Saturday, August 30, 2008

Of Spoofs and Silliness

[Revised] What follows this brief introduction is the contents of an email I received early Saturday morning. This piece is so factually inaccurate that I thought it must be intended as a joke. More recent information has it that this is an actual letter to the editor of the Canada Free Press.

If you want to learn about slavery and how it ended in the U.S., turn the points in this article around 180 degrees.

The Republican Party Must Apologize for Supporting Slavery
by Brother X

It is a documented fact that the Republican Party before and during the Civil War supported and benefited from slavery. As a matter of fact, the Republican Party was started for the express purpose of defending slavery and holding down black people.

It is also a matter of record that the Ku Klux Klan was started by Republicans after the Civil War to terrorize and murder black and white Democrats in the South. All the white Democrats, before and after the Civil War, were sympathetic to the cause of abolition of slavery and of civil rights for blacks, therefore racist Republicans had no use for them.

The Republicans have historically been bitter opponents of the following:

· The 13th Amendment that abolished slavery in 1865
· The 1866 Civil Rights Act
· The First Reconstruction Act of 1867
· The 14th Amendment in 1868 that made all persons born in the U.S. , including former slaves, U.S. citizens.
· The 15th Amendment in 1870 that give every citizen the right to vote
· The Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 which was to stop Republican Klansmen to terrorized white and black Democrats
· The 1875 Civil Rights Act
· The 1957 Civil Rights Act
· The 1964 Civil Rights Act
· The 1965 Voters Rights Act

In every case, the white Republicans in the Senate, especially Senator Everett Dirksen, and the House of Representatives fought passage of these laws in every turn as well as being compelled to give up their slaves after the Civil War. The Democratic leadership, especially Senator Robert Byrd who has always despised the Ku Klux Klan and who discouraged white Americans from joining that gang, fought very hard to have those laws passed.

The Republicans have also opposed every Democratic anti-lynching bill to their shame. The Democrats have always been opposed to lynchings for decades.

For this reason, we black people not only deserve an apology for the Republican Party but even reparations from it since it supported and benefited from slavery as well as supporting KKK terror, racism, etc. The Civil Rights movement started because of the majority white racist Republican power structure in the South.

We must be very loud and demand that John McCain and the other white racist Republicans own up to the truth of its sorid and bloody history and give black Americans satisfaction for the damage this party has done to us for over 150 years. We need the support of Barack Obama and of the Democratic Party to join us in making these demands.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Shocking data shows a dangerous decline

of the two-parent American family

The traditional American family, the foundation of our society, is under assault, and becoming increasingly less an influence on American culture. Many families are broken up through divorce or the death of one of the parents, while others never properly form, as people opt out of formal marriage in favor of cohabitation. Two factors — divorce and out-of-wedlock births — head the list of factors contributing to the demise of the traditional family.

Common statistics that we hear are that roughly half the marriages entered into today will end in divorce, and that the rate of out-of-wedlock births has grown over the last few decades. The result of these two phenomena is an increasing number of single-parent families.

A University of Chicago study reported that from 1972 to 1998 the percentage of children living with their original two married parents fell from 73 percent to 52 percent; that children living with single parents went from 4.7 percent to 18.2 percent; and that whereas in 1972 the most common arrangement was married couples with children — 45 percent — by 1998 only 26 percent of households reflected this arrangement.

Things haven’t improved since then. Marriages fail for a number of reasons, including that many people enter into marriage without making a real commitment to the relationship; they don’t take the time to get to know each other, and the relationship has a weak foundation. Or, young people romanticize the concept of marriage, thinking it will be “neat” and “fun.” So, they get married, and then when things go less than perfectly, as they nearly always do, many people just bail out.

A further complication is that marriage has lost popularity in America. Not so long ago it was a natural and integral part of every young person’s future; getting married and raising a family was “what we did” as adults. But more frequently, people are not getting married, some because they don’t want the social restrictions associated with committing to another person, and some because they want to avoid the legal entanglements implicit in a formal marriage, about half of which will fail.

The traditional family — one mom, one dad and 2.3 children — is the cornerstone of our culture and it ought to disturb us that the traditional family is to a large degree becoming a thing of the past.

Whatever the reasons for fewer successful long-term marriages and fewer stable two-parent families, the decline of the traditional family poses a significant challenge to our cultural and social stability. The effects of this transformation have not yet fully materialized and are not yet fully known. However, we can now see what is happening to children in single parent homes, and that is downright scary.

Two Swedish researchers authored a population study that was published this year in the scientific periodical The Lancet that contains strong evidence that children brought up in single parent households are more likely than children brought up with both parents in the same household to suffer many types of problems

And it apparently does not matter whether the family was broken up through divorce or the death of a parent, or even when a single-parent household came about because of an out-of-wedlock birth or adoption of a child by a single individual; the risks to children in single-parent families are much higher than in two-parent families for a broad range of serious problems.

Children from single-parent homes are three to four times more likely to suffer from obesity, drug abuse or drug addiction, and alcoholism than children in a traditional two-parent family.

Children with single parents showed increased risks of psychiatric disease, suicide or attempted suicide, or injury. These results stand even after adjustment for factors such as socioeconomic status and parents' addiction or mental disease.

Studies also show problems in cognitive and academic ability, resulting in lower academic achievement, lower math scores, a greater failure rate, lower SAT scores, lower IQ scores, a higher dropout rate, and a lower college attendance rate. Children from single-parent homes also exhibit a higher degree of antisocial behavior, including higher rates of criminal behavior, greater delinquency for both girls and boys, and increased violent behavior in schools. They are also at greater risk of being physically and sexually abused.

