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Archive for the ‘In the news’ Category

WE can’t fix Islamic terrorism…but I know who can

Posted by Euroranger on November 16, 2015


Here we are again…bodies of innocents in the street.  Entirely predictable too.

So, the world suffered yet another terrorist attack a couple of days ago in Paris.  Six separate but coordinated attacks conducted against targets like a soccer match, a concert hall, restaurants and cafes.  They killed 129 people (so far) and wounded over 350 others and the only common denominator amongst the victims was that they were citizens of a western democracy and they were out to have a good time.  In other words, they weren’t attending some anti-Muslim rally or reading a newspaper whose comic section poked fun at some subject militant Muslims get all shooty/stabby/explodey about.  There’s a fair chance, in fact, that some of the dead people were Muslims themselves.  The targeting was deliberate; the slaughter of victims indiscriminate.  As happens in the now wired, always in touch, constantly connected world we live in, when the first news reports started showing up minutes after the attacks started, I reacted in the same way that the vast majority of people did.  I said, “goddamned Muslims again”.  It happened back on 9/11 as well.  First reports of a jet liner hitting the World Trade Center made me think “Osama Bin Laden” but I wasn’t fully there yet.  But when the second one hit, it was cemented.  One plane could be a tragic accident but a second one was an attack and the first person most people immediately thought of was Bin Laden: the leader of the most well known Islamic terrorist organization in the world at the time.  If you were old enough to remember that attack, you’ll probably also be old enough to recall that a second possible perpetrator of that kind of horrific mass murder never even came to mind.  Fast forward to this past Friday and the same thing happened.  First thought to pop into my head: Muslims.  There literally wasn’t a second place runner up finalist and I suspect the vast majority of people reacted exactly the same way.

So, militant Islamic fundamentalist terror has struck yet again.  It’s happened so many times now that it literally defies an accurate accounting of incidents.  France immediately reacted by shutting down international transportation and closed her borders.  That’s how a nation state reacts when it starts to go on a war footing.  Because ISIS (those merry Muslim assholes who are slaughtering and terrorizing their way to a better and brighter Islamic tomorrow in what used to be Syria and Iraq) claimed responsibility for the attacks, France immediately counter punched the only way a nation state can: it launched a military attack against targets in the areas that ISIS controls.  However, we all know that this is merely symbolic and that this response, while absolutely necessary to sate the righteous desire of the French people for some kind of vengeful action, will do absolutely nothing to prevent more such attacks in the future.  NOTHING about this French response makes anyone anywhere actually think “well, we’ve seen the last of THAT kind of murderous madness”.  We all know it’s just a tit for tat response and an ineffective one at that…but it’s the only thing a nation can do…and it’s inadequate.  So today, if you turn on the TV, this issue is morphing from a news flash/current events kind of incident to a catalyst for a debate on “what to do about terrorism” and more properly, “what to do about Islamic terrorism”.  One of the most compelling questions I read (via Facebook) was someone asking (and I’m paraphrasing here) “what can we do about this kind of thing without destroying civil liberties”.  When I read that, it made me really think.  Just asking about the peril to civil liberties suggests why we have, so far, been unable to affect Islamic terrorism.  I think I understand the problem and I think I have an answer.

We (western democracies) can’t fix Islamic terrorism…but I know who can.

Whenever anyone starts to discuss Islamic fundamentalist terrorism the very first thing you’ll hear is how we can’t penalize all Muslims for the actions of a few.  According to the mighty Google, there are nearly 1.6 billion Muslims in the world and anywhere from 15% to 25% of them would be classified as “radical” or “fundamentalist”.  That means there are as many as 400 million people on this planet who support the erasure of western civilization and culture (because that’s what we are to those people…we’re “infidels” or unbelievers and deserving of death and eradication).  That’s more people than the entire population of the United States and Canada combined so it’s a number worth recognizing as posing a serious and continual threat.  Furthermore, those 1.6B and 400M people aren’t confined to a tidy geographic area like a nation with borders.  They’re scattered throughout the world.  Yes, there are roughly 50 nations whose populations are predominantly Muslim but for the most part you can find Muslims and by extension radicalized, militant Muslims all over the world.  As of right now, the number of terrorists who conducted the actual attacks in Paris is EIGHT.  On 9/11, it was NINETEEN and Al Qaeda tried to send TWENTY SIX in total.  That’s it.  Eight attackers in Paris and nineteen on 9/11.  Think on this a moment: less than 30 people actively conducted attacks against the United States and France in those two incidents…and there are FOUR HUNDRED MILLION SUCH PEOPLE IN THE WORLD.  September 11 revealed gaping intelligence holes and since then, our government has gone on a rampage of establishing invasive and onerous intelligence programs designed to get wind of future such attacks so that we can pre-emptively act to thwart them.  Paris itself was attacked less than a year before by Islamic terrorists though and, presumably, France has similar efforts set up to monitor communications and try to identify and neuter such sinister efforts by would be terrorists.  Western governments share information they gather and France would have received such information had national intelligence organs in the UK, US, Germany and other western nations twigged to an upcoming attack.  The fact that France was caught totally unawares says that these terrorists met, plotted and coordinated in a way that was mindful of skirting the intelligence apparatuses of the western democracies.  There was no acquired intelligence that any government was capable of gathering that would have warned French authorities in time to prevent these attacks.  This leads to the conclusion:

Western governments and government in general is not the source for the solution to Islamic terrorism.

Pictured above: doing absolutely jack other than deluding themselves thinking they’re doing something about the problem.

Earlier I identified the civil liberties conundrum: a government cannot pass laws or regulations that target all Muslims in their populations without shredding civil liberties laws.  That said, that WOULD BE THE ONLY EFFECTIVE MEANS FOR A GOVERNMENT TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM.  It would look something like this: label Islam as a hate group (much like the KKK which has Christian underpinnings), overtly make clear that national intelligence and police organs are actively keeping an eye on Muslims (like the FBI does with white supremacist groups and members), emplace and enforce laws that allow greater police latitude in dealing with such groups and members (relaxing 14th Amendment restrictions against unlawful searches, for example) and so on.  The problem is that to do this, you pretty much have to shred the 1st Amendment’s prohibition about making any laws restricting the free exercise of religion.  This, of course, cannot be done.  So, if government can’t do the job, who can?  Well, think a moment: who stands to lose the most if Islamic terrorism goes unchecked?  Not western democracies because once fundamentalist Islam gets big enough to actually threaten the existence of nations, they get big enough to get dealt with militarily.  Not the suicide terrorists themselves.  They’ve already accepted death as their ultimate reward for their actions.

The real player who must act in their own self interest against fundamentalist Islam…is the rest of Islam itself.

The lack of electronic intelligence that preceded this attack means that the plotters likely met in person, probably many times, to scheme and plan their villainy.  Western intelligence organs already know this (especially the French) but for the rest of society: where can a bunch of Muslims meet, talk, go someplace secluded in our midst where they can exchange ideas for how best to slaughter their neighbors without fear of being detected or leaving a telltale electronic trail?  Their local mosque.  In fact, authorities have already identified a mosque in Belgium where, they say, most attendees were radical, fundamentalist Muslims.  This means that the would be terrorists do a fair amount of their organizing and plotting within the confines of their local mosque…in close proximity to other, non-radical Muslims.  Thinking about your own church (for those of you who go) we all know the “normal” folk and we all know who the quiet, distanced, or angry and strident members are.  We know who are new attendees and who are old familiar faces.  In other words, the rest of the attendees would have a fairly good idea who, in their midst, would be likely to be plotting mayhem and mass murder.  The real issue then is: what can government or society in general do to encourage moderate Muslims to police their own ranks and out these murdering bastards before they strike?  The answer would be: when society in general comes to regard ALL Muslims as criminals and terrorists and shuns them and excludes them accordingly.  In other words, when society begins to discriminate against all Muslims because of the actions of a few of their number.  And this WILL end up happening eventually.  Just because our leaders are so concerned with political correctness that they refuse to identify our foe doesn’t mean that individuals in society who do won’t eventually become the majority.  A Charlie Hebdo cartoonist draw a series of panels on Instagram this past Friday night (same night as the attacks) and he said in part in one panel “Terrorism is not the enemy. Terrorism is a mode of operation. Repeating ‘we are at war’ without finding the courage to name our enemies leads nowhere.”  This is a fundamental truth: we cannot begin to act against those who would deny us our freedoms and our lives if we can’t even collectively scrounge up the testicular fortitude to point at our victimizer.  What needs to be understood is this: there are still too many among us that are willing to trade insipid Tweets or Facebook posts or leave flowers or a teddy bear or a burning candle in a pile on the ground and think that such will do a single damn thing about the problem.  The time for “saying a prayer” or “standing with” the victims or our leaders “deploring” or being “shocked” and every other single inane and ultimately useless statement or gesture needs to come to an end.  Substituting grim and resolute action with inanities and symbolism only says to the terrorists, “you haven’t yet slaughtered enough of us for us to get around to dealing with you effectively”.  It’s us saying “the lives of the victims didn’t matter because we’re not outraged enough to effectively and seriously act”.  More people need to die for us as a collective society to actually act.

The solution, then, is to act individually.

It’s time to quit being cowed by those who would call a person a “racist” or an “Islamophobe” for deciding to shun or avoid the company of Muslims because they (the Muslims being shunned) refuse to collectively act to police their own community.  It’s time for the rest of us to effectively say “if you refuse to scour your community for these assholes and serve them up to our collective societal justice system, then you’re condoning their actions…agreeing with what they’re doing…and in so doing, you’ve decided to side with them against the rest of us”.  For myself, if someone sides against me, they’ve pretty much removed themselves from my social circle and I need have nothing to do with them.  I write this having friends who are Muslims and this troubles me for saying it.  But the point at which society will finally, collectively act will cost too much in the lives of past, and worse future, victims for me to wait.  If you’re Muslim and you’re reading this: I’m sorry.  So very sorry.  But Muslim voices ARE and have been silent on this.  You practically never hear about a terror plot being foiled by other Muslims coming out and reporting the would be killers of innocents.  You know who those people are in your community and your silence is their cloak of anonymity.  They actively use you and yours as shields to their activities…and you allow it.  This is a choice YOU need to make: side with our collective society and act to protect it…or side with them.  You are best positioned to do this.  It’s finally time you stepped up and took responsibility.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this post.

Posted in History, In the news, On the web, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

October-geddon

Posted by Euroranger on October 4, 2013


Oh look…it’s our economy under the leadership of Hopey McChange.

I’m not a self-important man.  I’m not a petty or boastful fellow.  I’m not so convinced of the superiority of my intellect and/or common sense that I disdain others’ opinions automatically.  I can and have been known to be wrong (if you consult the lovely and talented Mrs. Ranger she will enthusiastically confirm this).  I actively police my opinions for such personality flaws.  I do try and “put myself in the other guy’s shoes” and try and discern the merits of opinions I don’t necessarily share.  Because of all that, I’m going to write this post to memorialize something I’m about to say that, I believe, will turn out to be probably (sadly) prophetic:

Obamacare will seriously gut this country’s economy

I’ll keep this brief (and I really mean it this time).  All I’m going to do is to spit out a few facts of my own personal situation and then make a few observations and leave this here so we can all either come back and laugh at it later…or wonder why, if I was so damned prescient, didn’t I play the Powerball.

