quoted in the article as saying

The true facts are that women’s contribution to naval aviation has been minimal to nonexistent for 80 of the first 100 years.  The simple truth is they were not there, not World War I, not World War II, not Korea nor Vietnam.  Men who pushed the limits of mankind to levels never before reached, to relegate them to footnote status while elevating the social agenda is a disservice to all who went before them.

Well said, Roy.  Semper Fi.