That children in single-parent families are at such great risk for so many serious problems ought to get everyone’s attention, and it ought to be sufficient stimulus to cause us to examine what is happening to our culture due to some of the choices society has made. It should be sufficient to force us to change course to reduce or eliminate a completely controllable negative factor threatening not only our children, but also the very stability of our society. The last four decades have seen traditions upon which our nation was built attacked and beaten down.

People long ago predicted that liberal attitudes about marriage, sex, and personal behavior were bound to effect society negatively, and the shocking data on children in single-parent homes is evidence that they were right.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Denver Convention: Hillary Clinton

Instead of Thursday night as the Presidential Nominee, or Wednesday night as the Vice-Presidential Nominee, Hillary Clinton was relegated to speak on Tuesday night, in an effort to reunite a badly divided Democrat Party.

Lots of speculation surrounded her speech prior to Tuesday, and still surrounds Bill Clinton’s speech tonight, as people try to figure out what the Clintons will do. Will they put aside the animus and throw their support enthusiastically behind Barack Obama, and call on Hillary’s supporters to vote for Obama? Or will they do something else? After Hillary’s speech, the answer appears to be, “something else.”

For her to remain a viable candidate for future national office, Hillary Clinton had to make at least a nominal effort to show that she is ready to move ahead, throw away the hurt and anger, and support her party’s candidate, and that is what she did.

Some commentators noted that she gave the best speech of her career Tuesday night. And from an oratorical perspective, it was a very good effort. But when you analyze what she said, it was clear that Mrs. Clinton was going to support Barack Obama only as much as she had to in order to fulfill the minimal expectations of the Obama campaign and the Party.

Much of the important parts included a recitation of what she had done, and then finishing it up with something like, “and so does Barack Obama.” Like this one:

“I ran for president to renew the promise of America. To rebuild the middle class and sustain the American Dream, to provide the opportunity to work hard and have that work rewarded, to save for college, a home and retirement, to afford the gas and groceries and still have a little left over each month.

To promote a clean energy economy that will create millions of green collar jobs.

“To create a health care system that is universal,” she said, and continued with a list of seven more points. She ended that part of the speech with this: “Those are the reasons I ran for president. Those are the reasons I support Barack Obama. And those are the reasons you should too.”

It was an endorsement, yes, but not a particularly strong one. She never addressed Obama’s strong points, explaining to the millions of doubter why he is qualified, and more important, why they should vote for him.

So, Hillary Clinton did what she was expected to do, and what she had to do to remain a viable future Democrat candidate for President of the United States. A lot of people think what’s important to both of the Clintons is the nomination in 2012, not the election of Barack Obama in 2008.

I think they are right.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Denver Convention: Michelle Obama

The Monday highlight was the address of Michelle Obama to the party faithful, Mrs. Obama did a very good job; she handled herself very well in a difficult circumstance. She was at ease, and came across well.

I particularly liked her description of her early years, and especially the story of her father, who despite being increasingly ill with Multiple Sclerosis managed to get up every day, and get himself to work to provide for his family. What a great story. It tells us that Michelle Obama had a fairly normal American childhood.

Despite these positives, her speech really said nothing substantive.

It was designed to counter the anti-America, anti-white image she created earlier in the campaign. It was read and reread, edited, focus grouped, and manipulated to what we saw Monday night. I'm sure the party faithful took the bait. Did you notice the number of women in the audience who were crying? This is demonstrative of the Democrats approach to life and politics: It's about emotion, disguised as compassion.

I don't know about the rest of the country, but I’m not convinced.

Why would a woman who admires her father’s hard work to make a go of it and make a good life for his children want to change that system to one where the government comes in and replaces what her father did with a handout? That’s what her husband wants to do.

But there are two Michelle Obama’s, and the other one is a very different person than the one we say Monday in Denver.

Michelle grew up in a fairly conventional American family, having a hard way to go, but facing their adversity and conquering it. Over the last twenty years, however, she has come under an entirely different influence, the poisonous environment of the Trinity United Church of Christ under the control of the anti-America, anti-white demagogue, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. It is this influence that converted Michelle from a conventional American into a militant black woman who has subscribed to the vitriolic Black Liberation Theology that teaches blacks that they are victims of rich white people.

Monday night we saw a successful woman who loves her kids and loves her husband. There is nothing unusual there; nearly every woman in America fits that description. But the other aspects of her life stand in stark relief to this fairy tale picture, and I’m betting that most Americans won’t be fooled by the Monday night performance.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Criminals Support Gun Control Measures and Bans

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Let The Gaffes Begin

Well, we’re off and running.

Barack Obama’s choice of Senator Joe Biden as his running mate has generated a great deal of discussion, some of it positive, some of it negative.

Sen. Biden brings Obama some strength in an area where he is horribly weak, foreign relations. And there are other pluses he brings with him.

On the negative side, Mr. Biden has a penchant for speaking without thinking, and putting his foot in his mouth, sometimes with terribly harmful results.

My friend Kenna and I have a bet on how long it will be before a gaffe emanates from his lips.

On the first day of campaigning, at the first public event, Mr. Biden made a boo-boo, though not a true gaffe. Talking about Sen. Obama, Mr. Biden announced that Obama is a man he’s glad to call a friend, “the next President of the United States, Barack America.”