I am a married father of 2 kids living just outside of Atlanta, GA.  Our ages are 47 (me), less than 47 (Mrs. Ranger), 13 (Ms. Ranger), and 11 (Mini-Ranger).  None of us smoke or are morbidly obese.  We have a health insurance policy that I secured via eHealthinsurance.com that I pay $4665 per year in premiums that features a prescription drug plan and has a 20% co-pay and $3500 individual deductible.  It’s with a reputable highly rated company.  It’s not cheap and the coverage is, by no means, one of those “Cadillac” plans we’ve been hearing the President and his parrots in the mainstream media snorting derisively at.  I’m a middle class guy earning a middle class paycheck and this is the health insurance coverage I can afford.  Obamacare, as pretty much all of you by now have heard, started a few days back (October 1).  I’ve had coverage so I never really concerned myself all that much the dire doom and gloom warnings we’ve all heard about the economic Armageddon we’ll all get cordially invited to when the entirety of the the ACA (the soon-to-be-widely-recognized-for-its-immense-irony named Affordable Care Act, aka: “Obamacare”) kicks in.  That said, I got a letter in the mail from my carrier the other day inviting me to partake of a one time opportunity to reset my current health policy to a December 1 inception date (so that it runs from 12/1/13 to 11/30/14) for a mere monthly premium increase of $40.  I looked at this letter and wondered “why the hell would I volunteer to pay nearly $500 per year more for the same coverage I already have”?  It was then that I came across an online forum wherein a poster (we’ll go ahead and safely and with little real debate refer to him as “f***ing idiot”) was crowing about what a great thing Obamacare is and will become.  To prove what a great thing it is, he helpfully posted a subsidy calculator (check it out here: http://kff.org/interactive/subsidy-calculator/) to tell you how much “free money” you’d qualify for to help pay for your healthcare due to the changes coming with Obamacare.  Needless to say, because I worked hard, went to school, got an education and then actually worked at many and several jobs over the years…my family doesn’t qualify for a subsidy.  Oh well, I thought, that’s hardly surprising.  But what I read further down the page on that site after I entered my details really took me by surprise.  It told me that the predicted cost for an unsubsidized premium for a “silver plan” (read: “worse than the plan I currently have”) would be $9780 per year.  Let me say that again: for worse coverage (in our case, higher deductible and coverages we don’t need, don’t use and don’t want) we can expect to have to pay 109% MORE THAN WE DO NOW!  Even their cheapest plan coverage level, “bronze”, comes in at a predicted $6656 per year or just a 42% increase (and with much, much worse coverage).

It’s almost like he’s talking to every voter who cast a vote for Obama…oh well, the 1%’ers will now be the people with good paying jobs AND healthcare. Way to go you f***ing ignorant illiterate idiots.

Well, after I emptied the outrage-inspired crap out of my trousers, I said “to hell with predictions, let’s go quote a policy and see what I can find”.  So, I went over to eHealthinsurance.com (where I bought our last two policies) to see what I could get for a quote today.  Cheapest that I can quote now is $7104 per year and that’s with the deductible getting jacked up to $6350 per person and going to a 30% copay. That’s a jump of 53% in a single year…and that’s literally the cheapest private option on that site for us for much worse coverage.

Just to summarize: I’ve been “invited” to extend our current coverage and pay an additional $500 per year to do so but because of the absolute crap premiums I’m staring down due to Obamacare, that’s actually a great deal.  The absolute best I can hope from, from what I’ve been able to discern just earlier today, is a jump in my family’s health insurance premiums of at least +40%.  Let me be clear here: this isn’t predictions or estimates or “according to statistics from blablabla”.  This is the actual, no shit reality me and my family is facing as a direct consequence of this country voting for Barack Obama as our president.

That’s the best case scenario…and I get absolutely nothing more for that huge outlay than I’m getting today.  To put it another way: my already tight budget is going to need to squeeze out an additional $2000 in 2014…all so someone else can have what I have but didn’t bother to work for to afford.  And this is merely the best part.  We didn’t even discuss what employers are going to do when this shitstorm hits.  Companies are already turning full time jobs into part time jobs (cutting hours and pay) because the employer mandate says the employer only needs to pay the health care premiums for full time employees.  It’s pretty mercenary of an employer to do that but hey, this isn’t their idea, is it?  Employers do what the economy dictates and this law dictates that full time employment will now become an elitist, status symbol…ironically driving even more people to the public dole than Obama has managed to do in his first 5 years in office.

The American Dream officially died today people…and you have Hopey Hussein McChange to thank for it.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.

Posted in In the news, On the web, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Comfort in Wisdom

Posted by Euroranger on September 17, 2013


2012 - 2013 arctic ice sheet

Remember when the Arctic was gonna be ice free soon due to Global Warming? Yeah…about that. Never mind. L to R: Arctic sea ice coverage 2012, 2013. In case yer a GW fanboi, the right pic is what’s known as “more” and not “less”.

If, like me, you were trolling around on the internet within the past 4-5 years you likely ran into an article or forum conversation regarding global warming.  Remember those days?  The world was heating up so drastically that within 30 years the Great Plains would be a desert, Venice would be under 10 feet of water and the Arctic would be a summer paradise?  Droughts, floods, famines, wars, environmental apocalypse was virtually at the door and that we needed to ACT NOW TO SAVE THE PLANET!  Remember all that stuff?  Remember how, if you didn’t simply automatically swallow the “hundreds of peer reviewed scientific studies” that proved Global Warming (or “GW” at the time for the in-crowd cool kids) was a thing and that it was undoubtedly linked to increased CO2 emissions by modern human civilization, that you were a global warming denier, didn’t believe in science, was likely some kind of fundamentalist anti-science wingnut?  Remember the “good old days” of being a tree hugging concerned leftist and how absolutely sure you were that anyone who opposed your views on this subject were simply evil, degenerate idiots who lacked the smarts to agree with your views because…”science”?

I hope you remember those days because, well, they’re kind of gone…again.

It all started just a few years ago with actual skeptical people (which apparently didn’t include a whole lot of scientists unfortunately) observing that, hey, it hasn’t gotten warmer where I am.  Those folks were told (you evil, degenerate idiot you) that local conditions vary but, by the-God-we-don’t-believe-exists-but-whose-name-makes-swearing-a-lot-easier, Global Warming Climate Change (the new and improved accepted term because evil, degenerate idiots kept pointing out all the “warming” holes in the theory) was real because SCIENCE (and you’re a stupidhead if you don’t automatically agree).  Then someone who also wasn’t as smart as all the patchouli smelling hipster kids pointed out that the temperatures on Mars was also rising.  Naturally, he too was shouted down as a troglodytic Luddite (even though he was a scientist) because “[h]is views are completely at odds with the mainstream scientific opinion,’said Colin Wilson, a planetary physicist at England’s Oxford University” (because it’s not actual science that determines fact but the consensus of a group of people).  I mean, sure, human produced CO2 emissions MUST be the cause of rising global temperatures (even though there are pretty much zero people on Mars…since Gary Sinise left in the alien spaceship anyway) and definitely NOT because the Sun (the giant ball thermonuclear fire that burns at around 27 million degrees at its core) was in a more active than usual cycle (remember kids: CO2 > enormous ball of nuclear fire next door…when it comes to what makes the planet hotter).

And surely you remember being the fool who was chided for looking smug when the whole “Climategate” scandal broke.  You know…that event where hackers got hold of thousands of emails from scientists who were convinced that GW/Climate Change was occurring as a result of human activity and that, unless we radically changed our entire society (pretty much just western society which actually contributes the minority of the CO2 but hey…don’t get stuck on facts NOW) we were all GOING TO DIE?  Yeah, you recall that.  Remember how prior to that scandal one of the issues skeptical people had with this whole cabal of scientists shrieking from the rooftops of all the ivory towers how this was all going to be one enormous environmental disaster was that they wouldn’t grant access to the data they were collecting, wouldn’t honor freedom of information requests so skeptics could truly look at the raw information to see if these dire predictions were true and how the scandal exposed emails wherein the scientists were worried about how to spin observations that showed their “climate models” that were all apparently forecasting global annihilation weren’t jiving when they should be…and that those findings should simply be ignored or maybe put through a algorithm that would churn out “acceptable” data that would jive better with their models?  Remember how if you pointed at that and said that such activities aren’t those of people on the up and up and that perhaps a less biased, less fueled-by-millions-of-research-dollars studies MIGHT be a better idea…that you were once more pilloried for being a backwards, delusional fool?

Chicken Little press conference.

Pictured above: someone who rational, level-headed people probably wouldn’t trust with a forecast of the future OR the latest demiGod to those on the left who seem to exist solely for the purpose of wringing their hands over the latest manufactured crisis-du-jour. Either or.

Anyway, remember all those good old days of…just 3 years ago?  Yeah, well, turns out, if you were thinking with your own brain and thought that taking the word of a bunch of leftist organizations who seemed a whole lot more interested in how to leverage the scare about Global Warming into a socialist wealth redistribution scheme via “carbon offset credits” wasn’t a sound basis to frantically be doing the scientific community version of Chicken Little…step up to claim your prize.  Turns out that an early report leaked from the IPCC (the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) is trying to figure out how to spin revelations that all those peer reviewed studies who were all in lockstep uniformity just 20 years ago that predicted global temperatures would rise by 0.2C (a big number on a global scale)…had only risen 1/4 of that (0.05C).  Yeah, it seems that of those 117 studies who all uniformly foretold climate doom back in the 1990’s…that were the backbone of the entire Global Warming/Climate Change crowd…only 3 were even remotely close and 114 (that’d be a whopping 97.4%) weren’t just wrong but, on average, overestimated the amount of global warming that actually ended up happening by more than 200%.

What does this have to do with wisdom though?  Only this: wise people realize that a new field of study that suddenly gains enormous prominence, the attention of the entire globe and sees hundreds of millions of research dollars being handed out to anyone willing to conduct a global warming study MIGHT be susceptible to influence, bias and corruption because (get this): scientists are people too.  People are subject to the same weaknesses and sins and scientists are no exception and scientists AREN’T machines incapable of mistakes or outright lying…they’re people just like you and me.

Does this settle the idiocy of the ever panicking leftist crowd vis-a-vis Global Warming/Climate Change/the Sky Is Falling?  Of course not.  You’d have to believe that facts and subjective thought have any effect on such thinking and, subjective observation long ago ruled out that theory.  What it does do though is to re-affirm that cooler heads (not an intended pun but an apt one nonetheless) are called for and, in this instance (as in most others), those who say “stay the course, let’s see if this is real or not” turned out, yet again, to be right.

