Saturday, April 28, 2007

Off to See the Wizard

Four United States Presidents get caught up in a tornado,and they are whirled off to the land of OZ.

They finally make it to the Emerald City and go to find the Great Wizard .

"What brings the four of you before the great Wizard of Oz?"

Jimmy Carter steps forward timidly.
"I've come for some courage."

No Problem!" says theWizard. "Who's next?"
Richard Nixon steps forward.
"Well, I think I need a heart."

"Done!" says the Wizard. "Who comes next before the Great and Powerful Oz?"


Up steps Bush.

"I'm told by the American people that I need a brain."

"No problem!" says the Wizard. "Consider it done."

Then there is a great silence in the hall. Bill Clinton stands there, looking around. He doesn't say a word.

Irritated, the Wizard finally asks, "Well, what do you want?"


Saturday, April 21, 2007

Calhoun on Liberty, Taxes and Progress

John C. Calhoun (March 18, 1782 – March 31, 1850) was a leading United States politician and political philosopher from South Carolina during the first half of the 19th century. He served as state Senator, U.S. Representative, Secretary of War (under under James Monroe), Vice-President (under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson), U.S. Senator and Secretary of State (under John Tyler).

"Now, as individuals differ greatly from each other, in intelligence, sagacity*, energy, perseverance, skill, habit of industry and economy, physical power, position and opportunity — the necessary effect of leaving all free to exert themselves to better their condition, must be a corresponding inequality between those who may possess these qualities and advantages in a high degree, and those who may be deficient in them.

"The only means by which this result can be prevented are, either to impose such restrictions on the exertions of those who may possess them in a high degree, as will place them on a level with those who do not; or to deprive them of the fruits of their exertions.

"But to impose such restrictions on them would be destructive of liberty — while, to deprive them of the fruits of their exertions, could be to destroy the desire of bettering their condition.

"It is, indeed, this inequality of condition between the front and rear ranks, in the march of progress, which gives so strong an impulse to the former to maintain their position, and to the latter to press forward into their files. This gives to progress its greatest impulse."

-- John C. Calhoun, "Disquisition on Government," (published posthumously, 1851)

*sagacity - "acuteness of mental discernment and soundness of judgment"

Friday, April 13, 2007

From Sublime to Foolish

In a scene from the Tom Hanks movie The Green Mile, miracle-worker John Coffey describes how a killer made a little girl be quiet and not sound an alarm when he took her sister: "He killed them with their love. With their love for each other. That's how it is, every day, all over the world." (Quick wrap-up of the movie: the killer murders both of the girls, but receives justice later.)

Love is an emotion that is basic to humanity. It takes a special kind of psychopath to turn something like that into a weapon to be used against innocents.

Likewise, freedom and justice are principles basic to humanity and civilization. Freedom and justice are virtues universal enough to be written into the U.S. Constitution, and form the backbone of our country.

Now those same virtues are being used against us. Recently, a
misquided soul has written a series of letters to a smalltown newspaper, promulgating the fact that he hates George W. Bush, Republicans, Conservatives, everything they do, and all they represent.

His latest tirade deals with habeas corpus, and a recent move by the Senate to limit the ability of Guantanamo Bay detainees to access U.S. courts. The U.S. Supreme Court
recently ruled against a GB detainee's access.

There are too many details to go into about this, but one thing the abovementioned myope, and others who feel as he does, chooses to ignore is that these people were captured trying to kill Americans at war.

The tactic they want to use -- and which is oh-so-clear to me -- is to use our own systems against us. The GB detainees want to choke the court with cases, subpoena-ing the President, Vice President, Secretary of Defense et al, in order to disrupt the government. Meanwhile, they'll be able to get headlines every day as the press rushes to report every tidbit of scandal they can gather or make up. As we've seen in the Duke lacrosse "rape" case, the press doesn't need facts in order to run a story.

(Sidequote on the press: "The press supplies an endless stimulus to popular imagination; the press lives upon heat and coarse drama and incessant restlessness." The Conservative Mind, written by Russell Kirk in 1953! Some things never change.)

Likewise, the imams want to 1) Tie up the courts with their lawsuit; 2) Use the specter of a charge of racism to dull the senses of the citizenry's watchful eyes; 3) Push the envelope as much as possible, testing our security so much that abnormal activity is considered normal.

As wonderful as our society is, as well as our system of government (while recognizing its flaws), the US Constitution, as someone has said, is not a suicide pact. We must find a way to fight attempts to corrupt our system. Otherwise we're simply acting like
Wells' Eloi while the Morlocks devour us and our way of life.