But that wasn’t the only goof that day. In introducing his vice presidential hopeful, Sen. Obama introduced Sen. Biden, Obama said, “Let me introduce to you, the next President — Vice President — of the United States…”

Should be an interesting two months.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Tell Me What You Think of This

Thanks to Ray F. for sending me the link to this video.

I invite everyone to view it, and then comment on it.

Whatever your take on it, I can pretty much guarantee it will get your attention.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Amateurs Outdoing Professionals
By Thomas Sowell

When amateurs outperform professionals, there is something wrong with that profession.

If ordinary people, with no medical training, could perform surgery in their kitchens with steak knives, and get results that were better than those of surgeons in hospital operating rooms, the whole medical profession would be discredited.

Yet it is common for ordinary parents, with no training in education, to homeschool their children and consistently produce better academic results than those of children educated by teachers with Master's degrees and in schools spending upwards of $10,000 a year per student-- which is to say, more than a million dollars to educate ten kids from K through 12.

Nevertheless, we continue to take seriously the pretensions of educators who fail to educate, but who put on airs of having "professional" expertise beyond the understanding of mere parents.

One of the most widespread and dramatic examples of amateurs outperforming professionals has been in economies that have had central planning directed by highly educated people, advised by experts and having at their disposal vast amounts of statistical data, not available and probably not understandable, by ordinary citizens.

Great things were expected from centrally planned economies. Their early failings were brushed aside as "the growing pains" of "a new society."

But, when centrally planned economies lagged behind free market economies for decade after decade, eventually even socialist and communist governments began to free their economies from many, if not most, of the government controls under central planning.

Almost invariably, these economies then took off with much higher economic growth rates-- China and India being the most prominent examples.

But look at the implications of the failure of central planning and the success of letting "the market"-- that is, millions of people who are nowhere close to being experts-- make the decisions as to what is to be produced and by whom.

How can it be that people with postgraduate degrees, people backed by the power of government and drawing on experts of all sorts, failed to do as well as masses of people of the sort routinely disdained by intellectuals?

What could be the reason? And does that reason apply in other contexts besides the economy?

One easy to understand reason is that central planners in the days of the Soviet Union had to set over 24 million prices. Nobody is capable of setting and changing 24 million prices in a way that will direct resources and output in an efficient manner.

For that, each of the 24 million prices would have to be weighed and set against each of the other 24 million prices. in order to provide incentives for resources to go where they were most in demand by producers and output to go where it was most in demand by consumers.

In a market economy, however, nobody has to take on such an impossible task. Each producer and each consumer need only be concerned with the relatively few prices relevant to their own decisions, with coordination of the economy being left to supply and demand.

In short, amateurs were able to outperform professionals in the economy because the amateurs did not take on tasks beyond the capability of any human being or any manageable group of human beings.

Put differently, "expertise" includes only a small band of knowledge out of the vast spectrum of knowledge required for dealing with many real world complications.

Nothing is easier than for experts with that small band of knowledge to imagine that they are so much wiser than others. Central planning is only the most demonstrable failure of such thinking. The disasters from other kinds of social engineering involve much the same problem.

Surgeons succeed because they stick to surgery. But if we were to put surgeons in control of commodity speculation, criminal justice and rocket science, they would probably fail as disastrously as central planners.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Economic Evils: Capitalism and Profits

Provide Cheap Political Points

It seems odd that a capitalist country that has been as successful as the United States over recent decades would be home to anti-capitalist negativity. After all, we have watched in a relatively stable economic and social environment as socialist nations in Europe have struggled, and the communist economies of the former Soviet Union, have utterly failed. As Winston Churchill told us, “the inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.” Despite its imperfections, capitalist America provides opportunity more equally than any nation in history.

In spite of our strength and success and the ability of our system to endure through the hard times, some Americans seem unable to resist the opportunity to shoot the golden goose, attacking the economic system that has made life so good in the United States.

Political campaigns provide fertile ground to grow anti-capitalism, as Republicans battle Democrats for choice elective offices. Republicans and conservatives tend to be capitalistic and pro-business, and Democrats and their socialist-leaning liberal wing attack business and promote anti-business measures to gain political advantage.

The current high gasoline and diesel fuel price situation couldn’t have happened at a more opportune time for those who profit from demonizing business, appealing to those primed and ready to believe that businesses are really out to get them.

Democrats and liberals promote new taxes on oil companies, legislation to force them to drill where oil reserves are highly uncertain instead of opening areas where oil is more certain, and eliminating tax breaks for oil companies in order to avenge the “obscene” profits these major corporations have made. This they do in the name of “fairness” to the middle class, “looking out for the little guy,” and other equally beside-the-point pronouncements. Wading through this swamp is daunting for most Americans, who may not follow politics closely, and are too busy with their own lives to dig the truth out of the mud.

Many people, perhaps most, don’t understand, for example, that lowering taxes on oil companies helps keep fuel prices down and that providing subsidies for alternative energy production encourages alternative energy development, and that the converse, raising taxes and eliminating the subsidies, pushes prices higher and retards alternative energy development.

Just like other business expenses, taxes are paid from company revenues, which come primarily from sales. The bigger the tax bill, the higher prices have to be to produce the revenue to pay the tax. While the oil companies may write the check, it is their customers that foot the bill. If Democrats raise taxes on oil companies, they will cost Americans money at the gas pump.