Let’s be entirely clear here for a moment: the globe DID get warmer.  There seems to be a lot less proof now that CO2 or other greenhouse gasses are to blame for the rise than was previously thought but the fact still remains that we did get warmer.  Also, regardless of whether there is a human origin for such a rise it’s still a good idea to move our economies away from a fossil fuel basis for energy supply (and towards cleaner, renewable sources).  This is simply a good idea even minus the typical hysterical climate reasoning.  What skeptics like me have always said is that while we need to move towards those goals, there is no emergency thundering toward us that should stampede us collectively into stupid, half-baked solutions to problems that don’t really exist.  And that’s why wisdom, sometimes, is comfortable.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this post.

Posted in In the news, On the web, Politics, Science, Weather | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The difference between Left and Right

Posted by Euroranger on August 22, 2013


…and just like kid’s shoes, the two sides work better when they’re closer together than when they’re miles apart.

This brief post will be about politics.  Not politics in specific, though, but the political spectrum in general.  We all choose political sides on issues.  Some of us choose them on specific issues and because the sides sometimes switch between topics we like to think of ourselves as “free thinkers” or simply not being entirely aligned to a political “side” for what passes for politics in the United States these days.  Some of us have a “hot button” issue that then directs us to support the opinions of the political party on other issues that champions our view on our dearly held issue.  Regardless, there are two basic sides in America and we all arrive there via some means of thought or value process.  In all fairness, what I’m about to discuss isn’t a new concept and isn’t breaking any new ground but with revelations over the past couple of years, is, to me, a lot more stark example of where the origins of thought are when discussing how people in our single country can be so politically polarized as we appear to be.

I believe the genesis of someone’s leaning in one direction or the other comes down to one value: “confidence“.

In general terms, it is the level of confidence in one’s self to be able to succeed with varying degrees of government “help” to do so.  If you feel that you can be successful without the government lending a hand you tend to lean one way.  If you feel that you need the government to “level the playing field” for you in order to enhance your chances of success then you tend to lean another.  Now, understand, most people don’t hold opinions wholly in one direction or wholly in another…it tends to be a shade of grey somewhere in the middle…but in general terms, I believe a individual’s confidence (in more than just themselves) is what starts the leaning in opinion in one direction or another.  In fact, going back to the first example (the level of confidence in one’s self to be able to succeed with varying degrees of government “help”) it’s also a measure of which do you feel more confident in?  You or the government?  Now, because I, like everyone else, has a political opinion, how I describe that may unintentionally convey a leaning in and of itself.  That’s unavoidable but being aware of it should explain any received bias, if any.  People who identify themselves on the political “right” in this country would probably tend to say they prefer to rely more on themselves and less on the government for their success in life.  People who identify themselves on the political “left” in this country would probably tend to say that not all people are equal but that everyone should have an equal shot for success in life and see the government as the means to enact such “balance”.  In shorter terms, people on the Right tend to trust in themselves overcoming obstacles to success more while people on the Left tend to trust in the government to remove obstacles to success for them.  In even shorter terms than that: people on the Left tend to have confidence in and trust the government more than people on the Right.  With this value in mind, you can look at nearly every political issue in terms of that balance between confidence and trust in yourself and confidence and trust in the government.  Thinking on that theory for a moment, consider some of the news of the past few days and realize that there is a change underway in this country.

One of those news items was this: welfare pays more than a minimum-wage job in 35 states, creating little incentive for Americans to take entry-level work and likely increasing their long-term dependency on government help.  That’s a fairly stark statement and, for this country, has never occurred before on a scale like this.  What it means is that our government is taking so much from those who work and giving so much to those who don’t that the incentive for those who don’t work is to not even consider working in first place.  Wealth (individual as well as collected wealth) in this country is generated by those who work.  Our entire economic system is based on the productivity of the American workforce and the rest of the planet, like it or not, is reliant on the American economy.  This percentage of people in poverty who are living at the pleasure of government entitlements has exploded in the past several years and shows no signs of abating unless radical and drastic changes are made…and those changes would be painful and very controversial.

The other news item is yet another revelation of how our own government views its relationship with its governed populace and how their view appears to be changingTurns out, contrary to each and every statement denying such by the NSA, the White House press secretary and the President himself, the NSA is, has and continues to spy on Americans who have nothing to do with foreign threats or terrorism.  The trouble with the news article in that link I just posted is that it contains so much troubling content.  The government spying on their own people is one thing.  The government outright lying to the only body that stands between them and the people (the FISA court judge) three times in the past three years ought to be even more troubling.  Keep in mind now, when I say “government” in this context it’s actually more like the executive branch and the legions of bureaucrats that the executive controls and not Congress.  This is alongside the other and previous scandals like the bureaucracy of the Justice Department running weapons into a neighboring foreign country, lying about it, getting caught lying about it and nothing happening as well as the bureaucracy of the IRS actively stifling political speech that would likely be contrary to the political views held by the current executive (President Obama) again with no apparent penalty.  Those, of course, aren’t the only three incidents where it would appear our own government executive branch regards itself as separated from the populace and at least appears as though it has a divine right to rule.  That kind of thing has always been the case but it’s only recently that that same executive, at least via it’s actions, seems to regard the rule of law as not applying to it and, what’s worse (if that’s possible), that the populace it governs is contemptible and possibly adversarial.

Look carefully at this image. That building that looks like a fancy grain silo? That’s the Bastille: the very epitome of a repressive regime. Those people on the bottom? That’s the repressed. Those things they’re holding? Weapons including guns. Situations like the one depicted in this image are the very reason we have a right to keep and bear arms…a right that our own executive branch stands opposed to today.

Obama’s own healthcare law was, by law, to go into effect August 1 (about 3 weeks ago)…and Obama simply said “no, I’m delaying that part”.  It’s the law.  How does the president believe that he has the authority to suspend the law whenever it suits his personal or political whim?

People who remember history or have even watched a passably accurate movie about historical events would remember governments who had agencies called things like “the Cheka”, the NKVD and finally the KGB.  They’d remember such government organs like the private Sturmabteilung (SA) which eventually was superceded by the governmental Schutzstaffel (SS) and went hand in hand with that other famous contemporary governmental agency, the Gestapo.  What all such governments had in common was that they were swept into power by a popular revolution of sorts.  In Russia, it was a revolution against the Tsars, followed by a civil war where the Bolsheviks (who were promising their version of Hope and Change) won with the support of the people.  In Germany, it was the National Socialists who were elected as the largest minority group via the very people they’d turn around and cull from their ranks, the homosexuals, the Jews and every other undesirable via death factories like Dachau (a death camp actually on German soil and operating before the war even started).

In both such recent cases and the case of the American and French revolutions further back in history, the government serving the people was either repressive or criminally inept and corrupt…and so a radical change was made by the people.  The point I’m making here is: all governments come to that point.  No government or system of government is eternal.  China, Greece, Rome, the Pharaohs, various emperors, kings and queens…they’ve all ruled and they’ve all eventually fallen.  Were there governments that didn’t fall?  Of course, but they were the ones who weren’t victimizing their own people to the extent that the people revolted.

The ones that did victimize their people had government agencies to excessively seize wealth and property from their people (agencies like the IRS) and agencies to keep an eye on those people because the government realized that with enough confiscation of the peoples’ money and property, they might get mad and turn their anger against that same government (agencies like the NSA).  Is the United States there yet?  No, and not by a long shot.  However, what the government spends isn’t matched by the wealth the IRS seizes from us individuals.  These days they borrow the money…except the point is fast approaching where they won’t be able to do that anymore and they’ll be forced to either cut back drastically on what they spend (which will cause a revolt amongst those who are dependent on the government handout) or they’ll have to take more from the people than they do (which could also cause a revolt).  In either case, you have the executive branch of this government using both instruments (the IRS and the NSA) to act against the people in a manner that exceeds their prior activities…and for that everyone should ask the simple question: why?

If you have confidence in yourself and not as much trust in the government you may answer that question in a way that matches your values.  If you have more confidence and trust in the government you may get an answer to that same question that also comports with your values but will be almost entirely opposite the answer the first group arrived at.  Regardless, the conditions that Americans face today (a repressive IRS and a domestic intelligence gathering effort by the NSA) are both new things…and if you’re not asking “why the change” then maybe you should start.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this post.

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Sesquicentennial-burg

Posted by Euroranger on July 2, 2013


Monument to the fallen at Gettysburg National Battlefield

I’ve mentioned before that I hold a bachelor’s degree in American history and am fairly well versed with the American narrative but few other time periods of my country’s past are as fascinating to me as the two decades that started in 1850.  One thing that particularly saddens and concerns me is how disconnected from our history most Americans are.  As some or perhaps most of you know, tomorrow is the sesquicentennial of the final day of the Battle of Gettysburg.  It’s usually one of the few events that public social studies education even mentions in particular about the Civil War.  It’s been turned into countless books, movies and documentaries.  Because of this it’s not entirely uncommon to encounter people who know about the military aspects of the battle and, presumably, what it meant.  However, more than the immediate advance and retreat of armies and drawing lines on maps, tomorrow is the sesquicentennial of when America changed from what we were founded to be to what we are today and it’s an auspicious event like this that reveals how much we do and do not know about our own national experience and foundation.  So, is this a post about what happened across a few miles of Pennsylvania farmland one hundred fifty years ago?  Kind of, but only inasmuch as it invites a closer examination for the “why” there was even a Civil War in the first place.  The widely held, public school curriculum explanation was that the war was all about slavery…and on a skin deep, superficial level, that’s true.  It’s as true though, as saying the AIDS epidemic is about a virus while ignoring all the societal and behavioral affects the disease touches or relies upon for it to be the globe spanning phenomenon it is.  So, if you hold the opinion that the Civil War was about slavery, allow me to enhance your understanding a little and, in the process, you might become a more astute citizen of our country and your ancestors.

Slaves. Bad right?

More than slavery, the Civil War was about two economic systems competing with one another for political dominance inside a single nation.  Nearly everyone knows that the South was an agrarian society that used a system of legal slavery as part of the workforce that drove that economy.  In more simple terms, the South was overwhelmingly comprised of farmers, some of whom (less than 15% by 1860) owned slaves to perform the work of farming.  Because of the amount of arable land and climate, mass agriculture in the South was much more feasible than could be done in the North.  The North also had farmers, of course, but the land and climate there didn’t lend itself well to large scale agriculture such as was the case in the South.  So, if that’s what formed the basis of the Southern economy (agriculture based on an indentured workforce), and my premise being that two economic systems were competing, what was the Northern economy doing?  Well, in short, the North was hosting the arrival of the Industrial Revolution which is the process by which an agrarian society transforms into an industrial one.  Initially industrialization in the United States used horse-powered machinery to power the earliest factories, but eventually switched to water power, with the consequence that industrialization was essentially limited to New England and the rest of the Northeastern United States, where fast-moving rivers were located.  Industrialization is all about two things though: using machinery and technology to increase productivity and, to be entirely blunt, Capitalism and the pursuit of profits.  Industrialization in the United States started in earnest around 1810 or so (an important date to remember).  So, at this point, we have slaves in the South and workers in the North, right?  Well, yes, but it’s somewhat more complicated than that.  Most people today think of workers in our contemporary sense and apply that notion to what a worker was in the North at the time.  This is simply false.

Not slaves…but better?