Ten Men at Dinner

Note from KW: This is an old, often-used parable that you may have read before. I recently heard someone refer to it, and thought that with tax day approaching, and the presidential campaigns starting to buzz, it deserved posting.

Sometimes politicians, journalists and others exclaim; "It's just a tax cut for the rich!" and it is just accepted to be fact. But what does that really mean? Just in case you are not completely clear on this issue, I hope the following will help. Please read it carefully.

Let's put tax cuts in terms everyone can understand. Suppose that every day, ten men go out for dinner and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1.
The sixth would pay $3.
The seventh would pay $7.
The eighth would pay $12.
The ninth would pay $18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that's what they decided to do. The ten men ate dinner in the restaurant every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve.

"Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily meal by $20." Dinner for the ten now cost just $80.The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still eat for free. But what about the other six men; the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share?'

They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to eat their meal. So the restaurant owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same proportion, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so:

The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% savings).
The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28% savings).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to eat for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.

"I only got a dollar out of the $20," declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man, "but he got $10!"

"Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than me!"

"That's true!!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!"

"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.The next night the tenth man didn't show up for dinner, so the nine sat down and ate without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start eating overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Other People Say Smart Stuff, Part IX

"[T]he only thing we can say with certainty about climate is that it changes....Looking back on the earth's climate history, it's apparent that there's no such thing as an optimal temperature—a climate at which everything is just right.

"Much of the alarm over climate change is based on ignorance of what is normal for weather and climate. There is no evidence, for instance, that extreme weather events are increasing in any systematic way, according to scientists at the U.S. National Hurricane Center, the World Meteorological Organization and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change..."
-- Richard S. Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in a recent Newsweek article.

Pro-American Muslims

I recently discovered the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), a group whose mission statement reads as follows:

"We proud citizens of the United States of America join together as devoted and patriotic citizens and as devout Muslims in this forum in order to serve as a vehicle for the discussion and public awareness of the complete compatibility of America’s founding principles with the very personal faith of Islam which we practice."

That's what I've been waiting for: a group of Muslims who denounce and renounce the terrorism practiced by the Islamo-fascists (and those who aid them) who are so dominant on the world stage.

Among those who I classify as aiding the terrorists is the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Among other things, CAIR is representing the group of six imams who were put off a US Airways flight in Minnesota because of their suspicious actions (see here and here.)

The imams are suing US Airways for discrimination, and in a move full of chutzpah, also suing the passengers who reported them. (Although they deny this, the language is still in their lawsuit.) As I mentioned previously, I think this lawsuit is designed to soften up the American system for future attacks by intimidating watchful citizens who would report suspicious actions.

This is, as are all cases about citizens' rights, a balancing act. The imams -- as well as all Muslims, or any other group -- have the right in America not to be discriminated against by virture of their race, religion, etc. This right, however, pales compared to the right of all of us not to be killed.

This does not mean that Muslims have lost their rights. It's just that, in a post 9/11 world, when Muslims (or anyone else, for that matter) act in a way that can be perceived by a normal, rational person as suspicious, they're lowering the level of their rights. They can't afford to be as arrogant and presumptuous as they might normally be in asserting those rights. And from all indications, the imams were acting very suspiciously, if not provocatively.

In recent weeks I've been working my way through Russell Kirk's book The Conservative Mind. In a section about Anglo-Irish political theorist Edmund Burke, Kirk notes that all rights come with correspending duties. If the imams want to enjoy their rights as American citizens, then they need to remember that they also have duties to their fellow citizens; those rights do not exist in a vacuum.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Privatized Fire Department

This video made the rounds at our office last week. As each person read it, a burst of horrified laughter erupted into the quiet office atmosphere. Those of us who had already seen it nodded in recognition.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

En Passant: True Wealth

I've decided that when it comes to a definition of "true wealth" -- worldly wealth, not spiritual wealth -- I have two definitons:

1) True wealth is having the most choices.

2) True wealth is when you can make decisions without having to take finances into consideration.


Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Bracket (conclusion)

After two weeks of my being in first place, my bracket died a quick death a few days ago. Who knew that North Carolina was going to fold, scoring only one measly basket the last twenty minutes of basketball that they played?

I still had a chance, but Ohio State had to lose. Needless to say, guess who won and is in the championship game?

The worst part is that I didn't really care about it when I entered, paying my $5 as a lark to be "one of the guys." After being in the lead after the first weekend of play, though, I got greedy and wanted it all.

Now I just want it all to be over. I'm going back to reading books.

Finally, a Role Model for Our Kids