It is a little known fact that of the $135 billion of total investment in emerging alternative energy technologies in the years 2000 to 2005, oil and gas companies invested $98 billion, or 73 percent of the total, according to the Energy Information Administration. Other private companies invested $32 billion, or 23 percent, and government, which has proposed legislation to take subsidies for alternative energy development away from oil companies, invested a mere $5.2 billion, or four percent of the total. We are led to believe that government would use the subsidies taken from the oil companies to fund development of alternative energy technology, but wasn’t that why it gave the subsidies to the oil companies in the first place? And, weren’t the oil companies providing the lion’s share of the development being done?

It is a well accepted fact that every firm has to make a profit to survive very long. A bad year here and there can be overcome by a corresponding good year, but several consecutive years of losses spells trouble, if not doom. Despite what critics of business and capitalism say, profit is a good thing, a necessary thing.

Yet profitable businesses are targets in 21st century America, if only to enable anti-business political candidates to score cheap points to win votes.

No economic or social system is perfect, and capitalism is no exception. And, yes, some capitalists may be “greedy.” However, the wonders and good things the capitalist system produces far and away dwarf its problems. It is the personification of Adam Smith’s explanation of how rational self-interest and competition, adhering to moral obligations, can produce economic well-being and prosperity. “Contrary to the vulgar belief that men are motivated primarily by materialistic considerations,” as the philosopher Ayn Rand said, “we now see the capitalist system being discredited and destroyed all over the world, even though this system has given men the greatest material comforts.”

But perhaps Milton Friedman said the most significant thing when he stated that “history suggests that capitalism is a necessary condition for political freedom.” And yet in this important political year, one party is bent on attacking America’s success at its very foundation.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Brave 85 Year-old Lady

POINT MARION, Pa. (AP) — An 85-year-old woman boldly went for her gun and busted a would-be burglar inside her home, then forced him to call police while she kept him in her sights, police said.

“I just walked right on past him to the bedroom and got my gun,” Leda Smith said.

Smith heard someone break into her home Monday afternoon and grabbed the .22-caliber revolver she had been keeping by her bed since a neighbor’s home was burglarized a few weeks ago.

“I said ‘What are you doing in my house?’ He just kept saying he didn’t do it,” Smith said.

After the 17-year-old boy called 911, Smith kept holding the gun on him until state police arrived at her home in Springhill Township, about 45 miles south of Pittsburgh.

Good thing this brave lady didn’t live in Washington, DC and that this didn’t happen last year, or one of two things would have happened: Either she would have been robbed and perhaps assaulted or killed, or she would have been charged for breaking one of DC’s unconstitutional laws prohibiting handgun ownership, or requiring that they be kept unloaded.

If gun control advocates had their way, every state and municipality would be just like DC. Thankfully there are still federal courts that understand the plain language of the U.S. Constitution, like the DC Court of Appeals.

Thanks to Texas Fred for this one.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Focusing on the Wrong Stuff

The perception that ExxonMobile—the world’s largest company—has made excessive profits ignores the reality that its large profit is based upon an enormous sales figure, and an almost as enormous expense figure.

People who have gotten all worked up over the $40.6 billion Exxon-Mobile profit are reacting to the number of dollars when they declare that the oil giant “made too much money,” completely ignoring that the company made what is really a quite moderate 9.2 percent net profit margin.

What’s important in this example isn’t the number of dollars the company made, but the percentage of sales left over after the bills have been paid.

ExxonMobile made $40.6 billion, which is a lot of money, true enough. But it had to sell $404.5 billion of products in 2007, and spend $364 billion producing those products, to earn that profit, which is a mere fraction of both those numbers.

ExxonMobile spent 10 times as much as it made in profit doing business in 2007, for such things as salaries and wages, raw materials, and operations. A far more relevant figure is the nearly $30 billion in taxes ExxonMobile paid in 2007. That’s a lot of money, too, and every dollar of expense and profit—and taxes—comes from the income from sales and investments. Take $30 billion out of the price of ExxonMobile products, and consumers would be much happier.

And, consider that Nokia, a company with a less tarnished image than the oil companies these days, makes more money on a dollar of sales than ExxonMobile at 14.11 percent. Nokia is not as large as ExxonMobile, however, with sales of only a fifth of those of the oil giant at $75.2 billion. Nokia had net income of just $10.6 billion.

But if Nokia was as large as ExxonMobil, its profit would be not $10.6 billion, nor even $40.6 billion, but $57 billion. Nokia then would be thought to be “greedy” and to have made “obscene” profits, according to the rule for such things.

People would do well to get beyond the silly politics of demonizing profits and focus their attention on more pertinent things, like learning why high taxes, high government spending, and a bloated federal bureaucracy are much more harmful than successful corporations.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

A legacy lurks in the shadows
by Wesley Pruden

Friday, August 15, 2008 History disabuses every president of the notion that he has a legacy to leave. What he leaves is a record, sometimes written in fire and blood, and history assigns the legacy.

George W. Bush leaves a record of trying to housebreak the Islamic radicals, to teach them to behave themselves in this world and wait until the next to collect their virgins. Since his critics think such a reclamation project can't be done, if civilization survives, George W. can enjoy the pleasure of proving everybody else wrong.

But presidents, even presidents looking for the exit, are men in a hurry, and they invariably start trying to shape how they'll be measured and remembered in the shade and shadows of the dying light. They don't want to start new arguments or pick new fights. Suddenly the legacy of the peacemaker, even the maker of the cheap peace bought with rhetoric and a promissory note, is tempting.

