I thought this article from Glenn Greenwald at salon.com was worth sharing.
It's titled "this week in change" summarizing a few news items from the week which provide yet more evidence that nothing has really changed. In brief:
1. Congress passes legislation to provide billions of dollars in new War funding
2. The treatment of the Wikileaks story by the MSM basically ignores the horrific revelations of the Afghanistan war, and instead focuses the discussion on how evil and unpatriotic it is to publish such information.
3. President Obama pushes for expanded government power to use the so-called "National Security Letters"(NSLs) to enable warrantless access to citizens' Internet records.
Unfortunately, Mr. Greenwald's article only touches on the bad news of the week for those of us who love our civil liberties. To add to the pile:
Another U.S. citizen, "Imam Awlaki" is added to the Administration's assassination list ... with no criminal conviction or even charges being filed. Just another un-proven accusation "you're a terrorist" that brings a death sentence on a U.S. citizen, due process be damned.
More unearthed land mines in the 2000+ page so-called "Financial Reform" bill. A provision which:
" . . . exempts the SEC from disclosing records or information derived from surveillance, risk assessments, or other regulatory and oversight activities." ( i.e. from FOIA requests).
I love the part about "other regulatory and oversight activities". Terms so vague that the entire agency and all of its activities might as well be exempt from any public scrutiny.
From 'antiwar.com': Our Congress debates "H.Res 1553" basically declaring that we give our full support to Israel should they decide to use military force to “eliminate nuclear threats” from Iran.
AND, as every C4L member has no doubt heard, the U.S. Senate is holding debates and cloture votes on the DISCLOSE Act.
The vast majority of "We, The People" work hard to support ourselves and our families, pay taxes, and possibly engage in some part-time political activism. Meanwhile, our tax dollars fund a gangster-government that's working FULL TIME to erode our freedom and further involve us in imperialistic military crusades.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Bo DePaulitic rushed into the room. "Doctor!" he said in a panicked voice, "you got to help me!"
Bo took a seat across from his physician. "I am desperate, you see."
"What's the matter?" his doctor inquired.
"Look" Bo stood up and showed his arms and chest to the doctor. They were covered in horrific sores. "You see," Bo said as he pointed to each sore, "I am covered in corruption, cronyism, profligates, and waste."
The doctor approached Bo and looked over his sores. After a second or so, he returned to his desk while asking, "Do you also suffer from inflation, intrusions on your freedom, wasting of your hard earn money, and loss of control over your property?"
"Why yes!" Bo gasped.
The Doctor went on, "and this condition started over twenty years or so ago?"
Bo nodded vigorously.
The Doctor continued, "and it has been growing worse."
Bo was startled. "How did you know?"
The doctor ignored the question. Instead, he asked "Mr. De Paulitic what have you done to get rid of these sores?"
Bo thought for a moment and replied, "Well, I tried everything. First I tried throwing the bums out. Then I used caring and compassionate. Next, I tried hope followed by compassionate conservatism, and finally, in desperation I tried change. But nothing worked. It has only grown worse."
"Of course it has Bo!" Said the Doctor, "You have been treating only the symptoms, but the cause remains untouched."
The Doctor approached Bo DePaulitic and placed his hand on his shoulder. "You see" he said, "you have within a horrible cancer which is slowly spreading throughout your body. It is destroying you. This cancer interferes with your thinking, making you believe that you can have something for nothing, that wealth can be unearned, that you can swap safety for liberty, and that you can fix all the ills of the world solely through governmental action."
"What will happen to me Doctor?" Bo's voice wavered and a look of fear crossed his face.
The Doctor looked grimly at his patient, "Well, at first you will not feel anything. Over time, you will being to feel pinched, restricted, and finally hopeless. Toward the end, you will simply act out of fear. You will follow the herd like sheep, and pray that your masters will let you have a crumb. In the end, you will be inert, apathetic, and ignorant."
"OH MY GOD DOCTOR!" Bo jumped from his seat, "I already am starting to be apathetic and ignorant. What can I do? Can you give me something!"
The Doctor stared hard at his companion and in a level voice said, "Bo DePaulitic, the only way to cure this disease is to address the cause. It is systemic, that is its within you, and the only answer lies there as well. To purge this evil will require you to be active, get involved, and clear your head. You want to get rid of the sores, cure the cancer. You want to cure the cancer, change your ways!"
TO BE CONTINUED.........
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Today is Bastille Day in France, the equivalent of Independence Day in the United States. Since I am part French (which explains the constant use of my hands while talking and the frequent tears in my eyes), I find myself contemplating the nation of my roots and its history.