Today we have things like minimum wage, health insurance, workers compensation insurance, workplace safety laws, unions, OSHA, the EPA, child labor laws, unemployment insurance and so on.  Not so back then.  In fact, while people are exceptionally ready to refer to the Southern economy as “slavery” comparatively fewer know the term that was used, in both South AND North, to describe the Northern economy: “wage slavery” and “wage slaves”.  Coincident with industrialization in the North, the United States was also experiencing a veritable deluge of mass immigration from Europe that was capped by three potato famines in Europe which drove people to the United States (particularly Scots and Irish) to flee starvation.  Most of those ships carrying immigrants landed in places like Boston, Hartford, New York and Philadelphia and the people who got off those boats often brought nearly zero wealth with them…meaning they had no means to move very far from where they got off the boat.  Luckily for them (or maybe not) there were thousands of newly minted factories that always needed a supply of fresh workers.  However, workers in the North often worked 14-16 hours per day with only half a day off on Sunday, in appalling and unsafe conditions, for very little wages.  Injuries on the job were common and because workers hadn’t yet organized into unions, wages were the minimum of whatever the factory owner could pay.  If you got hurt on the job you were immediately replaced by another of the seemingly endless streams of freshly arrived immigrants and you were unemployed.  Because mass transit didn’t exist, you likely lived in a tenement house or “slum”.  Entire families were jammed into single rooms and if Dad or Mom was hurt on the job and couldn’t work, oftentimes it was the kids that went to work in their stead (and the factory owner would naturally pay less because they were children).  In short, the Northern economy was in many ways just as bad and sometimes worse than the Southern slave economy.  Of course, there is the perception that the Southern slave owner beat and lashed his slaves, raped the women and broke up families.  That did happen but not even remotely as often as was being portrayed by Abolitionists (people who wanted slavery outlawed) and a simple examination of what a slave meant to a slave owner makes it easy to understand why.

Much better.

The reason slaves were owned by so few people in the South was for one salient fact: slaves were expensive.  A healthy young slave could cost, by 1860, as much as $1000 dollars which at the time was about what it would cost to purchase 500 acres of land.  The importation of slaves was banned in 1808 so the only way to perpetuate more slave workers was to breed them.  This meant that keeping families together would eventually result in more children who would grow into productive labor and produce kids of their own and so on.  In short, slave owners looked at their slaves as an investment…much the same way a farmer of today might regard his combine or harvester machinery.  He paid a lot to acquire them and, if he was anything other than an idiot, he didn’t abuse them or diminish their value to him.  For much the same reason, the typical slave owner fed his slaves, clothed them, housed them and provided access to medical care for them when they were sick or injured.  Starving, naked, exposed and diseased slaves did less work and generated less profit so most slave owners took special care of their investment.  By contrast, the Northern factory owner cared only about profit.  He didn’t feed, clothe or provide shelter for his workforce because he didn’t have to.  If anything happened to a worker, he could always toss that damaged worker and get a new one from the vast pool of immigrants.  What was worse: even if you were healthy and working productively, nothing guaranteed that the factory owner wouldn’t replace you with someone who’d do your job for a penny per day less.  You were always in danger of being paid less and less for the same work you’d always done.  This is, in summary, the reality of the two sides of the Abolitionist debate: agrarian slavery or wage slavery…which brings us to a final political reality that caused the Civil War.

Our political system back then was much less cynical and money-driven than it is today.  The president, the House and Senate were all elected the same way then as now except the notion of “states” and “federal government” was radically different than today.  Back then, the federal government was small and had little effect on the day to day lives of Americans.  There was no income tax, the armed forces were small and we weren’t a Superpower…we were just an upstart nation of less than 80 years existence.  The nation truly was a collection of states UNITED for a common association.  One way of understanding it was that before the war, the term “the United States” was a plural and after the war it was a term that signified a singular.  States rights were very much the order of the day and only by amending the Constitution could that be changed.  Slavery was an institution that was up to each state to determine the legality of not the federal government…unless a Constitutional amendment was passed banning slavery.  This is a concept that some people today believe was a driving force behind seccession…but it’s just not true.  The balance in the United States had been nearly even between states that allowed slavery and those where it was banned.  This is important because, in order to amend the Constitution a two thirds majority in both the House and Senate must approve the amendment before it goes to the states where 3/4 of the states must vote in favor.  On the face of it, this seems unlikely and, to people at the time, it wasn’t really the concern.  By 1858, there were 17 free states and 15 slave.  Even had an amendment passed Congress it would never have garnered the support of 3/4 of the states.  So, what was the issue?  In short, it was fueled by the population surge in the North via immigration.  Each state gets 2 Senators and there is only one president who is elected via the electoral congress meaning that the winner has to “win” states…so on these two counts, the slave states would probably hold their own.  However, the House of Representatives is determined by the number of people that live in a particular area.  Immigration to the North from Europe meant that the census of 1860 would likely shift the number of Representative in the House decidedly to the North.  Back then, bills were introduced almost exclusively in the House which meant, to the South, that any future legislation or compromises that might be proposed to maintain the balance of power between slave and free states would be increasingly likely to be rejected.  In short, mass immigration in the North fueled by industrialization was tilting that balance irreversibly in favor of Abolition.  To most though, this might seem like a reasonable progression.  Since there was a vocal social element that wouldn’t allow slavery to exist un-decried and since the Bible itself (a consideration of monumentally greater affect then) spoke against slavery, it was unlikely that the two economic systems could continue to exist side by side within the same nation.  To many, the South needed only to give up their slaves and embrace capitalism and all would be good.  Except that, for the conditions in the South, capitalism was nearly impossible.

Freeing an entire population of around 3 million people who would then be forced to adopt a lifestyle none of them ever experienced was, even then, recognized as an unmitigated disaster waiting to happen.  People who had never had to search for and retain a job, deal with money, provide for a family, and in many cases even lacked fundamental educational skills such as reading and simple math could never acclimate in the immediacy of the moment that an enactment of Abolition would demand.  To make matters worse, even the Northern states who advocated Abolition in the South cynically put laws in place to bar internal immigration by freed blacks to their territories.  Entire blocks of counties in some Northern states had settlement bans for freed blacks.  Indeed, the average wage slave in the North had no interest in adding to the downward pressure on wages by European immigrants by adding 3 million newly freed African slaves to the mix (who would surely work for less than any white man).  Add to that that banking in the South was sparse and not nearly as accessible as it was in the North.  This meant that even if a potential factory owner in the South wanted to build a new plant and employ people for wages, he lacked ready access to capital to get it done.  Capitalism in the South simply wasn’t possible…and yet, to the South, it seemed the political realities of 1860 were about to force them into an expectedly disastrous transition to capitalism and that the states forcing them to do so wouldn’t even share the burden of the ensuing disruption.  Something that was supposed to be a right of each individual state to decide was ever more appearing to be dictated at the whim of other states who wouldn’t feel the effects of such decisions…which was a radical departure from the system most people regarded the United States at the time as representing.

So yeah, even 150 years ago, we still couldn’t settle political differences without being total dicks to one another.

Secession was literally the only real answer…and in December 1860, South Carolina did just that and left the United States.  The rest of the story is rather well known: other states joined the departure, a new nation was founded, the incoming president decided that the division of the country couldn’t be allowed and so he forced a military incident to spark a war.  For more than 2 years, the Confederacy stayed on the defensive, fighting battles mostly on their own territory against an invading foreign power…until the point came that they realized they needed to punch back while they still had the means to do so and force a final conclusive end on the battlefield in their favor.  And thus, Gettysburg.  General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia had, for more than 2 years, bloodied and stymied the much larger, better equipped but ineptly led Army of the Potomac…with no military resolution in sight.  A swift, hard strike North, capturing a state capitol (Harrisburg), winning a decisive battle and perhaps even capturing the enemy’s national capitol might bring the terrible conflict to an end in favor of the Confederacy.  Lots of history exists detailing just how close the South came to winning at Gettysburg.  Much less known is the waning level of Northern public support for a war they saw few victories in and for a cause many didn’t support (freeing the slaves) and how, perhaps, one more decisive Confederate victory might break the back of the Northern desire to continue the war.  That is what Gettysburg represents: the beginning of the triumph of the North’s system of capitalism over the more populist, agrarian, slavery-based system in the South.

And oh yeah, this is also the 150th anniversary of the fall of Vicksburg which was probably even more important to the ultimate victory of the Union over the Confederacy than Gettysburg was.  Most seem to forget all about Vicksburg because it involved the Union laying siege to not just an army but a city full of civilians and starving them into submission.  Making war on women and children is rarely celebrated though so you can be excused for not being aware of that.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.

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Time for “Connect-the-dots”

Posted by Euroranger on May 14, 2013


Billy C. lying his ass off

Smell my finger. Smells like intern with a hint of “fuck your petty laws…I’m the fucking President”.

I’m going to try and keep this one short and to the point.  Yes, I know, I’ve said such before and that normally precedes a rambling soliloquy that probably ought to come with chapters and probably more pictures (for those of you with Attention Deficit Disorder).  I say “short and to the point” on this one because circumstances have, just this week, conspired to pull aside the nearly omnipresent curtain of time diminishment when it comes to apparently disparate issues that are, in fact, joined but that most think are not.  I guess what I’m really saying is that, for some issues, most people simply don’t get why some of us get all worked up about things because they don’t see how or why the issue, by itself, is such a big deal.  And the reason almost always is: because the issue ISN’T “by itself” at all.  For example, remember when Slick Willy got his willy slicked by Ho-monica in the Oral Office and the huge national debate about the impeachment that followed?  There are still, today, many people (the majority, in fact) that believe the entire impeachment process was about President Clinton getting a blowjob from a White House intern…when, in fact, the issue was that he lied to a grand jury when directly asked that question earlier.  That is: the president of the United States, the guy who stands at the pinnacle of American society, committed blatant perjury in front of a federal grand jury.  None of our jobs require us taking an oath when we accept the job offer.  The president’s does and the part of that oath he takes that says “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution” actually means something.  If we accept that it’s A-Ok for the president to lie his ass off to a federal grand jury then we pretty much say he’s not subject to ANY laws of the land.  That’s not the way America works and in Clinton’s case it wasn’t about the oral sex but that he LIED ABOUT IT and we as a people cannot let even a single instance of presidential law breaking slide.  This week’s example of issues being connected has kind of the same circuitous, but entirely valid and appropriate, logic involved.

By now, we should all know and accept that President Obama’s most recent attempt to neuter our 2nd Amendment rights has and will continue to fail.  Oh, the debate is still going on and those who want to see all of us disarmed in the absolutely laughably utopian result of no gun violence are still out there trying to shame people into supporting their position by saying that by not supporting them we instead support the mass murder of little children.  To Obama and his ilk in this debate, it’s about people “clinging” to their guns for no reason other that some misplaced aggression, some paranoia about crime busting through your door or even as a replacement for a small penis (I have no idea which body part they pick on if you’re a female 2nd Amendment defender though).  In fact, let’s quote Barry directly.  This is what Barry had to say in April 2008 at a fundraising event in San Francisco:

We’ve got a couple of folks who are heading out to Pennsylvania to go door to door with us. And the question was: What kinds of questions should I expect them to get?…The places where we are going to have to do the most work are the places where people feel most cynical about government…You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, Ohio—like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years, and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration and the Bush administration. And each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are going to regenerate. And they have not. So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, and they cling to guns or religion, or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment, or, you know, anti-trade sentiment [as] a way to explain their frustrations.