George W. went off to Beijing as a tourist, and had the bad luck of arriving just as Russia, struggling to be reborn as a Soviet Union without the burden of a discredited economic system, marched into Georgia to loot and lay waste to democratic dreams of live and let live. George W. sat in the stands, entranced like the rest of us by the aquatic magic of Michael Phelps, and pointed with pride, waving an American flag, and viewed with alarm the Russian blitzkrieg racing through the heart of an ally thousands of miles away.

Viewing with alarm, which is always fun, irritates Vladimir Putin but it won't seriously upset anyone in Moscow. The Russians are taking the long view, brushing off ineffectual criticism. They figure to add to their own history, having invaded with impunity before: Poland in 1939, Finland in 1940, the several Baltic states in 1941, Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968 and Afghanistan in 1979. And of course Georgia, in 1921, 1991 and only last week. Practice can make perfect.

When the Bush administration finally bestirred itself to take the situation seriously, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was sent out to deliver more gruel, this time gruel with a hint of jalapeno. "This is not 1968 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia, where Russia can threaten its neighbors, occupy a capital, overthrow a government and get away with it," she said. "Things have changed." Even this much makes the Europeans of 2008, who quail at the sight of a squadron of butterflies, nervous. The Russians, on the other hand, are taking glee at the restoration of the harsh word games of the Cold War.

The Moscow media, picking up vibes emanating from the blog swamps of the American left, calls the Georgian response to the Russian invasion a plot hatched by Dick Cheney to start a war to elect John McCain. Ranking Russian voices pick up the refrain. Vasily Likhachev, a former Russian ambassador to the European Union, thinks he has Washington's number: "The West - [i.e., the United States] - has spent a lot of time, energy and money to teach Georgia the tricks of the trade ... to make the country look like a democracy. We see through this deceit. We understand that the seditious tactics of the so-called color revolutions are a real threat to international law and the source of global nihilism." (This doesn't quite capture of the flavor of Red China's Cold War rhetoric, with its denunciations of Americans as "poisonous weeds" and "ravenous running dogs," but it could get closer to world class stuff as the melancholy chorus of crickets and katydids signal the waning of summer.)

What the situation needs is a few more "tricks of the trade." When the Soviets blockaded Berlin in 1948, Gen. Lucius Clay sent an appeal to President Truman: "We are convinced that our remaining in Berlin is essential to our prestige in Germany and in Europe. Whether for good or bad, it has become a symbol of the American intent." The Berlin Airlift followed shortly after.

John McCain has suggested several things the West, meaning of course the United States, can do to show American intent, in addition to an airlift to Tbilisi if one is needed, including expelling Russia from the Group of Eight. The West could bar coveted Russian membership in the World Trade Organization, even eliminate the prospect of hosting the Winter Olympics in 2014. Vladimir Putin is carefully calculating Western resolve, as well as measuring the bones of Barack Obama, whose first reaction was the usual moral equivalence of limp liberalism. "Now is the time for Georgia and Russia to show restraint," he said. He was right on the message from the West.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Emergency Room Wait Times

to See a Doctor Are Growing

A story in last week’s local newspaper informed readers that the average wait time to see a doctor in emergency rooms across the nation has increased to one hour over the last 10 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Back in the late 90s, the average time to see a doctor was 38 minutes. If the average amount of time to see the doc is one hour, it means that many patients wait far longer than an hour before the doctor walks into the room.

But seeing the doctor is just the beginning, and the total time it takes to get through the entire process is often excessive in the eyes of ER patients, and that is a source of irritation for them. Depending upon a variety of factors, many of which occur after the patient sees the doctor, an ER visit can last several hours.

A visit to an emergency room involves several steps, including:

  • signing in
  • being triaged to determine how serious your problem is
  • seeing a doctor
  • getting whatever tests completed that may be ordered
  • after the diagnosis is made, being treated
  • being admitted to the hospital or released when all is said and done

Obviously, the more serious your problem the quicker you need to be seen by a doctor. If you have chest pain or have serious injuries from a traffic accident, for example, your triage rating is probably a 1, and you go first. If you have a sprained ankle or a cough, your triage rating is a 3 or a 4, and you go to the back of the line. To the person suffering the pain of a sprained ankle, or the parent of a child with a bad cough or some painful but not serious injury, a triage rating of 3 or 4 might seem too low, but there are well developed criteria for those ratings, and they are designed to get the most seriously ill or injured patients to the doctor first. If you have a minor problem in a busy ER, you have a long wait ahead of you.

Even after you are seen by the doctor, there’s a chance that your wait is just beginning, as you may require additional tests and perhaps some diagnostic imaging to find out what is wrong with you, and those take time; the more traffic in the ER, the longer the tests will take.

Many factors complicate a visit to the ER and affect wait times and slow progress in emergency rooms, such as fewer emergency rooms in the United States, which have dropped from 4,900 to 4,600 over recent years, the news story told us. And there has been an increase in the number of patients seeking treatment in ERs, and that includes a high number of patients who use the ER in place of a primary care physician, even some who cannot get a timely appointment with their own doctor and may go to the ER instead.

Furthermore, physician shortages exist in some medical specialties, and this situation is magnified in rural areas. Sometimes the ER visit is extended because it may be difficult to find a physician who specializes in a patient’s problem who can come to the hospital. Even a doctor is available, it takes a while for the him or her to get there. So, if you go out for a jog at 7 on Sunday morning and break your ankle, there may not be an orthopedic surgeon on call that day to come in and repair the fracture. And sometimes after a patient is diagnosed and treated, if he or she needs to be admitted to the hospital, there may not be a bed available. Nationally, the number of hospital beds is limited, we learned.