This morning I found myself thinking on a particular event that happened just 94 years ago in the hills of eastern France. Tucked away near the Ardenne Forest, is the little city of Verdun. The city itself is hardly remarkable. Yet, historically, it holds a special place in the history of France and the honor roll of courage.
During the First World War, Verdun became, by accident or design, the linchpin of the French Lines. To its south, the French clung to a series of fortifications and earthworks. To the North, the Armies of France, Belgium, and England were spread in a line of trenches extending to the English Channel. Verdun connected the two lines. At the beginning of 1916, Verdun was the apex of an angle sticking into the German Lines. In February, 1916, realizing the importance of Verdun, the Germans threw three army corps, 1,400 artillery pieces firing over one million shells, and newly formed shock troops, called “storm troopers” specially trained in trench warfare at this critical juncture. Hills were literally reduced to level ground and vast craters, some thirty feet deep, were created by the shelling. The tidal wave of men, nearly overwhelmed the outnumbered French.
Over the next month, the Germans pushed in the French lines and closed in on Verdun from three sides. All roads into the city were cut, save one, the “Voie Sacree”, the Sacred Way. Along this lone, single lane road rolled the only supplies and reinforcements that Verdun would receive for almost a year. In Late February, 1916, as the French lines slowly fell back, General Philippe Petain was appointed commander of the city. Gen. Petain looked over the battle field and returned to his headquarters. He then drew a line the battle map outlining the new French positions and directed that this line must be held.
For the next two months the Germans pressed in on all sides, but the French Lines held. With the coming of Summer, the Germans changed their tactics and proceeded to strike from one sector of the line and then another, but each time the French fought them off. In June, 1916 the Germans threw 60,000 men against the critical fort of Souville. Fort Souville was the final line of fortifications between the Germans and the Voie Sacree. In command was a young general by the name of Robert Nivelle. As the attack was launched upon his fort, a cable came from headquarters, “Can you hold?” Gen. Nivelle’s simple reply was “Il ne passant pas!” (They Shall Not Pass.) For a solid month, the French stood their ground within Fort Souville as the Germans pummeled them with bombs and wave upon wave of men. By July 12, 1916, the Germans had exhausted themselves upon the walls of Fort Souville, but did not take it. The French held. The tide had turned.
Over the next year, the French slowly and surely pushed the Germans back. First by opening up additional roads to allow manpower and supplies to flow. Then a step at a time the French advanced, returning their lines to where they were at the start of 1916. By August, 1917, the Germans were thrown out of the last trenches originally held by the French. The Battle of Verdun ended. Over 700,000 men were killed, wounded or captured during the course of this fight. The city and its surroundings were devastated.
Verdun was the last bastion, the final stronghold of the people of France during that trying time. Sometimes it feels like we face something similar here in Vermont. There are so few of us who strive for liberty in this State. We look around and see on all sides those who seek to expand the state and limit the freedom to choose for all. Their march seems relentless. But now is not the time to despair. We must continue our struggle to get our message out to our fellow citizens. We must carry on the struggle to be the change we seek in our society. We must hold the line and insist on limited government, personal/economic liberty, and fiscal sanity. We must not give up and concede this ground. “This far and no further.” must be the watch word of the day. We must inscribe on our hearts and in our minds, “Il ne passant pas!”
Happy Bastille Day.
Steven J. Howard
Saturday, July 10, 2010
As I settle into the cantankerous, contrary and curmudgeonly second
half of my life the following words or phrases make me smile - or
wince. You hear them all the time by serious, well meaning and awfully
Isn't trade fair by definition unless there is a monopoly or cartel in
operation which should be dealt with? What they really mean is
preferential or even unfair trade to benefit an individual or group
that can't otherwise compete in an open market. It might be for very
good reasons and greatly benefit deserving recipients but the
implication of the phrase is that simple "Trade" is something bad.
Implies that simple "Justice" isn't good enough and that she should
lift her blindfold and tilt the outcome in favor a particular and
favored group - which is really tending towards injustice. If there is
something wrong with "justice" it should be fixed and not supplemented
with a prefixed variant.
And I heard "Environmental Justice" the other day too.
Why would any sane individual not want the results of their actions be
sustainable? What they really mean is static or unchanging - as in why
aren't we all still sitting in the mouth of our cave watching the
world go by. Amazingly these same Luddites seem to favor economically
unsustainable proposals and programs.