It’s only “clinging to your guns and religion” when you’re a Christian American. If you’re Muslim, hey, that’s your “culture” and we should be sensitive to that.

So, just so we’re clear here: the reason some of us want to retain our right to keep and bear arms, to Barack Obama apparently, is because times are bad, jobs have fled and the promised “progress” hasn’t reached these folks so they’re frustrated, racist, Christian, country folk.  THAT’S who wants to keep and bear arms and why…to those on the left.  To them, we don’t wish to keep and bear our arms through any actual thought out, rationally explained reason: we’re just jobless, poor, pissed off, Bible-thumping bumpkins.  Unfortunately though, for the anti-gun crowd, this week’s news pretty much illustrates what most of the rest of us actually believe and that is the 2nd Amendment exists as an ultimate means to address the encroachment of our rights by government when that encroachment goes too far.  In other words, when the government becomes despotic the 2nd Amendment means the people have the option (through force of arms) to overthrow that government.  Now, absent any evidence of the government being despotic, that kind of confirms Obama’s description of such people as “cynical about government”.  But like I said, this week put that whole “oh, you’re just being dramatic…the government isn’t like that” kind of leftist dismissal to the lie that it is.

First off, we had the evolving story of the IRS targeting groups whose political beliefs oppose those of the current administration for harassment via increased scrutiny of their applications for tax exempt status and higher than normal levels of audits and such.  Ever evolving in that initially it was explained as overzealous low level workers in isolated district offices but that turned out to be total bullshit with the revelation that the top guy at the IRS was aware of the activities and had been for more than a couple of years.  In short, the government tried to squelch dissenting political views in what we thought was our free society.  But that entire and ever growing debacle was joined today by the news that this same government demanded and got records listing telephone calls for the work and personal phone numbers of AP (Associated Press) reporters and various AP offices.  This was ostensibly done for a government investigation of a leak that lead to a report by the AP last year of a CIA operation in Yemen that stopped an Al Qaeda plot in the spring of 2012 to detonate a bomb on an airplane bound for the United States.

So, in literally successive days, we have our government actively suppressing free political speech of specific groups it doesn’t like through intimidation via our tax collecting apparatus AND violating the law, free speech, freedom of the press and individual privacy rights by seizing phone records for individuals that might have been associated with publicizing a story the government didn’t want told.  In both these cases, direct violations of the law were made by members of our government acting on instructions from someone higher up in our government…and all to suppress constitutional rights that the government found inconvenient.  In summary, we have government acting against entirely legal organizations solely due to the activities of those organizations being contrary to the pleasure of the existing administration.  This isn’t the first time this has happened.  Back in the 1970’s this identical situation was called Watergate and it lead to the one and only resignation of a sitting president (Richard Nixon).  Back then, the left was up in arms over the government disregarding the law and rights of organizations (like the DNC).  Time to find out if the left was outraged over the actual abuses…or by who committed them.

So, yes gun grabbers, some of us DO see a direct correlation between our 2nd Amendment rights and the fear (now somewhat more justified than before) that our government may one day decide that our rights are superfluous and disposable.  It can’t happen, you said last week?  How about now?  How many examples of our government acting like our individual rights are merely guiding principles and not the very foundation of our country does it take before you agree “we the people” need a means to address that?  Exactly when do these government excesses become enough to acknowledge that our Founding Fathers weren’t misguided idiots when they presumed our (the peoples’) need to protect ourselves one day from our own government?  Guess what, that was a rhetorical question because I don’t care what YOUR opinion is of where that imaginary line is in your head.  I just place my faith in the guys who did the hard and revolutionary work that built our country and not the dismissive assholes that dysfunctionally mismanage it today.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.

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Ask Your Doctor If Sequesterol® Is Right For You

Posted by Euroranger on March 15, 2013


Godzilla...minus KY.

“Graahhrr!!!”
[“Bite the pillow. I’m going to love you now…vigorously”.]

So, here we are in Sequester-land.  It’s not so bad, right?  I mean, all the advance hype about it from some quarters would have led one to believe it would rate on the enjoyment scale somewhere between being boiled alive and being date raped by Godzilla.  The government hasn’t collapsed.  The world continues to turn.  Western civilization hasn’t collapsed in on itself despite the promised Armageddon that would result when the Air Force wouldn’t be able to purchase $10,000 toilet seats for their aircraft.  Barry did close the White House to tours but almost immediately backpedaled on that idiocy when he realized that closing the People’s House to tours claiming budget strictures (and blaming the Secret Service in the process) was laughable when we were also still spending money on his weekend golf outings (think “commandeered Air Force aircraft”).  In fact, spitting in school groups’ faces (the ones who’d planned months in advance and spent a fair amount of money to travel to Washington D.C.) is just one facet of the president’s plan to make the mandatory budget cuts hurt.  Memos have since surfaced at the Interior Department, the Department of Agriculture and at Homeland Security instructing managers to cut back on services visible to the public, presumably to underscore their point that the government can’t possibly function without a daily exponentially increasing amount of tax money.  It seems kind of obvious, after the first week anyway, that the public won’t tolerate this kind of underhanded political gaming and so the forecasted doom and gloom hasn’t appeared and, even when it does, it likely won’t be nearly as apocalyptic as we were all told it would be.  In the meantime, enjoy crapping on the Air Force Gulfstream on the way to your tee off time Barry.  You’d damn well better use that gold plated pooper perch we paid for.

Anyway, something caught my eye today as I was perusing the news.  Barry wants to fund ways to encourage the United States to wean ourselves entirely off foreign petroleum.  Calling it the Energy Security Trust fund, Barry wants to encourage private industry to develop new ways to lower the cost of vehicles that run on electricity, biofuels, natural gas or other non-oil fuel sources.  He proposes drawing $2 billion over 10 years from royalties the government receives from offshore drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf.  Now, those who have read previous post on this blog may recall that I supported not just Barry’s decisive statement about wanting to move America away from a petroleum based energy infrastructure but also Bush’s bold statement during his State of the Union address which is going on…what…12, 13 years ago now?…to move the United States toward a hydrogen based economy.  Both statements turned out to be total politician lies so why does this pronouncement from Barry rate even a comment?  Well, something has changed and that something is that the United States is now nearly off foreign oil or are in a position to be if we decided to do so.  Recent technological leaps and the price of a barrel of crude have made extracting the oil under our own feet a viable activity.  Because of that, the Dakotas these days are booming oil fields and we’re sitting on so much untapped natural gas in this country that some experts suggest that even applying the curve of our ever increasing hunger for energy, we have about 200 years worth of natural gas under our back yards here.  So, Obama’s desire to set up a fund to encourage alternate energy technology sounds great right?  I mean, it’s even revenue neutral (or at least paid for) because it’d come out of the fees the government collects from offshore drilling permits.  Who could be against such a great idea?

All those who remember the Solyndra debacle, for starters.

Cost of White House public tours for one year: $936K
2010 White House state dinner for Mexican president: $970K
You kids wanna see the White House? Go get elected President of Mexico.

Look, as I’ve said before, I’m an American before I’ll accept any other label people like to use to describe their stances on things.  I personally think Obama has been a substandard president and shows the damage that can be done in electing a novice ideologue solely on the basis of race (and yeah, that’s why he’s there folks…unless you think Hope and Change would have worked for a similar white Democrat which we all know it would not have).  But he’s what we have to work with/endure so that’s that.  One of the reasons I dislike him though is that either his naivete about giving public tax dollars to private firms with no strings attached or his bald corruption of giving public tax dollars to private firms with no strings attached who contributed to his campaign as a kickback reward (pick whichever one works for you) is much less effective than simply crafting a tax incentive for such industries.  Why give these firms money we can ill afford to simply give away these days in the midst of Sequesterpalooza when writing a tax refund for successful such firms would be much more likely to, you know, actually produce the results you say you’re after?  The reason why is because Barry is simultaneously locked in an ideological battle with his Republican opponents over how best to form the nation’s financial house such that we don’t end up being Greece or Spain’s bigger idiot bailout brother several years down the road.  Front and center in Barry’s plan to do so is to…raise taxes on corporations.  It’d be kind of hard (even for Barry) to say “raise taxes on corporations” while at the same time saying “give tax breaks to some of them”.  He’s also railed about tax moneys that go to “big petroleum” but it’s those very firms that’d probably be best positioned and knowledgeable about how to create and deploy ways to lower the cost of vehicles that run on alternative energy.

To sum it up: great idea Barry (even if not even a single atom of it is from an original thought) but lousy way to implement it.  Reduce government spending (like maybe demand to know what’s so compelling about lesbians and gay men being fat that the NIH feels compelled to hand out $1.5M in a study to find out), create incentives for private business such that they grow, employ people (maybe even some fat gay ones) and create increased tax revenues…and stand the fuck aside and let America do what it does best: innovate.  Know why we’re nearly energy independent today?  It’s because it now makes good business sense to come up with the new drilling and extraction technologies.  The government had little direct role in encouraging or funding that.  That was nearly all private enterprise doing what it does: serving a need and responding to economic conditions.  Give those companies a tax break for doing the work we want them to do and, by God, they’ll do it.  It’s not like 240 years of history of free enterprise in this country could be mistaken.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.

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Sports are dope

Posted by Euroranger on January 18, 2013


Kind of lends new meaning to the phrase “nut up or shut up” doesn’t it?

I like sports.  I enjoy watching hockey, football, auto racing and a couple of others.  When I was younger I played baseball and football and would have loved to have played hockey except that when you arrive in Canada at age 13 (from Florida via West Virginia no less), you’re already behind the other kids by…oh…12 years or so.  I did learn to skate and did enjoy playing pick up games on the local park’s tennis courts that the city of Mississauga parks and rec flooded each winter.  Point is, worldwide, sport is a big deal.  It’s a socially unifying force.  People who wouldn’t normally have anything to do with one another will sit in the stands next to each other and cheer for their common team.  Being a fan gives people a sense of belonging to a larger group and athletes are elevated to the status of heroes and gods for their accomplishments and mastery of their arena of competition.  Sport, via record keeping, allows us to compare ourselves to our predecessors.  Rushing touchdowns, passing yards, strikeouts, home runs, 100 meter dash times, weightlifting records…they allow us to compare today’s athletes to those of bygone eras.  But you know what?