When people are sick or injured, they want and expect to be taken care of quickly and competently. However, a visit to the ER is more complicated than many people believe, and it has gotten more complicated over the years. And, some of the complications in emergency rooms are caused by people. In this day and time every patient that walks through the door is a potential litigant, and when things don’t go as expected a lawsuit may result. Consequently, doctors and hospitals attempt to shield themselves from lawsuits by ordering additional tests, or tests not normally associated with the patient’s complaint, in order to cover themselves in case litigation results.

The time it takes to get in and out of an ER is not likely to grow shorter any time soon. Increased ER traffic, fewer ERs, physician shortages, and defensive medicine practices show no signs of abating, and until they do, ER visits will take a long time.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Five Years is not a Long Time
to Establish a Stable Government

Iraq was the wrong place, at the wrong time, for the wrong reason. So goes a hackneyed phrase from a few years ago. We can disagree on whether attacking Iraq and taking down Saddam Hussein was warranted or not, and some will cling to the argument that “Bush lied, people died,” and that the administration manipulated intelligence to show that Saddam Hussein’s regime had weapons of mass destruction in order to justify the war.

But this view is contradicted by the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Silberman-Robb Commission. Not only did every significant intelligence agency in the world believe Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, but the Duelfer report created after the invasion concluded that he maintained the capability to produce them on short notice. Furthermore, it said there was abundant evidence of contact between Saddam’s regime and terrorist groups, including al-Qaida. Given Saddam’s hostility to the United States and his defiance of multiple United Nations resolutions, American leaders had every reason to believe he posed a grave threat. Removing him removed the threat.

Furthermore, there is an important factor concerning Saddam Hussein himself. The Left assumes that because no WMD were found Saddam would not have used them if he had them. They put the focus on WMD, not Saddam Hussein. But this idea flies in the face of history: Saddam used WMD against the Kurds not so many years before the war.

When you look back to the situation at the time, Saddam Hussein was hostile toward the U.S. and possessed the capability to produce and the inclination to use chemical and biological weapons.

But that is all water over the dam, and as my son often says, we have to “live in the now,” and the “now” is that we are in Iraq, have made a huge investment in that country in military personnel, lives and money, and are well on the way toward establishing a stable, democratic government in a part of the world where democracy and personal freedom are not only rare, but are looked upon with disdain by the dictatorial rulers that control much of the Middle East.

The troop surge has worked pretty well, despite Barack Obama’s silly refusal to admit it, and things are definitely moving in the right direction. No serious person would assert that establishing a stable democratic government in the Middle East is undesirable.

But the American people have become an impatient lot; we have been taught through decades of relative ease to expect instant gratification, and when things don’t fit our expectations, some of us lose our will. After five years in Iraq our patience is waning, and some are ready to admit defeat.

But historically the United States is more resilient than that. Following the unprovoked Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor we went to war against the Nazis and the Japanese and defeated them. In the ‘60s, we put men on the Moon. And following the vicious attacks of 9-11, just seven short years ago, we roared with one loud defiant voice, and declared war on terrorism. What has happened to our sense of perspective and our national character since then?

While there are those who always opposed the war on principle, many critics of the Iraq war are recent converts who are largely motivated by their dislike of George Bush. Their Monday morning quarterbacking benefits from 20-20 hindsight. But if you read history you know that war is not predictable, and that serious mistakes have been made in every war, so far.

Why should “Bush’s War” be any different, unless Bush is super-human? So, Bush hatred, impatience, and perhaps a lack of historic perspective combine to show that many Americans mistakenly expect the evolution of a stable government in Iraq to occur in a few short years. Certainly, they say, five years is plenty of time. But it is far more complicated than that.

The passage of several years between escaping an oppressive ruler and establishing a stable, democratic government has at least one very strong precedent. The United States declared its independence in 1776, and our country was formed on March 1, 1781 with the adoption of The Articles of Confederation. That took five years, just like Iraq has so far. But the Founders’ first attempt failed. The Articles did not work very well, so they went back to the drawing board and created the Constitution of the United States in a contentious and lengthy process.

By the time all was said and done, 13 years had elapsed between declaring independence and the final establishment of a governmental form stable enough to survive.

It took a few years more to see that the new government was, indeed, solid and dependable.

For some reason, many of us expect things to move faster in Iraq, with all its attendant difficulties, than when the United States was formed, and some are ready to throw in the towel in Iraq after just five years. But that isn’t long enough, and we need to stay in Iraq and finish the job.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Galbraith Effect
Thomas Sowell
Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Many years ago, when I was a college student, I took a course from John Kenneth Galbraith. On the first day of class, Professor Galbraith gave a brilliant opening lecture, after which the students gave him a standing ovation.

Galbraith kept on giving brilliant opening lectures the whole semester. But, instead of standing ovations, there were now dwindling numbers of students and some of them got up and walked out in the middle of his lectures.

Galbraith never got beyond the glittering generalities that marked his first lecture. After a while, the students got tired of not getting any real substance.

Senator Barack Obama's campaign this year reminds me very much of that course from Professor Galbraith. Many people were ecstatic during the early primaries, as each state's voters heard his glittering generalities for the first time.