I must have been eating "inorganic" food all my life up until now. OK
that one is a bit facetious - and besides who would deny hard up
farmers and small holders the opportunity of charging more for their
tomatoes and corn while keeping a straight face and getting away with
All things "Green" - economy - jobs - energy - monsters, etc - well
perhaps not monsters :)
Green is a nice color. It makes us feel good but it is also one of
nature's danger signs - as in green eggs and other green things
lurking in the back of the fridge.
I had the good fortune to visit the Farnborough and Paris air shows
during the past two summers as part of my job. They are the premier
trade shows for the global aerospace industry and the big engine
manufacturers had their latest and greatest on display. Millions of
market driven man hours of science and creativity all aimed at
squeezing the most passenger miles out of a gallon of fuel for their
customers benefit - and therefore with as little waste and pollution
as thermodynamically possible. They were objects of great power,
beauty and the most elegant efficiency possible to date - OK I'm an
engineer - but much to my amusement the marketers had literally turfed
the display booths and mounting pedestals to emphasize their "green"
credentials. Stainless steel is so passe.
As part of the trip I traveled on Easy Jet, a low cost UK airline and
was asked if I wanted to pay extra to offset the "carbon footprint" of
my flight from Glasgow to Paris. Apparently the money would go towards
planting a tree by someone, somewhere, eventually - yeah sure! I
politely declined saying that I lived in the middle of giant forest
and grew a vegetable garden every year - the poor girl must have
though that I was a demented overgrown Hobbit dressed in a coat an tie
and let out for the day. Soon however such "indulgencies" might not be
an option. They did stick me for 5 quid for a checked bag but that's
their business model and the basic flight only cost around $30 thanks
to these wonderful engines made efficient - and therefore clean - by
the economic demands of the market.
People don't use resources for the hell of it as some imply. They do
so for benefits such as staying warm in the winter and expanding their
experience through travel and leisure pursuits. They always want to do
so as cheaply and therefore as efficiently as possible. If scarcity
increases the price of the benefit they will cut back until eventually
someone finds a cheaper and therefore more efficient way of providing
it - and I hope that when they do it is purple, or orange or puce -
anything but !@#$, worn out, knackered green:)
"Hate Crime" - sounds too much like Orwell's Thought Crime - a crime
is a crime, is a crime. Categorizing a "hate" version is really meant
to elevate, reinforce or otherwise legitimize a particular class of
victim and by definition demote everyone else. So much for equality
under the law.
"Laws Named after Victims" - good law shouldn't play on ephemeral
emotions tied to a particular victim.
And I'm not too sure about "allergies". I don't remember lots of
people dropping dead from exposure to peanuts when I was growing up -
mind you we only seemed to eat them at Halloween in Scotland :)
Just musing on some pet peeves and how language influences the debate.
Perhaps you can think of others.
Posted by Woodstocker at 8:24 AM
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Now that the last hot dog has been eaten and the fireworks have faded from the sky it is interesting to reflect on the significance of July 4th in American history. Certainly the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which anniversary we just celebrated, it the most important event to take place on that date. History buffs also marvel that the author of that work, Thomas Jefferson, and his friend and political rival, John Adams, both died on July 4, 1826, exactly 50 years after the signing.
For Vermonters, July 4th holds additional significance as the birth date of one of only two U.S. Presidents born in the state, Calvin Coolidge. Coolidge, who was born in Plymouth Notch in 1872, served as our thirtieth president from 1923 until 1929. Nicknamed “Silent Cal,” he has never been a favorite of modern historians, who seem to prefer more activist presidents. Nonetheless, he is quickly becoming popular among those who understand the roles large, powerful government and unwise economic policy play in restricting liberty.
Coolidge brought the traditional Vermont values of independence, hard work and self-reliance to Washington, as well as an appreciation for the broader American context in which those characteristics were nurtured. He demonstrated this when he said “To live under the American Constitution is the greatest political privilege that was ever accorded to the human race.”
In his autobiography Coolidge wrote of the Constitution “The more I study it, the more I have come to admire it, realizing that no other document devised by the hand of man every brought so much progress and happiness to humanity. The good it has wrought can never be measured.” Coolidge recognized that to preserve these principles careful and thoughtful governance was essential. While he was mayor of Northampton, Massachusetts, he advised his father John, who was about to become a Vermont state senator, to avoid over-legislating.
“It is more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones . . . See that the bills you recommend from your committee are worded so that they will do just what they intend and not a great deal more than is undesirable. Most bills can’t stand that test.”