Professional sports these days is an utter fraud

Amongst all the accomplishments of athletes around the world, one that seemed like it was the most amazing of them all, revealed itself yesterday as the total and complete lie that a lot of people suspected that it was.  Lance Armstrong, the seven time winner of the Tour de France, finally admitted that all of his Tour titles (of which he had already been stripped previously via an investigation) were due to cheating.  Now, let’s be clear, cheating in sports is wrong but there are “levels” of cheating that are wrong-er than others.  Take baseball for instance.  For many years I was a huge baseball fan.  I played.  I watched it on TV.  I’d go with my friends down to Exhibition stadium in Toronto with my $2 left field general admission ticket I’d buy at Dominion and watch the Blue Jays when they were still an awful expansion franchise.  I’d wait in the players’ parking lot for an hour after the game ended and meet the players.  I had a friend who babysat one of the Blue Jays player’s kids.  I got a ride home one time from one of the third basemen even.  Back in those days (the early 1980’s), baseball indeed had cheating.  Spitballs, scuffballs, and corked bats.  Players on base would steal signs from the catcher and relay them to the batter.  If you got caught, the most severe penalty for cheating was to be ejected from the game.  Football, hockey, basketball, soccer also had cheating but cheating there was in the form of holding or offside in football, interference, tripping, and so on in hockey and similar things in other sports.  Those instances of cheating is why referees exist and referees hand out penalties for cheating.  5, 10, or 15 yards field position is awarded to the opposing team in football.  2, 5, or 10 minutes (or even, GASP, game misconduct ejections) in the penalty box are handed out to the offending players in hockey.  Free or corner kicks in soccer and so on.  Sport was born, evolved and long ago recognized that players will always try to find an advantage over their opponents and some will circumvent the rules to do so.  The common thing all cheating in sport had in common back then was that it was something you could witness happening or be able to detect.  You can see a player getting held in football.  You can see a skater getting hauled to the ice in hockey and you can check the ball and detect Vaseline or pine tar or see that it’s been scuffed in baseball.  The offense can be discerned, the penalty for it imposed and the game resumes.  In other words, sports adapted to handle cheating and incorporated it’s own mini judicial system to manage it.

Barry Bonds before and after. Because, you know, some people magically grow enormous muscles and a new Cro Magnon brow ridge IN THEIR LATE THIRTIES.

However, there is a form of cheating that has always been difficult if not impossible to detect and it has now grown to such a degree that it nearly renders the things that make sports compelling, useless.  That is, of course, the explosion of athletes using performance enhancing drugs.  Now, let’s be clear here for a moment: the use of ingested substances isn’t a new thing.  It’s as old as sport itself.  Even the Greeks back in the BC days of the early Olympics would use things like opium juice, various hallucinogens and herbal concoctions to try and gain a competitive edge.  The early 1900’s saw Olympic athletes using things like strychnine, heroin, cocaine, and caffeine to try and boost the performance of athletes.  And starting in the mid 1950s amphetamines began to make an appearance in the amateur cycling world.  I would think that amongst most sports fans these represent a range of what most would call “minor” substances.  Herbs, alcohol and things like cocaine, amphetamines and heroin all exist but for other purposes (clearly some of them are illegal for those other purposes as well) but none of those were specifically created for athletes.  But then, in the late 1950s, that all changed with the introduction of anabolic steroids.  Steroids, in general, synthesize the strength-building properties of testosterone while minimizing the negative health effects.  Testosterone is a natural steroid found in everyone (men more than women) and promotes the building of muscle amongst other things.  However, the human body only produces a limited amount of testosterone.  Anabolic steroids are used to blow right past that natural restriction and allow athletes to build larger, stronger and faster muscles which will give them a strength and endurance edge in some sports.  All the substances I mentioned above are cheating…but steroids have that quality that seems to go over the line for most sports fans.

Which brings me back to baseball and ultimately Lance Armstrong.  I mentioned earlier that I was a huge baseball fan.  WAS.  I quit caring about baseball around the same time the Oakland A’s had “the Bash Brothers” Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco.  Major league baseball has had tandems of home run hitters before but there was just something about those two that pretty much everyone in baseball suspected wasn’t right.  For me, it was that baseball, more than any other sport I can think of, relies upon its history and stats.  When some of baseball’s longest standing records started falling in the late 1980s and at an ever increasing pace, it seemed obvious to me that baseball was allowing the abuse of performance enhancing drugs to sully their rich legacy.  Today if you look at the record books you see the name Barry Bonds has replaced both Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron in some important categories, Roger Clemens in a few others.  Both players, whether actually admitting guilt or not, used anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing drugs to erase the names of players who didn’t.  In fact, my original suspicions about McGwire and Canseco were eventually proved correct.  Both admitted to using steroids back then.  Today, I don’t know or even care about baseball records as they have no meaning.  Who cares how many home runs Barry Bonds hit in a season if the reason he hit them (at THIRTY SEVEN YEARS OLD!) was because it wasn’t him at all but because he was a muscular freak of nature due to rampant cheating?  Baseball does apparently because he’s still the official single season and career home run king…even after he was convicted of obstruction of justice during a government investigation of illegal steroid use.  He couldn’t even properly deny (he never knowingly took any illegal steroids) that was cheating because he had also already been indicted on perjury charges and probably feared that evidence would eventually surface that would fully expose his cheating.  But Lance Armstrong…

But apparently he can win one of the most grueling and physically demanding sporting events not once but 7 times. If that’s what it takes to nail Cheryl Cole, I get it. But still…

What can you say about this guy?  In a sport (competitive cycling) that practically INVENTED cheating via substance abuse we have a guy who, at age 34 won his final of SEVEN Tour de France titles after having survived cancer and the loss of one of his testicles.  Against a field of other athletes, where you can be reasonably assured the vast majority are abusing PEDs and who are years younger, here you have a guy who is missing half his testosterone production and yet not just competing in but dominating his sport.  If you ever needed a living illustration of the old saw “if it seems too good to be true” well, you have it in spades with Lance.  After retiring in 2005 the allegations, suspicions and investigations didn’t stop and eventually enough of his former teammates and enablers had fessed up leaving Lance practically alone in proclaiming his innocence.  Investigations finally determined there was enough evidence of cheating that professional cycling and finally the sanctioning body that governs the Tour stripped Armstrong of his 7 Tour titles in October of this past year…so 4 months later, Lance finally confessed to a long history of using EPO, testosterone, cortisone and human growth hormone, blood doping and transfusions.  And this brings me to the point of why I wrote this:

He admitted doing these things over a period of more than 20 YEARS!

Think on that admission a moment and let it digest.  He admits he started cheating like this in the mid 1990’s.  He was suspected from the very beginning and was tested almost continuously and constantly during his competitive years right up through his retirement in 2005…and he never once, not a single time, tested positive for any of those substances.  To a fan of cycling that means one thing but consider that cycling has access to all the same testing apparatus, methods and techniques that every other sport does.  I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that competitive cycling is a pioneer (right up there with the Olympics) in the field of detecting use of performance enhancing drugs by their competitors.  And yet, despite all that and despite the fact that Lance Armstrong was probably rivalled only by Barry Bonds as being the most obvious abuser of such substances in the history of sports, no test ever actually detected his cheating.  If athletes like Bonds, Armstrong, Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, and a raft of others too lengthy to list here can cheat like this and not get caught, do you think that any professional athlete today is “clean”?  I mean, if you play a sport and someone will pay you to play it and then pay you a whole hell of a lot more to be one of the premiere athletes in that sport and you know that the agencies that exist to catch your perfidy are unlikely to do so…do you think an athlete will pass on that opportunity to make themselves rich, famous and adored by legions of fans?

Until professional sports starts taking an extremely hard line on athletes, it’s clear they’ll never get the upper hand on this kind of cheating.  In my opinion, you need to admit to yourself that you will not catch the majority of cheaters.  You therefore need to make the consequences for ever getting caught so severe that athletes won’t even start to consider doing it in the first place.  For one, a positive test that is verified by a follow up test should mean you’re suspended for one year from competing.  Once you return, testing is compulsory on a frequent and unannounced basis.  Missing a subsequent test or failing it gets you banned for life.  Period.  Further, all contracts for that sport should include a clause that the athlete will forfeit and refund all salary and other compensation to their team should they fail a test and any subsequent contract must be at the sport minimum the first year they’re back from their suspension.  Finally, for sports with a Hall of Fame, all star game or other recognition that you’re an elite athlete…yeah, you’re banned from that too.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.

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I know how to fix gun violence

Posted by Euroranger on January 16, 2013


Not too many days ago, I went through this blog’s posts over the past couple of years and made an interesting discovery: for the most part, I’m getting too damned serious about shit.  I used to be a less caring (read: “younger”) kinda guy and my attitude was that I’d probably be best served confining my attentions to bettering me and mine and our situation.  Lately, it seems that my previous attitude is running head on into a newer “we better start thinking about saving the country” attitude more often than it did before.  I’m guessing that’s probably because the situation for the country and our future seems a lot less rosy than it did just a few years ago and while I’ll get old eventually and revert to wearing Pampers, my grandkids (should my children ever exercise enough indiscretion to flirt with such disaster) will probably be wearing them too…and they’ll have a lot longer to deal with the mess we’re making right now than I likely will.  Case in point is the recent debate over the role of guns in our nation in the wake of the whack-a-doo who shot up Sandy Hook Elementary School a month back.  The overall knee-jerk reaction has been an increase in support for banning guns, banning certain types of guns, banning some kinds of accessories for guns and other assorted bans and things that look and sound like bans.  New York state snuck a ban past their Senate in the dead of night day before yesterday that, among other things, limits gun magazines to a maximum of 7 shots, and in another provision, a therapist who believes a mental health patient made a credible threat to use a gun illegally would be required to report it to a mental health director who would have to notify the state.  President Obama, just earlier today said he wants Congress to pass universal background checks and bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines and used his executive powers to order federal agencies to make more data available for background checks, appointed a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and directed the Centers for Disease Control to research gun violence.   Great ideas, right?  I mean, surely these kinds of measures will fix our violence crisis once and for all, right?  Well, to be brutally honest:

They won’t do a damned thing about violence in general and gun violence in particular

And here’s why:

Every single gun comes with one of these. Application of a finger (not shown and not included with gun) is necessary to operate.

1./  The effort that pretty much everyone is talking about is directed at a class of inanimate objects.  In every fatal shooting, mass or otherwise, there are but 3 components involved: the shooter, the victim(s) and the gun(s).  I don’t think anyone is seriously discussing any measures regarding potential victims (well, actually, that’s not at all true but it’s not on the mass media agenda so it gets ignored).  So that leaves the government and pundits to consider the two remaining aspects.  Addressing one has the option of possibly being effective but more difficult to do (and philosophically problematic) while addressing the other, while easier to do, won’t likely be even marginally effective.  Given that it’s our government acting, you probably don’t need a hint to guess that the government is going to focus on the easy but ultimately useless option: the guns.

Well, why won’t banning “assault rifles”, larger magazines and such work?  Because criminals, by their very nature, don’t obey rules, restrictions or laws.  Let’s face it: if your grand plan is to go out in a blaze of glory and waste as many innocent lives around you as possible, you’re pretty much already contemplating breaking much more serious laws…like murder.  Seriously.  Murder is illegal, has been for some time and the penalties for doing it can be quite severe.  If you don’t believe me, look it up for yourself.  Anyway, if you’re planning to murder a whole bunch of people and the illegality and the prospect for the sanctions against murder don’t deter you, what makes anyone think a misdemeanor or minor felony infraction for using a banned weapon or banned magazine is going to effect your decision?  The truth is, and even proponents of these measures mostly admit such, they won’t.  People bent on murder and mayhem won’t give a flying rat turd for some minor weapons law.  What’s more, the same crowd that tends to think that prohibiting guns will cut down on gun violence also tend to have a large Venn diagram convergence zone with those who will tell you that the war on drugs is useless and should be abolished.  Think about that moment: banning drugs is stupid, useless, expensive, ineffective, hasn’t worked and violates the right to do what you wish with your own body…but banning guns will fix everything.