The media loved the novelty of a black candidate with a real chance to become president, and his left-wing vision of the world was largely their vision as well. There was a veritable media honeymoon for Obama.

There was outrage in the mainstream media when ABC anchor man Charles Gibson asked Obama a serious question about the economic effects of a capital gains tax. Who interrupts honeymooners to talk economics?

The fact that Senator Obama did not have a very coherent answer made things worse-- for Charles Gibson. Since Obama can do no wrong in the eyes of many of his supporters, they resented Gibson's having asked him such a question.

The question, incidentally was why Senator Obama was advocating a higher capital gains tax rate, when experience had shown that the government typically collected more revenue from a lower capital gains tax rate than from a higher rate.

Senator Obama acted as if he had never thought about it that way. He probably hadn't. He is a politician, not an economist.

Politically, what matters to the left-wing base that Obama has been playing to for decades is sticking it to "the rich." What effect that has on the tax revenues received by the government is secondary, at best.

What effect a higher capital gains tax rate will have on the economy today and on people's pensions in later years is a question that is not even on Senator Obama's radar screen.

Economists may say that higher capital gains tax rates can translate into lower levels of economic activity and fewer jobs, but Obama will leave that kind of analysis to the economists. He is in politics, and what matters politically is what wins votes right here and right now.

The kind of talk that won the votes-- and the hearts-- of the left-wing base of the Democratic Party during the primaries may not be enough to carry the day with voters in the general election. So Senator Obama has been changing his tune or, as he puts it, "refining" his message.

This was not the kind of "change" that the true believers among Obama's supporters were expecting. So there has been some wavering among the faithful and some ups and downs in the polls.

Despite an impressive political machine and a huge image makeover this year to turn a decades-long, divisive grievance-promoting activist into someone who is supposed to unite us all and lead us into the promised land of "change," little glimpses of the truth keep coming out.

The elitist sneers at people who believe in religion and who own guns, the Americans who don't speak foreign languages and the views of the "typical white person," are all like rays of light that show through the cracks in Obama's carefully crafted image.

The overwhelming votes for Obama in some virtually all-white states show that many Americans are ready to move beyond race. But Obama himself wants to have it both ways, by attributing racist notions to the McCain camp that has never made race an issue.

The problem with clever people is that they don't know when to stop being clever-- and Senator Obama is a very clever man, perhaps "too clever by half" as the British say. But maybe he can't keep getting by with glittering generalities, any more than Galbraith could.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

by Dr. Jack Wheeler

The O-man, Barack Hussein Obama, is an eloquently tailored empty suit. No resume, no accomplishments, no experience, no knowledge of how the world works, no balls, nothing but abstract empty rhetoric devoid of real substance.

He has no real identity. He is half-white, which he rejects. The rest of him is mostly Arab, which he hides but is disclosed by his non-African Arabic surname and his Arabic first and middle names as a way to triply proclaim his Arabic parentage to people in Kenya . Only a small part of him is African Black from his Luo grandmother, which he pretends he is exclusively.

What he isn't, not a genetic drop of, is 'African-American,' the descendant of enslaved Africans brought to America chained in slave ships. He hasn't a single ancestor who was a slave. Instead, his Arab ancestors were slave owners. Slave-trading was the main Arab business in East Africa for centuries until the British ended it.

Let that sink in: Obama is not the descendant of slaves; he is the descendant of slave owners. Thus he makes the perfect Liberal Messiah.

It's something Hillary doesn't understand - how some complete neophyte came out of the blue and stole the Dem nomination from her. Obamamania is beyond politics and reason. It is a true religious cult whose adherents reject Christianity, yet still believe in Original Sin, transferring it from the evil of being human to the evil of being white.

Thus Obama has become the white liberals' Christ, offering absolution from the Sin of Being White. There is no reason or logic behind it, no faults or flaws of his can diminish it, no arguments Hillary could make of any kind can be effective against it. The absurdity of Hypocrisy Clothed in Human Flesh being their Savior is all the more cause for liberals to worship him: Credo quia absurdum. -- I believe it because it is absurd.

Thank heavens that the voting majority of Americans remain Christian and are in no desperate need of a phony savior.

His candidacy is ridiculous and should not be taken seriously by any thinking American.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Oh! How Awful!!
We Are So Ashamed!


I'm an embarrassment to Barack!

I only scored 18 on the Obama Test


I'm an embarrassment to Barack!

I only scored 19 on the Obama Test

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Spinning the Economy into a Tailspin

Item 1.

June pending home sales up unexpectedly

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Home sales contracts signed in June unexpectedly rose across the country to its highest level since October, but still were well below year-earlier levels, a real estate trade group said on Thursday.

The National Association of Realtors said its Pending Home Sales Index, which is based on contracts signed in June, was up 5.3 percent to 89.0 from a downwardly revised 84.5 in May.

It was the highest reading for the index since October, when it was at 89.8.

Item 2.

U.S. July Retail Sales Slow, Hurting Back-to-School

Aug. 7 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. retailers' sales rose in July at the slowest pace in four months because of higher fuel and food costs.

The world's largest retailer said August sales may rise 1 percent to 2 percent following a 3 percent gain in July, while Costco Wholesale Corp. posted a 10 percent increase.

U.S. retailers' sales at stores open more than a year grew 2.6 percent last month, the smallest gain since March, the International Council of Shopping Centers said today.