Coolidge demonstrated a keen understanding of the connection between prosperity and liberty. He said “Ultimately property rights and personal rights are the same thing.” He cautioned against the politics of envy in his presidential inaugural address when he said. “The wise and correct course to follow in taxation and in all other economic legislation is not to destroy those who have already secured success, but to create conditions under which everyone will have a better chance to be successful.”
In that same speech he recognized government’s obligation to fiscal responsibility.
“I favor the policy of economy, not because I wish to save money, but because I wish to save people. The men and women of this country who toil are the ones who bear the cost of government. Every dollar that we carelessly waste means that their life will be so much more meager. Every dollar that we prudently save means their life will be so much more the abundant. Economy is idealism in its most practical form.”
Coolidge rejected the Progressive philosophy of materialism which dominated early 20th century American politics. In a speech occasioned by the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence he said, “The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren scepter in our grasp.”
In that same speech he celebrated the American ideals of equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, and the rights of man, and pronounced them a product of spiritual and religious conviction. He exhorted the American people to remember and hold tightly to their nation’s philosophical roots. “Governments do not make ideals,” Coolidge said, “but ideals make governments.”
Finally, Coolidge demonstrated a firm understanding of that most sacred of all relationships when he said, “Any man who does not like dogs and [does not] want them about does not deserve to be in the White House.”
Definitely a president of uncommon wisdom.
Monday, July 5, 2010
To: President Hancock, Mr. Adams, Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Franklin, Mr. Sherman, Mr. Livingston, and the Congress Assembled
I have been taught that for every gift a note of thanks is in order. On this anniversary of your most precious gift to me and my family, I write you this note of appreciation for the gift given all those years ago.
It is hard to summarize the wonder and beauty of the gift you have granted me. Though I am sure you were aware of its majesty when given, I don't think you quite realized how truly awesome such a gift would be. Adding to the myriad charms of your gift was the wrapping in which it came. The document which enveloped the gift was a work of art whose words still echo with clarity, purpose, and power. Each time I read that document, I am amazed by how it moves me and how it summarizes for me what it means to be an American. It not only presents a claim, but also an ideology, the American ideal.
When you gave this gift, it was clear that it required a great deal of you all. It was not a simple offering, made with hardly a thought. It was a gift forged in a time of uncertainty, a time of war, and time where by simply offering the same placed much in jeopardy. The gift was not easy, a great labor of time, energy, and faith. Yet, I know that it was a labor of love. Love not only for yourselves and your families, but for all who were to come, including me and mine.
I doubt at the time of giving that you had any idea what it would mean for future generations. I do know that it was a gift filled with potential and promise. It was an opportunity filled with chances and failures, but one that allows us all to hope and dream of our own futures.
Yes, your gift gave me liberty and freedom, but I recognize that it also placed great responsibility on my shoulders. Sometimes those responsibilities can be overwhelming. To be ever vigilent to protect my gift. Requiring me to be active and engaged in the world around me. To demand more of myself so that I can hold my servants to the same standard. None of these things are easy or simple. Yet, I am thankful for them. Perhaps more so than the freedom that necessitates them because they make me a better person.
Unfortunately, in this day in which I live, there are many who have your gift, but do not cherish it. Some grasp tightly the words of freedom and ignore the responsibilities. Some have tucked their gift away, ignoring or unaware of the true meaning contained therein. Still others show off and laud their gift, but do not understand how to use it. Finally, there are those who dismiss your gift, calling it anachronistic and inapplicable to our modern times. I sometimes find myself driven to despair when I see how little value so many place in your gift.
However, I know that you faced the same problem even at the time of giving your gift to this land. You were not perfect. I know that you did not always know whether what you were doing was right or inevitable. Many a misstep made your progress difficult and dangerous. And even as the darkness of ill-fortune plagued you in the midst of revolution, you stood by your ideals and saw them through to the end. You kept great faith in your beliefs even when it seemed that was all you had. It is your example that empowers me to continue and gives great meaning to your gift.
So, as the sun sets on this 234 year anniversary of your great gift, I wanted you to know that its light and energy still lives in this land. The times may grow dark and the wisdom of your age may sometimes be forgotten, but some many of us are thankful for your efforts and seek to sustain your gift for generations to come.
Therefore, I thank you for my liberty, freedom, responsibility, and the ideology that animates all of them. I thank you for your example, your faith, and your sacrifice. I thank you for your good works, ideals, and finely crafted words. Most of all, I thank you for creating a world where I can say, I am an American.
Your grateful son,
Steven J. Howard