Right.

So, if banning guns, gun accessories and such isn’t the answer, what is?  For a novel approach, how about we address the actual issue, and that is:

Shown here: the proper way to disarm the criminally insane and prevent mass shootings.

2./  Consider addressing the supremacy of personal freedom over community security when it comes to the mentally ill.  Not once, in my recollection, has a gun gotten up, walked over and shot the everloving shit out of some person…all by itself.  In all the uncertainty there is in today’s world there is one thing you can pretty much take to the bank: gun violence always requires a person to be doing the violent part.  What gun laws truly hope to accomplish is to separate certain people from guns.  It’s just that their approach means that ALL OF US get deprived of our rights and separated from guns when it’s only a small fraction of us who actually need to be separated from them.  That small fraction are the people who are mentally unstable.  Now, I mentioned personal freedom versus community security for a reason and it’s this: have you ever seen the movie One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest?  In short, it was a movie made in 1975 about a book published in 1962 about the antics of an inmate in a psychiatric ward who wasn’t really mentally unstable.  The movie and book are very sympathetic to the cause of mental patients and helped form a public impetus (we’ll discuss Hollywood’s role in all this in a moment) that resulted in the ACLU filing many suits against states and mental health facilities arguing against involuntary institutionalization (read: “getting sent to the funny farm”) and even greatly weakened measures like AOT (“assisted outpatient treatment”) laws which feature preventative institutionalization and forced medication BEFORE they harm someone or themselves.  Today, it’s nearly impossible to commit someone to a mental institution because they have rights.  This is not altogether bad.  There is indeed a compelling argument that people ought not to be deprived of their liberty if they suffer from a mental condition.  That said, if you’re okay with placing the individual’s rights over the rights of the community for a safer society for all…incidents like Sandy Hook and Columbine are prices that society will pay for such largesse.  However, if you are going to respond to such massacres by discussing a curtailment of a person’s rights, should it not be the rights of the people who are doing wrong that should be discussed?

3./  Our society is a gun oriented and violent one and we should consider reeling that back some.  Listen, I play video games.  I’m a gamer.  And I like playing video games that feature combat, things exploding and, in general, mayhem and unimaginable violence.  I like action movies that feature guns and violence.  That said, I like those things in moderation and don’t mold my life and my actions to comport with a world view that the way characters act in video games and movies is something to be emulated in real life.  However, everywhere you turn these days, especially for children, you see violence.  Now, cartoon violence (like a coyote getting outsmarted by a speedy bird and suffering an anvil to the noggin for his failure) has always been around since the earliest days of both film and television and children that grew up in those circumstances didn’t turn into a bunch of crazed mass murdering psychopaths.  But that was also back in the day when kids got spanked in school, had expectations placed upon them, weren’t coddled and told they’re all winners no matter what they do and so on.  In short, back then, kids were still parented and learned that actions have consequences.  Not so much these days.  Since we as a society have decided to not actually directly raise our kids but sort of let them free range grow up any old which way, it may be that we need to revisit obscenity laws and perhaps some small return to censorship.  This, naturally, would be violently opposed by Hollywood who, in perhaps the biggest recent display of colossal irony this week, came out with a list of celebrities who think that guns should be banned/restricted when the movies and TV shows they themselves make a lavish and privileged living from glorify and exploit the violence that guns can wreak.  You see, taking responsibility for their own actions would be absurd and it’s the rest of us who should have our freedoms curtailed whilst they champion their freedoms of speech and expression.

Looking good here Hollywood! A-OK! In fact, let’s make a movie, TV series and a toy merchandise line to sell to kids! Thank God there’s no guns though, right?

And of course that’s fucking ridiculous and, of course, because Hollywood overwhelming supports liberal and Democrat politics, the president neatly skipped over any measures that might have even hinted that Hollywood scale back their 24/7 diet of violence and guns in the entertainment they churn out for society’s consumption.  So, in short, to truly curb gun violence we need to look at who it is that’s presenting the problem, address that problem and get serious about doing so while the other side blithely demands to know why we should even have a second amendment (the right to keep and bear arms).

If, after what I’ve said above, you’re still one of those people let me ask: were you one of the people who shrieked and moaned about how the Patriot Act trampled your rights? Maybe not but many did. Were you one of the ones who didn’t care for the government ordering banks to report deposits over a certain amount supposedly as a measure to curtail drug activity? Again, maybe not. Maybe you’re one of the ones who don’t care for government defined “free speech zones” for people who wish to protest. Maybe, maybe not. Regardless of how you answer on any of those, do you see the government ever relinquishing any of those restrictions on your rights? Ever seen a government spend LESS in a year than in a previous year? Even when we had the surplus not too many years ago, did you see the government go “whoops, took too much money…we’ll give that back”?

I’m going to go ahead and guess you wouldn’t like the government telling you what you can and cannot say or write. I’ll guess you probably wouldn’t like it if the police decided to pull you over and subject you and yours to a cavity search on the side of the road. Maybe if the police claimed they found you were smuggling 10 pounds of heroin in your rectum that you’d like to actually have a trial before being sentenced to life in prison? Or maybe, rather than prison, they decide to simply sell you into a life of slavery. You’d be okay with that? Maybe if you’re a woman you’d like to have a vote?

See, I’ll go ahead and guess that just because the constitution says you have a right to free speech, to not be subjected to unreasonable search and seizure, to a trial by judge and jury, to not be made a slave and allowing women to vote that you will follow that reasoning blindly and fully demand your constitutional rights.  However, would you be cool giving up THOSE rights that mean little to you personally? I mean, if you’re not saying anything then losing the right to free speech wouldn’t mean anything to you personally right? If you’re not a criminal then you really have nothing to fear from warrantless searches of you and your property, right? You’re not a criminal so the right to a trial won’t affect you…so surely you must be okay with jettisoning the 5th through 8th amendments, right? And hey, since you might not be black or a woman losing the 13th, 15th and 19th amendments won’t even affect you.

But here’s the rub: suppose, one day, our dysfunctional government decides that those rights ARE frivolous and superfluous and you don’t need them. Guess which amendment represents the ultimate means to address the loss of the others. The 2nd Amendment was written at a time that Americans were actively revolting against a government that was taxing them without representation, that would seize personal property to house foreign soldiers (3rd Amendment), that forced a government on them for which the people had no say and other assorted affronts. The 2nd Amendment is the only one that not only states a right but then goes further and explicitly declares that the right “shall not be infringed”. No other right takes that extra statement but the second. That’s because the framers had only a single example of a republic to work from when they were modelling ours: the Roman republic. Know what happened to the Romans?

They knew that even as good a system as a republic could falter and the government could turn against its own people. In Rome’s case, the senate handed over power to a strong man (an emperor) when (see if this sounds familiar) they were so gridlocked and their finances so screwed they couldn’t effect a solution via their existing government. The founding fathers likewise knew that no matter how thoroughly they tried to set it up, our government can and will eventually falter…and when governments go bad it’s the people that suffer and its the people that have to do something about it. Ergo, give the people the right to keep and bear arms so that if/when the situation warrants it, they can effect change.

Just because you’re short sighted enough to want to kiss off the only right that has any chance of guaranteeing the rest of them doesn’t mean your decision is wise or even informed. There are costs to trusting people with the power to change their own government when the government one day decides it doesn’t want to change. You can’t have that ability and have it have no repercussions.

Sandy Hook was a terrible tragedy.  The next Sandy Hook will also be a terrible tragedy.  However, if we’re going to start voluntarily giving up our rights for the illusion of security know in advance that the government almost never relinquishes power once it has taken it.  The way to reduce incidents like Sandy Hook is to identify those people whose mental state makes them more likely to commit such deeds and get them the help (or isolation) they and society both need.  Until we get serious about that then the next Sandy Hook is down the road a ways who knows how near or far.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.

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America: Land of the Free, Home of Incurable Terminal Imbecility

Posted by Euroranger on October 16, 2012


Sad Newt

Yep, you really effed it up Newt. I’d say “next time keep it in yer pants” but I already dispensed that advice to Herman Cain.

So, as you can see, I’ve successfully held off posting a political rant for pretty much the entire year.  I didn’t mention the Republican primaries (I liked Newt), I haven’t mentioned the conventions (while I like Clint, if anyone needs a teleprompter more than Barry, it’s him) and I didn’t chime in on the debates (I thought Obama looked smug and Biden is nothing less than a national disgrace).  That all said, the pressure has been building for some time and while I haven’t been busy posting here of late, I have dropped opinions on several sites scattered about the intarwebz tubez and generally pissing people off through the power of, you know, actually being informed.  It’s this late discovered superpower that I’m here to discuss today.  A few minutes ago I had occasion to decide to end a running debate I found myself engaged in on a friend’s Facebook status.  I was happily rebutting ignorance with facts when one of my debating opponents snapped and suggested her point “was to[o] simple for some to grasp”.  I sat and ruminated on her comment for a time before I posted a response assuring her I got her point, that it was based on faulty information and that if being informed was now viewed as some kind of fault or flaw that I’ll simply have to find a way to live with it.  Naturally, she assumed that she had somehow won some kind of internet debating contest and couldn’t resist the urge to post even more ignorant blather which I’ve decided to simply let lie.  After departing the field with the opponent figuratively chanting “nana booboo” to my retreating back, I had a moment to reflect on the general state of affairs these days and have stumbled across a monumental glaring truth:

Many Americans these days are fucking idiots.

Now, now…I know, that seems like a rather shocking revelation but I assure you: my recent experiences reveals this as unmistakable, fundamental, universal, indisputable truth.  It was only this most recent episode that acted like the philosophical catalyst, finally delivering me over the unpalatable hump of my desperate hope that the mass ignorance I encounter everyday was just a freakish concentration localized to the places I occasionally stray online.  Alas and alack, this is sadly untrue.  No, instead, it’s been demonstrated to me so repeatedly that most people are dumber than a crate of anvils that I am now forced to regard such as a Law of Nature (much like gravity, the speed of light and cats always landing on their feet).  However, as this is my blog and I am a patriotic American, I feel a compelling need to expose this rampant idiocy.  To that end, I’m going to recap the subjects of just the last two debate events that I engaged in which covers merely yesterday afternoon and earlier this morning.

Subject 1: Banks are bad

Idiot Occupy protester

Sweet Jebus on a pogostick…the stupid is so intense with this typical Occupy protester, it literally burns.