Okay. In Item 1, the National Association of Realtors revised its June home sales contract projection downward to 84.5 in May, reflecting its negative perception of the market. But in June, actual home sales contracts were higher than that. Surprise!

One might expect this contrary activity and the fact that contracts reached their highest point since October to be positive news, no? Maybe it would have prompted those making projections to question their method. Instead, we get a negative twist to the fact that home sales contracts were up, not down.

In Item 2 the sentiment clearly is: “Sales are up. Oh, woe is me.” These numbers may not be reason for celebration, and the fact that the numbers are lower than previous months is certainly relevant. But does this situation warrant the negative twist being applied to it?

These are two good examples of the negative bias appearing regularly in the media, an industry whose charge is to tell us the unvarnished truth, not some reporter’s perception of the truth, or even some housing or retail insider’s perception of reality, without adequately labeling it as such.

Maybe it’s because we have too many news outlets with 24-hours a day to fill with content, or maybe it’s because we have journalists who have either mis-learned or were mis-taught the expectations of their craft, or maybe it’s a combination of the two, but mis-reporting of events like this has a definite effect on the masses who think they are getting the straight poop.

Poop it is, but straight it ain’t.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Congress Vacations
While Americans Suffer

Undaunted by polls showing that a majority of Americans want action to get the price of gasoline and diesel fuel down — one showing that a mere 14 percent approve of what Congress is doing on the energy issue, and another reflecting only single-digit approval levels for the national legislature — lawmakers headed out of town Friday afternoon, leaving their constituents behind suffering under high fuel prices while they take five weeks off.

The energy dilemma must be addressed, or else we will continue to be at the mercy of a tight oil market and the whims of OPEC, and the sooner we get started, the sooner we will get prices down and achieve energy independence.

Republicans want to begin oil exploration in areas that are currently prohibited by Congress, including the eastern Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic and Pacific coastal regions, and underground areas, and President Bush has lifted the administrative ban against drilling in those areas. Democrat leaders vehemently oppose lifting the ban.

Part of the Democrat plan is contained in two bills, one of which is the “Drill Responsibly in Leased Lands (DRILL) Act” (H.R. 6515), and the “Responsible Federal Oil and Gas Lease Act of 2008” (H.R. 6251). West Virginia Congressman Nick Rahall, Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, claims that “both bills would get the oil industry off its duff and get it to start producing oil from the 68 million acres of federal land, both onshore and offshore, for which it already possesses leases.” That’s not exactly true. H.R. 6515, commonly referred to as the “use it or lose it” bill, duplicates existing legislation; oil and gas producers already operate under binding, statutory time limits for their leases. For onshore production, the Mineral Leasing Act stipulates that an oil company must have a producing well within 10 years, or else surrender the lease, and for offshore production, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act stipulates that an oil company must produce energy within either five or 10 years, or else surrender the lease. Efforts to enact this bill are therefore a waste of valuable Congressional time and energy.

Oil companies are exploring the unproven areas under lease, but that is a very slow, costly, and iffy process, as oil producers try to guess where in the leased areas oil can be found. Oil reserves do not exist in all leased areas, and oil producers will certainly drill many expensive “dry holes” in the attempt to find oil. Drilling in the prohibited areas is a far more certain, and therefore less expensive, process because we know there is oil in those areas, and that increases the likelihood of finding oil each time a well is drilled. Aside from trying to pass unnecessary legislation, force oil producers to explore existing leased areas, and continue to block drilling in the prohibited areas, the Democrats’ strategy for getting us to energy independence is to focus on developing alternative energy sources.

Everyone understands that we must develop alternative energy technologies, of course, but wind, solar and the other alternatives are far, far from ready to replace oil, and it will be many years before they will be able to have a significant impact on energy use.

However, alternative energy technologies have the support of environmental groups, who are interested in ending the use of carbon-based fuels immediately and unconcerned with the pain and economic damage that will cause.

The environmental lobby has a lot of money to throw into this initiative, thus a lot of influence on Capital Hill, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and a fair number of elected representatives are “sensitive” to the desires of environmental groups. They view high fuel prices as the mechanism that will finally convince Americans that we must abandon gasoline and diesel fuel in favor of cleaner technologies.

Thus, Congressional leaders are content to ignore high fuel prices, and focus on forcing the country move to alternative energy sources now. But this is a foolish concept. To paraphrase an old campaign slogan, “It’s the supply, stupid.” The key to bringing down fuel prices is increasing the supply, and when we begin aggressively going after oil in areas where we know oil exists it will send a message to the other oil producers that we are serious about increasing domestic oil production, and that puts downward pressure on oil prices, even though actual production may be a couple of years away.

On the other hand, when we delay seeking new oil and instead dilly-dally over whether or not to pass unneeded legislation and obstructing the oil companies’ search for oil, a different message goes out to the world’s oil producers, which is that the United States is hopelessly mired in a disagreement about what to do, and that enables them to continue to make life difficult for us by controlling the supply of oil on the market, keeping prices high.

Americans are suffering from high fuel prices, and want something done about it, but Congressional leaders prefer to take a vacation. The people may have the last word on Election Day.

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Monday, August 04, 2008

Well, I'll Be Darned!!!!

It appears that I've been had, and thanks to Jules for letting me know.

I usually am more suspicious of such things, particularly the political ones, but the one about Mars becoming spectacular this month got right by me.

Sorry about that, folks. I should have noticed the part where it said Mars would appear as large as the Moon. That won't happen unless we are about to crash into Mars.

I'll be more careful in the future.

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