Now, allow me to state at the outset: I dislike banks.  The reasons for my dislike are myriad.  I cannot fathom that a business that is engaged in the holding, lending and management of other peoples’ money can be as haphazard, careless and error prone as banks are.  We’re talking about institutions who make astronomical profits (BoA, for example made $2.1B in profits…just in three months this year, April, May and June) but who will tell you to your apparently assumed ignorant face that the computer system their teller uses cannot draw the same information their ATM draws and neither again can draw the same info you see when banking online.  It’s data for crying out loud.  It’s not fucking magic.  These same banks will do things deliberately to squeeze every last penny out of their customers (which seems like kind of a counter intuitive thing to do) via shady and inexplicable practices such as processing all debit transactions at the end of the day as a single value before they process any pending credit transactions…and then if your debits exceed your balance (because they haven’t credited your deposits yet) they assess NSF or overdraft fees against each single debit transaction.  Aside from bending you, their customer, over to roger your bunghole, there is no reason to operate like this.  Yet they do.  Anyway, with all that out of the way, there are a ton of people who believe, because it’s the standard party line of Democrats and the Occupy crowd, that the recent housing bubble collapse is all due to banks writing loans to people who shouldn’t have gotten them.  And that’s where the story ends.  Bad loans = blame banks.  It was voiced like this the other day in a comment thread by some anonymous poster:

So how about when a bank gives a $500,000 high interest mortgage loan to an uneducated, low income father of four with no credit check or verification of income. The bank then sells off the remaining mortgage payments to various hedge funds to ensure their profits avoid liability when the man defaults on his payments. 2 years later the man loses his job and can no longer make his mortgage payments and he and his family are fucked.

I chose to engage this particular comment because…well…I’d seen it echoed literally hundreds of times the past few years and I’m fed up that such uninformed ignorance drives opinion in this country.  My initial response:

Eh, you lost me when you said “…and the uneducated, low income father of four APPLIED FOR A FREAKIN’ HALF MILLION DOLLAR LOAN because his personal responsibility and self control had been kidnapped by a bank”. It’s stunning how many people completely skip the part dealing with personal responsibility in even asking for a loan they know they’ll never repay in the first place for things they can’t afford.

I was actually somewhat rude in an additional sentence that followed and regretted posting it so I’m not going to repeat my mistake here.  That said, the initial poster responded:

Ok, maybe a half million dollar loan was a bit dramatic. But to an uneducated man with poor financial management skills even a $100,000 loan may seem payable when realistically he doesn’t stand a chance of paying it off.

Believe me I’m a huge proponent of personal responsibility but when you get a poorly educated man in a room and tell him he can move his kids out of a shitty studio apartment and into an actual house, and that he can have the money now, you bet his judgment is clouded and those mortgage payments seem possible.

I don’t blame banks for wanting their money, I just think they should earn it ethically.

Earning things ethically is something I think everyone can agree on.  However, it was apparent that I was debating someone who lacked any real knowledge of how the housing crisis came to be and this is a very common blind spot with lots of Americans.   So, because he didn’t take offense at my omitted rudeness, I decided to try the oft failing educational route:

Fair enough…but if we’re being fair, let’s be fair all around. Banks made those loans because in 1993 and further in 1999 the federal government told Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to loosen their underwriting standards for the loans they guaranteed low and middle income applicants (and especially those in inner cities) to banks so that those banks would write those notes and, presumably, get such folks into mortgages and out of leases.

This was done after a fairly racially charged campaign alleging banks wouldn’t write mortgages for minority applicants despite there not being a place asking for race or ethnicity on the application form (such being banned by the Fair Housing Law of 1968). In essence, banks were encouraged to write loans whose applicants would not normally qualify for such per their underwriting rules because of the increased risk of default. The federal government, in a move to pander to those voters, essentially overruled sound business sense and ordered the FMs to guarantee those loans so the banks wouldn’t be left holding the bag and would be encouraged to issue such loans.

There were no additional responses by the guy I was exchanging with so I don’t even know if he saw it.  However, in this campaign season we’ve all heard the oft trotted out mantra by Obama that Republicans are all for the rich at the expense of the middle and lower class and that Obama believes the failure of the banking industry and the subprime loan crisis is entirely the responsibility of the banks and thus requires more federal oversight.  Very few people appear to know that prior to the mid to late 1990’s, the home mortgage industry was on ridiculously solid ground.  They had long tested and proven actuarial data that informed their loan underwriting practices.  Then along comes Bill Clinton and, in the interest of pandering to minority voters, ends up having Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac adjust their underwriting policies for FHA backed loans (banks wrote the loans, the FMs insured them) so that banks would increase their lending to minorities.  Essentially abandon sound business lending practices in favor of politically based practices, make the federal corporations (the FMs) assume all the risk and reap the electoral benefits.  However, as was expected and predicted by many at the time, all the new underwriting policies did was allow banks to write loans to people they normally would not have offered them to and, ironically, enough even though the entire scheme was designed to see more minority home ownership in low income neighborhoods, a study by the federal reserve concluded that it didn’t end up affecting those ownership rates at all.  All we got out of it was a glut of bad loans whose collapse was only staved off due to ever increasing property values.  Once those values stopped accelerating, people found themselves unable to pay and so, rather than have a housing foundation built on sound and proven business principles, it was built on speculation and consumer confidence.  It was destined to self destruct and it did.

So, monkey with sound business practices for short term political minority favor = people getting loans they couldn’t afford, shouldn’t apply for and when housing prices eventually imploded, the wealth accumulation vehicle of the middle class (home equity) gets virtually annihilated.  And rather than fess up that it was their idiotic pandering for minority votes that started the entire debacle, the Left in this country conveniently blames the banks…forgetting the government’s urging and complicity.

MLK, Jr.: lifelong Republican

Whoopsie.

Subject 2: Republicans hate minorities/are racists

This is one that’s entirely foisted upon the right by the left.  It’s a lot like the first Obama/Romney debate: all the negative political ads define the other guy and so some people (most people?) regard the targeted candidate as being as he/she was described in the negative ad and then when they’re actually exposed to the candidate some say “wow, that’s not at all what I expected”…and then those who were predisposed to dislike him anyway claim he’s flip-flopped on issues and/or he’s a liar.  I’m never at a loss to be disappointed in the total inability of many supposedly capable adults to discern their own inability to think critically and just simply swallow whatever the latest slogan du jour is from their particular party.  Much like how Democrats are portrayed  by some as Godless atheists (although mainstream media never lets that out over the airwaves), Republicans are always anti-minority no matter what.  This was the crux of the exchange I enjoyed this morning on Facebook.  The original topic was that campaign signs for Romney were disappearing from lawns and one friend had had their mailbox vandalized the same evening they planted a Romney sign in their yard:

And for your friend Doug, threats to shoot and shooting candidates has been going on for a very long time. In my lifetime we had George Wallace shot while running for president. Martin Luther King assassinated and Bobby Kennedy assassinated while running for president. I might add they were all Democrats but NO ONE EVER accused the the Republicans of conspiring to do these dastardly deeds. These things are done and committed by lone loose cannons just as in the case of Gabby Giffords. They are nut cases or irrespponsible people just playing pranks. They usually do not represent the candidates on either side. I have worked on enough campaigns than I can even count and it has happened since time immemoriam. It is a sad and dark side of campaigns and believe me it happens on both sides. Neither side is a sainted and neither side is full of that kind of scoundrel. There is enough guilt to go all around.

To which I replied:

MLK was a candidate?

I did that because so many people who identify themselves as Democrats make a very common error.  In truth, I was kind of baiting the one who commented seeing if she would bite.  She did:

Just majoy [major] figures in the Dem. Party at the time that had a tremendous empact [impact] on the politics of the day.

And so, with the fish swallowing and the bait in the mouth, I set the hook:

Um…about MLK, Jr. being a Democrat. He was a registered Republican as were nearly all blacks in the south at that time. I hear that one trotted out a lot and the standard line of how Republicans don’t care about the black folk (which would come as a rather large surprise to both MLK, Jr. and Lincoln).

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 for instance…better than 80% voted in favor by Republicans in both houses of Congress but only 62% by Democrats. Voting Rights Act of 1965 was much the same: supported by a 94% vote by Republicans, only 73% by Democrats. It wasn’t until LBJ and the 1964 Democrat congress began passing out money via welfare, Medicaid and such through the War on Poverty that blacks switched whole-heartedly to being Democrats.

Now, was I a troll to maneuver this clueless woman into this conversation?  Maybe.  But the intent was to expose and possibly educate people about a fairly common misconception.  The facts are that blacks were overwhelmingly Republican right through the mid-1960’s.  Republicans, ever since their very founding, were about rights for the black man in America.  That issue was literally their major founding principle.  Equality for all.  In addition to equality for all races, Republicans were the party of women’s suffrage as well.  Susan B. Anthony, the very champion of women voting, was a staunch Republican and derived the vast amount of her political support from the Republican Party…so when you also hear about the Republican “War on Women”, well, this is another example of how taking a stand on one or two issues is conflated by a hostile and biased media into something much larger, more sinister and essentially entirely fraudulent.  Anyway, having delivered the pertinent facts about who it was that was responsible for not only freeing the slaves but sponsoring and passing civil rights legislation, you’d think that those facts would have some impact on the fish.  Well, you’d be wrong.  I was presented with an entire non-sequitur (meaning, it wasn’t related whatsoever) and then, my failing to see the obvious connection of the two totally unrelated events was described as “Evidently to[o] simple for some to grasp“…implying that I lacked the requisite smarts to see the relationship where none existed prior to the moment I corrected her incorrect claims with actual facts.  It was at this point that I pretty much shook my head and mourned that this woman, who likely doesn’t call a local sanitarium “home”, will undoubtedly take her ignorance to the polls and using that as her guiding principle, will cast a vote.

The election...it's pretty much like this.

The election…it’s pretty much like this.

I’ve done this kind of thing on FB quite a bit.  I see a reposted crock of shit political zinger by my friends and I correct them when the lie is so egregious and I see people posting the text equivalent of nodding in agreement.  I’m like the Don Quixote of Facebook.  And yes, I chide my friends on the right for their excessive, facts-bereft zeal when they indulge as well (although, in all truth, the things they take Obama to task for are fairly starkly established facts like the debt and deficit and such).  And yeah, I DO need to find a better hobby.

But in the meantime, my point is this: we have an election coming up.  We have two viable candidates and, in my personal opinion, neither is worthy of being the town dog catcher much less president of the United States.  However, we need to choose one of them and, again in my opinion, we ought to be looking at established facts.  Candidates will lie their everloving ass off to get that extra vote so I don’t hold to much of what a candidate claims he’ll do if elected/re-elected.  Congress is where legislation is introduced, debated and passed.  The president merely signs them into law…so much of what either Romney or Obama promises they’ll do is so much crap.  There are lots of facts to be found regarding either candidate and yet despite those facts, the primary driver of who will win the election will be how well they perform in two more debates (and perhaps the September jobs numbers that are due to be released just 4 days before the election).

So, to all Americans who intend to vote (and by that I mean those who aren’t illegal aliens, convicted felons and so on), I say this: cast your vote as an American and not as a Democrat or Republican.  Listen to what each candidate says, inform yourself of the facts and make an informed choice.  Mass ignorance ought not to rule this nation…or influence the outcome in the choosing of its leaders.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.

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